“In case you’re wondering I’m essentially an infinite me.”

They finally did it. I haven’t rewatched the originals since their premieres, but all essential backstory is dutifully repeated here. I love that in all their possible messed-up futures, Bill and Ted are still together – it’s never even dreamed that they wouldn’t be together. Their daughters Billie and Thea, traveling through time collecting famous musicians like in the first movie, are clearly being set up as the actual chosen-ones who will play the song that heals all of time and space – so clearly that the actual reveal is less of a “whoa” and more of a “yeah finally” – but maybe this was designed to distract us from the movie’s real twist, that the perfect song Bill & Ted spend all movie (and half their lives) looking for doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter what they play, as long as they all play it together. This… should not have made me cry… and I’m not saying it did… but it’s been a heavy year, huh?

From the original writers and the director of Galaxy Quest. Thea is from Three Billboards, Billie from Action Point, Kristen Schaal replacing Rufus (who appears briefly as a hologram), and they’ve got the original Death. NoHo Hank from Barry plays a robot assassin, and I love this guy in everything. Brittany Runs a Marathon star Jillian Bell is couples therapist for Bill & Ted and their princesses (who have been recast to be younger: Erinn Hayes of Childrens Hospital, and Jayma Mays of American Made). Kid Cudi is most excellent as himself.

Some sequelly repetition here to be sure, but adding the mad doctor and the puzzle girl, then sending Kirsty and the resurrected Julia through the labyrinth with them, all great ideas. Overall made by people in sympathy with the spirit of the original, though that wouldn’t last through many more sequels. Too many flashbacks to the first movie, but in fairness you could never follow it without them. A powerful movie, never truly scary because you don’t quite buy it, but no acting missteps either. Leviathan, Lord of the Labyrinth should’ve played a bigger part in later movies, instead of continuing to obsess over Pinhead’s human origins.

Skinless Julia:

Stolen Skin:

Barker wrote the story, and screenwriter Peter “Martin” Atkins would write the next two, then Wishmaster, before turning to novels. Randel went on to make the haunted-clock Amityville sequel, the famously bad Fist of the North Star, and most recently a kids movie about a telepathic dog.

“Help my daughter”

Julia and Channard:

Poet horror lobotomist Dr. Channard is my dad’s age, was in Prospero’s Books and Hot Fuzz. Julia is in The House of Mirth which I also need to rewatch. Kirsty’s boyfriend Steve flakes off forever and is quickly forgotten, as Nurse Kyle becomes her sympathetic new guy: William Hope went from Aliens to this, then nothing, and twenty years later found his calling as a Thomas the Tank Engine regular. “Get them off me” guy was Oliver Smith – appropriately the same actor who played Skinless Frank.

I finally finished the 2018 Black Mirrors… but wikipedia says while I was postponing watching this season, they went and made another season, oh no. So, only three episodes to go, not counting Bandersnatch, then I guess Charlie Brooker is gone, and we’ll see if the show continues without him.


USS Callister

Opens in a space exploration simulation run by the very Kirk-like captain Daly. Jesse Plemons is kind of a Phil Seymour Hoffman type with a Matt Damon face (haha, he played Hoffman’s son in The Master). Outside the sim, he’s the genius programmer at a gaming company run by Jimmi Simpson (lately from Under the Silver Lake), but inside, Daly’s the omnipotent tyrant boss, Jimmi his lackey, and the new girl at work (Cristin Milioti from Fargo the series) is his latest sexy captive, via some DNA-scanning tech (saliva from a drinking glass also includes the person’s consciousness, hmmm). While he’s messing up his job focusing on the simulated game-world, sim-Cristin contacts her outside self to turn the tables. Mostly this episode is notable for its fun retro Star Trek vibe. Directed by a Dr. Who vet and cowritten by a Stranger Things producer.


Arkangel

“This is your parental hub – I’m just pairing it with Sarah’s implant.” When Sarah is 3, she goes missing for a short time at the park, so her panicked mom agrees to a free trial, “completely safe,” of a permanent tracking implant that includes a sensory v-chip, keeping Sarah from seeing or hearing anything “troubling” (like her grandpa having a heart attack) for years. Not the first Black Mirror where people can be blocked like twitter trolls. When her mom finally turns off the filter, a kid at school shows her all the worst things on the internet all at once, haha. Mom (Rosemarie DeWitt, the bride in Rachel Getting Married) intervenes again when Sarah is 15, watching her experiment with drugs and sex as if her daughter is a streaming series, until Sarah finds out and smashes the surveillance tablet against her mom’s face. Directed by Jodie Foster!


Crocodile

Rob and Mia are returning from a rave when he runs over a biker on a lonely snowy road, and they throw the guy off a cliff (there are always nearby cliffs in movies) and move on with their lives. Years later, Mia (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy in Mandy) is an architect mom going to a corporate thing in The Future, when she catches up with Rob (Outlander‘s Andrew Gower), who is having major guilty thoughts about the past. She cannot deal with the past coming back to haunt her at this point in her career, so she chokes him and throws him in a room service cart, getting pretty confident about disposing of bodies. Meanwhile, an insurance investigator (Kiran Sonia Sawar of the new Riz Ahmed movie) hooks people up to a memory reading machine to find out how an orchestra musician got hit by a driverless pizza truck. Mia was a witness, and certain unwanted memories come to light during the scan, so she kills Kiran and her husband and their baby. I mean it’s kinda dystopian, but usually we get innocent victims and this time it’s “in the future if you do a murder, you’ll get caught.” Director John Hillcoat – after The Road, he made two crime movies that didn’t sound essential, and is supposedly working on a Witchfinder General remake.

Schoolkids of the Future performing a play of Hillcoat’s bootlegger drama Lawless:


Hang the DJ

The Netflix mind-reading device hidden inside our Roku knows that the Black Mirror episodes I think about most often are Video Game Horror Tester and Two Girls in Retro Land, so it gave me this right after USS Callister. Georgina Campbell (from the Geraldine Chaplin episode of Electric Dreams) and Joe Cole (of Green Room and Woodshock) go through the latest dating app, which puts expiration dates of extremely different lengths (from hours to years) on each relationship. Near the beginning, the two joke about being stuck in a simulation, and that turns out to be the case. A program exposing people to a series of experiences of different lengths to determine their precise individual tastes feels like a swipe at new Black Mirror overlords Netflix. It does finally play the Smiths song at the end, yay. Directed by Timothy “Master Ninja” Van Patten.


Metalhead

3 Scots drive a filthy car through a postapocalyptic landscape. Two are taken out quickly by the robot dogs armed with guns and tracking-device frag grenades that have decimated humanity, but Bella (Maxine Peake of this year’s Peterloo) fights back. Terminator-eye view as it chases her, but she knocks it off a cliff to buy time – there are always nearby cliffs in movies – and sets her tracking bug adrift in a bottle. Not sure I buy the resourcefulness of the murderdog, which replaces its lost limb with a kitchen knife, but I definitely buy that the security systems of cars and houses in The Future are programmed to let the dogs – presumably state security devices or Amazon delivery agents – have full access. Bella doesn’t make it. Slade made Hard Candy, hey, I was just thinking about that movie.


Black Museum

Nish (Letitia Wright, the techno-sister of Black Panther, who was nominated for an Emmy for this) is driving alone through the usual wasteland, stops at a gas station/museum, and lets proprietor Douglas Hodge (Pennyworth in the new Joker, film debut was Salome’s Last Dance) lead her around and tell overlong stories about the horror artifacts within, Nish claiming ignorance even though she’s here for revenge. Three long sections follow… first, doctor Daniel Laplaine (who played Handsome Internet Expert in Double Jeopardy) gets a transmitter so he can feel the pain of his patients, but becomes addicted to feeling sensation without any bodily repercussions and goes on a torture/murder spree. Then, Alexandra Roach (young Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady) falls into a coma and her husband Aldis Hodge (who just made waves in Clemency) agrees to let her consciousness cohabitate in his brain – but she gets annoying and he has a pause button (shades of the White Christmas episode). Both of these stories implicate the museum owner, who came up with the dodgy technologies that made them possible, but fired from the hospital after the mad doctor incident, he opened this museum with its main attraction: the VR consciousness of a condemned killer (Babs Olusanmokun of Where Is Kyra?) whom visitors can pay to electrocute on an endless loop – until Nish turns the tables, ends her dad’s torment-loop and throws in Hodge instead. Colm McCarthy also made The Girl with All the Gifts – really an all-star director slate this season.

Dr. Driller Killer:


Bojack Horseman season 3 (2016)

The one where Bojack thinks he was oscar-nominated for Secretariat, but was not… Princess Carolyn is fired as his agent… and they kill Kristen Schaal, oh no. Loved the wordless underwater episode, dug the Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard reference.


The Good Place season 4 (2019)

They try the neighborhood thing one more time, Shawn and Michael square off, the Judge lets them redo the points system instead of rebooting Earth, and in exchange for their help, our heroes go to the actual Good Place… for a while.


In other TV news, I’m savoring my Cowboy Bebops and waiting for Rick & Morty season 4 to return from hiatus. Avenue 5 and Final Space didn’t seem like my thing, need to check out a few more new shows before Search Party s3 comes out and dominates my time.

One of my most beloved 80’s horror movies, possibly because it’s never been very popular, nor has it been spoiled by sequels (part 2 wasn’t so bad) or remakes (though Bill S. Preston, Esq. has his eyes on one). I watched it again and again on TV, and since it’s not rated R, I probably didn’t miss much. Thanks much to the Plaza and Splatter Cinema, I have now seen it in an actual cinema on actual film. It’s kind of a kids movie, and I still take issue with a giant earth-conquering demon from hell being defeated by a kid with a model rocket, but otherwise perfectly enjoyable.

I’d forgotten some details: a couple of valuable geodes pulled from the hole early on, friend Terry’s dead-mother issues and his collection of moths in a jar. Also didn’t realize how kids’ toys are woven into the movie. There’s the rocket of course – I’d misremembered the devil-thwarting “pure love and light” being a marketing slogan on the rocket’s box, but the shabby, dollar-bin-design box just has a rainbow on it. I guess it’s Dorff’s belief in the rocket as a symbol of love/light that wins out, like the kid in Stephen King’s It spraying monsters with his inhaler while shouting “this is acid!” More child’s play: the hole is initially opened far enough to let those awesome ankle-biting micro-demons out when the kids read words formed by the geode on a toy writing tablet, evil demon-Terry is stabbed with a barbie doll, and the secret of demon banishment is discovered by playing a record backwards. That one is especially fun in a subversive way – parents used to worry that kids would pick up secret satanic messages from metal albums, and this one teaches them how to fight evil, not how to summon it.

Director Tibor, as has been discussed here already, made the pretty cool I, Madman, then Gate II, and went slowly downhill towards the truly stinky Christian Slater movie Lies & Illusions. Writer Michael Nankin is directing respectable TV shows (and CSI) these days. Dorff’s big sister Christa Denton never made it out of the eighties, acting-wise (although one of her slumber-party friends later starred in Candyman 2), and tragically, neither did Louis Tripp, who played Terry, except for a rumored cameo in a late-90’s Edward Furlong comedy.

“It’s a great script – feel how much it weighs.”

Seeing how it’s Academy Awards season, I’ve been watching bizarrely oscar-related movies… first Susan Slept Here was narrated by an oscar statue, and now this one, the only movie to be nominated by accident. It seems a song called “Pig Foot Pete” appeared in an Abbott and Costello movie with the same singer (Martha Raye) and songwriters who worked on this movie, which probably accounts for the never-properly-explained discrepancy of “Pig Foot Pete” getting Hellzapoppin’ awarded an oscar nomination. It’s all beside the point, since nothing stood a chance against the song White Christmas from Holiday Inn.

The story involves mistaken identity, Martha Raye (Monsieur Verdoux) running after Mischa Auer (My Man Godfrey) because she believes he’s an eligible millionaire, while he tries to score Jane Frazee – but the movie (based on a fourth-wall-smashing hit broadway play) is really just an excuse for popular comics Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson to riff on everything around them, including the film itself. Goofy-looking Hugh Herbert (whose “hoo-hoo-hoo!” laugh supposedly inspired the creation of Daffy Duck) of Footlight Parade, Sh! The Octopus and The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, also wanders about making jokes.

Chic and Ole – don’t ask me which is which:
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Movies like this (and there aren’t many movies like this) make the phrase “screwball comedy” seem inappropriately applied to such relatively calm, normal films as Bringing Up Baby. Surely the Marx Brothers movies were an influence. I’d like to think that Frank Tashlin, who was working in cartoons at the time this came out, was heavily influenced by its high-energy cartoony gags and unhinged self-reflexivity. Some of the jokes (many of the jokes!) are very bad, but you’ve gotta forgive them because overall the movie is too amusingly nuts to dislike.

Frankenstein’s Monster, about to helpfully toss Martha Raye:
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Kevin Lee: “The show-stopper is the much celebrated Lindy Hop sequence involving several Black domestic servants who without warning launch into the most jaw-dropping swing number captured on film.”

Here’s the precursor to that swing number, which is indeed jaw-dropping:
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Director Potter would work with all the biggest stars in his other films, and eventually make a sequel to this year’s biggest oscar-winner Mrs. Miniver.

Pretty girls are roasted on a spit in hell – the movie opens with this!
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The legal battle of Olsen vs. Johnson vs. Universal Pictures has led to the commercial unavailability of their work for so long that if it finally came out now, in sparkling restored deluxe DVD editions, nobody much would care since they are barely remembered. Good job there, guys.

Martha mooning after Mischa Auer:
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NY Times called it “an anarchic collection of unfunny gags,” but then, they also spelled “alittle” as one word.

Once and future stooge Shemp Howard is the film projectionist. I love how he, not the cameraman, can change the framing of the movie by panning to follow women in swimsuits.
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