For F*** Magazine


Director : James Vanderbilt
Cast : Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach
Genre : Biography/Drama
Run Time : 126 mins
Opens : 17 March 2016
Rating : M18 (Some Nudity And Coarse Language)

The Bible tells us that “the truth shall set you free”, but there are times when it can feel like the truth can hold you prisoner, as Cate Blanchett finds out in this drama. Blanchett plays Mary Mapes, the producer of CBS’ primetime news program 60 Minutes Wednesday. In the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election, 60 Minutes airs a story about President George W. Bush receiving preferential treatment from his superiors at the Texas Air National Guard, with memos allegedly authored by Bush’s commander Lt. Col. Jerry Killian as proof. Mapes, her team and veteran news anchor and 60 Minutes presenter Dan Rather (Redford) come under fire after the program is aired, with multiple viewers calling the veracity of the documents procured by 60 Minutes into question. Rather, hitherto a widely respected figure in broadcast news, finds his reputation threatened as Mapes scrambles to defend herself and prove that 60 Minutes did not lie to the American public.

            Truth is based on Mapes’ 2005 memoir entitled “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power.” Writer/director James Vanderbilt adapted the book for the screen and he makes his directorial debut with this film. Because Mapes’ account of events is the primary source, it cannot be expected that Truthis an objective depiction of the Killian Documents controversy, which came to be colloquially known as “Memogate” and “Rathergate”. The 60 Minutes story was one of the first pieces of investigative broadcast journalism to be dissected and torn apart online by bloggers and CBS was blasted for apparently exhibiting a liberal bias by running the anti-Bush story without thoroughly verifying these documents. Somewhere in there, there’s a gripping tale of the profound responsibility that journalists must uphold and Truth did get this reviewer invested in Mapes’ journey, but the film is pervaded with a sense of heavy-handed portentousness and turns out to be far less incisive than it thinks it is.

            Contrary to its title, Truth can’t help but feel phony at times. While this is a slicker, better-made film than many directorial debuts, Vanderbilt’s attempts to drum up the excitement and establish grave stakes feel slightly overblown. One of the culprits is Brian Tyler’s musical score, which heaves with bombast and sounds like something out of Air Force One. Quaid plays Col. Roger Charles, a member of Mapes’ investigative team, and it seems his primary function is to dispense exposition. There is a cringe-worthy scene set in a plane in which Charles explains to freelance reporter Mike Smith (Grace) that Mapes’ father physically abused her and that Mapes sees Rather as a father figure. There are also so many “what have I done?” moments in which realization dawns on Mapes that the scandal has taken another terrible turn, that it borders on self-parody.

            Vanderbilt’s trump card is his cast, especially lead performers Blanchett and Redford who are expectedly excellent. In spite of how many times the story trips over itself, the duo carries it to the finish line in tandem. Blanchett’s Mapes is doggedly persistent and suffers no fools, someone who is dedicated to her job and witnesses her life’s work crumbling around her. Truth would very much obviously like us to take Mapes’ side, and Blanchett’s portrayal of her ensures that we do – at least up until the movie ends and we start reflecting on the proceedings in-depth. Redford bears little physical resemblance to the famous newsman, and when playing someone so recognisable, perhaps physical resemblance should count for something. However, he has no trouble at all creating a warm, trustworthy and respectable figure and the interaction between Redford and Blanchett does possess a degree of heart.

            The rest of the characters are disappointingly two-dimensional; propping up the story as it progresses – Grace is the comic relief, lying on the couch, tossing a baseball in the air and asking the rest of the people in the room “you guys feel like pizza?” Quaid, as mentioned earlier, recaps things “as you know”-style for the audience. Moss, as associate producer Lucy Scott, has precious little to do. The various CBS higher-ups grumble/yell at Mapes and her team, occasionally flinging objects across the room in frustration. It turns out that securing Blanchett and Redford is a casting coup not just because they’re talented actors but because there’s little else to recommend in the film beyond them.
            Truth is made with polish but lacks finesse, an indignant cry that is far from altogether convincing in making us re-evaluate the events of over 10 years ago. The film desperately wants viewers to see Mapes and Rather as righteous martyrs laying their careers on the line and going down with their ship, a point of view that CBS has slammed. It’s not a case of “here are the facts; draw your own conclusions” because of the side the film takes, but the look behind the scenes at the politics of journalistic ethics, however flawed, is nonetheless fascinating. Perhaps Vanderbilt did as a good a job as possible with the stipulation that Mapes and Rather must be portrayed as the good guys, but then again, it feels like the title “Truth?” would be a better fit.

Summary: Truth is clumsy, preachy and Oscar-baity, not entirely successful in convincing viewers that its protagonists’ lapses in judgement were justifiable and forgivable. However, it’s impossible to overlook Blanchett and Redford’s stellar performances.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Planes: Fire and Rescue

For F*** Magazine


Director : Roberts Gannaway
Cast : Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Stacy Keach, Danny Mann, Julie Bowen, Wes Studi, Dale Dye, Teri Hatcher, Hal Holbrook
Opens : 4 September 2014
Rating : G
Running time: 84 mins


         This year, we’ve seen the release of some highly anticipated sequels: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, to name a few. Here’s one that’s not so highly anticipated, the follow-up to last year’s Carsspin-off Planes. Facing trouble with his gearbox, cropduster-turned-racing-champ Dusty (Cook) is forced to give up racing. Dusty decides to train to become a firefighter, stepping in for aging fire truck Mayday (Holbrook). Reporting for duty at Piston Peak National Park, he is mentored by the gruff Blade Ranger (Harris) and attracts the over-zealous affection of new colleague Lil’ Dipper (Bowen).

            Following the box-office success of Planes, originally intended as a straight-to-video release, one imagines the discussion in the Disney boardroom went something like this: “okay, so we sold lots of tickets and merchandise on that Cars with Wings movie. Let’s rush out a sequel. What can happen in this one?”

“Uh, he becomes a firefighter?”
“What has that got to do with racing?

“Uh, nothing.”
“Great! Now go make that movie.”
            Disney has long been held as a bastion of quality family entertainment, but they’re most certainly not above churning out a production line flick for the sake of making a quick buck. Planes: Fire and Rescue combines another formulaic story with juvenile humour and a few quick, inappropriately dirty gags for the older audience members to snicker at. Just as in the previous film, the animation is not bad at all, given DisneyToon Studios’ reputation as the B-team. The kids will go in for the bright colours and there’s a white water rapids sequence that’s somewhat cool. However, the film fails to muster up any real energy or sense of peril. This is a movie about fighting fires and yet it is largely bereft of thrills or any semblance of danger. Kids want to be excited and wowed too; at least a few will find this film lacklustre – especially when compared with the airborne action of the afore-mentioned How to Train Your Dragon sequel.

            Believe us when we say this: yet again, your personal tolerance threshold for puns will be tested. One of the VIPs at a mountain resort re-opening is “Boat Reynolds”, Dusty exclaims “I kicked As-ton Martin up there!” and apparently, a “George Lexus” produced “Howard the Truck”. Just as the first film had its cringe-inducing national stereotypes with racing planes from various nations, here we get Wes Studi as the Native American helicopter Windlifter, speaking entirely in stock platitudes. There’s not much to say about the voice acting. Dane Cook tries to sound earnest and it’s easier not wanting to punch the notoriously unlikeable comedian without seeing his face. Ed Harris does the “harsh taskmaster who actually has a tragic back-story” thing fine; he’s Ed Harris. Julie Bowen squeaks through all her lines as the clingy, borderline stalker-ish Dipper. The vocal cameos by real-life Hollywood couple Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara as two elderly RVs celebrating their anniversary lends the slightest modicum of charm to the often-grating proceedings. “CHoPs”, a take-off on 70s cop show CHiPs but starring two helicopters, did get a chuckle out of this reviewer.

            The film opens with a surprisingly solemn title card that reads “dedicated to the courageous firefighters around the world who risk their lives to save the lives of others” as noble-sounding horns play in the background. What follows are talking planes, bad puns and a moth-eaten story. We have the utmost respect for firefighters and other emergency servicemen and women – if we were firefighters, we’d be feeling at least a little insulted. At one point, Dipper lowers her retractable wing pontoon, squeezing Dusty next to her. “Oh yeah, they’re real,” she purrs. Real classy, DisneyToon Studios. Real classy.

Summary: Solid animation can’t make up for how rushed, formulaic and alternately unfunny and lowbrow Planes: Fire and Rescue is. They can’t all be Frozen.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong