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Arrested Development Season 2, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Ron HowardArrested Development (Season 2): with George Bluth on the run, the family must march on without him, and Michael must keep the Bluth Company – and his family – under control. This is my third time watching through AD and in reflection it’s so obvious why a show like this was destined to fail on TV. The biggest problem is that the running gags are subtle, and would be easy to miss if there were 7 days (let alone weeks) between the episodes. With the DVDs however, you can bash through a season in a few nights and really appreciate the fine writing. In saying that, S2 tries to address this by having clusters of jokes that are confined to an episode; like the ‘Charlie Brown’ slow walking, Gene Parmesan, etc. The biggest step up for me is lot more brilliantly timed physical comedy: chicken dances, face pulling, slipping, and Mrs Featherbottom’s spectacular Mary Poppins moment. Once again the brilliant ensemble cast of comedic actors does great things with well-written characters. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone that enjoys comedy TV – almost a decade later and it still puts most shows to shame.

Score: 8.5/10

Arrested Development Season 2, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Ron Howard 2

“I just blue myself”

The Eagle: twenty years after his father led 5,000 Roman soldiers to their death a rookie tries to restore his family’s name by finding the lost Roman ‘eagle standard’. In a nutshell the biggest problem this film has is lackadaisical direction – every other issue seems to stem from this: naff/ridiculous plot, complacent acting, lazy storytelling… There’s genuinely a scene where a minor character says “To find them you have to go over the snowy hills and into the next glen” – there’s a 5 second shot of our soldiers struggling through snow, and wham – they’re back in normal terrain again!!! Complimenting the visual vomit is the corniest stock Gaelic music, that drones away in the background when the soldiers are in the highlands. To make the film more sellable there are a few gratuitous action scenes but you can’t really see what’s going on, and it winds up a blurry, shaky mess. The only redeeming part is when Mark Strong appears and shows everyone how to act properly!  All in, it just all feels a bit amateur, and like more of a project about someone finding their roots / heritage, than wanting to let a decent story take centre stage. If you wish to see a film about southerners taking on crazed tribes of ugly Scottish people check out Doomsday instead! Or if you want to keep it historical – Spartacus.

Score: 2/10

Watchmen: (Blu Ray) A gang of retired vigilantes squeeze back into their costumes to figure out who’s trying to kill them off. The story itself is a near perfect blend of action and dystopian Noir mystery, although it’s no Sin City rip off. Picture and surround sound are both absolutely stunning and could easily be used as test/demo material. All aspects of the visuals are totally slick, and bone-splitting graphic violence has never looked this good. The run time may put some off, at 2:45, but it’s all about the characters past and present. A few streaks of hardcore physics to melt your mind, and older viewers will remember the constant fear of a potential nuclear holocaust. On a downside the soundtrack’s very dominating, trendy and generic for such an original story, and it’s never good seeing a huge blue wang, ever. Haven’t read the graphic novel so can’t compare them, but as a stand alone film this is certainly a great achievement. Plain awesome viewing.

Score: 8/10

Arrested Development – Season 3: Poorly received comedy series that’s all about the family, and family values. Sounds like the ultimate cliché but this has to be one of the funniest, wittiest and smartest TV show’s I’ve seen. It’s absolutely bursting with comedy, one-liners, slapstick & adult jokes, and gags that run through an episode, season, or even the entire show: mixed between in your face, subtle or even just hinted at. The downside of this is that it’s a little too clever/fast for some, and a lot of the ‘contemporary’ quips aren’t as relevant as they were several years ago. There’s no dumb laugh-track, so you can pick up everything. The cast has too much talent – both young and old – to list: David Cross, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Tony Hale… not to mention the stunning Portia De Rossi. As a show, it’s also smart in that it’s very aware of itself and similar shows, episode 9 in particular is screaming with self-reference and irony. The characters, who drive the plot, are all great, consistent and well-acted; in particular the promiscuous Tobias, whose every line is innuendo-tastic. Gob is also a treat to watch. It looks great, is well-written (with an amazing attention to detail*), very neat, and the show does well to handle constant incest references – which would put many people off. As great as it is this season starts to wear a little thin by the end – so it’s probably for the best that they’ve stopped it there. Like the show says “Tell your friends” as all three season are 100% worth watching.

Score: 8.5/10

*so much of which would be lost between aired episodes a week apart, which is probably the main reason it wasn’t a successful broadcast show. Definitely one for DVD sessions.