To hell, with the truth

What if the big stories of 2007 were put on film?

Even though films often require years of development, many of the reality-based features released in recent months bear more than a passing resemblance to 2007’s ripped-from-the-headline stories …

The Assassination of Duke Lacrosse by the Coward Michael Nifong

Elegiac mood piece brings the code of the Old West into the modern era. The Duke Lacrosse gang is notorious in their part of the Deep South for their whoopin’ and hollerin’. But there are jealous folks gunning for the boys, hoping to win personal glory by bringing them down. Self-righteous Marshal Nifong knows they’re not guilty of a particularly heinous charge but goes after them anyway, telling the press, “When the legend becomes truth, print the legend.” The media string him up in the end.

Britney: The Foolish Age

Sequel to “Britney, The Teen Age” opens with the Queen (Cate Blanchett) in tenuous control of her pop empire, beset by the forces of snarky gossipmongers known as the Spanish Paparmada, led by Perez the Inquisitor who calls her a whore. Her need for an heir draws her toward the bold adventurer Kevin Federline (Clive Owen), who gallantly places his cloak over a puddle before realizing she made it. Two sons follow, but when his ambitions eclipse hers, he is banished. Roaring to her enemies, “I too can control the wind!,” she performs at the VMA Awards, where she seems to have no wind at all. She shaves her head in the struggle for control of her sons and reputation, and pic ends in triumph with a new album that sets her subjects to shouting, “Gimme more!” More will follow in next sequel, “Britney: The Washed-Up Age.”

Zodiac 2: If I Did It

Terrormeister David Fincher anatomizes another decades-long hunt for an elusive killer. Some particularly grisly murders electrify a prosperous California city. Law enforcement officers think they know who’s guilty, but a ton of evidence can’t persuade a jury. The suspect uses the media to taunt the authorities with hints about the truth: “I’ll search every golf course in the world for the real killer.” Years pass and the suspect isn’t heard from, but dogged journalists Dominick Dunne (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Greta Van Susteren (Chloe Sevigny) refuse to let the case go. Then a bulletin from out of town: A man claims to have been burgled at gunpoint by the suspect and his buddies. Will justice finally triumph? Tantalizing hints, but no conclusive ending …

American Cruiser

The country is rocked by inappropriate behavior in this procedural, which follows Sgt. Dave and Larry Craig — the hunter and the hunted, the cruised and the cruiser — through two parallel stories that come together in the end. When not kicking back with rough trade, Larry is a big swingin’ dick in D.C. politics, taking a wide stance on the issues of the day. Back in the Midwest, Sgt. Dave lurks in men’s lounges hoping to stop the wave of toe-tapping and furtive groping that threatens to bring down the American way of life. After Larry’s arrested development in an airport toilet, Sgt. Dave is rewarded with a promotion to a larger and more palatial men’s room in a luxury hotel.

300 Sportsmen

A pretentious, gabby narrator (Bob Costas) tells of the impossibly bulked-up 300, banded together in insufferable hubris to challenge the forces of the High Commissioner, King Xerxselig, who sneers, “I will erase your names from the history books — or, at least, append an asterisk.” The Giant warrior Barribonds racks up 762 kills, but there is dissension: Hearing the cry, “Look! Those dogs are attacking!,” Michael Vick immediately puts down a bet. A sleepy troll (Don Imus) announces, “Ho! I’m headed for a nappy” and is torn to pieces. The self-styled martyrs are commemorated in the famous verse: “Go tell the sportsmen, passer-by/That by sportsman law we take steroids, disappoint fans and throw games without blinking an eye.”

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