Bloodline (TV Review)

Bloodline (TV Review)

Netflix keeps churning out solid original programming as the on-demand company continues its quest to take over the world. Bloodline is the latest offering from Netflix, and it is a show that features a stellar cast and a story about a renowned family whose past its dragged up and ripped apart with the return of a prodigal son and the death of the patriarch.

The Rayburns rule the Florida Keys, and when their hotel is celebrating its 45th anniversary, older brother Danny, the clear black sheep of the family, returns to the Keys to see the rest of his siblings (another two brothers and a sister), things are really shaken up, and the dark secrets of the family slowly get exposed, focusing mainly on the long-ago drowning death of their other sister.

blood4The cast here is a definite strength of the show, led by the always strong Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, ER). Chandler plays John, the good brother, who has grown up to become an important law man in the area. Cardellini is the lawyer sister, and Ben Mendelsohn plays the evil, yet kind of good, but definitely evil, Danny. Each of the actors in the show are able to create characters with depth and story to them, as the past is dug up and they need to face who their family really is, when memories and truth about the drowning of Rachel begin to come to light. The events of her drowning, and the aftermath, shook the family to the core, and now the adult children must deal with a past that was based around lies, manipulation, and the ostracizing of the bad seed: Danny. It is not only the central characters that are portrayed by strong actors, but there is an excellent supporting cast as well, filled with actors that are well known, or at least recognizable, bringing their roles to life.

The narrative of Bloodline is interesting, as it provides us with flashbacks to the younger days of the Rayburn children, as well as little hints of events to come. From the early episodes, we know everything is going to hit the fan with Danny, and that John is going to be playing a major role in the whole ordeal, but the show still manages to make it very interesting on how we are going to be getting to that final, culminating point. It makes for an interesting method of story telling, and for interesting TV.

blood3Bloodline isn’t a perfect show, and it actually moves quite slowly at some points, almost having too many good characters and secondary story lines to focus on. At times it feels like it is taking us away from the central plot, and there is no real reason why, but in the end, it does allows us to see a richer version of the characters had there not been the meandering secondary story lines. Aside from that, there is really a reason for everything, and all the minor events of the lives of the Rayburns that is exposed is for the greater good of the story. Even if an event feels minor, it plays a role in the complex construction of the family, and of the events that will befall them.

BloodlineSince the plot is far more character-driven, it does not lend itself to the traditional binge watching that Netflix is best known for. Bloodline is a show best taken in over a little bit more time. A couple of episodes here and there, instead of planting yourself on the couch until the whole adventure is over with (like something like House of Cards).

blood5My only complaint about the show would be the ending…literally the last line of the season. I get it that Bloodline deserves another season, as we really do want to see the continued fallout from the climactic event, but it created a bit too much of a random cliffhanger that kind of felt out of place in the scheme of the show. It is obvious how it will create havoc when Netflix decides to bring us Season 2, but I thought it could have been left for now, and brought up in the early episodes of the second go-round.

Even with that minor blip, Bloodline is a good, intense show, that gives us very layered and strong characters that we can easily cheer for or against as the episodes progress. Well worth a watch.

About A Boy (TV Review)

About A Boy (TV Review)

Nick Hornby writes some good books. They provide escape, along with a slice of real life, with characters that are undeniably easy to relate to, and are often stuck behind their own rules and foibles, forced to grow up at some point in their lives.

It has been many years since I read About A Boy, or saw the film version that served as an excellent adaptation, with Hugh Grant in the starring role.

aboutAlong comes a TV series, based on the same concept as the original novel and the film that followed it.

I had not heard much, if anything, about this series, but when it popped up on Netflix, I gave it a shot, with very little expectation.

But, in the first 12 episodes, About A Boy proves itself to be a very worthy TV series. It is fun, interesting, full of solid characters, and even manages to tug at the heartstrings a little bit.

The story is virtually the same as the source material. This time, Will is neighbors with Marcus and his odd mother, and they become friends as the show progresses. Eventually, Marcus has become an important part of Will’s life, and one that is powerful enough to affect his decisions. At first, this is not a problem for Will, as he likes spending time with the kid, primarily because it allows him to be a kid himself. Marcus is an oddball, and needs a male influence in his life, as his father works in Antarctica with penguins. Despite the best intentions of his mother, he needs someone normal who can help guide him through life, how to be a little bit cooler, and how to break free of the often Norma Bates-like hold she has on his life.

Things begin to change when Will meets Dr. Sam, a woman who literally checks all the boxes of everything he had dreamed about in a woman. For the first time, Will truly cares about someone, and he knows that she is going to change his life. Will is forced to look at his life, and how he wants to live it. Does he want to continue to be a man-child? Does he want to remain as the fatherly influence in Marcus’ life? Or does he want to carve out his own path with Sam, who even to viewers, comes across as pretty much the perfect woman. It doesn’t hurt that she is played by the gorgeous Adrianne Padlicki, who we know from the TV version of Friday Night Lights.

about3This debate that Will is faced with provides us with the heartwarming moments of the series, and it is done well enough to truly enjoy, without getting too sappy, or too cheesy.

The cast of the show is solid across the board. David Walton is strong as Will, being goofy enough that we believe he doesn’t want to grow up, and charming enough to understand that he can be successful enough with women, and be able to get a great catch like Dr. Sam. Minnie Driver (remember her!?!) plays the overbearing mother, and Marcus is played by Benjamin Stockman. As often annoying as kids can be on the screen, Stockman plays the role well, being perfectly awkward in all of the situations he is thrown in to.

About A Boy is worth a watch. It is great that there is no laugh track, and it doesn’t feel like it is trying too hard. It is not focused on being a pure comedy, and not completely focused on being a drama. It does a good job of blending both elements, and it makes it come across as pretty natural, and easy to watch. A short first season makes it a perfect nominee for a good old fashioned Netflix binge watch.

For fans of the book or the film, the TV series will not be a disappointment. It stays pretty true to the origins of the story, and doesn’t veer far enough to alienate any fans. While the same kind of wit may not be there as there were in the British novel or British TV show, but it felt like it was a little more emotionally touching than the first two versions.

The series hooked me enough that I am curious to see what they are going to do with a second season, if there is one (as planned).

I would recommend checking out About A Boy.

Battleship (Film Review)

Battleship (Film Review)

I view myself as being a fairly intelligent person. I am well-read, I understand artsier films when I see them, I have traveled the world and seen a great many things. So why, oh why, did I like Battleship so much?

The premise for this action blockbuster is complete insane. It is a film based off of a board game, after all. Anyone expecting more than that is more nuts than the idea to make Battleship. If you decide to suspend your disbelief for the entire 2 hours plus running time, then you may enjoy yourself as you watch this movie on Netflix. 

Humans have decided to beam a signal to a distant planet that they feel meets the Goldilocks standards of Earth, where it may be able to sustain life and water. Okay, fair enough. We’ll ignore the fact that they are able to send this signal light years away in a matter of moments. Surprisingly though, they get a response some time later, in the form of an alien invasion. Oh no, that is not good.

battleship2The human side of the story focuses on Taylor Kitsch, who plays Alex Hopper, a down on his luck guy with infinite potential who continually wastes it away. At the urging of his brother, he joins the Navy, and before you know it, he is a Lieutenant on an impressive Destroyer ship, and on the verge of marrying the girl of his dreams (Brooklyn Decker). I’ve always liked Kitsch, because he was just so good on Friday Night Lights. Since then, he has done nothing particularly memorable, and has never been able to trade his small screen success for big screen hits. Aside from essentially being not great, and pretty cheesy, in Battleship, he is pretty fun. He has some humorous moments, even managing to elicit a giggle now and then, with his goofy antics and being smart, but not really that smart. He sort of has a Maverick-style attitude, and his character growth is based on him being able to think before he acts. Pretty simple, really, but this film is not based on characterization.

It is based on the idea that one remaining ship must fight off this alien invasion before they are able to summon their home planet and, presumably, bring all of their alien friends down to earth. One thing that I found curious about this film, and it is never really mentioned, is that the aliens never attack first. They scan their targets, and when a human does not pose a threat (such as having a weapon on them, or actively attacking an alien), they leave them alone. The same goes for the ships. They never fire until fired upon. Is director Peter Berg trying to sneak in a message into Battleship about the overt aggression of our nation’s military? I don’t know. But I noticed something there. 

There are some other name actors in here, who have minimal roles, and try their best with a pretty wooden script. This is especially noticeable with Alexander Skarsgard, who tends to monopolize most of the lame lines in the film. He is definitely not as cool as he is in True Blood. Liam Neeson makes an appearance, because it seems like Liam Neeson now shows up in every action movie that is released. Which is fine by me. He is bad ass. He doesn’t get a major role, but gets to give a couple of speeches as a high ranking Navy officer, and Brooklyn Decker’s father. 

Brooklyn Decker might be one of the bigger surprises in the film. Despite her plot line being pretty preposterous (she and a Navy vet are on a hike, and end up trying to take down all of the alien communications on their own), she doesn’t ruin the scenes she’s in. Let’s be honest, she has been getting film roles because the majority of her talent rests in her bra, but she is respectable in Battleship. Don’t get respectable confused with good, but she’s getting there. She may be developing as an actress, and I could see her continuing to get smaller roles in action films or romantic comedies, as she has done so far. 

Decker: Is she becoming more than just able to really fill out a tank top?
Decker: Is she becoming more than just able to really fill out a tank top?

I won’t say much about Rihanna and her acting skills, because there really are none. She may be the worst actor in the entire film. 

There are some cool scenes, and some pretty decent battles in the movie. There are big explosions, and lots of cool missiles and guns fired. There is plenty of alien destruction, and they beat up on parts of Earth pretty well, too. 

And I’ll admit, that the lamest/most awesome part of this film is when Kitsch and gang are running out of options, they turn to the museum that is the USS Missouri, the greatest warship in American history, to try and defeat the enemies. Who is going to help him run this ship? Why, they veterans of the Second World War, of course. It is completely ridiculous plot-wise, but it was fun. Seeing the ship magically get ready in one quick montage set to “Thunderstruck,” and an out-of-commission ship that hasn’t sailed in decades is ready to take on the greatest threat to humanity. Of course it is. But I loved it. I’ll also give credit to the part of the film where it is like playing the board game. Well played, Peter Berg, well played.

I thought that Battleship was going to be a complete waste of time, and I would simply have it on in the background while I did other things with my life. But this was not the case, as I was taken in by the cheese, and really kind of loved it. Don’t go into this film expecting to see an intelligent action blockbuster like Terminator 2. Because you won’t get it. But if you’re putting Battleship in a similar range as the Transformers movies, then you are on the right track. Except unlike Transformers, this movie is pretty fun to watch, and you can actually tell what is happening on the screen.

If you are in the mood for a fun dose of cheese, you can do worse than Battleship.