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Case Number 05577: Small Claims Court

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Fire In The Sky

Paramount // 1992 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 15th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle isn't quite sure, but he thinks he may have been anally probed by an alien while on a New York subway.

The Charge

Alien abduction.
November 5, 1975.
White Mountains, Northeastern Arizona.
Based on the true story.

The Case

Fire In The Sky takes place in the mountains of Arizona in 1975. A group of men doing forestry work for the government—led by Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney, The Cutting Edge) and Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day)—suddenly come across a large, glowing light in the sky. When they trek into the woods to find out what it is, Travis exits their truck only to be thrown to the ground (and presumed dead by his friends) by a large beam from the heavens. The men flee in terror, and when their town refuses to believe their story, Mike and his buddies are suspected of murder. As Mike tries to fend of the town's accusations and distrust, Travis is found five days later, naked, bruised, and frightened. When the officer on the case (James Garner, My Fellow Americans) finally gets a chance to talk with Travis about his whereabouts, he hears an explanation that is truly out of this world!

Why is it aliens only abduct backwoods yahoos who have jobs like cutting down trees and live in broken-down trailer parks? I know that others have speculated about this theory before, but really—if any space aliens are reading this, can't you for once pick up someone like Oprah or Harrison Ford? If they came back telling us aliens probed their anus, I honestly think that 99.2% of Americans would suddenly start believing in UFOs. But it's not them, it's always some zip-head who wears a flannel pullover and spends his Friday nights at places called "Bud's Beer & Fish Fry House" that get scooped by evil E.T. wannabes. Such is the case in Fire In The Sky, a fine little alien thriller about what happens when your best buddy is snatched by extraterrestrials, and then thrown him back to earth, naked and clinging to an ice machine at a local gas station.

I enjoyed Fire In The Sky more than I thought I would, which is to say I had low expectations. I assumed the film would be a boring alien tale with cheesy effects and bland performances. What I got was a film that sports excellent actors (including Robert Patrick, D.B. Sweeney, Henry Thomas, and James Garner), and an ending that was both terrifying and fun to look at. The production design of the spaceship itself is otherworldly and spooky. When Travis awakens to his unfamiliar surroundings, he pulls himself out of a cocoon-like bunker and thrusts himself into some ooey, gooey horror that would scare the feces right out of my bunghole. As for the aliens themselves…well, though they're not great looking, they're not bad either (and besides, after all the movies made about aliens, is there really anything more Hollywood can do to make them look original?).

Robert Patrick is the best player in this film, a man who finds himself judged by his town for the disappearance of his best friend. Even though he and his buddies know they did not kill Travis—and the audience does as well, since we see him get blasted by a huge light from the sky—Patrick's character walks a fine line between telling the truth and knowing how silly his story sounds. Patrick is surrounded by a batch of actors who play their parts accordingly: Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, and Henry Thomas all do a fine job of being morose and frustrated by the town's inability to believe their story. Sheffer is the only one who comes off looking slightly silly—his bandana wearing, bad-ass attitude-sporting Alan Dallis is overacting at its finest.

Fire In The Sky is an example of a well-constructed thriller that is equal parts horror and drama. And to think all of this is supposedly based on a true story (whether you believe it or not is up to you, loyal reader). I was never bored by the storyline on earth, and the stuff off in the heavens is something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy (with the exception of Osama Bin Ladin…that guy has the words "alien enema" written all over him).

Fire in the Sky is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture here looks very good for its age. Most of the colors here are well rendered and bright, though there is a slight amount of edge enhancement once in a great while (though it's never intrusive to the viewing). The black levels are solid and dark without any grayness. Dirt and any major defects are absent from the picture. Overall this is a fine looking transfer—kudos to Paramount!

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. I can't say this is an overly exciting 5.1 mix—most of the movie takes place on earth, and often it's a front heavy mix. Some ambient sounds and a few '70s rock songs leap through the rear speakers, though the bulk of the activity happens when Travis is seen on the alien spacecraft. Otherwise, this soundtrack works well with the film it's supporting. Also included on this disc are English subtitles, as well as a Dolby 2.0 Sound mix in English and a French Stereo track.

Holy cow! Aliens must have abducted this disc's extra features—nary a trailer is to be found on this DVD.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Biographical
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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