Skyline Brothers Strause

Skyline Brothers Strause
Expectation can play a large part in a movie's reception. Skyline (directed by visual effects wizards Colin and Greg Strause, whose previous experience piloting the ship was the horrendous Alien vs. Predator: Requiem) carried no expectations beyond being a fun genre diversion. It's to the credit of the Brothers Strause, and writers Joshua Cordes and Liam O'Donnell, that Skyline is actually attractively shot, with impressive visual effects and some fresh ideas. For a welcome change of perspective in an alien invasion flick, Skyline is told from the point of view of a group of civilians ― like Cloverfield, only not with a bunch of stupid, bland underwear model types. Well, most of the cast are still overtly attractive actors, but there's a reason for it. An artist and his girlfriend are visiting an old friend who's fully immersed in the L.A.-douche bag lifestyle, trying to woo his buddy into joining his visual effects company. Streamlining the preamble, light jabs at vapid Hollywood wannabe players give way to wicked sci-fi action pretty quickly. Eerie blue light floods the windows in horizontal swaths ― get it: horizon, skyline? Not too subtle, but a sensible design choice ― attracting people like a siren's song, sucking them into the light if their gaze isn't broken. Jarrod (Eric Balfour, Six Feet Under), the artist, is exposed to the light, causing blue veins to sprout on his face, initiating a change that won't crystallize until the end of the film. Not knowing much about how Skyline's plot unfolds is the best way to experience it ― there are developments so atypical of the major studio approach to this genre that you'll never see them coming. For all of Skyline's shortcomings ― mediocre characterization and acting, a few cheesy shots (one specifically dubbed "the Michael Bay shot" in the writers' commentary) ― one must commend any film that eschews the standard rules of Hollywood storytelling. Skyline goes to a dark place and ends in an even darker one. Two feature commentary tracks are included, one with the Brothers Strause, which covers crazy amounts of technical detail, and another with the writers, which is more focused on story and bringing their ideas to the screen. Deleted, extended and alternate scenes with optional commentary reveal the usual pacing issues as fundamental to what ended up on the cutting room floor. Pre-visualization for two scenes, with commentary from Colin Strause and the writers, is pretty hilarious, due to its limited animation, but also displays a well-thought out shot plan. Skyline is by no means essential viewing, but if you're up for a well-shot VFX feast that thumbs its nose at the patriotic conventions of studio fodder like the atrocious Battle: L.A., Skyline delivers above expectations. (Alliance)