September 27, 2007

Boston Legal - $8

Recently, and in quick succession, I've watched the first two seasons of Boston Legal and I have to admit, I am hooked.

Boston Legal takes place in a law firm in (you guessed it) Boston. The law firm is run by a man named Denny Krane, a legend in the law circles of Boston and a man with an ego big enough to match his faults, which are many. Denny is going through the early stages of Alzheimer's, though he claims to have mad cow disease, and it is established early on that he doesn't actually run the firm in any tangible way, but it's his name on the door none the less.

William Shatner plays Krane and this show is a welcome return to television for a guy long thought to a one dimensional actor. He is fantastic in Boston Legal and even manages to never sound like that caricature of himself, Captain Kirk.

The cast is rounded out by the likes of James Spader and Candice Bergen as well as a host of other talented actors playing extremely varied characters.

Boston Legal is primarily a comedy but this is no cheesy sitcom, serious issues are dealt with and made light of, often at the same time. I've seen everything from Asperger's syndrome to Scientology to abortion explored in this show and each time an issue is raised an effort is made to present all sides of it to the audience. There is usually a bias that comes through and sometimes the show can even seem a little preachy but it is almost always fair, and always funny.

I enjoy Boston Legal immensely and unfortunately I now have another TV show to watch.

I put Boston Legal on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $8.

September 26, 2007

Jon Coutts - $10

Today's review is not of a movie, nor of a TV show, but of a man. My brother, my friend and a great man, Jon Coutts.

Jon is 32 today, an age that sounded old to me not long ago but which seems young now that I approach 30 myself. I have little opportunity in my life to pay tribute to Jon and while a blog entry can hardly do a person justice I will honour him here.

Jon and I have not always gotten along, as with most brothers we went through a competitive and sometimes violent stage as young teenagers. As we got older though and started to grow up we realized we had become friends somewhere along the way. I say "started to grow up" because I know I have much more ground to make up in that category. In my later high school years I began to count Jon as one of my best friends, so much so that we shared many of the same friends and still do to this day.

Eventually I had the privilege of going to College with Jon and in later years we stood for each other on our wedding days, each as the best man for the other.

Jon is honest, kind, gentle in disagreement but principled in his opinions, he is intelligent but not prideful and he excels at teaching others. I am testament to that teaching as I owe much of who I am to the positive influence and gentle challenging Jon gave me throughout my life.

Jon is a great brother, a great husband to his wife and a great father to his two boys, he is also a great friend.

Happy Birthday Jon. Here's to many more years.

Check out his blog on Christian spirituality and theology:

September 20, 2007

Blades of Glory - $5

I enjoyed Blades of Glory but I fear that may be due to my love for Will Ferrell's brand of comedy. This movie was funny in the goofy way I expected it to be and when it comes to comedy, all I ask is that it makes me laugh. Not everyone will like this movie however, it is predictable and beyond the premise, there's really nothing original about it.

Blades of Glory is the story of two rival male figure skaters who are banned for life from competition but find a loophole wherein they can compete as a pairs team. That's the premise I spoke of as being the only original part of this movie.

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) star as the two skaters and they play their roles well. They are both quite funny in their ridiculous rivalry which turns into a friendship as the movie progresses. Will Ferrell plays a very similar character to a few others he's played in the past; he is loud, dumb and out of control. I pretty much find anything Ferrell does funny so while I knew I wasn't seeing him do anything new, I still loved watching him do it.

You won't be interested in Blades of Glory if this type of humour isn't your style. For those of who in this category this movie may still be worth seeing just to watch the real life husband and wife duo of Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) who play a brother/sister pairs team. There is a interview with them on the special features of the DVD which alone makes this worth renting.

One thing is for sure; Blades of Glory is not a great movie. If you're not into the Talladega Nights and Old School type of comedy that Will Ferrell brings to the table you won't want to watch it. This is also not a movie on par with either of those previously mentioned comedies. It's good but just not great.

For this reason I am taking the unprecedented step of putting Blades of Glory on both my 'Watch It' list and my 'Don't Watch It' list and giving it a neutral value of $5. Watch it if you like this kind of movie but please don't watch it if you have no time for Will Ferrell.

September 12, 2007

Grizzly Man - $10

Grizzly Man is as good as a documentary gets. It is moving, inspiring, truthful, shocking and breathtaking. This movie truly gripped me throughout my viewing of it and for days following.

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog about a man named Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell spent several months of the year, every year for 13 years, in a remote area of Alaska heavily populated by grizzly bears. Treadwell filmed over 100 hours of footage and would tour and speak to school children about the bears he had come to know. All this until he was killed by one of the Grizzlies he's dedicated his life to protecting.

Herzog has compiled Treadwell's footage and watching Treadwell interact with the grizzlies is astounding. While he does not live alongside them or touch them he is in close proximity to them regularly with a surprising lack of aggression from the bears considering their reputation.

What I took away from Grizzly Man more than anything though was the respectful and yet honest portrait of Treadwell that Herzog has created. He does not shy away from showing the footage of Treadwell that makes him look unstable but he also shows many examples of the compassionate side of Treadwell, a man who had clearly pulled further and further away from the "human world" as he called it and escaped fully into a life he created for himself among these animals.

Grizzly Man is a movie I will never forget and is likely the most engrossing documentary I've ever seen.

I put Grizzly Man on my 'Watch It' list and give it the rare, full value rating of $10.

September 4, 2007

Stardust - $6

It would be disingenuous to call Stardust anything but escapist cinema. This is a fantasy movie that does not attain the storytelling status of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter; Stardust is however quite a fun movie.

Stardust is the story of an insecure teenager named Tristan who attempts to find a fallen star to win the hand of the snobby girl he loves. Tristan ventures into a magical land and an unpredictable adventure begins which involves everything from flying pirate ships to witches to princes battling for a throne.

While I watched Stardust I was acutely aware that the pacing was inconsistent and that some parts of the fantasy aspect were not being explained well enough to be plausible, even for fantasy. Overall these flaws turned what was likely meant to be a fantasy epic into nothing more than Hollywood summer cinema.

Despite a series of serious weaknesses in the storytelling I still cannot deny that I enjoyed Stardust. The imagery was exceptional at times and the movie was funnier than the last few comedies I've seen. The story itself had me interested and along for the ride the whole way. I knew this was not an epic but I was never bored and I was even slightly involved with the main characters right to the end.

Stardust also features performances from the likes of Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Peter O'Toole, a short comedic role by Ricky Gervais and narrating by Ian McKellan. None will blow you away but they each play their role well and added to my enjoyment of the movie.

Regardless of Stardust's faults and "mindless" status, this is a movie you may very well be entertained by, as I was.

I put Stardust on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $6.