Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Phil Attends CINEQUEST 30: Day 2 - March 4, 2020

Hello again folks and welcome to Day Two of the 30th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival! After a celebratory opening night and after party last night, I popped up at 3:30am for work, then afterwards came home to shower and change so I could head back to beautiful Downtown San Jose to see a total of four movies! And I’m case you’re all wondering how I’m still awake, it’s called caffeine! So let’s talk about all the films I saw today!

The first screening I attend was held at the ultra cool 3Below Theater & Lounge. Before the main feature, there was a quick short entitled LABOR RELATIONS, which was about a women named Emogen (Christine Lin), who goes into labor during her big presentation with her department, and continues the presentation even after her baby's birth! Strangely, her co-workers are unaffected about her going to labor, as the other women are busy with their own children. A very surreal and funny short!

 The main feature HOMEWRECKER is about a young and beautiful interior designer named Michelle (Alex Essoe) who becomes the obsession of the psychologically unbalanced stalker Linda (Precious Chong of L.A. CONFINDENTIAL, PEARL HARBOR, and ACCORDING TO SPENCER fame)). Linda cons Linda into coming home with her in hopes to hire her to fix up her place. But then Linda’s true nature unfolds and thus, Michelle becomes her victim and the focus of unhinged madness.

Good Lord was this film freaking amazing and disturbing! Chong is absolutely creepy and horrifying, yet sympathetic and sad. Her performance was out of this world! The scene that really made my skin crawl and made me twitching in my seat was when she was singing Lisa Loren’s 1994 classic "Stay" while starring directly into the camera! It felt like she was singing directly to me and it pierced my soul. I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to cry because I was so freaked out! This was an excellent psychological dark comedic thriller that had me from the word go! 5 out of 5 stars!

The film will have three more screening at the Cinemark Century Theaters in Redwood City: Thursday, March 6th at 11am, Wednesday, March 11th at 7pm, and Saturday, March 14th at 10pm.
I headed over to the Hammer Theatre Center to see the North American premiere of the drama BEFORE OBLIVION from Mexico. The film focuses on the community that resides in the neighborhood called Jonathan Perez Pillar, They're a close nit group that consists of families, friends, outcasts that have made this place their home. But soon there's trouble, as the city has been evicting families and communities from several other neighborhoods; all against their will to build up a new mall. The community at Jonathan Perez Pillar fight back against the city and the authorities, as they refuse to give in and be tossed out on the streets, homeless and hopeless.

This was powerful film to watch unfold, but it also addressed issues that have plagued many families in Mexico. The people versus the government and the authorities is still common to this day, but it also spotlights the will of the human spirit: to fight for what you believe in and refusing to compromise your morals and beliefs. But this was also very difficult to watch without comparing the events in the film to what has been happening here in the states in the past decade or so. The banking buyouts, the mortgage forclosures that left hundreds of families without a home, and the skyrocketing housing costs here in the Bay Area that has forced families to live in shelters or in their cars. It's sad to think that in the 21st century, we are still dealing with these issues that are affecting everyone from all over the world. 5 out of 5 stars!

The film will have three more screening: ThursdayMarch 12th at 9:30pm here in San Jose, and then at the Century Theater in Redwood City on Friday, March 13th at 6:40pm, Saturday, March 14th at 3:00pm.
For film number three, I stayed at the Hammer Theatre Center to watch another North American premiere, a British comedy entitled LOVE TYPE D. Meet Frankie (Maeve Dermody). She gets dumped a lot by men. Like, by A LOT of men! Thomas (Oliver Farnworth), the latest man to dump her is the most painful, seeing that he sent his eleven year-old brother Wilbur (Rory Stroud) to break up with her while he starts seeing a breathtakingly beautiful astronaut! How does Frankie move on from this devastating break-up? By enlisting Wilbur's help, since he's a schoolboy science prodigy. Together, they learn of the Type D Gene, better known as the "Dumpee Gene." Through a series of hilarious mishaps and comedic timing, Frankie must contact all of her exes so SHE can dump them! But out of all of them, it's Thomas that proves to be the most difficult to execute, seeing as she's still in love with him and will do anything to get him to love her again. But will it work out for Frankie in the end?

I absolutely adored this film! I'm also a sucker for romantic comedies, IF it's done right! Seeing how the British have a different take of the affairs of the heart, it's wonderful and interesting to see how a rom-com is done from another country. Maeve Dermod deserves all the credit for pulling this all off. It's her performance as the sad sack Frankie that makes the audience connect with her, and thus we relate to he emotional baggage and hang-ups, as we have all been there! Dermond is just fantastic in the role of Frankie, and truth be told, if Frankie were a real character, I would totally go out with her! Because I can relate to her! This was a fun-filled rom-com that made me smile and warm my heart with laughter and love! 5 out of 5 stars!!

The film will have two more screening at the Cinemark Century Theaters in Redwood City: Saturday, March 7th at 12:20pm, and again on Saturday, March 14th at 12:45pm. 
After the movie was over, I jammed back over to the 3Below Theater & Lounge to see my fourth and final screening, the shorts program entitled SHOCKS, THRILLS, AND DARK VISIONS. Actually, these were really television pilots, and these were awesome pilots as well! There were a total of four pilots (there was a fifth one called GLITCH! that was supposed to be part of this program, but it wasn't shown. As to why it wasn't screened, I have no idea.)

ASKING FOR A FRIEND: After a long day at work, Blake comes home only to find her best friend and roommate Q standing over a freshly dead body, blood soaked in the rug and spilling over on the hardwood floor. Blake helps Q to get rid of the body, in ghastly fashion, and their exploits a funner than hell! This was so gory and over-the-top that I laughed my ass off! If this was on Shudder, I would binge watch the shit outta this!

R.L. ALLMAN'S PETER PAN: This re-imagining of the classic children's tale takes place in San Francisco (Neverland), where we met the new incarnations of Peter Pan, The Lost Boys, and Tinkerbell. Peter refuses to grow up, even though he lives among biker gangs, drugs, and the threat of eviction, thanks to the evil conglomerate Hook Corporation. A fanatic take on the Peter Pan tale told through modern storytelling!

S41NT: In the corners of the dark web, there are a group of hackers who rob and steal people's personal information and sell it to anyone who's buying. Unfortunately, a brilliant hacker named S41NT is arrested for selling information to an undercover FBI Agent, But when she gets caught up with the government, she is told that she lived a very different past life that shocks her to her core. A powerful thriller that deserves to be on CBS!

SUCKED IN: A young woman comes home and finds a dangerous intruder who thinks she's stealing prescription drugs from the hospital she works at. Unfortunately for him, that's not what she's stealing, and now, because of her roommate, he is no longer the dangerous person in the apartment! A great concept pilot for a series!

I couldn’t help notice that all four pilots contained both political and social commentary. With ASKING FOR A FRIEND, it talked about violence in society, the meaning of friendship, and how women can be just psychologically disturbed as men. R.L. ALLMAN'S PETER PAN commented on gentrification, the housing crisis, and the lost of the innocence that made the art world in San Francisco so alive. S41NT pointed out the dark web, the fear that Big Brother is constantly watching you, and identity crisises. SUCKED IN addresses violence against women, home invasion, and what if you’re roommate is a deadly vampire. Okay, I may have made that last one up, but it did cross my mind.

The program will have one more screening at the Century Theaters in Redwood City on Saturday, March 7th at 4:15pm.

After the screening, all the filmmakers who were present (which was all of them) partaked in a fun and entertaining Q&A session. Then we all went into the lobby to converse some more and take a plethora of pictures. Then everybody went to the Maverick Meet-Up over at Chacho's, while yours truly went home, wrote up my review of opening night, and then I went to bed and slept for four hours before waking up and going back to work.

And folks, there you have Day Two of Cinequest 30! And there's still 11 more days of movie watching for me! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 15th 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 www.cinequest.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Phil attends the Opening Night of the 30th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival - March 3, 2020

It's that most amazing time of the year!! That's right folks!! Tonight was the opening night of the 30th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival!! I am expecting to see some of the very best in independent, foreign, and documentaries here for the next thirteen days! Once again I got to see some of my old friends like Jason Wiener from Jason Watches Movies as well as my old buddy Roy from the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Terra Wood-Taylor, Michael Rabehl, and a few others. At this year's festival I hope to once again make new friends and as well as new memories. Back in 2014, I set an all-time personal record by attending 60 screenings in 13 days! Let's see if I can even bet that record this year!!

The opening night was held once again at the beautiful California Theatre on South First Street. There was the traditional red carpet with numerous filmmakers talking about their films to the press and posing for the cameras. Soon I found my way towards the front of the stage, bouncing in my seat with excitement. Then at 7:15pm, the lights slowly dimmed and the show began!

Cinequest director and co-founder and Halfdan Hussey came out and greeted everyone and thanked all our sponsors. He then had the theatre screen this year's festival trailer, which was done once again by SF Bay Area production company Guerrilla Wanders. We also saw SJ Mayor Sam Liccardo, a touching and inspiring trailer from Stand Up to Cancer (which was founded by Laura Ziskin, who passed away from breast cancer in 2011). After, Halfdan introduced Dave Gilliam from Cisco, TJ Rogers from Clos de la Tech (one of the new sponsers of the festival), and comedian Matt Donaher performed a hilarious stand-up that had the audience in stitches! We then saw the funny animated short film CRUEL SHOES, narrated by Steve Martin,and directed by Kevin Peterson, who also introduced his short. And then, it was time to watch the festival's opening night film JOHN PINETTE: YOU GO NOW.

The documentary tells the life of comedian John Pinette, who would become one of the hottest and fastest rising young comedian of all time. Told by family, friends, and peers like Lewis Black, Dane Cook, Bill Burr, Howie Mandel, and Iliza Shlesinger just to name a few, we're told the story of Pinette's early years dealing with loss and personal setbacks to becoming one of the biggest stars in stand-up, to his tragic fall from grace, his redemption and comeback, to his final days. Throughout his ups and downs, we get a better understanding of who John Pinette actually was; the man behind the laughs, the fat jokes, and his smile he wore to cover up his pain.

Truth be told, I had totally forgotten about John Pinette. I used to see his Comedy Central specials back in the day, and it was fantastic to see this footage in the documentary, along with several clips of him doing his stand-up throughout the years. I found myself laughing uncontrollably one minute, then wiping away my tears the next. Pinette hid his pain well from the rest of the world, and it was so tragically sad when he passed away on April 5, 2014 at only 50 years old. After the screening, there was a Q&A with the filmmakers, which was very informative and heartfelt.

Now I just became aware that Cinequest here will be having an encore screening of the documentary on Monday, March 9 at 6:45 at the Hammer Theatre. This is the first time Cinequest ever had an encore of their opening night film, which makes this a very rare and special occasion.

After the Q&A, everybody headed over to the lavish after party, which was held over at The Glass House on 12 South Market Street, where there was plenty to eat, drink, and music to shake our booties to all night long! Drinks were once again provided by Tito's Vodka, as well as by  Hendrick's GinDrake's Brewing, and J. Lohr Winery!!

JOHN PINETTE: YOU GO NOW was the perfect film to kick off Cinequest 30! And there's still 12 days of movie watching left! So what are you waiting for? Now you can partake in this very important downtown event. The 30th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival runs from March 3rd to March 15th!! To view film schedules, information about the festival, and to purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at www.cinequest.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!