Skyline [Blu-ray] (2011)

Actors: Eric Balfour, Donald Faison
Directors: Greg Strause Colin Strause
Format: AC-3, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: March 22, 2011
Run Time: 94 minutes




A handful of hung-over Los Angelino party-goers wake up early one morning before the break of dawn to find giant alien spaceships hovering above LA abducting people en masse . . .

Yup, the invasion has begun and the aliens are here to steal our brains – literally! However, in the case of the movie’s protagonists they are clearly wasting their time. Our “heroes” are such a narcissistic, self-absorbed bunch spouting soulless clichés that one pretty much finds oneself rooting for the aliens!

Early on it is pretty clear that Skyline is amateur hour and a half.

The screenwriters clearly haven’t read any of famed Princess Bride screenwriter William Goldman’s treatises on the art. One of the first pearls of wisdom he imparts is that it is OK for a television episode to open with something dramatic such as a character being abducted by aliens before jumping to “15 hours earlier.” After all, you want to grab TV audiences’ attention early on before they switch to see what’s on at another channel.

Movies are different however. It is an immersive experience. The audience has already paid for their tickets and they’re not going anywhere – at least not right away – so you can afford to gently take them into the story. (My spouse lasted 15 minutes before she gave up on Skyline. I wish I could have done the same.)

Another thing to do is to actually have likeable characters you can identify with, but here is a movie in the middle of a severe economic downturn that expects one to be sympathetic to a bunch of Ferrari-driving, over-privileged Calvin Klein model types. You intensely dislike them from the start and actually want the aliens to get them! (In fact the best scene in the entire film is one in which a Ferrari gets squished.)

Most of the movie is about a bunch of rich Los Angelinos too afraid to leave their own homes out of fear of the aliens outside.

There is a metaphor in there somewhere, but surely not one which the dumb-as-nails film-makers intended. After all, there isn’t an original bone in this alien anthropoid’s exoskeleton. It is an unoriginal pastiche of Cloverfield and Steven Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds. Along the way it also steals from anything from Independence Day to District 9 – you name it. Some originality never killed anyone except maybe Terry Gilliam, one wants to yell at the film-makers.

But this is what happens when you put special effects people in charge of making movies.

The movie is directed by the so-called Brothers Krause, a duo of self-confessed geeks who have supplied special effects for countless recent Hollywood blockbusters, amongst them the recent Battle: Los Angeles whose studio were mightily pissed off when they discovered that the good brothers were actually working on a similarly themed alien invasion flick at the same time.

Their previous directorial effort was the reprehensible Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. This movie isn’t as downright repugnant as that piece of dog poo, but it is emotionally uninvolving. The effects are okay, but the acting is below par and the script flat. Even if you do secretly like shallow rich people you’d still wish the aliens would get them because that means that the movie would end sooner.

(Note: one can’t review Skyline without commenting on the film’s ending which is, when one thinks about it, one of the biggest bullshit moments in cinema history on oh so many levels.)

THE DISC: The image transfer is good – for what that’s worth – though that doesn’t help much with this kind of movie. Skyline’s greasy cinematography causes headaches in high def, and the cutting edge sound system reveals the film’s thunderous dirge of audio effects for what they truly are. The sprinkling of extra features offer nothing special either. We get commentary from the directors, some deleted and alternate scenes, pre-viz images charting the progression of the effects. Multi-platform options such as the pocket BLU app and BD live are available as well, letting you access the film with your iPhone while letting Universal stream the most recent trailers onto your TV. (Your call on whether the former is worth the latter.) It’s all very boilerplate, though even that is perhaps more than the film deserves.

- James O'Ehley, with additional reporting by Rob Vaux



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