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Old December 29 2011, 01:01 AM   #973
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Location: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Re: Movies Seen in 2011

180. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (A-)
181. 50/50 (B+)
182. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (A-)
183. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (A)
184. War Horse (B+)
185. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (A-)
186. We Bought A Zoo (A-)

Cameron Crowe returns to the big screen after an absence of six years and what was a fairly disappointing decade. For his return he's opted for an Americanized adaptation of a memoir about a widower and his children buying and operating a zoo. This a family film, which makes you a bit wary, but families deserve good movies too, and this is a pretty successful one; I think it works better, overall, than War Horse did, which is probably the closest comparison in theatres right now. Like most people raised on The Simpsons, I have a healthy amount of cynicism, but this is a fairly sunny movie done right (though there's a lot less irreverence than in many of Crowe's other movies). I also identify with the depiction of the aftermath of a parent's death, something which has been depicted a number of times onscreen this year; the emotions feel real.

The cast is great, though I will say that this feels like there was a much longer movie in here that Crowe had to edit down, particularly with regard to some of the supporting characters on the zoo staff (which would be particularly unsurprising if you've seen how much was cut from, say, Almost Famous). I'm increasingly of the opinion that Matt Damon is the best leading man of his generation; DiCaprio arguably has a better filmography, but Damon has range far greater than the niche that DiCaprio seems to prefer these days. There's virtually no genre Damon isn't willing to try and doesn't work well in. The two actors playing his kids are both fine (the girl manages to mostly not be annoyingly cutesy, which is an achievement for a single-digit child in a family film). Scarlett Johansson does a nice job as the head zookeeper/sort-of love interest (the film sensibly recognizes that Damon's character isn't really ready to move on yet, but she's clearly on the horizon when he is). Elle Fanning delivers another strong performance in what has been a wonderful year for her; she's a distinctly different presence than her sister, and a very welcome one (I continue to be amused by how tall she is; she looks older than both the teenaged boys she's been cast opposite this year, even though she's two years younger than both of them; this movie even calls attention to it).

And that's it for me and the cinemas this year.
"I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are!"

- Homer Simpson
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