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Review: Attack the Block, The Women on the 6th Floor, The Lorax, Mirror Mirror and Wrath of the Titans

By May 3, 2012No Comments

Attack the Block posterIt has taken ten months for Joe Cornish’s bril­liant Attack the Block to make its way to New Zealand and one of the first ques­tions will be, is there still an audi­ence left for it con­sid­er­ing the most rabid fans will have found – licit and illi­cit – ways to watch it months ago. I cer­tainly hope there is because Cornish has pro­duced a highly ori­gin­al take on a clas­sic genre – a low-budget ali­en inva­sion movie that is thrill­ing, funny and socially aware.

It’s Guy Fawke’s Night and the attemp­ted mug­ging of off-duty nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is inter­rup­ted by a the explos­ive arrival of a strange creature. The lead­er of the young hood­lums, Moses (a star-making per­form­ance by John Boyega), man­ages to kill the beast and they take the car­cass as a trophy, not real­ising that there are oth­ers fol­low­ing – and that they will want revenge.

Attack the Block deliv­ers some astute social com­ment between the thrills. Moses believes that the mon­sters have been sent by the gov­ern­ment to kill more black people – because the drugs and guns aren’t doing it fast enough – and his hero­ism is destined to go unre­cog­nised in an inner city Britain where work­ing class black youth are only ever por­trayed one way.

The mon­sters are of the extremely low budget men-in-hairy-suits vari­ety but the edit­ing (by Scott Pilgrim’s Jonathan Amos) keeps them mostly out of sight for the first act after which they become extremely fast-moving and occa­sion­ally ter­ri­fy­ing. But it’s the char­ac­ter aspect of Attack the Block that will stay with me – a mis­un­der­stood gen­er­a­tion turn­ing the tables on pre­ju­dice as well as an ali­en threat.

The Women on the 6th Floor posterThe Women on the 6th Floor is a French comedy-drama for people who are uncom­fort­able with too much drama – or too much com­edy for that mat­ter. Like so many French films, it is about a bour­geois city dwell­er get­ting les­sons in authen­ti­city from the lower classes. The only twist here is that the teach­er isn’t a garden­er or a taxi driver – and isn’t even French.

It is the 1960s and Jean-Louis (Fabrice Luchini) is pat­ron of the fam­ily stock­brok­ing firm, and has nev­er thought for a moment about his priv­ileged pos­i­tion in soci­ety. Like his con­tem­por­ar­ies, the smooth run­ning of his house­hold is depend­ent on the impor­ted Spanish maids who live – mostly uncom­plain­ing – lives in the attics of their homes. Jean-Louis gets a crush on his new one, María (Natalia Verbeke), and sud­denly becomes the saviour of the downtrodden.

Intolerably pat­ron­ising, The Women on the 6th Floor, is marsh­mal­low soft and destined only to rein­force the com­pla­cent world­view of its (male) maker and its audience.

The Lorax posterMuch more soph­ist­ic­ated – and for a film aimed at eight-year-olds that’s say­ing some­thing – is the anim­ated ver­sion of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, a plea for envir­on­ment­al aware­ness that man­ages to carry with it the most anti-consumption, anti-corporate, mes­sage I’ve seen in a Hollywood film in ages. Young Ted (Zac Efron) has a crush on pretty Audrey (Taylor Swift) but she only dreams of trees – there aren’t any you see, they were all chopped down years ago and now everything in Thneedville is made of plastic.

To find the secret of the trees, Ted has to ven­ture out­side the city walls and find the mys­ter­i­ous Lorax (Danny DeVito) who was once the pro­tect­or of the trees but who did­n’t do such a fab­ulous job of it the first time around. The Lorax will please all ages, provided older view­ers put some kind of cute­ness fil­ter on over their 3D glasses as dir­ect­or Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) piles it on pretty thick.

Mirror Mirror posterThere are two Snow White and the Seven Dwarves movies due out this year and the first has been rushed into cinemas to try and gain first advant­age. Mirror Mirror stars Julia Roberts as the wicked Queen, try­ing to dis­pose of her beau­ti­ful step­daugh­ter so she will remain ‘the fairest of them all’. The step­daugh­ter is of course Snow White – that’s first name and sur­name like Meat Loaf – and she is played by Phil Collins’ pretty daugh­ter Lily.

Mirror Mirror reminds you of great fam­ily movies like The Princess Bride and Time Bandits without approach­ing the great­ness of either. Director Tarsem has a bril­liant eye for col­our but not much of one for com­edy. There are some good people involved in front of – and behind – the cam­era but noth­ing sizzles.

Wrath of the Titans posterTwo years ago, a hast­ily 3D’d Clash of the Titans was rushed into cinemas to take advant­age of all the post-Avatar hype and was jus­ti­fi­ably panned by crit­ics. Audiences must have respon­ded though as we now have a sequel, Wrath of the Titans, which fol­lows Perseus (Sam Worthington) into the next chapter of his myth­ic career: cyc­lopses, minotaurs, labyrinths and the bowels of Mt Tartarus. If this seems famil­i­ar it is because it was the basis for last year’s Immortals (coin­cid­ent­ally dir­ec­ted by the afore­men­tioned Tarsem).

This film isn’t the visu­ally inco­her­ent mess that the first one was. Director Jonathan Liebesman made Battle: Los Angeles which for all its faults had great 3D and this film also appears to actu­ally have writers: new­comers Dan Mazeau and David Johnson. The act­ors play­ing the gods (includ­ing Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes) have dialled their per­form­ances down a little more to human scale and every­one has been told to use their own accents (except for Bill Nighy who is a law unto him­self). Even Worthington seems to have relaxed into his own skin a bit.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 4 April, 2012.