Tom Basham

Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Philomena

In This Just OUT on November 30, 2013 at 9:39 am

philomenaYesterday, I had my fill of turkey, and today I saw “Philomena.” They both hit the spot and made me all feel warm inside.

This is the true life story of Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench from “Skyfall”), a young girl in Ireland, who went to a carnival and came home with the boobie – I mean, baby prize. Her father was so ashamed he turned her over to the nuns at the local convent.

The deal was the nuns would take care of her and birth the baby. All she has to do is work for them for four years and sign over all rights to the child. As young girls did in those days, she gave up her son so that he could have a better life, but not until she raised him for his first three years.

The severity of the sin and the need to keep the secret is pounded into her by the nuns.  It’s a shame that such a thing was so shameful. Eventually the secret itself becomes more of a sin.

Now, 50 years later, on her son’s birthday, she finally opens up about him. Philomena enlists the help of Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan from“Percy Jackson & The Lightening Thief”) to help find him. Martin has just been sacked (love that British expression) and has nothing better to do than stretch his journalistic legs on this adventure.

Martin follows the trail to America with Philomena in tow. Watching him endure hours of non stop talking made me miss my Mom. Before this he never thought much of human interest stories, and now he is consumed by one.

There is a lot going on here; the way the Catholic Church handled these things and the way society viewed un-wed mothers. Although, if there had been an abortion, the movie would have been over before I finished my popcorn.

Judi Dench gives the kind of performance we have never seen from her. To see such a strong woman be so vulnerable because of this one secret is very touching. She does not blame the Catholic Church or the nuns. She accepts the responsibility and the pain that comes along with it.

The ending got to me, but then so did the beginning and the middle. I thought I was going to keep it together, and then…Niagara Falls. I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Now, I just wish my mom was still around to talk about it.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In This Just OUT on November 22, 2013 at 11:25 pm

hunger_games_catching_fire_posterToday I was starving, so I went for a second helping of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” It’s a shame they could not get the charcoal going.

Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence from “Silver Linings Playbook”) and her buddy Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson from “The Kids are Alright”) are basking in the glory of their victory in the last movie. They have everything they could ever want – except flame retardant clothing. But good old President Snow (Donald Sutherland from “The Mechanic”) fears that Katniss has turned into some kind of Joan of Arcadia. He makes the couple parade through the districts to demonstrate their love and allegiance to the Capital. Katniss and Peeta find things are worse now, but they also see something new. The people now have hope, and they are responsible for giving it to them.

President Snow can see a rebellion brewing and brings in Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman from “Moneyball”) to run the next Hunger Games. Heavensbee flips the script like my brother used to flip over the Monopoly board when I was close to winning. Just like today’s reality TV shows, they come up with Hunger Games: All Stars.

It takes 90 minutes to get to this point and should have gotten there in 25. I know Syd Field, author of “Screenplay,” died, but his book is still valid. The last hour of the movie is a second act, and that is where the movie ends. Much like “The Empire Strikes Back,” you know the war has just begun.

This movie felt like just another episode, stringing us along to something big. They might as well put “tune in next year” on the screen. I know I got suckered into “Lost” for six years, and I still don’t know what the point of that was.

You can see the grand themes of sacrifice and “moves and counter moves,” but Katniss is still left to play the ingénue. She remains passive for most of the movie. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but let’s just say she plays the game with her own “Silver Linings Playbook.”

This was a nice episode, but all this movie did was set up the next movie. For that matter, it hardly added much from the first movie. Just because there were three books does not mean there should be three movies. The only hero here is the studio that is sure to rake it in at the box office. I expected more from Katniss, and there is even a running gag in the movie that nobody knows what Katniss is really like.

The screenwriters and the directors decided to keep the secret…until the next movie – maybe. Because of that, I can only give this movie 2 stars out of 5. I just hope the next Game is not called off because of lame. I need more than just an appetizer.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

All is Lost

In This Just OUT on November 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm

all_is_lost_xlg“All Is Lost” has nothing to do with the Obama Administration. It’s the latest Robert Redford (“The Company You Keep”) vehicle, and this time it’s a boat. This movie is the brainchild of Writer/Director J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”), and for some reason he needed the 77-year-old Redford to pull it off.

Our Man wakes up at sea to find his 33-ft. sailboat has been rammed by a rogue shipping container. We don’t know his name, and the credits list him as “Our Man,” but I will call him Redford. Once he and I do a movie together I will get to call him Bobby.

The movie starts with the immediate problem of waking up to a hole in the boat out in the open sea. For you budding screenwriters, this is how it is done. You could write 30 pages about his wife wishing him well, and him having problems at work, or why he was taking this voyage, but a good producer will toss that right out. This movie can also teach you a lot about writing dialogue.

Did I mention he was alone? Just him, a top-of-the-line life raft and a yacht full of food and supplies. And his life raft did not have a crouching tiger hiding in it. He also had a fiberglass repair kit and did a decent job repairing the hull damage. But his luck did not hold out.

I don’t want to give anything away, but things got worse. He handles each challenge like the seasoned sailor he appears to be. He is prepared for adversity and handles most of what happens by the book.

Now, I love Redford, the man and the character, Our Man. So my issues must be with Writer/Director Chandor. I was expecting to see a good 45 minutes of Redford just coming apart on the screen. I wanted to see him go through all the emotions and desperation of a man in his position, and Chandor only scratched the surface. He had a Ferarri in Redford, but did not want to open it up. Sure there were a few moments, but nothing like what you saw Tom Hanks go through in “Cast Away” or “Captain Phillips” for that matter.

I love the idea of this movie, as a thriller and even more as a metaphor. A guy in his latter years is alone on a vast sea, and then his life starts “taking on water.” He repairs the wound and tries to go on, but that scar will always be a weak spot for him. And we have the irony of a very independent person out on his own who will only survive if others come to his rescue.

The movie is shot well. Although it keeps you interested, the movie never rises above the basic story. A rich guy has a bad day on his boat. They made a movie about it, and it could have been so much better. I can only give it 2 stars out of 5. I wanted an epic struggle for life and they gave me “The Old Man and the Sea” in a bigger boat.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

12 Years a Slave

In This Just OUT on November 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm

12-years-a-slave“12 Years a Slave” is not a metaphor or a sentence handed down to a plantation owner. It’s a feature film by British Director Steve McQueen (Shame) based on the 1853 book by Solomon Northup. That is not a typo. I am talking about a book published a century and a half ago.

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor from Salt) was born a free man and was having a nice family life in 1841 New York until he got suckered into a trip to Washington, D.C.  While there, he was kidnapped and taken to Louisiana to be sold as a runaway slave. This is still two decades before President Lincoln freed the slaves, in case you have not seen that movie.

Of course Solomon tries to explain his situation, but the only thing worse than being a black man at that time was being an educated black man. The movie demonstrates how most slaves are beaten, and those who could read or write were beaten to death.

We watch as Solomon becomes a slave. Worse than that, we see him witness many of the atrocities of slavery. To give you an idea how bad it was, they had to invent the word “abolish.” These were some of the most powerful scenes of the film, though not played for shock value. The filmmaker drew me into these stories, and then I felt cheated that I did not see what happened to these other people. But then, Solomon never knew what happened to them either, as this was no cinematic fairy tale with a happy ending where all the loose ends were tied up.

The movie did not blow me away like I heard it did for others. I have read that people thought this was the best ever screen representation of slavery. I guess those people did not see “Roots.” While slavery was the backdrop for this movie, I did not see it as the overall theme. The performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon was incredible, and Oscar worthy, but he played it more like 12 years in prison. He knew he was “wrongfully accused” and never lost faith that he would find his way back to his life as a free man in the North. The other slaves had no such hope. To me, this contrast between Solomon and his fellow slaves is the theme of the movie. This supports the arc of his character, from a free man in the North, who was aware of slavery, to a man 12 years later who was forced to live as a slave and see the fate of his fellow man.

By the end, I felt cheated by the several paragraphs that appeared onscreen as a postscript. What happened after the movie as Solomon sought justice and how Solomon’s life changed sounds even more compelling than the movie I just saw. I should thank McQueen for not making it a four-hour movie.

I don’t think this movie teaches us anything new about how bad slavery is, and I don’t think that was the purpose. The movie did show us the story of an incredible man who lived on both sides and how he handled it. It’s well done, worth seeing and worthy of 4 stars out of 5. But I will be looking for the sequel to blow me away.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

Ender’s Game

In This Just OUT on November 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm

endersgame-jpg-Finally, today it’s “Ender’s Game” on. I have been game for this movie for quite a while. I read the book (“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card) this summer, though everybody else read it a few decades ago.

And somewhere back in time, the first time the Buggers invaded Earth, we beat them and sent them packing to their home planet. The military commanders knew they would come back and that a new kind of commander was needed to ultimately defeat this enemy. They observed kids and their strategy in video games as the kind of superior thinking needed for the ultimate battle in the future.

So they draft the best kids at the age of 6 into service and train them for battle. For decades, they searched for a leader, and none were up to the task until Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield from Hugo). He is a misfit, and spends the entire mission trying to find his sea legs.

With each successful battle simulation he gains confidence, but nobody believes he is the best, including himself. The only people who believe in him are his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin from Zombieland) and Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford from Cowboys & Aliens), whose job is to push Ender beyond his limits. Even Graff’s faith in Ender is more out of desperation. The only real friend Ender makes is Petra (Hailee Steinfeld from Romeo and Juliet), who sees the “greatness in him” that Graff speaks of.

The movie had the same dark tone as the book. For that, I liked it, though I understand for some that might be a problem. The introspective nature of this character – young Ender Wiggin – and his ascent to the commander’s throne is unlike anything we have seen on the big screen. Ender does not take control of his situation or the movie until the very end. Imagine a timid Luke Skywalker at 15 with the pressure of his destiny to save all mankind but no knowledge of the force –  and with no Wookie by his side.

Based on the trailer, I thought it was going to be nonstop battle simulations and special effects. In my view, they did not overdo that part of it. The effects were special, and I had a few moments in the IMAX theater where I thought I was watching “Gravity.”

I liked “Ender’s Game.” As a science fiction movie I think it is awesome. As an action, adventure, fantasy, comic book movie, it requires too much thinking between the “wow that looked cool” moments. But I like to think, and I think I will give it 4 stars out of 5. See it, and let me know what you think.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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