Directed by Anthony Burns
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Review Date: August 26, 2011
Talented writer Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez) has finished high school but doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He works evenings at the Skateland roller skating palace in a small Texas town and when he has time off, he spends it partying with good buddies Kenny (Taylor Handley) and Brent (Heath Freeman), the latter a former champion motorcycle racer whose career has now ended. Ritchie is also very close to his family: a younger sister (Haley Ramm) who worships him and his mother (Melinda McGraw) and father (Brett Cullen) who are divorcing. He’s also in an on again-off again romance with Brent’s sister Michelle (Ashley Greene). She wants to leave town and wants Ritchie to go with her, but he’s comfortable there with his friends and his job and is in no hurry to make changes.
Co-star Heath Freeman co-wrote the script with director Anthony Burns and producer Brandon Freeman, so the three buddy friendship seems to have been extended from real life to reel life. Too bad, then, that the three party scenes which show the extent of their obviously close friendships are so uninvolving. The producer-writer-director trio seem to be going for some leftover vibes from The Last Picture Show, another coming of age story set in Texas of the past (this film takes place in 1983) with a soon-to-be-closing town landmark (movie theater in Bagdonovich’s iconic film; the roller palace here), but that film featured amazing performances, truly interesting characters, and a director who found incisive poignancy in the passing of an era. Even when this film goes for poignancy (the death of one of the buddies), it counts for nothing because we don’t care about any of the characters. Burns directs some action scenes with some skill; there’s a deadly road chase late in the film that livens things up a bit, and there are some evocative shots of skaters working the rink (which the film could have used a lot more of instead of those dreary party scenes). On the other hand, he stages a montage of potential job placements for Ritchie that aren’t nearly as funny or charming as they’re meant to be.
Three of the adults make the greatest impressions, pretty deadly when the true focus of the film is on the young people. Still, Brett Cullen etches a moving portrait of a man crushed by his wife’s infidelity. A.J. Buckley as the owner of the closing roller rink has some amiable moments. D.W. Moffett pops up amusingly as a restaurant manager whom Ritchie goes to see for a job. Of the leading roles, Shiloh Fernandez is earnest but not especially charismatic as the talented Ritchie while Heath Freeman’s Brent is a run-of-the-mill good ol’ boy. Ashley Greene is pretty but nondescript as Ritchie’s love interest Michelle while James Hébert’s town bad boy Tommy Dillday doesn’t quite talk the talk or walk the walk to convince as the film’s principal antagonist.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a fairly mediocre high definition transfer featuring only average sharpness (with random shots that offer a bit more than that) and milky contrast that doesn’t aid color richness or saturation levels. Flesh tones vary according to the scene, but they are occasionally too pink and sometimes unnaturally muddy. Black levels are also rather average. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses music as the primary source for surround envelopment. There are plenty of pop tunes of the era which get nicely spread through the listening environment. There are also some impressive ambient sounds which sporadically find their ways to the fronts and rears including car drive-bys and an especially good usage of the soundfield during that suspenseful car chase late in the film. Dialogue isn’t always discernible, either due to mumbling actors which wasn’t fixed in post production or overloud music which obscures what is being said.
There are ten deleted/extended scenes which must be played in a 34-minute montage. They’re presented in 480i.
The disc offers 1080p promo trailers for Win Win, Henry’s Crime, The 5th Quarter, and Terri.
2/5 (not an average)
Skateland doesn’t offer comedy or drama of any outstanding merit. Obviously, attention to period detail has gone into the production, but when your story and your characters don’t spark much interest, the movie’s noblest intentions don’t count for much.