Tom Basham

Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Big Eyes

In This Just OUT on December 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm

big_eyes-POSTERI just saw “Big Eyes” and found out this is not the movie with the Big Bad Wolf. Although, there is a psychopathic husband who will burn your house down.

Margaret (Amy Adams from “American Hustle”) has one good child from one bad marriage when she rolls into San Francisco in 1955. She works odd jobs and tries to sell her paintings on the street. There she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz from “The Zero Theorem”), who sells real estate and peddles Paris street scene paintings. Soon the two are married so that Margaret can prove she has a stable home for her daughter.

Margaret’s paintings all look like little orphaned children with “big eyes.” I mean they are nice, but people ask, “What’s with the big eyes?” Turns out that’s her thing, and while she can’t sell one for a dollar, Walter can sell a pig a ham sandwich. Actually, to Walter’s surprise, people really like her paintings, normal people though, and not the critics. While she stays home and paints, Walter finds it more rewarding (for his bank account and his ego) to tell people he is the artist. This annoys Margaret, but the money is good, and in the 1950s women did what their husbands told them…

Eventually Margaret gets tired of Walter and his lies and leaves him. As she says, “All art is personal,” and the person who creates art must be recognized. This true life story of Margaret Keane’s quest to tell the truth and prove she was that artist behind the Keane paintings played out in Federal Court.

I found Adams to be sweet and sensitive and artistic in her portrayal of someone who was used and abused by the man she loved and trusted. Waltz’s own maniacal manner also seemed picture perfect. I did get the feeling that director Tim Burton (“Dark Shadows”) fell in love with the artist as much as the art and left more of his signature stylings at home, so he did not get in the way of the story.

This movie was a little like the fictional film noir “Scarlet Street” (1945 by Fritz Lang), which is really worth seeing for some great twists and turns. While “Big Eyes” was restrained by the facts, the story was well told and well played. For that I will give it 3 ½ stars out of 5.  It may not be a masterpiece, but it is worth your big eyes taking a look.

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

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The Theory of Everything

In This Just OUT on December 27, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Theory-Poster“The Theory of Everything” sounds like a fantasy or a David Bowie song. Turns out it’s a pretty good Theory and feature film.

Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne from “Les Miserables”) is a doctorial candidate at Oxford. He’s a little quirky and brilliant and is still trying to find a good subject for his thesis. He wants to find something unbelievable and make people believe it. He finds Jane (Felicity Jones from “Hysteria”) and spends his life trying to understand her and her love. He also comes up with a theory of how the universe started.

About the time he meets Jane, he finds out he has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctor gives him two years to live – and that was in 1963. What the doctor did not know was since he met Jane he’s had something to live for. He also did not know that Hawking had a rare slow-progressing form of the disease. That is the way I describe the love affair with my wife – rare and slow-progressing and something that will be with me for the rest of my life.

The movie does a good job of letting us into their struggle, but it’s like watching “The Titantic” – you know where this is going. Which makes it all the more touching when he first plops into a wheelchair and tells Jane, “This is temporary.”

This is a love story between opposites that attract. She worships God and he worships knowledge. She has faith in God’s plan, and he wants to see the blueprints. Some of it is not pretty, but as Hawking concludes, “While there is life, there is hope.”

This movie is based on Jane Hawking’s autobiography, so it’s her story, about her life with him. Believe me, the woman behind the man is often more amazing than the one in the limelight. Like most true-life stories, they can’t show us everything. Maroon 5 tried to cover it in their album “Songs About Jane,” and Hawking tells us more with his tears than his bestselling books.

His universe started when he met Jane, and that spark will stick with him forever, even if they aren’t married anymore. That is the puzzle he will never solve, even though he knows it is true. For that reason I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5.  Loving a good woman may not be everything, but it’s a theory I prove every day.

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

The Interview

In This Just OUT on December 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

interview-POSTERIn defiance of all international dictators with Moe Howard haircuts, I saw “The Interview.” I may have to go into witness protection.

Dave Skylark’s (James Franco from “This Is The End“) show “Skylark Tonight” is known for its probing celebrity interviews that reveal the kind of things you never knew and couldn’t care less about. Still, Dave and his producer Aaron (Seth Rogen from “This Is The End”) have made the show very popular, though Dave wishes they could do some important news stories like his old friend at “60 Minutes.”

Dave finds out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a big fan of his show, when he is not threatening to blow up America. Dave reaches out to North Korea and between firing rockets toward California, they agree to an interview. As we all learned from the trailer and global controversy, the CIA asks them to kill Kim Jong-un.

When the “trained” killers travel to North Korea, Kim Jong-un turns on his charm and convinces Dave he is a great guy and all his murderous psychopathic ways are just a misunderstanding. Aaron tries to stay on mission, even when they go from Plan A to Plan B to Plan See You Later.

Sure, it’s a funny movie done in a smart and creative way. It may seem a little too real for the naïve North Korean audience, who do not know a farce when they see it. In fact, both countries are skewered, but I don’t think the point was balanced. The movie did not need a point, just a plot and a few gags to escape the real drama between these two countries. We make fun of guys named Kim in this country, and when they threaten to destroy us, we make fun of killing them. That’s what we do – instead of actually killing them.

Rogen and Franco are becoming the nouveau Martin and Lewis, or Crosby and Hope, and we should all hope for more from these two. What may be seen as a political comedy is elevated by the political commentary in showing how communication is still key.

What if everybody could see what Kim Jong-un is really like? To know him is to hate him, and we might not get to know him with “The Interview,” but at least we can laugh at him. For that I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. If you don’t see this movie, the terrorists win.

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

Top Five

In This Just OUT on December 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

TOP-FIVE-POSTERI wanted to laugh at “Top Five” today, and I got more than I asked for; I got a fairy tale.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock from “I Think I Love My Wife“) got famous doing anything to make people laugh. He rode that wave for years until he sobered up and did not want to be a joke anymore. The day his first serious movie opens, he is kind of nervous. He is doing every bit of press he can, but he is avoiding talking to The New York Times. They have never been good to him, but when they send Chelsea Brown (Rosaria Dawson from “Trance”), he reluctantly decides to let her follow him for the day.

While Andre’s movie means everything to him, it’s not near as important or popular as his fiancé Erica’s (Gabrielle Union from “Think Like A Man Too“) Bravo reality show. Erica is all about the show, while Andre is all about the business. While he wants to talk about his movie, Chelsea wants to hear about everything but – including why he walked away from stand-up comedy. The interview is more of an inquisition, but she does wear him down and begins to see the man behind the mania.

Director/Writer Chris Rock is at home telling a personal story that seems to be based on his own transformation from stand-up to screen actor. I was also pleased to see the whole movie was not like the trailer where they try to cram in a funny line every 10 seconds. The kind of guy who does that has no confidence in his characters or the story he is telling. There are plenty of laughs, but my eyes did not roll once. The cameos are cool, not cliché, and a little cutting on the cult of celebrity.

This is the funniest movie I have seen this year, and it was not dumb or dumber. There was slap shtick but in a slap and tickle kind of way that made me smile. The movie had a point and a point of view and I did not see every joke coming. For that I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. It may not be a Cinderella story, but if the slip and fall fits, you must see it.

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

Wild

In This Just OUT on December 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

wild-posterToday was “Wild,” and yeah, that almost sums up the movie and the life of Cheryl Strayed. I had to take a little walk after this movie to help me get my thoughts together.

Cheryl’s (Reese Witherspoon from “Mud“) life is falling apart before her bloodshot eyes. After her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern from “The Fault In Our Stars“), dies, she spirals straight to rock bottom. The backstory is sprinkled throughout the journey, so at the beginning of the movie we don’t know how low she got. We just know she has been through some things – bad things.

Many people never climb out of this hole, but for some reason she thinks her salvation lies somewhere out there on the Pacific Coast Trail. So the aimless Cheryl takes aim on the wilderness. She loads up a pack that winds up bigger than she is. The physical items are a metaphor for the emotional cargo that also weighs her down. This first little bit hooked me in. What do we need to carry with us? What would we like or love to have, and what other stuff is there just because we think we need it? Most important, what will be discard on the way?

Cheryl plans on walking a thousand miles, and every 10 steps she thinks about quitting. For miles and miles, all she can think about is quitting and all the reasons she should quit since the 26-year-old is not the person her mother thought she was. What keeps her going is the knowledge she is not the person she wants to be, and she can’t stop until she finds that person. The pain and suffering of the trail are taken as a penance for her past. Punishing herself in this way is healthier than her reckless behavior. She gave therapy a try, but some things she just couldn’t talk about, or explain, or share. She can’t even understand them herself much less lay them out for some therapist to put them into a cookie cutter context.

I think all of us have thoughts about doing a “walkabout” to clear our heads and escape some things. It worked for Moses and Butch and Sundance, though lately it has become more cliché and a means for the spoiled youth to “find themselves.” I say this as someone who has never done it, so it is easy to form such simplistic judgments. I thought this was going to be the trite indulgent story of a spoiled blonde chick. What I did not know was this was the real life story of an actual blonde chick that I knew nothing about so, again, it was easy for me to judge her and the movie. Judge not, lest ye have trudged the trail in your own duct tape hiking boots.

When you layer all this with some Simon and Garfunkel, you understand the journey is the thing, and you hope the best version of you survives the trip. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. The next time you see someone with all their life’s problems on their back, just say a prayer they don’t quit before they become who they need to be.

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

Big Hero 6

In This Just OUT on December 7, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Big-Hero-PosterI can’t recall the last time a girl asked me out to the movies, but when little 4-year-old Paige called and said, “Gramps, do you want to see ‘Big Hero 6’ with me?” I had to say, “Yes.” This was her first movie in a theater, though she knows every song from “Brave” and “Frozen,” and she comes from a family of cinephiles. So I was not surprised when Paige walked up to the theater, stood on her tiptoes and said, “Two tickets for ‘Big Hero 6,’ please.”

Hiro (Ryan Potter from “Senior Project”) is a bright young boy who graduated high school four years early but does not know what he wants to do next. His big brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney from “One Night Surprise”), inspires him to enter a robotics competition. The winner gets a scholarship to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

And then, something really bad happens to Hiro’s brother, and Paige and I both had to cover our eyes. Hiro is really sad and wants to get back at the people who hurt his brother. To do that, he adds some modifications to Tadashi’s robot, Baymax (Scott Adsit from “St. Vincent”), and teams up with his brothers’ friends at the Institute to become six superheroes.

This is a coming of cartoon age story where Hiro needs all his talents and skills and life lessons to survive. He also finds out he can’t do it by himself, and it really helps to have an amazing robot. This movie did have a pretty heavy and serious plot for an animated feature, but I guess that’s what “P” in PG means. There are some great action scenes here with a great collection of misfit super-geeks.

Big-Hero-PaigeWe saw this movie in 3D, and I thought that would be trouble for Paige, with the glasses and things coming out of the screen. I forgot that I am old, and she was born into a 3D world, while I am stuck in 2D with “Flat Stanley” and one rusty speaker hanging on the window.

Paige loved the movie as much as the popcorn. For that reason, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. I suggest you see it with someone like Paige who can explain it to you.

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

Nightcrawler

In This Just OUT on December 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm

nightcrawlerposterI just saw “Nightcrawler” and it was so slimy I wanted to put it on a hook and toss it in the pond at my Mom’s house.

Louis (Jake Gyllenhaal from “Prisoners”) is a no-account nobody we have absolutely no backstory on. He seems to be self-educated and self-employed as a thief, though I think we all have a little larceny in us somewhere. He talked me out of my $14 and made it seem like it was my idea.

A chance encounter with a fatal car accident and a video journalist sets him on a new career path. He knows nothing about the business but, as he reminds everyone, he is a fast learner. His best skill is convincing others that he knows what he is doing. The first person he convinces of that is Nina Romina (Rene Russo from “Thor”), the TV news director on the vampire shift. She is bloodthirsty for the kind of vomit-inducing filth Louis feeds her.

Louis worms his way into the industry as only someone with no boundaries and no conscience can do. There is no police tape or principle he is not willing to cross to bring the horror to the 6 o’clock news. As his star rises at the station, he becomes more valuable to Nina, and he makes a pass at her worse than RG3. In another movie she would succumb to his charms and alpha-male behavior. But here, with this nut job, it’s much more sordid and twisted around his psychosis.

TV news is probably a good place for a motivated psychopath to wind up. With no connection to humanity and no consideration for people’s feelings or well-being, he is perfectly skilled to observe and exploit the violence and tragedy of others. He does not think for a moment to take his hand off the camera and help someone. Soon he finds ways to help create the carnage he captures. He wants to do more than frame the story with his lens.

Writer and first-time director Dan Gilroy (“The Bourne Legacy”) tells a tight story with his own un-flinching style. This felt like a mix of “Taxi Driver” and “Network,” where if it bleeds, even if it misleads, it succeeds. Somehow Louis is a hero in all this, and the tragedy here is that we live in a world where that happens.

I don’t really like Gyllenhaal as an actor, and he was very un-likable in this movie. He is one of the most annoying and unsympathetic people I have seen on the screen, and I am not sure of how much of that is him or the character. That must mean this movie struck a chord with me, and for that, I will give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Still, this story has a payoff nobody will feel good about.

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

Wish I Was Here

In This Just OUT on December 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Wish-I-Was-Here-Poster“Wish I Was Here” was what I said when this movie was not screened within 50 miles of my house. So, I just watched it on DVD and I am glad that it finally got here.

Aidan (Zack Braff from “Oz The Great and Powerful“) is barely enough of an actor to be called struggling. At least there are other things he is struggling with, like being a father, a husband, a son and an enlightened human being. When his father’s (Mandy Patinkin from “Homeland“) health takes a turn and he can no longer pay for the grandkids’ schooling, Aidan has to grow up a little more. The first move Aidan makes is to home school his two kids, Grace (Joey King from  “The Conjuring“) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon from “Looper”). Unfortunately Aiden doesn’t really know anything, so he has nothing to teach them.

Yes, Aidan is a man-child who survives by the grace of his loving and hardworking wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson from “Something Borrowed”). At least he is doing better than his brother Noah (Josh Gad from “The Internship”), who has chosen to avoid growing up at all.

Aidan has lived his life acting like other humans, and now when faced with the essence of the human condition, he has to develop some new skills. His lack of faith and lack of ability to explain it all to his children are a new kind of struggle.

Director/writer/actor Zach Braff has a way with family drama that is devoid of cliché and deeper than one would expect from the “Scrubs” actor. I was not a fan of him passing the hat to make this movie, but that is just my jealousy that I have to overcome. I concur with having less corporate currency and creeps controlling the cinema. Orson Welles had to beg for money that never came for decades, and I wonder what he would have made with crowd funding.

I was moved by this movie, and that did not surprise me. The whole theme seemed designed to pull at the heart strings, so I set my jaw and was ready to take it on the chin. While the story took its shots, it hit me below the belt. For that reason, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Now, you don’t have to wish you were here – you just need a DVD player.

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