(directed by David Fincher)

2007_07_arts_zodiacdvd.jpgA series of attacks and subsequent puzzling communiques from the alleged killer to the San Francisco Chronicle terrified the Bay Area during the '60s through the '80s. Director David Fincher grew up in that part of California and uses his childhood feelings of dread and fascination to craft an unconventional thriller. Unlike a more typical detective story with a evil-doer and a single valiant sleuth, Zodiac meanders over a long period of time as a motley crew of detectives, journalists, a cartoonist, a television personality, and some regular citizens try their hand at solving the Zodiac killer's identity. Fincher amasses an excellent cast of actors who all give wonderful performances, from a main character like Mark Ruffalo's tenacious Inspector David Toschi or Robert Downey Jr.'s anti-establishment crime writer Paul Avery to a smaller role such as Chloë Sevigny's smart aleck girlfriend Melanie.

Of course the movie's real star is Jake Gyllenhaal, who puts aside his rippled screen idol persona to play the wide-eyed, obsessive cartoonist Robert Graysmith, whose nonfiction book on the case was the basis for James Vanderbilt's screenplay. Over the years Graysmith continued to be fascinated by the clues of the case (even to the detriment of his marriage) and while officially it was never solved, the movie implies that Graysmith's amateur sleuthing got him closest to the truth. Beautifully shot and with minute production design details that border on excessive, Zodiac is a gorgeous movie to watch. You feel literally transported back to this time period in San Francisco and some of the suspense sequences are utterly thrilling. While the movie does border on an unnecessary length—it has an almost 2 hours and 40 minute running time—at least watching it on DVD will allow you to take a snack break without missing any important moments.

Other new home viewing releases this week include the atmospheric adaptation of the best selling novel by Tom Tykwer Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, the excellent Korean monster flick The Host, Jim Carrey's numerological horror flick The Number 23, the Hong Kong action classic Hard Boiled in a 2 disc "ultimate" edition and the French quasi-porn The Exterminating Angels.