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Strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth
For more about Skyline and the Skyline Blu-ray release, see Skyline Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, David Zayas
Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
» See full cast & crew
Skyline Blu-ray Review
Solid Blu-ray release and dazzling visual effects aside, 'Skyline' has virtually nothing to offer...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 8, 2011
So you've skimmed the reviews, noted Skyline's rock-bottom Rotten Tomatoes score and listened patiently as your friends have warned you to stay far, far away from the Strause Brothers' sophomore debacle. "But I've grinned my way through plenty of effects-driven flicks," you reason. "As long as the 'splosions are big, the action is fierce and the aliens bring the goods, I'm set." To you, the brave but naive genre junkies I call kin, the only guidance I can offer is this: take your reaction to Aliens vs. Predator Requiem, cut it in half and consider the remains. While Skyline is helmed by the same special effects wizards-turned-feature-filmmakers responsible for AVP2 and boasts some of the same ludicrous Michael Bay-inspired delirium as the co-directors' poorly received, chest-bursting debut (nuclear explosions and all), it also suffers from many of the same problems... only worse. Rookie screenwriters Joshua Cordes and Liam O'Donnell's script stumbles early and never recovers, their story is riddled with holes and chained to convention, the cast's performances are uniformly poor, the invasion itself doesn't make a lick of sense, the film's endgame is the stuff of twelve-year-old boy daydreams and, minus the admittedly impressive visual effects, everything just sort of sits on the screen, reeks of unrealized potential and dies a slow, uninvolving death. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: is any film worth watching if it doesn't even live up to the low standards set by Aliens vs. Predator Requiem?
It's the end of the world as we know it. Again. This time it comes by way of massive, glowing blue orbs that descend on an unsuspecting L.A. populous, entrancing anyone and everyone who stares into the light they emit. Any euphoria the gathering crowds feel though is short lived as a fleet of nigh-invincible alien motherships begin abducting them en masse. From there, the big, bad beasties abandon their oh-so-efficient means of plucking thousands from the streets (for no apparent reason), settling on old fashioned invasion tactics instead: towering behemoths, hovering squiddie-soldiers, kamikaze fliers and other devious devices designed to remove the brains and spinal cords from their helpless victims. (Yep, that's right. They've come for our brains.) But in one high-rent high-rise, a small band of survivors -- upstart artist Jarrod (Eric Balfour, 24), his pregnant girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson, NCIS), his best friend Terry (Donald Faison, Scrubs), Terry's girlfriend (Brittany Daniel, Sweet Valley High), his personal assistant (Crystal Reed) and the building's concierge (David Zayas, Dexter) -- desperately try to escape the patchwork nightmare they find themselves in.
Unfortunately, Skyline makes it next to impossible to care about the motley crew with front row tickets to The End of All Things, much less expect anything but the worst to come from their increasingly dim-witted decisions. Confined to Terry's high-rise for the duration, they bicker about whether to go outside or stay indoors, turn on each other to various degrees, face harsh truths and even harsher realizations, question Jarrod's loyalty (his body is undergoing... let's just say a few changes), and get picked off indiscriminately, one by one, whenever someone has fulfilled their screenwriters' purposes. And they do all of it while spewing some of the gummiest genre dialogue of 2010. "What are you going to do when all the blinds fall down? It's not exactly like we have a lot more bedsheets!" "They're not dead. They're just really... reeeally pissed off." And my favorite cringe-inducing gut-buster of the year, "Via con dios, you sonuvabitch!"
It also becomes clear (rather quickly I might add) that O'Donnell, Cordes and the Strause boys -- sorry, The Brothers Strause -- have done some abducting of their own. Skyline is a haphazard, thinly veiled mishmash of Independence Day, The Matrix, Cloverfield, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, District 9 and Battle: Los Angeles (the Brothers Strause were responsible for many of Battle LA's visual effects, but allegedly didn't inform Sony of Skyline's parallel production, the striking similarities between the two films or Skyline's earlier release window). And those are just the most obvious, ahem, inspirations. They go on to beg, borrow and lift disjointed beats from everything from Jurassic Park to Dawn of the Dead, often without the heart, soul and context that made the original sequences work. Normally I'd crack a smile and enjoy the homage parade, but its clear from the filmmakers' audio commentaries that they're all too willing and eager to take credit for Skyline's standout scenes when any casual filmfan with half a glowing brain will know to send thank-you notes elsewhere.
But even as effects-driven popcorn fare goes, Skyline continually disappoints. Jarrod and his friends spend far too much time in Terry's apartment, their interpersonal dynamics are dull and downright grating, and there isn't any, any logic, flow, innovation, rhyme or reason to the aliens' invasion, inferred or stated. I understand the everyday schlubs we're stuck with aren't privy to many details -- I even appreciate Cordes and O'Donnell's decision to stick with a man-on-the-street perspective -- but there has to be some semblance of inherent order, even to the most cryptic chaos; clues that hint at a grander scheme, a greater vision or, God forbid, a cohesive story. The aliens' penchant for brain harvesting is easily the most infuriating aspect of the film, begging infinitely more questions than the writers dare answer, earning unintended laughs and snickers from an already disinterested audience, and leading to one of, if not the most unnecessary, nonsensical, frankly ludicrous ending slapped onto a sci-fi actioner of its ilk in years. Even the film's aliens and spacecraft, despite the praise as I've afforded the Strauses' special effects, lack the fundamentals of design required to make an invading force spring to terrifying life. In the end, Skyline amounts to a bargain-bin videogame adaptation without a videogame to its name. The actors give their all (nobly so), the visuals have some merit and the Brothers Strause know how to make things go up in smoke with glee. But the sooner the desperate directors accept their true calling -- visual effects maestros -- the sooner filmfans can get back to watching sci-fi flicks worth their weight in alien goo.
Skyline Blu-ray, Video Quality
At least the Strause brothers' lumbering behemoths and diving squiddies make the most of their Blu-ray invasion. Armed with a solid 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, Skyline unleashes strong colors, reliable skintones and decent detail. Fine textures aren't laser-etched on the screen but they are adequately resolved (particularly when the Strauses' cameras are backed by the sun), edges are fairly clean and well-defined, and every shard of alien metal, stream of goo, pulpy sliver of brain matter, snaking vein and descending mother ship is intact, complete with faux-gritty resolve. A faint veneer of grain has been preserved as well, and overall clarity is solid on the whole. Yes, black levels are occasionally muted, slightly soft shots are common, delineation isn't up to snuff and interior/exterior contrast is notably inconsistent (Terry's apartment is dim, smoky and unflattering), but that's simply the nature of Michael Watson's in-the-trenches, turn the lights out! sci-fi photography. Whether or not every pixel of Universal's encode perfectly reflects the Strauses' intentions is less clear. Noise swarms the skies during some of the film's nighttime sequences, minor ringing appears from time to time, crush is a small issue and a few too many closeups look as if they've been dragged through the post-processing ringer. No significant artifacting, banding or aliasing rears its ugly little head though, meaning Skyline's proficient, presumably faithful presentation should easily satiate genre fans' collective appetite for high definition destruction.
Skyline Blu-ray, Audio Quality
With a full-force DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track at their disposal, Skyline's aliens make their presence known early and often. Thunder splits the skies as massive ships part the clouds, giant beasts topple buildings and reduce cars to scrap metal, kamikaze drones smash into helpless fighter jets, squiddies skitter through vast parking garages, explosions pierce the soundscape, gunfire echoes in the distance, and the LFE channel and rear speakers are there every step of the way. Low-end output is tenacious and responsive (despite the fact that the film's sound design favors volume over finesse), directionality is convincing enough to cause some home-theater whiplash and cross-channel pans are startlingly smooth. Granted, Terry's penthouse proves to be a somewhat stifling, airless locale on more than one occasion, especially in the wee peaceful hours of the morning, but it shakes, rattles and rumbles with the best of 'em. Through it all, dialogue remains resilient and intelligible... for the most part anyway. A few lines get lost in the ensuing chaos, voices aren't always as crisp and clear as the next and the apartment acoustics are murder on quieter conversations. Still, it never amounts to a major issue and, frankly, comes with the genre territory. Simply put? If you enjoy Skyline's brand of city-stomping madness, you're sure to enjoy its restless Master Audio mix.
Skyline Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
What does Skyline's supplemental package have to offer? Commentaries, commentaries and more commentaries. Two feature commentaries, optional commentary for the film's deleted and extended scenes, alternate takes and pre-visualization sequences. There are even commentary bits available for the Skyline theatrical trailers. Suffice it to say, the Strause brothers and their writers are more than willing to share their thoughts, a fact that will satisfy the film's fans and even entertain some of its detractors.
Skyline Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Is Skyline worth renting? Not unless you've exhausted your Netflix queue. Universal's Blu-ray release comes complete with an excellent AV presentation and a generous heap of special features, but the film itself is such a disappointment that it's difficult to spot any silver linings. The visual effects are technically impressive but fail on fundamentals, the script is a mess, the story borrows liberally from far better genre staples, the characters (both human and alien) are inconsequential afterthoughts, and the performances, despite the actors' best efforts, can't save the film from its back-patting overminds.
Skyline: Other Editions
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Skyline Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Skyline Blu-ray Announced - January 12, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced Skyline for Blu-ray release on March 15. In this science fiction film, directed and produced by the Brothers Strause (Aliens vs. Predator Requiem), an extraterrestrial force descends upon Los Angeles, threatening ...
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