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Six Mississippi-themed films you haven’t seen…

Posted on August 30th, 2013
Posted on August 30th, 2013

by Coop Cooper

Most people are aware of the more famous, feel-good Mississippi films such as “The Help” and “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?” as well as the infamous, not-so-feel-good ones like “Mississippi Burning” and “Ghosts of Mississippi.” However, there are a few Mississippi-themed films (and some that take place on the Big River) that have flown under the radar and are definitely worth a look…

Mud” (2013) – Recently released on video, “Mud” tells the story of a young teen Ellis and his friend Neckbone who run across the charismatic fugitive Mud (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an island in the Mississippi River. Mud convinces them to help him fix a derelict boat and get word to his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) so the two can make a fast getaway, but little does Ellis know the magnitude of the trouble Mud could be getting him into. This was a finely-executed dramatic thriller that was shot primarily in DeWitt, Arkansas and on the Mississippi side of the river. The well-written and finely acted film features many twists and turns without being too predictable. It’s a must-see for fans of McConaughey and while it has an ‘indie’ feel to it, its story is well-crafted enough to please mainstream audiences. “Mud” is currently available on Netflix and other video rental services.

The Dynamiter” (2011) – Despite the nebulous title (meaning something about choosing to live your your life destructively or to the benefit of those around you), “The Dynamiter” was a film festival gem and multiple award-winner shot in Glen Allan, MS near Greenville. This is a bittersweet, often somber tale about a fourteen year-old kid named Robbie who must care for his younger, mentally handicapped brother after his deadbeat mother runs off. Robbie struggles with keeping and providing for his brother as he runs afoul of the law and his dangerous, ex-con older brother. It’s a quiet and haunting drama with some amazingly realistic performances by non-professional actors playing likable, yet flawed characters. “The Dynamiter” is currently available on Netflix Instant.

My Dog Skip” (2000) – This adaptation of Willie Morris’ memoir of his childhood with his dog in Yazoo City is a well-crafted tearjerker with excellent performances by Kevin Bacon, Diane Lane and Frankie Muniz from “Malcolm in the Middle.” While this was a big release, many have forgotten about it and how well it captures growing up in a small Mississippi town. It’s worth a revisiting. “My Dog Skip” is widely available on Netflix (disc only) and other rental services.

Stone Cold” (1991) – I almost can’t believe I’m mentioning this film in this article, but who doesn’t like an over-the-top biker action film starring former NFL linebacker Brian Bosworth? Putting this one in the so-bad-it’s-good category, this film stars ‘The Boz’ as undercover FBI agent John Stone investigating a white supremacist biker gang which has plans to assassinate a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate inside the state capitol building. I haven’t seen this film in years, but I do remember it having a ridiculously-high body count, as much action as a “Die Hard” film and a surprisingly competent performance from Bosworth. This lost gem can be found on Netflix (disc only) but is difficult to find anywhere else.

The River Rat” (1984) – This family film (with more than a few similarities to “Mud”) features a young Tommy Lee Jones as a wrongly-convicted ex-con who tries to reconnect with his daughter (Martha Plimpton). In order to escape an evil prison doctor (Brian Dennehy) who suspects Jones knows where a cache of hidden loot is buried, Jones takes his daughter down the Mississippi River to recover the loot before the doctor catches up with them. Shot mostly in Kentucky, Memphis and Mississippi, this suspenseful and well-acted PG film is currently out of print, but can be viewed for free on YouTube.

As I Lay Dying” (2013) – This HBO-produced adaptation of Faulker‘s novel directed by and starring James Franco premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year and will receive a limited release this upcoming September 27th. The story concerns the Bundren family as they must overcome natural disasters and their own demons as they transport their dead mother across the state to her burial plot. The film features many Mississippi actors in supporting roles and received a standing ovation at Cannes. “As I Lay Dying” is merely the first in a series of Faulker adaptations that will be filmed in Mississippi over the next few years.

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A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

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OFFICIAL SELECTION:
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Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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