QUICK TAKE: Lion

brothersTitle: Lion | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 120 min | Theaters limited (expanding)

When we follow a character’s journey, his or her emotions and thoughts must be believable and clear if we are to completely emotionally invest in both the character and the journey. This tenet holds true even if that journey spans or skips over a great period of time, in which the character gets older and undergoes change. It most certainly applies to adaptations of extraordinary true stories like Saroo Brierley’s, which is recounted on the big screen in the film Lion. Garth Davis’ picture is a solid production wielding some emotionally stirring punches, yet there’s this sense that it isn’t as extraordinary as the story it seeks to tell – which lies in how it handles the character of adult Saroo.

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QUICK TAKE: Allied

partyTitle: Allied | Rated: R | Runtime: 124 min | Theaters nationwide

For a love story to work, you need to believe in the characters’ love. Heck, if the love between two people is what drives any kind of story regardless of genre, then you need to believe in that love first and foremost. If you don’t, then the relationship is all for naught, and the story is sapped of drama and emotion. That’s the conundrum that Allied unfortunately falls into, and it progressively devolves into a limp affair.

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QUICK TAKE: Nocturnal Animals

policeTitle: Nocturnal Animals | Rated: R | Runtime: 117 min | Theaters limited (expanding)

Storytelling for cinema is a difficult art to master since there’s so much to look out for. The hook must be gripping, and the characters need to be compelling. Once you have those, you’d think the script is fine, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The journey, the proceedings must be worth the investment, and that’s when you take into account character arcs, relationships, themes, and how that story should be told. At the end of the day, the story matters most, which means that the audience must care. With his sophomoric feature Nocturnal Animals, writer-director Tom Ford – yes, the fashion designer – definitely proves himself to be a tremendous visual stylist, though he doesn’t quite breathe proper life into what is an interesting yet dispassionate story.

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QUICK TAKE: Moana

duoTitle: Moana | Rated: PG | Runtime: 113 min | Theaters nationwide

Cinema reflects its audience. If moviegoers crave – even demand – something, the movies themselves will fulfill that in some form or another. When it comes to Disney’s animated films, audiences appear to want fare that’s more complex and progressive while still being fun. The Disney Revival Era appears to be tailor-made for them, as its films focus on themes like depression (Big Hero 6), identity (Wreck-It Ralph), and discrimination (Zootopia) and also showcase diverse (The Princess and the Frog) and strong female characters (Frozen). This welcome trend continues with Moana, which admittedly doesn’t pave new ground in terms of storytelling, but its true strength comes from a lively pair of lead characters – particularly the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), who will surely be a landmark Disney heroine in the ages to come.

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QUICK TAKE: Manchester by the Sea

lee-and-patrickTitle: Manchester by the Sea | Rated: R | Runtime: 137 min | Theaters limited (expanding)

A film like Manchester by the Sea goes to show that you don’t need a large canvas to paint a masterpiece. There’s no doubt that writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has assembled a gifted cast and crew, but what sets his third directorial feature apart is how he orchestrates all the pieces to make his story and vision a reality. And what a picture it is, stripping bare the depths of the human heart with honesty and patience.

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REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMTitle: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 133 min | Theaters nationwide

It’s not a bad time to be a Harry Potter fan. Nine years have passed since J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels came to an end, though it’d be five if you followed the film adaptations. Since then, fans have had to fulfill their Potter fix through Pottermore or the supplementary books and e-books. This no longer has to be the case, as 2016 has brought forth the eighth Potter story (albeit as a stage play) in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as a film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first in a spin-off series written by Rowling herself. The latter certainly captures and espouses the Potter spirit, even though its story does stumble along.

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QUICK TAKE: Loving

after-rulingTitle: Loving | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 123 min | Theaters limited (expanding)

With the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges last year and as the fight for the recognition of same-sex marriage continues, the story of Mildred and Richard Loving feels very relevant – especially how their experiences culminated in the 1967 Supreme Court ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. How timely, then, that their story has now been realized on the big screen by filmmaker Jeff Nichols. With the resulting film Loving, Nichols strips down this incredible journey to its basic human elements and focuses on the two people who started it all, thus honoring their humanity, legacy, and love.

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