Review Twofer – Skylines/Monster Hunter

★★1/2

I caught a coupla creature features last week, so I figured I’d pair ‘em together for this dual review. Here’s what I peeped.

Skylines:

The “Skyline” franchise got off to an inauspicious start back in 2010. Directed by visual effects artists The Brothers Strause (Colin and Greg), “Skyline” is the only entry to have ever received a wide theatrical release. As directors The Brothers Strause are very talented FX artists. The picture was followed up seven years later with “Beyond Skyline.” The original film’s co-screenwriter Liam O’Donnell was promoted to sole scribe and director this time out. O’Donnell had a game cast featuring my man crush Frank Grillo and “The Raid” veterans Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian – these folks transformed the enterprise from sci-fi to sci-fu. This brings us to “Skylines” (or “Skylin3s” for promotional purposes), which is now available on VOD.

I’ll state this right from the jump: if you haven’t seen “BS,” I wouldn’t bother watching “Skylines.” I’ve seen and enjoyed “BS,” but it’d been a few years and even with the, “Previously on ‘Skyline’ …” segment that opens the picture I was a tad confused. Characters from the previous installment have rapidly grown from children into adults or had their brains transplanted from human bodies to alien ones.

Rose (Lindsey Morgan, co-star of the CW’s upcoming “Walker”) and her brother Trent (James Fitzgerald) must team with an elite unit of mercenaries (played by Daniel Bernhardt, Jonathan Howard, Ieva Andrejevaite,  Giedre Mockeliunaite and Cha-Lee Yoon) led by General Radford (Alexander Siddig) in order to thwart a virus that’s turning friendly, Earth-dwelling human-alien hybrids against humanity. Their adventures lead them to a planet called Cobalt 1. The action cuts between Cobalt 1 and Earth as we see Dr. Mal (Rhona Mitra), Grant (James Cosmo, the Scottish actor who frequently goes Medieval on everyone’s asses), Elaine (Samantha Jean) and Huana (Ruhian) fight for survival.

Honestly, the plot’s a bunch of gobbledygook and the movie’s probably half an hour too long, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t entertaining. O’Donnell – like his predecessors – is also an FX artist, but I’d argue he’s a better filmmaker. These movies generally cost somewhere between $10 and 20 million, look more like 80 to 100 million and it’s all in service of martial artists fighting dudes in alien suits or blowing shit up. Speaking of scrapping, Bernhardt (who you may remember as the guy Bill Hader fights through the better part of a “Barry” episode) and Yoon have a baller brawl and Ruhian performs a throat rip on an alien that’d make Dalton from “Road House” and MacGruber beam with pride. It’s hard to begrudge a movie that has a Jackie Chan-esque blooper reel. It’s even harder to begrudge a director who culminates said reel with his credit accompanied by footage of his leading lady exclaiming, “Fuck you, Liam! What’s the fuck?!!!”

I don’t know why, but suddenly I’m hungry for Cincinnati chili.

3/5

Monster Hunter

I’m no Paul W.S. Anderson hater. I don’t like him as well as Paul Thomas Anderson (Who does?), but he’s made some fun albeit dumb flicks. “Mortal Kombat” isn’t good, but it had a bumpin’ soundtrack and a coupla decent fights (most of which revolved around Scorpion and Sub-Zero). I initially thought his “Resident Evil” movies sucked, but they’ve grown into guilty pleasures over time … especially as he embraced 3D along the way. Anderson’s latest video game adaptation “Monster Hunter” is now playing in theaters.

The picture stars Anderson’s frequent collaborator, muse and wife Milla Jovovich as Lt. Artemis. She and her Army Ranger squadron (made up of rappers T.I. and MC Jin, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta and Josh Helman (Young Stryker from recent “X-Men” outings!)) are sucked through a portal to another world. Upon arrival they’re attacked by a series of different monsters. Luckily for them they encounter The Hunter (Tony Jaa), a sand pirate who’s been living and fighting in isolation.

A decent amount of “Monster Hunter” works; far more of it doesn’t. I actually preferred the militaristic fetishization sponsored by Oakley and calling to mind Michael Bay to the picture’s more fantastical elements, i.e. Ron Perlman in the world’s worst wig and an anthropomorphized pirate cat. I enjoyed the interplay between the soldiers and wish there were more of it. These actors would’ve benefitted from further character development as opposed to almost instantaneously being served up as a colossus’ snack. That said it ain’t really that sort of flick, the monsters are admittedly pretty cool (Toho did co-produce after all!) and one of the deaths is especially gnarly for a PG-13 joint.

Much of “Monster Hunter” is a two-hander between Jovovich and Jaa and it kinda feels akin to something like “Hell in the Pacific” or “Enemy Mine” in that there are language and cultural barriers between the two resulting in strife. This strife does lead to an admittedly entertaining hand-to-hand combat sequence. Jovovich and Jaa are fine, but they and the picture as a whole would’ve benefited from having other cast members around to help break the proceedings up. Don’t get me wrong, I dig training montages as much as the next person, but they grow stale after a bit. “Monster Hunter” is 99 minutes and feels more like 129. This ain’t a T.I. tune – I can’t have whatever I want.

2/5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *