David Manning, a film reviewer for the Ridgefield Press, seemed completely normal — if curiously vapid. His blurbs appeared in marketing material for several Columbia films last year. Manning raved over “Hollow Man,” “Vertical Limit,” “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Animal,” which strikes me as almost comically bad at best and an example of movie-review payola at worst.
Actually, that wasn’t the worst. Manning does not in fact exist. He was invented by [Columbia parent] Sony’s marketing department. It’s not as if they don’t essentially buy reviews already with gravy-train perqs like free trips, posh meals, and the like for much of the movie press — maybe these films were so bad even bribery couldn’t generate good ink. The scandal here, as MSNBC points out, isn’t so much that Manning didn’t exist — that’s clearly unacceptable. The troublesome bit is what IS acceptable.