Tom Basham

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Labor Day

In This Just OUT on January 31, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Labor-Day-Movie-Poster“Labor Day” is not what I am thinking about in January, but I went to the movie anyway.

Adele (Kate Winslet from “Contagion”) is divorced and lives with her 13-year-old son Henry. Her husband left her for several reasons, one of them being she did not want to leave the house.

On the one day a month she goes into town for supplies, she is approached by Frank (Josh Brolin from “True Grit”), who is bleeding and needs a ride. He asks nicely, with the implied threat of breaking her son’s neck. A move I never tried, but then I have never broken out of prison like Frank.

Frank forces Adele to take him home so he can heal and lay low until the heat is off. Once there, he ties her up and fixes them a nice family dinner. Aside from being a convicted murderer, he is a really nice guy, a great cook and a handyman and he even teaches her son how to play baseball.

This is not the kind of fantasy you normally see when a fugitive takes over your house for the weekend. But that is the kind of fairy tale novel Joyce Maynard wrote. Director/Writer Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) does a fine job putting this on the screen, and he milks it for all it’s worth. I do wonder what he would have done if he was not tethered to the source material.

It is a lovely story, and heartwarming and all that, and I normally go for that kind of thing. But here things are just too convenient. Adele is too afraid to leave the house and she hooks up with Frank who cannot leave the house. The house needs work and he is great at that. She can’t cook and he is a top chef. The one kid who comes to the house cannot speak so he cannot tell his mother he saw the man on the TV. The one neighbor who visits brings them fresh peaches so Frank can make a pie. She wants a man to take control and Frank ties her to a chair.

The other problem I had was figuring out whose story this was: a coming of age story for young Henry, which it seems the novel intended; a redemption story for Frank; or Adele’s last chance for love. They all get a little something in their imperfect world and this imperfect movie. I do not need a hero, or a happy ending, but I would like to leave a movie and not feel like I need a drink.

You can file this movie in the Nicholas Sparks movie section. A little better than his worst, but not as good as his best. As for me, I wanted more, but then I usually do. I give this movie 2 ½ stars out of 5. Maybe you should wait until Labor Day and watch this one on cable.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:

I, Frankenstein

In This Just OUT on January 25, 2014 at 5:38 pm

I_frankenstein“I, Frankenstein” is a strange new movie and a title that I could never get by my editor.

Frankenstein’s Monster, (Aaron Eckhart from “Olympus Has Fallen”) now named Adam by the Gargoyle Queen (Miranda Otto from “The Flight of the Phoenix”) is still alive 200 years later. That’s right, I did say Gargoyle Queen. You see, this is not your father’s – or Mary Shelley’s – Frankenstein.

It turns out that Adam is still angry about everything, from his creator, Victor Frankenstein to the demons who want his secret to reanimation and the Legion of Gargoyles who want to kill him if he does not help them. Actually, even if he helps them, they still want to kill him. But the real reason he is pissed after 200 years is he does not have a girlfriend. I wish that were a joke, but it was an attempt to put a little heart into this 3D, CGI, sci-fi, comic book style movie.

This movie did make me think about Steve Martin’s “The Jerk,” as the Queen told Adam he needed to find his “special purpose.” I don’t think that is the kind of homage they were going for.

I did like Doctor Terra, (Yvonne Strahovski from “The Guilt Trip”) and I understood when she told Adam, “You are only a monster if you behave like one.” If I had a dollar for every time a woman told me that…

This horror-sci-farce is brought to us by Australian writer/director Stuart Beattie (“Tomorrow When the World Ends”). He tried to make something dark and creepy and cool, but like Adam, this movie has no soul. There is nobody to root for and you don’t even care if the world is coming to an end.

I did see this movie in 3D IMAX, and with an 83-minute running time, at least it was over quickly. I have to say the movie met my low expectations. I mean, if anyone even tells you about the trailer, you start rolling your eyes. So if you go to see this movie, you have to know what you are in for. I mean, it’s not as bad as a stick in the eye, and for that reason I give this movie 2 ½ stars out of 5. If you can find a better movie with a Gargoyle Queen, let me know.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:

Lone Survivor

In This Just OUT on January 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm

lone-survivor-poster“Lone Survivor” is a true story, and a good thing to be, except when you’re the only one left to tell the story.

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Walberg from “2 Guns“) and three members of his Navy Seal team are dropped in Afghanistan for a critical mission. Then something goes wrong. I know, it sounds like a Rambo movie.

Led by the famous Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch from “John Carter”), these guys are the best, but there are just four of them. When their presence is compromised, their mission becomes survival. They fight like the heroes they are down to the last man.

Writer/Director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) has put together an amazing movie here. It’s a war movie, but it’s not about war. There is a battle, but nobody wins. It’s a modern movie, but the theme of brothers in battle still rings true.

This movie was not fun. There was no Stallone making some cliché statement and charging a hill. There was no victory or strategic gain. There were just four men, following orders to achieve an objective using all their training and gutting it out with their fellow soldiers.

Berg did a masterful job putting all this on the screen without political commentary. As scary as it was, most of us will leave the theater thinking we now know what it was like for these men, and others who serve. I mean, they put it all in a two-hour movie for us to devour with our popcorn. I wondered what we would all think if they locked the door when we went in, kept us there for the entire three days and showed every second of this operation. In real time, it would be more real.

The fight scenes were gritty and graphic and jarring – the way getting shot is supposed to be. I may have screamed, “Look out” a few times and ducked for cover. Things got a little fuzzy near the end, and my eyes starting watering. I must be getting a cold.

This soldier, Marcus Luttrell, has a story to tell, and the movie about it is great. I give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. He had the guts to live through it; the least you can do is give him two hours in a theater.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:

August: Osage County

In This Just OUT on January 12, 2014 at 2:52 pm

August-Osage-County-Poster“August: Osage County” is such a good movie they can just title it by the month and county it takes place.

Violet (Meryl Streep from “The Iron Lady”) and Beverly (Sam Shepard from “Mud”) have been married for a long, long time. He was once a great poet who is now relegated to caregiver and perennial alcoholic. Violet has a “touch of cancer” but not enough for anyone to feel sorry for her. When Beverly goes missing one day, she has an excuse to be the pill addict she has always been.

With Beverly in the wind, her sister and three daughters come home. While Ivy (Julianne Nicholson from “Shadows & Lies”) has stayed in the area, Barbara (Julia Roberts from “Larry Crowne”) and Karen (Juliette Lewis from “Foreverland”) have each moved several states away. These girls do not come home out of love or respect for Violet. They come home because of family, because that is what you are supposed to do. Like most families, this is a group of people you would never hang out with if you were not genetically obligated.

Tracy Letts, who wrote the screenplay as well as the play the movie is based on, has such a delicate hand as he slices this family to the core. Director John Wells (“The Company of Men”) exploits this family dynamic in a house with the best porches I have ever seen. The movie is full of wonderful moments and awkward situations.

Many of the other great movies of 2013 had some kind of gimmick they were built around, like slavery, outer space or AIDS. Not this movie. There is nothing cool, or hip or edgy here. This movie is about family and how that tree branches off in the most peculiar ways. The dream cast gives the kind of performances we rarely see. The supporting casts all deserve Oscars, especially Margo Martindale (“Beautiful Creatures”) as Mattie Fay, Violet’s sister.

You could pick any two characters here and make a movie about them. None of these people are likable, and none of them like each other, but they are family. The dinner table scene reminded me of “12 Angry Men.” Everyone was guilty of something and nobody had all the facts.

So for me, the verdict is in, and this great play is now a great movie. Although it may be hard to watch, I can’t find any fault with this movie. Therefore I must give it 5 stars out of 5. As they say in this movie, “We all do things we are not proud of,” but it’s great when it happens to somebody else.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:

The Wolf of Wall Street

In This Just OUT on January 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Wolf-Poster“The Wolf of Wall Street” is a beast of a three-hour movie from Director Martin Scorsese (“Hugo“). Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, this movie makes Gatsby seem like a choirboy.

From humble beginnings in the Bronx, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Great Gatsby”) just wanted to be rich and successful. He learned enough from one lunch with his boss (Matthew McConaughey from “Mud”) to do just that. He already had all the charm and smooth talking down, so eventually he starts his own firm with his new friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill from “Money Ball”).

Belfort is driven by booze, drugs, hookers and, most of all, greed. Money is the juice that gets him going in the morning, and his sole reason for living. That may be where the movie is lacking, but I don’t know. Belfort may be just as shallow as he is portrayed, and there is nothing else to him. His purpose in life seemed to be money and all it afforded him – which was every drug he could take so he could avoid life.

This was a movie about a great salesman. Birth of a salesman if you will, and what happens when that is all he cares about. A salesman does not make anything or perform any service or create anything but money. The salesman’s job is simply to convince other people to give up their hard earned cash.

The movie displays loads of debauchery, decadence and opulence, but I think this is like an average weekend for Leo. It is wrong to judge the man or his life when I am supposed to evaluate the movie. All they showed were the highlights – the cool, fun and crazy stuff – and Scorsese did a great job at showing that.

When they tell my life story, I hope Leo plays me and Marty directs. I am afraid it will be an Adam Sandler movie, and not one of the good ones.

This movie is more like a carnival ride than the epic it pretends to be. I know people say it’s not long, but it felt like an X-rated mini-series. This may be Scorsese’s opus to the glory days of Wall Street, but it is far from his best picture. I give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. I’m just not diving into a hot tub that shallow.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:


In This Just OUT on January 1, 2014 at 6:53 pm

her-posterI just saw “Her” and I feel kind of guilty telling my wife that I liked “Her.” It gets weirder, because it’s that kind of movie.

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix from “The Master”) has gone through a rough breakup and is having trouble connecting with people. He decides to start computer dating; I mean, he starts dating his computer operating system, and I am not going to make any laptop jokes.

Her name is Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson from “Hitchcock”), and she is really easy to talk to. She is the first artificially intelligent operating system that grows and learns through experience. She gets to know him really well, and he falls in love with her. She is always there for him and listens to all his problems. She never has any of her own problems, and it is so easy to turn her on. Whoa – I just got lost in the metaphor – but it was a movie, though it seemed so real. Told you it was going to get weird.

Writer/Director Spike Jonze (“Where the Wild Things Are”) has done something amazing here. In revealing Theodore’s shortcomings, he has shown us the reason most relationships end up with the blue screen of death: one person outgrows the other, or rather, is not compatible for an upgrade.

This is a lovely and educational way to look at a relationship. I am sensitive to Theodore, as I once dated a computer, until she left me for someone with a bigger hard drive.

This movie is set in the future, at some time when they don’t have belts and guys are not ashamed to date an operating system. However, the gimmick of “live” computer girlfriend was too perfect, because it always sounded like Scarlett Johansson was just on the phone. I never felt she was a computer, as from the start she had the same voice inflection and personality of a… person. Maybe a less famous and more mechanical voice would have solved that, but then nobody is going to fall in love with Siri.

Trouble begins when Samantha has her own “wants,” and I thought she was going to go all “Skynet,” but not all women, I mean, operating systems are like that.

The movie was beautiful and excelled at its exploitation of intimacy. Sometime in the future, we men may be able to have a meaningful relationship with a computer system. But that will not happen unless men learn how to evolve and allow their mates to grow on their own.

I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. I think this is an astounding film, but then I don’t think I am mature enough to date a Commodore 64.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site: