Attack The Block

Director: Joe Cornish. Starring: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway. UK, 2011. Budget: $13 mln. Box office: $5.8 mln. IMDb: 6.6. RT: 90%. My rating: 3.5/4. A fucked up version of E.T.

attack the block posters

– No idea. Not a bloody clue. Maybe there was a party at the zoo, and a monkey fucked a fish.
(Nick Frost’s character about the alien the boys found)

– You’re quite fit you know? Have you got a boyfriend?
– Yeah.
– You sure about him? Where is he? Cos he ain’t exactly lookin’ out for you tonight.
– He’s in Ghana.
– You going out with an African then?
– No… he… he’s helping children. Volunteers for the Red Cross.
– Oh… is it? Why can’t he help children in Britain? Not exotic enough is it? Don’t get a nice suntan. Tsst.
(conversation between two teens)

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This one is a true gem with a distinctive British flavour. A lovely movie indeed and it’s much more than it seems. It’s kind of a bad street teenager with rough manners, but with a good heart buried deep inside, sentimental and ready for the next adventure. The story starts with a teenage street gang of mixed race in South London suburbia – they find themselves right in a middle of an alien invasion. So i20170205_210824magine mixing the life and language of street teenagers who try to seem cool and control, as they believe, through fear and minor crimes, with the sudden attack of the monsters. Hilarious, scary, atmospheric and sentimental. And all that wrapped in a social context.

Dedicated to all fans of Cornetto trilogy (the director Joe Cornish is a long-time collaborator and friend of Frost, Pegg and Wright).

attack-the-block

”Maybe there was a party at the zoo, and a monkey fucked a fish.”

***

Like in most good sci-fi, the aliens are just a premise for something bigger. The gang members, who l20170205_210726ook rather unpretty in the beginning of the movie when mugging a nurse (and most of them are barely 15 years old), start to gain our sympathy and trust. They learn how to find their own voice and character, to surpass their previous social and ethnic prejudice. I would even dare to say that it makes the film pretty unique. There are plenty of movies where some bad guys are locked up in a place and are forced to protect it and then finally we start to like them more and more (Hi, John Carpenter!). But these kids are not just some c20170205_212226onvicted murderers in prison. They are real teenagers who live in that way, for one reason or another. And you have a chance to see them in a unique environment with aliens and stuff. Even leaving aside all the social context, this is a wonderful and entertaining sci-fi movie.

Surprisingly great acting by mainly unknown to me actors (except of Nick Frost… plus I wrote this review around January 2017, when John Boyega wasn’t fighting one more time against the Dark Side!). If you enjoyed such movies as ”Shaun of the Dead” and ”Hot Fuzz”, then for sure don’t miss this one (by the way, Nick Frost starred in all of them). The effects look great and the monsters’ design is awesome. Minimal, but extremely effective. Here it is:
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Interestingly, this is a debut for both director Joe Cornish and (now famous) John Boyega. Jodie Whittaker has made since then a great appearance in one of my favourite ”Black Mirror” episodes – ”The Entire History of you”. It had a great reception on festivals and from critics. $13 million budget with $5.8 million box office.

By the way, Cornish 20170205_212135describes ”Attack the Block” as “a fucked-up version of E.T.” (one of movies that influenced him most). He is right, it’s pretty fucked up, and it gets quite bloody and violent at times as well. But like I said, remember that street boy. He might be not what he seems, just give him time.

 

Acting:  3.5/4
Spectacularity: 3/4
Originality: 4/4
Pathos level: very low
Final vote: 3.5/4

Some cool fan-made posters:

 

Review: Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil“. Damn, that was unexpected. I somehow totally missed this movie, so thanks to Zoë. It’s neither sci-fi nor horror (at least, not in its traditional form) so I won’t write a full review, but it is a hilarious, witty and original horror comedy, well written and acted. Highly recommended for any fan of my all-time favourite “Cabin in the Woods” or “Shaun of the Dead“.

P. S. By the way… “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” stars Alan Tudyk of “Firefly” and “Serenity“.

tucker-and-dale-vs-evil-doozy-of-a-day

My persional recommendation of a good comedy horror would be an Italian film ”Della Morte, Dell’Amore”. It’s extremely weird, pretty trashy, full of wry humour and… very funny too.

The Sporadic Chronicles

“You want a killer hillbilly? I’ll show you a killer hillbilly.”
– Dale

SYNOPSIS: Affable hillbillies Tucker and Dale are on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they are mistaken for murderers by a group of preppy college students. – via IMDB

I remember when this came out, I was dead set against watching it. One part was being contrary about watching a recommendation from someone I was a) peeved with and b) I considered to have sketchy taste. I did not feel like a stoner movie (his forte). Ultimately I was roped into this by my now-husband, and I was pleased I was. What I thought this movie was and what it turned out to be? Two totally different things. Horror comedy. Why didn’t someone just open with that? You know I would have been all over that!

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is conscious of what it…

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Space Station 76

space_station76Director: Jack Plotnick. Starring: Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer. USA, 2014. IMDb: 4.9. Budget: roughly 1 million. My rating: 2.5/4. Retrofuturistic black parody, Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station.

– Warning. Dr. Bot must remind Misty not to become… too close to her therapist bot.
– I’ve gotta be close to somebody.
– We must keep this professional.
– Don’t be so cold.
– I must maintain objectivity.
– But I feel like…  I just feel like you and I have really been going through it here, you know? I feel like I have really been connecting with you. You know me.
– Emotion overload.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– I’m a leg man, you know?

(a discussion between 2 guys about newly arrived female crew member)

 

Can you imagine the future with corded telephones and colonies on orbital space stations, VHS cassettes and interstellar travel? If you can’t, Jack Plotnick did it for you. ”Space Station 76” is a 1970-s version of the future that never came. And “Space Station 76” has one of the best A.I. ever. Seriously.

 

What I liked. It’s actually easier to describe ”Space Station 76” by saying what it isn’t.

 

It’s not exactly a comedy – at least, not if you understand modern comedy only as ”21 Jump Street” or Seth Rogen-like comedy. It’s more of a Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station-like film. Deadpan humour. You never know when the characters are actually joking – well, probably except for the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot, the true gem of the film.

 

It’s not really a science fiction, or, at least, not in first place – the film mostly mocks its retrofuturistic sci-fi setting and ridiculous 70-s costumes, but in a nice and elegant way. It’s not a pure parody – the film really cares about its characters, never using them just as subjects of ridicule. It’s not an art-house movie – the film is not that experimental and distant from the viewers. Last but not least, it has R rating and uses it smartly – no dick jokes, but deadpan humour. The scene with the frozen dog was just nuts.

 

Combination of all this makes ”Space Station 76” pretty unique – and as it often happens with movies of  this kind, the audience hardly got it. ”I wanted to explore what it was like to be a child growing up in the summer of the 70s, which was my experience, but I wanted to tell it in sort of an artistic way by setting it in the future as we had imagined it would be in the 70s”, said Jack Plotnick in an interview.

 

There’s a weird funny episode when Liv Tyler’s character, Jessica (who just arrived at the space station) and Matt Bomer’s character, Ted (who has been living there for a while with a psychotic wife) are trying to approach each other and having a meaningful intimate conversation. Ted has an artificial arm that sometimes goes out of control. When Jessica, following her romantic impulse, puts Ted’s arm on her heart, the hand goes rogue and starts to squeeze Jessica’s left tit. All of this showed with in a deadpan manner, finishing with Jessica finally saying ”I think I should go now”.. If you like that kind of humour, you’ll find ”Space Station 76” brilliant.

 

Visually it’s a beautiful film. You may accuse it of anything but the style. It really squeezes most of its tiny budget, citing 70-s science fiction classic like Logan’s Run and Star Wars. And Dr. Bot, oh! That’s the quintessence of artificial intellect and a good parody. It reminded me of another oddball movie ”Dark Star”, the episode when Sgt. Pinback was trying to convince the Bomb N. 20 not to explode.

– I need to tell you I have just been feeling… so much better since we started treatment. I mean, like, even just my dreams  have just been better. You know, like, I haven’t been having all those feelings… and I’m just really feeling in the now.
-Feelings can sometimes pull one out of the now and put them in the then. Live in the now, not in the then.
– I don’t wanna be in the then. I wanna be in the now.
– Talking about the now can put one in the then.
– I don’t want to be in the then, I want to be in the now. I wanna move forward…
– Don’t move too far forward, you’ll be out of the now. Not too far forward.  Stay in the now.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– What are you thinking in the midst of this silence?
– Actually, I was thinking about smoking.
– Cigarettes contain carcinogens which may cause cancer in carbon-based life forms.
– Right.
– You are a carbon-based life form… therefore, cigarettes may cause cancer inside you.
– Thank you.
– You’re welcome.

(The captain visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

What I didn’t like. Space Station 76” is at times uneven, especially in the first part. The photography, the acting, the music – all is well-crafted and you feel the movie was made as a passion project, but it’s the screenplay that occasionally sags, running out of fuel – maybe because it was written by 5 different people? Some scenes intended as funny left me perplexed. Some felt really unnecessary. Some plot lines got lost in the middle and didn’t get the development. A more carefully crafted screenplay would really help the film. It’s especially seen in the first half of the film, with the second being more juicy and concentrated.

All the actors created memorable and bright characters – maybe, even too much, as at times they seemed little bit too monotone in their role, like playing the same note over and over. Of course, it was intended as a part of the movie’s style, but a little more versatility wouldn’t harm the film. Liv Tyler (superhero satire “Super“, sci-fi “Robot & Frank“, “Armageddon“) was a nice exception to that, as her character was actually alive, with doubts and flexibility. It was great to see Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl in “Watchmen“, “The Conjuring”) who added a weird touch to the film with his pseudo-sexist obsessions.

The production. The project was originated by Jack Plotnick at his house while experimenting with his friends and favourite actors. This is his debut film, but Plotnick is by no means a newbie – he is in first place an actor with 20+ years of experience (”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, ”Drawn Together”, ”Wrong”).

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. ”Space Station 76” is an interesting project, but definitely not for everyone. If you like weird and touching humour of ”Super”, ”The Lobster” or ”Defendor” combined with a retrofuturistic sci-fi look on the 70-s, definitely yes. I started to watch it with bias but learnt to appreciate it more and. Visually stylish and delicate, ”Space Station 76” still leaves weirdly good aftertaste, even far from being perfect. It’s an odd little movie that is trying to find its own tone.

2.5/4
Watch also: if you want too see a weird sci-fi comedy, have a look at “American Astronaut“, “Dark Star” or “Kin-Dza-Dza“.

Jumanji 2 / childhood tales mutating into mindless blockbusters

Another tale of the childhood is turning into a mindless blockbaster. Directed by the guy who did “Sex Tape” and “Bad Teacher”. Why!?

I know, I know – the first one could be also considered a blockbuster with CGI animals and a decent $65 million budget. Pardon my nostalgia rant. However…

…it had an original time-reversing plot with love story that made sense and was believable.

…it had the director Joe Johnston who has worked as effects artists on the original Star Wars trilogy and art director two Indiana Jones movies and you could easily feel that influences in Jumanji too. Maybe it was a blockbuster, but at least it didn’t feature trivial sexist jokes like here:

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If “Jumanji 2” was a genre deconstruction like “Cabin in the Woods”, this would have made sense. Sadly, it doesn’t.

…and it had Robin Williams.

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Now we have another obtuse action-based blockbuster with dick jokes. Hell, they even don’t roll the dice since there’s no board (the final scene of Jumanji actually had a clue that the original board wasn’t destroyed). And what is the audience of this movie? The teens didn’t watch the first part. Those who did would be barely interested in this reboot.

Maybe I am just too old for this shit and don’t get something?

“What, are you crying? You don’t cry, all right? You keep your chin up. Come on, keep your chin up. Crying never helped anybody do anything, okay? You have a problem, you face it like a man.” (Alan Parish, Jumanji, 1995)

P. S. Express Elevator to Hell movie blog made a hell of an analysis about the modern blockbuster culture and how they influence smaller films here. Check it, it’s really worth reading.

Lazer Team


Director
: Matt Hullum. Starring:  Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie DeBerry, Alan Ritchson. USA, 2015. IMDb: 5.7. Budget: $2.4 million. My rating: 3/4. Action sci-fi comedy about four losers saving the world.

– My calculations show that, scientifically, we’re screwed.
(Neil)

– Guys, guys, guys. Help, help. Hagan, I promise I won’t try and bang your daughter.
(Zach)

It’s going to be a tough one. Probably I have never seen a movie that borrows so much elsewhere while still has its own little charm. Bashed by critics and mostly loved by the public, it holds the record as the highest-funded film through Indiegogo. With a decent amount of dick weird humour and tons of pure geeky fun, ”Lazer Team” may not always convert quantity into quality, but it’s itching to start a fight. If you adored stuff like ”Paul” or ”Iron Sky” (and I bet you did…) and are ready to embrace “21 Jump Street”-style humour, here’s a new piece of nerdy sci-fi awesomeness. Add ”Galaxy Quest”, some warm 80-s low budget sci-fi feel and here we are.

Continue reading

Kin-Dza-Dza!

Director: Georgiy Daneliya. Starring: Evgeny Leonov, Yuri Yakovlev, Stanislav Lyubshin, Levan Gabriadze. USSR, 1986. Imbd: 8.2. My rating: 4/4. Absurd surreal dystopian sci-fi kin-dza-dzacomedy.

– Patzak! Where is your muzzle? Mister PG ordered – all patzaks should wear a muzzle. And
be joyful.
(Uef speaking to Violinist)

– When the society does not have a pants colour differentiation, it does not have the aim. But when it does not have an aim…
(Bee’s monologue)

20170320_014956Wanna see some truly unorthodox and brilliant sci-fi? Ever heard of “Kin-dza-dza!”? Probably you wouldn’t expect this from a Soviet science fiction, but it is actually a black absurdist comedy set on a faraway planet. It’s hilarious, weird and sad parody on both capitalist and communist societies. Continue reading

Safety Not Guaranteed

safetynotguaranteedposterDirector: Colin Trevorrow. Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson. USA, 2013. IMDB: 7.0. My rating: 4/4. Science fiction romantic comedy.

– What are you guys, racists?
– It’s complicated. 
(conversation between Darius and guys when she asks them to get out of the car in a bad-looking suburb mostly populated by immigrants)

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
(main premise of the movie)

What a lovely and touching movie. Such an surprise! With its funny sci-fi premise and 750,000 budget one could expect in best case scenario some nerdy sci-fi geek C-movie. But that’s not the case. Continue reading