Tom Basham

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Dark Skies

In This Just OUT on February 23, 2013 at 1:03 am

Dark Skies.” That’s what they call February, where they dump movies like – “Dark Skies.”  With the tagline, “Once you’ve been chosen, you belong to them,” I did not know if I was going to see a movie or a Taylor Swift video.

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The movie stars Keri Russell ( Waitress, Felicity) as Lacy, a mother of two young boys trying to keep her family together. She’s married to Daniel (Josh Hamilton of See Girl Run) and the only time I felt horrified in this movie was seeing Keri Russell climb into bed and only be interested in her laptop. I almost ran out screaming right then and there.  Daniel and Lacy are struggling to get by when strange things start happening around the house.  I know it sounds a little like “Poltergeist.” The only similarity is a young family in the suburbs where something evil comes into the house, someone says “they’re here,” and it wants to take one of the kids so they seek out this old creepy person to help them?

I should give writer, director Scott Stewart (Legion) the credit he deserves for his special twists since he made the kid a boy, and the creepy person a guy played by the great J.K. Simmons (Juno).  Pretty soon this nice family is all boarded up in their house and the only thing they have is a script that tells them to scream when bad things happen. None of the characters drive the plot, have an arc, or an heroic moment.  Maybe someone can still be saved, like you from letting them get your 10 bucks for this movie.

If you are going to steal – steal from the best. I think Stewart wanted to do a movie with less special effects, and he has accomplished that as this movie has less effects and it’s less special.  What he needs to work on is some original stories and character development and have something more for Simmons to do than just sit in a chair and tell stories.  Tell a new story Mr. Stewart, and don’t try to scare us with the ones our old friend, Spielberg used to tell.

I wanted to like “Dark Skies,” and I wanted Keri Russell to bake me a pie like she did in “Waitress,” but neither of those things happened.  I give this movie 1 out 5 stars because it’s not worth the effort it takes to type a fraction.

In Ask Tom on February 18, 2013 at 2:28 am

Got a question for me, just send me an e-mail:  tom@sapfilms.com

TomBasham

I have always been a fan of movies.  I have produced 4 feature films and written 8 feature length screenplays that have been finalist in over a dozen national contests.

I am not a movie snob. I can enjoy a movie like Zoolander just as much Citizen Kane.  I see just about everything, so if you have a question about a movie – chances are I have seen it. If you have made an indie movie and would like it reviewed please send it my way.

A Good Day To Die Hard – AGAIN

In This Just OUT on February 18, 2013 at 1:59 am

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I went into this movie with an open mind.  I thought, “Let’s forget the other movies, and just start with this guy, John McClane, who used to be a cop.” I got a large popcorn and suspended all disbelief. It worked so well that when this hot blonde came in late and sat down in front of me, I imagined she was hitting on me.

“A Good Day to Die Hard” is not a terrible movie. Irish director John Moore wants to be John Woo, and has made a nice Russian spy action flick. I get the feeling they had a good idea for a movie and all it needed was a big American star, and they came up with Bruce Willis (Die Hard – 1988, 1990, 1995, 2007, 2013). The one smart guy in the room said, “We don’t need Bruce Willis – we need Die Hard. Bruce Willis could not save Cop Out at the box office, but Die Hard never loses…money. Let’s make him the CIA guy’s father.” That’s how we have “Die Hard,” I mean, John McClane playing about the fourth banana in this ruskie smash’em up. I do think they wrecked more cars than “Smokey and the Bandit II.”

There is a nice plot, where the fate of the world is at stake, and to drive home the point they actually threaten terror, nukes and weapons of mass destruction.  I expected Bill Murray to join in with, “Dogs and cats living together.” And our friend John McClane is there – “on vacation,” which he said THREE times in the movie.  The truth is he was not on vacation; he was looking for his boy. Yeah, I didn’t know he had a son either. Little John, actually called Jack (Jai Courtney of Spartacus – no, the one on TV), is in deep undercover in Russia. Somehow his dad can find him 10 minutes after leaving the cab when the entire Russian police force cannot. It is a fun ride. The guns are bigger, the crashes are more spectacular and they have one chase scene I can only compare to “Super Mario Brothers.” Don’t worry about keeping up — most of the movie is in slow motion. I wish I were kidding.

This movie has none of the charm of the original, or of the original character. That seems to have gone the way of Bruce Willis’ hair. Just go see it, suspend your disbelief, and say, “Hey, I think that guy’s dad is Die Hard…cool.” When I look at it that way, I can give this movie 2½ stars and not feel like I have been let down.  And when the lights came up I got another look at that blonde, and reality set back in, and all I could say was, “Excuse me, sir.”

Safe Haven

In This Just OUT on February 15, 2013 at 1:16 am

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Yes, I saw “Safe Haven.” I could tell you I had to, that it was an assignment or that “Die Hard 15, I Really Am Too Old For This” was sold out, but I will not.  I like a good chick flick.  The initials of my film production company are SAP, so what does that tell you?

This movie is about second chances.  For novelist Nicholas Sparks, who wrote the book and produced the movie, it was his second chance to make the movie “Message in a Bottle,” which I liked better. He penned both books about handsome widowers living by the water and women with baggage from out of town. In this version, Sparks seems to have watched that scary Julia Roberts movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” and tried to give his story a harder edge. I am not saying this Sparks story is derivative; it’s more like a bad Xerox. The difference maker here, I think, is director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat). He is a master at taking a script that might be a road map to Wichita – and you don’t want to go to Wichita, but with Hallstrom driving the bus, by the time you get there you say, “Wow, this is really nice.”

Julianne Hough (Footloose 2011, hold the Bacon) plays Katie, the girl from out of town seeking “Safe Haven.” She holds her own against Josh Duhamel (Life As We Know It), who plays Alex, the attractive and wounded widower. Alex is quite smitten with her, and since he is from the south, he does not look a gift-blonde in the mouth. He does not have the cliché’ flashback tidbits that take the whole movie for us to see what happened to her. I took points off for that, Mr. Hallstrom.

I need to give a “shout out” to Jim Nalitz (The Vulture’s Eye, Perfect Poison), who starred in some of my movies and showed up on screen.  There are some other plot and character problems, but then I already knew we were going to Wichita. I also knew this was Sparks, and all his stories end with tragedy and tears, but I was not going to fall for that. I’m a tough guy, and besides, I am dissecting this movie like it was a bullfrog in the eight grade. And I made it, right to the last moments – and then…Niagara Falls…yeah, Niagara Falls.

I give this movie 2 ½ stars – and that is grading on the chick flick curve.  Next time Hallstrom, if you want to do a flashback, just do it and get it over with. Don’t give us a 30-second flash every 10 minutes for 90 minutes, and I won’t cry about anything else.

Robot & Frank

In New On DVD, Uncategorized on February 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

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I saw the trailer for “Robot & Frank” about 6,000 times, so I was excited when the Netflix envelope showed up. The movie stars Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard of An Education) and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) as Frank, and I don’t understand how the Robot got top billing. This was his feature film debut, and he may have done some stage work (something called “Warehouse in Japan”) but he should never have been put ahead of Langella, who has played both Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. I heard that the Brave Little Toaster was considered for the part, but that may have just been some backstage Vanity Fair gossip.

Frank is old, lives alone, and has become forgetful. I can’t remember if they mentioned Alzheimer’s or just called it dementia, as I am not too far behind Frank. They use this health issue as a reason to bring in the Robot. From there, it becomes a buddy movie, and I have to admit the Robot does steal some scenes, or maybe there are scenes where the Robot actually steals.  Frank’s only other friend in the movie, aside from his two annoying grown kids, is Jennifer, played by the always-delightful Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking).  She works at the library with her fat robot friend. A relationship with Robot and fat library robot never gets going, which may be a problem with the script or something to do with an incompatible input port. In fact, there are a number of plot lines in this movie that are not well developed.  The whole robot-caretaker thing is just around the corner and the dynamics of that can be fascinating.

There was so much talent in this movie and most of them were given a simple one-dimensional character program. Perhaps if some of these characters or subplots were further explored I would be more amped up.  Unfortunately, they only scratched the cyber surface in this movie, but I did not fall asleep watching it and that skinny car was cool.
This is the first real feature for screenwriter Christopher D. Ford and director Jake Schreier, so I am thinking they may have suffered from lack of confidence and/or control. They have skills, and I will look for their next project.  I give this movie 2 ½ stars and only hope C3PO does not see it, as it would certainly send him back into a downward spiral of booze and Asian porn algorithms.

Side Effects

In This Just OUT on February 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

SideEffects-exclusive-lgI was having anxiety about seeing “Side Effects”, as I wanted it to be more than the Lifetime Movie version of people with problems and how they solve them with pills. And director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven) delivered. Cue the pharmaceutical commercial music, and get those people out of the bath tubs.

Poor little Emily, played perfectly by Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is depressed, and being married to Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) does not make her happy anymore.  Maybe pills will help. Luckily, Dr. Banks (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes) deals them out from his hip-mounted Pez dispenser while actually citing the cliché “better living through chemistry.”  This movie does expose the culture of prescription happiness, and blames the patient, doctor, and the drug maker.  While these pills solve one problem, they cause another. Poor Emily starts walking in her sleep, and then cooking dinner and then – ouch! I used to walk in my sleep, and my wife fixed it by putting a vacuum in my hands.

I don’t want to give it away, but Emily does something really bad, like forgetting the fabric softener but much worse.  She has to go away to what I like call a “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Seems they have to bring back her old doctor, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (Ocean’s Twelve), to find out what is really wrong with her. I must say, that if Zeta-Jones told me to take a pill or commit stock fraud, I would do it, and there is not a male jury in this country that would convict me. As for Emily, I don’t want to tell you what happens, because I am still figuring it out.

I found “Side Effects” to be well done with some nice acting and good characters that are all flawed in their own peculiar way.  I still left the theater wanting — wanting Big Chief to pull that fountain out of the shower room, toss it through the window and run off into the sunset. Just rent “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and you will understand.

“Side Effects” was satisfying, but in the way a cookie is satisfying when you really want a fudge brownie. The moral of the story, I guess, is when you put pills and pretty girls together, you wind up doing things you normally would not do.  For me it’s vacuuming, night sweats, and shared deserts. For Emily, there are other side effects. I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars, so take a bag of popcorn and call me in the morning.

Warm Bodies

In This Just OUT on February 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I jwarm-bodies-poster-ew-brandedust saw “Warm Bodies”, and it gave me a warm feeling. The movie stars Nicholas Hoult from “About a Boy”, about a decade ago, and this movie is about a zombie named “R.”  I’m not talking about a metaphor, like your teenager acts like a zombie at breakfast.  This is the real, un-live, “Walking Dead” kind of zombie. But then R is the zombie with a heart of… well, that would give away the whole movie.  He does have a great record collection and a surprisingly sensitive and reflective inner monologue.

It all starts when zombie meets girl and does not eat girl, named Julie, played by Teresa Palmer.  She cut her teeth in movies like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and was Number 6 in “I Am Number Four,” which was my favorite number in that movie. It seems R is quite taken with her, and takes her back to his home and tries to get her drunk. This part was tough for me.  Here this guy is a zombie, and he has a better car than me and does better with chicks than me and he can barely do more than grunt.

It’s a classic story about the guy from the other side of the wall that separates zombies from regular people. Even though Julie really likes R, she does not tell her dad about him.  I have been there R, like in fourth grade when all I could do was stutter, so I sat behind her in math and touched her hair.  Julie’s dad, played by John Malkovich (In The Line of Fire), is in charge of killing all the zombies, so maybe Julie’s heart is in the right place. In a normal zombie movie you would say this is not Shakespeare, but I can’t do that here. You might recognize the story as “Romeo & Juliet,” though it took a balcony scene with R at the bottom grunting to Julie up top for me to get it.

Turns out all you need is love, and a leap of faith gesture that makes John Cusack’s boom box seem desperate and dated – and I love that movie. And yeah, I loved this movie.  I loved that R had a zombie friend like Rob Corddry, (Hot Tub Time Machine) who liked his friend’s girl and did not eat her brains. So I recommend you see this movie with someone you love, or maybe that creepy guy who sat behind you in math class has a heart.  I give this movie 4 out 5 stars, and kudos to writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50) for breathing life into a zombie movie that changed my life.