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There are certain things you'll almost never get a film critic to admit to, chief among them being that Robert Altman was overrated. Slightly below that, though, is that they (the critic) has any level of specific bias toward the material he's asked to review.

I'm not talking about big biases like "I don't like French movies" or "this or that actor cut me off in traffic once." I'm talking about little stuff - minor turn-ons and turn-offs that might lead one to be overly kind (or unkind) to something because some minor element rubbed him the right way. Most people cop to this stuff without a second thought: "Yeah, I liked it, but then I like movies about cars generally." Critics, though, are supposed to be wholly-reactive paragons of objectivity. We aren't, of course, but we're supposed to be.

So I figured it might be fun and instructive to compile a quick list of my own personal "happy thoughts" elements of movie-watching: The moments, types and recurring themes that I'm almost always happy to see turn up in a movie and - more often than not - may have earned this or that film an extra point here and there on Escape to The Movies.
So, in no particular order...

Monkeys

I love monkeys. Don't you? How can anyone not love monkeys? They come in all flavors from "funny" (chimps) to "badass" (King Kong) and they're just human enough to be great characters without requiring a tremendous amount of extraneous motivation. In fact, that's part of why I'm always so glad to see a monkey turn up in a movie: It means that instead of a (usually) lame comic-relief human, someone realized that you can get all the good basic stuff without the iffy prospect of depth - nobody needs the monkey to be deep. Plus, they make the doing of mundane things fun just by doing them. Hero visits a fruit stand? Boring. Hero visits a fruit stand run by a monkey? Awesome.

Dogs

Dogs are awesome, in general. But dogs in movies are awesome because, well... think of the stuff that makes a great movie hero: Strong, loyal, friendly but also capable of badassery when needed. That's a dog!

I realize this is a very "guy" thing to put on what's already a very "guy" list, but it's true: I like almost all dog movies. Sad Old Yeller dog movies, Lassie movies, even some of those movies where dogs play sports. Take any movie, add a dog in a major role, and that movie gets better. In the (awesome) Hills Have Eyes remake a few years back, they actually gave the "ass-kicking sidekick" role to the dog, and it rocked! I think the dog actually kills the second most bad guys of anyone else in the movie, and the opening-night audience went nuts every time he did. (And this is a movie where bad guys get stabbed in the face with miniature American flags, so the "crowd goes wild" bar is already pretty damn high.)

Monsters

Wanna win me over, movie? Bring out a monster. Any monster. Even a bigger-than-normal animal will do. Monsters are great because they allow you to have an obstacle (or even just action scene generator) that can act like a force of nature but has a specific persona of its own - in other words, a monster is an earthquake that the hero can punch in the face. Plus, the presence of the monstrous in otherwise "real" settings does a great job of implying a larger and more unusual world without having to cut away and show it.

Giant Monsters

See above, but bigger. Bob loves Godzilla. Also covered under this section: dinosaurs. Everything needs more dinosaurs.

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