'Zodiac,' a film about a Bay Area serial killer, and 'Renaissance,' an edgy French thriller, hit shelves this week.
Fans of good old-fashioned sleuthing stories should be enthralled by "Zodiac." On second thought, scrap the part about "old fashioned." This movie, about the eponymous serial killer who terrorized San Francisco during the late 1960s and early '70s, is directed by David Fincher and, as anyone who has seen his movie "Se7en" can attest, he doesn't flinch easily. The depictions of the first two murders are grisly, but not gratuitous. (The rest occur off-screen.) The unsolved case became a life-long obsession for a detective (Mark Ruffalo) and two San Francisco Chronicle employees (Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr.). In this "C.S.I." era, where high-tech forensics makes police work seem too easy, "Zodiac" offers the thrill of real shoe-leather detective work. Grade: B+
– Stephen Humphries
Like Robert Rodriguez's mesmerizing "Sin City," this French live-action/cartoon mash-up is primarily an aesthetic triumph. Textured whites and blacks fill the screen; the action is sudden and sharp. But whereas Rodriguez's film was flush with memorable characters, "Renaissance" can hardly muster an interesting line. The central conceit? A veteran cop takes on a sinister corporation. Violence and internal strife ensue. "Renaissance," which features the voice of British actor Daniel Craig, is worth renting for the visuals, but don't expect any revelations. Grade: C
– Matthew Shaer