Sunday, April 24, 2011

Phil attends COMEDY SHORTS NIGHT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 23, 2011

In June of 2006, I first came to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, and as luck would have it, I came on their monthly Comedy Shorts Night, and I had the most amazing time. To see the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Llyod, and Laurel & Hardy on the big screen with live music, I was instantly hooked, and I proceeded to attend their weekly Saturday night shows. Fast forward to tonight, and it's comedy night once again. This time I decided to share my love of silent comedies with some friends of mine. I brought my good friend Amanda and her ten-year-old son Brian out with me to Niles. I treated them to dinner at Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace, where we stuffed ourselves on pizza and garlic cheese bread. After dinner, we walked over to the Edison Theatre for a night of laughter.

Original Movie Poster 1916
The first film of the night was THE COUNT, starring the famous Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin plays an apprentice at a tailor's shop. After burning a count's trousers, Chaplin gets fired, while his boss (Eric Campbell) discovers an invitation to Miss Moneybags' (Edna Purviance) dinner party. Soon Chaplin arrives and pretends to be the count and makes Campbell his secretary. Both he and Campbell fight for the affection of Miss Moneybags, but things get even more complicated when the real count arrives.

The film was written and directed by Chaplin, and it was his fifth film he made for the Mutual Film Company, which was released on September 4, 1916. Chaplin signed with Mutual in December of 1915, after being lured away from the Essanay Film Company. The film was also known as Almost a Gentleman. A funny two-reeler comedy short that only adds to Chaplin's comedic legacy.

The next film shown was WHAT PRICE GOOFY, starring funnyman Charley Chase as Mr. Jamison. He is married to a very jealous wife (Katherine Grant), who has a gossipy friend (Jane Sherman). When she sees Mr. Jamison talking to an attractive young woman, she reports back to Mrs. Jamison, who walks out on him. Then he must play host to Professor Brown, who just happens to be a stunning woman (Marjorie Whiteis). But his wife comes back home, and he has to hide the professor. However the star of the short was the lovable and talented Rin-Chin-Chin as Chase's dog Buddy.

Produced by Hal Roach and released by Hal Roach Studios on June 7, 1925, it's considered a lost classic, rarely seen today. However, thanks to the museum, they'll be keeping the film in constant rotation for many more years to come.

Still from Buster Keaton's film NEIGHBORS 1920
After a quick intermission, the show continued with NEIGHBORS, starring the great Buster Keaton. He and Virginia Fox play young lovers who live next door to each other, but their fathers despise each other with a passion. With only a wooden fence separating the families, Buster uses it as a prop to perform some hilarious slapstick comedy. But will true love triumph over adversity?

The film was directed by Keaton and his long-time collaborator Edward F. Cline, and was produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Schenck would go on to produce some of Keaton's most beloved classics such as STEAMBOAT BILL JR. and THE GENERAL. NEIGHBORS was released on December 22, 1920.

Original Movie Poster 1928
The fourth and final film of the night starred the comedic duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. FROM SOUP TO NUTS is pure comic gold, and in my humble opinion, one of their funniest shorts. The boys are inexperienced waiters who are hired for a swanky dinner party held by Mrs. Culpepper, played by Anita Garvin. With the boys as the waiters, hilarious situations ensues, and there is a running gag involving Hardy and a cake that must be seen.

The film was produced by, once again, Hal Roach, who's studio was the home to some of the greatest comedians of all time. From Laurel and Hardy to Charley Chase to the Our Gang series, Hal Roach Studios was THE greatest comedy studio of all time. And this film is proof to that statement. The film was released to the public on March 24, 1928.

Tonight's program was shown once again to a sold out crowd, and with good reason. Where else can you take your family to see some of the greatest comedians of all time in one night? Comedy Shorts Night is one of the museum's most popular programs, and they do this once a month. Both Amanda and Brian had a blast and expressed interest in coming back again next month. It felt good to share something that I've been enjoying for the past five years with some of my friends, and I guarantee that you will have a great time too!

To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, their film schedule, and how to become a member, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees THE CONSPIRATOR and JANE EYRE at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-April 23, 2011

Today I decided to travel to another one of my favorite theaters, The Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell. There I treated myself to a double feature. Two period pieces, but with two very different themes. One is based on true events, the other an adaptation of a literature classic.

There have been several stories in American history that have been omitted from history books as well as from the classroom. They are left out for several reasons, sometimes we are ashamed that these events unfolded here on our land. We try to cover up our mistakes with lies, deceit, denial, in hopes that these travesties will soon fade away. But the truth will never be buried for long, and in time, will become a part of history once again. Director Robert Redford brings one of these lost stories of American history to light with his new film THE CONSPIRATOR.

Based on true events that followed after the assignation of Abraham Lincoln, the film focuses on the trail of Mary Surratt, who ran a boarding house that John Wilkes Booth and others stayed at. She, along with a group of individuals, were charged with conspiring to kill the president. Her defense lawyer was 28 year old Fredrick Aiken, a decorated Union war hero, who becomes reluctantly chosen to represent Surratt. As the trial progresses, it becomes clear to Aiken that Mary is innocent and that she being set up by the War Commission to take the fall of her son, John Surratt.

This was a brilliant film that shines a light on one of the gravest mistrials in American History. James McAvoy's portrayal of Aiken was just amazing, bringing both integrity and determination to the role. Aiken, while prejudice against Surratt, thinking she is guilty, slowly overcomes these emotions as he realizes that she is to become the sacrificial lamb for the crimes that her son, as well as Booth's gang, have committed.  Of course Robin Wright's Mary Surratt is brilliant, commanding the screen with her incredible presence. The film also boasts note worthy performances by Evan Rachel Wood (Anna Surratt), Justin Long (Nicholas Baker), Alexis Bledel (Sarah Weston), Tom Wilkinson (Reverdy Johnson), and Kevin Kline (Edwin Stanton).

Director Redford handles James D. Soloman's script like a fine craftsman, taking his blueprint and creating a work of art that has class and intelligence. Redford slowly builds the tension in the courtroom until it reaches a fever pitch, until we, the audience, cannot stand to witness this travesty of injustice. We are being forced to watch a part of history that was recorded, but forgotten, and the repercussions of the bloodlust and revenge that the government demanded. Mary Surratt was hanged on July 17, 1865. She was the first woman to be executed by the United States government.

This was the debut film for The American Film Company, whose purpose is to make historically accurate films about America's past. And they have succeeded their mission with this film. With its combination of stellar performances, superb directing, and historical events, THE CONSPIRATOR has all the ingredients to become an Oscar contender for next year's awards show. Highly recommended for those who enjoy films based on historical events.

The next film I saw for today was a new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel JANE EYRE. After living a bleak and despair childhood, Jane Eyre eventually becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall for the cold-hearted and mean spirited master Mr. Rochester. In time she begins to melt her master's heart, and soon the two of them fall in love. However, Mr. Rochester's secret past could very well destroy Jane's happiness and the life they planned together.

There have been several film adaptations of the novel. With this version, director Cary Fukunaga stays faithful to Bronte's novel while creating somber moods, self preservation, and forbidden love set against the tranquility landscape of the British countryside. What I also found interesting is that Fukunaga follows up his film debut SIN NOMBRE with this period piece, but somehow, he does a masterful job of directing this film. Slow paced and precise, with just amazing set ups, the film flows just like the novel, taking its time to introduce us all to Bronte's world.

Also it's worth noting the absolutely stunning performance of Aussie actress Mia Wasikowska in the title role as Jane. She is plain, strong willed, and determined to live her life on her terms without compromise. Wasikowska commands attention when she appears on screen. Actor Michael Fassbender's turns in another fine acting job as Mr. Rochester. While Orson Welles casts a very large shadow in the 1944 version, Fassbender does a tremendous job. My only real complaint is I wished that Judi Dench's role as the housekeeper was longer and more fleshed out. Dench is such a talented actress, and this role should've been much more richer. Other than that, this was a great film, and another contender for the Oscar's next year.

Both THE CONSPIRATOR and JANE EYRE are now playing nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas. To see showtimes, visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phil sees SOUL SURFER at the Camera 12-April 21, 2011

I was pretty devastated when I couldn't attend the Cinequest Film Festival this past March. However, I was very excited to see that the closing night film of the festival was being shown at my favorite theater, the Camera 12, but tonight was the last night to see it there. So I traveled back to my home away from home to see the film SOUL SURFER.

Young Bethany is just your average, typical teenage girl living on the coast of Kauai, who just happens to be a naturally gifted surfer. But her whole world is turned upside down when on Halloween morning, she loses her left arm during a shark attack. Shaken but determined, she finds the courage to mount back on her board and ride the waves once more, leading her to compete in the National Surfing Championship.

The film is based on the true story of surfing superstar Bethany Hamilton, and the unbelievable obstacles that she had to overcome. Portraying Bethany in the film is actress AnnaSophia Robb, who does an amazing job of bringing Bethany's story to the big screen. Also both Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt do a great job portraying Bethany's parents in the film. Even country singer Carrie Underwood has a small part, as Bethany's youth instructor Sarah Hill. Her performance in the film was actually very good. Also worth noting is Sean McNamara's directing, which was really impressive. For a man known mostly for directing Disney and Nickelodeon TV shows (along with several TV movies), he was able to get some fine performances out of his cast, as well as with some outstanding surfing footage. However, there were some scenes where you could definitely tell that they CGIed Robb's face onto Hamilton's body. But all nit picking aside, I thought that this was some of the best surfing footage that I've seen in a long time.

During the Cinequest screening, both Hamilton and Robb were in attendance, where they received their Cinequest awards in front of a sold out crowd. From what I read, they were both amazed by the standing ovation that they, and the film, received. After reviewing the film, I can see why, but let's clarify something first that moviegoers will no doubt notice.

To end speculations of any kind, yes this is a faith-based film. And the use of the word God and all forms of Christianity is repeated throughout the film. So if you're not a big fan of religion, or having it hitting you over the head over and over again turns you off, then you may not want to see this film. But if you're interested in seeing an amazing film about overcoming devastating circumstances, the will of the human spirit, and making all your dreams come true despite personal losses, then this a film that you must see then.

While some will see this film as another true story that was packaged, homogenized, and mass market by Hollywood, this film isn't like all the rest. What this film has is integrity, intelligence, and spirit. Need I say, it has a lot of soul within the frames. Bethany's story has touched many people from all over the world. And her story is translated faithfully to the screen, which is always one of my pet peeves. Sometimes the message gets lost in the translation. Not with this film. Bethany's story is a reminder to us all that no matter what happens to us, there is nothing that can't be overcome. If you don't believe that, well then, just look at what Bethany has accomplished.

SOUL SURFER is now playing nationwide. To see showtimes and to purchase tickets visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil gets invited to the Camera Cinema Club and sees THESE AMAZING SHADOWS-April 17, 2011

Life has a funny way of bringing you some good fortune. On the same day that I saw SCREAM 4, I was about to head home when I saw my good friend Nathan working the entrance of the Camera 12. I walked over to him and said hello, and just chatted with one another. Then he asked me, "Are you going to the Cinema Club screening right now?" I naively replied, "What's that?" He then led me back upstairs to Theater 11 on the third floor, and there I was introduced to a very special movie club. I thought I died and gone to heaven.

The Camera Cinema Club has been around for the past 14 seasons, and I can see why that is. The club's director Tim Sika chooses pre-released films that were the best at film festivals, and films that do not currently have a distributor. Before each screening, they have buffet table along with gourmet coffee and tea for everyone to enjoy. They also have trivia questions where the audience can win some very cool prizes. Yours truly won two DVDs. What's really amazing about the club is that the audience doesn't know what type of film will be shown, and the title is kept secret until the film starts. For this particular screening, the club showed a very interesting and entertaining documentary entitled THESE AMAZING SHADOWS.

The film focuses on the history and importance of the National Film Registry, which was created by the Library of Congress to protect and to preserve our film heritage. The Registry has helped such diverse films as CASABLANCA, BAZING SADDLES, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, CITIZEN KANE, STAR WARS, and THE WIZARD OF OZ to be deemed, "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," therefore important to be part of the Library of Congress. The film also spotlights how the Registry was created, how the films are picked, and how have these films influenced all of us in our everyday lives. With fantastic interviews with such directors as Rob Reiner, John Waters, Christopher Nolan, Wayne Wang; actors and actresses like Debbie Reynolds, Peter Coyote, Tim Roth, and Zooey Deschanell, film critic Leonard Maltin, the documentary brings forth the power of the movies and how it has transformed us all as well as the world.

After the screening, the film's directors Paul Marino and Kurt Norton came out to discuss the making of the documentary and conducted a very informative Q&A session with the audience. Afterwards I was able to introduce myself and had a great time talking to them about film. It's great to see that they had the same passion that I have and I thanked them for making such a fantastic film.

This was a great surprise for me! I couldn't believe that I got to participate in this event. I am truly honored and I can't wait for the next Camera Cinema Club event! This was the perfect way to end my weekend, which consisted of seeing seven films! Yup, this was just what I needed after being sick all last week.

The Camera Cinema Club takes place every third Sunday of the month. To learn more about the Camera Cinema Club, visit

To learn more about the film THESE AMAZING SHADOWS and where it will be showing, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Phil sees SCREAM 4 at the Camera 12-April 17, 2011

As some of you may already know (or have noticed in my ramblings in other film blogs), I love horror films. Absolutely love them! There's nothing more fun than watching a horror film and just being scared to death. What can I say, horror is in my blood. I cannot begin to list just how many I've seen throughout my lifetime, but it's a lot! However, within the past decade, we have seen a plethora of horror films being remade or reimagined, mostly with subpar results. Sometimes we get a decent remake (DAWN OF THE DEAD, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to name a very select few), and some sequels are very good (HOSTEL 2, SAW 2-4 as examples), but overall the genre is starting to become a cliche of its own self. And nobody knows this better than Wes Craven, who returns to the horror genre with yet another sequel, SCREAM 4. But this time, the sequel is actually pretty good.

It's been ten years since we've seen Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who is now an author of a best-selling self-help book. She returns to her hometown of Woodsboro on her last stop of her book tour, where she reconnects with her old friends Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox), who are now married and living the quite life. She also visits her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). But things go awry once again as the mysterious Ghostface killer returns creating havoc on the town. Sidney must confront her past once more while (with the help of Dewey, Gale, and Jill) solving the identity of the new Ghostface, before anymore blood shed can be spilled.

Director Craven again teams up with screenwriter Kevin Williamson to bring together some old familiar faces, while introducing some new ones: Marley Shelton, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Adam Brody, and the for mentioned Roberts all turn in some fine performances. Williamson's script is top notch, while expanding the SCREAM universe by acknowledging the recent trend of horror remakes and sequels, and incorporating new technologies that have been introduced; such as a cool iPhone application that turns your voice into that of Ghostface. It's little details such as these that helps bring the franchise into the new decade.

Of course Craven's directing is fantastic as always, and it's good seeing him return with a good movie, unlike his last film MY SOUL TO TAKE, which was one of the biggest horror flops from last year. I think that film would have benefited greatly by having Williamson co-write the script with Craven. Alas, we can only dream about that.

While the film focuses more on having a good time rather than scaring you, SCREAM 4 does prove that you can go back home again, and manages to pull off the unexpected. Here is a sequel that is an entertaining film that, what I believe, is the best entry of the series since the first film. If you want to see how the series continues, by all means go see this film. Just try not to get killed on the way to the theatre.

SCREAM 4 is now playing nationwide, including at the Camera CInemas. To view showtimes, visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phil attends the Cult Movie Series midnight screening of GHOST WORLD at the Camera 3-April 16, 2011

For years I was a big fan and supporter of the Camera Cinemas' Midnight Movie series. From May til the end of September, they would show popular, cult and horror films at midnight every week at two locations: The Camera 7 Pruneyard on Friday night and the Camera 12 on Saturday night. For over six years I would be there, winning prizes and watching some true film classics such as EVIL DEAD 2, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE PROFESSIONAL, and REPO:THE GENETIC OPERA. This past February it was reformatted and rechristened as the Cult Movie series. Now they show films once a month at the Camera 3 in downtown San Jose, and it now continues until November. For month three of the series, they showed one of my favorite films of all time. I'm talking about the 2001 indie cult classic film GHOST WORLD.

Directed by Terry Zwigoff, and based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes (who also wrote the screenplay along with Zwigoff), the film's about Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), two social outsiders who, after graduating high school, embark on playing practical jokes on their friend Josh (Brad Renfro) and on their new subject Seymour (Steve Buscemi), who is also a social outsider, just a lot older. Eventually Enid's world is turned up side, as her friendship with Seymour evolves and Rebecca's deteriorates.

I saw this film when it first came out back in August of 2001. It played for a couple of weeks at the now defunct Camera One on First Street in downtown San Jose. Fast forward to 2011 and the film still holds up to its depiction of that moment in time right after you graduate. The world is wide open, as well as your future. There are so many decisions to make and they're all wrong. How I miss the naivety of my youth.

Of course I never had this much fun as Enid and Rebecca do though. Both Birch and Johansson's performances were spot on. Casting did an amazing job snagging these two actresses. They really did look like their comic book counterparts. However I, and many other critics did as well, thought that Birch was going to become the biggest star of all time. I don't think anybody saw Johansson breaking out like she did. Hard to believe that just two years later, she would star, along with Bill Murray, in director Sophia Coppola's indie smash LOST IN TRANSLATION. Now Johansson is starring in major movies, while Birch starred in a number of TV movies like 2003's HOMELESS TO HARVARD, and small indie films such as DARK CORNERS and DEADLINE. In my opinion, I think Birch was robbed of her stardom.

The film's dark humor is just hilarious, and Zwigoff's directing brought the comic book to the big screen perfectly. It also helped that Zwigoff was already a fan of Clowes. This was, and still is, one of my favorite films that he has directed.

It was fun taking a stroll down memory lane. And that's what so great about movies. It takes you back to a time when life was simpler, and all the good times that you had. When you watch a movie, you can remeber where you were the first time you saw it, how old you were, where you were in your life, and what was going on in the world. There are not too many mediums that have that kind of power to take you back in time. And with GHOST WORLD, I'll always have those memories.

To learn more about Camera Cinemas' Cult Movie series, upcoming films, showtimes, etc, visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE SHOW at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 16, 2011

Once again I ventured back in time where silent films still reign supreme. This past Saturday night, I headed back up to Niles and to the Edison Theater, home of the Niles Essanay Film Museum, where they held their annual San Francisco Earthquake Show. On the eve of the 1906 earthquake, the museum shows two of the most important shorts that pertain to this historic event, and they also show a full length film as well. But first the shorts:

Scenes from the film A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET (1906)
The first short of the night was A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET, made by the Miles Brothers. This particular short has made a lot of press recently, thanks in large part to its story being shown on 60 Minutes back in October. The museum's archivist David Kiehn spent months investigating the film's origin and when it was actually made. Some have said that the film was made in the spring or fall of 1905. But thanks to his tremendous research, Kiehn discovered that the film was made on April 14, 1906, just four days before the earthquake! The reason the film survived was because it was on a train en route to New York, where the Miles Brothers had an office, making them the first filmmakers to have offices on both coasts. The film itself is amazing, showcasing the City by the Bay in all its glory before disaster struck. The images of the people, driving in their cars, on bicycles, walking about carrying on with their lives, it really struck a nerve for me. The main reason is that a lot of those people that I saw in the film, might have perished just four days later. It really showed me, and it should show all of us, that life could end in a blink of an eye, and those around us are there for that moment, then vanish altogether. It should also remind us just how important it is to preserve out film heritage. This film shows what life was like 105 years ago. Because of the 60 Minutes segment, and its popularity on youtube, the film was picked to be part of the 25 films that the National Film Registry choose to preserve at the Library of Congress.

The second short film was entitled THE DESTRUCTION OF SAN FRANCISCO, which was released for home viewing use by Blackhawk Films during the fifties. This short was a compilation of footage that was originally shot by film companies such as Edison, Biograph, Pathe, as well as the Miles Brothers, but it is undetermined just which footage was shot by them. The short shows the fires and destruction of SF and it's rise from the ashes.

After a short break, the museum showed it's main feature THE THIRD ALARM, written and directed by Emory Johnson in 1922. The film stars Ralph Lewis as Dan McDowell, a fire fighter who and his trusted horse Bullet are forced into retirement when the fire department receive their brand new fire truck. Having no money to support his son Johnny (Johnnie Walker) to medical school, he's forced to look for a new career. But when a fire breaks out at Johnny's girlfriend, June (Ella Hall) Rutherford's apartment, both father and son try to save the day.

It's been a lot of fun going back to the museum, and I can't wait to go back again next Saturday for their immensely popular Comedy Shorts Night, which always sells out! To learn more about the museum and their movie schedule, please visit

To see the 60 Minutes segment on Niles and A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Phil sees SUPER, YOUR HIGHNESS and HANNA at the Camera 12-April 15, 2011

Last weekend I fell extremely ill, and I stayed home in hopes that I would feel better by the end of the week. Luckily I made a complete recovery, and to celebrate, I decided to go on a film binge. I returned to the Camera 12 in downtown San Jose to see not one, not two, but three movies! That's right, three movies!! So strap yourselves in folks, and away we go!

The first film I saw was the new IFC film entitled SUPER, directed by the talented writer/director James Gunn. The film stars Rainn Wilson as Frank D'Arbo, a sad, pathetic loser who's only gleaming joy in life is his adorable wife Sarah, portrayed by Liv Tyler. But when Sarah falls for sleazy drug lord Jacques (Kevin Bacon), grief stricken Frank transforms himself into the Crimson Bolt, whose heroic antics are best left to be seen. However, he realizes that to save his captive wife, he needs a lot more training. Enter Ellen Page as comic book geek Libby, who befriends Frank and later becomes his trusted sidekick Boltie. Together they fight crime, injustice, and wreck havoc on the Jacques' henchmen, as they inform him that he's next on the Crimson Bolt's list.

James Gunn first made a name for himself as a screenwriter for the film TROMEO & JUIET, which was distributed by the world's oldest independent movie studio Troma, and directed by its president and founder Lloyd Kaufman. Later he made several film appearances in other Troma classics such as TOXIC AVENGER PART IV. His 2006 horror film SLITHER garnered him even more acclaim. With this film, Gunn returns to his indie roots, by combining dark humor, gore, and social commentary that made TROMEO & JULIET such a cult classic.

While many will say that Gunn's film is patterned after the 2010 film KICK ASS, that statement couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, SUPER is a lot darker, more edgier, and quite frankly, more realistic. The film is so set in the real world, and the reality is that if some regular average joe was pushed to his limits, this might be the end result. It's quite possible that one day we might turn on the news and we see a report on a local superhero fighting crime. However, Gunn's film takes that idea and tweaks it to the Nth degree. Saturated with grotesque language, religious metaphors, superhero sex (yes, you read that right), and over-the-top violence, SUPER has all the makings of a cult classic, one that could live on at midnight shows. A fantastic film that will live forever in infamy.

The second film I saw was director David Gordon Green's new comedy YOUR HIGHNESS. The film stars Danny McBride and James Franco as brothers Thadeous and Fabious, who couldn't be any more different from one another. Fabious is the king's favorite son, a brave knight who is about marry the beautiful Belladonna (the sultry Zooey Deschanel). Thadeous, on the other hand, is happy being a sloth, whose only purpose in life is to get drunk, get high, and to fornicate with the maidens in his father's kingdom. But when Fabious' bride is captured by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) the kind orders Thadeous to accompany his brother on his quest to rescue his love. Along the way the two princes meet the mysterious and enchanting Isabel (portrayed by the beautiful Natalie Portman). Eventually, the three warriors join forces to destroy Leezar before he can unleash a dragon that could consume the entire land.

While the film is somewhat funny, I felt that is was forced comedy, meaning that the jokes were really being shoved down your throat. Granted it has the hallmarks to become a great comedy, the film should've been more relaxed and the jokes come off more naturally. It was joke after joke after joke that often times really missed its mark. Sometimes the joke would come so fast before I knew it, the next joke came and went just like that. Too often does this happen in comedies.

While it was wonderful to see Deschanel's cleavage and Portman's assets, I found myself being annoyed with simple fact that Green was trying to hard to make the film funny. What's even more bewildering is that this is the same director who made such amazing films as 2000's GEORGE WASHINGTON, 2004's UNDERTOW, and my personal favorite 2003's ALL THE REAL GIRLS, which also starred Deschanel. One has to wonder if Green will ever go back to doing really interesting, thought provoking films later on down the road. With only a handful of chuckles, YOUR HIGHNESS fails to tickle your funny bone. Best to skip it and wait for it to come out on Netflix.

The third and final film I saw was HANNA, the new film from director Joe Wright (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT). Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl who lives in the wilds of Finland with her ex-CIA agent father Erik (Eric Bana). But Hanna is not your typical teenage girls, and Eric knows this. Being trained to become a perfect, lethal assassin, Hanna is set out into the world, a world she knows nothing about, on a special mission. While exploring her new surroundings, she is being stalked by the equally dangerous intelligence operative agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Soon Hanna's world becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse, as she tries to solve the mystery of her true identity and the realization of her existence.

Both Blanchett and Bana's acting are absolutely brilliant. Both create characters that leap off the screen. But it is the breakout performance of Ronan that anchors the film. Ronan's portrayal as Hana is just riveting, one that will no doubt garner her an Academy nomination for next year's awards show.

Of course, one cannot overstate Wright's directing, which is superb and flawless. He deserves high praise for his directing, along with Seth Lochhead and David Farr's screenplay, which gives Ronan and Blanchett the chance to really perform with such conviction and believability. Also cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler and editor Paul Tothill deserve recognition as well. An extraordinary film that will leave you talking about it long after the final credits roll.

Overall it was a great night for me. I saw some amazing films, and it got me wanting to see more. So keep your eyes peeled here, because I'll be seeing a lot more films this weekend!!

SUPER, YOUR HIGHNESS, and HANNA are now playing nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas. To see showtimes visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phil reviews ELENA UNDONE-April 6, 2011

For the past several decades, Hollywood has been cranking out the same old contrived, mundane, romance films that are both light on story and romance. Quite frankly, it's been far too long since I've seen a film that treated the topics of love, sex, and relationships on an intelligent, adult level. Recently, queer cinema has been exploring these subjects with the utmost care. It is here that I saw an amazing, heartfelt, romantic film that I have ever seen. One that, in my opinion should be ranked with some of the best romance films of all time. The film I am talking about is entitled ELENA UNDONE.

The film tells the story of two women from two very different worlds. Actress Necar Zadegan portrays Elena, a mother and wife of a pastor. Traci Dinwiddie plays Peyton, a well-known lesbian author. Soon, their paths cross several times, and they strike up a friendship. However, what starts off as platonic soon turns into forbidden desires. Peyton tries to reign in her feelings for Elena, while Elena, never having any thought of being with another women, reveals that she cannot live her life without Peyton in it. Elena pushes their friendship into  full blown affair, without thinking of the ramifications of her choice. For the first time in her life, Elena is happy and in love, but how will she explain to her pastor husband of her sinful decision?

This was a thoughtful and insightful film about love, life, and finding yourself in a world that tells you what is acceptable and what isn't. Through it all, Elena pushes herself to come to grips with what her heart desires the most: unconditional love. And that love comes in a very beautiful form of Peyton. We see from the very beginning that Elena wants something more that what life has offered her. She's searching for something that will make her feel alive, and what's better than unconditional love? Something we all wish to have, but only a few have been fortunate to have and to keep.

The film was directed by Nicole Conn, whose first film CLAIRE OF THE MOON, became a classic in the lesbian film world. Now it would seem that Conn has offered the world yet another classic with this, her fourth movie. With outstanding performances by Zadegan and Dinwiddie and a great script by Conn, this what a romance film should be. The film press also states that it contains the longest kiss in cinema history. After reviewing it, I can honestly say that it lives up to its statement, which by the way, is one of the most delicious kisses that I have ever witnessed in a film before.

ELENA UNDONE is a marvelous film that treats its viewers with a simple story about a subject that we can all relate to. Regardless if you're gay or straight, love is still spelled the exact same way, with the same four letters. Love doesn't care who or what you look like, nor does it care if you're gay or straight. It's a powerful emotion that we cannot live without. A famous singer once said, "All you need is love." And of course he was correct. We all struggle with finding our other half, so we may feel complete. After viewing this film, I hope someday that I will find the kind of love that both Elena and Peyton have. In the meantime, I'll just watch the movie over and over again.

ELENA UNDONE is now available on DVD. To purchase a copy visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phil sees BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 2, 2011

Original Poster from 1925
It's been far too long since I've been to one of my favorite places in the whole wide world: The Edison Theatre in Niles (Fremont), the home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Every Saturday night, for only a five dollar donation, the museum shows silent films on the big screen with live music accompaniment, the way silent films were meant to be seen. So tonight, I ventured back up to Niles and saw one of the greatest and most influential silent films of all time: BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN.

The show began with two comedy shorts, produced by the great Hal Roach. The first short was YOUNG OLDFIELD from 1924. The film stars Charley Chase as Jimmy Jump, who dreams of being a race car star. He finally gets his chance when he has to get his mortgage delivered by noon. However there are many obstacles in his way. One being he can't drive! This is a great Charley Chase comedy short and he is my all-time favorite comedian from the silent era.

The second short was 1924's OUR CONGRESSMAN, starring Will Rogers as Alfalfa Doolittle. This was the second short of the Doolittle trilogy that Rogers made for Hal Roach during the 1923-24 season. This film picks up where the first installment left off. We see Doolittle rubbing elbows with the elite as he tries to learn to fit in with hilarious results. This was a two-reeler comedy delight, and proved that Rogers is an unsung comedy star.

After a brief intermission, it was time for the main attraction. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was made in 1925 by Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and the film is based on historical events. The movie takes place in 1905 and tells the story of the riot that had transpired aboard the Potemkin. What had started as protest strike when the crew being given rotten meat for dinner led to said riot and mutiny aboard the battleship. Eventually this revolution was to be spread back to their home port Odessa, where the infamous massacre took place.

There isn't anything that I can say about that film that hasn't already been said. This film is regarded as one of the most important films ever to be made in the history of the medium, and with good reason. Eisenstein's use of montage, close ups, quick edits, superb editing and directing make this a landmark film, one that after its release 86 years ago, still grips the audience and makes them talk about it. A powerful film that is recommended viewing for silent film fans, film students, or anyone who loves films.

To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and their movie schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Phil sees INSIDIOUS at the Camera 12-April 1, 2011

In the beginning. It was at the very beginning that I was hooked.

We see what looks like a bowl. Then the camera pulls back and flips to reveal that it is a ceiling lamp and we were looking at it upside down. The camera continues to pull back to an establishing shot to show us a small child's room at night. We see a boy fast asleep in his room. The color is of the film is drained to look like some sort of dream. We hear some faint music, violins are being played. The room looks like a typical boy's room. His bed sheets are plaid; there are some toys and comics in there. But there's something amiss, as we hear the violins become louder. Then we see it. There's some sort of shadow in the window near the boy's bed. The camera comes closer and closer to the window, the music becomes a little more louder and reckless. Then we see it. It is a elderly woman, dressed in a morning garb, just staring right at us. Then the scene fads, and then BOOM! The shrieking sound of a hundred violins playing frantically while the title INSIDIOUS in bold capital blocks appear with a hellish red color in the background.

It was right then and there that I knew that I was going to enjoy this film immensely.

The film stars Patrick Wilson (WATCHMEN) and Rose Byrne (Get Him To The Greek) as married couple Josh and Renai Lambert, who and their three kids, just moved into their dream house. But there's something strange about the house. Books are falling off the shelves for no reason, Renai is seeing eerie shadows, and then their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is knocked unconscious and falls into a coma. Then things start to take a supernatural turn for the worse. Renai  enlists the aid of psychic Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) and her ghost hunting team (Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson), along with Patrick's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), to help save Dalton from being lost in The Further. The key for his survival lies in Patrick's special gift.

James Wan, who along with his screenwriting partner Whannel, made the original SAW film, directed the film. What this dynamic duo does is bring new life to the classic haunted house tale. There hasn't been many haunted house films that have been truly terrifying. While many thought that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and its sequel were scary, I believe that this film is far scarier and more effective, but on a different level. INSIDIOUS reminds me of that other classic supernatural film POLTERGEIST, directed by the great Tobe Hooper. Wan, like Hooper, creates that feeling of suspense with great directing and solid storytelling, with a combination of horrify scares and believable characters. This is one of the few horror films that has a cast of fantastic actors and actresses. Everyone's performance in the film was perfect, and that helps us, the audience, to relate to the characters and helps drive the film to what I think is a great twist ending.

In recent years there have been only a handful of horror films that I've enjoyed. Sam Raimi's DRAG ME TO HELL, Adam Green's HATCHET, and Rob Zombie's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS just to name a few. The horror genre has been plagued by countless remakes and sequels, which make this film a welcome breath of fresh air. Originality has long been absent in the genre, and Wan has contributed that once again with this film.

Being a horror fan, I love that INSIDIOUS was able to scare me. Throughout the film I had goosebumps, and a chill running down my spine. I haven't felt like this in a long time. Most horror films rely on gore, violence, and bloodshed (which I love as well), but there's something that I love more, and that's to be scared. That's the whole reason that people go to see horror film. They want to be scared, they want to be freaked out, they want that rush like if they were on a rollercoaster ride. It's been awhile since I saw a horror film that I enjoyed from beginning to end. With INSIDIOUS, I can finally say that I saw a great horror film. And I guarantee that you will too.

INSIDIOUS is now playing in theatres nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in San Jose. To see showtimes, visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!