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Attack the Block (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Attack the Block on Blu-ray and DVDStarring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost, Alex Esmail

Written and directed by Joe Cornish

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


I absolutely fell in love with writer/director Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block back in July when it hit a very limited number of theaters during its brief theatrical run, and after revisiting the flick (for the fourth time this year) on Blu-ray this week, I was impressed to see that Cornish’s story still manages to maintain both its energy and entertainment value even while sitting at home alone. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more inventive and enjoyable film this year than Attack the Block, and what Sony delivers for us BlockHeads on its Blu-ray presentation is downright perfection.

If you missed Attack the Block in theaters, the flick takes off running when a rag-tag gang of hoodlums from South London decide to mug a young woman named Sam (Whittaker) on her way home from work. Their crime doesn’t go exactly according to plan as the thugs are interrupted by an incoming meteor of sorts that crash lands into a car parked nearby.

Inside the falling meteor is a small alien that attacks gang leader Moses (Boyega) and quickly scurries off to safety. But Moses being the tough guy he is takes exception to the attack and decides to hunt the alien down and kill it in retaliation. After declaring victory over the alien, Moses soon realizes that the creature may have some value so he decides to stash his conquest in the home of a local drug dealer. However, the young group of rebels soon comes to realize that the alien they killed wasn’t alone, and now it’s up to them to defend their “block” against the invaders before the creatures take them out, one by one.

Attack the Block is like a love-letter to so many of my favorite films that I discovered as a child growing up during the 80s; yet, what makes Attack the Block something of a rarity these days is that it cleverly walks the homage line and manages to never come off feeling like it’s trying to rip-off any of the films its paying tribute to. With hints of ET, The Monster Squad, The Warriors and Goonies, Attack the Block is easily the best alien-themed flick of the year (sorry Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens).

What also makes Attack the Block somewhat of a standout is Cornish’s incredibly intelligent script which cleverly explores of the concept of territoriality in lower-income housing as well as society’s portrayal of the troubled youth culture. It’s a rarity in genre filmmaking to get stories that not only feel socially relevant but also manage to deliver top-notch edge-of-your-seat entertainment as well. Don’t worry- Attack the Blocknever gets preachy since filmmaker Cornish is too busy keeping us either laughing or terrified throughout the film to ever let the story get too heavy-handed.

The most impressive aspect to Attack the Block (beyond Cornish’s overall approach) has to be the genuinely talented cast of mostly fresh faces the director assembled to bring this story to life. It’s a remarkable feat to have a movie be comprised mainly of fresh talent that have never been in a movie before and pull that off successfully, but Cornish clearly has an eye for talent because every single performance in Attack the Blockis raw and compelling. While there are a few veteran actors in the film (Shaun of the Dead‘s Frost being one of them), it’s the first-timers that truly shine here- especially Boyega, Esmail and the youngster duo of Sammy Williams (Probs) and Michael Ajao (Mayhem), who damn near steal the movie from everyone.

But it’s Boyega’s performance as Moses that is crucial to the success of Attack the Block‘s story, and the newcomer delivers an assured performance that would garner some award nominations if there were any true justice in the awards show world. And as Moses’ right-hand man Pest, Esmail is an absolute delight and shows shades of comedic brilliance displaying the up-and-coming actor’s potential as well.

The inexperience of the cast and the crew of Attack the Block ends up actually working in the film’s favor, much like what happened in 2008’s Cloverfield by Matt Reeves – what could have been a tired retread of every other monster movie that preceded it ends up feeling fresh and inventive experience for viewers. In fact, some of the best moments of Attack the Block for this writer involved the teens just shooting the breeze over the mayhem unfolding around them as it kept me engaged with what these teens were going through.

And for those of you who think that teens sitting around talking may not be enough to keep your interests piqued, don’t worry because the movie also features plenty of crazy-cool action sequences and delightfully gory moments that will definitely keep your pulse racing until the final showdown between the teens and the aliens during the film’s frenzied climax.

As a lover of all things related to practical effects in film, I thought the creature design in Attack the Block was pretty spectacular too, delivering one of the most ingenious designs of the last 25 years. In a world that seems to rely too much on CGI to create monsters today, Cornish’s desire to use practical effects in the flick was not only an admirable decision but it lent a whole new level of authenticity to the film which definitely elevated parts of the story as well as the performances of the entire cast.

For some fans out there, the biggest issue they will end up having with Attack the Block is the language. If you’re not one who fancies themselves up on British lingo, then a lot of the dialogue may come off as nonsensical; however, Attack the Block is absolutely worth pushing through even if you may not be able to follow along with what some of the characters are saying. In fact, Attack the Block played better the second time around for this writer since I was a bit more comfortable with the jargon then and, frankly, was even better the third time since I really felt immersed in the language of this world.

Attack the Block is a truly remarkable debut film that establishes Cornish as a compelling storyteller that isn’t afraid to take calculated risks. The alien invasion flick has something for everyone- great laughs, interesting character arcs, intense action sequences and some down-right chilling and gory moments too and proves that original ideas within the genre realm are still very much alive and kicking.

In terms of the Blu-ray presentation of Attack the Block, Sony definitely makes up for its lack of support during the flick’s theatrical run by delivering a stellar home release of the movie that features a rather extensive and entertaining selection of bonus features. The hour-long Behind the Block documentary is thorough and engaging, really digging deep into what makes Attack the Block such a remarkable feature film and provides a (sometimes brutally) candid look at the grueling process everyone went through to get the movie made the right way.

And while Behind the Block is definitely fascinating and both the Meet the Gang and That’s a Rap featurettes are also highly enjoyable as well, it’s the Creature Feature mini-doc that wis definitely the most entertaining and interesting to watch of the bunch; not only does it take you through the creature design process with both the practical and visual effects teams, but it’s also a showcase for Terry Notary, the lead creature in Attack the Block, who also worked alongside Cornish and the effects teams to develop the look and the feel of the alien. For you practical creature effects geeks out there (like this writer), this featurette is absolute gold.

There’s no doubt that the BlockHeads out there will be pleased by this exceptional presentation of Attack the Block on Blu-ray; it’s everything you could possibly want to know about the flick and then so much more. For those of you who may not have caught the movie when it hit limited theaters earlier this year, Sony’s Blu-ray release is no doubt a fantastic way to experience the movie for the very first time, too.

Special Features

  • “Junior” commentary with writer/director Joe Cornish and actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones
  • “Senior” commentary with Cornish and actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost
  • “Executive Producer” commentary with Cornish and executive producer Edgar Wright
  • Behind the Block featurette
  • Creature Feature featurette
  • Meet the Gang featurette
  • Unfilmed Action featurette
  • That’s a Rap featurette

    Film

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features

    5 out of 5

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    IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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    Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

    On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

    The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

    While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

    What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

    While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

    • Alive in New Light
    5.0

    Summary

    IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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    The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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    Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

    Directed by John Law


    I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

    The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

    The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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