Nice Exchange 2009, Volume Two!

The first offer is over and done, but a new one is just begun, and chances are, you’re already registered!
This one works like the last one… but easier.


  1. Go to Rhe’s Mad Men entry here
  2. Register for the site, and Vote!
  3. Say something nice in the comments if you’ve enjoyed the clip.
  4. Send an email to nice.music.exchange@gmail.com, and tell us who you are!
  5. You will receive a download link within a day or so (we’ll try to keep up!).
  6. Tada!

What’s in the download: 9 Brand new pieces by me, and 12 fantastic guitar tracks by Byran Teoh. Same licensing as everything on this site.

Zombieland

I went into this film expecting to be horribly grossed out and not at all amused. Turns out, I was about two-thirds right with that guess. The good news is, if you can survive the first ten minutes or so (blood, gore, and tremendous violence to the tune of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”!), then you can manage the rest of the movie without much trouble. There’s still an icky compound fracture close-up, and the occasional spewing of blood and guts, but nothing gets any worse than those first few minutes.
And it wasn’t as horribly unamusing as I expected, either. It isn’t a, um, “realistic” zombie movie like 28 Days Later, which helps it be funny. No one worried about having enough to eat or enough ammuntion; there’s always a working vehicle and a safe place to sleep. Watching people struggle with issues like that isn’t really very laugh-inducing, so the filmmakers wisely avoided them.
What they don’t avoid is the gore. And the flesh-eating monsters. They went the disease route — there’s a zombie virus that makes you feverish, delirious, and so incredibly hungry that the person sitting next to you suddenly looks like a delicious meal. Interestingly, the zombies don’t seem to eat each other — maybe the virus makes people taste bad — so like 28 Days Later, there’s hope that humanity can survive while the flesh-eaters starve.
However, they’re too busy showing the light-hearted side of post-apocalyptic life to talk about such things directly. When Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Village), meet, about the first thing Tallahassee wants to know is when was the last time Columbus got lucky. They have city names because those are the places they’re going — Tallahassee says it’s better not to get too attached by using real names and such. It’s fun to say Tallahassee, but it’s a pain to type.

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Baseball, post-apocalypse style

When they meet two other survivors (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, My Sister’s Keeper), they get christened Wichita and Little Rock, respectively, though since they’re supposed to be sisters travelling together, they really should’ve ended up with the same name. But even with only four people left alive and coherent, that probably would’ve been too confusing. Anyway, the sisters have what Columbus calls “trust issues”, and that’s a glorious understatement. You’d think that 99% of the world turning into raving flesh-eaters would make it easier to trust those who aren’t trying to eat your brains, but apparently not.
But Wichita is a pretty young woman, and Columbus being a geeky young man, he’s ready to stick with her in spite of all the times she and little sis threaten to shoot him and Tallahassee. This motley group ends up tracking a (completely unfounded) rumor of a zombie-free area to a California amusement park, where the electricity is miraculously still working perfectly and being scared of clowns is no longer a silly phobia.
In between, there’s enough blood and guts to fill a slaughterhouse, and a few actual good laughs, which I really wasn’t expecting. They’re all typical survivor-movie types — the obnoxious little kid, the nerd scared of his own shadow, the tough girl the nerd pines for, and the crazy guy that kills zombies gleefully in his search for Twinkies. Okay, the Twinkies part isn’t usual, and that’s true of the characters, too. They fit certain patterns, but they don’t just fit those patterns. Tallahassee even cries. So it gets three idols. It’s good solid entertainment, for those who don’t have a weak stomach, and clearly everyone had fun making it, which is about all you can expect of a comedy.

Surrogates

Bruce Willis with hair! When’s the last time you saw that? We’re talking bleached-blond surfer-dude hair that flops over his forehead. And yet, after the first moment of shock, it doesn’t look all that silly, which is a pretty impressive achievement, I’d say.
But you want plot, I suppose. We’ve got some of that, too! It’s some unspecified time in the future, and technology has made great leaps in one area: a method of using only a person’s thoughts to control a human-like android. It’s only a shell, incapable of independent reasoning or movement, but when a person is linked to their surrogate (surrey is the cute little nickname), they can walk, talk, grocery shop, cliff dive, pick fights with really large angry guys, and take countless other risks without ever leaving the safety of their comfy chairs at home. They do look very comfy, but I hope technology has improved there as well, or the entire population has some really awful bedsores.
The idea is that these surrogates, which everyone uses (except for the obligatory weird little fringe group called Dreads, who think that life should be for the living), have all but eliminated crime. I find that hard to believe, personally. It seems to me that this setup would just make crime easier. Presumably the surreys don’t come with unique fingerprints, so I don’t see what’s stopping anyone who wants to from going house to house, robbing and/or murdering people while they’re lying in those comfy chairs. Maybe they have some techy way of stopping that, but if so, they don’t make it clear in the film. They mention a brand-new way of preventing such crimes, but who knows what they were doing before that. Probably crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.

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New this year: FBI Ken and Barbie

Anyway, Bruce Willis has hair, or rather his surrey does, and also the same perfect, flawless, plasticky complexion that everyone else does. The makeup is really great in that respect — everyone looks like a Stepford Wife, as close to perfect as one can get in this world. He’s FBI agent Tom Greer (Ken), and he and his partner Agent Peters (aka Barbie, played by Radha Mitchell) have been called to the scene of a car accident where a bunch of surreys were smooshed and are now leaking green stuff everywhere. The FBI’s there because one of the, er, victims is unregistered — normally each one has a serial number that can be tracked to its owner. But not this one, and Ken and Barbie are puzzled.
They have a further shock in store when they track down the owner of one flattened surrey, a beautiful blonde woman, and discover a fat middle-aged man. (Okay, that’s not really a shock for them, but consider the implications. They say there are no real women on the internet, but now there are suddenly no real women anywhere.) No, the shock is that the owner is stone cold dead, killed by the same force that fried his surrey’s optic units.
Suddenly the ultimate way of being safe is kinda dangerous. It’s a public relations nightmare! Thank goodness we have our hero, Ken – except Ken’s broken, and suddenly he’s Tom again, walking around as a Meatbag, as the people hiding behind their surrogates like to call them. It’s like being a homeless person wandering around through an upscale neighborhood – you get stared at. A lot. But he’s on the job anyway, much to the horror of his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike, of Fracture, and also Foyle’s War, an excellent BBC series), who never ever leaves the safety of her surrey, and thinks he’s insane for going after bad guys in his real body.
You can see the ending coming a mile away, but it’s still kind of fun getting there. This was really sort of a last-minute summer flick – it makes you think about the implications of that sort of a world, but not too hard. Mostly you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. A friend of mine mentioned reading a review that said Bruce Willis hadn’t been in a movie that was actually good for years, but I think that’s too harsh. I’m giving this one a respectable three idols – they went for action over thought, and this could have been a very thought-provoking movie; but that doesn’t mean they failed. They set out to entertain, and they did. Bruce with hair alone was worth the trip.