Saturday, November 13, 2010


I made a judgement call yesterday (Nov 12th).  The Reel Rhino opted to see SKYLINE instead of UNSTOPPABLE  thinking I might have caught lightning in a bottle and seen a winner before anyone realized what Skyline actually was as a movie.

Oops...I was wrong.

SKYLINE is an alien invasion film.  Those of you that know me, will testify that I fall into the extremely easily entertained category of movie-goer.  This is typically a good thing, but the other side of the coin is when I don't like a movie, I typically don't like it in glorious fashion.  I love Sci-Fi and I especially love end of days type battle for earth movies, which is what Skyline shoots for, but misses.

Skyline is a Brothers Strause picture...Colin and Greg...who have had very illustrious careers in the visual effects department of many well-known and much-loved films.  Their best known directorial effort has been Alien v. Predator: Reqieum.  AVP: R was not received well, currently at 12% from the critics and 37% overall on Rotten Tomatoes.  I thought AVP: R was fantastic!  These guys took a very modest budget and made a very smart sequel using primarly practical effects!

Given their history with effects and my enjoyment of their first mainstream feature, I went in hoping for the best.  I mean clearly, Denzel Washington and Tony Scott...that was the safe bet. SKYLINE was a wild card.

My first question is this: Who is this cast?  I guess they were hoping that shooting with a lesser-known cast, this movie would slide low on the radar for a while, which it did.  I don't think I knew this movie existed until around August, and I keep my ear to the ground about movies pretty much all the damn time!

The movie stars Eric Balfour as Jarrod, who has travelled to L.A. with his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) to visit his old friend, Terry (Donald Faison).  Terry is an actor who has just come into his own in Hollywood, hitting it big.  He and Jarrod are old friends having a reunion at Terry's place, a penthouse apartment in L.A.  Terry lives with his girldfriend (Brittany Daniel) and his assistant (Crystal Reed).  David Zayas rounds out the cast, as Oliver, a Security Guard for the apartment building in which Terry lives.  Sadly, not even Sgt. Angel Batista (see also: DEXTER) couldn't even save this sinking ship.

For starters, I will say that I commend the Brothers Strause for making movies.  They seem to be extremely creative and I hope that they continue forward and I look forward to enjoying their work in the future.  This film was written by Joshua Cordes and Liam O'Donnell, so the full brunt of the blame doesn't fall solely on the Bros.  To that end, the dialogue in this film was awful.  There was a reunion scene early between Jarrod and Terry and the stilted exchange was not one I would have expected from old friends.  For starters, the dialogue was very much read rather than performed or acted with any sense of emotion.  The same goes for some early relationship drama between Jarrod and Elaine.  It's in there to try and hook us into caring about these relationships, but it completely misses the mark!

We are introduced to the alien visitors in the beginning as lights in the sky, falling to the surface of the streets of LA.  Significant time passes before we really figure much of anything out and our lack of understanding doesn't add to the suspense, but instead adds to the confusion.  I am all for telling the story through action instead of dialogue, but if you don't have the action, the story won't tell itself!  75% of this film takes place in the apartment in L.A. and while our cast has little idea what is going on, the audience knows even less.  Holding back information for the sake of suspence is great and all, but most of the time in the apartment is basically spent watching these folks worry, with little plot unfolding for the viewer.

When the action scenes hit, they were impressive.  This film toggled between mediocre shots and great shots, at random intervals. This lack of continuity in tone, badly damages this film as a whole.

There is one eerie shot used a few times early, but sadly that shot is used as the hook in the trailer, so it was not at all impressive once projected in the theater. 

This film starts to live a bit once the group we are following ventures out from the apartment.  The only scenes that really impressed were the broad shots of the initial invasion and then the broad city shots of the military response and the ensuing aerial battle.

I will not be alone in comparing this film to Roland Emmerich's Independence Day, and it would be hard to review this and not do so.  Some of the scenes felt like shot for shot remakes of the major battles from ID4. At different points, I expected to hear Will Smith or Harry Connack Jr scream "WOOOOOOO!" or for Harry COnnack to bust in with the MLK Jr. speech.  If nothing else, I would have gotten Randy Quaid in this flick as a nod to Emmerich's film, which would have maybe made the similarities more forgiving.  I think Quaid would have been unavailable, though, as he was likely on the run from the Super Secret Celebrity Assassination Squad. 

While this movie does not nearly succeed on its own, I would love to see this movie and ID4 mashed-up into a single flick.  This presents a limited perspective and ID4 presented a broad view of all aspects of how the invasion affected people.  This movie essentially is an entire movie about one group of people and what we have may have been enough to support itself as a side-story in another movie, but it is not enough to support itself here.

1.5 of 5 horns from The Reel Rhino for SKYLINE.  This is a film that would have benefited from a few dancing popsicle sticks! 


Morning Glory is something of a chick-flick with less chick and more flick.  This isn't a romance (per say) and it isn't a touchy-feely everybody hug kind of movie.  Morning Glory is a solid dramatic comedy with small bits of romance thrown in.  It is a darker comedy, but not too dark.  It is just risque enough to really make this film interesting.  In a nutshell, it is a sharply written (Aline Brosh McKenna) and well directed (Roger Mitchell) movie, which I very much enjoyed.

MG stars Rachel McAdams as Becky, who at the beginning of the film loses her job as the producer of a small morning show in New Jersey.  Desperate, Becky takes an Executive Producer position on a show called Daybreak, on fictional studio IBS.  Daybreak is nationally broadcast every morning as a talk-show in the vein of The Today Show and Good Morning America.  While the movie in action admits it is a stretch to put a person as inexperienced as Becky into the position of Executive Producer for such a large-scale show, it works none the less.

Rachel McAdams is adorable.  I hope that doesn't sound bad, but she is one of the most watchable actors working today.  I hate to refer to such a cheesy (and underrated) flick in The Hot Chick, but how great was it to see McAdams in such a radically different role compared to much of her other work.  Perhaps the best "mean" role she played was as super bi-otch Regina George in Mean Girls. 

We have the extreme pleasure of seeing two of the finest all-time actors playing the antagonistic anchors of the morning show Daybreak in Diane Keaton as Colleen Peck and Harrison Ford as Mike Pomeroy.

Harrison Ford has been active in film for around 45 years.  Of course the late seventies, early eightes brought him the roles for which he will never be forgotten in Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard.  Ford bleeds career icon, later becoming Jack Ryan and Richard Kimball and even reprising his role as the good Dr. Jones in 2008.  If you look at his filmography, Ford is somewhat of an enigma.  Ford would often go a year without a role and went several years appearing in no more than one film a year.  I think it can be said that he is somwhat selective, although if he were selective enough, perhaps he would have opted out of Hollywood Homicide (hehehe I couldn't help it!).

Diane Keaton is also an icon.  She is the strong matriarch to the Godfather, Michael Corleone and the titular character in the classic Woody Hall flick, Anie Hall.  She and Ford together was exactly what you would expect...dynamite!

Keaton's Colleen Peck has been on the show for years, while Ford's Pomeroy spent his career primarily as a straight newsman.  You learn early on that Pomeroy is under contract with IBS and is essentially being paid off to ride out his contract years.  Becky is a life-long Pomeroy fan and when she sees that he is available, she wants him to fill the other anchor role on Daybreak. For a life-long newsman, the thought of morining TV is insulting.  Morning TV to Pomeroy is not worthy of his greatness.  From here forward is just a joy to watch the relationships unfold.

Yes, this is very much a character based relationship film, but not necessarily a romance.  The film centers around Becky as the driving force in an effort to turn around this low-rated morning show.  As a competetor to the big boys of morning TV, Daybreak doesn't hold a candle.  Becky is brought in with little experience in the big leagues, but as nothing else seems to work, they are willing to take a chance on her.  She screams youthful vigor and optimism.  She simply refuses anything that is negative, using jedi-like focus. 

Becky is a young, attractive executive and it is completely clear that she has not thought much about romance, acting like a 15 year old girl being asked to her first dance when it comes to anything related to boys.  She drops a great line in somehing like: 'I usually don't realize a guy is interested in me until he's naked in my room.'

He romantic opposite in this flick is played by the very charismatic Patrick Wilson.  Given the hours that Becky pours into her show, you would think there is no way that she could survive in a relationship, but luckily, Wilson's Adam Bennett is also in the industry.  The biggest upside for Wilson in this movie is that there are several scenes in which he gets to wrestle around with McAdams while she has stripped down to her under-things....

...awkward topic. 

Perhaps my favorite component of this film was Jeff Goldblum in the studio executive role of Jerry Barnes.  Compassionate, brutally honest, borderline cruel....he runs the gamut of his treatment of Becky.  In this film, he is the person who hires Becky and then the one who gives us our danger element...the risk of cancellation.

This movie is very much a comedy with bits of effective drama and a bit of romance.  The movie looks great, being set in New York.  The film is beautifully filmed with only a few excessively artsy shots of slow-mo running, with birds taking flight and things like that.  These scenes are very much noticiable but they detract very little from a great flick.

I especially enjoyed Harrison Ford's Mike Pomeroy and I think he acted with more enthusiasm than he has in recent years and perhaps it was just the extent to which Ford's facial expressions play into his character.  He emotes like a champ with sweeping body movement and wild facial reactions that specifically had me busting a gut.  It was very reminiscent of the pained looks we got from Ford in his early Indy roles.

I thing this is a very solid movie and The Reel Rhino gives it 4 horns of 5.  If you are looking for something less action-packed than Unstoppable, less animated than MegaMind, less-darkly comedic than Due Date, and LESS TERRIBLE THAN SKYLINE ~ check out MORNING GLORY.

I am running long, but let me share with you that I also saw CONVICTION starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, among others in this true story procedural surrounding the wrongful conviction of Kenny Waters for a 1980's murder in rural Massachuchetts.  Convinced of her brother's innocence, Betty Ann Waters endures divirce, much time away from her children, and other hardships as she puts herself through an undergraduate education and then law school, in an effort to prove her brother's innocence.  This film, directed by Tony Goldwyn and written by Pamela Grey is well made and a great watch!  The film keeps you invested from start to finish and the film as a story takes place in two eras.  One, in the days of Kenny and Betty Ann's childhood, where you see the roots of their bond as brother and sister; and two, in the 'present day' mid-eightes when the murder occurs then the running story of the trial, his imprisionment, Betty Ann's days as a student, lawyer, up through a more-curremt present day where we get to see the resolution of this up/down/up/down/up storyline.

CONVICTION was a wholly enjoyable film that I can recommend without reservation.  The movie is rated R for a few EFF's, Rockwell's naked bum, and grisley images of blood and a beaten body from the murder in question.  Truthfully, if this movie had cut the EFF's, I think it would have caught a PG-13.

4 of 5 horns from the REEL RHINO on conviction.

Lots of movies this week.  I am going to see Unstoppable ASAP but I probably won't review it as it will have been reviewed extensively already.  I will keep my eye on what's coming out and will be back soon with more on the movies!

I will take a moment to admit a mistake here.  YES, I AM A MAN AND I AM SAYING I WAS WRONG!  We watched GROWN-UPS last night.  This past summer, I had denounced GROWN-UPS and refused to see it, on the assumption it would be terrible.  I was wrong and I actually enjoyed it a great deal.  I give GROWN-UPS a 3.5 of 5 horns, a decent rating for a wholly decent and very funny movie.  Sorry Adam, Kevin, Rob, Chris, and David!  My bad!!

Until next time, take care....

1 comment:

  1. I have had more time to reflect on SKYLINE and while my overall impression hasn't changed, I will say that most of the effects in this film are well done, well thought out. The Bros. Stause could have made a great movie. Instead they made a poorly written and executed film that has moments of visual brilliance.