Video Game Developers!

I just did a series of 4 pieces.
You can get them here.
Chee Zee Beach
Chee Zee Jungle
Chee Zee Lab
Chee Zee Cave
These are all designed for background music for video games, but they can be used for anything you like!
These pieces extend to any length because they loop cleanly.

Shutter Island

Personally, I still find Leonardo diCaprio to be kind of an iffy actor. He’s improved an awful lot since he first made me wince in the movie about the really big ship (he did fine in Blood Diamond, for instance), but he still seems to me to need a little help to manage a really good performance. Though I freely admit I might still be holding a subconscious grudge over The Aviator. And the movie about the really big ship. The point is, Leo gets whatever help he needs here, thanks in large part to Martin Scorsese, I’m sure, and also to the excellent framework provided by Dennis Lehane, the man who wrote the novel Gone Baby Gone.
Shutter Island is a fictional island, off the coast of Massachusetts. The movie was filmed in that area, though, using bits of other islands and the former Medfield State Hospital, an actual mental asylum built in 1896 and finally closed in 2003. The place is supposedly haunted, so it has exactly the right atmosphere for this film, where it doubles as Ashecliffe Hospital. It isn’t exactly a horror movie in the usual sense — more a psychological thriller — but it’s seriously creepy. And to make things even more oppressive, a Civil War-era fortress looms over everything — actually Fort Andrews, originally built in the Revolutionary War and rebuilt during the Civil War. It’s like a dark, damp medieval castle, and those are always spooky.
Leo, as Federal Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, arrives on Shutter Island by ferry, just ahead of a terrible storm, with his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac, who does an excellent, beautifully subtle job here — maybe he helped inspire Leo, too; and let me just also add how terribly glad I am that they didn’t actually cast Mark Wahlberg in this role). It seems that in spite of the formidable security — Teddy calls it “electronic security”, though I’m not sure they would have used that term in 1954, when the film is set — one of their patients has disappeared. Since Shutter Island takes only the worst of the worst patients, those other hospitals won’t touch, having one of them running around loose is a Very Bad Thing.
The missing patient, Rachel Solando, looks pretty harmless in the picture they show Teddy, but it seems that she was responsible for the drowning deaths of her three children, an act she’s completely forgotten. But however insane she might be, she was apparently clever enough to vanish from her locked room and elude all the guards, nurses, and orderlies; so the marshals have their work cut out for them. That work gets even harder when the man in charge of Ashecliffe, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, and considering what a busy man he is, I can’t believe this is the first flim of his I’ve reviewed), seems slightly less than cooperative. Teddy is instantly suspicious and threatens to leave, but the storm, now raging over the island, means that the marshals can’t leave yet.

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Teddy’s wife Dolores has passed away and is now a hallucination (played by Michelle Williams, from that movie whose name I always forget). He sees her everywhere, and though the visions of her are pretty creepy, they’re also very sad. As he tells Chuck, she died in a fire in their apartment building — from the smoke, not from the fire, he emphasizes — and the firebug who started the blaze and then escaped was one Andrew Laeddis (Elias Koteas, also from Zodiac, but I’ll always think of him as the man who shot House). Teddy’s hallucinatory wife insists that Laeddis is on Shutter Island, and suddenly his quest is just as much about finding Laeddis — who everyone says they’ve never heard of — as it is about finding Rachel Solando.
There’s a nifty twist at the end, so I can’t really say any more, lest I risk giving it away. I suspected it about five or ten minutes in, and was sure about halfway through, but actually, it was still okay, because then I could sit back and catch lots of the more subtle clues that were worked into the film. There are plenty of them, so many people might want to see it twice. Those sneaky Hollywood types!
But seriously, it’s a movie you have to think about. The last line is so subtle and sad, I kept thinking about it after I left, and really, that’s what those sneaky Hollywood people are after. Four and three-quarter idols for this one. Some of the imagery is very disturbing, though, so be warned. Teddy, for instance, flashes back several times to his days as a soldier liberating the concentration camp at Dachau, and the images are about as horrible as you’d expect. But it’s a very well-done film, with many layers and believeable characters. You’ll recognize several faces, including the third person in the Zodiac reunion, John Carroll Lynch as Deputy Warden McPherson (far left in the picture above), and Ted Levine of Silence of the Lambs fame. I wonder if he’s sick and tired of people remembering him first as Buffalo Bill? Because I think most people do. But there are worse movies to be so connected with — Mark Wahlberg’s never going to live down Max Payne, in my mind.
Anyway, go check this one out. I’m pretty sure all the talkative middle-aged ladies in the country saw it at the same time I did, so it should be safe now.

The Wolfman

Face it. Victorian England is perfect as the setting for a monster movie — any monster movie. It’s lit at night only by candles and lanterns, it’s often foggy, the sun doesn’t show up for days at a time, and nearly everyone is superstitious enough to believe in things like ghosts and, yes, werewolves. You fully expect to find a mad scientist around every corner, a curse on every crumbling manor house, and a terrifying creature lurking behind you every time you turn around. Late 19th-century England is the birthplace of every horror movie cliche, basically.
All those cliches are here, but somehow, it works.
Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is English gentry, even though he doesn’t sound like it. I accidentally saw another reviewer complaining about how miscast he was, and how jarring it was to have one lone American accent in the cast, but none of that bothered me. They do explain the accent; you just have to be a little patient. Anyway, he’s become a famous actor, called away from his portrayal of Hamlet by an anxious letter from Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt — she had a tiny part in Dan in Real Life, but I know her best from an excellent episode of Foyle’s War), his brother’s fiance. Brother Ben is missing, and Gwen pleads for Lawrence to return home to Talbot Hall and help however he can.
Lawrence is estranged from his father, Sir John Talbot (played in excellently creepy fashion by Sir Anthony Hopkins, from
Fracture, among a hundred or so other good films), and no wonder. If there was ever a colder or more distant father, I don’t want to know about it. When describing the loss of his wife, Spanish beauty Solana, he tells Lawrence, “Her death destroyed me, you know,” which sounds like a very moving expression of love — except judging by his tone, he might as well be discussing whether they should have beef stew or mutton for dinner. No matter how terrible or cruel the things he says, he never once raises his voice or shows any emotion beyond faint amusement or, occasionally, a sort of resigned, distant fondness, as if he’s tolerating a promising horse or hunting dog that’s being difficult.
Brother Ben is dead, of course, and he’s not the only one. There’s no shortage of mauled corpses here. A group of locals blames a caravan of Gypsies currently stopped there, and go after their dancing bear. With perhaps a touch of fellow-feeling, the true beast obligingly clears the bear’s good name by attacking locals and Gypsies alike when they’re not looking. That’s pretty much how everyone gets killed — abruptly, messily, and when they least expect it. But Lawrence — appropriately charmed by the pretty, forlorn Gwen, determined to discover Ben’s killer whether man or beast; and also wracked with guilt over his brother’s death, is determined to meddle — and is right there to witness all the blood and death, and get attacked himself. He survives, of course, because otherwise it would be a very short movie. And hey, what’s a curse for, if not to share with others?

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Strangely, this time it isn’t Anthony Hopkins in maximum security. He’s just visiting.

This is where I don’t see why anyone could say Benicio is badly cast. He’s very, very good at looking lost and weighted down by a cruel Fate, and what more could you ask for in a wolfman? Lycanthropy, like vampirism, doesn’t really get considered a curse, these days. Vampires sparkle annoyingly (unless they’re in Daybreakers), and it sounds cool to be able to turn into a wolf and run through the trees. Except it isn’t so cool not to be able to control one’s one animal instincts, as Lawrence finds out in a great hurry.
Being the enlightened, caring society that they are, the authorities graciously put Lawrence into an asylum instead of a prison, though as far as I can tell, the only difference is that in the asylum, they call the torture part of your cure, so at least you’re not suffering for no reason. And they have a nice sign up for all to see that reads, “Compassion Guide Thy Hand,” so you know they mean well when they’re dunking you in ice water. But in spite of the best kind, caring efforts of the doctor in charge of Lawrence’s case, even modern psychiatry can’t cure an ancient curse, and things manage to go from seeming just about rock-bottom bad for our tormented hero, to even worse.
Along the way we meet a Scotland Yard detective determined to bring his profession in line with all the latest scientific advances — a laudable goal, but also not much use against a creepy monster. The detective is Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith of The Matrix and Elrond of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), who was also a real person — the detective in charge of the investigation into the Ripper murders, also once played by Johnny Depp in From Hell. Talk about a thankless job. And it turns out that investigating werewolves isn’t the way to rejuvenate one’s career, unfortunately.
Now, I know that opinion is hugely divided on this one. Apparently, you love it or hate it. I guess I wouldn’t go quite as far as love myself, but I liked it enough to give it three and three-quarter idols out of five. Obviously if you don’t like old-style horror movie cliches, you’re completely out of luck. The same review I accidentally saw accuses it of being unscary; and it’s true that most of the scary stuff are just things that make you jump in your seat. It isn’t psychological horror, or make-you-not-sleep-at-night horror, but that isn’t what they were trying for. It’s good entertainment — I never once wondered if it was almost over so I could go home already — it’s wonderfully dark and bleak, a very convincing-seeming portrayal of England on the verge of the Industrial Age; and you get to feel for all of the characters. Except, of course, Sir John, because you’re pretty much always supposed to be nervous around Anthony Hopkins’ characters.

Edge of Darkness

I left this movie fully expecting to spot a mysterious black SUV following me, or possibly just get shot dead when I least expect it, since that was what kept happening on the screen. It was almost two solid hours of nearly jumping out of my seat whenever someone got shot, enough time to relax very slowly and get comfy again, then another huge bang, another dead person, and me left wondering if the next such jolt would make me accidentally fling Milk Duds all over the people in the next row. If you’ve seen the previews, you know just about exactly when the first gunshot will ring out, and it still made me jump.
If you have seen the previews, you’ve also seen a couple of bits and pieces that didn’t make the final cut. I hear they did a pretty serious re-shoot/re-edit on this film to make it more action-oriented, and they succeeded there, all right. It’s based on this popular British mini-series of the same name, and you can tell that this was based on something much longer. A few times, the story leaps ahead and assumes you were paying attention to that quick reference someone made to a shack on the river a few scenes back. Don’t get me wrong; I like movies that don’t spell everything out, but you do need to pay attention to this one.
The basic plot is simple enough, though. Mel Gibson is back on the big screen again, after lying low for years, and this time he’s playing Boston homicide detective Tom Craven. His daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) works for a large, important, mysterious research facility called Northmoor. She takes a couple of days off to visit her dad, but it’s far from relaxing, even before she gets gruesomely shot. She’s rather a tiny person, but the guy who shoots her uses a very big gun.
The obvious assumption is that some disgruntled suspect or relative of a suspect was trying to kill Tom, and Emma was simply collateral damage. When Tom finds a very large (and illegal) handgun among his daughter’s things, he starts to think that assumption is too obvious, and the movie hits its stride. Actually, it breaks into a breathless run, to try to fit in most of the plot from the mini-series. But the point is, whenever you have a character who does something mysterious at a mysterious “research facility”, that’s where you should be looking for answers, and Tom looks hard. That’s his skill set, after all, hunting down killers.
Enter Jedburgh (Ray Winstone,
Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, and also soon to be in Percy Jackson and the Olympians). He’s called Jedburgh after the WWII British Special Operations staff who went into Europe on spying and sabotage missions. Those missions were collectively called Operation Jedburgh — your MCND trivia for the week. In the British mini-series, the character was played by Joe Don Baker, who was the CIA agent who sometimes helped James Bond back when he was Pierce Brosnan. So there, Jedburgh was the only character with a U.S. accent; this time around, Jedburgh is the only one with a British accent. He just never fits in.
Anyway, he’s asked by some Very Important People to check into the problem of Emma Craven and her enraged father, who’s already threatening people; and to clean things up as necessary. I don’t know why anyone bothers to use phrases like “clean things up” or “tie up any loose ends” any more. Everyone knows exactly what they mean, so it isn’t as if they’re being subtle. But Jedburgh starts investigating, and that’s when the body count really starts racking up.

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Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?

And poor Tom can’t catch a break. His own partner wants him to lay off, Emma’s boss Jack Bennett (Danny Huston, who played Clive Owen’s cousin Nigel in Children of Men) gives him a polite runaround, and no matter how many times he asks for a glass of ginger ale, no one ever gives him one. But he perserveres, because he’s Mel Gibson, and he does play the grieving, determined father very well. His scenes with Jedburgh are great, and while it’s basically your standard conspiracy cover-up story, it’s all how it’s presented, after all.
Four idols out of five for this one. It kept me interested, it was well-acted, and it was overall a fun ride. Just hang on tightly to that box of Milk Duds.