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Movie Review: ‘Birth of a Nation’ Shouts with Shock and Cliché

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The Birth of a Nation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Is The Birth of a Nation the influential film it aims to be? Read our movie review to find out:

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are few times when I find myself uneasily frustrated with a movie such as The Birth of a Nation on so many levels. For every quintessential moment of disturbing racism from America’s slavery era, there’s a disappointing cliché where the music must swell and bland dialogue must be spoken. For every moment that evokes a dark sense of drama, there’s another that borders on being unintentionally comical.

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

One of the intense moments in ‘The Birth of a Nation.’

Directed and written by Nate Parker, it is a movie that deals with racism, violence, religion and revenge, never settling on one topic or tone.

But maybe that’s the point of Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which could play to a number of different notes. We could examine it from the religious angle in which slave/preacher Nat Turner (Nate Parker) cherishes the word of God, arriving at the decision for a massacre of slave owners through his own faith. We could look at it from a war aspect of how violence begets more violence with no morality to such an ugly world of racial division.

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Armie Hammer appears alongside Nate Parker.

Or we could view it as a simple revenge story in which Nat leads a rebellion seeking bloody justice on those evil white folks. In a moment where Nat drives a knife into the throat of a white man that beat his wife, there was a rousing applause from the screening audience. This was the same clapping I heard during Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen and The Magnificent Seven; the clapping brought forth at the moment when the noble hero finally slays his cartoonishly evil villain.

My initial reaction to such a sequence was disgust, the way such brutality came packaged as a crowd-pleaser. But I thought more about the entire movie over a few days and eventually came to the conclusion that Parker’s picture is more-or-less a mirror for the audience.

One person will look at The Birth of a Nation and see it as a unique commentary on racial relations turning ugly to the point of graphic violence. Another will see a thrilling picture where a black hero kills all the ignorant white folks. Another will interpret its message as encouraging racial violence or commenting on pointlessness of faith. And another will see the exact opposite.

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

The tense moments are often outweighed by the melodramatic.

There’s enough in the movie to warrant several views, but in a most scattershot method. When one slave slays his master in the night, he chases him out of his house, corners him with his militia of black slaves and proceeds to chop off his head. To drive home a point about the grisly violence, the scene ends with the slave holding up the severed head as if he were a serial killer in a slasher picture, admiring his kill. The audience erupted with gasps, laughter, scoffs and ewws.

It’d be easy for me to simply dismiss the movie as a kill-all-white-folks movie, especially the way every single white character is portrayed as either a mustache-twirling redneck or a standoffish wimpy loser. This could all be part of Parker’s master plan though.

Perhaps he wants the audience to confront such heavy subjects and not in the manner we expect. He can shift in an instant from the light-hearted romance of Nat meeting his true love to the vulgarity of a slave getting his teeth chipped out. It’s as if Parker cannot decide between making a safe historical drama or a gritty depiction of white-hot racial tensions.

Read more to get the rest of our movie review for Birth of a Nation:

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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