Doug Mankoff

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Truth Review

Excellent

That generic title obscures a surprisingly complex exploration of the real-life events surrounding the fall of iconic American newscaster Dan Rather in 2004. And while the film's script is rather talky (it's like Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom crossed with George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck), it's strongly made point is too important to ignore. And it features yet another storming, intelligent performance from Cate Blanchett.

She plays Mary Mapes, a producer at the classic CBS news programme 60 Minutes, who just a few months before the 2004 presidential election is working on a story about incumbent George W. Bush's shady National Guard service during the Vietnam War. She has an ace team of investigators (including Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Elisabeth Moss), plus the nation's top news anchor Rather (Robert Redford). But after the story airs, Mary is attacked with questions about the authenticity of a series of memos that trace irregularities in Bush's service record. Her boss (Bruce Greenwood) applies plenty of pressure as the controversy gains more traction than the story itself. And the media storm that follows catches everyone by surprise.

This account is based on Mapes' own memoir about these events, which gives the film a personal, as opposed to journalistic, tone. It hints heavily at both government and corporate efforts to discredit the story, putting Mapes and her entire team in an impossible situation. The film also makes it clear that those memos were indeed real, and that the controversy was actually just misdirection. What brings this to life is the revelatory acting from the ensemble cast, led beautifully by Blanchett, who gives Mary a passion for the truth that's fuelled by her inner demons. And the entire supporting cast adds layers of wit and insight, although Redford kind of relaxes on his easy charm as the engaged, engaging Rather.

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The Joneses Review


Very Good
A darkly comical satire about affluence might seem a bit ill-timed during a global recession. But a strong cast makes this film very watchable, even as it slips into melodrama.

When the gorgeous Kate and Steve Jones (Moore and Duchovny) move into a wealthy suburb with their equally alluring teens Jenn and Mick (Heard and Hollingsworth), the locals notice their fabulous clothes, gadgets and cars. And of course start trying to keep up with them. But the Joneses aren't a family: they're a team of marketing experts whose performances are measured by how they affect sales in this town. And as they work to keep their boss (Hutton) happy, their neighbours (Headley and Cole) are paying a heavy price.

Continue reading: The Joneses Review

Dreamland Review


Good
If the movies are any guide, the world's best stories can be found in the dingiest, most remote, most podunk trailer parks in the country. From Gas Food Lodging to Raising Arizona, trailer parks appear to be populated with only two categories of people: misunderstood genius artists and drunks.

Dreamland may be stuffed full of cliched characters in its trailer trash setting (and why a trailer park would be constructed under power lines in the middle of the New Mexico desert I have no idea), but let's put that aside for a moment. At its heart it is not the awful direct-to-DVD movie that you're probably expecting. The only legitimate reason for that is star Agnes Bruckner, who continues to take role after role in movies that simply don't measure up to her capabilities as one of our best young actresses. (If you haven't seen her in her other headlining role this year, The Woods, don't.)

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The City Review


Good
The people of David Riker's The City (La Ciudad) are easily recognizable: poor destitute Mexican immigrants living in listless boroughs of New York City. And the director's careful, patient examination of their incessant, daily struggle to survive by taking any job they can get constitutes most of what the film is about.

The City is comprised of four short vignettes, all very poetic in their open-endedness. In the first one, Bricks, a group of Mexican laborers is taken to the field of nearly ruined buildings. They are left in the middle of nowhere and promised 50 dollars a day for cleaning up bricks. When the ruins of a demolished building collapse and kill one of the workers, the rest can't even explain to the ambulance where they are.

Continue reading: The City Review

Things Behind The Sun Review


Excellent
Allison Anders not only has enough balls to revisit one of the worst experiences of her life in Things Behind the Sun, but she travels through emotional territory normally unheard of in films based on rape -- namely a male character who is a victim and a perpetrator at the same time.

As a woman, it is always difficult to watch a movie involving rape. When filmed realistically, as Things is, it's impossible to distance yourself from the onscreen pain. And when a film is not constructed with realism the result is anger from shoddy storytelling, or with a filmmaker failing miserably to grasp the emotional honesty in a situation they can't understand.

Continue reading: Things Behind The Sun Review

The Big Empty Review


Good
If any film is destined to find a cult audience on DVD, it's The Big Empty.

For starters, it's literally crawling with cult-friendly stars, including Jon Favreau (Swingers), Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), Jon Gries (Real Genius), Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill),and Rachael Leigh Cook (who seems to be making a living off of desert-based movies these days). Secondly, it's got message boards buzzing with fans asking a variation on one simple question: What the hell does it all mean?

Continue reading: The Big Empty Review

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Doug Mankoff Movies

Truth Movie Review

Truth Movie Review

That generic title obscures a surprisingly complex exploration of the real-life events surrounding the fall...

The Joneses Movie Review

The Joneses Movie Review

A darkly comical satire about affluence might seem a bit ill-timed during a global recession....

Advertisement
The City Movie Review

The City Movie Review

The people of David Riker's The City (La Ciudad) are easily recognizable: poor destitute Mexican...

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