Series Premiere: About A Boy

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As you can tell by the lack of posting last week, I got pretty swamped with work. When I get swamped with work, I have less time to blog and get sleepier earlier. In other words, I have less time to not only write about things, but also wind up falling asleep about four minutes into things (sorry Alien).

Anyway, we did watch the Olympics pretty much non-stop and I found myself enjoying them for the most part. I’d like to see robot judges comparing moves to Platonic ideals in judged sports, but we’re at least two years away from that. After the games on Saturday, I was surprised to find myself watching NBC’s new half hour comedy About A Boy.

When I first started seeing previews for this show, I was pretty skeptical. I read the book back in 2012 followed quickly by the movie, both of which were emotionally powerful looks at two strong adult forces and the child in between them who’s trying to figure out which elements to bring into his own life. The story is funny and heavy and a really tough but satisfying ride. So how would all that translate into a half hour sitcom?

Pretty well actually. The first episode is basically a condensed version of the book/film minus the mother’s more intense emotional problems. Basically Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) move next door to Will (David Walton). Marcus is very much his earthy mother’s son, but that’s lead to some trouble at school. He winds up forcing his way into Will’s life where the two start becoming friends, something Will uses to his advantage, but eventually comes to realize is mutually beneficial.

By speed skating through the source material, the first episode (which you can watch on NBC.com) might have felt a little quick and off balance, but it also seemed like a good way to jump right into the series. It’s about this kid and these two adults and them all trying to live around each other and figure out the world. I think this cast is well equipped to handle that challenge. Driver pulls off the struggling single mother who also has a strangely positive outlook on the world while Walton seems ready to take on Will’s life which goes from completely detached emotionally to (hopefully) immersed in relationships with others. But the real pressure lies on Stockham’s shoulders who needs to have the kind of innocence that leads a pre-teen to sing a One Direction song at the talent show and dedicate it to his mom because he knows it will make her happy, but also the knowledge that the world doesn’t always react positively to such things. I think he’s got it and am interested to see how things pan out with this show.

All Out Action: Westworld (1973) & Hard Rain (1998)

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Like I said recently, I’ve been trying to watch as many movies as I possibly can with the Netflix on XBox option, but I’ve also had a few Netflix DVDs sitting around (though the Broken Arrow DVD was completely cracked down the center, so that’s one less to worry about for now). So, here we go with the reviews.

WESTWORLD (1973)

I distinctly remember watching Westworld with my dad when I was younger, but I apparently didn’t remember much but the very basics from the movie. I lucked out and got Em to watch it along with me and it seemed like she liked it well enough (she didn’t make fun of me like she did after watching The Warriors so that’s a plus). Anyway, I also really dug the movie, probably even moreso because I didn’t remember every little part of it.

The basic plot is that there’s this resort populated with robots where you can go and live like you’re in another time period (Roman Empire, Medieval England or the Wild Wild West). You can basically do whatever you want there (including shooting and having sex with the robots, though, presumably different ones). Our story focuses on two visitors, one played by James Brolin, the other by a guy named Richard Benjamin who looked familiar, but nothing on his IMDb rang any bells. Yul Brenner also starts as the robot Gunslinger who keeps coming after Benjamin. Well, the vacation doesn’t go quite as planned as the robots start revolting and SPOILER the Gunslinger kills James Brolin (Em and I both thought he’d be the hero, oh well), sending Benjamin running from the relentless cowboy killer robot.

There’s a lot of cool special effects and writer and director Michael Crichton (I had no idea he directed movies) does a great job of selling the story. According the IMDb trivia he got the idea for the story after visiting Disneyland, which was pretty funny to me because it seems pretty familiar to The Stepford Wives, which I read, watched and reviewed recently. The trivia also said that The Gunslinger also inspired John Carpenter to create the greatest slasher in movie history Michael Myers. So, if you’re a fan of either of those other movies or just cool sci-fi robot stories starring Jame Brolin and Yul Brenner, then you should definitely check this one out.

HARD RAIN (1998)

I’m not even sure why I put Hard Rain on my queue. It was probably one of those suggested movies that Netlifx does when you add a movie to your queue. Anyway, I wasn’t all too excited to watch it when the DVD came in, but I’m really glad I did as this is a fantastic action movie with one of the coolest and best handled natural disaster plots I’ve seen in a while. Plus, it’s got Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Ed Asner, Betty White and Minnie Driver sporting a pretty bad American accent.

Plotwise you’ve got Morgan Freeman leading a band of robbers trying to get their hands on the money in Slater and Asner’s bank truck in a town in danger of flooding. Meanwhile Quaid and his fellow police officers try to save the townspeople like Driver and White. As the water rises (and boy, does it get up there) so does the tension and a great “anything can happen” feeling. It does get a little crazy at the very end with all kinds of allegiances changing and crosses being doubled, but all that water makes it okay in my book. You’ve got everything from a boat being driven through a church window to a wave runner chase scene in a high school. It really is just a fun movie that offers up plenty of “how are they going to get out of THIS” situations. I highly HIGHLY recommend this movie to anyone who like fun movies who don’t let things like science get in the way of enjoying a movie (in this world, a gun can fire no matter how long it’s been under water, so just deal with it okay?).