We Bought a Zoo

The viewer can get the premise of the movie We Bought a Zoo from its title. What is interesting about the movie is that it’s still good, even though it’s obvious where the story is going. Part of that is because of the secondary characters that fill out the story.

The main character is an adventure journalist, Benjamin Mee. He has two children and has recently lost his wife, so he decides the best way to keep his family together and to help them heal is to start over. So they buy a zoo.

Some of my favorite secondary characters, the ones that really add depth, are Thomas Haden Church as Duncan Mee, Benjamin’s brother; Elle Fanning as Lily Miska, one of the zoo workers; and Angus Macfadyen as Peter MacCready, the hot-tempered zoo “genius.”

One aspect of the movie that I especially enjoyed was the idea that it helps to get out and do physical work to, in a sense, clear one’s head, help heal emotions, and grow closer to other people. It’s a message that almost can’t be stressed too much in our technological era.

We Bought a Zoo is a movie the whole family can watch, especially since part of the message is about the importance of family.

A gritty True Grit

Since the weather outside is truly frightful, I have plenty of time to think about why I enjoyed True Grit  so much.  I think the main reason would have to be that it seems much more real than the older film version.
Jeff Bridges makes the character of Rooster Cogburn simultaneously heroic and hilarious.  And man, can he get a mean look in that one eye!  Matt Damon was also fine as LaBoeuf, the duded-up Texas Ranger.  Barry Pepper was almost unrecognizable as the bandit Ned Pepper.  (Was he cast because he’s a Pepper?)  He played the part well, regardless of his last name.  And the girl, Hailee Steinfeld, did a good job of playing the part of Mattie Ross, and not getting overshadowed by her costars.
Since this is a Coen brothers film, one should certainly expect it to be gory, perhaps even graphically so.  There were definitely some moments of gore, but on the whole, I thought it was rather tame, considering the directors.
True Grit was believable, realistic, enjoyable, and humorous.  It tells a story–based of course, on the novel by Charles Portis–of a determined girl who will stop at nothing to find her father’s killer.  There is, of course, more to it than that, and this adaptation does an excellent job of showing that.  It is also a story about survival and trust, and of course grit.

The movie Invictus contains the message that something seemingly trivial, like a game, can unite individuals and an entire country.  It is a typical sports movie, yet it is also a good movie.

The title Invictus comes from a poem of the same title, written by the English poet William Ernest Henley.  It reads: "Out of the night that covers me,/ Black as the pit from pole to pole,/ I thank whatever gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul.// In the fell clutch of circumstance/ I have not winced nor cried aloud./ Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.// Beyond this place of wrath and tears/ Looms but the Horror of the shade,/ And yet the menace of the years/ Finds and shall find me unafraid.//It matters not how strait the gate,/ How charged with punishments the scroll,/ I am the master of my fate:/ I am the captain of my soul." The last two lines are mostly what are used in the movie.

Both Morgan Freeman, as South African President Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon, as Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, are what make the movie.  Well, the rugby helps.  The interesting thing, to me, is that President Mandela did not let the Springbok team be demolished and renamed, as many were expecting, even though they were seen as a symbol of apartheid.  Instead, Mandela stood behind them and, in effect, inspired them to win to unite their country.

I found Invictus to be entertaining and inspiring without going overboard into sappiness.  It’s a good movie, and one that I’d recommend.