“Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story” – (Capsule Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story (2013) is a riveting companion piece to Romanek’s three prior books. They are the groundbreaking Messages: The World’s Most Documented Extraterrestrial Contact Story (2009), The Orion Regressions (2011) and Answers (2012). These popular tomes, all of which I highly recommend reading, detail Romanek’s personal encounters with unearthly life forms. Needless to say, the one-hundred and five-minute documentary which reiterates the content of these penned articles is nowhere near as in-depth as Romanek’s literary compositions on the subject.

Additionally,  the style is difficult to get used to at first. There is also an overreliance on quotes from many differing sources to fill gaps in the runtime. Still, the film is nonetheless fascinating. This is especially accurate when considering the reams of video, audio and photographic evidence which is presented in Romanek’s defense. Moreover, the three main sections the piece is assembled into (“The Evidence”, “Stan and Lisa” and “Validation” respectively) create a perfectly well-rounded beginning, middle and open-ended conclusion to Romanek’s on-going communion with these highly-intelligent beings.

Correspondingly, Romanek makes for an intriguing focal point. Likewise, the mid-section arrangements which concern the relationship between Stan and his wife, Lisa, are gripping. They are as potent as the myriad interviews from experts glimpsed in the last act. This is despite the fact that the latter component often feels as if there is too much emphasis on swaying viewers towards Romanek’s credibility. A similarly manipulative sensation is found in the brief “Prologue” situated at the commencement of the account.

Yet, the formerly addressed climactic conversations emit a refreshingly cerebral and alternately cryptic tone. Such makes these suspicious impressions easy to overlook. These profound inquiries complement the labor immeasurably. This is as these discussions turn to questions of the past, present and future of mankind itself.

From a technical standpoint, Jon Sumple provides all-around skillful work. This encapsulates his roles as director, co-writer (with Jack Roth), co-producer (with Roth and Jamie Sernoff), cinematographer and editor. Correspondingly, Anton Patzer’s intense, hypnotic original music and Patrick Lomantini’s superb visual effects enhance the quality of the effort immensely. In turn, the lingering impact of this illuminating presentation is both haunting and harrowing. Such results in a flawed, but worthwhile, production. It is one which fellow fans of true alien abduction tales will want to seek out for themselves. You can do so now on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix and Video on Demand.

(UNRATED). Contains adult themes and situations.

Production Company: j3Films.

“Elle”, “Get Out”, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”, “Passengers”- (Capsule Movie Reviews)

By Andrew Buckner

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016) is terrific. It is a slyly crafted, endlessly enigmatic, Hitchcockian thriller that operates just as well as a character-oriented drama. Yet, Verhoeven’s tale works so luminously because it is smart enough to hand the audience the pieces while allowing them the breathing room to put the puzzle together themselves. Such makes for an increasingly engrossing narrative. It is one that casually twists and turns throughout its one hundred and thirty-one minute runtime. This is without ever betraying the life projecting mirror it is holding up to bystanders. It also never once compromises itself to the expectations of either of its primary genres. This is as much a compliment of Verhoeven’s brilliant, nuanced direction and David Birke’s masterfully constructed screenplay as it is Isabelle Huppert’s triumphant, and Oscar nominated, turn as our lead, Michele LeBlanc. The ability of the picture to defy standards of structure at nearly every turn is just as admirable as the pitch perfect note it ends on. In turn, Verhoeven has given us one of 2016’s many highlights. ****1/2 out of *****.

Get Out (2017) more than satisfies as both social commentary and as a slow burn horror film. The first two acts are terrifically mounted. Moreover, they sport terrific performances. The same can be said of the writing and directing from Jordan Peele. But, the problem is the comparatively unfocused third act. Here Peele finds himself utilizing far more of the familiar genre elements he largely avoided beforehand. The flat finale, as well as the constant comic relief we find in the character of Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), further hinders matters. Because of this, the last thirty-five minutes become an intermingling of sequences that are hit and miss; a roadblock that steers Peele’s production to a solid overall sensation. Such is somewhat disappointing given the path to greatness that the effort seemed destined to reach in its earlier stretches. Get Out doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Still, for most of its one hundred and four minute length, it is engaging, enigmatic, well-made and certainly worthy of our time. **** out of *****.

Intimate, in-depth, engaging and massively inspiring, the PBS documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016) is an all around exceptional portrait of an American icon. 113 minutes. ***** out of *****.

Passengers (2016) works remarkably well as romantic science-fiction in the first hour. With its constant character focus, leisurely and unforced pace and overall likability, the affair almost appears as if it beats with the heart of a quiet, intimate indie film. Than disappointment kicks in during the second half. This is as the picture largely abandons these carefully constructed elements for more of the expected big-budget genre schtick. From herein, the effects, Morten Tyldum’s direction and Jon Spaihts’ writing are clunky and ill-conceived at best. The same can be said for its hackneyed stabs at tension building. Even the sheer charisma of the movie’s leads (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) sharply diminishes in this later stage. But, it isn’t a complete bust.There are a few interesting ideas sprinkled throughout this faultering section. Yet, this is hard to fully embrace as Tyldum’s exertion steamrolls to its pre-conceived and predictable conclusion. The result is familiar, but fair enough, entertainment. 116 minutes. *** out of *****.