Blood and Chocolate
"Zodiac" sees something of a return to form for director David Fincher after the overly fraught "Panic Room." The movie is based on the unsolved case of the self-titled Zodiac killer who committed a series of apparently random murders in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who develops an unhealthy personal interest in the case after the murderer starts sending letters and cryptic messages to the paper. Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) is the paper's crime reporter who also becomes increasingly embroiled in the hunt for the murderer. Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) is the beleaguered cop trying to piece together a mass of confused and contradictory evidence. By focusing on these three disparate and rather desperate main characters, "Zodiac" creates a strong sense of tension from the start and skillfully drags it out as the years pass and the killer remains at large. Although there are some genuinely frightening moments and a couple of grotesquely violent scenes, "Zodiac" is not a thriller in any conventional sense of the word. There are no brilliant moments of deductive reasoning to elucidate the endless uncertainty. There is no last minute reprieve for truth and justice. There is just a relentless air of ambiguity hanging over everything and everyone. As the 1960s turns into the 1970s Avery's drinking gets so out of control he has to leave the paper. Graysmith becomes so obsessed with trying to solve the case that his wife takes their kids and leaves him. Toschi has no choice, meanwhile, but to put the whole immensely frustrating experience behind him. Most of the film takes place in the late 1960s and 1970s and creates an atmospheric, even nostalgic, attention to detail. In particular, Fincher seems to relish showing people smoking at their office desks. Considerable emphasis is also placed on the serious confusion and miscommunication between the various police departments working on different aspects of the case, which quite possibly contributed to the failure of the police to apprehend the killer. It's tempting to read into this a deliberate parallel with the recently exposed confusion and miscommunication between US intelligence agencies although it could just be a coincidence. Either way, Fincher is to be admired for "Zodiac." It's no masterpiece but it's a bold and provocative piece of film-making that really gets under your skin.
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )
Blood and Chocolate
In "Blood and Chocolate" boy meets girl. Girl turns out to be a she-wolf. Her wolf kin prefers she run with her own. When she defies them, they get howling mad. The film is set in Bucharest, where ancient werewolf mythologies apparently intersect with a throbbing urban nightlife. Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), a young woman prophesied to guide her shadowy half-human, half-wolf clan into a new age of hope, engages in an ill-considered courtship with young artist Rafe (Bryan Dick). But humans are mortal enemies of the wolf people. So when Vivian's cousin Aiden (Hugh Dancy) is killed in a scuffle with Rafe, Gabriel (Oliver Martinez), the leader of the proverbial pack, unleashes his vengeance upon the couple. "Blood and Chocolate" is a sexy werewolf flick. The wolf people are a gang of swaggering men and women whose idea of a good time is tracking a bleeding human through the forest. "Run free" whispers a sultry wolf chick, who looks like she's dressed for clubbing, as she places a kiss on the lips of the evening's victim. Instead of a by-the-numbers, low-brow horror movie, German director Katja von Garnier keeps the gimmicky effects and cheap horror to a minimum and succeeds in creating something a little more sensual. The film's darker palette mirrors the grim, underground world anxiously inhabited by the wolf people. Some of the scenes, particularly the forest chases in which the wolf people morph into their lupine forms, are even elegant. But there are too many subplots and the acting won't launch any careers here. The possible exception is Hugh Dancy, but his character Aiden, the only worthy villain, is killed off too early. Atmospheric Bucharest is, frankly, more captivating than any single character here. And some elements, like the tenuous titular reference to chocolate, are perplexing. But anyone who can elevate the standard genre film is someone to watch. And despite its many flaws, "Blood and Chocolate," may highlight the talents of a promising director. Hopefully, she'll get better material the next time around.
1/2 ( Sherwin Das )