Doug Mankoff

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.

Continue reading: Truth 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.)

Continue reading: Dreamland 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

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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...

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