Movie Roundup

The Birth of a Nation is now playing at the Bijou

The Birth of a Nation:

Director Nate Parker purposely reclaims the title of perhaps the most racist film of all time, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation of 1915, and retools it as a tale based on the true story of Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American who helmed a slave rebellion in 1830s Virginia. (Bijou Art Cinemas)

Hell or High Water

From its starkly gorgeous cinematography and atmospheric Western soundtrack to its top-notch cast and propulsive narrative, Hell or High Water is a heartbreaking movie that hums with the undeniable weight of tragedy. A pair of busted-out brothers in west Texas, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) begin robbing small banks, stealing just enough to pay off the reverse-mortgage that is holding the family’s property hostage. As their crime spree escalates, the brothers are pursued by a crusty Texas marshal approaching retirement (Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingham). But beneath the suspenseful cat-and-mouse story, Hell or High Water evokes a deep and complex sense of inevitability. If The Big Short revealed to us exactly how the banks screwed the middle class from the top, Hell or High Water shows us what getting fiscally fucked looks like at the ground level, in backwater towns where generations of ranchers watch helplessly as their hereditary holdings go up on the auction block of blatant corruption. (Broadway Metro)

Girl Asleep

Girl Asleep, a whimsical, beautiful Australian film, manages to fit all the concerns of teendom — social hierarchy, vicious teasing, the landscape of a creative young mind — into just 77 minutes. Fourteen-year-old Greta (Bethany Whitmore), quiet and wide-eyed, is new at school. Gawky, talkative Elliott (Harrison Feldman) makes a friendship offering of a pink-frosted doughnut; a trio of girls — who have gone out of their way to match even more than their uniforms demand — offer a more suspect, but clearly important, sort of association. Greta isn’t entirely sure she’s interested. An introvert with a defiant streak, she’s comfortable in the small kingdom of her room. Everything is fine — until Greta’s mother decides she needs to throw Greta a 15th birthday party, when the film’s surreal bent is revealed. Greta’s dream journey is odd, but also vital: Thrown into the discomfort of her birthday party, she finds a way to reclaim her life as her own. Though it’s made of some heavy stuff, Girl Asleep is a buoyant, intimate, important triumph. (Broadway Metro)

Eight Days a Week

Director Ron Howard has said that he hoped to make Eight Days a Week both for dedicated Beatles fans and for a younger generation that has little sense of who the Beatles were. And Eight Days is fine — a solid mix of archival footage, new interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, crowd-sourced footage and reminiscences from now-famous people who once saw the Beatles. But Eight Days has a lot to cover, which makes it feel more like a primer than a story about a band that managed to tour for only a few years of its wildly popular existence. They made a lot of money touring, and yet could still afford to quit — but what this says about their success is never explored. How did fans react, knowing they’d never see the Beatles again? As an introductory text, Eight Days gets the job done, and superfans will appreciate the new footage (including scenes from the final public performance at Candlestick Park and the true last performance on a rooftop in London). There’s just too much cultural weight around the Beatles to fit into this movie, which leaves it feeling like we’re revisiting familiar ground. (Broadway Metro)

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