Tag Archives: Image Entertainment

Spirit of the Marathon (2007, Jon Dunham)

Director Dunham’s thesis for Spirit of the Marathon is a little iffy. He clearly wants to show the differences and similarities between marathon runners–Dunham and the rest of the crew have zero presence in the documentary, which is fine (eventually). He goes from the people doing it for fun, to people doing it for personal achievement, to people competing for the win. He does a fantastic job evening out the attention he gives each subject.

But he doesn’t really learn anything. Or, if he does, he doesn’t tell. The film ends with postscripts, catching the viewer up with the Spirit’s ostensible subjects. Only, Dunham completely changes how the documentary functions once it gets to the Chicago Marathon, where all the subjects are running.

And the marathon stuff is fantastic. Christo Brock’s editing is great throughout Spirit, but the flow of the actual marathon is phenomenal. It races past, with Dunham concentrating most of the attention on the two professional runners. It becomes a traditional sports movie narrative and no one else’s story is particularly interesting, even when it hints at high drama. There just isn’t time for the regular folks.

Spirit of the Marathon is a little shallow, but it’s never insincere. It’s just too bad Dunham couldn’t figure out a way for the marathon to be glorious for everyone, not just the professionals. He was undoubtedly restricted while shooting the actual marathon but his solution makes those postscripts seem disingenuous on the documentary’s part.

Still, pretty good.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jon Dunham; directors of photography, Dunham and Sarah Levy; edited by Christo Brock; music by Jeff Beal; produced by Dunham and Gwendolen Twist; released by Image Entertainment.


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Devil’s Knot (2013, Atom Egoyan)

There are plenty of things one simply cannot do in two hours; if Devil's Knot is any indication, one cannot try to tell the story of the trial of the West Memphis Three in two hours. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson's script seems to do quite a bit well–for the first third of the film, the horrific nature of the crimes has the film sympathizing with the police officers (Robert Baker in particular), only to later reveal incompetence and corruption on these characters' parts.

Then, once the script's obviously manipulative nature becomes clear, it's hard to take Knot seriously. The deception makes little sense, since the film's written for people familiar with the case (as there's no explanation why Damien Echols isn't executed at the end).

As for second-billed Reese Witherspoon, who plays a grieving mother looking for the truth, her arc's incompetently handled. At least Colin Firth doesn't have an arc or character development. It may very well be historically accurate, but it's far from dramatic.

There are some excellent performances. Kevin Durand and Alessandro Nivola are both good as suspicious fathers. Amy Ryan has a nice scene. Firth isn't bad. Witherspoon eventually gets a little better–but it's too little too late. Much of the supporting cast and some of the principals are weak. Especially James Hamrick as Echols.

Mychael Danna's score is manipulative and derivative. Director Egoyan does an insincere job. It's tepid, vaguely incompetent and Oscar-desperate.

Its compelling nature has nothing to do with the filmmaking.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Atom Egoyan; screenplay by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, based on the book by Mara Leveritt; director of photography, Paul Sarossy; edited by Susan Shipton; music by Mychael Danna; production designer, Phillip Barker; produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Richard Saperstein, Clark Peterson, Christopher Woodrow and Boardman; released by Image Entertainment.

Starring Colin Firth (Ron Lax), Reese Witherspoon (Pam Hobbs), Dane DeHaan (Chris Morgan), Mireille Enos (Vicki Hutcheson), Bruce Greenwood (Judge David Burnett), Elias Koteas (Jerry Driver), Stephen Moyer (John Fogleman), Alessandro Nivola (Terry Hobbs), Amy Ryan (Margaret Lax), Robert Baker (Det. Bryn Ridge), Kevin Durand (John Mark Byers), Michael Gladis (Dan Stidham), James Hamrick (Damien Echols), Martin Henderson (Brent Davis), Kristopher Higgins (Jessie Misskelley Jr.), Brian Howe (Detective McDonough), Matt Letscher (Paul Ford), Seth Meriwether (Jason Baldwin), Rex Linn (Inspector Gary Gitchell), Kristoffer Polaha (Val Price) and Collette Wolfe (Glori Shettles).


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The Colony (2013, Jeff Renfroe)

The Colony really took four writers? It’s only eighty-some minutes long. Not surprisingly, director Renfroe contributed to the script. Maybe he put in all the terrible action sequences he knew only he could screw up.

Renfroe’s not a terrible director. All the new ice age shots are good, the confined dialogue scenes are okay… sure, he’s bad with actors, but the script’s got a lot of problems and, frankly, many of the actors are just bad.

Lead Kevin Zegers, for instance, is awful. He has one expression and a little goatee to show he’s secretly tough. Since the picture is so short, all the character establishing stuff in the first act is left dangling. Atticus Dean Mitchell, playing a scared teenager opposite Zegers, is so much better it’s uncomfortable.

What Renfroe does have going for him is the two aces in the hole–Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton. The script fails Paxton dreadfully; at a certain point, he just seems to give up–but Fishburne’s fantastic. He’s got a couple outstanding monologues, but he’s great throughout. Not great enough to make The Colony worth seeing, but great.

There are some other good performances. Charlotte Sullivan isn’t bad as Zeger’s girl. She’s leagues better than him anyway. John Tench is okay, though again… script fails him. You’d think four writer could get one successful character arc.

Half awful (during Renfroe’s incompetent action scenes), half good music from Jeff Danna.

The Colony’s a derivative B movie. Should’ve been a better one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jeff Renfroe; screenplay by Renfroe, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier and Svet Rouskov, based on a story by Tarr and Trottier; director of photography, Pierre Gill; edited by Aaron Marshall; music by Jeff Danna; production designer, Aidan Leroux; produced by Paul Barkin, Matthew Cervi, Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin; released by Image Entertainment.

Starring Kevin Zegers (Sam), Bill Paxton (Mason), Charlotte Sullivan (Kai), John Tench (Viktor), Atticus Dean Mitchell (Graydon), Dru Viergever (Feral Leader), Romano Orzari (Reynolds) and Laurence Fishburne (Briggs).


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In the Electric Mist (2008, Bertrand Tavernier)

In the Electric Mist is a perfect example of how not to adapt a novel into a film. The source novel is the sixth novel in a series and the film–in a seemingly bold but utterly misguided move (much of it would be incoherent if I hadn’t once read the novel)–assumes the viewer is going to be familiar with all of the previous novels. There’s absolutely no introduction to the characters who aren’t related to the mystery–the film’s reliance on implying past knowledge is actually pretty cool, because it only relies on someone listening. But there are a bunch of characters who go without any explanation. It’s a film for fans of the novel series, which hurts it.

It’s a shame, because Tommy Lee Jones has a good role here. It allows him to do his more mannered performance, but mix in a little of that pseudo-action hero thing he does. Not a lot of it, but enough someone could cut a teaser trailer with it in there. In the Electric Mist doesn’t seem to be putting itself out there as a franchise starter, but the approach to the adaptation implies otherwise. There’s nothing particularly significant about the events in this picture–Jones meets movie stars, played by Peter Sarsgaard and Kelly Macdonald, and he says he’s familiar with their work… but it’s never touched on. At no time does he seem like someone who goes to the movies a lot or sits back and watches the CW. There’s a bevy of supporting characters–John Goodman’s goateed mobster and Pruitt Taylor Vince as a cop sidekick–who don’t have any real weight. It’s impossible to imagine these characters interacting together off screen.

The film also has an incredibly silly voiceover gimmick. Jones narrates his adventure, in the past tense, simply because the film doesn’t want to have a lengthy run time. Sometimes he narrates transitions, so there don’t have to be scenes. It’s obvious and annoying.

And the mystery isn’t particularly engaging, maybe because it’s really not a mystery the way the film presents it. Jones is having hallucinations of a Civil War general advising him (these sequences are handled terribly) and they move the story more than any thought processes.

Bertrand Tavernier is a fine director. His Panavision framing–I think he went wide so it wouldn’t seem like a TV movie–is excellent. There’s some bad focusing, but otherwise the visuals are solid. Marco Beltrami’s score gets repetitive and annoying pretty quick though.

Jones is good, Goodman’s okay, Vince’s okay. Sarsgaard’s amazing–I’ve seen him before, but never turn in anything like this performance. It’s just fantastic. Macdonald’s good. Ned Beatty’s not good though, which is depressing. James Gammon’s amazing. Mary Steenburgen and Justina Machado are both good–though neither have anything to do and they really ought to. John Sayles shows up for a cameo, essaying the kind of Hollywood director who’d do a Civil War movie. He has a lot of fun.

In the Electric Mist has a bad ending. It’s already got the disadvantage of being narrated by the protagonist, but the end goes and changes the protagonist for a cute fade out. It’s an awful move.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Bernard Tavernier; screenplay by Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski, based on a novel by James Lee Burke; director of photography, Bruno de Keyzer; edited by Larry Madaras and Roberto Silvi; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Merideth Boswell; produced by Frédéric Bourboulon and Michael Fitzgerald; released by Image Entertainment.

Starring Tommy Lee Jones (Dave Robicheaux), John Goodman (Julie ‘Baby Feet’ Balboni), Peter Sarsgaard (Elrod Sykes), Kelly Macdonald (Kelly Drummond), Mary Steenburgen (Bootsie Robicheaux), Justina Machado (Rosie Gomez), Ned Beatty (Twinky LeMoyne), James Gammon (Ben Hebert), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Lou Girard), Levon Helm (General John Bell Hood), Buddy Guy (Sam ‘Hogman’ Patin), Julio Cedillo (Cholo Manelli), Alana Locke (Alafair Robicheaux) and John Sayles (Michael Goldman).