Skip to main content

The plan is we stay here and hold up... for good!


Skyline
(2010)

Come to L.A., rent an apartment, make a movie.

Not nearly as good as its sequel, Skyfall, although directors the Strause Brothers also provided effects for Bond’s 50th. Appropriately, since Skyline is basically one long micro-budgeted promo for their Hydaulx Filmz. You’d think, with the kind of industry foothold they already had, that their “movie shot in a kitchen” would be superior to most youtube fare. But it really isn’t.

So finely-honed is the screenplay (admittedly not credited to the brothers) that it begins with Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) arriving in L.A. for Jarrod’s friend Terry’s birthday. Terry just happens to own a special effects company that he wants Jarrod to join! It might have been interesting if there had been some sort of meta-commentary on a film about effects wizards, by effect wizards, which revolves entirely around its CGI. But I suspect not; everyone involved is too dumb.

90% of the film takes place in and around the high-rise apartment complex (where one of the brothers lives/lived). Which results in numerous sequences of characters looking out of windows at the shocking alien invasion, but doing bugger all. When even the directors realise this has been going on and on and on, they mix it up by having the same events shown through a telescope or on a TV screen. The characters argue tiresomely, wave guns around tiresomely, and get killed or abducted tiresomely. 

Apparently the shoot itself cost about $500k, with the effects priced at another $10m+. Presumably the former bill consists mostly of paying the actors, otherwise I’m surprised it was so expensive! Given that Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (vastly superior in every respect) came in at a reported $500k.  There’s a moment where the characters head for the building’s underground car park to make an escape. You know they won’t actually get outside because the filmmakers have been so clumsy about exposing their limitations (we’ve already been on the roof and by the pool, so most options have been covered). It’s not like you couldn’t make a claustrophobic, John Carpenter-esque film in this setting, and have it as a calling-card, but the Strauses seem to want to summon the spirit of Michael Bay and it ends up looking risible.

The performances are all one-note, but you can’t really blame the actors. Dexter’s David Zayas turns up as the concierge but fares no better than the others (particular in his heroic moment). The effects are variable (the ships drawing up thousands of people aren’t convincing anyone), but often decent, in a generic way; the facial scarrings, the War of the Worlds/Matrix-type drones; the last five minutes, which are pretty much pure CGI, even threaten to yield something interesting in terms of plot (but can’t quite muster to the challenge).

Skyline was a (limited) financial success, and unnecessarily threw Sony into a panic as the brothers had also worked on the effects-heavy invasion flick Battle: L.A. (released about four months later); they eventually withdrew their threat to take legal action (Battle is a marginally superior film, but it’s all relative). The Strauses’ debut feature was the spluttering mess that is AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem, which looks like a masterpiece stood next to this shambles.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

The Reverend Thomas says you wet his trousers.

Double Bunk (1961) (SPOILERS) In casting terms, Double Bunk could be a sequel to the previous year’s magnificent School for Scoundrels . This time, Ian Carmichael and Janette Scott (he still almost twice her age) are wedded, and the former continues to make dumb choices. Despite being an unlikely mechanic, Carmichael allows himself to be sold a lemon of a houseboat; last time it was the Nifty Nine. And Dennis Price is once again on hand, trying to fleece him in various ways. Indeed, the screenplay might not be a patch on School for Scoundrels , but with Sid James and the fabulous Liz Fraser also on board, the casting can’t be faulted.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.