Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 10-March 13, 2014

We're getting down to the final days here folks so welcome back to Day Ten of my trip to the 24th Annual Cinequest Film Festival! Another five film reviews await for you to read.

Film number one of the day was the Norwegian export IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE. The film focuses on a woman named Jenny, who was in prison for the past ten years for shooting a man and her boyfriend in a botched break-in. Now out of prison, Jenny is looking to start over again and to spend time with her daughter. But when the banks won't give her the loan she need to fix-up her home so that her daughter can live there, she goes back to her old habits and starts selling drugs again for her "old friends." But soon things get out of hand and Jenny needs to settle her debts the old fashioned way.

Lead Silje Salomonsen is not only a talented actress but she is also quite stunning. Her eyes are just so captivating. When she's next to her "daughter" the resemblance is really uncanny! We the audience sympathize for Jenny and we want her to get even with her enemies! Look out Jennifer Lawrence because there's a new bad ass, tough as nails, beautiful actress on the scene! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended!

Movie number two was the Vietnamese comedy FUNNY MONEY. Meet Lucky Loc. He runs a company making fake paper money and high-end ceremonial gifts to be burned as offerings to the dead. But when his luck takes a nosedive overnight, Lucky is convinced it has to do with him accidentally paying one of his "funny money" bills  to an suspecting salesgirl named Quyen. Soon, he tries to woo her heart while also being conned by a gang of Chinese criminals who want him to make some counterfeit bills out of his "funny money."

Here's another classic example of the Chinese taking something simple, like a romantic comedy, and just cutting its head off, then gluing it back on upside down. The film doesn't follow the norm, nor does it want to. Instead, it relies on its sheer randomness to communicate laughter and romance without taking itself too seriously. The characters are off-the-wall but sweet and funny. Sure the script lost me here and there a couple of times, but overall, it was a funny movie to watch! 3 out of 5 stars!

The third film I saw today was the comedy NOTHING IN LOS ANGELES. Now Imagine if Woody Allen grew up in Los Angeles instead on New York and made his films in sunny SoCal. That's how the film feels when watching it. Aspiring writer Quinn (writer/director Alexander Tovar) is having trouble writing his future award winning script (a screenplay about a screenwriter named Alexander who is trying to write a screenplay, which if you're a cinephile you'll catch this as a reference to Federico Fellini's 1963 classic 8 1/2). He's in love with his best friend's wife even though the husband is having a fling with another man. But Quinn is already dating someone, granted he's 25 and she's 50. One suspects he's only dating her for the experience of someday writing about it. Oh, what's am inspiring LA writer to do!

The film features a lot of cool landmarks (which I've been to like Griffith Observatory), but it's the script that kept me into the film. Smart, witty, and little sad, Tovar recreates that longing for love feeling while exploring the idea of self discovering. Boasting an strong and funny ensemble cast, great directing and that little nod to Woody Allen, Tovar shows us that he's the next big thing and proves it with this movie! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!!

The fourth film I saw was screening over at the California Theatre. MYSTERY ROAD is a excellent murder mystery thriller that takes place in a small town in the outback. Star Aaron Pedersen portrays Jay Swan, an Aboriginal cowboy detective who returns home to solve the murder of a teenage Indigenous girl whose body was found under the highway trucking route that leads out of town. As Swan battles with uncovering drug dealing, corruption, and civic sanctioned child prostitution, he starts to shed light on the town's inherent racism and misogyny. The gun fight at the end is his answer to all the naysayers.

The film is a loving tribute to the old west films from Hollywood, but just slightly transformed to represent the times that we are currently living in. Bold in its depiction of racism and misogyny, the film doesn't hold anything back a lets the viewer engage in this ugly world. Pedersen is brilliant in the role of Swan and really holds his ground against his Hollywood costars such as Hugo Weaving. One of the best major indie films I've seen in a long time! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!

The fifth and final film took place over at the San Jose Rep. But first there was a Cinequest PTP short entitled CHECKMATE. The short is about a young blind boy who challenges his greedy landlord to a game of chess o get his father's farm back. A very smart and rewarding short!

The main feature of the night was the extremely experimental and advent garde HAPPENINGS ON THE EIGHTH DAY. Ok, let me see if I can explain this one to you all. First there's this thing......wait I'm getting ahead of myself. First there's....ok it's a big long joke at the process of moviemaking! But the flipside is that it's very non-linear, incoherent, abrasive in its brashness towards any kind of narrative, and it mostly takes place here in San Jose.

Now I like extremely experimental and advent garde films. THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA is a perfect example of this, as well as the films from local icon and legendary Bay Are filmmaker Bruce Conner. While the film looks like it was edited together by using a series of outtakes and deleted scenes, I really dug the film. Now a lot of people are going to say that you need to be on drugs to watch this movie, or while watching the movie it will make you feel like your on drugs. But nevertheless, I fund it to be very engaging, provocative and down and dirty! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewings either on or off drugs!!

Another fun-filled day at Cinequest 24, which now brings my total to 47 films!  Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 16th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. Phil - Your friend, Alison game me your name. I am a writer / producer looking for ways to collaborate on projects.

    Our screen plays have been garnering accolades from prestigious sources.

    Queen's Intl Film Festival Winner
    Austin Film Festival Winner
    PAGE Intl. Finalist
    Breckenridge Film Festival Winner
    Tribeca Finalist
    Leave'Em Hooked Screenwriting Competition Finalist
    Telluride Independent Film Festival Winner
    Trigger Street On-Line Review Top 10 of 2800+ entries
    Melbourne Film Festival Winner
    Cannes Finalist

    Please contact me so we can discuss in detail.


    William Grossman
    Screen Writer/Executive Producer