Saturday, December 31, 2011

Archer: The Complete Season Two Blu-ray Review

Sterling Archer, the world’s most dangerous spy, and his snarky ISIS cohorts are back for another outrageously raunchy season when ArcherThe Complete Second Season comes to Blu-ray and DVD on December 27 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.  When he’s not busy foiling eco-terrorist threats, tracking down mysterious killers, or having sex in x-ray machines, the suave master-spy has his hands full with bikini-clad ninjas, Swiss nymphomaniacs, and paternity suits.  Archer searches for the true identity of his father, battles breast cancer, and brings a sexy, ex-KGB agent home to meet his domineering mother.  It’s all in a day’s work for the international man of mystery in this uproariously edgy animated farce.  Archer features the voice talents of H. Jon Benjamin (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy”), Jessica Walter (“Arrested Development”), Aisha Tyler (“24,” “Friends”), George Coe, Chris Parnell (“30 Rock,” “Suburgatory”), Judy Greer (27 Dresses, Marmaduke), and Amber Nash. Loaded with three exclusive top-secret animated shorts, Archer The Complete Second Season features all 13 episodes plus hilarious never-before-seen extras!

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) is essentially an American James Bond but with a lot more issues.  The both share a love for their job, women, gadgets, and Walther PPKs, but Archer is a lot more egotistical and more of a loose cannon than Bond.  Whereas Bond does what he does for Queen and country, Archer does it because he loves being a secret agent and isn't afraid to tell his occupation to any lovely lady he meets.  His boss also happens to be his mother Malory Archer (Jessica Walter) whose indifference and harsh child-rearing techniques made Archer the man his is.  

Archer's one-time love interest and co-worker is Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) who grew tired of Archer's cheating ways and his dependence on his mother.  She moved on to another co-worker Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) who also had his own issues like sex addiction, and he also cheated on her with another co-worker named Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer).  Cheryl also happens to be the least intelligent person in the office (which is quite a feat) who spends her time arguing with the most outspoken person in the office - Pam (Amber Nash).  Pam is the loudmouth of the office who is an expert bare-knuckle fighter and can out-drink pretty much anyone. Rounding out the wacky group that works for ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service), is Ray Gillette (Adam Reed) is an openly gay analyst who claims to have won an Olympic bronze medal for the Men's Giant Slalom, and Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates) who is the son of a Nazi scientist and possibly a clone of Adolf Hitler.

This season Archer has to deal with being sexually harassed by a teenager, breast cancer, a paternity suit, eco-terrorists, an untrustworthy actress, the Irish Mob, and more - including even a cyborg!  Here's the episodes for this season:

1. Swiss Miss - In yet another attempt to secure funding for ISIS, Malory drags her agents to the luxury winter resort town of Gstaad to protect a Swiss billionaire's daughter from a kidnapping threat. But Archer soon finds out the real threat is his protectee: an underage nymphomaniac who will stop at nothing to bed the world's greatest spy.

2. A Going Concern - After Malory is wiped out in a Ponzi scheme, she hatches a scheme of her own: selling ISIS - lock, stock and snack machines - to archrival spy agency ODIN. Archer and the rest of the ISIS employees, rightfully fearing for their jobs, must use every trick in the book (ISIS Field Manual, 3rd Edition) to try to stop the sale.

3. Blood Test - Archer is in for a huge (well, about ten pounds) surprise when his favorite call girl, Trinette, shows up at ISIS with a bouncing baby boy on her hip. And a subpoena for a paternity test in her purse. Is Archer the father of the wee baby Seamus? Well, that's what the paternity test is for. That's why they have those.

4. Pipeline Fever - While Malory tries to make ISIS a green workplace, Archer and Lana head to the Louisiana bayous to prevent a dangerous eco-terrorist from bombing America's largest natural gas pipeline. Archer's equipment checklist for the mission will include an airboat, a sawn-off shotgun, a compound bow, and nine cases of beer. 

5. The Double Deuce - When members of Woodhouse's famed WWI Royal Flying Corps squadron (the old "Double Deuce") start dying mysteriously, he naturally suspects foul play. As does Archer, who tries to help his loyal manservant track down the killer. While also babysitting the wee baby Seamus. So it should be a fairly busy weekend. 

6. Tragical History - Tired of his colleagues constantly calling him a failure, Cyril agrees to help George Spelvin, a mysterious computer security expert, inject a virus into the ISIS mainframe so Cyril can defeat the virus and be seen as a hero. Not surprisingly, the plan goes awry: Cyril didn't count on sexy, bikini-clad ninjas. 

7. Movie Star - The normal childish squabbles, sneaky backbiting, and petty jealousies at ISIS are multiplied exponentially when a famous Hollywood actress, Rona Thorne, spends a week shadowing the agents as research for an upcoming role in a spy movie. A movie in which Malory would - and may - literally kill to land a part.

8. Stage Two - After Malory's brief scare with breast cancer, another ISIS agent decides to be tested for the disease, with a tragic result. The other agent is Archer, and the tragic result is that yes, he has breast cancer. Because a career spent disarming nuclear warheads and having sex in x-ray machines will tend to do that.

9. Placebo Effect - When Archer discovers the chemotherapy drugs he's been taking for his breast cancer are counterfeit - consisting mainly of sucrose and Zima - he sets out to destroy the criminals behind the scheme. Only this time, it's personal. And also this time, Archer's wearing a colorful headscarf and dragging around an IV stand.

10. El Secuestro - ISIS goes into full lockdown after Pam is abducted by kidnappers. Wait, Pam? Yes, but the kidnappers were really after Cheryl/Carol. Wait, Cheryl/Carol? Yes, because Cheryl/Carol isn't quite who she appears to be. Or is it whom? We'll find the answers to these questions - and two more - on this episode of Archer.

11. Jeu Monegasque - When a mysterious stranger summons Malory and her intrepid ISIS agents to Monaco, all bets are off! Well, actually all bets are on. Because Monaco is basically one giant casino, and Archer has $4 million in untraceable bearerbonds. Also, it's Gran Prix week, so you can just forget getting a hotel room.

12. White Nights - Archer's search for his father's identity leads him behind the Iron Curtain...and into hot water! Old wounds are reopened when ODIN agent Barry Dylan is sent to rescue Archer, who falls in love with a beautiful - and mysterious - woman.

13. Double Trouble - Suspicion and jealousy are rife at ISIS as Krieger nears completion of a top-secret project, and Archer brings beautiful - and mysterious - former KGB agent Katya Kazanova home to meet Malory. Who reacts about like one would expect. 
The second season of Archer is even better than the first one, with funnier dialogue and some excellent visual gags.  The cast is uniformly excellent - especially H. Jon Benjamin as the the loud and obnoxious Archer.  Despite Archer's considerable ego, he has the talent to back it up and he even takes on the mob while undergoing cancer treatment.  I'm glad the show is on FX since it's a lot edgier than traditional animated network shows, with plenty of bad language but it does draw the line at nudity.  Another interesting aspect of the show is that it's set in an indeterminate timeline.  While the look of the show seems to be set in the 60s, Archer and company use cell phone and modern day technology.  The show itself is a curious mixture of action and comedy.  As the show creator Adam Reed describes it, the show is a combination of "James Bond meets Arrested Development'.  In fact, the ties to 'Arrested Development' include several cast members of the former show appear in "Archer."  If you're a fan of sharp dialogue and character based humor with a good dose of action, then you should give this show a shot!

Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Just the other day, I spent some time trying to convince my father that animated shows benefit from being released in high definition.  His opinion was that there was no need to buy animated titles on Blu-ray and I wish he had seen how good this show looks.  The colors pop off the screen, and every detail looks crisp and fantastic.  The show has an interesting visual style since the characters have a dark thick outline around them as they are placed in front of 3D backgrounds that look very realistic.  It looks very cool and I really like the unique style.  Black levels are solid and I didn't see any defects in the image.  This 1080o (1.78:1) transfer looks first rate!

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Archer Season 2's DTS- HD Master Audio 5.1 has a lively mix that does well both for the snappy dialogue and the action scenes.  The dialogue comes through nice and clear though the front channels, and the rear channels contribute a lot to bringing the action to life.  There's some nice directional effect work here that makes it a fairly good immersive experience.  For an animated show, this mix is impressive and it sounds better than a lot of live action mixes.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars)

There's not a lot of special features on here and this section is the only disappointing section on the disc.  The good news is that what is here is in high definition.
  • Archersaurus - Self Extinction - A weird mini episode where Archer dreams that he is a velociraptor.
  • Ask Archer - Archer answers some fan submitted questions as only Archer could.
  • Semper Fi - Archer responds to a fan in the military by the name of Andrew Buckman and his fellow soldiers in Able Company that are serving in Afghanistan.
  • L'espion Mal Fait - Another mini short that shows Archer apparently surviving a bomb blast only to find out that he now looks like the man who voices him - H. Jon Benjamin and his reaction isn't pretty.
  • ISIS Infiltrates Comic-Con - The show's cast (sans Jessica Walter), appear at Comic-Con to answer fan questions and reproduce some lines from the show.

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)
I really enjoyed this season much more than the previous one and this Blu-ray release is top-notch except for the disappointing extras. With the next season about to start, I'm looking forward to some more adventures with Archer and his idol Burt Reynolds who will appear on the premiere episode!

Order your copy today!

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