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STUDIO:  Universal
MSRP:  $23.99
RUNNING TIME:  94 Minutes
Deleted and alternate scenes
Commentaries with the directors and writers

The Pitch
“It‘s Independence Day by way of JJ Abrams!”

The Humans
Director:  Colin and Greg Strause
Writer:  Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell
Starring:  Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, Scottie Thompson, David Zayas

The Nutshell
A young couple from Brooklyn head out to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with some friends.  Brain-sucking aliens crash the party.

Donald Faison finally took a few minutes to look over his career trajectory.

The Lowdown
There’s a scene towards the beginning in Skyline, where Jared and Terry (Balfour and Faison, respectively) are talking about moving Jared out to LA and starting up visual effects studio.  Jared’s hesitant because he doesn’t think he has the chops and Terry’s giving him the whole “You’re talented, the computer only does what YOU tell it to do” speech and it seems to speak clearly to the fact that the Strause brothers – making their directorial debut here – have made the jump from VFX wizards to actual-factual filmmakers.  It’s there where you pick up on what could be a little bit of meta vulnerability that adds a whole new dynamic to the proceedings.  And the meta aspect doesn’t stop there.

Eric Balfour, ladies and gentlemen.

As the character setup plays out, it turns into a bit of a fish-out-of-water tale, with Jared and Elaine (Thompson) feeling a bit out of place in the flash and glitz of Los Angeles.  And there is plenty of glitz.  Everything’s immaculately modern condos and Ferrari convertibles and Rolls Royce Phantoms.  But not only that, it turns out it’s also infidelity, sleazy shallow detachment and crass materialism.  It’s not what Elaine wants for her and Jared and it’s certainly not what she wants for their – surprise – impending Littlest Family Member.

If Toho and Vivid teamed up to make a Smurfs movie.

And then the aliens show up.  Well, technically they showed up pre-title, but I digress.  At any rate, they don’t show up with lasers or tripods or landmark-devastating particle beams.  They show up with a siren – a brilliant blue light that infects the person looking at it and poisons their free will, leaving them helpless to resist.

Subtle, ain’t it?

And as the movie progresses, little things happen to give the audience the impression that the filmmakers actually actively hate Hollywood and the Hollywood lifestyle.  The most shallow characters are taken out first and quickest and only the characters with glimmers of humanity are left to fight off the Monsters and have a chance at redemption.  There’s a scene where our characters are trying to escape a parking garage and the sliding gate malfunctions and has them trapped and it’s not hard to notice the back-handed commentary on the fact that something these people saw as a means of protection from anyone outside is what could very well prove to be their downfall.

"Damned compact-only spaces!"

At this point I was completely on board with this train of thought and found it fascinating.  Here were these guys who were using the very system that enabled this lifestyle to undercut it.  It was incredible.  And yeah, in terms of filmmaking it was spotty; some (all) of the performances were lacking in any real sense of life and the script was little more than cookie-cutter (though there were some nice character beats thrown in and handled rather deftly).  It stumbled a bit when they worked in the military resistance, and it got a bit heavy handed when Jared and Elaine were battling the monsters with fire-axes, but even though they seemed to have lost the sub textual greatness and slipped into Generic Alien Invasion Movie territory, there was still a lot of leftover goodwill for what it seemed like they were trying to say from the get go.

Sam Fisher nooooooooo!

And then that ending happened.  And then goddamn.  And then fuck Skyline.  If you haven’t seen it then I’m not gonna ruin the revelation of utter fucking stupidity because you just kind of have to see it for yourself, but it became extremely apparent that any sort of application of subtext was just my own interpretation and projection.  To think these guys had any sort of subversive intent was giving them far, far too much credit.

All that said though, I am rather curious to see where they take this thing as a franchise, as that is the intent.  I suppose we’ll see.

The Package
The artwork is just a snap from one of the more iconic shots in the film – Faison and Balfour on the roof watching all of Los Angeles be Hoovered up into the sky.  It‘s effective for what it is, I suppose, but the tagline (“Don‘t look up”) kinda kills it.

Feature-wise there’s some deleted and alternate scenes (with optional commentary that I didn’t care about listening to) that don’t really add much of anything to the final film, a pre-visualization sequence that’s more or less a primitive 3D storyboard animation.  There are two commentaries, one with the directors and another with the writers.  Both are interesting enough, I suppose and all the guys seems personable enough, but any hope I had of these guys actually having said what I thought they were trying to say was dashed when I discovered that the condo belonged to one of the directors and the Rolls Phantom to one of the writers.  And they all thought the ending was great.  Sigh.


Now, I do gotta say – the movie looks fairly incredible.  That’s not all that hard to pull off when you’re shooting on RED, but the amount of effects work they pulled off in-camera is intuitive and impressive and there were only a scant few instances of digital effects work being spotty.  The sound design was aces too and Universal (as they always do) did a great job with the disc itself.

The Verdict:  It’s a renter, at best.