Tag Archives: aliens

“There are Lots of Lights…” But Are They All UFO CONSPIRACIES?

UFO CONSPIRACIES on Science Channel


(1.5/5)

Pros: This topic always fascinates


Cons: Recycled stories; lazy formatting; lack of any evidence; over-reliance on narration

The latest entry in a genre that’s become a staple of cable educational channels, Science Channel’s UFO Conspiracies is yet another program dedicated to exposing various incidents involving unidentified flying objects. Since there have been so many undeniably similar shows of this nature over the years, the main thing that I’m looking for in a new UFO-related program is new, previously unheard information. While History Channel’s Hanger 1, arguably the best UFO/alien-related show currently airing, does provide information that I hadn’t come across before however, UFO Conspiracies seems like a complete retread, one that’s quite content to regurgitate various stories that have been covered elsewhere. As such, it would by and large be worthless for UFO enthusiasts: most viewers would have heard these stories before.

now THIS is a UFO conspiracy
…now THIS is a UFO conspiracy…

The initial episode of the program (aired on November 19, 2014) presented a trio of UFO reports, and it appears this is how most/all episodes of the show play out. First off, we have an incident from 2008 in which a large, fast-moving unknown craft was pursued across the Texas sky by a pair of F-16 fighters. Though investigators from MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network, probably the most comprehensive and well-structured UFO investigatory board) acquired radar footage that seemed to corroborate the stories of various eyewitnesses who saw this event, the Air Force has repeatedly denied that such an incident took place, relying on the tried and true methods of explaining what people saw. Next up, we’ve got a story from Peru, in which a group of journalism students investigating the sightings of strange lights in the Amazon actually wound up filming them. This segment is the only one presented that actually presents video evidence to document its story, but I simply didn’t find the story all that compelling. Finally, we’ve got the somewhat more interesting story of the disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich off the Australian coast in 1978. Valentich had reported an unknown craft in the area surrounding his small one-engined plane while flying over the ocean, but shortly thereafter, disappeared without a trace, leaving behind only a mysterious final radio communication in which grating metallic sounds were heard.

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Newspaper reporting Valentich’s disappearance.


As is normally the case in these types of shows, the stories in UFO Conspiracies are related to the viewer with the help of reenactments along with actual eyewitness accounts. The format of the show is entirely unexceptional, and I think the worst element of it is the over-reliance on the frequently cryptic narration of John Schwab. Schwab’s third-party descriptions of the events detailed in the program are featured much more than any of the actual first-person accounts, which makes it seem like the show is force-feeding the viewer information instead of allowing him to make up his own mind. It also seems pretty obvious that the producers of this show are skeptical about UFOs since a significant amount of time is devoted to providing alternate explanations which debunk the possibility that unknown craft were involved (I could almost argue that this is amount the few alien conspiracy shows that more tries to debunk the extraterrestrial hypotheses rather than confirm them or at least leave the door of possibility open). This approach seems definitively odd even if it does ensure that UFO Conspiracies is more objective than normal for a program of this nature. I would suspect that the vast majority of viewers would want this show to be more ambiguous in its conclusions rather than providing an “easy out” of sorts. Sure, these incidents may be explained away by helicopters, flares, and military aircraft, but let’s face the facts: people watching a show called “UFO Conspiracies” want to hear about aliens living on military bases, men in black threatening witnesses with corporal injuries, and secret government files buried in a vault in central Wyoming.

weather balloon

More damning than the condescending tone of the program though is the simple fact that I’ve heard every story presented in this first episode before in other UFO-related television shows. It really seems as though UFO Conspiracies was thrown together hastily using very accessible, well-documented, and well-known UFO cases – the Valentich disappearance, for instance, was covered more comprehensively in the past year or two on Science Channel’s significantly more worthwhile The Unexplained Files. Combine this fact that nothing presented would be new information for what I would assume would be the show’s target audience with the fact that the program actually downplays the element of the unknown that exists in these stories, and UFO Conspiracies winds up as a show that alien conspiracists would not only be bored by, but actually scoff at.

i'll just leave this here
I’ll just leave this here…


I admit it: I certainly believe in the existence of extraterrestrials (it would be pure ignorance to assume that humans are the only intelligent life in the infinity of the cosmos) and even think there’s something strange going on in the skies here on Earth (as Finding Bigfoot’s Bobo says: “I’ve seen ‘em. They’re here,” though I don’t claim to have any idea what “they” are). It’s likely there will always be a place for shows like UFO Conspiracies since these sorts of topics do capture the imagination of myself and incalculable other people out there. No attempt has been made on the part of the show’s producers to bring any amount of freshness to a now-tired formula; In Search of… debuted in 1977 after all and the format of the “speculative documentary” hasn’t significantly changed since then. UFO Conspiracies really has nothing to offer the viewer other than an semi-tolerable time-waste. Due to the absence of actual evidence, there’s a noticeable lack of credibility and the entire show seems lazy. Skip it.

Formulaic and Unrestrained Aussie Zombie Action: UNDEAD

UNDEAD

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(2/5)


Pros:  Lots of imagination; fairly energetic

Cons: Script is mismanaged and messy; too similar to other, better zombie flicks

Made in Australia in 2003, Undead stands as one of the early examples of post year 2000 zombie cinema, released a year after the generally excellent 28 Days Later. The film deals with a zombie outbreak taking place in a small Aussie fishing village after the community is bombarded by meteor fragments. Upon landing, these space rocks cause normal civilians to metamorphose into brain-eating creatures who can only be stopped by the destruction of their cranial cavity. As has been the case with most every zombie film ever made, Undead mainly deals with the story of an unlikely, generally incompatible group of citizens as they attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Even if the basic story would be painfully familiar to anyone who’s seen a zombie flick or three and throws too many predictable ideas into the mix, it’d be difficult to argue against the fact that this film does have some very imaginative ideas in it and is enjoyable on a purely mindless level. Unfortunately though, at some point down the line there just seems to be too much going on in the script, and the writer/director team of brothers Peter and Michael Spierig just can’t seem to corral the action and keep things focused.

shotgun
Amish Warrior Marion to the rescue – sweet three-shotgun rig, bro!

Our main characters here are part of the bigger problem in this film. Ever since the genre of the modern zombie film started in 1968 with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, these films have often featured unlikable characters in an effort to make the inevitable struggle for survival more compelling. More often than not, one or more human characters typically winds up being more villainous than the zombies themselves – a notion that emphasizes inherent, inescapable aspects of human nature. Undead, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have any underlying message yet features a cast of characters that’s generally unlikable through and through. Even if the film does create main, more or less heroic figures in a local beauty queen named Rene and a prototypical “tough guy” fisherman named Marion, at no point was I all that interested in rooting for any of these people. That’s doubly true for the peripheral characters – namely, a profanity-spewing, aggressively authoritarian cop and his rookie partner along with a country bumpkin couple. Of course the couple is expecting a child any minute and obviously, the woman starts to go into labor at some point during the film, but I was even more annoyed when, in the middle of an ongoing action scene in which these folks attempt to escape the zombies, the wife starts arguing with Rene about who should’ve won the beauty pageant in the first place. Talk about unnecessary drama!

zombies
Mo’ movies, mo’ zombies…


If the cheap tension isn’t enough for a viewer though, the script by the Spierigs also throws in (along with the obligatory mutilated zombie corpses) acid rain that burns clothes and skin, zombie fish attacking a man’s face, and even aliens who turn up whenever the script starts to get a bit slow or run into a dead end. . At some level, these elements make the film fairly entertaining since Undead quite literally includes a bit of everything, but a viewer is never quite sure how everything going on in the film really fits together. Even after the “big reveal” moment, the story doesn’t make much sense at all: most everything here is suggestive of the fact that the writers had tons of ideas but not the foggiest idea how to effectively incorporate everything. Thus, the picture is unfocused and muddy, confused and confusing, and since most of the zombie film elements found here have been seen dozens of other places, it doesn’t make this stand out as much of anything but a bit of a mess.

aliens
So, lemme get this straight…we got aliens now too?

By and large, Undead has a comedic feel to it that makes it somewhat comparable to the early, hideously gory early films of Peter Jackson, though the Spierigs aren’t nearly as inventive as Jackson – or as clever as they think they are. (It’s worth noting that Undead has been accused of being a ripoff of the British comedy/horror film Shaun of the Dead – impossible given that the Australian film was made a year earlier.) Much of the comedy present in the film feels a bit forced and obvious – the best bits occur when the directors don’t draw attention to the fact that they’re attempting a gag, but honestly, this film is nowhere near as amusing as it really should be. I also grew tired of the “look at me” moments going on here, particularly those that featured Marion – this rather rotund guy (who never quite convinced me that he wasn’t some sort of ) is constantly pulling off Matrix-style, slow-motion parkour moves, hurling his body into ridiculous positions in order to get a clear shot at marching undead, at which point he unloads an absurd amount of lead in the direction of the brain-munchers. This despite the fact that he urges others to “save their bullets.” The overload of pointlessly flashy camerawork and over-use of slow-motion quickly gets to be too much: I could almost imagine during some sequences that the directors were having a sexual climax behind the scenes as they watched their opus of bloodletting play out. Ultimately, the hopelessly unrestrained Undead is only slightly (very slightly) less downright annoying to watch than director Uwe Boll’s hilariously obnoxious House of the Dead from the same year.


Marion, the ticked off Amish fisherman. With guns.

Complicating matters further is the cast itself: Felicity Mason as Rene seems almost catatonic at times and seems to think that acting mainly involves her opening her eyes really wide. I just couldn’t buy her as the heroine character at any point, and Mungo McKay as Marion is only marginally more tolerable. McKay is built up to be the gruff-voiced, super-cool, super-slick hero from the moment he first appears onscreen, providing cryptic answers to any questions that are asked of him. Eventually he, like all the other characters here, becomes stale and uninteresting, and I think overall, the cast simply goes as overboard with their acting as the manic writer/directors did with their visuals and technique. In terms of the expected zombie action and gore, the picture has its moments and occasionally is positively splatterific, offering up a mixture of CGI and practical effects work. On the downside, this film was produced at a time when many things were theoretically possible through the use of digital effects, but the effects themselves don’t really hold up that well – especially compared to what would be seen today (the “giant wall” that descends over the town in particularly unconvincing). Many films of the ‘90s and early 2000s suffer from this same problem; it’s almost inevitable when looking at older films to spot technical imperfections, but I personally find obvious and lousy digital effects to be borderline unwatchable.

pardon me
Well THAT’S going to leave a stain….

Compared with the best, undeniably distinctive Aussie genre films (a number of which are among my absolute favorites), Undead not only seems too formulaic and familiar, but it’s also downright ugly. This film is overwhelmed by not only darkness, but also a color scheme dominated by dull browns and grays: I really think some color (and not just floods of goopy gore) would have gone a long way in making the picture more lively. Also, is it just me or does Cliff Bradley’s main musical theme sound a little too much like the “Promenade” from John Williams’ Jaws soundtrack? All things considered, Undead may be energetic but it’s not especially fun – strange, given the amount of truly wacky elements thrown into the script. The Spierigs may be talented and imaginative, but they don’t demonstrate much control over this production. Frankly, this film is rather sloppy, with a few too many false endings; I’m not especially surprised that the brothers haven’t done a whole lot since its release. Even if Undead may appease zombie film fanatics on some level, most viewers would be best served by (re-)watching the much more satisfying Shaun of the Dead.

shuffle

DO THE ZOMBIE SHUFFLE!


From Lions Gate and in widescreen format, the DVD includes a nice array of bonus features including two commentaries (one with the cast, one with the crew), a selection of deleted and extended scenes and digital effects comparison footage, as well as a handful of making-of type featurettes. All in all, it’s a package that speaks to the fact that this film was a step above the typical (i.e. even worse) low-budget Lions Gate horror release.


8/10 : Gunfire and destruction galore, with lots of goopy bodily fluid and spilling innards. That said, this film isn’t scary in the least.


8/10 : One character in the film seems to use the f-bomb in place of every other word, hence, there’s a lot of profanity here.


1/10 : A gratuitous stripping scene in which the characters try to avoid the literal acid rain. Doesn’t make sense to me either, but there’s no nudity.


6/10 : A lesser zombie film to be sure, though I’m sure someone out there would find this more enjoyable than I.


“Aunt Aggie has the keys…but she doesn’t have a brain!”

Red Band Trailer – WARNING possible NSFW due to violence

History Channel’s Wide World of Conspiracy! HANGAR 1: THE UFO FILES

HANGER 1: THE UFO FILES on The History Channel

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(3.5/5)

Pros: Well-made; more credible than some similar shows; fascinating, thought-provoking information

Cons: Lack of hard evidence; conspiracy theories galore!

Considering the almost absurd number of UFO and alien-related shows on television in general and The History Channel in particular, the channel’s 2014 series Hangar 1: The UFO Files would need some element to not only give it some credibility but also distinction from the crowd. This show’s producers found just that when they set up the entire series as an expose type of program that revolved around an investigation of certain files from the archives of the , or MUFON. MUFON was founded in 1969 (precisely the time when the Air Force’s official inquiry into the UFO phenomenon, the much-maligned , was ending), and has over the years compiled some 70,000 case files relating to encounters with unknown craft and/or extraterrestrials. Each hour-long episode of Hangar 1 focuses on a specific facet of the UFO argument, with files pulled from the MUFON archives used to further illustrate and examine the topics. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to make the program stand out all that much from the dozens of vaguely similar shows, though I’d have to say that Hangar 1 would be about the perfect show for UFO and alien conspiracists.

archives
The actual, shadowy MUFON archives, or just a creepy-looking set – you decide.

Season one of Hangar 1 (eight episodes in length) would be an ideal “introductory course” in modern ufology and also could be taken as a excellent “refresher course” for those already interested in the subject and related theories. Episodes during this initial season dealt with such subjects as space weaponry being designed by government-sponsored deep black programs, the notion that the examination and “reverse engineering” of crashed flying saucers could yield new human technology, and the existence of deep underground military bases which could be used both to hide that sort of technology or even disguise extraterrestrial settlements on earth. The entirety of the first season of episodes ties back to the premiere which dealt with presidential encounters with UFOs and government policy relating to the subject. Ever since the late 1940s, there have been rumors about government involvement in hiding the existence of extraterrestrial life from the general public, and numerous presidents appear to not only have some knowledge about the existence of these beings but a few even have had their own first-hand encounters with aliens. I suppose you could say that the government UFO conspiracy is the “glue” that holds this show together – although this is hardly a revelation in the world of UFO-related television shows.

the start
Where everything started…

Hangar 1 is generally set-up like dozens of vaguely or explicitly similar shows. This program basically provides specific examples of human contact with unknown craft and/or beings which are based on actual reports provided for and investigated by MUFON. Various experts including scientists, MUFON researchers, and journalists discuss these incidents and the larger picture issues involved in the examination of UFOs and aliens. During the course of this examination, various scenarios are reenacted for the camera, and statements from the individuals involved are recited. Technically speaking, the program is well made, with a constantly interesting visual scheme that mixes up dramatizations with interview footage and a typically cryptic collage of declassified government documents, archival photographs, and eyewitness sketches.


What would any conspiracy program be without a segment devoted to the ?

Given the number of similar shows out there (many of which air on the very channel this program is broadcast on), the main thing I was looking for here would be the presentation of incidents and evidence that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. In this regard, Hangar 1 is a mixed bag: this show’s presentation of material is well-organized and obviously well-researched, but I have heard most of these stories before, either in other television programs or during the course of research I’ve done on my own. The program then might seem to many viewers like (another) rehash of information that’s been revealed other places; despite the fact that we’re told MUFON is “opening up its file archive for the first time,” I highly doubt that this is actually the case. All that said, the show certainly does cover some of the more fascinating UFO cases I’ve ever heard about, including quite a few which aren’t exactly common knowledge. For instance, segments that deal with a in which Iranian military aircraft encountered an apparently hostile UFO or one which focuses on former government contractor who claimed to be attacked by aliens when he accidentally entered into their underground base – and had horrific scars as proof of his encounter – aren’t featured in too many UFO shows.


Phil Schneider – the man who supposedly confronted aliens in an underground bunker…then died under mysterious circumstances after he went public with his claim. Notice extensive hand injuries reportedly sustained in the firefight.



On the downside, this show gives plenty of credence to various conspiracy theories and almost assumes a viewer would be willing to do the same. Additionally, I detected a bit of “fear-mongering” going on in the show during a few segments: to me, this seemed cheap and completely out of place in a program of this nature. Finally, and perhaps most damningly, even if many of the incidents discussed in the program are at the very least intriguing, I was genuinely shocked by the lack first-hand evidence. There are relatively few images of alien craft (at least ones directly related to the subject of the episodes) and virtually no eyewitness interviews; most all the information here is presented either by the narration or the third-party commentators. Thus, Hangar 1 seems mostly to be made up of hearsay: a programmed designed to be viewed by those who already believe in the existence of UFOs and alien life. The program does make a pretty good case for its claims (at least if one is inclined or able to follow the string of sometimes vague “evidence” referenced in the narration and believe the endless “accounts” related to the camera), but I don’t think a skeptic would be at all convinced by the arguments put forth in this program simply due to the fact that there’s very little hard proof provided.

iran
Yeah…I’m not sure this kind of “proof” is really going to cut it…

This, of course, is the problem with almost every UFO-related program, crypto-reality and/or “monster hunt” show, and generally, most things on TV: without seeing the evidence for oneself, it’s difficult for anyone to believe extraordinary claims. Granted, many people anymore subscribe to the whole X-Files “” thing – and many of today’s more speculative documentaries certainly play into that sort of mindset. I’d probably compare Hangar 1 favorably to a more level-headed program of the Unexplained Files variety rather than to the increasingly goofy monster hunt shows out there; if nothing else, Hangar 1 would provide an open-minded viewer with plenty of food for thought. In my mind, this is the best thing about shows like Ancient Aliens – though I can’t buy every argument put forth in these programs since they very obviously have their own agendas, they definitely get a viewer thinking, which is commendable even if the programs overall are not. UFO enthusiasts would probably enjoy Hangar 1: The UFO Files quite a bit: it’s a well-produced and perhaps more credible companion piece to some of History Channel’s other speculative programming. It’s not the best UFO program I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the worst either; in the end, I’d give the series a moderate recommendation.


Giorgio Tsoukalos Explains Everything (Hint – It’s Aliens!): IN SEARCH OF ALIENS

IN SEARCH OF ALIENS on History Channel

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(3/5)

Pros: Interesting subjects; more focused approach; Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Cons: Aliens – explanation for everything…

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If nothing else, History Channel’s In Search of Aliens confirms the status of the internet meme relating to charismatic and wild-haired “ancient astronaut theorist” Giorgio A. Tsoukalos: no matter what, no matter how, aliens are the ultimate explanation for EVERYTHING. Debuting in July 2014, In Search of Aliens combines the basic premise behind History’s long-running Ancient Aliens show (which explores the possibility that extraterrestrials visited Earth in the distant path and provided knowledge and guidance for our human ancestors) with that of America Unearthed, a show that follows forensic geologist Scott Wolter on a quest to prove that American history “isn’t what we’ve been told in schools.” Basically, America Unearthed attempts to dispel the notion that Columbus first discovered America, and In Search of Aliens’ opening declaration that “…what we’ve been taught by mainstream scholars is not the whole picture…” is an almost word-for-word recreation of the thesis of Wolter’s program.

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Any way one looks at it, it’s pretty clear that what we’re dealing with here is yet one more speculative documentary being passed off as hard fact. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that: I’m a big fan of Ancient Aliens not because I necessarily believe every damn thing the show says, but because the program promotes thought about the topics it examines. It’s automatically then several (giant) steps above the mindless entertainment that plays on History Channel nearly around the clock in the form of various positively asinine reality shows (Cajun Pawn Starsreally??!?). Unlike that reality show bunk, Ancient Aliens certainly challenges a viewer to examine his own perspective on different, usually fascinating subjects (the underlying themes of the show often focus on ancient civilizations, religious notions, ideas of genetic engineering, and technological discoveries) and think outside the box.

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Tsoukalos in Portugal, discussing the possibility that Atlantis actually was located here “beyond the pillars of Hercules.”


In Search of Aliens
, hosted by Tsoukalos (long-time contributor to and producer of Ancient Aliens) seems to be doing much the same thing, although each individual episode of this program is much more specific in its focus. Episode one followed Tsoukalos around the Mediterranean in search of the lost city of Atlantis. Described in detail by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Plato in a pair of early works, the Atlantis civilization supposedly was enormously wealthy and extremely technologically advanced, but it disappeared virtually overnight and its exact location has never convincingly been pinpointed. Tsoukalos’ quest for the truth behind the Atlantis legend takes him from Greece (where the story originated) to a potential location in and back to the Greek island of . During this journey, Tsoukalos interviews several experts who offer up their explanations of where Atlantis actually was located and what happened to it, and he also examines some interesting relics – including a so-called “” in Portugal. This huge stone was carved thousands of years ago, and may feature the design of a double-helix DNA strand on it – but if so, how did ancient people know about genetics at all? Questions like this lead Tsoukalos to an obvious explanation of Atlantis: the civilization was actually an alien craft that was misinterpreted as a city by ancient humans unaware of alien technology.

 

yep
Aliensthey explain everything.

Probably the biggest difference between In Search of Aliens and its obvious inspiration Ancient Aliens is that In Search of… plays more like a travelogue at times than a more wide-reaching documentary. This opening episode literally followed Tsoukalos on a zigzag course across the Mediterranean, and the somewhat flashier production afforded to this show ensures that the program had some breathtaking landscape photography including a few awe-inspiring aerial shots. I rather liked the history and explanation of various legends relating to Atlantis that were provided in the show, and to some extent was surprised that this program almost used the whole alien connection as a sort of afterthought. As might be expected, Tsoukalos made a few fleeting, ominous references to the (mysterious Sumerian deities) and the , but In Search of Aliens surprisingly seemed a bit more rooted in reality or at least plausibility rather than wild conjecture. Will this tendency last as the series goes along? Only time will tell, but given the track record established by Ancient Aliens, I’d expect this new program to eventually descend into a fantasy land itself. Hopefully, when it does do this we won’t have to witness the spastic movements of author David Hatcher Childress getting himself all hot and bothered while discussing these type of subjects…

childress
Childress; per usual, maniacally gesticulating.

Speaking of fantasy land, possibly the most dumb moment in this opening episode was where the “student” (i.e. Tsoukalos) went to Switzerland to meet the “teacher” (i.e. Chariot of the Gods author Erich von Däniken, who’s largely responsible for the popularity of the ancient astronaut theory) at the positively goofy amusement park built by von Däniken in order to promote his theories. To me, this sequence of the show seemed very cheesy, as if Tsoukalos had to receive “the master’s blessing” as it were to make his statements throughout the program seem more credible. von Däniken’s brief appearance adds nothing of value to the program – essentially, he just spouts out his thoughts on the mystery of Atlantis, yet Tsoukalos is quick to point out that the discussion he had with the Swiss author was “mind blowing.” Could have fooled me – it seemed very inconsequential and mostly irrelevant when compared to what the more established, mainstream scientists featured in the program had to say. But again…ALIENS


Yes, von Däniken’s “Mystery Park,” does actually exist.

Considering that episode two of In Search of Aliens deals with the (rather fascinating) story of the perplexing Nazi experiment known as , I guess an audience can assume there’s going to be some overlap between subjects discussed in Tsoukalos’ new show and those featured at one point or other on Ancient Aliens. Honestly, if you’ve seen one of these shows, you know what to expect from the other, and I can almost see this new show as an attempt to give the undeniably enthusiastic and popular Tsoukalos his own gig. In Search of Aliens seems entertaining and interesting enough though, and I’d probably recommend it to those who enjoy this type of program in the first place. As with all speculative documentaries, it’s best to take this one with a grain of salt, but its ability to get a viewer thinking is, in my opinion, most commendable.

PREVIEW VIDEO:

Lunar Conspiracies Revealed! ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED

ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED on Syfy Channel

(3/5)

Pros: Cool images of the lunar surface; compelling information…

Cons: …unfortunately, I just can’t buy all of the arguments made by this program

Continuing in much the same way as History Channel’s much-discussed (and derided) Ancient Aliens, the slickly-made and rather compelling original Syfy Channel “documentary” Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed (which premiered on July 20,2014) mainly examines a series of NASA photographs of the lunar surface that may just show anomalous structures built by unknown beings for unknown purposes. Various “experts” of one type or another – from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Edgar Mitchell to imaging expert Marc D’Antonio, to former government researcher Dr. John Brandenberg and even Ancient Aliens veterans Nick Redfern and Mike Bara (among others – I was expecting Giorgio A. Tsoukalos to turn up at any moment) turn up to offer their own perspective on the images, and analyze the notion that extraterrestrials have visited (or indeed still inhabit) the moon. As its goofy (DUN DUN!) title suggests, Aliens on the Moon is one more in a ongoing (endless?) string of at best speculative, at worst downright phony supposed feature “documentaries” that have played on TV in the last few years. In the end, the program might be interesting and is certainly thought-provoking, but I’m not sure I’d honestly believe everything (or maybe anything) it has to say.

1

Undoubtedly, the best element of the two-hour special (produced in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing) is the wealth of actual NASA images compiled from both the classic lunar expeditions and more modern flyovers showing various unexplained (or perhaps unexplainable) lunar anomalies. It would almost be worth it for many viewers (particularly those with some interest in astronomy in particular or science in general) to watch this program just to see these stunning, fascinating images while ignoring the somewhat suspect context surrounding their presentation. While I’ve seen some of the images and video footage projected here (even footage taken from Earth’s orbit that appears to show a sort of space battle going on between an unknown craft and missiles that seem to be fired from the planet below), this program does showcase some visual materials that I was previously unfamiliar with, and certainly examines the lunar surface with a more critical eye than some other programs dealing with astronomy.

2

Unfortunately, the scientific value of the program comes with plenty of baggage: as a straight-faced documentary, Aliens on the Moon is (surprise!) highly suspect. Writer/producer/director Robert C. Kiviat clearly has no intention of making this a well-rounded examination of its subject since there’s virtually no opposing opinion progressed during the course of the piece. This program doesn’t so much make a convincing argument as just pile on supposed evidence, proposing and advancing it’s own theories suggesting that aliens inhabit the moon while “leaving it up to a viewer to decide.” Really, this is all fine and good for the seasoned viewer who’s willing to take this program with the healthy dose of salt that it very much deserves, but things could be more problematic than that. For a more typical viewing public that now believes that mermaids are real, yeti’s are dangerous, and fifty-foot sharks prowl the South African coast (after Animal Planet and Discovery Channel aired “mockumentaries” suggestive of those ideas), Aliens on the Moon could be taken as absolute truth – which it quite obviously is not.

3

Don’t get me wrong: I love pure edutainment programs like Aliens on the Moon on some level because they do get people talking about and interested in science and the world we live in, but taking this show’s assortment of really iffy “evidence” at face value is not only ill-advised, it’s just plain ludicrous. It’s ironic that one of the program’s main points is to direct questions at NASA regarding their possible doctoring of various photographs taken on space missions in order to cover up evidence of UFO’s and alien structures – what would this show be without a good ol’ government coverup after all – given that many (and very nearly all) of the images presented in AotM as evidence have very clearly been manipulated and toyed with by the show’s producers.

4

It’s VERY DIFFICULT if not impossible to locate or identify any one of the supposed “alien structures” that we’re led to believe exist in the full-sized photographs of the lunar surface that are the centerpiece of this program – until the producers choose to colorize key portions of said photographs, thus making the program play similarly to a black and white game of Where’s Waldo where Waldo is still wearing his trademark red and white outfit and stocking cap. OBVIOUSLY we as viewers are going to see whatever the producers what us to see when they come close to pointing a huge, flashing neon arrow at various points of the moon’s surface while providing us with a (sometimes preposterous) potential explanation of what we’re looking at. It also helps that the producers decide to virtually beat a viewer over the head with their analysis – we’re almost brainwashed into submitting to the producer’s assertions due to constant repetition of the program’s main points. Whether any viewer believes wholeheartedly what this program is attempting to convince him of largely comes down to said viewer’s natural skepticism and level of gullibility – the actual scientific process going on here is almost nonexistent, and the program honestly seems more like propaganda than honest-to-goodness documentary.

5

I should also point out that the program’s tendency to be extremely critical of on-camera statements made by Apollo 11 astronaut (and second man on the moon ) Buzz Aldrin – who it should be pointed out, had the balls to appear in a program like this knowing full well that his credibility would likely suffer as a result of the appearance – is none too classy and actually pretty low, even for a show of this nature. Aldrin actually does make a few statements relating to the insinuations of this producers, but when he (perhaps rightfully) refuses to directly speak about or address specific photos of the lunar surface that supposedly show a satellite dish, nuclear plant with some sort of huge weapon pointing out as a defense mechanism, or a landed spacecraft near the moon landing site, suddenly (duh!) Aldrin’s in on the conspiracy that’s taking place. As much of a conspiracy buff as I am myself having watched just about as many alien coverup shows as I can stomach, there comes a point when shows like this that direct all sorts of blame in the direction of NASA and the US government as a whole push credibility beyond the breaking point – and come close to simply be making their assertions in plain bad taste.

6

At the end of the day, as I hinted at previously, I would want a program like this to prompt discussion and serious thought, and Aliens on the Moon, questionable as it is, certainly does this. Though the constant speculation about what various extremely grainy and difficult-to-interpret photos of the moon’s surface actually show is obnoxious and borderline redundant, the program does pose some intriguing questions and examine some perplexing possibilities. I was pretty intrigued, for example, by the story of a needle-like anomaly photographed surrounding the Martian moon of Phobos in 1989. This unknown object supposedly was responsible for the disappearance of a pair of Russian space probes examining the Martian atmosphere in the late 1980s and was photographed again by NASA’s Curiosity rover that’s currently exploring the Red Planet, suggesting that whatever the thing is, it still patrols the Martian sky. The major talking point of the program for those who watch it will no doubt be footage supposedly taken during a hypothetical (and officially, completely fictional) Apollo 20 mission which appears to show astronauts recovering a female alien body from one of the unknown lunar structures. This footage (which turned up in the internet in recent years along with a pretty bizarre story from supposed astronaut ) is certainly enigmatic; easily the most provocative contained in the documentary, though one would have to accept A LOT of conspiracy notions to believe that it is indeed authentic. If the footage is faked though, it’s ….

yikes
YIKES! Female alien supposedly recovered during Apollo 20.

At the end of the day, Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed barely sits above its contemporaries like Mermaids: The Body Found, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, or Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives as a purported documentary designed not necessarily to tell the truth but instead, to get people talking. Considering that the public is increasingly fascinated with all things UFO and alien-related (hence why Ancient Aliens’ Giorgio Tsoukalos has his own new UFO-related show In Search of Aliens starting up on History Channel on July 25th), it’s not entirely surprising that Syfy Channel would produce a thing like this and frankly, I’d rather see more programming of this nature on the channel instead of the endless Monster Coelacanth versus Mecha Salmon type of made-for-cable trash the channel is known for these days. Aliens on the Moon certainly isn’t the best, most well-rounded and believable documentary I’ve ever seen – the narration has an inappropriate, semi-pompous tone and the program sometimes seems little more than a lengthy advertisement for a handful of books written about the subject.  Nevertheless, the show does what it’s supposed to: any viewer would be talking about it afterward, and that’s about the best that could be hoped for. Don’t necessarily take every one of its claims seriously, but if you’re bored and this thing happens to be playing on TV, it’d be worth checking out.

“With a Little Help, We Can Lick These Freaks…” THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS

THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS

 

(3/5)

Pros: Linda Connell is nice to look at; strange ending; neat footage of actual rockets

Cons: poor acting; script relies too much on overused genre cliches; looks cheap

What sounds on paper like the typical B-movie sci-fi flick from the golden age of the genre turns out to be something kind of different and unique in the very obscure 1960 film The Cape Canaveral Monsters. A pair of extraterrestrials whose basic form is that of small orbs of light that move about independently have taken over human bodies and intend to sabotage the US space program in order to prepare for a full-on invasion of Earth. Leave it up to lovebirds Sally and Tom (both of whom are working for the military rocketry program) to try and warn the authorities and stop the nefarious plot. Amid all the scientific gobbledygook, less-than impressive alien technology, and endless day-for-night shots that aren’t even the least bit convincing, writer/director Phil Tucker’s film winds up being slightly more interesting than the typical low budget genre effort.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this one has lots of problems: first, the script has grand aspirations of detailing the aliens’s plot, but none of it is adequate conveyed onscreen, largely due to budgetary constraints. Though the diabolical spacemen (who take the form of a man and woman who were killed in a car accident, thus the woman’s face is horribly scarred and the man is missing an arm) possess such weapons as a “Big Paralysis Ray,” a “Needle Blaster,” and sort of freeze-beam, none of this technology is convincing – holding a static shot onscreen while inserting double-exposure glitch artifacts over the image doesn’t make this weaponry seem realistic. Let’s not even discuss the orb-shaped aliens that appear to have been created by punching holes in the film prints, allowing direct light to shine through. While the pair of extraterrestrials (played by Jason Johnson and Katherine Victor) sure talk a big game, they’re completely and utterly inept at stopping the Earthmen from putting a wrench in their plans. The sense of buildup to the conclusion is utterly devoid of any sense of tension, and much like as in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, the aliens never seem the least bit threatening.

Speaking of the acting: it’s pretty horrific. Give these actors (ranging from Scott Peters as young loverboy/scientist Tom, to Billy Greene as the obligatory German rocket scientist, to Brian F. Wood as the old shotgun-toting codger who plans to stop the aliens) anything significant to say or communicate to the audience and this story all but falls apart. The only highlight in the acting department for me was the very nerdy-cute Linda Connell, who plays the main love interest in the film. Admittedly though, I would have been happier if she would have continued to parade around onscreen wearing a slip without uttering a single word. Once she’s given a line to say, she fares about as badly as the rest of this gang.

Gene Kauer’s music seems hilariously overblown at times: too frantic at moments when it should be peaceful; too low-key when I would have liked it to be creating a suspenseful mood. Merle Connell’s photography is capable, but the story development seems ragged throughout. Scenes having little purpose are thrown, and despite some original ideas, much of the film involves little more than characters roaming around a mountainside, reverting back to tired genre formula much too often. When Tom proposes marriage to Sally while being held captive in a restraining device (which consists of him standing against a wall and not moving), I could do nothing except apply the ol’ facepalm technique.

Despite the problems though, this one has some genuinely intriguing elements. I really like the fact that this film has a bizarre, Twilight Zone-like ending, and the stock footage of real 1950’s rockets firing – and having pretty catastrophic failures after launch – is actually pretty neat to watch. Though the special effects are a mixed bag, there are some pretty nifty instances of trick photography and double exposures that generally get the job done. Sure, this film is cheap (just look at that pathetic set used to represent a sheriff’s office), but director Tucker at least attempts to use his resources well.

While probably not the laugh-a-minute schlock-fest that one might want, there are plenty of amusing “bad movie moments” in The Cape Canaveral Monsters – Tom’s method of finding the alien lair involves him throwing rocks around whenever possible, and some of the dialogue is howlingly bad (“We need more Earthlings for our experiments – especially females!”). All in all, I’d call this an enjoyable time waste; lasting just over an hour, the film moves along at a good clip and would be entertaining enough for genre fans. As is typically the case with films of this nature, leave your brain at the door and you’ll probably have a good time.

 

This film is streaming on Amazon. Apparently, there also is a DVD-R of this program – which I wouldn’t at all recommend. The film’s enjoyable, but not that great.


3/10 – “Hey, your arm…” One-arm Sam lurks around the film with a bloody stump for a while – minor blood, a bit of gore; nothing major.


0/10 – Breaks down into pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo a few times. No profanity.


2/10 – Aliens strip all the women they capture of their clothes, but nothing much is shown. I did like that Connell is in her undergarments for much of the film though…


5/10 – I could see this being a minor cult film. Definitely fits into the mold of cheapo B-movie wonders of the late ’50s/early ’60s.


“Doggonedest thing I ever did see. Nothing but a little ol’ green light that like to have made mincemeat out of all of us!”