Davis: Fantastic Beasts from Rowling’s pen

Author J.K. Rowling has turned a 'textbook' for her Harry Potter series into a fully-fleshed out movie.

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Rick DavisAfter the final Harry Potter movie was released in 2011, there was no indication when there would be any more movies from the Potterverse. But what started as something that was briefly mentioned in the original series is now the start of another blockbuster franchise.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was first mentioned as a textbook that the students at Hogwarts used in the Harry Potter book series. Author J.K. Rowling then actually published the “textbook,” which was sold as a fundraiser for the British charity Comic Relief.  Although the book was only a directory of magical creatures and there was no narrative to it, it featured an introduction by its fictional author Newt Scamander and now Rowling has written her first screenplay featuring that character and many of the creatures mentioned within.

Played by Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Scamander is an eccentric and introverted wizard living 70 years prior to the birth of Harry Potter. While writing his reference guide to “fantastic beasts,” he arrives in 1920s New York City with a small suitcase of magical creatures where he discovers an American network of wizards and witches.

After directing the final four Harry Potter films and last summer’s The Legend of Tarzan, David Yates returns to the world of magic to direct this and the next four movies that have been announced for this franchise.  If early reviews are any indication, Rowling has expanded on her magical world that will please current and future fans.

While teenage comedies have never seemed to match the success of the John Hughes classics from the 1980s like Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club, there have been many that have come close.  The latest comes from Academy Award-winning producer James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, The Simpsons, As Good as It Gets) who has taken screenwriter and first time director Kelly Fremon Crain under his wing to make The Edge of Seventeen. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2) stars as an introverted teen, neglected by her flighty mother (Kyra Sedgewick) and overshadowed by her jock brother.  And if her life is not awkward enough, her brother starts dating her best friend.  Her only glimmer of hope is to use her history teacher and reluctant mentor (Woody Harrelson) as a sounding board and the unexpected friendship of a sympathetic boy.  Critics are praising the movie, particularly the performances from Steinfeld and Harrelson, and is drawing comparisons to the classics from John Hughes as well as newer teen comedies like Clueless and Mean Girls.

From Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain) comes Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a war movie told from the point of 19-year-old Billy Lynn.  He and his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad have been hailed as heroes and brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. While on the victory tour, which culminates at a spectacular halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals through flashbacks what happened to the squad on the battlefield.