Party Down (Season 2): Henry, Ron, Casey, Kyle, and Roman are still working L.A’s weird and wonderful functions, along with new team member Lydia. The episodes are more of the same, but a lot slicker, more refined, more outrageous scenarios, more product placement snuck in, and more great comedy cameos. The characters all feel more defined and rounded, and the writing in general is a lot better as the episodes aren’t as self-contained. Everything’s generally improved, except for one small aspect… it’s not quite as funny, with only a couple of big laughs per episode. The main reason appears to be that Season 1 was based on observational/awkward comedy moments, whereas this feels far more like a straight-up sit-com with elaborate and more ridiculous functions to cater for. Worse still, the writers criminally dropped Henry’s fantastically awkward catchphrase “Are we having fun yet?!”, which was by far the best source of cringe-inducing laughs in S1. Roman and his associated ‘Hard Sci-Fi’ get a lot more mentions – even a whole episode – which appealed to me. Season two of Party Down is still very good TV; it’s smart and funny, but easy to watch and good for dipping in and out of, the only downside is that it feels a tad over-written, and all of the rough/raw edges have been taken off. Still, can’t deny that it’s a great sit-com.
How to Train Your Dragon [Blu Ray]: a teenage viking wants to follow in the dragon-slaying tradition of his tribe, but comes up with an unorthodox plan when he doesn’t have the heart to kill one. As the story plays out it’s clearly well-written, with lots of details and nice touches – the father/Son angle in particular is very well-played, and the swash-buckling finale delivers more than your standard Statham flick. The voice cast is amazing, star-studded and everyone’s distinct – despite every Viking speaking in a ‘krrrayy-zzeee’ Scottish accent – annoyingly the whiny voice of main character is one of the weaker performances. The BD picture detail is jaw-dropping: barnacles, hair, fur, water will drop your jaw, and the colours are extremely vivid and vibrant – sound wise, everything from explosions to ambience punches through – no questions, it’s a must-own Blu Ray. You’d like to think that a film as solid as this would have been a warning shot at Pixar, but being followed by Megamind and a bunch of sequels/spin-offs it feels like more of a fluke – which is disappointing, as it showed progress for DreamWorks Animation. Pitching to both children and adults How to Train Your Dragon makes for a great kids film, but will also entertain the big kids!
Role Models: good old-fashioned comedy about a couple of guys forced to do community service. I call it old-fashioned because it doesn’t rely on gross-outs or shock scenes, instead it just picks things like live action role play, energy drinks & relationships and shows us funny sides of them. The casting’s epically safe but works: Sean William Scott is still playing ‘Stiffler‘, Paul Rudd is Paul Rudd, Mintz-Plasse is a nerdier Version of Fogel and so forth. Jane Lynch’s non-sensical (no B.S.) councilor is fun to watch and no doubt sealed her role in Glee. Not much else to report back on this; it’s good & simple film, well told, with some underpinning messages about fatherhood, decent gags and no fancy trickery. The KISS ending is sweet, and although the final scenes are a bit cheesy, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kick Ass: A guy who’s only power is being invisible (to girls) sets out to become a crime-fighting ‘superhero’. in order to remain original, which it does pretty well, Kick Ass avoids the usual comic book clichés – however the film suffers because the story’s pretty flat. All of the main characters are well-played, especially Cage and Strong, although you don’t see nearly enough of anyone that isn’t Dave Lizewski/Kick Ass; and as a lead he’s not that interesting! My biggest problem was that it kept leaping between American Pie style comedy, shock value, grim & realistic violence, outrageously OTT fantasy/comic violence, romance, gangster… This will drag you through so many genres (sublime and ridiculous) that you never know what’s coming or how you’re supposed to react. Some of the action scenes are fairly frantic and unclear, especially the lame “doom style” night vision shootout!! It should have been about 30 minutes shorter and borrowed a lot of visuals from the recent Spiderman flicks. Despite the bashing above it is good fun, pretty entertaining and there are LOADS of comic-references for your inner-nerd to pick out – for me however it was a bit too superficial and the saturated trailer campaign absolutely ruined all the best bits.