Fake Monsters Are Better

I’m guessing that Crazy, Stupid, Love and Cowboys & Aliens will sell the most tickets this weekend, but the two best openers — easily, hands down — are from County Galway, Ireland and the Morden neighborhood in southern London. I’m speaking of John Michael McDonagh‘s The Guard, which I’ve praised two or three times in recent weeks, and Joe Cornish‘s Attack The Block (Screen Gems), which I finally saw this evening.

Attack The Block obviously cost a small fraction of the $100 million that Cowboys & Aliens spent on itself, and yes, the furry ape-aliens with green phosphorescent teeth are flagrantly unbelievable if not borderline comical. But they’re still scarier and snarlier and a lot more fun to to shoot and stab and run away from than the dipshit hard-drive aliens in Cowboys & Aliens, which are direct descendants of the Alien and Super 8 monsters, and boring for that.

The point is that Attack The Block is a smarter, more character-flavored, more tightly constructed entertainment than Cowboys, and I don’t mean solely in terms of tension and thrills. Block is also about something — i.e., community values and urban-jungle teens learning to take responsibility and fly straight and become men — while Cowboys is…what? About kissing the behinds of ComicCon fanboys and their low, sloppy taste in comic-book movies? About wanting to make money?

Cornish seems to be emphasizing the metaphor with his use of cartoony growling furries. He’s almost saying “forget the realism factor…these monsters are obviously bullshit and you and I know it, so let’s forget about our technical efforts and concentrate on what the threat of these monsters mean to the characters.” None of us believe in movie monsters. Not really. But there’s something curiously liberating about beasts that are excessively unbelievable. After watching Attack The Block this evening I was telling myself I don’t want to see another super-expensive CG monster ever again.

I’ll lengthen this review when I wake up tomorrow. I’m whipped.

  • Marty Melville

    The word from the wise is that this is a real treat… a unique blend of classic British working class drama mixed with some old-fashioned (and new-fashioned) monster thrills.

  • LexG

    Whoa, never would’ve seen this rave coming in a zillion years from Jeff… This was kind of low on my radar because I’m all about “Devil’s Double” this weekend, and CSL and Cowboys are more pressing… but getting won over by the hype. This better not be another Scott Pilgrim.

    That poster is so delightfully in homage to the original Escape From New York one-sheet, which is awesome.

  • Funker Hornsby

    Great film! The whole thing is a riff on Carpenter and Walter Hill, with a little “Alien” thrown in for good measure (the high rise as Nostromo etc.). Most of all it’s fun, pure adrenaline, tight as hell, 87 minutes without filler. It knows the world it’s portraying inside out. And beat me with a stick – I thought the black furry monsters were absolutely delightful. Amazing score from Basement Jaxx, too.

  • Kakihara

    I wanna check out Attack the Block *and* Devil’s Double, but I don’t like paying Sucklight fees, so I’ll wait for ‘em to be transferred over to cheaper theaters.

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com/ THE MovieBob

    The failure to be “about” ANYTHING other than it’s own title is really the big failure of “Cowboys & Aliens” – and it’s strange, because it’s not a trap you’d expect Favreau to fall into.

    I mean… a bunch of white Old West settlers are facing down displacement/extermination by super-advanced foriegn invaders, and when they run into a bunch of Indians midway through NOBODY thinks to bring up the implicit irony? C’mon! That’s potential gold right there, and C&A just leaves it on the table.

  • Markj74

    Joe Cornish has been making fun things on British TV for well over a decade. Nice to see him finally getting a feature out there.

  • Jonathan Spuij

    I liked the movie a lot, but AICN calling it the best film of the year leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    THE GUARD, hmmmm…. where have I seen ads for that…. hmmmm….. if I could just remember….

  • Alboone

    I’d love to see Attack but its only playing in that shitty union square theater in NYC where child size rats scurry over your toes without care.

  • actionman

    so annoying that The Devil’s Double doesn’t open in my area this weekend…when will it go wide?

    It’s funny — the more I see/read about Attack of the Block, the less I want to see it.

  • Eloi Wrath

    “I’d love to see Attack but its only playing in that shitty union square theater in NYC where child size rats scurry over your toes without care.”

    I’ve heard this a lot, but whenever I go there it’s completely fine. I think it must be some leftover reputation from the days when Union Square was a crack den. It’s really no better or worse than any of the other major chain theaters in NYC.

  • JLC

    Any problem with the accents Jeffrey? They sounded super thick in the trailer.

  • markj

    Joe Cornish has been making fun things on British TV for well over a decade. Nice to see him finally getting a feature out there.

  • 62Lincoln

    Thank you Jeff. This movie would have been completely off my radar if not for you.

  • BobbyLupo

    “After watching Attack The Block this evening I was telling myself I don’t want to see another super-expensive CG monster ever again.”

    I’m actually kind of curious why you do.

  • BobbyLupo

    “run into a bunch of Indians midway through NOBODY thinks to bring up the implicit irony?”

    I’m confused by this as a complaint. You’re acknowledging that the irony is implicit to the scene, but you’re complaining that the characters don’t actually comment on it? I mean, I would *expect* Orci and Kurtzmann to underline that sort of thing, but it sounds like something they should be celebrated for leaving (relatively) subtle.

  • Movie Watcher

    The Guard looks like it’s worth it. Of course I’ll have to wait for it to hit Ohio, if it does at all.

  • actionman

    def want to see The Guard. I wonder if it’ll be an On Demand offering…?

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    I’m sold, and I’ll see it this week, but check out Mick “Mr Contrarian” LaSalle’s pan — he really does go out of his way to be on the opposite side of every consensus:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/07/29/DDGB1KG5UT.DTL

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    @actionman: Sony Classics doesn’t do On-Demand simultaneously with theatrical, as IFC and Magnolia do. 4 or 5 months from now, perhaps.

  • Peterzee

    Somebody somewhere compared ATTACK to the original THING — it’s more about a group of people under pressure, with a monster that’s patently ridiculous. You can almost imagine Howard Hawks’ disdain for the “intellectual carrot” — he’s more interested in how people manage their shit when things are going south.

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  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    Man, The Devil’s Double was one sleazy, 1970’s drive-in piece of filth. I kinda loved it, but it really pushes the boundaries of taste in all sorts of ways. One sick puppy of a movie.

  • Gaydos

    Perhaps it’s come to this: the most fascinating aspects of many major Studio releases are the mistakes they’ve made, the decisions to zig when the should have zagged.

    LARRY CROWNE and C&A are prime examples. Definitely enjoyed the hell out of the latter, but were it not for compromises in story and tone that are clearly merchandizing and sequel-related, it had everything going for it. The former is more troubled, but again, the bones of the story and the talent assembled, the intentions of the project are all terrific.

    I would say the lessons learned here are instructive and illuminating, but it’s like shining a flashlight on a grizzly just before it eats you: nice to see into those beady eyes, but ain’t gonna change your ultimate fate.

  • bluetide

    Your comment about enjoying creatures that look ridiculous hit a nerve with me. I finally caught up to Thor last night. Not a good movie by a long shot, but a movie fully aware – due to Kenneth Branagh no doubt – of its own inherent goofiness. I mean the Frost Gods or whatever might be the most ridiculous creatures committed to a major motion picture in many a year. Makeup straight out of 60s star trek. And I had a smile on my face the whole time they were on screen.

  • actionlover

    “It’s funny — the more I see/read about Attack of the Block, the less I want to see it.” – actionman

    “Attack The Block obviously cost a small fraction of the $100 million that Cowboys & Aliens spent on itself…”

    “….the dipshit hard-drive aliens in Cowboys & Aliens, which are direct descendants of the Alien and Super 8 monsters”

    “….while Cowboys is…what? About kissing the behinds of ComicCon fanboys and their low, sloppy taste in comic-book movies.”

    I see your point, action.

  • red shoes

    ATB is fan-bloody-tastic with a great score, indeed! yes, it’s all about the characters. what a novel idea. a good time all round. believe.

    not a fan of DEVIL’S DOUBLE, though dominic cooper is quite good as uday. i didn’t find it sick, just boring. idk, maybe i’m just dead inside. sangnier (the girlfriend) is miscast.

    THE GUARD is essential viewing. can don cheadle do no wrong? how is it that two brothers can be so talented in both writing and directing? ireland’s answer to the coen brothers (if they worked alone).

    alas, C&A was not as horrible as i expected it to be, but, it will do well and spawn a sequel.

    so far, TREE OF LIFE and ATTACK THE BLOCK are the only films i keep thinking about since seeing them.

  • Citrus Maximus

    this wasn’t even on my radar, but I’ll have to watch it now. Is there a wider release planned? Because there is no way I am going into San Francisco and sit elbow to elbow with all the straight-outta-anime cartoon character people and would be Filipino gangstas.

  • SolarTheSign

    I now cannot WAIT to see this film. Thx, Jeff.

    Side note: has anyone see Marclay’s 24-hour film at LACMA or wherever it has shown before? I went from midnight to 1AM this morning, am going back an hour from now. It’s mesmerizing.

  • Terry McCarty

    Regretting I didn’t see it already when I was in London a couple of months ago.

  • EricGilde

    Saw ATB this morning at the AMC 25; it’s fantastic.

    I know that it’s release coincides with Cowboy & Aliens and so has garnered some big budget vs. small budget talk along those lines. I think it actually poses a more interesting contrast to Super 8, though, when you get down to it.

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  • Jack

    The failure to be “about” ANYTHING other than it’s own title is really the big failure of “Cowboys & Aliens” – and it’s strange, because it’s not a trap you’d expect Favreau to fall into.

    I mean… a bunch of white Old West settlers are facing down displacement/extermination by super-advanced foriegn invaders, and when they run into a bunch of Indians midway through NOBODY thinks to bring up the implicit irony? C’mon! That’s potential gold right there, and C&A just leaves it on the table.

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    That poster is so delightfully in homage to the original Escape From New York one-sheet, which is awesome.

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