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Movie Reviews: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Moonlight

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Cary, NC – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them takes place in the same wizarding world as Harry Potter, albeit seventy years before young Harry entered Hogwarts’ gates. Director David Yates (the last four Harry Potter films) and creator J.K. Rowling have once again built a world full of detail and wonder, resulting in a satisfying entry in one of the best and most successful franchises of all time.

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Potter Prequel A Worthy Entry

Fantastic Beasts focuses on Newt Scamander, eventual author of the textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” that Harry Potter reads at Hogwarts.

Played by Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Newt is a wizard traveling to New York City with a briefcase filled with, well, beasts. Redmayne is a delight in the role; the actor has a naturally weird presence that fits incredibly well within this world. Full of charm and wit, Newt is an ideal hero for this new series of films.

The rest of the cast is filled with recognizable faces, from Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) to Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being A Wallflower) and Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks). If I had to choose, Farrell stands out in a cast that’s hard to stand out in. The actor has slowly but surely turned into a character actor in a leading man’s body and has delivered great performance after great performance. It’s clear he’s having a blast here and the fun is quite infectious.

Director Yates, a Potter veteran as I mentioned, does a fine job of making Beasts feel like an extension of the previous films while also letting it stand on its own.

Rowling Is A Master Of Detail

But the real MVP is screenwriter Rowling. She is simply a master of detail. The film is filled with little tiny moments of world building, helping everything feel real and established, despite the fantastical setting. Half of the battle for a film like this is making the audience believe in what’s happening on screen and Rowling knows just how to do that, a feat made all the more impressive knowing that it’s her first time writing a screenplay.

Well Worth Seeing!

It’s a bit early to tell just where Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them ends up ranking among the Potter films, but rest assured that it is a worthy and very enjoyable entry. Absolutely worth seeing!

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Moonlight

Cary, NC – Moonlight is a gorgeous movie about the crossroads of race, drug addiction, masculinity and sexuality in a way rarely seen in cinemas and can lead any filmgoer on an emotional journey while possibly leaving them wanting more.

Well Paced Story

Adapted from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight tells the story of Chiron through three stages of his life: childhood, adolescence and finally adulthood. It’s a format that works well on stage and is pulled off just as well here, thanks to director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), with only his second feature film and his first in eight years.

As Chiron grows up, in each part of his life we see him learn about his environment and himself: how to be a man, how to cope with his troubled mother, how to be black and, as one of the film’s main features, how to be comfortable with being gay. While Chiron lives with people similar to him in many ways, it’s his sexuality that makes many people, including his mother, see him as different and turn him away.

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Each act of the story builds well on the previous as we jump 10 or so years in Chiron’s life and some of his relationships are sped ahead. His childhood friendship with Juan and Teresa – played by Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage, House of Cards) and singer Janelle Monaé – expands while his relationship with his mother – played by Naomie Harris (Skyfall/Spectre, Southpaw) – falls apart.

Emotion May Overtake Story

While the segments of Chiron’s life stack well on each other and we get to see very well-directed and acted moments in his story, the ending feels somewhat abrupt. As an adult, Chiron has seemingly transformed from the quiet, shy young boy into a tough man of high respect. But this is peeled away some when he restarts his only relationship with a childhood friend, played by André Holland (Selma, The Knick).

For much of this segment, the two have an extremely heartfelt and at times heart-wrenching talk about their lives, with the adult Chiron played by Trevante Rhodes in one of his first roles. But at the conclusion, there is a lot left unsaid and unknown. The conclusion they come to about the future of their romance is sudden and the movie ends not long after. While Moonlight is a movie more about an examination of one man’s life than his life’s story, it did not feel as satisfying as it maybe could have been, putting an odd note on an otherwise deeply moving film.

Highly Recommend

Moonlight is sure to be one of the most talked-about movies of 2016 because of its subject matter but it is a genuinely well made movie that treats its characters with the right amount of emotion without ever feeling phony. And it manages to pull out some amazing performances from child actors, which is almost impossible.

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Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Fantastic Beasts/Moonlight).

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