Monday, July 30, 2012

Phil sees SUTRO'S: THE PALACE AT LAND'S END at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-July 22, 2012

Hello again everybody and welcome back to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in scenic Downtown Niles! Last night was the museum's Comedy Shorts Night show, which had a sold out crowd! This afternoon, the museum had another sold out crowd, but this show wasn't a silent film screening. No, it was for the encore screening of the documentary SUTRO'S: THE PALACE AT LAND'S END detailing the legendary Sutro Baths that was a San Francisco landmark till it burned down in 1966.

Before the screening, the museum had the film's director Tom Wyrsch signing DVD copies of his films, including SUTRO'S and his previous documentary REMEMBERING PLAYLAND. The distributors of his films November Fire Recordings were also on hand selling Wyrsch's DVDs as well as other cool collectibles, such as buttons, patches, stickers, and posters! They were also selling copies of NFR founder and filmmaker Strephon Taylor's 2010 documentary THE ROCK: ED WOOD OF THE 21ST CENTURY, which he gave me a free copy to review! So keep your eyes peeled here for that one coming soon! Also in attendance was local filmmaker Ernie Fosselius, who's famous for making what many consider to be the first STAR WARS parody called HARDWARE WARS! Fosselius also appeared in tonight's film.

DVD Cover (2011)
The program began with a couple of trailers, a Loony Tunes cartoon, and an old travelogue for Sutro Baths. One of the trailers was THE LINEUP, which was filmed on location in San Francisco as well at Sutro's. A classic film noir film! Both Wyrsch and Fosselius introduced the film to the sold out crowd.

The documentary told the history of the great Sutro Baths and Museum, which was erected in the late 19th century. It was the world's largest swimming pool establishment, and soon it gained an extravagant museum that made people flock to the "palace at land's end." Sutro contained an astounding seven swimming pools, an ice skating rink, an Egyptian Mummy and Torture Museum, a Tom Thumb exhibit, Sutro Railway, Merry Way, Sutro's Cliff House, and other novelties and exhibits that had people coming back again and again until a fire in 1963 and 1966 destroyed the building, leaving only some of the foundations, which are now referred to as the Sutro Ruins. These ruins are still visible to this very day.

Wyrsch does a great job of showcasing historic pictures and archival footage of the famed amusement park. Plus we get great information from those who were actually there. Fosselius was one of those interviewed but we also get to hear some fantastic by Wayne Hess, Joe Mirante, and the film was narrated by Ray Taliaferro. I have never had the pleasure or experience of visiting Sutro, by because of  the film, I can get an idea of what an amazing spectacle it was. To see such great things like the train, the museums, and to go swimming in the pools would have been wonderful to see. And thanks to Wyrsch, I can visit it over and over again, thanks to his in-depth and intriguing documentary. After the screening, Wyrsch and Fosselius came back on stage and participated in a fun Q&A session with the audience. After the show was over, Wyrsch was kind enough to sign my DVD of both his documentaries!


This was such a fantastic and fun-filled Sunday program! Now for all you folks out there who missed out on this screening, don't fret! Both SUTRO's and PLAYLAND will be screened on Sunday, September 16th at 12pm at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose. And once again Wyrsch will be attendance! To purchase tickets for this show, please visit the Camera Cinemas website at www.cameracinemas.com. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and their film schedule, visit their website at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org. To purchase these great local documentaries on DVD, visit the November Fire Recordings website at www.novemberfire.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Phil hosts the Cult Movie screening of JURASSIC PARK (again) at the Camera 3 Downtown San Jose-July 21, 2012

Theatrical Movie Poster (1993)
Hello again from the midnight hour! Yup, I once again hosted the Cult Movie screening of JURASSIC PARK this past Saturday night at the Camera 3 in downtown San Jose! We had a great turn out for the midnight show! And once again I handed out cool prizes to a couple of lucky audience members, graciously donated by Streetlight Records and by Time Tunnel Toys. And I would also like to thanks Universal Studios for protecting our film heritage and for preserving 35mm film prints! And thanks to Psycho Donuts for staying open late to feed our cinematic thrillseekers!

Remember next moth's cult film will be the Coen Brother's 1998 film THE BIG LEBOWSKI on Thursday, August 16th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, July 18th at midnight! So mark these days on your calender and come out and have some cult movie fun! To view the rest of the Cult Movie Series schedule, visit the Camera Cinemas website at www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends COMEDY NIGHT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-July 21, 2012

It didn't me very long to wanting to see a silent movie, since I had just seen roughly 16 silent films two weekends ago at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theatre! But tonight was a special night, for tonight was Comedy Shorts Night at the Edison Theatre, home of the Essanay Silent Film Museum. After having dinner at Broncho Billy's Pizza Palace, I headed on over to the museum for a night of laughter! On the piano for tonight's show was the great  Greg Pane!

Charlie Chaplin
THE RINK (1916): Starring Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, and Eric Campbell. Chaplin works as a waiter in a restaurant, where some humorous shenanigans take place. Later on his lunch break, the little Tramp heads for the rink to do some rollerskating, which really must be seen to believe. Chaplin is just amazing on rollerskates, and are some of the funniest scenes of the film.

Also known as Rolling Around, the film is yet another example of Chaplin's comedic genius, and it also adds to his rich legacy. One of my all-time favorites, this is a short that should be required viewing for all Chaplin fans. The funny two-reeler film was released by the Mutual Film Company on December 4, 1916.

Buster Keaton
THE HIGH SIGN (1921): Starring Buster Keaton, Bartine Burkett, and Ingram B. Pickett. Keaton gets thrown off a train in a nameless town. He finds works at a shooting gallery owned by a guy named Tiny Tim, who's actually about seven feet tall! But the gallery is front for a vicious mob called the Blinking Buzzards. Buster gets ordered to kill a wealthy businessman, but instead he protects him and his lovely daughter by tricking out their home into a hilarious hidden passages.

This was Keaton's first independent two-reeler film, but thought it wasn't funny enough and had it shelved after its completion in 1920. However when he broke his leg later that year and couldn't work, he had the film released a year later. The film was released Joseph M. Schenck Productions on April 18, 1921.

After a brief intermission, the show continued with:

Charley Chase
DOG SHY (1926): Starring Charley Chase, Mildred June, Stuart Holmes, and Buddy the Dog. The film's about our friend Charley, who starts off being chase by a dog, which winds up with him becoming a butler at a rich family's mansion, which he falls in love with their daughter, even though she's supposed to marry a stuffy aristocrat. There's also a robbery that he foils and he and his female companion live happily ever after. Oh and she has a dog too. Very funny stuff!

Chase started off in vaudeville before being hired by Mack Sennett to work for him at Keystone Studios. After making a number of films there, in 1920 he began working as a film director for Hal Roach Studios. He soon graduated to starring in his own series of comedy shorts. The film was produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by MGM to theaters on April 4, 1926.

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
DOUBLE WHOOPEE (1929): Starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The boys cause havoc at a ritzy hotel as their footman and doorman. Needless to say, hilarious hijinks ensue! Accidentally undressing a sexy blonde guest (the legendary Jean Harlow!) and repeatedly escorting a Prussian guest into an empty elevator shaft. A classic short film from this funny duo!

Both Laurel and Hardy had successful solo careers before Hal Roach put them together in one of his films. The rest as they say, is comedy history. The film was produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by MGM on May 18, 1929.

Another great sold out crowd at the Edison Theatre! Remember the museum is open for tours every weekend from 12pm-4pm and every Saturday night there's a silent film show starting at 7:30 (doors open at 7pm). So if you would like to learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, becoming a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Phil sees THE DARK KNIGHT RISES at the Camera 12-July 20, 2012

With the release of THE DARK KNIGHT in 2008, director Christopher Nolan set the bar pretty damn high not only for himself, but for comic book movies all together. While Joss Whedon's THE AVENGERS was, without question, a mega blockbuster hit this summer (and one that comic book fans had been waiting for the four years), many were wondering during that time frame if Nolan could top the last Batman film. Well, to put all your minds at ease, he did! As a result, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES captures the gritty feel of the comic while simultaneously closes out the Batman trilogy in a nice, neat bow.

So for this review, I'm gonna go light as to the plot of the film, due to that fact that I don't want to reveal any "spoilers" for those out there who have not seen the film yet. This is what I can tell you about the film: It's been eight years since the death of Harvey Dent, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been hiding out in Wayne Manor with his trusted butler Alfred (Michael Caine). However when a deadly terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) shows up to destroy Gotham City, Bruce comes out of retirement to help his friend Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his new right hand man, special duty officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to help stop Bane from carrying out his destructive plan. Making things more complicated is his romantic ties with a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who never reveals which side she is on. Returning for this grand finale is Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Cillian Murphy reprises his role as Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), while making her Batman debut is Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. Also look for Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, Nestor Carbonell reprising his role as Mayor Anthony Garcia, and a special cameo from Liam Neeson.

Christopher, along with his brother Jonathon, wrote such a grand and clever script that is just ingenious! Weaving such real world issues such as terrorism, economic collapse, social structure, class warfare, political injustice and anarchy, the film firmly takes place in the here and now. Nolan has really made the film very accessible to all of us who are just overwhelmed with the plight of today's events. Very rarely do we see this in a big budget Hollywood movie, where escapism is the norm and intelligence is left outside by the popcorn maker. Just like his last move INCEPTION, Nolan has crafted a highly entertaining, thought provoking film that requires multiple viewings to catch all the details that he puts into it.

Of course, having a great cast also helps as well. Kudos to the entire cast who have made this trilogy so rewarding to watch. Bale is once again great as both Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader, who again pushes himself and his body to the breaking point in his roles. Caine and Freeman bring perfection to their respective roles, and Oldman is just terrific as Gordon. Hathaway is smart, cunning, and sexy as Selina Kyle (and I love the fact that throughout the film, she is never referred to as Catwoman) while Hardy does an incredible job of transforming himself into his role as the villan Bane. Apathetic, unmerciful, and just flat out evil, Hardy's performance lives up to the late Heath Ledger's performance of the Joker from the previous installment!

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is one of my favorite films of 2012!! With this final installment, Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy has come to its epic conclusion, and we the fans of this series can walk away knowing that we have seen a magnificent film! 5 out of 5 stars! Highly recommended!!


THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is now playing in regular and IMAX theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Phil sees BRAVE in 3D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 20, 2012

Hello there folks! Yup, I'm still at the Camera 7 in the Pruneyad Campbell. Now last year I saw Pixar's CARS 2 in 3D at the same theater, and I thought it was one of the studio's weakest film. Fast forward to tonight I'm seeing their newest animated film BRAVE in 3D. While overall it was a fun film, I felt it wasn't epic enough.

Before the film. there was a new Pixar short entitled LA LUNA, about three generations of men (grandfather, father, and son) who row out into the ocean, pull out an extremely tall later that reaches the moon so they can sweep its surface, thus creating a crescent moon. It was cute, sweet, and funny. Great little film to watch!

The premise of BRAVE centers around a spunky and fiercely independent red-haired princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), who along with here royal parents King Fergus and Queen Elinor (voiced by Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson respectively) rule the mystical Scottish Highlands. When her parents arrange a tournament to find a suitor for Merida, she rebels against her mother's wishes and runs away into the forest. There she stumbles upon a cabin where a witch (voiced by Julie Walters) gives her a potion that will forever change her destiny. But when Merida discovers that the potion has affected a member of her family, she must do whatever she can to correct her mistake. However can she make amends before the spell becomes permanent?

Since this is a Pixar film, you know that the computer animation is going to be amazing. Well, in the case of BRAVE, it is spectacular! The roaming Scottish countryside, the mystic mist that hangs in the forest, The leaves on the trees, the mane on the head of a horse, this is the studio's best looking film! Very realistic looking; half the time I forgot I was watching an animated movie!

The actors and actresses do a great job voicing these characters: Macdonald's Merida is strong, brave, ans well as hot headed, naive, and oblivious to the teachings of her mother. And speaking of mothers, Thompson's Queen Elinor is wise, proper, caring, and loving with a dash of stubbornness. Connolly as King Fergus provides many of the laughs in the film, which let's face it, who is more qualified in being the comedy relief of the film? All do a fabulous job!

Now the story: it was good, but it wasn't great. Actually it was too small, in scale to being an epic adventure. The film's story felt too contained, and it didn't feel like it was on par with the other Pixar films. In UP, there is a grand global journey that was both physical and emotional. With WALL-E, it is a galactic adventure of returning home to your roots. With TOY STORY 3, it's returning back to Andy's room from Sunshine Day Care, but also the journey of growing up and moving on as well as change. While the film's story was solid, it wasn't epic enough for me.

On a side not, the 3D effects were very well done. And it works in this film, which is really rare nowadays. So I would recommended it seeing in 3D.

While BRAVE falls short in its definition of being an "epic" event, the film is still very entertaining and a joy for the whole family! Defiantely worth checking out! Four out of five stars!


BRAVE is now playing in 2-D and 3-D in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Phil sees MOONRISE KINGDOM at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 20, 2012

After spending last weekend at the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I had to get use to the idea of seeing a "talking" film again. So this weekend I went to get caught up with what's new in movie theaters. The first film I saw over at the Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell was director Wes Anderson's latest film MOONRISE KINGDOM.

The film lovingly tells the tale of first love, in a humorous and whimsical way one would expect from Anderson. Set in 1965 on the fictional New England island called New Penzance, the film's about two 12 year-olds who fall in love and run away together: "Khaki Scout" orphan and misfit Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and the disenchanted Suzy Bishop (Kara Gilman). When their disappearance is discovered, the grown-ups begin the search for them. There's "Khaki Scout" Master Ward (Edward Norton) and Suzy's attorney parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), who team up with the local police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to find the runaway lovers. But will young love be triumphant or will adult authoritism crush their dreams of utopia? Narrating the film is the fantastic Bob Balaban.

It's been five years since Anderson's last film; the live action film 2007's THE DARJEELING LIMITED (the 2009 film FANTASTIC MR. FOX was an animated film), and it looks like our director friend has lost none of his quirky imagination. His film's do not take place in the real world, but in a fantastic and unique alternate universe, where the bizarre and the eclectic, the witty and the eccentric all co-exist in a world that one wishes it could inhabit. By placing the tale of young love in this universe, the film has its own enchanted magic that will leave the audience under its spell. It also helps to have a great story and dialogue (Anderson co-wrote the script with Roman Coppola), beautiful cinematography Robert Yeoman, and creative production designer Adam Stockhausen to bring this fabled storybook to life.

Anderson's cast of regulars, including Murray, McDormand, are joined by newbies Norton and Willis, and all of them really bring their A game to the project. All give stellar performances, however youngsters Gilman and Gilman nailed their parts perfectly and really knocked it outta the park with their portrayal of Sam and Suzy respectively! If you can't feel anything for these kids and their love for one another, then my friend, you are dead inside!

MOONRISE KINGDOM is Wes Anderson's funniest picture so far and his most romantic. The film really commands you to recall your first young love, and by doing that, we can connect with the film. This film is one of my favorite films of 2012 thus far! 5 out of 5 stars! Highly recommended!!


MOONRISE KINGDOM is currently playing at select theaters nationwide, including the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cameracinemas.com

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Phil hosts the Cult Movie screening of JURASSIC PARK at the Camera 3 Downtown San Jose-July 19, 2012

Hello my fellow cult fanatics and welcome to Month Six of the Cult Movie Series here at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose! So for tonight's cult film they screened director Steven Spielberg's 1993 colossal summer blockbuster JURASSIC PARK. Once again yours truly was the host for tonight's screening. Another great addition for tonight's show was that this was a 35mm print that was being screened, courtesy of Universal Studios! Prizes were donated by Streetlight Records and by Time Tunnel Toys, both located here in San Jose. There were also yummy donuts to eat, courtesy of Psycho Donuts located in the lobby.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1993)
Based upon the novel of the same name by author Michael Crichton, the movie stars Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant), Laura Dern (Dr. Ellie Sattler), Jeff Goldblum (Dr. Ian Malcolm), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond), Ariana Richards (Lex Murphy), Joseph Mazzello (Tim Murphy), Martin Ferrero (Donald Gennaro), and Bob Peck (Robert Muldoon). Also joining in on this prehistoric thrill ride are Samuel L. Jackson (Ray Arnold), Wayne Knight (Dennis Nedry), and BD Wong (Henry Wu).

The film was originally released to theaters on June 11, 1993! That was 19 years ago! And if you have yet to see this film, there is something seriously wrong with you! The film's about a group of scientists who get whisked away on a rich white man's helicopter to his remote island fun park called Jurassic Park, filled with real live dinosaurs, thanks in large part to scientific DNA cloning. But unlike their ancestors, these reptiles are highly intelligent, and soon they all brake out and take over the island!

The special effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) which is owned by filmmaker George Lucus. When the film was completed, Lucus realized that digital and computer technology had finally caught up with him and his imagination. It was this film that he decided that it was time to start work on the STAR WARS prequels. So as I said in my introduction tonight, "We can thank this film for those prequels, because if it wasn't for the fierce T-Rex, we wouldn't have Jar Jar Binks!" This joke caused many people to laugh and cry in their popcorn. However, the screening had a fantastic turnout, over 70 patrons flocked in to see this awesome film! Next year will be the film's 20th anniversary, and just like Hollywood, the film will be re-released to theaters in 3D. Also there is talk about a JP4 as well. Yes, friends, these scientifically created creatures simply will not die!


Now there is still one more showing of JURASSIC PARK this Saturday, July 21st at midnight. Then next moth's cult film will be the Coen Brother's 1998 film THE BIG LEBOWSKI on Thursday, August 16th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, July 18th at midnight! So mark these days on your calender and come out and have some cult movie fun! To view the rest of the Cult Movie Series schedule, visit the Camera Cinemas website at www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival: Day Four-July 15, 2012

Hello again my faithful readers and welcome to the fourth and final day of my trip to the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the majestic Castro Theatre! I've had so much fun these past three days. It's hard to believe that it's almost over! But before I say goodbye to the City by the Bay and to all my friends (both old and new), let's check out all the classic silent movies that I saw today! So buckle up ladies and gentlemen, and away we go!

The first film shown this morning was THE MARK OF ZORRO, starring the great Douglas Fairbanks. The film is based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley. Now up till this time, Fairbanks was known for is wacky and heart warming romantic comedies. But with his role as the people's masked champion Zorro (and his wimpy alter-ego Don Diego Vega), he redefined himself as a swashbuckling superstar! The film showcased the man's amazing athletic prowess; climbing up exterior walls of a church, jumping off of roofs, flinging himself through doors and windows, and leaping over a pigs stie! The reason I mention the pigs stie is that this particular scene was lifted for the film THE ARTIST! In fact, the George Valentin character was based on Fairbanks himself! The film was introduced Jeffrey Vance, who informed us that some of the Zorro trademarks (such as the "Z" he makes with his sword) were created for the film and were not in the books (of course with the film's success, author McCulley included them in the rest of the series). The film was produced by Fairbanks' own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation, and was the first film released through United Artists, the company he formed with Mary Pickford (his future wife), Charlie Chaplin, and legendary director D. W. Griffith.The film was released on November 27, 1920. Once again, the amazing Dennis James was on the Mighty Wurlitzer!

The second film was THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK, which was co-presented by the Film Noir Foundation and introduced by the Czar of Noir himself Eddie Muller (the founder of the SF Film Noir  Festival). Directed by Josef von Sternberg, the film's about a ship "stocker" (a man who stokes coals for the ship) named Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) who saves a beautiful woman named Mae (Betty Compson) from drowning. Mae was trying to commit suicide because she is poor, has no money, and is ashamed that she has to resort to becoming a prostitute. Feeling sorry for her, Bill "marries" Mae that same night. Sternberg really does a fantastic job of creating the atmospheric mood of the docks, even though it was all shot on a set! Both Bancroft and Compson have great on-screen chemistry and play well off each other. The film was recently included in a boxset entitled 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, released by the fine folks at the Criterion Collection! The film was released by Paramount Pictures on September 16, 1928. The great Donald Sosin accompanied the film on the grand piano.

The third film of the day was the Swedish romantic comedy EROTIKON. Now when I first saw the film in the program, I thought to myself, "Gee, the festival just showed this film like 2 years ago. I wonder why they're showing it again?" Well, lo and behold, this was a different EROTIKON!! The one I saw a couple of years ago was a Czech film that was directed by Gustav Machaty in 1929! This version was directed by Mauritz Stiller and was about a entomologist who knew more about the sex life of insects than his own wife's. Actually, the wife is having a great sex life her lover, which is fine with her husband  because his in love with his wife's niece! So for you trying to work this out on a flow chart, forget about it! This was the craziest, and hilarious comedy about incest that I have ever seen! You have to see this film to believe it! In fact, the film is available on DVD by the gang over at Kino Lorber International! The film was originally released by AB Svensk Filmindustri (say that five times fast!) in Sweden on November 8, 1920. Providing the musical accompaniment was the always fabulous The Mattie Bye Ensemble.

Film number four has been hailed as, "One of the saddest films ever made." The film STELLA DALLAS was introduced by, once again, Eddie Muller, who professed that he still cries at the end of the film! OK, now all of you out there might be more familiar with the 1937 version with Barbara Stanwyck. The film was producer Samuel Goldwyn's favorite, which is why it's the only film of his that he ever remade! This version was directed by Henry King and adapted from the Olive Higgins Prouty novel by Frances Marion, who was at one time the highest paid writer in Hollywood, male and female. The film stars Belle Bennett as Stella Dallas, a small town girl who loathes her life and dreams of a better way of life. She gets to have that dream when she meets and marries the successful Stephen Dallas (Ronald Colman ), who only came to this small town to escape his father's scandal and tragic suicide. However, when Stephen's work offers him a promotion out in the Big City (New York I think), Stella flat out refuses, and wishes to stay behind to care for their daughter Laurel (Lois Moran). Stella still is a small town girl at heart, and through she tries, she still can't seem to fit into high society,  which causes major embarrassment for Laurel. Also to make Stella's life more complicated, Stephen has fallen in love with high class society woman Helen Morrison (Alice Joyce). Sensing her daughter's embarrassment of her, and fearing the her daughter will not be accepted because of her, Stella has Laurel go live with her father and new mother. The ending is just unbelievably sad and I challenge you all out there NOT to cry at the end!

Belle Bennett absolutely steals the show from everyone else. Her performance is unforgettable and heartbreaking. Even though her character makes some mistakes in the beginning, she has a big heart, and lots of love for her beloved daughter. We cry and grieve with her, as she tries to set things right, and fights for her daughter's happiness and well being. If you're looking for a great mother-daughter film to watch, then this film is for you! The movie was produced by the Samuel Goldwyn Company and released by United Artists on November 16, 1925.  The great Stephen Horne was on the grand piano for this program!

And then we reached the final program of the festival. Before the main feature, the festival screened the newly restored, long lost color print of Georges Méliès' silent film classic A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902.) Now I saw this film back in September of last year when I went down to Hollywood for my vacation. Many of the audience members had not seen this print, which by the way, is available on Blu-Ray and DVD by the gang at Flicker Alley! The audience absolutely went bannas for the film! It looked incredible on the Castro's gigantic screen! Everybody cheered with delight while watching this iconic silent classic! Once again, Stephen Horne was on the grand piano!

The closing night film of the festival was a silent comedy classic starring Mr. Stoneface himself, Buster Keaton. THE CAMERAMAN was Keaton's first film for MGM under his new contract. Our friend portrays a tin-type photographer who falls madly in love with Sally (Marceline Day), a secretary who works for MGM Newsreels. To be close to her, he abandons in his old camera career and attempts to become a motion picture cameraman. Soon Buster is out on the streets, shooting anything and everything, but there's just one problem: he's not very good. But when Sally gives him a tip on a hot story, he rushes into what I think is one of the funniest action scenes ever captured onto celluloid! Helping Buster out is his new partner: a talented street preforming monkey who knows how to work a movie camera! Yes folks, it's that funny!

As I previously stated, this was Keaton's first film for MGM. However, within a year of his contract, the studio took away Keaton's creative control over his pictures, which in the long run harmed his career. He would later say that his move to MGM was "the worst mistake of my career." But fans have called it his best work, and it was added to the National Film Registry in 2005! The film was released to theaters on September 22, 1928. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies (TCM as it's affectionately known) released a boxset entitled Buster Keaton Collection, which included THE CAMERAMAN as well as two other films. The musical accompaniment for the film was performed by the always amazing The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Well folks, there you have it! Another SF Silent Film Festival has come to a close. I just want to say hi to all my friends that I got to see again, and to all my new friends that I meet this year, I cannot wait to see you all again at next year's festival! I had so much fun this past weekend! If you'd like to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at http://www.silentfilm.org/index.php

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Phil attends the 17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival: Day Three-July 14, 2012

Hello again and welcome back to Day Three of my trip to the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival here at the Castro Theater! So far this has been an astounding festival, full of new discovers and some classic silent films that I cannot wait to see. Today was going to a be very long day for me, but thankfully I had my good friend Jason (Jason Watches Movies) to keep me company! So let's talk about today's programs, shall we?

This morning's program was the festival's annual children's show. This year we were all treated to watching FELIX THE CAT cartoons! The program was introduced by famed film critic Leonard Maltin, who asked us, "When are you ever gonna see this many 35mm Felix the Cat cartoon prints on the big screen?" Never!! Seven classic Felix cartoons were shown: FELIX LOSES OUT (1924), FELIX THE CAT TRIPS THRU TOYLAND (1925), FELIX THE CAT IN BLUNDERLAND (1926), FELIX THE CAT WEATHERS THE WEATHER (1926), JUNGLE BUNGLES (1928), ESKIMOTIVE (1928), and FELIX THE CAT FLIRTS WITH FATE (1926). At the end of the program, both children and adults filled the theatre with laughter and animal noises! The film prints came from the UCLA Film Archive, The George Eastman House, and the Library of Congress. Providing the music was the great Donald Sosin and the incredible Toychestra (making their SF Silent Film Festival debut), who used a variety of children's toys to create their music as well as a cool sample board full of neato sounds! What a great way to kick off my Saturday morning!

The first film screened today was THE SPANISH DANCER, directed by Herbert Brenon and features Pola Negri as Spanish gypsy singer. Set in Spain in the 1700s, Maritana (Negri) falls in love with a recently broke nobleman Don Cesar de Brazen ( the funny Antonio Moreno). Both end up being pawns in a game that involves the Spanish King Philip IV (Wallace Beery) and his his French wife Queen Isabel of Bourbon (Kathlyn Williams). The grand architect in this infectious scheme. The film was introduced by SF Silent Dilm President Robert Byrne, who was involved with its restoration at the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands. The film's restoration was culled from four different film sources. The film was a fantastic historical romantic comedy! And a very, very funny one at that! This was the film's North American premiere and the audience was very enthusiastic to see this long lost silent classic! The film was one of my highlights of the festival! The film was originally distributed by Paramount Pictures on October 27, 1923. The musical accompaniment was provided once again by Donald Sosin on the grand piano. Accompanying him were guitarists Jim Washburn and Greg Smith.

Continuing Paramount's centennial celebration, the next film screened was THE CANADIAN. Directed by William Beaudine, the film's about a poor London woman named Nora (Mona Palma) who travels to the wheat fields of Canada to live on her brother's farm after the death of her aunt. Because of her prim and proper manners, she clashes with her brother's wife (Dale Fuller). Desperate to remove herself from her unpleasant living situation, she convinces rancher Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan) in marrying her and moving in his rustic and small home. The film is a comedy, but unlike THE SPANISH DANCER and MANTRAP, which are laugh-out-loud comedies, the humor is much more subtle and more controlled. The simplicity of Fuller tilting her head in disapproval and rolling her eyes caused the audience to laugh loudly. While the middle dragged on a bit too long and had a couple of plot holes, the film was still entertains and another great silent film discovery for yours truly. The film was again released by Paramount on November 27, 1926. The fantastic Stephen Horne was on the grand piano, as well on flute and accordion.

The forth program of the day was the extraordinary silent documentary SOUTH. Directed by Frank Hurley, the film chronicled explorer Ernest Shackleton's 1913-1917 expedition to cross Antarctica from coast to coast. This astonishing and powerful documentary demonstrated the will and courage of these brave men as they faced Antarctica's fierce terrain and unforgiving cold! The film was restored by the BFI, correcting its original film tints and tones. Now the festival screened a digital copy of the film, which wasn't really that great of a copy. However, I would prefer this than not ever seeing it ever! British actor Paul McGann narrated the film, reading Shackleton's original letters while Stephen Horne provided the musical score.

The fifth film of the night was the centerpiece presentation of the festival. Hailed as one of the greatest silent films ever made, PANDORA'S BOX still has the ability to capture the audience's attention, 83 years after the film's original release! Directed by G.W. Pabst and starring the mesmerizing Louise Brooks, the film is the stuff of legends! Now I usually talk about the film's synopsis, but in this case, it would be unnecessary. Why do you ask? Because this is a film that YOU NEED TO SEE! And you should see it now! This is one of the finest films ever made people! Ask any film fanatic, silent film buff, or filmmaker (indie or Hollywood), and they will tell you the exact same thing! Brooks just radiates sexuality; it literally pours off of the screen! Not to many women can claim this, but Brooks truly is in a class all by herself!

The film was introduced by David Ferguson, Angela Holm, and Vincent Pirozzi, who all were involved with the film's restoration. Providing with the financial backing for this project was none other than HUGH HEFNER, the founder of Playboy Enterprises! In case you didn't know, Hefner is a huge cinephile as well as a major Louise Brooks fan! A huge "Thank You!" to Mr. Hefner for funding this film's restoration!! The 35mm film print screened looked absolutely exquisite! The festival screened the film back in 2006, but this digital restoration version is the most complete version of it. The film was originally released in Germany by Süd-Film in February 1929. when it was released here in the states, it was severely edited. The Criterion Collection released the film on DVD back in November of 2006. Let's hope that they will release this version of the film soon! Another aspect that made this screening so memorable was the all new original score performed by the amazing Matti Bye Ensemble!

The sixth and final film of the day was the Russian avant-garde piece OVERCOAT (SHINEL). Directed by Andrei Kostrichkin and Leonid Trauberg, the film's about.....well...actually, I don't know what the hell the movie was about! So here's what I thought the film was about: A clerk wears a wore down overcoat. Clerk gets screwed over by his peers. Clerk grows old and works in same position. Clerk buys new overcoat. Clerk is happy. Clerk gets mugged and his overcoat is stolen. Clerk asks for help but doesn't receive any from his peers. Clerk dies in his bed missing his overcoat. The End. Much like Germany, Russian films do not have happy endings! The film was released in the old Soviet Union in 1926. Providing the music was the amazing avant-garde band Alloy Orchestra (who only performed to a half-filled theatre. And for some reason this was their only performance this year! Hopefully this situation is remedied at next year's festival).

And that's it for Saturday's edition of the festival! Just one more day left! If you still want to check it out, there are tickets still available to purchase. Please visit the SF Silent Film Festival's website at http://www.silentfilm.org/index.php

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Phil attends the 17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival: Day Two-July 13, 2012

Hello folks and welcome to Day Two of my trip the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the historic Castro Theatre! There were a lot more films to see today, as well as a very interesting and informational presentation on digital film restoration.

The AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: INTO THE DIGITAL FRONTIER was hosted by festival staff member Anita Monga and featured guest speakers Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Archives at Paramount Pictures and Grover Crisp, Senior Vice President of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures. Kalas talked about the restoration of WINGS (which opened the festival last night and is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD at Amazon.com) and all the little details that went into this project. Crisp discussed the restoration of DR. STRANGELOVE and presented a side by side compassion of the original film print and the newly restored digital copy. He also did the same thing for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Both Kalas and Crisp participated in a Q&A session with the audience.

The first film screened was LITTLE TOYS (XIAO WANYI), a rare long lost Chinese silent film. Directed by Sun Yu, it starred Ruan Lingyu as Sister Ye, who lives in a rural village where everyone makes traditional toys. However, a series of unfortunate incidents occur in succession: her husband dies of an unknown illness, her son is kidnapped and sold to a wealthy lady in Shanghai, and her village is destroyed during an attack, forcing them to relocate to the city to keep making their toys. Ten years later, another series of unfortunate events occur, leaving Sister Ye besides herself. Blending life, love, and political and social issues, it's no wonder that the Hong Kong Film Awards voted it as part of the 100 best Chinese films of all time. Actress Ruan Lingyu was an icon of the Chinese Cinema, and after seeing this film, it's easy to understand why! Sweet, tragic, kind, and heartbreaking are just some of the emotions Lingyu conveyed in the film. The film was originally released by Lianhua Film Company in 1933 and this print came courtesy from the China Film Archive.  Providing the musical score was Donald Sosin on the grand piano.

The second film of the day was Ernst Lubitsch's THE LOVES OF PHARAOH (DAS WEIB DES PHARAO), his last big film production before he left Germany for Hollywood.The film's about Pharao Amenes (Emil Jannings), who agrees to accept the Ethiopian King Samlak's daughter Makeda's (Lyda Salmonova) hand in order to secure peace between them. However Pharao Amenes fall in love with Makeda's slave girl Theonis (Dagny Servaes). However things become even more complicated when Theonis falls madly in love with a young Egyptian named Ramphis (Harry Liedtke). Lubitsch wanted to prove to Hollywood that he too could make a blockbuster epic with a cast of thousands shot on elaborate sets, complete with a dramatic script. Thought to have been lost, the film was restored in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) from a wide variety of film print resources. The film was originally produced by Ernst Lubitsch-Film and Europäische Film-Allianz and released here in the states by Parmount Pictures on February 21, 1922. This print source came from Alpha-Omega GmbH. Accompanying the film was the great Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1926)
Film number three for today was the comedy MANTRAP. Based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis and directed by Victor Fleming, the film stars the enchanting Clara Bow as Alverna, a manicurist who meets and marries a small town Canadian woodsman named Joe Easter (Ernest Torrence). However, the girl loves to flirt with the men, and she falls for a rich and famous New York divorce attorney named Ralph Prescott (Percy Marmont), who is visiting their small rural town on vacation. Bow was sexy and funny, which caused many men to fall in love with her. After watching her in this film, how could you not? I totally fell in love with her! Bow had great on screen chemistry with both of her male leads, which elevated that film and made it more accessible to audiences. The film was originally released by Paramount Pictures on July 24, 1926. The film print came from The Library of Congress. Musician Stephen Horne provided the musical accompaniment.

The final film of the night was part of the festival's Director's Picks series, where they invite a Hollywood filmmaker to pick their favorite silent film. Tonight's filmmaker was San Francisco treasure Philip Kaufman! His film pick for the festival was the amazing THE WONDERFUL LIE OF NINA PETROVNA, directed by Hans Schwarz and stars the absolutely stunning Brigitte Helm as Nina Petrown. In the film Nina  is currently dating the high ranking German officer Col. Beranoff (Warwick Ward), but in secret, she is madly in love with lowly officer Lt. Michael Rostof (Francis Lederer but billed here as Franz Lederer). The story was just gripping, Schwarz's directing was just fantastic! Using effective sweeps, camera pans, and close-ups to tell this romantic and tragic story of young love was both beautiful and heart wrenching! Helm was simply incredible in the film! She is famous to most silent film fans for her portrayal of Maria and The Machine Man in Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction masterpiece METROPOLIS. The film was originally released by legendary German studio UFA on May 30, 1930. The film sourse came courtesy from the F.W. Murnau Stiftung. Providing the musical accompaniment was the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra,

Another fun-filled day was had by all, especially for this silent film buff! There are still two more days of the SF Silent Film Festival, so if you would like to know more about the festival and its film schedule, visit their website at http://www.silentfilm.org/index.php

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Phil attends opening night of the 17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival-July 12, 2012

Okay, I have been waiting patiently for this event all year! Now, that time has come! It's the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, held at the majestic Castro Theater! My day started with me having a late lunch at my favorite place to eat in the Castro: Orphan Andy's, where I chowed down on some yummy french toast. While I was there I ran into my friend Marya E. Gates (writer for Yam Mag and her blog Cinematic Fanatic) and her friend from Kansas Trevor Jost. After lunch we headed over to the Castro Theatre to pick up our press passes. It was there that Marya introduced me to her good friend, author  Lara Gabrielle (check out her very cool blog Backlots). Also there was my very good friend and fellow movie blogger Jason Wiener (Jason Watches Movies). Around 6:15pm, the theatre let us in, and by 7pm, the show began!

The festivities began with silent film president Robert Bryne welcoming us and giving thanks to all the wonderful sponsors who help make the festival happen. Giving us a nice little surprise, the night began with a two minute clip of a long, lost Clara Bow film. RED HAIR (1928) was a two-color strip film that had our favorite flapper engaging with an "old bird," in this case it was a pelican. It was amazing to see the lovely Clara Bow in color!

Theatrical Movie Poster (1927)
Tonight was a very special night indeed. Not only was it the opening night of the festival, but it was on this exact day 100 years ago that Paramount Pictures released their very first film! And tonight's opening film was the very first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, which was also released by Paramount. The film WINGS (1927) starred Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen. Directed by William Wellman, the film tells the tale Jack Powell (Rogers) and David Armstrong (Arlen), two men who are in love with the same woman, and both become fighter pilots in World War I. However, unbeknownst to Jack, his best friend and neighbor Mary Preston (Bow) is madly in love with him, and hopes that he will see this.

Introducing this beautifully restored print was the director's son William Wellman Jr. and providing the musical accompaniment was the amazing Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, along with Foley sound effects performed by Ben Burtt the man responsible for creating the sound effects for the STAR WARS films. Burtt, along with Folely effects crew, did an astounding job of creating the sounds of airplanes, marching soldiers, etc, by using simple items like bicycle tires, wood studs, books, and other cool items! Overall, just an incredible performance by both parties!

And speaking of parties, there was a gala after party over at the McRoskey Mattress Company building down on Market Street! There were food and fine wines plus some very good micro beers for the guests to enjoy while listening to great music performed by The Frisky Frolics. At the party, I ran into my good friend Anne Marie, who just happens to be the film director for the ultra cool Denver Silent Film Festival, which will be from September 21st-23rd. As Jason and I were about to walk back to the Castro to get my car and head home, we were offered a ride by none other than the SF Silent Film Festival president himself Robert Byrne! I just want to say again "Thank You!" to Robert for giving us a ride and for being an all-around swell fella!

What a night I had! And there's still three more days of silent films to watch! So come on out to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, here at the Castro Theatre! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at www.silentfilm.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the midnight screening of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW at the Camera 3-July 7, 2012

Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Last night I participated in a midnight tradition that has been going on since 1975. Over at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose, I once again attended the midnight screening of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. And as always, my friends from Barely Legal Productions were there to bring the film to life! Joining me on my trip were my good friends Jennifer, her friend Kristin, Leslie, her younger sister Lori, and Leslie's daughter Ocean. However there two new ingredients to the mix: One) This was the special 4th of July presentation screening! And 2) It was my friend Jennifer's birthday!

The Camera 3's lobby was packed full of people, mostly young teenagers and college students, and some of them have never been to a midnight ROCKY screening before! Mmmmm.......I smell virgins! To my surprise, Leslie's sister Lori was also a virgin! OK I knew that tonight was going to be a lot fun!

After the theater was filled, the show began! As always, our host Nate McHavoc was our emcee (and Riff Raff) for this special 4th of July show. He had all the virgins come up and do the butt dance (there were A LOT of virgins), and then sent everyone under 18 years old back to their seats. Those who remained had to answer a series of extremely easy America related questions, with their mouths filled with marshmallows! Yup, nothing says America quite like a mouthful of marshmallows.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1975)
As I previously stated, tonight's theme was America, so some of the cast members wore patriotic costumes during the show. But the best costume was Nate's Bald Eagle costume that he wore during the grand finale of the film! It was hilarious! OK here's a little SPOILER. So for those who haven't seen the film yet (and shame on you if you haven't!), skip this part and go to the end. So in the final scene of the film were Riff Raff and Magenta confront Dr. Frank-N-Furter, there dressed in their alien garb. So naturally, the shadowcast does the same thing. But when Nate instead came out in the eagle costume, I almost died laughing! And what made it even funnier was that Nate just popped his head up and down to make it look like he was talking along with the movie! The whole audience was just laughing and cheering! The lovely Lizzy Bernard looked gorgeous in her Miss America gown, as well did the rest of the crew! Yes folks, fun was had by all!

After the screening, my friends and I kept the party going by heading over to Denny's off of Monterey Road and Alma.Yeah it looked pretty damn hot with yours truly strolling in the restaurant flocked by five women. But this was Jennifer's night, seeing it was her birthday. And I gotta say, tonight was the best present we could've gave her.

So another great midnight screening has come and gone. But don't fret, the Barely Legal crew will be back in San Jose next month. They put on shows all over Northern California, so no matter where you live, there will be a show near you. To learn more about future shows, and how you can become a cast member, visit their website at http://barelylegal.rhps.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Phil sees TO ROME WITH LOVE at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 7, 2012

The name Woody Allen brigs to mind, at least mine, some of the most beloved and admired films of the last 40 years: ANNIE HALL, BANANAS, SLEEPER, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, and RADIO DAYS are some of this reviewer's personal favorites from when I was younger. In the new millennium, after hitting some would say a "creative slump," he left New York for London, where he directed 2005's massive comeback hit MATCH POINT. Then he hit his peak again with last year's critically acclaimed film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Now Allen unveils his newest film TO ROME WITH LOVE.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Fabio Armiliato, Judy Davis, Antonio Albanese, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alison Pill and Woody Allen (making his return to acting since his 2006 film SCOOP), this romantic comedy follows a number of people in Italy whose stories are told in four vignettes and the romances, adventures, and predicaments they all get into.

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 seven films since 2005, one per year. With this film, I feel that Allen has made yet another great romantic comedy. What has made Allen hit his second wind? What has been his muse for the past seven 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 critically acclaimed films at an astounding rate. With last year's international hit MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Allen hit his creative peak. As one would imagine, it would be very difficult to follow up that film. But in my opinion, he crafted yet another stellar hit with this picture.

Rome is indescribably beautiful in the film, and Allen makes sure we see it all with 360 degree pans, high altitude camera angles, and adding to its beauty is the hilarious stories that Allan's characters find themselves in.

TO ROME WITH LOVE is an instant classic, filled with love and laughter set against one of the most majestic cities in the world! While not quite up to PARIS, Allen has crafted yet another romantic comedy winner! Defiantly take a date to this movie! 4 1/2 out of 5 stars!! Recommended!!


TO ROME WITH LOVE is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com/index.shtml

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Phil sees THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL at the Camera 7-July 7, 2012

Hello again my faithful readers! There is nothing better in life than sleeping in late on a Saturday morning.  But what's even better than that is seeing a movie over at the Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell! So after sleeping in late from my Midnites for Maniacs the previous night, I bolted for Camera 7 to see director John Madden's latest film THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.

The film's about a group of British seniors who become enticed with an advertisement that suggests that they should spend their last days living in an inexpensive and restored Marigold hotel in India: widowed housewife Evelyn (Judi Dench), former high court judge Graham (Tom Wilkinson), married couple Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Doug (Bill Nighy), retired housekeeper Muriel (Maggie Smith), wealthy husband hunter Madge (Celia Imrie), and aging player Norman (Ronald Pickup). However, once the guest arrive, they discover that the hotel is not as restored as they thought it was, but manager Sonny (Dev Patel) has high expectations for his hotel. Once settled in, they soon explore their new surroundings, and are forever transformed by their experiences of living in their new home. Soon, they all realize that all their lives were just beginning.

Madden came to world wide acclaim with films like SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, PROOF, and THE DEBT. With this film, he treats the issue senior citizens in their twilight years as real people; they have real feelings. Some are scared when they arrive to their new home, but being in India gives them the idea of living life to its fullest. He treats the issue with respect and poses the idea that life isn't over when you grow old.

The entire cast was fabulous in the film. But then again, with an ensemble cast like this, how could you go wrong? Now I could go into detail about these fine actors and actresses, but it would take way too long to tell you all just how fantastic they all are! So let me tell you this: Amazing actors, amazing actresses, amazing location, and amazing director makes this an amazing film!

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is a marvelous film that transcends age, race, upbringing, and background. It reminds us that growing old doesn't mean it's the end of your life, rather it's just the beginning. 4 out of 5 stars!


THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Phil attends the MIDNITES FOR MANIACS "BFF's" Triple Feature at the Castro Theatre-July 6, 2012

Greetings and salutations from San Francisco! I'm back up here at the historic Castro Theatre to attend the latest Midnites for Maniacs show! Hosted by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, tonight's theme was "BFF's" and he screened three of the greatest BFF films ever made, complete with vintage trailers! So let's get reacquainted with some old friends, shall we?

Theatrical Movie Poster (1995)
The first film of the night was the 90's classic CLUELESS. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling (writer/director of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH), the film stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a spoiled, rich 16-year-old Beverly Hills girl who's life revolves around shopping, hanging out with her best friends Dee (Stacey Dash) and Tai (Brittany Murphy), playing matchmaker with her teachers, and looking for the right boyfriend. Also appearing in the film are Paul Rudd as Cher's step brother Josh, Donald Faison (from the TV show Scrubs) as Dee's boyfriend Murrey, Breckin Meyer as skateboard slacker Travis, Elisa Donovan as Cher's classroom and fashion rival Amber, and the great Dan Hedaya as Cher's lawyer father Mel Horowitz.

It's incredible that Heckerling was able to make another film that defined that particular generation growing up in the mid-90's. Just as she did with FAST TIMES, she created a film that captured kids style, lingo, attitude, and popular music of from that time. The film also launched the career of Brittany Murphy, who unfortunately passed away on December 20, 2009 at the young age of 32. The film spawned books as well as a short-lived television series. This 17th anniversary film print came courtesy from Paramount Pictures. The film was originally released on July 19, 1995. Before the feature, Ficks screened some classic 90's trailers: BRING IT ON, CAN'T HARDLY WAIT, and ROMY AND MICHELLE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Theatrical Movie Poster (2004)
The second film shown was the awesome MEAN GIRLS. Written by Tina Fey and based on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, the film stars Lindsay Lohan as 16 year old Cady Heron, who's spent most of her life home schooled with her zoologist parents in Africa. When her family moves back to the states, she enters public high school for the first time and encounters The Plastics, the A-list girl clique lead by the evil Regina George (Rachel McAdams), along with her "army of skanks," Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), and Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert). Also appearing in the film are SNL alumnis Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, and Ana Gasteyer, as well as Lizzy Caplan (Julie from TV show New Girl), and Neil Flynn (Janitor from TV show Scrubs).

Hard to believe that almost a decade after CLUELESS, the next generation had a film to call their own. And just like the previous film, it contained the new fashion styles, hip new language, the new high school hierarchy and social structure, and a cool soundtrack! Both McAdams and Seyfried blew up from this film, and now have very successful acting careers. However for Lohan, this was the Alpha and Omega of her career. After the film's success, her problems began: drinking, reported drug abuse, DUI arrests, and gaining the reputation of being one of the most unreliable actresses in Hollywood. But I still hope she makes a comeback soon! She's really a talented actress and deserves a second chance! The 35mm print courtesy of Paramount as well as. It was originally released on April 30, 2004. Before the feature, Ficks showed some trailers from upcoming M4M events: ROLLER BOOGIE, CAR WASH, LABYRINTH and CAR WASH.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1994)
The third and final film of the night was one of my favorite films when it first came out back in 1994. HEAVENLY CREATURES was directed by Peter Jackson and starred then newcomers Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. Based on the real life and notorious Parker-Hulme murder, the film takes place in the 1950's and is about two girls, Juliet (Winslet) and Pauline (Lynskey) who become the best of friends as well as lovers. This causes their parents to have great concern, especially Pauline's mom. In order to stay together, the girls come up with a plan that will remove her mom from the equation once and for all.

This was Jackson's masterpiece and was instantly hailed with critical acclaim from critics and movie goers. The film's script was written by Jackson's wife Fran Walsh, who originally pitched the idea of making the film to him. The film would win an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Now two things pop inside my head while I am writing this review. One: Jackson made this film right after he made DEAD ALIVE, and it was his first "serious" film. His directing style from that film carried over to HEAVENLY CREATURES, with zoom ins and outs, quick cuts, off centered camera angles and interesting creatures inhabiting the girls' make believe world. Second: the film came out the same year as CLUELESS. It is very interesting to compare the two because one was a typical big budgeted Hollywood movie and the other was a small independent film made in New Zealand. Also at the time of it's release, it was the best avant garde queer film ever made since Todd Haynes' 1991 award winning film POISON. Very experimental, very imaginative, and just an amazing film. The 35mm Widescreen print courtesy of Swank. The film was originally released in New Zealand on November 16, 1994. It was picked up by Mirmax Films and released here in the states on January 8, 1995. The trailers screened before the film are overlooked classics: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS and MULHOLLAND DR

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

And that is it for this edition of Midnites for Maniacs! The next M4M show will actually be a video double-bill of RAD (1986) and YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) at the Cinecave, the new underground micro-cinema in Lost Weekend Video on July 20th at 7:30pm. Then on August 3rd, the show returns to the Castro Theatre in time to celebrate its 90th anniversary with "DISCO 4-EVA" triple feature: ROLLER BOOGIE (1979), XANADU (1980), and the blaxploitation classic CAR WASH (1976)! So make sure you mark these on your calender and come out here to the city for some movie magic and fun! To learn more about Midnites for Maniacs, visit their website at www.midnitesformaniacs.com. To view upcoming shows at the Castro Theatre, visit their website at www.castrotheatre.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Phil sees THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in 3D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 4, 2012

And last, but not least, the third and final film I saw over the Fourth of July at the Camera 7 was the relaunch of one of Marvel Comic's most treasured characters. Marvel Studio's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has it all, but unfortunately, I've seen it all already.

OK stop me if you've heard this story before: high school student and shy nerd Peter Parker gets bitten by a experimental lab spider and soon develops superpowers. He dons a costume and calls himself Spider-Man. To test his mettle, he must stop an evil adversary and save the woman he loves. Sounds familiar to you, doesn't it?

Honestly. there is nothing really new about this film. In fact, it's almost a rehash of Sam Raimi's film from 2002. There really wasn't anything new about this reboot, nor was there anything that stood out, beside being in 3D. There were a number of items in this film that fell short in comparison to Raimi's film.

1) Director Marc Webb (how ironic is that?) does a decent job directing the film, but he cannot match Raimi's directing flare. Also his scenes with Spider-Man swinging through New York doesn't have the same comic book pizazz as the first film.

2) Andrew Garfield portrays Peter Parker/Spider-Man, taking over for Tobey Maguire. While he's more of a geeky-looking teenager than Maguire, Garfield tries a little too hard and his performance falls flat. He's a little too cool to be a geek (he rides a skateboard and likes to wear a hoodie, thus making him look mysterious and interesting). His character felt somewhat underdeveloped, but no where near as Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy. While Stone is a great actress, and she's totally cute and sexy, the filmmakers could've built her up more to that of Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson. The filmmakers didn't utilize Stone's talents and to me, Gwen was just there and had no personality. Both Peter and Gwen's love for one another fails to gets off the ground and doesn't feel real like Maguire's and Dunst's.

3) And speaking of undeveloped characters with no personality, Sally Field's performance of Aunt May was abysmal. Field is one of the finest actresses in Hollywood, and the filmmakers make her out to look disheveled, unkempt, and lacks any personality. It's a far cry from the Aunt May from the previous films, which was performed by actress Rosemary Harris. This was such a waste of time for Fields in my opinion.

4) Doctor Connor AKA The Lizard is Spider-Man's foe in this reboot. Actor Rhys Ifans does a decent job, but he lacks the psychotic behavior of The Green Goblin and the vulnerability of Doctor Octopus. Good performance, but just not great.

5) The only redeeming character in the film was Uncle Ben, portrayed by the great Martin Sheen. His performance as the family patriarch was spot on perfection. Wise, caring, firm, father figure, this Uncle Ben was great! However, I have one major complaint about Uncle Ben: nowhere in the film does he say his most famous quote, "With great power, comes great responsibility." How can you have a SPIDER-MAN movie and not have Uncle Ben say this? It's blasphemy!!

6) And speaking of blasphemy, there is NO J. Jonah Jameson in this film! What the hell is this crap?!? We see a copy of the Daily Bugle and that's it! So instead, we get Denis Leary as Gwen's father and Police Captain George Stacy, who sees Spider-Man as a public menace and wants him captured. Wait, I'm sorry but isn't that Jameson's schtick? Why yes it is! Can you say lame? Sure you can!

7) And speaking of lame, the 3D effects weren't all that impressive. At time the film was too dark and you really couldn't tell if it was in 3D. The filmmakers wanted to make the film darker. Not just the look of it, but the story as well. As the result, the story felt uneven, but like I said earlier, it's mostly a rehash from the first film.

Overall, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN brings nothing new to the table and it bored the hell outta me! While it's better than SPIDER-MAN 3, that's still not saying much. Sony Pictures wants to recapture the magic from the Sam Raimi films, but after seeing this film, it looks doubtful. So just stick with the first two films. One out of five stars!


THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is currently playing in both 2D and 3D in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!