Tag Archives: scarlett johansson

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

The only Matt Damon films I had seen before this one were the Bourne trilogy and 2010’s True Grit, so it was nice to see him as a less aggressive, more father-like figure in We Bought a Zoo. This film wasn’t one that I ever got excited for, which is why I just watched it for the first time on Blu-Ray, and now, even after watching, I have mixed feelings.

Based on the memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo follows a father (Damon) and his two children six months after the mother has died. They’re still hurting and trying to move on with their lives, so it just seems too perfect when the opportunity to buy a zoo rolls around to give them a fresh start. The 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, is filled with wisdom beyond her years, and not just in the “kids say the darnedest things” sort of way; her father literally goes to her for advice or for serious adult conversation more than once in the film. The son, Dylan, is the typical 14-year-old teenager: filled with angst, thinks his father hates him, etc. He is also a talented artist who has recently begun drawing disturbing images, such as a head being severed from the body. Why a dead mother would warrant such graphic drawings, I’m not sure, but, then again, I’m no psychology expert.

In the zoo, there is an aging Bengal tiger who is just about at the end of his life, but Damon’s character, despite the pleas by the lead zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson), insists on doing whatever he can to prolong this tiger’s life. I think that this is supposed to be a metaphor for his relationship to his dead wife and his unwillingness to let her go, but it’s a weak comparison. At least, I certainly wouldn’t equate ending a dying tiger’s struggle for life to a widower’s struggle to move on after losing his wife, but that’s just me. But alas, with the decision to put the tiger out of his misery comes a mended relationship between father and son and a possibility at new love for Damon’s character.

The dialogue was particularly irritating to me at times, mainly because it used “man” constantly, as if this was The Big Lebowski or something like that. It starts with Thomas Haden Church’s character, brother to Damon’s, calling him “man” all the time, but it gets so bad that, near the end of the film, Damon’s character has a yell match with his son, calling him “man” at least 15 times, give or take a few. Its usage does nothing but distracts…it just makes no sense to me! The score by Jónsi was distracting at times as well, sometimes not matching the scene even remotely. However, when it did match the scene, the music did a nice job of sounding the whimsy of the story.

Anyway, while I did have a lot of complaints, We Bought a Zoo worked well as a family film, with Damon’s performance carrying the film and Johansson doing a decent job. Church’s performance felt forced to me, with the fact that he’s supposed to be playing the brother to the main character being nearly completely lost to me; there’s absolutely no brotherly connection between the two of them. Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie will make you smile frequently with her sweet comments and adorable smile, and the story is saccharine and predictable enough to please just about anyone who enjoys that kind of thing. I didn’t dislike it, but it’s certainly not a movie that I would like to own for myself.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for language and some thematic elements

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The Avengers (2012)

When I first learned of this film in the year or two before its release, I kind of ignored it; traditionally, I’m not a huge superhero movie fan, with Batman being an exception. But as time went by and the final Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers were released, I had a revelation: five superheroes from five completely different movies (plus two extra heroes who were mixed in) were going to be on the big screen together in the same film AT THE SAME TIME. I realized how incredible that was and instantly became a time bomb, ticking away the time as the release grew closer and closer. And it didn’t disappoint.

The Avengers succeeds in just about every possible way a film can succeed. The characters were likable and believable despite their unbelievable abilities, the villain was fantastic, and the script was fun and smart. Tony Stark is back as Robert Downey, Jr. – wait…strike that, reverse it – with hilarious one-liners, Chris Hemsworth as Thor is a better character than he was in his own movie, Chris Evans returns as a fantastically conflicted Captain America, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is ten times the villain he was in Thor.

I’m not going to delve too far into the movie, but there is one thing that I DO have to talk about: The Hulk. After two previous films based around the character that were mediocre at best, The Avengers finally got our big angry green guy right. Joss Whedon was smart enough to make Banner/Hulk not someone who tries to avoid being angry but instead someone who embraces his anger and has fun with it. There are three extremely satisfying moments with the Hulk: when he first transforms in NYC, when he punches Thor, and when he smashes Loki. Mark Ruffalo also might be my favorite Bruce Banner so far, which is an added bonus. The Hulk just might have been the best character in this film.

So, how good is this film? Let me put it this way – I’ve seen it four times, and I have friends who have seen it more times than that. I could ramble on and on about how great this film was, but I’ll let you see it and decide for yourselves. Everything about this movie is great; if you don’t enjoy it at least a little bit, you must not like fun very much. Go check it out!

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference