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I feel like I want to make up for all those years of only going to 1 or 2 films by watching everything under the sun this year. Counting the two I've had booked since early in 2011, I am already up to at least four that I'm definitely plunking down Theater Money to see, more that are earmarked as library rentals.

Yesterday's adventure, however, was We Bought A Zoo. Aside from the fact that I wanted to violently attack ScarJo every second she was on screen, because THAT IS HOW MUCH I CAN'T STAND HER STUPID FACE, and some excruciating secondhand embarrassment, that definitely lived up to my expectations and was better than the book. Like, to the point where it makes me think I should reread the book and figure out what I missed, until I remember that the book's problem was all the narrative POTENTIAL it never delivered when it got bogged down in detailing the bureaucracy of it all, hence why I explicitly said "Holding out hope for the Matt Damon movie, though."

There were tons and tons of both cute and breathtaking animal shots, so that was perfect. And I loved the sense of friendship and family and community the whole idea fostered. Truthy quote from my dad: "That's the best movie I've seen in years."

It was a slow start, but on the other hand, it is my second shot in six months at watching Matt Damon run around playing widower!dad. (plus he has now won tic-tac-toe in terms of the three gender+age group dynamics in which single fathers interest me most) I have literally waited his whole career for this, and if they had just cast a better leading lady I would have finally gotten to check "satisfying romantic storyline" off his career bucket list too.

Additional casting win: Elle Fanning -- so much less insufferable than her "look how I edgy I am now that I'm grown up" sister -- was charming, even if her subplot was trite and tested my patience. (cooing at puppy love between kids under 15: never going to happen.) LOVED the Scottish employee. I always like the guy playing the inspector. And, DAISY WICK! Whose real name I will never learn. But stealing the show from everybody? That enchanting, literally-plucked-from-a-fairytale sprite playing Rosie Mee. I hereby decree that she be cast in as many things as she is physically able to work on. If she shows up to an audition, the role should just default to her.

Casting fail: the asinine real estate agent, but also, that wretched little Capuchin monkey. "Kill it with fire" runs through my head every time I see it. Its face is so much creepier than Copernicus, I'm convinced it's undead. Capuchins are supposed to have adorable little pink-and-white faces, okay, like on Friends. Not leathery corpse-like masks. I don't care how well trained this one is; retire it and bring a new one to rising fame.

Fun fact: when I first heard the casting, my biggest hope was that ScarJo -- whom I have recently learned hates being referred to as such; you can imagine how giddy this revelation made me -- would be playing his wife, so that I could look forward to her dying halfway through. Finding out she was the love interest instead: NO. GROSS. WHY. P.S. THE AGE DIFFERENCE IS NOT OKAY TODAY.

My favorite line between them was the "Please don't take offense if I don't hit on you." Right? Because not hitting on her seems like the right course of action here. The whole movie had me dreading their inevitable hookup, prodded along by some excessively painful dialogue (and some "damn it! I would so love this porch handholding any other time!") so of course, right when I finally relax and think hey, maybe they have uncharacteristically decided to pull off a story about irreplaceable soulmates and are leaving us with a bittersweet but uplifting story about living with loss but not letting it cripple you, BAM, HYDROCHLORIC ACID ON THE OL' EYEBALLS. (which, again, any other lady and I would be worshiping at the altar of Tragic Storyline Jackpot)
 
Here come the tears: I tried to muster up some tears when he was putting Rosie to bed and Dylan was listening all teary-eyed at the door, but I couldn't quiiiite get there through the power of suggestion alone. I was actually somewhat disappointed in the otherwise marvelously sentimental and inspiring tale's inability to spring the waterworks. But as soon as the doomed tiger (tiger!) was lying in a cage and staring listlessly back at us, that did the trick. I liked how that fed us straight into the slideshow/flashback montage, because that was definitely something I wanted to cry about, and my tear ducts were more than happy to use the dying tiger to set up a positive feedback loop of open weeping. First satisfying cryfest of the year: accomplished.

Could have been better: there were at least seven or eight times in this script where I had to clap my hands over my ears and moan "please stop talking, please stop talking, please stop talking, you are making an idiot out of yourself." Most of that came from Benjamin's dialogue, but I also wanted to take giant red pen to the entire pitch for the real estate agent's character. That was so bad it should have auto-corrected itself in the word processing program.

Speaking of red pens, how about a moratorium on repeating any lines more than once, and excising that completely, totally, 100% unnecessary garbage vulgarity placed in Rosies' mouth at the very end. What is wrong with you? I read a review just before we left that objected to the gratuitous swearing, and that disappointed me on principle but it wasn't nearly as prevalent as I feared, until we got to that part. For that line, no. Shame yourselves.

Also, I was really peeved by that line at the end that went, "If you had to choose, people or animals, really quick, which would it be?" because why, why would you write an unnecessary jackass line like that into a story full of animals? Of course the character is going to say "people," because it's so important to hammer home how your movie is about building community and relationships and the strength of people coming together and KNOCK IT OFF. The answer is always "animals." Always animals! Even if the person is Matt Damon and the animals are wild so you can't touch them, your knee-jerk response is always animals.

Commendable efforts: basically everything else. The family storyline, even when it was Benjamin devolving into a hysterical shouting match, was pitch-perfect. What reviewers called "formulaic" I called "structural narrative perfection," with sentimentality played to its fullest and most welcome to do so. I was worried it wouldn't focus enough on animals, but it struck a perfect balance between animal antics and interpersonal relationships you cared about (mostly). There were rays of sunshine bursting out of my heart when they opened the zoo to a teeming crowd. Gold!

In conclusion: a very good way to kick off the year in cinema. I am a satisfied customer, especially given that my ticket only cost $5. (although now I feel guilty, like it deserved being paid an extra $1.50 x3 at the other theater given its inexplicably lackluster box office numbers, even though seeing it in the theater at all is more than 97% of movies get from me)

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I realize I skipped my usual discussion of the previews beforehand. Let's both do that, and segue into my rough sketch of all the new movies I want to see so far:
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The Pirates!: Loltastic. Well, not really, I'm just honor-bound to watch any claymation stories from this production team, and I'll bet my dad would like to see it, since I got my claymation-appreciation from him. DVD for sure, theater only if he really wants to go.

The Lorax: Yawn, but I am stupidly excited to have Taylor Swift VO anything. Zac Efron is a nice choice to play opposite, and they might convince me to care about characters who had me instantly rolling my eyes otherwise. I have never been a Dr. Seuss fan, though, and the only way this story has ever affected me was to burst into tears at the thought of a world without trees. That's only good for five, ten minutes tops.

The Secret World of Arriety: For a second, I was excited by the 2-D animation. Then I saw the anime, realized what story they were adapting, and set all phasers to hate. Dear Japan: you absolutely are not allowed to borrow this story. That is assault! On my eyes. The style just doesn't fit the story at all.

Journey 2: it looks so cracktastic and awful and...I need to see it. In 2-D, but this thing is going to look so impressive in the theater that I simply must see it on a giant screen so I get visually lost in it. I'll eventually watch it either way, but there are three reasons you ever see a movie in theaters: one, the actors; two, animals; or three: it will look really cool when it's as big as the side of a building.

Joyful Noise: so basically it's the church choir version of Glee? You would think the "church choir" part would drive me away, but the "glee" part overrides everything. The fact that it also stars Dolly Parton was all I needed anyway. SOLD. For a library rental only, though.

Big Miracle: SOLD -- we talked about this one already. It's probably a more sedate film that would look just as good if not better on DVD, and I could certainly wait on the story...but damn it man, John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore and wildlife and it's a retro piece set in the 80s? I can't think of a film with more reasons to gain my financial support.

Other Films to See in 2012
War Horse (just as soon as I can swing it. 2 weeks, maybe.)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (DVD)
The Hobbit (theaters)
The Vow (DVD)
Les Miserables (DVD)
Men In Black III (DVD...probably)
And whatever the Julia Roberts Snow White film is called (possibly theaters, depending on how trailer looks re: cinematic experience)

And these are just the ones I know about.

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P.S. It's the hip new cliche to talk about Beyonce's baby, so I'll join the fray. Blue Ivy? Not for the first time, I think a whole lot of Hollywood parents would be better served buying and registering a purebred foal or two before they are allowed to fill in birth certificates. Because they're really good at creating pretty show horse names! Names for children, not so much.

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