David Fincher

November 6, 2014

Zodiac (2007)

PACING

Zodiac – Pacing

There are certain films you see once, and they quickly dissolve from your mind. Not because they are bad by any means, its usually, at least for me, that they are so massive, engrossing, or emotionally investing that my body’s automatic response is to forget about them. The best example I can think of at this time is “Inception.” While visually stunning, the film as a whole is still very hard to wrap my head around and I’ve avoided watching it ever since seeing it in the theater. Again, it’s not because I don’t like it, and hell, who knows, maybe if I saw the film again, I wouldn’t like it, especially since it doesn’t have an end credit sequence……anyway. This brings me to “Zodiac” probably one of the most slept films in David Fincher’s filmography. It’s taut, gritty, and paced to perfection with the addition of great acting performances and a truly engrossing story that you nearly forget it based on an actual unsolved case.

“Zodiac” tells the true story of the Zodiac murders that took place across Northern, and possibly South California between 1966 and 1972. Shortly after a unsolved murder in 1969 in Vallejo, CA, a letter is sent to the San Francisco Chronicle which details the crime and claims that another murder was also committed nearly a year prior by someone calling themselves “Zodiac.” Spanning the course of nearly 25 years, “Zodiac” recounts the effort of journalist Paul Avery, cartoonist Robert Graysmith, and SFPD Inspector,  Dave Toschi, as their lives intersect closely with possible suspects, and the obsession to catch Zodiac that nearly destroys their lives.

Throughout high school and college, I had an obsession with true crime and serial killers. I wanted to know the stories behind the crimes and what really made people tick. Some of the most infamous murderers of all time seem like something out of a movie, which makes the most sense why some of the most unnerving horror and suspense films have been based on serial killers like Ed Gein, Albert Fish, and Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK Killer. However, if you look at the glut of direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV films about serial killers most of them are, for lack of a better term, lackluster, to say the least. At first glance, you might almost think that “Zodiac” might have the same fate, but there is pedigree to spare.

It’s easy to forget that this is even a David Fincher film. Taking into account how diversified his filmography is, “Zodiac” seems like the start of a new Fincher direction. Moving away from dark, gritty horror/suspense films such as “Se7ev” and “The Game,” “Zodiac” was at the time his most mature effort to date, not mention his longest film up to that point, clocking in at 157 minutes (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” would top it the following year with a run-time of 166 minutes). While some might see the long run-time as a negative, I thought it gave Fincher enough time to introduce characters, detail the crimes, and get the point across that obsession; either good or bad, corrupts and destroys nearly everything.

While “Zodiac” could be considered the beginning of a new Fincher era, this film was also a breeding ground for what we could expect from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. And of course the renaissance of Robert Downey, Jr., who only a year later would become Tony Stark. While the film is called “Zodiac” the infamous murderer is pretty much a plot point or a foil to the actors. We are witness to his murder spree, but it’s the emotion and the portrayals by Downey, Jr., Gyllenhaal, and Ruffalo that drive the film from beginning to end. Fincher is also able to create a giant puzzle where it’s the job of the audience of what to believe and reach their own conclusion. Unlike other killers throughout history, the Zodiac Killer was never caught, which creates a true mystery film where there is no right or wrong answer as to who is the true culprit in the crimes.

While “Zodiac” didn’t really get it’s due in the theater, if you are a fan of true crime, or simply great direction by a master who is dedicated to all of the little details that make a film special, than this film is for you. It features an engrossing story, fine performances, and it delivers where other films about serial killers fall short.

Fun Fact: Over the past 100 years, there have been nearly 20 reported serial killers in the state of California.

October 4, 2014

Gone Girl (Slight Spoilers)

PIKE

Let’s get something straight before you guys tear my head off, okay?  I love David Fincher.  He is one of the five best directors working today.  There is maybe…maybe…one or two other directors alive that possess the same skill, vision, patience, and attention to detail he does.  His scenes are practically Kubrickian.  No shot in a Fincher film is pointless or a happy accident.  His films seem to always have the texture and feel of a well crafted graphic novel.  That being said…Gone Girl isn’t really about him.  In fact, Gone Girl isn’t exactly an amazing masterpiece.  Hell, it might be my least favorite of his films.  Gone Girl is, at best, a solid mystery turned thriller that doesn’t quite stick the landing.  Now, that is not because of Fincher in my opinion.  Yes, he is still at his directorial best here.  The detail, the delivery, the decision making, all still there and all still top notch.  As I watched the film, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Gone Girl’s story was just a bit beneath him.  It’s a story that we have seen done a thousand times before, either on Lifetime, NBC, or over ten years ago in theaters with actress Ashley Judd.  The film even takes the time to make a Law & Order joke to point out how familiar of a story it is.  It’s a story that Fincher could direct in his sleep.  Short of an amazingly shot sequence involving a sex scene gone wrong, Fincher doesn’t really get to flex his directing muscles as much as they have been in any of his other films.  No, if you really want a reason to see Gone Girl…if you really want to know what the brightest light shining from this film is, I’ll tell you.  It’s the Gone Girl herself, Rosamund PIKE.

Gone Girl tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne.  A seemingly happy couple suddenly torn apart by the disappearance and possible murder of Amy Dunne.  To be fair, I am coming to you as someone who has not read the novel by Gillian Flynn.  So, whatever liberties Fincher has taken with the material, I am not aware of.  I wanted to just watch this film in a vacuum and glean what I could from the overall message.  A message, which might be either the biggest “F%#k You!” to marriage I’ve seen in a film since The War Of The Roses, a commentary that the secrets we keep from those we love will inevitable imprison or kill us, or a warning to be careful of those you love because they could actually be capable of unspeakable things.  In any case, these are not new topics or even a different way to look at these topics.  What stands out to me is the way this story is delivered to us by its stars.

Ben Affleck is solid as the almost too perfect husband with a secret, but admittedly, he plays the part almost the same as the one he had in American remake of State Of Play a few years back.  The exchanges between Affleck’s character Nick and his sister Margo, played exceptionally well by actress Carrie Coon, are the only times where Ben seems to show us something new.  Neil Patrick Harris and Kim Dickens are a little bit on the nose with their showings, but are still entertaining.  Tyler Perry’s role as the Johnny Cochrane-esque defense attorney Tanner Bolt was even well done and fitting. (Perry actually has my favorite line of the film.)  But at the end of the day, the reason anyone will remember Gone Girl is Rosamund PIKE’s performance.

Happy Wife, Happy Life Indeed

It is not just the fact that she out acts each person she’s in a scene with, which she does.  It’s the manner in how PIKE does it.  It is never over the top or cliche.  It’s acting without “acting”.  It’s the wheels turning behind her eyes, the growing coldness and subtle craftiness in her narration, the calm command in which she confronts her marriage and the direction her life takes.  The way she emotes her anguish, fear, and anger through a glance or a smile or a gesture.  Rosamund Pike delivers something here that truly should be seen and hopefully will be honored.  Much like Affleck’s character, I didn’t see it coming.

I am going to keep this review short to avoid spoiling Gone Girl any more than I already have.  The one thing that I hope I get across is that it is not a bad film, but not a groundbreaking masterpiece as some might lead you to believe.  The situation that happens near the end of the film is the most interesting direction the story takes in my opinion, but we only get about 10 minutes of it.  I have no doubt that once you see Gone Girl, the brilliance of Rosamund PIKE’s performance will be the main thing that will stick with you.  Fincher’s always terrific, yet, somewhat untested direction in it will be second.  The story itself will be a distant third.  Wipe that sugar off your lip…don’t leave your Mountain Dew unattended…know your spouse’s bloodtype….watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 13, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 6

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this episode of Simplistic Sneak Peek, the boys get a glimpse of two films starring two different Batmen and a TV movie sequel about a shark apocalypse.  Well, I guess all three films deal with some kind of cataclysmic event.  Christian Bale deals with frogs and locusts falling from the sky in Exodus, Ian Ziering deals with sharks falling from the sky in Sharknado 2, and Ben Affleck deals with co-starring with Tyler Perry.  See?  All horrible things.

You can watch this episode’s trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin’s thoughts on them in real time.

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