Decades Blogathon – Zodiac (2007)

Welcome to Week 2, Day 5 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from the one and only Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger who, unlike director David Fincher only needs one take to nail the 2007 true crime classic Zodiac.

“I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.” – Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people – via IMDB.

Ha! So Mark and Tom were hosting yet another rendition of their super successful Decades Blogathon, and I absolutely just had to participate again. It took me moments to decide I just had to do Zodiac, and I was pleased as punch when I heard that nobody else had taken it. Anyway. Enough waffling. Let me get to it.

Zodiac is absolutely brilliant. I loved it when it came out, I loved it in subsequent rewatches, and I still love it. Why? Because it is put together extremely well, the cast carrying this movie is fantastic, and it looks amazing. There is really just too much to love about this and nothing to complain about. It’s atmospheric, engaging, well-acted and constructed brilliantly and just flows. These are just some super quick points listed about what contributes in making this movie awesome.

Jake Gyllenhaal never disappoints and his Robert Graysmith is really interesting to watch, like a dog with a bone. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as prick crime reporter Paul Avery, and showcases how he really has more talent than just Tony Stark/Iron Man. I really miss when he used to take other roles. The final big player here is Mark Ruffalo, and I always enjoy watching the man in anything. His detective character David Toschi is also a big draw, and I really like how these three characters each had their own obsession; they all danced around one another, were all similar but completely different. I think the movie really runs home the point of obsession, and how it interacts with everyday life, which is very interesting. Not only that, the movie is obviously shot phenomenally because, well, David Fincher.

The script it also tight, laying out all the pieces of evidence you need in the case of the terrifying Zodiac killer, who freaked people out beyond anything, even though he was never caught. I think that Robert Graysmith did a great job of investigating and seriously has the strongest case stacked against Arthur Leigh Allen. Zodiac is engrossing and mesmerising and demands your attention throughout, and barrels along at such a pace that you are not left behind, but are gripped, and does not allow your attention to wander for even a moment. It’s also extremely atmospheric, and I really love that.

One cannot miss that immense amounts of work, interest and passions that went into the film, everything from costume design to the sets that were done, and reading up on the trivia for it, all this is confirmed. I have not read Graysmith’s book, but I will most certainly be looking into it as soon as possible. If you have not seen Zodiac, it is high time you rectify that.

In Retrospect – Jurassic Park (1993)

The year 1993 proved to be a defining one for Steven Spielberg as he delivered not one, but two cinematic masterpieces.

A career with either Jurassic Park or Schindler’s List in it would be more than enough for most directors, but Spielberg achieved the seemingly impossible by helming both at the same time.

Jurassic Park PosterBoth films put the bearded one back on top after the failure of his 1991 misstep Hook, with Jurassic Park redefining the blockbuster and becoming one of cinema’s most beloved thrill rides.

Viewed almost a quarter of a century on from its release, the film has lost very little of its giddy roller-coaster exuberance, achieving a winning balance of pulse-racing spectacle and character-driven drama.

Spielberg got wind of writer Michael Crichton’s novel early on and was mapping out storyboards before the book had even been finished. Crichton had become one of the literary world’s most successful proponents of high concept page-turning fiction and for Jurassic Park he lifted the blueprint of his 1973 sci-fi drama flick Westworld (which he also directed as well as wrote) to create a theme park whose main attraction (destructive dinosaurs instead of rampaging robots) soon gets out of control.

Jurassic ParkWhat strikes you about the film is just how many of its characters are either suspicious, uncomfortable or downright hostile to the concept of resurrecting creatures 65 million years after they had been wiped out.

The park’s game warden Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) thinks the whole idea of inviting tourists to the Costa Rican island inhabited by the myriad prehistoric creatures is foolhardy (in spite of the fact he’s being paid by the same man whose venture this is), while paleontologist Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) questions how anyone could honestly know what to expect (in spite of accepting money from the same man whose venture this is).

The most critical voice is reserved for Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), an advocate of chaos theory who attacks park owner John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) both for his hubris and abuse of power after they learn of how the park came to be through the animated Mr DNA presentation (still one of cinema’s most inspired exposition dumps).

Jurassic ParkAlthough Malcolm, like Grant and fellow paleontologist Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are initially gobsmacked at what Hammond has managed to pull off, the reality of what the park represents horrifies him. Indeed, as he later says in Spielberg’s 1997 Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World: “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and… screaming.”

Like Jaws almost two decades earlier, Spielberg knows that delivering the goods too early dilutes the impact of the main event and, following several teases, finally gives us a taste of what’s to come with the reveal of the Brachiosaur towering above the protagonists. It remains a spine-tingling moment that’s completely sold by the stunned reactions of Grant and co.

Spielberg also knows that we, like the main characters of the film, are also suckers for grand pageantry and unashamedly hands it to us while planting the thought in our head that, if a Jurassic Park were to actually exist it would undoubtedly be a Very Bad Idea.

Jurassic ParkIn spite of the technology’s relative infancy, the CGI on display stands up remarkably well; an indication that, when done with care, attention and real skill, computer generated effects can be a boon rather than a way to cut corners (The Scorpion King, anyone?).

The film’s central T. Rex attack on the disabled eletronic cars is a masterclass in building suspense – achieved through a sublimely simple shot of water rippling in a glass of water as the danger approaches. Spielberg effectively uses life-sized animatronics in the close-ups of the T. Rex assaulting Hammond’s grandchildren Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards), which lends the scene added weight (the sometimes unpredictable nature of the animatronic meant that its actions would catch the cast off guard).

Other inspired uses of special effects include the herd of CGI Gallimimus flocking past Grant, the kids and the camera, and the memorable image towards the end of the film of the velociraptor enveloped by a computer screen’s display. While the T. Rex is the big daddy, the Jurassic Park‘s biggest threat remain the agile, ferocious ‘raptors and they are used to full effect in the celebrated kitchen escape sequence (a scene Spielberg would carbon copy in his under-appreciated adaptation of War Of The Worlds in 2005).

Jurassic ParkThe sound design is also striking and underlines the danger that lurks all around our stricken heroes. Each dino is given their own call, with the T. Rex’s bone-shaking roar achieved by slowing down the sound of a baby elephant and the ‘raptor’s bark the product of tortoises having sex (!).

The sound is matched only by John Williams’ majestic score, which suits the enormity of the creatures, while dialling it down for the more contemplative moments that are interspersed between the mayhem.

The incredible success of 2015’s Jurassic World confirms, if it were needed, that we’re all suckers for dinosaurs on the big screen. However, originals are often the best and in the case of Jurassic Park it remains a blockbuster classic almost without rival.

Decades Blogathon – L.A. Confidential (1997)

Welcome to Day 4 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and my blogging brother Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for today I’m welcoming Anand from Delighted Critical Reviews, who turns his sights on the 1997 neo-noir L.A. Confidential.

Curtis Hanson’s L.A.Confidential begins with an establishing sequence so rare in thrillers nowadays who want to dive head first into the action rather than utilize time for character development.

L.A. Confidential Poster

These establishing sequences are also a fitting introduction to the underbelly of Los Angeles, and three policemen who masquerade through it. The first is Officer Bud White, a righteous officer with utmost respect for women and who adheres to the principle of violence whenever it deems necessary. The second is Edmund Exley, the hard-molded principle man whose only aim is to get to the top of his game. The third is Jack Vincennes, who would put Don Johnson’s James Crockett from Miami Vice to shame with his panache.

While all of this may seem very fancy and in terms with the neo-noir approach, in these opening shots lies all there is to know about the underlying conspiracy set to unfold. So pay attention, because this is not one of those mindless action cop flicks which Hollywood generates every fortnight. This is L.A.Confidential.

L.A. Confidential

I won’t explain the plot here, for I don’t want to give anything away to you. This is one of the movies where walking into the theatre without any knowledge of the proceedings set to unfold is the best option. But, I can say this and I say this with utmost pride that if I were to ever compile a list of the best screenplays ever written in the history of cinema, L.A. Confidential would definitely hold one of the most prominent places on that list.

The first half in itself is so convoluted and staunch in nature that it is enough material for a material for a stupendous movie. But once the first half concludes, a rug is pulled to reveal the whole plot was about something else from the beginning and what you saw was just character development set in the midst of all the action materialising.

L.A. Confidential

L.A.Confidential is one of the most acclaimed movies ever made, but in some ways, I detest the fact that almost none of the critics seem to have noticed its brilliance as a cop movie. Consider the dynamics between the three principal characters and there is enough dramatic tension to accentuate the overall thrill to mind boggling heights.

L.A. Confidential is one of the best thrillers ever made. L.A. Confidential is one of the best cop movies ever made. Simply put, it is one of the best movies ever made.

That’s it for this week! Join us again on Monday for more Decades Blogathon action!