July 2024


Jake Gyllenhaal

Life (2017)

DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanda, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya



Among the various sci-fi thrillers over the decades that owe greater or lesser degrees of inspiration to Ridley Scott’s 1979 AlienLife is one of the worthier indirect descendants/homages.  Daniel Espinosa is not terribly subtle about borrowing a page (or several pages) from Alien, but screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the same men behind 2016’s very different Deadpool) also come up with enough twists and turns on their own for it not to be unforgivably derivative.  But while fans of Alien may find Life worth a look, be warned: this is a dark, gruesome ride that is not for the faint of heart or for those who demand happy endings. Continue reading

Zodiac (2007)

zodiacDIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Philip Baker Hall, John Carroll Lynch


While it tells the true unsolved story of one of America’s most notorious serial killers–at least that which is publicly known–Zodiac is not a thriller, at least not in a conventional sense.  Rather, it’s a police procedural and docudrama.  Based on a true crime book by Robert Graysmith, it puts the focus not on Zodiac himself, who remains a shadowy, elusive, nameless and faceless figure (although the movie’s viewpoint is blatantly slanted toward one suspect), but on the men (including Graysmith himself) who were involved in the long-running, ultimately fruitless manhunt.  To this end, Zodiac is a bit like a souped-up, two-and-a-half hour episode of Law & Order, and will appeal to some of the same audience fascinated by the details of police procedure and investigating.  It depicts the above with slick polish and is often intriguing, but an uneven pace and the inevitable open ending will frustrate some viewers not strongly interested in the subject matter. Continue reading

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Ang Lee

CAST: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid


While the comparison might not occur to everyone, Brokeback Mountain (adapted from a 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx, with the movie screenplay written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry) is a spiritual cousin to such films as Witness, Bridges of Madison County, and The Remains of the Day.  All four films, while depicting characters living very different lives in different times and places, are at their core about the longing between two people who are unable or unwilling to bridge the gulf that separates them.  Obviously, the distinguishing factor setting Brokeback Mountain apart is that its forbidden love affair, unlike the above films, is between two men, and while the homosexual aspect will make some viewers uncomfortable, to pigeonhole it as a “gay cowboy movie”, as some have dismissively done, is a disservice and an oversimplification.  The complexity of the characters’ dynamics defy such easy labels. Continue reading

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

day afterDIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich

CAST: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Ian Holm, Sela Ward, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Kenneth Welsh, Austin Nichols, Tamlyn Tomita, Glenn Plummer, Nestor Serrano


By now, anyone walking into the theater to see a movie whose opening credits include “a film by Roland Emmerich” should know what to expect.  From Independence Day to the deservedly much-maligned 1998 Godzilla reboot, to his later disaster movie 2012, Emmerich reliably serves up a cocktail of similar ingredients: a sprawling ensemble of one-dimensional characters scurrying around in the wake of some cataclysm, including corny dialogue, earnestly overdramatic speechifying, a bunch of splashy special effects, the gleeful annihilation of famous landmarks (especially ones located in New York City), and a tidal wave of cliches as towering as any onscreen.  Within that narrow variance of mediocre and slightly above or below, The Day After Tomorrow falls somewhere in the marginally above average range; it’s more watchable than Godzilla but not as cheesily entertaining as Independence Day (probably Emmerich’s biggest “epic”).  It’s wildly over-the-top global disaster scenario bears more than a passing resemblance to the even more wildly over-the-top 2012.  Unfortunately, a slightly above average Roland Emmerich movie is still mediocre by general film standards.  Nonetheless, those who watch what Emmerich churns out should know what they’re getting, and if all you demand is some big-budget effects of mass destruction and some “check your brain at the door” disaster movie sequences, The Day After Tomorrow should prove serviceable entertainment. Continue reading