Monday, March 31, 2014

Phil attends the Final Day of Cinequest 24- March 16, 2014

Well here we are everybody and welcome to the final day of the Cinequest Film Festival! Now for the past couple of years the festival ended on Saturday with the closing night gala, while Sunday was dedicated as Encore Day. This year, the festival decided to combine both in one day. So today I was able to see three films during Encore Day and then attended the Closing Night Show and after party!

The first film up was the really crazy and truly dark comedy FRIENDED TO DEATH.  Meet Facebook junkie Michael Harris, a smart ass and annoying LA meter maid who's having a really bad day. First he gets fried from his job because of his tweeting pics of cars, and his best friend Joel ditches him for a new homie. Feeling like it's all over, Mike begins to question whether anyone would care if he died. So he comes up with the crazy idea of posting his fake death online! Why you may ask? To see if anybody would attend (and if Joel would show up)! Soon things get out of hand real fast as a mysterious person discovers the truth! And where the hell is Joel at?

What a freaking hilarious movie! The film brings the subject of self obsession with social media, which many of our youth are consumed with. We are not popular unless we have "this many friends" on Facebook or Twitter. Voyeurism is now common because we are allowing all these so-called "friends" into you private life to the point that we have no private life. With this film, director Sarah Smick and co-writer Ian Michaels poke fun at this and create a movie that is smart, dark, and funny as hell! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

Movie number two for Encore Day was ASQUARED, a dramatic teen export from Italy. The film tells the story of Amanda Bertini, who's your typical teenager. She goes to school, has homework and tests, plays sports, and listens to her iPod religiously. Fate throws her a curve ball during an overnight field trip to a museum where she meets her fellow shy and mysterious classmate Alberto. Soon the two fall in love with one another, but when Amanda agrees to have sex with Alberto on camera, life becomes out of control as their love is put to the test.

Director Stefano Lodovichi does a terrific job of social commentating modern day's teens obsession with technology, which they know a lot about, and teenage love and sex, which they know nothing about. Maria Vittoria Barrella is phenomenal in her role as love stricken Amanda! Great script and powerful performances makes this a must see movie! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

The third film I saw was the amazing LOADED. Back in high school, Ethan, Raza, and Alex were the best of friends. Fast forward ten years later, and Ethan and Raza come to the aid of Alex, who is now your typical average alcoholic and drug addict. So the deal with Alex's dad goes like this: Raza and Ethan must pick up Alex in Los Angeles and drive him to San Francisco to check in to a rehab center to finally get cleaned up. Along the way the former friends begin to discover the secretes as to why they are no longer friends.

This powerful film walks that fine line of dark comedy and serious drama. One one hand, it's a guy's road trip comedy, but because of the seriousness of the subject matter, it falls in the drama category. All three male leads are fantastic in their respective roles and have great on-screen chemistry. But because it deals with the issue drug addiction, as well as lost childhood friendships, growing older and growing up into adulthood, the movie kept me glued to my seat! What a powerful, emotionally charged and funny film this was! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

Then it was time for the closing night film. Jason, Alison, Roy, Pete, and the rest of the gang headed over the California Theatre to see SMALL TIME. Meet Al Klein (Christopher Meloni), who owns a used car lot with his best friend Ash Martini (Dean Norris). His son Freddy (Devon Bostick) just graduated from high school. But instead of going to college like his mom Barbara (Bridget Moynahan) wants him too, he goes to work with his father at his used car lot. At first things are alright. Al gets to spend time with Freddy and teaches him about the family business while spending quality time with him. But as business grows, Freddy becomes too cocky for his own good, and starts to mistreat the customers and the work personal. Thus, Al mus make a decision that will no doubt drive his soon away forever.

This was such as fun indie film to watch! First Meloni, Norris, and Bostick have great on-screen chemistry together. Then you have the director Joel Surnow, who does a terrific job of keeping the movie moving fluently while finding the balance of comedy and drama. The film's theme of family and tradition can be found throughout the narrative, which is a very important theme to have. After the screening Christopher Meloni received the Maverick Spirit Award and he, along with Norris and Bostick participated in a fun-filled Q&A session with the audience. The film gets a 4 out of 5 stars and look for it sometime soon at your local independent movie theatre or On Demand!

Well folks, there you have it! Another festival goes into the history books! I have to say that this was THE BEST CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL EVER! What made it so great were the films, the filmmakers, the audiences, my friends, the afterparties, the whole vibe was intoxicating. Sometimes during the festival I thought it would never end, but unfortunately, it did. And I can't wait for next year's festival! Overall I attended 60 screenings in 13 days! I did it!! A new record for me!! So now I would like to say hi to all my friends, old and new, from the festival. I had the best time seeing you all again and I hope to see you at next year's festival. To all the filmmakers I got to meet, good luck with your respective films and I hope to see them again on either the big screen or on DVD and Blu-ray. And to all my friends and followers who read my blog during the festival, I just want to say thank you! Take care everybody, and I'll see you all again soon!!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 12-March 15, 2014

OK folks!! This is it!! The final weekend of the Cinequest 24 Film Festival! For today I saw a total of six films, so let the movie reviews begin!

The first film I saw today was the Italian comedy ZORAN, MY IDIOT NEPHEW. Paolo, an arrogant 40 year-old who spends his days between drinking sessions and an unsatisfying job. One day, his nephew shows up out of nowhere.Enter Zoran: he's 15 years old, a bit eccentric, and wears big Harry Potter like glasses. Just the idea of being an uncle makes Paolo sick to his stomach. However, when he discovers that Zoran is a master at playing darts! He always hit the bullseye every single time! This gives Paolo an idea of how to make money off of him! He takes Zoran to enter him in the world darts championship, where the winner makes off with a huge grand prize.

I was laughing so hard that I was coughing throughout the movie. Now being part Italian, I love watching Italian comedies. They're so funny and slightly off beat and absurd that it just takes me away and I'm completely engulfed with their traditions and wacky ways of living. The film has larger than life characters, beautiful shots of Italy's landscape, and loads of laughter. What's not to like abou this film? 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!!

The second film I saw today was the documentary THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK. The reason I was going to see it again was because I was going to take my brother to see this. My brother is a professional wrestling referee and has worked with many famous wrestlers as well as Lucha Libre superstars. But my brother never got back to me (damn kid) and so went and saw this again. And I loved it the second time around (You can read my original review of the film here). One of my favorite documentaries!

The third film I saw today was the midnight film from last night that I was planning to see but was way too tired. The film APP is a horror/thriller about a killer app. Yes, technology has finally been caught red handed. In this Netherlands export, the beautiful Anna (Hannah Hoekstra) is a young psychology student who downloads this new app called IRIS. What starts out as a very helpful new app begins to terrorize Anna and soon, all of her friends die from gruesome deaths. She can't delete it, or else it will take another life, maybe hers!

Now what makes this film really unique that prior to the movie, there is a disclaimer by the filmmakers encouraging the audience to download the movie app so they can participate with the film with their phone while watching the movie. This has been dubbed “First Film for the Second Screen,” and it's a pretty cool idea. It worked well with the film but overall, it mattered little to me. I was too busy watching the film, which I enjoyed very much. Hannah Hoekstra was great in the movie, the death scenes were very cool, and it was obvious that this was a big budget mainstream horror film. But because it won't likely see a release here, I'm glad that Cinequest was able to bring this clever and innovative horror film to the festival. 4 out of 5 stars!! Recommended viewing!!

Film four of the day was A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY, which was based on an original script by director Michael Maren. Brooklyn based writer Nathan Fisher (Bryan Greenberg) is having problems writing his new book and keeping his girlfriend. In the end, his girlfriend leaves him. To make matters worse, he gets a call from Florida from his Alzheimer stricken mother Sandy who tells hm that his father just had a stroke. He flies down to be with his parents (along with his older brother) while finding the inspiration to write his book.

The movies boasts some big name talents. One of the film's producer is non-other than Academy Award-winner Milos Forman, who's directed modern day classic films such as ONE FLEW OF THE CUCKOO'S NEST, AMADEUS and MAN ON THE MOON. The mom Linda Lavin is famous for her role in the TV series Alice. Bryan Greenberg is from FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS. So there's a lot of good acting in the film and great directing. It's a sweet dark comedy that tackles some of the issues of life that we all struggle with . Overall an enjoyable movie! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!

Movie number five was preceded by a Cinequest PTP short entitled DREAMING OF THE SWEET LIFE. The short focused on a homeless mother and daughter. The mother dreams of her and her daughter living in a nice home, where her husband used to beat her. To escape from their Hell, they run away together. A really powerful short film!

THE PURPLE ONION (which is still a work in process) was named after the now defunct comedy club in San Francisco. The film focuses on Johnny Lee (actual stand-up comedian Edwin Li) who is a bus boy at a Mexican restaurant. He dreams of being a famous comedian, bur when a mysterious woman shows up at his door (now as to it's his mother, sister, or an old girlfriend is never made clear) he begins to come out of his shell and thus, becomes a better comedian because of it.

As I stated earlier, the film is still a work in process, so it's still a little rough around the edges. But the film is a very intriguing dark comedy that relies on the simplistic acts of comedy: a funny face, a strange noise, etc. Also as the film progresses, Johnny's act becomes better and funnier. I am very curious as to see what the final cut will look like. Maybe we'll see the finished film at Cinequest 25? I hope so! 3 out of 5 stars!

The sixth and final screening of the day/night was the SHORTS 5 PROGRAM: SHIFTED REALITIES. Let my reality get shifted!!

BIOGRAPHER: Sergey Krugov works at the Research Center for Personality Reconstruction. His job is to modify people's fates by changing their past. But can he make them truly happy? And can he find his own happiness?

BOX: A cool 3D experimental short with cool robotic arms that manipulate these 3D boxes.

CARGO: Stranded in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a man sets in motion an unlikely plan to protect the precious cargo he carries: his infant daughter.

A man travels back in time to tell himself his life will get better if he cheats on his girlfriend.

GÖDEL INCOMPLETE: A time-travel romance between one of the great minds of the 20th Century, Kurt Godel, and a lonely particle physicist, Serita Cedric, a research student working at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

I'M 23 AND THERE'S A FUCKING MONSTER UNDER MY BED: A young man moves back in with his parents after college, only to discover that the monster - which tormented him as a child - is still in his bedroom.

OVER THE MOON: Heroine Connie Radar defends the moon from the USA and attempts to prevent the first moon landing.

SHIFT: A man who invents a device that lets him jump through space. Seen this like a million times already.

SORRY ABOUT TOMORROW: Baldwin's life is spinning out of control. Luckily, he's been working on a time machine with some friends and decides to take a chance to see if he can fix it.

A STITCH IN TIME (FOR $9.99): Laura Fein has an appointment at a time travel agency to have a burning question answered: Does her co-worker like her?

And that was the last day of regular screenings, which if you were counting I'm up to 56 screenings!! Tomorrow is the festival's Encore Day and the festival will be showing all the favorites as voted by the audience and the festival's jury. Plus tomorrow night is the closing night screening and party! So even though it's the last day, tickets for Encore Day and the Closing Night Gala are still available! Please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 11-March 14, 2014

This is it! The final weekend of the Cinequest Film Festival! Now I had to miss a couple of screenings because today was also the big Best of the West Award Show for my job (which I proudly supported all the winners from my division) which was held in San Francisco. After the show was over, I flew back down to San Jose where I saw three films!

The film film I saw was the afternoon screening of ETERNITY: THE MOVIE! Now I already saw this film (in fact I was there for their big world premiere), but because of all the buzz they were getting, they were having a little something special for this, their third and final screening. Yes, it was the ETERNITY: THE MOVIE SING-A-LONG!! I was so looking forward to participating this even, which is a first in Cinequest history! After the screening, the cast came up and conducted a hilarious Q&A session with the audience. After seeing it a second time, it's still my favorite film of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Loved this movie!!

The second film I saw was playing at the historic California Theatre! Tonight the festival was screening of the 1924 silent film masterpiece THE HANDS OF ORLAC. Director Robert Wiene and star Conrad Veidt worked together previously on an earlier German Expressionism film, the 1919 horror classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. In this film, Veidt portarys Orlac, a concert pianist who survives a horrible train crash, but loses his hands in the process. However, surgeons are able to graft new hands on his arms, albeit the hands come from a recently executed murderer. Soon, Orlac's life spins out of control: he can't play the piano, the creditors are coming after him and his hands are to blame for it all, even murder?

A great example of German Expressionism! Viedt is magnificent in the role of Orlac, and director Weine controls the camera with such ease that he really does make it easy to watch and enjoy. This is way I love watching silent films. They are so clever that they are able to express such emotions without saying a single word. Here we have a chilling and frightening horror film that relies of its shadows, its camera work, and its eerie scenery and acting! Also helping making the film even more creepier is the astounding Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ! It's been a while since I've seen my old friend perform and his performance was just outstanding! Also contributing to the show was Michael Pecak on the grand piano! One of my favorite highlights from the festival!
After a late dinner, the third and final film I saw was GO DOWN DEATH. The film is about....well...OK I have to admit something here. I slept through most of the film and I am very sorry to say that. Now during the festival I would wake up about an hour before my first screening, so I would get a decent amount of sleep. Not much, but enough to get me through the day. However, since I had to get up early for my Best of the West Award Show (I woke up at 6am and left my house at 7am to make it to the city by 8am). I couldn't sleep in, so by this time I was working on fumes and I crashed hard at this screening. But I did see a little bit of the movie and here's what I think: great black and white cinematography, bold directing, not much of a score, and there were themes of death, discovery, and it's a experimental film. So there's a good chance that I would have enjoyed watching it. But since I slept through a majority of it, I cannot give it an honest rating. However, if I find it playing somewhere, or if I get my hands on a screener copy of it, I'll update my review.

Another day of moving watch here at Cinequest done, which now brings my total to an even 50 films! Remember the festival will be running till March 16th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in Downtown San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 10-March 13, 2014

We're getting down to the final days here folks so welcome back to Day Ten of my trip to the 24th Annual Cinequest Film Festival! Another five film reviews await for you to read.

Film number one of the day was the Norwegian export IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE. The film focuses on a woman named Jenny, who was in prison for the past ten years for shooting a man and her boyfriend in a botched break-in. Now out of prison, Jenny is looking to start over again and to spend time with her daughter. But when the banks won't give her the loan she need to fix-up her home so that her daughter can live there, she goes back to her old habits and starts selling drugs again for her "old friends." But soon things get out of hand and Jenny needs to settle her debts the old fashioned way.

Lead Silje Salomonsen is not only a talented actress but she is also quite stunning. Her eyes are just so captivating. When she's next to her "daughter" the resemblance is really uncanny! We the audience sympathize for Jenny and we want her to get even with her enemies! Look out Jennifer Lawrence because there's a new bad ass, tough as nails, beautiful actress on the scene! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended!

Movie number two was the Vietnamese comedy FUNNY MONEY. Meet Lucky Loc. He runs a company making fake paper money and high-end ceremonial gifts to be burned as offerings to the dead. But when his luck takes a nosedive overnight, Lucky is convinced it has to do with him accidentally paying one of his "funny money" bills  to an suspecting salesgirl named Quyen. Soon, he tries to woo her heart while also being conned by a gang of Chinese criminals who want him to make some counterfeit bills out of his "funny money."

Here's another classic example of the Chinese taking something simple, like a romantic comedy, and just cutting its head off, then gluing it back on upside down. The film doesn't follow the norm, nor does it want to. Instead, it relies on its sheer randomness to communicate laughter and romance without taking itself too seriously. The characters are off-the-wall but sweet and funny. Sure the script lost me here and there a couple of times, but overall, it was a funny movie to watch! 3 out of 5 stars!

The third film I saw today was the comedy NOTHING IN LOS ANGELES. Now Imagine if Woody Allen grew up in Los Angeles instead on New York and made his films in sunny SoCal. That's how the film feels when watching it. Aspiring writer Quinn (writer/director Alexander Tovar) is having trouble writing his future award winning script (a screenplay about a screenwriter named Alexander who is trying to write a screenplay, which if you're a cinephile you'll catch this as a reference to Federico Fellini's 1963 classic 8 1/2). He's in love with his best friend's wife even though the husband is having a fling with another man. But Quinn is already dating someone, granted he's 25 and she's 50. One suspects he's only dating her for the experience of someday writing about it. Oh, what's am inspiring LA writer to do!

The film features a lot of cool landmarks (which I've been to like Griffith Observatory), but it's the script that kept me into the film. Smart, witty, and little sad, Tovar recreates that longing for love feeling while exploring the idea of self discovering. Boasting an strong and funny ensemble cast, great directing and that little nod to Woody Allen, Tovar shows us that he's the next big thing and proves it with this movie! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!!

The fourth film I saw was screening over at the California Theatre. MYSTERY ROAD is a excellent murder mystery thriller that takes place in a small town in the outback. Star Aaron Pedersen portrays Jay Swan, an Aboriginal cowboy detective who returns home to solve the murder of a teenage Indigenous girl whose body was found under the highway trucking route that leads out of town. As Swan battles with uncovering drug dealing, corruption, and civic sanctioned child prostitution, he starts to shed light on the town's inherent racism and misogyny. The gun fight at the end is his answer to all the naysayers.

The film is a loving tribute to the old west films from Hollywood, but just slightly transformed to represent the times that we are currently living in. Bold in its depiction of racism and misogyny, the film doesn't hold anything back a lets the viewer engage in this ugly world. Pedersen is brilliant in the role of Swan and really holds his ground against his Hollywood costars such as Hugo Weaving. One of the best major indie films I've seen in a long time! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewing!

The fifth and final film took place over at the San Jose Rep. But first there was a Cinequest PTP short entitled CHECKMATE. The short is about a young blind boy who challenges his greedy landlord to a game of chess o get his father's farm back. A very smart and rewarding short!

The main feature of the night was the extremely experimental and advent garde HAPPENINGS ON THE EIGHTH DAY. Ok, let me see if I can explain this one to you all. First there's this thing......wait I'm getting ahead of myself. First there's....ok it's a big long joke at the process of moviemaking! But the flipside is that it's very non-linear, incoherent, abrasive in its brashness towards any kind of narrative, and it mostly takes place here in San Jose.

Now I like extremely experimental and advent garde films. THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA is a perfect example of this, as well as the films from local icon and legendary Bay Are filmmaker Bruce Conner. While the film looks like it was edited together by using a series of outtakes and deleted scenes, I really dug the film. Now a lot of people are going to say that you need to be on drugs to watch this movie, or while watching the movie it will make you feel like your on drugs. But nevertheless, I fund it to be very engaging, provocative and down and dirty! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended viewings either on or off drugs!!

Another fun-filled day at Cinequest 24, which now brings my total to 47 films!  Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 16th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 9-March 12, 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to Day Seven of my trip to Cinequest 24! Once again I saw five excellent films today so let's get this show on the road, shall we?

The first film of the day was the very interesting VICTORIANA, which is about a married couple Tim and Sophie Becker that buy a rundown Brooklyn Brownstone.They allow the two tenants that are that were already living there to stay during the remodeling. One of them is a wicked old lady who just complains and complains and complains. That's when things hit the fan! The old lady gets accidentally killed, Tim an Sophie have to hide the body and so they bury it in the backyard, Tim takes her mail, places it all in a black garbage bag and dumps it 10 blocks away. The cops coming looking for clues but they can't find any. Oh, and then there's the uneasy strain between Tim and Sophie, there's some cheating going on, Tim takes a job he hates to finish off the remodeling but turns out he's really good at it. So in the end, all is right and all is miserable.

What I really enjoyed about the film was that even you may achieve this legendary American Dream, there's a good chance you're going to be unhappy! Here we have Sophie and Tim, who by the end of the film are just empty shells of there former selves, and are happy in their self-made misery. What a great social commentary on today's real estate world! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The film will be played one more time on Sunday, March 16th at 3:45pm at the Camera 12.

The second movie I saw had one of the best titles at the festival! A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO A SPECTACULAR SUICIDE is about twenty-something Tom, who has tried every way possible to commit suicide, and has failed every single way. So he decides to think outside the box and devise the most creative way to die. During this time Tom struggles with his self-destructive tendencies while developing a relationship with a cute stalker, his shrink, and this old cranky dude that he helps out.

The best feel good movie about suicide of the year! It's witty with a nice sense of dry humor, which you can tell by the title alone. Great storytelling by director Graham Hughes, who keeps the laughs coming at the right times. What more can I say is that if you're looking for a dark comedy that treats the subjects of death and suicide with respect and comedic ridiculousness and lunacy, then this here film is for you! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! Today was the last day screening for the film.

Movie number three was the quite drama NOBLE FIR. It's tree-harvesting season and Hank Dean is having difficulty with this paticular season. Hank's had a recent loss in his life that causes him to withdrawal from those around him who try to offer help, like his family, his friends, and the town's local preacher. However, nobody can help out Hank with his issues, except for himself.

The film caught me off guard right from the start. At first, I couldn't tell if this was a feature film or a documentary. Shooting with hand held cameras and on a real Christmas tree ranch, the movie takes its sweet time to establish the theme of the film and we learn more about Hank as the film progresses, slowly revealing the traumatizing event that destroyed his soul. Lead actor Richard E. Wilson delivers a powerful performance that needs to be seen! Truly a griping drama that makes us reflect and analyze ourselves. 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! Today was the last screening of the film.

Film four had the other best title at the festival! The Norwegian teen comedy KISS ME, YOU FUCKING MORON is about a young 17-year-old girl named Tale who acts in her local amateur theatre troupe. She hires an aging mid-life crisis actor to direct them, however there's one little catch: Tale must also bring in the school's hot soccer star but true moron Lars as her lead! The heat of hatred for one another slowly turns into the heat of passion, and the two suddenly find themselves in a situation that wasn't in the script!

What a fun and refreshing teenage romantic comedy! Here the teenagers are just that: teenagers! The look, talk, and act like real teenagers and not the pathetic xerox copy of a typical Hollywood teenager. These lads have much more depth to them. Actress Eili Harboe is wonderful as the smart and witty Tale! The film is as sweet as it is hilarious and really takes the teenage comedy genre to the next logical level. Boasting a smart script and solid acting, the film is a sure winner! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

The fifth and final film I saw today was the poetic THE DESERT FISH. This stark and poetic drama is about a nine-year-old boy named Ahmad who's been having visions of his dead mother, who was lost at sea years ago. While his father dismisses his son's idea, Ahmad decides to travel to his parent's old village by the sea to seek out his missing mother, with the help from his uncle who he hasn't seen in years.

Director Mohammad Ghorbankarimi crafted a magnificent film! With its sheer size of emotional heartbreak and the sweeping landscape of Iran, which has never been captured on film before, the movie is a reminder of what art looks like. The combination of the beautiful scenery, amazing  directing, perfect cinematography, astounding script, and riveting performances, THE DESERT FISH is my favorite foreign film of the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! After the screening, both Mohammad and his wife/costume designer Nassim Azadi participated in an informative Q&A with the audience.

And folks, there you have Day Nine of Cinequest 24! All together I've seen 42 films in 9 days. So far I'm right on track to reaching 60 films! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 16th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 8-March 11, 2014

Welcome everybody to Day Eight of my trip to Cinequest 24! I saw another five films today; two documentaries and three feature films. So I think we should skip the introduction and start talking about all the cool movies I saw today!

The first documentary I saw today was the awesome MASTERPIECE: FRANK MILLER'S THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. This bad boy tells the complete behind the scenes story of one of the greatest graphic novels to be published by DC Comics back in the 1980's. Combining interviews with industry legends like Miller, inker of the book Klaus Janson, Dennis O'Neil, Bruce Timm, Grant Morrison, Jenette Kahn, and narrated by the one and only Malcolm McDowell, Miller talks candidly about he's early days of doing Daredevil at Marvel, then giving the free reigns to create The Dark Knight Returns, and by doing this, brought the Batman character into a whole new world.

I was there when Frank's masterpiece was released to comic book stores and it had a major impact on me. It was dark, edgy, nihilistic,  and captures 80's Regan era with such accuracy that it made me paranoid. Frank Miller became a legend after the release of The Dark Knight Returns. creating other amazing series like 300 and Sin City, both which were made into Hollywood blockbusters! This was a great doc and very informative to those who never read the graphic novel (and if you haven't what the hell is wrong with you? Go buy the damn book now!) and a nice look back at one of my childhood's most amazing period. 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! Today was the last screening of the film, however, it is available as an all-new bonus feature in the newly released BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS DELUXE EDITION Blu-ray!! To purchase a copy, visit your local retailer or visit the Amazon website.

The second documentary I saw earlier was called THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK, which focused on the world famous Lucha Libre wrestler El Hijo del Santo, the son of the legendary El Santo. By using a combination of archival wrestling and interview footage, new interviews with family and friends, posters, movie clips and such, the story of Santo is told in all its glory for the first time ever! This is what Lucha Libre fans have been waiting for!

I grew up watching the old El Santo monster movies and yes, there were pretty bad, but always entertaining! Later on I was able to see El Santo along with his son wrestle on my local television station. What drew me to the film originally was being a Santo fan. But then when El Hijo del Santo talks about his father, the honor and legacy of theSanto name, and carrying on his father's name, the film became more about family, heritage and tradition. These three are very strong in the Mexican culture. THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK an poignant, inspiring and high flying film about one of the most important names ever in the history of Lucha Libre! If you're an El Santo fan or a fan of wrestling period, then you need to see this documentary! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The flm will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Saturday, March 15th at 2pm.

Film number three of the day was the very intense dark comedy/drama IT WAS YOU CHARLIE.  Meet Abner Roth. He used to be a world famous sculptor and a former college art teacher. Now all he is just a sad, pathetic little man who works as a doorman on the graveyard shift. He can't handle his family, is awkward in public places and doesn't have a lot of friends. Enter Zoe; a happy-go-lucky, free spirited taxi driver who becomes Abner's new best friend. But with all this pint up anger and guilt he's been caring around for the past three years, can Zoe change Abner's look on life or will it get worse for him?

This was a very layered film and quite dense. It does play with continuity as the film takes place over a series of three years, or more specific three birthdays for Abner. Director Emmanuel Shirinian kept me glued to my seat as I was trying to deduce the film's origin and see what was going to happen to our sad sack friend. Great acting performance by all the cast. An undiscovered gem of a film! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! Unfortunately, today was the last screening of the movie.

The fourth film I saw was the drama BREATH IN, about a family who take in a foreign exchange student named Sophie. Her timing couldn't have been more worse. Family man and music teacher Keith fantasizes about his days as a starving artist in Manhattan and secretly wishes to move back so he can be musically inspired again. His wife doesn't share her husband's dreams. To make things worse, he secretly falls for the beautiful Sophie and both plan to leave their respective mundane worlds and start a new in the city.

Talk about your mid-life crisis film! Poor Keith! All he wants to do is live his life as he wishes! But his conformed wife doesn't encourage him. In fact, she doesn't really believe in him at all! All he wants to do is make music his life passion, not just be a music teacher. As the old saying goes, those who can't do teach, and Keith doesn't want to fall into that category. And Sophia is so young and innocent and sees so much more in him than his own wife. So to all you mid-life crisis men out there: go get crazy! Go live the life you want! Buy that corvette! Run off with your secretary! And oh yeah, the movie was really good and you should check it out! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! Unfortunately, today was the last screening of the movie.

The fifth and final film I saw was the comedy A THIEF, AND KID, AND A KILLER. A young boy comes home to his apartment that he shares with his mother and finds a stranger in his bedroom doing heroin. Then things get really bizarre! Add his best friend who are hiding out in the kid's apartment from these two corrupt cops who were partners with the other two guys to pull off a jewelery heist that went wrong! *whew*

Yeah there's a lot of laughs to be found in here as well as some darkness. Death, suicide, drugs, violence, murder, everything you want in a kid's film! Boasting a great directing, good acting and a solid script, this was a very welcomed surprise! 4 out of 5 films! recommended!

And folks, there you have Day Eight in a nutshell! All together I've seen 37 films so far! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 16th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 7-March 10, 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to Day Seven of my trip to Cinequest 24! I once again saw five films today so let's get this show on the road, shall we?

Movie number one was the Canadian dark comedy LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN. Here is a classic textbook example of polar opposites based on their individual outlooks on life. Lawrence (Ben Cotton) is the every so lucky, optimistic salesman who life works out perfectly for him and is working on a promotion. On the flipside is Holloman (Daniel Arnold), one of the most cynical, unattractive, and suicidal credit collector who's life had given him a shitty attitude and a shitty outlook on life. When these two meet, life begins to get crazy, especially when bad things start happening to Lawrence!

Once again leave it up to those wacky Canadians for creating yet another hilariously funny and uniquely original feature! Both Cotton and Arnold are awesome in their respective roles and bring a lot of emotional depth to their characters. The film can also be seen as a cautionary tale: be sure your friends are your friends because they might be your enemy. With its smart script, witty humor, and marvelous acting, the film is pure comedic gold! Definitely worth checking out! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! Today was the last screening but visit the film's official website at

Up next I decided to see the SHORTS 7 PROGRAM: WAIT FOR IT...and here we go! 

ADRIFT: A beautiful and poetic montage tribute to the fog of the San Francisco Bay that passes along the coast and through the Golden Gate Bridge. Really beautiful short to see! Very tranquil!

THE BRUNCHERS: A thirty-something London couple go out to the new hip place called Toast for brunch, only to have it totally booked. The reason they wanted to go out for brunch: they wanted to look cool and hip even though they're getting older. I really liked this film and it's something I can relate to a bit. Plus lead actress Natalie Dormer is smoking hot!!

GOLDFIELD: Finding gold means you might be inviting death. Pretty cool short.

HALF SHAVED: What happens when, by pure chance, and barber meets his former torturer who just happens to walk in for a shave? The end results may surprise you.

ME + HER: A wonderful stop motion animation short about a cardboard couple Jack and Jill living in Cardboard City. When Jill dies, Jack goes to great lengths to preserve their love. Very touching!

MY FATHER'S TRUCK: A little Vietnamese girls plays hokey from school and rides along in her father's truck while he's working. He picks up good people, bad people, and does jobs that are complicated. A wonderful coming of age short film!

TRYOUTS: A teenage American Muslim girl who tries out for the cheerleader squad but when her head garb is called out, she solves this problem by thinking outside of the box and with some very creative teenage ingenuity.

SHORTS 7 PROGRAM: WAIT FOR IT... will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Friday, March 14th at 6:45pm and again on Saturday, March 15th at 1:45pm.

Up next was the SHORTS 3 PROGRAM: HUMOR ME which boasted some very funny and original comedic shorts!

#TWITTERKILLS: Chain smoking woman  Zoehas gets her Twitter account hacked into (or is it an evil presence) and all her dirty laundry it being twittered to all her 6,669 friends, including her sister! Oops!

BOWLING KILLERS: Two bowling champions who are also professional hitmen lose sight of carry out a contract before their big game later that night. Pretty funny stuff here folks!

DATE OF THE DEAD:  Struggling actress Jessica goes out on a date with a fellow actor named Jim. The problem: he's a zombie! Oops!!

THE GHOST PEPPER EATING CONTEST OF JEFFERSON COUNTY: A hilarious documentary about a bunch of locals eating all kinds of chilli peppers to wind a major prize. My mouth was on fire just by watching it! Ouchie that's hot!!


REEL LIFE: A man who knows he's in a movie goes out on a date with a woman from the "real world" and lunacy insures: lovely montages, cut away sex scenes, discovering he's only PG-13 so he can't do or show much. Hilarious!!

SUMI: A young girl who does variant jobs over the phone. Some of them are really kinky! And it also turns on her male roommate!

TEXAS: A family discussion takes place at the Texas and Oklahoma borderline. My second favorite short film in the program!

THANK YOU, CABBAGE: My favorite short of the program! An acclaimed female writer, who reinvents herself after discovering what an asshole her husband is....all thanks to a cabbage. Yup, this was some funny shit here!

SHORTS 3 PROGRAM: HUMOR ME will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Saturday, March 15th at 4:15pm.

Film number four was the drama/comedy THE DIVORCE PARTY. Happy partying couple Kip (Colin Owens) and Leena (Ashlynn Yennie) are getting a divorce, and you know what that means? Yup, it's time to throw a Divorce Party before they move out of the Bohemian apartment. Yet among the booze, live music, wacky best friends, and cupcakes, Kip decides to do whatever it takes to save his marriage with Leena, no matter the cost.

A true indie gem of a film! Director Edy Soto (making this his world premiere) keeps the laughs and drama close together that you find yourself laughing and crying simultaneously. Soto fills the screen up with three dimensional and fleshed out characters that make the movie so enjoyable to watch. The whole cast is phenomenal in the film which raises it to a higher level. A triumphant debut of a film!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! Today was the last screening, but make sure you "Like" the film on its official Facebook page!

My fifth and final film of the day had a short before it. Another Ciniequest Picture The Possibilities (PTP) short, JASON AND ROY is about two best friends: one coming out as a gay man and the other coming out as a homophobic man.

The documentary feature BITE SIZE talks about one of the most critical epidemics facing American youths today: obesity. Shot over the span of a year, the film focuses of four kids who try to change their eating habits so they can not only look and feel better, but also not be picked on or bullied. With the dangers of temptations of snack foods lurking at the corner grocery store, at every fast food place, and in the cafeteria lunch line, these children must face their personal demons head on to not only shed their weight, but to also become a better person.

Like the doc film BULLY that played at Cinequest back in 2012, this film is a continuation of the trials and tribulations of what these overweight children must face day in and day out. Unfortunately, some of their parents aren't much help or support. One of the kids Emily, her parents send her off to fat camps and spend a lot of money on it, hoping the problem will be fixed when she returns. Moy's trying to lose his weight but his dad is not a positive role model because he's eating McDonald's while his son is eating healthy. Davion's problem is that whenever calls him fat, he looses his cool and gets into series of fights that could get him kicked off the football team. And KeAnna gets a little help from her principle. Director Corbin Billings captures it all in this powerful and riveting wake-up call to stop and end childhood obesity!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Friday, March 14th at 4:30pm.

And folks, there you have Day Seven of Cinequest 24! All together I've seen 32 films in 7 days. So far I'm right on track to reaching 60 films! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 16th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 6-March 9, 2014

Howdy folks and welcome back to my trip to the 24th Annual Cinequest Film Festival! For Day Nine, I saw another five films! Yup, I'm hardcore like that. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the reviews!

First film up was the documentary THE FRONT MAN. This little whimsical doc tells the story of Jim Wood (the front man for excellent The Loaded Poets) and his dreams of becoming a rock star. However, while on his dreamquest he almost misses out on the most important things in his life, mainly is sweet and lovely wife Christie. who wishes for them to have a baby soon. Can Jim have it all or does he have to make a sacrifice of one or the other?

Director Paul Devlin had the advantage of being Jim's best friend for the last 30 plus years and what we have is more than just a simply documentary. What we get is a personal story of a man who we get to know inside and out. We see him play with his band, being around his family, his love for his wife Christie, we see it all. Paul is able to really capture those special moments in Jim's life and it feels more like a home movie than a doc. But we sympathize with Jim and we cheer for him, because he's us. Jim is your average Joe who somehow got to have a family and make music at the same time without compromise. How can you not root for this guy? THE FRONT MAN is a celebration of being able to live out all your dreams while being able to walk in the real world! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The film will be screened again on Thursday, March 13th at 5:00pm at the Camera 12.

The second film I saw was being shown over at the San Jose Rep Theatre. EAST SIDE SUSHI is about a young Latina named Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres), who's been working in food industry for years, finds financial stability in the high paced, male dominated world of a local Japanese restaurant. Finding her passion for food once more, Juana sets her sights on a local reality sushi competition show to prove to herself that she has what it takes to become a sushi line chef at the restaurant she works act, despite what her boss thinks.

Actress Diana Elizabeth Torres shines in this, her first feature film role and she knocks it out of the park. One can see Diana as a positive female role model, who has big dreams for herself and will not let others stand in her way. Director Anthony Lucero keeps the fun and laughs flow fluently and I walked away feeling so happy that I got to see this funny and heart warming comedy! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The film will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Thursday, March 13th at 4:00pm.

Film number three of the day was the dramatic comedy ACTING LIKE ADULTS. While on a scavenger hunt throughout the LA area, couple Brett and Shannon (Mark Famigletti and Leslie Murphy respectively) begin to see each other as who they really are. With the grand prize of an diamond engagement ring, the competition brings out the worse in Brett, which causes Shannon to have doubts about marrying him. By the end of the day, no one knows for sure if they will remain together as a couple or go their separate ways.

I walked into the theatre having no expectations and by the end of it I was completely blown away!  I absolutely loved this movie! Both Mark Famigletti and Leslie Murphy have magnificent on-screen chemistry that I became emotionally invested in them. It was hard to see them fight and I loved it when they made up. However, this isn't your typical dramatic comedy. It feels very real, and what I also enjoyed was that the film's directors Kyle Laursen and Eric F. Martin also made the city of LA it's own character, with its rolling hills and congested freeways and scenic parks. The film is a perfect example of what an indie film should be! One of the best films I've seen at the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The movie will be screened again at the Camera 12 on Friday, March 14th at 4:15pm.

Movie number four was the very funny and interesting documentary TEENAGE. Based on author Jon Savage’s book of the same name, director Matt Wolf answers that age-old question: When did the teenager come into existence? Using a collection of archival news footage, old time movies, and diary excerpts read by four teenage voice overs, the documentary traces the evolution of the teenagers: from their humble beginnings in the 1930's to their emergence and dominance in the 1950's.

Before the main feature, there was another Ciniequest Picture The Possibilities (PTP) short. Entitled REAL FRIENDS, the film is about two young girls who are best friend and they spend their afternoon texting to each other rather than actually talk to each other. A very funny short with an interesting social commentary.

This fun little documentary caught me off guard. It was informative, it was funny, it was historical, and it was a very well made film that took me to school again. This is one of the reasons why I love watching documentaries. Here we get an inside look at the pre-history of the teenager and the end results of their discovered presence in society and in America. 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! Today was the last screening but be sure to visit the film's official website at

The fifth and final film of the day was the insanely hysterical HUNTING ELEPHANTS. Poor Yonotan. He's twelve-years-old shy boy who gets bullied at school and his bank security father died while on the job. However, according the bank's president, there's a loophole stating that they don't have to pay him or his mother any sort of financial compensation. To make matters even worse, the bank president is courting Yonotan's mom! To get back what they deserve, he comes up with a plan to rob the bank. Enlisting the help of his grandfather, his uncle (the magnificent Patrick Stewart), and his grandfather's best friend, they will attempt to right the wrong that their family has suffered.

Now this is was one of the funniest film that I've seen! Stewart steals all his scenes, which isn't easy because the entire cast does the impossible and create a modern day comedy classic. What's even more impressive is that this is in Hebrew and was shot over in Israel! Who knew they made comedies? This is a comedy that transcends language and culture. It proves that everybody laughs the same! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! Today was the last screening for the film.

And that was Day Four of my cinematic trip to Cinequest. So far I've seen 27 films in the past 5 days! Getting closer to my 60 films goal for this year!! Remember the festival will be running till March 16th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in Downtown San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 5-March 8, 2014

Welcome everybody to Day Five of my trip to Cinequest 24! So I was originally going to attend seven screening but because  one film went on a lot longer than I anticipated, I ended up seeing only six films today. But having that little break made me get caught up on some rest, so I can't complain. OK folks, let's talk all about the films I did see today!

I started off over at the Camera 12 to the drama film entitled NEVER. Set in Seattle, the film follows two twenty-somethings as they forged an unlikely friendship. Denim (Zachary Booth) is the new guy in town who falls in love with his new best friend Nikki (Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin Williams) a struggling lesbian singer-songwriter who is still trying to make it in music. Together they learn how to open up their minds and hearts and learn to love life and themselves.

This was the screen debut of Miss Zelda Williams, and I thought she did a marvelous job in her role as Nikki. She was sweet, vulnerable, and an incredible singer! If she ever releases an album, I'll be all over it! Zachary Booth brings that lovable new guy to life with a hint of naivete and sensitivity. Together these two have great on-screen chemistry and bring that turmoil period called your "early 20's" to life. Boasting a strong script and solid directing, the film is very impressive and I look forward to seeing it again soon! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The film will be screening on more time on Monday, March 10th at 3:00pm at the Camera 12.

For my second film of the day I made a dash over to the California Theatre to see the locally made documentary called THE RUGBY PLAYER. This doc focuses on the life of Mark Bingham, one of the heroes aboard the United Flight 93 on 9/11. The film talks about his early life, his time as a rugby player for Cal Berkley (Go Bears!!), his coming out as a gay man, and his act of heroism that inspired a nation. Told through candid interviews by those who knew him and personal video footage shot by Bingham himself, the documentary tells the real story of a local man who became a hero.

What a fantastic documentary! It's local history that I knew a little about, but now thanks to the film, many more people will come to know of the courage of Mark Bingham, who has now become a local hero and an inspiration to many. For coming out gay, he broke the common stereotypes that are acquainted with being a gay man. He was a successful business man, a rugby player, a son, a friend, and now a national treasure. After the screening, director Scott Gracheff, producer Chris Million, and Mark's mother came out to participate in a Q&A session. This is my favorite documentary at this year's festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be screened one more time on Saturday, March 15th at 4:45pm at the California Theatre.

Film number three for me today was the oddball comedy A IS FOR ALEX. The film features real-life couple Katie and Alex Orr (BLOOD CAR from Cinequest 2007) portray cinematic versions of themselves as they are about to welcome their first child into the world. Problem is this causes Alex to suffer from high stress and anxiety issues, causing him to cry a lot. Like face first in their bed. Or crying in the bathtub. Oh, and there's this problem regarding these robotic killer bees that he created, which are taking over the town. Oh, and his mom is arrested on charges of possessing and downloading child pornography onto the Internet.

Prior to the movie, there was a short film screened entitled THE SHOEMAKER, a funny and informative documentary about a 91-year-old New York shoemaker who's been in the same shop for over 50 years.

I've had the pleasure of knowing Alex and Katie since 2007 with their first film BLOOD CAR, and it was awesome to see them again last year's festival with CONGRATULATIONS, which Alex produced. You can always on these two for coming up with some truly unique and original cinematic features. After the screening, Alex and Katie along with shorts director Dustin Cohen participated in a fun-filled Q&A session. This crazy comedy will leave you with a big smile on your face! 4 out of  stars! Recommended! The film will be screened again on Sunday, March 9th at 6:30 PM and again on Friday, March 14th at 4:45pm. Both screenings will be held at the Camera 12.

I stayed at the Camera 12 for my next feature entitled SEX(ED): THE MOVIE which was having its world premiere! This wild and crazy documentary tells the true history of everybody's favorite school subject matter: sex education! The film documents all the weird, sexist, bizarre, and bewildering sex ed films that we used to see back when we were in school! Using clips these old relics, combined with new interviews with modern day sexperts, as well as high school and college students, the film reveals some of the most hilarious moments ever captured on film, but at the same time exposes the gross incompetence on the subject matter.

I remember being taught sex ed back in the 5th grade. In fact, the films I had to watch were in this film!! Damn I feel old!! Anyway, this was a great documentary that really brought home the truth about sex ed. At times it was very sexist and misleading. At times the information that was given were sometimes incorrect. Plus it also gave the notion that sex was a bad thing and something you shouldn't even think about. The sheer stupidity and ignorance stems from the fact that there wasn't enough information or education back then. Nowadays, even though we have the Internet to look at all the sex we want, kids today are not being taught sex ed. And that is a shame! Director Brenda Goodman did a marvelous job of creating a very funny yet very educational documentary! 4 out of 5 stars! Recommended! The film will be screened again on Sunday, March 9th at 4:45pm and once more on Tuesday, March 11th at 5:00pm. Both screenings will be held at the Camera 12.

Film numero five was the world premiere of the greatest 80's tribute films of all time ETERNITY: THE MOVIE! The film tells the story of Todd and BJ (Barrett Crake and Myko Olivier repectively), two inspiring R&B singers who want to make the best music ever created. Soon this dynamic duo is known as Eternity, the greatest 80's R&B band ever! But their friendship is put to the test as they both fall in love with the same woman (the beautiful Nikki Leonti). Can the guys survive this or will Eternity will be nevermore?

Holy crap this movie was so much fun to watch!! The big hair, the god awful 80's music, the clothes, the cars, the styles, everything screamed the 1980's! The production values were top notch! The directing looked amazing! The story was perfect! Both Crake and Olivier were awesome in their roles and had perfect on-screen chemistry. The gay innuendos were too much for me to handle! I was laughing so hard I thought my guts were going to explode! After the screening several members of the cast and crew participated in a fun-filled rousing Q&A session. ETERNITY: THE MOVIE is the greatest 80's film never to have been made in the 80's! And it's also my FAVORITE film of the festival! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be screened again on Sunday, March 9th at 9:15pm and once more on Friday, March 14th at 4:45pm. Both screenings will be held at the Camera 12. Also make sure to like their Facebook page,  follow the film on Twitter, and check out their official website at

The sixth and final film I saw on Saturday was the midnight film LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS! Sisters Carla (Marissa Skell) and Marla (Gena Shaw) are on their way to the cheesy tourist trap “Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge” to surprise Carla’s fiancé, Johnny. But when he and his co-workers fall into a toxic chemical waste spill over in a nearby creek, these guys transform into hideous monsters dressed up in Big Foot costumes a.k.a PsychoMonkeys!! Soon the lodge is overrun by these PsychoMonkeys, and Carla, Marla, and the rest of the staff and guests must find a way to defeat them and save Johnny.

Wow what a fucking awesome movie this was! It had it all, blood, boobs, Kan Hodder, boobs, mutated killer squirrels, boobs, hot chicks cover in blood, boobs, a mutated moose....did I mention the boobs yet? OK just making sure. Director Matt Jackson did one helluva job of making this film funny, fast paced, and bloody as hell! The entire cast did a stupendous job! The production value was off the charts! After the screening several members of the cast and crew participated in a hilarious and informative Q&A session. Overall, this film has something for everyone! If you like THE TOXIC AVENGER and NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, then LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS is right up your alley!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be playing again at the Camera 12 on Monday, March 10th at 9:30pm and once more on Saturday, March 15th at 9:15pm. Visit the film's official website and follow the film on Facebook too.

And that was Day Five of my cinematic trip to Cinequest 24. My new total now is 22 films in 5 days! So far so good!! Remember the festival will be running till March 16th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in Downtown San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Phil attends Cinequest 24: Day 4-March 7, 2014

Greetings and Salutations folks! Welcome to Day Four of my trip to Cinequest 24! Today is the day that the festival kicks off into high gear. And today I saw SIX films today!! So let us begin the reviews, shall we?

The first film I saw was ABOVE DARK WATERS (TUMMAN VEDEN PÄÄLLÄ) over at the Camera 12. Set in 1970s, the film centers around seven-year-old Pete, who's life in the course of a year will be dramatically and drastically changed. From happy beginnings with celebrating Christmas and having birthday parties to his step-fathers drinking and domestic violence, the film captures what the world looks like through the years of a child, and doesn't hold back any punches.

This was a powerful and amazing film. Coming once again from Finland, the beauty of the country is juxtaposed against the violence that Pete is witnessing. The love and tragedy is all there set in the tranquility of ice and snow. Based off the novel of the same name, director Peter Franzen does a great job of bringing the book to life! This is a film that I really enjoyed! 4 out of 5 stars!! The film will be screened again on Tuesday, March 11th at 9:30pm at the San Jose Rep and again on Thursday, March 13th at 9:30pm at the California Theatre.

Film number two was the Hungarian export HEAVENLY SHIFT. In this bizarre dark comedy, a young Croat transplant named Milan has a chance encounter with the night shift ambulance drivers on night in Budapest. Seeking greener pastures, Milan becomes the newest member, thus making this team a Trifecta when it comes to saving lives, losing lives, and everything else in between.

What I loved about this film is just how dark the comedy is! It's so politically incorrect, so over the top, so bloody outrageous, I was laughing my ass off from the start of the film to the very last frame! But what made the film that much more fun to watch was listening to the audience's reaction! I mean, when you have a scenes that involve a dead hooker impaled on a samurai sword, or a topless women's hair salon that gives me blowjobs, or when a body is about to die and all the do is just punch on the chest to save it, you know you are going to offend a lot of people. And believe it or not, there were quit ea few people at the screening that were offended. But that just goes to show you the the filmmakers got the job done right! My favorite film thus far at the festival!! 5 out of 5 stars!! The film will be playing again on Wednesday, Mar 12th at 9:30pm at the California Theatre and on Friday, March 14th at 9:15pm at the San Jose Rep Theatre.

The third film I saw today was also at the Camera 12, but before that there was a short. PRISONS TO PARADISE is about the organization Hour Children offers women the possibility to transform their lives and make the transition from prison life to family life.

The love drama INERCIA takes place in a Mexico City hospital, where Lucia visits her friend there. But then, at the same hospital, she runs into her ex-boyfriend Felipe, who is in serious ill health. Even though they haven't seen each other in over 12 years, they pick up where they left off. Lucia takes some time off from work to spend some time with him, but will the old flame become rekindled before it's too late?

This film is the equivalent to a love poem of story. It's just a wonderful and beautiful movie. Both lead actors have great on-screen chemistry and first time director Isabel Muñoz Cota Callejas captures all the romance. The one complaint that I have is that the film moves too slow, but that's just me. But what do I know, I'm just a film critic. Tee-hee! Still it's worth seeing. 3 out of 5 stars! The film will be screened again on Thursday, March 13th at 9:3pm and on Sat, March 15 4:15pm. Both screenings will be at the Camera 12. 

I made my way to the California Theatre movie palace for the fourth film of the day for me. Based on the Patricia McCormick’s National Book Award nominee of the same name, SOLD is about a 12-year-old girl named Lakshmi who lives in a Nepal village with her family. After a devastating monsoon that completely wiped out her family's rice paddy crops, her father sells her to a lady in the city to work as a domestic servant. However, to Lakshmi shock, she is working in a brothel and must take on clients to help pay off the debt that she owes to them. In the end she must find a way out of her nightmare before she succumbs to this life.

The other day I had the honor of seeing the documentary LIFE IS LOVE about human trafficking. Here, we have the bookend to that. This film's ability to capture the ugliness of being sold to a brothel, the unsettling images of this poor girl being mistreated and raped, the tortures that Lakshmi had to live with will make you absolutely sick to your stomach! Niyar (who played the lead role) was outstanding! Hard to believe that this was her first film role! Also appearing in the film were Hollywood actors Gillian Anderson and David Arquette in small but pivital roles. Overall this was one of the most heart wrenching film I've seen so far at the festival. If this film doesn't make you cry, then you have no soul! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be playing again on Sunday, March 9th at 6:45pm at the Camera 12. Also make sure to visit the film's official website to help create global awareness about this topic. Visit and make a donation today!

For film number five I headed back over to the Camera 12, but prior to the screening there was a short film to watch.  IN CONFIDENCE is about a beautiful woman who confesses to her friend (breaking the fourth wall to make us the audience her friend) about a life changing decision she made that she both accepts and regrets as part of her past.

Usually most short films I review only take a couple of sentences or two, but this one was different. It was cleverly written, very well acted, and directed and edited with precise precision. Shot entirely in one day and in one location, actress Beege Barkette was riveting in her role as the women, who through the length of the short goes from emotional state to the other, and she nails each emotion perfectly. Overall this was one of the most impressive shorts I've seen so far here. Later on Beege along with producer Mary-Lyn Chambers and the writer participated in an informative Q&A session.

The main feature TEMPO GIRL is about a young Berlin hipster girl/wannabe novelist named Dominique, who's publisher told her that her work "sucks shit." Mostly due to the fact that she hasn't really done anything with her life and basically tells her to go out and live life and find your story. So she and her Turkish boyfriend set off on a roadtrip that leads them to renting a gas station in a small Swiss Valley where she must push herself into crossing over her "borders" again and again until she finds herself, her limits, and her story.

While it is a romantic dark comedy, leave it up to the Germans to find a way to make something like this look and feel totally fucked up! First there's a shit load of cursing, there's a freaking abortion scene shot in grainy black and white!! And we see the whole damn thing!! And then there's a dog that gets shot in the fucking head!! Add some women slapping, gun shots, and hot sex and there's the movie for ya! Yet despite all this crazy shit, I found myself just glued to the screen. So I have to say that I really enjoyed it, but I had to take a shower after watching it! 4 out of 5 stars!! Shower recommended after viewing!! Both the film and short will be screened again on Monday, March 10th at 9:15pm at the California Theatre and again on Thursday, March 13th at 3:00pm at the Camera 12.

The sixth and final film of the day was the excellent midnight screening of BLOOD PUNCH. Meet Milton (Milo Cawthorne). When we first meet him, he wakes up hung over, runs to the bathroom and pukes his head off and finds a video screen with a recording of him detailing on what's been going on. And boy there's a lot of crazy shit going on in this here movie! Milton is a genius college dropout who is recruited by the lovely, chain smoking, bad ass bitch Skyler (Olivia Tennet) and her gun-loving, psychotic ex-boyfriend cop Russell (Ari Boyland) to help make them a shitload of crystal meth over at an old hunter's cabin out in the woods. However, things go slightly awry, and soon, blood has been spilled, which invokes an ancient Indian curse which causes these three to repeat the same day over and over again! Soon guns are blazin', blood is a spillin', and love takes flight in this outrageous midnight cult classic!

What I loved about this film is that they take it to the next level and make no apologies for going there. It's a dark comedy that has an awesome love triangle and gory violence. Now what more do you want in a movie people? How's the acting? Incredible! How's the directing? Fantastic! How's the story? Excellent? How's the bloodshed? Outrageously gory! How's the film overall? You'll have a bloody good time when watching this movie! So if you like GROUNDHOG DAY and EVIL DEAD 2, then you're gonna love BLOOD PUNCH!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! The film will be screening again at the San Jose Rep Theatre on Sunday, March 9th at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, March 15th 11:45pm.

And that was Day Four of my cinematic trip to Cinequest. So far I'm at 16 films in 4 days! Getting closer to my 60 films for this year goal!! Remember the festival will be running till March 16th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in Downtown San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!