The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

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In west Philadelphia born and raised…. If you watched any number of episodes from the series you will know the song. I am sad enough to know all the words. I used to watch this on BBC2 most days as a kid and recently revisited the series on Netflix and managed to do what I couldn’t do as a teenager, watch all six seasons. 

The story is about Will Smith getting into trouble in his home city of Philadelphia. “I got in one little fight and my Mom got scared” to help him get on the straight narrow his mum sends him to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air. They live a life of luxury in a huge house, with a butler to wait on them, lots of money, private schooling and ambition to get to the top. 

This is a series about a black American family. The show looks at many issues, one being how badly black people were and still are treated in America. The show looks at how the family have come from humble beginnings and worked hard to become rich and successful. It is less wholesome than the Cosby Show and it definitely tries to break away from the Traditional black family show.

Uncle Phil is the head of the family although Auntie Viv is the boss. Him and Will have a love hate relationship because Will gets himself and everyone else in trouble. Phil starts off as a lawyer and works his way up as a judge. His position is compromised on a regular basis by Will and we see many arguments  Beneath all that is a strong bond, respect, love and a lot of lessons learnt.

Viv the matriarch lays down the rules. Phil thinks he is in charge, but this is clearly not the case. She is the voice of reason when Phil blows his top. Her part in the show got smaller as the seasons went on, particularly when the character was recast. This was a real shame.

Phil and Viv have three children, two daughters and a son. Hillary the oldest is Ditsy, Vain, money obsessed, lazy, stylish, but does have a good heart. Carlton is a real geek and is the extreme opposite to Will in every way. He loves his prep school jumpers, Tom Jones, dreams of Princeton, has no luck with the ladies, dances with gusto and loves money. Ashley the youngest grows up over the years and we see her grow into a woman. We see the many problems that she faces as she grows into a teenager, including sex, boys, bullying and wanting to fit in. They are a very close knit family despite Will disrupting everything they do.

Geoffrey is the butler, but he is more than just the staff. He plays a major role in all their lives and is a confident for many of their issues without much support himself. He has a wild past which often turns up to bite him on the arse. He is a very well spoken englishmen in contrast to his American hosts.

I loved this program as a kid, but a lot of the sex stuff went well over my head back then. I was surprised at how much sex is talked about in the show. Will Smith is basically himself and is left to go wild with the part. This is particularly true when he meets the ladies. Will is obsessed with women, doesnt take anything seriously and has become lazy. I wonder how true the character was to the real Will Smith? He was already in the money when the show started and this kicked started his acting career.Despite the carnage there is a clear moral to each episode. 

Phil is my favourite character and he made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions  Carltons dance is a highlight of the show although it is clear the actor that plays him is a very talented dancer. The whole cast work perfectly together and it makes for a great show.

 

8/10

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Collateral Beauty

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Sadly children die. This has got to be the hardest thing to live with for a parent. At present in the uk 5 more children die per day than in sweden which has the lowest child mortality rate in Europe. One of the biggest killers is cancer, which is in no way surprising. 

Collateral beauty looks at a successful man who has given up and broken down because of the death of his daughter. We see a glimpse of what he was like before his child was taken away and then we are moved on two years. We see a broken man who has lost his way and no longer cares and feels no reason to live. His closest friends are in business with him and his state of mind is having a major impact on their lives. They are having to work twice as hard, they are losing business and have major fears about supporting their families financially. unfortunately life doesn’t stand still and your actions affect others.

The man is Howard and he is played beautifully by Will Smith. He tries to fix the pieces together by writing to the things that have taken his daughter away. He writes to Death as death refused to take his life in exchange for his daughters, Time because he and his daughter were not given time and Love because he no longer has love and has lost the love of his child.

His friends as I have said cannot wait for Howard to get better, thats if he ever does. They are of course his friends but he is bringing down their lives as well. They manage to orchestrate a way to make Death, Time and Love visit Howard in human form.Their aim is to provide evidence that Howard is no longer mentally fit to make decisions for the company. This sounds harsh but when you hear Simons story then you can understand why this is so important.

This is an amazing cast who play each character very well. kate Winslet plays Claire who has a real emotional attachment to Howard, she has held the business together sacrificing life away from work.  Ed Norton plays Wit who is Howards best friend. He has ruined his own life because of his philandering ways. His lifestyle choices could cost his relationship with his daughter. Michael Pena plays Simon who has his own struggles, but has kept them secret.

We then have the perfectly cast Helen Mirren as Death, Keira Knightly as Love and Jacob Latimer as Time. They are a great contrast to each other and very believable. The story is obviously very sad, but there is a positive message. The ending has been heavily criticised, which I understand to some degree. This is not an amazing film, but it is also not dreadful. I think the criticism has been rather unfair. I think when so many great actors are unvolved the expectation can be too high.

This is a 7/10.