Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Matt Damon reflects on being ‘Bourne’ again

It’s a sweltering afternoon in Hollywood and Matt Damon has just gotten out of couple’s therapy.

Don’t worry, it was just with Jimmy Kimmel — a continuation of the fake feud that started over 10 years ago before the two had even met.

“It takes a really surreal turn because we got a real therapist and we play it totally straight,” said Damon seated in the green room of Kimmel Studios. After “therapy,” Damon had about 10 minutes to do a photo shoot, film an intro for a festival he can’t attend and scarf down a salad. This is life on the blockbuster circuit.

Damon, 45, is promoting Jason Bourne, a film that nine years ago both he and director Paul Greengrass thought would never happen. After three movies exploring the story of the super spy created by Robert Ludlum, the last two of which were directed by Greengrass, and a particularly difficult shooting experience with The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon was done.

The name would come up often, though, in meetings and from fans. In 2009, around the time Damon and Greengrass did Green Zone, they flirted with getting another one going but there just wasn’t a story. Universal Pictures, meanwhile, moved on, expanding the Bourne universe with a film focused on another agent played by Jeremy Renner. It did well enough, and a sequel was in the works. Then, in 2014, Greengrass and Damon took a look at the world and realized how much had changed.

“Paul called and said that the first set piece would be an austerity riot in Athens,” Damon said. “I’m like, ‘OK, we’re back.’”

But they made sure to structure their production schedule so they weren’t coming up with the script while they were shooting — as was the case with Ultimatum.

“When you’re in production, you’re lighting money on fire and you can feel it. What (co-writers) Paul (Greengrass) and Chris (Rouse) did this time, which is great, was they took a whole year and showed up with 120 pages that you want to shoot,” Damon said. “We knew once we said we were going to do it, that we were going to get a release date, so we just got all of our ducks in a row.”

And it worked.

For Ultimatum, they shot for 138 days. Jason Bourne was a trim 95.

The film is partially about the world of government surveillance, introducing CIA agents played by Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.

The high octane hunt takes Bourne to the requisite international locales and even a few domestic ones — including Las Vegas, where one set piece features a SWAT vehicle plowing through cars on the strip. It’s eerily reminiscent of the recent incident in France.

The marketing team pulled the scene from European ads immediately, he said.

“That was just horrific,” Damon said. “None of us felt like it was a copy-cat thing, but we didn’t want to be insensitive with those images out there.”

It makes him think of the objections to the posters showing him wielding a gun — a sentiment he keenly understands.

“Movies are a tool for empathy. I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t believe that,” he said. “But violence is a part of the human condition and so sometimes you end up playing violent characters. Jason Bourne is a violent character.”

He hopes that the series, which has shown Bourne atoning for his actions, has a mindfulness that distinguishes it from others.

Damon may be one of the most bankable movie stars in the business, but he still feels the pressure of a big opening — especially from a franchise like Bourne.

“A lot is at stake,” Damon said. “The movie was expensive to make and if the audience doesn’t show up then, yeah, that would be a big deal that would be bad … Our jobs are constantly hanging in the balance. It’s an insecure profession and an insecure industry.”

He’s keeping busy, though.

Almost too busy.

His packed schedule meant giving up a plum role in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea to his pal Casey Affleck. The film, based on an idea from John Krasinski and Damon, who also produced, was rapturously received at Sundance and will come out in November.

“Casey’s no dummy. He was like ‘I’ll do it! I’ll clear everything from my schedule!” Damon laughed.

But Damon has some big things on the horizon, too, including Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Yimou Zhang’s historical fantasy The Great Wall, a massive American and Chinese co-production that’s out in February. He moved his wife and kids to China for six months during the shoot.

“There were 50 translators running around in every department. But everyone had made a lot of movies so we had that common language,” Damon said.

Next he’s shooting the George Clooney-directed and Joel and Ethan Coen-scripted crime mystery Suburbicon.

And maybe after that he’ll get around to taking a break and finally figuring out what he wants to direct.

Right now it’s all Bourne.

He’s just wrapped a big international tour and is off to New York to do the talk show circuit.

“Then I’m done!” Damon said. “Well, I still have to go to China and Japan. But that’s like two weeks away. I’m not looking that far ahead.”

For Matt Damon, Jason Bourne has been a lifeblood

For Matt Damon, the “Bourne” films have been like a lifeblood.

“I was kind of inoculated for that five or six-year period when I made the first three. I could make decisions with absolutely no thought to what the potential box office was,” says Damon. “It was liberating in that sense. I knew that if I had another Jason Bourne off in the middle distance, it would kind of rescue me and keep my career afloat for a few more years.”

In “Jason Bourne” (out July 29), Damon returns to the spy franchise that made him a full-blown movie star with all the freedom such status affords. Given how much 45-year-old actor credits the series with, it’s a welcome homecoming.

“It’s obviously the most significant thing that’s happened in my career,” Damon said in a recent interview from the set of Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing.” “I definitely knew I wanted to do it again but I was always kind of tethered to Paul (Greengrass). I knew I didn’t want to do it without him.”

It’s been nine years since “The Bourne Ultimatum,” but the franchise based on Robert Ludlum’s novels has kept spinning. “The Bourne Legacy,” in 2012, starred Jeremy Renner as another secret agent. That film grossed less than the three previous “Bourne” movies, thus proving the value of both Damon and Greengrass to the franchise. The “Captain Phillips” director helmed Damon’s last two “Bourne” movies.

Damon says the delay was partially caused by a struggle to find a worthy next chapter for the character. The time helped: “Jason Bourne” was inspired by Edward Snowden and more recent debate over civil liberties.

But Damon’s and Greengrass’ motivation in returning, they say, ultimately grew out of satisfying fans of the kinetic, mysterious “Bourne” films.

“All those people who have come up to me over the years, hopefully they’re representative of a whole group of people who will go buy tickets,” says Damon. “We’re counting on it. You never know. It’s the movie business, so it could be a total disaster.”

Underdogs strive to survive an unoriginal summer film season

Hollywood’s summer film slate, which kicks off with the fittingly combative Captain America: Civil War, will be a season of struggle: for box office dollars, for originality and for opportunity.

More than ever, the big tent of summer moviegoing is held up by a forest of tentpoles stretching from May to August. The swelling size of the summer movie has turned the season into a game of survival. Testosterone often dominates in front of and (especially) behind the camera, and few non-sequel, non-reboot films dare to compete.

images - wigout - 051916 - JasonBourneBox office and stress levels run high in equal measure.

“It’s a different landscape than 2002 when the first Bourne movie came out,” says Matt Damon, who returns to the franchise in Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne (July 29). “It’s like a high-stakes poker game that I don’t want to be in. The swings are just so brutal. Ben (Affleck) just opened Batman v Superman a few weeks ago. Everyone around him and in his life was nervous about it. You feel less a sense of exultation when they do well and more a sense of relief because the bets are so big now.”

This season is particularly risk-adverse. Out of the 33 films coming from the major studios, only 12 aren’t a sequel, reboot or based on an already popular property, such as a video game or best-seller. Take comedy and horror out of the equation and you’re left with just a handful of originals. One of them is Jodie Foster’s Money Monster (May 13), a thriller about a brash financial news pundit taken hostage on the air, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

images - wigout - 051916 - MoneyMonsterFoster’s film is doubly rare. She’s one of only two female filmmakers helming major studio releases this summer. Though equality remains a year-round issue for the movie business, the constricted summer months can reveal Hollywood at its most retrograde.

“It’s interesting to me that the studio system still sees women as a risk,” says Foster, who wonders if women ultimately even want to inherit some of the kinds of films that dominate the summer. “There are movies that are part of the system we may not be that interested in embracing. I think that more women in the film business will look slightly different than it’s looked in the past for men.”

Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot (July 15) was met by a backlash from some corners of the Internet that took offense to a new, female-led version starring four of the funniest comedic performers around: Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. With that lineup, Feig relishes heading into “the big guns of summer.”

images - wigout - 051916 - Ghostbusters“To put out a movie like this in the heart of tentpole season when it’s all these big movies out there, I find it very exciting because a lot of these movies are very male-driven, even though they have some great female characters in them,” Feig says. “But to have this be about four incredibly funny people who just happen to be women, I think that’s really exciting.”

This summer includes a number of anticipated sequels (Finding Dory, Star Trek Beyond, Alice Through the Looking Glass), the expected superhero films (Civil War, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse) and some less likely resurrections (The Legend of Tarzan, Ben-Hur, Independence Day: Resurgence).

Recent history is clear: These will be among the summer’s biggest hits. Last summer (the second biggest ever with nearly $4.5 billion in box office), seven of the top 10 movies were remakes, sequels or came from a comic book. Ditto for four of the top five movies so far in 2016.

images - wigout - 051916 - PopstarAndy Samberg and his Lonely Island trio will be among the few to brave the sequel-strewn seas with something fresh: their celebrity flame-out parody Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (June 3). Does he take any pride in being one of the few to push an original movie into summer?

“Um, yeah, we’ll find out,” says Samberg, laughing. “It’s heavy duty. We were looking at the schedule and we were like: ‘Holy crap. There’s stuff that’s coming out the week before and the week during us and the week after us, and they’re all really big movies.’ (Producer Judd Apatow) and the studio felt really strongly about summer and that we had something we could put there.”

One of the fathers of the summer movie season, Steven Spielberg, will also be in the mix with The BFG (July 1), his Roald Dahl adaptation that re-teams the director with Mark Rylance. The recent Oscar-winner plays the titular giant in a motion capture performance.

images - wigout - 051916 - BFG“The exciting thing about The BFG is the combination of Roald Dahl, who’s just a superb storyteller, with Steven and (late screenwriter) Melissa Mathison,” says Rylance. “It took five years to get made because of course initially many studios said: ‘Giants eating kids? I don’t think so!’ That edge of Roald Dahl, that frightening edge, I hope is still in there. There’s a kind of marvelous, frightening aspect to the fantasy as there is in the Tolkien books or the Grimm fairy tales that children can handle.”

Family audiences will be especially sought after by the likes of The Secret Life of Pets, Ice Age: Collision Course and the remake of Pete’s Dragon. One much smaller film, Life, Animated (July 8), will hope to sway moviegoers from the blockbusters while simultaneously reminding them of the power of movies.

The documentary, directed by Roger Ross Williams, is about an autistic young man, Owen Suskind, who found language through his love of Disney animated classics.

“It’s rare that you create a film like this that generations can enjoy together,” says Williams. “In the summer this is an alternative where families can go together and see it and hopefully be inspired and uplifted.”

To be uplifted rather than pummeled at summer movie theaters would indeed be an almost radical change of pace.

Review: Damon charms as stranded astronaut in ‘The Martian’

Without Matt Damon, the solitary fight for survival on Mars would be lonely indeed.

Alone on screen for most of his scenes as an astronaut stranded on the red planet, the Oscar-nominated actor is the winning heart of Ridley Scott’s epic space adventure, “The Martian.”

With Damon’s charm center stage, Scott has crafted an exciting, hopeful story about humanity at its best: The brightest minds working together for a common goal that bridges international borders and forges a feeling of unity.

Affable and intelligent, playful and determined, Damon’s Mark Watney is so endearing and entertaining as a narrator and subject, it’s easy to see why the world would want to save him.

The story begins with Watney accidentally left behind during a NASA mission to Mars. When a fierce storm forces an emergency evacuation from the planet, he disappears in the chaos and is presumed dead. He isn’t, of course, and as his fellow astronauts mourn him during their months-long journey back to Earth and NASA officials struggle with how to explain his death to the public, Watney wakes up, injured and alone.

But he’s incredibly optimistic and resilient. He fixes his wound with minor surgery and immediately goes about prolonging his survival, knowing it could be years before a manned spacecraft returns to Mars. He puts his skills as a botanist and engineer to work, devising a way to grow crops in the arid soil and make water by burning hydrogen. He rewires old equipment from a past Mars mission in hopes of communicating with NASA.

Watney is curious and talkative, keeping himself company by narrating his every move. He tracks his obstacles and progress in daily video logs. He chats to himself in footage from the helmet cam in his spacesuit, cracking jokes he knows no one can hear.

Seeing his efforts through various camera perspectives — the helmet cam, a bunk cam inside his sleeping quarters, a dashboard camera inside his space rover and the video diaries where he appears to talk directly to the audience — adds visual interest, though Damon would probably be just as magnetic talking to a hand-held camera in an empty room.

Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels at his most clinical) and Mars mission chief Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) learn through satellite photos that Watney is alive. As NASA spokeswoman Annie Montrose (a miscast Kristin Wiig) scrambles to protect the agency’s public image, the men strategize how to bring the stranded astronaut home.

“The Martian” unfolds in three settings, all spectacularly realized by production designer Arthur Max. There’s life on Earth, set inside NASA’s sterile Houston headquarters and the lively Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and life on Mars, a dusty, red, rocky expanse where nothing lives (which filmmakers actually found in Jordan). Then there’s life aboard the film’s elegant spacecraft, from the rugged rover Watney uses to explore Mars to the Enterprise-inspired ship that carries his fellow crewmembers and their commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain). 

Unlike other recent big-screen space trips, the science here is presented simply enough that no suspension of disbelief or quantum leap through the time-space continuum is necessary. It all seems plausible, and author Andy Weir, upon whose novel the film is based, insists it is, calling it “a technical book for technical people.”

“I had no idea mainstream readers would be interested at all,” he said.

With Scott at the helm and Damon leading the cast, “The Martian” is accessible and beautiful, cinematically and intellectually. Even though it’s a big Hollywood production, Watney’s survival really does seem in question, and audiences will want to join the international crowds on screen in cheering for his rescue.

“The Martian,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.” Running time: 141 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

Comic actor Robin Williams dead at 63

Robin Williams, the Academy Award-winning comedian and actor who delighted generations of audiences with his rapid-paced wit and eye for roles that tugged the heartstrings as much as the funny bone, died Monday at his San Francisco Bay area home, of an apparent suicide. He was 63.

Multiple news outlets reported the death Monday afternoon, after reports from the Marin County sheriff’s office revealed the actor had been found unresponsive, and a preliminary investigation suggests a possible cause of death of suicide due to asphyxia. 

Williams had been open about his struggles with drugs and alcohol earlier in his career, as well as his battle with depression. The actor had recently checked into a rehab center for long-term sobriety, and press representatives have reported the actor was grappling with severe depression at the time of his death.

Williams leaves behind three children from previous marriages, including 25-year-old actor Zelda Williams, and his wife Susan Schneider, who said in a statement Monday that: “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. … It is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

To pick a signature role for Williams would be a tough proposition. Television roles bookended his career; he rose to fame as the titular alien on Mork and Mindy in the late ’70s, and recently played the patriarch of an unorthodox ad agency in CBS’ The Crazy Ones, cancelled this spring after a single season. But he’s best known for the variety of starring roles he played on film throughout his life: an inspirational teacher in Dead Poets Society, the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, the incomparable Mrs. Doubtfire, a loving father and drag club owner in The Birdcage, Matt Damon’s therapist and mentor in Good Will Hunting, and Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum franchise, set to release its third installment this Christmas.

Innumerable celebrities expressed their condolences alongside fans through social media, many sharing stories of their encounters with Williams throughout their careers. Shrines to the actor are also popping up across the country, with the most noteworthy built around a bench where a pivotal scene from Good Will Hunting was filmed.

For more information on suicide prevention resources in Wisconsin, click here.

Liberace movie is HBO’s biggest since 2004

A healthy number of HBO subscribers were curious about Michael Douglas’ performance as Liberace in the TV movie “Behind the Candelabra.”

The Nielsen company said the 2.4 million people who tuned in to the movie’s premiere over the Memorial Day weekend represented the network’s biggest audience for one of its original movies since “Something the Lord Made” in 2004. Another 1.1 million people saw a repeat of the Liberace movie that began right after the first airing.

Dancing ruled over singing last week on the broadcast networks, depending on which audience you followed. ABC’s two “Dancing With the Stars” airings last week had around 15 million viewers, the most-watched program on television. Among the younger demographic that are attractive to advertisers, however, NBC’s “The Voice” was more popular.

Monday’s version of the Univision telenovela “Amores Verdaderos” landed in the Top 10 among younger viewers last week. In an indication of how young the Spanish-language show’s audience is, it ranked No. 39 among all viewers.

ABC won the week in prime time, averaging 6.5 million viewers, benefitting from “Dancing” and the finales of “Modern Family” and “The Middle.” CBS was second with a 6.3 million viewer average, NBC had 5 million, Fox had 4.3 million, Univision had 3.5 million, Telemundo had 1.6 million, ION Television had 1.2 million and the CW had 760,000.

TNT was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 3.4 million viewers in prime time. USA had 2.7 million, the Disney Channel had 2.2 million, Fox News Channel had 1.9 million and TBS had 1.6 million.

NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8 million viewers. ABC’s “World News” was second with 7.4 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 6 million viewers.

For the week of May 20-26, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: “Dancing With the Stars Results,” ABC, 15.2 million; “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 14.97 million; “Criminal Minds,” CBS, 11.01 million; “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 10.81 million; “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 10.18 million; “Modern Family,” ABC, 10.01 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 9.06 million; “Hawaii Five-0,” CBS, 9 million; NBA Playoffs: Indiana vs. Miami (Wednesday), TNT, 8.31 million; NBC News: Oklahoma Tornado Coverage (Tuesday, 8 p.m.), NBC, 8.16 million.

Debbie Reynolds: We all knew Liberace was gay

In the new film “Behind the Candelabra,” veteran entertainer Debbie Reynolds has just three major scenes to flesh out one of the most complicated figures in piano-playing showman Liberace’s life: his loving but sometimes manipulative mother Frances.

The Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-nominated Reynolds didn’t need to do any homework for the part. She knew Frances. Reynolds joined Liberace’s inner circle while both were doing stage shows in Las Vegas.

“I tell the story when Lee called me one night after work,” Reynolds remembered, using Liberace’s nickname. “I was at the Desert Inn, he was at the Hilton, and he said, `Debbie, I’ll pick you up after the show, and we’ll take Tom Jones. It’s his birthday.'”

“I have never had a better time than being Liberace’s date,” the 81-year-old Reynolds continued. “We all knew he was homosexual. That was a friend: You know what they love and the people that they love, and what they are.”

“Behind the Candelabra” picks up the story of Liberace, played by Michael Douglas, in the 1970s and focuses on his six-year relationship with the much younger Scott Thorson, portrayed by Matt Damon.

Reynolds, who also knew Thorson, highly praised both of the film’s stars. “They had to immerse themselves: two straight men, to make this come off as loving and real.”

Liberace died from complications of AIDS in 1987 at age 67. He never publicly acknowledged he was gay.

“Behind the Candelabra” premieres on HBO in the United States and on HBO Canada Sunday. On the heels of its theatrical world premiere this week in Cannes, the film begins a run in overseas cinemas starting in June.

HBO Films presents Liberace movie – starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas – May 26. Trailer

HBO Films will first air “Behind the Candelabra,” the cable film feature starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson, on May 26.

HBO is promising a big show – as evidenced in the news release that begins: “Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world- renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career.”

The film focuses on the five-year love affair involving Liberace and Thorson – and is largely based on Thorson’s version of events.

The film is executive produced by Jerry Weintraub and directed by Steven Soderbergh with music adapted by the late Marvin Hamlisch.

The film also stars Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, Paul Reiser and Debbie Reynolds.

The backstory from HBO on the film goes like this:

When Weintraub received a call from Soderbergh asking his thoughts on Liberace, Weintraub responded with unbridled enthusiasm, noting, “First of all, I knew Liberace and thought he was an extraordinary character way before his time. Secondly, when Steven is interested in doing something, I am immediately interested because he’s my favorite director.”

Soderbergh was working with Douglas on “Traffic” when the actor did an impromptu impersonation of Liberace between takes. Their interest piqued by the spot-on impression, Soderbergh and producer Greg Jacobs started searching for a Liberace story and were steered in the direction of Thorson’s book “Behind the Candelabra.” They took the idea to Weintraub and reached out to Matt Damon to come on board in the role of Thorson. Richard LaGravenese was brought in to write the script.

Says Soderbergh, in a news release, “It’s important that the people understand that Liberace wasn’t a goof. He was a seriously talented, proficient musician. He was a real showman. That kind of ability is rare and it’s important that audiences recognize that – otherwise, it just becomes a cartoon, if you don’t take it seriously. He was really amazing.”

Weintraub credits Soderbergh for being the kind of director who attracts such high-caliber actors to the film.

“Soderbergh is a sought-after director by actors. They want to work with him because he gives them so much,” explains Weintraub. “He’s just so good with the actors because he’s right there at the camera, he’s right in their face, and they know he gets it.”

The film was shot in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Many of the locations, sets, costumes and props were connected directly to Liberace. The production filmed in Liberace’s L.A. penthouse; in the United Postal Center in West Hollywood, where Scott Thorson worked following the break-up; in the Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church, where Liberace’s Palm Springs funeral service was held; and on the stage and in the showroom of the Las Vegas Hilton, where Liberace played.

Liberace foundation struggles with debt

US Bank has taken the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts to court for allegedly defaulting on a $1.9 million loan.

The foundation had been funded from the now defunct Liberace Museum in Las Vegas.

The bank alleges that the foundation made payments on the loan from May 2000 through February 2012, then stopped.

Liberace opened the museum in 1979 to show off his cars and costumes, jewelry and pianos. It closed in October 2010.

Liberace, a native of West Allis, Wis., died in 1987 of AIDS-related complications.

A film starring Michael Douglas as the famously flamboyant and closeted entertainer is due out next year. Matt Damon stars as his young lover, who filed a palimony suit in 1982 and won a $95,000 settlement.

Madonna’s latest, and a ‘Zoo’ story

An immaterial look at the Windsors

Leave it to Madonna, an immaterial girl from Michigan, to idolize and romanticize the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, described in her movie “W.E.” as “the world’s most celebrated parasites.”

In 1998 Manhattan, Wally (Abbie Cornish, doing her best Nicole Kidman), the wife of unstable shrink William (Richard Coyle), is obsessed with a Sotheby’s auction of the belongings of the abdicated King Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough, the only reason to watch the movie). From there, the plot slithers back and forth in time to focus on the despised pair.

In its clunky way, “W.E.” attempts to draw parallels between Wallis and Wally (who was named for Simpson), right down to their common reproductive issues. Both women suffer at the hands of physically abusive men before finding true love – Wallis with Edward, Wally with Russian security guard Evgeni (Oscar Isaac).

Overly ambitious and distracting, Madonna and her co-screenwriter would have been better off focusing their energy on the story of Wallis and Edward, the one that is obviously of most interest to them. Even at his worst, Madonna’s ex Guy Ritchie remains the better filmmaker.

The DVD/Blu-ray/digital copy includes a “making-of” featurette.

No animal magnetism in this ‘zoo’

The latest in a string of well-intentioned but dissatisfying films by journalist-turned-filmmaker Cameron Crowe (“Say Anything,” “Almost Famous”), “We Bought A Zoo” is an adaptation of the Benjamin Mee book of the same name. Taking more than a few liberties with the story, including relocating it to the U.S. from the U.K., “Zoo” follows widowed single father and self-described “adventure addict” Benjamin (Matt Damon) as he struggles to hold his family together following his wife’s death.

Benjamin quits his journalistic job and buys a home on the grounds of a rundown zoo. With the aid of young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who steals every scene in which she appears), he sorts through clothes and memories and packs up the family’s home. Sullen teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford), who fills the hours following his expulsion from school drawing violent pictures, isn’t thrilled about the new home. When he meets Lily (Elle Fanning), a relative of head zookeeper Kelly (a surprisingly butch Scarlett Johansson), it’s obvious that she will have a positive influence on him.

Predictable and borderline manipulative, “We Bought A Zoo” brings out a too-familiar arsenal of dramatic and comedic devices as the motley crew prepares the zoo for opening day. Lazy, dull and uninspiring, “We Bought A Zoo” plays it too safe.

Special features on the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo set include a gag reel, extended and deleted scenes, Crowe’s commentary, a handful of featurettes and more.