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Reviews

Northwood Pie
(2019)

"Northwood Pie" (2020): A Honkin' Slice of The Slacker Sensibility
"Northwood Pie" is, at it's raunchy roots, a mid 1970s stoner flick updated to the 2020s, packing potency the variety of which ganja genre giants Cheech and Chong would praise on high. While high.

Todd Knaak (who co-wrote this simple, yet, in it's own unusual way, sweet story along with Director Jay Salahi) stars as Crispin, a Southern California kid at a critical crossroads. Will he be content continuing to get paid peanuts to pump out pizzas? Or will he pick a potentially more fulfilling future, galloping away to greener grass, leaving this one-horse town behind to choke on his dust.

The blunt and blue banter between Crispin and his equally lost buds is consistently hilarious here. The script succeeds in rising above the silly, while mercifully stopping short of miring in melancholy melodrama, hence heavily harshing the buzz, bruh.

The closing moments of "Northwood Pie" present a rousing and inspiring homage to a bygone time, both for these characters, and to an American era that once was. This is an indelible conclusion, an enduring final image capturing the uncertainty, and the endless possibilities, of youth. It is one of spontaneous clarity.

Achieved only after the smoke settles.

Crop Circle Realities
(2021)

"Crop Circle Realities" (2021): What is the Real Square Deal?
Crop circles have been a confounding phenomena for decades. Historical evidence even suggests that these intricate farmland formations may have been in evidence as far back as the late 1600s.

The new documentary "Crop Circle Realties", available now on iTunes and Google Play, generates more questions than it answers. Primarily because at present there ARE no answers. Someone, or someTHING, is flattening down segments of crop fields into stunningly meticulous shapes and patterns. Some of this agrarian artwork has been exposed to be elaborate hoaxes, with the perpetrators themselves copping to such shenanigans. Others, however, have NOT been so conveniently dismissed.

Having watched "Crop Circle Realties", here are some among many puzzling points this reviewer pines away pondering:

1. Why are most of the world's known crop circles manifesting in fields throughout the UK? Perhaps the creators are Big Earl Grey sippers?

2. These formations are apparently always fashioned in the dark of night. Yet there is no mention in the film of any effort to strategically erect cameras in an effort to potentially capture those responsible for these acts IN the act. Why not?

3. The movie tells us that, although these crops are mashed down during circle making, none of the plants actually die. This remarkable oddity, along with the manner in which the formations are actually manufactured, purportedly cannot be explained neither scientifically nor technologically in terms of anything known to, or made by, mankind.

4. The suggestion that alien life forces are behind crop circles runs rampant. However, if this is some manner of coded messaging being relayed from galaxies far, far away, most researchers seem to believe that they are communications of a benevolent nature. And that the end game, whatever that may be, is imminent now.

If this be the case, do you think our interplanetary visitors can circle their date of arrival for us?

It'd just be nice to know when to expect company.

Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel
(2016)

"Surge of Power: Revenge of The Sequel" (2018): Superhero Send-Up Message Movie
Full disclosure. This lad is about as far from a superhero fan boy as it gets. Not a villainous vendetta of any variety. Just doesn't crease my cape is all.

Which brings us to the jokey genre satire "Surge of Power: Revenge of The Sequel", assumedly the first openly gay superhero flick ever made. If you're jonesin' for a journey through the Marvel Universe or the next dark dive into the "Batman" franchise, best quest elsewhere, comics crusaders. But if fun, farce and female impersonators floats your boa, then surge on. This alternative may play perfectly with your lifestyle.

Vincent Roth is the creative curator and star of "Surge of Power: Revenge of The Sequel". I talked with Roth about his off-beat homage to heroes on high.

Is Surge film's first openly gay superhero?

Yes, one of our tag lines, that actually came from a British news outlet is, "cinema's first out gay superhero." Some have said we could drop the "out" because there have not been any gay superheroes in the movies or on TV before Surge. The first gay superhero to show up in comics was in 1985, a character called Extrano in a DC comics title "The New Guardians," later followed in 1990 by the more known Marvel character Northstar of the comic book "Alpha Flight." However, there were no cinematic gay superheroes until Surge when the first movie, Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes, started screening in 2004 and then was released in distribution in 2006. After all these years, and 4 movies later, no one has identified a gay superhero in movies or TV before Surge.

"Surge of Power: Revenge of The Sequel" carries a message. Acceptance of who we are is, or should be, universal. Amidst all the comedic commotion, it clearly matters to you that this resonate in your film. Please share your thoughts in this regard.

When I was making the first Surge of Power movie, I wanted to distinguish the movie in two ways. First, I wanted to bring back campy fun of superheroes, a little bit in the spirit of the "Batman" Adam West TV show, which also led to our penchant for getting celebrities to do cameos in the Surge of Power movies. Second, if I was going to make a feature film, I wanted Surge to be gay, because, as noted earlier, there had not been a gay superhero movie, although I kept hearing genre fans asking for one. Over a decade later, Marvel stepped into the campy fray with its Deadpool movies with Ryan Reynolds and now DC Comics has followed up with their own campy superhero in the recent SHAZAM! movie. So, thankfully Surge's distinguishing feature is that he is the only openly gay lead in the movies. I found humor to be a good vehicle for mainstream audiences to enjoy gay characters, like the popular "Will and Grace" TV show that ran for 8 seasons and then was brought back for 3 more seasons. So, I felt a comedy would be a good way to introduce Surge to mainstream audiences. It seems to have worked, because we have 4 movies now - 2 feature films now in distribution and 2 short films currently screening (to the extent movies can screen during this pandemic) and I am now in pre-production for a 5th movie.

The tag line "Make a Difference Where You Can" is used throughout the Surge of Power movies. As you picked up, I am sending a message to genre fans in hopes that I inspire them to make a difference, which could express in various ways, but I hope on some occasions will look like tolerance, greater acceptance, or standing up for the underdog. These are well known concepts in the superhero genre. In fact, science fiction is already a landscape where people tend to have broader minds - they are contemplating super powers, space craft, alien life civilizations and time travel. So, I think genre fans are already more inclined to be accepting. My hope is that the Surge of Power movies will help mainstream audiences be even more accepting. Again, if I was going to put out a feature film, I wanted it to do something meaningful.

I was really encouraged by one aspect of your story in particular. So often in the motion picture industry the stock caricature of Christians is of prejudicial, intolerant, holier-than-thou mentally vacuous miscreants. I am a Christian. This does not describe me. Not even nearly. Your movie seems to go out of it's way to avoid this puzzling and abjectly demeaning stereotype. The phone call between father and son near the end of the film is an especially poignant example. Would you comment on this dynamic from a personal perspective?

I, too, am a church going Christian, which is why Gavin, Surge's alter ego, is shown subtly as a Christian in the first movie, Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes. Fans had regularly asked to see more about the Metal Master, and I noticed that villains seemed to be the focus at that time in superhero movies. People seemed to want to know why a villain turned evil and audiences seemed like they wanted to sympathize with the villains. So, for the sequel, I wanted to give fans what they wanted, and explore the Metal Master's background. Since Surge was already revealed as Christian, I had Metal Master be Jewish, and we get introduced to Hector Harris' homophobic parents, Helen Harris and Harold Harris, played by Linda Blair (The Exorcist) and Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century). I tried not to be preachy, but I wanted audiences to see how religion can harm families, and in Hector's case, harm society because Hector turned his family's rejection into a resentment he took out on society as Surge's nemesis, the Metal Master.

I think Linda Blair has the most powerful line in the movie when she, as Helen, says to her husband, Hector, "God made man, but man made religion," as Hector struggled with what his upbringing taught him about gay people. I recently heard someone say, "a spiritual person will do the right thing, regardless of what they are told, but a religious person will do what they are told, regardless of what the right thing is." Had I heard this when making Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, I probably would have woven this into the dialogue. I think it's far too common that people cannot separate spiritual principles from what are obviously man-made conventions in religion. As a fellow Christian, you know we call this "discernment." Just as guns can do harm and do good, scripture can also be, and has been, weaponized by man giving biased interpretations of passages. In Revenge of the Sequel, I did not want to go down the path of Christianity, since Surge was already shown to be Christian, and I thought Islam was probably a bit too far down a political path than I wanted to go, so I decided Metal Master and his family would be Jewish. Since Judaism and Christianity are so similar, I thought the concept of religious based homophobia would still carry over to the audience.

I, myself, had a very accepting family when I came out and I enjoy a very accepting work environment, but I have seen many friends, classmates and coworkers have less positive environments. I have also seen how homophobia has affected many of them, translating into personal and relational issues in life. This is what I wanted to express in the Metal Master's character. I wanted the audience to see how Harold's and Helen's rejection of Hector had dire consequences - their son, Hector, turned into a supervillain terrorizing society time and again. I also felt this needed reconciliation to have a successful story arc for Hector. So, in the movie, Helen came around sooner, with Harold still struggling. As you noticed, toward the end of the film, Harold was moved enough by Helen's words that while he was still uncomfortable, he made a very big step in calling Hector after 20 years of not speaking. During that call, Harold invites Hector over for Passover, which in the Jewish community is a big sign of acceptance - those invited for Passover are considered family. This was a huge step for Harold, and this reconciliation is the story arc for Hector. Now, experiencing acceptance from his family, maybe Hector will give up his Metal Master life or do something good in the future.

Beyond the Spectrum - Humanoids
(2019)

"Beyond The Spectrum-Humanoids" (2019): They sure ain't US, so what ARE Them?
Ever seen a skinny, pale two-legged being with big black almond eyes and ultra-long arms prancing about your proximity? No, not your brother-in-law on New Year's Eve. I'm talkin' humanoids. Kinna like "wanna be people" is the best I can do for ya on this.

The documentary "Beyond The Spectrum-Humanoids" serves up a series of purportedly plausible videos alleged to present these creepy creatures cavorting quite casually among us. There is also the notion suggested here that the world's governments are perched atop ticking time bombs of suppressed alien and UFO evidence, collectively simmering on the verge of detonation and scandalous explosion upon the unaware masses at any given moment.

Geez, man. You'd think something like...oh...I dunno...a GLOBAL PANDEMIC is plenty disruption to suffice for awhile.

Beyond The Spectrum - Maussan's UFO Files
(2019)

"Beyond The Spectrum-Maussan's UFO Files" (2019): Is that Something?
Extended Air Force cockpit camera video footage captured by pilots on military maneuvers representing both the U.S. and Mexico recording inexplicable craft doing "unearthly" things. Several reports, including more videotape, of unidentified objects in motion spotted in the sky during a 1982 solar eclipse. Recent reports of infrared images allegedly unveiling UFOs "invisible" to the naked eye.

All this and more are part of the paranormal parade packed into the brief documentary "Beyond The Spectrum-Maussan's UFO Files".

Oh, and you best be braced to dig on veteran Mexican broadcast journalist turned UFO researcher Jaime Maussan.

El tipo habla mucho aquí.

Beyond the Spectrum: Being Taken
(2018)

"Beyond The Spectrum-Being Taken" (2018): Close Encounters of The Fourth Kind
In 1977 filmmaking impresario Steven Spielberg gave us "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". At the end of that movie the character played by Richard Dreyfuss is shown entering into a colossal flying ship, which transports him and other humans into the night sky. This is classified in the "ufology" field as a close encounter of the fourth kind, alien abduction.

The documentary "Beyond The Spectrum-Being Taken" investigates several incidents spanning a number of decades in which people claim to have seen, and many actually to have been physically taken (some even insisting they were bodily probed), by alien beings. Among the most prominently publicized of these alleged events, and which this production chronicles, involves the story of New Hampshire couple Betty and Barney Hill in the 1960s. The Hills reportedly recalled in considerable and striking detail their individual and collective abduction experience both before and during clinically conducted sessions of hypnosis.

Okay. So either you believe or you don't when it comes to UFOs and aliens, right? Or, as is alluded to in "Beyond The Spectrum-Being Taken", there exists a third option. A sort of gray area. Not complete acceptance. But not slam-the-door-shut dismissal either.

You'll find me residing there.

Volcanic UFO Mysteries
(2021)

"Volcanic UFO Mysteries" (2021): Hot Topic Tantalizes
Lots of questions. No answers. At least none conclusive. Yet.

The captivating documentary "Volcanic UFO Mysteries" features video footage of what appear to be flying crafts hovering around, above and disappearing into, active and smoldering volcanoes all about Latin America. Speculation by some observers is that these may be alien ships juicing up with fuel derived from inside these volatile mountains to enable further flight around the world and across the universe.

And then the film hits us with this eruptive revelation: Reports from mainstream media outlets and the U.S. military itself about unidentified craft (even going so far as suggesting possible aliens within them) somehow disabling nuclear missiles.

What on earth? Or more aptly, not of our planet at all?

Sasquatch Among Wildmen
(2020)

"Sasquatch Among Wildmen" (2020): Big Foot has some Buddies?
Many among us believe that the existence of Sasquatch, or Big Foot, is not only plausible, but real. There are also those of the opinion now that the still mythical creature is just one member of a larger society of what are called "Wildmen", ape-like beings surmised to be an offshoot of the evolution of man.

The documentary "Sasquatch Among Wildmen" introduces a host of videos and photographs alleged to be sightings from around the globe, molds of supposed giant foot prints, hair samples and alarming audio recordings of unidentified animalistic screeching. All of this considered collectively may or may not serve to substantiate the possibility that "Wildmen" actually exist.

Physical evidence remains the missing component to inspire any manner of wide acceptance by the scientific community.

Still, it's all pretty flippin' wild, man.

UFO Report
(2020)

"UFO Report" (2020): Series 1, Episode 11, "UFO Sightings Spike" review
Do you believe in UFO's? Hawaiian filmmakers Blake and Brent Cousins each do, and have devoted more than 20 years independently investigating the controversial phenomena.

In the first of five looks at the Cousin's series, "UFO Report", I'll offer my commentary on the final episode of the series' debut season, "UFO Sightings Spike".

We are presented with images of two UFO's, presented by way of home videos and camera stills.

In the first, suburbanites have recorded a series of four lights arranged in a row across the night sky. UFO "experts" who evidently study the field beyond a passing interest weigh in. The consensus is that what we are looking at are drones. Still, none among the observers are satisfied that the sighting could be something other than that familiar to the population at large. Of course, this may always include projects undertaken by earthly governments and/or military organizations.

I found the second recording, while not well captured, to be more interesting. A large object in the shape of a plastic juice jug complete with handle floats motionless in a daylight sky. The image put me in the mind of a scene from a found footage flick or the hovering alien crafts featured in the 2016 movie "Arrival". One among the panel aligns with me that it "looks like a gallon jug of water". Another guy calls it out as a hoax. I'm going to toss in a potential, albeit ultra-elaborate, hologram.

This installment of the series has an eerie music bed playing throughout it's entirety. While certainly effective at establishing the requisite mood, many moments here would have been just as spooky with no instrumental enhancement.

This is freaky stuff to be sure. Many roundly dismiss and deride UFO believers as detached zealots or just plain nuts. I don't. I'm not entirely convinced that these mysterious sightings in the skies, or aliens not of our world, are real, or reasonably explained, or not. I do, however, believe it to be enormously arrogant and naive to maintain that human beings are the only intelligent forms of life in all of our vast and expansive universe.

All five seasons of "UFO Report" are streaming now on amazon Prime.

Can't wait to dive into Season Two. Stay tuned for my next report.

UFO Report
(2020)

"UFO Report" (2020): Series 1, Episode 11, "UFO Sightings Spike" review
Do you believe in UFO's? Hawaiian filmmakers Blake and Brent Cousins each do, and have devoted more than 20 years independently investigating the controversial phenomena.

In the first of five looks at the Cousin's series, "UFO Report", I'll offer my commentary on the final episode of the series' debut season, "UFO Sightings Spike".

We are presented with images of two UFO's, presented by way of home videos and camera stills.

In the first, suburbanites have recorded a series of four lights arranged in a row across the night sky. UFO "experts" who evidently study the field beyond a passing interest weigh in. The consensus is that what we are looking at are drones. Still, none among the observers are satisfied that the sighting could be something other than that familiar to the population at large. Of course, this may always include projects undertaken by earthly governments and/or military organizations.

I found the second recording, while not well captured, to be more interesting. A large object in the shape of a plastic juice jug complete with handle floats motionless in a daylight sky. The image put me in the mind of a scene from a found footage flick or the hovering alien crafts featured in the 2016 movie "Arrival". One among the panel aligns with me that it "looks like a gallon jug of water". Another guy calls it out as a hoax. I'm going to toss in a potential, albeit ultra-elaborate, hologram.

This installment of the series has an eerie music bed playing throughout it's entirety. While certainly effective at establishing the requisite mood, many moments here would have been just as spooky with no instrumental enhancement.

This is freaky stuff to be sure. Many roundly dismiss and deride UFO believers as detached zealots or just plain nuts. I don't. I'm not entirely convinced that these mysterious sightings in the skies, or aliens not of our world, are real, or reasonably explained, or not. I do, however, believe it to be enormously arrogant and naive to maintain that human beings are the only intelligent forms of life in all of our vast and expansive universe.

All five seasons of "UFO Report" are streaming now on amazon Prime.

Can't wait to dive into Season Two. Stay tuned for my next report.

UFO Report
(2020)

"UFO Report" (2020): Series 1, Episode 11, "UFO Sightings Spike" review
Do you believe in UFO's? Hawaiian filmmakers Blake and Brent Cousins each do, and have devoted more than 20 years independently investigating the controversial phenomena.

In the first of five looks at the Cousin's series, "UFO Report", I'll offer my commentary on the final episode of the series' debut season, "UFO Sightings Spike".

We are presented with images of two UFO's, presented by way of home videos and camera stills.

In the first, suburbanites have recorded a series of four lights arranged in a row across the night sky. UFO "experts" who evidently study the field beyond a passing interest weigh in. The consensus is that what we are looking at are drones. Still, none among the observers are satisfied that the sighting could be something other than that familiar to the population at large. Of course, this may always include projects undertaken by earthly governments and/or military organizations.

I found the second recording, while not well captured, to be more interesting. A large object in the shape of a plastic juice jug complete with handle floats motionless in a daylight sky. The image put me in the mind of a scene from a found footage flick or the hovering alien crafts featured in the 2016 movie "Arrival". One among the panel aligns with me that it "looks like a gallon jug of water". Another guy calls it out as a hoax. I'm going to toss in a potential, albeit ultra-elaborate, hologram.

This installment of the series has an eerie music bed playing throughout it's entirety. While certainly effective at establishing the requisite mood, many moments here would have been just as spooky with no instrumental enhancement.

This is freaky stuff to be sure. Many roundly dismiss and deride UFO believers as detached zealots or just plain nuts. I don't. I'm not entirely convinced that these mysterious sightings in the skies, or aliens not of our world, are real, or reasonably explained, or not. I do, however, believe it to be enormously arrogant and naive to maintain that human beings are the only intelligent forms of life in all of our vast and expansive universe.

All five seasons of "UFO Report" are streaming now on amazon Prime.

Can't wait to dive into Season Two. Stay tuned for my next report.

UFO Report
(2020)

"UFO Report" (2020): Series 1, Episode 11, "UFO Sightings Spike" review
Do you believe in UFO's? Hawaiian filmmakers Blake and Brent Cousins each do, and have devoted more than 20 years independently investigating the controversial phenomena.

In the first of five looks at the Cousin's series, "UFO Report", I'll offer my commentary on the final episode of the series' debut season, "UFO Sightings Spike".

We are presented with images of two UFO's, presented by way of home videos and camera stills.

In the first, suburbanites have recorded a series of four lights arranged in a row across the night sky. UFO "experts" who evidently study the field beyond a passing interest weigh in. The consensus is that what we are looking at are drones. Still, none among the observers are satisfied that the sighting could be something other than that familiar to the population at large. Of course, this may always include projects undertaken by earthly governments and/or military organizations.

I found the second recording, while not well captured, to be more interesting. A large object in the shape of a plastic juice jug complete with handle floats motionless in a daylight sky. The image put me in the mind of a scene from a found footage flick or the hovering alien crafts featured in the 2016 movie "Arrival". One among the panel aligns with me that it "looks like a gallon jug of water". Another guy calls it out as a hoax. I'm going to toss in a potential, albeit ultra-elaborate, hologram.

This installment of the series has an eerie music bed playing throughout it's entirety. While certainly effective at establishing the requisite mood, many moments here would have been just as spooky with no instrumental enhancement.

This is freaky stuff to be sure. Many roundly dismiss and deride UFO believers as detached zealots or just plain nuts. I don't. I'm not entirely convinced that these mysterious sightings in the skies, or aliens not of our world, are real, or reasonably explained, or not. I do, however, believe it to be enormously arrogant and naive to maintain that human beings are the only intelligent forms of life in all of our vast and expansive universe.

All five seasons of "UFO Report" are streaming now on amazon Prime.

Can't wait to dive into Season Two. Stay tuned for my next report.

UFO Report
(2020)

"UFO Report" (2020): Series 1, Episode 11, "UFO Sightings Spike" review
Do you believe in UFO's? Hawaiian filmmakers Blake and Brent Cousins each do, and have devoted more than 20 years independently investigating the controversial phenomena.

In the first of five looks at the Cousin's series, "UFO Report", I'll offer my commentary on the final episode of the series' debut season, "UFO Sightings Spike".

We are presented with images of two UFO's, presented by way of home videos and camera stills.

In the first, suburbanites have recorded a series of four lights arranged in a row across the night sky. UFO "experts" who evidently study the field beyond a passing interest weigh in. The consensus is that what we are looking at are drones. Still, none among the observers are satisfied that the sighting could be something other than that familiar to the population at large. Of course, this may always include projects undertaken by earthly governments and/or military organizations.

I found the second recording, while not well captured, to be more interesting. A large object in the shape of a plastic juice jug complete with handle floats motionless in a daylight sky. The image put me in the mind of a scene from a found footage flick or the hovering alien crafts featured in the 2016 movie "Arrival". One among the panel aligns with me that it "looks like a gallon jug of water". Another guy calls it out as a hoax. I'm going to toss in a potential, albeit ultra-elaborate, hologram.

This installment of the series has an eerie music bed playing throughout it's entirety. While certainly effective at establishing the requisite mood, many moments here would have been just as spooky with no instrumental enhancement.

This is freaky stuff to be sure. Many roundly dismiss and deride UFO believers as detached zealots or just plain nuts. I don't. I'm not entirely convinced that these mysterious sightings in the skies, or aliens not of our world, are real, or reasonably explained, or not. I do, however, believe it to be enormously arrogant and naive to maintain that human beings are the only intelligent forms of life in all of our vast and expansive universe.

All five seasons of "UFO Report" are streaming now on amazon Prime.

Can't wait to dive into Season Two. Stay tuned for my next report.

Dead
(2020)

"Death": Lively take on Love, Loss and Lunacy
Don't ya just love a stoner comedy with a heart? Yeah. It's a thing. Perhaps "Pineapple Express" or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" sparks a synapse?

"Death" is an indie tripper out of New Zealand about "Marbles", a pothead with a predilection to talk to ghosts (Thomas Sainsbury in an hilariously touching performance). Leave it to those kooky Kiwis to smash up smokin' j's, séances and serial killing jags into one sensationally silly saga with a serious side.

And the cop never puts on pants.

The Extraordinary Ordinary
(2019)

First-Time Feature Filmmaker Natalie Rodriguez Mines Mental Health in "The Extraordinary Ordinary"
"The Extraordinary Ordinary"(2020): Embracing Uncommon Resilience

Anxiety and depression have both touched my life. They are far less prominent now. For a variety of reasons. Primary among these is the love and support of my family and friends.

This is the essence of the new independent drama "The Extraordinary Ordinary". We all, to paraphrase the enduring poetry of The Beatles, get by with a little help from our friends. Find our reason for being. Our purpose with which to flourish.

I spoke with filmmaker Natalie Rodriguez about "The Extraordinary Ordinary", her first feature motion picture.

"The Extraordinary Ordinary" is truly your baby, having written, directed and exec produced here. Clearly, this is a story you are driven to tell. What inspired you?

Growing up, I used to ask a lot of questions, especially when it came to mental health and wellness. The story was first 'born' when I was a junior in high school. For weeks, I kept thinking about the main character, ERICA (played by Maddison Bullock in the movie), and her journey of finding solace and healing from her own past. It almost felt like an obsession and I wanted to know her story. What pushed me, and I am sure most of the cast and crew could express the same, to get through the production/filming of this project was the rejection process.

Whether that was, rejection by an agent, manager, studio, and even a now-former boss telling me that I would 'fail' at making this movie, it only motivated me to get the project done. There is also a big stigma I continue to hear by some people in the industry how talking about recovery and mental health is a 'bad thing'. That always baffles me because mental health is part of health, therefore, if we go to the doctors for our annual physical, then why can't we do the same for our mind?

Anxiety and depression were once prominent in my life. They are not now. I never went to a place where I wanted to hurt myself. However, this is a subject explored in your film. If you would, please share your personal thoughts on mental health, and about those who struggle with emotional and psychological issues in their lives?

Of course! Until this day, it still bothers me how there is shame around mental health, wellness, and particularly, anxiety and depression. As someone who has been in counseling on and off for the past eight years, it truly does HELP to get help. Especially during this pandemic, I believe it is opening up more eyes on mental health and how people are seeking treatment and/or recognizing they need help themselves. But it is also a process, too. I think people, especially during a pandemic, need to be patient with themselves. Even I am still learning to do so. It is why I strongly recommend people to give counseling a try at least ONCE and see if it is for them. Plus, there could be a lot of good that comes with speaking to someone who is not part of your inner circle but a stranger.

I lost my precious mother earlier this year. One of the characters in "The Extraordinary Ordinary" has, as well. The scene in which this heartbroken son describes his mom as never seeing herself as special, and always only wishing that those she cares about are happy, touched me deeply. This is my mother. Parents play a crucial role in your film, whether it be noxious or nurturing. As the fiercely proud dad of three remarkable sons, would you talk with us about your feelings regarding the critical role, and lasting impact, we all have as parents of our children?

My sincere condolences! Our leading man, ALEX (played by Alex Montalban), actually used this scene as his audition. I watched his audition like 3-4 times and cried each time. There was just so much sincerity and empathy Alex Montalban delivered in the lines during the scene. It is one of my favorite scenes because, to me, even children often have to remind their parental guardian(s) how amazing they truly are.

"The Extraordinary Ordinary" tackles different standpoints of how we see parents portrayed. To me, I always felt that to be realistic, where parents are supportive while others are not. As we see with our main character, ERICA, she leans heavily on her father, ROB (played by John Posey), as she and her mother, CATHY (played by Della Lisi Kerr), disagree on multiple life matters. But in reality, someone such as CATHY is actually in a lot of pain herself and is unaware of it. For me, growing up I saw how much my parents were impacted by the decisions of their parents, and it sort of becomes a cycle, until it is broken. I think in my family, in this case, it is getting help by going to counseling and doing the work to not repeat the sins of our parents.

Aside from success, what do you genuinely want to accomplish with your films moving forward, Natalie?

For me, the ultimate dream is to make an audience feel something after they watch a film. The most impactful thing a creator can do is to get their audience thinking, whether they agree or disagree with something that was said or done in the film. That is something I hope my work can continue (to do) in the years to come. To me, success is all about being content - not the glitz and glam aspect - but hoping your audience sees the passion in the work and feels that way, too.

The Sunlit Night
(2019)

"The Sunlit Night": Living, Loving and Painting amidst an Oxymoron
There is roughly a two month stretch in late summer when the sun never fully sets on The Lofoten Islands of northern Norway. To visitors, this can be most disorienting. As it was for Frances, the character brilliantly brought to life by Jenny Slate (excellent also in 2014's underrecognized "Obvious Child") in the enchanting new dramedy "The Sunlit Night".

I was particularly drawn to this unusual tale of a New York painter (Slate) who accepts a job assisting an iconic but fading Norwegian artist attempting to resuscitate his career by painting a barn yellow (I said it was unusual). My dear dad is Norwegian-born and has been to The Lofotens many times.

As Frances journeys through this Scandinavian Odyssey by the sea she encounters a tourist village of modern-day Vikings (Zac Galifianakis is hilarious as a horde leader), a nude portrait model she recruits from a local grocery store and a young guy/love interest in the throes of family turmoil. That's a lot to process, no matter where you are. And it all manages to come together in a most delicious smorgasbord (I know, I know, that's Swedish) of stunning scenery, simulated swordplay and self-discovery.

The only thing missing was the lutefisk. But then again, to most not indigenous to "The Land of The Midnight Sun", that's a good thing.

Tuller Norge! Uff da!

Dark Encounter
(2019)

"Dark Encounter": Shedding light on Tragedy from Outer Space
Yeah, this review's title is unusual. But then so is the new sci-fi drama "Dark Encounter". Unusually good.

You may think space aliens descending upon a Pennsylvania farmhouse does a malevolent movie make. And almost always you would be correct. However, here we have a most uncommon example of interplanetary invasion fashioned as well done domestic drama, ultimately revealing the answer to a mysterious family trauma.

If there is in fact something out there, may they be this unearthly compassionate.

Becky
(2020)

"Becky": This ain't no Kid Stuff
This one has been knocked around by a lot of folks. Not this guy. If you go into the gory thriller "Becky" with no expectations and an open mind (expecting your eyes to slam shut reflexively during these graphic scenes of ghastly carnage) you may well join me in being duly impressed.

Lulu Wilson is a 13-year-old Rambo/MacGyver here, exorcising extreme pain and anger as she systematically, and viciously, vanquishes extreme evil (including comedian Kevin James in a harrowing turn as a neo-Nazi gang leader) at a remote family lake house.

And if you dig on "Becky", sequel alert.

After all, there remains that "key" element yet to be explained.

Webcast
(2018)

"Webcast": Exposing a Nightmare Neighborhood
Found footage is done. Yet I still find myself periodically helpless to resist a fix for shaky shots and blur-streaked scenes. My latest indulgence, the horror romp (is there anything else in the "ff" universe?) "Webcast". Two college kids in a creepy community produce a video class assignment investigating what in the hell happened to her aunt, decades disappeared.

Epic fail, youngsters. Extra points, however, for the ever endearing Brit banter.

After Midnight
(2019)

"After Midnight": Not to be taken literally......weeeeell
The new and super strange horror drama "After Midnight" seems to suggest many subtexts. I'm going with the five steps of wine tasting correlation with the five stages of grief this emotionally torn up guy is going through.

Or maybe it is what he thinks it is.

Nahh. I'm stickin' with the grief thing.

The Vast of Night
(2019)

"The Vast of Night": Rarely have Talking Heads been more Compelling
The new sci-fi drama "The Vast of Night" spends a lot of it's hour and a half runtime showing us unedited scenes of one person talking. For a long time. This clearly demands extraordinary preparation, commitment, focus and talent on behalf of the three primary performers here, Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz and Gail Cronauer. Well check, check and check, ladies and gentleman. Ya done good. Damn good.

Major kudos must also go to rookie Director/Co-Writer/Editor Andrew Patterson for taut direction in largely small environs and a brilliant script, the latter capturing spot-on the indigenous dialect of a small southwest American town.

Cinematographer Miguel Ioann Littin Menz works wonders in the cramped dark spaces occupying most of this film. The continuous shot mid-story taking the audience on a tour through this desolate berg at night is nothing short of astonishing.

The concern is that this small budget, independent gem will likely be underappreciated.

And that is vastly disappointing.

The Short History of the Long Road
(2019)

"The Short History of the Long Road": When the Highway is your Home
All of us have wanderlust. Whether realized via a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive, a spontaneous road trip, an exotic resort vacation or a lifestyle, we as humans are innately driven to get up, get out and migrate about at various points in our lives.

The new drama "The Short History of the Long Road" is all about this need to move. Sabrina Carpenter is wonderful here as Nola, a young woman who has known nothing but crisscrossing America in a clunky vintage van with her vagabond father. Nola is traveling a road to discovery in her young life. We watch as she learns that home is where you make it, a residence of the soul, not limited to physical location nor trappings.

And I must give heartfelt props to Writer/Director Ani Simon-Kennedy for "daring" to show Christians who are actually fully dimensional, real people, not caricatures to be exploited and belittled. This shouldn't be bold. But amidst the mentally of the modern motion picture community, it is.

God Bless you for sharing your own voice, Ms. Simon-Kennedy. And for not letting it drown in the malicious and mystifying anti-faith messaging flooding your business.

True Fiction
(2019)

"True Fiction": Fact is, could have made more Sense
Sara Garcia and John Cassini show pretty strong here as players entangled in a sick celebrity worship web. Regrettably, however, so much of what happens, or appears to happen, in "True Fiction" baffles to the practical point of incoherence.

And that's the truth.

Adonis Complex
(2019)

"A Perfect Host": This guy ain't Sellin' Soap, Suckers
The new horror thriller "A Perfect Host" reveals a couple things.

One, that many of us still remain unfailingly polite even when faced with ABSOLUTE jerkdom.

And, two, there actually ARE even worse MLM rackets than Amway out there.

And if this flick is any indication, it's enough to raise the dead.

I Hate the Man in My Basement
(2020)

"I Hate the Man in My Basement": There's a lot to Like
The off-off-off-OFF-kilter dramatic thriller "I Hate the Man in My Basement" is about need.

The need to grieve, avenge, love, be loved and for human interaction (now that last one's topical, huh?).

The unlikely romantic relationship between the remarkably non-stock characters played by Chris Marquette and Nora-Jane Noone needed to work in this film. And it does. These gifted pros are each fantastic singularly and together, no easy feat considering the enormously emotional and nefarious plot points in play here.

Not the least of which, that poor guy stashed under the floor.

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