The previews for the crime thriller Zodiac made the film look, at best, mediocre. It seemed that it was only going to be another pointless film and the ending would be revealed halfway through the film. The reason I went to see this film in the first place was because, for lack of better words, was just in the mood to see some mindless killing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The film showed the Zodiac Killer actually performing only a couple of his many murders. The film basically exceeded all of my expectations by a mile. The film’s strongest points came not from the acting or the writing but from the lighting and camera work.
Zodiac follows the true story of San Francisco Chronicler cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his fight to find the identity of the Zodiac Killer. The real Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who terrorized several areas of Northern California including the city of San Francisco as well as the counties of Benicia and Vallejo between Decmber 1968 and October 1969. The thing that made the Zodiac so unique was that he actually taunted the police and newspapers covering the unsolved murders until 1974 by writing letters to them and giving them difficult cryptograms to decipher. In his letters to the newspapers and police he claimed to have killed as many as 37 people but only 5 of them could be undeniably traced back to him. To this day, the actual identity of the Zodiac Killer remains a mystery but the one suspect that seemed most likely is the one that is followed in the film, Arthur Leigh Allen (played by John Carroll Lynch). The case still remains open today by the San Francisco Police Department.
The acting was decent but I was expecting a bit more considering an all-star cast was leading the film. The cast included Mark Ruffalo as San Francisco police inspector, David Toschi; Robert Downey Jr. as the veteran alcoholic San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, Paul Avery; Brian Cox had a small role as Melvin Belli, the Doctor that tries to get inside the Zodiac’s head; and Chloe Sevigny as Robert Graysmith’s wife that disapproves of all the time he is spending on the Zodiac case. Even Elias Koteas has a prominent role as Vallejo Sgt. Jack Mulanax. If you recognize the name Elias Koteas it is because Zodiac is his first theatrical film since playing Casey Jones in the three live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films thirteen years ago.
The film is well written and the 2 ½ hours pass by very quickly because of how the film keeps you wondering what is going the happen next. The whole setting of the film was very reminiscent of All the President’s Men: two newspaper writers trying to take a large case on themselves set during the late 60’s/ early 70’s. Zodiac’s greatest achievement was not what was happening on screen but what was being done behind the screen to make the film as creepy as it was. As trivial as the average moviegoer make think, the lighting was what made the film as suspenseful as it was. Whenever the killer was shown, all that could be seen of him was his silhouette. Many times, the camera techniques used were reminiscent of Home Improvement’s Wilson and how the viewer was never able to see the Zodiac full face. The look of the film was what stood out the most in my mind because of how it actually made you feel like you were back in that time. Everything was perfected to make it look as though it really was the late 1960s. My only complaint in this department is that throughout the 15 years that this film takes place, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character doesn’t seem to age one single bit.
With all aspects of the film taken into account, the film achieves what it was going for: a creepy, smart, entertaining film dealing with the darkest of themes. I give Zodiac a B+ but I wholeheartedly do not recommend this film to anyone who is easily disturbed by the horror of true crime stories.
Zombieland has a very simple plotline. Basically, it is about four people who have been wandering the country while trying to survive the millions of zombies that have infected the world. A couple of subplots are additionally included in the movie. One involves a semi-love story between two of the main zombie killers. However, the best part of Zombieland comes from a very unlikely movie star who delivers one of the best lines of 2009.
Zombieland is, without a doubt, one of the most purely entertaining movies of the year, meaning the filmmakers didn’t try to make it into anything more than it is. They didn’t try to make it overly scary or bloodier than most zombie movies and they certainly didn’t create an overly elaborate story. It was just a fun movie. It is hard to describe it anymore simply than that.
The cast of Zombieland, though very small, was terrific. Honestly, it was quite exciting to see Woody Harrelson in a starring theatrical role for the first time in years. The roles of the con-artist sisters were equally cast to perfection. Emma Stone (Superbad) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) worked perfectly as a duo of zombie-bashing sisters. If you enjoy ridiculous movies that really don’t have a point but are still totally badass nonetheless, see Zombieland. You will not be disappointed. I give Zombieland an A-.