Saturday, March 10, 2018

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival 2018.04: Beyond Skyline

Monday was billed as "Local Film Night" at the festival, and those who have been to this festival (and, I suspect, many others) know that this part of the festival can be perilous as heck, so I'm not necessarily disappointed that they brought in something of a ringer.

On the left, Oscar Goff of Boston Hassle; on the right, Beyond Skyline writer/director Liam O'Donnell, who is from the area, which is how a movie which is shot in Los Angeles, Canada, and Laos gets shown on the night for local film. But, hey, why not; it gets someone who has worked on a somewhat bigger film to this small festival, talking about how the script evolved a bit.

And, otherwise, we might have gotten two movies like the second which played, Brute Sanity, which I can't rightly review because I bailed after fifteen or twenty minutes. I hate doing that, but it was slow-moving cheap-looking, and almost worse because a lot of the work wasn't awful, but just very bland, like the cast avoided being too wooden or too hammy and as a result was just getting lines out. I was told later that the audience would start laughing at it, so I'm glad I got out while I did. I may not like bad movies, but I enjoy that sort of mean-spirited mockery less.

Selecting films like that is one thing I really don't care for with the festival - it's a cynical ploy to sell a bunch of seats to the friends and family of the people who involved who come, but I don't know how many of them come back later, and you're giving the audience members who paid money for a pass or a ticket thinking that there would be some basic level of quality this amateur stuff - and, when it's really bad, the director and cast and crew are there just taking it from the audience. Yeah, I feel bad walking out in front of them, but they can at least tell themselves I had intestinal distress or something.

Beyond Skyline

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 February 2017 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

Give Beyond Skyline credit; it doesn't dink around before getting to the good stuff the way that the first one did. It's still a pretty dumb movie, but it piles stuff on like crazy, and you can't go terribly far wrong combining brains being ripped out of skulls and Iko Uwais fight scenes.

The film actually opens a few hours before Skyline's alien invasion, only this time it's following suspended cop Mark Quarren (Frank Grillo), whose ex-partner Garcia (Jacob Vargas) has given him a heads-up about son Trent (Jonny Weston) being in lock-up again. They're taking the subway home when the aliens arrive, and while their group - including train conductor Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) and blind homeless vet Sarge (Antonio Fargas) try to escape, it eventually becomes necessary for Mark to stow away aboard the alien ship to rescue Trent. While he's doing that, the ship has flown to Laos, where guerrilla fighters Sua (Iko Uwais) and Kanya (Pamelyn Chee) are fighting a local warlord (Yayan Ruhian) as well as aliens.

I don't know to what extent this parallel story/sequel spanning half the globe is meant to be a direct response to audience frustration at the first one taking place almost entirely within one (admittedly roomy) penthouse apartment, but it's an audacious-enough way to shake things up at the midpoint that the audience might be a little more inclined to forgive the fact that writer/director Liam O'Donnell doesn't really do very much new here, stepping through a lot of the same plot mechanics as the first and, when those are used up, extending the story with gimmicks that viewers have seen in dozens of other sci-fi films. It's a bit more interesting than what Colin & Greg Strause did, but even if it weren't a sequel, it would feel fairly derivative.

Full review on EFC

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