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Fincher's ZODIAC screens!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a few reviews of David Fincher's ZODIAC. We just posted the one-sheet yesterday, so it looks like ZODIAC is starting to hit in a big way. These reviews make it sound like ZODIAC is as great as we all want it to be. Enjoy!

Wow, I was lucky enough to catch a rough screening tonite of David Finchers "Zodiac" and was blown away by this. Its easily the best film I've seen this year and will and should become an insant classic. Not only is it a great piece of filmmaking but easily one of the best films about an investigation I've ever seen. It stars Jake Gyllenhal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffolo and Anthony Edawards. The cut I saw tonight was about 2 hours and 50 minutes and it flew by, the pacing is dead on. It's the epic story of two San Fransisco Police Detectives, Ruffolo in an a breakout Oscar Worthy performance and Edwards and San Fransisco Chronicle crime reporter Robert Downey Jr. who continues his fantastic few years of acting as Paul Avery and Jake Gyllenhal as Robert Graysmith in another great performance as cartoonist for the paper who get caught up in the investigation into the murders that occur at the hand of the Zodiac killer in the late 1960's all the way into the 1970's. This is one of the first films I can remember seeing that I had not known anything about except my anticipation and a couple of still photos on the net and a small promo Fincher did talking about Final Cut Pro on Apple. It was filmed in the new Hi-Def system that Mann used earlier this sumer in Miami Vice and is equally as gorgeous and crystal clear. It is a totally different Fincher film from what we've seen before it's a very talky film with little to no action but the suspense when it comes is gut-wrenching and intense. Its also a very comedic film which took my by suprise for some reason especially a few scenes when Edwards is trying to get information from three other counties in California and Downey as once again a great comic relief who loses himself into drugs and alcohol. Scenes that involve the Zodiac and his victims are hard to take at times because of the intensity and brutality, especially one involving a young mother and her baby girl the dread is almost unbearable. The movie starts out with a killer opening involving two young lovers and the Zodiac who then taunts the police with a phone call to 911. He continues to threaten and taunt sending letters to newspapers including cryptic coding and cloth of victims blood. Brian Cox also pops up in the film in a very good role as Melvin Belli who tries to talk the killer into a meeting on live morning television. We jump back and forth between the detectives efforts and the two San Fransisco Chronicle workers and years go by. Two montages have some great Fincher flare including one that follows the detectives with writing from the letters appearing on the walls and all over the place. The one that I enjoyed the most was a cut to black for a few minutes where all you hear is newscasters talking about events that have taken place over the course of a four year span with nothing on screen except the voices of actual newscast, now I don't know if they'll place documentary footage over this but God I hope not. And with all rough screenings some things still have to be cleaned up including some shots where equipment is visible and special effects are not finished but this is top notch stuff. The soundtrack is fun and light and filled with some classic songs as one would expect from a film set in this period of time. Knowing the story of the Zodiac I was curious as to how they would wrap it up but a scene with Gylenhall and a suspect is as intense or even more so than the scene DiCaprio and Damon shared in The Departed when the two are on the phone and say nothing to one another. This is an almost perfect film which is tough for me to say, not one thing was spectacular and another thing fell short everything was perfect all across the board on this one. To say why this film is set for a mid January release is beyond me this should be a November, December film cause of the quality. I thought maybe I thought to much of it but after talking with a friend on the ride home I we agreed on everything..... A++

This next review comes from "Henry Gale" who is back with his tribe, hanging out at the aquarium and trying to bang Kate. Anyway, Dharma got him a live feed of the test screening, so here we have his thoughts. Enjoy!

A brief report on Fincher’s “Zodiac” I was thrilled to see an almost entirely finished cut of David Fincher’s “Zodiac” Thursday night at a test screening in L.A. Though I didn’t think it was quite as good as either “Se7en” or “Fight Club,” I nonetheless found it almost consistently compelling, suspenseful, and dramatically effective. Like in “Se7en,” “Zodiac” maintains an almost constant sense of tension and unease during its ambitious depiction of the hunt for the Zodiac killer, spending most of its time on the San Francisco cops (played by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards) who lead the investigation, and the journalists Paul Avery and Robert Graysmith (Robert Downey Jr, Jake Gyllenhaal) covering the story, but also showing numerous of the Zodiac killer’s crimes in just enough detail to be wholly disturbing. The movie, which was shot on uncompressed HD with Grass Valley Viper cameras, looked amazing. It appeared to be projected digitally, and the images were almost entirely noise/grain free, lending the period movie an additional sense of believability and often making me feel like I was there in 70’s with the characters, rather than watching a film in a theater. I’ve never seen HD look this good. Harris Savides’s cinematography, was, as usual, beautiful, with its low-key lighting and subdued hues, and the art direction was authentic and nicely unobtrusive, conveying the proper time period (the film is set mostly in the late 60s and early 70’s) without going overboard by throwing a bunch of period kitsch into every frame as some period films do. The performances were all terrific, particularly Mark Ruffalo as one of the lead investigators, and Robert Downey Jr. as a reporter covering the Zodiac murders. Jake Gyllenhaal does his best work to date as Robert Graysmith, cartoonist-turned-amateur investigator who spends the first half of the movie hovering in the background, fascinated with the Zodiac case, but following it mostly from the sidelines, before taking center stage later in the proceedings, after the cops have all but given up on finding the Zodiac killer. I liked that the story was structured this way, focusing first mostly on the police investigation, then shifting over to Gyllenhaal. Also excellent is John Carroll Lynch (probably best known as Norm “son of a “Gunderson” from “Fargo”), with his subtly creepy turn as a suspect. Despite its lengthy running time, the movie almost never drags, and its length allows the story to convincingly depict not only the cops’ increasing frustration over their inability to find the killer, but to adequately examine both the procedural aspects and the personal toll it took on the principals involved. This is perfect Fincher material, exploring the darker side of human nature, offering no easy answers. The only time the story started to lose me was in its later moments, during Gyllenhaal’s investigation, when some details/clues he was discovering were presented so quickly in dialogue that I found it hard to follow. The movie unfolds very much like an “All the President’s Men” meets “Klute” mystery/thriller, as the police and reporters obsessively search for the identity of the Zodiac killer. The movie elicits plenty of genuine suspense from material that could easily have become either dry procedural or routine horror/thriller, though I wish there had been a stronger sense of subtext, drawing parallels between the existence of and hunt for the Zodiac and the political strife of the 70’s (Vietnam, Watergate, increasing public disillusionment with government), which would have made the film a deeper and darker experience more akin to “The Conversation,” “Se7en,” and “Fight Club.” Fincher’s direction overall seems less “Finchery,” for lack of a better word, than “Se7en” or “Fight Club”; coverage of many scenes feels more conventional than his usually more controlled and careful compositions, though it works for the material; because of the complicated plot -- tons of details and investigation -- his style here often feels more functional, more unobtrusive, more designed to seem transparent and not get in the way of the story (not that it gets in the way of his films, just that the compositions in “Se7en” and “Fight Club” were in general prettier to look at, more deliberate). Still, there are moments here that are pure Fincher, including the appropriately terrifying murder scenes, and you never doubt the sure hand of a master at work throughout the film. One murder scene set during the day at a lakeside was especially effective, since we’re so conditioned to seeing serial killers strike at night, slinking around in the shadows. It’s much scarier and more brazen when they’re just standing there in broad daylight. It’s a small detail, but there’s a terrific aerial (presumably CG) shot following a cab through the city streets, in which the camera seems to be invisibly locked to the cab, so perfectly in sync it is with the cab’s motion, turning precisely with the car as it turns various corners. Fincher’s taken a hackneyed shot (aerial shot looking straight down, moving over city streets) and put a terrific spin on it. Loved the reference to Melvin Belli’s appearance on the original “Star Trek.” The cut we saw seemed almost entirely finished, save for some effects shots (notably, a CG high angle of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a couple of shots near the end, in which the dolly track was blatantly visible, having not yet been digitally removed), and I gather from the preview card questions regarding the end of the film, that the end is still something they’re debating. I liked the ending (which segues to 1991 from the late 70’s), in which one of the Zodiac’s surviving victims, Mike Mageau, finally ID’s the killer from a mug shot, but despite several title cards’ worth of coda, I still have questions when the movie was over, most of them pertaining to procedural police issues that weren’t entirely clear to me by the time the movie had finished. Also, though there’s a scene near the end that’s intended to give closure to Gyllenhaal’s hunt for the Zodiac, I didn’t entirely buy that his character would stop his obsessive pursuit of the killer there; even though he finally figured out who the killer was (and realized that there still wasn’t anything more than circumstantial evidence linking him to the crimes, thus meaning the police couldn’t do anything), you think he’d find some way of bringing him to justice. Obviously, this is based on reality (though apparently there’s much debate as to how accurate Graysmith’s books are), so they can’t have Graysmith gunning down the Zodiac like Dirty Harry gunned down Scorpio, but perhaps some further title card explanation of the intervening years of Graysmith’s life, a brief addressing of whether his relationship with his wife was over or whether they reconciled (the implication is that his obsession with finding the Zodiac killer cost him his marriage). Overall, “Zodiac” is a terrific film, one that I was long looking forward to, and was not disappointed by. I can’t wait to see it again, and I can’t wait for the eventual DVD release, which will hopefully offer thorough “making of” of materials as Fincher’s previous DVD’s did.

And here's the last review, from IndustryKiller, the most conflicted of the three we've gotten. And the one with the most spoilers, so tread carefully. Enjoy!

Hello lovlies, IndustryKiller! back with action satisfaction. I got a goodun for you today, a review of David Finchers Zodiac fresh from a test screening tonight at the Arclight. After seeing Little Children on Sunday for a whopping 14 bucks with shitty assigned seating I was ready to swear off the overblown overpriced Arclight forever, but the free passes for an "Untitled" unreleased film were too much to pass up. Given that the back of the ticket said it was a two hour and forty five minute rated R thriller I was pretty sure it might be Zodiac and was pleasently surprised to be proven right. Now I think Fight Club is an absolute masterpiece. With that film Fincher crafted something that not only speaks to, but perhaps defines the mentality of a generation. I thought Panic Room was sort of a weak choice of material for Fincher to follow that up with but the directing was more than solid and brimming with atmosphere. Nevertheless I felt something was amiss. Now after seeing Zodiac I can honestly use that dreaded cliche, Houston....we have a problem. Now before I begin I want to tell you that this movie is God knows how far away from release. There is plenty of time left in the editing room, the music was temp, and the effects unfinished. So without further ado. Zodiac starts off good enough, your classic two kids on lovers lane on the wrong night at the wrong time. Our introduction to the Zodiac killer is so real it hooks you from the start. There is a bumbling, indecisive, yet cold and completely matter of factness to the way his scenes are shot. From there we are introduced to Jake Gyllenhaals Robert Greysmith, a cartoonist for a San Francisco newpaper and star reporter Paul Avery played by that scene stealer Robert Downey jr. What we have in these moments is your typical exposition, set up as the Zodiac killer writes letters to the newspaper confounding everyone. Avery is tracking the Zodiac case while cartoonist greysmith...ummm...sort of just hangs around alot. i honestly have no idea what Gyllenhaal is doing in the first half of this film. My friend said it seemed like his job was to ask Robert Downey Jr. how his day was and that pretty much sums it up. Eventually he became so far removed from the actual storyline that every time he appeared onscreen my brain would scream "Oh now what the fuck do you want?!" I would say you could completely cut him out of these scenes except that him suddenly appearing in the second half would make no sense without them. After all that we get the best scene of the film, Zodiacs second killing. Like the first its stark and real. Just two kids and a murderer. No music that I can remember of flashy camera techniques. The facts of the story speak for themselves. The scene goes on longer than others of its ilk, maybe a full five minute dance of death, and the tension doesnt stop building until its conclusion. good stuff. And then...everything. goes. dead. We are then introduced to the cops on the case played by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards. The first half of the film from here on bounces endlessly between them, Downey and Gyllenhaal in sidekick mode following one fruitless lead after another, after another, after another, after another. If Finchers aim was to make the audience feel as worn out and sick of this whole Zodiac bastard as the people tirelessly trying to crack the case then he succeeded. The problem here is the reality of the Zodiac murders. They never even came close to getting the guy. Very quickly the case devolved into copycats and dead ends lined up so far that you just want to tell the guys to pack it in and call it a day. And not like good, oh we almost got him but he slips through our grip barely, kind of dead ends. More like spend looooong minutes of exposition on scenes that go nowhere and end up meaning nothing sort of dead ends. Fincher does his best to make these endless walls seem interesting but you cant hide the fact that none of them ever turn out to be anything even close to actually catching the Zodiac killer. After all in a true story you can't add a Seven style cop and criminal chase that never happened. There is no cat and mouse game, just cops on To top it off you only get one more Zodiac scene and its completely pointless and more than a bit confusing as to how it ends up the way it did. Afterwards the Zodiac killer goes away along with our interest. But even then the dutiful film stays with our heroes until finally even they give up. "Four years later". Ummmm....ok. Keep in mind the film has gone on long enough at this point that if it ended I could live with that. The Zodiac has been MIA, Downey Jr. is out of the picture, and Gyllenhaal's Greysmith is now obsessed with the Zodiac case for reasons that are never explained (something about looking into his eyes). Oh and he's also married to Chloe Sevigney in scenes that are probably supposed to make him a more well rounded character but come off as meandering and pointless. So whats in store for us in Zodiac part 2? Well in this exciting adventure Gyllenhaal chases lead int eh Zodiac case over, and over, and over, and over. So its basically Zodiac part 1 with a different actor doing the exact same fucking things. Chasing leads that go absolutely nowhere driving the audience to the point of boredom induced insanity. Now I want to make it very clear that I am not one of those filmgoers who needs constant action or entertainment. In fact my favorite kind of films are character driven pieces that most people find boring. But this film is just ridiculous. You can only watch a person, or persons as it may be, walk into a wall so many times before you want to smack them. You just want to say "Can't you see you have nothing!?? Give it up already!" Especially near the end when Gyllenhaal gets a mysterious phone call pointing him toward a previously unheard suspect in the case. The tip leads him to the creepy house of someone with a possible connection to the Zodiac. This scene pissed me off especially since the scene builds and builds and what happens? Absolutely fucking nothing. Right afterwards, this whole sub plot is dropped and attention turned to a totally different subject. Twenty minutes of the film, the only twenty minutes you think something might actually occur or progress will get made, is just forgotten without a trace. So how does all this hard work and tail chasing finally end????!!! in a staredown. no really. The good guy and the maybe kinda but probably not since the evidence is so flimsy not a jury in the world would convict Zodiac guy stare at each other. An incredibly unsatisfying conclusion for three hours of head in your hands boredom. The tagline of "There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer" alludes to the fact that these guys spend years of their lives chasing a ghost. The problem here is that they never make you care to know the truth nearly as much as these characters do. When you spend so much time watching them grasp as the flimsiest of straws and fail over and over again you just stop empathising with them. It becomes an excersise in tedium. Now as for the performances they are all pretty solid. The standout would be Downey Jr. as the flamboyant Avery. He bring a much needed light touch to the otherwise bland film and you wish the it would just concentrate on him. Ruffalo is also solid but there isnt much character there other than...well...cop guy. Concentration seems to be a big problem for Fincher here. Hes sort of in a tough position since Gyllenhaals Greysmith isnt really interesting enough to pin a film on, but has the only conclusion that could even come close to being adequate to this story. Since the Zodiac case dragged on for so long no character really owns it. It literally stops dead halfway through and switches focus of characters only to relive the same frustrating series of events. No big revelations, which is fine cause its reality, I dont mind ambiguity, but the story has repeated itself so many times its long out of the realm of interesting. If nothing new ever happens in the case why keep the film going? Now Fincher has some time, and hes gonna need it to edit the shit out of this one. but I can't help but think the story itself isn't going to be able to sustain itself for very long. maybe in a book where you can flesh out explainations without losing the interest of a reader for chapters on end it works but seeing guys fail miserably over and over again and never succeed gets tiring. Also, maybe most surprising, the film lacks Fincher's trademark asmotphere and tells a very by the numbers cop story. No lush colors or keyhole shots to be found here. The poster has a more ominous tone than anything in the film. If I had seen the film not knowing who directed it the last person I would have guessed is David Fincher and, like Panic Room, I'm at a loss as to why he chose this material as it doesn't give him a whole lot of room to work. So on that unfortunate note I bid you all adieu. I know, I'm as disappointed as you are. Killer out.

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