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New in Theaters November 18: Fantastic Beasts, Edge of Seventeen, Bleed for This, Billy Lynn

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By Chris Kavan - 11/17/16 at 06:44 AM CT

So many films with impressively-long titles this week, hopefully adding up to an impressive box office weekend. The big draw, of course, it the return to J.K. Rowling's magical world with Eddie Redmayne. We also have a super-realistic high frame half-time walk (and war story) along with a true coming-of-age film and a true-life story about a boxer who wouldn't give up. It's going to get a bit crowded, but we'll see if there's enough room for movies both big and small this weekend. One thing is for sure - I'm looking forward to some magic.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM The only thing that worries me about the return to the wizarding world is that Warner Bros. has already gone ahead and greenlit four more films. That's right, a book that takes five minutes to read is being stretched (potentially) in to five films - and you thought The Hobbit padded things out. In any case, Rowling herself is overseeing the proceedings, the films take place 70 years before the events in the first Harry Potter. Our first film follows scatter-brained Newt Scamander (Redmayne) who arrives in New York in 1926 with a case full of magical creatures. Of course, immediately things go wrong when a No-Maj (American slang for Muggle) mixes up cases and winds up releasing several creatures great and small in the New York area. It doesn't help that at this time the relationship between wizards and regular humans is quite strained - and this could be the tipping point. Scamander, with the help of fellow magician and Auror Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and the human who mistakenly released the beasts, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) rush to re-capture the creatures before they cause damage or, worse, reveal the wizarding world to humanity. Meanwhile, they have to deal with a no-nonsense Auror (Colin Farrell) out to capture Scamander and the No-Maj New Salem Philanthropic Society, led by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) - who seek to destroy all wizards and witches. Plus, there is a new, sinister evil arising - a dark wizard with powers great and terrible who has plans of his own. There's a lot to chew on here - and with the CGI, 3D and the like - it may be a bit much, though at least it looks more "adult" than the previous Potter films. Reviews have been mostly favorable, which is good, we'll see if it can sustain itself for all five films.

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK Ang Lee has delivered plenty of great films in the past, including one of my personal favorites, The Ice Storm. His decision to film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk at 120fps - the highest ever for a movie (more than double The Hobbit's 48fps), has met with mixed results. Granted, only two theaters in the U.S. are capable of playing the movie at this exceptional rate (one in New York, one in L.A.) thus the majority of the population won't get the "full experience". In any case, higher frame rates mean the films just looks crisper and more realistic - but I also find that it can also take you out of the movie - almost like it's too real. But the journey following a member of Bravo Squad (Joe Alwyn) who is on a victory tour culminating at the Cowboy's halftime Thanksgiving game - is juxtaposed with the battle that resulted in the death of his Sergeant (Garrett Hedlund). Lee should be able to deliver - but the film itself has received pretty mixed reactions. I'm surprised they didn't release this over Veteran's Day weekend - but maybe the competition was too stiff at the time. This isn't going to be a huge hit, but hopefully it will be solid.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN When it comes to coming-of-age movies - a lot of them tend to play things too safe. Exceptions exist, but they are few and far between - most are too sweet for their own good. That's why I love when a film like Edge of Seventeen comes along. Hailee Steinfeld is finally given another standout role after a series of supporting roles and questionable choices. Here she plays Nadine, who has just found out her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) has started to date her too-perfect older brother (Blake Jenner) and it makes her already-awkward life that much more difficult. She confides in a cynical teacher (Woody Harrelson), but ultimately must decide the course of her own life. Sure, the setup sounds pretty safe - but the film carries an R rating, meaning they are not going to shy away from sex, drugs and language - things that actual teens have to deal with every day. Thus, this has the good chance of being a coming-of-age film worth watching - and hopefully the R rating doesn't deter the crowds from watching it.

BLEED FOR THIS Our last film of the weekend is based on the true life story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza. Played by Miles Teller (who is no stranger to pain - have you seen Whiplash yet? If not, you really should.), Pazienza is involved in a crash that doctors say he will be lucky to even walk again. Inspite of the prognosis, Pazienza not only walks, he makes one of the most incredible comebacks in sports history. Boxing is a bit of a tough sell these days - I mean, look at how Hands of Stone turned out (or not - it only made $4.7 million at the box office). In any case, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, Aaron Eckhart and Ted Levine are all on hand to lend their support. I have a feeling this will turn out a bit better given the talent involved, but it is up against plenty of competition. We'll find out this weekend.

We'll see how two-time champ Doctor Strange does when he goes up against some different magic-users. Until Sunday - happy watching.


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