Tag Archives: Jake gylenhaal

[Underrated Mondays]: The Zodiac (2007)

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There is a new section on the blog: Underrated Mondays. In this section, I will review movies that are filmed between the years 2000 and 2010, and that I think are underrated. For the sake of clarification, movies that make it to this section will be ones that do not double their budgets (reflected as ‘gross box office data’). I expect to update this section twice: the first and third Mondays of the month.

“It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest, because man is the most dangerous animal of all.”

The first film that has the honor to start this section is The Zodiac (2007) directed by David Fincher. Despite its intriguing topic and hall of fame cast, it barely surpassed its budget of 65M USD, grossing 84.8M in the box offices. It is fairly surprising that this film did not gather greater public attention. Nonetheless, here is my limited critique of the film—do not let it blow you off; it is a film guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Zodiac is a film based on the true crimes of a Bay Area killer, active between the 1960s and 1970s who is known as the zodiac killer. For nearly five decades the police were not able to identify the killer. What makes the film so interesting is its loyalty to the real events, as well as its well-crafted ending. While much of the public criticism was due to the unsatisfactory ending that does not reveal the status of the killer, I would argue that it only places information on a fair ground in terms of storytelling—Afterall, how fair would it be to project a success that the police, reporters, and victims were not able to experience for your at-home entertainment?

Before I praise the movie, I will talk about certain problems that made me put in a little more effort to feel engaged at the very beginning of the film. I felt a lack of audience-engagement in the first half. The way the story was visually set up makes the audience feel like an outsider. While that is completely intentional, it takes away from the influence of horror that must have been given to the audience. To note, this is not entirely problematic because it would have been a genre-bending practice to change the projection; The Zodiac is a thriller and not a horror film, and there is a fine line between the two.

The first half of the movie moves rather slow until the audience recognizes the true hero. Initially, it is expected that Crime Reporter Paul Avery (played by Robert Downey Jr.) or Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) will have greater or even partial roles in solving the crime. However, it is the underdog Cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who eventually develops an obsession to find out who this killer is; in one of the final scenes, Graysmith looks the killer in the eye and fulfills his character’s overall objective. It is later revealed that he writes a book about The Zodiac and lives a healthy life.

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Another minor thing to point out is the casting of actors. As expected, Downey Jr. is an eccentric alcoholic personality, what is unexpected is that he drops out of the movie rather quickly (aka not enough screen time). Gyllenhaal seems to reprise his role in The Proof (2005), a curious nerd figure, yet this time he grows to be a man. Ruffalo did play a grounded character as he has in various films before, however, I was pleased with his performance. I do think he deserves to be praised alongside Gyllenhaal.

Alongside such minor details that I found that was important to discuss, The Zodiac is truly intriguing, informative, and true to its compelling story. It combines publicly known facts alongside the strong influence of Robert Graysmith’s perspective. (I’d even put The Zodiac above Netflix’s latest film on Ted Bundy murders any day—you can see my review for it here). My advice to you is to stay with the movie for the first half an hour and let it hook you. By mid-movie the pace picks up and you will soon realize that it is worth the wait. This is one of the best crime-mystery films I have ever watched. The Zodiac is full of suspense, and if you watch carefully, you can be a part of hunting “the nation’s most elusive serial killer”.

July 2019 Book, TV and Film Roundup

Happy August 1st, AKA Spider-Man Day!

Now that July is gone with the wind, here is what went down: My screen exposure was higher than ever, hat tip to the Apple screen time(r) (I love to hate you). Unexpectedly though, this did not result in an increased number of reviews for this roundup. I spent most of my time watching Jessica Jones (2019), Season 3. I waited about two weeks to start the series… with hopes to delay the binge-watching, and the sadness caused by my favorite show wrapping up. Krysten Ritter nailed this season in so many levels, which I will expand on below. I saw Spider-Man Far From Home (2019) as soon as it came out. It put mind to rest after the destruction that the Endgame (2019) left and it reaffirmed Marvel’s well-thought creative decision about the rise of Spider-Man on our screens. I apologize for not having a review for The Lion King (2019). I promise it is in the works, and I will publish it separately. As I mentioned in my June roundup, I read Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005). An excellent book by a sweet-talking author, screenwriter, and teacher.

The Shelf

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The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005) By Syd Field

As I have been trying to find where I would fit in the film industry upon graduation, I decided to explore whether I can do what I love the most: writing. A five to eight-minute google research led me to read Quora Digest and Reddit, where internet people strictly suggest not spending money on a “how-to” book for screenwriting. They suggest scripts will give you more freedom than the twenty bucks you spend. I didn’t listen to them and bought a cheap copy of Field’s book—I did not regret it, you won’t either.

Field did not write a how-to book. His book put a combination of his memories working in the industry and his lectures in words. In fact, as you read the book, you realize Field is repeating the pivotal sentences in your head over and over again. He really is lecturing you through this book. He wants you to know the right thing, fail a couple times, and return to what he told you again (because the guy really knows what he is doing).

So, what is it that you learned, you say? To recap: Stories can be found everywhere: In a magazine, newspaper, in the people you watch. Before you write the story—know the beginning and the end. Have a clear map, and you can play with the path. You capture the story by capturing your main characters. Write a biography for them, know what they would do in certain situations. Let them drive the story forward, otherwise, they are insignificant. Have plot points that change your direction along the way but keep your map in mind. Finally, take the hard responsibility of writing despite its challenges – These important points are only to name a few.

The 300 pages or so taught me more than its worth. So, believe me, when I say it is important for you to read this book if you don’t want to lose your way. Field also talks more about self-doubt, the real deal about creativity and licensing and selling your screenplay. But, he does so in a way that feeds you information while still making you feel like you are listening to one of his greatest stories. A fast read. A must-have. A Bible.

 

The Small Screen

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Jessica Jones– Season 3 (2019)

 What a journey it has been for Jessica. In a way, it has come a full circle. During the first season, he fought a mind-controlling, rapist and psychopath, Killgrave. In my opinion, this is still the best season to date. In season two, she fought her own mother, then, came in terms with her. She saw her own mother die with a bullet in the head, shot by Trish who is also family. In particular, I did not enjoy season two a lot. I am not necessarily sure why—But a guess might be because the mother-daughter duo did not feel as organic as it maybe should have. However, now I realize that season two planted the seeds of Trish, showed us her previous battles with addiction and harassment, and her desperate need to feel empowered. In a way, season three had both Krysten Ritter (Jessica) and Rachael Taylor (Trish) share the spotlight. We didn’t see much more about Malcolm’s character development or at least it wasn’t a driver of the story for this season. We started understanding, even emphasizing with Hogarth and the loneliness that is killing her.

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