Sunday, April 29, 2012

Phil sees THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT at the Camera 12-April 27, 2012

Majority of the time, the Hollywood romantic comedies start at the beginning of a couple's relationship, chronicling their madcap adventures to see if their love was meant to be. But what happens after that? Do they still remain or does it end? These happy-go-lucky romantic comedies are a dime a dozen and are pretty fluffy and sappy to the point of disgust. But what if their was a film that chronicled a relationship in the middle of a transformation? Like say, an engagement that is continuously put on hold that compromises a relationship? This is the premise of THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT, starring Jason Segal and Emily Blunt and co-written, directed and produced by Nicholas Stoller.

The film's about couple Tom Solomon (Segal) and Violet Barnes (Blunt), who have been together for a year and are now engaged. It looks as though our couple will be living happily ever after. However, a series of events (both hilarious and sad) interfere with their happy ending, resulting with them having to prolong their wedding. Things get worse as both have to sacrifice their dreams for one another and their realization that their wedding might not come to fruition. Throw in great performances by Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer and Kevin Hartand you have one funny film on your hands.

This is not your typical romantic comedy here folks. What we have here is a clever script written by both Stoller and Segal that strays away from the norm and gives us something fresh and unique. Most films today don't begin a year into relationships, let alone the complications of trying to tie the knot. Incorporating real life problems and situations such as relocating, change in careers, deaths of family members, and having doubts about their relationship, we are given a sense reality that most other films in this genre severely lack. But remember that this is also a comedy, and the laughs come from unexpected moments, so be prepared to laugh out loud from the most unlikeliness situations.

Kuddos to both Segal and Blunt, who turn in great performances in the film. Both have fantastic on-screen chemistry that really draws the viewer into the story. We truly believe in their love and hope they do get married. Another great couple to look for in the film is Tom's best friend Alex (Pratt) and Violet's younger sister Suzie (Brie), who hook up at their engagement party, only to get married before Tom and Violet. Look for some hilarious moments when all four of these characters appear on screen all at once. Both Segal and Blunt have been extremely busy as of late. Blunt recently appeared in my other favorite romantic comedy this year SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, co-starring with Ewan McGregor. Segal co-wrote and starred (along with Amy Adams) in last year's family film classic THE MUPPETS. Interesting little trivia for you movie buffs: Blunt had a cameo appearance in that film with Segal. She portrayed Miss Piggy's receptionist.

Director Stoller has once again made another comedic gem of a film. But then again, would you expect anything less from the man who brought us FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and GET HIM TO THE GREEK. Also helping out with producing the film is Judd Apatow, the man responsible for films such as THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, SUPERBAD, and BRIDEMAIDS, so you know it's going to be a damn good, funny movie.

In the end, THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is a hilarious and touching romantic comedy that breaks away from the rest of the pack. The film is sweet, heartwarming and flat out funny! So make sure you bring a date to this movie and be prepared to laugh, cry, and laugh again. Four and a half out of five stars!

THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Phil attends COMEDY NIGHT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 21, 2012

Once again I ventured out to the Edison Theatre, home of the world famous Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, for its monthly Comedy Shorts Night show. I started the night off by having a delicious slice of cheese pizza for dinner over at Broncho Billy's Pizza Palace, then I headed off to the museum for a night of a thousand laughs. Providing music for the show was the talented Frederick Hodges! Let the laughs commence!

Charlie Chaplin
The first film shown was THE COUNT (1916), starring Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, and Eddie Campbell. In the film Chaplin plays an apprentice at a tailor's shop. After burning a count's trousers, Chaplin gets fired, while his boss (Campbell) discovers an invitation to Miss Moneybags' (Purviance) dinner party. Soon Chaplin arrives and pretends to be the count and makes Campbell his secretary. Both he and Campbell fight for the affection of Miss Moneybags, but things get even more complicated when the real count arrives.

The film was written and directed by Chaplin, and it was his fifth film he made for the Mutual Film Company, which was released on September 4, 1916. Chaplin signed with Mutual in December of 1915, after being lured away from the Essanay Film Company. The film was also known as Almost a Gentleman. This funny two-reeler comedy was released to theaters on September 4, 1916.

Buster Keaton
The second of the night was THE BOAT (1922) starring Buster Keaton. In this classic two-reeler Keaton is married with two children who both wear the porkpie hat like his. He builds a rather large boat called Damfino inside his house. After destroying his house while trying to tow it out, it's life on the deep blue sea. However Buster and his family are caught in a terrible storm, but it's all for laughs as we see Keaton do what he does best.

Keaton's technical effects man, Fred Gabourie, constructed two boats for the filming. One was designed to sink and the other was a fully working boat for the rest of the filming. Unfortunately, the boat that was designed to sink didn't and the boat that wasn't supposed to sink did! The film was written and directed by Keaton and his collaborator Edward F. Cline and was released to theaters on November 10, 1921.

After a short intermission, the show continued with:

Charley Chase
LOOKING FOR SALLY (1925) starring funny man Charley Chase, Katherine Grant, and Noah Young. In the film Chase portrays Jimmie Jump as he's returning home from traveling to Europe. His parents are their to great him along with an old girl-friend Sally whom he hasn't seen in years. But when he mistakes an ugly women for Sally, he freaks out and runs away and accidentally runs into Sally, but neither one recognizes the other. He searches the city for his love but keeps getting followed by a dumb detective. He finally meets Sally while she volunteers as a temperance worker. To get her attention, he dresses up like a drunken slob, which only adds more confusion.

Chase started off in vaudeville before being hired by Mack Sennett to work for him at Keystone Studios. After making a number of films there, in 1920 he began working as a film director for Hal Roach Studios. He soon graduated to starring in his own series of comedy shorts. The film was produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by MGM to theaters on May 10, 1925.

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
The final film of the night was WE FAW DOWN (1928) starring the boys, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In the film the boys fool their wives and sneak out to a poker game, but they instead get involved with two flirty ladies, one of whom has a very jealous boxer. Things only get worse for our friends as their wives discover they lied to them about going to the theater.

Both Laurel and Hardy had successful solo careers before Hal Roach put them together in one of his films. The rest as they say, is comedy history. The film was produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by MGM on December 29, 1928.

Another great sold out crowd at the Edison Theatre! 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, on how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees 21 JUMP STREET at the Camera 12 Downtown San Jose-April 20, 2012

This past Friday night my good friend Amanda and I wanted to see a movie. So being the gentleman I am, I said she could pick out the movie. She had decided to see the film 21 JUMP STREET starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Now I had heard from numerous friends of mine that they loved this film, saying that it was the funniest film they had ever seen. Now I have seen some funny films in my lifetime (I am after all a film critic), but at first I was a bit sceptical. But my friend really wanted to see the film, so we did. And I am very glad that we did because the film really was that damn funny!

Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) are former high school classmates who meet again at police academy. Schmidt was a nerd while Jenko was a jock. Now as cops they are trying to make a difference. But when their first bust walks away because Jenko forgot to read the drug dealer his Miranda Rights, the two are reassigned to a revived specialty division on 21 Jump Street. There they meet their new boss Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) and are given their new assignment. Because of their youthful appearances, they are assigned to go back to their old high school as brothers to stop a new synthetic drug from spreading to other campuses by finding the supplier. Soon the guys find themselves in too deep with high school hijinks, throwing parties and crashing the prom to capture the drug supplier. Also appearing in the film are Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, Dave Franco (), Jake Johnson, Johnny Simmons, Johnny Pemberton, Dakota Johnson, Ellie Kemper and also look for cameos by original 21 JUMP STREET alumi Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise.

I can't remember the last time I went to see a comedy and laughed all the way through it. Hill and Tatum are hilarious in this buddy cop action/comedy. Another great aspect that unfolded was that seven years after graduating from high school, the definition of cool has totally changed. So now Schmidt, who was ridiculed for being the shy, over sensitive, eco-friendly nerd, is now the cool kid in school while Jenko's jock mentality renders him unpopular. So by having these two characters swapping their respective high school rankings, they awaken hidden talents and abilities that they never knew existed. As a result of this, they grow as characters and help move the movie forward to its ultimate shoot 'em up climax.

21 JUMP STREET is a flat out, balls-to-the-wall, laugh out loud, action packed comedy of the year! Like I said I had my own doubts about seeing this film, but like the old saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover." So don't judge this film by its poster. Go see this film and be prepared to have yourself one ridiculously fun time at the movies! Five out of five stars!

21 JUMP STREET is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Phil attends the Cult Movie screenig of FIGHT CLUB at the Camera 3-April 19, 2012

Hello my fellow cult fanatics and welcome to Month Three of the Cult Movie Series here at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose. So for tonight's cult film they screened David Fincher's 1999 film FIGHT CLUB. Your's truly was the host for tonight's screening. Prizes were donated by Streetlight Records and by Time Tunnel Toys, both located here in San Jose. There were also yummy donuts to eat, courtesy of Psycho Donuts located in the lobby.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1999)
Based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, the film stars Edward Norton as our nameless narrator, a corporate drone and insomniac completely dissatisfied with his life, who befriends the irrepressible force of nature that is soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Together they start up a bare-knuckles, no-holds-barred fight club, where young, equally bored urban professionals meet once a week and beat the hell out of each other. But all is not what appears to be as Norton discovers Durden's true intentions and has to stop him before anarchy reigns supreme over the city.

The film was released by 20th Century Fox on October 13, 1999! It's hard to believe that the film is now 12 years old! Hell I remember when it first came out. I think I saw it at the now closed Century Capital 16 Theater. Director Fincher started off as a music video director. Some of his most famous videos he made were "Express Yourself", "Oh Father" and "Vogue" for Madonna and "Straight Up", "Forever Your Girl" and "Cold Hearted" for Paula Abdul. He made his feature film debut with ALIEN 3 in 1992. Since then has gone on to direct some groundbreaking and critically acclaimed films such as 1995's SEVEN, 2002's PANIC ROOM, 2007's ZODIAC, 2008's THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, and 2010's award winning biopic film THE SOCIAL NETWORK. His most current film was last year's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, which was just released on Blu-Ray and DVD back in March.

Next month's cult film is director Terry Gilliam's 1998 film FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, which will be shown on Thursday, May 17th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, May 19th at midnight, so mark these days on your calender and come out and have some cult movie fun! To view the rest of the Cult Movie Series schedule, visit the Camera Cinemas website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees THE CABIN IN THE WOODS at the Camera 12 Downtown San Jose-April 15, 2012

Now in case you forgot, I LOVE horror films! So far 2012 hasn't seen that many great horror films released to theaters. So far THE WOMEN IN BLACK is the only good film to come out of the horror genre thus far. However, I finally saw a horror film that is truly original. It takes a tried and true formula and completely turns it upside down. So if you haven't seen THE CABIN IN THE WOODS yet, then you're missing out on one helluva movie!

So the basic formula is established right away in the film. Five stereotypical college students — good girl virgin Dana (Kristen Connolly), jock star Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the whore Jules (Anna Hutchison), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), and the smart student Holden (Jesse Williams) — drive out for a vacation to a remote cabin in the woods (the cabin itself is a homage to the cabin found in THE EVIL DEAD). However that's were the formula changes and the film does a complete 180 degrees. We are then introduced to two technicians in a science industrial facility: Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford). They are getting ready for an unknown operation, one of several that is taking place all around the world simultaneously. When the students enter the basement, they discover a number of artifacts that will unleash a wave a terror the likes they were never expecting, but the technicians were. But why?

Joss Whedon is simply a genius and has made a career breaking genre rules and making them up as he goes along. He did it with both the film and television series of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, as well as with ANGEL, FIREFLY, and DOLLHOUSE. The man can take any genre and break the confines of its basic structure and rebuild it to his own likings. As both writer and producer of the film, he is in complete control and it shows not only that he's a talented individual, but also as a force to be reckon with. Drew Goddard made a big splash in 2008 with writing the film CLOVERFIELD for producer J.J. Abrams. With this film, he not only co-wrote the script with Whedon, but it also marks his directorial debut. Needless to say, Goddard knocked it out of the park! It's faced paced, has smart and funny dialogue, and contains enough scares, gore, and bloodshed to make horror fans around the world very, very happy and shout out with glee.

Also worth noting is the perfect casting for the film. All the actors have great on-screen chemistry. Watching these five characters reminded me of the gang from SCOOBY DOO. It's a crime that Kranz wasn't cast in the role of Shaggy because his performance of burnout stoner Marty was dead on perfection. Seeing the sexy Hutchison bare her body indicated that she's all grown up and has come a looooong way since portraying Lily Chilman aka the Yellow Cheetah Ranger from the POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY television show from 2008. Of course if you loved her in that show as a young child, then you're gonna be fantasizing about her now as a horny teenager. Hemsworth had a small role in J.J. Abram's STAR TREK reboot, portraying Kirk's father. Then he became a household name thanks to his portrayal of the God of Thunder himself in last year's THOR. Here he really shows off his acting chops and proves he can be both funny and intense. And last but not least, Connolly has some big shoes to fill. After all, as the female lead in a horror film, she is now in a league with other strong women such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver (who has a cameo in the film), Danielle Harris, and she pulls it off perfectly! Can't wait to see where she goes from here.

When it's all said and done, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is one of THE BEST horror films I have seen in a while! Goddard and Whedon have created a modern day horror classic that ranks up there with other contemporary films such as THE DEAD, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and DRAG ME TO HELL. So if you're looking for the perfect Friday night fright film, then you need to see this film! Five out of five stars! Highly recommended!

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees THE HUNGER GAMES at the Camera 12 Downtown San Jose-April 15, 2012

The second film I saw this past Sunday was a film that has been causing a lot of controversy. Not only because the film's content, but because it's premise is a ripoff of another film. So let me begin my review of THE HUNGER GAMES in a different way.

First let me begin by discussing the controversy surrounding the film. Everywhere I go, everybody that I have spoken to are up in arms about the film, stating that it's a Hollywood ripoff of director Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 Japanese film BATTLE ROYALE (which I just saw Friday night at the Midnites for Maniacs show). Another topic that has people's panties in a bunch is that the film focuses more about the pageantry of the games and the inevitable love triangle rather than the actual act of kids killing other kids that was shown in BATTLE ROYALE. So let me begin by repsonding to these two hot topics in a row: No and yes. There. Happy? No? Well then let me explain myself yet again.

While the film's premise sounds like Fukasaku's cult film, all similarities end right there. Now for those of you who haven't seen BATTLE ROAYLE yet, I will not be discussing a lot about the film. I will talk about what makes this film so different. The plot of the film goes like this: 74 years ago there was an uprising that nearly destroyed civilization, however it was put down. As a punishment for this rebellion against the Capitol by the districts, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery (known as the "Reaping") to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or "tributes") must fight in an arena controlled by the Capitol until only one remains.

The film draws influence manly and heavily from the Romans and the gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. They would gather to watch some of the most unwatchable battles that would end in horrible deaths. And why did they do this? For pure entertainment reasons, same as the Hunger Games. Within this upper class, supposedly higher evolved society, they relish in watching the kids fight each other to the death. High society at its finest people.

The other factor that people are complaining about is the lack of seeing the "actual" killings. Well that's an easy one to answer. Who is the target audience for this film? Who wants to see this film? Tweens, that's who. And you can't show your film to your tween audience if it contains graphic violence and bloodshed, because you're film will then receive an "R" rating from the lovely folks at the MPAA. So what do you do? You tone down the violence and substitute it with a love story and the pageantry of the games itself. In the end, it's about making money.

Now as for the film itself; it was very entertaining. For fans of the book, it is a faithful adaptation from the books written by Suzanne Collins. The film was superbly directed by Gary Ross (SEABISCUIT, PLEASENTVILLE) and major kudos to leading actress Jennifer Lawrence (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, LIKE CRAZY, WINTER'S BONE) who brings the role of Katniss Lawrence to life. First class acting from this very talented actress.

THE HUNGER GAMES is an one entertaining film that is crammed with action, adventure, and romance. The film has something for everyone, so make some time out of busy schedule and see this film. Four and a half out of five stars!

THE HUNGER GAMES is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phil sees AMERICAN REUNION at the Camera 12 Downtown San Jose-April 15, 2012

On Sunday I made it out to the Camera 12 in downtown San Jose to, once again, go on one of my many movie binges. The first film I started my day off with was a sequel that, to my surprise, was actually pretty damn funny. Of course I talking about AMERICAN REUNION, the fourth installment of the AMERICAN PIE franchise.

The whole gang comes back home to East Great Falls, Michigan for their 10 year high school reunion. Everybody's been very busy since graduating. Jim and his wife Michelle (Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) have a two year old son and are having trouble keeping their sex life going. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married to a woman named Ellie (Charlene Amoia) and works from home as an architect. Chris "Oz" Ostreicher (Chris Klien) is now an NFL sportscaster living in Los Angeles with his super hot supermodel girlfriend Mia (Katrina Bowden). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has supposedly gone missing while traveling all around the world. Heather (Mena Suvari) is now a nurse and dating a heart surgeon named Ron (Jay Harrington). Vicky (Tara Reid) lives in New York and Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still the same, only now he's the bitch, working as a temp at an investment firm. Oh how the mighty have fallen. But when the guys get reconnect, it's like old times again as they find themselves in hilarious situations that they haven't been in since high school. Add to the mix Jim's widow dad Noah (Eugene Levy ), the hot girl next door that Jim use to babysit Kara (Ali Korbin), Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge), and Finch's mom (Rebecca De Mornay) and you have a recipe for laughs, side cramps, and grotesque humor not seen since the original film!

The film feels like visiting some old friends that you haven't seen in a long time. This is the first time that the entire cast has been together since AMERICAN PIE 2. The guys once again fall back into their roles that made them famous, and reminds us just how much fun being young and stupid was. However life changes a person and all our friends have grown up and matured. Except for Stifler, who refuses to grow up and wants to keep the high school flame alive. Much to the chagrin of Jim, Kevin, Chris, and Finch, who remind him that high school was ten years ago (thirteen in the real world). Old feelings begin to brew between Chris and Heather, even though their respective others continue to interrupt them. Jim and Michelle discover that having a child has cooled down their sex life, and they plan to reignite their passion by recreating their prom night at their reunion. And we finally get to see Jim's dad meet Stifler's mom. Also look for cameo appearances by John Cho, Natasha Lyonne, Justin Isfeld and Shannon Elizabeth.

Directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are able to capture lighting in the bottle once again, but with interesting results. While the film contains the gross out humor and colorful metaphors that we have grown to love, we see ourselves in these characters. We have grown so much since the first film, and the world has changed drastically as well. But in this familiar world, we can forget about the plight of today and be transported back with these characters that we have grown up with. Like them, we all have jobs, responsibilities, and even families. By adding this ingredient of connection, we can see ourselves in Jim, Michelle, Stifler, and the rest of the gang.

AMERICAN REUNION is the best film of the series since the first film. It's also a welcome change of pace. With all these other Hollywood sequels coming out, here is a film that lives up to the tradition of the first film. It's funny, it's touching, and most importantly, it's relatable. Go see it for yourself and remember to bring a friend. Four out of five stars!

AMERICAN REUNION is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the ANNUAL EARTHQUAKE SHOW at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 14, 2012

Hello there folks and welcome back to my trip to the Edison Theatre, home of the world famous Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! This past Saturday night was the museum's annual Earthquake Show! Every year near the eve of the April 18, 1906 earthquake, the museum shows films about the earthquake and every year the show sells out. And it sold out big time! The show consists of two shorts and the main feature. But first let me tel you about the shorts.

The first short was A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET (1906). Made by the Miles brothers (Harry, Herbert, Joseph, and Earle C), the 13 minute film was made by mounting a camera at the front of a cable car as it went down Market Street towards the Ferry Building. This is a film that we're very proud of. Reason being that our historian and projectionist David Kiehn, who did an unprecedented amount of research, uncovered that the film was made on April 14, 1906, just four days BEFORE the earthquake! The reason the film survived was because the Miles brothers had placed the film on a train and sent it to their New York City office on April 17, 1906. When Kiehn discovered the origins of the film, it hit the press and Internet immediately. Soon Morley Safer from 60 Minutes came out to the museum and interviewed Kiehn and the rest of the board members. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. To view the 60 Minutes segment, watch it on their official website at

The second short film was THE DESTRUCTION OF SAN FRANCISCO (1906). The film is an amalgam of footage shot by the Edison, Pathe, and Biograph film companies as well as some footage shot by the Miles brothers. It shows the devastation caused by the earthquake an by the subsequent fires that blanketed the city in a cloud of smoke.

After a brief intermission, the show continued with:

THE SHOCK (1923) starring the "Man of a Thousand Faces" Lon Chaney. I saw this film a couple of years ago at the museum, so I was looking forward to seeing it again. I mean c'mon it's Lon Chaney people! The man made some of the most important and cutting edge films ever! From crime films, to thrillers and the genre he's most famous for: horror, Chaney did it all. In the film Chaney portrays Wilse Dilling, a shady cripple who works for a crime syndicate based out in San Francisco's Chinatown district. His powerful crime boss Queen Ann (Christine Mayo) sends him out to the quaint little town of Fallbrook to lay low and await her instructions. There he meets and fall in love with Gertrude Hadley (Virginia Valli). When he is instructed to take down her father, who happens to be the town's banker, he becomes torn between his job and his love for Gertrude. Throw in the devastating SF earthquake and you have one interesting climax to the film. Overall a great and overlooked Lon Chaney film! The movie was released by Universal Pictures on June 10, 1923.

Another great earthquake show at the museum. Remember folks 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, on how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees BULLY at the Camera 7 Puneyard Campbell-April 14, 2012

The second film I saw that Saturday was the documentary BULLY (originally titled THE BULLY PROJECT). Now if may remember I saw this film this past March during the Cinequest 22 Film Festival. However since I really liked this film and with all the controversy surrounding the film and the MPAA, I wanted to show my support of the film and see it again.

This powerful and disturbing film follows five kids from Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa and Mississippi who are victims of bullying as well as their families. Filmed during the 2009-2010 school year, we see the ramifications of bullying and how some schools ignored the problem, which caused some students like Tyler Long and Ty Smalley (their families are focused in the film) to commit suicide. We are granted access to classrooms, school buses and cafeterias and we see first hand how bullying is running rampant in today's schools.

The initial impact the film had on me when I saw it the first time was still there during this viewing as well. As I stated, children go to school to learn and to be safe and protected while their parents are at work. After seeing what actually goes on, I was totally surprised at just how bad this problem has become. The film will touch your heart, and will make you want to look more closely at the schools your kids go to.

Director Lee Hirsch really captures the living Hell that these kids go through every single day of their school year. Now I saw my fair share of bullying back in my younger days, but it was in no way was it ever like this: brutal, vicious, and just disturbing to behold.

After the film was finished, the bullying was just beginning for Hirsch and the film. When it was submitted to the MPAA for a rating, it originally received an R rating, due to the coarse language in the film. Then on On February 27, 2012, Katy Butler of Ann Arbor, Michigan created a online petition to get the film changed from an "R" to a "PG-13" rating. Even after collecting more than 300,000 signatures, the MPAA still refused to change the film's rating. On March 26, 2012, The Weinstein Company announced that it would release (the film's distributor) would release the film unrated, in protest at the MPAA's decision. This would mean that the film would only be shown in art-house and independent movie theaters such as AMC, CineMark, and, of course, the Camera Cinemas.

So here we are, and the film BULLY is now playing unrated for all of you to see. BULLY is one of the most important documentaries that you and your family must see! See it with your kids, and then ask them if this is happening to them or to their friends. If so, take a stand and say "NO" to bullying in schools. Five out of five stars! Highly recommended!!

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

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN at the Camera 7 at the Pruneyard Campbell-April 14, 2012

This past weekend I headed off to the Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell to get caught up on all the recent films I've been missing due to my very hectic day job. The first film I saw was SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Dear John, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Casanova) and starring Ewan McGregor (STAR WARS prequels, BEGINNERS, HAYWIRE), Emily Blunt (THE MUPPETS, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, THE WOLFMAN) as well as Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachael Stirling, and Tom Mison.

Based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday, the film's about Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor), a British government expert in fisheries who's life becomes more interesting when a consultant named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt), representing a wealthy Yemeni sheikh (Waked), asks for his help to fulfill the sheikh's vision to introduce salmon fishing to the desert country of Yemen, Fred rejects the idea as unfeasible. Eventually as he spends more with the sheikh, the more the idea becomes "theoretically possible." Then life becomes even more interesting when Dr. Jones begins to develop feelings for his lovely assistant Miss Chetwode-Talbot. Throw in a terrorist plot to destroy the project and Dr. Jones' world begins to unravel.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked into the screening for this film. However I was very surprised at how well made the film was. It helps to have a great script and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE FULL MONTY) wrote a funny, heartfelt, and uplifting script. With Hallstrom in the director's chair, we are given a visual treat as we get to see the beauty and wonder of the Yemen. It's landscape, its people, and its culture unfold before our eyes. We also get to see some other amazing scenic wonders like a English castle and a lot of salmon!

Bringing life to a script is no easy task. It can either make or break a film. Fortunately in this film, both McGregor and Blunt give outstanding and grounded performances. The realistic acting between these two gives their on screen relationship a level of believability and realism. It's cute to watch these two go from disdain for one another to becoming colleagues and later on a couple. Also worth noting is the character of PR whiz Patricia Maxwell (an over-the-top Kristin Scott Thomas) who provides the majority of comic relief in the film. However that is not to say the McGregor hasn't got any funny lines. With his proper English accent, his humor is more dry and carefully placed so to make you smile when needed.

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is so far the best feel good movie of 2012. If you want to see a well made, well crafted, well acted film that will make you leave the theater with a big 'ol smile on your face, then this is the film for you. Four out of five stars!

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Phil attends the MIDNITES FOR MANIACS "GROWING UP TOO FAST" triple feature at the Castro Theater-April 13, 2012

Hello again everybody! On Friday the 13th I traveled up to the City by the Bay (San Francisco to all you non-California residents) to attend the Midnites for Maniacs triple feature show at the world famous Castro Theatre. Hosted by the one and only Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, the theme was "Growing Up Too Fast" and the three films screened fit this theme perfectly! So let's begin, shall we?

Theatrical Movie Poster (2003)
The night started off with 35mm screening of Sofia Coppola's sophomore film LOST IN TRANSLATION. Now as hard it is to believe, this film is almost 10 years old! Now I remember when it first came out and to revisit this classic film a decade later reminds me of unearthing a time capsule. The film's about aging movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) who comes to Tokyo to appear in whiskey commercials. At his hotel he befriends a young and lonely newlywed named Charlotte (Scarlett Johanssen), who's husband is a popular and high demanded photographer. The two strike up a friendship that takes them out into the streets of Tokyo, and soon the two discover that life's still full of surprises.

The film caused a bit of controversy when it was first released because some found it demeaning and insulting Asian culture. However the film transformed the landscape of the indie film world and made Sofia Coppola a household name. She won an Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director as well. Also the film transformed Murray from a comedian and SNL alumni into an art house indie film star. And let's not forget Johanssen who went on to become one of Hollywood's most popular actress. Her next film is the highly anticipated AVENGERS film, directed by BUFFY creator Joss Whedon. The movie was preceded by trailers from Coppola's other films: 1999's THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, 2006's MARIE ANTOINETTE, and her most recent film 2010's SOMEWHERE.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Original Japan Poster (2000)
The second film up was the San Francisco Premiere screening of BATTLE ROYALE! Dubbed "The Mother of All Survival Films," is was based on the novel of the same name by Koushon Takami and was directed by the late Kinji Fukasaku. Now I don't want to explain the whole movie to you all, so I will just state the synopsis: In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act. Sounds brutal, doesn't it? Well guess what? It IS that brutal! But there is also some dark humor as well as some social commentary within its frames.

The film was an immediate smash in Japan but the film would be banned here in America. Why you ask? The film's graphic depiction of students killing off one another hit a little to close to home here in the states. Just a little over a year and a half prior to the film's release, on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, the Columbine Massacre accured. This tragic event left 12 students and one teacher dead, and 21 others injured. The massacre lead to debates about stricter gun control laws, the availability of fire arms (especially in the Wal-Mart superstores), and gun violence involving students. Of course, there was no way that BATTLE ROYALE would get to be imported here, especially in the Post Columbine United States. The film was banned for over 12 years, however all that changed with the release of the film THE HUNGER GAMES, which was also based on a series of novels. While the premise of GAMES sounded a lot like ROYALE it also sparked controversy. But because of GAMES, we here in the states finally received an actual and proper DVD and Blu-Ray release of BATTLE ROYALE! There's a cool 4-Disc boxset by its US distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment that just came out! So for all you peole who liked THE HUNGER GAMES, you need to pick up a copy of BATTLE ROYALE for you film library! The film was preceded by three trailers for upcoming Midnites for Maniacs shows: 1995's STRANGE DAYS, 1987's PREDATOR and 1982's THE THING.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Original Japanese Poster (1977)
The third and final film of the night was the 35 anniversary screening of the 1977 Japanese art house horror film HOUSE (HAUSU). Words cannot begin to describe the plot of this film so I will do the best I can. The film is about a schoolgirl named Gorgeous who travels with her six classmates (Fanta, KunFuu, Gari/Prof, Sweet, Mac, and Melody) to her ailing aunt's country home, where they come face to face with supernatural events as the girls are, one by one, devoured by the home. What I just stated doesn't even compare to the actual experience of seeing this film on the big screen!

The film was inspired by the “eccentric musings” of Japanese director Obayashi's eleven-year-old daughter and it shows! But it is this “eccentric musings” that enabled Obayashi to create one of the most outrageous and eclectic films of all time. But it is also one of the most charming and original films ever made. Tonight's screening was from a newly struck 35mm film print from Janus Films and it looked amazing! The film never had an official film release here in America, but it was finally released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010 from the fine folks at the Criterion Collection (and yes yours truly owns the Blu-Ray of the film)! So if you want to see the most off-the-wall, hauntingly dreamy, funny horror film ever made, then go pick up a copy of the film! 

Click here to watch the film's original trailer. 

Tonight was another sold out show! So if you've never attended one of Jesse's shows and want to, well you're in luck my friend! The next Midnites for Maniacs show will be on Friday, May 4th at 7pm at the majestic Castro Theatre. To learn about past shows and Jesse Hawthorn Ficks, please visit his website at To view upcoming shows at the Castro Theatre, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Phil reviews VIETTE from the SFIAAFF 30-April 5, 2012

OK so I mentioned previously that during the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival that the screening of VIETTE was sold out. Luckily, I met the film's writer, actress Mye Hoang in between screenings and I was able to purchase a signed copy of her film on DVD. So I finally got around to watching it and all I have to say is that I wish I was able to see this film on the big screen.

In the film Hoang portrays Viette, a young Vietnamese girl who lives with her very traditional and very strict parents. But add to this equation is her very scary father (Chi Pham from the Cinequest 20 film ALL ABOUT DAD) and it only adds more stress for her. She secretly has a white boyfriend that if her parents ever found out, all hell would break loose. However (SPOILER ALERT PEOPLE!) her folks do find out about her secret love and we see her father literally explode with anger and disgust. However as time passes Viette discovers that her boyfriend isn't all that he says he is and their relationship begins to unravel.

The film is very different than your average coming of age story. It's filled with teenage lust, hopes and dreams, as well as agony, hardship, and isolation. Hoang's screenplay is based on her own life experience, with some dramatized situations. But on has to wonder what was real and what made up for the film! Hoang is absolutely riveting in the film and her direction is sharp and precise. However the one flaw I had with the film was that while it took place over the course of several years, there were no time statements, such as "One Week Later" or "6 Months Later" or "One Year Later." This would have helped with the time lapses between certain scenes, but this in my only minor grip.

Overall VIETTE is an astounding and emotional film that really captures teen angst and rebellion as well as introducing us to one of Asian cinema's newest voices! The film will be screened at the 2012 LA Asian Pacific Film Festival May 10th-20th. So if you live in Southern California, make sure you see this film! Also you can visit the film's official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Phil attends the 100th Anniversary celebration of Broncho Billy & the Essanay Studios coming to Niles-April 1, 2012

It's hard to believe that it's been 100 years since film history was made in Niles, California! What's that you say? You've never heard of Niles? Well then, before I begin this review, let me rewind time and take you on a brief history ride.

In 1903, a young theatre actor named Gilbert M. Anderson acted in the first movie western called THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. Based on the huge success of the film, Anderson went on to appear in several other films for other film companies. A couple of years later he ended up in Chicago where he met George Spoor, a business man who owned several nickelodeon theatres. Soon the two formed a partnership and thus the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company was born. The name Essanay is the first letter of the last name of these men: "S" for Spoor and "A" for Anderson. Spoor would make dramas and comedies in Chicago while Anderson traveled out west making westerns. Anderson would act in a film series as the character Broncho Billy, thus becoming the first western superstar. He traveled around making his films while looking for the ideal area to settle down at. He found what he was looking for in the town of Niles, just 36 miles south of San Francisco. With the perfect weather, a town full of real cowboys, and the scenic Niles Canyon, Anderson knew he found his home. So on April 1, 1912, he along with 52 employees arrived in Niles, and thus film history was made. Between 1912-1916, the Essanay studios made over 350 films here at their state of the art movie studio as well as on location throughout the area. For about three months in 1915, it was also the home for an up and coming comedian named Charlie Chaplin. By 1916, there were problems forming between Spoor and Anderson, which resulted with Anderson selling his share of the company to Spoor. In February of that same year, Spoor shut down the western branch of the Essanay Studios. Even though Anderson and his crew were only in Niles for four years, their impact on the film world still resonates, which leads to today's celebration!

Gilbert M. Anderson as Broncho Billy.
There was plenty for silent film fans to do. There was the Sunol Train ride through Niles Canyon (which I highly recommend you do sometime soon because it's a lot of fun!), a cool costume contest, a parade and a big presentation in the town square. But the cool stuff was at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, where they were having a look back on the life of Gilbert Anderson and of the Essanay Studios.

The first thing shown was BRONCHO BILLY, THE FIRST REEL COWBOY, a PBS made documentary made in 1998 for Arkansas Education Television. This half hour doc chronicled the life of Anderson; from his birth in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to co-founding the Esssanay Film Company with George Spoor. Also when visiting Pine Bluff, there is a large mural dedicated to its favorite son, so make sure you check it out! Also appearing in the documentary was the museum's own historian David Kiehn. His book BRONCHO BILLY AND THE ESSANAY FILM COMAPNY is required reading for all you silent film buffs so make sure you get one. If you purchase a copy at the museum you can get your copy singed by David himself!

Up next the museum showed about twenty minutes of an interview that Anderson conducted back in the late 1950's. It was for a British television show, which the interview ran for an hour. Now as a film buff, I would love to see the episode in its entirely, but these brief selections were a real treat to see.

Then it was intermission time, but the show continues with:

THE MOVIES GO WEST: a 1974 short film hosted by former Essanay actor Hal Angus, who was well in his 80's when he appeared in the film. Angus took us back in time when movies were still being made in Niles while recalling some great information about not only Anderson, but of the Essanay studios and all the fun they had making these silent film classics. We even got to see the old Essanay barn (their first studio in Niles before the state of the art studio was built) before it was condemned and torn down. The old barn door was saved and now it's part of a museum exhibit somewhere.

The last film shown was WHEN THE MOVIES CAME FROM NILES from 1964. This hour long film was narrated by Bill Cato: a real life cowboy and actor who worked at the Essanay studio and was also Broncho Billy's occasional riding double. We hear Cato recalling how much fun it was making these films for the studio and how mush pride they had making them. We also hear the voice of Anderson as well. All in all, this was an amazing film to see and hope to see it again soon!

Now you might think that the celebration is all over, but guess what? The party isn't over yet folks! Remember the museum is open from 12pm-4pm every Saturday and Sunday. And let's not forget the Saturday night silent film screenings starting at 7:30pm (doors open at 7pm). So if you haven't yet, head on down to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and be part of film history! To learn more about the museum and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!