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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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    Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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    Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

    Directed by Charles Martin Smith


    I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

    Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

    Now let’s get to it.

    First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

    Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

    I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

    Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

    It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

    And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

    Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

    This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

    And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

    Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

    In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

    That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

    Rockstar lighting for days.

    Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

    Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

    More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

    Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

    Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

    All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

    Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

    • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
    3.5

    Summary

    Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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    User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.08 (13 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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