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Review: ‘Skyline’

Aliens 1, Humans 0

Eric Balfour and tentacled alien in

Credit: Universal Pictures

Above: Eric Balfour and tentacled alien in "Skyline."

Universal Pictures did not screen "Skyline" (opening November 12 throughout San Diego) for critics. So I not only paid for my ticket but also for my son and his friend. So was it worth $35?

Let me say upfront and with absolute clarity that "Skyline" is a bad film. So why don't I feel any animosity toward it? Why don't I resent spending $35 and losing 2 hours of my life? I guess because despite everything that was wrong with this film I still had fun and laughed more than I did at "Due Date." Plus I have to confess to having an affection for aliens especially tentacled ones.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Alien ships -- that look a lot like the one in "District 9" -- hover over Los Angeles in "Skyline."

The wafer thin plot for "Skyline" is simply that aliens invade LA. The film is derivative of everything from "Transformers" to "District 9" to the upcoming "Battle: Los Angeles." In fact, Sony Pictures, the studio behind next year's "Battle: Los Angeles" had been threatening legal action against "Skyline." The lawsuit had a bit of a David and Goliath feel since Sony has a behemoth $100 million pic and "Skyline" is a little $10 million indie. But Sony felt like "Skyline" was not only ripping off "Battle's" storyline but also stealing its thunder by coming out months in advance of the studio tentpole. And to add to the whole incestuous Hollywood scandal, the filmmakers of "Skyline" – brothers Colin and Greg Strause -- own and run the visual effects company Hydraulx, which just happens to be designing the effects work for "Battle: Los Angeles." But all this off screen melodrama just adds to the trashy fun of the film.

The film is a ridiculous sci-fi actioner in which one character tries to use a handgun to stop an alien the size of a small house and characters duck and cover to protect themselves from the radiation fallout of a nuclear bomb. Yet there's a certain Saturday morning serial charm to the action at times like when Eric Balfour decides to engage an alien beast in hand-to-hand combat (with a meager ax as a weapon) and to actually triumph over it by ripping out its brain with his bare hands! I mean that alone is probably why I wasn't pissed about spending the $35 to get in.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The Strause Brothers on the set of "Skyline."

I also have to say that while the script, acting, and direction essentially sucked, the aliens were mighty cool. The film was crassly shot and often the effects looked cheap but the alien design was darn nifty and fun. Plus these aliens really know how to kick some ass and take no prisoners. The Strause Brothers also had some fun effects moments, most notably when a human that had been "consumed" by an alien is pulled back out and resurrected only to have his brain ripped from his head. Apparently like zombies, these creatures crave human brains. Plus the aliens have the whole tentacle thing going for them and that's always a sexy sci-fi addition to any extraterrestrial.

The Strause Brothers actually hurt themselves by alluding to films like "District 9," which are so far superior that it makes their film look even worse. "District 9" was also low budget but it was smart, it had something to say, it had a compelling story. "Skyline" has none of that. But I do like the fact that an upstart, low budget film can be such a thorn in the side of a major studio. There's something appealing about that.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The invasion in "Skyline."

"Skyline" (rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content) is an atrociously bad movie with laughable performances and the lamest of scripts. I do not want to suggest to anyone that they should spend their hard earned money on this kind of film because it only encourages studios to make more like it. Yet as a die-hard fan of horror and monster movies I am glad I saw it and I hope that a better filmmaker with a big budget will hire out the Strause boys to do what they seem to do best and that's designing creatures and special effects. But please keep these boys from penning another script.I will just chalk this one up to tentacle love.

Companion viewing: "Monsters," "District 9," "The Thing From Another World," "Starship Troopers"

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