Greetings and salutations and welcome to Day Five of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival. Today was big day for, as I saw six films! So let's not waste any time and let the fun begin!
My first film of the day was the comedy OLD GOATS. Directed by Taylor Guterson, the film follows three friends (Bob Burkholder, Britton Crosley, and David David Vander Wal) who are all recently retired and have a lot of free time on their hands. Soon the guys are facing some new challenges and directions that could very will change the lives for the better. But as the old saying goes, "You can't teach and old dog new tricks." David procrastinates moving to Florida at the urging of his wife, Britton continues to still play the field, and Bob meets a wonderful woman named Gail Shackel who he meets on a seniors dating website that wishes for him to move in with her, even though he is very comfortable living on his old boat that he's been living in for the past 25 years. Yes my friends, even when you're a senior and retired, life can still be complicated.
The film reminds us that we can all relate to one another, even if those around us are just slightly older. Life can throw plenty of curve balls, and for our friends in the film, those curve balls are called changes. It's hard to change when you get older in life. You know who you are, you know what you like, who have a routine that you like to stick with because it's familiar. Now try imagining retiring from work. Your whole life and routine is thrown of of balance and you struggle with what to do now and where do you fit in with society. We can all relate to being outsiders, but imagine being old and not knowing what to do next. After the screening, director Guterson and actress Shackel participated in a fun Q&A session. Guterson reveled that all the actors in the film were all real people, and their names in the film were their real names. No actors were used in the film. Even Shackel told the audience that she was working as a bank teller at Washington Mutual when Guterson came in, saw her, and then asked her to be in the film. A really funny and touching film for everyone. The film will shown again on Friday, March 9th at 7:30pm.
The second film I saw this morning was the amazing HOW I WAS STOLEN BY THE GERMANS (KAKO SU ME UKRALI NEMCI): Directed by acclaimed director Milos Radivojevi, the film was the final installment to his trilogy about the warfare in Seriba, which began with AWAKENING FROM THE DEAD (Cinequest 2005) and THE REJECT (Cinequest 2008). We see Milos' childhood unfold before us, along with the German occupation that transpired in World War II. In the film Aleks (Svetozar Cvetovic,the star from the previous two films) drives with an abandoned child named Romi (who is told to be his child) to an orphanage. While driving, he tells her the story of his mother Jalena and the German officer Werner who was his world and the closest thing he had to a father. His tale consists of picnics, music, fun for a child who's village and country is being occupied. However Romi is part of the underground that Werner has been signed to eradicate. Thus taking place in WWII, it wouldn't be to shocking for me to say that it doesn't end on a happy note.
The cinematography was just stunning! What was really unique was that the flashback story was told in vibrant color, while the present day was shot in black and white, as if to symbolize Aleks lack of life in his world. After the film, Radivojevi and his producer participated in a very interesting and informative Q&A. I was so glad to have seen this film. A marvelous piece of art! The film will be shown again on Wednesday, March 7th at 2pm.
Next film I saw was SUNFLOWER HOUR. Directed by Aaron Houston, this hysterical Canadian mockumentary comedy follows four would-be puppeteers who are all vying for the open postition on the popular children's television show Sunflower Hour. The four finalists are Shamus O'Reilly (Ben Cotton, The Chronicles of Riddick), Leslie Handover (Patrick Gilmore, 2012), David Spencer (Amitai Marmorstein, 50/50), and Satan's Spawn (Kacey Rohl, Red Riding Hood). Each of them have their own personal reason to be on the show, but the road to be hired for the show is filled with hilarity and absurdity.
This was one of the funniest mockumentary films I have ever seen! The story was just gold, the performances by all the actor were fantastic, and the laughs were contagious! I was totally caught off guard by just how funny the film was. The film is a comedic achievement that will split your sides and make milk come out of your nose! You will never look at a children's puppet show the same way ever again! Houston was in the house and had a fun Q&A session with the audience (he revealed the budget for the film was only $30,000 and apologized for the low budget look). But in the end, it's definitely worth seeing people! The film will be shown again on Thursday, March 8th at 11am. Visit the film's official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sunflowerhour.
The fourth film of the night was SALT (SAL). Directed and written by newcomer Diego Rougler, the film is Chile's first full-length western. Would be sceenwriter Sergio (Fele Martinez) has been told by every single producer that his script..well...sucks. They all tell him that it lack authenticity. Sergio wants to set the film in Chile, where in the Atacama Desert is the driest desert on the planet. He travels down to Chile to do some research and to be inspired, but when a group of men mistake him as someone named Diego, he gets kidnapped and held by an evil crime lord named Victor. Taken to a remote farm in the desert, Sergio learns how to be a "real man" from an old timer (and also learns how to shoot a gun) and plots to end Victor's reign once and for all. Oh by the way, did I mention that the men are also fighting over a smoking hot woman (Victor's wife/Diego's lover)? Yes, she is that smoking hot!
Writer/director Rougler and producer Adrian Solar were present to do a Q&A with the audience. Rougler mentioned that the movie was indeed shot on 35mm and wanted it to look like the classic American westerns that he grew up watching. The film's budget was $1.2 million and said that it was a limitation, which I thought was absurd. The film looked very impressive and it did indeed look like what western should look. Witty, touching, and action packed, this film made me want to become a cowboy again! The film will be shown again on Thursday, March 8th at 4:15pm.
The fifth film I saw today was the world premiere of THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X. Directed by Paul Bunnell, this loving tribute to 50's sci-fi and juvenile delinquent films stars Will Keenan (TROMEO & JUIET, TERROR FIRMER) as leather clad bad boy Johnny X, who he and his gang are exiled to Earth by the grand Inquisitor (Kevin McCarthy in his final film role). A year later, Johnny and the gang are hot on the heels of his sexy ex-girlfriend Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks) who's stolen his special suit that has the power to control people. She hides out in a diner where she meets soda jerk Chip (Les Williams). They escape Johnny and his gang, but they also run into King Clayton ( Reggie Bannister from the PHANTASM series). The two form a business relationship that once Johnny regains his special suit, he will reanimate King's dead bad boy rock'n'roll star Creed Bratton (Mickey O'Flynn). Soon these crazy, far out kids start singing and dancing their way to save the Earth from former gang memeber, the insane Sluggo (Jed Rowen).
During the Q&A session, director Bunnell called up his cast and crew to the stage, but star Keenan had a different approach. He literally was hanging onto the balcony when he let go and landed on the theatre floor, causing him to break his left leg (get better soon Will!) And speaking of Keenan, I saw him just before the screening and told him that I've been a fan of his since his Troma days. He thanked me a gave me a DVD copy of his film OPERATION MIDNIGHT CLIMAX!! (Thanks again Will!!) Now during the Q&A, Bunnell stated that the film was the last film to be shot using the EASTMAN PLUS-X Negative Film 5231 black and white stock! This particular film stock was used regularly during the 1950s. The filmmakers also provided every member of the audience their very own JOHNNY X movie poster! The film was a laugh-out-loud, rock'n'roll, song and dance extrrvaganza that must be seen again. Speaking of which, the film will be screened again on Tuesday, March 8th at 7pm and again on Saturday, March 10th at 4:45pm. Also visit the film's official website at http://www.johnnyxmovie.com/
The last film I saw today was the midnight screening of the horror film PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE: Directed by Bing Bailey, the film is not your typical zombie flick. Instead Bailey crafted a funny and gory mockumentary about the Murphys, a family in Dublin, Ireland who's son, while working at a meat company, became infected with a virus that turned him into an undead creature. Still, his family loves him and takes care of him. His mom especially, by feeding him pieces of her own skin. Filming this "documentary" are a makeshift crew of local filmmakers and an American director, who sees potential in this situation, but when he releases the Murphys' undead son loose, no one could predict the horrendous outcome of his actions.
Bailey deserves praise for creating an original and creative zombie film. He proves that there is still life (pun intended) within the zombie subgenre. The film has it all: funny and interesting characters, great humor, and plenty of gore for diehard horror fans to enjoy! Now I don't want to ruin all the surprises, but there are a couple of scenes that are so damn vile and outrageous that you cannot believe what you are seeing! And you cannot look away while you're watching it! After the film's midnight screening, Bailey and several of his cast and crew came out to do a fun Q&A session with the audience. They also handed out free POAZ t-shirts, which yours truly got one as well. One helluva horror film folks! The film will be shown again on Monday, March 5th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, March 10th at 4:30pm. Also visit the film's official website at http://www.portraitofazombie.com/.
Another night of movie magic here at Cinequest! Remember the festival will be running till March 11th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!