24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Screen Gems

L.A. Film Festival: Teens take on extraterrestrials in 'Attack the Block'

June 23, 2011 |  1:59 pm

Atack_the_Block
Who'd be better at fending off an alien invasion: cowboys from the Old West or kids from the inner city?

It's a question that could keep one occupied for hours during a night of mind-altering substances. But thanks to the scheduling geniuses in Hollywood, movie fans will actually get to have that question answered on July 29. That's when "Attack the Block," a dry comedy about a south London gang set upon by extraterrestrials, comes out -- on the same day as "Cowboys & Aliens."

Written and directed by Joe Cornish and produced by the guys involved in fan favorites "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," "Attack" was acquired by Sony Screen Gems after an enthusiastic  SXSW screening this spring. On Wednesday night at the L.A. Film Festival, several hundred Angelenos got a chance to size up the relative merits of the earthly defenders.

One thing's for sure: The British kids in "Attack" are hardly as well-equipped as Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and the other American rough riders of "Cowboys": Aside from a gun or two, the Brit posse's arsenal consists mainly of a samurai sword, kitchen knives, fireworks and a super-soaker.

Then again, their alien visitors seem to come from a much less advanced planet. (No flying saucers with tractor beams here, a la "Cowboys.") One beastie is aptly described as looking like what would happen if a "monkey [had sex with] a fish" while others are extremely furry, ape-like creatures on speed with teeth that glow blue. Actor John Boyega, who plays the 15-year-old crew leader Moses and was present for Wednesday night's screening, said the invaders were on set, not digitally added later.

Unlike the we're-dead-serious, this-is-not-a-comedy "Cowboys," "Attack" thankfully has a sense of humor about itself, if you can keep up with the thick accents. Funnyman Nick Frost appears as Ron, the public housing complex's resident pot farmer, but most of the laughs come from the much younger gang of relatively fresh-faced teens. These are kids who get around on bikes or motor scooters, still have 10 p.m. curfews and face certain challenges in fending off the aliens. One of them runs out of credits on his mobile phone, while another has to convince some local girls that no, he's not playing Xbox -- those really are aliens invading.

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-- Julie Makinen

Photo: A gang of teens from a south London housing complex are vexed by some alien beasties to comic effect in "Attack the Block." Credit: Screen Gems


T.I.: 'I'm a nice guy by nature'

September 3, 2010 |  9:00 am

Ti We awoke Thursday morning to the news that T.I., the rapper/actor currently starring in heist film “Takers,” had been arrested hours before in West Hollywood on drug possession charges. He and his wife, Tameka “Tiny Cottle,” were pulled over by sheriff’s deputies who say they “smelled marijuana coming from their vehicle during a traffic stop,” according to L.A. Now. After searching the car, the cops found a controlled substance -– “pills resembling Ecstasy” -– and arrested the couple.

As we heard this, we flashed back to our own ride with the Atlanta resident in Los Angeles just weeks before. We had been scheduled to interview T.I. for his new film at the posh hotel he was staying at, the Montage in Beverly Hills. But no sooner had we arrived than T.I. called his team to let them know there’d been a change in plans: He had just left a meeting with producer Brian Grazer, and had now been invited to meet with Brett Ratner at the director’s Benedict Canyon mansion. Would we mind tagging along?

So we jumped in a car with T.I., his publicist, security personnel and driver to head over to Ratner’s house. (It wasn't the pricey Maybach that T.I. was arrested in late Wednesday, but rather a big black SUV. And there certainly wasn't any odor of marijuana or anything else untoward.)

We had asked T.I. how he viewed his role in "Takers" -- he plays Ghost, a thief recently released from prison who's trying to get back in good with his former posse of bank robbers. -- and he said he found it difficult to relate to the character. “I’m a nice guy by nature, you know what I’m sayin’?” he told us. “I’m accommodating. I’m a nurturer. Protector. Provider. You know, so, I mean, I just — certain things, I just can’t see myself doing.”

Wednesday’s arrest is not good news for the Grammy-winning rapper. He has been on probation since December, when he was released from a federal prison in Arkansas after spending about seven months there for charges related to purchasing machine guns and silencers.  The new charges may also prove to be negative for Screen Gems, the studio behind “Takers,” which is entering its second weekend at the box office. In its opening weekend, the film narrowly beat out “The Last Exorcism” for the No. 1 spot, with a $20.5-million tally. Then again, it is keeping the star of the Screen Gem movie in the news.

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: T.I. poses at the Montage Hotel on Aug. 23. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times.

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