Tuesday, January 29, 2019

MotM: Attack the Block

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m broadening the scope of my “Bad Movie of the Month” feature to “Movie of the Month” – henceforth known as “MotM” – because as much as I enjoy bad movies, I also enjoy movies that are legitimately and unconditionally good. And those deserve some love, too…

There’s no place like home. Home is where you hang your hat, where your heart it. 

Is it any surprise that people fight that much harder to defend their home? Sports teams do statistically better on their home turf. The upstart colonists were major underdogs against the visiting British in the American Revolution. Unfortunately for us, the same rule was in effect when we went into Vietnam. 

People just naturally fight that much harder when defending their home. Even when they’re delinquents, and home is some crummy low-income housing.

Attack the Block kicks off at night in a sketchy part of town, where a nurse named Samantha (Jodie Whittaker, who you may know as the 13th Doctor) is mugged by a gang of teenagers. The mugging is interrupted by a meteor crashing into a nearby car. But instead of staying with the fleeing Samantha, as most movies would, Attack the Block remains with the muggers. Turns out there was some kind of creature inside the meteor and the gang, led by Moses (John Boyega) chases it down and kills it. Seeking recognition, they bring the body to a pot dealing friend (Nick Frost!) and ultimately to the local crime boss who lives at the top of their high rise apartment building. Unfortunately, that’s when more meteors fall from the sky…

Let’s get this one right out of the way: the creature design is amazing. Most of the aliens look like some kind of wolf/bear/ape hybrid, but with glow-in-the-dark fangs. 

Oh, and with fur that’s blacker than black. I’ve never seen anything like it (neither had the characters). The fur is blacker than the cover of a Spinal Tap album.

Told you so.

Apparently the creatures were created with a combination of suits, puppetry and animatronics, with CGI used sparingly and only to enhance the physical effects. And from what I read, the approach succeeded in scaring the piddle out of the actors during the film’s shooting.

Of course, you need more than a great costume design to make a great movie. The performances of the kids in the gang – all young and unknown actors – are solid across the board. They may be streetwise hoods, but the film makes sure to show that they are still kids, even allowing them to show flickers of fear through all the bravado during the opening mugging scene – where they’re the ones doing the mugging. And Boyega is captivating as the quiet, serious Moses. It’s no mystery why he was cast to star in the new Star Wars trilogy.

It doesn’t take long for the gang to realize they have no choice but to face the aliens head on. This isn’t the thug life they’d been aspiring to and while they come off as very flip about the Block, it is their Block. 

Given their age, it’s no surprise that when the gang suits up to take on the aliens, they look more like The Goonies than The Crips. No heavy ordinance here (this isn’t the U.S.), they mostly carry bats and knives and ride bikes and scooters. The script is smart enough to come up with ways for the gang to get themselves in and out of trouble, to have the gang and Samantha team up in a way that’s plausible, and to not pull any punches.  

Attack the Block was the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, whose career up to that point consisted mainly of the sketch comedy The Adam and Joe Show and some behind-the-scenes documentaries for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s the helluva debut, handling action sequences, special effects and inexperienced actors with clarity and confidence. 

Attack the Block is fantastic fun, and quickly establishes Cornish’s career as one to watch. If you haven’t checked this out yet, it’s absolutely worth the rental. Believe.

Congratulations, Attack the Block: You are the Movie of the Month.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Recommendation: "The Lair of the Unwanted" Podcast

I'm not the only one doing stuff out here in the wild wild web, and every so often I'll give a Recommendation of something you should read, see or do. Recommendations like this...

As I’ve mentioned here and there, before putting on my Big Boy Pants and setting myself to writing a novel, I spent a number of years reviewing bad movies. A dozen years, to be precise. Yes, that’s a lot of bad movies. 

But I didn’t just write about bad movies – I also talked about them on The Lair of the Unwanted, a podcast I co-hosted with fellow bad movie aficionado Jason Soto. Every month (and for a while, twice a month), Jason and I would tackle a bad movie or two, pontificate about the latest pop culture, subject our guest to a movie trivia game and if we were feeling extra spunky, create a fake ad or trailer. We did that for nine years, and it was a blast.

Nine seasons of a podcast! It’s hard to believe – that puts us in the ballpark of Seinfeld, The Office, Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother. But after nine years, Jason and I wanted to wrap things up before the show became a slog (not unlike the late seasons of some of the sitcoms I just named). Also, and this point can’t be emphasized enough, we sat through a lot of bad movies. Like me, Jason was ready to move on to other projects.

I’m going to miss getting together with Jason every month to discuss the movie we’d just subjected ourselves to, because in many instances, talking about the movie with him was infinitely more fun than actually watching the movie. 

But you don’t have to miss those times! You can still check out all of the episodes at www.thelairoftheunwanted.com, where you have 179 episodes to choose from. Here are a handful of choice episodes:

#7 – America Kicks Ass! (American Ninja and Undefeatable)
#173 – Bruce Lee for Diet Coke (No Retreat, No Surrender)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 Resolutions for the House of Nolahn

I’ve been in a slump, writing-wise. Oh, I have excuses galore: The day job was crazy busy! The holidays were crazy busy! We were gearing up for the series finale of our long-running podcast! Yeah, yeah, yeah, all true, but all obscuring the unavoidable fact that I’ve been stuck in neutral.  

So what better day to look forward and set some goal than New Year’s Day? Boy howdy, I’m glad I arbitrarily picked Tuesdays to run posts…

Even though I’ve only sent out to five agents, I have a sneaky suspicion that the query letter for my novel isn’t up to snuff. Fortunately, there are folks out there who can help with that sort of thing. It’s my first time querying, so I don’t see the point of being too proud to have someone give it a look-over. Once that’s done, I’ll feel much better about going full-throttle with the querying.

It’ll do me a lot of good to get out of my little corner of the world and do some socializin’. I happen to live about four hours from a number of major metropolitan areas, so I should be able to work this out…

This is the biggie. I have a strong concept, I have a good grasp of the characters and the flow of the plot… but something has been holding me back. I have a few ideas in mind to break through my hesitation (hey, that sounds like a good blog post topic!), but once I do, I’d love to have hammered out an initial draft by this time next year.

A cop-out? Sure, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to spruce this place up.

Hope you have a Happy New Year!

First Post: The Story So Far

Hallo. I’m Scot Nolan, though you might know me from reviewing and discussing bad movies over the past ten years as “Nolahn.” But this ...