Tom Basham

Archive for February, 2015|Monthly archive page

Kingsman: The Secret Service

In This Just OUT on February 14, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Kingsman-PosterFortunately for me, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” had zero shades of grey and a high regard for the proper manners of a gentleman. However, I think a good knight means something different in each movie.

Harry Hart (Colin Firth from “Magic in the Moonlight“) belongs to a secret order of spy types called Kingsmen. They are the modern knights with a rectangle table and when one of them goes down, each knight chooses a candidate to replace him. Harry’s choice is Eggsy (Taron Egerton from “Testament of Youth“), whose father died years ago while saving Harry’s life. Competing against the other 11 candidates for the only job available shows Eggsy has the raw materials for the position but he may lack the killer instinct to follow every command directive.

The bad guy here is Richmond Valentine (Samuel Jackson from “Old Boy“), who wants to save the world by thinning the herd a bit. This character has a cadre of conflicting character traits, but the most evil thing about him is his lisp.

I understand this came from a comic book, or graphic novel, or what I used to call the funny papers. The team of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (“X-Men: First Class”) excels at this kind of thing where style and shock win out over substance and sophistication. They know how to make a fun movie with quirky characters and hopefully one day they can elevate the art form.

The comic book, carnival nature of the piece kept the tone somewhere between silly and scary while striking the chord of a fancy lad kind of farce. At times it felt like “Austin Powers,” and even the darkness of the plot could not make me worry about our hero. No matter how much global destruction was wrought or how many heads were blown off, you knew that eventually they would all “behave.”

I know what genre we are in, and I suspended my disbelief at the ten-dollar a bag popcorn stand. To see Eggsy go from a timid mischievous kid to dead aim killer and the sole hope for the planet with the confidence of Conan the Barbarian in less than a week without Yoda is crazy. On top of that, spoiler alert: Luke Skywalker shows up.

I did like this movie and it is a good romp. The mix of stiff “brits” in this genre is worth the price of admission. They also went to a lot of work to set up a video game where you actually save a princess, and for that I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. You will have to see the movie to see what Eggsy does with the princess after he saves her.

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

Jupiter Ascending

In This Just OUT on February 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm

jupiter-poster“Jupiter Ascending” was the name of my punk band in the ‘70s and also the latest feature film by The Wachowskis (“Cloud Atlas”). Leave it to them to bring lasers and light speed to the Cinderella story.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis from “Third Person“) is stuck in Chicago cleaning toilets every day. She looks up at the stars and dreams of another life and hates the one she has now. Enter her very furry godmother Caine (Channing Tatum from “Foxcatcher“), a part human, part wolf gene-spliced bounty hunter. It seems Jupiter is a genetic match to royalty in his world, and he was hired to bring her back to his planet to take her place on the throne. That’s right – sitting on a throne instead of cleaning one.

Unfortunately, another bunch of bad alien types descend on the Windy City and try to kill her before she ascends. This lot came straight from the set of “The Fifth Element,” but they are no match for the magic boot flying of Caine. Did I mention this was in 3D?

Eventually they get off the planet and the galaxy gallivant goes awry. Jupiter finds out that Earth is “just a small part of a very large industry,” and she is now part of the corporate family elite. By this time she has been part of several high tech battle and chase scenes that make “Star Wars” look like those “Dukes of Hazard” commercials.

I know it sounds like I got carried away here, but I really enjoyed the ride. This may be the last time any studio will follow the Wachowskis down the rabbit hole with a budget like this and the latitude to create such a spectacle. These two walk the beat of a drummer more different than that kid in “Whiplash.” It’s tough to create a brave new world and expand your thinking beyond the rest of the comic book movies. This movie is not grounded at all, as gravity is optional along with an array of convenient characters and plot devices.

There is a sweet story at the epicenter of the epically ambitious movie. This Cinderella fish-out-of-water and her lone wolf protector square off against their destiny to fight the galactic ruling class. It’s easy to throw photon torpedoes at a movie like this when it strikes out on its own hero’s journey.

You will roll your eyes in a few places behind your 3D glasses, but it’s still cool that someone is not stuck milking the old brands and boldly goes over the moon where no cow has gone before. For that I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. People hated “Dune” when it came out and this is much better than that.

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

The Imitation Game

In This Just OUT on February 1, 2015 at 9:04 pm

imitation-game-posterI just saw “The Imitation Game,” and I still don’t know all the rules. It’s an old game devised up by a different kind of person who thinks differently.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch from “August: Osage County“) is a mathematical prodigy from Cambridge when he shows up to help England and the Allies win World War II. A team of geniuses is being put together in Hut 8 to break the Germans’ unbreakable code. The Krauts have developed a machine called Enigma that invents a new code every day to send encrypted messages to the German Army command.

Turing is an odd duck, as his mother told him, before they knew people could be on the spectrum. He does not mix well with the rest of the team and prefers to work on his own. While the others try to figure out the Enigma machine code, Turing invents a machine to figure out the German machine.

This is a great story about the role of the original geek squad during the second war to end all wars. While everyone else was figuring out better ways to kill each other, these people were just trying to solve a word problem. Every day hundreds of coded messages went out over the radio, and each day the unknown code cypher was reset. Turing saw this as the daily crossword puzzle: solve it and save lives. While Turing is brilliant, his arrogance and lack of humility make him difficult to follow. The only thing that keeps the team together is the notion it takes an impossible person to solve an impossible problem.

Benedict Cumberbatch is so good he makes it look easy. He does it all with a quiet quirkiness and his diabolical deadpan intensity without a hint of British charm. Norwegian Director Morten Tyldum (“Headhunters”) keeps the tone of the film in sync with the battle going on in Hut 8, and the war going on everywhere else.

The theme of the movie is that people who are different think differently, and sometimes you need something different. A guy can be just as different as he has to be to win the war, but if a guy loved another guy 60 years ago they arrested you. In Turing’s case, what he did during the war was a secret and what he did in his home was secret too, but England did not get the irony back then.

The moral of this story is to make a little room in your life for those who choose a different way of life. If only Bill Murray could have been there and delivered that speech he gave in “Stripes”: “We’re all very different people…” Alan Turing earned his stripes with math and his ability to imagine the computer, and this movie is a beautiful testament to his character and his vision. For that, I must give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. The next time I come across a different kind of person, I am going to think about Alan Turing.

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