Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Phil sees BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - January 30, 2018

When I attended the 13 Years of Saturday Silents at the Edison! Program this past Saturday, one of the films shown at the museum that night was a short that has been five years in the making. Finally, the museum was finally going to screen BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET, the two-reel western that archivist/historian/filmmaker David Kiehn, cinematographer Sprague Anderson and the museum had been working on since 2012. The museum did screen the film during the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival back in June of 2013, but it was only a workprint, meaning that it was a rough version of the film. So not only they showing the completed film hat night, the museum was having a DVD Release party, and yours truly could not wait to finally get a copy for myself.

The film's official summery: In 1912, film pioneer and co-owner of the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company Gilbert "Broncho Billy" Anderson arrived in the small town of Niles, California, searching for the ideal location to film westerns. There he set up shop and over 350 films later had cemented the west coast branch of Essanay in film history, with major players such as Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery and Ben Turpin along for the ride before it all ended abruptly in 1916.

In 2012, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum produced a two-reel silent western to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company arriving in Niles. This inspired our museum curators to create a film as special as our little hamlet. Using equipment and techniques from the silent era and locations that are much like they were over 100 years ago, Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret presents a fictionalized account of Gilbert Anderson's arrival in Niles, and how the town sheriff joins forces with the movie gunslinger to bring a group of bandits to justice. Years in the making, with five different musical scores and an appearance by Diana Serra Cary (former silent film star Baby Peggy), it's a trip back in time unlike any other!

The movie was a sight to behold! It looked absolutely incredible! Anderson's cinematography was simply gorgeous! It looked like a 1913 silent movie! Kiehn's directing was fantastic as well, blending modern day with silent era set-ups and compositions. Both Kiehn and Anderson wrote the screenplay together, bringing that nostalgic magic to the silver screen. It's a simple story, yet it works very effectively. It brought me back to those days watching westerns with my friends.

The entire cast was phenomenal and should be commended for their performances! It's not easy to act in a silent movie. You must convey emotions without saying a word. It the expressions of their faces, the sad look in their eyes, body language; it's all these things and more. Christopher Green Goodwin was fantastic as the Sheriff. Bruce Cates has played Broncho Billy Anderson for years at the museum's film festivals and events, so he knew how to play the part. Together, they had great on-screen chemistry with each other. Add Felicity Hart (Sarah Paymer), William Rogue (Eli Paymer), Shawn Rowe (The Deputy), and a special appearance by the one and only Diana Serra Cary, and you have a cast that deserves a standing ovation!

Sprague Anderson on-set. Photo by Rena Azevedo Kiehn.
While I was enjoying the movie immensely, I also found myself shedding a tear or two. This was the last film Sprague Anderson worked on. When I last saw him in late 2014, he was having health issues, but I paid it no mind. After all, he was way too stubborn to be sick and figured he'll bounce back. Then on October 31, 2017, on Halloween no less, Sprague passed away at 1:45pm. David's wife, Rena Azevedo Kiehn, made the announcement on her Facebook page.

During the intermission, I picked up my DVD copy of the film and since then I have been pouring through all of the excellent special features. It contains not one, not two, but five different musical scores by Judith Rosenberg, Bruce Loeb, Jon Mirsalis, Greg Pane and David Drazin! There's also an informative 40 minute documentary on the making of the film entitled Window to the Past, a short film of the centennial celebration and filmed recreation of Essanay's arrival in Niles shot back in 2012, outtakes, and a 1912 Essanay short film ALKALI IKE BESTS BRONCHO, directed by and starring Gilbert M Anderson, scanned in 4K and accompanied by Frederick Hodges.

BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET is a loving tribute to the silent film era! No where in the world will you see a silent film made with silent film cameras and techniques! What Kiehn, Anderson, and the rest of the cast and crew achieved is astounding! And is one of the finest films to come from Essanay! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

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, to view their film schedule, and purchase DVD copy of the film, visit www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Phil attends the CINEQUEST MEDIA LAUNCH EVENT at the 3 Below Theaters Downtown San Jose - January 24, 2018

Now that I'm back home in San Jose, it was time I visited my other home here: The Camera 3 Cinemas, now known as 3Below Theaters. It was here on Wednesday that I had the pleasure to attend the CINEQUEST MEDIA LAUNCH EVENT here in Downtown San Jose! When I walked in the newly renovated 3 Below Theater and saw the Cinequest Poster for the festival this year, I felt like I was home again. Better yet, I got to see all my old friends like fellow blogger Jason Wiener (Jason Watches Movies), Terra Wood Taylor and Michael Rabehl from Cinequest as well as the founders themselves!

Started in 1990 by co-founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell, the Cinequest Film Festival has grown to epic proportions over the years, bring new visions and voices from up and coming filmmakers while bringing new technology and films to the masses. Now in its 28th year, the festival shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to bringing the very best in independent, foreign, and documentaries to film lovers.

Cinequest Co-Founder Halfdan Hussey announcing the festival's theme.
Cinequest co-founder and director Halfdan Hussey revealed this year's theme for the festival. IMPACT will be the theme and then we were all shown a great video with Hussey telling us how Cinequest has reached out on a global scale to influence the idea that YOU can go out a create your film and have it been seen by people, who will then in turn become transformed by your film. A great message for all future filmmakers! This year, The California Theatre, 3 Below Theaters, and the Hammer Theatre Center will be hosting the festival along with the Century Downtown 20 in Redwood City previous screened films there for the second year in a row.

Hussey also announced the recipients for this year's Maverick Spirit Award and what an announcement it was! This year Hollywood legends Nicolas Cage and Andie MacDowell will be receiving the awards (and screening her new film LOVE AFTER LOVE) along with Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen for their new film SOULS OF TOTALITY. Current Turner Classic Movie host Ben Mankiewicz will be receiving the Media Legacy Award and that's just a small sample of what's to come at this year's festival.

Rosario Dawson stars in the opening night film KRYSTAL.
Halfdan also talked about the opening night film that will kick off the festival. The comedy KRYSTAL is by directed by William H. Macy and stars Rosario Dawson (both recipients of the Maverick Spirit Award from past festivals). The festival will also be screening the 1928 silent film THE WIND with the extraordinary Dennis James at the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ at the historic California Theater. With the Picture the Possibilities, VIP Soirees, Maverick Meet-Ups, and VR Cinema Programs, there's something for everybody at Cinequest.

Cinequest Publicity Manager Dana Whitney takes the stage.
Next up was Cinequest Publicity Manager Dana Whitney, who wowed the press with the announcement of the first ever partnership with Luna Fest - the first ever all-women traveling film festival. Showcasing a series of short films made to, for, and by women, this will no doubt be a favorite at the festival. Other special screenings she mentioned was the Kaiser Permanente Thrive Award Winner PICK OF THE LITTER, the powerful documentary ADIOS AMOR: THE SEARCH FOR MARIA MORENO, and Spotlight Films featuring big time Hollywood names in thoughtful, provocative, and interesting titles such as BORG/MCENROE (Shia LaBeouf and Stellan Skarsgard), Win Wender's SUBMERGENCE (James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander), and THE LAST MOVIE STAR (Burt Reynolds) just to name a few. All of the Spotlight Films will be screened at the California Theatre in Downtown San Jose.

Cinequest co-founder Kathleen Powell closing out the Media Launch Event.
Closing out the Media Launch Event was co-founder Kathleen Powell, who talked about the Closing Night film and party afterwards. BROTHERS IN ARMS is a riveting  and informative documentary about the making of Oliver Stone’s PLATOON and the hell the cast and crew went through during its production. It launched the careers of Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Kevin Dillon, Tony Todd, Keith David, and John C. McGinley as well as reviving seven Oscar nominations and winning four of them. The party afterwards will be held at the Hyatt Place Gallery.

After Powell finished her announcements, Hussey came back up to thank the press and media for attending, and then I went back out to the lobby to talk about all the films that we are planning on seeing. I can honestly say that I am so happy to be back here and to cover the festival once again. As you may recall, the last time I attended the festival I saw 60 screenings in 13 days, which was a record for me. So let's see if I can that record! Overall, it was an incredible night!

The documentary BROTHERS IN ARMS is the closing night film for Cinequest.
The 28th Annual Cinequest Film Festival will be held from February 27 - March 11, 2018. Tickets and passes are now available so make sure you get them now because they are already moving fast. To learn more about the festival, film schedules and events, volunteering, and to buy your tickets and passes, visit their website at www.cinequest.org

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you at Cinequest 28! 

Phil attends the 13 YEARS OF SATURDAY SILENTS AT THE EDISON! Program at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - Jan. 20, 2018

This past Saturday night I made my return to one of my favorite places on the Earth: The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! It's been over two years since I was here and tonight's program was something I didn't want to miss! After having dinner at my favorite local business Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace, I headed over to the museum for the 13 YEARS OF SATURDAY SILENTS AT THE EDISION! Program. They were also having the DVD release party for their new silent film BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET, which they were also screening as well!

ALKALI IKE'S AUTO (1911): Starring Augustus Carney, Harry Todd, and Margaret Joslin, this fun short is about two guys named Alkali Ike and Mustang Pete (Carney and Todd respectively) who fight over the heart of Betty Brown (Joslin). After stopping them from shooting one another, they both try to one up each other, until Ike shows up in one of them fancy cars, which is actually a complete lemon! Hilarious!! The film was written and directed by Essanay co-founder Gilbert M. Anderson aka Broncho Billy. The short was released by the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in May 1911.

BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2015): To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Anderson and the Essanay Company back on April 1, 1912, in that same month in 2012, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum begun making a silent western film, using the silent film cameras and techniques that these trailblazers used back then. The results were absolutely amazing! I had seen the rough cut of the film during the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival back in 2013, so I was extremely ecstatic to finally see the finished film. The museum had a DVD release party for the film. Look for a more in-depth review of the film coming very soon!

After a short intermission, the show continued with the main feature of the night.

Original Theatrical Poster (1926)
Film number three for today was the comedy MANTRAP (1926). 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. cost.

You can see that Clara Bow was about to become a huge Hollywood star. In fact, she did just that two films later, when she starred in IT. The movie was written by Adelaide Heilbron and Ethel Doherty and was directed by the legendary Victor Fleming. Fleming had an amazing career, directing some of the greatest films of all time, including THE VIRGINIAN, TREASURE ISLAND, JOAN OF ARC, and quite possiby, two of the most beloved films of all time: THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND. Fun Fact: both of those films were both nominated for Best Film at the Oscars in 1940. In case you were wondering, the Oscar went to GONE WITH THE WIND

And folks, there you have it! My triumphant return to one of my favorite places in the world! I can't wait to come back here again! 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!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Phil sees JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE at the Cinelaux Almaden Cafe & Lounge - January 15, 2018

Back in 1995, one of the biggest films that year was JUMANJI, starring the late Robin Williams and the soon-to-be-star  Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier and Patricia Clarkson. The movie has gone on to become a classic among adults and kids alike. So when Sony and Columbia Pictures announced that they were making a sequel, I thought what the hell for? Seriously, am I the only one here that thinks Hollywood has no original ideas left and now all that they are making is remakes, sequels, and comic book movies? Well, it seems like everyone else liked the idea and rushed out to see the movie when it debuted back in December 2017. Everyone, except for me. I didn't want to see it. Nope, not interested. Then, everyone was talking about it. Then, it started to climb up the box office. Even my brother loved the damn thing. And so, I finally caved and went to my home away from home, Cinelux Almaden Cafe & Lounge, to see JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

The film's official synopsis: In a brand new Jumanji adventure, four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game's jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don't just play Jumanji - you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they'll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves - or they'll be stuck in the game forever, to be played by others without break.

Ok, so, like....hmmmmm....fine....I really enjoyed the damn movie! There, I said it! Ok?  The whole thing was a blast to watch!

Dwayne Johnson once again proves that he's out to take over the world, one role at a time! His comedic timing and action packed fight scenes show off his acting chops perfectly. First, he has to portray the awkward nerdy teenager Spencer. Then he has to grow the character from this to a strong and confident young adult who must save the day while trying to gather up the courage to ask his high school crush out on a date. Karen Gillan has been on a role since I first saw her a Amy Pond from the beloved BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who. Coming off the success of Marvel's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise, she role as Martha is also a nerdy high schooler who is also shy and somewhat of a introvert. Over the course of the film, she discovers her inner bad ass and confesses her love for The Rock. Kevin Hart does his Kevin Hart schtick with his character Fridge. Jack Black plays the role of Bethany perfectly. Seriously, he acts and talks like a self-absorbed bitchy girl. Together, these four individuals will have you cheering and entertained all the way to the final end of the movie!

Director Jake Kasdan has made some hilarious comedy gems over the years. With titles like ORANGE COUNTY, WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, BAD TEACHER, and SEX TAPE, Kasdan proves he has the comedic touch. Here, he combines both comedy with high-paced action and adventure and the results have been proven extremely profitable!

As I am writing this review, the movie has grossed an impressive $317 million here in North America, and a whopping $450.8 million overseas. Altogether, the movie has earned a worldwide gross of $767.8 million!! Holy crap I did not see that happening at all! I really thought it was going to bomb at the box office. Yup, I was so wrong about that!

Overall, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE is one of the most entertaining, action packed comedy flicks of last year and this year thus far!! Boy, did I really enjoy this popcorn movie!! So grab the family and go see this on the big screen!! 5 out of stars!! Highly recommended!!


JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cineluxtheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil's Horror Watch: LEATHERFACE (2017) from Lionsgate Films - January 11, 2018

When it was announced that a new TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE movie was in the works, I was very skeptical. The original 1974 film is a classic in not only the horror genre, but in the cinematic world as well. It spawned three sequels, a remake and prequel, and then finally a 3-D sequel in 2013 (which was the first film I saw that year). Then it was reported that it would be a prequel (another one?), taking its place as cannon to the late Tobe Hooper's original nightmare and TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. Produced by Millennium Films and released by Lionsgate, LEATHERFACE attempts to shed new light on an iconic character.

Original Theatrical Poster (2017)
The film's official synopsis: In Texas, years before the events of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, in the early days of the infamous Sawyer family, the youngest child is sentenced to a mental hospital after a suspicious incident leaves the sheriff's daughter dead. Ten years later, he kidnaps a young nurse and escapes with three other inmates. Pursued by authorities, including the deranged sheriff out to avenge his daughter’s death, the Sawyer teen goes on a violent road trip from hell, molding him into the monster now known as Leatherface.

I felt conflicted for several reasons after my viewing of the movie. While it's an unnecessary prequel, I really enjoyed the move as a whole. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (INSIDE, LIVID, AMONG THE LIVING) have crafted a beautifully shot film; filling the screen with gorgeous landscapes in contrast with the ugliness of humanity along with violence and bloodshed. These two filmmakers made their name during the French Renaissance of Horror that took America by storm a decade ago, and they bring that same style to the legend of Leatherface and his deplorable clan. They do a tremendous job of creating a film that focuses on character development and story while injecting their trademarks of slow burn thrills and bloody gore.

LEATHERFACE Blu-Ray Cover
The cast is also outstanding and deserves a round of applause. Stephen Dorff's Sheriff Hal Hartman craves revenge on the Sawyer family for killing his daughter. (Fun fact: Hartman is the father of Burt Hartman from TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D) Dorff is the man you sympathize with but you also hate, and he's good at doing that. The iconic Lili Taylor portrays Verna Sawyer, mother of Leatherface and the matriarch of the Sawyer Clan. Taylor is one of my favorite underrated actresses today. Then we have the five young actors and actresses who really carry the movie. Sam Coleman (Bud), Sam Strike (Jackson), James Bloor (Ike), Vanessa Grasse (Lizzy), and Jessica Madsen (Clarice) all deserve praise for their performances and really bring something to their respective roles. They all are that damn good in the movie!

Now, let me reiterate what I stated earlier. I really enjoyed the film, however, it really is an unnecessary prequel. Another thing I wanted to address is something that I talked about in my original TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. So now I'm supposed to ignore all of the other films and just pretend they don't exist because this film is now being touted as cannon because it takes place before Hooper's original? Let me explain something to you all. By doing this, you are dismissing and ignoring all of the contributions that these talented filmmakers did for this franchise. In fact, by doing so, you are spitting on all their hard work, their blood, sweat, and tears that they have put into the legacy of Leatherface and his films. In my opinion, all these talented people that worked in front of and behind the camera deserve more respect than this. Maybe I'm getting all worked up for nothing. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I feel like we, the horror fans, and the TCM fans, are being insulted, along with all those who made all the previous films that I mentioned. But like I said, that's how I see it and that's how I feel about all of this.

LEATHERFACE is an entertaining horror film, but it isn't really a horror film that we needed. As great the movie is, I feel like it should have been its own entity instead of being part of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise. Hopefully fans will enjoy the movie, but I'm still waiting to see the further adventures of the infamous Sawyer Clan. 3 out of 5 stars! It's worth a look!


LEATHERFACE is currently available on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Lionsgate Fims. The film is also available on Digital HD, iTunes and VOD.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the horror!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Phil sees PITCH PERFECT 3 at the Cinelux Almaden Café & Lounge - January 11, 2018

And so ladies and gentlemen, the final curtain call is over. The fat lady has sung. Mic has been dropped. Since 2012, we have been entertained by the a cappella group The Barden Bellas, that ragtag all-female singing outfit that has ranked in boffo box office moolah since actress Anna Kendrick's character Becca performed that damn cup song. Since then, the films have gained a huge following, but now, it looks like the Bellas have delivered their swan song, in this, their last outing as a group. So, I went to the Cinelux Almaden Café & Lounge to say (or rather sing in this case) goodbye to them in their last film PITCH PERFECT 3.

The film's official synopsis: After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren't job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.

The gang is all here again! Becca is still somewhat socially awkward but finds a new love interest named Theo (Guy Burnet).  Rebel Wilson returns as Fat Amy and she's still fat and annoying, but we get to meet her long lost dad Fergus (portrayed by John Lithgow with a British accent). Anna Camp's Aubrey still adds "aca" in front of normal words. Brittany Snow's Chloe (my favorite Bella by the way) is crazy silly still but now has an adorable meltdown because she misses her singing family of nerds. Plus she too becomes awkward when she meets Chicago (Matt Lanter). Also returning is Elizabeth Banks as the charismatically sassy Gail as well as John Michael Higgins' equally annoying John (and they only say one racist remark that pertains to France, which is a vast improvement).

The film was directed by Trish Sie, whose resume includes STEP UP ALL IN and the extremely popular music videos for the band OK Go (Here it Goes Again, All Is Not Lost and Upside Down & Inside Out). Originally, Banks - who has produced all three film - was signed on to direct the film, as she did with PITCH PERFECT 2 but dropped out for some unknown reason. While Sie does a fine job, it felt really rushed. Plus parts of the film were edited like a music video (who still remembers those things?). They were edited with quick cuts, panning camera angles and basically gave me a headache. It looked like it was edited by Michael Bay! I really wished that it was edited more traditionally and more fluently, as to move the story along without the choppiness.

What saves the film from becoming a total waste is the chemistry between all the actresses. There is so much amazing talent in the film and it's because of these ladies. After three movies together, they can play off from one another, sing harmoniously, and generate laughs from the audience. A perfect example of this is during the credits, where Gail and John show us the footage of the Bellas for their documentary. Some of it were scenes cut from the film (some appear in the film's trailer) but it was mostly outtakes and behind-the-scene footage of the ladies being silly and goofy, and I found that very sweet and charming. Over the course of three films, these actresses have truly formed a special bond with one another, and thus, become a family, which is the main theme in the movie. I sat there watching this and thought to myself, "Wow! They are having so much fun!" And that resonates in the movie. It seemed only fitting to end the franchise with this.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the soundtrack. Well, to borrow from Aubrey's lingo, I would say that it's "aca-awesome" and "aca-tastic!" All the song are extremely catchy, but it's the renditions of Brittany Spears' "Toxic" and the late, great George Michael's "Freedom! '90" that got my foot tapping and hips moving and grooving while in my seat!

PITCH PERFECT 3 is a fun, silly, a capella satisfying finale to the film's franchise! It will be sad to not see the Bellas again, but we've got the music, the movies and the memories! Thank you for everything Bellas! Now take one last bow, and then go out into cinema history! 3 1/2 out of 5 stars! It's worth watching!


PITCH PERFECT 3 is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cineluxtheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Phil sees INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY AT THE AMC Eastridge 15 - January 8, 2018

Hello and welcome to 2018!! For my first movie of the new year, I decided that I would see new a horror movie! Gee, what a surprise, huh? Shocking, yes I know. But this was a horror movie I've wanting to see since the trailer was released some months ago. So today, I headed on over to the AMC Eastridge 15 to see INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY!

The film's official synopsis: In the supernatural thriller, which welcomes back franchise standout Lin Shaye as Dr. Elise Rainier, the brilliant parapsychologist faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet: in her own family home.

Picking up where INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 left off, the film once again is a prequel to the first film. Here, we learn more about Elise's early upbringing, her family and her special gift. We are exposed to some really awful truths that prove that monsters do exist in the real world. We learn that her special gift had dire ramifications that took an ugly turn for the worse, which lead to the untimely death of her mother Audrey (Tessa Ferrer) to her running away from her home and leaving her younger brother Christian (Bruce Davison) to deal with their abusive father Gerald (Josh Stewart). Later in the film, we are introduced to Christian's two daughters Melissa (Spencer Locke) and Imogen (Caitlin Gerard), the later who might also be blessed with the same special gift as Elise. Add her two dorky  co-workers Tucker and Specs (both Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell reprising their roles, respectively) as comic reliefs, and you have one of the best casts for a horror film fans of the franchise could ask for!

Credit goes to our lead actress Lin Shaye, who at 75 years old, is carrying this series all on her shoulders. That doesn't happen ever in Hollywood, but we in the horror community think she is one hell of an actress! Just think about it: an elderly woman is our main character in a multi-million dollar franchise!! Baffles the mind to those in Hollywood, but Blumhouse (and Jason Blum to some degree) believe in Shaye's acting abilities and believe that this series wouldn't have lasted this long or succeeded as it has without her. And she is just fantastic in the film! Shaye conveys such conviction and believability as Elise that you're invested in her emotionally right from the start of the movie. One of the the most underrated actresses of all time, Lin Shaye deserves an honorary Oscar!!

Credit also goes to screenwriter Leigh Whannell for writing a smart, emotional and frightening script. Whannell has written the last movies and directed the third one as well. I really enjoyed the film's story: it had a great, origin story set-up, a great blend of both supernatural and real world scares, and ends it with a very intense and completely horrifying finale. Also, the ending ties in directly with the first film, trying all the loose ends up nicely. To quote the great Sith Lord Darth Vader, "The circle is now complete."

Even though the film was only released on Friday, January 5th, the film grossed a staggering $29.268 million over its opening weekend!! It did better than INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, which did $22 million in its opening weekend back in 2015. While there's a rumbling about a possible fifth movie, it feels like this was the final one for the series. It ended how it should have and I hope it is left alone.

Overall, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY is a supernaturally scary finale to the series and fans will no doubt enjoy it from start to finish! It contains fun and interesting characters, fantastic performances and all the things that make you afraid of the dark! 4 out of 5 stars!! Recommended viewing!! 


INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY is now currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the AMC Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://www.amctheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the horror!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Phil's Top Ten Horror Films of 2017 - January 5, 2017

Without a doubt, 2017 will go down in cinema history as one of the greatest years for the horror genre! It was a banner year for horror hounds as we were treated with a plethora of outstanding, thought provoking and truly terrifying movies to watch! Now this was really a daunting task, due to the fact that there were some truly incredible and remarkable films that I saw in theaters, Blu-Ray, DVD as well as on VOD and streaming services like Shudder and Netflix. So boils and ghouls, here is my Top Ten Horror Films of 2017!

1) IT: In the Town of Derry, the local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind bloody remains. In a place known as 'The Barrens', a group of seven kids are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with an evil clown and their determination to kill It. This was, without a doubt, a truly horrifying film! What makes the film work is the incredible cast that it contains. Stepping in Pennywise's shoes is Swedish born actor Bill Skarsgård (ATOMIC BLONDE, SIMPLE SIMON and TV shows Hemlock Grove and the upcoming Castle Rock). Skarsgård's performance is, without question, amazingly disturbing! His voice, his facial expressions, his mannerism, it's all there wrapped up in a delightful red balloon. IT was my favorite horror film of 2017!! If you haven't seen this movie yet, then you need to watch this now and see this horror masterpiece!!

2) GET OUT: Chris and his girlfriend Rose go upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined. The horror feature length debut from writer/director Jordan Peele, the movie feels like a representation of the current state of America under the Trump administration. With is strong story, intelligent characters and slow-burn scares, the movie surprised audiences everywhere and garnered acclaim and box office dollars, grossing $254.3 million worldwide against its budget of only $4.5 million!

3) BETTER WATCH OUT: This holiday season, you may be home, but you’re not alone... In this fresh and gleefully twisted spin on home-invasion horror, babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) must defend her young charges Luke (Levi Miller) and his best friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould ) when intruders break into the house one snowy night – or so she thinks. Filmmaker Chris Peckover directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Zack Kahn. Together, these two gentlemen made one of the smartest films ever! The set-up is straight forward, however, by the end of the first act, the film did a complete 180 degrees and the movie became something completely different. I can't remember the last time I was impressed with a movie, where I figured out the plot, only to have it surprise the hell out of me!

4) VICTOR CROWLEY: Andrew Yong has spent over a decade claiming that local legend Victor Crowley was responsible for the 2007 massacre that left over 40 dead. Yong’s allegations have been met with widespread disbelief, but when a twist of fate puts him back at the scene of the tragedy, Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and Yong must face the bloodthirsty ghost from his past. Director Adam Green spent two years making the film in secrecy, which is an unbelievable feat unto itself!! On August 22, 2017, he surprised an unsuspecting audience during the “10th Anniversary” screening of the original HATCHET film that he held at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood. I attended the roadshow screening of the movie at the Osio Theater in Downtown Monterey where I got to meet the film's actress Tiffany Shepis!

5) HAPPY DEATH DAY: Blumhouse (SPLIT, GET OUT, WHIPLASH) produces an original and inventive rewinding thriller in Happy Death Day, in which a college student (Jessica Rothe, LA LA LAND) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity. I recall seeing the trailer and thought that it looked interesting. Basically, it looked like GROUNDHOG DAY meets MEAN GIRLS meets FRIDAY THE 13th all rolled up into one movie. While as generic that may sound, the film itself was a blast to watch! HAPPY DEATH DAY is a clever and entertaining slasher horror thriller that will keep you guessing all the way to the final scenes!! Don't give this movie a pass!

6) THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE: It’s just another night at the morgue for a father (Brian Cox) and son (Emile Hirsch) team of coroners, until an unidentified, highly unusual corpse comes in. Discovered buried in the basement of the home of a brutally murdered family, the young Jane Doe—eerily well preserved and with no visible signs of trauma—is shrouded in mystery. As they work into the night to piece together the cause of her death, the two men begin to uncover the disturbing secrets of her life. Soon, a series of terrifying events make it clear: this Jane Doe may not be dead. André Øvredal's directing is so precise and controlled, his compositions are flawless and he knows exactly to make us feel terrified. Once again, the indie film world has unleashed of the scariest films I have ever seen!

7) ANNABELLE: CREATION: Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto) welcome a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker´s possessed creation, Annabelle. The first thing I thought while I was watching was this is sooooo much better than the first film! David F. Sandberg's directing was spot-on perfect and really elevates the idea of what a big time studio horror film could look like. It looks absolutely beautiful, his compositions and sweeping camera shots are incredible and he knows when to scare the audience. The movie is a nightmare infused horror thriller that will add another dimension to THE CONJURING Universe! Make sure your check out this frightful flick with your fellow horror hounds tonight!

8) SADAKO VS. KAYAKO: After viewing a legendary cursed videotape, Natsumi discovers she has only two days before she will be killed by the demonic entity known as Sadako. The only way to break the curse: pitting the demon Sadako against Kayako, an accursed spirit possessing a haunted house where everyone who enters disappears. SADAKO VS. KAYAKO brings the characters from RINGU and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE back to the big screen in a wildly fun, tongue-in-cheek thrill ride that finally answers the question: whose curse is stronger? Boy, was this movie a fucking blast to watch!!! Think J-Horror meets FREDDY VS. JASON and that's what we have here!! It's batshit crazy on a Level 10!! It's a balls-to-the-wall, J-Horror fans wet dream come true!! If you want to see something different and unique, then this movie is right up your alley!!

9) THE BARN: It's Halloween 1989, best friends Sam and Josh are trying to enjoy what's left of their final Devil's Night before graduating high school. But trouble arises when the two pals and a group of friends take a detour on their way to a rock concert, finding an old abandoned barn and awakening the evil inside. Now it's up to Sam and Josh to find a way to protect their friends and defeat the creatures that lurk within "The Barn." The film's visuals and ascetics contribute to the feel of nostalgia for this reviewer. It looks and sounds like it was ripped from 1989! I had to pinch myself while watching the film to remind me that it wasn't the 80's again! THE BARN is the most horrifyingly radical, gore-filled, bad ass, retro-slasher film of the year!! There's a reason that the movie has garnered so much acclaim! This is one entertaining horror film that you all should definitely see!!

10) POOL PARTY MASSACRE: When Blair, a high maintenance young socialite invites some friends over to her parents house for an intimate pool party, they are unaware that a serial killer is hiding inside the house. What started out as a relaxing summer day by the pool quickly turns into a nightmare as the unknown killer begins to stalk and murdering the young girls one by one. Writer/director Drew Marvick's film is a loving homage to those awesome 80's slasher films that we grew up on. The women are hot, the kills are gory and it's entertaining and fun to the max!! His set-ups and compositions are excellent, there's awesome character development, the film flows smoothly and has a fantastic third act! I had the pleasure of meeting Marvick back in June at the Sinister Creature Con in Stockton. After he told me about his movie, I knew that I had to have it for my collection. A totally radical slasher movie that will entertain you to death!!

And that, my fellow children of the night, is a wrap! I sincerely hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Horror Film of 2017 and I really hope this encourages you all to check out these incredible fright flicks! Remember, if you get scared from watching these cinematic nightmares, keep repeating yourself: It's only a movie...only a movie...only a movie...only a movie....BOO!!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!

Phil's Top Ten Films of 2017 - January 2, 2018

Hello again everybody and Happy New Year!! I'm gonna predict that 2018 will be another fantastic year for movies, as was 2017! There were an insane amount of movies that I absolutely loved and found myself walking away feeling completely transformed from viewing it. And that is the power of cinema: taking me somewhere new, showing me something I have never seen before, telling me a story I have never heard of and meet characters I can only imagine meeting. So without further adieu, here are my Top Ten Films of 2017!

1) STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI: Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance, lead by General Lea Organa (Carrie Fisher), prepares to do battle with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. The fact that I have seen the film three times already should indicate you just how much I loved it! But it is also heartbreaking to watch because it was the last film that actress Carrie Fisher appeared in before her untimely passing in December 2016. Writer/director Rian Johnson as deliberately taken the franchise into uncharted territory and I am very excited to see where this will lead.

2) THE DISASTER ARTIST: Based on Greg Sestero best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy's cult-classic disasterpiece THE ROOM (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”), THE DISASTER ARTIST is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend—and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you're doing. James Franco is absolutely amazing in the movie and has become a force to be reckon with within the Hollywood community. His resume is very eclectic and personal, taking on roles and projects that really reflect his diverse interests of subjects. The film just sucks you in and doesn't let go until its beautiful conclusion!

3) SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING: A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, begins to navigate his new found identity as the web-slinging super hero in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

4) TURN IT AROUND: THE STORY OF EAST BAY PUNK: Narrated by Iggy Pop, the documentary spans over 30 years of the California Bay Area’s punk music history with a central focus on the emergence of Berkeley's inspiring 924 Gilman Street music collective. The film is the definitive telling of this vibrant story, drawing from a wide variety of voices, featuring exclusive interviews with and the music of the most famous and infamous rock and punk bands in history, including Green Day, Metallica, Rancid, Dead Kennedys, and over 100 more interviews with artists and musicians from California’s East Bay punk music scene. The film was nostalgic for me because I was there when the events in the film were unfolding. This is one documentary that the whole world needs to see and that punk rockers will watch forever!

5) THOR: RAGNAROK: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok—the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization—at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett). But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger—the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)! Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston have the best on-screen chemistry within the MCU and I can't get enough of them. I can watch these two all day! Cate Blanchett's Hela is cunning, vicious and deadly and is easily one the greatest villains in the MCU. Easily the best film in the series and is one of the funniest, action packed films within the MCU!!

6) CARS 3: Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician with her own plan to win, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet, and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage! After the disappointing CARS 2, the third installment shifts its focus back on Lightening McQueen as he struggles with becoming older, losing his mentor Doc Hudson and his place in the ever-changing world of racing. This family film contains themes that adults will relate to with action and humor that kids will have fun watching.

7) WONDER WOMAN: Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when a pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny. Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Danny Huston, the movie become one of the biggest blockbusters of 2017! It also become the highest grossing film directed by a woman, the first female superhero to earn $821.9 million worldwide and was the biggest film to come out of the DC Extended Universe!

8) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2: Set to the backdrop of 'Awesome Mixtape #2,' Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team's adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their new found family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill's true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes' aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. Writer/director James Gunn takes these band of misfits and cranks the adventures up to 11, all the while expanding of the characters themselves as well. What Gunn has done with this film is focus on the theme of family, whether it's blood or friends that are your family. This was a blast to watch!

9) DESPICABLE ME 3: After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother-a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin's despicable footsteps-one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad. Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier return for the sequel but are joined by South Park co-creator Trey Parker, who plays the hilariously former 80's sitcom child star to super villain Balthazar Bratt. With its themes of sibling rivalry, family acceptance and living in the past, the movie contains all the fun, charm and laughs of the previous installments!

10) LOGAN: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces. THIS IS THE WOLVERINE I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR TO SEE SINCE 2000!! Jackman's performance of Old Man Logan is spot on!! His Logan is haggard, weary, laced with regret, remorse and alcohol. He's once again retreated from the world and wants to stay hidden from it. He's still ultra violent when he's backed up against that wall and he cusses like a truck driver. But, he still cares and it comes though, especially towards the end of the film. Needless to say, if he does get an Oscar for his portrayal of Logan, there will be Hell to pay!! An outstanding acting job from Mr. Jackman!!

And there you have it folks! My Top Ten Films of 2017! It looked like the year that comic book based movies and animated family films prevailed. But every year this list gets harder and harder to put together, but these were films that really made an impact on me, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading my picks. So if by chance there are films here that you haven't seen yet, I encourage you to check them out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by them!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Phil wishes you all a Happy New Year!! - January 1, 2018

At the VICTOR CROWLEY screening in Monterey.


Happy New Year everybody!! Well, another year has come and gone. While I didn't blog as much I would have liked to, I still saw a lot of films last year. Plus my life changed again. I moved back down to San Jose, I'm getting ready to go back to my old career and I'm watching movies at new theaters. So like the old saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

However, 2018 will be another fun-filled year! With the loss of the Camera Cinemas (the Camera 12, Camera 3 and the Camera 7 all closed in the last two years) as well as the Bluelight Cinema, I'll be seeing films more at the Cinelux Theaters, which is another locally owned business that I'll be supporting quite a bit. The old Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose will be re-opening as 3 Below, which will pick up where the Camera 3 left off, including the midnight screenings of THE ROCKY PICTURE SHOW with my friends The Barely Legal gang!! Also, I'll be going to the Cinemark Century Theaters as well as the AMC Theaters to watch my movies.

Not only that, but I'll be reviewing a lot of cool movies ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to indie films, cult classics to porno chic, comedy and GLBTQ films. You name it and I'll be watching and reviewing it!

With me being back home, I'll also be attending all my favorite film festivals and events, including the Cinequest Film Festival, CAAMFest, The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and the Peaches Christ shows!!

As you can see, I'm gonna be very busy and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'll have some other surprises that'll make you want to come back over and over again. So get ready folks for one hell of a ride in 2018!!

Thank you all out there who have been reading and supporting my blog. I don't get paid doing this. I do it for the fun of it. I'm a film fanatic, cinephile, movie junkie, whatever you want to call me. So I hope you'll stick around another year as I bring you another year of reviews, fun and adventures!

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!