Tom Basham

Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Inside Llewyn Davis

In This Just OUT on December 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Inside-LlewynposterThere are so many things “Inside Llewyn Davis” they made a movie about him. The Cohen Brothers (Joel and Ethan from “No Country for Old Men”) have outdone themselves – a feat no other filmmaker can claim.

The plot of the movie is as subtle as the color palette cascading across the screen. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac from “Drive”) is a Folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. His partner decided to go in another direction, so now he is a solo act. Being alone seems to be his thing as he only connects to his music; not to people or their pets.

The closest thing he has to friends are Jim (Justin Timberlake from “In Time”) and Jean (Carey Mulligan from “The Great Gatsby”), and they hate his guts. All he has is his guitar and songs, and he is amazing, but he cannot make a living at it.

This whole movie is like a poem to the life of an artist who bears his soul while strumming a guitar. I don’t know if he is seen as some kind of journeyman hero or just another cautionary tale.

Cinematography is not something I say much about. So many filmmakers today rely on effects or gimmicks and let the camera take over the storytelling process. Every shot in this movie is beautiful, like it could be a separate piece of art. And this is NOT an artsy fartsy movie. There are no special effects, just extra special care to serve the narrative and the emotional impact of the characters on the story.

You would have to go back to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) to find the kind of bit they have here with a cat. I am a sucker for a feline metaphor. The rest of the cast are cool cats as well, but if Oscar Isaac does not win the Oscar then why would they name it after him?

I was expecting greatness. I mean this is the Cohen Brothers. What I saw was a peek inside Llewyn Davis: his searching, reaching, expressing, lounging, longing, mooching, damaging and living a life driven from inside Llewyn Davis.

For that, I give this movie 5 stars out 5 because I can’t go any higher. This is the best movie I have seen this year – and I have seen everything (except Anchorman 2).

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

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American Hustle

In This Just OUT on December 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm

hustle-poster-2“American Hustle” is something I used to be known for, and now it’s a new feature film by Writer/Director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”).

In one of the best opening scenes ever, we find Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale from “Out of the Furnace”) applying his hairpiece and weaving in his comb over. This represents Irving’s entire life and the theme of the movie; what you see is not what you get.

Irving cares what he looks like while just about everything about him is false. He’s a small-time con artist who meets his match in Sydney (Amy Adams from “Man of Steel”). Both of these people are flawed and fragile and very good at not letting anyone know who they really are.

When these two are busted by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper from “Silver Linings Playbook”), they are forced to help him pull a few scams to bring down some big time criminals and corrupt politicians.

This could have been a full season of the Sopranos with a huge cast of characters and more plot twists than a plate of spaghetti. But they jammed it all into one movie –  assisted by voiceover.

I can handle voiceover as an appetizer, but when we are halfway through the movie and I am still having things explained, I get indigestion. It’s as annoying as when I hear someone whispering the plot to the person next to them. I just wish everyone would just shut up and watch the movie – including the narrator.

It would be just wrong for me to complain about Amy Adam’s breasts and the countless number of “peek-a-boo” dresses she wore. I understand they were intended to distract the “mark” but at some point they distract from the story. Speaking of breasts, I have to say that Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games”) as Rosalyn steals every scene she is in.

This is a charming movie, and an excellent romp, but I was not conned. I’d say “The Grifters” (Stephen Frears – 1990) is a much better treatment of this kind of sordid confidence man. The Richie character is mostly cliché’ and we barely get a glimpse behind Irving’s sunglasses. They do a better job with Sydney and Rosalyn, but I am not buying it.

There is a great supporting cast and a soundtrack that I literally have on 8-track tapes somewhere in my shed. This was a fun movie, and though based in fact, it comes off as a farce. I would say it’s more like a “popcorn movie” than an incredible film, but sometimes you want popcorn. I give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5, and now I have to go find my 8-track tapes.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

In This Just OUT on December 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Mitty-poster“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” got a whole lot less secret today with the release of this new movie by Writer/Director Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder“).

Walter Mitty (played by Stiller) works in the bowels of the company that produces “Life” magazine. He is mild-mannered and has lived a sheltered life of no consequence. Walter’s job title is “negative asset manager” and he is good at it. He is also good at daydreaming, which he does most of the time, especially when he looks at Cheryl (Kristin Wig from “Girl Most Likely”). Unfortunately, she is looking for a dream man and not a man that only dreams.

“Life” is coming to an end, and there is one more negative for Walter to prepare for the cover. The only problem is Walter cannot find that negative. He has never lost one in 16 years and this sends him on a real adventure to find the famous recluse photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn from “The Tree of Life”).

There is a circular logic at work here. Walter likes Cheryl but does not have the courage to make a move on her. Although, it is because of her he finds the courage to dive in and out of helicopters and a bunch of other cool crazy things to find this negative. After he has done those things, he has the courage to make his move on her. This is quite normal for men, as a woman is the one thing that will have us running in circles.

I wondered what the fantasy–reality mix would be in this movie, and I must say they found the right ratio. Stiller plays an excellent modern-day Mitty, who does not seek out his visions for fame or fortune, or even ego. He breaks out of his mold because he has to, which is the only other reason men do anything. All this is a welcomed departure from the original short stories of the 1940s.

This movie has everything, from Bowie to Stretch Armstrong to a Poetry Falcon, and it all worked. No other movie in the theater right now will have a bearded Chilean man yell, “Stay gold Ponyboy.”

We are all Walter Mitty in some form. We are all ordinary people with big dreams of doing something extraordinary one day. Very few actually have the courage to take that leap of faith. I give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5, and I dare you to take a chance, and see the best date movie of the year. Do not keep your dreams a secret.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

Dallas Buyers Club

In This Just OUT on December 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

dallas_buyers_clubI thought the “Dallas Buyer’s Club” was about Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. I found out it’s about another cowboy named Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey from “Mud”) who blazed his own trail in the 1980s.

In 1986, he was your standard redneck, good for nothing, day-to-day working electrician until he was diagnosed with HIV. The fact he got it through heterosexual sex did not seem to matter to his immune system. To be clear, Ron did not get Magic Johnson AIDS. He got the full-blown, Freddy Mercury, Rock Hudson, cut-you-down-to-the-bone AIDS. His friends, with their hate and ignorance, treat him like a leper.

He was given 30 days to live, and instead of giving up he went to this place called a “library” to find some answers. With the FDA and American doctors on their heels, his search for treatment led him to Mexico. There he finds Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne from “Broken City“), who does not nurse at the teet of big Pharm Americana style and their wonder drug AZT.

It seems all these wonderful medications from Mexico are not illegal; they just don’t have the FDA stamp of approval. Ron only cares about staying alive and the proof is in his pudding of vitamins, proteins and enzymes. So he hooks up (business-wise) with AIDS stricken Rayon (Jared Leto from “Lonely Hearts”) and starts the Dallas Buyer’s Club. It’s an almost legal way to get these drugs to people who need them, as membership has its privileges.

You see, Ron was not book smart, but he was street smart. And those are the skills that made a difference. That and not letting anyone, anything or any law stand in his way. He does everything possible to live. In fact, he does not stop there; as he actually does things nobody thought was possible. He did not do this for fame or pride but merely for the rights of him and his fellow diseased patrons to live.

This film is such a moving example of the human condition. With an Oscar-worthy performance from McConaughey, we see a man evolve in the way he sees people and his place in the world. While much has been said about McConaughey’s weight loss, I think Jared Leto even tops that. I understand he lost 39 lbs., but he did not have it to lose. If I lost 39 lbs. people would just ask if I got a haircut.

I saw this movie a few days ago and have been trying to think of a reason not to give it 5 stars. This movie did not preach, yet represents the best sermon I have ever seen on the human condition. So I say unto thee, I hereby give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. Join the club, and find out what life is really all about.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

Nebraska

In This Just OUT on December 13, 2013 at 10:15 pm

NebraskaposterI went to “Nebraska” today, and boy, are my eyes tired. Not sure who was more bored, me or the characters on the screen.

Ole Woody Grant (Bruce Dern from “Django Unchained”) got a letter saying he won a million dollars. He is set on going from his home in Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, to pick up the money if it’s the last thing he does. His family tries to explain it’s all a scam, but Woody has to see this thing through.

Woody’s son, David (Will Forte from “Rock of Ages“), decides to drive him there after Woody attempts to walk the 900 miles a few times. These two barely get along and don’t know much about each other, and therein lies the purpose of the movie.

It seems life in the Midwest is so bleak that everything is black and white. I did appreciate Woody’s wife Kate (June Squibb from “Would You Rather“) bringing some colorful language and an inspired performance into the story.

Dern’s portrayal of a doddering old fart was so good you may think he didn’t even know he was in a movie. Nobody really likes Woody, including himself, and I must admit that Dern plays annoyed and annoying better than most.

I found much of the movie to be hampered by poor writing and superfluous scenes. The dialogue was so hacky and cliché’ you would think I wrote it. If this were a small indie I’d seen at a festival I would say, “Nice job.” But this picture was helmed by two-time Oscar winner Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”). This is his kind of movie, in an “About Schmidt” kind of way, although here the material came off as dreary as the scenery.

I love a good father and son story, and the geriatric road trip is one way to get there. I just wished they had gotten there and not literally stopped on the side of the road. There was so much talent in this movie and it was so poorly used. I swear to you, I thought for the first half of the movie they had just filmed their rehearsal.

For most fathers and sons, life does not work out like they would think. Woody thought he was going to win a million dollars and I thought I was going to see a great movie. We both were disappointed. I can only give this movie 2 stars out of 5. Nebraska may be a nice place to visit, but the movie isn’t.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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

Out of the Furnace

In This Just OUT on December 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm

out-of-the-furnaceWith snow on the way, today seemed like a good time to see “Out of the Furnace”. In a follow-up to his first feature, Writer/Director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) takes us to a Pennsylvania steel town.

It’s the story of two brothers who are raised the same way but turn out different. Yet, they are still brothers. Their father gave his life to the mill, and Rodney (Casey Affleck from “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) wants none of that. After four tours in Iraq, he still cannot find a way out of this town. His older brother, Russell (Christian Bale from “The Fighter”) accepts the mill as his life and he accepts his role of keeping his younger brother out of trouble.

In this town, trouble can be found at the hands of John Petty, (Willem Dafoe from “John Carter”) the gangster in residence. When Russell has to “go away” for awhile, Rodney goes to work for Petty who has a soft spot for the kid.

The big bad wolf in this story is Harlan DeGroat, (Woody Harrelson from “The Hunger Games”) who lives with the other inbreds in the mountains of New Jersey. Who knew they had those in Jersey? Mountains, that is, and not all mountain people deserve a reality TV show.

Scott Cooper milks everything he can out of this story and the under-whelming backdrop of a dying steel town. I think there were only three shots in the movie that did not have a smoke stack, a train track, a mountain or a grave yard. Add to that the caterwauling of Eddie Vedder, and you wonder if these boys are ever going to get out this pearl of a jam.

The movie was a bit slow, but more like movies of the seventies where you get to find out about characters and what makes them tick and stick around a place like this. The plot gave more than a nod to “The Deer Hunter” (Michael Cimino – 1978) along with a great supporting cast.

This movie is about brothers, and when something happens to your brother, you can’t let it go. You have to follow it “all the way to the end.” There is no perfect ending, but then it’s not a perfect world. That must mean that I cared about these people. That makes it a pretty good movie. Good enough for 3 ½ stars out of 5. Now I gotta call my brother.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

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