Sunday, March 18, 2018

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 8 - March 6, 2018

Welcome everybody to Day Eight of my trip to Cinequest 28! I saw another three films today. As I stated in a previous entry, I mentioned that I started a new job, which I am very happy to report that it's been going extremely well! Unfortunately, it's taking up a lot of my time, due to training and learning my route, which has be starting at 5am Monday thru Friday. As a result, I won't be seeing a lot of movies as I had originally planned on. So for today, I only attended on screening, so let me talk about that!

After work, I headed on over to the Cinequest Soiree, which was held at the awesome Scott's Seafood up on the 6th floor. There, I had plenty to drink and eat, but mostly drank like a fish! Afterwards, my old friend and fellow blogger Jason and I headed over to the 3 Below Theaters for our 6pm screening!

The screening I attended was the SHORTS FILM PROGRAM 6: DOCUNATION, which featured some extraordinary documentaries! I was very excited to watch this program, and had the pleasure of watching the following shorts:

6th Graders School Roy Moore's Attorney: Director Sam Frazier Jr. filmed his two 6th grade nephews correcting the grammar of the infamous letter from Roy Moore’s attorney, which was shot on Thanksgiving Day 2017. Yes, these kids rip the letter to shreds and is damn funny!

Describe What You Heard: A special effects expert gives advise on how to make gunshot sounds with your mouth. Informative, yet heartbreaking considering what just happened in Florida.

The Duel: A short about when a 16 year-old girl who saves her brother from their father's sudden and deadly mental breakdown that resulted with the father challenging his son to a knife fight. In the end, it was their mother who helped save them. Powerful and disturbing short film.

Free Fall: Adults and kids alike, there's one thing we all love the most: bouncy castles!

The Happiness Machine: Meet Carl, who gives up being an academic librarian to become a sharecropper on 22 acres in rural Iowa, which he now calls The Promised Land. Here, he shares his ideas, his philosophies, and what it means to pass on the gift of place. I wish Carl was my grandfather! My favorite short of the program!

The Lectora: The short takes a look at the long-standing tradition of having a reader in the factory in one of the most famous cigar factories in Cuba.

Mister Sunshine: An old black man, who used to be a millionare, jettisons his old life to take on the life of a shoeshine man in Auckland, New Zealand, teaching us that life's about the shine on your face and not on just your shoes. Really moving short film!

Nobody Dies in Longyearbyen: Yes, nobody dies there because the permafrost will push the body back out of the ground. Think NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets THE THING, but it's a documentary.

Phototaxis: An animated short about the legendary demon Mothman in West Virginia and set to Narcotics Anonymouss literature, the primary treatment program in West Virginia’s addiction epidemic. Are the two somehow related? Maybe...

Twilight Dancers: Due to a colonial history, Indigenous youth from a small remote reservation use square dancing to heal the trauma from the recent suicide epidemic.

Unspoken: A short focusing on spoken word poet Farah Chamma and how she expresses and censors herself with her poetry while keeping her work raw, authentic and real.

The Velvet Underground Played at My High School: An animated short film when The Velvet Underground perform at a New Jersey high school in 1967, narrated by one of the students who was there. I wonder if Lou Reed was wearing shiny boots of leather that night.

And folks, there you have Day Seven of Cinequest 28! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 7 - March 5, 2018

Hello everybody and welcome to Day Seven of my trip to Cinequest 28! So my life is full of surprises, and the biggest surprises I received was I started my BRAND NEW JOB TODAY!! Yes, I am very excited about it! However, because I started today, it meant that I wouldn't be able to reach my goal of 60 films this year. So I'm just going to try for a personal best for myself. And after my first day of work, I headed back to the festival and saw two films today, reason being is that I have to get up early for work. now. So let's get this show on the road, shall we?

The first film of the night was the Spanish film CYGNUS over at the California Theatre. The movie follows astronomer Fabian, who receives a signal from an unknown object near the Cygnus constellation 37,000 light years from Earth. But he's not the only one that wants to know what the signal came from, as he soon discovers that the signal wasn't the only thing that came down to Earth.

Mexican cinema focuses on only four genres: musicals, comedies, romance and action/adventures. Filmmaker Hugo Felix Mercado, producer Hugo Espinosa Juarez, and Carlos Alvahuante Contreras saw that there was a hole in Mexican cinema, that being science fiction films, and decided to rectify that problem. This movie is a pure sci-fi film, featuring real science, fiction, space monsters, and intrigue. All three were there at the festival to take part in a Q&A session. This was a big surprise for me at this year's festival and a rewarding one at that!! 4 1/2 out of 5 stars!!

I stayed at the California Theatre to see THE LAST MOVIE STAR, my second film of the day. Legendary actor Burt Reynolds stars as Vic Edwards, a washed-up, has-been actor whose glory days a long behind him. When I he accepts to attend the Dallas Film Festival, he is paired with the organizer's eccentric sister Lil (Ariel Winter), who takes him on a trip down Memory Lane, only to discover what it means about growing older and coming to terms with your past.

I absolutely loved this movie!! Mainly because I related so much with it. Even though I'm only 45 years old, I find myself longing to return to the past to right my mistakes, while coming to terms on growing older, feeling like my best days are already behind me. Like his character Vic, Reynolds is in the same situation as well. His performance was just incredibly poignant, remarkable and all-too real. And the film was written and directed by Adam Rifkin!! I have been a fan of his for years!! He started off making low-budget B-movies and horror flicks like THE INVISIBLE MANIAC and PSYCHO COP RETURNS before helming the cult classic DETROIT ROCK CITY and his segment "Wadzilla" in the horror anthology CHILLERAMA. This, for me, marks his return to the mainstream and a turn in his career. If you didn't get the chance to see this at the festival, don't worry! The movie will be released by A24 to theaters on March 30th! My favorite spotlight film of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

And folks, there you have Day Seven of Cinequest 24! So far it's been a fun-filled festival!! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 6 - March 4, 2018

Howdy folks and welcome back to my trip to the 28th Annual Cinequest Film Festival! Now originally I was planning to see five movies, but sometimes life gets in the way. However, I am not complaining at all. Life has been very good to me! But I did get to see three movies today! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the reviews!

The first film I saw was being shown over at the 3 Below Theaters. The amazing drama VENUS tells the story of Sid (Debargo Sanyal), a transgender woman who finds out she has a 14 year old son named Ralph (Jamie Mayers). Soon, Sid's life is giving him more than he can handle, with dealing with a closeted boyfriend, establishing a relationship with her parents, and learning how to be a parent to a son she never knew she had.

This was such a rewarding film to see! I've always been a huge fan and supporter of queer cinema (I was an intern at Wolfe Video while a film student) and what I discovered a long time ago was that it doesn't matter if your gay or straight, we all have the same emotions. We get angry, sad, happy, silly, horny, lonely, and depressed. We are all human!! So here I am watching Sid find love, acceptance from her parents, learning parenting skills and dealing with her sexuality while discovering herself. This is nothing new to the human race, as we all had to deal with the same issues. Congratulations to director Eisha Marjara for making such a warm, funny, sincere and important movie and lead actor
Debargo Sanyal for a commanding performance! Good news for all of you out there: the movie will be released by Wolfe Video later this year!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

My second film of the day was BIKINI MOON, which I saw back at the 3 Below Theaters. The film's about a documentary film couple Trevor (Will Janowitz) and Kate (Sarah Goldberg) who take in a charismatic but unstable homeless vet named Bikini Moon (Condola Rashad) as the subject for their film. Eventually, Bikini's presence begins to shake everybody's lives to their core and reveals that all is not right in this picture perfect world.

Along with co-writer W.P. Rosenthal, writer/director Milcho Manchevski is one of the most visually stunning directors ever! His eye captures every beautiful, funny, unnerving, and grotesque moment in the film superbly!! And it goes without saying that actress Condola Rashad turns in her best performance ever!! If this film gains more speed and recognition, maybe she will receive an Independent Spirit Award nomination!! 5 out of 5 stars!!
The third and final movie of the day was preseted by the animated short film VALLEY OF WHITE BIRDS. In the pursuit of the white bird, Sheng has to face his own inner guilt, fear, haze, after a tortuous journey of searching, born again finally. A beautifully animated short about letting go of our guilt and past in order to become who we were meant to be.

Next was the main feature ARUN,  a Thailand drama about three childhood friends: boys Arun and Kasem and girl Isara, who grow up into young adults with dreams and ambitions. However, when Isara's mom sends her off to Bangkok in the middle of the night, the boys head there to find her, but Isara is in more trouble than Arun and Kasem could ever imagine.

The film deals with the harsh reality of children being sold as sex workers. It's an ugly truth that people would like to either ignore or pretend it doesn't exist. Writer/producer/director Sarah Hanks is very familiar with this topic, having worked as a teacher in Thailand. Her movie is a narrative film but looks and feels like a documentary; it's both dramatic and unflinching look at a topic that, unfortunately, will not go away. Hanks along with student/actor and his translator took part in a Q&A session with the audience. A powerful film that hopefully will be seen by more people!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

And that was Day Six of my cinematic trip to Cinequest!! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!  

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 5 - March 3, 2018

Welcome everybody to Day Five of my trip to Cinequest 28! Today I ended up seeing six films today. Yup, I'm going to be tired when all this is over. OK folks, let's talk all about the films I did see today!

I started off over at the Hammer Theatre for the shorts program entitled SHORTS FILM PROGRAM 7: SOMETHING FUNNY and holy crap was it funny!! Here is the list of shorts that was screened:

Bigfoot's Love Slave: The short that played on Opening Night. Funny then and still funny now!!

Fuck Everything: A funny music video starring The Hairy Soul Man singing life's main mantra!!

Graham's Mate: Looking for a car part with your mate has never been this funny!!

Mixtape Mauraders: Two stoners talk about the days when you made a mixtape for the girl you love like one of them did....who then says that she's dating some drummer in some stupid band!  

Multiverse Dating for Beginners: With just a flip of her scarf, a young woman tries to create the perfect way of being asked out on a date!

Must Kill Karl: A bunch of friends try to come up with killing their annoying friend Karl. Yeah, he's that annoying and stupid!

Positive: A man receives a call from his doctor telling him he has herpes. He meets a girl who also has herpes. They have sex. Man receives a call from his doctor saying that there was a mix-up and he actually doesn't have herpes. He does now!

Space Butthole: A animated sci-fi short about a group of scientists trying to figure out how to plug up a space butthole before it shits all over the galaxy!

The Spectacular Summer of Weredog and Amy: Amy has sexual relations with he dog when he becomes a human male once a month! And she looks hot when she's wearing a strap-on! 

We Know Where You Live: What would you do when the house of your dreams is rented out to another couple? Yes, that's exactly what you would do!

We Summoned a Demon: Oppsie!! We summoned a demon!

For my second film of the day I jammed on over to the 3 Below Theater to see the adult drama ENTHUSIASTIC SINNERS. The film's about a police officer who comes to the home of a widower about receiving reports of gunshots there. From there, the two embark on a lust filled 24 hour adventure of sex and fun, but ending up falling in love with each other. However, as the day ends, so does their fantasy world and both must face their real world personas.

What I really loved about the film that it was a film about adults having sex, enjoying sex and treating it as a human emotion, rather than something that is used for comedic purposes or treated with such disrespect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sex, but for some reason, we are so hung up on it. Writer/director Mark Lewis treats sex with honesty and care, showing us that it's an emotion, much like love. His movie is on par with the European films from the 1960's, the Dogma 95 movement and LAST TANGO IN PARIS, in terms of storytelling, visuals and the idea of shutting out the world but for only a short time. Actress Maggie Alexander bares not only her body, but her soul and emotions as she bring vulnerability, humor and longing to her character Shelby. Her performance is so raw and captivating that she commands the audiences' attention. Same can be said of her male co-star Christopher Heard's performance as Officer Bruce Durant. 5 out of 5 stars!!

Film number three for me today was the KAISER PERMANENTE THRIVE AWARD WINNER: PICK OF THE LITTER at the California Theatre. The documentary follows a litter of puppies from the moment they're born and begin their quest to become Guide Dogs for the Blind, the ultimate canine career. Cameras follow these pups through a two-year odyssey as they train to become dogs whose ultimate responsibility is to protect their blind partners from harm. Along the way, the dogs meet a community of dedicated individuals who train them to do amazing, life-changing things in the service of their human. The stakes are high and not every dog can make the cut. Only the best of the best.

I can see why the documentary received the Kaiser Permanente Thrive Award! I enjoyed this film so much! I found this so interesting and fascinating! I learn so much about the process of training on becoming a Guide Dog, but how it also affects the humans that travel along with these dogs. Of course, the dog that I was rooting for was named.....what for it......Phil!! Yup, there was a dog with my name! And I was so happy to see Phil go on to have so much success!! Way to go Phil!! 5 out of 5 stars!!
My fourth movie for the day was being shown at the Hammer Theatre Center. A retelling of the Louisa May Alcott classic, LITTLE WOMAN follows the lives of four sisters - Meg (Melanie Stone), Jo (Sarah Davenport), Beth (Allie Jennings), and Amy March (Elise Jones as child and Taylor Murphy as adult)- detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions and relationships, as well as tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond as sisters.

Directed by Clare Niederpruem, I found the film very lighthearted and fun to watch while it addresses modern day scenarios and themes. Niederpruem did a great job of directing. Lead actress Sarah Davenport was fantastic as Jo, but my hats goes off to Allie Jennings for performance as the sweet but ill Beth. I loved seeing Lea Thompson as the girls' mom Marmee. After the screening, the cast and crew participated in a fin Q&A session. Overall, this was a great retelling of a literary classic! 4 out of 5 stars!!

Film numero five was the world premiere of the drama LOCATING SILVER LAKE. Upon graduating college, a brokenhearted aspiring writer named Daniel (Josh Peck), without a dime or connections, packs his bags and heads to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding a new beginning. He quickly gets immersed into two very different worlds - one young, provocative and alluring, the other rooted in diversity, community and loyalty - both with their own unique appeals, advantages and dangers.

It's been fun watching Josh Peck grow as an actor for the past couple of years. He's acting was great and very humorous and sad, which sums up his character perfectly. Finn Wittrock of American Horror Story fame is deliciously evil as Seth, who is both a friend and an enemy. Caught in the middle is Talya (Aubrey Peeples), who must decide what she wants in her life, more specifically whom. After the screening, writer/director Eric Bilitch, producer Deborah Del Prete and Peck were on hand to conduct a Q&A with the audience. Another great film that I hope to see again in the future! 4 out of 5 stars!

The sixth and final film I saw on Saturday was the midnight film TELL ME YOUR NAME! Troubled teen Ashley (Sydney Sweeney) moves to live with her Aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth) after the tragic death of her mother. Bu when Ashley starts to think that her mom is trying to contact her, she along with her friend Hannah (Madison Lintz) performs a séance that ends with horrifying results. Soon, it's up to Reverend Michael (Bruce Davison) and Pastor John (Matt Dallas) to help save Ashley's soul from the demon that now possesses her.

Holy hell was this a fucking wickedly scary ass movie!! First off, hats off to co-writer/director Jason DeVan for making a horror film that is both a nod to horror film of the past like THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, SUSPIRIA and injecting new ingredients to the tired formula. He along with Dylan Matlock and his wife Heather DeVan crafted a smart, intriguing and batshit terrifying film!! Second, kudos to Sydney Sweeney for one of the best acting performances in an indie horror film!! She is an example of an actress taking on a role and going all the way into the deep end to have it come out phenomenal! After the screening, the cast and crew were there to pass out T-shirts, signed posters and do a Q&A with the audience. My favorite horror film of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

And that was Day Five of my cinematic trip to Cinequest 28. My new total now is 23 films in 5 days! So far so good! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 4 - March 2, 2018

Greetings and Salutations folks! Welcome to Day Four of my trip to Cinequest 28! 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 today was at the 3 Below, but before that there was a short. ROBOT AND SCARECROW take splace a concert, where a scarecrow from the neighboring field meets the concert’s dancing AI robot. The two fall in love with each other, but the romance only lasts for that day!

I was completely blown away the short! It was the most polished, stylized, and visually stunning short I’ve ever seen! The directing and cinematography was gorgeous, editing was invisible (which is very important) and the CGI of our two leads . My favorite short of the festival thus far!! 

The Spanish movie PEACHES (Melocotones) is about Diego and Laura, a couple that is trying to rekindle their relationship, due to Diego being unable to divert from the schedule, which makes him predictable and boring. So he takes her resort that stayed at three years ago. When her macho ex-boyfriend shows u, all hell breaks loose, until Diego realizes how to fix everything: he simply builds a time machine. And that's where the fun begins!

I couldn’t believe what I was watching! I absolutely loved this movie! With its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, the movie is a homage to 1980’s films, complete with cheesy infomercials, bad sci-fi props, Casio soundtrack, and cheesy special effects. Filmmakers have been making retro-styled 80's movies for about six years now, but it was so refreshing to see a film that was from another country and what they bring to the table. Director Hector Valdez is an incredibly talented filmmaker and I hope to see more of his work here at Cinequest! Somewhere in the Caribbean, in a future that never was…one of my favorite foreign films so far of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

Click here to view the film's Redwood City screenings.
Film number two was the Indonesian export SKULL (Tengkorak). A devastating earthquake has rocked Indonesia and reveals an unbelievable discovery of a nearly one-mile-long, 170,000-year-old skull. With this revelation, it sparks a flood of controversy among scientists, government officials, and religious leaders, who wish to preserve the peace and not to reveal any details about the skull. But when college student Ani (Eka Nusa Pertiwi), who works at the skull research center, discovers a conspiracy about what the government is hiding about the skull, her life becomes in danger and must rely on an unlikely hero (Yusron Fuadi).

The film is an amalgam of sci-fi and fantasy films, with a hint of political commentary. I was thrown off at the beginning of the film, thinking I was watching a documentary. Instead, I was watching a movie from a very gifted filmmaker. Yusron Fuadi is an up and coming director from Indonesia, a country that doesn't release too many film withing the sci-fi genre. He set-ups and compositions are great and engaging, the camera sweeps of the country were beautiful, and the ending was very spiritually and hauntingly poetic! The cast was fantastic as well, bringing a level of realism that I very much enjoyed. After the screening, Fuadi and Pertiwi participated in a very fun and informative Q&A with the audience. Overall, this might be the hidden gem of the whole festival! 5 out of 5 stars!!

Click here to view the film's Redwood City screenings.
The film drama FACADES focuses on Alex (Natali Broods), lovely married woman who works as a translator, who one day visits her day Jean (Johan Leysen), only to discover that her mom has disappeared without a trace. It also doesn't help that her father is suffering from dementia. Now she must care for her father, which leads to a series of revelations that Alex was hiding for years, only to resurface at this, her most vulnerable time of her life.

Another fine example of European films addressing topics that are often over in American movies. Focusing on infidelity, family dynamics, elderly health issues, sex, and confronting ghosts from the past, the movie takes Alex and makes her the vessel the audience is transported in. We relate to her and we sympathize with her. Life has been hard on her and it leaves scars on Alex - mentally, emotionally and physically. An examination of the human condition and what we do for our family, even if it means lying to them! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommend!!

Click here to view the film's final Redwood City screening.
I made my way to the Hammer Theatre Center for the fourth film of the day for me. The imaginative TOMMY BATTLES THE SILVER SEA DRAGON is a musical about Tommy Silver, a young man who struggles to overcome the guilt of his mother’s death. On a quest for absolution, Tommy finds himself on trial in a courtroom crowded by his inner demons. His confession alternates between flashbacks and fantasies as we journey into Tommy's budding romance with girlfriend Carolyn, whose experience as a woman is overshadowed by the weight of Tommy's maternal loss. Dream and reality blur as the Prosecutor and his agents infiltrate Tommy’s memories, dragging him back to the courtroom of his convoluted psyche. Can Tommy break the cycle of guilt before it destroys him and the one he loves?

Combing elements and themes from Broadway shows like Rent and Next to Normal and with visuals from Michael Godry, Luke Shirock wrote, directed, and wrote the music for the film. The end results were simply astounding! It felt like someone punched me in the chest with a Buick. The movie is so powerfully open and honest with its themes that I found it hard to looks away from the screen. Shirock is one of the most talented filmmakers I have ever meet at the festival, and his film is a welcome addition to the festival's history! I cannot say anything else but one of my favorite films so far!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

Click here to view the film's remaining screenings. 
For film number five I made my way back to the The California Theatre to see my next screening, which also had a short film before it. HOME is about a young man (Chandler Duke) who is back home to spend some time with his grandpa (Gordon Swaim) and tries to build a relationship with him while probing him some life lessons he can bestow upon him. And the answer from his grandpa is to shoot everything and everybody in sight. Silly and funny short that tickled my funny bone. 

The main feature THE GO-GETTERS tells the tale of Owen (Aaron Abrams), a lazy, good for nothing drunk, and Lacie (Tommie-Amber Pirie), a pill popping prostitute who was just fired by her pimp. Basically, they are pathetic losers who team up to scheme, steal and con their way to get the $98 they need to escape living in the city and in the country where Lacie's grandmother's house is. Of course, things go from bad to worse for these two sad sacks as they wonder if they can even work with each other.

If you’re a fan of Canadian exploitation movies (of Canuxploitation as it’s affectingly called), then you’re gonna this cinematic export. I laughed so hard during the screening that I thought I was gonna bust a gut! Both Abrams and Pirie are extremely hilarious as their amazing on-screen comedic chemistry is displayed up on screen. Credit also goes to Jeremy LaLonde for his excellent directing and screenwriters Abrams and Brendan Gall for their uproarious story and characters that I fell in love with. Also, there is enough F-bombs in the movie that it would make Martin Scorsese blush!! My favorite comedy of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

Click here to view the film's remaining screenings.
The sixth and final show of the day was the excellent midnight screening of SHORT FILM PROGRAM 5: MINDBENDERS. So I was expecting to have my mind bend extremely bad! Wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, here are the shorts that I saw:

Arcane: Set in here in America in the 1950's, a young woman is questioned regarding a brutal murder that she claimed that is was done by mysterious creature of some unknown origin. Creepy mindbender.

Cargo: Basically, a music video taking place in an elevator. Not so much a mindbender.

Contact: An young man's date with his boyfriend is interrupted as the ship's internal system begins to shuts down as the ship is in trouble. Whoa, mindbender blown here!

Defunctionary: Like in life, death is full of hilarious bureaucracy and stupidity. Funny mindbender!

Filippa: Dad comes home to his daughter, but was it really his daughter? Scary mindbender!

Immersion: A thief wakes up and finds a suitcase full of money, two dead guys and a gun. But is it real or is it a test? Or maybe it's both! Thoughtful mindbender.

Information Superhighway: A man participates in an experiment to test artificial intelligence in driverless cars. Decent mindbender.

Pie: Carol invites Annette over for homemade pie, but what's in the pie? And what's up with Carol's husband? Dark and hilarious mindbender!!

Steve's Kinkoes: A man goes to an all-night photocopy place to make posters of his missing cat. But why is the copy machine scanning the man? Copy induced mindbender!

Strangers: Another artsy music video. Nothing new mindbender.

Valentina: On the hottest day ever, a maid finds out that her vagina talks and complains about the heat. Funny ass mindbender!!

Yoshua: A group of outcast teens must flee their hometown of South Central, Los Angeles in order to keep their blue alien friend safe from a hunt against his kind. Feelings mindbender!

And that was Day Four of my cinematic trip to Cinequest. So far I'm at 17 films in 4 days! Getting closer to my 60 films for this year goal!! 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 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! 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 3 - March 1, 2018

Welcome to Day Three of my trip to the 28th Cinequest Film Festival! Already this year's fest is shaping up to be a fantastic one! Once I got to Downtown San Jose, I stopped at the Cinequest VIP Lounge over at The Continental Bar on 1st Street. Here I had some yummy treats, flavored water, and delicious coffee, courtesy of Whole Foods, Hint Water and local coffee shop Cafe Frascati, respectively. Then I braved this wet and rainy Wednesday to see my five films, so let's get show on the road!
The first film I saw was over at the 3 Below Theaters & Lounge was Norwegian drama DEMON BOX (which is one of the coolest titles ever). Amalie and her brother Emil head for their grandma’s house to clean and pack up some of her belongings. In the attic, the siblings discover a plethora of letters that hold some devastating information. The two decide to burn these letters so that their mom never discovers the truth. Soon, they meet a stranger that’s looking for his lost dog. But things turn sour very quickly when he shows up dead on their doorstep, and now Amalie and Emil have to work together to keep their situation a secretary or else.

So, unfortunately I didn’t get to see all of the screening. The English subtitles went off right in the middle of the film and everybody in theater were screaming bloody murder. When the staff realized they couldn’t fix it, the screening was canceled. A real shame because I was really into the film and was intrigued as to where it was going. The movie will be screened in Redwood City, but I won’t be able to attend those showings. Hopefully, it will on VOD or on Netflix soon. So I decided to head back to The Continental Bar and had more drinks and snacks before my next screening.

Click here to view the film's Redwood City screenings.
My second screening took me back to the California Theatre. BERNARD AND HUEY stars Jim Rash and David Koechner as our leads, respectively. Friends since high school, Bernard is somewhat still the same insecure nerd, but he’s having sex. Huey was the king of womanizing, now he’s down on his luck. When Huey shows up on Bernard’s door 20 years later, life comes full circle and the two find themselves in their respective high school roles. But when Bernard starts seeing Huey’s estranged daughter Zelda (Mae Whiteman), their friendship is put to the test.

The film itself was funny, but the laughs were scarce. Both Rash and Koechner did their best, but I felt their performances felt flat. It could also be that the script wasn’t fully structured and lacked character development. Because of these two missing ingredients, the movie couldn’t get off the ground. It had some good laughs, but this was advertised as a comedy, and it lacked the comedy. 3 out of 5 stars!

Click here to view the film's remaining screenings.
Film number three was MARISA IN THE WOODS (Marisa en los Bosques) at the Hammer Theatre Center. Meet Marisa. She has no job, no projects, no prospects for the future. She looks away from her own life's downfall to become the rescuer of her best friend Mina, who is immersed in a desperate crisis after the break-up of her relationship with Salvador. When she tries to get help from other friends, she only finds more lives adrift. Then, some unexpected news breaks the difficult balance of her life, and Marisa can only find comfort in the city nightlife. She is ready to disappear, silent and quietly, like fading into black.

While an interesting movie, there were too many characters coming in and out of Marisa’s life. At times I was completely lost, wondering if this was a new character or someone I saw earlier or one that was mentioned previously. The movie is visually beautiful and actress was lovely as Marisa, but the whole thing didn’t work for me. 3 out of 5 stars!

Click here to view the film's remaining screenings.
I headed back to the California Theatre for film number four which was BORG/MCENROE. Taking place during the summer of 1980, the movie chronicles the intense rivalry between Bjorn Bing (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeof), their upbringings, and their legendary match at Wimbledon.

Holy crap was this an outstanding movie! As a kid at that time, I was aware of Borg and McEnroe but I never knew just how important their match was, nor how historical it would become. This was LaBeouf’s best performance to date, as he nailed McEnroe’s character and mannerism perfectly! Gudnason shines as Borg and is a dead ringer of him! Both actors commanded the audiences’ attention as we were swept up into the movie. Janus Metz directed the hell out this movie, especially in the third act which kept me on the edge of my seat! This was my favorite film of the night! It was a magnificent, emotional, insightful movie about one greatest tennis matches in sports history!! 5 out of 5 stars!!

This was the film's only screening.
My last movie for me was back at the Hammer Theatre Center. The South Korean film THE POET AND THE BOY centers on Taekgi, a poet who's life is anything but decent. His poetry club don't recognize his poems. His wife wants a child, but has the sex drive of a stone and has a very low sperm count, two sperms to be exact. But when he witnesses two teenagers making out in the restroom of his favorite donut shop, his desires begin to arise. There's just one problem: his desires were for the teenage boy. Taekgi soon finds himself involved with the young man, and his desires begins to confuse him, eventually leading to emotions he never really experienced before.

While the film was poignant and interesting while exploring themes like coming out, teenage issues, depression, love and family, it was way too slow and dragged out for way to long. If the movie was re-edited down to 90 minutes, I think the story and emotional payoff would be more rewarding. I found the movie fascinating and I very much enjoyed all the characters, I found myself drifting in and out of the it. Overall, it was a decent movie. 3 out of 5 stars!

Click here to view the film's remaining screenings.

And that was Day Three of my cinematic trip to Cinequest. So far I'm at 11 films in 3 days! Not too shabby!! 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 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!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 2 - February 28, 2018

Hello again everyone and welcome to Day Two of my trip to the Cinequest 28 Film Festival! Today I had the pleasure of seeing five diverse films, and all five films were foreign films; all ranging from the emotional to the thrilling! So let's not waste any time and get on with the show!

I headed over to the newly renovated 3 Below Theaters, formally known as the Camera 3 Entertainment. The first screening had a short film screened before it entitled LEMONADE. The short focuses on Kristin Farrell (Katie Kerr) who is having a hard time in her life, but has an incredible girlfriend Liz (Sujata Day).  However, life throws her a curve ball when her mom (Dawn Alden) calls and tells her who her father is. Directed by Troy Price, the short was simple, sweet and funny. I liked it a lot and was a great way to start off my day!

After that I saw the Finland export STAR BOYS (Kaiken se Kestaa). Written and directed by Visa Koiso-Kanttila, the movie focuses on the relationships between parents and their kids. Best friends Vess and Karrlo must contend with their parents' hang ups, swinging parties and their mistakes that affect them each differently, but the results are still the same. Soon , they begin to rebel and defy their parents as they grow in their identities and learn that being a parent doesn't mean you know what your doing.

This was a very deep and moving film. Its theme is quite simple: what parents do, regardless if it's good and bad, it will always affect the children. Set against the simple ways of life and the serene beauty of Finland, the movie proves that even though there is a language barrier, we all feel the same, we all make the same mistakes, and no matter how hard we try, we're still only human. A really powerful film to start my day off with! 4 out of five stars!

I made my way over to the Hammer Theatre Center for my next screening. Set in China during the summer of 1988, END OF SUMMER tells the story of fifth grader Xiaoyang, who is a major soccer fan and wants to try-out for the soccer team at his school. Alas, it is a reality that might not come true when his dad, who just happens to be the academic director of his school, looks down on sports and wants him to excel in his studies. But things become complicated his dad becomes infatuated with the school's new English teacher, which causes an even bigger riff between them. However, the young boy finds a friendship with his neighbor, who is a huge soccer fanatic.

Director Zhou Quan really brings on screen and pure and loving friendship between Xiaoyang and his elderly neighbor he calls Mr. Grandpa Zheng. They both wear their emotions on their sleeve as they both have issues they need to work out. Despite that they come from different generations, their is a mutual respect and love that radiates on-screen. Pao-Ming Ku (Grandpa) and Zishan Rong (Xiaoyang) are simply fantastic and play off one another beautifully. It was very reminiscent of the relationship I had with my Papa when I was that young. Again, language barriers do not exist because love is the universal language. Another powerful and emotionally charged film! 5 out of 5 stars!!

I stayed at the Hammer Theatre Center for my third film of the day. Taking place in Central Eurpoe,  THE LINE (CIARA) follows Adam as he is struggling to find the balance family and his work, which just happens to be as an international cigarette smuggler (Smoking is bad kids. Don't smoke!) He's the man in charge, but when the border of the Schengen area is secured, he begins to lose his cool and the line between his personal and professional lives become more complicated than even he could ever imagine.

Wow, was this movie amazing!! Director Peter Bebjak is one damn fine director! His compositions, set-ups, and camera panning are really polished and extremely stylized. Not only was this a beautifully shot movie, Bebjack also wrote the screenplay, which if filled with themes of family, loyalty, life, love and death. It was thrilling and moving, funny and sad, there's something for everyone to love. Imagine THE GODFATHER was made in Slovakia/Ukraine. This era's version of a crime family! 5 out of 5 stars!!

After the screening, I went back to the 3 Below Theaters to see my fourth film for the day. MANY HEAVENS (Vele Hemels Boven de Zevende) is about family with some serious drama. Eva is the person that everyone in her family counts on, but she is only one person and that is too much too handle. Her sister is in an unhappy marriage so she begins to have an affair with a dark and handsome artist, her niece is constantly being picked on and school and has no real friends, her mother comlains about everything because she has nothing better to do, and her father is carrying a deep and dark secret that he's been carrying for years. Her job as a social worker is starting to take ts toll on her, and she's single with no boyfriend in sight and a weight problem, this according to her mother. Eventually, Eva's silent pain begins to take a hold of her, forcing her to make a decision that will affect her family forever.

Again, another powerful, emotionally charged film that looks at family dynamics, the secrets that we withhold from one another, and how we can overlook the pain in others while trying to work on our own. Eva's condition is something we can all relate to, thanks in large part to Brit Van Hoof's acting! Her performance was absolutely phenomenal! Add director's Jan Matthys visually stunning, dream-like reality and this was a film that will stay with you long after the credits end!! My favorite film of the day!! 5 out of 5 Stars!!

The fifth and final film was at the 3 Below Theaters as well. AMATEUR begins with poor Martin (Esteban Lamothe), who works at a television station. Having been just dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his manager contacts the station's owner Battaglia (Alejandro Awada), who puts him up in an apartment that he owns. Thing look up, but when his manager asks him to look for an old horror film (BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS in case you were wondering) on U-Matic, he reluctantly agrees and begins to look for it. But when he an amateur pornographic film, he soon realizes that it's his his neighbor, Isabel (Jazmin Stuart). Add some healthy doses of sex, murder, and blackmail, and you have a film that is full of surprises.

The film is filled with references to the past: Alfred Hitchcock, old horror films, New Wave Films from the 1960's, Dario Argento style lighting, and sexually provocative movies. This was a fun movie to watch, as it entertained the hell out of me! Sebastian Perillo directed the film, while he and Lucila Ruíz co-wrote the script. Together, they made a smart, funny, sexy, and thrilling movie that spoke to my inner film nerd! 5 out of 5 stars!!

And folks, there you have Day Two of Cinequest 28! What an amazing array of films I saw today! All together I've seen 6 films in 2 days. So far I'm right on track to reaching 60 films! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 11th 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!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Phil attends the CINEQUEST 28 FILM FESTIVAL Opening Night Extravaganza - February 27, 2018

It's that most amazing time of the year! Tonight was the opening night of the 28th Annual Cinequest Film Festival!! Tonight also marked my return to the festival, having last attending it back in 2014. Now that I've return in San Jose, I could not wait to once again cover the greatest film festival of all time! I am expecting to see some of the very best in independent, foreign, and documentaries here for the next thirteen days! Once again I got to see some of my old friends like Jason Wiener from Jason Watches Movies as well as Christopher Garcia, Terra Wood-Taylor, Michael Rabehl, and a few others. At this year's festival I hope to once again make new friends and as well as new memories. Back in 2014, I set an all-time personal record by attending 60 screenings in 13 days! Let's see if I can even bet that record this year!!

The opening night was held once again at the beautiful California Theatre on South First Street. There was the traditional red carpet with numerous filmmakers talking about their films to the press and posing for the cameras. Soon I found my way towards the front of the stage, bouncing in my seat with excitement. Then at 7:15pm, the lights slowly dimmed and the show began!

Now this year's festival started off with a short music video, and it was freaking hilarious! BIGFOOT'S LOVE SLAVE starts off with actress Alice Lee roaming in the forest, lost and confused. With voice over narration, she recalls meeting the legendary Bigfoot - played by Darren Bluestone - and that's when the music kicks in as she sings the most sexually explicit lyrics of all time!! Good lord this was such a funny short! The crowd was laughing hysterically, and it perfectly set the tone for the rest of the night! Click here to view the short!

After the short, Cinequest director and co-founder and Halfdan Hussey came out and greeted everyone and thanked all our sponsors. He then had the theatre screen this year's festival trailer (which I saw at the Cinequest Media Launch Party last month), which was done by SF Bay Area production company Guerrilla Wanders. The audience also got to watch a Cinequest trailer regarding their Picture the Possibilities program and their new VR Experience Lounge.

Afterwards Halfdan then introduced NBC Bay Area News Anchor Charter Boats to introduce the festival's opening night film KRYSTAL.

Rosario Dawson as Kystal in William H. Macy's KRYSTAL.
Directed by the one and only William H. Macy, the film stars Nick Robinson as Tyler Ogburn, your normal, average teenager who has heart condition that pretty much doesn't allow him to live a normal average teenager life. Because of his condition, he lives a pretty sheltered life, but fate steps in when he meets the beautiful Krystal (Rosario Dawson), a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, stripper. She's trying to get her life together for her son Bobby (Jacob Latimore), who's in a wheelchair. He falls head over heels for her, Tyler does whatever it takes to get to know her more, even joining an AA group! Add in Macy as his dad Hyatt, Felicity Huffman as his mom Poppy, Grant Gustin as his annoying older brother Campbell, William Fichtner as the crazy Dr. Farley, Kathy Bates as his friend and mentor Vera, and you have one of the funniest indie comedies I have ever seen!!

Credit goes to screenwriter Will Aldis, who wrote one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud script ever! Filled with eclectic and eccentric characters, romance, and the idea of hope, the script will tickle your funny bone while tugging on a couple of your heart strings. Two big thumbs up for Macy, who did a wonderful job of bringing Aldis' script to life. His compositions and pacing fit the story perfectly. And when you have an all-star cast like this acting in the movie, there's a reason why indie films are so important to the world of cinema. These movies offer something different than the films coming out of Hollywood. Indie films take chances, contain original ideas, pushes the envelope with subject matters that are relevant to today's society, but most importantly, they are made by filmmakers who are passionate about making movies because they love movies. So for those reasons, the film received a thunderous applause from the audience!

After the film, Cinequest President & Co-Founder Kathleen J. Powell came out on stage and introduced William H. Macy and producer Rachel Winter to partake in a intimate interview. The two talked about the making of the film (which was 14 years in the making), how amazing the cast and crew were, how Macy find the balance between acting in the film and directing it as well, Winter's funny stories of her humble beginnings in the film world, and how the movie was a labor of love for them. It was a very informative, funny, and charming interview. Best part of the night was when I was able to shack hands with William H. Macy! Yup, that was the highlight of the evening for me!

After the screening, we all headed over to the lavish after party, which was held over at The Farmer's Union on 151 W. Santa Clara and Sushi Confidential at 28 N. San Pedro Street, where they was plenty to eat, drink, and music to dance to all night long! Drinks were once again provided by Tito's Vodka!! The party was completely off the hook!!

KRYSTAL was the perfect film to kick off Cinequest 28! And there's still 12 days of movie watching left! So what are you waiting for? Now you can partake in this very important film festival event. To view film schedules, information about the festival, and to purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil's Horror Watch: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) from The Criterion Collection - February 27, 2018

Today's horror film needs no introduction. It is regarded as one the most important films in not just the horror genre, but within cinema history. I have lost track of how many times I have seen this movie, and it just keeps getting better and better thought the decades. And now, the fine folks over at the Criterion Collection has just released the definitive version of the movie. Now, let us bask in the moonlight of George A. Romero's iconic 1968 horror movie masterpiece NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Original Theatrical Poster (1968)
The film's official synopsis: Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget, by a band of filmmakers determined to make their mark, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, directed by horror master George A. Romero, is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero’s claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is back.

There isn't anything I can say that hasn't been said before. There isn't anything I can write that hasn't already been written before. This is the definition of DIY independent filmmaking at its finest. It truly doesn't get more perfect than this!

The Criterion Collection has once again outdone themselves with this release. Listed below are the special features that are on this jammed packed 2-Disc Blu-Ray Set:

New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director George A. Romero, co-screenwriter John A. Russo, sound engineer Gary R. Streiner, and producer Russell W. Streiner, New restoration of the monaural soundtrack, supervised by Romero and Gary Streiner and presented uncompressed, NIGHT OF ANUBIS, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film, New program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez, Never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel, New program featuring Russo on the commercial and industrial-film production company where key NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD filmmakers got their start, Two audio commentaries from 1994 featuring Romero, Russo, producer Karl Hardman, actor Judith O'Dea, and others, Archival interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones and Judith Ridley, New programs about the film's style and score, New interview program about the direction of ghouls, featuring members of the cast and crew, New interviews with Gary Streiner and Russell Streiner, Newsreels from 1967, Trailer, radio spots, and TV spots, PLUS: An essay by critic Stuart Klawans.

Back in October 2017, Mill Creek Entertainment released a sub par, poorly transferred, bare bones Blu-Ray of the film. This caused no end of rage among fans of the not only the film, but its beloved director. So do yourself a favor and ignore that piece of crap. THIS is the version of the film you want in your film library!

While it is amazing to see the film in a brand new, crisp and clear 4K digital restoration, part of me felt guilty because Romero never got the chance so see it. Granted, he helped supervised with the transfer, but George Romero passed away from lung cancer in Toronto, Canada on July 16, 2017. He was only 77 years old. His passing left a vast void in the cinema world that will never, ever be filled.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of the greatest, timeless, and trailblazing film ever made! Romero created an entire sub-genre within the horror world, and will forever be known as the Godfather of the Zombie genre. From movies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and 28 DAYS LATER to television shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation, Romero's influence stretches far and wide, across generations and time itself. This was his gift to us, and for that, I thank you George A. Romero!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD at your local retailer as well as on iTunes. The film is also available on the Criterion Collection website. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit

Thanks for reading, and long live George A. Romero!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Phil sees BLACK PANTHER at the Cinelux Plaza Theatre Campbell - February 20, 2018

Marvel Studios has been on an unstoppable winning streak for the past several years and they continue their MCU juggernaut at theaters this past weekend. It goes without saying that not even Satn Lee or Jack Kirby could've predicted that their creation would become so successful and becoming already a pop culture phenomenon. With the release of BLACK PANTHER, Marvel Studios and Wald Disney have released on hell of a film!!

The film's official synopsis: After the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, King T'Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country's new leader. However, T'Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.

I never thought that I would see a film like this: an African cast, filled with African clothing, African beliefs and traditions, and the lead is an African superhero. When "The King" Jack Kirby and Stan "The Man" Lee unleashed the Black Panther in The Fantastic Four back in 1966, little did they know that they were making history. He was the first black superhero to appear in mainstream American comics. That is something truly revolutionary. This year marks T'Challa's and his superhero alter ego 52nd anniversary, and for this special occasion, Marvel Studios has brought us his solo movie.

Everything in the movie is perfect! Absolutely perfect! Chadwick Boseman returns as our hero who brings class, intelligence, and dignity to the role. His adversary Erik Killmonger is played by the talented Michael B. Jordan, who's resume includes RED TAILS, FRUITVALE STATION and CREED. Marvel fans will also remember him as Johnny Storm in the infamous 2015 movie FANTASTIC FOUR. Like Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans before him, Jordon is given a second chance and is redeemed in one of his best performances! Killmonger is the best MCU villain since Tom Hiddleston's Loki!! Vicious, ruthless, and brilliantly evil, I sincerely hope we get to see this character again!

Another aspect that sets this movie apart from the competition is the strong female cast! Angela Bassett shines as the captivating and regal Ramonda, mother of T'Challa. Letitia Wright portrays T'Challa's little sister Shuri, who gives Tony Stark a run for his money as she's supremely intelligence and an uncanny inventor and scientist. Lupita Nyong'o's character Nakia is not only T'Challa's love interest, but is a former Dora Milaje who became an international spy for Wakanda. She is both beautiful and dangerous! Lastly, there's Danai Gurira who plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje regiment. Fans know her well as Michonne from AMC's The Walking Dead. To put it bluntly: Okoye would kick Michonne's ass completely!! Okoye is one of the toughest women I have ever seen in any of the MCU films!! She is fearless in the role and is just awe inspiring!!

The film was directed by Ryan Coogler and was co-written by him and Joe Robert Cole. Coogler made a name for himself with the 2013 indie film FRUITVALE STATION, a true story about "Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008." The film (as well as his lead actor Michael B. Jordan) became a sensation, which led him to his next project CREED. Starring Jordon and Sylvester Stallone, the film received critical acclaim, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Stallone, but won four awards at the African-American Film Critics Association! Coogler has been tapped to direct the much anticipated sequel CREED 2.

BLACK PANTHER IS THE BEST MARVEL STUDIOS FILM OF ALL TIME!! For a long time my favorite MCU movie was the Russo Brothers' CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE WINTER SOLDIER, but know it has been moved to my #2 position. With its fast paced action, beautiful cinematography, entertaining script, larger-than-life characters, talented and diverse cast, and fantastic directing, the movie is now the measuring stick for all other MCU films to follow, not to mention movies from Hollywood! Here is a black cast, directed by a black director, is one of the highest grossing films of all time!! It's time to wake up Hollywood and smell the change!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

BLACK PANTHER is playing in 2D, Real 3D, and in IMAX in theaters nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!