Tom Basham

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Way Way Back

In This Just OUT on July 26, 2013 at 11:54 pm

movies-the-way-way-back-poster“The Way Way Back” is a place I am used to, so this movie was an easy choice. It’s a coming-of-age movie written and directed by the team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. These boys won a screenwriting Oscar for “The Descendants,” which they penned with Alexander Payne (Sideways). It follows that they would make this their directorial debut, as they are oddballs and that’s what this movie is about.

Duncan (Liam James from 2012) has to go with his mom Pam (Toni Collette from Little Miss Sunshine) to her boyfriend’s beach house for the summer. It’s supposed to be a time for Duncan and Trent (Steve Carell from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) to bond since Duncan hates him. Many movies veer off into cliché-ville about here, but this movie, like Duncan, chooses it’s own path.

Trent has a daughter of his own, who is a hot and popular teenager and also wants nothing to do with Duncan. There is a bunch of great talent in this movie that fill out a nice ensemble. I have to mention Trent’s neighbor Betty (Allison Janney from Juno), who is a beautiful mess and the poster child for bad cleavage. Her darling teenage daughter, Susanna (Anna Sophia Robb from Soul Surfer), is also hot and popular, but appreciates that Duncan is different.

Although I like Duncan, and I agree with him that Trent is a jerk, Trent is right when he tells him in the opening scene that Duncan is a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. The truth is, most 14-year-old boys are a 3. I know this, because I was a 1.85. No confidence, no charisma and no game. Add to that divorced parents, and Duncan’s life really does suck. Fortunately he gets away from those crazies and meets some new crazies in the form of Owen and Caitlin (Sam Rockwell from Moon and Maya Rudolph from Bridesmaids). Duncan eventually sees that everybody struggles with relationships. People are not perfect and are seldom a perfect match. Though, when a game of Candyland turns into a blood sport that might be a clue you are not with the right person.

I enjoyed this movie. I knew it was a trip to the beach and a coming-of-age movie, but the oddball filmmakers made sure it did not suck and was not something I have seen a hundred times. People in their forties come of age in this movie too, and you get to see Duncan do something in a waterslide that is legendary. For that I give this movie 4 stars out of 5, and I consider it a family movie standout. I don’t know why it’s PG-13 unless it was the bad cleavage. So, if you were once a 3 or less, like me, see this movie. You will come out feeling like a 7.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:

The Conjuring

In This Just OUT on July 20, 2013 at 12:32 am

the-conjuringI was not going to let “The Conjuring” keep me away from the movies. Sure, I was scared to watch “The Wizard of Oz” when I was little… okay, even after I had my driver’s license in 1975, but today, I sat there and said, “Conjure on.”

Like many movies of this type, it starts when a nice family moves into an old house they bought without a good home inspection or demon rider on their insurance. Roger (Ron Livingston of Office Space) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor of The Haunting) move out into the woods with their five young daughters. Right there I felt the horror to come, and I only have two daughters. Director James Wan (Saw) uses all the old tricks to scare us, from creaking doors to imaginary friends. Carolyn and her girls play a fun game called clap and hide, which I heard about in college, though I did not date girls from Radford. It does not take long for them to realize the previous owner has not “moved on” and does not like them one single bit.

The movie is based on real events from the chronicles of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson of Barry Munday and Vera Famiga of Up in the Air), who studied these phenomena. This is supposed to make it more chilling, and for me, it did, since my life is based on a true story. These two are the experts, and right away they know they are up against serious evil. As this is set in 1971, it bothered me just how comfortable they were in identifying the nature of the problem and type of demon, and they didn’t even have a logo on their car of a ghost with a line drawn through it.

I admit it was a little scary, I mean for the little girls living in the house, and for their mother played by the amazing Lili Taylor. I just love her, and maybe one day she will agree to read my screenplay “50 Songs About Joe – He Lies” and that demon can be exorcised. I can’t say that Ron Livingston did anything for me here. He seemed to be in the same trance he was under in “Office Space” and even when his wife and daughter were in eminent danger, he had the same emotion in his voice I have at Starbucks. I know less is more, but in his case it really was less.

So I was a little scared, and a little surprised it was not terrible. They did not raise the bar, or the dead, but delivered a nice scary movie that was not just stupid like “Dark Skies.” I’m also giving Wan credit for not using torture porn and giving new meaning to being three sheets to the wind. For that they get 3 stars from me, and I need to see if my granddaughter will let me borrow her owl nightlight.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:

Pacific Rim

In This Just OUT on July 13, 2013 at 12:53 am

pacific_rimToday I saw “Pacific Rim,” which should have been called Godzilla versus Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots. That’s what it looked like in the trailers, and that’s what it is. Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) put these guys together just like Universal Pictures did in 1943 with “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.”

I don’t mean to trivialize this movie. You see, there is this giant monster and “It Came from Beneath The Sea” (sorry, that’s an actual 1955 title from Columbia Pictures). Some kind of breach in the sea floor is giving birth to these creatures. This movie would have been great at the drive-in a few decades ago.

So the world comes together and determines the best way to fight a big sea creature is with a big robot. They don’t need a bigger gun or a scientist to find its weakness; they need a big metal robot with a good right cross. Again, it comes down to a fistfight.

The guy in charge of the fighting robots is Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of The Wire), who hides his backstory from his troops, but we get to see it in a nice flashback. As the creatures get bigger, his “troops” start losing and the politicians decide to build a wall. Right away, they bust through the wall like it was not there. Now Stacker has to find what is left of his “troops” and get back into action.

One of his best is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of Children of Men), who had a rough fight to open the movie and lost his co-pilot. I admit, it was a nice opening sequence giving us the history of the creatures and then a great action scene and then they hit us with the Title Card to remind us – 15 MINUTES IN, that this is a movie, so don’t forget the title. That made it feel more like a TV movie. Raleigh needs a new partner, and though everyone is against it, he winds up paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi from The Brothers Bloom).

Now it becomes a buddy movie, just like “The Heat,” where these two people screw up, get tossed off the project, but in the end they come back to save the day. Apparently, there are no new stories being produced or funded, just literally bigger villains and therefore bigger heroes with bigger explosions to save the world on a bigger budget. There is still a “Geek Squad” for comic relief, but no real heroes or a story that sheds light on the human condition.

Some of the best movies have simple themes with simple problems. Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane) just wanted to put out a newspaper and Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) just wanted to go home. Here they spend too much time developing the CGI and 3D effects and too little time on the characters. They give the leads one bad thing that happened in their past to define them, and we all know that is what they will overcome in the third act.

I like a monster movie as much as the next guy. I have “Sharknado” (Sci-Fi Channel 2013) on my DVR, and I’m going to make it a double feature with “Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus” (Sci-fi Channel 2010). And it can be done right, or at least better. When Spielberg made “Jaws” (1975 – budget $8 million) he added more than a twist. He made Peter Benchley’s book seem like Melville’s “Moby Dick” and the characters dominated the screen. When George Lucas made “Star Wars” it was described as a “B-Movie” with an A-Budget. I would note that Lucas spent $11 million in 1977, and in 1978 Warner Brothers spent $55 million on “Superman.” And Lucas brought a mythology to the space ships and laser guns.

“Pacific Rim” is a step back in filmmaking and a great example at what is wrong with Hollywood. Sure, I saw some “cool things” in 3D IMAX, and that is what they are selling. If you want five sequels, an X-Box game and a cable series go ahead and put on your 3D glasses now. I give this movie 1 star out of 5 because it was cool seeing a robot beat up Godzilla. That’s not a movie I want to see again… unless I catch it on the Sci-Fi Channel late at night.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:

The Lone Ranger

In This Just OUT on July 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm

THE-LONE-RANGERI thought I would be all alone seeing “The Lone Ranger” at 8:45 this morning. Gee willikers, was I ever wrong. A packed theater and I saw Director Gore Verbinski’s (The Pirates of the Caribbean) take on the 1930s icon of American Justice. Since the story comes with its own catch phrases and kooky sidekick, this seemed like a perfect fit.

This is an origin story, and it does follow the original premise of how John Reid (Armie Hammer of The Social Network) came to wear the mask. The appearance of Tonto (Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean) is a little different, and you were led to expect a different Tonto from the trailer.  I don’t want to give anything away, but these two work together to get justice against the evil outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner of Crash). Butch has done a lot of ruthless things and should be hung for his diet and dental hygiene alone. This new dynamic duo also has to take on corporate and personal greed in the name of Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson of Michael Clayton), who represents the interests of the railroad.

So, it’s a western, but it’s not cowboys and Indians. That was never what the Lone Ranger was about. This is about justice against evildoers, in whatever form they take. The Ranger badge keeps him from being a true vigilante, and the fact that he never shoots to kill. I know that’s the Lone Ranger’s way, but you would think he could up his game while hundreds of people are being mowed down all around him. As for Tonto, he always was the comedic relief, and Depp is well suited for that.

I gotta say, it was not horrible, and I know that is not a ringing endorsement. The filmmakers seemed to want to connect to the slow pace of old westerns, but the way they did it gave me saddle sores. The action scenes were cool, of course, but it seemed like everyone else onscreen and I were just resting and waiting for the next ride. The movie was further saddled with the clunky narrative approach of having the whole story being told to a kid. That only worked once, and this is not “The Princess Bride.” With all this bouncing around, some of the villains were off screen for 30 minutes at a time, and you started to wonder what the fuss was about.

This is still a popcorn movie, and a western with impressive train stunts that finished pretty strong. There was some fun there, and I have to give the movie 3 stars out of 5. That means when I got from my seat at the end, I did not feel let down. For future reference, here is a breakdown of my scale: 5 stars: Amazing, 4 stars: Really Good, 3 Stars: Ordinary Movie Fare, 2 Stars: Disappointing, 1 Star: Sucks.