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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skyline’s Blue Light Special is Terrible

Skyline = 1 and 1/2 out of 5
Jarrod:  Once you look, it grabs hold.
If Skyline was a person you would complement their shoes, because of how unappealing the rest of that person is.  Basically, yes, this movie does some nice work with the effects, but really fails to deliver in any other category to make you like the movie.  Directors Colin and Greg Strause (billed as The Brothers Strause) are special effects guru’s who have done work on films such as Avatar and Iron Man 2 and also directed Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.  For this film, they enlisted a few pretty, but low-profile actors and filmed a very cheap movie within their own apartment building.  After the live-action filming, many more millions of dollars were added in order to create the visual effects needed for the alien invasion premise.  The story of them making this movie is way more interesting to me than what the results of this film were.  If some people had problems with other alien invasion films or big monster movies of the past, this is the example of how to really not do one. 

The movie begins with Los Angeles suddenly being blinded by the light and revved up like…well it begins with transfixing blue light beams drawing people in.  Before we know the result of this initial contact, however, we cut to 15 hours earlier, where we can meet a few characters that are poorly written and acted.  Eric Balfour (Hey, it’s Milo from 24) and Scottie Thompson star as Jarrod and Elaine, a couple coming out to Los Angeles for Jarrod’s buddy’s birthday.  This buddy is Terry (Hey, it’s Turk from Scrubs), some kind of special effects wizard who is making money and decides to indulge a little by having a party in his huge apartment suite in Marina del Ray.  During this time we also meet Terry’s obnoxious, blonde girlfriend Candace (Brittany Daniel) and his pretty assistant Denise (Crystal Reed).  Finally, we also have the small addition of a building security guard, Oliver (played by Dexter’s David Zayas).

So, after these crucial minutes of building up some pretty dumb and bland characters, the aliens attack.  The film takes place almost entirely within this apartment building, so we only gather the smallest amounts of information regarding the aliens purpose (basically they want to eat our brains and gain our knowledge).  The methods of attack are two-fold.  First they shine the big blue light in our eyes, which causes people to be drawn in and sucked away into their giant megaships in the sky.  The second method, because the aliens are sticklers for getting all the stragglers, is to unleash a number of tentacled and behemoth sized beasts after those hiding out.  Unfortunately for our heroes, these aliens really hate their apartment building, and do everything they can to get inside and take some brain food.  With few options, it is going to take some teamwork, despite all their arguing, to come up with a way to survive.

The screenplay in this film is horrible.  For every money shot we get, we then get about five scenes of characters either saying stupid things or doing stupid things.  It does not help that only one or two of these characters are remotely likable.  I think the one thing that bothers me the most (although there are a lot of things that bother me about these people) is how these people know that the aliens are right outside their window and have fancy blue lights, yet refuse to go to a different room that, gee, I don’t know, has no damn windows in it.  They stay in the same room throughout, with the occasional attempt to hang out on the roof or make poor escape attempts through the parking lot.  Of course, all of this matters little, because apparently all our character investment was supposed to pay off, as we find out this was really just a love story… with aliens.  Oh! (Because I almost forgot) the ending of this film is terrible.  Instead of cutting off right where it should, the film suddenly gets much weirder and darker, as it apparently sets itself up for the sequel we will all be waiting for.

The effects in this film are fine, I guess.  Some things do look pretty cool at times.  A number of aerial shots of aliens and jets flying around, fighting one another, along with ways to bring in the aliens are at times clever or fun or cheesy enough to have kept me entertained with the action.  A lot of the surprise alien attacks are ruined in the trailers, but there are still a few moments that are well planned out.  The film does not do itself any favors by borrowing liberally from other movies, which I would not care about if the story or characters succeeded at being more interesting, but that did not happen.  I guess I am just glad that Dr. Exposition didn’t show up to explain why the aliens were here.

It could have been so much better if the film wanted to embrace the cheesy aspect of it more.  Instead, it seems to do so unintentionally.  We get plenty of moments where characters yell, “No!” or “Run!”, followed by slow motion shots, booming music, or other clichéd elements, but all handled with a tone that seems way more serious than it should be.  And again, it does not do the film any service by having its characters do and say stupid things.

There are good ways to do this type of movie.  As cheesy or even gimmicky as some may have seen in the past, they have been way more fun or clever than one may have given them credit for.  This film is not very fun or clever.  It uses the epic premise of alien invasions, delivers on the effects, and then throws in a lot of bad character and story padding in between the moments that should be cooler.  You can turn your back on this skyline, it’s not that pretty.
Oliver: Don’t you get it! We’re at war!

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