Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Phil attends a special early screening of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in 3-D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-June 28, 2011

Well I thought today would be your usual lazy Tuesday evening. It's pouring rain outside, I'm tired from work, I wasn't planning on seeing a movie tonight. But just out of curiosity, I went to the Camera Cinemas' website and saw that they were having a special early screening of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON at 9:30pm! And it was 8:57pm! So I changed my clothes, charged down the stairs, leaped into my car, and drove down to the Camera 7 Pruneyard in Campbell to see the third and final installment of the series.

Much has changed in the years since we've last seen our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf). He was dumped by his last girlfriend Megan Fox (who was replaced by a much more beautiful woman, more on that in a sec), he received a medal from President Obama for saving the world, graduated from an Ivy League college, and now lives with his ultra hot, ultra sexy, and ultra delicious looking new girlfriend Carly (Victoria's Secret Model Rosie Hunington-Whiteley). But it's been rough lately for Sam. He still hasn't yet landed a job, he feels inadequate that Carly is more stable than he is, all the while trying to find his role in life while also transitioning into being an adult, which is just as bad as going through puberty. While Sam wrestles with his identity crisis, Optimus Prime and the Autobots learn that a Cybertronian spaceship known as The Ark crash landed on the moon years ago, and they travel into space to retrieve it's contents. However Megatron and the evil Decepticons also learn of the spacecraft, which all leads to the final battle to see if good will conquer over evil. And what role does new Autobot Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) play in this epic battle?

There's an old saying that goes, "Third times the charm." In this case, it fits perfectly for the film. Believe it or not, everything in this movie just clicks. Sam's inner struggles while saving the world again, Optimus facing the illusions of the past, Carly striking a runway pose every time the camera is on her, but also Michael Bay's directing is much smoother and more streamlined. Of course having a much better script than the previous film also helps out Mr. Bay as well, thanks to screenwriter Ehren Kruger. While the film is still a fast paced snowball heading down the mountain, the film is much more tighter and more controlled.

While introducing new characters like Cary and Sentinel, plus Patrick Dempsey and Frances Mc Dormand (and some new Transformers like Shockwave and Roadbuster), the film also showcases some familiar faces like Lennox (Josh Duhamel), Epps (Tyrese Gibson), and the lovable Simmons (John Turturro). Also making appearances in the film are John Malcovich, Ken Jeong, Buzz Aldrin, and for some reason Bill O'Reilly, who does what he does best, playing a jackass.

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is sure to be this summer's best popcorn flick to go brain dead to. But at least fans of the franchise will be thoroughly entertained, thanks in large part to the awesome 3-D effects (at least I was). So for the inner child that resides within you, have fun watching the film. Just make sure your chair isn't some evil Decepticon trying to steal your popcorn.

TRANFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is now playing in 2-D and 3-D in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas in San Jose. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Three, Part Two: THE FAMILY SECRET screening-June 26, 2011

Hello again and welcome back to third and final day of my trip to the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Today being the last day, they've saved the best for last. So let's not waste anymore time folks, and away we go!

Baby Peggy circa 1922
The final movie of the festival was a very special event. The museum screened the film THE FAMILY SECRET, starring the legendary (and adorable) Baby Peggy. The film's introduction was done by none other than Baby Peggy herself Diana Serra Cary. Ms. Cary treated the crowd with some fun an interesting stories about her filmmaking career. Once again returning to the piano was the great David Drazin.

In the film Baby Peggy stars as the (secret) child whose parents Abigail Selfridge (Gladys Hulette) and Gary Holmes (Edward Earle) are secretly married. Soon Abagail's father Simon Selfridge (Frank Currier) discovers their secret and forces Gary out of the picture. Fast forward three years and a half years later and Baby Peggy is busting out of her confined room and begins exploring her home and what's life is like outside. Simon is released from prison and is trying to get his life together without his beloved wife and daughter (the grandfather told Abigail that he died but was actually sent to prison). Down on his luck, he meets a shady individual and persuades him in to taking a job. Soon all three lives seem to become reacquainted, but will it last this time around?

This was a fun film and was interesting to see Ms. Cary so young. She was about six years old when she made the film and she still has those same eyes, full of life. At the age of 92, Diana Serra Cary is the last living actress from the silent era. It was a real pleasure to see her again.

Well folks, there you have it! Another great festival and another great time at the museum. Remember that the museum has weekly Saturday shows, and they will also be showing Hollywood Musicals on Friday nights, as well as the Laurel and Hardy talkies on Sunday afternoons. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, how to become a member, and view their film schedule, visit their website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Three, Part One: The Two Helens-June 26, 2011

Hello again and welcome back to the third and final day of the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival at the Edison Theater in the Niles District of Fremont. Hosted by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, I'm once again giving you the up-to-the-minute blogging of the festival. Now the time has come to wrap up this fun-filled film festival, and boy what a way to end the it. Let's take a look at the first program for the day!

Helen Holmes (1893-1950)
The title for this afternoon's program was called Women In Action: The Two Helens. Helen Holmes and Helen Gibson were stars in a serial series known as THE HAZARDS OF HELEN. Holmes was the series original star, but when she left she was replaced by Gibson. Both women were know for their amazing stunts: jumping on, off, and stopping runaway trains. Both were beautiful and intelligent, which also radiated in their films. Both women were pioneers and gave the men in Hollywood a run for their money. During the film festival, the museum showed two films; the first starred Holmes, while the preceding short starred Gibson. The films were introduced by author and film historian Larry Telles and Shirley Freitas, the great-granddaughter of Helen Holmes. On the piano for the films was David Drazin.

WEBS OF STEEL: Starring Holmes, Bruce Gordon, Arthur Morrison, and Andrew Waldron, the film's about Helen Webb (Holmes) falling in love with the mysterious John Andrews (Gordon), despite the disapproval of her father Tim Webb (Waldron). Her father wants her to marry his friend and business partner Jim Haggerty (Morrison). Soon there's trouble as Helen and John try to stop a gang of robbers from holding up their train. Filled with some amazing stunts by Holmes herself, the film was directed by her husband J.P. McGowan and released in 1925.

Helen Gibson (1892-1970)
GHOSTS OF THE CANYON: Starring Helen Gibson, the film featured her doing some daredevil stunts, from leaping from trains to some sweet kisses, along with solving the mysterious ghost that haunts a railroad trestle, the film was released by Capital Pictures in 1920.

The afternoon program was a really cool discovery for me. I had heard of these famous stuntwomen, but I had never seen any of their films. This is what is so great about the museum; showing films that haven't been seen in years. This is the purpose and the mission of the museum. To educate while entertaining the audiences. I'm was very excited and happy to see these daredevil women in action!

One program left for the day! To view the film schedule, and to learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, visit their website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Two, Part Three: THE EXTRA GIRL screening-June 25, 2011

Actress Mabel Normand
Hello everyone and welcome back to my LIVE up-to-the-minute blogging on the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, hosted by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! After having dinner at Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace (my favorite place in Niles and with awesome service from my good friend Heather) I was back at the Edison Theater to partake in the evening screening of THE EXTRA GIRL, starring the lovely Mabel Normand. Tonight's show was also made special with the presentation of the Ray Hubbard Award going to film historian Richard Roberts. The show began with four Keystone/Mack Sennett Comedies short films. Once again Roberts and Walker made the introductions, and returning to the piano for tonight's films was Phil Carli.

THE THIEF CATCHER: This film made headlines in the news last year. This was a lost Keystone film, but what made it more extraordinary was that it boasts a cameo appearance by none other than Charlie Chaplin as a Keystone Kop. He was discovered by Sennett in late 1913 and soon was busy making movies for him the following year. Chaplin made 37 film for Sennett in 1914 before leaving to work for the Essanay Film Company in January of 1915. The film was released by Keystone on February 19, 1914.

WITH THE U.S. ARMY IN SAN FRANCISCO: A facinating documentary short released by Keystone on January 4, 1915, this special doc short was filmed at the Presidio in SF. Known back then as an "Actuality," Keystone did release a small number of these types of films. Which lead me to...

PROTECTING SAN FRANCISCO FROM FIRE: Demonstrating the latest equipment and techniques to combat fire in SF, this documentary short was released by Keystone Films on December 18, 1913. These films are very rare and most of them have been lost or disintegrated. Luckily these two (which barley survived) were shown and we were able to see them.

THE DAREDEVIL: Starring the great Ben Turpin, the film's about his journey at becoming a Hollywood stuntman and stand-in. It's a funny film that pokes fun at the magic of movie making. The film was released on November 25, 1923.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1923)
During the intermission, several authors were signing copies of their respected books. Fans also voted for the museum for the THIS PLACE MATTERS contest. The winning establishment receives a $25,000 award. So click on the link and help the museum win this contest!

Afterwards the show resumed with THE EXTRA GIRL with Mabel Normand portraying Sue Graham, a small town girl who wishes to become a movie star. She also has two suitors vying to win her heart: her father's pick Aaron Apple John (Vernon Dent) and her long-time sweetheart Dave Giddings (Ralph Graves). She wins a Hollywood contract when a picture of a beautiful woman is sent to the studio instead of hers. When she comes out for an interview, the mistake is caught, but she ends up working in the props department. Even Dave follows her to the studio, working as a set carpenter. Soon her parents come out as well to California to deal in a money investment with a shady gentleman named T. Phillip Hackett, played by Ramsey Wallace.

The film print came from the old PBS series The Silent Years, which was shown during the 1970's. The introduction was done by the late, great Orson Welles. The film was funny, fantastic, and was the perfect film for Normand to star in. The movie was released by Mack Sennett Comedies on October 28, 1923.

Another day done, and one more left to go! It's still not too late to purchase tickets for Sunday's programs. To view the festival's film schedule, visit the museum's website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Two, Part Two: Mack Sennett in the Twenties-June 25, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to my LIVE up-to-the-minute blogging on the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, hosted by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! Magic is being made here at the Edison Theater here in the Niles District of Fremont, so let's not waste any more time. Let's talk about this afternoon's program!

Mack Sennett (1880-1960)
The focus of Mack Sennet continued with the late afternoon program entitled Mack Sennett in the Twenties. Four two-reel comedy shorts were shown showcasing how Sennett's comedic style evolved during this era. Around this time, many events were transpiring. The most obvious was his main competitor Hal Roach started he's own film studio, Hal Roach Studios, and he was making a dent in Sennett's profits (also his films as well as Roach's were being distributed by Pathe). Roach Studios was the home to several top comedic stars such as Charley Chase, Laurel and Hardy, and the Our Gang/Little Rascal series. Audiences were into the more mature, well defined comedic offerings from Roach than the frantic, fast paced slapstick offering from Sennett. To ensure revenue, Sennett offered audiences several new films that showcased his new roster of talent. The films shown this afternoon were some of the funniest films that I was privileged to view. Once again historians Richard Roberts and Brent walker did the film introductions and the wonderful Judy Rosenberg provided the music accompaniment.

WANDERING WILLIES : Starring Billy Bevan and Andy Clyde, this comedic duo play homeless bums who hatch out a scheme to scam free food at a restaurant. Comedy is defiantly on the menu in this funny short. Produced by Mack Sennett Comedies and distributed by Pathe on March 28, 1926.

BROKE IN CHINA: Another classic Ben Turpin film, who first got started in the industry working for the Essanay Studios in Chicago along with Gloria Swanson. Turpin portrays a sailor who is flat broke in China and longs for his lost love of his life, who married another guy. The ending of the film was great, which begs the question if George Lucas saw this film and ripped off the ending. Directed by Edward F. Cline (who directed films for Buster Keaton) and released by Sennett on April 23, 1927.

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE: Starring Mack Swain, Dot Farley, Daphne Pollard, and a young and sexy Carol Lombard, the film was mainly made to feature Sennett's Bathing Beauties, which by the way were very beautiful. It also features some very funny scenarios that one would come to expect from a Sennett shoot. Also for all you Lombard fans out there, this was one of her earliest screen appearances. In the film her name is spelled out "Carolle." The film was directed once again by Edward F. Cline and was released on December 11, 1927.

SMITH'S PICNIC: The final film for this afternoon's program, the film's about a group of friends heading out to the beach for some picnic fun. Featuring Raymond McKee, Ruth Hiatt, Irving Bacon, Sunshine Hart, Mary Ann Jackson, and Mildred June, the film was released to theaters on December 12, 1928.

That's it for this afternoon. There is still an evening show, which is sure to be a sellout show! And yours truly will be back with another live blog for the special screening of THE EXTRA GIRL starring the lovely Mabel Normand. If you'd like to come check out the festival, be sure to visit the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Two, Part One: Mack Sennett in the Teens-June 25, 2011

Hello my friends, and welcome to day two of my trip to the Broncho Bill Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum at the historic Edison Theater in the Niles District of Fremont! After last night's show, I couldn't wait to travel back in time when silent films still reigned supreme! And to make things interesting, I'll be posting my blogs immediately after each program screening, so I can provide all of you the LIVE play by play of the festival! Let's begin shall we?

Keystone Founder Mack Sennett
The early afternoon program focused on the early films of the one and only Mack Sennett. For those of you who may not know Mr. Sennett, he was a film director and the founder of the laugh factory known as Keystone Studios, which introduced the world to the comedy works of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Al St. John, Mack Swain, the Keystone Cops, the Keystone Bathing Beauties, and a young unknown comedian named Charlie Chaplin. Nicknamed "The King of Comedy" for good reasons, Sennett helped create the genre now known as Slapstick Comedy, which has been a part of cinema's long history. From the Three Stooges to Jim Carrey, every comedian owes a debt to the one and only Mack Sennett. To celebrate his contributions to the world of cinema, the festival screened five of Sennett's earliest works. Noted film historians Richard Roberts and Brent Walker introduced the films while providing the music was music extraordinaire Phil Carli. The films that were shown were as follows:

COMRADES: Released by Biograph on March 13, 1911, the film stars Sennett himself. He and his friend Jack (John T. Dillon) are bums who read about a fancy party in town. So they decide to crash it, with Jack pretending to be a British Parliament member. Things get out of hand when the real member shows up and the con is uncovered. An interesting film and fun to watch, especially to see how young Sennett was.

THE WATER NYMPH: This was one of two of my favorite shorts shown in the program Starring again Sennett and the lovely Mabel Normand, the film's about our two lovebirds who decide to play a prank on Sennett's father. Once it's revealed that the father was hitting on his son's girlfriend, the audience laughed out loud. A very funny film, and it showcased the acting chops of Sennett. The film was released by Keystone Studios, which Sennett founded in August of 1912, on September 23 in the same year.

SHOT IN THE EXCITEMENT: Released by Keystone on October 26, 1914, the film's story centers around two goofy buffoons Al St. John and Chester Conklin who try to court the even more goofy-looking Alice Howell. What's interesting about this film that it boasts an early appearance but future Hal Roach star Charley Chase! Spot him if you can!

THE HOME BREAKERS: Starring once again Chester Conklin, Alice Davenport, Mintra Durfee, and Mack Swain, the film revolves around a bank president and his clerk and the weird love scenario involving both their wives. Also known as OTHER PEOPLE'S WIVES, the film was released by Keystone on February 20, 1915.

THE WAITER'S BALL: My other favorite short of the program, the film starred the one and only Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle along with Al St. John, Corinne Parquet, and Joe Bordeaux, the film's about Fatty and Al vying for the heart of Corinne so she would choose one of them to be her date for the Waiter's Ball. The whole film was hilarious! With Arbuckle's pancake flipping expertise, and some funny cross dressing antics, the film was released by Keystone on June 26, 1916.

WHOSE BABY?: The last film shown starred a very young and breathtaking Gloria Swanson and Bobby Vernon. The film was quite entertaining and must be seen by all Swanson's fans! The film was again released by Keystone on July 1, 1917.

Well that's it for now. I'll be back after the next afternoon program, again focusing on Mack Sennett, this time looking at his films of the 1920's. To learn more about the film festival, visit the Niles Essany Silent Film Museum's website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day One-June 24, 2011

It's hard to believe that it's been a whole year, but it's that time again. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's Annual Broncho Billy FIlm Festival kicked off today and boy what a kick off it was! The museum opened up its doors for a meet & greet, and food and punch poured like fine wine. Afterwards the show began with introductions by film historian Robert Birchard and on the piano was the amazing Bruce Loeb.

Comedian Billy Bevan
The first short screened was THE GOLF NUT, a one-reeler film starring Billy Bevan and Vernon Dent. Bevan plays golf expert who is far from an expert. Needless to say, this was a funny film and a perfect example of an early golf comedy film, long before CADDYSHACK and HAPPY GILMORE became synonymous with the sport. Beven began his career in Australia and joined a theater troupe which toured North America. He was discovered by Mack Sennett and made numerous films for him over the next ten years, and then transitioned to became a reliable comedy actor in Hollywood films for the next twenty years. Bevan also worked as a voiceover actor for cartoons. THE GOLF NUT was released by Mack Sennett Comedies (the company he formed after the folding of Keystone Films)  on September 4, 1927.

Comedian Ben Turpin
The second short was a Ben Turpin classic. WHEN A MAN'S A PRINCE stars our friend as a prince of a mystical and make believe country who is being forced to marry a princess that he wishes he wasn't. The film is a parody of the popular Erich von Stroheim films, which he directed and starred in as the romantic lead. Turpin does a hilarious job at poking fun at Stroheim, with his trademark cross-eyed stare, cheesy little mustache, and short statuesque build, the film was just perfect. Did I also mention it was hilarious? Ok, just making sure. The film was produced by Mack Sennett Comedies (same as the previous short) and was released to theaters on August 15, 1926.
Theatrical Movie Poster (1924)


After a brief intermission, the festival continued with the screening of MANHANDLED starring the beautiful Gloria Swanson. In the film Swanson plays Tessie McGuire, a department store clerk who yearns to join the cream of high society. When her boyfriend Jimmy (Tom Moore) forgets about their date, Tessie and her friend Pinkie (Lilyan Tashman) attend a party at the studio of Robert Brandt (Ian Keith). While Tessie is fighting off her male suitors, Jimmy is selling his in car invention in Detroit and thus becomes a millionaire. Upon returning home to his love, Jimmy accuses Tessie of being "manhandled" and breaks up with her. She prays for him to return to her, which he does and they all live happily ever after.

Gloria Swanson is so beautiful, and her performance in the film was incredible. She was able to showcase a wide range of emotions in the film. From silly impersonations to tear-jerking drama, Swanson's acting ability shines through in every scene she's in. The film is based on the short story of the same name by Arthur Stringer in the Saturday Evening Post in 1924. The film was directed by Allan Dwan and was released by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (better known as Paramount Pictures) on July 24, 1924.

What a great why to kick off the film festival! There are still more shows on both Saturday and Sunday. To view the festival film schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the museum's website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Phil reviews DEATH ANGEL DECEMBER: VENGEANCE KILL for fangoria.com-June 21, 2011

Hello again my friends. I thought it would be fun if I posted my recent review that I did for the Fangoria website. Just in case you've never heard of it, Fangoria is a monthly horror magazine that covers and reports everything horror related. From films to comic books to music and novels, Fangoria has been around since 1979. On their website they have up to the minute horror news, and yours truly gets to review films and DVDs for them. However, with every one good film, I see a lot of bad ones, and this month's was no exception!

Now as you may or may not know, I love movies, especially horror and exploitation films. Within the exploitation genre, there are numerous subgeneres: nunsploitation, sexploitation, nudie cuties, the roughies, and the ever popular revenge genre. Classic films such as MS. 45, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and THEY CALL HER ONE EYE are perfect examples of this and have influenced many Hollywood directors as well as indie filmmakers as well. Some pay tribute to these films (look no further than recent releases like GRINDHOUSE, MACHETE, and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN), which leads me to DEATH ANGEL DECEMBER: VENGEANCE KILL, the newest release by Chemical Burn Entertainment.  While the story synopsis sounded promising, the actual execution of the film is a total and utter let down.

The story itself is simple enough, and it's a story that has been told numerous times. As a young child December witnessed the rape and brutal murder of her mother and her younger brother. Throughout her young adult life she tried to bury her inner turmoil, until she herself is raped by her boyfriend. After learning the fundamentals of self defense and firearms, she stalks the streets at night and dishes out her bloody brand of vigilante justice. Years later, the men responsible for her family's death resurfaces. She stalks and kills them one by one, leading up to an orgy of mayhem, carnage, and  death. It is a fitting and blood soaked finale to the death.

Like I said, it's a simple story but the execution of it was just atrocious. The cinematography looked like it was shot on someone's cellphone. The entire soundtrack was muffled and unlistenable and it was painfully obvious that the sound crew didn't have a boom mic. For some strange reason, almost every other scene ended with a freeze frame image, which I found very annoying. Lightning was non-existent throughout the film. The story was all over the place, with the backstory told in both black and white and in color. I was so confused during parts of the film because I didn't know what was real time or a flashback sequence. And last but not least, the acting was just about one notch above a high school drama club play. None of the actors brought any kind of depth to their respective characters, nor did I care about our heroine. We are supposed to sympathize with her for her loss and cheer for her when she takes out her revenge. Unfortunately those emotions where nowhere to be found.

DEATH ANGEL DECEMBER: VENGEANCE KILL is just plain awful, a sorry excuse for an exploitation/revenge film. Filled with bad acting, low production values, inept dialogue, and an abysmal script, the film makes PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE look like CITIZEN KANE. Sometimes when I find myself watch a really bad movie, I'm reminded a joke from my favorite TV show MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, which goes something like this, "In the future, can there be a law that says that films have to be made by filmmakers?" After watching this film, I whole-heartedly concur with that statement.

DEATH ANGEL DECEMBER: VENGEANCE KILL is currently available for pre-orders. To learn more about Chemical Burn Entertainment, visit their website at http://www.chemicalburn.org/

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Phil sees MIDNIGHT IN PARIS at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-June 19, 2011

The third and final film I saw on Sunday was just amazing. Simply amazing. Again, like SUPER 8, the trailer for the film never revealed as to what the plot was about. Upon sitting down in the theater and when the lights dimmed, I was transplanted to another place, and believe it or not, another time. Yes my friends, Woody Allen's latest film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is one of my new favorite films by this gifted director.

The film follows Hollywood screenwriter and frustrated author Gil Prender (Owen Wilson) and his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) as they travel around Paris with her parents John and Helen (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy). Both Gil and Inez run into two of her friends Paul and Carol (Michael Sheen and Nina Arianda) and Gil is soon forced to hang out with them, much to his dismay. After leaving a party, Gil wonders through the streets of Paris, admiring the charm of the City of Lights. Of course it doesn't help that he drank to much and is completely lost. But help does arrive, and he is whisked away and taken to a lavish party where he meets the greatest artists of all time. He also becomes smitten with the lovely Adriana (portrayed by the exquisite Marion Cotillard). Soon Gil finds himself, as he puts it so eloquently, "I'm in a very perplexed situation." I dare not expose what the film is about, but I will tell you this: This film is full of laughter, surprises, and love.

Writer/director Allen has been on a rollercoaster ride of a comeback recently. Since the 2005 release of MATCH POINT, Allen has been working nonstop. He has made six films since 2005, one per year. With this film, I feel that Allen has made his best romantic comedy since 1977's ANNIE HALL. What has made Allen hit his second wind? What has been his muse for the past six years?

The answer to that question, in my humble opinion, is scenery. For most of his career, New York was the backdrop for a majority of his films. From MANHATTAN to HANNA AND HER SISTERS to RADIO DAYS, New York was his inspiration. But you can only tell so many stories about good 'ol NY that eventually, the stories begin to sound the same. Enter London in the year 2005. With the release of MATCH POINT, both critics and fans were surprised and welcomed back their friend. Also having the breathtaking Scarlett Johansson in the film didn't hurt either. Soon Allen was back and making films at an astounding rate. Now we are privileged to view his love letter to the City of Lights. The hopeless romantic in Allen radiates in every frame of the film. The first two and a half minutes of the film is a montage of the elegance, beauty, and charm of Paris. As we travel with Gil, we relate to him. Being a writer, falling in love with the city, finding inspiration, and also finding love and your true self.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is the romantic comedy film of the year, and Allen's best film this millennium. The film was a complete surprise, and I relished in its originality. I can honestly say that this is a must see date movie. So I say this to all you lovely couples out there, go see this film, and get ready to fall in love with Paris. It truly is the most romantic city in the world!

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in San Jose. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees SUPER 8 at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-June 19, 2011

The second film I saw on Sunday was the summer mystery film. When I saw the trailer, it looked very interesting. Very little of the plot was revealed, and with good reason. This film could become the sleeper hit of the summer. If you thought about passing on SUPER 8, I think you should reconsider your decision.

The film takes place in a small Ohio town in the summer of 1979. Four best friends and their leading lady begin making a super 8mm zombie movie when a devastating train crash occurs. Soon, strange occurrences and unusual disappearances begin to take place while the local sheriff's deputy tries to solve this mystery, but unfortunately the military holds all the answers. Them, and the deputy's son and his friends as well. In the end it's a race against the clock to see who can solve this case, and what was exactly on the train.

Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, the film is just fantastic, full of what a summer film should have. Abrams wrote an amazing script that is tight and well thought out, and all the characters are so real that we the audience can identify with at least one of them. This reviewer identified with at least three of the characters. Also the film has a groovy feeling of nostalgia: the movie looks and feels like it's 1979 with the clothes, the cars, the classic rock soundtrack, and killer horror movie posters. Also the film pays homage to one other classic sci-fi film from that era: Steven Spielberg's classic 1977 film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Of course it helps that he was the executive producer on the film. I saw it as a hybrid of both that film and the other children's classic film THE GOONIES.

Also Abrams directing was flawless. The action scenes were spectacular, while my favorite scenes involved the kids. They reminded me of my childhood friends that I use to hang out with back in the late 70's. For me it was like taking a stroll down Memory Lane. Big props to Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning  (Dakota Fanning's younger sister) for re-creating that awkward moment of puppy love. Their feelings for one another helped propel the film's actions scenes as well as the story to a enlightening ending.

SUPER 8 is the sleeper hit of the summer. Full of action, suspense, thrills, comedy, and romance, the film is love note to the good 'ol days when going to movies was fun and exciting. J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have made an exceptional film that will have people talking about it for the rest of the summer. I know that I'll be talking about!

SUPER 8 is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in San Jose. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Phil sees THE TREE OF LIFE at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-June 19, 2011

First off, I just wanted to say Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there. So to celebrate this special occasion, I decided to review three new films, but to save some time (and to give my fingers a break because I am horrible at typing) I'll be dividing these reviews up individually. So there was a serious amount of hype surrounding the first film I saw today. It received critical controversy at the Cannes Film Festival, and seeing the trailer for the film for the past couple of months have only fueled my curiosity. Now that I have seen Terrence Malick's new film THE TREE OF LIFE, I can honestly say that the hype is way overblown.

The film's about eldest son Jack, his two brothers and their parents during the 1950's. Jack's journey from innocence to disillusioned adult (portrayed by Sean Penn) is chronicled through a non-linear storyline and experimental imagery. His complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt) is the catalyst for Jack's sense of lost in the modern, cold, adult world. While searching for himself, he also questions the meaning of life and the existence of God and faith. As he digs deep into his scared psyche, we travel through time, to a land before humans existed, to outer space and back, we're supposed to question and reflect on our role in the universe.

Director Malick's output is sparse to say the least. He made two quintessential films of the 1970's: the poetic BADLANDS and the visually stunning DAYS OF HEAVEN before disappearing from the film world for over two decades. Malick returned to filmmaking in 1998 with the release of THE THIN RED LINE. Now Malick's new film continues his foray into lavish, experimental imagery with a story that's light on dialogue and heavy on metaphors. While many critics have praised his return, and have compared the film to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, this reviewer found the film tedious and boring.

Granted, the film is visually stunning and boats beautiful cinematography, it felt too avant-garde and light on a cohesive story. The film deals with wonder, death, waywardness, and hope, but there isn't enough of a story for the film which to anchor itself to. Experimental, avant-garde films are amazing, and I do love watching them. Films by Roger Barlow, Harry Hay, and Stan Brakhage are must see films, but for Malick's film, it left me disenchanted and empty.

THE TREE OF LIFE is an over hyped, lifeless piece of cinema that critics love but audiences might be turned off by its lack of story and emotional connection that comes with seeing a film. If you love watching breathtaking visuals and avant-garde experimentation with a non-existent story, then by all means, rush out and go see this film. If you prefer the traditional three-story arc, witty characters, and happy ending films, then you should pass on this and see something else.

THE TREE OF LIFE is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in San Jose. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends COMEDY SHORTS NIGHT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-June 18, 2011

It's that time of the month where comedy rules! Yup, it was back to the Edison Theater in Niles, home of the world famous Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for their monthly Comedy Shorts Night. And yours truly got a belly ache from laughing so much!

Theatrical Movie Poster (1917)
First film up was EASY STREET, a classic film from Charlie Chaplin. Our Tramp wanders into a mission, falls for the lovely Edna Purviance, and walks out a reformed man. He quickly joins the police force, and is assigned to patrol Easy Street, the toughest street in town, ruled by Eric Campbell. This is a perfect example of Chaplin's talents. When we see the Tramp, he's homeless and pathetic, and we already feel sorry for him. Then when becomes a police officer, we are happy for. And when he encounters Eric, we laugh hysterically, as well as cheer for him. Both Purviance and Campbell were also great in the film as well. The film was written and directed by Chaplin, and was released by Mutual Film Company (the company he signed on with after leaving Essanay at the end of 1915) on January 22, 1917. A must see short film for any and all Chaplin fans!

Original Lobby Card (1926)
The second film was MUM'S THE WORD, starring funny man Charley Chase. In this film, Chase returns home to visit his mother (Virginia Pearson), but she hasn't yet told her new husband (Anders Randolf) about him yet. So Charley's mom introduces him as the new valet, and fall for their new maid (Martha Sleeper). Soon it's off the wall comedy, with a hilarious hallway gag that is just fantastic. The film was directed by Leo McCarey (who directed several of Chase's short films) for Hal Roach Studios and was released to theaters on May 9, 1926. Charley Chase is a comedian that's worth rediscovering again!

Theatrical Movie Poster (1922)
After a short intermission, the show continued with a classic Buster Keaton film. COPS is a funny, funny, funny film! In a series of mishaps that plague our poor Buster, it all ends with him being chased by every single policemen in town! And I mean EVERY policemen!! The film also boasts appearances by Joe Roberts, Virginia Fox, and Edward F. Cline as a hobo. The film was written and directed by Keaton as well as Cline. It was produced by Joseph M. Schenck Productions and released by First National in March of 1922.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1928)
The final film of the night starred Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Yup, the boys returned in LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING. Poor Stan is having one bad tooth ache, which keeps Ollie up all night. The next day it's off to the dentist, and that's where the fun begins! Once again, look for their staple actor Edgar Kennedy as the traffic cop. The film was directed by Clyde Bruckman, who directed several Laurel and Hardy shorts, produced by Hal Roach Studios, and released on January 28, 1928 by MGM.

Again, another sold out crowd! Another great show! And it'll be back again next month! So start planning for next month's Comedy Shorts Night. However, next weekend is the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival. From Friday, June 24 - Sunday, June 26, it will be the silent film event that fans have been waiting for year after year after year. This year's themes are Keystone Laughter 101 and Action Women in films! If you have never been to a Broncho Billy Film Festival, you are missing out! Due yourself a favor and mark you calender for this very important event!! Like I said, there are plenty of events happening at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Come on out and join in on the fun!!

To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, on how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Phil sees GREEN LANTERN in 3-D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-June 17,2011

This summer will see the arrival of four, count 'em four, films based on popular comic books. Marvel will be leading the way with three of those films (THOR, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and CAPTAIN AMERICA). But our good friends over at DC Comics have a superhero film of their own, one that could become a surprise hit for Warner Bro. Studios. Tonight, in the blackest night, I witnessed the powerful light of the GREEN LANTERN.

In the film, Ryan Reynolds portrays  Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot who is chosen to wear a mystical green ring that grants him otherworldly powers to become Green Lantern, and become an elite member of the Green Lantern Corps. However, Jordan's courage will be put to the test as an evil entity known as Parallax descends towards Earth. Now, with the help of his fellow pilot and girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Jordan must master his new powers to defeat Parallax, as well as with Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist and friend who has been infected with Parallax's DNA, which gives him the power to feed on fear.

Now I must admit, I was one of the first to say that I thought it was absurd that the filmmakers casted Reynolds in the title role. However, I said the same thing about Robert Downy Jr. in IRON MAN, and decades earlier when Michael Keaton was cast in Tim Burton's 1989 film BATMAN. But Reynolds does a fantastic job as both Hal Jordan and Green Lantern. He is a flawed human being that rises to the occasion and becomes the superhero that resided within him. Lively's Carol Ferris is tough, sexy, and sympathetic, and encourages Hal to face his fears. Of course, a hero is only good as his adversary, and Sarsgaard's Hector Hammond's decent into madness is very well done, but I feel it was too rushed, and the filmmakers could've fleshed out his character more. But Parallax himself (voiced by Clancy Brown) is a worthy adversary, and just about the coolest and scariest looking creature I have ever seen in a superhero film.

The computer graphics in the film were top notch, and having it in 3-D only made it that much more amazing, but it helps to have a great director. Having helmed EDGE OF DARKNESS, CASINO ROYALE, and both of the ZORRO films, Martin Campbell's directing was perfect, melding heroics and danger with drama and humor. He keeps the film flowing and cranks up the action when needed and slows down the film for us to catch our breath, the revs it up again.

GREEN LANTERN is a rollorcaster ride of action, excitement, and superhero fun! Everybody should flock to the theaters and see this film. This summer has already been labeled as "Superhero Summer" and this film supports this claim. So remember that in brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape his sight. So all you evil doers beware the might and light of the Green Lantern.

GREEN LANTERN is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in San Jose. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phil remembers David F. Friedman, The King Of Exploitation Cinema-June 14, 2011

On February 14, 2011, while everyone was celebrating Valentine's Day, I was busy working (my day job is in sales). After a long day at work, I went on the internet to see what movies were playing. As soon as I logged on, I saw a headline that completely took me by surprise. There, in bold, black lettering, the headline read: Exploitaion Film Producer David F. Friedman Dies at 87. At first, I couldn't believe it. I had to reread the headline at least four time before it finally sunk in. Today is the four month anniversary of Friedman's passing, and since I didn't have my movie blog at the time of his death, I thought it would be nice to look back on one of the most important figures in cinematic history.

David F. Friendman (1923-2011)
Friedman was born in Birmingham, Alabama on December 24, 1923. His father was a local newspaper man and his mother was a musician. His father passed away when he was 13 and his mother remarried a couple of years later. After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the Army and was sent over to England during World War II. Upon returning home after his discharge in 1945, he settled in Chicago, where he got married and found a job working at Essanjay Films, and soon for Paramount in their publicity department. But in 1949, fate stepped when he met exploitation pioneer Howard "Kroger" Babb. Soon he was working for him, parading around Babb's most infamous film MOM AND DAD (which by the way is part of the National Film Registry). It was a carny's life for Friedman, making nudie cuties and nudist colony films and roadshowing them all across the country.

Original Movie Poster (1963)
After his apprenticeship with Babb's ended, Friedman met another filmmaker who would also change his life forever. Herschell Gordon Lewis (known as the Godfather of Gore) teamed up with Friedman to make nudie cuties. Seeing the genre coming to an end though, they came up with an idea of doing something completely different. In 1963, their co-production of BLOOD FEAST ushered in the age of gore films, which was unheard of at the time. The film cost about $25,000 and it went on to earn over $3 million dollars at the boxoffice. Two other films followed: 1964's TWO THOUSAND MANIACS and 1965's  COLOR ME BLOOD RED, both continuing the bloodshed that still is today a part of the language of horror films. Without the "Blood Trilogy" we wouldn't have films such as FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE EVIL DEADHOSTEL, GRINDHOUSE, and the SAW series. Make no mistake, these films changed the world of cinema forever, and both men will forever be associated with creating the look of horror.

Original Movie Poster (1965)
After his partnership with Lewis ended in 1964, Freidman left Chicago and relocated to Hollywood. There he teamed up with another legendary exploitation producer Dan Sonney, whose father Louis Sonney practically invented the exploitation genre back in the 1920's. He bought into Dan's company Sonney Amusement Enterprises, and once again, created a whole new subgenere: the roughies. Their first film together was THE DEFILERS, which was released in 1965. The film became a huge success, and soon Friedman was producing all various types of softcore sexploitation films during the sixties: THE NOTORIOUS DAUGHTER OF FANNY HILL, SHE FREAK, A SMELL OF HONEY, A SWALLOW OF BRINE,  LOVE CAMP 7, and SPACE THING. Eventually he started to combine softcore films with his irreverent sense of humor, producing films such as THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF ZORRO, THE LUSTFUL TURK, TRADER HORNEE, STARLET, and THAR SHE BLOWS! However the world changed in June of 1972, with the release of the film DEEP THROAT. Soon it was chic to see a porno film, and mainstream audiences soon flocked to their local grindhouse theater to see it. With the advent of hardcore pornos, it was the end for Friedman and his type of films. But he and Sonney were still making a profit. This dynamic duo were responsible for creating the Pussycat Theater chain, which in time would be screening mostly porno films. By 1970, there were over 750 theaters across the country, 47 in California alone.

Original DVD Cover (2005)
By the dawn of the 1980's, most of Friendman's films were long forgotten. The first wave of the slasher films were dominating theaters, while porno films were now being released on VHS tapes that you could  watch in the privacy of your home on a brand new invention called the VCR. But at the beginning of 1990, film buff Mike Vraney started his company called Something Weird Video (taken from the name of a 1968 Herschell Gordon Lewis film). Specializing in exploitation, sexploitation, grindhouse, and other obscure films that hadn't been released yet, Vraney contacted Friedman, and soon started releasing all his old films on VHS. Sales went through that roof, and Vraney was soon introduce to Friedman's colleagues, like Dan Sonney, Harry Novak, Doris Wishman, Lewis, and others. Also in that same year, his autobiography entitled A YOUTH IN BABYLON: CONFESSIONS OF A TRASH-FILM KING was published. Friendman also appeared in several documentaries such as MAU MAU SEX SEX, and SCHLOCK! THE SECRET HISTORY OF AMERICAN MOVIES. In the early 2000's Friedman teamed up once again with Lewis to help produce the 2002 film BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL YOU CAN EAT as well as Tim Sullivan's 2005 remake of TWO THOUSAND MANIACS entitled 2001 MANIACS and its 2010 sequel 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS.

It's hard to imagine what the cinematic landscape would look like if it weren't for Friedman. His rich film legacy is literately second to none. In the exploitation world, his name can always be found at the top of the list of innovators and trail blazers. I hope that somewhere in this great big universe of ours, he is smiling down. Thank you for all the great memories Dave! Long Live David F. Friedman!!

To purchase any of Friedman's films on DVD, visit the Something Weird Video website at http://somethingweird.com/

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Phil sees X-MEN: FIRST CLASS at the Cinelux Almaden Theater-June 12, 2011

So as I stated in my review of the movie THOR last month, Marvel Studios is releasing three films based on their widely popular comic book series this summer. The first was the previously mentioned THOR, which was a huge success last month. Now their second film of their Summer Blockbuster Trilogy is released. While still feeling the power from the God of Thunder, I was very excited about their next film X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Upon seeing it this past weekend, the film proved to me that Marvel Studios was going to have a very profitable summer.

The film is set in 1963. Before they were known as Professor X and Magneto respectively (and before they became arch enemies), they were Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), two mutants from two totally different backgrounds who unite to stop a common evil. The evil is named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who worked for the Nazis at their concentration camps (who also killed Erik's mother right before his eyes). Erik seeks revenge, while Charles offers him a different path in life. While both the United States and Russia are racing to the island of Cuba, preparing to launch World War III, they soon learn that Shaw, along with his cohorts Emma Frost (January Jones), Riptide (Alex Gonzales), and Azazel (Jason Flemyng) are responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he plans on ruling the world where mutants are the only survivors. Charles and Erik, with the help of CIA Agent Moira MacTaggat (Rose Byrne), assemble the very first incarnation of the X-Men: Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), and Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones). Now the fate of humanity lies in the hands of the children of the atom.

This was a phenomenal film and the perfect springboard to relaunch the franchise. For those who have never seen any of the previous films, wait and see this film before hand. This is the film that should've been made in the first place. Kudos to the entire cast for creating deep, flawed, arrogant, and courageous characters that all evolve throughout the film, which moves the story forward. As I have stated several times before, this is very important in all action films. Without out realistic characters, you don't have anyone to cheer and boo for. And without them, the film goes nowhere and we, the audience, are bored for the next two hours.

With this in mind, all the screenwriters deserve a round of applause for writing a fantastic script. One of those writers is none other than Bryan Singer, co-writer and director of the first two X-MEN movies. And speaking of talented filmmakers, Matthew Vaughn (who helped co-write the screenplay and directed this film) did the impossible: getting the X-Men franchise back on track. The man who directed only three films prior (LAYER CAKE, STARDUST, and KICK ASS) does a fantastic job of directing the first class of X-men on the first mission in saving the world from the grips of atomic annihilation. Also, as a added bonus, look for uncredited cameos by Hugh (Wolverine) Jackman and Rebecca (Mystique) Romijn.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is the perfect summer action film, filled with larger than life characters that will make you stand up and shout. With the release of this film, Marvel Studios is now 2-0 for this summer so far. Next month we will see the release of one the most treasured comic characters in the Marvel Universe. Until then enjoy watching this film over and over again. If you're a mutant, just make sure you save some popcorn for us all.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is now playing everywhere nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cineluxtheatres.com/

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Phil attends the Cult Movie Series screening of AKIRA at the Camera 3-June 11, 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 2THE PRINCESS BRIDETHE PROFESSIONAL, and REPO:THE GENETIC OPERA. This past February it was reformatted and rechristened as the Cult Movie series. Now they show the same film twice a month (Thursday nights at 9:30 and Saturday nights at 11:30) at the Camera 3 in downtown San Jose, and it now continues until November. For month number five, the series screened one of the most important anime films all time. With the exception of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, no other animated film has changed the landscape of cinema and has had a huge influence on pop culture. Make no mistake, AKIRA was and still is the standard that to which all other anime films are measured by.

Original Movie Poster (1988)
Based off the manga graphic novel by Katsuhiro Otomo (who also directed the film) of the same name, AKIRA is set in the futuristic world of Neo-Tokyo in the year 2019. The city has risen out of the ashes of World War III and now has become dark and dangerous megalopolis, infested with gangs and terrorists. The film's main character is biker gang member Shotaro Kaneda, who tries to prevent his best friend Tetsuo Shima from releasing Akira, a little boy with immense mental abilities who destroyed Tokyo decades before. Along the way, Kaneda befriends a young named Kei, a member of the terrorist Resistance. Soon it's up to them to stop his unstable and insane friend from unleashing mass destruction on Neo-Tokyo.

 The film was originally released in Japan on July 16, 1988 by distributor Toho. Soon the film was setting attendance records for an animated film all across the country. Shortly thereafter, a fledgling US film distribution company named Streamline Pictures picked up the rights to release the film here after both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg passed on the film, stating that it was unmarketable. The film had a limited release in theaters from late 1988 throughout 1989. But once it was released on VHS in 1991, the film found a new audience, and became a bona fide cult film.

In the beginning of the new millennium, the film was once brought into the spotlight. On July 24, 2001, the film was once again released to theaters, sporting a new digitally remastered picture and a brand new English dub. In 2002, distributor Manga released a two-disc DVD featuring the new Pioneer English dub version. In February of 2009, the film was finally released on Blu-Ray.

AKIRA is widely considered to be a landmark in Japanese animation as well as filmmaking in general. After the film's release, anime films became hugely popular, finding new audiences here in America. Films such as GHOST IN THE SHELL, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, PRINCESS MONONOKE, and BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE have all become huge hits. Anime television shows like ROBOTECH series, VOLTRON,  DRAGON BALL-Z, and POKEMON have all penetrated the youth pop culture like no other fad has done before. There are now anime conventions all across the country. Anime fashion has become popular as well. But in the end, none of these would be here if not for AKIRA. A couple of years ago, a film critic once said, "There was before AKIRA, and there was after AKIRA. AKIRA changed the world forever." I whole-heatedly concur with that statement.

To purchase your copy of AKIRA on Blu-Ray and DVD, visit http://www.amazon.com/

To learn more about Camera Cinemas' Cult Movie series, upcoming films, showtimes, etc, visit http://www.cameracinemas.com/midnight.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil's recommendations for the National Film Registry: Part II: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE-JUNE 11, 2011

Hello, and welcome to my series of film recommendations that I'm planning to submit to the National Film Registry. After viewing the amazing documentary THESE AMAZING SHADOWS a couple of months ago, I went to the Registry's website and noticed there were films that the Library of Congress should look into adding. As a result of this discovery, I decided to pick my own film recommendations that fulfills the criteria of the registry of being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," while at the same time choosing films that might have been overlooked due to oversight, or of ignorance of the film's impact on culture and society.

For my second recommendation, the film I chose is a true cult classic, in every sense of the term. No other film has gained this much of a reputation, and is regarded as the worst film ever made in the history of cinema. However GLITTER is up there too, but it isn't as beloved as this film, made by the worst film director of all time as well. Yes my friends, can your heart stand the shocking facts about PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE?

Original Movie Poster (1959)
This film was the alpha and omega in the career of its director Edward D. Wood Jr. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York on October 10, 1924, he grew up watching movies, eventually moving out to Hollywood to become a famous director like his idol Orson Welles. In 1952, Wood got his break; writing, directing, and starring in his first film GLEN OR GLENDA. Two more films followed: Jail Bait and BRIDE OF THE ATOM. Both GLEN and MONSTER also starred his childhood hero Bela Lugosi, the man who created DRACULA and thus becoming a horror superstar. By the time Wood meet Lugosi in 1952, he was a washed up actor, addicted to methadone. However, the two became friends and Wood vowed to relaunch Lugosi's career. While shooting some silent film footage with Wood, Lugosi passed away on August 16, 1956. Shortly thereafter, Wood would use the footage of his late friend as the basis for his next film, a film that would garner him world wide attention decades later. Originally titled GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE, the film was shot in 1956, but due to distribution problems, the film wasn't released until 1959.

What gives the film its charm is that it's really a bad film that was trying to be a good film. The camp factor for the film is off the charts. From the shoddy film sets, bewildering dialogue, overuse of stock footage, Lugosi's footage being used, then cut to his stand-in who covers up his face, Vampire and Tor Johnson walk around a really fake looking graveyard set that the tombstones keep falling over, numerous continuity errors that you can shake a stick at, and of course, the flying saucers being held on strings. However, give credit where credit's due. Ed Wood was able to make his films, albeit inept and unexplainable. You will never mistake his films for any other director. He is, what we call in the film world, a true film auteur. But unfortunately, Wood would never see how popular he and his films would become. Wood's life was a sad story that came to an end on December 10, 1978.

Edward D. Wood Jr.
Two years later, authors Michael and Harry Medved released their book THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS. In it, they dubbed PLAN 9 "the worst movie ever made." Wood himself was given the Golden Turkey award as being the worst director ever. Out of this negativity grew a cult classic. Soon everybody in the world was in love with Wood and all his films, including PLAN 9. Film festivals were held in his honor, midnight shows popped up all over the country to screen his movies, his name itself become part of the lexicon of bad movies, ranking with other cult directors such as John Waters, Roger Corman, and Russ Myers.

But what makes this film so important is the enormous impact it's had on pop culture. There isn't one person on this planet that has not heard or seen PLAN 9. The film has been referenced on TV shows such as SEINFELD and THE X-FILES. The punk rock group The Misfits named their record label Plan 9 Records after the film.  Part of the film was lifted for the video game Destroy All Humans! The documentary film FLYING SAUCERS OVER HOLLYWOOD: THE PLAN 9 COMPANION is notable for running a half hour longer than the film itself. Author Rudolf Grey's book NIGHTMARE IN ECSTASY: THE LIFE AND ART OF EDWARD D. WOOD JR. was released in 1992. Two years later, director Tim Burton brought Wood's life story to the big screen. His film ED WOOD starred Johnny Deep as Wood, Martin Landau as Lugosi (who would win an Oscar for his role) , Sarah Jessica Parker as Wood's girlfriend Dolores Fuller, and Patricia Arquette as Wood's wife Kathy. Long after his death, Ed Wood finally became a Hollywood icon.

Though he never lived to see how much of an impact he made on the world, it is nice to know that somewhere out there in the world, someone is watching PLAN 9 right now and he or she is having a good time watching it. No other film can lay claim as being THE greatest cult classic film of all time. Before her death on June 26, 2006,  Kathy Wood once said of her late husband, "Despite all the sadness he went through in his life, Eddie was triumphant in the end." This is why PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE should be part of the National Film Registry.

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is available on DVD. To purchase a copy for yourself, or any other of Ed Wood's films, visit http://www.amazon.com/

To learn more about the National Film Registry, visit their website at http://www.loc.gov/film/index.html

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Phil sees PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES at the Cinelux Almaden Theater-June 5, 2011

Ok, I will be the first to admit that I couldn't believe that Disney made a part four. The first film was fantastic. Part two was decent, not too bad. Part three was atrocious. So I wasn't looking forward to see this film, but believe it or not, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES was actually an enjoyable film to watch.

Once again Johnny Depp once again returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who now searches for the famed Fountain of Youth. To help him on his search is an old lover named Angelica Malon (played by the delicious Penelope Cruz), who's father is none other than Blackbeard the pirate (Ian McShane). However hot on their heels is Barbossa (portrayed once again by Geoffery Rush) who is now part of the Queen's Navel Fleet. Look for appearances by Keith Richards as Jack's father Captain Teague and Kevin McNally as Gibbs aiding Sparrow on his quest for the fountain.

To my surprise, the story was tight and flowed very well. What I liked about the film is that it's a contained story and doesn't tie in to the first three. While there are a couple of characters from the previous films, it's an entirely separate film. Granted the word is that this film is the beginning of a new trilogy of films. If Disney learned their mistakes from the previous trilogy, these next set of films could be very profitable for the company.

The success of the film must also be credited to its director Rob Marshall. Having directed such amazing films as CHICAGO, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and NINE, Marshall does a tremendous job of capturing the pirate life onto celluloid. It's not easy directing a movie out on the ocean, let alone on other continents. The films moves very fluently without having it stall at any particular moment. This is very important when making an action/adventure film. Johnny Depp does Sparrow with the same pirate suave that we've seen him do before. Cruz however is hot and sexy and can fight with a sword like no other woman can. Very exotic and erotic all at the same time.

Overall PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES is a fun, swash-buckling good time that will make people forget about the dreadful, previous sequels. Think of it as the next exiting chapter in a series that could become an even bigger hit the original set of films. If Disney keeps this up for the next trilogy, it could very well be the pirate's life for me.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES is now playing nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cineluxtheatres.com/index.asp

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees THE KID at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-June 4, 2011

During the annual Charlie Chaplin Days over in Niles, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum showed Chaplin's first feature film. THE KID has been regarded as a silent film classic, one of Chaplin's most beloved films. Two Chaplin shorts were shown as well. Pianist extraordinaire Judy Rosenburg provided the music accompaniment.

Charlie Chaplin
The first short of the night was THE NEW JANITOR. The film is one of Chaplin's early shorts, released by Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company. Also known as THE BLUNDERING BOOB, the film has Chaplin playing a janitor at a firm to which the manager (John T. Dillon) plans on stealing money from the firm's safe to pay off his gambling debt. The secretary (Helen Carruthers) catches the him in the act and it's up to Charlie to rescue her and save the day. This was on of Chaplin's early films to which he wrote and directed. The film was released by Mack Sennet's Keystone Film Company on September 14, 1914.

The second film was THE BANK, which Chaplin plays yet again, a janitor. He falls for Edna Purviance after he mistakes her gift for her boyfriend (also named Charlie) for his. This was a hilarious film and helped the Tramp character to evolve even more. Chaplin made the film in Los Angles and was released by the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company on August 9, 1915.

Original Movie Poster (1921)
After a brief intermission, the night continued with one of Chaplin's finest films ever: THE KID. The film stars our favorite Tramp who happens to find an abandoned baby on his morning stroll. He cares for the baby and raises him as his own. Jackie Coogan plays the Kid, who was just five years old when he made the film. Chaplin discovered Coogan on the theater stage and casted him on the spot. Years later Coogan would also be known as Uncle Fester on The ADDAMS FAMILY television show. Purviance also starred in the film as the mother who abandoned her son and regretted her mistake. The film was released to the world on February 6, 1921. The film is highly regarded as on of the finest films ever made in cinema's history. For those who have never seen the film, I would highly recommend it and it is available to rent or purchase.

As I stated in my previous blog, this was the centerpiece for the Charlie Chaplin Days celebration this past weekend, and I had a blast! There are many more fun events coming up at the museum! To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, on how to become a member, and to view their weekly film schedule, visit their website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./ 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!