[Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘BILL & TED’ 3 is a totally radical sequel, while ‘POPEYE’ is just as strange 40 years later

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James Clay // Film Critic

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC

Rated PG-13, 92 minutes
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Keanu ReevesAlex WinterKristen SchaalSamara WeavingBrigette Lundy-PaineAnthony CarriganErinn HayesJayma MaysHal Landon Jr.Holland Taylor

Nobody asked for sequel to BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY, the feel good buddy time traveling movies from the late 80s/ early 90s that were rooted in positivity and feeling radical. Its’ stars Alex Winter and the king of “whoa” Keanu Reeves certainly didn’t need the career clout to boost their waning star power, it’s in fact the opposite. Winter is now an established documentarian (with a fascinating rock doc on Frank Zappa coming this year) and Keanu is of course now a walking meme. 

The third film in the franchise BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is like a bright beacon of goofiness that ditched the gay panic from the first two films and substituted this with a heartwarming story about the father daughter bond and not thinking about the way things could have been. At only 90 minutes with the sturdy direction of Dean Parisot (GALAXY QUEST) and original screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon taking care of that gnarly San Dimas, California dialogue the film is ultimately successful.

 It’s a nimble film that adds two supporting characters of Thea Person and Billy Logan (Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine) as the daughters of you guessed it Bill & Ted. Weaving and Paine really are the best aspect of the movie as they round up legendary musicians through time like Mozart and Jimmy Hendrix to help their dad’s create a song that can unite the world. BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC lacks cogent time travel logic and the special effects are dubious, but having fun goes a long way. 

RENT OR BUY: Most people would want to just save this for a rental, however if you’re a 80s or 90s baby there really is a certain since of nostalgia that can clear up a bad mood in a hurry. BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC is quite possibly the most that has made me happiest in 2020, take that for what it’s worth, but you can’t go wrong with some good hearted bros shredding guitars. Just remember to “always be excellent to each other.” 

Special Features: 

* The Official BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC panel at comic-con @home

  • Be Excellent to Each Other: Behind the scenes with cast and crew
  • A Most Triumphant Duo
  • Social Piece (Excellence) 
  • Death’s Crib

GRADE: B+

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is now available digitally and on Blu-ray at any major retailer. 

WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS

Rated: PG-13, 113 minutes
Director: Thor Fruedenthal
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Taylor Russell, Anna Sophia Robb, Walton Goggins

Young adult movies that deal in great platitudes about love, life and existentialism 101 are typically backwards in their approach enough to make your eye balls roll permanently to the back of your skull.  There’s a certain joy in a lot of these movies, it just comes across as a little shallow for anybody outside of the target demo. (Think nearly every John Greene adaptation) 

 While director Thor Fruedenthal (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID) is known more for family friendly movies he’s able to inflict a style into his latest WORDS ON A BATHROOM WALL that articulates mental illness in a manner that’s palatable and doesn’t shame its protagonist. Where it fumbles is in its overwrought script that says too much when it doesn’t need to say anything at all and it succeeds with tenderness or an invisible illness. 

Adam (Charlie Plummer who’s always very good) is half way through his senior year when he suffers a psychotic break that throws his world into orbit. The highlight of the movie is how Adam’s illness is manifested in imaginary people from bodyguards, to sex crazed best buddy a Coachella zen queen and an ominous voice that causes him to lose grip on reality. It really is a genius technique Fruedenthal employs to put a visual on illness that’s known as a social stigma rather than a disease. 

Following his schizophrenia diagnosis Adam is expelled from school and starts again at a Catholic School run by a less than sensitive nun (Beth Grant). There he meets the school valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell who broke out last year in WAVES) and they develop a friendship to help him with his academic pursuits. Maya challenges his views, and the drama comes from whether Adam will be able to open up, or completely collapse. Overall the film is poignant, yet a little cheesy and it’s ultimate downfall is the score is composed by The Chainsmokers. 

RENT OR BUY: WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS is worth renting and does have appeal that extends past its young adult audience, is fairly disposable in terms of story. However, this film should be seen by those affected by mental illness whether it be general anxiety, depressions, or something much more serious. It’s important to understand how these illnesses make people feel and WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS navigates that with sensitivity. It you’re looking for something with conventional trapping and a little bit of style you can do far worse. 

Special Features: 
* Photo Gallery 
* Theatrical Trailer

Grade: B-

POPEYE

Rated: PG, 113 minutes
Director: Robert Altman
Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Paul L. Smith, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley

Which side of the POPEYE fence are you on as it approaches its 40th anniversary? The director Robert Altman who helmed this big-budget vision, doesn’t have the same Hollywood prestige as, let’s say a Steven Speilberg, but it’s because he was known as a “maverick” with an up and down career, but many reports about the man said he wouldn’t change a thing. The comic strip turned cartoon and into a movie musical is just the kind of bananas premise that would interest Altman, who had loads of experience as a theater director, and it shows on the beautiful set of Sweethaven (which is still standing) he and his team created in Malta. 

Led by Robin Williams, who disappears into the cock-eye, pipe toting, spinach-eating sailor Popeye, and Shelley Duvall as the lanky and impossibly charming Olive Oyl is a match made in Sweethaven. Costarring familiar faces including Paul Dooley as Wimpy, Ray Walston, and Paul L. Smith as the grumpy Bluto who wants to marry Ms. Oyl. Altman was never really known for his interest telling a fully realized or cohesive story. Still, with POPEYE, he’s able to capture a mood or a singular tone that soaks up atmosphere despite its narrative flaws. 

Filled with memorable songs, including “He Needs Me” sung by Shelly Duvall, this a compelling cinematic anomaly with a storied history that may be more captivating than the film itself. For film historians, all you need to know is the eccentric head of Paramount Robert Evans was the executive producer on this picture that should tell you enough. 

However off-putting the film maybe Robert Altman’s take on POPEYE is far more fascinating and satisfying than any run of the mill cash grab could have been. 

Rent or Buy: There are most likely swaths of fans who have been clamoring for this blu ray for years, and finally, Paramount has heard your cries. I am a stickler for slipcovers, so this is more of digital purchase, and it comes complete with a gorgeous transfer and some solid special features listed below. The only reason to purchase this is if you’re a Robert Altman completist or if you’ve been waiting on this blu ray for well over a decade. 

Special Features:

  • Return to Sweethaven: A Look Back with Robin and the Altmans
  • The Popeye Company Players
  • Popeyes’s Premiere
  • The Sailor Man Medleys
  • Theatrical Trailer

GRADE: B

POPEYE is available at every major online retailer on December 1.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.