Michael Jeter

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The Green Mile Review


Excellent
The Green Mile? Let's talk about 26 miles. The length of a marathon. Start the race and the movie together: The race would long be over before the film. The winner would be at home, taking a nap. Yes, The Green Mile is three hours long.

Not that long movies have never been successful, and not that The Green Mile is bad. You might even think a long movie is required here. Pulled from Stephen King's acclaimed series of six books by the same name, King returns to the kind of work he was doing in The Shawshank Redemption (based on a short story of his), the kind that seems to perform the best, away from splatter and gore, and into the minds of the strangest of characters.

Continue reading: The Green Mile Review

The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

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The Naked Man Review


Weak
Nothing makes you want to see a movie as much as a title like The Naked Man, does it? Feels like a vanity project: Michael Rapaport is Edward Blis, a chiropracter becomes a wrestler (clad in a leotard painted with the human anatomy, he's known as "the naked man") and later a sort of vigilante super-hero. Rapaport isn't terribly memorable, nor is the oddball script (co-written by Ethan Coen), but give it a whirl if only for Rachael Leigh Cook's leather-clad, hair-teased psycho-vixen, with love/hate tattooed across her breasts.

Jurassic Park III Review


Excellent

Dinosaurs!

While the first Jurassic Park was mediocre and the second film god-awful, Jurassic Park III finally gets the formula right. These movies were never meant to be science heavy or overly sentimental; they should've been what #3 is -- an amusement park thrill ride packed wall-to-wall with dinosaurs and more dinosaurs, clocking in at less than 90 minutes with as little dialogue and subplot as possible. Plus, big bonus -- no Jeff Goldblum!

Instead of Goldblum, JP3 brings back Sam Neill as the slightly grizzled Dr. Alan Grant who seems happy to put his terrifying up-close dino experiences behind him. Grant and his new protégé Billy (Alessandro Nivola) are once again looking for funding for their research, and are coaxed into accompanying a new wealthy benefactor -- Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (Téa Leoni) -- on a fly-over of the second Jurassic island, Isla Sorna. But things turn ugly when the Kirbys announce they plan to land on the island to search for their 14-year-old son Eric (Trevor Morgan) who was conveniently lost there while paragliding. When the group ends up crash landing in the jungle, the movie becomes a race to see who will get off the island and who will become lunch. (Sounds like a cool idea for the next Survivor.)

While dialogue has never been these films' strongest suit, JP3 remedies this by having less of it. Regardless, the writers behind this screenplay-of-fewer-words are pretty impressive: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor are the minds behind Citizen Ruth and Election. It comes off as a bit like how a dumb movie turns out when it's penned by smart people (like a Wayne's World) -- lots of action peppered with throw-away goofball lines like, "They weren't making dinosaurs; they were playing God."

As evidenced by dialogue like that, JP3 doesn't take itself too seriously, which is perhaps its saving grace; and it pulls no punches when taking potshots at the other two movies. For example, when Grant finds Eric (or, rather, after Eric rescues Grant), Eric tells the scientist, "I've read both your books. I liked the first one better than the second." Also, the so-called millionaire Kirby turns out to be a plumber. So much for a repeat of John Hammond.

Above all, JP3 packs in more dinosaurs per square inch than any other JP film before it. This time, big, angry reptiles are coming out of the sky and water as well as land, and the filmmakers even introduce a dino to rival the T. Rex, a massive monster called Spinosaur (that's right, dino-fighting). And, of course, the raptors are back, and now they can communicate with each other (don't ask, evolution's a bitch). Most importantly, none of the humans try to fight the dinosaurs themselves, so we won't be seeing any unbelievable scenes of kids knocking out velociraptors with a few gymnastics kicks.

Efficiently crammed with lots of thrills, Jurassic Park III may come off as a little bit like a big-budget B-movie, but you're not likely to have a better time at a blockbuster this summer. It's just loud, smash-and-crash monster movie fun at its finest.

The DVD extras focus on the film's special effects -- surprisingly, very little CGI, very many animatronic legs and jaws.

Continue reading: Jurassic Park III Review

Air Bud Review


OK
Quaint children's film about a basketball playing dog and a kid depressed because of his father's death. Only Disney could do something like this.

Thursday Review


OK
A definite sleeper, not for the faint of heart. Thursday features 24 hours in the life of a reformed drug dealer, who has been trying to put his life in order for the last four years. When his old partner rolls into town and drops a load of smack in his L.A. house, all manner of nefarious sorts stop by to collect it. Body count ensues, plus Paulina Porizkova in (and out of) a red, rubber dress. I'll buy that for a dollar.

The Green Mile Review


Excellent
The Green Mile? Let's talk about 26 miles. The length of a marathon. Start the race and the movie together: The race would long be over before the film. The winner would be at home, taking a nap. Yes, The Green Mile is three hours long.

Not that long movies have never been successful, and not that The Green Mile is bad. You might even think a long movie is required here. Pulled from Stephen King's acclaimed series of six books by the same name, King returns to the kind of work he was doing in The Shawshank Redemption (based on a short story of his), the kind that seems to perform the best, away from splatter and gore, and into the minds of the strangest of characters.

Continue reading: The Green Mile Review

Jakob the Liar Review


Grim
Goooooooooooooooooooooooooood Morning, Auschwitz!

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Drop Zone Review


Grim
Woo-hoo, it's a parachutin' movie! Thrill to Wesley Snipes falling through the sky to fight crime! Jolt yourself awake before the lights come back on! If you're looking for excitement, try jumping out of a plane.

Open Range Review


Grim
During a summer in which TV remakes, romantic comedies, sequels, and comic book movies overcrowd at the multiplexes, Open Range is the only Western scheduled for release. While I give kudos to Dances with Wolves auteur Kevin Costner -- who directs, produces, and acts in the film -- for broadening the range of this season's genres, I only wish that I could welcome the film's drastic change of pace. Frankly, I'd rather watch another stupid superhero flick.

It's 1882, and best friends Charley (Costner) and Boss (Robert Duvall) are cowboys who have lived on the open range for ten years, driving cattle in a world where nature makes the only laws. Roaming the West with them are rambunctious young cowboys Button (Diego Luna), Mose (Abraham Benrubi), and Charley's faithful dog. When a rainstorm strands their wagon, Charley and Boss send Mose to the nearest frontier town to gather additional supplies. When he doesn't return, they decide to take a visit to the town -- with their revolvers at hand -- to search for him.

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Welcome to Collinwood Review


Excellent
Among the ever-impressive list of projects undertaken by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's Section Eight production group (Ocean's Eleven, this year's Insomnia), the ironically titled Welcome to Collinwood is one of the best. Anthony and Joe Russo's lovable crime comedy, which boasts a talented comic cast -- including Clooney himself, in a small but invaluable role -- is the finest debut by a creative team since the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix) made Bound.

Basing their premiere feature on the little-seen Italian comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), the writing, directing Russos set their film -- a finely tuned, brilliantly designed, screwball romp -- in the Ohio city of the title, which they've drawn as decrepit, to say the least. Collinwood is painted as low rent, low wage, and low class, where every sidewalk square is cracked and so are the people that walk on them.

Continue reading: Welcome to Collinwood Review

The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

The Gift (2000) Review


Grim
Maybe Paramount held back on giving The Gift a wide release during the Christmas season to avoid too many reviewers saying, "This Gift is a holiday lump of coal..." or something like that. If so, good call.

The latest from Sam Raimi (For Love of the Game) is a muddled thriller, filled with tired clichés and some of the worst casting in years. Raimi, along with screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, try so hard to create a "serious" psychic chiller that the film is practically drained of any excitement.

Continue reading: The Gift (2000) Review

True Crime Review


Good
How'd I miss this one on the big screen? True Crime may have that feel of typical Clint Eastwood-self-promotion, but it is ultimately a considerably gripping meditation on the press and its role in the legal system. While elements feel a bit too much like Dead Man Walking, some excellent performances by Eastwood, Leary, and Woods make this a film worth watching. The story can be tepid and predictable at times, but overall it's a credible stab at crafting a legal thriller.

Welcome To Collinwood Review


Weak

The entire, very talented cast of the caper comedy "Welcome to Collinwood" is clearly having a good time playing criminal washouts who know more about their own local-crook jargon than they do about breaking and entering. But you get the feeling watching it that having a good time took precedence over making anything more than an insubstantial romp designed to entertain themselves.

Amusing but otherwise forgettable, the flick stars Luis Guzman (also in this week's "Punch-Drunk Love") as an imprisoned petty thief who hears about a supposed dream heist opportunity from a lifer he's serving time with and says to himself, "This could be my Belini!" But he needs a Melinski to take the fall and someone who can pull a Krasner at the Shylock's office they'll break into, so the job doesn't turn into a real kaputchnick.

But in the process of trying to line up a patsy, his girlfriend on the outside (Patricia Clarkson) ends up with half a dozen hapless partners instead -- including a hopelessly amateur boxer (Sam Rockwell), an unemployed photographer (William H. Macy) who carts his infant son everywhere he goes because his can't afford his wife's bail, a frail old thief (Michael Jeter) who can't complete a sentence without pausing for breath, a dubiously "expert" safe-cracker in a wheelchair (George Clooney) who is a little cracked himself, and a couple more small-time hustlers (Isaiah Washington and Andrew Davoli).With stars such as these employing the cheeky comic instincts they've honed, often together, in flicks by David Mamet and/or Steven Soderbergh (who produced this picture with Clooney), the frivolity is contagious, even if the plot and the gags are, more often than not, obvious, broad and overused.

Continue reading: Welcome To Collinwood Review

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