Peter Dinklage

Superb cast anchors McDonagh’s outstanding southern tale  

Grieving mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) expresses her frustration with her daughter’s stalled murder investigation via three billboards. 

“Raped while dying / And still no arrests / How come, Chief Willoughby?” So read the titular three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s brilliant, searing new blackest of black comedies. Whether the picture is correctly classified as a comedy – as its trailer would have it – may be a point of argument, however. While the film is not without its head-shaking, laugh-out-loud moments, they serve as counterpoint to the overarching dark, almost biblical tale that envelopes them, which will leave the viewer contemplative and affected for days after the credits roll.
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Spinning Platters wraps up its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which ended last Thursday, May 5th, after showcasing nearly 200 films from over 40 countries. The Fest may be over, but many of its offerings will be released throughout the year, so be sure to use our eight spotlight posts as a guide for potential future viewing.

We conclude our coverage by looking at three final films and two special events.

The Bandit
(USA, 2016, 82 min, Closing Night Film)

Burt Reynolds (l.) and Hal Needham during the filming of Smokey and the Bandit.

Local filmmaker Jesse Moss, who found success two years ago with his intense, stunning, but somber documentary The Overnighters, told us at the Q&A after the closing night screening of his new film that after that emotionally wrenching experience, he wanted to go in an opposite direction and make a “fun car comedy” like the films he loved while growing up – films like the ’70s Burt Reynolds-helmed, car chase classic Smokey and the Bandit. Still a documentarian, though, Moss has thus made what he terms the first “action-comedy” documentary. Indeed, as a look at ’70s heartthrob action and comedy star Burt Reynolds and his lifelong friendship with Hal Needham, the Hollywood stuntman turned writer/director who made the iconic Smokey, Moss’s new film succeeds brilliantly at echoing the good ol’ boy charm of the best of Needham and Reynolds’s pictures. Featuring historical interviews with Needham (who passed away in 2013), as well as interviews with former Smokey co-stars, country music stars, friends, colleagues, family, and Reynolds himself, The Bandit is chock full of juicy behind-the-scenes insider stories and enough old TV and movie clips to please the most ardent pop culture fans. As a portrait of both a bygone era of movie-making and, more importantly, of a singular friendship that could shift between respect and rivalry, Moss’s picture mirrors the good natured southern charm of the Reynolds-Needham collaborations, while also examining more serious issues of fame, competition, and deep, enduring friendship. The Bandit took home the Audience Award at SXSW this year, and deservedly so; a genuine crowd pleaser, the picture is a must-see for students of ’70s cinema, and anyone who values engrossing, well-made documentary stories.


  • Currently playing the film festival circuit.

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Film Review: The Boss

by Chad Liffmann on April 8, 2016

The Boss gets to a hilarious point, and then avoids it the rest of the way.

Troop Badass.

Troop Badass.

Melissa McCarthy has been a central figure in the female-led comedic renaissance in modern cinema. 2011’s Bridesmaids kicked off a constant flow of adult comedies featuring female leads, and the results have been great. That isn’t to say that female-led comedies were never produced before, but they were few and far between — about one to every ten male-led adult comedies (a guesstimate). The Boss is the latest entry in the new wave of such films, and while it’s not nearly as funny as others, it gleefully crosses the politically incorrect line on a few occasions while criticizing some of our society’s most antiquated views of women of all ages. And when it does, unfortunately not often enough, it’s hysterical!

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Back to the future past!

So. Damn. Magnetizing.

He’s just so…magnetizing.

The only actors seemingly capable of producing the same intense chemistry with onscreen conversations as Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan do…are Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.  Put them all in a movie together and it’s practically a how-to on acting.  Throw in Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence and you now have one of the most talented ensembles ever.  Oh, wait, Tyrion Lannister, err… Peter Dinklage, too?!  With this billed cast, it could’ve been a biopic about the GEICO gecko and I’d get in line.  Luckily for everyone, it’s actually X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the best entries in the X-Men series (including all spinoffs, etc.) and an insanely fun film.

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