Tom Basham

Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Now You See Me

In This Just OUT on May 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm

now-you-see-me-poster2-385x600“Now You See Me” at the movie with the same name. This was my second magic movie of the year, but this one is not a comedy. It’s listed as a crime thriller, though it’s more of a “Who done it?”

Four different kinds of magicians are brought together by someone who provides them with a plan for some amazing tricks. Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network), Merritt (Woody Harrelson of Zombieland), Henley (Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers) and Jack (Dave Franco of Superbad) take up the challenge partly because of their ego, but mostly as a gateway to true magic and to meet the man behind the curtain.

The trailer does a good job of setting up the first act, but as magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman from Driving Miss Daisy) says, “you have not seen anything yet.” Thaddeus is impressed, but not fooled as he assists FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo of Rumor Has It) in tracking these 4 horsemen (their moniker, not mine) and bringing them to justice. At least, Dylan is stuck with Interpol Detective Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds) so he has a pretty face with whom to complain. She is stunning, but her only purpose in this movie is to look pretty and to be a possible love interest for Dylan.

The three big tricks come one in each act.  By the time we get to the third act we are curious, and like everyone else on screen, tired of being fooled. There is a great premise here.  However, we were all subjected to the misdirection of the magicians, and I came to see a movie and not a magic show. The majority of the screen time was spent on the spectacle, with a few glimpses now and then of what was really going on. A little more story and character work with a little less hocus pocus would have helped my emotional connection to the ending.

The movie is entertaining and mostly original, although robbing a bank thousands of miles away using magic was first done by Johnny Carson in 1955. Director Louis Leterrier of the “Transporter” movies seems at home with the action scenes, but nothing else. All we ever know about the Transporter guy is that he is a bad ass behind the wheel. In this magic movie, too much is hidden from the audience. Our magicians are smug, little smartasses that are never in real danger. In the end, like with most magic tricks, we are left amazed and then empty, feeling like a sucker. I admit the magic was awesome, but the movie was just okay. I give it 3 out of 5 stars for making my nine bucks disappear.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:
https://bashmovies.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

The Hangover Part III

In This Just OUT on May 24, 2013 at 11:07 pm

hangover3With just about every movie at the theater today having a number after it or being a remake, I found myself eating chicken nuggets at “The Hangover Part III,” and it was surprisingly good… the nuggets, that is.

I wanted to laugh, I really did. I liked the first one, and even the second one was a hoot. I know these movies are where farce meets fantasy, and the sight of our friends in impossible circumstances can make us howl with laughter. The previous two movies felt almost natural as they led us down the path into Hell. This third edition is so contrived, they had John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) show up 10 minutes in to explain the premise. Up to that point we were treated to nothing but death and destruction.

Three of the Wolfpack boys, Phil (Bradley Cooper of Silver Linings Playbook), Stu (Ed Helms of The Office), and Doug (Justin Bartha of National Treasure) are annoyed with Allen (Zach Galifianakis of Due Date) because they have to be his friend and do this third movie. They are all drawn back into mayhem because Allen has remained pen pals with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong of Zookeeper), and Chow just broke out of his Bangkok prison. Marshall (Goodman) wants Chow and our boys have to deliver him. The modern Greek tragedy can be hilarious, when it is original.

A few things you need to understand. Director/writer Todd Phillips did not write the first movie, but he wrote two and three. I do think he is a great writer with mad comedy skills, but this is just a Saturday Night Live type skit for these great characters. I had one laugh in the whole movie, and that was during the scene with Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids).

Many people think a “formula movie” is a buddy movie, or boy meets girl, or a monster eats New York. It’s really about money, like if you have these two actors and this director, that computes to a financial success. Here they have created a new formula; a third movie will make 60 percent of what the second movie did, no matter what they put up on the screen. They got my nine bucks, and if they get yours then you will be guaranteed to get “Hangover With a Vengeance” in theaters for next Christmas. Trust me, drink heavy tonight, have your own hangover. I give this movie 1 star out of 5 and that is for a soundtrack that had Harry Nilsson and Hanson. Just “MMMBop” yourself over to “Star Trek,” if you have to go the movies.

Star Trek Into Darkenss

In This Just OUT on May 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Star-Trek-Darkness-SMI went “Into Darkness” today and trekked where about 30 million others will: to see the new J.J. Abrams (Lost) Star Trek movie. For those who saw his first shot at this storied franchise, you already know he made one of those space-time-continuum swerves that allows him to cut his own path across the galaxy. A great move that Jim Kirk (Chris Pine of Unstoppable) would be proud of, and then he goes and flips the flipped script and dives right back into the di-lithium core of Star Trek lore – Khan.

That’s right, they are up against Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch of War Horse) this time, again. A character who cuts across the original television series and the best of the Shatner movies, Khan’s backstory has always been murky. To complete the paradox, we all know this “time” anything can happen. By the way, if you don’t know who William Shatner (Star Trek 1966) is they will not let you in the theater.

I could go into the plot, which is well laid out, but is basically: “get Khan.” Abrams shows he belongs in this medium and this franchise. While he gives us plenty of action, he keeps these characters as individuals and deepens the dynamic between them. Now, he must do all that in the three calm minutes they have between each major action set piece. The trio of Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto of Margin Call) and Bones (Karl Urban of Dredd) pushes each other’s buttons, and they also second-guess themselves – which is really tough for a Vulcan, but trust me, he does. The supporting folks are all great, with Uhura (Zoe Saldana of Avatar) and Scotty (Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead) as standouts.

I’m gushing, I know, but I am a fan and it was a fun movie. I like getting to know all the old characters again, and Abrams is wise to sprinkle plenty of the old into the new. In this Millennium, Star Trek is listed as “Action, Adventure and Sci-Fi,” with Sci-Fi bringing up the rear. Roddenberry (Star Trek – 1966) always tried to put Sci-Fi first, and we see what that got him – cancelled after three years. He had to pitch the show as cowboys and Indians in space to get it on the air. Maybe that is why even with the most advanced weapons, they spend much of their time in fistfights. There is never a phaser when you need one, and the transporter will not work when it would solve the whole problem. I do want more moral dilemmas, more of the comparisons of the human condition and spirit against other species. Maybe that will come in the future, but for now it’s enough that they got the eyebrows right, and they deserve something for their tribble. So I raise my eyebrows to Abrams and “Star Trek Into Darkness” by giving it 4 out of 5 stars. May the series live long and prosper.

Tom Basham is an indy filmmaker.

The Great Gatsby

In This Just OUT on May 10, 2013 at 11:28 pm

GatsbyI saw Gatsby today, and it was great. That’s what you hope for, greatness, in the same way young Jay Gatsby hoped for a future full of mansions, money and Daisy.

Baz Luhrumann (Moulin Rouge!) wrote and directed this spectacle, and that scared me. I needed motion sickness pills to watch Moulin Rouge!, and I did not want that in my F. Scott Fitzgerald. The reality of this literary masterpiece lies in that it is all spectacle. The roaring twenties, the cars, the booze, the decadence and the realization of the great American dream, with no sign of the depression just around the curve. Yes, it was a visual smorgasbord, but it was not too “Bazy.”

I was a fan of the ’74 Gatsby starring Robert Redford (The Natural). In my view, Lurhrumann did not stray far from Francis Ford Coppala’s (The Godfather) script, but where he did, they were all improvements. Sorry, Francis, but case in point. When Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio of Titantic) meets Daisy (Carey Mulligan from An Education) for the first time in five years, he is so nervous he knocks a clock off the mantle. This fourth dimension visual metaphor was subtle and stunning. Here is Gatsby, who by this point we know makes no wrong moves.  Dashing, classy and smooth to perfection, he is reduced to stumbling and bumbling by Daisy, as she and time are his only masters.

By the way, there is a plot that I don’t assume everyone knows. It’s boy meets girl, loses girl and tries to get her back. Of course, she is married now, and he figures the only way to accomplish that is amass a fortune and move in across the bay. The tricky part here is Daisy. She is truly a beautiful flower, who is used to being adored. That men want her seems natural to her, and husband Tom Buchanan (played by Joe Edgerton of Zero Dark Thirty) treats her like a prized possession. Mulligan plays Daisy perfectly as the bored, little, rich girl. Daisy is quite a puzzle, and I wanted more from her, but then I realized that’s just like every man who has met her. Reminds me of “Mud” last week, and that thing where “you can’t count on a woman to love you.” Gatsby imprinted on her right from the start, and there was no getting her out of his head. I understand this process, as it happened to me, and my Daisy now spends her time singing hiccup healing songs to our granddaughter. I can’t say it worked out that well for Jay Gatsby. I get the feeling Fitzgerald wants us to know that rich people have problems, too.

I was afraid Toby McGuire (Spiderman) as Nick Carraway would ruin it for me. He would not have been my first choice. I wanted Sam Waterston (played Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby -1974), but would have settled for Sam Shepard (Mud).  In the end, we got a tentative Sam Spade, whose investigation of these people drove him mad, and he could only find sanity when he wrote it all down. Nick Carraway is not the hero, and I don’t think this movie has a hero. It’s not that kind of movie, but it is great movie, and I give The Great Gatsby 4 out of 5 stars.

Mud

In This Just OUT on May 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm

mudI saw a real iron man today, Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer) in “Mud.” This is the third feature by Director/Writer Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), who struggled to get distribution for this gem since it opened in Cannes a year ago. I know it’s opening day for a blockbuster, but if I want to see a guy put on a metal suit and save the day I will watch “Game of Thrones.”

It starts with a boat that is perched about 20 feet up in a tree. Ellis (Tye Sheridan from Tree of Life) and his buddy Neckbone (Jacob Lofland in his debut) find it and claim it as their own. Ellis is the sensitive type with a strong right cross, and Neckbone is actually the smart one. Unfortunately Mud (Matthew McConaughey) has taken up residence in the boat and makes a deal with the 14-year-old boys for their help.

But this movie is not about Mud, not really. It’s about these boys, and Ellis in particular. It’s a coming of age story and what men will do for women. These boys grow up fast along the river and are quick to prove themselves to Mud, who is on the lam and is waiting to link up with his love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon of Legally Blonde). She loves him and does not know what to think about him. But these boys see a man in trouble, and they are the men who can help unite him with his true love.

There are some great performances here, from McConaughey and the two boys, who are absolute standouts. Sam Shepard shines as Tom Blankenship, the guy who raised Mud and sees him as a train wreck. He does not know whether to help or run in the other direction.

Nichols brought the Arkansas riverbank into the theater, as nothing was shot on a sound stage. The characters had depth, without a hint of cliché. Coming of age stories like this that don’t stumble are rare, and I felt these boys grow and struggle with grown-up decisions. The movie was a little long, but we are not used to movies like this where story and character are important. I am sure the explosions in the theater next to me would have made it feel like a roller coaster ride.

I enjoyed my ride down the river, and I now I understand what Ellis’s dad meant when he said, “You can’t trust a woman to love you.” I give this move 4 stars out of 5, and I trust you can get your boat out of the tree and enjoy a cruise down the “Mud” river.