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Blu-ray Review: Skyline

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Being a huge fan of science fiction and summertime popcorn movies, Skyline naturally intrigued me as a filmgoer. The trailers sported flashy special effects and the film promised to rip apart the Los Angeles skyline with alien abductions and war aplenty. The film was lauded when it hit the box offices and now that it has been released on Blu-ray home audiences finally get a crack at it. The question is: Is Skyline worth your time?

Released in November 2010 by Universal Studios, Skyline is the brainchild of Greg and Colin Strause (Brothers Strause) and was produced on a very modest budget. With limited set pieces the film is largely a special effects endeavor. With a cast of unknowns and television actors Skyline, everything comes together with B-movie flare. Despite all of this, it’s the script that does the least amount of justice to the experience.

Skyline has a cold start with aliens landing on Los Angeles, but then it flashes back to introduces all the characters. Urban artist Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are on their way to L.A. for a special engagement. Jarrod’s best friend Terry (Donald Faison) is having a birthday part, but considering he’s a big shot of some sort it’s naturally no small event. Jarrod and Elaine meet other people in Terry’s penthouse suite, such as his girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel) and personal assistant Denise (Crystal Reed). Things at the part don’t go exactly as planned, with one of Terry’s associates dropping the bomb to Elaine that they are planning on hiring Jarrod and forcing him to move to the West Coast. Naturally that doesn’t sit well with Jarrod’s significant other, but the “pregnant” word is dropped in a cliché manner, so that kind of changes things. Being pregnant and moving to L.A. are the least of their problems, however.

Overnight bright orbs of blue light descend on the metropolis and people go missing. Jarrod himself was almost taken, but luckily he was saved by Terry just in the nick of time. When the worst seems to be over, more orbs appear and alien ships break the canopy of clouds in the sky. Just when the initial reaction is for everyone to get out of Dodge, the hung-over crew decides to sit tight, close the blinds, and hold their own in the penthouse while the invasion happens outside.

Armed with but a single handgun it would seem like Jarrod and the gang don’t stand much of a chance in the apartment. Eventually they come to the conclusion that they are screwed and make a weak, ill-fated escape attempt, only to wind up back in the same sprawling apartment. One would think that being trapped in a condo with aliens destroying the city, and nothing but a handful of bullets for defense would add tension. It doesn’t.

Weak acting and a terrible script sap any thrill Skyline could have had. It focuses on the characters but doesn’t build upon anything it established, and that’s only compounded by the use of special effects as a crutch to distract viewers. Had Brothers Strause taken some inspiration from Cloverfield or something of that ilk, Skyline would have been better for it.

As it stands Skyline is a collection of sci-fi clichés that do not work well together. It’s like the Strause brothers had a bag of great ideas and threw them randomly at a wall to see what stuck. While it should be credited for the gravitas of its special effects, the film uses them as its only source of quality. Great special effects plus Poor acting and a script that was dead on arrival do not a good film make. Don’t bother with this one, or at the rest best it’s a rental.

Skyline is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer and 2.40:1 widescreen presentation. While the film itself may leave something to be desired, the transfer here absolutely does not. This is a gorgeous-looking movie with outstanding special effects from top to bottom. The Strause brothers really know their stuff in the effects department, and that shows in every frame. It’s eye candy at its best and the Blu-ray offers some marvelous clarity and detail.

The sound direction is also pretty solid to boot. This Blu-ray comes with a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation, and like the visuals the soundstages is quite impressive. Thanks to the bass and overall sense of immersion, the aliens come to life. Likewise the sound effects leave their impact, but the soundtrack unfortunately does not. The music here is tilted towards being cheesy and in most cases it hurts any sense of drama the film may have had.

For supplemental content Skyline brings some decent stuff to the table. For starters there are two audio commentaries here, though both tracks are rather self-centered. One features the Brothers Strause talking about how the film in a golden light, and the other offers up the writers and producers of the film for more back patting. Neither track brings much to the table in terms of more understanding or appreciation of the film, but I suppose they were never intended to. Also included here are some special effects dissection, deleted scenes, extended scenes, and alternative scenes. The disc includes BD Live and pocketBLU application capabilities.

Skyline has a lot going for it. The very concept is basic science fiction material that has made other projects successful. Add to that an impressive load of special effects and a beautiful transfer for the Blu-ray. Unfortunately the film itself leaves nearly everything to be desired. It has the makings of a B-movie, but without the charms. Bad acting, a bad script, and bad direction don’t make a successful film, even by cult standards. Occasional blips of greatness are hardly enough to save the experience, though they do make the film worthwhile as a rental for sci-fi buffs to see all the pretty effects.

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