new experimental music

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Two new pieces today, titled from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”. It is an Eerie piece with kit, trombone, french horns and some strings. There is the instrumental version, and one includes a partial reading of the poem “The Second Coming” by Yeats.
Second Coming
Second Coming Instrumental

Babylon A.D.

This seems like another in the seemingly endless string of movies lately that’s based on some dark, futuristic graphic novel. There was Sin City and 300, and coming up we have Watchmen and Max Payne. (Also a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which isn’t based on a graphic novel, obviously, but is chock-full of special effects, unlike the original. It stars Keanu Reeves as the alien visitor, which isn’t as awful a casting choice as one might think because the character isn’t supposed to have any emotions.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Babylon A.D. It’s actually based on a regular novel called Babylon Babies, which I haven’t read (surprise — I mean, I read a lot of books but never the right ones, apparently), so I don’t know how things ended. I didn’t leave early or anything, but after going along pretty well for 90 minutes, the film just… ended, and then credits rolled, and I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. I noticed that the version released in France was 101 minutes, and my first reaction was to be annoyed that only France got the real ending; but someone who saw that posted that the ending was awful. So either those extra 11 minutes weren’t at the end, or they were but the wrap-up was still somehow terrible/ridiculous.
And before I forget the plot completely, let’s get to that: Vin Deisel (not a favorite of mine, but I hear he plays Dungeons & Dragons, so that makes up for a little) plays mercenary Toorop, who was apparently kicked out of the US and now lives in Russia, where everything looks like a recently demilitarized zone. He’s forceably recruited by Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu, even though he’s French and not Russian), who is sort of the cuddly villain of the piece — the lesser of two evils, though he has the scariest nose I’ve seen in a long time. He wants Toorop (I don’t know whether that’s a first or last name… maybe it’s an acronym?) to smuggle a package into the US, where all the cities look like many, many giant billboards in thie brave new world of the future.

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You have to admit that Vin Diesel is excellent at being scary.

The package is named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry), and she’s a young blonde woman with lips that I think might actually be very nearly as big as Angelina Jolie’s. She’s been raised in an orphanage in a convent that is an absolutely gorgeous building in a beautful spot, under the care of Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh — I wanted to see her smack Vin Diesel around a little just because it would have looked so cool, but no such luck). But now Aurora is exhibiting strange symptoms of illness or psychological problems or maybe demonic possession, and she needs a commercialized US physician to help her out.
It’s somewhere during their trip to New York that the movie gets less good. By the time they actually reach the Big Apple, I’m pretty confused as to what’s really going on, but I have faith that all will be revealed, or at least enough so that I’m not walking out of the theatre dazed and confused. But I was dazed and confused, and it’s a shame because it started out really well, very dark and interestingly post-apocalyptic, and then it just turned into yet another action flick.
So two and a quarter idols for this one, the quarter being for Michelle Yeoh because she did get to smack around a lot of random bad guys. Like she tells Vin, “Just because we’re peaceful doesn’t mean we’re weak.” She’s so cool. She couldn’t save this movie, true, but I have a feeling that was more because of the editors than anything else. They must not have know what was going on, either, and just wanted the audience to suffer along with them.

Mirrors

I knew this was a horror movie going in, but I have to admit that the first couple of minutes almost made me rethink my decision. On the other hand, I couldn’t watch Tropic Thunder. I can’t trust Ben Stiller anymore after his last debacle. So Mirrors it was, a remake of a Korean horror film, as so many of them seem to be these days. It turned out to be all right, though — except for the first part, and a couple of creepy, jump-in-your-seat moments later, it really wasn’t all that scary. Maybe I’m building up more of a tolerance at last.
Anyway, Kiefer Sutherland, who I haven’t seen since Dark City (or Phone Booth, if you want to count a flick where he only shows up for ten seconds), is suspended cop Ben Carson. After accidentally shooting a fellow cop during an undercover operation, he’s been wrestling with nightmares, drinking too much, and helping his marriage break up. Wife Amy (Paula Patton) is apparently some sort of medical examiner for the police department, though I’m not too sure about that — I understand wanting to dress in a feminine way even on the job, but she’s kind of overdoing it. I kept expecting to learn that she worked as a high-class escort on the side. And their two kids, Michael and Daisy, are properly adorable and danger-prone.
Now sober for three months, Ben takes a job as night watchman at a burned-out husk of a department store. It actually looks like it should be either an art museum or a tourist attraction in Rome, but it’s a department store. The previous night watchman was obsessed with the mirrors, which the designers felt compelled to hang on every vertical surface for some reason. And some of them are HUGE. Imagine walking around with only a flashlight to see by, the mannequins still set up and those mirrors reflecting every shadow and movement, and you can see where those creepy moments come from. You can’t fault the atmosphere.

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The mirror gives Kiefer a hand — or maybe it’s the other way around.

So predictably, the mirrors start acting up and that’s when all the gross stuff starts happening. I mean really, seriously disgusting. At least the helicopter blades are quick — this flick had one of the most horribly drawn out death scenes ever, and I’m sorry I saw the little bits I did see before I had to cover my eyes. The point is the mirrors want something, and they want it bad, and they’re not above imperiling the wife and the adorable little kids to get it. And since Ben’s house, which he’s now not living in, contains 43 mirrors and 12,000 other randomly reflective surfaces, you can see the potential problems.
The movie doesn’t exactly end so much as just stop, but I didn’t fuss because by then I was pretty ready for it to end. Two and a quarter idols — I’m not quite sure what the quarter-idol is for, but two just seemed a little low, and I have nothing against Kiefer. I’ve finally decided it wasn’t just a horror movie, but a morality play, warning against the dangers of admiring your own reflection for too long.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Okay, the best thing to do here? Forget that you ever saw the two Mummy movies before this one. Remember the basics, but if you can pretend that you only ever heard about the first two, you’ll enjoy this one a lot more. If you’ve really never seen the first two, just read a synopsis somewhere or get a friend to tell you the gist of them, and you’re golden.
The only two returning actors are Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell and John Hannah as the hapless Jonathan Carnahan, for one thing. And though the action sequences, (especially the big, sweeping battle scenes across the desert), will have a very familiar feel to them, otherwise it’s, well, not much like the others. It shouldn’t be, really, given the vastly different setting, but it still follows the same sort of progression. First the voiceover explanation of the ancient history (alas, no Oded Fehr to do that here, but Michelle Yeoh as Zi Juan fills in admirably); then the digging up of the mummy; then the steps the mummy must take to regain his full life and power; and then the huge collison between good guys and bad guys. It’s simple, you know what’s going to happen, but it still works.
In this case, it isn’t quite a mummy like one usually thinks of, but it’s the same basic idea. The writers borrowed a real piece of Chinese history for this, namely the terracotta army of Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of China. The movie Emperor is called Han, but according to the voiceover, he was basically the first emperor of a unified China. And seriously, Jet Li looks like he could unify China if he really put his mind to it. I wouldn’t argue with him.

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Rick O’Connell, flying to the rescue one more time.

Of course, I wouldn’t argue with Michelle Yeoh, either, and here they’re on opposite sides. Two thousand years or so ago, Han found that he had too much to do for one lifetime, as any good dictator would think. So he sought out the secret of eternal life, via the most powerful sorceress he could find. But a lot of double-crossing happened, and though he didn’t die, you couldn’t exactly call it living, either. In 1946, Alex O’Connell (here played by Luke Ford), last seen as an impish, annoyingly overconfident ten-year-old, is now an annoyingly overconfident college student (sort of) who goes digging where he shouldn’t, true to family tradition, and off we go.
The effects are nifty. Thanks to a lot of training in ancient Chinese secrets, Han can play with fire and ice and all kinds of things in very cool ways; and he has three demon horses that were also turned into terra cotta and look very creepy moving around. Throw in a splinter faction of the Chinese army that wants to go back to the good old days, a mysteriously well-informed girl named Lin (Isabella Leong), dynamite, yeti, a whole lot of angry undead, and of course one no-holds-barred showdown between Han and Zi Juan; mix well, serve with a few slightly stale jokes, and there you have this movie.
I like John Hannah, but he should really rebel against the things they make him do in these movies. Anyway, that aside, it wasn’t a bad adventure flick. A solid three idols out of five, as long as you can half-forget that it’s supposed to be a sequel. They really shouldn’t be compared. In fact, they should have left the words “The Mummy” out of the title all together, but too late now. Maybe they’ll remember to leave it out if and when they film the fourth almost-sequel somewhere in Peru.