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Mr. Jones

This found-footage horror thriller has an intriguing premise: a couple on an extended retreat to work on their ailing marriage discover random totemic works of art in their wilderness vicinity.

Penny (Sarah Jones) realizes they are the work of a legendary artist known as "Mr. Jones." For years, the anonymous sculptor has created these weird artworks, many suggestive of crucifixion, and sent them out to seemingly random recipients all over the world, each of whom have their lives altered by the dubious gift, and not in a positive way.

Scott (Jon Foster) was making a documentary anyway, a nature/personal documentary of the type that no one would want to watch (hence likely to be eligible for Telefilm funding). So he focuses on the shadowy Mr. Jones, tracking him to his residence where he has a basement full of sculptures and a sub-basement filled with something evidently more terrifying.

The found-footage gimmick gets a new wrinkle: Scott has outfitted his camera so that it simultaneously records the action in front of the camera and the photographer's reactions behind the camera. Hence, expect lots of extreme close-up terror, which somewhat compensates for much of the incomprehensible, hard-to-discern footage that constitutes most of this movie's third act. (Found footage or not, underlit is underlit.)

Writer-director Karl Mueller wrote the locally lensed Xavier Gens movie The Divide, and this movie shares the same problem: a solid premise devolves into nonsensical, pseudo-profound, what-the-hell-is-going-on climax.

This time, Mueller has no one but himself to blame. 2 stars


Veronica Mars

Fans of Kristen Bell's decade-old cult TV series are directly responsible for this crowdfunded movie, raising some $5 million of the budget on Kickstarter over three days.

Bell was grateful for the opportunity -- and she should be. Her movie career has included egregious horrors such as Burlesque, You Again and When In Rome. She needed to get back to Mars more than her fans.

During the TV series (2004-2007), Veronica enjoyed the distinction of being a teen private eye. She is past that now: the movie begins with Veronica, in the vicinity of 30 and fresh out of law school, trying to land a job with a prestigious firm in New York City. But before she can reel in that gig, she is lured back to her Southern California hometown of Neptune, where her hotheaded old beau Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) has been accused of the murder of his pop star girlfriend.

Director/show creator Rob Thomas allows for the return of show characters played by the likes of Krysten Ritter, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Lowell and Tina Majorino, with amusing contributions from the likes of James Franco and Jerry O'Connell. But the movie itself holds up as a decent murder mystery that gives Bell the opportunity to be cool, resourceful and funny, qualities that have, alas, eluded her in most of her other movie roles. 3 stars

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2014 C15

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