Friday, August 19, 2011

Attack the Block

Attack the Block
seen @ UA Kaufman Studios Cinema 14, Long Island City, Queens, NY

There's a moment late in the movie Attack the Block that stood out for me more than most of the action sequences because of the subtle way it conveyed character. Moses, the leader of the gang of street kids fighting the aliens threatening their apartment complex, tells Sam, the nurse whom he initially mugged but now must rely on for help, to pick up something at his apartment. They communicate by cellphone. To this point, Sam has tried not to be intimidated by this teenage hoodlum, but she definitely doesn't feel completely safe around him and his friends. 

So she's in the bedroom and she sees a blanket with some cartoon character on it. (It was shown kinda quickly, so I could be wrong, but that's what it looked like.) She asks Moses on the phone, "Do you have a little brother?" He says no, and that's when she realizes that this must be his bedroom, and she's clearly surprised that this hard, stoic punk would own something so childish. Sam asks Moses how old he is, and he says he's fifteen. "You look older," Sam replies. "Thanks," Moses says.

I couldn't possibly imagine me and my high school friends defeating an alien invasion. Granted, we weren't a bunch of moped and bike-riding kids armed with katanas and machetes and fireworks - all we had were hacky sacks and frisbees and a handball or two. We might have had a chance depending on the terrain, though. If we had fought them in Central Park, for instance, we'd have had a definite advantage, because that was our turf - at least the southwest portion of it. I'm not sure our hacky sack-kicking skills could translate very well into improvised martial arts techniques, though. We could probably take down one or two of the hairy, glow-in-the-dark-teeth critters from the movie, but an entire army would've killed us dead before we made it to the Sheep Meadow.

I enjoyed Block much more than Super 8 because while it definitely followed in the footsteps of films like ET and The Goonies, it felt much more original. Why should aliens always appear in suburban neighborhoods? Why shouldn't they pop up in the ghetto once in awhile? And because these are ghetto kids, the way they look at these aliens is different, and that difference is acknowledged without having it come across as heavy-handed. For instance, at one point Moses theorizes that the creatures were sent to wipe out people of color in their neighborhood, since "we're not killing ourselves fast enough for them." A poignant observation that rings true to Moses' character, but not one that's constantly harped upon. This movie's not an allegory for racial and social inequity; it's an action movie, and that's what we get.

I hadn't been to the Kaufman in a long time. Much has changed. Once you go past the box office, you enter into a huge lobby with a whole bunch of newfangled video games on opposite ends of the room, along with the requisite movie posters and displays, of course. I was tempted to give one of the games a try, but I didn't have time. I was hungry and I wanted to get something to eat, so I moseyed on over to the concession counter.

The long counter had about eight or nine video screens above and behind it. When I first got there, a couple of them had the menu on display, but the rest had flashy images of some of the combo deals, like a burger with fries and a drink, or a large popcorn with candy and a drink. None of these images displayed the prices, mind you, just the combos. Then after a moment the images would change - and suddenly the menu was gone! All the screens displayed a single graphic, spread out over the multiple screens, advertising something like nachos or candy. If there was a fixed menu somewhere else on the counter that I could refer to (because I had already decided I wanted something other than popcorn; I just didn't know what), that'd be one thing, but there wasn't. The menu would pop in and out, depending on whatever stupid image was cycling on the screens. There was even a crude computer-generated cartoon of some sort of a dude eating popcorn. I'm looking at all of this and wondering how the hell am I supposed to figure out what I want to eat if the menu doesn't stay still long enough for me to decide?

Finally I settled on what looked like chicken fingers with fries. The menu only had one price for it on there, which I mistook to be the combo price. It was the base price. The combo (including a soda) cost several dollars more, way more than I was willing to pay, but I would've known that if I had seen both prices on the menu instead of one. All those razzle-dazzle graphics coming and going on the screens were distracting and highly unnecessary.

So I eventually get my box of chicken fingers and fries. Now judging from what I saw on the screens, I expected the chicken fingers to be about the size of, you know, my finger. As I walked towards the auditoriums, I opened the box - and it turns out they're these little bite-sized things about the size of a dollar coin! I wanted chicken fingers and what I got were tater tots! They tasted good, but still - not what I expected to pay for! If I ever come back to this theater, I'll either sneak food in or eat beforehand!


  1. What I love about your reviews is the personal moviegoing experience you included. Ahah, that's too bad about your chicken tator tot thing, what a travesty considering how expensive theater snacks are!

    As for the movie, this isn't my cup of tea but I was truly impressed by the filmmaker and main actor (Boyega) at the Comic-con panel. It does look very original and well-crafted. I might give it a rent even though the clip they showed really scared the pants out of me.

  2. You'd like this! The aliens are not that scary, trust me.

  3. I just saw a big black dog outside my workplace and I was shuddering. It's the simplest monsters that are the most scary.

    Yes, this movie is a better alternative than the whitewashed Super 8. Although I do disagree and saw a lot of symbolic metaphors of race, society and ghettoization in this movie.

  4. I don't deny that such things existed as subtext, but I never felt that it overwhelmed the main action. Moses and friends were characters first, not symbols or mouthpieces for the writers to rail against racism.

  5. It was a very enjoyable movie which currently is in the running to be included in my personal top 10 of 2011, that's how much I liked it. It felt very original and had a lot of suspense and humor. Nice writeup.

    Like your story about the chicken fingers. But you could have known...chicken don't have fingers ;)

  6. LOL!!!

    Of course. How silly of me.


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