Wes Craven's My Soul to Take poster promises 3-D

My Soul to Take (2010) posterLast year, Rogue Pictures announced the Universal Pictures would release writer-director Wes Craven’s cryptically titled thriller “25/8” some time in 2009. That plan did not come to fruition. Instead, a year later, the title has been changed to MY SOUL TO TAKE; a release date has been set for October; and a poster has appeared on eBay, suggesting that the film has undergone a post-production conversion to 3-D.
The delayed release date is not a good sign, but that could just be a matter of an over-crowded market, what with the Craven-produced remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT hitting theatres last year. However,  the title change, the poster tagline (“Only one has the power to save their souls”), and the 3-D conversion suggest the film has been retooled to sell MY SOUL TO TAKE squarely as a horror film, with a possible supernatural element, rather than as a suspense-thriller, which was how the film was originally being presented in press materials. The story takes place 16 years after the death of a serial killer, who swore he would return to murder the seven children born the night he died. When people start disappearing mysteriously, the question becomes whether the psychopath been reincarnated as one of seven teens, or did he survive the night he was left for dead? The plot focuses on the killer’s son, Adam Heller (Max Thieriot), a young man unaware of his father’s crimes but plagued by nightmares. John Magaro and Emily Meade co-star.
Release date: October 8
Watch the trailer below:

This article has been edited to update release date information.

Dexter: The Third Season – Blu-ray Review

Though controversial among fans, Season Three once again demonstrates the writers’ tight control of the subject matter.

WARNING: The following contains Season 2 spoilers.
When last we left Dexter Morgan, not only had he narrowly escaped being exposed as the Bay Harbor Butcher (after his long-time dump site was discovered by divers), but he managed to set up the very officer that suspected him, Detective Sergeant Doakes, to take the fall. Dexter’s brief affair with the psychopathic Lila, his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor with a soul almost as dark as Dexter’s, intensified once she got wind of his nocturnal activities. Planning on framing Doakes, Dexter imprisons him in a remote cabin, only to have Lila find her way there using Dexter’s GPS. She walks in on a caged Doakes and kills him, thinking that she’d be helping to set Dexter free. Realizing that he never really knew just how dangerous Lila was, Dexter decides to make her the Butcher’s next victim. Lila discovers his plan, however, and traps him in her burning apartment while she goes after Dexter’s girlfriend Rita and her two children. Of course the ever-resourceful Dexter manages to save the day (eventually catching up with Lila in Paris to finish the job), and with the authorities satisfied that the Bay Harbor Butcher’s reign of terror has come to an end with the death of Doakes, Dexter is free to indulge his Dark Passenger once again.
Season 3 of Showtime’s Dexter begins with a slate clean enough for microchip-manufacturing for its titular character; thankfully, it’s a temporary situation. In the premiere episode, “Our Father”, Dexter (Michael C Hall) targets Freebo, a neighborhood drug dealer sidelining in murder. Walking in on a struggle between Freebo and a second man, Dexter startles the pair, allowing Freebo to escape while the unknown assailant lunges for Dexter – forcing Dexter’s hand (the one holding the knife) and breaking his foster father Harry (the great James Remar)’s cherished code of only murdering those who kill the innocent. Dexter’s problems intensify when his latest victim turns out to be the younger brother of Miami’s hotshot Assistant D.A. Miguel Prado (Season 3’s guest star, Jimmy Smits) who will stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice. Dexter remains hot on Freebo’s trail, which is noticed by Prado, forcing Dexter to feign a real, human interest in catching the youngest Prado’s killer to justify his interest. With Prado and Dexter both desperately searching for Freebo for decidedly different reasons, it’s only a matter of time (the second episode to be exact) before they’re fated to collide; Dexter gets to him first, and after dispatching him in the usual manner almost collides with Prado outside of the room containing Freebo’s still-warm body. Thinking that his run has finally come to an end, Dexter starts fumbling for an excuse, and just after managing to stammer out, “It..it was self defense,” Prado embraces him and tearfully says, “Thank you.”
Thus begins the wonderfully twisted relationship that forms the core of Dexter’s third season. The first half carefully builds the cautious relationship between Dexter and Prado, with Hall turning in fantastic work (as usual) while Dexter slowly and believably becomes enamored of having a friend with whom he can share his secrets, even as the spirit of his father warns him against violating one of the pillars of the all important code. These “chats” with Harry represent another major change over previous seasons, which had Dexter remembering Harry only via flashback. While this generally worked, it allowed the actors to share only a few brief scenes (in which Hall had to wear a pretty unconvincing teenage wig – c’mon guys, this would have been the ‘90s and I don’t think Dex was in The Beatles), and if the idea of a long-dead character discussing plot points with the living sounds like a writer’s get-out-of-jail-free card, it also allows longtime fans of the show to see Hall and Remar act together on a consistent basis.
This past season also gave Hall another great partner in Jimmy Smits, an actor too often find floundering in TV dreck who is capable of great things when given a chance (the few folks who saw John Schlesinger’s criminally unloved The Believers will remember his brilliant, tortured performance). Watching his believable navigation of Prado from an upstanding ADA to a serial killer in training is a rare treat. His scenes with Hall have a complex emotional agenda (Dexter actually gains humanity through their association, while Prado slowly loses his own), yet somehow they manage to play utterly naturally and crackle with chemistry.
While Dexter keeps busy with ADA Prado, there’s another serial killer loose in Miami, the Skinner, whose method is self explanatory, but whose past is tied into the Freebo-Prado case. Over at Miami Metro, the Skinner case is being headed up by newly minted Detective Sergeant Angel Batista (David Zayas), along with Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) and the ribald forensics expert Masuka (C S Lee). Watching over all is Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), whose budding friendship with crusading attorney Ellen Wolf places her in an awkward position with old flame Miguel Prado over the handling of the Skinner case. Dexter’s family life is also moving rapidly forward, as girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz) discovers that there’s a little serial killer on the way – how will a man incapable of genuine human emotion handle the notion of fatherhood?
Dexter’s third season was somewhat controversial among the show’s fans, with many not cozying up to the supposed domesticating of their favorite serial killer. But for us, the season demonstrated once again just how tight a hold the writers and directors (a group that includes Ernest Dickerson and Keith Gordon) have on the show’s reigns. They’ve dangled the titular character over the precipice of human feeling for 36 episodes without violating his core sociopathic nature (and Dexter’s internal monologs remain the funniest deadpan comic dialog on television). It was inevitable that the show’s horizons would widen, lest it begin to repeat itself – in content if not form – and while some rejected the third season’s formula change-up, we found it necessary to Dexter’s longevity. And anyone not looking forward to seeing Dexter as a daddy in a few weeks is simply crazy.
Paramount’s Blu-Ray set (under the Showtime branding) offers all 12 episodes spread out evenly over 3 discs. Dexter is shot on location in Miami with digital cameras, making for bright, crisp daytime images and gorgeous nighttime photography without having to over-light the area. This provides the show with freedom to be more adventurous with their night shooting, while always allowing the Miami cityscape to play a large background role (much as it did with Michael Mann’s shot-on-digital Miami Vice in 2006); as with the previous seasons, the city itself is one of Dexter’s most vibrant characters. The striking 1080p Blu-Ray image accurately represents the show’s sumptuous visual palate. There is a slight layer of grain – particularly with the night shots – that some have commented on, but this is a direct result of the digital cameras and not an imperfection with the disc itself (and lets all be thankful that Paramount made no attempt to digitally ‘smooth out’ the image). The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is also unusually active for a television show.
Our only disappointment are in the lack of extras present on the set. Glancing at the back cover, one sees interviews, book excerpts, and bonus episodes of The United States of Tara and The Tudors, but the catch is that everything is available only through BD Live, requiring an internet connection and compatible player. We have no problem with studios offering a few extras in this manner to hype their service, but putting all extras online and none on the disc itself is a terrible notion, instantly leaving out a good chunk of purchasers who just don’t feel like connecting their player to the Internet and going through the laborious process of creating an account. For the purposes of these reviews, we have gone through those steps only to be unable to connect to the service half the time. We attempted twice to preview the supporting materials and were vexed each time.

Dexter: The Complete Second Season – Blu-ray Review

Here I sit, trying to imagine the pitch meeting for Dexter…

“We’ve got this cop, working for the forensics department of the Miami Police Dept.”
“Go on, I’m loving it…”
“His specialty is hunting serial killers that he feels are especially deserving.”
“Serial killers, too?!? That’s fantastic, I think we’re gold. What about babes?”
“Well, he’s a sociopath, so he really doesn’t like girls all that much. Plus, being a serial killer himself, there isn’t much time for dating. Hello? Hello?”

Dexter is certainly the best television show to ever celebrate murderous anti-social behavior. With HBO still paying off karmic debt for pulling the plug on Rome and Deadwood, Dexter has dramatically raised Showtime’s decidedly sketchy history in the world of premium cable original series. We rolled our eyes back in 2006 at the thought of yet another serial killer-themed entertainment clogging the cultural zeitgeist, but Dexter is a very different animal indeed, and makes us think that network television may have forever given up the quality program mantle to cable. Dexter is based on a series of books by Jeff Lindsay dealing with the most prolific serial killer in Miami – who also happens to be the police forensics expert – and was brought to Showtime as a series in October 2006. It’s been one of the few times we can recall a film or television show feel somehow truer than the source material on which it was based. We started reading Lindsay’s “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” after first being immersed in the show, and were amazed to find that the series actually had more depth than the books. What seemed too much like a cold, dramatic invention on the page is made into a fully-formed, flesh and blood character on television thanks to excellent writing, slick location photography, and a truly amazing lead performance.
Dexter (Michael C Hall) was adopted as a small child by patrolman Harry Morgan (James Remar) after finding him in the midst of a brutal crime scene – literally bathed in the blood of his deceased mother – who was dismembered by a chainsaw in front of his eyes. After catching Dexter killing small animals, Harry soon realizes that his son was exhibiting the textbook early warning signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Realizing that there’s little that he can do to prevent Dexter from becoming a killer, he instead trains him in police methods so that he’ll never leave a trace; but more importantly, Harry imparts a code in Dexter to only kill people who are murderers themselves and may otherwise escape justice.
As Season One began, both Dexter and adoptive sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) had joined the Miami Police Force, with Dexter’s deadly talents having helped him excel at his work in blood spatter analysis. Dexter still feels disconnected to the people around him, but his father’s advice about “fitting in and looking normal” convinces him to date Rita (Julie Benz), a victim of domestic abuse with two children and a threatening ex-husband, Paul (Mark Pellegrino) looking for more time with the children. At first, Rita seems like the perfect girl for Dexter, as her pervious relationship has left her distrustful of men and unable to be physically intimate. But things change when another serial killer begins stalking Miami’s sun-bleached streets, a cold, methodical murderer dubbed the ‘Ice Truck Killer’ for his preferred method of transporting the bodies of his victims. Dexter marvels at the cleanliness of the crime scenes, with the victim’s bodies neatly wrapped and tied and not a drop of blood to be found (forcing the ‘blood spatter’ expert to come up with increasingly flimsy excuses for being at the scenes.) Dexter’s relationship with the Ice Truck Killer takes an unusual turn when he begins to leave messages for Dexter in his own apartment, suggesting a connection between them. Dexter’s familiarity with the Ice Truck Killer creates suspicion on the part of lead detective Doakes (Erik King), who regards Dexter as a freak and suspects that he knows quite a bit more about serial killing than he lets on. Meanwhile, Debra begins dating Rudy (Christian Camargo) a designer of prosthetic limbs who also happens to have a dark secret of his own.
In deference to those not yet familiar with events of Dexter‘s first season, we’ll end the discussion there. Suffices to say that the show manages to miraculously tie up the various plot threads without compromising the dark side of its lead character’s nature. Season 2 opens with Doakes more convinced than ever that Dexter is hiding a more lethal side. He tails Dexter everywhere while off-duty, making it impossible for Dexter to apply his trade. Adding to Dexter’s stress on the home front is his distraught sister’s decision to move in with him following her entanglement with the Ice Truck Killer. Rita’s ex (set up by Dexter and returned to jail on a drug charge in the previous season) is killed in prison, but not before planting the seeds of doubt in Rita, repeatedly telling her that Dexter planted the heroin on him that got him locked away. Rita confronts Dexter, but instead of guessing at his true nature, she mistakenly assumes him to be a drug addict, and tells him to get help or get out. But rehab isn’t all bad as Doakes tails him to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and assumes that Dexter had been merely hiding a drug addiction from his fellow officers. It’s at a NA meeting that Dexter hooks up with a sponsor, the raven-haired Lila (Jamie Murray), a metal sculptor, recovering meth addict, and sometime pyromaniac. Lila thinks she’s found a kindred spirit in Dexter’s dark side, and even Dexter thinks that he may have found a soul mate, but his attentions have turned to a new serial killer gripping the Miami area – dubbed the Bay Harbor Butcher by the newspapers. The area in the bay where the Butcher had been dumping his victims has been discovered by divers; the neatly wrapped parts of dozens and dozens of victims cause a ripple of fear to run throughout the city in everyone but Dexter – because those pieces happen to belong to his victims! The FBI bring in Special Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine) to catch the Butcher, who promptly recruits Debra for his joint task force.
The above events compromise roughly the first half of the season, and once again, we’re loath to discuss anymore because of the large number of people without Showtime that catch up with the show on video. As with the first season, Dexter continues the difficult juggling act of keeping the main character psychologically true while maintaining audience sympathy. Credit for that goes largely to Michael C. Hall, whose wickedly smart portrayal is simply astonishing.
For three seasons Hall has successfully played a character who has to fake connections to the people and world around him and all the while wearing a thin, occasionally shaky mask of sanity that hides a ruthless killer. Whatever else the show is, it would have failed utterly had the central performance leaned too far into the overly campy, Hannibal Lecktor territory, or simply uninteresting; but after watching our first episode of Dexter last year, it was instantly unimaginable to have anyone else in the title role. The second season gives Hall much more to play off of, having to deal with issues of paternal betrayal that force him to question his cherished “Harry’s code” imparted to him by his father.
The second season also gave supporting cast member Erik King more to chew on as well; Doakes’ hatred and suspicion of Dexter was the only through line in the first season that we found ourselves losing patience with, but that obsession reached a necessarily brutal conclusion here that we found very satisfying. Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra is also put to more interesting use here, her close call with the Ice Truck Killer driving her deeper into Dexter’s life. She also begins an unlikely romance with guest star Carradine, in magnificent form as the dedicated FBI agent. Their April-October romance seems unusually organic, and Carpenter’s game is raised considerably when she shares the screen with him.
Miami, too, plays a distinctive role in Dexter, as much a part of the fiber of the show as New York is to Law & Order. It will be interesting in later years to compare Dexter with Miami Viceto chart the changes that the city has gone through. The show is shot on digital video, but the vagaries of cable broadcast mean that the show is invariably compressed to a degree (at least as it flows into our house), so the Blu-Ray release gives us the opportunity to see the show as it was originally shot. There are some occasionally heavy filtering effects used, but this does appear to be an accurate representation of the filmmaker’s intent. Even those accustomed to Showtime’s HD broadcast will be wowed by the 1080p picture here, wringing out heretofore unseen details. We only hope that Showtime/CBS see fit to release the 3rd season Blu-Ray day-and-date with the SD-DVD; for a show as visually stimulating as Dexter, it’s frustrating to have to wait this long for the HD version.
Extras are as follows:

  • Tools of the Trade video game
  • Trailers
  • Blood Fountains Featurette
  • Dark Defender – Season 2 Short Films
  • Michael C. Hall Podcasts
  • First 2 Episodes of United States of Tara

While this looks impressive, be warned that with the exception of the silly trivia game and the trailers, the rest of the bonus features have to be downloaded via the BD Live service (a process that our PS3 doesn’t seem to like at all).
[serialposts]

No Country For Old Men – Blu-ray Review

“It’s a mess, ain’t it Sheriff?”
“If it ain’t, it’ll do ‘till the mess gets here.”

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a sad, brutal film – not horror, per see, but definitely horrorifc – that somehow manages to be an exhilarating, overwhelmingly positive movie-watching experience. While the lion’s share of credit has (rightly) gone to directors Joel and Ethan Coen, the film is also stacked with superior performances, from the lead actors right down to the various desk clerks and hotel managers who somehow manage to burn-in an impression in just a single scene. Credit also the superbly evocative book by Cormac McCarthy, which gave the Coens a proper framework to operate with – something they occasionally operate without.
1980. While out on a hunting trip in the west Texas desert, welder Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) happens upon a disturbingly fresh crime scene; almost a dozen bullet-riddled bodies lay baking in the midday heat – the end result of a drug deal double cross. Moss finds a suitcase holding several million dollars that the lower, lower middle class Moss takes without much soul searching. But he also finds a survivor of the massacre, slowly dying of a gunshot wound and pleading for water that Moss doesn’t have. Deciding to do the decent thing, Moss fills a water jug and drives back out to the man in the middle of the night only to find himself ambushed by a second group of men who are looking for the money taken by Moss. A businessman responsible for the deal (Stephen Root) mistakenly take Moss for a cold-blooded criminal, and hires the ruthless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, an Oscar-winner for the role) to retrieve the money. Trouble is, once the lethal Chigurh is let off the leash, he leaves a very public trail of bodies leading to the hiring of yet another man, Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) to shadow Chigurh. All this is a puzzle to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who views this new world of unreasonably violent criminals with quiet disbelief. He walks through Chigurh’s crime scenes and can’t fathom the mind able to perpetrate this level of mayhem, and feels that he can do little to stop him from finding Moss and the money, in spite of the promise made to Moss’ wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald).
The Coen brothers went through a bit of an artistic dry spell following 1996’s Fargo; while The Big Lebowski eventually found a devoted cult audience, it had disappeared without a trace after its release in 1998 and the near unwatchable one-two punch of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers left even diehard fans scratching their heads. It seems odd to call NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN a return to form when you’re dealing with a filmography as eclectic as the Coen brothers, but its neo-noir style and darkly comedic asides immediately recall their beloved early works Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Like those early films, No Country creates a violent, unpredictable world out of the open spaces and silence of the American south/southwest. By eschewing large scale action scenes, the Coens focus their attention on moments of quiet dread, punctuated by startling bursts of violence (we can’t remember a film that has used silence to such suspenseful effect). Even in the brothers’ comedies, violent death strikes unexpectedly, and moments like Brad Pitt’s demise in Burn After Reading send audiences rocketing out of their seats. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN feels like the accumulation of a career’s worth of filmmaking, perfecting their own special blend of crime thriller and dark comedy but with real pathos and affection for their characters (something even Fargo didn’t always have).
One unquestionable shift in the latter Coen’s films is an emphasis on performance and character, rather than camera trickery. Even in a decidedly lesser effort like The Ladykillers, Tom Hanks is given the room to create a wonderfully unique comic character, no matter that the film it resides in doesn’t work. The actor who got the lion’s share of attention in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is, of course, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh – a force-of-nature performance that would have made you run in the other direction if you saw the actor coming down the street (in much the same way that Robert Carlyle’s work in Trainspotting did for us). Arriving onscreen with a Dutch-boy haircut, awkward clothes, and halting, untraceable speech pattern, our first temptation is to laugh, until we see him garrote a deputy with the handcuffs already locked around his wrists. Chigurh is clearly a psychopath driven by pure ruthlessness, but he also seems to have a bizarre code of conduct that he adheres to (a gas station attendant seems as amazed as we are to be left alive by Chigurh). Augmenting Bardem’s performance are two of the more memorable weapons we’ve yet seen employed on film – a silenced shotgun and a pressurized portable air gun similar to the type used on cattle. We don’t know who won the Oscar for sound effects editing that year, but the distinct sound that the canister makes as its set on the ground is ridiculously memorable.
Sheriff Bell carries a world-weariness that few actors other than Tommy Lee Jones would be able to exude so effortlessly. He appears to carry the weight of every murder that he’s seen on his shoulders, and even at the beginning of the story he has the eyes of someone that has already seen how the case is going to end, and the news isn’t good. If Jones does make too much of a habit of playing this very nearly archetypical role, it’s probably because he’s better at it than anyone else; we could imagine the film with another actor playing Moss or Chigurh (though it would be considerably less for it) but without Jones at its heart, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN simply would not work. Jones’ is such a natural screen presence that we occasionally take him and his performances for granted, and it’s easy to forget what a brilliant actor he can be.
Considering the company, it would be easy for Josh Brolin to get lost. After years of turns in questionable fare like Into the Blue and Hollow Man, 2007 marked the beginning of a flurry of memorable parts that included lead roles in films like nand W. and supporting roles in GrindhouseMilk and American Gangster (which he steals from both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in just a few scenes). He’s got the intensity and charm that his father only occasionally got the chance to show (see Night of the Juggler for what might have been for dad James) and makes Moss’ more questionable choices seem utterly natural. It’s a role that could have, in lesser hands, been simply a dim-bulb southern hick propelled by events, but Brolin makes Moss into an actual human being who reacts to deadly situations in a realistic, believable way.
We also need to mention the superb supporting turns by Harrelson, Root, and the Glasgow-born (and absolutely adorable) Macdonald. It’s another hallmark of a Coen brothers film to have even the smallest roles expertly cast, and we greatly enjoyed Tess Harper as Bell’s wife, Loretta, Barry Corbin as a wheelchair-bound retired Sheriff, and one of our favorite Deadwood vets, Garret Dillahunt, as Bell’s slower-witted deputy.
This is the second Blu-Ray release for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and the image appears identical to the previous edition. We find it a very pleasing transfer, nicely capturing Roger Deakins’ saturated, bleached-out photography. We’ve heard some complaints about the 1080p image, but it appears almost exactly as we remember it from its theatrical release, and the DTS-HD audio track perfectly captures the film’s careful sound design.
The studio-fluff extras from the previous edition are carried over, including a better than average making-of piece along with shorter, specific segments on the Coens and the Sheriff Bell character. New bits include a humorous, tongue-in-cheek video journal by Brolin featuring clips from the EPK material and new interview footage featuring Bardem (who’s very funny) and Harrelson, though the camera’s auto-focus seems to favor the foliage behind Woody.
The most interesting new offering is a timeline featuring the actors and filmmakers on a post-release promotional tour for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. There are some surprisingly long segments here, like a 40-minute appearance by Bardem and Brolin at an Apple store, and an hour long Q&A with the Coens and other production personnel hosted by Spike Jonze (who unfortunately takes 5 minutes to stammer through a 30 second question). A second disc includes a digital copy of the film.
Our only complaint about the disc is the inclusion of an anti-tobacco advert that begins automatically when “Play” is selected from the menu. It’s the spot with the Times Square cowboy singing with the aid of a voice box from the smug folks at thetruth.com. We’ve never smoked and don’t advocate the habit, but we do object strongly to the money spent on excessive sin taxes given to groups like this by the government to produce self-righteous PSAs which are then shoved down our throats on an already too-expensive Blu-Ray disc.

No Country for Old Men – A Horrifying Oscar Nominee

If you haven’t yet seen NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, then I’m going to tell you right now that Anton Chigurh is every bit as frightening as Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, or Jason ever dreamed (pardon the Freddy pun) of being. As Chigurh, Javier Bardem (BEFORE NIGHT, for which he became the first Spanish actor ever to be nominated for an Academy award) plays one of the most disturbing film characters I’ve seen in many a moon. I’m not normally affected by the portrayal of murderous film villains all that strongly, but this guy had my stomach in a knot. And I do mean this as a compliment.
In many ways NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a good old fashioned horror film with a fear factor not unrelated to the aforementioned beloved creepers. There isn’t even all that much dialogue in many segments, which means much of what affects audiences is the film’s frightening mood. So for those of us who may have lamented the fact that horror films always get snubbed come award season, I say take heart. NO COUNTRY has now made up for that to some degree. In fact, Javier Bardem’s character has more than a little in common with Rutger Hauer’s interpretation of his character John Ryder (get it?) in 1986’s THE HITCHER. Hauer’s performance was underrated then (heck, almost completely ignored in many circles), but one can now more easily see what he brought to his role that set up the film for the 2007 remake – which failed in part because it missed the Hauer element. I think in some ways, Bardem’s performance lends credence to a performance like Hauer’s. Read More

Zodiac – Film Review


EDITOR’S NOTE: With all the annual “Top Ten Lists” lists sending our memories racing back to the best that 2007 had to offer, we thought this would be a good time to post a review of a fine borderline genre film that we had previously overlooked because it came out early last year, before Cinefantastique Online powered up. 
David Fincher (director of SEVEN) returns to serial killer territory with this fact-based movie about the infamous Zodiac murderer, who taunted police in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Based on two non-fiction books by Robert Graysmith, the lengthy scenario tries to pack in as much information as possible about the search for the killer, whose identity was never determined. (No one was ever indicted, much less convicted, for any of the Zodiac’s crimes.) Early sequences – which depict the handful of murders definitely attributed to Zodiac (he claimed numerous others) – are grim and horrifying, playing upon audience awareness that these are real people who died. Later, the film slides into a bit of a rut as the case grows cold and the efforts to solve it fall to Graysmith (played by Gyllenhaal), a newspaper cartoonist-turned-amateur-sleuth, who refuses to give up the search. Nevertheless, ZODIAC displays an admirable attention to the details of the case and the era, emerging as a solid effort to capture a piece of history on celluloid.
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