Today's DVDs: The Bang Bang Club, The Killing and Priest
The Bang Bang Club stars Ryan Phillipe and Malin Akerman, Steven Silver is screenwriter and director.
The setup: It was the end of apartheid in South Africa; reporters and photographers from around the world were there to capture the end of a violent era and, hopefully, a new beginning for the country under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. The Bang Bang Club, based on a true story, chronicles the adventures of four of those photographers (Ryan Phillipe, Malin Akerman, Taylor Kitsch and Steven Silver) as they struggle to accurately show the often horrific events that were taking place (riots, beatings, killings -- sometimes by setting people on fire), and stay alive at the same time.
The Bang Bang Club asks all the right questions -- is reporting on atrocities enough? Or are journalists and photographers required to step in at some point? What do you do when you see a man being burned alive? Do you put down your camera and try to save him, putting yourself in danger and probably doing very little to help him? Or do you take his picture and send it around the world, hoping to challenge those outside South Africa to take action?
Our take: The Bang Bang Club's only misstep is a sub-plot involving one photographer's drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend. When screenwriter-director Steven Silver sticks to the story about the four men and their individual struggles, the film is eloquent and absorbing.
DVD/Blu-ray Extras: Bonus features on the Blu-ray version include deleted scenes, audio commentary with the director and a making-of featurette.
Other New Releases: Stanley Kubrick's 1956 The Killing is a noir classic being re-released today by Criterion. Ex-con Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) puts together a crew of non-professionals ("some guys with problems and a little larceny in them") to rob a race track, but his perfect plan quickly goes awry.
Actors Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) and Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible III, Live Free or Die Hard) face down a horde of undead vampires in Priest. Set in a future where humans have been forced to live in stark, grimy cities while the vamps live on reservations in the desert, Priest follows Bettany's character as he and a small group of the faithful try to put down an undead uprising. Think of it as a mash-up of the horror, adventure and monster movie genres.