Tom Basham

Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Host

In This Just OUT on March 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm

The Host

“The Host” is brought to you by author Stephenie Meyer, who penned the novel while counting her “Twilight” money. Instead of vampires with an alternative lifestyle, we have aliens who take over our bodies and perfect them and the planet. They kill us with kindness and everything is for the common good. You know, like Obamacare.

Among the last few “unoccupied” is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan from Hanna), who has managed to keep her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury from A Bag of Hammers) safe for a few years. She meets Jared (Max Irons from Red Riding Hood) who seems to be the last man on earth, and they fall in love, naturally.  And then, she gets taken (different movie) and implanted with a Host named Wanderer.

I did not read the book, and that is a great place for a character to have competing inner monologues. So, how do you show that on screen? They chose the old 1950s Twilight Zone method of echoing voiceover. Although Ronan is an amazing talent, her inner voice/host comes off as annoying, while the device yields abrupt responses disconnected from emotion.

The militant group of invading aliens all look like missionaries as they “seek” the last few humans for conversion. They don’t want to hurt anybody, and the only evil one, known as The Seeker (Diane Kruger of Inglourious Basterds) is certain that Melanie/Wanderer is going to be a problem.

I figure they stuck to the book, as it felt like they were checking off scenes as they went. This happens when the novelist is a producer on the movie and may not understand how to transform her inner invasion to the screen. There is a great theme here, but the movie did not pull it off.

I dated a girl with multiple voices in her head, and it was terrifying. I got none of that from watching “The Host.”  What I did get was horrible dialogue from great actors like William Hurt (The Village) who played Jeb, Melanie’s uncle. He actually says, “I am a big fan of science fiction movies, but I never thought I would be living one.” And he was living in the caves of a volcano that had the best set dressing I have ever seen in a cave. Nice lamps, pictures on the wall, Fred Flintsone style windows and all the trimmings.

We were due for an advancement of Jack Finney’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and Meyer does move the ball down the field by taking us inside the occupied mind and letting us know the body snatchers are beings too. This sets up a great dynamic in the main character and for the other characters as well. The ingredients are all there, but the soufflé fell flat. The entire world felt fake to me, and I never felt the horror of the invasion or the desperation of true love in what was an interesting love quadrangle. Director Andrew Niccol (In Time) has nowhere to hide, as he wrote the screenplay. He has done some good work in the past, but this one fell short.

I looked forward to “The Host,” and while it is a great concept, the movie did not deliver the theme, and therefore I did not find my viewing a hospitable experience. I give it 2 ½ stars out of 5 for using a tired technique on an interesting story. I am left with the thought, “What would Kubrick do?”

 

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Admission

In This Just OUT on March 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

admissionI admit I went to see “Admission” today, and I am not sorry, nor am I ashamed to admit it. Though I am still worried that Virginia Tech will find out they admitted me in 1977 even though I never took a foreign language class.

Portia (Tina Fey of 30 Rock) is an admissions counselor at Princeton, and for 16 years she has passed judgment on others. This made it easier to let her own life slide into a comfortable boring existence with none of the aspirations of her applicants. Her desktop bonsai plant is over-pruned, just like her life, which is one of the best metaphors I have seen in a while.

She visits a new school run by John (Paul Rudd of I Love You, Man) to meet Jeremiah (Nat Wolff of New Years Eve), a special student who wants to get into Princeton. As Portia’s perfect Princeton profile goes kaput, these new oddballs start to rub off on her. And speaking of oddballs, there is her mother played by Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees). There are some other solid sub-plots and characters, but Director Paul Wieitz (In Good Company) never takes us far away from the core of the story – that Portia from Admissions has some things she never admitted to anyone, including herself. I enjoyed her quest to determine what degree of pedigree is important to determine who or what we become.

The movie is billed as a comedy, and I laughed out loud several times, but the heart of a drama is there as well. Tina Fey’s manic nature and Paul Rudd’s….Rudd’ness (there’s no other way to describe it) are a perfect match.  You are glad when the bonsai plant dies, and she finally says “Bonsai!” with her life. A bunch of other stuff happens, but I don’t want to cheat and tell you about it. You will have to see the movie for yourself, and do your own report.

I give this movie a 3.85 GPA out of 5.  There are no explosions, and I think the only CGI was Lily Tomlin’s breasts. This is the kind of movie that Tracy and Hepburn would have done, and if you don’t know what I am talking about you don’t deserve admission into “Admission.” You should stay home and Netflix a bunch of movies, and then you will know what it means to have class.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

In This Just OUT, Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 at 7:15 pm

The-Incredible-Burt-Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opened today, and it was incredible…that I was there to see it. With an all-star cast how bad could it be? Sit down, let me tell you.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell of Get Smart) grew up doing magic with his best friend Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi of Fargo). They make it big in Vegas doing the same sequined jacket act they learned from a Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin of Little Miss Sunshine) magic kit for 10 years.  I was happy to see Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens) join the act as their assistant so this movie would not be a complete sausage fest.

Finally, Jim Carey (Bruce Almighty) shows them up as Steve Gray, the “Brain Raper,” with his street magic and death-defying feats.  Now the Incredible Burt and Anton Show really looks lame, and the growing rift between Burt and Anton explodes. They are fired from their Bally’s gig by Doug Munny, played to perfection by James Gandolfini (The Sopranos). I told you there are a bunch of stars in this movie.

I love Steve Carell and Jim Carey, and I had trouble counting how many times they made me laugh.  Probably because you need the first laugh to actually start a count. I smiled when I saw Jay Mohr (Jerry McGuire) playing “Rick the Implausible,” and he made me chuckle as at least he brought something to his character. Carell gave the same deadpan look I have seen in most of his work for an hour and forty minutes, and Jim Carey played… Jim Carey.  The script seemed to consist of dozens of corny cliché bits knitted together with short scenes of, “What just happened?” I didn’t have to pull the string, as the whole thing unraveled on its own thanks to the poor direction of seasoned TV director Don Scardino (30 Rock). The next time you step away from “30 Rock” Don, you should bring Tina Fey with you. On a good note, it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever experienced, and that puts it above my colonoscopy and the Carter Administration.

I wanted to believe in magic. I wanted to laugh, and I wanted to feel something for these characters beyond pity, and perhaps disdain for their agents for booking them in this stinker. I give this movie 1 star out of 5, and that’s for Alan Arkin and Jay Mohr who don’t need adjectives in front of their names, or this movie on their resume.

Oz the Great and Powerful

In This Just OUT, Uncategorized on March 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Oz-the-Great

I went off to see the Wizard
And how he came to Oz.
I found out that Diz
Made a nice Wiz,
As anyone dared because –
Because, because, because, because, because
Because Sam Raimi (Spiderman) does what he does.

We have James Franco (127 Hours) as the Wiz,
Who doesn’t know what he is.
When he has to run from town
So he gets on his balloon,
And then pretty soon
There’s no way he can come down.

What really made the movie
Was little Mila Kunis (Black Swan),
As she falls in love with him.
Though she looks great in leather,
That is not what Oz treasures
And the wizardry begins.

You could while away two hours
On the other witches prowess:
Michelle Williams (Shutter Island) and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy).
One is good and one is bad
And they both find Oz a cad
And one gives really bad advice.

Then, the plot began to twitch;
There was an evil switch.
This threw Oz into a pitch
Because one had an itch
To become an evil witch.

Don’t look for Dorothy,
And the dancing from those three,
They have not come along.
But I liked it pretty well,
And as I’m sure you can tell.
I kind of missed the songs.

Now I did not see any elephants
All wrapped up in cellophant
But I still liked the show.
And if you were thinkin
You would rather see “Lincoln”
You’d miss the Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead) cameo.

There’s no way to compare them,
This and what I saw at ten,
But they both have similar themes.
Don’t make that your concern,
There is plenty to be learned
In this prequel to a dream.

Don’t you worry, there are poppies,
Zach Braff (Garden State) plays a monkey
And there is a yellow brick road.
I’m giving it 4 stars
So just climb into your cars
And travel over the rainbow.

4 stars out of 5, PG, 2hours 10 minutes

Jack the Giant Slayer

In This Just OUT on March 1, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Jack

I knew “Jack the Giant Slayer” was going to be a BIG deal, but I had no idea just how far the beanstalk went. I admit I was skeptical after seeing “Hansel and Gretel” a few weeks ago which had no bread crumbs. Then, the first line of this movie is “’fee-fye-fo-fumm”, and they had me at Fumm.

The trailer made it look like an epic battle, and it is, but it’s also a story about a farm boy who wants to help his uncle and impress a girl. Young Jack,  played by Nicholas Hoult ( Warm Bodies and About a Boy) takes the old horse to town to sell it for food and comes back with (spoiler alert) magic beans. What will we do when all the farms are gone and we have no more farm boys? Will the hero of our movies be Jaden, the Starbucks barista?

Jack also brings home the memory of beautiful young, Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson (Alice in Wonderland).  Somehow these two kids wind up at the top of this big green thing along with the King’s most trusted man, Elmont (Ewan McGregor from Big Fish). Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the villain Roderick – played by the always great Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia) who has a way with giants and for once has great hair in a movie. Yes, there are giants, led by General Fallon (voiced by Bill Nighy of Pirates of the Caribbean) who are awesome and could have made it to the Super Bowl last year (apologies to Eli Manning). My favorite was Fumm, who was voiced by Ben Daniels (House of Cards) but looked exactly like my fifth grade teacher.

I may have been under the spell of 3-D Imax, but it all worked for me. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) has served up a nice telling of this English fairy tale. The story, Jack, the girl, and the visual effects supported the characters and the story and did not overtake the fable. There were moments it felt like “The Princess Bride,” but “Jack the Giant Slayer” kept its own tone, and stayed true to its roots.  I give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5 and encourage you to plant yourself in front of this movie and let it take you somewhere – over the rainbow (oops, that’s next week).