Archive for the 'Film Reviews' Category


The Dark Knight: Review (or Heath Ledger “Lovefest”)

Joker-dev They say that every great hero needs an antagonist.  Ali would not have been revered had he not competed against Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston and George Foreman.  People remember 80’s wrestling for the spotlight that Hulk Hogan was able to bring to it.  However, if not for Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Andre the Giant and Randy Savage, we wouldn’t have had the epic moments that still give me goosebumps today.

I’ve never been a big Heath Ledger fan.  I thought his performance in Brokeback Mountain was exceptional, as he portrayed a character whose repressed sense of love was evident –even in the way that he walked and spoke.  But aside from this, I would never admit to having seen greatness in him.  He was just another actor who, instead of taking a wealth of easy, guaranteed-money, movies highlighting his physical appearance, he instead took the ‘Johnny Depp route’ and decided in favor of more challenging roles.

OK, I know I’m beating around the bush, but the setup is important for what I’m about to say: Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was probably one of the best performances by an actor playing a antagonist – comic book villain or otherwise – that I’ve seen… maybe ever.  He’s that good.  The entire time that I was watching this film, I kept peering around the theater to see of other people were as in awe as I was to watch this award winning performance.  And what’s sad about the film (aside from the fact that Heath is no longer with us) is that without his performance, this is probably just another acceptable Batman film.

I wish I could talk more positively about other aspects of the film, but there’s not much here that hasn’t been seen in 2005 with Batman Begins.  The car’s the same.  We do get a cool new feature, but it’s pretty much the same car.  The toys he uses are a slightly better.  There’s a bit of a love struggle (and Maggie Gylenhaal, despite being incredibly fine, is about as annoying as Katie Holmes was).  And yes, the cast is strong: Christian Bale and Gary Oldman turn in solid performances, as do Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.  But let’s not kid ourselves: this is not a notable movie without the performance of Heath Ledger.

So, (I’m sure you may be asking, if you haven’t seen this yet) what is it about his performance that is so notable?  I remember when this film was being made and I believe I recall hearing or reading somewhere that Heath was ‘studying’ different sources to get the role right.  I’m always amazed to hear actors talk about all this ‘studying’ that they do, yet the benefits can rarely be seen on screen.  Yet, this performance as the Joker is more than a comic book villain who comes to life.  From the moment he makes his entrance, we see something intrinsically evil about him.  Yes, he’s got the makeup and it makes him incredibly creepy looking.  But it’s more than the makeup.  He’s not physically menacing.  He’s actually kind of lanky.  But everything – from his expressions to the way that he walks – conveys to the audience that you’re dealing with someone who’s missing more than a few marbles.

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John Adams (HBO Series): Reason to Be a Prideful American

John Adams Today we celebrate the independence of our great country.  I’m proud and blessed to be a citizen of this great nation (although I feel like we deserve more in the quality of those who lead us.)  The road to this country’s existence may seem like a passive chapter in a history book for some.  But clearly there was a deeper story to be told.  I remarked with a friend at work about some of the films that have been released and how superior they are in quality to the bland and lifeless retelling of our nations history by teachers who seemed to be narrating from a teleprompter.  While this may seem a bit extreme, I believe it would be far more effective to substitute 5th grade history class with a 60” Plasma television, comfortable chairs and a DVD Box Set of the HBO Original Series John Adams.  If the quality of history teachers is anything now like it was when I was a lad, this would be a far more effective lesson.

John Adams is an HBO original series based on the book by David McCullough, but calling it a “TV series” is almost degrading.  This is a high quality theatrical production.  I call it a film and think of it as a film, because truthfully that’s what it is – only one that was cut up into seven parts and had it’s theatrical release omitted.

I don’t know how historically accurate the film is, but considering the scrutiny that films find themselves under these days, I would have to say that it’s probably as accurate as it could be (for a retelling of events taking place 230 years ago.)  I thought initially that this would be a long and boring undertaking.  After all, seven parts of any film is an investment that you may later regret.  But as soon as this one gets started, you realize that this is no typical American history retelling.  No faux flutes and patriotic music to drown out the bad acting here.  This one has some substance.

Everyone by now is aware that Paul Giamatti has the lead role, but aside from Laura Linney (Abigail Adams) and David Morse (George Washington), there aren’t many faces here that I’ve seen before.  And this is a good thing.  In fact, it’s a great thing.  This adds completely to the authenticity of the film.  Instead of finding yourself saying, “Hey, look at Patrick Stewart playing Thomas Jefferson!”, you instead find yourself lost in the story and exploring the ideas through unfamiliar faces.

As well directed and well acted as the entire series is, what I took away most from the series was authenticity.  Sure, it’s difficult to even attempt to paint a picture about what really happened in an event so critical to American history and, for that matter, the history of the world.  But it’s the little things that helped me to commiserate with the plight of Englishmen in a foreign land, trying to push away their mother country.  The flies that make the first Congressional meetings uncomfortable.  The dialect of the different characters.  The toys that the children play with.  It’s the little things that seemed to grab me.

There were many details that we learn throughout the more than eight hours of viewing.  Some of them you’ll find that you knew.  But whether some of the ideas that we learn about (like Adams lack of people skills and Ben Franklin’s taste for French culture) are factual may be somewhat debatable.  But the authenticity is only part of the point.  What’s great here is the discussions that might ensure afterwards.  Whether we’re discussing rumors about our forefathers or actual accurate details, the point is that we’re discussing them.

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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Review

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Sometimes it’s a good thing to watch a movie without any indication of what’s to come.  I didn’t do any research.  I didn’t even realize that Philip Seymour Hoffman was in the film.  I just kinda put it in my Netflix queue.  Watching the trailer would have probably ruined my experience.  And in that same spirit, this is probably going to be a different review in that I don’t want to reveal too much about the film.  Just know this: 1) It’s not for kids – even if kids are in the vicinity of where the film is being played, 2) It has incredible acting, and 3) It will depress you beyond belief.

This film isn’t short on big names – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network and countless other gems) directs.  All of the actors – big parts and small parts – turn in incredible performances.  Of particular note is, of course, Hoffman.  It’s ridiculous how passionate this guy is… how he conveys volumes with no words.  But the other actors turn in great performances as well. 

The film reminds me of something Quentin Tarantino might have written and directed.  However, unlike a Tarantino film, this one is devoid of all fun.  That’s not to say this is a bad film.  Much to the contrary.  This is an interesting, visceral, complicated and difficult film.  The most I’ll say about the plot is that you have two somewhat average brothers who, through poor decisions and just a bad deal in life, are in a bad place.  So, they end up making more bad decisions.  And the further we go, the messier things get.

While this film isn’t particularly bloody or sensational, what made it so gripping was how real these situations could be.  New York was used as the backdrop, so I guess that made it that much more authentic to me.  But the situations that these characters find themselves in made me stop and wonder how I might handle them.  The film is the thread hanging from your jacket…and as you grab it to yank and break it, you realize that yanking it has only created a bigger piece of thread…and now you’re in too deep to go get a pair of scissors…so you yank harder… and before you realize it, half of your sleeve is gone.

If you’re in the least bit of a slump in life, maybe this one isn’t for you.  I watched this on July 4 – I had the day off, life felt pretty good.  And by the time it was done, I was walking around wondering why my life had so many loose threads.  No, it isn’t very self-revealing.  These are very odd situations and unless you really live on the edge, I’m sure you won’t be able to relate.  But there’s so much tension that by the time you’re done, you really have to go find your happy place.  It’s depressing as hell.

But as much as I felt depressed after watching the film, I must say that in this age of films that are little more than an extended version of the trailer, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is completely unpredictable.  I found that two hour runtime went by in what felt like an hour and a half, because I couldn’t tell quite where things were headed.  But just trust Sidney Lumet.  He knows where he’s taking you.

I don’t often talk about a film’s score (particularly a film of this kind), but it’s worth mentioning that the theme that plays throughout the film is extremely chilling.  It’s disturbing.  It sets the stage quite wonderfully for this completely atypical experience.

To say, “I enjoyed this film” would be almost morbid.  I decided to tolerate the film and I’m pretty happy that I made that decision.  This is certainly not a film I’d own.  But I do encourage anyone who’s up for a different experience and who doesn’t mind a bit of violence and complex adult situations on-screen to check this one out.  Probably the best acted film I’ve seen all year.  (In a year of countless super hero movies, that isn’t saying much, but you get the idea.)


The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Review

Incredible Hulk - 2008You know that super hero movies are on the rise when you get a complete ‘do-over’ re-cast version of the same super hero.  Well, maybe not exactly.  The 2003 release was entitled “The Hulk” and this film is “The Incredible Hulk”.  But there are several other differences.  If one really stretches the mind, they can envision this film being a sequel of the first, only with a different cast.  This iteration does not re-tell the origin of the Hulk – only shows flashes of it during the opening credit sequence and during flashbacks that Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s alter-ego) has during the film.  I choose not to believe that this is a sequel – well, because it isn’t.  They just chose to focus on more than the origin of the character.

Let me interject before diving into the review that I actually liked the first Hulk film.  I didn’t love it.  If I were forced to give it a rating, it wouldn’t get more than a 6.5 out of 10 or 2.5 out of 4 stars.  It got ridiculously wild at the end of the film (Nick Nolte – ugh) and it wasn’t exactly the most engaging cinema experience (I think we waited almost an hour into the film to see the first appearance of the Hulk.  However, I felt that it was an accurate depiction of the character that I loved as a kid.  And not just the damn television show.  One thing I did agree about was the fact that Eric Bana wasn’t right for the role.  I don’t believe the casting had to go as far to the right as this 2008 iteration did and get a huge star like Edward Norton, but I thought that even an unknown has to be more engaging and has to have a much greater on-screen presence than Bana.

Edward Norton stars as Bruce Banner and he does a fair job of portraying the role.  He’s certainly more likeable than Bana, but I don’t know why I felt that the Banner character should be more believable as a scientist.  Norton works in this role, and he’s someone I enjoy watching.  I just don’t know if he was the best choice.  But he does add believability to the story.

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The Happening – Review (Spoiler Free)

The happening Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan, but few can question the impact that he’s had over the past ten years in the genre of suspense films.  I’m not even that big a fan of The Sixth Sense, but rarely will you come across a person who has seen the film and who doesn’t have some polarizing reaction to the film.  Sadly, the most common reaction I come across are from people who want to debate when they ‘figured out’ the big reveal of the movie.  Ironically, it’s this unfortunate angle that has Shyamalan painted in a corner.  He followed up TSS with Unbreakable, and then my favorite Night movie, Signs. Although The Village received a lukewarm reception, I feel as if people are really missing the most entertaining aspect of an M. Night Shyamalan film.  While most people are trying to play mental chess with the movie and searching for clues and answers, the best part of these films, regardless of how clever (or not) the ending may be is the suspense that he’s able to generate.  And while The Happening is probably one of his weakest films plot-wise, it manages to keep it’s audience engaged and in suspense from the opening credits until the closing curtain

The Happening stars Mark Wahlberg as a New York high school science teacher who, along with the rest of the world, learns that there has been a supposed “chemical terrorist attack” in Central Park.  Wahlberg’s character (who’s name is Elliot Moore, but the fact that I had to look it up on should tell you how memorable it was) along with his wife and teaching colleague (played by John Leguizamo) decide to make their way as far from the Northeast (where the ‘attacks’ seem to be concentrated) are taking place.  And honestly, this is all you need to know to understand what you’re getting into.  To tell anything more would be to ruin the best (and only redeeming) part of the film – the discovery.

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The Breakfast Club – Best. Movie. Ever.

“So, what’s your favorite film?” The question is bound to arise. Usually it’s question asked on the second date. Or possibly just a filler question one might ask while waiting on line through two showings of the latest summer blockbuster. (Well, actually given the quality of films these days and the availability of “alternative ways of seeing the film”, perhaps this scenario isn’t quite so current anymore, but I digress…). Being a film aficionado, often I’ve thought of how I’d answer the question given the absurdity of trying to identify one film amongst the hundreds — possibly even close to a thousand — films I’ve seen. Maybe I’ll prepare one answer for business scenarios…one that will impress. And maybe another for the intellectual crowd. Perhaps I could keep five or six films and just pull them out when it’s appropriate. Or maybe take the non-committal route that many others take: “Oh, there are just so many films. I could never choose one!”

The Empire Strikes Back was always an easy answer for me. It actually was one of the films that I’ve seen at least 20 or so times and each time I can usually find something else to take from it. In each new showing, I’ll find some detail that I missed or some line that I could only appreciate now having seen the rest of the films. Then there was a time when love jones would be my response. It might be one of my favorite romantic comedies, and for several reasons. The mood that it creates, the chase between the destined couple… more than any other romantic comedy that I can recall — at least for me — it reminds me of all of the ways that you approach a relationship hoping to put your best foot forward as “calm, cool and collected” — yet love has a way of bringing your true self to the surface. I remember how cool Darius looked onstage… only to stumble a bit during subsequent meetings with Nina. And then there’s Terminator and Flash Gordon and Lost in Translation and Pulp Fiction and Magnolia and so many other films that I could pull off the shelf and just get lost in their respective worlds. But strangely over the years there has been one film that has withstood the test of time and for me, barring some great epic that changes my life, has been and will be my favorite film ever…

“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…”
David Bowie

….The Breakfast Club. Yes, that’s right. That Breakfast Club. On the surface to many, it seems like a cute, teeny, 80s movie. But having seen it, probably nearing 30…maybe 40 times now, I can tell you that this is much more than your average teen 80s movie. From the opening quote, (certainly not typical of most 80s Private School/Ski Patrol/Nerd vs. Jocks, etc. movie) you kinda get the feeling that you might be in for more than you bargained. And as the film plays out, you learn so much about the strange things that happen between strangers when forced into situations of social interaction. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself. Continue reading ‘The Breakfast Club – Best. Movie. Ever.’


Music & Lyrics: Review

It would be so easy to ‘hate’ all over this movie. It’s predictable. It’s formulaic. It’s not even as creative as romantic comedies that I’ve seen ten years ago. But strangely there’s something that keeps me from completely writing this movie off — the charm of Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant.

Music & Lyrics stars Hugh Grant as an 80’s has-been pop star who meets a scatterbrained-but-cute writer in Drew Barrymore who have to write a song for a Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera/Jessica Simpson-type in a short amount of time. That’s it. That’s the whole movie. If you’ve ever seen even a few romantic comedies before, you can write the rest…. they meet, they have an awkward time initially… they find common ground… they kiss… things seem like they’re going ok…. then conflict… then resolution… kiss…<close curtain>. It was so bad that at the point about an hour into the movie — you know, the point where you feel like the relationship is going too good and you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop — I found myself getting frustrated — on two different levels. Obviously, I was frustrated watching a totally predictable film. But I was equally as disappointed to think about how unchallenging and uninspiring a course both of these awesome actors have taken. Hugh Grant — for all the charm that he brings on-screen — could be pushing himself to do so much more. I’d love to see him even try to do a serious role. Something challenging. Maybe he’s been so heavily typecast as the bumbling, charming Brit that nobody wants to risk it? Or not. I’m thinking he’s just not ranging outside of himself. And it’s a shame. Same goes for Drew — even more so. When I watched her onscreen at times, it’s hard not to keep remarking at how much the screen loves her. She’s so charming and so beautiful. It’s such a shame to me that someone who’s been through so much in life and who’s shown signs of greatness still hasn’t had the breakout serious, grown-up role.

One thing that does ruin this film a bit is the age gap between Drew and Hugh. Fifteen years. (I checked.) And it shows. I mean, I was able to put it behind me. And they pull it off… kinda. But it would have almost made the movie better if this had been acknowledged in the plot. There were certainly opportunities to do this through skeptical side-characters. However, ultimately it’s kinda worth the trip to watch Drew looking so fine on-screen and watching Hugh….well, just being ‘Hugh’.

Music & Lyrics will never find it’s way into my ‘romantic comedies’ shelf (and a long shelf it is), but I certainly wouldn’t call this a bad film. Don’t expect too much. And if you’ve seen enough romantic comedies, I’d say you probably can watch this movie and surf the web without missing much. But ultimately it’s not about the plot as much as it is about watching Drew and Hugh — their charm saves this movie from being a total waste. If you like Drew and/or Hugh, check it out. Otherwise, skip it. Chances are you’ve seen this movie several times before.


A Prairie Home Companion: Review

On the strength of friend’s suggestion, I decided to check out A Prairie Home Companion. The film is less akin to a typical movie experience and can better be appreciated as a tribute to a lifestyle perhaps gone by. Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly and Garrison Keillor himself all star in this original film experience.

The plot is….well…. there is no plot. Perhaps it can more appropriately be presented as this: “the setting” is a Minnesota town where a weekly radio show is in the last night of production before the theater where it is produced is destroyed. That’s it. The movie is more a collection of moments and exchanges between the participants in the show. I’m simplifying the plot a bit — there is a thread of intrigue woven amongst the witty exchanges. As simple as the plot may be, I must say that the film is long on charm. This is due in no small part to the star-studded cast. Meryl Streep — for all the acclaim that she has received — never ceases to amaze. Initially I kind of short changed her as getting acclaim because she took on lofty roles. But as she’s shown in her recent film appearances, there is no such thing as a “small part”. (At least not for her.) But her role in A Prairie Home Companion is a large role. And she does a great job giving the character a truly authentic “down-home, apple pie, white picket fence” kinda feel.

When I was in college an English teacher that I thought highly of was a big Garrison Keillor fan. And for years I had been meaning to read one of his books. Well, never really got around to it. But in watching this film, I understand a bit what the appeal was. Garrison Keillor is the writer of the story, as well as the screenplay, and actually plays himself in the movie. His wit is dry, but I kinda dug it. I think this was his first role, and even though he played himself, I thought he did a super job considering all of the talent around him.

I feel like I’m not doing this movie justice — I know there are folks who love it. Having grown up in an urban jungle, I found it hard to catch the story for the first 15 minutes or so. By the time I realized that they were going for something totally different here, I just kinda went with it and in the end, I appreciate what it’s saying. To try and say that there’s a message here probably goes completely against the down-homey kinda feel that they are presenting. But I did walk away from the film feeling that with all of the advantages that our modern, Blackberry and Internet-filled lives have provided us, perhaps we’re missing something much more real and true. The film is actually based on a real radio show done out of St. Paul, Minnesota.

As much as it would be easy to distantly judge these middle America common folk and the theater that they find interesting. However, if we stop and take a a look at our own lives, perhaps our lifestyles aren’t quite that different. Recently I’ve spent considerably more time listening to podcasts from folks that I barely know about tech topics. When I stop and consider, it isn’t so different from shows like this. There’s a special quality that radio possesses. You can’t move your arms or raise your eyebrows to convey emphasis. I find the podcasts I take in weekly providing more entertainment than many of the shows that I used to frequent. (For one, podcasts allow me to work while I listen — well, sometimes they do.) Perhaps this is why I’m not feeling deprived despite the fact that we are in the middle of a writers strike.

Often folks will tell you that, “this is not a film for everyone”. Well, this really isn’t a film for everyone. If you’re in the mood for action or even the least bit of plot and twist in story, maybe you should skip this one for now. But if you have any level of appreciation for a country-living, Thomas Kinkade-kinda lifestyle, then you’ll find something special to take away from this film. Not really my cup of tea, but I must say that it’s a prolific look at a way of living that I don’t know much about. Would be nice to spend some time there someday.


King of Kong: Review

As documentaries have gained in popularity over the past thirty years or so, an interesting notion has begun to take hold. It’s the notion that, “what you’re seeing on the screen is the result of heavy editing and cuts to try and tell the story that the director wanted to tell.” We’ve been told that, given the same footage, another director can paint with a different brush and completely reverse the rolls of the protagonist and the antagonist.

To this notion, I say “bull”. While there are certainly ways of using musical cues and the elimination of certain footage to garner a certain emotional response, when people know they are being filmed for a documentary, they have every opportunity to present their best image. And often times they feel that they’re doing so. When I pick up a karaoke microphone, I actually think I’m the closest thing to Chris Martin there is. (Of course, an audio recording of me might tell a very different story.) No, folks — contrary to popular opinion, tape doesn’t lie. It’s we, the people, who do the lying. It’s just that if we’d realize how damning the video footage would be and how many times it would be played and replayed again, perhaps we would have decided against standing in front of a camera in the first place. (Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007, I’m looking at you.)

When I first decided to check out King of Kong, even as a pretty hardcore gamer, I expected to see the biggest “nerdfest” ever. (And in some ways, I did.) I knew that this was the story about a long-time holder of the Donkey Kong world record being challenged by a new contender, but I didn’t think I’d walk away with this kind of emotion. To refer to King of Kong as “a story about a video game high score” is to cheapen what is now one of my favorite films of this year. Yes, the subject of King of Kong deals with the attempt to beat the long-standing Donkey Kong world record. But besides the video game content, there’s a really rich and emotional story to be found. Digging a bit deeper, I’d go as far as saying the film uncovers an interesting commentary about competition, the corners that we cut in order to stay on top, and how your approach to competition it can affect your life.

The film follows a moment in the lives of Billy Mitchell, a holder of several video game world records (although over the years some of his records have been contested and beaten) including Pac Man, Burgertime, Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong, (of course) and Steve Wiebe, a guy from Seattle who was looking to beat the Donkey Kong high score.

Without spoiling the film, Billy Mitchell’s world record had stood since 1982. Steve Wiebe, on a machine in his home (with his two children nagging him in the background) managed to beat the high score and sent in a video tape of the game to be considered for the world record. …and then things begin to get interesting…. Lots of favoritism, deception, allegiances made (and broken). Simply put, this is a very incestuous group and simply beating the high score and sending in a video tape would prove to be more difficult than it sounds in order to make it into the history books.

The biggest contrast in the film is the cut between the personalities of Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell. I don’t think I’ve seen personalities that were such polar opposites since I saw Ali take on a young George Foreman in When We Were Kings. By his peers, Billy is pretty much lauded as the hero of classic gaming. They literally adore him. They talk about him reverently. They gather around a TV screen — just to watch one of his personally filmed recordings playing a video game. (This has to be the geekiest bunch around. They even knew to rotate the TV so that it was landscape — evidence that they must watch these tapes regularly). On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Steve Wiebe. Steve is just a guy who has a single video game cabinet in his house and has probably just gotten better over the years due to repetition (since that appears to be one of the only games he has.) One may argue that it was in the director’s best interest to paint Steve Wiebe as the hero of the film. In my opinion, it doesn’t take a lot of cuts and edits to make us fall in love with Wiebe. In a film full of people who obsess about this classic gaming addiction, Steve Wiebe shows himself to be humane on more than a few occasions. He’s had his share of disappointments over the years at his efforts in sports and music. He has a family and appears to be a loving and good dad. He even allows the audience to see him cry — something his friends indicate that he has been known to do on occasion. And while he might be just as obsessive as the other folks in the film for traveling hundreds of miles to a central location, just to have his name in the video game “record books”, he’s incredibly humble and humane in this effort. Continue reading ‘King of Kong: Review’


Zodiac: Review

If there’s one regret that I have last year, it’s that I didn’t get to see Zodiac in the theaters. Somehow I just never found the time. But this was one of the films that I was going to rush out and get on DVD as soon as it launched. (Thankfully I didn’t, as I’m hearing that the DVD is pretty much free of any bonus content). But after seeing this film, there’s little doubt that when the full-on release comes out, I’ll be right there in Best Buy waiting to pick it up.

Zodiac is directed by David Fincher (who’s also done such gems as Fight Club, Seven and The Game) and is a dramatization of the search for the identity of “The Zodiac Killer” who had the San Francisco area quivering with fear during the late 60s – mid 70’s. Having been born in the mid 70’s, I didn’t know much about the storied “Zodiac Killer” and almost confused him with “The Son of Sam” murders in New York City. Regardless of whether you know anything or nothing about the legend, if you’re a fan of the JFK-style storytelling (where pieces of the puzzle are revealed almost like a ride) then chances are you’ll love this film.

The acting in Zodiac is truly exceptional. Mark Ruffalo is quickly turning into one of my favorites. He always keeps me engaged and I’ve seen him in a variety of different roles. The role of detective suits him quite well here. Say what you will about Jake Gyllenhaal, but he’s definitely taking the road less traveled as an actor. I’m sure after the success of Brokeback Mountain that he’s had a number of fluff roles thrown his way for more cash. A David Fincher movie is probably one that comes with a huge payday also, but the difference here is that he’s really gotta dig deep and turn in a subtle-yet-solid performance and it’s his acting that really made the two and a half hours seem like a lot less. Jake stars here as the San Francisco newspaper comic writer who’s intrigue over the story lead him to eventually write the best selling book whose detail acts as the backbone for much of the film. It goes without saying that Robert Downey Jr. was great in the film. (Downey Jr. is one of the reporters.) Anthony Edwards, Ione Skye and even Dermot Mulroney play some of the smaller roles in this feature. Personally, for my money, this cast turned in as great a performance as the cast of The Departed without having to resort to all of the over the top acting and stereotypes. (But, of course, what do I know?)

Seven had to be one of the most incredible films that I have ever seen because you felt connected to Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as they searched for the killer. While this doesn’t possess the same creativity as a film where the “seven deadly sins” are featured, this film has some of that same quality. It’s very easy to follow the story as they track down the killer (certainly a lot easier than it is to internalize all of the details in an Oliver Stone film like JFK or Nixon). But much like those films, if you miss a key detail — get up to use the bathroom or doze off for a bit — it may be difficult to follow with key details missing. And so while the film’s running time is two hours and thirty-five minutes, it’s time that’s very well spent. For any film like this to work, it requires very careful pacing. The movie is split between three story arcs: the actual dramatization and re-enacting of the murders, the reporters and news media’s efforts to cover them (and to try and solve them) and the detective’s efforts to do the same. The film is very well edited — we never stay in one place too long. Just when you’ve had enough cop-talk, we’re moving into a creepy time and date-stamped scene where you start to brace yourself for another Zodiac killing. While the film isn’t a documentary, I dare say that you’d learn as much about the Zodiac killings and as effectively as you would by watching this film. In fact, after seeing this film, you’ll probably want to check out more details about the actual case (much like I did). Continue reading ‘Zodiac: Review’