WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
Leave it to J.K. Rowling to transfer the wizarding world of “Harry Potter” to 1920s New York without losing the magic.
Set decades before Harry picked up his wand, “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” follows the adventures of wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he arrives in Manhattan with hopes of rescuing a boatload of magical creatures. But before he can say “billywig” and “bowtruckle,” he gets sucked into a mammoth battle with dark forces (Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller).
Rowling’s exuberant daydream of a film puts you right down in the middle of a breathtaking world, right alongside Newt and his new pals (Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol). It’s quite an achievement. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu.
Also New to VOD and Streaming
The Discovery: What if human beings found out that the afterlife was real – and could be scientifically proven to be so? That’s the premise for this love story between a depressed physician (Jason Segel) and a mystery woman (Rooney Mara.) The action unfolds in the midst of a worldwide crisis as millions of people begin killing themselves in hopes of “re-setting” their existence. The first-rate cast includes Robert Redford, Riley Keough and Jesse Plemons. On Netflix.
Miss Sloane: Leaking the secrets of co-workers, arranging pay-for-play deals and conducting secret surveillance: lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) will do anything for a client. Sloane is, by her own admission, “a gold medalist in ethical limbo.” But she reaches her limit when she’s confronted with a particularly shady pro-gun lawmaker. Even though this sleek political thriller doesn’t quite hit its bullseye, it deserves a lot of credit for boasting smart dialogue, hairpin twists and a meaty role for Chastain to really sink her teeth into. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Assassin’s Creed: Did Michael Fassbinder run up some big gambling debts? How else to explain the A-list actor’s participation in this joyless slog of an action movie which is based on the video game franchise. Very little of this dismal entry makes much sense but, like so many of today’s popcorn movies, it takes itself oh-so-seriously. Fassbender plays an inmate saved from execution by a scientist (Marion Cotillard) who unlocks his ancestral memory of being an assassin in Inquisition-era Spain. Convoluted, humorless and visually dreary, “Assassin’s Creed” joins the scrapheap of other video-game-to-movie transfers like “Warcraft” and “BloodRayne.” On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Evolution: If an eerie atmosphere is all you require from a horror film, this French-language creepfest will keep you on edge of your seat. For those viewers who enjoy dialogue, plot and relatable characters, “Evolution” will be a big let-down. Set on a remote seaside village where the only occupants are boys and their adult mothers, the action pivots on a youngster (Max Brebant) who discovers what he imagines is a dead body. Soon he’s whisked away to a dark, dank hospital where bizarre-ness awaits. Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, “Evolution” is so slow and surreal that shots of a barely moving starfish have more spark than the story. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
The Creeping Garden: Just how good could a documentary about slime molds be? Well, as it turns out, pretty darn good. Boasting beautiful visuals and a light-hearted approach to scientists who study the strange life form found under decaying logs and branches, this film is a hypnotic delight, especially when time-lapse photography is used to demonstrate how the molds are capable of moving around a maze toward a food source. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Five Came Back: Adapted from Mark Harris’ book “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War,” this documentary series tells the story of five filmmakers — John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens — who interrupted their careers to serve their country. Featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan and narrated by Meryl Streep, the three-part docuseries depicts how WWII changed Hollywood. To co-incide with the series, Netflix is also streaming 13 wartime docs discussed in the series, including Ford’s “The Battle of Midway” and Stevens’ “Nazi Concentration Camps.” On Netflix.
For The Kids
Spacepop: Princess Power: Here’s a fun animated feature about five teenage princesses who manage to escape when the evil Empress Geela tales over the Planets of the Pentangle. Disguising themselves as musicians in a band called SpacePOP, the gals join the Resistance in an effort to bring down Geela, save their parents and liberate the good people of Pentangle. In the process, the princesses spread the joy of music, beauty and fashion. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Snowbound: Animals of Winter: While not specifically tailored for kids, this riveting wildlife program should put a smile on the face of any nature lover. Wildlife photographer Gordon Buchanan tracks some of the world’s most iconic snow animals, including the penguins of Antarctica, the bison of Yellowstone and the Arctic fox. Beyond the Arctic circle in Norway, Buchanan discovers wolves, lynx, reindeer, polar bears and an Arctic caterpillar. Fascinating stuff. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Thanks to Cartoon Network, you and your kids can now digitally own all of the seasons of the animated ‘90s superhero series. The network is also releasing all of the episodes from “The New Adventures of Captain Planet” and “The All New Adventures of Captain Planet. “On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu