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A new and splendid Beauty and the Beast plus two contrasting Canadian films, the Goon sequel and Weirdos

And so much more: a defense of trees, a city tour with cats, a plane hijacker’s own story, disaster experiences from Japan and a subtle English novel squeezed into a movie.

 

This is one of those weeks with too many new films. The Cinematheque has Bruce McDonald’s new one and two strong documentaries. They’re all reviewed below. The VanCity Theatre has three new documentaries. Two are reviewed. And there are all the new arrivals in regular theatres that fill out this list.

Beauty and the Beast:  4 stars

Goon: Last of the Enforcers:  2 ½

 A New Moon Over Tohoku:  4

Kedi:  3

Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees:  4 ½

The Skyjacker’s Tale:  3

Weirdos:  3 ½

The Sense of An Ending:   3

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: We didn’t ask for it but it works. Almost gloriously. Take the kids. This live action take on the classic story is not as magical as Disney’s 1991 animated version which was an Oscar nominee for best film. But it is enchanting much of the time and alive with color and music most of the time. When a whole village or tavern breaks out singing the rousing songs (most of them familiar from the earlier version) it feels like a quaint operetta, fit for a holiday season. And Emma Watson, building on the growing up she did alongside Harry Potter, is smart and spirited as Belle.

 

The story is little changed from the one we know, although some background is filled in. The Beast (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey) was quite a jerk when he was a prince. He not only turned away a pleading hag on a stormy night, he overtaxed his people to pay for his indulgences. All of that is explained though and he has our sympathy anyway. Belle also gets more back story but it’s her image as a modern young woman that best contributes. With the Beast she sees beneath the surface; with Gaston (Luke Evans), the arrogant suitor, she firmly declines his advances.

Big names like Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline and Emma Thompson play the smaller roles and add class. But don’t distract yourself watching for the gay moment with Josh Gad (Gaston’s servant) that has sparked so much chatter. It comes in the final minute or so and lasts maybe a second. I suggest a different caution. A few scenes, like the attack by wolves, are pretty scary for the little ones. (Dunbar, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS: The original, five years ago, did great business despite the stories in the sports pages at the time. They told of hockey tough guys whose years of fighting may have  contributed to their deaths. Those warnings passed and didn’t impede Jay Baruchel of Montreal (now Toronto) who co-wrote that film and adds the job of directing with this sequel. What does hamper him is a lack of restraint. I can’t imagine anybody who uses as much foul language as the characters in here. The f-word shows up in just about every sentence. Worse, the fighting scenes are overly gross and bloody. One at the climax feels like a horror movie. Still, judging by a preview Wednesday night, for many it’s a crowd-pleaser.

 

More in New Movies

Kong is big but unremarkable, Window Horses is diverse and whimsical and The Last Word welcomes back Shirley MacLaine

And notice especially the passionate defense of journalistic courage in All Governments Lie

Logan, better than a comic book movie, Before I Fall, teen self-help and The Shack, contentious religion

Also Ballerina for dreamy young girls, Table 19 for wedding outsiders and Bitter Harvest, about Stalin’s wrath in the Ukraine

Racial attitudes inspected in a tough documentary, in a bit of history and a biting satire

Also two animated Oscar contenders and a new slant from Britain on zombies
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