New on video: Nate Parker’s ‘Birth of a Nation,’ ‘Mr. Robot Season_2.0'
New on Blu-ray:
“The Birth of a Nation” (20th Century Fox DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99; also available on VOD)
It was almost one year ago that writer-director-producer-star Nate Parker premiered his Nat Turner biopic at Sundance to a rapturous reception and talk of Oscars. Then Parker’s past legal troubles cast a shadow over the release, and the movie faded quickly at the box office. But festival audiences didn’t get this one wrong. The movie bluntly depicts the horrors of slavery and uses the details of a famous 1831 slave rebellion to tell a stirring story of radical self-determination, pointing to the larger historical tragedy of American bigotry and human exploitation. Though the low budget and pulpy violence are a hindrance, this is ultimately the kind of bracingly personal project that indie cinema could use more of, with a complex perspective on how slaves experienced the Christian Gospels first as a chain forged by their masters and then as a weapon they could learn to wield. This is an exciting, thoughtful motion picture that should outlive its rocky launch.
Special features: making-of featurette
“Claire in Motion” (available Jan. 13)
Betsy Brandt gives a rich and haunted performance in the muted mystery, playing an intensely analytical math professor forced to reassess her own life and assumptions after her husband disappears. Co-writers and co-directors Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson minimize the genre elements of the story and play up the intimate drama, sticking close to their heroine as she struggles to understand what she may have missed about herself and her marriage. The film skews too vague, with a strong premise let down by a lack of plot. But Brandt’s vulnerability keeps it engaging, even when the story meanders.
TV set of the week
“Mr. Robot: Season_2.0” (Universal DVD, $44.98; Blu-ray, $49.98)
The second season of the USA Network cult hit missed the novelty and originality of the first; as a result, the buzz around the show has quieted. But after a year in which cyber attacks dominated the headlines, this series has never been more relevant. The 12 episodes of Season 2 add more characters and conspiracies, following the mentally ill hero Elliot (well-played by Rami Malek) as he tries to undo the far-reaching institutional sabotage that he set in motion. As law enforcement and corporate cabals close in on Elliot’s friends and family, the series offers a stylish, provocative examination on how increasingly unstable our society has become in the online age.
Special features: deleted scenes and featurettes
From the archives
“Battleground” (Warner Archive Blu-ray, $21.99)
Throughout World War II and in the years immediately after, Hollywood produced dozens of rousing, patriotic action pictures about the heroism and noble sacrifice of the American soldier. This Oscar-winning 1949 picture shook up the genre, emphasizing the harsh conditions of combat, the arbitrariness of death, and the confusion and even occasional cowardice of men on the front lines. Directed by the hard-boiled William Wellman and written by Robert Pirosh (based on his own experiences), the film still honors what was accomplished by the U.S. military in WWII, but it approaches the subject with an honesty and maturity that would soon become the norm for big-screen war stories.
Special features: none
Three more to see
“The Accountant” (Warner Bros. DVD, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99; 4K, $44.95; also available on VOD); “Deepwater Horizon” (Lionsgate DVD, $29.94; Blu-ray, $39.99; 4K, $29.99; also available on VOD); “Kevin Hart: What Now?” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD)
Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.
Your essential guide to the arts in L.A.
Get Carolina A. Miranda's weekly newsletter for what's happening, plus openings, critics' picks and more.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.