The new movies for August 21

Three versions of reality lead off the movies opening today: real facts in a documentary, biting satire and history by Tarantino. (Read more).

THE COVE: When I saw this in New York last week there were six people in the audience. Apparently, despite the awards, the publicity and the great reviews, not enough folks know about this exceptional documentary. Don’t be one of them. You’ll be entertained as well as enlightened. This film is part environmental tract and part thriller. It follows a group of activists trying to expose the dolphin trade in a small town in Japan. Fishermen herd the animals into a bay, sell the best to sea life shows and move the rest into another, out-of-bounds cove to slaughter them. Richard O'Barry wants to catch that on film as evidence to fight it. Local cops and various other types are watching for him, though. He’s well-known as the former trainer for the “Flipper” TV show who’s turned into a zealous anti-captivity campaigner.

The film is beautifully structured, repeatedly stepping back from his arrival and various confrontations to other scenes that explain the issue. Paul Watson has a few things to say, the International Whaling Commission comes off badly and there’s a bit too much information on mercury levels and such.

But the thriller side soon comes back. Hidden cameras from some California movie people and two deep divers from Coquitlam enable O’Barry to get the footage he needs. It’s eerie and shocking and for us in Canada a debating point. Is this the seal hunt issue all over again? (Scotiabank Theatre)

IN THE LOOP: Smart and funny political satire is so rare these days, certainly in the movies, you must catch this film from England. It’s an offshoot of the BBC series “The Thick of It” and deals with the same territory: how government really works. The picture is so absurd and loopy it may just be true. A U.S.-led war is looming in the Middle East. When the British International Development Minister (Tom Hollander) is asked about it in a radio interview he says it’s “unforeseeable”. Next day he’s facing a scrum and babbles again, saying “To walk the road of peace, sometimes you have to climb the mountain of conflict.”

It’s bafflegab of course but soon he’s invited to committee meetings in Washington. Both the pro- and anti-war factions want his wisdom and support. They include a general (James Gandolfini) who argues the US is too low on manpower to go to war and a Donald Rumsfeld-like official (David Rasche) who doesn’t want to be burdened with too many facts.

“The man with just one fact is king,” he says. Around them there are aides, careerist staffers and one hilariously foul-mouthed press secretary (Peter Capaldi). The writing is sharp and biting. The ensemble cast delivers the lines so spontaneously, it all feels entirely possible. Since it’s war they’re talking about, you might cringe now and then but you’ll also laugh a lot. (Fifth Avenue Cinemas)

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Good news, if you’re worried about just how much scalping and mutilation you’ll have to watch in this one. It turns out to be relatively little and brief, at least compared to the advance publicity, the fact that Nazis are fair game any time and this is a Quentin Tarantino film.

Also, that much-hyped story line – a commando unit of Jewish Americans spreading fear in occupied France – is only a small part of this sprawling film. Good thing, because atrocities are atrocities, no matter who does them.

There are several other stories including two separate plots to incinerate top German leaders, including Hitler, in a Paris movie theatre; an S.S. officer’s relentless search for Jews; a movie star double agent; a German “Sergeant York” and more.The film bounces around these various strands gingerly changing styles and tossing out movie allusions as it goes. At times it’s like a spaghetti western; then a British war movie, then a European spy thriller.
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