DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WELCOME TO EARTH (director/writer: Michael Mongillo; screenwriter: James Charbonneau; cinematographers: Derek Dudek/Jeff Hoyt; editors: Taylor Warren/Michael Mongillo; cast: Zeke Rippy (Albert), Jason Alan Smith (Jack), Jane O'Leary (Rachael), Davis Mikaels (Pete), Kate Orsini (Jill), Kate Asmuth (Mary), Dick Boland (Professor Richard "Dick" McMann), Jason R. Clark (Videogame Master), Kristina Doran (Melissa), Thomas Edward Seymour (Tom), Magdalena Piwowarski (Barbara), Joanna Bonaro (Joan, mother of Jill & Rachel), Tina Marie Angelillo (Yolanda), Sarah Cwikla (Stacy); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Taylor Warren/Michael Mongillo; Brightly Entertainment; 2005)

 
"It's not bad for such a small film trying to tell such a big story about the cosmos... ."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Writer-director Michael Mongillo ("Silent Hill: The Unauthorized Trailer"/"The Wind") made this energetic low-budget indie, filmed over only six days, using a hand-held camera guerrilla style, that was cowritten with James Charbonneau. It captures in a chatty way a group scene of self-absorbed young adults in the 'burbs trying to make a go of relationships and deal with their own insecurities, jealousies and evolving opinions about what makes the world go round with them in the center of the universe.

A year ago aliens arrived on the earth and now the earth’s leaders plan an historic live televised summit meeting with the “visitors” in their landing spot in Sri Lanka so they can at last show their faces and hopefully state their peaceful purposes for the visit. In suburban Connecticut a group of twenty- and thirty-somethings hold a party to celebrate the ET arrivals as a sign that maybe the world will now eliminate its many problems and join people together in unity. The elaborate party is thrown in the house of married couple Jack (Jason Alan Smith) and Rachel (Jane O'Leary), who seem like a tight well-adjusted couple until Rachel reveals she wants her man to kiss her like when they were first married, that Jack is more obsessed with the aliens than with his wife and that she suffers from low-esteem because her mom favors her sister.

Though all the partygoers are excited about the historic event, their earthly problems soon manifest as the more pressing party conversation. Self-pitying whiner Albert (Zeke Rippy), seemingly the only one at the party who can't make a love connection (at least the loudest one at the party who is alone), laments he screwed up his marriage to his dream girl Barbara by acting like a jerk and still can't get over they were divorced two years ago. The heartbroken party-pooper vows to turn over a new leaf by quitting smoking and drinking and now will freely speak his mind, and he also hopes to make contact with the aliens in a spiritual way as he considers himself a "newman." Rachel's argumentative but seemingly sweet sister Jill (Kate Orsini) tells sis that her cocky successful sarcastic asshole car salesman boyfriend Pete (Davis Mikaels) knocked her up and she hasn't told him yet as she contemplates being a single parent rather than being with someone she doesn't completely trust. The inarticulate restless soul-searching Tom (Thomas Edward Seymour) and his bubbly new girlfriend Melissa (Kristina Doran), who chooses to always see the rosy side of things, bond even closer together as the evening wears on, as Melissa makes friends with Tom's crew by being so outwardly friendly allowing Tom to see that he's found a winner. Professor Richard "Dick" McMann (Dick Boland), the only partygoer who might have read a book in this lifetime, goes obnoxious in his professorial pick-up lines to Yolanda (Tina Angelillo)--someone who was at first turned off by the self-important Professor's hostile pick-up lines but gives in to his animalistic charms.

Most of the conversations seemed to be delivered either from a drunken stupor or from a point of view of emotional alienation, which was neither good nor bad but seemed natural and fitting to the setting. Though the film never gets around to making any great points, it's refreshing to catch these ordinary types show their battle scars in the battle of the sexes and yearn for something more in their life than materialistic comforts. During the course of the evening some recognize that they seem so alien to each other at times instead of being cognizant of their greater commonality, and that something is in the air that is an omen for change that makes this party date possibly a memorable one.

The alien party scene in the 'burbs gives the pic a feel of "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind..." for young adults already debauched instead of innocent children waiting wide-eyed to greet the ETs, and it also reminds me of a "Big Chill" scenario for this modern generation raised on technology and video games as an answer to combat their ignorance of life's deeper values that still remains mysterious to them.

It's not bad for such a small film trying to tell such a big story about the cosmos, but I'm afraid the filmmaker was far more generous and caring about his characters than how I felt about them.

REVIEWED ON 8/31/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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