Friday, March 7, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 4-March 7, 2014

Greetings and Salutations folks! Welcome to Day Four of my trip to Cinequest 24! Today is the day that the festival kicks off into high gear. And today I saw SIX films today!! So let us begin the reviews, shall we?

The first film I saw was ABOVE DARK WATERS (TUMMAN VEDEN PÄÄLLÄ) over at the Camera 12. Set in 1970s, the film centers around seven-year-old Pete, who's life in the course of a year will be dramatically and drastically changed. From happy beginnings with celebrating Christmas and having birthday parties to his step-fathers drinking and domestic violence, the film captures what the world looks like through the years of a child, and doesn't hold back any punches.

This was a powerful and amazing film. Coming once again from Finland, the beauty of the country is juxtaposed against the violence that Pete is witnessing. The love and tragedy is all there set in the tranquility of ice and snow. Based off the novel of the same name, director Peter Franzen does a great job of bringing the book to life! This is a film that I really enjoyed! 4 out of 5 stars!! The film will be screened again on Tuesday, March 11th at 9:30pm at the San Jose Rep and again on Thursday, March 13th at 9:30pm at the California Theatre.

Film number two was the Hungarian export HEAVENLY SHIFT. In this bizarre dark comedy, a young Croat transplant named Milan has a chance encounter with the night shift ambulance drivers on night in Budapest. Seeking greener pastures, Milan becomes the newest member, thus making this team a Trifecta when it comes to saving lives, losing lives, and everything else in between.

What I loved about this film is just how dark the comedy is! It's so politically incorrect, so over the top, so bloody outrageous, I was laughing my ass off from the start of the film to the very last frame! But what made the film that much more fun to watch was listening to the audience's reaction! I mean, when you have a scenes that involve a dead hooker impaled on a samurai sword, or a topless women's hair salon that gives me blowjobs, or when a body is about to die and all the do is just punch on the chest to save it, you know you are going to offend a lot of people. And believe it or not, there were quit ea few people at the screening that were offended. But that just goes to show you the the filmmakers got the job done right! My favorite film thus far at the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! The film will be playing again on Wednesday, Mar 12th at 9:30pm at the California Theatre and on Friday, March 14th at 9:15pm at the San Jose Rep Theatre.

The third film I saw today was also at the Camera 12, but before that there was a short. PRISONS TO PARADISE is about the organization Hour Children offers women the possibility to transform their lives and make the transition from prison life to family life.

The love drama INERCIA takes place in a Mexico City hospital, where Lucia visits her friend there. But then, at the same hospital, she runs into her ex-boyfriend Felipe, who is in serious ill health. Even though they haven't seen each other in over 12 years, they pick up where they left off. Lucia takes some time off from work to spend some time with him, but will the old flame become rekindled before it's too late?

This film is the equivalent to a love poem of story. It's just a wonderful and beautiful movie. Both lead actors have great on-screen chemistry and first time director Isabel Muñoz Cota Callejas captures all the romance. The one complaint that I have is that the film moves too slow, but that's just me. But what do I know, I'm just a film critic. Tee-hee! Still it's worth seeing. 3 out of 5 stars! The film will be screened again on Thursday, March 13th at 9:3pm and on Sat, March 15 4:15pm. Both screenings will be at the Camera 12. 

I made my way to the California Theatre movie palace for the fourth film of the day for me. Based on the Patricia McCormick’s National Book Award nominee of the same name, SOLD is about a 12-year-old girl named Lakshmi who lives in a Nepal village with her family. After a devastating monsoon that completely wiped out her family's rice paddy crops, her father sells her to a lady in the city to work as a domestic servant. However, to Lakshmi shock, she is working in a brothel and must take on clients to help pay off the debt that she owes to them. In the end she must find a way out of her nightmare before she succumbs to this life.

The other day I had the honor of seeing the documentary LIFE IS LOVE about human trafficking. Here, we have the bookend to that. This film's ability to capture the ugliness of being sold to a brothel, the unsettling images of this poor girl being mistreated and raped, the tortures that Lakshmi had to live with will make you absolutely sick to your stomach! Niyar (who played the lead role) was outstanding! Hard to believe that this was her first film role! Also appearing in the film were Hollywood actors Gillian Anderson and David Arquette in small but pivital roles. Overall this was one of the most heart wrenching film I've seen so far at the festival. If this film doesn't make you cry, then you have no soul! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be playing again on Sunday, March 9th at 6:45pm at the Camera 12. Also make sure to visit the film's official website to help create global awareness about this topic. Visit and make a donation today!

For film number five I headed back over to the Camera 12, but prior to the screening there was a short film to watch.  IN CONFIDENCE is about a beautiful woman who confesses to her friend (breaking the fourth wall to make us the audience her friend) about a life changing decision she made that she both accepts and regrets as part of her past.

Usually most short films I review only take a couple of sentences or two, but this one was different. It was cleverly written, very well acted, and directed and edited with precise precision. Shot entirely in one day and in one location, actress Beege Barkette was riveting in her role as the women, who through the length of the short goes from emotional state to the other, and she nails each emotion perfectly. Overall this was one of the most impressive shorts I've seen so far here. Later on Beege along with producer Mary-Lyn Chambers and the writer participated in an informative Q&A session.

The main feature TEMPO GIRL is about a young Berlin hipster girl/wannabe novelist named Dominique, who's publisher told her that her work "sucks shit." Mostly due to the fact that she hasn't really done anything with her life and basically tells her to go out and live life and find your story. So she and her Turkish boyfriend set off on a roadtrip that leads them to renting a gas station in a small Swiss Valley where she must push herself into crossing over her "borders" again and again until she finds herself, her limits, and her story.

While it is a romantic dark comedy, leave it up to the Germans to find a way to make something like this look and feel totally fucked up! First there's a shit load of cursing, there's a freaking abortion scene shot in grainy black and white!! And we see the whole damn thing!! And then there's a dog that gets shot in the fucking head!! Add some women slapping, gun shots, and hot sex and there's the movie for ya! Yet despite all this crazy shit, I found myself just glued to the screen. So I have to say that I really enjoyed it, but I had to take a shower after watching it! 4 out of 5 stars!! Shower recommended after viewing!! Both the film and short will be screened again on Monday, March 10th at 9:15pm at the California Theatre and again on Thursday, March 13th at 3:00pm at the Camera 12.

The sixth and final film of the day was the excellent midnight screening of BLOOD PUNCH. Meet Milton (Milo Cawthorne). When we first meet him, he wakes up hung over, runs to the bathroom and pukes his head off and finds a video screen with a recording of him detailing on what's been going on. And boy there's a lot of crazy shit going on in this here movie! Milton is a genius college dropout who is recruited by the lovely, chain smoking, bad ass bitch Skyler (Olivia Tennet) and her gun-loving, psychotic ex-boyfriend cop Russell (Ari Boyland) to help make them a shitload of crystal meth over at an old hunter's cabin out in the woods. However, things go slightly awry, and soon, blood has been spilled, which invokes an ancient Indian curse which causes these three to repeat the same day over and over again! Soon guns are blazin', blood is a spillin', and love takes flight in this outrageous midnight cult classic!

What I loved about this film is that they take it to the next level and make no apologies for going there. It's a dark comedy that has an awesome love triangle and gory violence. Now what more do you want in a movie people? How's the acting? Incredible! How's the directing? Fantastic! How's the story? Excellent? How's the bloodshed? Outrageously gory! How's the film overall? You'll have a bloody good time when watching this movie! So if you like GROUNDHOG DAY and EVIL DEAD 2, then you're gonna love BLOOD PUNCH!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be screening again at the San Jose Rep Theatre on Sunday, March 9th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, March 15th 11:45pm.

And that was Day Four of my cinematic trip to Cinequest. So far I'm at 16 films in 4 days! Getting closer to my 60 films for this year goal!! Remember the festival will be running till March 16th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in Downtown 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! 

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