September 30, 2010
by Joel Crary
(Director: Kaare Andrews)
Canadian comic book artist Kaare Andrews brings his love of the fantastic to this Canuck actioner about five friends who fly into a twisted, midair Bermuda Triangle of a storm cloud on their way to Montreal for a Coldplay concert. Our budgets up north rarely support the effects seen in Hollywood blockbusters, but Andrews wisely goes the Vincenzo Natali route, making nice use of a cramped airplane interior set and eerie lighting.
Andrews knows how to execute an action sequence – one involving a character’s efforts to kick at the craft’s tail while cloudsurfing at the end of a rope is outlandish fun – and the ensemble members, fronted by “90210″‘s Jessica Lowndes, do what they can with their two dimensions apiece. Unfortunately, everything is brought down by Paul A. Birkett’s increasingly ludicrous script, delivered like a flight manual doused liberally in drivel and punctured with convenient plot holes.
(Director: Ahmad Abdalla)
This year’s VIFF seems to be heavily courting the theme of music as a vehicle for sociopolitical change in repressed regions of the world. As is the case in “Checkpoint Rock” and “Kinshasa Symphony,” Egyptian writer-director Ahmad Abdalla’s “Microphone” features musicians whose songs stand as their only weapon against the tyranny imposed upon them by a hypocritical government. Recently returned from America, Khaled Abol Naga (playing himself, or someone similar) finds a new purpose in his native Alexandria by organizing a concert featuring local underground musical acts, mending his broken heart in the process.
“Microphone” shares much of the same problems found in “Checkpoint Rock,” though I preferred the latter film’s focus and brevity. Instead of presenting the social conflicts more directly and illustrating how the characters deal with them, Abdalla decides to leave it pretty well entirely to the music. The multitudinous jam session sequences end up have a debilitating effect on the message and cause “Microphone” to meander across its two-hour running time. Abdalla’s efforts to blend the documentary format with a fictional story provoke neat philosophical questions about art’s place in a society where freedom of expression is heavily regulated and vastly underfunded, but since he’s unwilling to place his characters wholly within either reality or representation, the experiment comes up shy of the intensely observed resolution it desperately needs.