Tom Basham

Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Star Wars: “The Force Awakens”

In This Just OUT on December 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Star-Wars-PosterI just saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and I am just now coming out of hyperspace. From the moment those big scrolling words came on the screen I had a good feeling about this.

In case you haven’t kept track, this is Episode 7, the one that comes after “Return of the Jedi,” when Luke and Han Solo and the gang kicked the Emperor’s butt and blew up the Death Star once and for all. This movie takes place about 30 years after all that. I hope I didn’t just spoil a 1983 plot for anyone.

The evil First Order is in charge these days and nobody even remembers voting for Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“) or his Darth-like henchman Kylo Ren (Adam Driver from “This Is Where I Leave You“). All the First Order has to do is defeat this small group known as The Resistance, and the Galaxy will be theirs.

All the Resistance needs is to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill from “Star Wars”) to lead them. Luke went into hiding after one of his young Jedi trainees defied him and went over to the dark side, also known as the Darthie side. I think I have given away too much, and Disney is going to send one of its princesses to freeze me in a block of ice. Either that or my family will unfriend me.

I didn’t have great expectations going in, but I really liked it. This iconic franchise is in the capable hands of director/writer J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek“). He has keenly put on the same cinematic cloak of the Joseph Campbell journey that George Lucas wore just a little too long. I knew the story would be based in space, placed in the future and still survive by the heart and soul of the characters and their quest, thanks to screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”) and Michael Arndt (“Oblivion”).

I was impressed at how the look and tone of the movie felt like the first three classics. The trend for this sort of thing is to go darker or edgier, but the choices the filmmakers made in this installment were all about connecting to the past. There may be a few too many touchstones and low-hanging plot points recycled, but I am thinking they will veer off-course in the next two installments. Unfortunately, it’s not about making a great movie; it’s about maintaining a great franchise. While I may criticize Disney and Abrams for this, I felt like this was an old RKO-type serial (just Google it kids) and I would be just as hungry for the next chapter as for the next bag of popcorn.

The new cast of characters is as charismatic as their predecessors, including new robot BB-8 (soccer ball) and the new band of mutants at the Cantina. These are all imperfect people in an imperfect galaxy with a destiny they are only awakening to. The old archetypes are all there, in bold print, and are passing the lightsaber to the next generation. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. As a young Jedi who came of age (18 to be precise) in 1977, I have to say the force is, well, still pretty cool.

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


In This Just OUT on December 12, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Trumbo-PosterI just saw “Trumbo” and I feel compelled to give my testimony. I wasn’t alive when most of these events took place, when most movies were black and white and you could be white and be on a black list.

Dalton Trumbo (Brian Cranston from “Godzilla“) wrote movies in five different decades and under dozens of names. He’s one of the screenwriters known as the “Hollywood Ten” who got caught up in the “Special Committee on Un-American Activities” that Senator McCarthy was so proud of.

With the rise of fascism in Europe, some people in this country responded by going one notch above the liberal Democrats to take a look at the Communist Party. Trumbo was one of those Americans whose opinion was different from the rest of the country and it cost him almost everything. He didn’t do much to further the Communist cause, but he was still painted with the big red brush. He and nine of his fellow screenwriters refused to answer to the Committee. So, they were all fired by the movie studios and sent to jail.

These writers committed no crimes, yet were held in contempt of Congress. Trumbo had contempt for the committee as well. He waited for the country he loved to acknowledge their error in judgment and vouch for the principle of free speech and his right to assemble. He and the other nine stood up for these things they believed in and they stood alone. Worse than that, they were ostracized by just about everybody in the country.

At least, people aren’t judged today if they have an NRA card in their pocket or a Qur’an under their arm.

This movie does a great job exploring Trumbo’s personal struggle in the course of his historical heresy before the court of public opinion. All he had left was his family and his imagination. The only weapon he had to wield was the power in his pen.

With an eclectic cast made up of some of the best character actors working today, Director Jay Roach (“Meet The Fockers”) shines a light on many of the Hollywood icons who stayed in the shadows while their friends and associates suffered the scorn of an ignorant public. This stain on the Hollywood Ten lasted for decades, but the shame on those that let it happen can never be redeemed.

I was in a theater all by myself when I saw this movie. That’s much like the life of the great writer Dalton Trumbo, alone, in a room or a bathtub, battling the world. Winning two Academy Awards (“The Brave One” and “Roman Holiday”), under the names of other people, was still not enough to let him back in the club. It took someone with the courage of Spartacus to stand up for him. For that, I must give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. Don’t let me be the only one to see how Trumbo wrote himself back into the movie business.

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