If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This 2010 Canadian/South African film is unusual in that while it takes place during a well known time of political upheaval (the period of violent unrest in South Africa during the time between Nelson Mandela's release from prison and his election as President), it isn't really about what was going on there at all. I mean, sure, we get to see more than enough atrocities to fill up any given 'can you believe what was going on over there' political message film, but "The Bang Bang Club"s focus is what sets it apart, and for my money, what made it so interesting. Ryan Phillippe plays photojournalist Greg Marinovich, an ambitious wartime shutterbug who, after a daring incursion into the compound of the ruthlessly violent anti-Mandela Zulus, he gains the respect of a pack of well known adrenalin junky photojournalists known as the "Bang Bang Club", and is welcomed into their ranks. Phillipe's character gets the most depth, but credit has to be given to the other performers, especially with how much they deliver, considering how lightly the film touches on each of their own particular, and eventually tragic, stories. Yes, even Taylor Kitsch, who definitely gets to stretch his acting chops more here than in his previous cinematic outings. Ultimately, this is all about the morality of their jobs; is it enough to just take pictures for the world to see? How long can one claim journalistic neutrality and possess moral integrity? It poses some interesting questions, and while there aren't answers provided (is there an answer to give?), it certainly reflects on the heavy toll the ethical quandary has on them. While I could have done without the pointless romantic subplot featuring an even blander than usual Malin Akerman, "The Bang Bang Club" is solid, thoughtful, and action packed stuff.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Bang Bang Club [Blu-ray]
THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST (DVD)
You've got to have enormous, pendulous, balls to put comparisons with "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Ruthless People" on your DVD cover. Big ol' huevos. But was there ever really a chance that it was going to live up to that promise? As someone who's been reviewing a lot of these little, barely-made-a-theatrical-appearance films for the past few years, I can tell you with some confidence, no. Even so, there's something here, even if you have to wade past some pretty poor story planning to get to it. Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville play recent NYC arrivals who are determined to find a high-end elementary private school for their young daughter. Determined. And thus, the wackiness begins. Perhaps if I, or lets face it, most audiences, could find something to identify with in their single minded pursuit of the high-end of privileges normally open only to the financially elite. I mean, if there was ever a movie to be called "White People Problems", it's this one. Even so, things pick up a bit when they form a business relationship (and then, for reasons never really made clear, a friendship) with an 'admissions coach' played by the always goofy Amy Sedaris. Of course, a labyrinthine plot is hatched to gain the affections of the political power couple (Christopher McDonald and Kate Mulgrew) that have final say on who gets into the big prize of a pre-school, that strains credulity well past anyone's comfort zones. Thankfully, a running gag with Harris' friend (Peter Serafinowicz) and his instant message sexting transcripts being mistaken for modern poetry, is a nicely pointed bit, tearing down the so-called cultured and erudite society of the mega-rich, and who doesn't enjoy a joke at their expense? The running gag, and a great supporting cast rescue this relatively raunchy comedy from mediocrity, but it's a narrow escape.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Best and the Brightest