Beyond Skyline

Okay, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years now you’ll have seen the odd post/rant I’ve written about the movie Skyline, directed by The Brothers Strause. Without going into another full blown post about Skyline my biggest complaint was not enough attention was on the live action sequences and too much was spent on the CGI, which granted was very beautiful. It just didn’t fulfil an amazing potential I thought.

Beyond Skyline was not Skyline, it took that potential and made a movie I enjoyed a lot. The CGI looks beautiful, the plot line kept my attention and the actors held the screen well, and more importantly I cared about what happened to them. Frank Grillo and Bojana Novakovic were both very good, and I enjoyed Iko Uwais as well. It was fun seeing Callan Mulvey playing a role which wasn’t a mercenary as well.

I liked how the story went from the events in Skyline and took it further and looked at what was going on in a lot more depth and moves across the globe a little and we see how the invasion is being looked at by another culture. We saw a lot more of the aliens and their little world as well. I really liked the final confrontation at the end of the movie. Not only is there some great CGI action, but some of the fighting the characters do on the ground level is beautiful! The Choreography is very well done.

This is the first film where I’ve seen Iko Uwais and I liked him a lot. He held the screen well and when acting opposite an actor of Frank Grillo’s calibre you need that.

The whole cast was pretty solid I thought, no one felt out of place and none of them felt ‘Meh’ for lack of a better phrase. I thought they felt genuine, we don’t know what we’ll be capable of until we’re pushed out of our comfort zones.

There was a couple of moments where I found my eyebrow raising a little but nothing drastic that took me out of the film any more than a passing second.

I was a little anxious that this was Liam O’Donnell’s directing debut, but I liked where he took the story (he wrote it as well). Some of the visuals were stunning and he got a great balance between the live action and the CGI. They complimented each other very well. Overall I liked his direction and I really hope they do more of these. I will definitely be looking out for what O’Donnell does in the future.

Overall, Beyond Skyline is a film that’s well worth watching. I’m glad I’ve brought it on Blu-Ray as I think I will be re-watching it more than a few times.

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Beyond Skyline

All the way back in 2010 a movie called Skyline came out. It was an alien invasion movie which I felt had a lot of potential but it really didn’t live up to the potential it had. Skyline didn’t do well, but the directors, The Brothers Strause, said at the time there would always be at least one sequel. Now, after seven years it looks like that is finally happening. Beyond Skyline is listed on IMDB as being released in 2017, and is being directed/produced/written by Liam O’Donnell. Produced by The Brothers Strause and Matthew Chausse. It’s also starring Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, The Purge:Anarcy).

Now, I have a real love/hate relationship with the first movie. Skyline was a film that as I watched it I could see a lot of potential in it, but it never fulfilled that potential. I’m hoping the sequel does go some way to building something special with what was created in the first film. The fact that Frank Grillo is in it does go a long way to assuring some of my fears. I’ve not seen Grillo in much more than I’ve listed above but he definitely demands attention when on screen. I am worried that Liam O’Donnell has no other directing credits on his IMDB page, but I’m not writing him off just yet. Everyone has to start somewhere, and he did write the first film, and produced it. So he’s been around this world and these aliens for some time.

I’m not someone that likes to see people fail, and I really want to go into this film (when it’s released) and enjoy it, and have that side of me that loves these alien invasion sorta films/shows satisfied.

 

Movie Monday: Battle: Los Angeles

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This weeks Movie Monday post is on this movie which is not too far from being what I think could have been a great film, a little like Skyline but this one did work a little better.

***Minor Spoilers***

Simply this is an alien invasion movie that tries to be Black Hawk Down, but with aliens. It starts during the invasion then rewinds to the previous day where we meet Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz who is about to retire but the invasion comes and he is put into a platoon that is not his regular one and he is not well liked within this platoon because he was the sole survivor of an incident where a brother of one of this platoon died. The platoon is commanded by an officer who passed out top of his class, just recently.

They are assigned to go to a police station in the hostile zone and rescue some civilians who had been left there. Along the way they encounter the enemy and engage in a small fire fight. Once at the station they call in a helicopter pickup, but as the helicopter is lifting off with injured Marines (no civilians) It is blown out of the sky by the alien aircraft. Before this point the aliens had not deployed any aerial units. This changes the conflict, giving the invaders an advantage. So the Marines have to get to the safe zone by other means. They are in a hurry because the U.S. Air Force is going to Carpet Bomb that region. So after catching a wounded alien and slicing it up to find the best way to kill it they hot wire a bus and make their way to the freeway. In the process they discover that the aliens are tracking their movements by the radios they are using. Nantz uses this to lure in and blow up one of the alien drones.

Unfortunately they have to abandon the bus and go on foot to somewhere that is safe as they will not make it to the safe zone before the bombing begins. They loose their commanding officer in the process, and the way he dies it looks like Nantz has left him behind so he can survive.

I’ll leave the plot there and let you find out what happens yourselves.

I like the idea of this one. It does not focus on the bigger picture but on the human side of the fight. This for me saves this movie. Whereas Skyline did not make me feel for the characters this one does. Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Staff Sergeant Nantz saves this movie. A few of the cast do help but it is Eckhart who I felt for most in this movie. The action is not bad and I like some of the aspect of the aliens and how they are operating.

The story is okay, a little thin in places, annoying in others. What I did find a little annoying is that there are too many clichés in this movie. The experienced Sergeant who is about to retire who is well decorated, but his last mission did not go well. The inexperienced Lieutenant who dies, the aliens who are almost unbeatable. The marines who have a problem with the sergeant and so on. One thing that I felt was a little clumsy was that all the Marines call Nantz Staff Sergeant. Not sarge or Sargeant, but Staff Sergeant. If someone could tell me is this how Marines in the U.S. talk to their N.C.O’s?

That said though I do enjoy watching this movie, The acting is not bad, the directing is not either. The plot is a little simple and direct but I think its acceptable, but It is Eckhart who carries this movie.

Is it worth a watch? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes, but it’s better than a lot of rubbish out there at the moment.

Movie Monday: Skyline

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Skyline is an Alien Invasion movie set in Los Angeles and follows a small group of people who are trying to avoiding being sucked up into the alien ships by a big blue light.

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I’ve ranted about this movie before. It has so much potential and its all thrown away. It is full of clichés, Pregnant women, stuck up girlfriend whose boyfriend is sleeping with his assistant, aliens with superior weapons. The dialogue is quite ropy and shallow as well.

I try not to be too negative in general but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I wont criticize the performance of the actors who I would imagine if you watch TV series Like Scrubs and 24 you will at least recognise two of the male characters. When I’ve seen these actors in other things they hold their own quite well, but I believe that stronger actors were needed, someone who could take hold of the scenes and make you care for them. In the credits Jared Leto gets a special thank you mention, Why could he have not been in it? Or Karl Urban or, hell there are many actors who could capture the viewer’s attention which is what the movie needed. As viewers we need to care for the characters and here I did not in any way, shape or form. The tension that is created never quite filtered through to me. A lot seemed to be manufactured tension between the characters and not natural.

The actors were not just to blame though. The script could have been much stronger, giving the characters a little more for the actors to work with would make a good start (Some more back story would have been nice). If I remember correctly this is the second film that the directors made, the other being the second Alien vs Predator movie, Requiem I think it was called. I was not especially impressed with that one either. So I think maybe a little lack of experience played a big part here.

Good points? The visuals are generally breathtaking! I believe that the directors are CGI people and if the rumours are true then they spent a lot of money on the CGI. The aliens and their spacecraft are really easy on the eye. They make the aliens look very real and some of the camera placement is spot on (When two characters are on the roof of the apartment block and the alien ship comes out of a cloud, that is a perfect camera shot in my opinion).

I’ve heard two different rumours about the budget that the movie had. One is that the CGI cost 10 million dollars and the live action sequences cost 500,000 dollars. The other rumour is that the CGI cost 20 million dollars and the live action sequences cost 500,000 dollars. Either way, too little was spent on the live sequences. A lot of the film was apparently shot in the directors apartment, and the surrounding complex by the looks of it. That, in my opinion, is the movies biggest failing. There was too much emphases on the computer generated stuff and not enough on the live scenes. A little more time spent on the script would have been nice too. It is very rare that a movie which depends on the CGI works (Avatar is one of the exceptions, although the plot could have been stronger there too).

This is the movie with a Hollywood budget, but with a B-List mentality.

I have had the odd rant here and there about this movie before, but that is because I really wanted this movie to fulfill its potential. It could have been a great, but it fell flat.

Igniting Old Ideas

I’ve watched a couple of alien invasion movies recently, Skyline and Battle:Los Angeles. I was planning to watch this movie again soon but a post on I Am Ipodman’s blog pushed the viewing forward (http://iamipodman.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/have-you-watched-battle-los-angeles/)

Alien Invasion is something that I love but I’ve not found many examples recently that have really impressed me, Aside from Scott Sigler’s Infected and Contagion, and the movie District 9, but those are not what I think of as alien invasion, not in the Independence Day, War Of The Worlds sense. I would love an epic alien invasion story to come out (if anyone knows of one please feel free to share 😀 )

Me and Owen (writing partner) have an alien invasion story that we’ve played with but we never took it anywhere. I think it is far too complicated for our current level of writing ability but one day this could be a story that we go back to one day because like our Project Delphi and Project Apollo universe it is a world that we have batted about for many years and just because we have not been able to get a story up and running in the past doesn’t mean we wont be able to get it going in the future. If a story needs to be told, it’ll be told.

 

This week’s episode of The Dead Robots Society was really good. It was about description but slipped into Pacing too. I found this episode really helpful and it got me thinking about how I describe scenes and characters as well as how I’m pacing my work.

 

Here’s the link: http://deadrobotssociety.com/2013/01/29/episode-257-setting-the-scene/

Please go over and check it out. It’s an impression show and this episode in particular was very good.

How Science Fiction Films have Influenced Me : Alien Invasion

The last few new alien invasion films that I’ve seen have left me thinking different things about this part of the genre and how I look at my own fiction.  Aside from Project Phoenix I have two other active alien invasion stories going so this is obviously something that gets my attention.  There was Skyline, which if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know my opinions of this film.  Although I’ve had time to reflect on it a little more now.  As I said in the previous post https://petergermany.wordpress.com/?s=skyline I think that there was too little attention focussed on the live action sequences and too much was relied on the special effects.  The actors are all generally pretty good but they are let down by the script and what felt like an inexperienced director.  The special effects were beautiful though.

The next one that I want to mention is Monsters.  For a film which had such a small budget (Wiki says it was about $500,000) Whereas that is apparently what was spent on the live action sequences of Skyline and apparently and another $10-20 million on the special effects, again according to Wikipedia.  But for that half a million dollars a stunning film was made.  It dealt with politics relationships as well as the aliens themselves.  There is a good sense of threat at the right times in the film and it makes that part of Central America look absolutely stunning.  The Director Gareth Edwards really deserves plenty of credit for this film.

Battle: Los Angeles was a film that I actually quite like despite its negative reviews.  Yes it is full of the typical Hollywood clichés, The retiring sergeant, the inexperienced lieutenant, the platoon of marines that have a gripe with the sergeant.  A little hint of romance and so on.  Arron Eckhart puts in an excellent performance, as always, which I think helps the film hugely.  If someone else was playing the role then I’m not so sure that it would have done so well.  One big thing that I liked about this film was that the invading aliens had a form of intelligence about them.  They took cover when they needed too, they had what we would think of as officers, but they also wiped out humanities armed forces within a heart beat (okay yes I’ve done that too) but I think a lot of people are getting a little tired of an alien force that can just wipe out earths armed forces without any real opposition.  I think a lot of people would like to see a story where there is a reasonably fair fight.  Eckhart has said that he would be interested in a follow-up film to this one, so would I because I think there is a lot here that this film could build on.

No Alien Invasion post would be complete without mentioning Independence Day.  I struggle to watch this film now, and all I can think about is that I’ve seen it so many times that its’ too ingrained into my memory and its maybe not got enough to capture my imagination any more.  I can still watch Predator, after a few thousand times, and still find it truly engaging whereas with Independence Day I can’t.

I write alien invasion stories so all these films are food for thought for me but I’ve found that I strip them to pieces too much to really enjoy them.  I think about how I would tweak characters or the aliens themselves and the plot and so forth.  I can picture how a London version of Battle LA would work, maybe that’s because I’ve been writing an alien invasion book for the last seven or so years.

Bad or good these films always spark an idea for me, do I use force shields? what do the aliens look like? what are they after?  Why are they after it?

Independence Day is the film that has influenced, well inspired, me the most when it comes to this part of the genre, but I cannot think of an invasion film which we, as viewers, deserve. Of all the great films that I have seen I cannot think of one which is truly epic by todays standards.  The original War Of The Worlds film was very good, but the Cruise/Spielberg re-make, well enough said, but I think that in this day and age we need another film with the epic-ness of Independence Day but for todays audience.  Even though I struggle to watch Independence Day it is still a bloody good film, but I think that movie goers today expect more from their movies.  I want to see a movie which has the epic factor that Independence Day had but also the depth and intelligence of a film like District 9.