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), a lovely married woman who works as a translator, who one day visits her dad 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! 

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