Tom Basham

Archive for July, 2014|Monthly archive page

Lucy

In This Just OUT on July 25, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Lucy-posterWhile my wife was out of town, I went to see “Lucy.” It really was science fiction, as I had to imagine that ScarJo needed a brain to get what she wanted.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson from “Under The Skin”) is an ordinary party girl living in Taiwan and hooking up with the wrong guys. The last one made her drop off a package to some bad people. So bad, they turned her into a drug mule and surgically implanted their new synthetic compound in her abdomen. When the drug pouch ruptures, a massive overdose enters her system and starts an evolutionary chain reaction in her body.

Lucy gets smart, real smart. She starts to use more and more of her brain, tapping into the uncharted capabilities. The contrived character of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman from “Oblivion”) spends most of the movie making sure we have a scientific basis for what we are seeing. I felt like there was going to be a test at the end of the movie.

Lucy uses her newfound knowledge and skills to take revenge on the criminals that made her this way, instead of using it for math, or science or the arts. Also, as she becomes a super human, she loses her humanity. She becomes emotionless and the fun party girl is gone.

Writer/Director Luc Besson (“The Family”) has put together themes and characters from his two best movies. Lucy is the magical pinnacle of life, much like Leloo from “The Fifth Element,” and she drives like Frank Marin from “The Transporter.” Besson’s writing is generally great, but his direction… not so much. With “Lucy,” he adds editorial images along with the narrative. He can’t just tell the story, he has to tell you what the story is about and what to think about it using cinematic flashcards.

I am willing to accept the kaleidoscope of imagery as style, but at the end of the 83-minute film I felt cheated. I could see all the plot points as if they were up on the Professor’s chalkboard, but the humanity of the story was lost. This makes it more of a pure sci-fi flick, even though you were on non-stop roller coaster ride. I enjoyed the ride, and it was thrilling, but I think there is more to life.

I am not a snob about these things, and I did like this movie. It’s a popcorn movie with an old school Star Trek-style plot, and for that I will give it 3 stars out of 5. Somehow they took the sexy out of Scarlett Johansson, and that’s an evolution I am not looking forward to.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Tammy

In This Just OUT on July 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

tammy-poster.jgpI wanted to see a great movie today, but I went to “Tammy” instead. It was convenient, brief (96 minutes) and, like most broad comedies, front and center on the menu. Also, I am fan of Melissa McCarthy (“The Heat”), and since this is the first movie written by her and directed by her husband (Ben Falcone from “Enough Said”), I wanted to give it a chance.

The movie starts off like “Jerry Maguire” (Cameron Crowe – 1996) as Tammy loses her car, her job and her husband in the first 10 minutes. She is going to leave town for the umpteenth time, though she has never made it more than 10 miles. This time she has her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon from “Cloud Atlas“), along with the old lady’s car and wad of cash. Alright, I thought: show me the funny.

Now it’s a road trip movie, except they don’t know where to go or how to get there. Unfortunately that is true for both the characters and the movie itself. A road trip movie does not have to go anywhere to be good, but the characters have to get somewhere.

So much of the movie was “on the nose,” like when Tammy’s grandmother told her, “You are at a crossroads here.” It was like when Fozzie Bear and Kermit came to a fork in the road and it was an actual fork, but not as funny.

The whole movie was a string of amusing bits that made me smile and only made Tammy more and more pathetic. There was no revelation of why she is the way she is, and if she will ever change. She careens through her life with fits of anger and frustration peppered with sullen moments of feeling sorry for herself. She does not have to win or save the day, but she needs to be interesting; if not, she could just be hilarious. The set up, the punch line, and smart-ass retort for 96 minutes just did not get it done.

The movie was not horrible. I mean, it went down like the sliders at Chili’s, and still left you hungry. McCarthy’s last few movies were much better and funnier than this. She needs to stick to adlibbing lines in other people’s script. Therefore, I must give this movie 2 stars out of 5. Stop going for the easy jokes like they were low-hanging cheeseburgers.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In This Just OUT on July 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Apes-PosterI set my clock for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” today and the result was alarming. They are not monkeying around this time.

All that experimental brain testing they did in the last movie that made the apes smart also unleashed a viral infection that killed off most of the humans. Over the last 10 years, Caesar (Andy Serkis from “Death of a Superhero“) and the rest of the zoo escapees have multiplied and created a beautiful home in Muir Woods Park in Marin County. So the movie glossed over some critical things like 6 billion people dying and how the apes got a building permit in the Park.

A small group of genetically immune, human survivors remain in San Francisco. They are struggling with diminishing resources and need electricity to try and connect with other survivors.

Separate but equal was working just fine until Malcolm (Jason Clarke from “White House Down”) and his team enter the ape world to restart the hydroelectric power plant at the dam. Caesar senses their desperation and agrees to give them access. Many of the other apes do not share Caesar’s trust of their former oppressors. Caesar’s understanding of humans is an asset and a liability.

“Ape shall not kill ape” is their number one law. For humans, thou shall not kill shows up sixth on the Commandments list, as if humans still follow their original rules. We can see the parallels in societal evolution and family values. The quest for power and the burden of leadership is universal. Hate has to be taught. Therefore, both species lack trust and the will or strength to forgive. Malcolm and Caesar share this vision, but most of the others can’t see past their angry fists.

The values we teach our children are more important than anything else we could achieve. I know I learned that everything radical starts in California. This movie attempts to keep the threads of the original movies connected using 3-D CGI and stunning action sequences. It’s not as charming as the original, but it looks cool, and maybe that opens the door for some of the thought provoking moments.

They do such a good job with the apes looking and acting like apes, it is hard to see their humanity. That may be the point, that most humans make a snap judgment based upon their outward appearance and do not get the time to know them. You understand their motives and sympathize with their plight, but the only ape I felt any connection to was Caesar.

I applaud the filmmakers for using their special effects to illuminate and not just ignite the powder keg of problems presented in this movie. For that reason, I am giving this movie 4 stars out 5. I will be interested to see what they do with the next revolution.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Snowpiercer

In This Just OUT on July 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Snowpiercer-Poster“Snowpiercer.” Yeah, I didn’t know what it meant either until I saw the movie. Now, I want one.

In the year of our lord, 2014 (hey, that’s now), the world scientists decide to seed the sky with a special chemical to combat global warming. It works so well the entire planet undergoes a deep freeze that kills every living thing… except those who boarded the Snowpiercer.

Built by the visionary Wilford (Ed Harris from “Gravity“), the Snowpiercer is a train with an eternal engine that circles the globe. It’s a self-supporting eco-system and the only thing keeping mankind alive. As long as the engine keeps running, people will live. Well, some people will live, like the people at the front of the train. This “rattling ark” where people give their right arm for their children is not a paradise. The people at the back of the train have suffered for 17 years under the dictatorship of Wilford and the rules imposed by those at the front of the train.

The people at the rear of the train have been planning a revolution. It’s been tried before, but this time they are led by Curtis (Chris Evans from “Captain America“), who will not sit quietly and will not accept his station in life. Under the tutelage of Gilliam (John Hurt from “Only Lovers Left Alive“), Curtis feels destined to make it all the way to the front of the train. Once there, he plans to kill Wilford and take over the engine.

This movie had the claustrophobic feel of “Gravity,” along with the sense that death is just outside a thin steel wall. A world unto itself inside a box in constant motion. There are religious overtones spread between the layers of social commentary, but the theme of the movie seems to be humanity. It begins with the class system, then sacrifice, and the order of civilization where the leader becomes the Lord. In the end, it’s about free will and survival of the species, and for some, how liberty trumps security.

Okay, the movie got to me. I wanted to laugh and point out the logical absurdities, but it got to me. Using this incredible engine for a train is silly, unless you see it as a metaphor for life and time. We are all on this train, and we feel we must keep going to survive. If we get off or do anything different than anyone else we will surely die. We see the operator of the train as a god, or the government, and we blame them for our place in life and feel powerless. The dream that we can destroy our oppressor and right the world is noble and naive at the same time. We are our brother’s keeper, and our brother wants to be free.

If you don’t want to buy into all that, consider it an action movie. Just imagine Steven Seagal is wreaking havoc to get to the front of the train. I bought the whole thing and it got to me, so I am giving this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. It’s the best train movie since “Silver Streak.”

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Begin Again

In This Just OUT on July 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Begin-Again-poster“Begin Again” sounded like a good movie, and a pretty good move in general, so I tuned into Writer/Director John Carney’s (”Once”) second feature film.

Dan (Mark Ruffalo from “Now You See Me“) is a once-great A&R guy with no A or R. He has not signed an artist for a decade, so his label threw him out. Dan also left his wife a year ago, so things are really looking down. Every piece of new music he hears sounds old and tired and worthless – a kind of audio metaphor for his life.

He winds up guzzling whisky at an open mic night, and hears Greta (Keira Knightley from “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”) sing her new song. The melody nudges him, and the voice intrigues him while the lyrics seal the deal. The crowd gives her a polite applause, as all they heard was a whiny girl strumming an acoustic guitar. He heard something special, and unique, and above all – he heard potential. Dan could hear the rest of the musicians that should be there to accompany her as he created the arrangement in his head to make the song sing. It’s like the way I re-write a movie in my head as I see it going off-track.

When Dave (Adam Levine from Maroon 5), Greta’s boyfriend of five years, gets signed to a record deal and a tour, he sees less potential in her. They wrote songs together, but when his star takes off she is left holding a pencil and staring at a blank piece of paper.

It’s a very pat premise where opportunity and preparedness meet. With no money for studio time, Dan takes to the streets of New York City and produces an album on the cheap. The plot also parallels Carney’s first movie where a guy and a girl get together to lay down some songs. There is something magic about making music with someone and falling in love with the music, the person and the process. At the end of the day/movie, at least the music will still be there.

I really wanted to love this movie. It does not have the magic of “Once” with the awkward moments between the leads as they fall in love along with the music they create. Despite Carney’s effort to make it seem indie, this movie was much slicker with Ruffalo and Knightley being the darling A-listers they are. You never really connect with them, and they connect over the music but not much else. That might have been the point, or just a lack of chemistry.

This is a good date movie, and the songs are great, and there are some wonderful moments here. I liked this movie, I just did not fall in love with it, and for that reason I must give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5. When you hear the music you may sing, but when it moves you, you will dance, and I wanted to dance.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com