Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, J.K. Simmons, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, L.J. Benet, Annie Thurman
Written by: Scott Stewart
Directed by: Scott Stewart
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language - all involving teens
Running Time: 97
Date: 21/02/2013

Dark Skies (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Alien Stagnation

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Scott Stewart, formerly of the San Francisco Special Effects house The Orphanage, has made two great-looking but jumbled movies, Legion and Priest, both drawing on strong ideas from the past but failing to make much new out of them. He continues in that vein here, although Dark Skies is at least subtler and more character-based than expected.

Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) can't find a job, and his wife Lacy (Keri Russell) must keep the family afloat as a real estate saleswoman in a terrible market. On top of that, intruders seem to be breaking into their place, making messes and stealing photos, as well as building bizarre sculptures out of kitchen items. Soon their youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), begins exhibiting strange behavior, and hundreds of birds suddenly slam into their house. Older son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) begins to find teenage life extraordinarily difficult. A visit to a mysterious specialist (J.K. Simmons) confirms that aliens -- called "The greys" -- have been to visit, and that there's not much they can do to stop a potential abduction. Or is there?

Without the aliens, the movie might actually have made an interesting drama. With the aliens, however, it appears to draw heavily on movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist, building a mystery and making use of silences and empty spaces in addition to the little character dramas. Unfortunately, it all adds up to very little. The story is oddly pessimistic. Nothing is learned, no victory is achieved, and even the expected "twist" ending is curiously dull. It's as if the aliens have already won.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release comes with a director's commentary track, and about 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. Quality is above average.

Best Buy Co, Inc.