Attack The Block written and directed by Joe Cornish


I love Adam and Joe’s 6 Music show on a Saturday morning.  It’s wickedly funny and brilliantly inventive in its humour, audience engaging and cod songwriting skits (Song Wars) so the notion of Joe Cornish writing and directing an Alien movie was intriguing, if difficult to predict what the outcome might be.  But IMDB liked it so I went for it this afternoon.

Total audience?

Six.

The concept is built around what might happen if an alien invasion started in a council tower block scheme in South London and the band of brothers that inevitably unite to repel the invasion are a bunch of skanky kids and trainee villians.

It’s a nice elevator pitch, particularly when you throw in the fact that the only female in the posse is adopted, much against her will, after being held up and robbed by the bro’s in the opening scene of the film.

But I’m sorry to say it’s a bit of a curate’s egg if I’m honest.

The issue is that it can’t decide whether it’s a comedy (and if so would have been a challenger to Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland – and lost), a social commentary piece or a full-on monster movie (in which case it would be comparable to low budget shockers like Monsters, District 9 or Cloverfield – and lose to all three of them too).

In the event it’s all of these and none of them.  And that’s the problem.

It’s partly let down by casting with most of the performances at best workmanlike and at worst either amateur (which I suppose most of the cast is) or caricaturised.

The special effects are really quite good, albeit done on a budget, but imaginatively so.  In particular the monsters with their ultra-black bodies and fluorescent green teeth (nothing else) are a bit like honey monsters gone bad which gives them an air of the humorous but at times downright creepy.

I wanted to like this movie more and I suspect it’s Joe Cornish’s winning personality that has got him the funding for it and the, mostly, kind reviews.

But the truth is, it ain’t that great.

If you stumbled upon it on the telly I think you’d be pleasantly surprised but for a full ticket cinema admission it’s pushing its luck.

6/10

brave new world. aldous Huxley.


I’ve just finished rereading this some 30+ years after my first open jawed appreciation. Reading it again it strikes me as a colossal school text in comparison to what kids read today. This book sets out to define religious, scientific, economic, political, cultural, sexual and moral guidelines under the cloak of novelistic freedom of speech.

In particular the religious and political views Huxley expresses are nothing short of challenging. How I, as a 16 year old, could have been expected to take them all in is absurd and indeed even now it’s a challenge.

This book is as full of insight as anything I’ve ever read. The scientific soothsaying alone is remarkable. But for me the core of the book is played on a religious axis. It’s strong stuff indeed.

Just amazing.

Monsters


My movie-going year is suitably bookended by two Road movie love stories, each with a flavour of the apocalypse about them.  In January, The Road took Cormac McCarthy’s seminal novel and told a love story about father and son that has seldom been rivalled.  Now, in December a young British director has created a love story that is the year’s best, as a sci fantasy and for half a million dollars.  How is this possible?

Written, directed, filmed and CGI’d by the quite remarkable Gareth Edwards, this film is an absolute joy from the first slate to the last.

At every single turn he avoids excess.  The film is so lean it ‘s positively fat free.

The CGI could be Oscar winning if the Academy decide that a Sci Fi movie with CGI you barely notice at times deserves such an accolade. The cinematography is sublime and yet is filmed on a $8,400 camera (My guess is it may have been a Canon because Canon is strongly product placed throughout).

The acting, although not award winning is perfectly good.

It’s a two man show featuring the very able Whitney Able (great too in “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) looking like a young Charlize Theron, sans scars, and Scoot McNairy.

There’s no doubt which of the pair is more likely to feature in Edwards’ next movie.  The camera absolutely drools over Able for long periods of time, but hey, who’s complaining.  Reminded me a little of Bertolucci and his penchant for ravishing his young female talent on screen.

He uses a lot of very tight depth of field which, if you like it, creates a lovely soft feel with the action often moving in and ourt of focus.  This adds quality and emphasises the beauty of the surroundings that are being destroyed in a war between the US Army/Airforce and aliens who landed in New Mexico six years prior.

Of course it’s like District Nine (everyone says so) but I prefer to compare it to Apocalypse Now (and The Road).  I think Edwards might thank me for that because the movie is essentially a trip up river (as in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) and he has a couple of homage moments, most particularly in the Army’s motivational music;  The Ryde of the Valkyries.

The day we saw this the cinema was full of young delinquents who were clearly unimpressed.

Barely a monster in sight.

Next to no blood.

Boring.

Alien vs Predator this is not!

My daughter and I  on the other hand were enthralled.

A fine, fine debut and most certainly one of the films of the year.

The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood


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This novel is quite extraordinary.  Margaret Atwood, at her best, is a remarkable writer.  But this is perhaps her finest hour.  Her ability to write sci-fi (as in both this novel and in Oryx and Crake) in such a way that it bears comparison to Huxley and Otrwell (as opposed to Asimov and Clarke) AND to write historical period pieces such as Alias Grace and the Robber Bride is, in my experience, unmatched.

Like many of her novels a very strong feminist subplot lies at the core, but that should not put male readers off because the writing is so powerful and the ideas, politics (not just sexual) and plotting are so engaging and page-turning.

The novel was written in 1985 and, like 1984 by George Orwell, it could almost have realised itself in this reader’s lifetime.

It is set, nominally, in the mid 21st century in a dystopian society ruled by men in a land called Gilead – but in reality the USA.  (Atwood’s home nation, Canada, has a minor role as a heroic state.)

Following an unnamed “war” and rebellion a male-run fascist state emerges where women become either reproductive breeders and servents or else sent to the “colonies” to clear up nuclear waste, as fodder.

Our heroine, Offred, is one of these reproductive handmaids and tells her story across the pre- and post-rebellion period reflecting in flashback, throughout the book, on her blissful previous existance and in the present on the indignity of her plight.

The detail and plotting of this novel is breathtaking.  All sorts of “inventions” and political outcomes are now (in 2007) realised from what was fantasy at the time of writing.  Her political insights are incredible and her support for feminism unstinting.

This is a sublime novel and I cannot wait to see the movie again.

Do yourself a favour.  Read it.

Now!