Party Down (Season 1): 10 episodes – follows a dysfunctional catering team of failed/upcoming Hollywood actors and writers. With most episodes having the team cater for a bizarre sub-set of society – pensioner dating / gangsters / porn awards ceremony – there’s plenty of material to work with. Every character serves a purpose; two of the team (Scott/Caplan) provide most of the drama – and there are some moments that really sneak up on you – whereas the rest serve up the laughs in abundance; everyone’s perfectly pitched with their own style of humour. Crucially, the writers have done a fantastic job of creating a well-written, fast-flowing, smart script, packed with wit that’s both genuinely funny and awkward in equal measures. Technically, there’s no frills, fads, or tricks which gives the show an air of plausibility that most comedies lack. The only real downside is that it’s not instantly lovable, and probably best enjoyed on your own – it’s quite dry, some of the subtle running gags take a while to pick out, and it takes an episode or two to properly tune in. Overall, I’ve gone from being unconvinced a few months back, to watching the entire season in 3 days. Party Down’s a bit of a TV gem, and with a movie being green-lighted, it’s clearly winning enough people over in the longer term!
44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.