Weekly Movie Man column
Don’t be fooled by the fact this serial killer movie was directed by David Fincher, the man behind "Seven." Based on the very real series of murders that rocked San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s, "Zodiac" is a realistic, methodical look at the process of tracking a killer, and what happens when that process fails and the trail runs cold. It’s long, it’s slow — and it’s great.
From the ’70s setting to the retro fashions and sideburns, "Zodiac" seems to have been filmed in an earlier, more grown-up era. The killings are disturbing, not exciting, and most of the movie is characters just talk, talk, talking. You might think it would be boring, but you’d be wrong. "Zodiac" has a rhythm and power that makes certain scenes — a workplace interrogation, a basement excursion — almost unbearably tense.
As good as "Zodiac" is (and I think it’s the best film of 2007), I’d recommend you rent — but not buy — the new DVD. That’s because a director’s cut is due in 2008 that’s bound to be loaded with bonus features.
‘Film Noir Classic Collection’
Warner Bros.’ fourth boxed set of film noir contains more movies than ever — 10 films on five DVDs, with commentary and making-of features on each disc. It’s a great set of lesser-known (but still entertaining) movies, and well worth the $59 if you’re an fan of old crime flicks. A few notables:
"Act of Violence"
(1954): The best film in the set. Tough cop Sterling Hayden leans on an ex-con whom he suspects of helping some cop killers. Hayden is the star, but just as memorable are the scenes of Los Angeles late at night. It’s the perfect film noir setting. (1946): Jean Gille didn’t make many movies, but she’s amazing in this low-budget drama about a ruthless woman willing to do anything to get some hidden loot. (1948): Van Heflin plays a nice guy whose life goes crazy when a psychotic Army buddy (Robert Ryan) begins stalking him. Heflin’s eventual breakdown is surprisingly grim.
‘James Ellroy: American Dog’
Author Ellroy is Los Angeles noir personified. His novels (including "L.A. Confidential," the basis for the 1997 movie) are set squarely in the City of Angels, and his most personal book, the nonfiction "My Dark Places," examines the murder of his mother in obsessive detail.
"American Dog" is sort of a Cliff’s Notes version of that book. Ellroy talks about his city, his youth, his mom and her murder. We see him joking with L.A. cops and checking out crime scenes.
If you’re an Ellroy fan (and I am), it’s entertaining stuff, but if you want the real deal, I’d read "My Dark Places" instead. This video is amusing, but that book is amazing.
Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Sundays. Contact him at 815-987-1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, the subject is crime. True crime, fictional crime and very personal crime.