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‘Fantastic Beasts’ is magical introduction to a new wizarding world

Here’s a look at an interesting new release available to rent from cable and digital providers and a few titles that have recently hit streaming services.

Video on Demand

“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”: David Yates directed the final four films in the Harry Potter series and has returned to deliver what is apparently the first of five cinematic tales that have been spun off from the franchise. J.K. Rowling wrote her first screenplay with this adaptation of a book she released to raise money for charity in 2001 that was a non-narrative imagining of a textbook from Hogwarts. Eddie Redmayne is quite delightful in the lead role as Newt Scamander, a British wizard who has arrived by boat in New York circa 1926 to study magical monsters. He’s got a whole batch of them already in his suitcase and, after one accidentally escapes into the city, he ends up on an adventure where he’s being tracked, and subsequently assisted by, a witch (Katherine Waterston) from the Magical Congress of the United States of America. There’s a lot crammed into one film up front, but it will certainly reward multiple viewings. Carmen Ejogo (“Selma”) plays the stern president of the Magical Congress, assisted by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell at his creepiest) to keep the city’s magical citizens safe and hidden from No-Majs (aka Muggles). Winner of an Academy Award for best costume design, it’s jam-packed with stunning special effects and wizarding world magic. (Cable and digital VOD)

Also on streaming services

“Abortion: Stories Women Tell”: This insightful and compassionate feature from Tracy Droz Tragos premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It focuses on personal stories from women in Missouri on both sides of the debate. It’s a state where only one clinic that provides abortions remains open, and a restrictive law has been passed that requires a 72-hour waiting period between a woman’s first visit to a doctor and a requested procedure. Tragos gives her interviewees an opportunity to relay their stories without judgment, on their own terms. (HBO Now)

“Five Came Back”: Narrated by Meryl Streep, this documentary looks at the films made by five directors for the government between 1941 and 1945 during World War II. Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler all made patriotic movies for the war effort. Contemporary filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan reflect on their legacies. Based on the book by Mark Harris, this 3-hour project is split into serialized chapters, which seemingly makes it a little less daunting to tackle. Several original short films referenced here have also been newly remastered and are available online for the first time. (Netflix)

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