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Michael James Allen RSS Feed (Michigan, USA)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Orange County" a Fantastic Film That Transcends Its Genre, March 16, 2002
The thoughts I had going into "Orange County" were most likely the same thoughts many people might have about this film: I went into the theater thinking that it had the intense possibility to be just another stupid teen film that is made primarily to showcase a pop soundtrack available at stores near you and to showcase Jack Black being loud and running around (Certainly, the television spots for this film don't do much to discourage this notion). So I had large doubts about the quality of "Orange County." Luckily, my doubts were ill-founded. "Orange County" is a fantastic film that manages to play its cards just right and come out the winner.
The film stars Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks who, from the looks of this film, has leading-man status written all over him) as a high schooler who desparately wants to become a writer and, furthermore, study at Stanford University in California. Through a mishap his high school transcripts are sent under the wrong name and he is not accepted to the school. The rest of the film is a manic and laugh-out-loud attempt to try and get himself into Stanford.
It should be stated that, yes, this is a teen movie, but it's a smart teen movie with a razor sharp script (from Mike White who made the fantastic "Chuck & Buck" and has a very sharp eye for playful and humorous dialogue; he also has a hilarious cameo in the movie as an idiotic English teacher). Yes, the movie also has a pop soundtrack, but the music is smartly picked and used and, thus, enhances the story taking place. And yes, Jack Black is loud and runs around a lot, but his character is not nearly as influential on the story as the horrible TV Spots have led you to believe, and his supporting character does make for a very hysterical distraction from the main plot (In addition to a funny Jack Black, the film is also chock full of celebrity cameos that are all humorous to various degrees, most notably John Lithgow and Harold Ramis).
All in all, "Orange County" is a funny comedy in the veign of films like "There's Something About Mary." It's a crowd-pleasing film, but it's a smart and genuinely humorous crowd-pleasing film. It may not be for all tastes, but if you're looking for a laugh, you should give "Orange County" a try.


No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The time flies by in "The Time Machine", March 10, 2002
...
No better words describe the type of film that "The Time Machine" is better than "crowd pleaser." The movie tries to cram action, romance, drama, philosophy, tragedy, and even light shades of comedy all into a movie that has a surprisingly short running time (The movie comes in approximately an hour and twenty minutes, give or take, by my count). And while some of these aspects of the film succeed at varying levels, the movie is flawed and gives off the feeling that it was rushed.
It should be noted that this film is VERY loosely based on "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells, and while it does share certain aspects of plotting and style with the book, H.G. Wells purists should probably not go see this movie, which adds much in terms of plot twists. The movie tells the story of a man (Guy Pearce) who is haunted by the fact that his fiance was killed, so he sets out on a quest to build a time machine so that he can go into the past to change what happened. He has success with the building of the time machine, but finds failure in his altering of the past. So, disparaged, he travels 8,000 years into the future, and that's really where the story starts. I wont say much more of the plot so not to spoil anything, but if you've seen anything about this film you'll know that he eventually becomes a hero, in one way or another.
The plot additions onto the original H.G. Wells story work fairly well and manage to steer clear of the trap of being cheap or corny. The performances are fairly good too. Guy Pearce manages to do a surprisingly good job of showing us his character's pains of memory and obsession with time travel (in other words, Guy Pearce carries the film valiantly). There is also a small but quaint role for Orlando Jones as a sort of "cyber-encyclopedia" in a library. The role is meant to be the comic relief, and while it is briefly funny, Orlando Jones manages to give it a nice dose of emotion too.
Despite it's strong points, however, "The Time Machine" fails to be a great film. It's pace, as mentioned before, is incredibly fast, and while most films could stand to be cut a little, this film actually needs more added to it. The film also has a few plot holes in it as well, so it doesn't really make complete sense. And an appearance by the usually fantastic actor Jeremy Irons is so brief and unfulfilling, you sort of wonder why he and his character were even in the film at all.
Great film or not, however, "The Time Machine" is an entertaining film and makes for an enjoyable watch. If you're looking for something to just pass the time with...you might as well give "The Time Machine" a go.


K-Pax (Collector's Edition)
K-Pax (Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Kevin Spacey
Price: $9.29
331 used & new from $0.01

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "K-Pax" is a Fantastic Film in Three Acts, March 3, 2002
This review is from: K-Pax (Collector's Edition) (DVD)
I've often been a fan of Kevin Spacey and have often felt that he has such a strong acting capability that he can carry a whole film, if need be. That was the thought I was having as I went in to see "K-Pax," a film in which Kevin Spacey plays a mysterious mental patient named prot, whom may or may not be an alien from a far away planet called K-Pax. On going into the theater I thought that I'd probably come out of it two hours later thinking Kevin Spacey was fantastic but that the rest of the movie was contrived; just some sort of cheap convention to show off Kevin Spacey's acting. I was very wrong indeed.
"K-Pax" is a wonderful film that plays with the mind almost as much as it plays with the heart. For the first part of the film (The first "act," as it were) you're convinced that Kevin Spacey is one thing. Then by the second part (Act Two) you're gradually convinced he's something entirely different. Then, by the third part (Act Three) you're turned completely on your head and don't know what to think. Throughout all of this, "K-Pax" is filled with a touching form of sentimentality that, while walking a thin line between touching and corny, manages to succeed and genuinely move the audience.
Most of the performances are great. As mentioned before, Kevin Spacey has an amazing talent for acting and his performance here is no exception; he definitely could carry this film, he just doesn't need to. Jeff Bridges (as the psychologist who studies Spacey) also gives a wonderful performance that's strong and touching, albeit a bit more low-key than Spacey's performance. In fact, the only actor who doesn't give a good performance in the film is Mary McCormack as Jeff Bridges' wife. She plays her role too one-note and eventually grows tedious to watch. This is a minor qualm, however, in an utterly fantastic film. "K-Pax" is certainly one of the underdog hits of 2001.
One minor note: Much attention has been given to the fact that the movie definitely makes you think. I find this to be most wondeful and fantastic, but I do know many so-called film "fans" who hate films they actually have to use their brains on. So, just a warning, "K-Pax" may not be your cup of tea if you don't like movies that make you think, or you don't like movies that don't have "concrete" endings that wrap the film up, all neat and tidy.


Hardball
Hardball
DVD ~ Keanu Reeves
134 used & new from $0.01

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Hardball"- The Oddest Movie Hybrid of the Year, February 25, 2002
This review is from: Hardball (DVD)
"Hardball" is like a movie that feels like it was made on an assembly line: This is to say that the movie feels like it is made of different parts, many of which don't fit together, and that the movie is trying too hard to please too many people. This is what is ultimately the problem with "Hardball," a wildly uneven and highly cliched movie. Oh yes, and the movie also stars one of successes greatest enigmas: Keanu Reeves. Many hailed his performance in "Hardball" as the greatest performance of his career... Trust me, folks: That MUST not be saying much.
"Hardball" tells the story of a man named Connor O'Neal (Keanu Reeves' brilliant character) who has a gambling problem that is portrayed very intensely. So intensely, in fact, that it would make for a fantastic and highly disturbing independant film. Unfortunately, this film was marketed as a family film, so it only comes across as highly disturbing without the fantastic.
Anyway, Connor O'Neal (through a few contrived plot twists) ends up coaching an inner city baseball team composed of foul-mouthed children. The child actors portraying these kids do convincing performances and come off very loveable and playful, making them one of the movie's few strengths.
Once again, "Hardball's" biggest fault minus Keanu and his "acting" is the fact that the movie tries to be too many things at once. It goes for intense, then it goes for playful, then it goes for fun, then it goes for thrilling, then it goes for romantic, then it goes for comedy, then it goes for tear-jerking, then it goes for pride, and etc. etc. etc. And all within about an hour-and-a-half's time. All in all, "Hardball" is a bit of a mess that, while a valiant effort, just isn't worth the money.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Two-Disc Special Widescreen Edition)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Two-Disc Special Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Offered by MoreThanMachines
Price: $28.70
187 used & new from $0.60

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Harry Potter" Entertaining If Nothing Else, February 22, 2002
Believe me, as an anti-Potter fan I went into "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" completely ready to hate it (in fact, I was even looking foward to leaving the theater and bashing it as much as possible). But I cannot do it. While it is certainly, certainly, CERTAINLY no masterpiece of cinema by any means, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" does manage to be entertaining and fun, holding a viewer's attention for its complete two-and-a-half hour run.
I credit the entertaining success of "Harry Potter..." to the fact that its script is very detailed, engrossing, and polished; not to mention that it gives all the fans of the books what they want by being as loyal as possible to the original text.
The film's entertainment also stems from the fact that the cast is a cavalcade of British actors ranging from newcomers (Daniel Radcliffe manages to give a strong performance as the title role) to seasoned actors (such as Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and Maggie Smith, who are always joys to watch and are certainly no exception here). The ensemble cast all gives performances that are very well thought out and, more importantly, it looks like everyone in the cast is having spectacular fun bringing the story and characters to life.
Yet "Harry Potter..." does have its weaknesses, and all these weaknesses are mainly the result of what is obviously a rushed product. It is very apparant in the special effects and some of the blocking and editing, that the film was rushed and not made to the best quality it could have been, in order to get it released during the holiday season. Because of all this, some of the scenery, costumes, and even characters look, sound, and feel phony and unbelievable: And in a movie where the enviroment and the characters that inhabit that enviroment are such an integral part of its charm, that can be a BIG problem.
Nevertheless, "Harry Potter" does entertain, and I cannot give it the bashing I would have hoped. If you're looking for something to fill a couple hours time or to perhaps show at a party or something of the sort, you might as well give "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" a try.


Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
DVD ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by Stephs Closet
Price: $6.33
174 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" a Disappointment, February 20, 2002
This review is from: Captain Corelli's Mandolin (DVD)
As much as a NORMALLY LOVE Penelope Cruz (that's sarcasm, folks!) her performance in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" isn't so much acting as it is a series of gawky smiles or frowns accompanied by girlish squeeks and squaks. This terrible acting is accented by Nicolas Cage, whose performance makes it seem like he researched his Italian accent by playing "Super Mario Bros." games.
Thus are the weaknesses of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," a valiant effort of a film that, nevertheless, fails to sizzle. And while the film does have its strengths, they ultimately can't save this picture.
Those strengths include John Hurt and Christian Bale. John Hurt plays the highly cliche part of "Wise Old Papa," and the part is, indeed, highly predictable and run-of-the-mill. But John Hurt is such a subtle and charming actor that he manages to rise above the part and make it a highly enjoyable performance, nevertheless. And Christian Bale does a convincing performance that makes him almost unrecognizable as Penolope Cruz's fiance before "Mamma Mia Nicolas Cage" comes into the story (It's hard to believe that this is the same Christian Bale who only a year before was playing an American WASP in "American Psycho"). These strong performances are coupled with beautiful locations and very smooth-looking cinematography.
Still, these strengths cannot save a dulled-down story and terrible leads, and all in all, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" is a disappointment. If by chance it happens to be on TV, I'd reccommend a quick watch of it, but if not, than you should probably save your money with this one.


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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Altman Shines WIth "Gosford Park", February 19, 2002
For moviegoers who've been around the block enough times to know that Robert Altman, as of late, has not been making the best films he possibly could be (although those recent films, like "The Gingerbread Man" and "Cookie's Fortune," are still lightyears beyond some trite pieces of cinematic garbage that either resort to shameful tricks and gags or use all of their cinematic resources in a desperate attempt that cries "Please! Give me an Oscar!"). So with this knowledge, one can truly appreciate the utter genius that is "Gosford Park."
An ensemble piece of the highest quality, "Gosford Park" is, at appearance, a murder mystery of the Agatha Christie variety, but is really a social commentary on the British class system of the early 20th-Century (although I'm sure it speaks just as relevant about the 21st-Century class system just as much). Robert Altman weaves this all together in a way that is not only intelligent, but also surprisingly entertaining and fun. "Fun" is a fantastically important word that is often ignored during the making of a film, but this time around, Robert Altman has strung together a highly stylized, classy film that takes that word and milks it for all its worth.
The ensemble also does a fantastic job in "Gosford Park." It's hard to pick people out of an ensemble (which is why ensemble films are called just that) but the calvalcade of British actors and actresses all assembled to play out the various Lords and Earls and their servants that inhabit this movie is outstanding. The few American actors peppered within the cast also manage to hold their own and do an outstanding job (Bob Balaban is wonderfully enjoyable, and even Ryan Phillippe, who I normally am not a fan of, displays an enjoyable air of mysicism about his character).
All in all, "Gosford Park" is a sublime mixture of style, fun, and great acting that is a joy to watch. Be warned, that it certainly takes some will power to get into the very slow-moving and subtle plot. But if you're looking for an intelligent movie that tickles the senses, than look no further than "Gosford Park."
And thank goodness Altman's back to fine form!


No Title Available

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Alas! Talent Wasted!, February 10, 2002
I had vowed to go watch the movie "Slackers," no matter what anyone had told me about it, because I was naively trying to convince myself, "Well, it has Jason Schwartzman... It must be good, right?" Well, I went and saw "Slackers" and was, much like many had told me I would be, disappointed. "Slackers" is unoriginal, uneven, and commits the cardinal sin of filmmaking: It wastes talent. There is, indeed, a lot of talented people involved with this film. The director, Dewey Nicks, displays a unique style that is modern and fun throughout this film. Jason Schwartzman, playing a stalker-in-training named Cool Ethan, is very funny playing a sort-of-riff on the character of Max Fischer from "Rushmore." And Devon Sawa showed a lot of acting promise in the film "SLC Punk!" so you'd expect him to deliver a funny/charming characterization.
Yet all this talent cannot save "Slackers" and, in fact, adds salt to the wound becuase "Slackers" could've been a very funny college campus black comedy in the veign of "Animal House." But it's not. Its story is so unoriginal and lame and its gross-out gags so dirty and unfunny that the story is a disgrace (on the subject of the gross-out comedy: When is Hollywood going to learn that gross-out gags aren't funny if the characters that they happen to are PROUD of them and don't care if they happen). Not only this, but the movie is also confusing and very scattered.
All in all, "Slackers" is an example of talent gone haywire. A film by only the strictest definition of the word. My advice is to just forget this movie was ever made and go rent "Rushmore" instead, to quench your thirst for a quality film.


No Title Available

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of "Tenenbaum" - Comedy doesn't always = laughs, February 1, 2002
After viewing the film "The Royal Tenenbaums" I left the theater in an odd state of mind. And after digesting the film a little while, something one MUST do after watching a Wes Anderson/Owen Wilson film, I've concluded it as the best comedy of the year and one of the top five films of the year (and the same thing happend when I viewed the film "Rushmore" a few years earlier). Then I decided to check what other people thought of the film and came onto Amazon.com to read people's reviews. I was very distraught with what I read, not so much because people disliked the film (some people, I should not lump ALL people in this category; there are SOME innovative filmgoers amongst you all) but because of why they didn't. People complained that there were no laughs to be had. Granted, there are not belly laughs and guffaws to be had at "Tenenbaums," but this should be expected considering how "Rushmore" was set up and executed. Wes Anderson and his writing partner do not go for the cheap laughs and the slapstick sight gags that make so many current movies the cheap, raunch fare that they are. Being a writer myself I've come to realize that there is much more to comedy than making a person jiggle with laughter. In fact, no where in the definition of the term "comedy" is the word "laugh" used. Comedy deals with a general feeling it bestows upon an audience member. One of humor and affection (be it dark or otherwise).
Anyway, to get back to the point, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is solely structured on giving off a feeling of comedy while also playing for more psychological and emotional connections with it's audience. I will openly admit I laughed outloud less than ten times throughout the film (although when I did laugh, it was very well deserved). I did, however, have a smile on my face throughout the ENTIRE thing. And that's what comedy, at least one designed like this one, is meant to do. I commend Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson for making such a remarkably structured film and reccommend it to anyone who has the desire to see the "Thinking Man's Comedy."


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