A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 186 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – September 2nd, 2010

Happy birthday to Ted Theodore Logan! AKA Keanu Reeves. We wanted to watch one of his movies for his birthday, so I looked through our list. We’ve got something planned for this weekend, so the Matrix movies were out. Point Break and Constantine are both too long for one of my late shift nights, and we’re saving Johnny Mnemonic for something special. Really special. But we didn’t have anything planned for tomorrow and this movie’s only 90 minutes. Perfect!

I’m not sure when I first saw this, but I know I didn’t see it at home. I suspect I saw it with a friend of mine whose parents were far more relaxed about what she rented from the video store. It feels like the kind of movie we watched together and the time it came out is pretty spot on for when we were alternating sleepovers at each others’ houses every weekend. My family doesn’t often go in for cheese like this, but I do. It’s ridiculous in ever so many ways, but clearly knows just how ridiculous it is. Language barriers only matter when the movie feels like making them matter. Time travel is used to solve minor problems in ridiculous ways. There are paradoxes and characters taken out of time and never returned. But the whole movie is based on Bill and Ted, two slackers from 1988 California, being given a time machine so they can pass their history final and stick together to form a band that will eventually bring about world peace and an end to pollution. Yeah, serious is not a word to describe this movie.

So okay, after being informed that flunking out of high school will result in Ted (Keanu Reeves) being sent to a military school in Alaska leaving Bill (Alex Winter) band-mate-less, our heroes encounter Rufus (George Carlin), a dude from the future who’s been sent to make sure that doesn’t happen. So right off the bat we’ve got this whole circular time loop thing going on. Presumably if the people in the future don’t interfere, the future doesn’t happen in a way that allows for them to interfere, so they have to interfere so they’ll be able to interfere. Yeah. Whee, time paradox! He gives them a time traveling phone booth – not any bigger in the inside than it looks, leading to everyone riding in it like a canoe later on – and sends them on their way. Apparently giving them the phone booth is enough meddling. After accidentally nabbing Napoleon on their first trip, they decide to go on a historical kidnapping spree! Because nothing says ‘easy A’ better than bringing Genghis Khan to school!

Let’s go through who they grab: Napoleon first, whom they leave with Ted’s little brother, Deacon. Deacon and his friends take Napoleon for ice cream and then out bowling, and then they ditch him cause he’s a dick. Not surprising. Meanwhile Bill and Ted grab Billy the Kid (after a bar brawl), Socrates (somehow communicating Kansas’ Dust in the Wind to him), then they get hung up in medieval times when they meet a couple of princesses and almost get beheaded. After a quick stop in the future where everyone plays air guitar for them they grab Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan and Abraham Lincoln. You know, for extra credit. They show them the mall, and then leave them in the food court with a tray of slushees while they go find Napoleon.

Now, the assignment for the history report they’re ostensibly doing all this kidnapping for is that they’re supposed to talk about how people from various points in history would react to San Dimas in modern times (the 1980s, in this case). So where the beginning of the movie is mostly built on Bill and Ted going ‘woah!’ and ‘excellent!’ and being Valley Dudes in the Old West and whatnot, the latter part of the movie is about the historical figures they’ve grabbed going wild in the San Dimas mall. After their rampage they’re all locked up, leading to a paradox-laden rescue from Bill and Ted and then they do their report performance! Which, um. They totally had time to practice and set up! Apparently after the report was given they went back in time and hired someone to do their lighting and set construction in time for the report.

Like I said, it’s an absolutely ridiculous movie. When it suits the movie to have the non-English speaking characters be incomprehensible or not understand the people around them, then of course that’s how it goes. But how did they get Genghis Khan to do his demo moves on stage? What about Beethoven? How do they get everyone to help with Bill’s chores? Who knows? Who cares! What about the princesses and the problem with taking them out of their proper place in time? Never mind them! And all those paradoxes! But those don’t matter! They put on a totally rockin’ show! It’s a silly movie with a silly premise, but that’s the whole damn point. It’s made a definite cultural impact. Keanu Reeves will probably never not have people saying ‘woah!’ to him and there are several lines that are eminently quotable, not to mention some scenes and moments that will forever be burned into my memory (Napoleon finishing off the Ziggy Pig, for one). The plot may be about as sturdy as a house of cards in a hurricane, and there may be a lot of dated slang that makes me want to listen to Frank Zappa’s Valley Girl, but somehow that makes the movie that much more fun to watch.

September 2, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 67 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – May 6th, 2010

Aside from R2’s comic relief oil slick, this starts out fairly well. The first 20+ minutes is full of action and space fights and lightsaber battles and a Wilhelm scream and Palpatine fostering a bad attitude in Anakin and it seems promising. By the third movie, the war that’s been building up in the others has come to a head and the movie shows you that right off the bat. Of course, I do have some issues with R2 and Obi Wan and, oh, continuity. I appreciate that the droids were well-liked in the originals – I like them too – and that they were put in as an attempt at fan service, but does Obi Wan go senile during his time on Tatooine? They wiped the droids at the end of this movie, but Obi Wan has no excuse and this movie sets up Alec Guinness’s Obi Wan for looking mighty clueless given how much contact he has with both C-3PO and R2D2 in the prequels. Anyhow, right up until 25 minutes in, it seems really not bad. And it’s sad that “really not bad” is as high a compliment as I can manage at the moment, but consider it in the context of yesterday’s movie and it’s not to be sneered at.

The thing is, at about 25 minutes in, we see Padme, and she’s pregnant – and of course she has to be. This story is, as I mentioned, very much about Anakin and how he becomes Darth Vader. And since we know he fathered kids, and they grew up not knowing who he became, well, either it was going to get glossed over in this movie or they were going to have to handle it somehow. Fine. But I’m so not into the romantic plot. I think it might just have been an issue of lack of chemistry between the actors, if they hadn’t set them up to have met when Anakin was a small child. And then made a point of having Padme say she’d always see him that way. Early in this movie Anakin points out the little carving he gave Padme in the first movie. I’m sure it’s all supposed to make me think about how they have all this history together and what they’ve been through, but it just reinforces how very young Anakin was when Padme met him. If the dialogue was better written, if they hadn’t gone out of their way to remind us of child-Anakin, if Portman and Christensen had better chemistry, maybe it could have worked. It sucks that it didn’t.

Now, on the other hand, I think the whole thread of Palpatine and Anakin was handled rather well. Over the course of the prequel trilogy Palpatine has done a rather good shift in his public persona. And while Christensen’s acting is still somewhat wooden in every scene he’s in, he does better with his turn-to-the-dark-side scenes than his romance scenes. It happens a little fast for my taste, but I can see it. It works, for the most part, and it’s rather terrifying to watch at times. Likewise, the betrayal of the Jedi all over the galaxy has true emotional impact – though dude, only Obi Wan and Yoda made it? Seriously? But yeah, destroying them all, coupled with Anakin and what you know happened with the young Jedi students? That is dark and bleak and the movie does a relatively good job with only pulling the punches that should be pulled and no more. If you’ve seen the original trilogy you know that the Jedi are all gone by the time we meet Luke on Tatooine. The inevitability of it makes it worse, I think.

Unfortunately, the turn-to-the-dark-side plot and the romantic plot eventually meet up, with Anakin’s change into Vader prompting Padme to turn away from him, which is the impetus for the climactic fight between Anakin/Vader and Obi Wan at the end of the movie. It’s a pity that it’s necessary for the plot, because without the romance, the majority of this movie is fairly watchable. It’s certainly better than its immediate predecessor, and it’s a lot more fun to watch than the first in the trilogy (thanks, in part, to a lack of Jar Jar, thank goodness). It’s darker, which is fine by me, and it sets the scene for the original trilogy. So it’s too bad it’s marred by the Anakin and Padme plot and Padme’s continuity-killing “death from a broken heart” that makes me wince. I’ll just try to focus on Vader in his shiny new helmet and look forward to watching the originals.

May 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Movie 66 – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – May 5th, 2010

Watching this now, I realize I’ve forgotten just about all of it. Maybe that was a protective measure my brain made. Seeing it, I know I’ve seen it before. Scenes are familiar – some painfully so – but I’d managed to not actively remember them until now.

This movie starts out a little better than the last. I mean, it’s got explosions right from the start! And it’s not long before there’s an assassination attempt on Padme and the big nausea-inducing chase scene on Coruscant. That all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Even figuring in some political tension and Anakin’s backtalk to Obi Wan, it still seems like a good start, right? But then there’s Jar Jar, and the incredibly clunky dialogue and the complete lack of chemistry between Anakin and Padme because she actually says she’ll always remember him as a little boy on Tatooine. I’m supposed to believe a romance sparks from there? Really? Sorry. If she still sees him as Jake Lloyd, then no. I honestly can’t say whether Anakin is painful to watch because of Hayden Christensen’s acting, or because of the writing. I mean, you can’t do much with lines like “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.” So very clunky.

The other thing that’s clunky is the foreshadowing. Now, I know it’s got to be there. Anakin being drawn to the eventual Emperor? Yeah, it’s got to come from somewhere. But that’s not all. There’s Obi Wan’s “You’ll be the death of me” comment to Anakin. Come on. It’s so heavy-handed, it feels like the movie’s beating me about the head and shoulders every time it tries. Actually, it feels like most of the movie’s doing that anyhow. I don’t mind so much the bits with the clones and that whole plot, but the romance and everything else overpowers what little cool stuff is in here. And the worst thing about that is that the story of how Anakin Skywalker ends up being Darth Vader should be at the heart of it all. His fall from Jedi to Sith should be much of the dramatic core of the entire trilogy. And it is! It’s just not done well at all. So much of it is so hard to watch, and that makes for a very unstable movie.

Now, let’s go over what I do like: The clones. The whole plot with Jango Fett and the clone army on Camino and all that? It’s got good action and good intrigue and it reveals something about the original trilogy that doesn’t feel nearly so poorly-conceived as the midichlorians. I wish there was more to it. I wish a large chunk of the movie took place there. That it played a bigger role. I’d even accept more on Coruscant with the Senate and the Council if it meant more clone plot. I’ll take Anakin’s run to Tatooine to save his mother – it’s the one part I think does a halfway decent job of echoing Luke’s actions in Episode V (but only until they leave Tatooine). But even that and the clones can’t be enough to wrest the movie back from the painfully bad romance and the incredibly patchwork plot.

Like last night, I feel like so much of this was cobbled together in bits and pieces – to the point that I don’t even want to bother trying to do a plot summary. Some of it’s not bad, some of it’s terrible, some of it’s ignorable. Clones – good, final battle – long but okay in part, complicated political plot – meh, romance – so very bad. I want to like it but I can’t. I don’t know how I’d take the first movie and run with it to connect the dots to the original trilogy, but the way it was done feels so unnecessarily convoluted. I don’t want a flowchart to follow the plot of a scifi action movie. I didn’t need one to follow the original trilogy and I was a kid when I first watched them. Maybe if they’d cut out the romance somehow, or kept it extremely minimal? I don’t know. The best things about this movie are Mace Windu, his purple lightsaber, and the name “Dooku,” which is fun to say. Dookudookudooku! Really, blocking the majority out was a good idea. I plan to go back to it as soon as the credits roll.

May 5, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment