Tag Archives: Robert Downey Jr

Zodiac: 10th Annivesary

It’s been a decade since David Fincher graced cinemas with Zodiac, which means it’s been 10 years since it climbed its way to the top of my favourite David Fincher films list, and remained there.

Zodiac is about the 1960s\70s manhunt for the San Francisco-area Zodiac Killer, who went on a murder spree-media frenzy, terrorizing people in several Northern California zodiac.jpgcommunities but evading police and justice to this day. The Zodiac Killer had held a dimming spot in our collective conscious for years when David Fincher got his hands on the material (a new book on the case by Robert Graysmith was the inspiration, though not terribly well-written) and turned a tired story into something that could take your breath away.

There are several brilliant strokes that make this movie more than just a movie.

  1. It focuses on Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at a San Francisco newspaper (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and Paul Avery, a reporter (Robert Downey, Jr.), who became obsessed with the case and played armchair detectives. This was effective story-telling be because Graysmith and Avery are just like us: outsiders. They have no business “detecting.” They have no privileged information. They’re just interested, and it makes us interested.
  2. That said, this is a serial killer movie without the serial killer. The crimes were never solved. At best, he’s a shadowy figure in the movie (and brilliantly, Fincher had several different actors play this shadowy figure so we always feel a little off-kilter). This truly is about the regular people (and Inspector Toschi, a cop frustrated by the case’s dead ends – played by Mark Ruffalo), feeling more like Spotlight than Seven.
  3. Although the movie works very well strictly as crime drama, that’s really just a superficial reading of Zodiac, the tip of the iceberg with a whole lot more waiting to be discovered underneath. The film’s tone lulls us into a trance. The score, the pacing, the editing, it all works together to draw us into this hyper-awareness that heightens everything, so that we watch raptly, watching office scenes with trepidation equal to the creepy, cob-webby basement scenes. We start to realize that the serial killer is not what’s threatening Graysmith; it’s the search for truth that’s ripping his life apart. Now that little nugget comes with a whole lot more cynicism that mere murder can provide.
  4. The case and the film each build consistently, unrelentingly. You get pulled into it, dragged along. It’s not about the violence and blood (there’s very little of either), but about relentless pursuit, without resolution. That’s hard to maintain and in less capable hands, this could easily have been a dry and boring movie. But Fincher bring the suspense, and without us realizing it, he infuses that suspense into every scene. The suspense never lets up. It becomes an ache, one achieved not with fancy car chases or dramatic shootouts, but through methodical police work, the film as detail-oriented as the director himself.
  5. There’s no ending. Or no satisfying one, at least. That goes against what usually makes a Fincher film great, those memorable last lines, a Beatles tune playing over the credits. But Zodiac goes without, because in real life, the Zodiac Killer got away. Maybe we know who it is. Maybe. But no arrest was ever made, no one ever served time. The film reflects this truth and denies us catharsis and our “Hollywood ending” as we understand them. The Zodiac murders weren’t just a news item, it was The Case for a generation, one that never got wrapped up. Fincher was part of that generation, and grew up in the area. It obviously stuck with him. In many ways, Zodiac is his most personal film, so he made it not about the killer, but about the people chasing him. The people trying to solve the ultimate puzzle, and paying the price when justice is ellusive.

Because life is cruel, Zodiac was NOT a hit at the box office, making a paltry $33M in the U.S. against its $65M budget. It was never going to be a hit. It’s not lurid or bloody. It’s an ode to method. And while today we’ve become obsessed with this method (Making A zodiac-murder-scene.gifMurderer, OJ: Made in America), 10 years ago it was unknown. Maybe it was Fincher who invented it. He definitely perfected it, and without an entire season’s worth of episodes to devote to his subject, he imbues each scene with loads of meaning, making each one impactful and riveting. Maybe not as riveting as Wild Hogs, that atrocious piece of shit starring Tim Allen, John Travolta and Martin Lawrence (it opened the same weekend and beat Zodiac by about 30 million dollars), but in the past decade, it has impressed nearly everyone who’s sought it out. The cast is splendid, the script smart, the direction thoughtful and meaningful. But it did not win the Oscar. Know why? BECAUSE IT WASN’T EVEN NOMINATED!

 

Advertisements

Captain America: Civil War

captain-america-civil-war-teamSpider-Man. Ant-Man. Falcon. Black Panther. These are the top four characters, in order, in Captain America: Civil War. You might think it’s a bad sign that neither Captain America nor Iron Man is on that list, but you’d be wrong!  Although you would be right in thinking I wish this had been a Spider-Man movie with a Captain America/Iron Man cameo, rather than the other way around.

The downside to all of this is we’ve seen it all before. Not only in the sense that it’s roughly the six hundredth comic book movie that came out this year, but also because DC’s eulogy to the millions of fictional civilians killed every year by superheroes came out just six weeks ago.

One big difference between the two movies: Marvel’s is far better. Though like Batman v. Superman, Civil War is too long.  With that said, I’m willing to forgive Marvel since that extra run time was used to shoehorn in Spider-Man. Who, as mentioned at the start, was AWESOME.

Another big difference: Marvel’s movie is way funnier. Civil War would have won by default anyway since there were no laughs at all in BvS, but Civil War is legitimately funny in between the dead family member melodrama.

But as with BvS, don’t expect anything new, don’t expect a good villain, and don’t expect the story to make any goddamned sense. Really, the only differences between the two movies are that (a) we’re glad to see/meet Marvel’s supporting heroes while DC’s just felt like filler; and (b) most of Marvel’s heroes are eager to make us laugh even while fighting, which is a welcome change from DC’s rainy night fights between surly mumbling demigods. Spider-Man is the perfect example of Marvel’s success in both categories, and that’s enough to make this movie worth watching.

Mostly, that’s because Spidey is the best superhero ever and I’m pumped he’s back in the MCU, where he belongs. Though I am suffering from chronic end-credit-scene-fatigue, as a Spider-Man fan I’m glad I stuck around ’til the very end. Hint, hint.

Captain America: Civil War gets a score of eight webslinging vigilantes out of ten.

Celebrity Cameos in Music Videos

Not so very long ago, we were discussing famous movie directors who cut their teeth on MTV, but actors have an even more storied history of popping up in random music videos. Here’s a batch of my favourites (sorry James Van der Beek, as much as I appreciate rainbow lasers, this post is for A-listers only):

Make Some Noise, Beastie Boys

When Adam Yauch was too sick to appear in this video, a whole slew of celebrities lined up to help out their favourite MCs. Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood stand in for the Boys, but you’ll need all your fingers and all your toes to count the celebrity cameos on this video. Rashida Jones, Jason Schwartzman, Will Arnett, and Will Ferrell with his cowbell all make appearances, but blink and you’ll miss em! For an extended (like 30 minute) version with Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Adam Scott, Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Dan Aykroyd and more, follow this link.

I Really Like You, Carly Rae Jepson

I would never have heard this song if not for the fact that Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks!) stars in the video, solidifying our already niggling suspicion that Hanks is pretty much the most interesting human being ever. How on earth did they land such a huge star? “I literally had a beer in my hand and I said, ‘Yeah sure I’ll do it,'” – it was as easy as that. This will absolutely put a little joy in your heart, and be sure to stay right to the end when he joins in the inevitable choreography: it’s fucking worth it.

Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim

Predictable but absolutely necessary inclusion to the list. This video reinvigorated Christopher Walken, turned him into an icon for a whole other generation, and turned a stale music video industry on its ear.

Giving Up the Gun, Vampire Weekend

They brought out the big guns for this video: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a drunken tennis player (“Well, that’s the only way anyone’s going to beat me, if I’m that wasted,” Gyllenhaal joked. “They call me, like, the John McEnroe of action films”) showing some major leg – and shout to RZA while we’re at it. “They’re all really cool guys … and the Jonas Brothers, the RZA and Lil Jon, we all usually chill anyway. Actually, we were up in San Francisco, and I was like, ’You guys, do you want to come down with me?’ And Lil Jon was like, ’I’m busy,’ and I was like, ’Come on, man, get in the car!’ So we all chilled out, listened to the whole album, and the RZA was dope. He was great. He sat shotgun, because that’s where he likes to sit usually. … We all hang out because we’re all really good friends.”

Stylo, Gorillaz

So Gorillaz, who are animated, naturally, get into a car chase with Bruce Willis, who is not. Some things are too strange to be made up.

I Want Love, Elton John

It makes sense that the rocket man would tap iron man for a little help once in a while – and before he donned that Marvel suit, Robert Downey Junior had some time on his hands.

Crossfire, Brandon Flowers

Charlize Theron is everyone’s favourite badass heroine, so I suppose this video was probably stolen right from the director’s wet dream.

What Goes Around Comes Around, Justin Timberlake

A huge hit deserves a huge star, so Scarlett Johansson gets cast as the cheating whore who gets what she deserves: a fiery death. Kind of harsh, isn’t it? Brought to you by the same director who did Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Trouble, Pink

Recognize the sherriff of Sharktown? It’s none other than Jeremy Renner in eyeliner and a cowboy hat, that’s who!

Anybody Seen My Baby, The Rolling Stones

Need someobody who’s “more than beautiful?” You can’t do better than Angelina Jolie. Angelina was married at the time (to Jonny Lee Miller) but that didn’t stop her and Mick from hooking up, or from Jagger’s obsessing over her for two whole years.

Mumford & Sons, Hopeless Wanderer

Mumford and his sons prove they DO have a sense of humour about themselves with this spoof video starring Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis,and Will Forte. The video’s a lot of fun, and these guys sing a lot more earnestly than the real sons ever dared to.

Elastic Heart, Sia

This one may push the bounds of A-list, but how can we not talk about hot mess Shia Leboeuf bringing us yet another chapter in the dude’s book of dubious experimentation? I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to watch a 28 year old mentally unstable man beat on a little girl in a cage match?

Honourable mentions: Daniel Radcliffe in Slow Club’s Beginners; Aubrey Plaza in Father John Misty’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings; Olivia Wilde in Dashboard Confessional’s Stolen; Rupert Grint in Ed Sheeran’s Lego House; Helena Bonham Carter in Rufus Wainwright’s Out of the Game; Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith’s Crazy; Courtney Cox in Bruce Springstein’s Dancing in the Dark (or Counting Crows’ Long December); Christina Hendricks in Broken Bells’ The Ghost Inside; Keanu Reeves in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush; Macaulay Culkin in Michael Jackson’s Black or White; Zach Galifianakis in Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothin.

 

Journalists in Broadcast/Print

TMP

On Monday, I attended the North American premiere of Spotlight, an entertaining and infuriating film about four reporters at the Boston Globe who investigated the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of their priests. Seeing the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber walk onstage was exciting enough but the good people at TIFF really brought the house down with the surprise appearance of the real Pulitizer Prize-wnning journalists themselves to, of course, a standing ovation and a speech from Ruffalo about “unsung heroes”.

spotlight

Somehow, as usual, Wandering Through the Shevles seems to know what’s going on in my life because this week we’re paying tribute to these “unsung heroes”.

All the President's Men

All the President’s Men (1976)– Pretty much every movie about investigative journalism that I’ve ever loved has been compared to this movie. “In the tradition of All the Presidents Men”, the TIFF website wrote of Spotlight. It’s been years since I’ve seen this story of the two Washington Post reporters who investigated the Watergate scandal but what has stayed with me is the way that it manages to hold our attention and build suspense from behind a desk. Instead of car chases, we get phone calls, research, and checking sources. It doesn’t hurt that the journalists are impeccably played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

insider_interview

The Insider (1999)– In his best film by far, Michael Mann tells the story of 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman’s battle with the brass at CBS to get his interview with a whistleblower against Big Tobacco on the air. Having Al Pacino’s and Russell Crowe’s names above the title wouldn’t be as exciting today but Mann was lucky enough to catch both actors in their prime. Only Crowe managed to earn an Oscar nomination from his performance but the great Christopher Plummer (doing an uncanny Mike Wallace) was somehow overlooked.

zodiac

Zodiac (2007)– This movie scares the shit out of me. The murder scenes are as chilling as they come but David Fincher’s return to the serial killer subgenre isn’t really about the Zodiac killer at all but about a small group of people who became obsessed with finding him and practically had their lives ruined as a restult. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. do some top-notch reporting (even though Gylenhaal is employeed only as an editorial cartoonist). What’s most impressive about Zodiac is the ammount of information they throw at us without it being impossible to follow and how much of the information we already knew without it being boring.

Los Angeles, I’m Yours

Today we’re exploring the big beautiful city of Los Angeles, and to prepare I’ve cycled through several films that have given me invaluable insight on what we might encounter:

boyzBoyz N The Hood: Luckily our hotel is on Hollywood & Vine rather than in the ghetto. Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr play boyhood friends who are just barely surviving the gunfire in their neighbourhood. Bullets and helicopters are the film’s soundtrack. John Singleton paints a pretty bleak outlook for these kids without the benefit of options, futures, or even fathers. Lessons learned: watch out for rival gangs and street racing, and eat  your french fries indoors.

Fletch: Chevy Chase plays an investigative journalist a little too comfortable going undercover as a bum\new age guru. Fletch is looking into the booming drug trade on the beach when fletchapproached one day by a wealthy man who asks him to be the homeless man who shoots him dead, bypassing cancer and netting his wife the insurance. But Fletch isn’t really a bum and the guy isn’t really dying of cancer. Lessons learned: watch out for rollerskaters on the boardwalk, bums and new age gurus are practically indistinguishable, the people are rude to waiters, LAPD is useless.

LA_Story_5594L.A. Story: Steve Martin is a weather guy in sunny and 72-degrees Los Angeles. He resorts to hijinks just to make his broadcasts interesting. Then he meets a girl, and that’s when this satirization of the big city really starts to zing. A freeway signpost starts to talk to him, and he begins to listen. Lots of celebrity cameos ensue. Lessons learned: the traffic is so bad you may as well take love advice from it

Less Than Zero: Andrew McCarthy is back from college for the holidays and Less_than_zero_1987_posterfinds his girlfriend hooking up with his best friend, the drug addict (Robert Downey Jr – kinda tough to watch him like this all things considered). It’s a real testament to crazy L.A. decadence. Then James Spader makes RDJ become a whore, and things really get interesting. Lessons learned: the girls are loose and the drugs are abundant – just my kind of town!

Collateral: Jamie Foxx has cabbie good luck (hot lady fare, Jada Pinkett Smcollateralith, gives him respect AND her number) and cabbie bad luck (hit man, Tom Cruise, takes him hostage); just a typical day driving around L.A. I guess! He’s forced to drive around while Cruise assassinates various names on a list of witnesses – the last of which of course turns out to be previously mentioned hot lady. Lessons learned: watch your bags at the airport, doormen are for shit, maybe take the bus? Although Lesson learned in Speed: DO NOT take the bus!

If you’d like to find out whether we’ve taken the bus or a taxi, follow us @assholemovies – we’re updating our California adventure daily!

Road Trip Movies

TMP

Wanderer’s timing has been spooky lately. The Assholes fly out to sunny California today and will be taking a road trip of our own on Sunday along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Perfect time to be thinking of our favourite road trip movies.

thelma and louise

Thelma and Louise (1991)– A road trip to a friend’s cabin in the mountains quickly goes off the rails for Thelma and Louise when Louise shoots an attempted rapist to death before they’ve even reached their destination. The trip goes from vacation to nightmare to something much more as the two realize they wouldn’t go back to their old lives even if they could. Nothing like the life of a fugitive to make you finally feel free.

sideways

Sideways (2004)– I made a deal with myself that I would only pick one Alexander Payne movie this week. As much as I love his last four movies- all road trip movies- Sideways was an easy decision, given that we will be doing a Napa Valley wine tour of our own tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have more fun than Miles (Paul Giamatti), a depressed alcoholic and failed novelist. Sideways is a hopeful but often painful comedy that to this day still makes me feel a little guilty every time I order Merlot.

Due date

Due Date (2010)– Director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis’s follow-up to 2009’s The Hangover was highly anticipated and very disappointing to many but I have always stood by it. Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay and Robert Downey Jr.’s Peter Highman are forced to drive cross-country together after they’re both improbably kicked off an airplane. Both stars play off of each other beautifully and the gags mostly work but what I love is how the story is constructed around what’s going on in the lives of these two men instead of around a bunch of setpieces and jokes. Downey is particularly good as his performance hints at a more real pain than he has been able to manage even in his recent “dramas” like The Judge.

The Judge

When his mother dies, a successful big city lawyer returns his the small town to which he swore he’d never return. Despite vowing to leave first thing the next morning, his stay gets exteneded when his father (a respected judge in his community) is charged with murder. Father and son haven’t spoken in years and neither one likes the idea of working together very much but the The Judgejudge is going to need the best lawyer her can find to keep from going to jail.

Both the prodigal son and the courtroom drama are pretty played out so I wasn’t expecting anything great but when the father and son are played by Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr, I didn’t see how it could be bad.

Unfortunately, not much in The Judge feels real. The town doesn’t feel like a real place. The family doesn’t feel like a real family. The court case doesn’t play out like a real trial, with the family drama even playing out on the witness stand in a scene that I couldn’t believe I was watching.

More importantly though, nothing really satisfies. We have to wait until the end of the movie to find out what really happened, both between fathThe Judge 2er and son and the night of the murder. And we should have to wait. All the best payoffs come that way. Our patience doesn’t pay off here though, neither with the family drama or the trial. Even Downey, the king of outalking someone, cross examing witnesses isn’t as much of a treat as it really should be.

The good news is that it’s not all bad. Robert Duvall is a nominee for this year’s academy award for Best Supporting Actor partly because he’s gotten pretty old and it’s been awhile since his last nomination but also because he is just pretty awesome. The best scene in the movie are all his. His shower scene with Downey manages to be heart-wrenching, tender, and funny and I nearly cried in another scene where he meets his granddaughter. And even if Downey’s return home isn’t as compelling as I would like it to be, his return to real movies is more than welcome. He’s pretty much played no one but Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes for the last five years so even a drama as trite as The Judge is a nice change.

Chef

I liked this movie. I can forgive the saccharine subtext of the father-son roadtrip to reconnection because this movie is visceral and delicious and real. chef-movie

Brace yourself, Sean, because I’m about to pay Jon Favreau a compliment: he’s perfect as this chef. Really perfect. He’s fast-paced in the kitchen, ambling in the market, bumbling with his son.

This movie’s already available to rent or stream. It was passed to me by a friend who thought I’d like it, and I aimed to pass the recommendation along to another friend, only he beat me to it, which hasn’t happened since Snow Piercer (watch it). We watch A LOT of movies. About a metric tonne in the course of a normal week, and we talk about nearly all of them, but recommend very few.

Why did so many of us connect with this movie? The passion, maybe. You really believe in the love of food, the drive in your marrow to just cook food that will taste awesome. And you get a real sense of the struggle between the guy with the money, and the guy with the talent. Of course they clash. And there’s another struggle, between the chef, a man who dedicates his life to his kitchen but doesn’t know too much about life outside it, and the social media-enabled foodie culture that can prop him up or tear him down.

This movie definitely pays tribute to a certain amount of food porn, some of which already feels a bit dated (and I admit, I flinched, flinched, over the lava cake bit, having just served it to guests myself about a month ago). Scarlett Johansson is unnecessary in the movie and I can only imagine that Favreau was just looking for any excuse to kiss her (and who can blame him).

I loved the energy and pacing once we took to road in the food truck (another very on-point moment in food), even if it occasionally felt like a commercial for Twitter. John Leguizamo turns out to be a fun side kick. Robert Downey Junior appears out of nowhere. Or, you know, out of Favreau’s back pocket. But the whole mess just starts to feel fresh and real and relatable, no matter what you do for a living. You can’t help but feel his humiliation and then root for his redemption, and be tempted by his sandwiches.

The villain, a food blogger played by Oliver Platt, is kind of a great counterpoint to our protagonist chef. He becomes our scape goat for all the internet bullies, and there’s a not-so-subtle plea for a return to humanity, or civility, or fucking politesse. Even a big tattooed chef has feelings, and you can’t eat all of them away no matter how good the food.

So yes. The ending’s trite, but the passion’s back in his life, he’s rejuvenated, we’re rejuvenated just watching him spark. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s making me bloody hungry.