Where is the Movie Critic Next Door?

Well, not actually next door. The odds are incredibly against it, at least. But I haven’t disappeared, either. Since I dropped the ball last weekend (though it doesn’t look like I missed much), and this weekend also isn’t looking good, I just had to post something. I’m out of town this weekend, in a theatre theatre instead of a movie theatre, so while I could still post a review, it probably wouldn’t do anyone much good. So, most likely until next weekend, this is your Movie Critic, signing off.

Westerned Out

Oh man… I’ve had quite my fill of Westerns… not to mention a pile of scrap music that doesn’t quite work. I think these will be the last 2 in the genre for a bit.
Western Streets – an all percussion chaotic thing
Martian Cowboy – umm… yeah. “Dark, Eerie, Epic, Somber, Unnerving” about says it.

All over the board

Craig and Tony came over the other day, and I showed them what I was working on for Westerns. They said it sucked, and gave me some actual Westerns to look at. So I did. And my music was hideously wrong. So here’s my shot at making it right.
Smoking Gun
But my Westerns were interrupted by an emergency request for a new-age Celtic (Scottish) piece. It is quite different-sounding than the last Celtic piece I did… due to the new-agedness of it.
Skye Cuillin
And a simple rock piece just for fun.
Beach Bum
Some days I wonder how such dissimilar music can come out of me in a single day.

The Brave One

Now I’m wondering if they rushed out Death Sentence so they could get it released before this movie. Because this film is like Death Sentence, but better. Much better. Jodie Foster is a better actor then Kevin Bacon, in my opinion, but this one also has a real script to go with the violence.
Jodie is Erica Bain, a New York talk radio personality who, as she puts it, “walks the streets”, recording the sounds of the city and delivering monologues about its buildings and people and happenings. Somehow it sounds dull when I write it, but it’s good in the movie, trust me. It’s like Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio, but not so harsh and cynical. The point is, she’s good at her job, has a doctor fiancĂ© who she adores (played by Naveen Andrews, who I’ve just discovered is on the television show Lost, which I’ve still never gotten around to watching), and a nice dog named Curtis. Then they go for a walk in Central Park at night, and she loses both dog and fiancĂ©, and almost her job besides.
I’ve never been to New York… do people still walk in Central Park at night? I realize movies exaggerate, but I still wouldn’t do that myself without an armed escort. If even a third of what you see on the screen in various movies and TV shows is right, it’s too big a risk. I’m a natural coward, though. Anyway, three thugs find the dog, who’s gotten loose, and when they try to get him back, the thugs beat them both to a bloody pulp — and record the whole thing. There’s a lot of recording in this film, lots of security cameras and videophones, and of course Erica’s audio recordings, so remember, someone might be taping you right now.
After three weeks in a coma, Erica awakes and has to start trying to rebuild her life. Only of course you really can’t, as she says. You become someone else, and that’s probably very true. Except in her case, her paranoia and agoraphobia (both very understandable) unfortunately translate into her buying a gun so she can feel safe. When she accidentally stumbles into a fatal domestic dispute, she defends herself, and from there it’s a long way down a very slippery slope.
And the slope is really pretty fascinating, in a disturbing way. It doesn’t exactly seem to get easier for her to kill, but she does get more determined, prompting reports of a roaming vigilante. The detective assigned to the case (Terrence Howard, Hart’s War, and he’ll be in next year’s Iron Man as Tony Stark’s best friend, Jim Rhodes — movies are really going after the comic geek audience these days) is a fan of hers, and as he slowly becomes friends with her, he also comes to the unsettling realization of what she’s been doing when she isn’t on the air.

Erica and Mercer philosophize over coffee in a dirty mirror.

I really like the friendship between them –mainly because it is just friendship. Hollywood just doesn’t do that often enough — it gets dull, having the lead male and lead female fall into bed together so often. Anyway, they’re both lonely (Detective Mercer is recently divorced) and feeling a little lost, and they seem like they could have helped each other out. Of course, just as Erica reaches the crisis point, where she pretty much has to stop or be lost forever, her ring, stolen that night, resurfaces, and everything hits bottom, basically. Mercer had always wondered if he’d have the fortitude to arrest a friend who he knew had committed a crime, and the last part of the film is all about that. It’s a good question.
There’s lots of good questions, actually — not really new ones, but they’re explored well. There’s a scene where Erica is taking calls on the air about the vigilante, and the rapid-fire opinions run the gamut, from a woman who thinks it’s sexy to another who thinks the subject shouldn’t even be dicussed on the air. And when Erica wonders early on, “Why doesn’t somebody stop me?” you really feel for her. She doesn’t want to turn into the scary woman from the previews who says, “I want my dog back,” just before she shoots a man in the head, but she knows she can’t stop herself.
Four and a quarter idols. It can be described as a standard revenge story, because it is, but you feel a lot like you’re living it right along with Jodie, so you kind of understand why she’s doing those things, even though you might hate them. And it does make you think, about more than just how she’s going to get away with it. It ends up seeming more real than a lot of revenge flicks, and that makes a lot of difference. Just, you know, don’t try any of this at home, because that would be much too real. And someone might be recording…


Sandy had an idea… “I need something Celtic, but nothing really upbeat.”
Ok, this one clocks in at 90 beats per minute, which isn’t really upbeat – but it isn’t slow either. I probably won’t be doing this kind of music again soon, as the number of hours spent on learning that darned whistle part almost doesn’t seem worth it.
Achaidh Chéide
Man… love that fiddle…
And having vanquished all the ethnic requests from the queue; one thing that has been abundantly clear in the last few days is that everyone wants Westerns. I’m looking at four requests from completely different people. I’ll see what I can do!

Logic Studio

Well, I didn’t get as much work done today as I had hoped. My brand new copy of Logic Studio showed up today… and it took about 4 hours to install the thing… and another 8 hours to play with it.
Here’s what I did do…
Chris had more ideas… “the paradise cantos?”
While not exactly paradise, this is certainly ethereal… and very cantos. Maybe that’ll make up for it.
Jonathon had an idea… “Is there any way you could make some Maltese music?”
I have no idea. I’m not really an enthomusicologist, but I was provided with some samples.
I don’t even know what instruments they used – but I tried to get close.
East of Tunesia (as a side note to Chris, this also may be useful for ancient Sumer)
I was having so much fun with the Maltese music, I kept going… and ended up in a disco.
Balzan Groove
And now, a complaint about Logic Pro 8. There used to be a way to change the routing of an instrument. It is STILL in the interface (e.g. “CoreAudio: Inst 1″) but you can’t change it! It is greyed out, and is making me crazy!
Yes, I CAN add multiple lines routed to the same poly-synth, but muting one mutes them all, and soloing one solos them all (changing the icon changes all the icons, etc). It properly opens old projects where they are routed correctly, but seems to be confused when you change something.
Anyway Apple; I LOVE the new interface… please ungrey out that line for me.

More Requests

Keep them coming, folks!
Forrest had an idea… “More Kevin Organ!”
Okey Dokey. Here’s some crazy funky musics with a B3 monster organ in it.
Fork and Spoon
Chris had an idea… “Wandering through the land of the dead.”
I’m not sure about you – but here’s what that sounds like to me…
Land of the Dead
John had an idea… “[I'd like something] about 4-5 minutes long, start off with a theme that builds towards the end, with a feeling of hope and potential. Something piano based, with perhaps more instruments towards the end.”
This one took longer to get than I thought…
Eternal Hope
And I actually had an idea. I’ve been seeing the “Deliberate Thought” piece show up in quite a few places, so I made a sequel by taking out all the things people like, and amping up that parts that people don’t care for. While I do understand this is possibly the worst way to make a sequel, it certainly was fun.
How it Begins
Also, for Chicagoland peeps: Get Downsized, a play I did the score for is playing for the next couple of weeks. Go see it.

Shoot ‘Em Up

That’s right, there’s no “Th”. It’s a silly title, more suited to a first-person shooter video game, but that’s good, because it’s also your first warning to suspend every last shred of disbelief. Pretend it’s an animated movie, maybe some sort of violent anime, and you’ll be in the proper mood to enjoy this.
I’m not quite sure where to start explaining, it, though. The basic plot is as simple as any video game: Clive Owen (Children of Men, now out on DVD and Blueray, so go buy it if you haven’t already) plays the first-person shooter, “Mr. Smith”, a mystery man who lives in an abandoned building with a pet rat. He isn’t so much a character as a collection of quirks (Smith, not the rat), constantly going on rants about what he really hates, like bad drivers and people who slurp their sodas; and with an apparently never-ending supply of carrots somewhere on his person. But he’s a good guy, so when he sees a pregnant woman being chased by gunmen down an otherwise deserted street, he comes to her rescue. He delivers her baby in the middle of a shootout, and things just get more improbable from there.
Yes, I said more improbable. It seems to be set in New York, certainly someplace very large and crammed full of people, and yet the main characters are practically tripping over each other constantly, no matter how far any of them run. But the point is, Clive Owen is now stuck with this baby, because mommy didn’t survive the firefight and he has no idea where daddy is. Fortunately, he knows a hooker with a Heart of Gold (Monica Bellucci) who’s recently lost her own baby and is therefore his only option for feeding this kid, because baby formula is unavailable in the greater New York area. (Just run with it.)

The film in a nutshell: Clive Owen with a gun and a carrot, about to shoot a bad guy, with baby bottles in the foreground.

And since New York is such a small town, the bad guys who want the baby also know about this hooker, and go after her, and the chase is on. Like any good video game, it gets more and more violent as you go, and I can’t even begin to guess the death total. One scene alone has fifty men killed. Mostly people just get shot, but they have some other really gruesome deaths, so I guess someone had fun thinking them up. Did you know you can kill a man with a carrot? Well, maybe you can’t, really, but you can in this movie. And they do it to me again with the helicopter blades. Again you can see it coming a mile off, though, so it’s easy to avoid looking.
Mixed in with all the improbable action are a lot of bad jokes and puns and just about every cutsey little thing they could squeeze in. I can’t share most of them here, though, since I prefer to keep these reviews rated PG at worst. Early on, though, the main bad guy, Hertz, played by Paul Giamatti (Lady in the Water), gives an example I can use: “Why is having a gun better than having a wife?” he asks his goons, and answers his own question this way: “You can put a silencer on a gun.” Not nice at all, but at least clean. There are also lots of bizarre, MacGyver-like tricks with guns and bullets and of course duct tape, black-suited government agents that look like they shuld be trying to kill Neo, and lots of stuffed dogs. Actual dead, stuffed dogs, not the kind you buy for your kids (at least I hope not).
You can see why I had trouble figuring out where to start. It’s sort of a weird mix of some Quentin Tarantino film like Reservoir Dogs, The Matrix, and a spoof of a Bond film. Especially the end credits, so stay to watch those if you like the weird opening montages for the Bond flicks. And I’m still having trouble rating it. I love Clive Owen. He can manage to make any role work, apparently, given that he has almost nothing in the way of character development in the script but still manages to do something with the character. So I can’t rate it too low, even if I did keep expecting it all to turn out to be someone’s long, drawn-out dream, because it was all just that weird.
We’ll go with three idols. Maybe two and seven-eights, because three is my usual minimum for wanting to own a movie, and I’m not entirely sure I’d buy this one. It’s got enough improbabilities to keep anyone who likes to calculate odds busy for a lifetime, enough bullets to support a third-world revolution, and Clive Owen, but overall, I’m not sure the combination really does it for me. So just remember two things: don’t take any part of the movie too seriously, and don’t ever try doing any of the things you see on screen to a real baby. Yikes.