CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

American Animals opens & Three Billboards now on DVD Posted on 21 June 2018

Creating a buzz at international film festivals, American Animals opens this weekend in neighborhood theaters. This independent film is reminiscent of “True Crime” television shows from the 1990s that were hosted by the late Robert Stack and William Shatner. Based on a true story, the film is part documentary and part fictional recreation about a theft from a special collections library.

Set in Lexington, Kentucky, this film opens with a quote from Charles Darwin. The opening credits are presented over John Audubon paintings and we see four teenagers playing dress-up as old men enter a special collections library on the Transylvania University campus. The film flashes forward to four older men — Warren Lipka, Spencer Reinhard, Chas Allen and Erik Borsuk, being interviewed about their criminal caper.

The preparation, the heist and the aftermath of the crime is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue scenes from films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. We witness childhood friends Spencer (Barry Keoghan) and Warren (Evan Peters) rebel against their suburban environment, which feels like the Monkees song “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

Due to a lack of security at the library, Warren and Spencer hatch a plan to steal the Audubon paintings and sell them to an international arts dealer. As their pipe dream becomes reality, Warren and Spencer recruit Chas (Blake Jenner) and Eric (Jared Abrahamson) to act as extra muscle.

For the most part, the humor of American Animals is watching four highly-educated teenagers perform actions with the same IQ as Jackass participants. When the actual crime is committed, the humor dissipates and the violence becomes painfully real. Does crime pay? Will there be redemption? American Animals has the answer at your local theater this weekend.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbling, Missouri is available for free at your local library on DVD. The winner for Best Screenplay Award at the Oscars, this film has become influential. After the [Grenfell Tower] fire in London and the shooting in Parkland, independent advocates created political (albeit electronic) billboards in protest.

Despite the impact of Oscar wins, Three Billboards Outside Ebbling, Missouri was only a modest success, despite an aggressive marketing campaign from the studios. The trailer presented a justified angry woman taking on a community run by stupid police officers, which probably alienated potential male tickets buyers. Perhaps if it was marketed against Hollywood’s political whims of the time, this good film would have enjoyed a stronger box office.

Unlike the simplicity of the trailers, Three Billboards is a nuanced drama that balances tragedy with comedy.

The three billboards are the catalyst that ignites the showdown between Mildred (Frances McDormand – Best Actress winner) and her conflict between the Sheriff (Woody Harrelson) and his Deputy (Sam Rockwell — Best Supporting Actor winner). With surprising character motivation, the story is unpredictable and filled with pain and redemption.
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