Director: The Brothers Strause, Hopscotch Entertainment, Rated M, 92 Minutes

It is hard to imagine a couple of visual effects experts like the Strause Brothers turning their hand to directing a large scale sci-fi movie and achieving the type of success enjoyed by Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day.
   Despite having demonstrated their special effects skills in such movies as The Incredible Hulk and 2012 (as well as in their current movie Skyline), it is clear that their directorial efforts in this production are well below par- not even reaching the viewing interest of their initial sci-fi venture, Aliens vs Predators-Requiem.
   Using the theme and some scenes obviously borrowed from Independence Day (including the TV series V), the opening scenes show a group of friends gathering for an all night birthday bash in one of Los Angeles’ luxurious apartments, only to find on the following morning huge spaceships hovering above and attacking the city with a range of missiles.
   The small cast is headed by Eric Balfour (from the TV series 24) who plays Jarrod, Scottie Thompson (TV’s The Closer) is his girlfriend Elaine, Donald Faison (TV’s Scrubs) is the birthday boy Terry, Brittany Daniel (TV’s The Game) is his partner Candice and Crystal Reed is Terry’s secretary/mistress Denise.
    Sensing that it is an alien invasion (which was already realised by the audience) the five friends attempt to leave the apartment only to see two of them get zapped by the roaming aliens.
   Jarrod and his two remaining companions then come across Oliver (David Zayas from TV’s Law and Order), the apartment block’s concierge and together agree to remain where they are-in the hope that the aliens will ultimately leave or be stopped by the US military.
   It is hard to fully fathom the intention of the Strause Brothers in making such a movie (of only 92 minute duration) which lacks any background, credible cast, character development or a logical plot.
   The only saving grace is the special effects but even those tend to have been overdone at the expense of any meaningful dialogue.
   It would also appear in the conclusion that the Strause Brothers have hinted at a sequel having not realised that their Skyline must rate as one of the worst sci-fi movies to hit the big screen.
VIC'S VERDICT:       1½ Rubber Stamps

The Karate Kid
   Release date: 8 December
   Director: Harald Zwart, Sony Pictures, Rated PG, 140 Minutes

In time for the Christmas period comes Sony’s latest DVD The Karate Kid which is Dutch director Harald Zwart’s remake of the 1984 classic which became a smash hit due to a well-told story and the perfect casting of its two main characters.
   This time around Zwart has cast Will Smith’s son Jaden as Dre in the lead role and Jackie Chan in the role of his mentor Mr Han.
    Instead of the United States, the setting is China and the plot concerns a 12-year-old boy from Detroit who moves to China with his mother (Taraji P. Henson) and soon incurs the wrath of the neighbourhood bully named Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) due to Dre’s fondness for Chinese girl Meiying (Wenwen Han).
   Dre forms an unlikely alliance with handyman, Mr. Han, a kung fu master who teaches him the secrets to self-defence.
   Those who found the original movie enjoyable will be particularly pleased with both the storyline and both Smith’s and Chan’s portrayal of their characters, with Smith in particular providing a brilliant performance as “The Karate Kid” at the same time as seeking acceptance in a foreign culture.
   This is certainly one DVD that should appeal to the whole family as an addition to one’s movie collection, being a thoroughly engaging and entertaining movie.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

   Release date: 22 December
   Director: Phillip Noyce, Columbia Pictures, Rated M, 100 Minutes

A much anticipated DVD release is Australian director Phillip Noyce’s fast-paced spy thriller Salt which is reminiscent of the action scenes in ‘The Bourne’ movies.
   Noyce teams up again with academy award winning actress Angelina Jolie playing CIA agent Evelyn Salt, accused of being a Russian “sleeper” spy.
   As she begins to exit the building Salt (Jolie) is asked by her boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) to interrogate a Russian defector named Vassily Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski).
   With her fellow agents watching, Orlov tells Salt of how during the Cold War hundreds of Russian children were secretly smuggled into the US where they served as sleeper agents until such time as they might be activated. 
   Orlov then tells her that one such agent is Evelyn Salt whose assignment is to kill the Russian President during his visit to the US.
   Rejecting the accusation Salt stages an amazing escape from her CIA colleagues-which begins a thrilling cat and mouse chase led by key security agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
   Noyce has characteristically ensured that there are plenty of twists and turns in his clever plot and even though some of the action scenes are quite unbelievable it is a movie that is lots of fun to watch.
   With Noyce keeping the action constantly flowing and Jolie maintaining a high octane performance this is one movie that definitely belongs in the home movie collection not to mention the range of bonus features (such as The Ultimate Female Action Hero) included in the DVD and Blu-ray editions-making this an ideal present this Christmas.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

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