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Of Zoos and Dragons

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North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il was either the planet's most dedicated performance artist or totally batshit crazy. But one thing for sure he was the best marionette in Team America: World Police and the world is a less interesting place without him.

The second best marionette, Matt Damon, has a flick out this week as We Bought a Zoo opens this Friday at the Village 8 Cinemas. It's about a father (Damon) who moves his family into a broken down old zoo to help himself and his kids overcome the loss of their mother. Together, they rebuild the zoo whilst healing themselves in parallel.

If it sounds corny it's because it is but the kicker is We Bought a Zoo is directed by Cameron Crowe (Singles, Almost Famous, Jerry McGuire, Elizabethtown) who is admittedly the master of this kind of cheese-licked schmaltz. If anyone can pull it off, it's him.

And he almost does with the help of Matt Damon's charm (he's got a lot more range in human form than puppet) but overall the simplicity and sunshine-iness of it all is too much for a Grinch like me. Go with reserved expectations and this one will pass for decent family entertainment. Crowe is not at his finest here but not at his worst either and at least he hired Scarlett Johansson to star as the one-note love interest.

Recycling was huge in cinema this year and keeping with the Hollywood quota of at least one remake per week, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens in Squamish and Whistler. This is David Fincher's take on the immensely popular Swedish murder/mystery novel (and subsequent film) about an investigative journalist, his research assistant and a string of bloody murders. Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) is never crappy and while fans of the books might not be as blown away, for the uninitiated Dragon Tattoo, a female revenge flick at heart, is definitely worth checking out.

The Adventures of Tintin opened on Wednesday and it's official—motion capture animation still sucks ass. Sure it works awesome for Gollums and gorillas and Avatar's Na'vi but try with something we see all day everyday, like the human face, and the results are still creepy and off-putting.

Which sucks because Tintin, the boy-detective star of Hergé's epic, clean-line comic books that salvaged millions of grade six French classes, is one of the greatest heroes of the last century.

Producer Peter Jackson and director Steven Spielberg pack in lots of cool camera moves and stitch together a decent little adventure tale (based on the book The Secret of the Unicorn) but the motion captured characters make everything feel a bit flat.

Speaking of kids, it is Christmas so we'd better get to the best holiday movies to watch by the fire. First up, The Grinch. Both the Dr Seuss cartoon and Jim Carrey versions are amazing (and also the only real family friendly flicks on this list.)

Treevenge is a short film available free online. Canadian made (by the team that went on to make Hobo with a Shotgun) this movie is everything great about filmmaking. Santa's Sleigh is somehow way better than you expect but still utterly stupid (and fun). The best Christmas movie this year is the Canadian-made Fubar 2. You don't see it coming but director Michael Dowse delivers a story that has heart and humour and ends with a decidedly fresh take on the Santa legend.

And don't forget to pour some nog on the block for Kim Jong Il­—weird dude, great puppet.

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