Smatterings

New musics.
Achilles – Written as theme music for an epic drama. This starts broad and kicks into awesome at 0:27.
Bass Vibes – This piece gets a little atonal in parts.
Takeover of the 8-bit Synths – This… uhh… hmm… let’s call it ‘experimental’ piece starts out with vanilla guitar and rock drums, and gets progressively crazier as the 8-bit synths take over the piece. Maximum anarchy starts around the 3-minute point.
Trio for Piano Violin and Viola – An unfinished trio in 2 main parts.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

That’s the longest title I’ve had to type out yet, I think. But admit it; you’re humming the theme right now. You can’t help it. There are people in Outer Mongolia who know that tune. And it’s all back — the hat, the whip, the wild stunts, and the uniformed bad guys. Okay, this time they’re Soviet soldiers instead of Nazis, but close enough.
It’s 1957, the Cold War is in full swing, and Indy is — well, doing pretty much what he was doing when we last saw him. He’s been nabbed by the bad guys and hauled off to a huge government storage facility filled with poorly labelled crates, because there’s something in that mess that the Soviets (led by Cate Blanchett in a black wig and funky jumpsuit) want. No, it isn’t the crate you’re thinking of. It’s a crate full of something magnetic, only it isn’t, because it attracts gold, which isn’t magnetic, and occasionally repels entirely non-metallic things instead, like giant insects and angry natives.
The crystal skull of the title is basically like these skulls that the new-age types like to use for meditation and psychic energy and stuff. They name them and everything. This one remains nameless, though, and looks like it belongs to a Grey or a Bug-Eyed Monster alien, or whatever they’re called these days. Legend has it that whoever returns the skull to the place it was stolen from, back when the Conquistadors were ransacking everything, will gain control of its power. Where was it stolen from, you ask? Why, the ancient lost city of Acator, of course, better known as El Dorado, the City of Gold. It isn’t really quite a city of gold, sadly, but it is nifty-looking.
The fact that people (including himself) have been searching fruitlessly for this city for centuries doesn’t faze our hero, though, and the intrepid Dr. Jones is soon on his way there, with the nice little journey-marked-on-map sequence that you’re picturing right now. As in Live Free or Die Hard, he now has a younger assistant in tow to help with some of the rough stuff, one Mutt Williams. No, that’s not a typo — he calls himself Mutt. It’s written on his jacket. He’s a 1950′s greaser obsessed with combing his hair, which is amusing, and rides around on a vintage Harley-Davidson, which I’m sure will make some people in the audience drool. Indy seems to think he’s too old for this (though he also wants to prove himself in the face of Mutt’s conviction that an old teacher isn’t going to be any help), but old friends are in danger, and he dives in to the breach.

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Just because he always works at night does not make him a grave robber. Honestly.

And in a way, it’s sort of like watching any of the first three movies again (well, maybe not Temple of Doom — that singer drove me crazy, and the new characters here aren’t like that). It sticks to the formula, but isn’t too terribly repetitive. It’s moved with the times, which helps — the gap between the movie and Last Crusade is roughly the same in real life as in the fictional timeline, and Harrison Ford does a good job making Indy a little more world-weary. And he’s still in quite good shape, which impressed me. There are plenty of references to past characters and situations, so watch for those, fun guest-stars, and surprises that aren’t really surprises, but are enjoyable just the same.
The stunts have of course gotten wilder, because they always seem to do that for sequels. Indy takes a ride on a rocket-propelled car, falls down not one but three waterfalls in a little vehicle that looks rather like a Duck from Wisconsin Dells, snags guns with his whip, retrieves his hat from the weirdest places, and even stumbles into a nuclear testing site. (Kids, don’t try this at home!) The violence is still almost cartoonish and not at all bloody, so it’s fairy safe for the younger set, though the huge ants might freak them out. They freaked me out a little — think the scarabs from The Mummy and you’ve got them pretty well pictured. (Technically, they’re African ants and our adventurers were supposed to be in Peru, but since they were actually in Hawaii anyway, it doesn’t really matter.)
So all in all, it was a ‘safe’ movie. The script was solid but predictable, the acting good, the casting excellent, but no one went out on any kind of creative limb. The formula was there and proven, and they stuck with it. But on the other hand, there weren’t any painful moments, either, where they try too hard to recapture old magic and you just end up wincing. Maybe the long gap helped with that, but in any case, it worked pretty well. So a good, solid four idols. It will fit nicely in your collection next to your other Indy DVDs (they even produced it with a sort of eighties look to the film quality, which was cool), and will be nice to haul out to watch again on rainy Saturday afternoons. And really, innovation all the time would just be exhausting.

No updates in a while…

Um… sorry everyone.
I have been working – just not really hard recently. There’s lots of reasons.
In any event. Every now and again, I find a video with my music in it that, for some reason or another, I really like. So here’s one. It is from Elise Harris. I would tell you about her, but I don’t know a darn thing.
Bonus points for creepy honesty, and mention of Doctor Who’s cat people.

Also, you can put me on your twitter list, if you like. “kmacleod”
I’m not posting really until I get enough people to make it worth while, so it may be disappointing for a week or two.

Iron Man

You’ve seen the trailers (probably). You’ve read the comic books (maybe). Now Iron Man hits the big screen!
To me, Robert Downey Jr. is kind of like Jude Law. They both act so pompous and self-important that I always think actually talking to them would make me feel hopelessly un-famous. But sometimes, like Jude in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, or Robert here, that attitude really works. Tony Stark is supposed to be pompous and self-important — heck, he is important, like any billionaire. He’s smart and not entirely a bad sort, but spoiled (unsurprisingly) and with the attitude of the very early James Bond towards women.
In the comics (yes, I read them as a kid) he was originally wounded in Vietnam, but of course he can’t be that old anymore, so here it’s Afghanistan, where Tony has gone to demonstrate a really huge and scary missile called the Jericho for the military. The convoy he’s riding in is attacked (but since it’s PG-13, there’s remarkably little blood), he scrambles for cover, and gets blown up by a Stark Industries bomb. Yes, they do kind of beat you over the head with the irony, but that’s okay.
He wakes in a cave (or course) filled with terrorists (naturally), who want him to build their very own Jericho. But he’s been all shrapneled up by the little bomb, and is in real danger of dying. A fellow prisoner (his story is a mystery — all you find out about him is that he’s a doctor from a place called Gulmira) named Yinsen has rigged up an electromagnet to keep the shrapnel from moving, so for a while, Tony’s literally carrying a car battery around with him everywhere. I’m not sure that would really work, but like most things in the movie, it seems just plausible enough to make you believe it.
Pretending to build the missile, Tony actually puts together the first Iron Man suit, though of course he doesn’t call it that, and makes a nifty escape, in true dramatic comic book style. Again, there’s not much blood, and for a genius, it’s really pretty stupid of him not to make sure the big bad guys are dead, but nearly every character has their truly stupid moments here (except Yinsen, who has appeared in nearly every Iron Man variation, in one form or another).

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Where does he get such wonderful toys…?

Anyway, he escapes, and his first stop once he gets home to Malibu is Burger King. No, really. His next order of business is to announce that Stark Industries isn’t going to make weapons anymore. The stock plummets fifty-some points, and that’s when we know that Obadiah Stane (a bald Jeff Bridges), the anti-Stark, is going to cause problems. Not that anyone who’s read the comic didn’t know that already…
All the supporting cast is there, even the driver, Happy Hogan, though if you blink you’ll miss him–he’s played by the director, Jon Favreau. Besides Stane, there’s Air Force pilot Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and the perfect personal assistant, Pepper Potts (a redheaded Gwyneth Paltrow). Yep, they left her with that very unfortunate name, poor girl; and Gwyneth often seems to end up playing sidekick to the pompous heroes. There’s hints of romance between her and Tony, and the cast is already signed on for two sequels, so expect the announcement of Iron Man 2: Return to Afghanistan to Make Sure the Big Bad Guys Are Dead This Time any day now. There’s even S.H.I.E.L.D., though minus Nick Fury, sort of. These days it stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Engagement and Logistics Division, which sounds like something that might actually exist.
The effects are fantastic. In spite of his 1950′s attitude towards women, which seriously embarrassed me once or twice, the whole look of the film is beyond cutting-edge. Tony shows exactly what you can do with enough billions, like manipulating holograms with his hands, building voice-controlled robots with personalities, and breaking things indiscriminantly without worrying about who’s going to replace them. And of course, building self-contained, red and gold suits of power armor with repulsor rays and near-space capability.
So three and three-quarter idols. I had to dock a quarter idol for the bit where they turn Tony’s private plane into a 1960′s go-go club. But otherwise, it’s fun, tongue-in-cheek entertainment, with a dash of moral dilemma thrown in, and the effects alone make it worth the price of admission. The fact that Robert is so good at making us root for his character in spite of ourselves is just an added bonus. Now let’s all prepare for the coming of Nick Fury (aka Samuel L. Jackson) and hope that he’s scarier than he was in that Jumper thing.

Deception

Did you ever have someone ask your opinion on something, a book or maybe just an odd piece of news, and absolutely the best thing you could come up with was “okay” or “fine”? Because whatever it was made so little impression on you that you couldn’t even form an opinion. That’s kind of where I am here.
It sounded pretty cool to start with. I like Ewan McGregor, and while I’m not a huge Wolverine fan, I certainly have nothing against Hugh Jackman. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, and no, I still haven’t seen it) was a mystery to me going in, but that’s okay. And I like thriller movies, when they’re well done and nice and convoluted, without getting too unbelieveable. So it all looked good in the previews. I’m not quite sure what happened. I wasn’t bored during the movie, wondering constantly when it would end, so that’s a good thing. But very little of it actually stuck in my brain. As soon as I left the theatre, it almost felt like I hadn’t seen a movie at all.
But I do remember something of it, when I work at it and have imdb to jog my memory, so let me see what I can do for a summary. Ewan is Jonathan McQuarry, mild-mannered accountant, who does outside audits of big companies, so no one likes him, even though he’s Ewan McGregor and is therefore adorable. Hugh is Wyatt Bose, who is extremely tall and makes Ewan look very short and Michelle like a tiny little doll. Oh, and he’s also rich and popular and a ladies’ man, who takes Jonathan under his wing. Strangely, this doesn’t make Jonathan suspicious, even though the first thing Wyatt does is share a joint with him, which is supposed to make you paranoid.
Somewhere along the way, they accidentally (maybe) switch cell phones. See how much bother those things can be? Anyway, Jonathan suddenly discovers that Wyatt is part of a weird sex club, where nameless strangers meet in random hotels. The lonely, repressed Jonathan dives into the club with a vengeance, which is not too surprising.

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The thrills never stop!

But just when you think this is going to be a borderline X-rated film (or NC-17, or whatever they call them these days) about sex and how weird interpersonal relationships can be, it turns a corner and then it just… isn’t. It morphs into a crime thriller. It isn’t a jarring transition, by any means, but after a few minutes of the new film with the old characters, I started wondering what the heck had happened. They sort of tie back into the club later, so it isn’t totally forgotten, but it was still odd. It was kind of like a committee had written the script, which I guess does happen sometimes.
So now I suppose you’re expecting a rating. Um. Let’s go with two and a quarter. One for Ewan, one for Hugh, and a quarter just because I’m feeling generous. If it’s free and the only thing on, go ahead and watch it, but just remember, it’s kind of like Chinese food, and I’m not saying that just because part of the film is set in Chinatown (New York’s, I think, but I can’t be sure anymore). I’m saying that because in an hour, you’ll want to watch another movie.