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Morning Glory, Unstoppable, Monsters, Down Terrace, Sounds Like a Revolution (part of the upcoming Amnesty International Film Festival)

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The story is bare bones but effective. Alien monsters have taken over part of Mexico, as TV reports and graffiti repeatedly tell us. People aren’t allowed into the “infected” zone but a photographer and the publisher’s daughter he’s told to bring home safely do have to go in, if they want to get back to the U.S. There’s considerable suspense and a nice improvised quality to their travels, both before and inside the zone. The filmmakers (actually just a crew of four and a guide) made up scenes as they travelled and recruited local people along the way to play small parts. Amazingly it works. And well enough to gain the film six nominations for Independent Spirit awards in England. (Scotiabank)   3 out of  5

DOWN TERRACE: A British crime family indulges in a bit of killing, eventually and for good reason, they believe, in this grainy, black comedy. Before that they chat, bicker and argue endlessly. Domestic life for criminals is not unlike other peoples’. Bill, the patriarch tends to pontificate philosophically about his old hippie days and how the world has turned for the worse since then.  “I’m a simple man,” he says. “I like to re-connect with the essentials.”  Now and then he picks up a guitar joins and joins in with some mates singing a blues song or a traditional ballad.

His son is agitated though, to find out who snitched and almost sent them to jail. Oddball friends wander in and out and are sized up. Two gang envoys from London come with a stern warning to stay cool. Tensions build within the family and later on, father, son and even mother shut down the domestic drama and turn homicidal. It’s a bleak view of humanity this film has to offer but also a strangely engaging one. The actors, mostly from British television, are excellent, although their accents take some work to follow. (VanCity Theatre Sat-Wed)  3 out of 5

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: ( ) It’s still almost a week away but I mention it now because of Thursday’s opening program.

H2OIL, about Alberta’s tar sands, and PETITION, about taking grievances to official channels in China, both played at VIFF.

SOUNDS LIKE A REVOLUTION though is new to us, and rarely screened anywhere. It’s a lively documentary showing that protest music lives on. It didn’t die when Dylan went electric. It just moved to the side of the stage where fewer people can find it. David Crosby tells the story of the Kent State song, Ohio, and says nobody could match it these days. Musicians ranging from Steve Earle, Ani DeFranco and Jello Biafra, to the rapper Paris, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave, and Justin Sane of Anti-Flag suggest much the same.

The music industry today shuts out dissent, they say. Artists who want to speak up have to go to small labels or start their own. One critic says that means they reach “virtually no one” although those are huge crowds singing or chanting along in several concert clips. Michael Franti, who has a lot to say in the film, is seen singing to 50,000 people at his annual Power to the Peaceful festival.


There’s more virulent stuff from bands like Ministry, Johnny D.I.X. and NOFX with their charming George Bush ditty “Idiot Son of an Asshole.”  In the interviews the musicians are far more thoughtful. The film, made by Toronto’s Summer Love and Jane Michener, ends with the Obama election which means it already needs updating. What’s happening without George W. to get angry about?  Michael Franti’s new CD, for instance, has personal not political songs. Summer Love, as Summer Preney, will take questions via Skype after the screening. (Vancity Theatre)  3 ½ out of 5     


Also playing …

SKYLINE: Not shown to the media but for some reason there are several posts on imdb from people in South-East Asia and New Zealand who’ve seen it. The consensus seems to be: great special effects, weak story and poor acting. Alien spaceships appear in the sky over Los Angeles and with an hypnotic light beam suck people up and inside. The residents of one apartment building try to resist. A low-budget, full-length effort from a California company previously known mostly for visual effects in blockbuster films. (Tinseltown and many suburban theatres.)

NOTE: The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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