Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eastbound and Down – The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

If there ever was a candidate for the “Ugliest American,” it would without a doubt be Kenny F***king Powers as played to perfection by Danny McBride.  Kenny is racist, rude, crude, lewd, obnoxious, ignorant, and so self-inflated that he’s in danger of bursting from his own hot air.  Despite all of those negative qualities (or maybe because of them), he’s also obviously politically incorrect and very funny.  After discovering his much touted return to professional baseball wasn’t going to happen, Kenny ditched his girlfriend April (Katy Mixon) at a gas station and journeyed to Mexico where this season begins.
Now with a new persona including cornrows, Kenny now makes his living off of his winnings from cock-fighting.  He’s also manged to pick up some new assistants Aaron  (Deep Roy) and Hector (Joaquin Cosio).  Life seems to be going pretty good for Kenny in his new surroundings as he’s making good money and he’s somehow seduced a lovely woman named Vida (Ana de la Reguera).  The locals seem to either not understand his racist and ignorant statements or perhaps they’re just ignoring him.  Either way,  Kenny doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind as usual without too much fear of reprisal.
Things start to take a turn for the worse for Kenny when he loses his cock Big Red in a fight to the death in the Rooster Thunderdome where two cocks enter and only one leaves.  He’s then betrayed by Aaron and Hector and discovers that Vida is a slut and a terrible mother to a child he didn’t even know she had.  Kenny’s already pathetic life spirals even more out of control and he becomes even more obnoxious which previously seemed impossible.  His descent into destruction is halted when his former assistant Stevie (Steve Little) finally tracks him down in Mexico by following the credit card charges that Kenny has been making using the credit card he stole from Stevie.  Not only does Stevie resume his duties for Kenny (despite being shot by Kenny), he also rekindles Kenny’s sense of destiny.
Kenny decides to work his way back into Major League baseball and joins a local baseball team called the Charros to use as his stepping stone back.  The team’s coach Roger (Marco Rodriguez) knows Kenny’s talents and genuinely wants to help Kenny despite his attitude.  The team’s owner played by Micheal Pena is just as crazy as Kenny and they recognize each other as kindred spirits.  Another factor in Kenny’s road to redemption is his quest to find the father that abandoned him years ago which he finally does with Stevie’s help.  In a nice bit of casting it’s revealed that his father Eduardo is played by Don Johnson and he’s every bit a scumbag as his son and even more so.  Kenny learns that he also has a dim-witted half-brother named Casper Erick Chavarria who Kenny is immediately jealous of.
For most of this season, Kenny had sunk to an all-time low even for him which really made it difficult to root for him in any fashion.  By the end of this season however, McBride shows some vulnerability and after some hard lessons learned from Vida, his father, and his experiences in Mexico, Kenny starts to grow up and take responsibility for his life and his mistakes.  Despite the language barrier, Kenny becomes friends with his neighbor Catuey (Efren Ramirez) and his family and Stevie finds love with one of the family members as well.  After what started as an escape plan to Mexico, Kenny’s trip to Mexico ends up being one of discovery about himself and it provides him with some much needed humility and self-awareness.  He’s still outrageous and cocky, but at least he’s someone the viewers are willing to root for now.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is pretty good but it’s not up to the usual quality of HBO’s standards.  Everything seems to be turned up a  notch whether it’s colors, contrast, or black levels but it still looks a lot better than the first season.  Colors are vivid but a little too warm and the contrast is dialed up more than it should be.   Black levels are much deeper than the previous season and there’s a nice amount of detail present.  I would say this is an above average transfer and will satisfy most fans of the show but I’ve gotten spoiled by the recent pristine transfer of other HBO properties.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Eastbound and Down – The Complete Second Season’s DTS-HD Master Audio mix fares better than the video quality with a fairly strong mix that utilizes all of the channels.  Music is well represented with all of the songs during this season (there’s a lot) and the dialogue is always clear and intelligible.  Directional effects are well placed and effective and there’s some nice ambiance as well in certain scenes.  This lossless track is a step above last season’s mix.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars)

These are pretty light extras and it doesn’t help that a lot of the Big Red extra contains footage that we’ve already seen in the Invitation to the Set featurette.
  • Invitation to the Set – A look at some behind-the-scenes footage with the cast a crew during filming.
  • Big Red Cockfighting – featurette exploring the relationship between Powers and his rooster Big Red and how they filmed the cock-fighting scenes.
  • Deleted Scenes – Sixteen minutes of deleted scenes but most of them were wisely cut.  There’s a couple of laughs in here though.
  • Outtakes – A look at the cast fooling around and messing up. Not as funny as I’d hoped it would be.
  • Audio Commentaries – with actor/executive producer/writer Danny McBride, actor Steve Little, creator/executive producer/writer Jody Hill, director David Gordon Green and production sound mixer Chris Gebert.  These are funny and informative commentaries where the group discusses the change of locale (actually Puerto Rico), the new cast members, anecdotes from filming, and how this season changed Kenny for the better.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I liked this season better than the first season but viewers should be prepared to see Kenny sink lower than he ever has before before fighting his way back to being a somewhat decent human being.  This show is definitely an acquired taste and if you didn’t like the first season, then you should stay away from this one.  If you thought the first season was hilarious then you will have a good time with this one.  I’m glad to see by the end of the season that Kenny won’t be such a one note character in the future and I’m looking forward to season three.
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