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“Attack the Block,” Reviewed

“Attack the Block,” Reviewed (photo)

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A satisfying genre movie is good. But a satisfying genre movie with a brain — a film that combines visceral excitement with cerebral smarts — that’s the film geek holy grail. And that’s “Attack the Block,” a mash-up of 80s alien horror and sci-fi films like “Critters,” and “Predator” and gang flicks like “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire” with a sly metaphorical critique of rebellious youths who defend their poor behavior as “protecting their territory.” If the five kids at the center of “Attack the Block” are wary of outsiders in their neighborhood, you can imagine how they react when the ultimate outsiders, a bunch of toothy, “gorilla-wolf” looking aliens with no eyes and glowing neon fangs, start invading their turf.

Writer/director Joe Cornish — a collaborator of Edgar Wright’s on their as-yet unproduced Ant-Man screenplay and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin film — begins things with a bold stroke: by introducing his protagonists as cruel thugs. This ragtag bunch of British teens jump a woman named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) on her way home from the bus, and steal her wallet and jewelry. The robbery is interrupted, though, by a falling meteor; inside is the first alien, which attacks ringleader Moses (steely-eyed future movie star John Boyega), prompting the gang to pursue and then kill it in retaliation. While the crew tour their trophy around the giant housing complex (or “block”) where they all live, a whole bunch of bigger, angrier aliens of gorilla-wolf looking variety arrive. Refusing to call the police (you don’t trust the 5-0 on the Block, yo), they dump the corpse in the local weed dealer’s stash room, grab some baseball bats, fireworks, and a samurai sword, and head out to rid their hood of the extra-terrestrial terror.

It feels a little strange to call a movie about bloodthirsty gorilla-wolf aliens authentic, but that’s exactly what “Attack the Block” is. From the characters to their conversations to their home to their reactions to those aliens, everything about the movie feels real to life. Though “Block” has its share of crazy cool moments, these kids aren’t super-heroes. They don’t have artfully choreographed wire-fu moves or big shiny handguns to fire whilst leaping through the air and screaming. The kids of the Block (who, I suddenly realize, could really use their own gang name) might not realize it at first, but they are sorely out of their league, and their actions have intense unforeseen consequences. Because Cornish grounds the film so believably in this world and these characters, we personally feel every single one.

That’s not to say “Attack the Block” isn’t also very funny, thanks to Frost’s deadpan disinterest as Roy the weed dealer, and especially Luke Treadaway as one of his rich kid customers, whose perpetual bad luck is the audience’s comedic good fortune. Balancing laughs and scares in this sort of movie is no easy task. If the film’s too funny, the horror isn’t horrifying, and if the horror’s too horrifying, we’re too scared to laugh. Cornish manages to find the sweet spot.

He also manages to find something to say with this story too. Buried none too deeply beneath all the alien excitement is a critique of territoriality and the dehumanizing effects of the housing projects like the Block, which turns neighbors into complete strangers. Cornish deconstructs our preconceived notions about the people we live with and around, and then he blows them all up, figuratively and literally.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…