December 8, 2010

Bright Blue Lights

I'm from San Francisco, so it's required that I hate that other city to the south of us. Sorry. Sure, I have friends Los Angeles and even applied to some colleges in the area. But, my San Francisco pride remains strong! Which means I'm thrilled about influx of films depicting LA as it gets the ever living crap kicked out of it. Aliens seem to be a popular way to go about showing the City of Angel's destruction, and Skyline is leading the charge. Unfortunately, for the messiah that will usher in the destruction So-Cal's pride and glory, it's kind of a lame duck. Sorry to say it, but Skyline sucks, and I mean really sucks! What started as some stock footage that wowed the crowd at Comic-Con has turned into a painfully bad, cliche ridden tale of extra-terrestrial mayhem. State of the art effects can't save it. Cool premise can't save it. This one is DOA!

Oh crap!

Meet Jarrod and Elaine. Jarrod is a graffiti artist from Brooklyn, and Elaine is his oh-so-dreamy love. They are on their way to LA to celebrate the birthday of Jarrod's best friend, a smarmy visual FX wizard named Terry. Unfortunately for them, after a night of hard partying, they wake up to something a little more unpleasant than a hangover. Upon regaining consciousness, they see multiple bright blue lights shining from multiple points in the city. Once someone looks at these lights, the are transfixed and begin to move, zombie like towards them. They are then sucked into the belly of one of the massive alien craft that have appeared in the sky. As the invasion begins, Jarrod and crew hole up in Terry's penthouse, hoping to survive until help comes. The military begins to fight back, but it is a losing battle, and soon, the survivors are barely holding on as the world falls to the invaders.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "This sounds like pretty much every other alien invasion movie ever made." Well, loyal readers, congratu-fucking-lations, because you are 100% correct in that assessment. Though Skyline starts off with an fresh twist on the whole "alien abduction" thing, it quickly, and I mean Usain Bolt quickly, devolves into just another tired alien invasion flick. What really kills this one though is the fact that nothing happens in it. Jarrod and crew try to escape from the penthouse. They fail, and retreat back inside. They try again. Same thing happens. This is an epic, effects driven action film, and it takes place in one building. What the hell? There's even a time lapse sequence that only further exacerbates how little happens here. And don't even get me started on the character development, or rather, the total absence of it. Before the mayhem begins, there are stabs at fleshing out the characters, as when Elaine declares that she with a child, or Terry tries to convince Jarrod to move to LA, but they are so ham-fisted and lazily done that they only make us laugh at how stupid everyone sounds. The plot doesn't progress at all, and the script is Last Airbender bad. Alien invasion flicks have had some bad stories in the past. This is certainly one of them.

Eric Balfour is Jarrod. Not gonna lie, the only thing I remember him from is his brief stint on 24 that ended with his head getting blown off. He's not very good here. A lot of his stuff is very monotone and banal, so much so that I was left wondering exactly what emotion he was trying to convey. He is capable of carrying the movie though, and is convincing in the action scenes. If the movie works at all - which it doesn't - it's thanks to him.

Donald Faison is Terry. Wanna know about his character. Ok. Watch any Scrubs episode and focus on his character in that. Take away the humor, the earnestness, and the heart, and replace it with a crap ton of douchebaggery, and you'd have Terry. Faison is basically playing Turk here, minus anything that made Turk a likable character. Faison is particularly bad here. Thankfully, he's not on screen for very long. Oops. Spoilers.

The rest of the cast barely warrants a mention. David Zayas turns up as the building's concierge, who tries to keep order in the group when all seems lost, but he's so friggin' pessimistic and unlikable that you want him die, and fast. Scottie Thompson shows up as Elaine, but all her character boils down to is a traditional damsel in distress who loyally follows her domineering mate wherever he goes, even if it is the stupidest thing she could do.

Performances here, while not the worst of the year by any means, are painful at best. I know for a fact that at least two of the people here are more than capable of turning in excellent work, so it's distressing to see them stink so much.


I guess I should have expected this. The directors of this thing are The Brothers Strause, the pieces of crap responsible for the reprehensible Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. They don't fare any better with Skyline. Why two FX guys thought it would be a good idea to start directing movies is beyond me. Why anyone would let them is something I can't even begin to fathom. Strause and Strause (as I shall henceforth refer to them as) promised an urban take on the alien invasion genre. I think they should look up what urban means. Instead of something akin to District 9, where the characters are thrown into the mix and are in genuine peril, Skyline has more in common with Rear Window, and I mean that in the worst way possible. The characters spend most of the movie watching the invasion take place, and easily outsmart the aliens that come looking for them by ducking behind the couch. What the deuce!?!

If the movie does anything right, though, it's in the effects. Strause and Strause have worked quite the resume when it comes to CGI, having worked on such eye-gasms as Avatar and Iron Man 2. Hell, one of them even has a BAFTA Award for effects. These guys know what they are doing in the department of computer generation, and it shows in Skyline. The colossal ships that appear from the clouds, though really impractical looking, are marvels that we haven't seen Independence Day. The drones that they send out, the massive tanker beasts that tear around the city, the tentacled creatures that abduct people and rip out their brains all look very realistic and are blended seamlessly with the characters and sets. It's a really good job, and the only saving grace of the film. 

But, spectacular effects aren't enough to recommend Skyline. Sure the movie looks great, but everything else just sucks. The action is uninspired; the acting is atrocious; the script sucks harder than most. The film just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, thanks a plot that goes nowhere fast and a HOWLER of an ending. Strause and Strause have stated that they envisioned Skyline as a franchise, with at least one other installation. Sorry to say it, but that's not gonna happen, even with a massive cliffhanger like that. A sequel to a movie this bad will not get green-lit in a million years. Although, studios are stupid, so, you never know. I am warning you now! Do not fall for Skyline's trap. The light may be beautiful, but it leads to horrible things.

Fun Fact: Filming of this monster only cost $500,000, while the FX cost $10 Million. Hmmmm...

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