Hey folks, Harry here with one of the films that true filmlovers, like me, are frothing at the mouth to see. David Fincher's film about the Zodiac Killer investigations which is apparently receiving a name change to THE CHRONICLES" from "ZODIAC" to not be confused with that "other film". CHRONICLES refers to the San Francisco Chronicle which traced the investigation into who the Zodiac killer was for years. Before you read these - there's something you should realize. First - this movie isn't due for release till January 19th, 2007 - so this is a truly early Test Screening with the express purpose of helping David find his film and hone it to be the best it can be. And with Fincher's talent - I assure you - this film is only going to get leaner and better. Personally, I can't wait!
This is the test-screening viewer of the movie shown Thursday night at Grauman’s Chinese 6 near the Cold Stone Creamery in Hollywood. To prove I saw it I shall state some facts which only I and the filmmakers know.
1. Brand name of screener services The Screening Exchange
2. 3 shots were missing
3. the filmmakers sat in back with their feet to the floor
4. some more sat on the right side with their feet to the south
I want you to post this report on the front page of your website. If you do not post this report by the afternoon of Mon. 26th of Jun 06, I will go on a submission rampage Mon. night. I will surf the net all week sending my report to all competing cool news websites, until I end up with a dozen posts over the week.
The following is an extremely early look at David Fincher’s Zodiac. There are a few important prefaces I have to make. First of all, I had no idea what movie I was going to see walking into the screening, never heard of the movie until watching the film, and didn’t know that it was a David Fincher film until I looked it up on imdb after the screening. My reaction to the film is as pure as can be. While I have enjoyed some of his films, I am by no means a Fincher fan-boy and/or girl so my comments are bias free. On top of it all, this was an extremely early assembly cut of every scene shot from the script. The film ran just over three hours. With that being said, these comments are based on a very rough, unfinished film. I also won’t be getting into too many details out of respect for the filmmakers and the work in progress. But don’t you worry; I’ll give you enough to whet your appetites.
One of the most interesting things about the film is that I would have never guessed that this was a David Fincher film. While the film definitely has style, it’s much more seamless than some of his other films in which the visual style calls attention to itself. What we end up with is a very visually interesting movie that doesn’t attack your senses. The filmmakers did an excellent job capturing the 70’s to the smallest of details as well.
The first hour or so of the film focused on the Zodiac murders. Each of these scenes are thrilling and terrifying – more so than most horror films released these days. These events and their aftermath introduce us to the various protagonists of the film. Jake Gyllenhall plays a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who takes interest in the case and wants to crack it Hardy Boys style. Robert Downey Jr. (always a pleasure) plays an editor at the Chronicle who publishes articles on the Zodiac murders. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards play the primary investigators working on the case. Each of these actors, as well as the many other wonderful actors that I was surprised to see pop up in the film, give absolutely excellent performances. This was the kind of work that makes you forget you’re watching actors and not the characters themselves. As a result, the film is able to completely absorb you as a viewer into its world, and that’s always a good thing.
The rest of the film is focused on the wild goose chase that was the Zodiac investigation. Knowing little about the case and assuming the film stayed relatively close to the facts, I was amazed by how inefficient and uncooperative the various police departments and investigative agencies were in handling this case and how easily the Zodiac killer was able to get away with murder for so long when clearly, the evidence was all there. This part of the movie is where we most feel the length of the assembly cut. The investigation is so long and there is so much information to analyze that we become as frustrated as the characters on screen with their inability to solve the case.
Towards the end of the film when one of the characters finally starts to put all the clues together, the film picks up a quick rhythm again that holds until the end. We are treated to a few more thrills including a sequence which takes place in a house with a basement that I found particularly fun.
Final thoughts. Is the movie too long? Yes, but again, this film was still structurally unedited and uncondensed. With that in mind I would occasionally think about whether any of the scenes I had just seen were expendable. There is so much information that it was hard to come up with good answers. I don’t envy the filmmakers and editors that have to make those decisions. That being said, it was one hell of a show. The script was a masterful balance between horror, intrigue, and even some comedy. Despite the patches of time that you start to feel its length, the story still holds and engages you. I can’t wait to see the final condensed cut of Zodiac. This is a solid film that isn’t just for David Fincher fans, but for anyone who loves movies. The film plays like a great Hitchcock thriller and I can think of no greater compliment.
And to the lovely ladies and gents of The Screening Exchange: please do not try and decipher my identity so that you may blacklist me from all of your future screenings. I’m just a guy and/or gal who loves movies. And that’s exactly who your clients should and deserve to have see their movies in their creative stages.
This next one comes from One Time Only and describes the film as being like a novel. That sounds grand.
Anyone over there interested in last night’s screening of David Fincher’s The Chronicles last night in Hollywood?
This was the most hush-hush screening I’ve ever been to. They didn’t tell us the name of the film until 30 seconds before it started. The invites listed nothing of the plot or stars. Lots of security hoops to jump through. I’d pretty much narrowed this one down to either the Black Dahlia, The Departed or the new Fincher (which in my head I still think of as Zodiac) and was beyond pleased it was the last one.
I go to test screenings all the time but never write-in because I think the filmmakers shouldn’t have to have their rough draft scrutinized on the net, but I’m breaking my silence on this one time because I’m concerned the film will get butchered by “the process.” As it stands now The Chronicles (or is it just Chronicles? Unsure) is over three hours long, it’s loose, it’s slow, it’s over-ambitious and it just might be a masterpiece.
I heard someone in the audience gripe that the film felt like a novel, which actually strikes me as a fair assessment. This is a seven-course meal no doubt about it. To call this “another serial killer film from Fincher” as I’d foolishly done in the past does an enormous disservice to the film. This is not Se7en 2. This is a serial killer film the way Heat is a cops and robbers film. This is a sprawling, unwieldy film with no easy pay-offs, no car chases no shoot-outs, none of the stuff we’ve become conditioned to expect from a serial killer film. This is a film about the work, specifically the futility and soul-deadening nature of tracking the Zodiac killer over the course of a decade and the tolls it takes on the various men involved in bringing him down.
The leads are Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Greysmith a SF Chronicle cartoonist who spends much of the film following the Zodiac killings from the sidelines and Mark Ruffalo as David Toschi, the SF detective who’s leading the investigation. At various points, one man will dominate the film while the other will recede into the background for quite a bit of time as the film focuses on different approaches towards finding Zodiac. Ruffalo’s always been a favorite of mine, but the shocker here is Gyllenhaal who I’ve never liked in anything till this. His boyishness really suits the character and it’s impressive just to watch how tired and haggard and paranoid he gets by the film’s end. We really watch him age in a very realistic way (as opposed to the porno ‘stache and bad wig in Brokeback Mountain). Gyllenhaal has a great scene w/ John Carroll Lynch in a paint store where almost nothing is said between them but it’s just such a startling and expressive moment of physical acting.
But really this is an ensemble film and everyone feels just right. Robert Downey Jr. is Paul Avery the journalist who originally wrote about Zodiac and Downey Jr. plays him somewhere between fey and perpetually stoned that really works and gives the film some color and humor. Elias Koates and Donal Logue show up as police investigators from neighboring counties who are also along for the investigation. Really surprised to see Anthony Edwards in this large a part as Ruffalo’s partner. Forgot how good an actor he can be.
What’s most surprising is how “un-Fincher-like” it all is. No show-offy cgi-aided shots (the only cgi I saw were some unfinished shots used to recreate San Francisco of the 70’s), no bleach-bypass ultra-black blacks or dank muddy browns. The film has a real naturalistic look to it and much of the first hour reminded me of All the President’s Men. It was all shot on digital by Harris Savides and it really looks fantastic. I’m sure they’ll be tweeking it tons before it’s released but I hope they don’t stray too far from what it looks like now.
What I really responded to was how the film doesn’t glorify police work and how frustrating the job can be when your gut tells you one thing but the evidences tells another. The film openly acknowledges Zodiac’s influence on pop culture: at one point all of the characters go to see Dirty Harry, which gives us Clint blowing away the killer while in real life the detectives were left feeling helpless by do-process and muddy evidence trails. The film doubles back on itself multiple times, spitballing idea and new suspects, dismissing them, coming up with new suspects only to return to old ones. You really come away from it with a real respect for detectives and how consumed they become by their work.
The film mostly reminded me of HBO’s “The Wire” as it just nails the minutia of police work and epiphanies aren’t these grand dramatic moments but often something you quietly discover. This is a film of small victories and defeat stretched out over the course of years. It’s rather depressing but not in the way Fincher’s previous films have been. Ultimately, this is Fincher’s JFK (only way less bugfuck visually). Those familiar with the Zodiac case know there’s nothing terribly cinematic about its resolution and the film adheres to real life. This is a really challenging, smart and (if I can use a dirty word) uncommercial film right now and I suspect there’s going to be a lot of pressure to change it to cut it down to 2 hours or to add a chase scene or some such nonsense. People who really love film, will love this film. People who want to see Ashley Judd kill the serial killer by minute 95 will despise it, it’s just that simple.
It’s not a perfect film, but I’m omitting my criticism because I’m trying to get enough buzz going about this thing that they won’t slice and dice it till it’s generic and common so they can get an extra showing a day on opening weekend. This is the sort of film we should pushing for like Munich or The New World. Yes it’s in the same category/class as those films. I can’t believe I have to wait six months to see this again.
Fincher was there talking to one of the suits afterwards. I had to walk past him on the way out. I wanted to tell him how incredible I thought the film was but that struck me as stepping over a line, so I kept my mouth shut.
If you have to call me anything call me One Time Only, because I’m going dark.
Next is Culan Delphi's look at Fincher's latest. He feels there's a bit too much humor to it all... Here ya go...
I was fortunate enough to attend a screening this past Thursday June 22nd of what I think was the first cut of the movie Zodiac directed by David Fincher. I will try and keep this brief as I do not like long winded reviews.
For those of you who do not know who the Zodiac killer was, do a wikipedia search.
I was lucky enough to have read the script several months ago and although a long read (close to 200 pages) I thought that the script was very entertaining and had some great creepy moments. Basically, the material was there on the page for a good movie.
So, did that translate to the screen? Not yet. At least not in the current form that the movie is in. What is wrong with the movie? Too much humor. I don't mean unintended humor where the audience is laughing at the absurdity of what they are seeing, I mean there were genuinely funny moments that deserved laughs and got them but just too many of them. I felt that the movie was too light for the subject matter it was dealing with. When I read the script I had a feeling that this was going to be a "Seven" type movie in tone. Not so much with visuals but more with the mentality of the killer. As it stands right now it is not. Also, some of the key scenes that would set up just how messed up and scary this killer is have been altered. Lines have been taken out that were scary has hell reading them and would have played out wonderfully on screen. For some reason, Fincher and, I am sure, others have decided to not use or have changed the scenes. In my opinion the change was for the worst.
The acting is superb. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards are great as detectives Toschii and Armstrong. Gyllenhaal is good, albeit a little too young, as cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Downey Jr. comes across well as a newspaper columnist writing for the San Fran Chronicle who has a drinking problem.
I believe that there is a good movie there but there is still some editing that needs to be done.
To David Fincher:
Please put the line "I'm going to throw your baby out the window" back in the movie. I was waiting for that line and the gasp from the audience that would have followed but instead you robbed me and them of a wonderfully horrific moment. Re-edit that scene. As it is now you've completely sucked the wind out the sails of that scene. Damn you.
I apologize if this review wasn't much of a review but I do not want to spoil the movie for anyone. I wanted to let people in the know that they need to change some things and give us, the fans, a damn fine film. Thanks for reading.