Movie Review: We Bought A Zoo (2011)

“sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage”

There are few movies which are able to remove cynicism from their quotient completely and wear their values on their sleeves for all to see. Cameron Crowe’s adaptation of the true story of how Benjamin Mee took his family and took over this struggling zoo so as to try and inspire his children to get themselves out of this weird place they found themselves in after losing their mother six months prior.

Like The Descendants we find ourselves in a story that we see a father a bit out of his own depth having lost his partner is life and having to figure out how to press on. Unlike The Descendants though we aren’t there to see this man just grieve, but we get to see him after that point where he’s still having trouble with imagining a world without the love of his life and at the same time having to manage his children and not implode in the process.

Unable to figure out how to get his family to move on from this tragedy Benjamin (Matt Damon) decides to quit his job and move house to somewhere new that will remind them (most importantly him) the least of who they lost. This leads them to this countryside zoo, which of course Benjamin barely considers before buying.

This movie is actually a perfect blend of two of my favourite film this year. It’s what you get if you take the dramatic arcs of The Descendants and mixed it perfectly with the optimism and earnestness of The Muppets and poured it into a wonderful family friendly glass for consumption.

The film’s true emotional arcs remain between Benjamin and his son, Dylan (Colin Ford). Both dealing with the loss of their wife and mother respectively in their own way and at the same time we see Benjamin trying so hard to make it ok for Dylan to express himself. Everytime Dylan acts out you can see Benjamin holding in his natural reactions to the situation and trying to be understanding as he himself knows what kind of understanding he himself requires.

Otherwise the film delivers a slew of colourful fun characters to enjoy when we’re not ready to tear up at our main characters personal dilemmas. From Peter MacCready (Angus Macfadyen), the genius in “enclosure designs” who has to deal with his visions being stolen (apparently) by his nemesis, to Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) being the brother who you love but don’t trust to take advice from most the time, to eventually Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) who’s the wonderfully passionate head of the zoo that happens to be downright gorgeous.

This is a film that won’t work for everyone, especially a lot of those brooding “emo” people who only believe gritty realism is needed to make a movie good, and I don’t expect it to. However, for the chosen few who believe that authentic honesty and beautiful tales that do more than just remind us of the good things in the world exist that don’t have to feel heavily weighted by coincidental screenwriters this is the film you’ve all been waiting for.

Rating: 9.5/10

Movie Review: Super 8 (2011)

If you’ve ever watched a lot of Spielberg’s work, like: Close Encounters of the Third Kind; or E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; or even The Goonies (which he produced and helped write), you can see why a film like Super 8 suits the Spielberg name. It has all the elements of his early work, where he mixed fantasy, science-fiction and adventure all with a family element added in the mix. J. J. Abrams is a director who’s been mixed up in science-fiction and action/adventure ever since his name has been written into the credits, from LOST to Star Trek. So when it’s been announced that Abrams’ was to direct and write a project that if you read the synopsis and was being done thirty (realizing it would be that long ago makes me feel old) years ago you would peg it completely for Spielberg it didn’t sound too farfetched or undesired.

If you go to the movies for the sake of nostalgia then this is the film for you. However, if you’re the kind of person who prefers your nostalgia digitized, remastered and on your high-definition television for you to see exactly what you loved rather than a rehash of it on screen in a room full of strangers, then you may find yourself a bit unsatisfied.

Super 8 did everything that it’s supposed to do and not a word, frame or explosion more. This was the film’s greatest strength and weakness at the very same time, it fed off its nostalgic elements without offering us anything new. It’s as if we were watching a traditional remake of a Shakespearean play, it would be great but something that we’ve seen before enough times to be bored with it. In the end it would’ve been more interesting for the filmmaker to try and do something a little different even if it meant ultimately failing, at least then the film would’ve been at the very least memorable for something other than reminding us all that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a great film and we should all check it out again.

I’m a believer in the philosophy that being original is pretty much dead when it comes to plot, the Hollywood machine has done its job and removed all of the flair (for the most part at least), but it can always be found in the little details that a writer, actor and director can chose to embed into their art. Here however was a film which was left with a lot to be asked of it in that regard since it refused to try anything new.

With all that said however, that doesn’t make the movie a bad movie. It just makes it unoriginal, which if you take a look at the mass of films that come out every year isn’t something you can hold against it really. The film – overall – was technically brilliant, beautiful to watch and the story remained as engaging as it was three decades previously.

What was interesting however are the small details about movie making that the film indirectly tells you about while at the same time intentionally becoming victim to. Early in the film when Charles (Riley Griffiths) is talking about how he’s been working on his script and adding and changing things because of these tips he’s been reading in these articles of how to make a better film. It’s just those little nudges that Abrams, intentionally or unintentionally, makes to try and let the general audience get a view into what it’s like to write a screenplay and what’s generally accepted by the system as formulaic art.

Towards the film’s third act however it discards all those small moments of glimmering hope where the film is being introspective and illuminating on genre and filmmaking in general and just returns to being a monster film with children. While that’s not a horrible thing to do it does belittle the original outset of the film.

Rating: 8.0/10


Top 25 Actresses 25 & Under

Every year a ton of actors and actresses break out, a lot of them were there for us to see but either we weren’t looking or didn’t care. This past year, I don’t know what it was with hollywood but there were a lot of break out performances from young female actresses that made me notice.

So I decided why not do my Top 25 Actresses list of actresses who’re 25 and under. For control purposes I’m using the actresses ages as of the beginning of this year (i.e. January 1st, 2011).

So here we go, from 25 to the #1; as of now my favourite young actresses, in order are:

25. Janet Montgomery (age: 25)

She plays the fun loving Ames in one of my guilty pleasure TV shows Human Target and she was a minor character in my favourite film of 2010, Black Swan. She gives a smile in every moment and always knows how to make the crazy youthful lack of a plan ideal to the character of Ames in HT and I love it. She may not be ready to win any accolades, but she’s definitely going to be around the place very soon I believe.

I can’t wait to see where her character goes and even more where she ends up going in film in 2011. Upcoming Roles: My Idiot Brother (2011)

24. Emily Browning (age: 22)

Here’s one that I haven’t seen much from recently but she’s been cast in the upcoming Zack Snyder action filled movie Sucker Punch but when I saw her in Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events and loved her. Yes she pretty much did a good job as the smart older sister there, but even though it on the page is a run of the mill children’s role that makes the movie do all the acting for her she still finds a way to be memorable.

Upcoming Roles: Sucker Punch (2011), Sleeping Beauty (2011), Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2011)

23. Brie Larson (age: 21)

She’s been in one of my favourite TV shows in recent years for a while, The United States of Tara, and she happened to be in one of my favourite films from last year Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and won even more love from me by doing that alone. She’s funny, honest and quirky all at the same time without feeling unreal which is hard to do when you’re in comedy nowadays when they want everyone to be either really dead set straight or over the top ridiculous.

Upcoming Roles: East Fifth Bliss (2011), Rampart (2011)

22. Emmy Rossum (age: 24)

Here’s an actress where in the period of six episodes has won me back. She was unfortunately in the film Dragonball: Evolution two years ago. Then I didn’t know her name, and until I looked on her IMDB page just now I didn’t know that. However, now she’s in this new TV show which just I can’t stop watching, Shameless, and she plays pretty much the mother to all of her brothers and sisters and keeps everyone together no matter how far she has to go. It’s obvious the desperation in her actions and even though we know that she has a line I doubt we’re going to see her test it anytime soon and I can’t wait to see when we hit it and she has to make that decision.

Upcoming Roles: N/A

21.  Mae Whitman (age: 22)

I first noticed this girl in a great TV show Parenthood which is probably one of the least appreciated TV shows running now. It’s not the youthful show that everyone is in to now, but it definitely does it’s dramatic comedy a lot better than most of the comedies that are winning all the awards. She plays the really composed well put together girl that even though her mother may have trouble keeping up with you always know she’s going to be okay and she’s just so wonderful. She also appeared in a tiny film that you may not have heard of; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. So let’s leave it there.

Upcoming Roles: The Factory (2011)


The Unnamed Movie Podcast f/ Sean Dwyer from FilmJunk [Episode 15 – Before Sunrise]


This week Andrew, Damion and Douglas are joined by Sean Dwyer from FilmJunk to hang around and talk about how this year is shaping up so far and eventually review Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. Continue reading