Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A must-watch documentary and compelling drama are featured in this week's DVD column.


In 1968, a serial killer who called himself Zodiac put California into a state of panic with a series of random unrelated acts of violence. Five people were murdered by the killer who taunted the police through a series of letters he sent to the "San Francisco Chronicle." Some people believe that he had more victims and a number of cases remain unresolved.

The Zodiac himself, despite a massive police investigation, never was apprehended.

The killer has inspired several movies and characters in film, perhaps most notably the Scorpio killer in "Dirty Harry." Now, director David Fincher has brought forth an adaptation of two non-fiction books on the killer and the people who tried to catch him that has the truthful ring of a documentary.

"Zodiac" doesn't tell the story of the killer, but his effect on the people who were trying to stop him. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards are the two cops assigned to the case, while Jake Gyllenhaal is the "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case.

Fincher became well know for "Se7en," his highly popular, but graphic, crime thriller, but here he keeps the gore off-screen. He is clearly more interested in presenting a film about obsession. The killer is clearly obsessed and the cops and reporters who are seeking him out almost allow their single-mindedness to destroy them.

The result is a film as much about the actions of a famous serial killer as it is about the need to stop him.

This is a great choice for anyone who appreciates a solid crime drama.

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  • American Cannibal

    My poor wife has long accepted that I will watch almost anything there are notable exceptions but the one thing with which she cannot abide is reality shows. She'll walk out of the room if she catches me watching one of these guilty pleasures.

    This documentary on the creative process behind one failed reality show would only give her more ammunition that reality shows are corrosive and ruining television.

    The film centers on a writing team whose agent is trying to steer them away from developing television sitcoms or dramas. She wants them to pitch reality shows to networks execs and they do so reluctantly.

    One would-be producer, Kevin Blatt the man best known for a porn tape starring Paris Hilton decides he likes the concept one of the writers threw out as a joke: make people believe they are in danger of being eaten by their fellow contestants on a "Survivor"-like show.

    How this show is developed and what it does to the writing team makes up the bulk of the film. After watching this movie, one could easily say reality television represents the nadir of American popular culture. The film is funny in a very grim way and instructive in how the media works.

    Anyone interested in media should watch "American Cannibal."

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  • © 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


    SRBissette said...

    So, who does he EAT, Mike?

    Mark Martin said...

    I saw a lady game show hostess last night, I think... I"m not sure if it was a game show or a home shopping network. People were calling in on the phone and seemed to be guessing letters, wheel of fortune style. But again I cannot be certain what was going on. One thing I can tell you for sure, her exposed breasts were quite large. ALMOST "too big" but not quite there yet, so they were interesting and compelling, but neither hideous nor sexy. She was very jolly and animated.

    I think you would enjoy this show. A guilty pleasure as you call it, but not quite as mindrotting as that awful reality tv you watch.

    SRBissette said...

    You must be in Europe now, Mark.

    I'll never forget my first night in Copenhagen: nude game shows, a two-hour broadcast of a concert celebrating the works of Frank Zappa, and reruns of DALLAS.