Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind


Angels and aliens.

(2020) Documentary (1091) Dr. Steven M. Greer, Jeremy Piven (narrator), Daniel Sheehan, Adam Michael Curry, Stephen Tyler, Tom DeLonge, Joe Martino, Dr. Russell Torg, Jan Harzan, Jim Martin, Marcel Vidovic, Richard Doty, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, David Marconi, Ignacio Mollere, Marian Kramer, Raven Nabulsi. Directed by Michael Mazzola

 

Steven M. Greer has made a name for himself as a proponent for the idea that UFOs are real and aliens are visiting the Earth. Now, mind you, I don’t particularly find the idea all that far-fetched; after all, the odds are in a universe the size and age of ours that there are going to be life on other planets, perhaps far more advanced from a technological standpoint than our own.

Certainly, according to Greer, the government has been taking the idea very seriously. According to his new documentary, a sequel (of sorts) to his previous works Sirius and Unacknowledged there has been a conspiracy of disinformation by the government, aided and abetted by the mass media, to whip up fear that the aliens are out to get us. He links President Trump’s call for a “space force” to this mindset, arguing that the motivation for this is to create a one-world hegemony whose purpose is to go to war with extraterrestrials.

He constantly uses the term “national security state” to describe this government-media collusion. Greer, a former physician, has given up medicine to take up this crusade. He has a fairly large group of followers, including noted constitutional lawyer Daniel Sheehan, Aerosmith’s Stephen Tyler  and former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge in his corner. He does show a lot of grainy clips of lights moving about in the sky which are not unlike the UFO clips of 50 years ago.

Greer and his supporters make some compelling arguments, but as the film progresses it becomes more of a paranoid conspiracy theory shitshow. There’s also a good deal of mystical content, talking about contacting aliens through meditation and using a sort of telepathy to “call” the aliens to our spot in the galaxy. It’s at points like that in which I find my eyes beginning to roll uncontrollably.

I am an open-minded skeptic when it comes to paranormal phenomenon, up to and including ghosts, life after death, UFOs and so on. I have no illusions that we as humans know everything there is to know about the universe and I will grant that it’s possible that these things exist. HOWEVER, if you want to convince someone like me, you have to at least come off sounding reasonable and logical. Sheehan manages to do so, but the longer the film goes, the more Greer – who seems to be an intelligent and reasonable guy when this begins – starts to sound like he’s gone a little further around the bend than he should.

I have a streak of Missourian in me. Show me the facts. Don’t try to dazzle me with lofty and unprovable theories. Greer claims he has directly communicated with alien lifeforms. I am willing to believe him…if only he didn’t end up sounding like a cross between a new age hippie and a paranoid militia member.

The title refers to the series of protocols that were partially explained in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie. Close encounters of the first kind are a sighting of an extraterrestrial object within 500 feet. Close encounters of the second kind are physical evidence left by one of these objects. Close encounters of the third kind are the sighting of an extraterrestrial being. A close encounter of the fourth kind is a human being taken aboard an alien spacecraft. Finally, a close encounter of the fifth kind is human-initiated contact. That is what Greer’s organization is attempting, and I think it’s truly a laudable goal. At times, he (and especially Sheehan) make their case well. I just wish they would have presented themselves with a little less hysteria.

REASONS TO SEE: Greer comes off as very intelligent.
REASONS TO AVOID: Loses credibility.
FAMILY VALUES: There is occasional profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Greer got involved in the alien intelligence/UFO community after a near-death experience in his teen years.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Love and Saucers
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Fahrenheit 11/9


Trump supporters wearing their thoughts on their sleeves.

(2018) Documentary (Briarcliff/AnnapurnaMichael Moore, Donald J. Trump, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, Bill Maher, Bernie Sanders, Chris Matthews, George Stephanopoulos, Wendy Williams, Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, John Podesta, Roger Stone, Paul Ryan, Joe Scarborough, Larry King, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Ashleigh Banfield, April Cook-Hawkins, Brooke Baldwin. Directed by Michael Moore

 

During the 2016 Presidential election, one of the lone voices on the left predicting that Trump would win was gadfly and documentarian Michael Moore. The favored son of Flint, Michigan takes the time to illustrate just how this came to pass when virtually nobody thought it would – other than Trump and his followers.

This is perhaps Moore’s most serious documentary, with less of the stunts that characterize his other films (although he does attempt to make a citizen’s arrest of Michigan governor Rick Snyder and dares politicians to drink a glass of Flint water) and gives the movie a bit of a bleaker turn than most of his other work.

Moore doesn’t pull punches and he doesn’t always play fair with his facts; some of his commentary is a bit of a stretch and like that guy whose sense of humor isn’t always apparent, you’re never sure if he’s kidding or not.

Moore spends most of the movie illustrating how corporate America has essentially bought our democracy and has turned it into their own private ATM, making sure legislation favors the wealthy and the corporate at the expense of the working class and of course the poor – two classes that are virtually indistinguishable now. He does show glimmers of hope with the Parkland students rising up and leading a massive national march for gun control, and profiling politicians like Rashida Tlaib and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who might just make a difference in years to come.

Those who lean to the right in their political thinking are not likely to see this, but then again, this movie isn’t really for them – it’s more of a call to arms for the left which Moore criticizes has become complacent and self-destructive. We must all stand together, he opines – or as the Founding fathers might have added, we will all hang separately.

REASONS TO SEE: Adequately explains what got us to this point. Smart and occasionally mind-blowing.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit scattershot and at the end of the day, probably doesn’t accomplish what it set out to.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity and some sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While the film made its official world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Moore hosted a special premiere in his home town of Flint, Michigan (which figures heavily in the movie) four days later.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/15/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews: Metacritic: 69/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fahrenheit 9/11
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Life, Itself