Tag Archives: murder mystery

[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”.

June 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup

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June was a quiet month for screen exposure. Well, at least the second half of it. I have a special someone visiting me so, I assure you that there will not be any complaining. This also makes up my much-needed excuse for posting a June roundup on the second day of June, rather than the first of it. While I thought these roundups would keep the blog alive when I did not know what to write about, I also realize now that they also keep me somewhat accountable. I love deadlines. I am past my deadline. Well, let’s talk about all the great things in life. Books, TV, and film. Here we go.

The Shelf

I have been mainly busy with reading research articles, extending my own research article, and editing my thesis. I managed to get my hands on a second-hand copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005). It is an excellent read that is beyond a “how-to” book so far. I never got to finish it so, I’ll postpone the review to the next round up. What I did finish though, is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet (2016).

 

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All images belong to the rightful owners.

 

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (2016) By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I remember reading an article by the ex-Atlantic journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates prior to making the decision of picking up this comic book (Note that I have not read his take on Captain America, yet). The article talks about the mixed-feelings of producing a story that has been created by a predominantly White team of comic producers, Coates finding his purpose through taking the challenge, playing with a new voice and potentially making that voice sound better for many. I was curious to see how Coates re-introduced the previously primitive Black Panther (see, Fantastic Four #52) and whether the same criticisms made for the movie (2018) could also be traced back to this comic. Coates’ Black Panther actually received all of those criticisms in the comic itself: T’Challa was selfish, he was not heard by his nation, and he, perhaps, hurt his nation because he saw them as a burden rather than an honor.

The main plot revolves around the people of Wakanda attacking their own King. On the surface, they are controlled by a woman with supernatural abilities, however, Coates’ sets up the greater problem underneath, that is caused by the heaviness of T’Challa’s crown. While the enemies plot against overthrowing T’Challa, he fears his greatest challenge of failing Wakanda. Coates’ way of telling this story is beautifully poetic, complex, and one that houses an interplay of many messages. His take of the Black Panther is not actually a book of physical war but the fearful war within the King. It is nowhere close to a primitive representation, but psychological warfare that pushes T’Challa for reconsidering his ideology. It is Black Panther refreshed, yet not one that forgets history. I suggest you get your hands on it and read it. Then, read it again to truly appreciate the story behind every word.

The Small Screen

 

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All images belong to the rightful owners.

 

How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) (2019)

I don’t know why I will stamp this show as mediocre yet but… I will anyway. Netflix caught me on its main page trap when the show was first released, I did not have anything to watch at some stressed point in my life and pressed play. I did not binge watch this show, rather, went back to it whenever I was desperate. Don’t get me wrong, it is wasn’t a bad show per se. It was just a real-life, coming of age story that had minimal sickening events (see, episode 8… I think), and not so sickening references to the dark web (I was forced to watch a YouTube video talking about the dark web so, I hate talking about the dark web).

The plot is about Moritz, whose girlfriend just got back from an exchange program from the US and questions the meaning of life (thanks to the drugs, hence the title of the show). So, Moritz decides to sell drugs to win her back and surprisingly makes a lot of money to fuel his greed. I don’t think the growth of Moritz’ online drug business is so typical, but the show accurately represents the German young-adult culture and the effects of the wide use of drugs. The show also deserves an A+ for its use of simplistic cinematography and tech-inspired graphic components. Overall, is it a waste of time? No. Is it an amazing show? No. Continue reading