Sunday, July 24, 2011

Phil sees CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER IN 3D at the Camera 12-July 22, 2011

Well, folks, the time has come. The final piece of the puzzle has now been found. The king has been crowned. Where am I going with all of this? Glad you asked my faithful followers. In some of my previous blogs, I mentioned that the summer of 2011 will be known as the Superhero Summer, given that four films based on famous comic book characters would be released. Now three of those superhero films have been released with some mixed reactions from critics and movie goers. However, it is the fourth that will unite everyone in celebration as we cheer the release of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER into theaters.

Actor Chris Evans portrays Steve Rogers, a scrawny, weakling kid from Brooklyn who wants nothing to do more than to serve his country in World War II, but is rejected several times. But when he is recruited to participate in the military's experiment to create the ultimate super soldier, Steve becomes Captain America, the first Avenger. Now it's up to the Cap to stop the evil Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his army of Hydra solders from taking over the world.

Also appearing in the film are Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes), Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Chester Phillips), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Abraham Erskine), Toby James (Dr. Arnim Zola), and Samuel L. Jackson (Sgt. Nick Fury).

Needless to say, this is my favorite comic book film of 2011. Director Joe Johnston (who directed 2010's WOLFMAN, 1999's OCTOBER SKY, and 1995's JUMANJI) keeps the movie moving smoothly and the action fast and exciting. Also, great screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who really stay close to the original comic book origin. We also get to see the evolution of the Rogers, from skinny weakling to selling war bonds to saving the world. While Captain America is a somewhat dated character, it's interesting to see him evolve over the film and one has to wonder what will he be like when he arrives in the 21st century. Also, as always, stick around after the credits for a bonus scene as well as big surprise that we have been waiting for: a teaser trailer for the AVENGERS movie!

The comic book was created by Joe Simon and the King of Comics Jack Kirby back in 1941. Since then he has become one of the most treasured icons in the Marvel Universe. In my humble opinion, I think both Simon and Kirby would be very pleased to see their character up on the big screen, an after being around for the past 70 years, still resonates with readers to this very day.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is the best summer superhero film of 2011. The film is a smart, action packed blockbuster that will make comic book fans and movie goers go crazy for. Marvel Studios now has done the impossible, scoring 3-0 for their summer films. Now we all just have sit and wait patiently for next summer's AVENGERS. In the meantime, I'll just reread my comic books 'til then.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is now playing in standard 2D and 3D in theaters nationwide, including the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Phil sees HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 in 3D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 20, 2011

After spending this past weekend watching silent films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I needed a couple of days to get readjusted to the idea of seeing a "talkie" film once again. The first film I wanted to see once I got back opened last Firday while I was up in the city, so I missed the crowds, and I got to see HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 in 3D in quite and blissful solitude.

OK, I am going to take a departure from my standard regiment of film reviewing and I would like to take this opportunity to say something to all you people out there in cyberspace. I will return to my review of the film after this important message.

When I was a small child in May of 1977, the world that I was growing up in was, how do I put it, still in a state of chaos. Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War was still fresh in the minds of the American public. The gas crisis crippled this country for a bit, and the Jonestown Massacre shocked people into a state of disbelief and sadness. The United States, at that time, looked like it was about to spiral out of control. It was during this period of disenchantment that a little, low-budget, sci-fi film caught my eye and took me on an imaginary ride that forever changed my life for the better. Little did I realize, that same film would also inspire other people from all walks of life to shake off the shackles of responsibility, and for about two hours, let them feel like a child once again, to experience the wonders of the imagination. That film was STAR WARS, and it gave people the chance to feel free, and to feel inspired to create a whole new world for themselves. The STAR WARS saga defined a whole generation of people, and helped create a bona fide pop culture phenomenon that will last for as long as mankind exists. For myself, that night in 1977 forever ingrained that sense of wonder and hope.

Now I am older, wiser, and have responsibilities. Work, bills, the usual adult baggage that most of us have. A lot of my friends have children, and this new generation's world is in a sorrow state as well. The September 11 attacks, a crippling recession thanks to the Bush Administration, global warming, cutbacks on public schools while higher tuition costs for college students, etc. It seems that history does repeat itself, which is where this generation's imagination and hope resurfaced in a big way. Harry Potter came out of left field, more specifically from England. Thanks to writer J.K. Rowling, her series of books starring our favorite wizard friend capture the imagination of an entire generation of kids who, like myself 25 years earlier, were looking for something to help them escape the weariness of today's problems and freed their imagination and elevated them to a higher plateau. The HARRY POTTER series of novels were a sensation right from the start, and as a double bonus, it got kids to read books again. Children reading books? Inconceivable!

It wasn't too long that Hollywood came calling for Rowling, and unleashed upon the world Harry Potter madness at the theaters. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (2001) was a boxoffice hit, and soon Warner Brothers Pictures were set to bring to life the rest of novels onto the big screen. Now the boy wizard, who for the past decade has brought joy to so many, has his final adventure and thus, all is right with the world. The HARRY POTTER series is to this generation of kids what the STAR WARS saga was to mine. It sparked the curiosity, imagination, and wonderment that was needed so desperately, and as a result, defined themselves, just as I was before. And just like what George Lucas did, J.K. Rowling (along with Harry) will forever be in the hearts and minds of those who were touched my her magic. And for this I, along with everyone else in the world, would like to say thank you to Rowling for making me feel like that child once again.

This now brings me to my review for the last film in the series. All I'm gonna say to all of you is this: HARRY POTTER AND DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 will forever be remembered as the greatest story ever told about the ultimate battle between good and evil, and in the end, will be loved by audiences everywhere!

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEAHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 in now playing in 2D and 3D in theaters nationwide, including the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Phil attends the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival: Day Four-July 17, 2011

Hi again everyone, and welcome to the fourth and final day of the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! For the past three and a half days, the majestic Castro Theater has been my home, but sadly, it must come to an end. But before I say goodbye, let me tell you about Sunday's line-up!

The morning began with AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: KEVIN BROWNLOW ON 50 YEARS OF RESTORATION. In this exciting and highly informative forum, historian and author Kevin Brownlow takes us on his amazing journey, from being a silent film fan to acquiring a print of NAPOLEON, and spending his life restoring this lost classic. Listening to Kevin speak, you can feel just how much he loves his film, and his determination to return it to its original glory. Not seen in the US for over 30 years, NAPOLEON will be shown at the Paramount Theater in Oakland for four days only (March 24, 25, 31, and April 1) and that's it! So if you want to purchase tickets for the cinema event of a lifetime, click here to buy your tickets! Go ahead, I'll wait for you........

Got your tickets for NAPOLEON? Good for you! Let's continue, shall we?

The first afternoon program began with another orphan film. TRIBUNE-AMERICAN DREAM PICTURE (1924) was contest held by the Oakland Tribune. Fans would write about their most strangest dreams, and the winner would have his or her dream made into a film starring themselves. Mabel Nicholson was the winner for her dream, which involved her and her husband traveling from Oakland to San Francisco and back again in search of their missing infant.

The afternoon showing of SHOES (1916), written and directed by Lois Webber, was fantastic. The film stars Mary MacLaren as Eva Meyer, a store clerk who tries to support her family, but in the end breaks down and sells her body for a pair of shoes. Webber was clearly ahead of her time, dealing and bringing to light social commentary, more specifically on women's issues. Webber tackled issues, such as abortion, birth control, and women's rights. Not very many of Webber's films have survived, and it is a real shame. At one point in her career, Webber was one of the highest paid women directors in Hollywood, and was regarded in high esteem along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. The film print came from EYE Film Institute from the Netherlands and look amazing! Accompanying the film was Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer!

The second afternoon program was  WILD AND WEIRD: SHORT FILM FAVORITES WITH NEW MUSIC. The program was introduced by historian David Shepard and presented several shorts from the new Flicker Alley DVD release of the same name. The program's main focus was on the Alloy Orchestra, performing their new musical scores to these silent short gems. The program showcased the following short films: DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND (1906), RED SPECTRE (1907),  THE ACROBATIC FLY(1910), THE THIEVING HAND (1908), PRINCESS NICOTINE (1909), ARTHEME SWALLOWS HIS CLARINET (1912), THE CAMERAMAN'S REVENGE (1912), DREAMS OF A RAREBIT FIEND: THE PET (1921), FILMSTUDIE (1926), and LIFE AND DEATH OF 1413, A HOLLYWOOD EXTRA (1928). Between the shorts were lantern slides that promoted upcoming films as well as humours messages.

The WEIRD AND WILD DVD, featuring new music by the Alloy Orchestra, is now available on the Flicker Alley website. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself now! Go ahead! I'll wait for you again.......

Did you buy the WEIRD AND WILD DVD? Good for you! Let's continue, shall we?

The early evening program focused on the films from the former Soviet Union. The orphan short CHESS FEVER (1925) was just hilarious! Who knew comedies even existed in Russia? The film's about a young man whose main love in his life is chess. However his soon bride-to-be is not a fan and she gets so frustrated that she breaks up with him, but is true love more powerful than chess?

The main feature was mind blowing! THE NAIL IN THE BOOT (1931) was just absolutely mind blowing! Director Mikhail Kalatozov was hired to make a military film, but the film was censored by the Soviets (boo! on them) and as a result, Kalatozov didn't make another film for  over eight years! The film's about a soldier's journey to march back to headquarters and inform them to aid an armored train that his under attack. To make his quest more difficult, along the way he his injured thanks to a nail sticking out of the sole of his boot. He arrives to HQ, but it is too little to late. He stands on trail for failure to save the train, but he then turns it around on the factory workers for producing the faulty boots that hindered him to reaching HQ in time.

The film was, in my opinion, a propaganda film, promoting the idea and message that sloppy and shoddy work can lead to the demise and morality of the country. But the message was told in a dynamic way! Kalatozo's directing was fantastic! Later on in his career, Kalatozo would go one to direct THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) and I AM CUBA (1964). The great Stephen Horne once again outdid himself with his incredible score for this incredible film!

The closing film of the festival was HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924), starring the "Man of a Thousand Faces" himself, the great Lon Chaney. In the film Chaney plays Paul Beaumont, a scientist who goes mad after his discoveries are stolen by his wealthy benefactor Baron Regmard (Marc McDermott), who claims the discoveries as his own and also manages to steal his wife as well. Humiliated and betrayed, Beaumont joins the circus and becomes the clown known as HE-who gets slapped. The act involves him being slapped in the face a hundred times, thus becoming hugely popular. There he befriends a a horse backrider named Bezano (John Gilbert) and they both fall in love with his assistant Consuelo (Norma Shearer). But when the Baron buys Consuelo's hand in marriage from her father, Beaumont vows not to let that come to fruition.

The film was directed by Swedish filmmaker Victor Sjostrom (this was his first American film for the newly-formed MGM), and Chaney's performance was outstanding. Chaney really was the best actor of the silent era, and this film proves that he could convey a wide range of emotions. From blissful happiness to sheer madness, this is one of my favorite Lon Chaney films.

Bringing the film to life with music was the Matti Bye Ensemble. Folks, they were on fire this past weekend and don't be surprised when they become superstars in the world of silent film scores. Also, they and Jill Tracy are performing together for a free show tonight at the Disco Volante in Oakland!

Well folks, there you have it! Another SF Silent Film Festival has come to a close. I just want to say hi to all my friends that I got to see again, and to all my new friends that I meet this year, I cannot wait to see you all again at next year's festival! I had so much fun this past weekend! If you'd like to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Phil attends the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival: Day Three-July 16, 2011

Hello again and welcome back to day three of my trip to the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival here at the Castro Theater! So far this has been an astounding festival, full of new discovers and some classic silent films that I cannot wait to see. So let's talk about today's programs, shall we?

First off, I took my good friend and fellow film blogger Jason to my favorite place to eat in the Castro. Orphan Andy's is the place to eat breakfast and they're known for having the fluffiest pancakes in town! Also try their french toast and their fresh-squeezed orange juice! It is to die for! I eat here every year during the festival, so if you want ever want to have breakfast with me, you know where to find me!

The first program of the day was WALT DISNEY'S LAUGH-O-GRAMS, which featured some very funny cartoons that Mr. Disney made in his garage back when he was still living in Kansas City, Missouri. Having founded Laugh-O-Gram Studios in 1915, Disney, then a commercial artists, began his legacy and by the early 1930's he would become world famous, thanks to a little mouse named Mickey. These short cartoons were inspiring as well as funny. It's interesting to see how Disney's style of animation evolved with Laugh-O-Gram series, and to see how he stared his empire. In the program, several shorts were shown

NEWMAN LAUGH-O-RAMA (1921): Walt Disney appeared in and did the entire cartoon all by himself and basically was a sample reel. Keep in mind that he did the whole thing in his garage! He pitched this to the Newman Theater in his hometown and was accepted. History was made that day.
THE FOUR MUSICIANS OF BREMEN (1922): Four animal friends are on a madcap adventure. After being thrown out of venues (apparently they are not very good musicians) they play their music to catch fish, with little success. But it's hilarious to watch. They also spend their time avoid being eaten by sharks and fighting off what appears to be members of NRA, only they use cannons! Another rare and fun cartoon to see!
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD aka GRANDMA STEPS OUT (1922): Directed and animated by Disney, Rudolph Ising as well as some of Disney's friends, this was a rare short cartoon and real treat to see.
CINDERELLA (1922): An early cartoon Disney made and the precursor to his animated classic, it was fun to see this early version of the story. Plus it was fun to see Cinderella's fairy godmother turn her into a flapper girl! Disney was keeping it real folks!
GOLDIE LOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS aka THE PEROXIDE KID (1922): This film was originally considered a lost film, but not anymore. Also, when Walt Disney finally became famous, several of his laugh-o-rama cartoons were re-released by other distributors and renamed.
PUSS IN BOOTS aka THE CAT'S WHISKERS (1922): A boy loves a princess and his cat loves the princess' cat. By having the boy by the cat some very stylish boots, the two of them hatch out a plan to win the King's approval.
JACK THE GIANT KILLER aka THE KO KID (1922): A fun film thought to be lost. Jack tells his tale tale about defeating a band of giants. Another film that was renamed.
ALICE'S WONDERLAND (1923): The film features Walt Disney himself, as well as a young child actress named Virgina Davis. Disney gives her a tour of his studio were all kinds of crazy shenanigans happen.

The next program up was one I was very interested in seeing once again. VARIATIONS ON A THEME: MUSICIANS ON THE CRAFT OF COMPOSING AND PERFORMING FOR SILENT FILM was moderated by Jill Tracy and featured several of the musicians that are performing during the festival. This year's panel consisted of Dennis James, Stephen Horne, Mattias Olsson from the Matti Bye Ensemble, Rodney Sauer from the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Donald Sosin, Giovanni Spinelli, and Ken Winokur from the Alloy Orchestra.

Before the discussion began, another "orphan film" was shown, and it was a talkie! MUSIC FOR THE SILENT NEWSREELS (1930) stars a musician sitting at a grand piano explaining the fundamentals and the various types of music that accompanied the Movietone newsreels.

The forum began with Tracy having a clip of the GOOSE WOMAN being shown and having four of the musicians giving their own interpretation of music for it. Donald Sosin played an upbeat melody, Stephen Horne played a dramatic chase theme, Dennis James played a classical, sorrowful piece on the Mighty Wurlitzer, and finally the Alloy Orchestra played it a weird, slapstick piece for the clip. Each one worked  perfectly, and it showcased how music affects a scene.

After the demonstrations, the conversation began, almost similar to last year's discussion. The main discussion/argument centered on once again having new compositions vs. the original musical scores that were written for the films. Dennis James stands firm on the preservation of the original score for the films, and feels that by composing a new score, it disrespects the historical importance of it. Now Dennis has a point, and he was taught this at the very beginning of his career. He first got his big break when he was hired by none other than silent film actress Lillian Gish (BIRTH OF A NATION, BROKEN BLOSSOMS, THE WIND) herself to perform the music for her films. So Dennis is the link between the historical musical scores and the new world of silent film composing. Once again there was a heated debate between Dennis and Alloy's Ken, which was a continuation from last year, but it was far more intense and personal. Dennis then made an analogy about the "art" of graffiti, and that by creating the graffiti on a side of a building, people will no longer talk about the building, just the graffiti. By analyzing this analogy, you are ruining the artist's original vision

Now, this is where it gets tricky, and what I'm about to say is MY OPINION AND MY OPINION ALONE! I am a big fan of Dennis James, and I have seen him perform up and down the California coast. I understand where he is coming from, being an amateur historian myself. However, there always room for everyone who wants to help contribute to the rich silent film legacy. Sometimes I like to hear the original score, sometimes I'd like to hear something more contemporary, but the bottom line is this: doesn't it compliment the film? On DVDs, fans have a chose to chose what they want to hear, to see the film in a different light. If it helps the film, it works for me! Having a more modern or an avant-garde score, like the Alloy Orchestra, is fine with me. Just as long it complements the film! (Those of you who read my blog know that I said something similar to this in my opening night blog)

Before the 2pm program, the festival screened a fascinating orphan film fragment. THE TRIBAL LAW was originally released in 1912 and starred Wallace Reid. Even though only a small fragment of the remains, it is such an important piece of film, given that this a long lost Reid film. Just being able to see this small fragment was incredible!

The next program was THE BLIZZARD, a Swedish silent film that was released in 1923. Directed by Mauritz Stiller and staring Einar Hanson, Mary Johnson, and Pauline Brunius, the film telles the story of a young man who falls in love with a beautiful musician, but he is soon driven to madness by an amazing and astounding reindeer stampede that really must be seen. He is healed back to health and regains his sanity thanks to love and music, provided by his muse.

The film was once considered to be a lost film, thanks in large part because of missing footage. Now it has been restored and it looked marvelous. This was an incredible experience, thanks again to the Matti Bye Ensemble, who, like what they did last night with THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE, tapped into the emotional subtext of the film, and heightened it with their beautiful score. A fantastic film with a fantastic score equals a fantastic program!

The next film to be shown was another film that I have seen at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, but never at the Castro, so I was looking forward to seeing it again. Another plus factor was that it was a new film print. THE GOOSE WOMAN stars Louise Dresser as a down-and-out prima donna who had to give up her career when she had her illegitimate son Gerald (Jack Pickford), and thus losing her voice. She blames her son for lot in life (poverty and alcoholism), but seizes an opportunity for a comeback when her neighbor is murdered and being the only witness thrusts her back into the spotlight. However, it also may also land her son in jail.

Dresseer's performance in the film is quite amazing, and director Clarence Brown became very sought after upon the film's release back in 1925. The film print came from UCLA and once again Stephen Horne provided the musical accompaniment.

Before the 6pm program, a very cute and adorable "orphan film" was shown. The title of 1921's CHUMMING WITH CHIPMUNKS says it all folks. This short documentary (if you can believe that) showcases one man's obsession with befriending a cute little chipmunk by having nuts tied to the end of strings that were tied to tree branches. Yes my friends, it was that adorable!

The next film up is a silent film classic, starring one of the silent era's brightest stars. MR. FIX-IT stars the great Douglass Fairbanks and was released by Artcraft Films in 1918. Before he became known as a swashbuckling superstar, Fairbanks made a series of light-hearted, romantic comedies, that also showcased his athletic prowess. In the film Fairbanks stars as the happy-go-luck Remington who is attending Oxford with his friend Reginald (Leslie Stuart). After 15 years of nor seeing his family, Reginald knows that his rich, snobby family won't accept his fiancee. To help out his friend, Remington goes to visit Reginald's family, but by  posing has Reginald. Soon, Remington is shaking up the household, thanks to his philosophy on life and by also inviting the lovely Mary (Wanda Hawley) and her younger siblings to stay with him at his house.

This was the perfect film for Fairbanks, showing his comedic timing, his unbelievable acrobatic feats, and his romantic side. This was a great-looking film print, courtesy of the George Eastman House. Accompanying the film was the great Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer!

The last film of the night was the centerpiece presentation of the festival. Introduced by film critic Leonard Maltin and film noir czar Eddie Muller (the man responsible for the San Francisco Film Noir Festival), THE WOMAN MEN YEARN FOR was just unbelievable! I won't tell you too much about the film, so let me just say this: MARLENE DIETRICH. That's it! That is the only reason you should see this film! Actually, there are several reasons to see the film. First off, director Kurt Bernhardt did an incredible job on the film. His tracking shots in the beginning of the film were amazing: the camera gives us the audience of a POV shot of the town as we travel along with some of the townspeople. You will notice this style in several of Martin Scorsese's films. The film also boasts advant garde style shots and quick edits of machinery, fascinating camera set ups, and an incredible fight scene at the end. The film was definitely a precursor to the film noir genre that was launched in the 1940's. And of course, Deitrich looked breathtaking as always. The film was released in Germany in 1929.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra accompanied the film and gave a phenomenal performance! Another highlight of the festival.

After the show was over, Jason and I were waiting for the trolley when I ran into Anne Marie Smatla, a friend that I had met at last year's festival. Anne graduated from the L Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and she was here to help promote the 1st Annual Denver Silent Film Festival, to which she is the associate film director of the festival. So to any of you silent film fans, if you are in Denver on the weekend of September 23rd-25th, stop by the King's Center and check it out!

What a day! I was inside the Castro Theater from 9:30 am-10:30 pm! The perfect way to spend a Saturday!! Just one more day left of the festival! If you still want to check it out, there are tickets still available to purchase. Please visit the SF Silent Film Festival's website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Phil attends the 16th Annual SF Silent Film Festival: Day 2-July 14, 2011

Hello again everybody and welcome to day two of my trip to the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the historic Castro Theater! So much do and so many more silent films to see today, so let's get this show on the road!

First up was the latest installment in the highly recommended series called AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE ARCHIVIST AS DETECTIVE . Hosted by UCLA Film and Television archivist Jan-Christopher Horak, George Eastman House's Anthony L'Abbate and Melissa Levesque from the Academy Film Archive, this free show presents these three individuals' tales about film preservation, and the pain-staking steps it takes to identify, preserve, and protect these cinematic treasures. Accompanying music for these short films and film fragments was the great Stephan Horne, whose name you'll see pop up numerous times during the festival.

As I stated in my last film blog, the festival's main theme for this year is "orphan films," so before each program there are screenings of these little darlings for us to enjoy. Before first program, two orphan films were shown: 1922's MRS. HARDING, "CAMERAMAN?" and 1928's COOLIDGE TRAPSHOOTING. It's safe to say the films are self-explanatory.

The first film screening today was Mark Twain's beloved classic character HUCKLEBERRY FINN. This was the very first film adaptation of Twain's famous story and it was presumed lost until George Eastman House discovered it and made an amazing restoration. The film starred Lewis Sargent, George Reed, and Gordon Griffith. The director for the film was William Desmond Taylor, who unfortunately is more well known because of his mysterious death than his films. Taylor was only 50 years old when he died and his death still remains unsolved . The film was originally released in 1927. Providing the musical score was Donald Sosin on the grand piano.

Another orphan film was shown before the second program. ST. LOUIS TO CHICAGO was released in 1926, and it also features a then unknown Charles Lindbergh. Very cool film to see.

The next film to be shown was I WAS BORN, BUT... directed by the great Yasujiro Ozu. I was fortunate to have seen this film about three years ago during the Cinequest Film Festival back in my hometown of San Jose, but I was really looking forward to seeing the film again. Ozu (who's best known for his post WWII films such as LATE SPRING (1949), EARLY SUMMER (1951), and TOKYO STORY (1953)) directed this funny, light-hearted children's comedy that really does need to be rediscovered. Who knew Ozu could make a film such as this. It was a very sweet and funny film. Not what you'd expect from Ozu, so make sure you check this one out! On the grand piano once again was Stephan Horne.

The third film I saw was my favorite of the festival thus far! THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE was an extraordinary experience. This documentary film chronicled the British Antarctic Expedition led by Captain Scott, but unfortunately, the expedition ended in tragedy. The film footage was originally shot in 1910, but the director Herbert Ponting didn't edit and release this UK film until 1924. The film's footage is over a hundred years old, and it looked spectacular! What I found touching is that these were real people trying to make history. We the audience are emotionally invested with Captain Scott and his brave crew, and the end result of their journey makes it all the more heartbreaking. A true documentary gem that I am very glad I got to see! The film's accompaniment was provided by the Matti Bye Ensemble, who did a marvelous job elevating this film to dizzying heights! Their performance was completely captivating, and their score perfectly complicated the film. This was the highlight of the festival for today!!

Before the last program of the night, the orphan film BEETHOVEN'S "MOONLIGHT SONATA," which was released in 1909 by Edison Films. This was a fun, little short that has Beethoven having sever writer's block, and walks around town, upon hearing the beautiful piano notes. He investigates and discovers a lovely, blind housewife is making the beautiful melodies. The filma has all the trademarks of an Edison production: cheesy acting, bad melodrama, and some of the worst set designs ever. When Beethoven is walking around town, he is taller than the buildings! This has cam written all over it, and I loved it!

The last film for today was a very strange and hilarious (even though it wasn't supposed to be funny) Italian import entitled IL FUOCO. Released in Italy in 1915, the film stars Pina Menichelli (who almost throughout the film wears a hat and coat that makes her look like an owl) as an evil and wealthy poetess who seduces a poor painter (Febo Mario) who just fall in love with this femme fatale. This film was a real trip, and I say that because of its ending, which I don't want to give away. Needless to say, Micnichelli's diva was a real witch, and she played it off perfectly! The film was directed by Giovanni Pastrone and again Stephen Horne provided the music accompaniment along with Jill Tracy providing the haunting vocal moans.

Another fun-filled day was had by all, especially for this silent film buff! There are still two more days of the SF Silent Film Festival, so if you would like to know more about the festival and its film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Phil attends the opening night of the 16th Annual SF Silent Film Festival-July 14, 2011

Okay, I have been waiting patiently for this event all year! Now, that time has come! It's the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, held at the majestic Castro Theater! Tonight was absolutely amazing! This year, the festival added another film for the opening night. That's right; two films tonight and both were preceded by a short film. Plus an earth shattering announcement. So let's get this show on the road!

Nancy Nash & Earle Foxe in UPSTREAM (1927)
Tonight's show began with an introduction by Academy Film Archivist Joe Linder and Schawn Belston, who along with his employee 20th Century Fox, helped with the preservation of the film we were about to see. They discussed about how the film was discovered at the New Zealand Film Archive and was part of what archivist call "orphan films," which are films that no longer have owners or the copyrights expired. Thanks to five major American archives, this film and 75 other "lost" films will now be preserved. "Orphan films" will be the theme for this year's festival, and many of these films will be shown before the main features throughout the festival.

The first screening began with the orphan film entitled WHY HUSBANDS FLIRT. A newlywed husband gets the itch to once again play the field and soon meets a young woman behind his wife's back. What he doesn't is that the young woman he picked up is an old school chum of his wife's, and the two of them teach the husband he will never forget. A really funny short film that got the audience in good spirits.

The main feature for the program was a hilarious comedy entitled UPSTREAM, which was directed by iconic director John Ford, best known for making some of the greatest westerns films ever made. The films stars Nancy Nash, Earle Foxe, and Grant Withers, the film takes place in a theatrical boarding house, where a love triangle takes place among our three leads. The film was scored by the amazing Donald Sosin Ensemble. The film was originally released by 20th Century Fox on January 20, 1927.

After the screening, the festival had a very special and important announcement to share with us. In 2012, the festival, along with American Zoetrope, The Film Preserve, Photoplay Productions, and the BFI will be screening, at the  Paramount Theatre in Oakland, the US premiere of the complete restoration of NAPOLEON!! This film was a life-time obsession of author, historian, and Academy Award winner Kevin Brownlow, who gave us some more information about his love of this this beloved silent classic. NAPOLEON will be shown on March 24, 25, 31, and April 1. Tickets are available here.

There was a brief intermission, as to those who choose to attend the Opening Night Party at the McRoskey Mattress Company Building could leave, or stay and watch the second film that was being shown. I chose the film, due to the fact that I have never seen the film on the big Castro screen before.

George O'Brien & Margaret Livingston in SUNRISE (1927)
The second screening was of the film SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS, directed by the world renown F.W. Murnau and starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston. This was such a beautiful film, and way ahead of its time. Murnau's directing was both superb and groundbreaking. Using interesting tracking shots, super-imposed images, interesting interior set designs, and beautiful cinematography, set against a story of love, betrayal, and redemption, this is one of my favorite films by this highly regarded auteur. The film was preceded by an outtake from the orphan film F.W. MURNAE AND GEORGE O'BRIEN LEAVING PARIS FOR BERLIN. To introduce the films was artist Jill Tracy and musician Giovanni Spinelli provided an electric guitar score for the film.

Yes, I said an electric guitar score. And this is where the controversy begins.

Now, I have seen this film before, with the original score provided by my good friend Dennis James. I am a very open-minded person, and my opinion is this: no matter who is scoring the film, if it compliments the film, then it's fine with me. However, in this case, Spinelli's electric score was a distraction, and I spoke with numerous people who felt the same way, if not more vocal. But I soon drowned out his music and I found myself immerse in the film. I was just captivated by Murnae's style of directing, so in a round about way, thanks to Spinelli, I rediscovered this classic film and saw it with a whole new perspective.

Now there were people who did enjoy Spinelli's score, and that's good to hear. Others did not, and that's OK too. A majority of people that I spoke to said they came to the show because of this electric guitar score, and half of those people had never seen the film before. Sometime we need to shake things up in life. We can't just continue with being comfortable and stay stagnant. Spinelli's radical new score brought people to come see SUNRISE, and that's a very good thing. People who have never seen a silent film before walked away having been awaken to this long, lost art form. And for this reason, I give Spinelli full credit of making a lot of new people into silent films fans!

What an amazing night tonight!! And folks, this is only just the beginning! The festival will be going until Sunday night. To purchase tickets for any of the shows, visit the festival's website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Phil reflects on HORROR HIGH for 13, 2011

Hello again everybody! Here's a flashback article that I wrote for the Fangoria website not that long ago. I thought it would be fun to have it reposted here for your enjoyment. I love horror films, especially the ones from my childhood. I would sneak into theaters, watch them on cable after my folks were asleep. or rent them with my friends. I am very lucky to be a contributing writer for them, and get to share my love for the horror genre. Hope you have fun reading it!

By 1989, the slasher film genre was declared officially dead. The idea of a deranged maniac going on a killing spree had been done to death, and fans and critics alike were bored. However, it was at this point that a little slasher film was released that, unfortunately, fell through the cracks. HELL HIGH, directed and co-written by Douglas Grossman, is one of the more original examples of the subgenre: it follows the specific criteria, but at the same time adds some new ingredients to the mix.

Theatrical Move Poster (1989)
Science teacher Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney) is still haunted by the deaths of two teenagers that she accidently caused as a young girl. She crosses into insanity when four high-schoolers-deranged delinquent Dickens (portrayed brilliantly by Christopher Stryker), Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins), Queenie (Millie Prezioso), and Smiler (Jason Brill)-start harassing her and then attack her in her home. While the premise of the film sounds like your typical killathon, the end results are not.

First, there is no "final girl"left at the end of the movie, but rather a final guy. Second, there is Jon-Jon, who is one of the best male screamers in horror history. Another noteworthy twist is that instead of an adult stalking teenagers, it is the teenagers who stalk and attack the adult, who only later turns the tables on her juvenile assailants. The film also touches on hot-button subjects as lesbianism to teenage peer pressure.

While it's common for big-name actors to get their start by being cast in horror films, HELL HIGH had the distinct honor of stalling some of its participants' careers. It was the only film that Grossman ever directed, and neither Prezioso nor Brill ever acted in another film. However, both Mooney and Cousins escaped the curse and had successful careers as soap opera stars. Mooney played Ann Jeffers on GUIDING LIGHT and Stacy Coles on ALL MY CHILDREN, while Cousins portrayed Cain Rogan on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and had recurring roles on LIPSTICK JUNGLE, BREAKING BAD, and the new FX show TERRIERS. Unfortunately, Stryker, who could have been the film's breakout star, died of AIDS on September 22, 1987 at the age of 27.

Also titled RAGING FURY and filmed as WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TONIGHT? in 1986, the film wasn't released until May 12, 1989, which proved to be a fatal delay, and it was banished into genre-film obscurity. However, the fine folks at Media Blasters resurrected the film on DVD back in 2004, with commentary by drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs and Grossman himself. The DVD also boasts an introduction by Briggs, an interview with co-writer Leo Evans and Grossman, theatrical trailers and TV spots.

After years of being suspended, HELL HIGH can now be rediscovered by a new generation of slasher fans for its originality and gruesome death scenes. Twenty-two years after the film's original release, it still speaks to the disenchanted youth of today. Like Dickens says in the film, "There's nothing after high school. There is only more stink." Words to live by.

HELL HIGH is currently available on DVD only. To purchase a copy, visit

To learn more about Fangoria and everything that's horror, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Phil sees RAFFLES, THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-July 9, 2011

Once again I visited one of my favorite places in the world, The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in the Niles District of Fremont. Every Saturday I have my routine: I start off having dinner at Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace, where I get see my friends Heather, Dave, Marcy, and the rest of the crew. After filling my belly, I headed on over to the Edison Theater, where tonight the museum showed a very cool and rare John Barrymore film. It was preceded by two shorts, and on the piano tonight was the fantastic Frederick Hodges.

John Barrymore (1882-1942)
Th first short was FOX TROT FINESSE, a funny film about a married man Ferdie Crosby (Sidney Drew) who's married to fox trot dancing wife Eva (Mrs. Sidney Drew) and her awful mother-in-law (Ethel Lee). Before TV sitcoms became the norm, the Drews were pioneers, having a series of films that showcased domestic life in a humours fashion. The Drews were really married in real life, which makes the film even more funny. The film was released by the Vitagraph Company on October 1, 1915.

The second short of the night was THE SILENT TRAILER, starring the museum's favorite police crime dog Fearless. In the film Fearless plays Prince, a family dog who must protect the family from a pair of con artists. The film was released by Van Pelt Productions on October 1, 1926.

After a brief intermission, the program continued with RAFFLES, THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN, starring the famous John Barrymore as A.J. Raffles. Raffles is London's best cricket player, who just also happens to be the best thief as well. While attending a party, Raffles becomes aware of a highly sought after necklace. He soon sets his eyes on what will become his greatest  theft of all, but he must avoid the police as well as a woman who encountered a year before, and can identify him. The film was released by L. Lawrence Webber Photo Dramas Inc. on December 15, 1917.

Many people may know who Barrymore is, and many have seen his other, more popular silent films like SHERLOCK HOLMES, DON JUAN, and my favorite film of his,  DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. But here was a chance to see an earlier film of his that I didn't know still existed. It was very exciting to see Barrymore in all his glory, and giving us the opportunity to see it for the first time. A really cool and entertaining crime thriller!

Another fun night at the Edison Theater. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, how to become a member, and view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees HORRIBLE BOSSES at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 9, 2011

There's nothing better than sleeping in late on a Saturday morning. However, the next best thing is seeing a movie first thing in the afternoon. And lucky for me, the Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell was having a 12 o'clock screening of the new comedy HORRIBLE BOSSES. Yes my friends, this is the way to start off your Saturday.

The film centers on three, disgruntled best friends Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day respectively), all who cannot stand their bosses. Nick's boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) is a psychotic tyrant who just loves to his life miserable. Accountant Kurt Buckman's boss was a great until he died of a heart attack, leaving his paranoid, karate obsessed, cokehead son Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) in charge, who wants to fire everybody and destroy the company's good name. Dental assistant Kurt is madly in love with his fiancee, but that hasn't stop his sex-crazed boss Dr. Julia Harris, DDS (Jennifer Aniston) from propositioning herself to him. Over several drinks, the three friends decided to kill their bosses, They enlist the aid of an alleged hitman (Jamie Foxx) who suggests they kill each others bosses as to not get the blame for it. What happens next is balls to the wall comedy. Seriously, it's hysterical!

The film works on so many levels, but it helps if you have a great script (thanks to screenwriters Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein) and the cast for pulling it off, making it so believable and unbelievably funny! There are no weak links in the film, but major props goes to Aniston, who sidesteps away from the usual, predictable roles she's known for. Also her performance as the sex-starved Harris gives new meaning to the word "maneater," which made me feel kinda funny. Like "when I use to climb the rope in gym class" kinda funny.

Kudos also to director Seth Gordon for bringing it all together. Gordon started off his career with his amazing underdog documentary film THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFULL OF QUARTERS. Then Hollywood came calling, and he was soon directing the film FOUR CHRISTMASES as well as TV shows like THE OFFICE and MODERN FAMILY. Gordon really does a fantastic job of getting the best laughs out of his cast. Also, stick around for the credits at the end, and see what I mean.

HORRIBLE BOSSES is a smart, hilarious, sexy, and killer comedy that will be the surprise hit of the summer. Not much has been said or printed about the film, which to me is good news. Remember what happened to last year's sleeper comedy hit THE HANGOVER? The reason that film became so big was through word of mouth. The very same thing could happen for this film as well. So get off that computer of yours and run down to the Camera Cinemas and see this film! That way, when this film blows up, you can have the bragging rights to say that you saw it before it got big!

HORRIBLE BOSSES is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Phil's recommendations for the National Film Registry: Part III: WORD IS OUT-July 8, 2011

Hello, and welcome to my series of film recommendations that I'm planning to submit to the National Film Registry. After viewing the amazing documentary THESE AMAZING SHADOWS a couple of months ago, I went to the Registry's website and noticed there were films that the Library of Congress should look into adding. As a result of this discovery, I decided to pick my own film recommendations that fulfills the criteria of the registry of being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," while at the same time choosing films that might have been overlooked due to oversight, or of ignorance of the film's impact on culture and society.

For my third recommendation, the film I chose is a documentary that was a first of its kind to tackle the subject of homosexuality. Made in 1977 by a local San Francisco outfit called the Mariposa Film Group, they reached out to the Gay Community to create a testament recorded onto celluloid that now stands one of the most important films in the GLBT genre. The documentary film is entitled WORD IS OUT and it is one of the most touching, informative, and enlightening films that I have ever seen.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1977)
The film interviews 26 gays and lesbians about their lives and the struggles they have all had to endure. It is divided up into three parts: the first part (or act) is hiding in the closet, which many in the film had been hiding in for most of their lives. The second part is their coming out experiences as well as their physical and emotional contact. The third part of the film focuses on their concerns and what the future holds for them as they are now exposed to the world. Through such raw and personal testimonials, we the audience feel as if we've known these people all our lives.

Released in 1977, ten years after the Stonewall Riots, and one year before the assassination of Harvey Milk and three years before the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, the film captures a moment not just in GLBT history, but history in general. It looked at that moment that things were about to change in the United States at that time. Things did change, but it would not be good. Throughout GLBT history, it was one set back after another. But eventually strides were being made, leading up to having Gay Marriages as a possibility in some states and becoming a reality in others. The film captures that the possibilities were numerous and limitless, and for those interviewed in the film, some achieved their dreams, and some unfortunately didn't live long enough to see the GLBT movement making massive changes in the world.

WORD IS OUT is one of the most important documentary films in the genre, along with THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK and BEFORE STONEWALL. It showcases the struggle of a minority group to come out without being judged by society. Now queer culture is part of pop culture as well as society. Everyday there are hundreds of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals coming out of the closet and revealing their true selves to the world. Back in 1977, this was not common, but thanks in large part to the film, many of those closeted came out, being inspired by the stories of those who saw themselves up on the silver screen. This is why WORD IS OUT deserves to by part of the National Film Registry.

WORD IS OUT is now available on DVD. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit the Mariposa website at 

To vote for the film to be chosen, visit the National Film Registry at 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Phil sees 13 ASSASSINS at the Camera 3-July 3, 2011

After seeing both BUCK and LARRY CROWNE at the Camera 7 Pruneyard, the third and final film that I've been wanting to see was playing at the Camera 3 in downtown San Jose. So I made a mad dash over there to see one of the most amazing films ever! If you don't believe me, let me tell you what I thought about director Takashi Miike's new film 13 ASSASSINS and why you need to see this film!

Here is the very basic synopsis of the film: A group of 13 samurai assassins have been given a mission to kill the evil Lord Naritsugu from ascending the throne and bringing a rein of terror, chaos, and war to the country. This is all you're going to get. If I told you more, it wouldn't do the film justice. Now the reasons why you should see this film.

To be quite honest, I'm having difficulty with trying to find the right words to describe what I thought about the film, so let I'm gonna let the inner fanboy come out: This was the BEST samurai film that I have seen in a very, very, very, long time! Not since Akira Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece SEVEN SAMURAI  has there been a samurai film of this perfection! Miike's directing was perfect: smooth transitions, beautiful framing, and excellent in your face battle scenes. Like most of his films, there is a wonderful slow build up to the final third act, which in this film, makes a grand entrance. You have never seen a final battle scene quite like this one, and I promise you won't be forgetting about it anytime soon. Violence in the film can be compared to a ballet performance: striking, emotional, raw, and you must admire its sheer beauty. Art and violence sometimes go hand in hand. With this film, it's a perfect marriage, a union made in heaven.

The entire cast of the film is just amazing. There are no weak performances in the film. You'll swear you're watching real life samurais fighting to the death. I cannot list the entire cast for it will take too long (and also I can't speak or write Japanese), but let me just say that they all deserve a standing ovation for the film.

13 ASSASSINS is without a doubt the best film that Takashi Miike had made since 1999's AUDITION. I thought he would never be able to top it, but he has and this film surpasses any and all expectations that you may have. This is the film that all other recent samurai films will be measured to. No matter where you are, if this film is playing near you, take my word, go see this film!! You'll thank me later.

13 ASSASSINS is playing in limited screenings across the nation, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Phil sees LARRY CROWNE at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 3, 2011

The second film I saw was a another surprise. Now I'm not someone who is surprised often. There have been a few screening that I walked way thinking, "Yeah that was worth an hour and a half." This film was not what I was expecting, but I do have to say that LARRY CROWNE was indeed a fun film to enjoy for the next hour and a half.

Tom Hanks stars as the one and only Larry Crowne, a retired 20 year cook in the Navy who now works at the local UMart (yes the comparisons to Wal-Mart are deafening). Then one day Larry is called in to a meeting with his superiors (thinking he was receiving his ninth Employee Of The Month award), but they ultimately lay him off due to his lack of a college education. With his life turned upside down (and with a lot of free time during the day), he enrolls at his local community college. There he makes some cool new friends like the free spirited Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her jealous boyfriend Dell Gordo (Wilmer Valderrama) and joins their  motor scooter gang. He also falls in love with his speech class instructor Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who is having relationship problems with her loser/blogger boyfriend. Soon sparks fly as the two try to keep their respective feeling under control for the remaining of the semester.

This is Hanks' second film that he has directed (the first being the 1996 film THAT THING YOU DO!) and he wrote the screenplay with Nia Vardalos (writer/actress of 2002's smash hit MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING). The script is nothing special, but it has a lot of heart. You can tell Hanks and Vardalos had fun writing the script, and it shows in the film. Everyone in the film is having a good time making the film. Roberts is sweet and funny, with a dash of alcoholism thrown in for good measure. Hanks is having the time of his life in the film, and with good reason. His second time as director pays off, giving audiences a chance to just sit back, relax and have a good time. Also look for appearances by Cedric the Entertainer, Pam Grier, George Takei, Jon Seda, and Rita Wilson.

While the film avoids explaining the hot topics such as the current economic crisis that Larry was a victim of, or the student/teacher relationship, severe depression that lead to alcoholism. Some critics will despise the film for lacking any real value and of realism, but they're missing the point entirely. The film offers the audience escapism, and to be honest there absolutely nothing wrong with that.

LARRY CROWNE is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy that's sure to please audiences. With everything that's wrong in the world, it's nice to get away from that once and a while. Even if it's only for a hour and a half.

LARRY CROWNE is now playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Phil sees BUCK at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 3, 2011

Happy Fourth of July weekend everybody! To celebrate our nation's Independence Day, I went on a movie binge, once again seeing three films today. The first film up is an extraordinary documentary about an extraordinary man. This is a perfect example of what a documentary film should be: interesting, informative, and it touches the human spirit. Make no mistake, the film BUCK accomplishes all these requirements and then some.

The film tells the story of Buck Brannaman, one of the last real cowboys in the world. He is also a living legend in the horse world and was the real life inspiration for THE HORSE WHISPERER (directed by his friend Robert Redford). The film follows Buck's adventures as he travels all over the country, spreading the gospel of mankind and horses and the bond between the two that leads to peace and harmony. This zen-like teachings carries of into Buck's life. Through on camera interviews with those who know Buck best, we learn about his abusive and violent childhood with his father, the passing of his mother, his adoptive parents saving him and his brother and him learning the philosophy of horses. Our cowboy fought through Hell and back, only to come out the winner in the end. With the help of his family and friends, Buck shows us what a real man is all about and how it's achieved.

Director Cindy Meehl does a really terrific job of bring to light of Buck's life and the trials and tribulations that he had to suffer to come out as not only a better man, but a better human being. Thanks to his adoptive parents, as well as learning the teachings of his horse predecessors Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. While Meehl gets just about all of Buck's family and family on camera, there is one person that is omitted from participating, that being Buck's brother Bill. We see the two of them as kids, performing their rope trick acts, as well as seeing them rise in popularity. Being on TV shows, and doing commercials creates the illusion that on the surface everything was good for the boys. However, for some unexplained reason, we do not get to see or hear Bill's story at all. Whether he wanted to participate in the documentary is unclear, but it would've been interesting to see how he's doing these days. Aside from that minor problem, the film plays out well and gives the audience the honor of meeting a man who defines categories and inspires us to better ourselves and better the world that we live in.

BUCK is one of those rare documentary films that touches us all and makes us better just by being able to witness a man who despite all obstacles proves that you can come out ahead and avoid the trappings of circumstances. A fantastic film that is a must see by all!!

BUCK is playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Phil sees CARS 2 in 3-D at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-July 2, 2011

I woke up today feeling young and chipper. For some reason I was in the mood to see a fun, kids movie today. Luckily, the Camera 7  Pruneyard in Campbell was having an early screening of Pixar's newest film CARS 2 in Disney 3-D. So like I always do, I jammed out out to my favorite theater, and was ready to let the inner child in me have some fun for the next hour and a half.

Before the film, there was a TOY STORY short which was a welcomed surprise! Entitled HAWAIIAN VACATION, Barbie and Ken stow-away in Bonnie's school backpack so they can come along with her to Hawaii. Unfortunately, Bonnie leaves her backpack at home and leaves with her family. Soon Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang try to help them have a romantic getaway vacation in Bonnie's room.

Picking up from the end of TOY STORY 3, we get to enjoy the further adventures of our favorite toys in their new home. Another treat was that Pixar reunited the original voices from the films. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and the rest all came back to reprise their respective characters.

After the short, the show continued with the main attraction. In this sequel to the popular 2006 film, the story continues with race car superstar Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson), his tow truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and the rest of the gang in Radiator Springs. McQueen has been competing on the race circuit for the past three years and now he returns home for a little R&R, and also to spend some quality time with his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt). But thanks to Mater's meddling, McQueen is lured into racing the World Grand Prix to race against his new rival Francesco Bernoulli (John Tuturro). However, during the tour Mater gets caught up in a game international espionage. With the help of British spy agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), Mater is accidentally recruited to bring down Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann) and his gang from sabotaging the races and the new fuel invention of Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), who's providing the fuel for the World Grand Prix.

While the film is more of a love note to the James Bond series, it does take a different route from the first film. Whereas CARS was a slower, more patient film, the sequel goes in the complete opposite direction: fast paced, high risk scenarios, in your face racing scenes that surpass the first film. Directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis keep the pace of the film fast, funny, and entertaining. The race scenes alone are just stupendous. They look like the real cities of Tokyo, Paris and London, not computer generated environments. Once again, the computer animators have outdone themselves with this film. As for the 3-D effects, that only heightened the look of the film. It was the cherry to the already perfect ice cream sundae.

The story itself was not bad, not great either. I was expecting more McQueen; his life and his struggles like in the first film. Instead, he takes a back seat to Mater and his misadventures of being the world's worst accidental spy. Pixar should have named the film CARS 2: MATER'S BIG ADVENTURE. I felt as if the filmmakers did this intentionally, without letting the audience know what they were about to see Mater, not McQueen, shine in the spotlight. While he was the breakout character of the first film (and had a series of shorts starring him and McQueen), I felt like Pixar cheated fans out of some great character development. While both Caine and Mortimer are fantastic in their roles, it was still a subpar film.

CARS 2 will still attract kids of all ages to come to the theater and be entertained. Unfortunately, the inner child in me thought the film could've been better with a stronger script and more screen time from the rest of the characters. However I knew it was going to be tough to top last year's TOY STORY 3, which was Pixar's best film ever in my opinion. Hopefully the rest of the gang in Radiator City can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Mater has now made the world safe from another CARS sequel.

CARS 2 is now playing in 2-D and 3-D in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends a special screening of PURPLE RAIN with hostess Peaches Christ and Apollonia in person at the Castro Theater-July 1, 2011

Ok, this is how you kick off a three-day holiday weekend folks! After a long and grueling work week, I was ready to blow off some steam. I drove out to Union City to pick up my good friend Marisa and I took her to the famous Castro Theater. Last night, there was a party like no other! The theatre screened PURPLE RAIN, hosted by the fabulous Peaches Christ, and live and in person was the beautiful and breathtaking Apollonia! This was a night to remember, so let the festivities begin!

This was the first time that my friend had ever been to the Castro Theater, so I gave her a quick tour of the building. We found some primo seats on the left hand side of the theater and waited patiently for the show to begin. While the theater was filling up, they played numerous Prince songs, which only got the audience more hyped up. Then the pre-show began with a fantastic opening lip-synch performance of Prince songs by Peaches Christ (she portrayed The Kid) and her gorgeous cast: Syphillis Diller (Brenda Bennett), Becky Motorlodge (Susan Moonsie), PJ Souless (Wendy), Tangyna (Lisa), and the amazing Putanasca, who perfected her trifecta by portraying Nikki, Shelia E, and Apollonia! The sets and props (complete with a bubble machine and a ultra fab cardboard cut out of Prince's motorcycle) were awesome and it made the crowd go crazy! It was marvelous!!

After the lip-synch, Peaches introduced herself and welcomed everyone to this historic event. Then the pre-show party continued with fashion designer Fruitbomb's Purple Parade Runway Show, which showcased her fantastic fashion designs with celebrity models Shakey Gibson, Mercy Fuque, Jeremy Wells, Randy Randi, Shane Emerson, Kegel Kater, Trixxie Carr, Rotissary Etnicity, and Jackson Houston Ross.

Immediately after the fashion show, they held the Dress For The Revolution costume contest. Peaches and Fruitbomb gathered up on stage some of the best costumes I've ever seen. Prince himself would've been proud. One lucky SF native won herself an incredible gift basket, filled with all kinds of special goodies.

Actress Apollonia (1984)
Actress Apollonia (2011)
Then, the moment finally arrived! Peaches introduced Apollonia to the stage and the entire theater rose up to their feet and gave her a standing ovation. Peaches interview with the Purple Princess was fun, fast, and very entertaining. She dispelled the rumors about her sexual relationship with Prince, and confirms that they're "really good friend." She also talked briefly about her time on FALCON CREST, being neighbors with Carmen Electra, and the 2005 launching of her own multi-media entertainment company entitled Kotero Entertainment. She also didn't rule out about making another record, but she will be back on the big screen again soon. She is set to appear in a new Chris Rock film that will be released sometime next year! And believe it or not, this women is 51 years old and is more beautiful now than she was back in the 80's! Peaches then invited the audience to participate in the Q&A session. Apollonia also participated in a fan meet and great during the movie. And speaking about the movie...

Theatrical Movie Poster (1984)
If for some reason, you have NOT seen this movie yet, I have one thing to say to you: Where the hell have you been for the past 27 years?!? This is only one of the most important and influential films of the 1980's! The soundtrack won an Academy award for crying out loud! Ok for those who have yet seen this film, let me give you a brief synopsis: a talented young musician (Prince) battles his rival Morris Day on stage as well as for the heart of the enchanting Apollonia while trying to avoid the pitfalls and shortcomings of his abusive father. There you have it in a nutshell. Keep in mind I'm trying not reveal too much about the film. Historically speaking, this was a landmark film for Prince. The film was released on July 27, 1984 and was a smash it at the boxoffice. Everyone back in the 80's went to see the film, and then rushed out to by the soundtrack. It made Prince even more popular, and gave him the opportunity to experiment with his music. Instead of re-creating the same album again, he stayed with the funk and R&B and made critical acclaim albums like Parade (the soundtrack to his next film UNDER THE CHERRY MOON) and Sign 'o The Times. PURPLE RAIN is a fun-filled, sexually charged, and kick ass rock n' roll movie classic!

This was an amazing night!! Fashion, music, Apollonia, and the lovely Peaches Christ, it's gonna be hard to top this extravaganza! However I have faith in Peaches, for her next party will be the screening of the cult film SHOWGIRLS! Now that will be a blast, and this reviewer/fan cannot wait for that one! In the meantime, stay purple my friends!!

To learn for about the famous Peaches Christ and her shows, visit her website at

To learn more about the Castro Theater and to view their movie schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!