Lost Review: Attack the Block

Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and articles.

With John Boyega getting his “big break” in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at his first starring role.

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Attack the Block
Reviewed by Rick Klaw
(July 2011)
Directed and written by Joe Cornish

Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and Nick Frost

Following in the successful footsteps of recent low budget science fiction films District 9, Moon, and Monsters, writer/director Joe Cornish’s freshman outing Attack the Block, produced for an estimated £9 million (roughly $14 million), delivers a superior diversion, grounded in a quality script and innovate direction.

After mugging young nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a group of South London teens witness a small meteor crash into a nearby car. While searching the vehicle for valuables, an alien, a three foot high being that looks like a hideous skinless baby, bites gang leader Moses (John Boyega) and runs away. The boys give chase, eventually catching and killing it. Wielding their trophy, the thugs return to their block, an urban apartment building for the poor similar to the America projects. Soon terrifying creatures—a cross between a large dog and a small bear with pitch black fur, no eyes, and glowing white teeth—hunt the scared young men. In desperation, they eventually turn to the savvy Sam to help keep their wits and sanity.

Masterfully manipulating his meager budget, Cornish effectively employs actors in suits, rather than the now-standard and more costly digital portrayal, for his scary monsters and uses his native South London as the gritty backdrop. Employing age-appropriate actors, fronted by the mesmerizing newcomer Boyega, the motivations and emotions of the clever and impetus group lend an air of realism to an otherwise absurd concept. The wholesome Whittaker supplies a much needed counter to the testosterone-infused scenes as the mother/sister/object of desire. The popular Nick Frost (Paul) adequately supplies his nearly stereotypical comic relief role as the bumbling stoner.

The intelligent story offers no explanation for the origin of the aliens nor does it ever waiver from the ground level urban perspective. The fun and creative action sequences provide more excitement than the vast majority of big budget productions.

An exciting, often humorous and unique 88 minutes, Attack the Block, much like the movies mentioned above, heralds a major new imaginative filmmaker. See it now before Hollywood spits out the inevitable crappy remake.

Michael Moorcock Presents The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup Award

The occasion of Michael Moorcock’s birthday got me thinking about a little known aspect of the extraordinary polymath ‘s award-winning career: The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup Award.

Michael Moorcock presenting the The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Award Cup to Howard Waldrop

Michael Moorcock presenting the The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Award Cup to Howard Waldrop (photo: Elze Hamilton)

 

Maintained and awarded by Moorcock, The Jack Trevor was originally presented to the writer of the story in the Time Out series of London stories that he best liked. In more recent times, a special committee, organized by Moorcock, determines the winner, typically for excellence in humorous writing. The five hundred guinea prize is given with the following conditions: The entire award must be spent “in a week to a fortnight” and the recipient must have nothing to show for it. Most winners use the money for a big night or a foreign vacation. One winner, a trawlerman from Hull who spent the money with the expertise of a drunken sailor before he got home, had to spend the money all over again just to prove to his shipmates that he’d won it.

The Cup awarded to Steve Aylett

The Cup awarded to Steve Aylett (photo: John Coulthart)

The unique terms of the award are based on Jack Trevor Story‘s famous words when asked at his second bankruptcy what happened to money from his films The Trouble with Harry and Live Now, Pay Later. The judge wondered how he managed to go through so much without having a thing to show for it.

You know how it is, your honour ‑‑ two hundred or two thousand ‑‑ it always lasts a week to a fortnight. You can spend a couple of hundred easy just going around the supermarket.

Past winners have included Fred NormandaleSteve Aylett, Nicholas Lezard, and Howard Waldrop (the only American so honored). The memorial cup is just that. A cup with the words Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup written on the side in magic marker.

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The Other Worlds Austin 2015 preview Day 3

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After last years successful first offering, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns thisThursday, December 3 at the Galaxy Highland Theater. The three day event has grown to include 13 full length films, a secret Star Wars-related screening, and a variety of shorts. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the festival.

Over the next three days, I will preview the 13 features.

House of Time

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Jonathan Helpert | France | 86 min

Writer: Jean Helpert
Cast: Maxime Dambrin, Laura Boujenah, Benjamin Wangermee, Julia Piaton, David Atrakchi

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Robert d’Eglantine has uncovered secret Nazi scientific research on time travel. He tells his guests he has taken them seventy years back in time, to 1944, during the French Occupation and only few weeks before the landing in Normandy. Although the house and everything inside seem the same, the appearance of a woman in the French Resistance, on the run from her Nazi captors, make them question if Robert may just be telling the truth. Or is the woman just an actress? Or was she an actress before the occupation and now a revolutionary?

(Saturday, 5)

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The Other Worlds Austin 2015 preview Day 2

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After last years successful first offering, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns thisThursday, December 3 at the Galaxy Highland Theater. The three day event has grown to include 13 full length films, a secret Star Wars-related screening, and a variety of shorts. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the festival.

Over the next three days, I will preview the 13 features.

 

Projet-M

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Eric Piccoli | Canada | 98 min

Writers: Julien Deschamps Jolin, Eric Piccoli, Mario J. Ramos
Cast: Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Julie Perreault, Julien Deschamps Jolin, Nadia Essadiqi, Pierre Verville

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Orbiting the Earth aboard a space station for 1,000 days to prepare for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, four astronauts face unforeseen crises when a war breaks out on Earth below. Arguing whether to break off their mission, or what to do about the loss of communication from headquarters, or what to do about the other satellites orbiting the Earth, the team and themselves more alone than they could have prepared for.

(Friday, 10:15)

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The Other Worlds Austin 2015 preview Day 1

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Designed by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After last years successful first offering, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns thisThursday, December 3 at the Galaxy Highland Theater. The three day event has grown to include 13 full length films, a secret Star Wars-related screening, and a variety of shorts. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the festival.

Over the next three days, I will preview the 13 features.

 

Boy 7

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Özgür Yildirim | Germany | 110 min

Writers: Philip Delmaar, Marco van Geffen, Özgür Yildirim based on the novel by Mirjam Mous
Cast: David Kross, Emilia Schüle, Ben Münchow, Jens Harzer, Jörg Hartmann, Liv Lisa Fries

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Sam wakes up in the middle of the tracks of a subway tunnel. He can’t remember his name or how he got there. When he sees himself on a wanted picture, he realizes that his life is in extreme danger and his pursuers are hot on his heels. Unexpectedly, he finds a diary written in his own handwriting, and it seems to be the key to everything. When a young woman appears, who has the same burn as him on her left hand, a dangerous journey into thepast begins. BOY 7 is a SciFi RUN LOLA RUN, an adrenaline dash through a dystopian society where juvenile delinquents are recruited by the government for their particular ‘skills.’ An adaptation of a best-selling young adult novel that made its World Premiere at Fantasia in Montreal.

(Thursday, 7:42/8:00)

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Fantastic Fest 2015 Preview Day Eight

It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.

As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.

 

Fantastic Fest Preview Day Eight

 

Evolution

Life probably began in the sea. Billions of years ago, amino acids joined together in the primordial soup to form the first simple microbes that evolved over the eons into the complex organisms that now dominate this world. Because of this, we’re frequently drawn to use the sea in film as a metaphor of life. Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s newest film, EVOLUTION, takes our longing of the sea and shows its beauty; even lingers on how wonderfully alien it can be. Life probably began in the sea, but it’s still unknown and deadly to us, as life can certainly also end in the sea.

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Fantastic Fest 2015 Preview Day Seven

It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.

As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.

 

Fantastic Fest Preview Day Seven

 

L’affaire SK1

In the 1990s, Guy Georges killed seven young women in different cities during one of France’s more notorious crime waves. Frederic Teller’s debut recreates the complex events that led to the arrest while also jumping ahead ten year to the trial. At first, rookie detective Frank Magne is given his first assignment, to reread unsolved cases to see if anything was missed. In this case, something was: two murder victims had the same person install a utility. For the next decade, Frank becomes obsessed with finding the killer and fighting corruption inherent in the police bureaucracy, especially after Georges was questioned and released several times over the eight year investigation.

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Fantastic Fest 2015 Preview Day Six

It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.

As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.

 

Fantastic Fest Preview Day Six

 

The Similars

In October of 1968, something unbelievable happened to a group of people stuck in a small bus station five hours outside Mexico City. The first person we meet is Martin. Martin may be stuck in a rut, but at least it’s a calm, familiar rut. He’s waiting out his last days until retirement from his job as the clerk at the bus station. Ulises has bigger problems. His wife is giving birth in a hospital in Mexico City and he’s stuck at Martin’s station. The buses are delayed because of the weather and the old pay phone can’t seem to hold a connection. Ulises dejectedly takes a seat and finally notices the elderly woman nodding off in the back corner of the station. But then the very pregnant Irene blows in like a storm. She manages to use the phone to call a taxi. But when she goes to the bathroom, she discovers another person in the station, an odd young lady named Rosa working as a bathroom attendant. Our last three people arrive soon after in a taxi. There’s the young medical student, a concerned mother and her sick son. With all the players present and accounted for, the game is set.

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Fantastic Fest 2015 Preview Day Five

It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.

As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.

 

Fantastic Fest Preview Day Five

 

The Missing Girl

Mort lives a lonely and disillusioned life. In debt, single and unable to make ends meet, he relies on his brother and mother for loans, still drives his dad’s old car and spends most evenings listening to self-affirmation tapes that he personally recorded. However, there’s one ray of hope within his life: the new employee he’s hired for his comic book shop. Ellen is everything Mort is not, a smart, aspiring graphic novelist with an acerbic wit. However, Ellen also has her own share of secrets, and the return of Mort’s bullying high school friend will be the catalyst for events that will change everyone’s lives forever.

THE MISSING GIRL is the new effort from genre director A.D. Calvo, who, for the first time, expands his efforts into something very, very different: the story of everyday people. It’s a smart character study, a black comedy with a genuine heart.

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Fantastic Fest 2015 Preview Day Four

It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.

As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.

 

Fantastic Fest Preview Day Four

 

The Deathless Devil

Channeling the spirit of early Hollywood serials and ingeniously combining it with the most outrageous elements of science fiction, THE DEATHLESS DEVIL is a love letter written in the language of Turkish exploitation.

Director Yilmaz Atadeniz’s brilliant magnum opus opens as scientist Professor Dogan discovers the new ‘tangayt’ metal, which allows him to remotely control all cars and technology. However, the news of his discovery soon gets him in the crosshairs of the mysterious Dr,. Satan who wants to rule the world with an iron fist. The only man who can stop the situation is Tekin, putting on his father’s Copperhead costume and taking up the mantle of fighting crime.

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