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WE BOUGHT A ZOO, review by John Delia

December 22nd, 2011 No comments

AN UPLIFTING

DRAMA

STARRING

MATT DAMON

 

WE BOUGHT A ZOO

 

 

Cast: Matt Damon,Thomas Haden Church, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Colin Ford

Directed by: Cameron Crowe

MPAA Rating: PG for language and some thematic elements

Genre: Adaptation and Drama with Comedy

Running Time: 2hs 4 min

Opening Date: December 23rd, 2011

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

 

 

By John Delia

 

The heartwarming drama We Bought A Zoo comes to town and it’s for the whole family.  A true story perfect for the holiday season with an uplifting account that shows what one family can do to help a community while healing themselves.  I am a fan of this kind of film as it reminds us of the principles on which America is built, with dreams, hard work and service to humanity.

 

Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon as Kelly and Ben in WE BOUGHT A ZOO

The recently widowed Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has had a hard time with the loss of his wife and raising his two children young Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and teen Dylan (Colin Ford).  So much so that with Dylan’s school problems, no time for Rose and a dead end job, Ben decides to quit and move out of his city far enough away to get control of their lives.  After looking at unsuitable homes for his children the realtor takes a chance on showing him a house with a lot of property attached.  When Ben’s daughter Rosie says she feels that this is the one, the realtor presents them with a problem.  If Ben purchases the house he has to take a zoo complete with 200 animals.

 

The actors are perfect for their roles as you can see it in the way they seem to have fun portraying the characters.  The Mee family proves exciting with cutesy Jones as an eager Rosie who loves animals; Ford realistically playing an upset Dylan who has to leave his friends behind; and Damon as Ben an earnest decision maker who takes a chance on a challenging future.

 

In support Scarlett Johansson plays the no-nonsense Kelly Foster, manager of the failing zoo. She shows her steadfast side while trying to understand why the mild mannered Ben would take on the huge task.  Her pivotal performance makes the story work bringing sense to the family while trying to hold on to her job.  Elle Fanning becomes the ace in the deck being the one who brings Dylan out of his stubbornness and back into the family.

 

We Bought a Zoo provides a touching story that should hopefully resonate within the families of America showing what one family can do to help themselves and others in need.  “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.”- Benjamin Mee. Whether it’s the reopening of an attraction that helps support the community, patching up relations or providing much needed work for people, the film should win the hearts of all who see it.

 

The movie has been rated PG by the MPAA for language and some thematic elements.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An inspirational film for the whole family. (B)

 

HEREAFTER reveiw by John Delia

October 21st, 2010 No comments

large posterStarring: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard with George and Frankie McLaren as the twins.

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

MPAA Rating: PG 13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images and brief strong language

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy and Thriller

Running Time: 2hr. 9min.

USA Release Date: October 22nd, 2010

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution

By John Delia

In general Hereafter is a good film, but it does have its problems.  After the super big opening the film starts to drag, not all the main characters are fleshed out enough to sympathize with and the ending becomes obvious early on.  For those who enjoy disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 you won’t want to miss the beginning of Hereafter.

Marie (de France) and George (Damon) in a scene from Hereafter

Marie (de France) and George (Damon) in a scene from Hereafter

The film centers on three major characters each touched by death in different ways.  We find George (Damon), a labor worker in America, dismayed with his power to visit dead loved ones of strangers.  He finds himself lonely and angst ridden, not being able to touch someone without having to deal with a flash from their past.  During a tsunami, Marie (De France), a French journalist gets swept away and drowned, only to regain her life.  Having seen life on the ‘other side’ she writes a book called “The Hereafter.”  Twin London schoolboys are torn apart when one of them gets killed in a freak accident.  The remaining twin, Marcus (George/Frankie McLaren) tries to visit mediums so he can talk to his brother one last time.  Although worlds apart, Geroge, Marie and Marcus are on a collision course to find out what may exist in the afterlife.

Marie (de France) and a child run from the tsunami

Marie (de France) and a child run from the tsunami

Billed as a sci-fi thriller the first 10 minutes are just that.  The tsunami partially shown in the films trailer takes main stage with the most horrific freak of nature ever shown on film.  I am totally amazed by this part of the production.  From the actual footage I saw on the Internet of the huge wave catastrophe that took place in Hawaii and Southeast Asia, this depiction was as equally disturbing.  I cannot commend the cast and crew enough on this momentous achievement in cinema.

George invites Melanie (Dallas Howard) to his appartment

George with Melanie (Dallas Howard) at his appartment

The acting in the film is admirable by the whole cast.  If I had to point out an outstanding performance it would be Damon as the angst ridden medium that would rather live a normal life than become rich from his ability.  One humorous scene finds George in his room alone with his pretty cooking class partner, afraid to touch her.

Hereafter is rated PG 13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster, accident images and brief strong language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Although Hereafter has the best disaster scene ever, the story doesn’t life up to the hype. (3 of 5)

GREEN ZONE arrives on disc

May 27th, 2010 No comments

Academy Award® Winner Matt Damon Stars in an Explosive Action-Thriller From the Director of The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy

GREEN ZONE

Available On Blu-ray Hi-Def, DVD, VOD and Digital Download

June 22, 2010

“One hell of a thriller.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

green zpneUniversal City, California, May 25, 2010—Caught up in a lethal web of buried secrets, half-truths and lies, a rogue military officer takes on a shocking hidden adversary in the blistering action-packed thriller, Green Zone, coming to Blu-ray, DVD, Video on Demand and digital download on June 22, 2010 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. A riveting story of deception and betrayal on a global scale, Green Zone boasts exclusive bonus features including commentary by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon and Academy Award® nominee director Paul Greengrass. For a limited time only, the two-disc Blu-ray edition will also offer a digital copy of the film enabling viewing at home or on the go.

The latest pulse-pounding collaboration between Greengrass and Damon (who previously teamed up on the worldwide blockbusters The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy), Green Zone charges headlong through the streets of a war-torn city in a search of an uncertain truth. Damon heads up a cast of celebrated actors including Academy Award® nominees Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good as It Gets) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Changeling), plus Emmy® Award winner Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Critical Acclaim

Green Zone’s emotionally charged, high-velocity action electrified critics across America, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calling the film “An ace action thriller.” Time’s Richard Corliss dubs the film “gritty” and “thrilling.” Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times declares: “Matt Damon is an unstoppable action hero.”

BONUS FEATURES:

Green Zone on Blu-ray™ Hi-Def and DVD also includes:

  • Matt Damon: Ready for Action— Matt Damon demonstrates the grueling training regimen he used to prepare for his role in Green Zone.
  • Inside the Green Zone—An exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of Green Zone’s most powerful scenes.
  • Feature Commentary with Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass.
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Digital Copy: Transfer Green Zone to your iPod®, Mac® or PC and experience it anywhere, anytime!

THE FOLLOWING BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY™ HI-DEF:

  • Access to more thrilling exclusive content through BD-Live™, pocket BLU™ app and UniversalHiDef.com
  • Pocket BLU™ app: USHE’s groundbreaking pocket BLU™ app uses iPhone™, iPod® touch, iPod®, Blackberry®, Android™, PC and Macintosh to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray™ player and offers advanced features such as:

o       Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.

o       Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the movie.

o       Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy exclusive content on the go, anytime, anywhere.

o       Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™ app-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™ Hi-Def. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.

o       Keyboard: Enter data into a Blu-ray™ player with your device’s easy and intuitive keyboard that will facilitate such as Blu-ray™ features as chatting with friends and sending messages.

  • social Blu™: Connect with Friends on your favorite social networks to share information about the movie, enjoy Blu-ray™ community features and more!
  • U-Control™: Universal’s exclusive feature that lets the viewer access bonus materials without leaving the movie!

o       Video Commentary with Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass

o       Picture In Picture – Get behind the scenes features and interviews with the cast and crew while you watch the movie!

  • Digital Copy for a limited time only

Synopsis

Academy Award® winner Matt Damon and nominee director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) re-team in this action-packed thriller.  Damon stars as Roy Miller, a rogue U.S. Army officer who must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil before war escalates in an unstable region.  Also starring Academy Award® nominees Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan, Green Zone is “one hell of a thriller” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).

GREEN ZONE written review

March 12th, 2010 No comments

“COMING UP EMPTY HANDED”

greenzone_smallposterStarring: Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Antoni Corone and Nicoye Banks

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Adaptation and War

Release date: March 2010

By John Delia

The war drama Green Zone takes on the searing question ‘Did we go to war over a hoax?’ and comes up empty handed.  Although the film is quite political, I still enjoyed the action and the acting in this non-stop thriller.  If you like films about war that have a political agenda, then this one should be on top of your list.  That said, action lovers who want a dose of suspense at every turn should run to see Green Zone.

Action packed Green Zone

Action packed Green Zone

The film centers on Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller who is befuddled by coming up empty in his search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) following the takeover of Iraq by US Armed Forces.  Being sent into the hotbed of Iraq’s most dangerous areas on faulty leads, he confronts his superiors demanding where they are getting their misinformation and putting his squad in harms way for nothing.  Determined to get to the bottom of the bogus claims that WMD’s exist, Miller becomes a rogue determined to ignite a firestorm that could reach all the way to the top of the US government.

Damon handles his character well showing the hell bent determination to get to the bottom of the major reason why the US attacked Iraq.  As Miller he will stop at nothing to prove his theory even interrogating, torturing and compromising his position to find answers.

Greengrass does an excellent job of directing the film containing the touchy subject matter.  He immediately gets you involved with the fighting by putting the viewer in a position to experience the challenges that Warrant Officer Miller has to face.  Then he turns the audience into an inquisition of sorts with questions about the US’s reasons for the lengthy war.

The thriller is relentless with chase scenes that last several minutes longer than most action films.  I found myself on the edge of my seat at times and worn out by the end of the relentless movie.

However, the question of whether there were WMD’s doesn’t really go any further than what you see on the screen.  Was the US government tricked into attacking Iraq? Or was it an excuse to go to war to displace a despot?  The film comes up empty handed on both questions.

The film is rated R for violence and language.  Some of the scenes show brutality and gore so beware of this in deciding to bring immature loved ones.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A good action flick that rehashes an erstwhile question.

INVICTUS

December 10th, 2009 No comments

“BRINGING ORDER TO CHAOS “

invictus_smallposterStarring: Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.

Genre: Historical Drama

Release date: December 2009

By John Delia

There are many true stores portrayed each year by filmmakers, but no one does it quite as good as Clint Eastwood.  His ability to visualize the emotion, excitement, challenges, apprehension and anxieties in his characters has always amazed me and with Invictus he outdoes himself.  Touching and exhilarating Invictus is a must see.

This inspiring true story follows Nelson Mandela (Freeman) being released

Morgan Freeman takes on the role of Nelson Mandela

Morgan Freeman takes on the role of Nelson Mandela

from prison and elected to office as President of South Africa.  Not bitter for his long interment for sedition against the white government, he sets out to make his country one that can obtain peace with all races.

Learning that their all white rugby team has not performed well in the past and with the World Cup to be played in his country, Mandela sets out to unite his people though the exciting sport.  After the team manager gets fired, Francois Pienaar (Damon) is urged by Mandela to take over the team and make them a champion.  Fueled with the desire to end apartheid once and for all, Mandela and Pienaar join forces with a try at making it happen.

Eastwood directing Freeman and Damon

Eastwood directing Freeman and Damon

I can’t say enough about Eastwood’s ability to bring stories like Invictus to the screen.  Setting up the drama of the historical fight to bring order out of chaos in South Africa, Eastwood takes the simple news item and turns it into an important colossal event on the big screen.

But it’s the consummate actor Morgan Freeman who delivers the masterful peacemaker Mandela with heart and strong hand easily handling the task. He even looks like the former President. In support, Damon marvelously provides the

The team that changed South Africa

The team that changed South Africa

catalyst that Mandela uses to turn the country around.  Both do such a great job that it’s hard to single out which performance is best.

The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language necessary to the plot, so just make sure you cup your hands over the ears of immature children when you see it coming.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Invictus is another Oscar contender for Eastwood. (5 of 5 Palm Trees)

THE INFORMANT

September 16th, 2009 No comments

“DEEP THROATING THE CORN TYCOONS”

theinformant_smallposterStarring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey, Thomas F. Wilson, Tom Smothers and Dick Smothers

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

MPAA Rating: R for language.

Genre: Comedy and Adaptation

By John Delia

Take a true story from the headlines, add some Hollywood comedy and try to make it into a full-fledged feature film.  It is no easy task, except if you are Steven Soderbergh.  His newest film The Informant is fascinating, remarkable and fun.  If you are into films like Catch Me If You Can, A Beautiful Mind or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, then The

Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and Matt Damon

Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and Matt Damon

Informant should be just as captivating for you as it is for me.

The true account goes something like this.  The corporation Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a top developer of products from corn, has been getting reports that a virus has caused a drop in their output of Lysine causing a huge loss in business.  A top chemist at ADM, Mark Whitacre (Damon) gets called in to top management where he finds himself taking the fall if he doesn’t get rid of the micro-bug and reverse the process.  In an attempt to turn the tables on ADM, he decides to become a whistle blower by telling the FBI that the corporation has been price fixing, a crime that would put top executives in jail.

Teaming up with Agents Shepard (Bakula) and Herndon (McHale) Whitacre agrees to wear a wire to get proof that the company has been committing the crime.  Unfortunately for the FBI, Whitacre keeps changing his story every time he gets cornered on bogus facts.  When the media gets involved after ADM officers call ‘foul,’ Whitacre starts to break down, or so it seems.

Director Soderbergh coaching Damon

Director Soderbergh coaching Damon

I enjoyed the way Sodeberg (Erin Brockovich) strings out the plot, adding problems, pitfalls and challenges in small measures as he develops Whitacre’s secret agent personality and cunning attributes.  I especially enjoyed the scenes where Mark has to get the Japanese to say that they agree to the price-fixing and also his meetings with his private lawyer after the FBI says he’s going to need one.

Lynskey and Matt Damon

Lynskey and Matt Damon

The acting in the film is very good from all players, but topping my list for a possible supporting Oscar nomination is Melanie Lynskey who plays Whitacre’s wife Ginger.  She gives a great performance as the committed wife who falls for everything her husband tells her.

Matt Damon lie detector

Damon as Daniels

There is a downside to the film and that being there are so many untruths that it is hard to keep up with the real facts.  In the end, however, if you followed the story, it all makes sense.  Except for the consequences, but that’s another story.

The film is rated R for language, but most of the harsh words are necessary to the plot.  Even if you do take mature youngsters to the film, they probably won’t get most of the comedy and will fall asleep anyway.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A cunning adaptation of a true story.(4 of 5 Palm Trees)