Zodiac (2007, Directed by David Fincher) English 9

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, June Diane Raphael, Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Chloë Sevigny

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(9-Great Film)

Engrossing. Affecting. Superb.

From the late 1960s and on into the ’70s, the notorious serial killer known as the Zodiac terrorized Northern California and taunted the authorities through a series of cryptic letters sent to the local newspapers. David Fincher’s expertly crafted and cast film focuses on a group of men involved in the investigation, alternating between multiple police departments and the San Francisco Chronicle. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith whose book this film is based on, but this is a true ensemble piece. There are a large number of characters and the focus shifts constantly between them from scene to scene. This approach matched with the perfect casting and absorbing material makes Zodiac fascinating. If I have one quibble, it is Fincher’s insistence on using CGI for background details and shots. At times, it is distractingly artificial.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Inferno (1980, Directed by Dario Argento) English 6

Starring Irene Miracle, Daria Nicolodi, Leigh McCloskey, Eleonora Giorgi,  Alida Valli

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(6-Good Film)

Striking. Dream-like. Limited.

When Mark Elliot (McCloskey) goes looking for his beloved sister, Rose (Miracle), he finds a centuries-old supernatural mystery involving the Three Mothers (three evil sisters) instead. Director Argento is a master at visual storytelling. So skilled in fact that he’s able to build suspense without any discernible character development. The opening sequence case in point. A woman we don’t yet climbs in and out of the water multiple times and it’s incredibly tense, despite the fact that she means nothing to us at this point and we don’t have any idea what it is we’re supposed to be afraid of. Inferno, however, is not his strongest work. Visually striking, the overall film feels too episodic and lacking in any motivating force. The characters exist simply to die spectacularly and their threat’s not scary enough.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Copycat (1995, Directed by Jon Amiel) English 6

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, Harry Connick Jr., William McNamara, J.E Freeman, Will Patton

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Effective. Suspenseful. Strong.

After a violent attack by a psychopath, Dr, Helen Hudson (Weaver) is traumatized and rendered agoraphobic, never leaving her state of the art apartment. A year later, a serial killer terrorizing San Francisco makes a point of involving Helen. She notices that the killer is copying a different infamous slaying with each murder, reluctantly teaming up with detectives Monahan (Hunter) and Goetz (Mulroney). The female leads give strong performances and the film’s biggest strength is their fully rounded characters. Apart from that, Copycat is by-the-numbers but well done. It’s an interesting premise that delivers; gripping and suspenseful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019, Directed by Rob Letterman) English 6

Starring Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton, Rita Ora, Omar Chaparro, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse

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(6-Good Film)

Engaging. Lively. Loud.

Tim Goodman (Smith) lives a quiet, dull existence as an insurance salesman in a world where millions of Pokémon roam. After the death of his police detective father, Tim travels to Ryme City for some closure, but stumbles into a conspiracy and meets his father’s Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds). The two find that they can understand each other, and reluctantly team up to get to the bottom of what happened to Tim’s father. The first thing going for this film, surprisingly the first live-action adaptation of the Pokémon franchise, is the first-rate design of its fantastic creatures. Pikachu is wonderfully brought to life. Consider what we’ve seen of Sonic in his upcoming film, and rejoice at the work of these animators. Ryan Reynolds brings a joke-a-second energy to the role and though only a small percentage of them land in my view, it keeps the proceedings fun. The plot isn’t as grand or deep as the best mystery films, and its solutions are easy and obvious, but I love noir and the premise is good enough and executed well enough to make Detective Pikachu worthy entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Bat (1959, Directed by Crane Wilbur) English 6

Starring Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, Lenita Lane, Darla Hood, John Sutton

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(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Involving. Campy.

Two murderous plots are afoot in the small, seemingly sleepy town that mystery writer, Cornelia van Gorder (Moorehead), spends her summers in, and both appear to revolve around a fortune in money missing from the local bank. Vincent Price plays a doctor and the only one who knows exactly where the money’s hidden (since he killed the man who stole it). Then there’s a figure being called “the bat,” terrorizing the town with a string of murders. It all blends together rather simply and the main whodunnit plot is obvious in my opinion, but The Bat is entertaining. The confined setting and cast of older female leads are terrific.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Game Night (2018, Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein) English 6

Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Jesse Plemons, Kylie Bunbury, Lamorne Morris, Sharon Horgan

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(6-Good Film)

Fast-paced. Funny. Fun.

A married couple, Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams), love to host game nights for their friends-Ryan (Magnussen), Kevin (Morris), and Michelle (Burnbury)-but when Max’s hotshot brother, Brooks (Chandler), comes to town, he hijacks the party. Relocating game night to his mansion, he sets up a more dangerous game involving a kidnapping and detective work, but things become a little more intense than planned, and the rest of the party begin to wonder what’s real and what’s just part of the game. Rapid-fire dialogue and cultural references, a devious, ever-spinning plot, and excellent performances, especially from the very loveable leads Bateman and McAdams, make Game Night a blast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Gorky Park (1983, Directed by Michael Apted) English 6

Starring William Hurt, Lee Marvin, Joanna Pacula, Brian Dennehy, Ian Bannen, Richard Griffiths

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(6-Good Film)

Solid. Intriguing. Unsurprising.

In Soviet Moscow, Police Detective Renko (Hurt) investigates the brutal murder of three young civilians. It looks like a KGB job, but why would the KGB have any interest in the three deceased? Renko uncovers a conspiracy that involves American businessman, Jack Osborne (Marvin), and is drawn in by the mysterious beauty, Irina (Pacula), who has ties to the three murdered. Very solid thriller despite its generic mystery plot thanks to a strong cast, an exciting femme fatale in Irina, and a fresh setting (Soviet Russia). The English speaking cast all affect Russian accents which are a little silly if you think too hard about it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-