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Tuesday: Attack the Block

Attack the Block is a solid film that I recommend checking out.

Attack the Block
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Science fiction, horror, and comedy very rarely get very much appreciation from moviegoers. Most of them come across as tacky and amateurish. However, there have been a mass amount of alien movies being released in multiple countries all around the world. The United States in specific has been really focusing in on this genre. Studios have been trying to cash in with The Darkest Hour, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, District 9, and others. The UK has a bit of a different approach to filmmaking that Americans don't get to see everybody. Some of this is due to the comedic aspect of some of their flicks. Films such as Hot Fuzz deserved to be popular in the United States, but many Americans didn't quite understand very much of the British humor. Attack the Block is another effort from the United Kingdom to mix laughs, scares, and social commentary.

When aliens attack a South London neighborhood, a teen gang pulls together to protect their turf by any means necessary. Extraterrestrials prove far more formidable than anyone they ever jumped on the streets. Generally speaking, these movies end one of two ways. Either the aliens win and all of our usually idiotic characters die or the humans win and there's a cheesy ending with our heroes stating how they learned something through the invasion. Thankfully, Attack the Block dares to be different. While the story is pretty much the same as most alien flicks I have seen, it has a unique take on it. As I previously mentioned, this isn't just a horror film but does involve some comedy to the mix. Fortunately, the film knows when it needs to be serious and when it's necessary to throw some jokes into the script. Neither one takes over the film more than the other. You may be asking yourself, "Why would we care about what happens to a gang?" While we don't begin the film having a positive opinion of them, we see more of who they are as people. Teenagers with serious problems in their lives and their energy and efforts turned to crime when there was nothing else to turn to. This doesn't forgive the characters for the actions they take, but it humanizes them and shows that they're flawed beings, just like everybody else. Putting the character arches aside, the action is constant. There isn't a lot of downtime in Attack the Block. There are a few chase sequences and constant battles between the gang and the aliens. The ultimate resolution makes sense and isn't too far of a stretch as to why the aliens are there. We are left with a surprisingly entertaining film with a script that is better than most American efforts at the genre.

Most of the actors in Attack the Block are unknown. This is the first film quite a few of these actors have starred in. Whether you live in the UK or the US, you're sure to recognize one of the supporting roles if you have been paying any attention to movies such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or even Paul. Nick Frost performs as the gang leader's weed dealer Ron. He isn't in the film for very long, but is the cherry on top of the movie and adds some additional humor. The rest of the cast is suitable for the dialogue. None of them are ground-breaking, but they're convincing enough for each of the roles they posses. The fact that there aren't very many familiar faces is actually an advantage to the filmmakers. They are much more believable in the characters since the audience doesn't recognize them as roles from other flicks. The acting here is just fine.

Each filmmaker who creates an alien film usually has a different take on how these creatures look and behave. Director Joe Cornish has created a different type of alien than most audiences are used to. These have bodies like gorillas and fur darker than night. They have no eyes, but have neon-glowing and razor sharp teeth. These creatures are more vicious than those seen in many other movies. They don't have reasoning and are simply aliens that want to kill everybody who gets in their way. However, they look fantastic. I never once doubted or felt the need to criticize the appearances of them. The visuals all look great. There aren't any cheesy effects to be seen, although I expected more from the audio quality. While it's crisp and clear, it isn't as aggressive as I was hoping for. There are surround effects when called upon and the bass sounds good, but isn't very loud. Don't expect this to become demo material, but the audio isn't bad.

It's unfortunate that Attack the Block only received a short and limited release in US theaters. It's certainly the underdog of this genre. It isn't a big Hollywood blockbuster, but it's much better than most of the alien flicks that haven been thrown on American viewers, such as the crap known as Skyline. The plot itself isn't too original, but it brings new elements to the table. It's entertaining and never drags. I had a good time watching this film and it deserves more recognition than it currently possesses in the United States. Attack the Block is a solid film that I recommend checking out.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Thursday: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is an easy recommendation for all action fans!

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
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When I heard about a fourth entry for the Mission: ImpossibleMission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Blamed for the terrorist bombing of the Kremlin, IMF operative Ethan Hunt is renounced along with the rest of the agency. Ethan must find a way to clear his agency's name and prevent another attack. He also must embark on this mission with a team of fellow IMF fugitives whose personal motives aren't fully known. Without even watching the film, reading the script would prove just how insane Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol becomes. The film clocks in at a bit over two hours, which is pretty lengthy for an action flick. However, there isn't a single dull moment to be found. While there isn't a single villain, the film primarily focuses on Ethan and his team going through a series of missions in order to reach their ultimate goal. The movie never takes itself too seriously or tries to be anything its not. The dialogue is straight forward with the same one-liners, puns, and clichés one would expect. Instead of utilizing the beginning of the film to fill with dialogue, create characters, and a plot, everything is explained and situated bit by bit in between big action sequences. The screenwriters must have known that fans want to see incredible stunts and great action scenes, not a large amount of dialogue with characters that are guaranteed to not be filled with the most depth. The comedy is thrown into the mix and it fits the Mission: Impossible realm perfectly. Don't expect a script as well-crafted as The Dark Knight, but this is guaranteed to give audiences two hours and thirteen minutes of pure enjoyment.

Along with an adrenaline-filled screenplay is a star-studded cast. Tom Cruise is back performing as Ethan Hunt. Even though it has been a little while since the last entry in the franchise, Cruise is still great. He fits the role and delivers an all around entertaining performance. Jeremy Renner has become a much more popular actor over the past couple years. He has a role as William Brandt. He's a great co-star for Cruise as they act off one another quite well. Another actor who has worked his way up the ranks is Simon Pegg. I was quite surprised when I found out he was starring in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. He plays Benji Dunn, who delivers the majority of the humor. Paula Patton is the final addition to the team as Jane Carter. The entire cast fits the film very well. Don't expect to see these actors nominated for any awards, but they're much better than what one would normally expect from an action flick.

Whenever a new director is placed into a franchise, the visuals change quite dramatically. Every director has his or her own special style that varies from person to person. Brad Bird is known for writing and directing Pixar films such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Despite the fact that he has won two Oscars, who would think that an animated filmmaker would be able to deliver on a live-action spectacle? Well, he does wonders for the visuals. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is close to being an animated piece of cinema, given how absolutely fanciful the stunts are. There are some genuinely unique action sequences that are truly memorable. I don't want to spoil these scenes, but they are quite incredible. The camera angles are great and seeing it on an IMAX screen really benefited the visuals and audio. Those who are waiting for a home video release should crank up the sound once they put this disc in.

The fans who wanted a fast paced and wall-to-wall action from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol got what they desired. The dialogue is entertaining and the action sequences are even more fun. The acting is surprisingly good and the visuals are superb, as expected. I thought that this series would be going downhill, but this film proves that Brad Bird, his cast, and his crew have only matured the films into an entertaining thrill ride. The action clichés are still present, but this movie knows what it is and is proud of it. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is an easy recommendation for all action fans!

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: Moneyball