1. Attack The Block
Chances are, the only way the name ‘Joe Cornish’ would ring a bell is if it was absorbed subliminally from the poster of a certain Holiday blockbuster hopeful:
Aaah, now it’s all coming together, eh? No? Well anyway, Joe Cornish is a British guy and friend to Edgar Wright (also on the above poster) who directed Brit comedy favorites, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and most recently the noble but disappointing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. So, Edgar’s pal Joe directed a nigh-on perfect action comedy in the summer. Naturally, it wasn’t quite as high profile as all the robot movies, the super movies, the alien movies and the ‘splosion movies, so you might have just missed it. It’s called ATTACK THE BLOCK and it was the best movie of the summer. Oh, and it’s also an alien movie. So you’re probably thinking, “I never heard about it, that probably means it was lame”, but you’d be wrong. I shall now show you what you’re missing:
Yes, that is a London teenager with a samurai sword and a strange creature on his back being chased by a pack of ravenous alien wolf-monkeys. This is the level of awesome this film delivers. The story is about a group of young ruffians who live in a large low-rent apartment building, or ‘block’ in the slums of south London. After mugging a young woman, a strange comet streaks out of the sky and hits the ground. Out jumps a nasty little creature which they promptly beat to death, but soon more comets start hitting the ground and a more aggressive breed of carnivorous aliens starts to surround the block. It’s up to the band of friends and the rest of the block’s residents: the twenty-something white girl, the drug-dealing gang leader, the weed-growing couch potato and his customer the intelligent slacker to learn how to get along and fight back to defend their home turf.
Attack The Block is the best kind of action/comedy. It’s genuinely scary, sometimes dipping into the horror genre, genuinely funny, it breaks rules (‘kids can’t die’) and it’s got a heart. The message of urban community is really welcome and never hammy. You’re given good reason to love the heroes and hate the villains. I was actually rooting for the characters in this movie, and I haven’t rooted for anyone in a long time. It’s one of the few films I’ve seen that the label ‘comedy’ among its genres does not make it any less scary or emotional. There’s nothing not to love about Attack the Block. Fans of Shaun of the Dead will be right at home with the genre, and for newcomers, it’s going to be a pleasant surprise.
2. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Elisabeth Olsen’s portrayal of a recently escaped member of a New England cult is a not-to-be-missed performance. She’s going to be a star, though not in the way her sisters are. She’s got those Maggie Gyllenhall doe-eyes and some serious talent. It helps that the movie is good too. It’s also just a strong a debut for director Sean Durkin who never makes a misstep, and keeps the story practical, compelling and just as dreamy as it needs to be without turning into arthouse vomit.
MMMM is not exactly a ‘drama’. It’s a thriller, but a slow one. I was reminded of Hitchock’s MARNIE, (another ‘M’ movie), in the way that it slowly builds tension, fear and dread. This is a really scary movie, mostly due to John Hawkes, the film’s Manson, and heavier than your average indie film. Durkin never resorts to shock tactics. The fear is genuine and never smacks of social commentary (the exclusion of religion from the ‘family’ was both conscious and welcome). The result is a unique psychological thriller that doesn’t take any decoding or ‘ subjective interpretation’ of the plot to know and feel what’s going on. I was never lost or wondering if I was watching a flashback or a hallucination. There are no tricks. It’s blessedly straightforward, and all the more impactful for being so.
Stay tuned for more!