Tom Basham

Archive for the ‘This Just OUT’ Category

The Hateful Eight

In This Just OUT on January 10, 2016 at 6:16 pm

The-Hateful-Eight_posterI just saw “The Hateful Eight,” and I am trying not to hate it. I do think it was really cool in a retro-western, “The Magnificent Seven” with a plus one kind of way.

John Ruth (Kurt Russell from “Death Proof “) is taking his prized bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh from “Welcome to Me“) to Red Rock to collect his $10,000 reward. He is not happy when they have to give a ride to Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson from “Chi-Raq“) and rescue him from an impending blizzard. They pick up another guy, and you start counting since you know there will be eight.

They arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery where a few other scoundrels are already hanging out. John Ruth is certain that some or all of them are up to no good and plan to either free Daisy or take her for the reward. John is not wrong.

From this one room shack, the Agatha Christie kind of mystery unfolds in a radical and racist manner befitting of men from recent post Civil War Wyoming. Once the pieces are finally set on the chessboard, the gruesome games begin.

This movie is what you get from a pure auteur filmmaker who has no studio or producer to question him. I imagine those around him do raise things to his attention and are met with responses like, “No, you are wrong, and it’s going to be so cool.” Further proof of this is Tarantino telling us via voiceover what is happening and why it is so cool. At least he realized this was a short story made long and gave us an intermission.

The opening sequence, really the first third of the movie, involved so much stilted dialogue and exposition I thought the story was going to freeze to death. This may work for a play, and in smaller portions with some of that Tarantino-esque dialogue, but much of this felt like a high school play. Tarantino’s storybook approach to storytelling with his chapters and flashy flashbacks do not serve this story well. This novel approach has worked well for him in the past, but to me this felt tired and unnecessary. To keep big secrets swept under the rug until he needed to shock and surprise us just came off as lazy.

I like Tarantino, and his movies. I even like his special style of movie making. With this film I think he was so excited about the concept and once the script was leaked, he rushed to jack up the plot and get it out to his public. While the movie was entertaining, I could see and hear Tarantino trying too hard to shock me with his special hipster/gangster vision. If I had seen it in a drive-in theatre in 1974 I would be talking about for weeks, and for that reason I must give this movie 3 stars out of 5. What I look forward to is a new Tarantino movie that will break new ground and not just bathe old movie genres in new blood.

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

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:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Trumbo

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:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Creed

In This Just OUT on November 26, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Creed-movie-posterI just went 12 rounds with the new movie “Creed,” and boy, are my eyes tired. If you can go the distance with this collage of cinematic nostalgia, then you just might be a contender.

Donnie Johnson (Michael B. Jordon from “Fruitvale Station“) didn’t know he was a Creed until Apollo Creed’s wife, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad from “Good Deeds”) picks the thirteen year-old up from Juvenile Detention. He’s always been a fighter, and that’s all he’s ever known. His father died before he was born. His mother died when he was young and he went into the system.

Mary Anne takes her husband’s indiscretion into her home and makes a proper young man out of him. But at 30, Donnie sneaks off to Tijuana most weekends to box and battle against his past. When he gets a big promotion at his cushy office job, he sees a path he has to step away from. Since nobody in Los Angeles will train him, Donnie goes to Philadelphia and looks up Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone from “Balboa”), who runs Adrian’s Restaurant.

The movie pretty much telegraphs its punches from there. Director/Writer Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station“) does a fine job navigating this iconic landscape. He should be commended for dovetailing his story into a world with other characters whose backstories are already legendary lore. I was ready for the chicken chasing and roadway racing, along with those musical cues that hit a familiar chord.

There is talk of Stallone getting an Oscar nod for his performance, but I think most of that is coming out of his camp. He is good and does great work in the kid’s corner, but the range of the character and the actor both come up short. Rocky goes through some traumatic things in this movie and he still shrugs them off. I saw a man in pain; however, I did not feel his pain or see it in his performance. I expected to see Rocky knocked down by life and to be afraid he was down for the count. Maybe like most fights, this one can’t live up to the hype.

I liked this movie. Coogler and Jordan both belong in the ring, but at this level you have to bring it. You have to bring something special and not just rely on sentiment or old plot devices to be the champ. For that reason, I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. Now, I have to get back to my new screenplay about Dorothy’s granddaughter who tracks down the Tin Man and stands over him with a blow torch and says, “Who’s at the end of their rope now, you old rust bucket?”

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

The Martian

In This Just OUT on October 3, 2015 at 7:30 am

the-martian-POSTER“The Martian” is real, and I know because I saw it in 3D today. Someone call David Bowie and tell him there is “Life on Mars.” I also have to say this is my new “Favorite Martian.”

Mark Watney (Matt Damon from “Interstellar”) is part of a Mars mission with his five other astronaut buddies when a storm blows across the big red planet. He thinks they should wait it out, but Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain from ”Interstellar “) doesn’t want to take the chance and decides to blast off early. Mark was planning to go with them, really he was, but a big piece of debris hits him and blows him into the dust storm just before the ship is about to blow over.

It was impossible to find him, and impossible to stay and impossible for him to live. Well, two out of three of those things were actually impossible. Mark lives and makes his way back to the science station.

The first thing he decides is that he is not going to die. The next thing he has to do is see if he can stay alive until the next scheduled bus comes through in about four years. At that moment, a new super hero is created: “The Botanist.” That’s right, Mark has a certain set of skills that allow him to grow plants on a planet without life while I can’t grow a tomato plant in my back yard.

While the crew mourns his loss and NASA holds his memorial, a blonde-haired girl named Mindy (Mackenzie Davis from “That Awkward Moment”) notices something odd on the satellite photos. The Rover keeps moving around from day to day, and that can only mean one thing: somebody left the keys in it, and Watney is cruising the planet looking for those Amazon women he heard about.

Much like “Gravity,” we have a single person, lost in space, seeking only to survive. While me and everybody else on the Earth rooted for him to survive, we learn about the human spirit, and what one man can do with a blonde girl looking out for him. I have my own blonde who’s looked out for me since 1981, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Director Ridley Scott (“Prometheus”) strikes a good tone of hope and positive thinking that is almost akin to a Disney movie, like when Mark is about to run out of food and they call the Chinese for takeout. The only dark moment that I identified with was when Mark ran out of catsup.

Based on the Andrew Weir novel, this is not an epic motion picture or a riveting as “Gravity,” but it I really liked it. This this is a good story, well told, that kept me engaged and wanting to see if he was going to make it home. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Believe in the impossible and you just might find a blonde to look after you.

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

Ricki and the Flash

In This Just OUT on August 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Ricki_PosterThis was not a double feature, but I did see “Ricki and the Flash.” I guess some wounds are so bad all you can do is sing a song about them.

Ricki (Meryl Streep from “Into The Woods”) and her band, The Flash, have been the house band at the Salt Well for years. It’s a small joint in Los Angeles, and they usually play to about 20 or 30 regulars. She almost makes enough to cover her bar tab, so she has to keep her day job as a cashier.

Ricki gets a call from her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline from “Last Vegas”) saying their daughter’s marriage and life is falling apart and she needs to come to Indianapolis to help her. When Ricki gets there, Julie (Mamie Gummer from “Cake”) is a mess, and she unloads a truckload of baggage on her estranged mother. Ricki struggles to be the person her daughter needs, as she barely knows how be a rock star and maybe a hip mother, but not the nurturing kind Julie or her two grown sons wanted her to be.

I will admit that I got a real Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire”) feeling watching this movie, and Ms. Streep, I must say, “You had me at ‘American Girl.’” This is Meryl Streep’s best musical since “Mamma Mia,” and that’s right, I am skipping over “Into The Woods.” Of course she is great in the movie, but I would like to have seen a lesser-known actress take on this role. We never forget we are watching a movie star, and the girl playing her daughter is her real life daughter.

You might think this would be a story about someone who held fast to her dream and finally made it. Sorry, but this is not about Ricki’s rise to stardom – it’s about her journey to accept the costs of her dream. To see and feel the pain she caused her family when she passed on being a wife and mother to be a rock star.

With a decent screenplay by Diablo Cody (“Paradise”), who has lived on the edge, the story unfolded in a raw and heartwarming way. Ricki is different, and she stands out in a crowd. She’s different, and she can’t help but be the person she is. She has one more shot at being loved by her boyfriend Greg (Rick Springfield from “True Detective“), who explains a parent’s love better than anyone I have ever heard.

I enjoyed watching a movie about people who had lived a life and not done everything right. People with pain that will not go away and they find out all they can do is start putting things on the other side of the scales. And for that I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. The moral of the story may be that time and classic rock music heals all wounds.

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

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

In This Just OUT on August 1, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Mission Impossible-PosterI just saw “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and the movie is as long as the title. This is the one where Jeremy Renner “rides bitch” and Cruise shows him how it’s done.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise from “Edge of Tomorrow“) is on his own crusade against a mysterious terrorist organization known as The Syndicate. After an already leaked, harrowing plane sequence, Ethan goes to a record shop to get his next mission. This was just like an old episode of the TV show, as I recently watched the first two seasons from 1966. That’s the kind of dedication and research your humble reviewer goes through for you. The message is not from his MI superiors; it’s from the head of The Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris from “Deliver Us From Evil“), announcing his plans to destroy all the MI agents.

The Syndicate captures Ethan and brings in Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson from “Hercules”) to interrogate. We are not shocked to find she is a double agent doing a triple play with some fantastic quads. At this moment, it felt like a James Bond move with the hot babe agent you don’t know if you can trust. From this point on it’s a two-person movie with the rest of the old MI gang just laterally along for the ride. When I saw that Alec Baldwin (“Aloha) was playing CIA Chief Hunley, I worried that I could only see him as a buffoon. Fortunately that’s just the role they wrote for him here.

This was an action-packed roller coaster with twists and turns and romps across the globe to exciting locations. Hunt defies all forms of transportation in the air and the water. There is the impenetrable place they have to get into and get out of with the McGuffin. It was all so frenetic and fantastic and forgettable the moment I walked out of the theater. A pure action movie that was more like a “Bond” or a “Bourne” movie than the old television series. This is not a bad thing, just a sign the studios think the only way to get you in the theater is under a proven brand name.

Director/writer Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher”) has had a hand in many of the Tom Cruise vehicles lately. He writes really good movies, but I want to see him get back to the unique and interesting kind of work he did in “The Usual Suspects.”

This was a good popcorn movie with some cool stunts and effects where we never forget we are watching a movie star who cannot lose or die. For that I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. I am sure the next installment will be Mission Impossible: This One Is Really Impossible – Really!

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

Trainwreck

In This Just OUT on July 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Trainwreck_posterI just saw “Trainwreck,” and it is very touching and off the rails funny. So get your ticket, climb aboard and enjoy the ride of your life.

Amy (Amy Schumer from “Price Check“) learns at a young age that relationships don’t last. She does the “walk of shame” like she’s curing cancer and expects nothing more out of life than a good time and that a little penicillin will solve all her problems.

As a magazine writer, she is assigned to write a story about Aaron (Bill Hader from “The Skeleton Twins“) who is an ace sports medicine doctor. Amy plays her own game when Aaron asks her out on a date. The problem is he is a decent guy who likes her, and that’s just not in her playbook. This is a girl-meets-boy story where the traditional roles are reversed. Aaron is the one who has not dated much and Amy is the one that does not want to settle down. Aaron is all buttoned down and professional while Amy goes through life in a sorority girl/Holly Golightly kind of way.

Amy is uncomfortable with real intimacy where each person cares deeply about the other. She is always on the lookout for that first bump in the road, like an argument or complaint about her drinking or inappropriate comments. She knows it’s coming, as she knows she is not the kind of person who nice guys will put up with. She has stolen that move from guys where you don’t break up with someone, you just behave so horribly that they will break up with you.

What makes this movie so unique is that all the relationship dynamics are funny, and I mean slap-your-knee funny. It’s grounded so well in the characters that even when it is sad, it’s funny because it rings true.

This movie has everything, including Lebron James, who plays Aaron’s friend and confidant. Somehow James does not seem out of place as he steals every scene he’s in like it’s Game Seven. I will let you be surprised by all the cameos in the movie that add something to the piece without falling into cliché.

I can’t ignore that Judd Apatow (“This is 40”) is at the stick in this out-of-control locomotive of laughter. Like any great artist, he works with great subjects and his fingerprints are in the funny, shaded by the tender moments that make us care about what happens to these people. While I usually get a good chuckle at a comedy, I have to admit that I laughed so hard at this movie that I could not breathe. This has not happened in decades, and for that I must give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. Finally, a romantic comedy where the funniest moments are not in the trailer.

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

Inside Out

In This Just OUT on June 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm

inside-out-poster-2I just saw “Inside Out” and it turned me… into a kid again. A happy kid, so see if you can catch my choo-choo train of thought.

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias from “The Shifting”) is 11 years old and has led a great life in Minneapolis. When her parents move to San Francisco, she has to leave her friends and cope with a new house, school and city. Fortunately, Riley’s command center of five emotions is usually run by Joy (Amy Poehler from “They Came Together“), who keeps her smiling and able to deal with just about anything. Still, this move has the other emotions on alert, and Sadness (Phyllis Smith from “Bad Teacher“) is acting very strange. Nobody likes Sadness, as she always brings everyone down, and this just makes Sadness, well, sad.

When Joy and Sadness are mistakenly thrown out of the command center, Riley has only Fear (Bill Hader from “The Skeleton Twins“), Anger (Lewis Black from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling from “This Is the End“) to rely upon. This is much easier to follow in the movie, unless Disgust is at your controls. The movie does such a clever job of showing what makes a child stable. How a personality is formed and the pillars that hold a person together are explained so well we all can see the blueprint of ourselves.

This overall concept has been done before, but never like this. To show what is going on in a child’s mind is a clinical and cinematic feat for a feature film. Kids will enjoy the comical calamity of Joy being lost and Sadness feeling like she doesn’t belong. Adults will know what the loss of Joy in our life means, and when we express ourselves with Anger, Disgust and Fear instead of Sadness. We are all like Riley, going through life with this mix of emotions who don’t always play well together.

Writer/Director Pete Docter (“Up”) pulled at our heartstrings with balloons in the past, and I was worried the concept of a depressed child would be too harsh for the animated screen. After seeing it in a theater packed with a lot of laughing little rug rats, I can see the magic in his medicine. For a medium like this to provide a means of communication between kids and their parents is a marvel – and a marvelous thing. For that reason I must give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. And by the way, it is laugh out loud hilarious.

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

Spy

In This Just OUT on June 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

spy_POSTERI had to see “Spy” because I had to know the truth: Could Paul Feig (“The Heat”) be the new comic genius he seems to be?

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy from “St. Vincent”) has been at the CIA for 10 years. She’s one of the behind-the-scenes people who coordinate the activities of her favorite agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law from “The Grand Budapest Hotel“). When Fine gets killed and loses track of a suitcase nuclear bomb, the CIA finds out that the bad guys know the identities of all their undercover agents.

The next best agent, Rick Ford (Jason Statham from “Wild Card“), wants to go after them, but his cover is blown. Susan volunteers for field duty to get vengeance against those who killed Fine. Her experience with the case and anonymity trump her lack of field experience. While Susan goes off on her first field assignment, Ford goes rogue to break the case on his own. Of course he and Susan keep running into each other and the clash of class and styles is comical.

McCarthy is at her best when she is being underestimated. This genre and this character are a good fit for her. Her training helps her solve the case. However, her instinct is to overcome her insecurities with sarcasm and smart-ass remarks. It works for the character, and it works for the humor, and it’s just unconventional enough to solve the case and save the world.

Feig has struck the right tone here, where the bullets are real and nobody is going for the joke. The funny falls out of the farce created by McCarthy bringing her special skills to the spy scene. She has a fight scene in a kitchen that is as good as any I have seen. The fact that it’s in a kitchen just plays off the gender stereotype that takes a beating here too.

I really enjoyed this movie. They didn’t try too hard or make everything into some kind of hack joke. I was surprised and pleased with each plot twist and impressed by how they made a good movie first and a funny movie just seemed to happen organically out of the characters and the situation. For that reason, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. This answered my age-old question; when you need a great comedy, who are you gonna call? Feig and McCarthy start shooting “Ghostbusters” in two weeks.

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