Tom Basham

Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

The Grand Budapest Hotel

In This Just OUT on March 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm

GRAND-BUDAPESTIf you are looking for a nice place to visit, I suggest “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which opened to wider audiences this week.

Gustave (Ralph Fiennes from “Skyfall”) worked his way up from Lobby Boy to be the legendary concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Many of the people who stay at the hotel come for him specifically, and many of them are ladies. Old ladies who are rich and lonely and, of course, blonde.

Gustave takes on young Zero (Tony Revolori in his feature film debut) as a Lobby Boy in training, and soon young Zero becomes his closest friend. That is a good thing, because when the Countess Madame D (Tilda Swinton from “Moonrise Kingdom”) dies and leaves a priceless painting to Gustave, he is charged with her murder.

As with many of Director Wes Anderson’s movies (“Moonrise Kingdom”), there is a caper to be solved, but that is of little importance. Anderson seems to construct his movies like he was on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

For my screenwriting friends, this movie throws that “save the cat” convention right out the window. The settings are eclectic, the characters eccentric, and the color palette rudimentary.

I was surprised and amused when the movie literally ended with a cloak and dagger bit and a hail of gunfire. The usual cast of Wes Anderson’s cameos arrives throughout the movie. I would say they take you out of the movie, but that would mean the plot was the important thing.

You could say Anderson’s movies have a style and an odd way of making things come across as charming and hilarious. Every character plays it straight, not for the laugh, but it all comes off as funny. The humor is subtle at times, and I found myself laughing at the mere composition of the characters placed in the frame.

I think movies like this are not meant to be evaluated for their cinematic quality, but for their ability to engage us and draw us into the art form. Much the same way I feel after seeing a beautiful painting that I don’t fully comprehend, I walk away with an impression. Maybe we are seeing Anderson in his “impressionist” phase where everything we see represents something else. At least it is beautiful and makes you smile.

I am a sucker for Wes Anderson movies, and they have not all been gems, but this one sure is. I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. I hope you enjoy your stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel.

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


In This Just OUT on March 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm

divergent-poster-fullI should have known that “Divergent” would be all over the place. I did not read the book and I don’t know if that makes me special or just like everybody else.

Tris (Shailene Woodley from “The Descendants”) is tested to determine which of the five factions she is best suited for. She was raised as Abnegation, who are in control of the government.  However, Erudite, a faction led by Jeanine (Kate Winslet from “Labor Day”), wants to take over. When Tris’s test is non-conclusive, she chooses Dauntless to everyone’s surprise.

I hope you are following this. You see, a hundred years ago, after “the war,” they decided the only way to prevent conflict and keep the peace was to divide everyone up into the five factions. So, based upon your virtues, you may be: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). It’s a good thing patience is a virtue because it is a long movie.

The reason Tris’s results were bad is because she is Divergent, which means she has all of the virtues. It was so much easier in Harry Potter with that sorting hat. I was told this was like “The Hunger Games,” but not that much. I did have two bags of popcorn, so it did make me hungry.

The training is rough in Dauntless, especially for Tris because they want soldiers who take orders and she is more of a rebel. One of the instructors, Four (Theo James from “Underworld: Awakening”), that is his name, looks out for her because he thinks she is special. Of course, she is, and in this world “what makes you different makes you dangerous” (tagline).

This was a decent sci-fi piece, without all the space ships and robots and special effects. You can see the seeds of this dystopian future all around us now, with people being labeled in different groups like conservatives, liberals and trekies. I liked how Tris worked though finding her place.

The movie did have a nice third act, but I started to get a whiff of trilogy. It felt just like when I used to watch the Rockford Files and it would end with “to be continued.” Sure enough, there are two more books and probably two more movies. Maybe I will find out if Dauntless is really, well – dauntless.

As for this movie, I must give it 3 ½ stars out of 5. I guess in the next movie we will find out how special and how dangerous Tris will be.

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

Need For Speed

In This Just OUT on March 16, 2014 at 8:39 pm


I did not have a need to see “Need For Speed,” but I deviated from my route long enough for this derivative Aaron Paul vehicle. I really wish there were a nice Budapest Hotel in my area.

I thought it was some kind of omen when the late Paul Walker (“The Fast & Furious”) said in a trailer before the movie, “This is a bad idea.” Really Paul?

Toby Marshall (Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad”) has to take over his dad’s speed-racing mechanic shop when he dies. Toby and his buddies try to keep the shop going, but they are about to lose it to the bank. Just then, his old high school nemesis Dino (Dominic Cooper from “Reasonable Doubt”) comes to the rescue. He tells Toby, “Forget about the past, it’s history” and asks him to build a car for him. With dialogue like that I knew I was in for a long ride.

There are another four or five plot points you see coming in your rear view mirror that set these two up for an epic showdown.

They started this movie in the shadow of Steve McQueen in “Bullet” on a drive-in theater screen as a way of saying, that was a cool movie and so is this. They had to make it across the country in two days, and just when you start thinking of “Smokey and the Bandit,” they zip by a guy in a black Trans Am. I wanted to stand up and ask, “Did you see that?” I don’t think you can all it an homage to these kind of movies when it references a different one every 15 minutes.

They dumped a ton of money into this movie, but they keep reminding you how expensive these cars are, and that is why we should care when these cars are crashed all over the country/screen. As far as caring for the people on the screen, they cover that in one line: “Do it for Pete.”

Please don’t misunderstand; this is no “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” – well maybe the first word there. At least they have cute names for each other, like Toby in the Mustang is called “Beauty” and his boys who follow in the big service truck are called “Beast.” And their other friend Benny (Scott Mescudi from “Goodbye World”), who flies a plane to help guide them, says, “Just call me Maverick.” These are not my jokes, as these were in the movie and that makes them a joke on me.

I am a fan of Aaron Paul, but he is not ready to carry a movie like this. Even if the script were not the schematic of a Greek tragedy shoehorned into a video game movie.

Oh, and I forgot to mention there were two girls in the movie, and they served about as much use as an air foil on a 1972 Ford Pinto. I do have to retract a statement made in an earlier review about Michael Keaton – this is his worst movie. When he actually said, at the most dramatic moment, “This ain’t just about racing,” I thought it was one of his third generation clones from “Multiplicity.”

If you like pretty cars that go fast, see the Furious movie. This one is a second rate portrait of the car movies I grew up with like “The Getaway” and “Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry.” I can only give this movie 1 star out of 5 for thinking that special effects are all you need to make a great car movie. Make a great movie first, and then maybe I will get in my car and come see it.

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

The Lego Movie

In This Just OUT on March 8, 2014 at 8:30 am

the-lego-movie-posterI just saw “The Lego Movie” and I am still trying to piece together the plot.

Emmet (Chris Pratt from “Her”) is an ordinary construction worker who is very happy just following the instructions. One day, he meets a girl named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks from “The Hunger Games”), and she likes him because she thinks he is special. Up until then, Emmet thought he was exactly like everyone else, and he kinda is.

When a girl believes you are special and that you can do special things, you start to believe too. I learned that in seventh grade. She believes Emmet can stop President Business (Will Ferrell from “Anchorman”) from taking over the entire world. All he has to do is escape Bad Cop (Liam Neeson from “Non-Stop”) and unite all the master builders of the universe.

Emmet starts to believe he is special, but he has trouble finding his footing. It’s almost as if he was trying to put a round peg in a square hole. He is guided by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman from “Last Vegas”), who is convinced Emmet has arrived to fulfill the prophecy.

Did I mention these were all Legos? I didn’t get that until about halfway through. I was starting to think this movie would get an Oscar for makeup, but – spoiler alert – they are all Legos.

For Emmet to complete his journey, he must leave his home in Brickville and travel to other realms in the Lego world. For my screenwriting buddies, this is another application of Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey” played out in plastic molded primary colors.

By the time we get to the third act in this movie, there has been such a buildup – by master builders – that I did not think there was any way this thing was going to look like the picture on the box. That’s when I realized that I did not understand the plan and that “everything could still change.”

Kudos to the director/writer team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) for assembling an excellent movie that kids and parents both will enjoy. The theme of the movie resonates throughout, and it all comes together in the end.

This movie made me want to be a kid again, and for that reason I must give it 4 stars out of 5. Now, I have to go to Toys R Us.

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


In This Just OUT on March 1, 2014 at 8:26 am

Non-Stop-Movie-PosterThe new dramatic thriller “Non-Stop” opened today, and I bought a ticket to this wild ride. Now I feel a little like Quint from “Jaws,” as I walked out of the theater screaming, “I will never get on a plane again.”

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson from “Taken”) is a divorced alcoholic suffering from extreme bouts of depression – and he is a Federal Air Marshall. He boards a plane with a 6-hour flight time to London and sits by a cute lady named Jen (Julianne Moore from “Don Jon”). He is in first class, so what could go wrong? The airline showing the new “Robo Cop”? Well, something almost as bad. Someone on the plane texts him they will kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless they get $150 million wired to their account.

To further complicate things, the account is in Bill’s name, as if he was the perpetrator. Bill says he is being framed, but most people don’t believe him. The drama developed in a compelling way, moving out radially from Bill to everyone else on the plane. Spanish Director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”) did a great job at ratcheting up the tension and keeping us guessing who was involved. I was so scared, I thought for a while it might have been me. That’s how claustrophobic all this felt.

I was prepared to hate this movie and write things like, “Neeson has ‘Taken’ the wrong flight.” This kind of story is hard to pull off, and with Neeson’s role in doubt, the whole thing is turbulent. I even started to suspect Jen, but I don’t think Julianne Moore could ever do anything wrong. With these two being the only “name” cast members, much of the drama had to be carried by a group of relatively unknown but amazing talent. This spoiled my usual theory where the highest-profile co-star did it. That always worked with “CSI.”

I can’t remember when I last saw a thriller that was thrilling, but this one was. And for that I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Let me know if you are as “taken” as I was.

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