You may not have heard of Colin and Greg Strause, but chances are you've seen plenty of their handiwork. Special effects nuts since their early teens, the brothers have helped to provide the wow factor on such films as 'Avatar', '2012', 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines', '300', 'The Day After Tomorrow' and 'Titanic'. Brad Pitt ageing backwards in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' and The Winklevoss twins in 'The Social Network'? There was Strause involvement, too.
The duo made their big screen directorial debuts with 20th Century Fox's 'AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem' a few years ago but have decided to go out on their own for 'Skyline', another adventure involving gunge, guns and puny humans on the receiving end of an ass kicking from things from another world.
Jarrod (Balfour) and girlfriend Elaine (Thompson) fly out to the west coast to join now-minted old pal Terry ('Scrubs' star Faison) and his movie industry buddies for his penthouse birthday party. Drinks flow, poseurs pose, a life-changing offer is made and a bombshell is dropped. But whatever the trouble in paradise, there's going to be a whole lot more in a few hours' time when Elaine and Jarrod wake up to blinding blue light and some other new arrivals in town. They're famished - and the canapés just won't do.
Made for just $10m - and with plenty of scenes taking place in the Strauses' apartment block - 'Skyline' has the kind of effects you'd expect to see in a film with 20 times that budget. There are huge monsters, humans vacuumed into spacecraft and the destruction you normally get from Messrs Emmerich and Bay. There is also one of the flimsiest scripts in recent sci-fi action history, with awful dialogue and characters that make the plots eight-year-old boys give Action Man look like masterpieces of depth and complexity. It feels as if the Strauses polished all the setpieces and then got the scriptwriters involved to put some kind of story around them - fast-moving becomes rushed and whenever someone dies it provokes the same emotional response as a piece of popcorn falling on the floor. With 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'War of the Worlds' for inspiration, just how hard can it be to come up with something that does a bit more for brain and heart?
While 'Skyline' is more like a (great) show reel for the Strauses' technical skills than a satisfying movie, it will make their accountants very happy and a sequel seems a certainty. Next time, however, the brothers need to spend a few more months in front of a computer - and not just to make more 200-foot aliens rampage through swimming pools.
It's hard to see many girlfriends being thrilled about sitting through this movie. Lads, if yours is, marry her.