Harry Potter fans who mourned the end of his book and movie franchise, take heart. J. K Rowling has revived that universe with her original screenplay, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Eddie Redmayne plays an English wizard who finds trouble when he travels to New York in the 1920s with a bagful of magical critters. Even though it’s loud, dark and overlong, it’s a wildly entertaining and visually bewitching fantasy that serves as a welcome introduction to a whole new franchise.
“The Edge of Seventeen” is one of the best teen coming-of-age comedies since John Hughes re-invented the genre in the 1980s. Hailee Steinfeld is excellent as a young girl who has difficulty traversing the minefield of puberty and family dysfunction. Although it earns it’s R rating, “The Edge of Seventeen” is a smart, thoughtful and very funny movie for adults and older teens. It’s a real contender for a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination.
The documentary “The 13th” is filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s compelling, powerful and detailed look at what’s been dubbed America’s “prison industrial complex.” The mass incarceration of people of color is given valuable historical context through film clips, music and talking head interviews. It’s an enlightening must-see film for anyone willing to approach the subject with an open mind. There are limited local screenings, but “The 13th” can be seen on Netflix.
Also opening this week, “Officer Downe” is a campy sci-fi flick about an LA police officer who is repeatedly brought back from the dead to fight crime. “The Handmaiden” is an erotic thriller from acclaimed Korean filmmaker PARK Chan-Wook. Miles Teller stars in “Bleed for This,” the true story of the amazing comeback of injured boxer Vinny Pazienza. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is filmmaker Ang Lee’s drama about the difficult memories of an Iraq war veteran.