Posts Tagged ‘James Spader’

Blu-ray review: ‘Bad Influence’

May 18, 2016

Bad Influence

The clunky computers. The overwrought synth-rock. The shoulder pads and big hair. The fiercely photogenic Brat Pack.

Gotta love the ’80s, which Bad Influence represents, though the indie film was released in early 1990.

As a suspense-thriller, the film is darkly entertaining and not without humor — starting with its absurdly simplistic and understated title.

Bad Influence? That’s like calling Saving Private Ryan “Unpleasantness at the Beach.”

Making its Blu-ray debut May 24, Bad Influence top-bills Rob Lowe as Alex, a strange stranger who insinuates himself into the life of bookish, meek and up-tight L.A. financial whiz Michael (James Spader). Alex does this as sort of a Robin Hood for hell-raising, giving Michael’s life jolts via reckless good times.

The sudden friends soon become enemies, as sociopath Lowe’s cruelly twisted intentions become apparent.

You don’t wreck a guy’s engagement to an overly controlling woman by surprisingly showing video of him having sex with another chick at the big anniversary party of his henpecking fiancee’s parents. You just don’t — unless you are a Troublemaker with a capital T, right here in River City.


DVD review: ‘Boston Legal’ Season Five arrives with extra half-episode

May 27, 2009

Denny and Alan, how we’ll miss you. But we’ll always have Boston Legal on DVD, where its fifth and final season is now new from Fox.

Unlike previous seasons, this one boasts a number of extras, including fond farewells to the show itself and to the trailblazing “bromance” of stars William Shatner (Denny Crane) and James Spader (Alan Shore). Laced among choice clips are interview sound bites with Shatner, Spader, creator David E. Kelly and others who worked behind the scenes.

Happily, these aren’t the usual fawning gush-fest which mars so many making-of featurettes on movies’ DVDs. Sure, there’s lot of praise, but there are also insights, including an assessment of how Spader’s by-the-book acting approached clashed with Shatner’s improvisational impudence, yet somehow worked.

Along with a segment of deleted scenes, there’s virtually half of a deleted episode, in which Denny’s long-lost daughter whom he’d somehow never met was introduced.

Granted, this is one of TV and movies’ biggest cliches, but the scenes worked well enough for Shatner and Spader. They just didn’t work so well from the standpoint of the daughter, played by Kimberly Williams- Paisley. Her story simply lacked enough depth for such an important character, the creators point out, so the footage was ditched and replaced (with fleshing out the case of a prospective Harvard student who took medication to be alert for a test).

Well, whose fault was that? The problem is, the daughter comes across like so many other women on this show which preached strongly for liberal causes but was itself guilty of retro objectifyng of women dating back to the Stone Age.

Like so many others on this show, she’s gorgeous, confrontational, eager to engage in sexual wordplay, randy and ready to rock — which is a bit unsettling for Denny when she goes out with Alan, who’s naturally attracted to her. But overall it’s still fun footage, and with just 13 episodes in Season Five, it’s nice to get 13 1/2, in effect — make that 14, given the 20 minutes or so of deleted scenes also included.

This season and this set ably bring to a close one of TV’s finest runs of any era, and one I will cherish on DVD for years to come. Thank you David, Bill, James and everyone else who made Boston Legal a true treasure. You went out not with a whimper, but on top of your game.

‘Boston Legal: Season Four’ has an episode supreme

September 22, 2008

As Boston Legal fans await tonight’s fifth season premiere, due Tuesday is the DVD box set for Boston Legal: Season Four. And given one episode in particular, it’s not just another season.

Rather, it’s the season with The Court Supreme, an episode in which Alan Shore (James Spader) argues before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a man in Louisiana who faces the death penalty.

Appearing near the end of the episode, this sustained scene is Spader/Shore at his best. It’s not wholly credible, especially given the fact that Shore tears into the justices while they largely sit in stony silence and allow it. But it is immensely satisfying, and not just for his impassioned defense of his client, but for his tangential attacks on the smug, imperious court’s politicization, its conflicts of interest and its other improprieties which mar the name of a long-revered institution.

The remainder of the season is good, too, but this one show is special. (And we’re still awaiting word on how that high court case turned out.) Again, Alan and Denny Crane’s (William Shatner’s) relationship is at the heart. In effect, it’s their male bonding that propels this series much as the Kirk-Spock-McCoy bonding propelled Shatner’s Star Trek.

As for extras, the DVDs include a featurette on the cast’s newcomers. Only trouble is, it appears to have been produced for the start of the season, to introduce characters, and not as an end-season wrapup. Some characters turn out not to be nearly as integral to the show as the featurette suggests.

But hey, that’s a quibble. The bigger picture is to embrace David E. Kelley’s timely, topical, thoughtful, well acted and, well, sometimes silly series as the grand entertainment it is, especially now that its run is winding down. So savor Boston Legal: Season Four. When this show concludes after its fifth season, we’re unlikely to see another of its caliber.