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DVD Review: EASTBOUND & DOWN - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON



Studio: HBO Video
Year: 2009
Cast: Danny McBride, Katy Mixon, John Hawkes, Andrew Daly, Ben Best, Will Ferrell
Director: David Gordon Green, Jody Hill
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Rating: Not Rated for language, sexuality, nudity
Run Time: 02h:58m:31s
Genre(s): comedy

" I had a dream about this moment... When I was making love... to my wife Donna. On top a her; powerful thrusts, filling the sultry night air. Heavy breath. My son Gabriel walked in, little boy. My wife sprung out of bed and said "No, Gabriel! Leave!" And I said "No, honey, shut your mouth, let him watch." Let him watch what is being consecrated here. And I want the people to watch what is going to be consecrated here. And I will bring my son down here, and he will watch." - Ashley Schaeffer (Will Ferrell)

EASTBOUND & DOWN - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

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One of HBOs recent comedies, find out whether or not this continues their streak of winning shows, or if its the pits.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Grade: A-

Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) is a real bastard. Having recently self-destructed in his career as a MLB pitcher, he finds himself disgraced and broke. With nowhere left to go, he returns to his hometown, tail tucked firmly between his legs, with aspirations of staging a comeback. Before that can happen, however, heís got to reconcile for past transgressions and straighten out. He shacks up with his family man brother, Dustin (John Hawkes), without worrying about imposing on the family and reluctantly accepts a job as a high school gym coach at his alma matter. Immediately his eyes fall on former flame April (Katy Mixon) who is married to the school principle (Andrew Daly). Hijinks ensues.

Whether or not youíre going to like Eastbound and Down depends on your tolerance for its star. Danny McBride has been around for a few years now, having popped up in such mainstream fair as Tropic Thunder and the disaster that was Pineapple Express. Heís always doing a variation of his one persona: a southern-fried loudmouth with a profane drawl and lots of attitude. To be fair, itís dialed down a bit here in favor of developing his character past the point of caricature, but itís still shtick - one that could potentially wear out its welcome before too long. Thankfully, the script spends some time developing the word around Powers and the more we see him interact with the denizens of this North Carolina town, the more we grow to like him ñ and the show.

And thatís what separates Eastbound and Down from many of its peers, both on the small and large screens. Itís the brainchild of McBride, Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way - another McBride comedy) and Ben Best (appearing here as shady bar owner, Clegg) and their guiding hand is felt every step of the way. Theyíre not afraid to pull away from the cheap laughs that permeate the first few episodes (and are, admittedly, pretty funny) in favor of a more esoteric and surreal feeling. The later episodes are infused with a bizarre, near-indictment of the Southern US, presenting it as an inescapable world where people never leave their hometown, and their only options are to work in Wal Mart or the sleazy car dealership down the road (which paves the way for an amusing supporting turn by Will Ferrell). Iím not sure thatís only applicable to the Southern part of the country, but I digress. The point is that the longer we stick around Kennyís home town, we realize why heís so desperate to escape again.

I went into this thing with reservations. The first of the six episodes made me laugh the hardest, chronicling Kennyís professional meltdown and his begrudging return to NoCal. The dinner scene with at his brotherís house is legitimately hilarious and not without a cruel streak. But soon the show draws you into its other characters and their own dysfunctions. Try not to cringe when Kenny shows up to his bossí party with the town slut. The cast is rock solid, with every actor doing their part to prevent the show from becoming a simple R-rated sitcom. Thereís enough complexity spread throughout these six episodes to reward multiple viewings. And donít be surprised if you become emotionally involved, either. By the end, thatís exactly what happens. It puts a satisfying cap on the rookie year while leaving you anxiously awaiting the return of Kenny Powers in season two. Itís offbeat without being off-putting, but itís likeable from the get go.

VIDEO:
Iím all about Blu-ray these days, so itís become a bit of a challenge to go back to SD and grade the image quality with fair eyes. That said, Eastbound and Down is a fantastic presentation on the part of HBO. Resolution is crystal clear ñ most likely as great as its ever going to look on standard disc. Thereís no compression noise to be found and the colors are stark and vibrant. The show is OAR at 1.78:1 ñ 16x9 enhanced, naturally.
AUDIO:
It sounds as good as it looks. Dialogue levels are pitch-perfect and balanced nicely with the frequent busts of music. Musical tones pop up on the rear-channels as do some occasional surround FX, but itís mostly front and center. A satisfying presentation all around.
EXTRAS:
Three commentary tracks by the same four participants: Ben Best, Jody Hill, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green. These are good commentaries, an entertaining mixture of humor and information. We also get a 12-minute making-of, which features interviews with the creative team as well as the cast members. Short, but good.

Thereís a collection of deleted scenes, consisting mainly of alternate takes of existing scenes. Since these guys are largely improvisational, itís unsurprising to see so many different takes. To their credit, theyíre all pretty funny and worth sitting through. One delete scene is given distinction, it runs nearly eight minutes and plays more like a behind the scenes ëanatomy of a sceneí featurette. Lastly, a pair of faux videos found in the series are offered in full on the second disc.
CONCLUSION:
Eastbound and Down is a very funny show, not without substance. While we wait for the second season, HBO has given us a satisfying release with some above-average supplemental material to boot. Recommended.

Posted by: Matt Serafini - August 13, 2009, 11:56 am - DVD Review
Keywords: danny mcbride, jody hill, david gordon green, will ferrell, hbo comedy




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