Skateland (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 1, 2011 by  

“Skateland” is a film that takes place in the ’80s that showcases awesome music from the era and really goes out in making the era look realistic for this low budget film.  Just because the film is low budget doesn’t mean the Blu-ray looks like it.  Shot in 35mm, the picture quality on Blu-ray is very good and the lossless soundtrack really showcases the music.  While the film does have its flaws, definitely better than other films set in the ’80s released this year.

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Images courtesy of © 2009 Skateland Productions. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Skateland


DURATION: 98 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English SDH and Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Violence, Some Sexuality, Language, Substance Abuse and Smoking – Involving Teens)

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2011

Directed by Anthony Burns

Written by Anthony Burns, Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman

Produced by Anthony Burns, Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman, Justin Gilley, Nicholas Jayanty, Victor Moyers

Music by Michael Penn

Cinematoraphy by Peter Simonite

Edited by Robert Hoffman

Casting by Jennifer L. Smith, Tricia Wood

Production Design by Christopher Stull

Set Decoration by Bart Brown

Costume Design by Kari Perkins


Ashley Greene as Michelle Burkham

Brett Cullen as David Wheeler

Shiloh Fernandez as Ritchie Wheeler

D.W. Moffett as Jimmy Houston

Taylor Handley as Kenny Crawford

James LeGros as Clive Burkham

Haley Ramm as Mary Wheeler

A.J. Buckley as Teddy

Casey LaBow as Candy Boyce

Melinda McGraw as Debbie Wheeler

Ellen Hollman as Deana Trammel

David Sullivan as Luther

Heath Freeman as Brent Burkham

As the world around him changes, a small town boy is thrust into adulthood and must face the uncertainties of his new life in the mesmerizing and nostalgic SKATELAND, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD August 30 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, SKATELAND paints a stunning picture of the economic and social stresses of the early 1980s and features a talented young cast. Ashley Greene (Twilight saga) and Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) co-star in this powerful coming-of-age drama that took the film festival circuit by storm. For Ritchie Wheeler (Fernandez), a carefree teenager growing up in a small Texas town, Skateland is more than just a local roller rink…it’s a fading symbol of friendship and good times. Now, everything’s changing and the only thing Ritchie can hang on to is his budding romance with the sweet and beautiful Michelle (Greene). But one fateful night will force Ritchie to face the future and make the most important decision of his life.

Have you been nostalgic for the ’80s lately?

Well, you may want to check out “Skateland”, the latest film from director Anthony Burns  (“Pandemic”),  a coming-of-age film set in 1983 featuring hit songs from that year, people hanging out at the local roller rink and a group of young adults partying all night long!

The film is co-written by Burns, Brandon Freeman and actor Heath Freeman (“Bones”), who also stars in the film.

The low-budget indie film also stars Shiloh Fernandez (“Red Riding Hood”, “Interstate”, “Deadgirl”), Ashley Greene (“Twilight” films), Bret Cullen (“Ghost Rider”, “Apollo 13”, “Monte Carlo”), Haley Ramm (“X-Men: The Last Stand”, “Into the Wild”, “Flightplan”), Taylor Handley (“Battle Los Angeles”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) and Melinda McGraw (“The Dark Knight”, “Men of a Certain Age”).

The film takes place in 1983 in a small town in Texas.  19-year-old Ritchie Wheeler (played by Shiloh Fernandez) is a teenager who works at a roller skate rink and loves to hang out with his good friends Brent Burkham (played by Heath Freeman), a pro racer; Brent’s younger sister Michelle (played by Ashley Greene), who hangs out and also likes Ritchie; and his wealthy and party-loving friend Kenny Crawford (played by Taylor Handley).

While Ritchie loves to have fun, his personal life is not as exciting.  He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, his sister Mary, the more responsible one in the family, wants him to apply for colleges and his parents David (played by Bret Cullen) and his mom Debbie (played by Melinda McGraw) are on the brink of divorce.

So, because he wants to escape from the troubles at his home, he loves hanging out with his good friends and party.  But that’s all Ritchie does…

Ritchie knows he needs to get a job as the skating rink, “Skateland” will be closing down.  And he can either work with his father or doing something with his life.

Eventually, things begin to heat up between Ritchie and his best friend’s sister Michelle and as for Ritchie, when he sees his mother with another man it starts to affect his life at home and further complicates any plans he wants to make in his life.

But when a tragedy occurs, life for these friends will never ever be the same and Ritchie is forced to consider what he wants to do with his life.


“Skateland” is a low-budget film but the film looks absolutely great on Blu-ray.  The film was shot on 35 mm and there is good amount of grain, but also detail.  You can see the skin detail of the character’s very well, the lighting is nicely done and black levels are nice and deep. I detected no DNR, edge enhancement or banding.

So, for the most part, the clarity and detail look very good and also features quite a bit of color as well.


“Skateland” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and while there is good ambiance coming from the surround channel, I have to say that the audio is what I loved about the film.

For one, a lot of ’80s hits are featured throughout the film and second, unlike a few of the films based on the ’80s that have come out this year, at least they got the era right.

From Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages”, Modern English’s “I Melt With You”, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” to name a few, there is a good amount of music throughout this film and the music does play over the surround channels quite a bit.

There are some action-based scenes but for the most part, this is a dialogue and music-driven lossless soundtrack. Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.


“Skateland comes with the following special feature:

  • Deleted Scenes – (34:06) Featuring ten deleted scenes.

“Skateland” is a low budget indie film that doesn’t seem like it and to give the film some credit, I did enjoy it over a film such as “Take Me Home Tonight” (another film based in the ’80s) mainly because they got the music and the look right for 1983. The film really has to give credit to their costume design by Kari Perkins and also Bart Brown of set decoration for capturing the look and feel of the ’80s.

It’s something I’m very critical about when I see a film that takes place in the ’80s and most importantly, for a low budget film, they sure did manage to get a lot of ’80s hit songs in this film.  So, needless to say, I was quite surprised by the musical soundtrack. With that being said, “Skateland” is a film that is a straightforward coming-of-age film.

While the film does have its fun and entertaining moments, the screenplay felt that it jumped ahead of itself and not thoroughly building upon character development and also awkward direction.

For example, in one scene, Ritchie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Michelle (Ashley Greene) are discussing their future together.  Instead of showcasing the faces of each character, they leave the camera focused on the character of Michelle for a good amount of time and didn’t even show Ritchie’s face at all during the conversation.

That was a bit odd but it made me wonder if the scene was re-shot, with someone standing in for Fernandez who may have contributed his voice during post-production. Another scene that felt odd is once the tragedy occurs, we see Ritchie becoming a bit emotional but then all of sudden, when he gets home…he seems alright. It was not the type of emotion you would expect from a guy who was involved in a tragic accident.

And just to add one more awkward scene to discuss, there is a scene when Ritchie is dropped of at home by his mother.  After he talks to his mother, he grabs her head and goes for a kiss and leaves.  You don’t see that many intimate mother and son kisses on screen like that…and I found that scene a bit awkward.

Then there are scenes that just didn’t make since.  I guess to show more of that ’80s nostalgia or for comedy purposes, you have these two characters that show up in the party, doing moonwalks and talking nonsense.  These characters really  have nothing to contribute to the overall storyline and seemed to be thrown into the film for nostalgia sake.

Sure, I may have over-thought these scenes a bit too much but these few scenes stick out and made me question the screenplay.  Sure, there are some things featured in the film were unnecessary and trimmed out scenes (which can be seen on the deleted scenes) that would have added some depth to the characters but there were plenty of scenes that should have been trimmed out.

Still, despite the film’s flaws, there are positives.  Ashley Greene definitely showed her emotional side as an actress and definitely shows that she can do more than what she had done on the “Twilight” films and once again, I bring up the music because the film has has an awesome musical soundtrack.

Not sure how much the film was budgeted for but for a low budget indie-film, they sure were able to get a lot in terms of casting and music.  So, that was a plus!

And I did enjoy it much more than other recent films that take place in the ’80s. Overall, “Skateland” was an OK coming-of-age films which has its fair share of flaws but is one of the better modern films that is set in the ’80s that manages to capture the overall look and the music is just right!

If you are nostalgic for the ’80s, definitely give “Skateland” a try!

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