If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It's no wonder that this Congolese movie (yes, even the Congo is churning out cinematic content now) not only pretty much swept the African Film Awards this year, but is steadily gaining attention here as well. It's a refreshing new take on the noir-ish gangster film, avoiding the sort of trope abuse common to this genre by focusing on interesting characters (helped along by memorable performances from the leads) and throwing in lots of distinctively African flavors. Riva (Patsha Bay) is a small time crook who's returned to his home town of Kinshasa with a truck filled to the brim with barrels of gasoline that's he's stolen from another gangster, and he's looking to unload them quick. Of course, if it was that easy, there'd be no point in making a film about it; Riva is not only being hunted by the dangerously psycho gangster who he's stolen from, but ends up on the wrong side of a local criminal as well, whose gorgeous lady (Manie Malone) Riva can't seem to stop himself from relentlessly pursuing. Not that I blame him. I mean, danger or no......daaaaaamn. While "Viva Riva!" takes a lot of new roads along its story's twisty path, in this kind of noir, all roads tend to lead to the same place, and I'll be goddamned if it isn't even a darker destination than one usually expects from the genre. I have sneaking suspicion that we've seen the debut of a big new voice in international cinema with director Djo Tunda Wa Munga (although it might take a few times before his name becomes a household word, for obvious reasons). A few films in for this guy, and "Viva Riva!" might be looked upon as a comparatively minor work for him, but for crime film fans, it's always going to be a worthy investment of time.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Viva Riva
BUCK (DVD)...Guest Review by LEON
This one seemed like a long shot. I’d reached the point where I was just no longer excited by documentaries, what with the way they’ve been trending toward being so “rise & fall” formulaic and too much like reality TV. Not to mention that I’ve never been a fan of horses and I HATE the movie "The Horse Whisperer”. So, imagine how shocked I was when the last movie I wanted to see, a documentary on the real life man who inspired the original novel that "The Horse Whisperer" was based on, turned out to be one of my favorite movies of 2011. "Buck" is neither an expose of Buck Brannaman, nor is it a celebration of him, but more of an exploration into the life and soul of a man who straddles being both larger-than-life and down to earth. The documentary follows Brannaman to several stops on his normal, 40-week-per-year circuit of visits to ranches where he gives clinics on "natural horsemanship". He spends most of the year on the road, reluctantly separated from his wife and daughters. As the film progresses, we learn about his past, and how he and his brother were trick-roping child stars who were mercilessly abused by their father. Despite such difficult beginnings, Buck grew up to be a man who not only didn’t continue the cycle of violence, he went entirely the opposite direction, understanding that the way to train and control horses is through kindness. It sounds simple, but to see Brannaman in action is like watching a great wizard perform magic. But Buck’s equestrian Aquaman powers don’t stop there. While observing horse behaviors, he’s able to get a solid read on the owners as well. This becomes particularly highlighted when the movie centers around a psychotic, brain-damaged horse that Buck can only describe as “like a predator”. That seems like hyperbole until you find yourself bolting upright in your seat as the horse pulls a "OH SHIT!" stunt. "Buck" is the first film for director Cindy Meehl, who met Brannaman at one his clinics, but you’d never know that from how beautifully it’s shot and tightly edited. It manages to avoid every opportunity to be exploitive or maudlin. And it's got horses. Fucking horses. And still...I couldn't take my eyes off it. How great of a testimonial is that?
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Buck