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Twilight Breaking Dawn, Melancholia, Buck and other new movies in Vancouver

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Kirsten Dunst is the first patient. She’s the bride at a wedding where she’s clearly out of place. Her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) warns against making a scene (“You know what I mean”) but with parents as cynical and/or defeated as hers (Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt) and a chronic angst lingering inside her, you know she won’t be enjoying the evening. A quick bit of sex with a stranger out on the golf course notwithstanding. The entire wedding is one of the weirdest ever seen in the movies. It’s fraught with unease and menace.

Patient number two is her sister, who cares for her after the wedding, lives an apparently happy life with her children and rich husband (Kiefer Sutherland) but gets panicky when a new planet emerges from behind the sun and threatens Earth. Depression is infectious and director Lars von Trier is riffing on his own experiences with the malady as he explores it. His film is flawlessly acted (Dunst won an award at Cannes) and, despite its romantic gloominess, is beautiful to look at. NOTE: There’s nothing at all in it leading to the Nazi and Hitler jokes that got von Trier banned from the Cannes festival. He was just running off at the mouth. (International Village) 4 out of 5

HAPPY FEET TWO: Bigger, louder, more complex than the original film that was such a big hit and won an Oscar five years ago, but, you know, it’s for exactly those same reasons that it’s not as good. The filmmakers have worked hard to top the first one, in spectacular animation, in the huge musical numbers and in some very good 3-D. Unfortunately, they’ve ditched much of the charm and given us a penguin epic that feels belabored rather than light on its feet.   

Mumble (Elijah Wood), the tap dancing rebel, is now a father with a son too shy to dance, even though it’s now the in thing with the flock. A mammoth production number to a gospel-flavored version of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation establishes that point right off the top. The son runs away, ends up in Ramon’s colony (yes, Robin Williams is back as both this Latino character and the messianic Lovelace). There’s a new bombastic speaker too, a Swedish penguin that can fly.

Don’t worry, it’s explained. Not that it matters a lot because the story turns elsewhere. Once again, there’s an environmental angle, climate change, which cracks the ice and traps Mumble’s colony. Meanwhile, in an almost completely unrelated parallel story, two krill (voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) are trying to better their lot under the sea and spouting philosophy about “existential terrors”. Quite a mish mash this one. The craftsmanship is far better than the storytelling. (International Village, The Dolphin and many suburban theatres)  3 out of 5 

THE WHALE: This is a tweaked and improved version of the film that played here three years ago as Saving Luna. There is some new footage, a more streamlined edit and a less precious  narration. It’s now spoken by Ryan Reynolds, who supported the film, along with his former wife, Scarlett Johansson, and thereby helped get it into theatres in the United States. It had been popular at film festivals and seeing it again reminds us of why. This is a gorgeously filmed documentary about Luna, the young whale that got stranded in Nootka Sound  on the west side of Vancouver Island a few years ago, annoying some boaters, delighting others and confounding the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. He made news world-wide.

He was just a kid, playful and looking for friends but touching him, stroking and later, even just looking at Luna, was illegal. Local natives claimed he was a chief reincarnated. They prevented DFO from moving him back to his family because they feared he would be taken to an aquarium. The film by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm, a couple of nature journalists, is still a little too anthropomorphic in its views of animal motivation, but it’s also funny, emotional and tragic. And beautiful up there on the big screen. (Granville Theatre) 4 ½ out of 5

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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