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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Joe Cornish
Cast:
Nick Frost, John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Luke Treadaway
Writing Credits:
Joe Cornish

Tagline:
Inner City vs. Outer Space

Synopsis:
From the producers of Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen street gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing project into a sci-fi battleground, the low-income apartment complex into a fortress under siege. And it turns a crazy mix of tough street kids into a team of kick ass heroes. It’s inner city versus outer space and it’s going to explode.

Box Office:
Budget
$13 million.
Opening Weekend
£1.133 (UK) on 352 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.024 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 10/25/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard and Leeon Jones
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, and Franz Drameh
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joe 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
• Previews and Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Attack The Block [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 28, 2011)

For an unusual twist on the alien invasion theme, we head to 2011’s Attack the Block. Set in London, a teen street gang mugs a woman but something strange interrupts their crime: an object descends from the sky and trashes a car.

When the kids investigate, they discover a vicious alien life form. It attacks lead thug Moses (John Boyega); this offends the teen tough so he and his mates corner the critter and kill it. They think tbey’ve gotten the find of the century and will be able to profit from their discovery.

Little do they realize that this one landing just represents the start of a bigger alien invasion, so matters soon escalate. When the monsters attack one of their own, they find themselves in need of medical help – which they get from Sam (Jodie Whittaker), the nurse they mugged earlier. The kids and Sam end up together as they attempt to fend off the alien assault.

On the Blu-ray’s box, we hear Block touted as “The Goonies meets Gremlins”. That statement boasts some truth, as it features a bunch of kids – ala Goonies - who deal with an attack by furry, vicious beasts not unlike the Gremlins.

However, the comment misleads because a) it leads one to view Block as a flick appropriate for families, and b) it implies that Block will actually be entertaining. Neither proves to be true.

Part of the problem comes with the choice of the lead characters. When we meet the kids in the gang, we don’t see any reason to like them; indeed, we’re likely to feel strong negativity toward them. This changes a bit over time, as the movie softens them up along the way, but we never quite lose our view of the kids as crude thugs.

Though Block tries to imbue the kids with sympathy as poor, put-upon products of their environment. Look, I work with lower-income kids in a challenging semi-urban environment, so I’m no “lock ‘em all up” reactionary. I certainly understand how living circumstances can affect kids.

That said, Block works too hard to earn our sympathy, and it doesn’t succeed. The kids are just too unpleasant for too much of the film, so by the time the flick tries to pull at our emotions, it’s too late. By that point, we’re already invested in them as unlikable punks, and the film’s one-sided sociological viewpoint doesn’t take.

Character issues also become a problem because the film does so little to differentiate the various kids – again, at least until the story has gone too far to make us care. For the first half, the various kids seem barely distinguishable from each other; we can identify them based on some general characteristics, but they mainly all blend into one. By the time we’ve figured out who’s who, the movie’s too far along and we just don’t develop the intended attachment.

Does Block compensate with good action? Not really. While some of the sequences boast decent punch, most feel a bit disjointed and lackluster. The presence of a silly-looking alien species doesn’t help. The monster is essentially a Muppet with glow-in-the-dark teeth. It inspires a mix of emotions, but “terror” never becomes one of them.

Block isn’t a genuinely bad movie, and I think its premise boasts potential; a “save the Alamo” type circumstance with aliens and resourceful kids sounds fun. Unfortunately, the film does too little to really take advantage of the circumstances, so it ends up as a lackluster adventure.


The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

Attack the Block appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The image always looked solid.

For the most part, sharpness looked good. A little softness crept into the image at times, but not frequently. Instead, the movie almost always appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

In terms of colors, the movie went with a yellow “sodium vapor” or a heavy blue most of the time. The tones consistently seemed clear and concise within those parameters. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots came across as appropriately dense but not overly dark. Overall, the picture appeared positive.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Block. An action-comedy that didn’t skimp on the “action” side of things, all of the battle shenanigans ensured that the mix offered plenty of involving material. The chaos filled out the spectrum in an active, involving manner that created a fair amount of exciting audio.

Audio quality also was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess. Music seemed warm and full, while effects added a real bang to the proceedings. Those elements showed good clarity and accuracy, and they offered tight, deep bass as well. The track seemed vibrant and dynamic as it accentuated the movie in a satisfying manner.

We get a pretty solid set of supplements here, and we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Joe Cornish and actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard and Leeon Jones. Billed as a “junior commentary” due to the presence of the young performers, all six sit together for a running, screen-specific look at what the actors were doing when they heard of the film, their prior experiences and how they were cast, thoughts about the script and characters, sets and locations, and notes on other cast and crew.

Group commentaries can be messy, but Cornish acts mostly as moderator here, which helps keep the track organized. Indeed, at the start, he mentions the common problems with commentaries – too much praise, too many obvious remarks – and swears he’ll avoid them.

And he usually does, though he doesn’t offer a lot of his own information. Cornish serves to prompt the actors and keep the conversation moving. He does this well, and he helps make the “junior commentary” significantly more thoughtful and engaging than I expected. Chats with young actors can be a silly drag, but this turns into surprisingly rich piece.

Called the “senior commentary”, the second track involves Joe Cornish and actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, and Franz Drameh. All seven sit together for a running, screen-specific chat, though I should note that Drameh remains in the background much of the time; he’s there informally and doesn’t do much during the piece.

At the start, Cornish and the others provide more thoughts about their experiences with other commentaries. They then discuss cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, costumes, props, stunts and effects, and a mix of other production areas.

Cornish again often serves as moderator, and he does his best to keep the group of participants organized. He does well, and he throws in more information of his own this time. While he took a backseat to the kids in the “junior commentary”, Cornish becomes the most dominant speaker this time.

Though not to the exclusion of all others, as Cornish seems eager to ensure their involvement. This means a good balance between the director and the actors, as we find a nice mix of comments. The track becomes a little looser and less enlightening than the first one – the group plays things more for laughs this time – but it’s still a useful, enjoyable piece.

A third commentary comes from Joe Cornish and executive producer Edgar Wright. They sit together for their chat – their running but not especially screen-specific chat. On rare occasion, they allude to the material on screen, but that happens only a handful of times during the movie.

And that’s fine with me, as Cornish and Wright deliver a piece that’s probably the most interesting of the bunch. The guys discuss what it’s like to make “first films”, their relationship and Wright’s role on the project, various early filmmaking experiences and cinematic influences, and a few production areas.

Some may find it frustrating that Cornish and Wright say so little about Block itself. I can understand that perspective, but since the first two tracks focused so heavily on the film, I’m fine with this piece’s looser focus.

That’s especially true because Cornish and Wright deliver such an informative, introspective chat. We get a solid discussion of films from a viewpoint wider than just the specifics behind Block. The guys cover their thoughts well and turn this into a consistently intriguing, involving commentary.

After this we locate a documentary called Behind the Block. It runs one hour, one minute and 23 seconds as it provides notes from Esmail, Drameh, Howard, Jones, Boyega, Cornish, Whittaker, Frost, Treadaway, producer Nira Park, associate producer Lucy Pardee, special makeup effects designer Paul Hyett, and actors Michael Ajao, Jumayn Hunter, Sammy Williams, Paige Meade, Gina Antwi, Danielle Vitalis, Natasha Jonas, and Selom Awadzi.

The program looks at casting, rehearsals and training, characters and dialogue. We then follow the film in a “production diary” of sorts, as we trace the flick from the first day of the shoot through its completion. I usually like programs of this sort, and “Behind” does offer a mix of good moments. However, it focuses too much on the silly antics of the teen actors and lacks a lot of interesting filmmaking moments. There’s solid material here but it’s buried beneath gag reel-level goofiness.

Four featurettes follow. Creature Feature goes for 20 minutes, 29 seconds and includes comments from Cornish, Whittaker, Boyega, Jones, Treadaway, Esmail, Jonas, Howard, Hunter, Drameh, lead creature performer/movement coach Terry Notary, female alien actor Arti Shah, actor Adam Leese, creature performer Karl Baumann, creature effects Kyle Martin, stunt coordinator Paul Herbert, director of photography Tom Townend, post production supervisor Mike Solinger, Fido VFX supervisor Mattias Lindahl, Double Negative VFX executive producer Alex Hope, and sound designer Jeremy Price. The program covers the design and execution of the movie’s aliens as well as some notes about stunts, sound and photography. “Creature” comes with a little fluff, but it usually digs into the details well and gives us a fine take on the beastie-related issues.

Within the four-minute, eight-second Meet the Gang, we hear from Esmail, Jones, Drameh, Howard, and Boyega. They give us basic thoughts about the characters and actors. It throws in a few decent insights about the roles, but it’s mostly insubstantial.

Unfilmed Action goes for four minutes, 59 seconds and provides material from Cornish and Esmail. They discuss script sequences that were never shot, and we see these via some storyboards. Since we find no deleted scenes on the disc, it’s fun to check out these discarded bits.

Finally, That’s a Rap lasts two minutes, 23 seconds and features more footage from the set. We see the teen actors as they goof around and rap. We got enough of their antics in the documentary, so I think this is a pretty skippable piece.

The disc opens with ads for Columbiana, Retreat, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy, Drive and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. These also pop up under Previews and the disc includes the UK and US trailers for Block as well.

Chalk up Attack the Block as a disappointment. While it boasts an intriguing premise, it comes saddled with unlikable characters, flat action and a goofy-looking alien. The Blu-ray delivers solid picture and audio along with a surprisingly rich and dynamic compilation of supplements. I’m not wild about the movie, but the Blu-ray fires on all cylinders.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main