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Skyline Review

November 15, 2010 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
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Skyline Review  

Eric Balfour– Jarrod
Scottie Thompson– Elaine
Donald Faison– Terry
David Zayas– Oliver
Brittany Daniel– Candice
Crystal Reed– Denise
Neil Hopkins– Ray
Robin Gammell– Walt
Tanya Newbould– Jen
J. Paul Boehmer– Colin

Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause (The Strause Brothers)
Screenplay by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell

Distributed by Universal Pictures

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content

Runtime– 92 minutes


Skyline, directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause (The Strause Brothers), is a frustrating mess of a sci-fi action movie. It starts out well enough and moves along at a fairly decent pace. The special effects look great, the alien monsters are creepy, and the main cast of human actors is surprisingly good. But the flick’s final third destroys all of the good will it has built up until that point and you’re likely to walk out of the theatre pissed off and feeling ripped off. At least that’s what happened to me.

The movie stars Eric Balfour as Jarrod, a struggling artist headed out to California with his wife Elaine (Scottie Thompson) for his best friend’s big ass birthday bash at a swanky apartment complex. Jarrod’s best friend is Terry (Donald Faison), a big shot producer or something in Hollywood (it’s unclear what precisely Terry does. It involves the movie business. That I’m sure of). During the party, Terry offers Jarrod a job doing effects work, which sets Elaine off because she’s pregnant, hasn’t told Jarrod about the pregnancy, and really isn’t all that interested in moving out to California. They decide to discuss the whole thing in the morning after getting a good night’s sleep.

They don’t get a good night’s sleep. In the middle of the night a bunch of weird beard blue comet things descend from the sky and send out, for the lack of a better word, sentinels that emit a blinding blue light that causes anyone that looks at it to be put into a trance. And when a person is “tranced” his or her skin starts to char, his or her eyes start to change color, and he or she gets sucked into the sentinel’s body. Terry’s Hollywood buddy Ray (Neil Hopkins) is the first victim of the blue light trance. Jarrod looks at it, too, but Terry rescues him before he gets sucked into the sentinel, too. When the sun comes up Jarrod and Terry go up to the roof of the apartment complex to see if there’s anything to, well, see.

Jarrod and Terry see more sentinels. They also see larger objects off in the distance, “ships,” that are literally sucking people up into them like a vacuum cleaner. Jarrod and Terry run back downstairs to tell everyone what the hell is going on (they make a stop along the way to find out what the heck happened to the complex’s resident crotchety old guy. Sadly, the old guy gets sucked into an octopus like sentinel after the sentinel also sucks up his dog. Poor dude). After some arguing, they decide that the best course of action is to get the hell out of the building and to Terry’s yacht, as the alien monsters don’t seem to be hovering over the water. Taking two cars, Jarrod, Elaine, Terry, Terry’s pissed off wife Candice (Brittany Daniel), and Terry’s secretary and the reason Candice is pissed off, Denise (Denise has been having an affair with Terry. They even hooked up at the party. Oh, and Denise is played by Crystal Reed) try to leave. They don’t get very far.

After watching Terry and Denise get stomped on and sucked up by a giant robot alien thing, and after two random people (Colin and Jen, as played by J. Paul Boehmer and Tanya Newbould) get attacked by a sentinel, Jerrod, Elaine, and Candice are joined by the building manager Oliver (David Zayas), who has no problem attacking the alien monsters head on but would rather hunker down in the building and wait for help. So that’s what they do. They wait for help.

Now, up until this point the movie is basically “Night of the Living Dead.” You’ve got a bunch of people trapped in one spot with a growing threat massing outside and a bunch of different ideas as to what they should do. Jarrod still thinks they can make a break for the ocean, but Elaine would rather stay with Oliver. Candice is still in shock about what happened to Terry (she never got a chance to talk with him about why he banged Denise) and doesn’t want to leave the building but could probably be persuaded to go if Jarrod made a good case. It would have been great if we got to see them all argue and figure out what they should do. Elaine could have explained some stuff about her pregnancy and how it happened and what she hopes for the future, etc. Elaine could also talk more with Jarrod about what happened to him when he looked at the blue light (Elaine looked at the blue light at one point, too). You get a sense that there’s something seriously wrong with Jarrod. He keeps grabbing at his side and Oliver talks to him like he’s high or something. The movie never really explores any of this stuff. Instead, the movie basically skips a day via time lapse and we’re treated to a far off aerial dogfight between military jets and the big ass alien ship (help has arrived!).

The military strike is fun, especially when a stealth bomber tries to take out the main alien ship with a nuclear bomb, and it provides a chance for the main characters, and the audience, to maybe get a sense of what is really going on since there are also military helicopters flying around dropping off snipers and, presumably, looking for survivors. The movie could have had the remaining survivors fly off to a military base or something like that. There could have been a scene where a military scientist/doctor checks out Jarrod. Because, really, what the hell is going on here, and what the hell is wrong with Jarrod? We never find out. The movie just never bothers to look into any of it. Instead, we get more and more cool looking special effects that ultimately don’t mean anything.

And then there’s the ending. Are The Strause Brothers shitting all of us? I’m not going to say what happens, but do the brothers want us to believe that the ending is profound and amazing and mind blowing and rousing? Because it isn’t any of those things. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t fit with anything that happens before it. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to end things that way?

The special effects, like I said at the beginning, are amazing. The flying sentinels and the big ass stompers (they’re like a cross between the Dark Overlords from “Howard the Duck” and the rancor monster from “Return of the Jedi”) are creepy as hell. I know I wouldn’t want to run into them. And the military fights, both the dogfight off in the distance and the up close fights that the soldiers get into with the monster alien robots are fun to watch (they don’t mean much beyond that, though). And the ending, simply as a special effects sequence, is one of the nastiest things you’re likely to see. It’s depressing to think, though, that no one involved in the movie didn’t want to put that much effort into making the story and, ultimately, the characters meaningful. Maybe then the movie would have an actual ending that works.

Eric Balfour puts in one of his better performances as Jarrod. I’ve never been a big fan of Balfour, but he pretty much knocks the first part of his character out of the park. It’s just too bad that he isn’t given much of a character to work with in the second part. Scottie Thompson is good as Elaine, Jarrod’s bitchy wife Elaine. She’s bitchy with good reason, though. Jarrod is being reckless, and they can’t afford that with a baby on the way. Donald Faison does a good enough job as Terry, although I wish the movie explained what it is he actually does. Is he a movie producer? Is he some other kind of wealthy Hollywood type? Brittany Daniel does a great job as Candice. You feel for her because she doesn’t get to throw down with Terry about his cheating. Daniel also looks outstanding in a bikini, and that kind of thing always matters, even in bad movies. David Zayas does his usual great job as Oliver the hotel manager. I bet people would be talking about his performance had that time lapsed day been a full day we actually watched. He would have owned the movie even more than he already does. And kudos to J. Paul Boehmer for being a douchebag that gets his head ripped off. You were apparently a good sport about it.

Skyline just doesn’t work. It’s depressing to think that anyone thought the script was good and the story was worthwhile. That’s what kills the movie. The impressive special effects on display deserve a better movie to be in. The audience deserves a better movie, too. I wouldn’t blame you if you went and saw Skyline on the big screen just for the special effects. If that’s all you care about you won’t be disappointed. But if you want those effects to work in concert with a coherent story that makes sense, either wait for the DVD or don’t bother.

Skyline. All that effort and nothing to show for it.

So what do we have here? Gratuitous Los Angeles skyline at night, blue comet attack, gratuitous Eric Balfour, barfing, a nasty blue light, face changing, gratuitous Eric Balfour doodling in a sketchbook while on an airplane, gratuitous Donald Faison, freeway hooey, gratuitous Brittany Daniel in a bikini, five mysterious helicopters, a shout out to Venice, California, implied gay sex, gratuitous David Zayas, a rehash of the beginning of the movie, handgun hooey, gratuitous old man and his yappy dog, an empty TV studio, gratuitous nasty mutant robot alien space ships off in the distance, gratuitous massive vacuum cleaner, a mention of “The Rapture,” wind chime hooey, gratuitous mutant robot alien sentinel that looks like a flying octopus, working elevators, an attempted two car getaway, gratuitous giant robot mutant alien, car attack, decapitation, face washing, door blocking, a no smoking message, gratuitous argument about what is and what isn’t “real,” TV surveillance, gratuitous time lapse hooey, gratuitous military strike off in the distance, nuclear bomb hooey, regeneration, a fist fight, blonde eating, exploding helicopter, more military attacks off in the distance, axe hooey, exploding apartment, cinder block beat down, brain ripping, more vacuuming, gratuitous worldwide chaos montage, and a special effects ending that makes no sense because the audience has no idea what the hell is going on.

Best lines: “How is it morning already?,” “Well, you should have thought of that before you shot the piece of shit,” “Happy Birthday, Terry,” “It’s always about the money,” “I was being pulled…toward this light,” “I feel like I’m on fire!,” “Oh my God, all those people!,” “You’re disgusting!,” “It’s better than nothing, right?,” “I never even got to tell my Mom,” “I hate L.A.,” “I haven’t seen a soul all night,” “They’re not dead. They’re just really pissed off,” “Don’t make me hurt you,” “Via con Dios you sonofabitch!,” and “There’s always a chance.”

The 411Skyline is a great special effects exercise but a lame, lackluster movie. The cast is pretty decent, the essential plot is workable, and the special effects are top notch (the alien monsters are creepy as hell). But there's no real story on display here. The last third of the movie is ridiculous, and the ending is just goddamn stupid. See it for the effects, don't pay attention to the story. There's very little there.
Final Score:  5.5   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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