Tom Basham

Archive for the ‘This Just OUT’ Category

Aloha

In This Just OUT on May 30, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Aloha-POSTER“Aloha” means hello and goodbye, and that it’s time to see the new Cameron Crowe (“We Bought a Zoo”) movie. I love this guy, but his movies lately are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.

Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper from “American Sniper“) is heading back to Hawaii. He was a big man before he left 12 years ago and then flamed out in the Air Force. He now works for a private firm that is putting a rocket into space. Gilcrest has plenty of old friends in Hawaii, including his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams from “About Time”), who is married with two kids now.

The Air Force assigns Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone from “Magic in the Moonlight”) to be his liaison and make sure he doesn’t get into trouble. She is such a cute captain, and you can see the triangle forming. In fact, you can see all kinds of plot lines forming as Crowe works a little too hard to set up the angles and the angst of every character.

The Gilcrest character is a familiar Crowe prototype. A former golden boy with battle scars in search of redemption. Cooper fills these shoes well as he battles the loyalty between his women and his obligations to his company and his country. While Emma Stone plays the Renee Zellweger (“Jerry McGuire”) part well, she’s more misty-eyed than militarized.

The plot of the movie comes off like a James Bond spoof and provides more of a distraction than interesting action. This is all pumped up by some great character actor cameos, but this is not Crowe’s strength. That he thinks he needs these kinds of over the top elements in his movies, like the shoe thing in “Elizabethtown,” makes me worry about his confidence or willingness to bend to studio influence. His earlier movies were just about people, or a guy who wanted to spend the summer with a girl. These small movies were about big things, and the fate of the world was not at stake.

I liked this movie, and I cared about the leads and their story at the core of this film. I just wish he had more faith in that story and spent less time on quirky character types and colossal catastrophes. I still like seeing an adult drama without superheroes that gives me a warm feeling in the end. For that I will give this movie 3 1/2 stars out of 5. There’s always a chance the next time there will be something more to Crowe about.

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

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Tomorrowland

In This Just OUT on May 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm

tomorrowland_poster“Tomorrowland” is here – today, in theaters and at a Disney theme park near some of you. Just take a hard left at the next inter-dimensional portal.

Casey Newton (Britt Robertson from “The Longest Ride”) is a bright young girl whose father is a NASA scientist. She is trying to save the world, and she feels like she is all alone, until she gets this little pin. When she touches it she is transported to another place where anything is possible. It seems really cool until the thing runs out of batteries. When she tries to fix it, Athena (Raffey Cassidy from “Snow White and the Huntsman”) shows up to help. Athena gave her the pin, hoping she was the one who could save the world. She takes Casey to Frank (George Clooney from “Gravity“), the last person she thought could save the world.

It’s been decades since Frank was exiled from Tomorrowland, and it takes some convincing for him to believe again that anything is possible and that anyone can make a difference.

Damon Lindelof’s (“World War Z”) script is a little derivative, but he is mining magical movie lore of the past to assemble this futuristic ride. There were times when I felt like I was back in the ‘70s eating my bowl of ice cream and listening to Walt tell us about what we were going to see. But the future is not what it was, and therein lies the challenge for Casey.

This is a good family film with plenty of action and excitement. The theme is as simple and sweet as my childhood, especially when compared to the harsh reality of our evolutionary tendencies.

I was bothered by the first 20 minutes of backstory, which I realize now was not for me, but for the ones now eating their bowl of ice cream, looking wide-eyed at the screen and trying to figure out what it all means. They get to find out, just like I did, that one blonde girl with gumption can change everything. Trust me, if you put your faith in her, your future is going to be amazing.

I can’t recall the last PG movie I saw that was not animated, though with Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) in the driver’s seat, I was happy when the ride finally arrived at Tomorrowland. For that I will give this movie 4 stars out of 5. You had better get to tomorrow today, while it is still here.

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

Ex Machina

In This Just OUT on May 3, 2015 at 7:46 pm

ExMachina-PosterI have just seen “Ex Machina” and now I am scared to death of my microwave. Look, she started it, with all her custom popcorn settings and automatically changing the clock for daylight savings time.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from “About Time”) is a delightful young man who wins the ultimate prize: a week with the eccentric owner of Blueprint, the top search engine in the world. When he finally gets to the remote subterranean compound and meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac from “Inside Llewyn Davis“), he is a little freaked out. Instead of a week of geek talk and just hanging out, Nathan wants him to conduct the Turing Test on his new Artificial Intelligent robot. This is where Caleb gets to ask it lots of questions and see if he can tell if it’s a machine or just like the girls he meets on Long Island.

Caleb is a brilliant programmer himself, and when he first meets Ava (Alicia Vikander from “Son of a Gun”) he tries to break down her response algorithms. This is something I usually try on the third date. Caleb is a nerd with just the right mix of boyish charm and computer aptitude to match wits with both Nathan and Ava, but soon he has to decide which one to trust. And he must figure out who and what is really being tested.

I was impressed by writer/director Alex Garland (“Sunshine”) and how he elevated this classic sci-fi setup while keeping some of the familiar touchstones. The connection to “Blade Runner” is obvious and perfectly updated, as Caleb knows Ava is a machine from the beginning. This reminded me most of the old Star Trek episode “Mudd’s Women,” which first appeared in 1966. While keeping the sex appeal of that episode, Garland has chosen to humanize the robot experience in a very simple and unique way. In then end, we are amazed and horrified at the same time – the way I used to be around the fourth date.

I found the movie to be quite intriguing and enjoyable. While there were some cool special effects, they only served the character and servo-driven drama. What some movies try to do with hundreds of people and robots on a massive scale, this movie did with just a few “people” in a few rooms. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Now I want to dig out my old Erector set and get to work.

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

The Age of Adaline

In This Just OUT on April 25, 2015 at 8:35 am

Adaline-Poster“The Age of Adaline” is interesting, but then age is just a number.  It doesn’t matter how old you are if you haven’t lived or loved, even if you are a looker.

Adaline (Blake Lively from “Savages”) is a normal gal born in 1908 San Francisco. She falls in love, gets married, has a daughter, and then falls in a river at 29 and stops aging. This is not like Cher, as Adaline’s body undergoes some kind of transformation the movie wastes 15 minutes on.  By the time Adaline’s driver’s license says she is 45 and she looks younger than her 29, the wrong people start to take interest.

To avoid being dissected or labeled a circus freak, she says goodbye to her daughter and changes her name and moves into obscurity. She stays on the move for decades and dodges attachments, including love and anything resembling a normal life.

Adaline seems way too sad for someone who is over 100 and still looks like a million bucks. The only thing sadder is the narrator, who chimes in every 20 minutes to state the obvious and let us know why we should care. This kind of thing bothers me whether it comes from the screen or the schmuck in the row behind me.

She is about to move again when she meets Elis (Michiel Huisman from “World War Z”), who loves all things historical, including her. He recites poetry and makes her laugh, which worked for me when I met my wife 34 years ago. He thinks she is hiding something, since most women are. She is also hiding how much she loves him along with  being around the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

So many things fit so perfectly together here that you could see the design of the story way out in front of the character-driven experience. When I see the pitter-patter of things looking too pat, I feel pitiful. This is the Lifetime-style movie it seems it would be. Nothing in the story or direction elevates the piece to the promise of magic the movie promotes.

The leads are amazing, and they kept me looking at the screen instead of my watch, and for that reason I will give this movie 3 stars out 5. Next time when someone is stuck in time, just show it on Lifetime.

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

Unfriended

In This Just OUT on April 18, 2015 at 2:51 pm

unfriended-posterThere are worse things than being “Unfriended” – like seeing the movie named for the same Facebook-coined term. Not everything online is as much fun as a Minion Meme.

Blaire (Shelley Hennig from “Ouija“) loves to Skype with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm in his feature film debut). They get a little playful until three of their friends show up in the same Skype session. It’s all fun and games until they notice someone else is in on the group chat. The mystery messenger is using the profile of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman from “Remembering Phil”), a girl who committed suicide a year ago after a nasty round of trashing by cyber-bullies. Laura only communicates by instant message, while the others are on camera with mics. She threatens to kill anybody who tries to leave the session, which at first they think is a joke.

The movie started with Blaire’s laptop screen covering the entire movie screen. After about five minutes in, I remembered how boring it is watching someone’s computer screen, and I wondered how long this could go on. Eventually I succumbed to the horror in knowing we were never going to see anything but Blaire’s computer screen.  Sure there were others coming and going in their little Skype boxes – but we didn’t even cut to their screens – we stayed on her screen for the entire movie.

I know lots of people watch a movie on their computer, and I have done it a few times, but I have never gone to a theater and watched a whole movie on the big screen on a computer screen. At 30 minutes in I almost walked out. Then I realized I might just be old and not able to see this gimmick as a nouveau-web-world-cinema-masterpiece. So I hung on to the end, if for no other reason than to let my friends know if this was something they should “like.”

Director Levan Gabriadze (“Lucky Trouble”) deserves some credit for only using Skype to expose the modern internet experience of today’s virtual relationships and how they creep into the real world. Watching these kids try to defy the digital demon of death in a web world of their own lies was a little bit interesting.

Being boxed into the little screen on the big screen, you sensed how they were trapped in their typing teasing temples of temptation. For that reason, I must give this movie 2 1/2 stars out of 5. Just see it on the little screen, and don’t go to a theater to watch a movie on a computer.

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

While We’re Young

In This Just OUT on April 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm

while-posterI saw “While We’re Young” today, but I may have been too late. I mean, I almost fell asleep on my walker.

Josh (Ben Stiller from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) is in his mid 40s and used to make documentary films. He still thinks he does, but really, he just talks about it. He has a nice boring life with his lovely wife, Cornelia (Naomi Watts from “Saint Vincent”), at least they have convinced themselves of that. With no kids, they can do all kinds of things at the spur of the moment, but they never do. They are a sad portrait of what yuppies become.

When these two meet a young couple, they become energized by their youth and enthusiasm. Jamie (Adam Driver from “Frances Ha“) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried from “A Million Ways to Die in the West“) are the people Josh and Cornelia always thought they were: young, brave, wildly creative and full of promise. Jamie is a budding filmmaker, too, and shines up to Josh while co-opting his connections. Darby is young and beautiful in that wild, earth-child kind of way.

I like Ben Stiller, and I love Naomi Watts, but they seemed to have no chemistry here. That may have been on purpose to show these characters as tired and disconnected when compared to the kids who live in a loft and have a pet chicken for the eggs.

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha”) has done a great job of holding a mirror up to a middle-aged couple to show them their past. At first they can only see what they have lost and how they squandered their youth. It takes a while before they can see they like the people they have become.

Baumbach is still trying to evolve into a better Woody Allen and so far I am enjoying the ride. Here he tries to show hipsters for the shallow narcissistic brats they are while not giving those a decade or two farther down the line much to live for. The result here is not a perfect film, but thankfully it’s not just another hack romantic comedy.  And for that, I must give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5. Does anyone know where I can buy a chicken?

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

The Armor of Light

In This Just OUT on April 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm

armor-of-light-poster“The Armor of Light” does not sound like it would be bulletproof, but the movie is very illuminating. I decided to review this movie since I am a straight shooter.

Reverend Rob Schenck put his faith into action decades ago, taking to the street to protest abortion and build a following of pro-life Christians across the country. He has also spent the last 20 years placing 400 plaques of the Ten Commandments with the leaders of this great nation to display in their offices.

The documentary follows the pastor’s path through his “crisis of conscience” with his divergence from many of his Christian contemporaries ensconced on the political right wing. In the wake of the 2013 shootings at the Navy Yard, Reverend Schenck started to question those who think the Second Amendment trumps the Ten Commandments. On his journey, Pastor Schenck also meets up with Lucy McBath, a Florida mother who lost her son to senseless gun violence, and the chorus of Christians against guns gets a little stronger.

This directorial debut of Abigail Disney is distinctly different than her granddaddy’s dynasty. She is more interested in making a difference than making a dollar. She admits she has strayed from her progressive proclivities for this collaboration with Reverend Schenck, a poster boy for the other side of the aisle. They both found common ground in the faces of the humans who suffered the inhumanity of senseless gun violence.

The film does not propose legislation or advance a specific agenda. I saw it more as an intervention; “America we love you, but you have a problem with guns. We need to talk about this. You are great, and you may not be dying, but you are killing everyone around you.”

This message, this plea, coming from someone the political right feels they can always count on, does not appear to be well received. Reverend Schenck is not coming from a political place or meant to weaken a plank in the platform. This comes from the heart and soul of a Christian who has spent his life protecting life, all life, and come to see how guns take life. You can quote all the statistics you want, but why is it that we as people can’t solve our disputes without guns? Judge not, lest ye be judged, but a guy with a gun in today’s America feels like he can be judge, jury and executioner – and sometimes the law backs him up.

As a proud gun owner and Second Amendment supporter, I was prepared to be offended and defensive. However, the film was not aimed at my rights or regulations. The film asks for a conversation about a culture of fear that creates the hunger to pack a gun and be ready to put somebody down. Reverend Schenck seems to be saying that being a Christian and being okay with the level of gun violence in this country is not logical or theological.

Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” If you are not yet blind, you might want to holster your weapon and see this movie. I still have my gun, but this movie opened my eyes, and for that reason I must give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5. If your fear of your fellow man keeps you from this conversation, then you may not be a Christian and you may not see the light.

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

It Follows

In This Just OUT on March 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

It-followsr-posterIt follows that it’s Friday and I went to the movies. I wanted to see something innovative and interesting, but I saw “It Follows.” Now I am always going to be looking over my shoulder.

Sweet young Jay (Maika Monroe from “The Guest”) is a girl, first of all, with a boy’s name, but that is the least of her problems. Seems her new boyfriend leaves her with more than crabs and regret, which was the name of my Glam-Rock band. After the deed is done and the chloroform wears off, he tells her the thing that was following him will now be following her.

This thing that follows has rules it follows, along with the chosen person. Though it may look like anyone, even someone you might know, it can only walk toward you and most of the time they are naked. So if you get in a car and drive 20 miles, it just keeps walking toward you, and in a few days it shows up – naked, most of the time. It’s this big, walking, naked, terminator-type person that you can’t kill. All you need to do is have sex with somebody and it will pass to the next person, but if that person dies, it will come back and follow you until you pass it on or it kills you. This thing is harder to get rid of than Hillary Clinton.

The story comes from the childhood fears of Director/Writer David Robert Mitchell (“The Myth of the American Sleepover“). That’s where the innovation stops, since “It Follows” follows all the tried and true elements of every other horror movie we have seen before. The Indie look of the movie helped it seem charming, as it made me think of the bygone B-films of the genre from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

While Mitchell executed the film well, he did not bring anything new to the chopping block. Even the notion that bad things happen to kids who have sex has been around since I was a kid. I was a little surprised these kids thought all they had to do was beat this thing in Marco Polo.

I enjoy a good horror movie. I produced three horror movies that I boldly think are just as good as this one. So you must understand how difficult it is for me to only give this movie 2 1/2 stars out of 5. I am only afraid this movie will do well at the box office and sequels will follow.

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

Cinderella

In This Just OUT on March 15, 2015 at 8:34 pm

cinderella-posterIt may seem odd for me to watch a “Cinderella” story without Bill Murray in it, but I do have daughters, and they went with me. So I got that working for me, which is nice.

Cinderella (Lily James from “Broken”) has a beautiful country home and two great parents. Her mother dies when she is very young, and then a few years later her father dies as well. Now all she has is the home, which would be okay if she wasn’t saddled with a stepmother (Cate Blanchett from “The Monuments Men”) and two worthless stepsisters. Since Cinderella was raised to “be kind and have courage,” she soon becomes the slave to this twisted trio of interlopers.

Well, there is the prince (Richard Madden from “A Promise“), and a ball, and I don’t want to give too much away and spoil this story for anyone who has never seen it. Just trust me, things get weird.

While Disney has made an indelible mark on this European folktale, they still decided to put an Irishman, Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”), at the helm. Branagh brings his sense of charm and respect to the brand, including the perennial casting of his prior paramour Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. While she is often over the top, I found her to be fairly fun and fitting for the fable.

It has been decades since someone tried to faithfully remake this magical tale with live actors in such a grand and epic manner. While there are many variations of this story going back centuries, what is presented here is largely a mash-up of the old Charles Perrault version published in 1697 and everything Disney has come up with since then.

I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. I thought I would be rolling my eyes every five minutes, but I found myself being drawn into the characters and the impressive sets and set pieces. Cinderella came off as strong and vulnerable at the same time as you watched her struggle. There was very little that bothered me, like the glass slipper looked more like a glass pump, but as a guy I shouldn’t notice those kinds of things.

I feel I must also give screenwriter Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) credit here as this felt more like a movie than a fairy tale. There were times when things got whimsical, but the story felt driven by the characters and not by some old cartoon playbook. For that, I feel I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. You might not live “happily ever after,” but you will appreciate sensible shoes.

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

Still Alice

In This Just OUT on March 1, 2015 at 8:44 am

Still-Alice-PosterShe is “Still Alice,” even if she doesn’t live in her body anymore. I can’t remember when I was more scared of a movie or losing my train of thought and never getting to the station.

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore from “Non-Stop“) has a doctorate in linguistics and teaches at Columbia. Her whole life has been about the pursuit of knowledge and communication. When she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she tries everything to hold on to her life and lifetime of memories. Alice’s family is there to support her, but there isn’t much they can do. Actually, there is nothing that anyone can do but watch the Alice they love and know disappear before their eyes.

This is truly a horrible disease, as shown here; it affects everyone around Alice. As her condition deteriorates, Alice regresses to a child-like state where she can’t be left alone or tell people what she wants. Early on, Alice wishes she had cancer, as there is much more empathy and understanding from people who watch cancer take their life. With Alzheimer’s, Alice’s life is taken from her, but she is still alive. Few things are more difficult to deal with than a full-grown child.

Julianne Moore deserved the Oscar she got for this movie. You watch her go from being smart and brave to struggling and sickly to a pitiful and pathetic existence. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin from “Blue Jasmine“) does his best to keep the rest of the family together and not lose himself in the process. I have always seen family pull together in the beginning of life with baby love, and near the end when one passes on. It’s in the middle when family can be a real pain in the ass. I should be more understanding since my wife has to deal with my selective hearing disorder.

I was worried this Lifetime movie subject matter would hit below the belt and go for the easy tears. Instead, they landed above the belt, at the heart of the matter. Nothing was sensationalized or overdone, as the simple tale of Lisa Genova’s novel was terrifying enough.

This movie about a long, cruel and crippling death taught me something about life, and for that reason I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. I only hope I don’t forget the most important things.

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