Watch This: Trailer for House of Cards season 5

House of Cards season 5 begins on Netflix on May 30. The creepy President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) sounds even creepier in this trailer. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for House of Cards season 5”

Go Read a Play

My book club just read An Enemy of the People, an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It’s about a doctor who knows his town is about to open a spa using water polluted by a tannery upriver. The night before this discussion about a whistleblower, I watched Rachel Weisz in The Whistleblower. The combination gave some depth to the topic for me. Continue reading “Go Read a Play”

Watch This: Trailer for House of Cards season 4

House of Cards season 4 comes down to Underwood vs. Underwood in this trailer. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are back as Frank and Claire Underwood in this political drama set in the world’s most ruthless centers of power. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for House of Cards season 4”

Brain Dump: House of Cards, Empire, The Americans, The Fosters

It’s a brain dump day. Just a little bit of one thing or another in disconnected ramblings.

House of Cards

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards

When Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) finally has all the power in the world in his hands, he becomes a tyrant and a bigger ass than he ever was. And when Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) has a chance, she chooses to do the right thing. Unlike dear Frank.

House of Cards is more about the relationship between Frank and Claire than it is about political intrigue and power. Season 3 really brings that home, especially the final moments.

Favorite scenes: 1. When Claire shamed the Russian President on Russian TV. 2. When Frank caused Jesus to go all to pieces. 3. When Claire – aw, shucks, that’s too big of a spoiler to share.

Empire

Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard in Empire
Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard in Empire

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying Empire. I know I’m a sucker for any show with music, but I thought this one would be different because I don’t enjoy rap. I get tired of all those male voices in rap. But the music on this show is good, with only an occasional bit of rap and with plenty of women performers in the mix.

I’m also into the characters and the drama. Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyons and Terrance Howard as Lucious Lyons show off outstanding acting chops in every episode, with the rest of the cast doing just as well. I’m happy it keeps climbing in the ratings, because that means it will probably be back for another season.

The Americans

Holly Taylor in The Americans
Holly Taylor in The Americans

In The Americans, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) have agonized all season over when (or if) to explain to their oldest child Paige (Holly Taylor) that they are Russian spies. Phillip doesn’t want to. Elizabeth wants to but can’t bring herself to do it. It underscores everything that happens this season from what they do as spies to how they relate to each other and their daughter. It’s fascinating to watch their lives and all their assumptions kind of unravel over this issue.

The Fosters

Cierra Ramirez in The Fosters
Cierra Ramirez in The Fosters

I think we need more geeky young women on TV as role models. Well, we got one. Cierra Ramirez as Mariana on The Fosters turns out to be quite the hacker. I love Mariana the geek! More geeky girls, please.

 

House of Cards: Trailers, Posters and Dates

The release date on Netflix for House of Cards is Friday, February 27. All 13 episodes of season 3 will be available then.

Poster for House of Cards

In season 3, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is the President, Claire (Robin Wright) is First Lady. I forget the exact details of how Frank Underwood manipulated himself into the Presidency. I must go back and review season 2 before Feb. 27.

Most of the season was filmed in Maryland, but the finale was filmed in northern New Mexico in the Santa Fe and Las Vegas area. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for places I recognize in the finale!

Netflix calls this preview a moving poster. It doesn’t show much of anything except the Underwoods looking Presidential.

The official season 3 trailer is much more exciting – and drum laden.

How Best to Show Texting in a Film

I need the huge ridiculous Grandma fonts to be able to read texts in a film, so I appreciate the solutions that make the text nice and big. I could read almost none of the tiny-sized texts in House of Cards, but I did appreciate the looks that Kevin Spacey threw at the camera after he read one.

I want it big, yes I do. However, I’m rooting for something that keeps the focus on the actor and not a phone.

This is going to continue to happen in films and on television. Soon we’ll be trying to read from wearable devices like tiny screens worn on the wrist. What do you think is the best solution?

Reflections on House of Cards, season 2

Season 2 of House of Cards appeared on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. If it was meant to be a little billet-doux from Netflix to sweeten up our weekend, it failed the sweetness test. It more than made up for it in the drama department, however.

I want to share my reactions to this series without revealing any spoilers about season 2 while doing it. Overall, season 2 is even better than season 1 – and season 1 is exceptionally good. Here are a few reasons that House of Cards continues to get better.

  • There are fascinating plot twists that keep you on your toes in this story. Not one of the politicians in this tale does a single thing for the good of the country or the people – it’s all about self-interest. It feels realistic and unpleasantly like modern politics. Yes, it feels realistic in the telling, but if you really examine the plot it seems unlikely to ever be reality.
  • The performances by the lead actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Frank and Claire Underwood are outstanding.
  • Supporting actors also do an outstanding job. It’s a big cast, because the story is involved.  Every character is important as a piece of the puzzle and every actor gives a credible performance.
  • The look, the mood, the writing, the pace: everything works, everything contributes.
  • A couple of episodes were directed by women, namely Jodie Foster and Robin Wright. A series always earns extra points with me when a woman directs.

The Master Manipulator

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood

Frank Underwood continues to be ruthlessly ambitious, a manipulator who will do anything to get what he wants. He shares some of his plans and goals with us by talking directly to the camera as he did in season 1. We see a measure of his true self thanks to this device. Other than his wife, most of the people around him have no idea what he’s doing. He’s very convincing.

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

In season 1, Claire Underwood was off doing her own thing, but in season 2, this power couple are working more closely together to achieve their joint quest for power. We see deeper into their relationship. House of Cards would still be fascinating if the only plot involved the complex and murky interactions between this couple.

Shared time in a complex marriage
Shared time in a complex marriage

They understand each other, they support each other, and they are committed to getting what they want. They tolerate each other’s foibles and needs and build on each other’s strengths. In some ways it’s a political marriage based on shared ambitions and convenience, but in other ways they love and care about each other.

House of Cards is about much more than a marriage, however. There are themes of good an evil, about power and whether power corrupts, about the end justifying the means, about progress, the common good, the rule of the moneyed class. Mixed in with the big thematic elements there are human stories about the desire for love, the need for sex, and appetites of all kinds.

A Few Supporting Characters

The majority of the supporting characters are ambitious politicians. There are a few journalists, sex workers, security staff, double agents, or others who somehow know too much and could be a danger to the politicians.

These are the supporting players that I found particularly impressive.

Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp
Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp

Molly Parker as House Whip Jackie Sharp is terrific. She’s strong, devoted to her own political ambitions and willing to work with Frank Underwood even though she knows he’s a snake. Her story gets fairly well developed for a supporting part. She gets involved with Remy Denton as part of that development, a choice that might end badly.

Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton
Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton

Mahershala Ali as Remy Denton is someone who is not a politician, but does what he can to influence politics in various ways. He’s an employee of billionaire Raymond Tusk and sometimes is sent to do things he doesn’t really want to do.

Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk
Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk

Raymond Tusk is played by Gerald McRaney. I have been watching Gerald McRaney on TV for over 40 years, since the early 1970s. I have to admit I’m fond of him. He’s usually a good guy, but here he’s a power junkie with billions at his disposal. He’s fantastic as a villain!

Stamper and Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner
Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper and Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner

Michael Kelly is chilling as Frank Underwood’s chief of staff, Doug Stamper. One of his chores in season 1 was to get the sex worker Rachel Posner out of the view of journalists and make sure no one ever heard from her again. He’s an alcoholic with 14 years of sobriety, but he goes on a crazy “dry drunk” binge over this woman (played by Rachel Brosnahan) and spends his time obsessing about her and following her every move. Her storyline grows more interesting and important with each episode of season 2 as well.

There are many characters I haven’t mentioned because I’m trying not to reveal anything that happens in season 2 that will shock or surprise you. There’s plenty in season 2 that will do that.

Heading into Season 3

Season 3 is a go. As I look at what transpired in season 2 and think about what may happen in season 3, I can’t help but think about a book I read recently called Give and Take by Adam Grant. I reviewed this book briefly in a post on my other blog, Web Teacher. The Machiavellian Frank Underwood is a taker of the highest magnitude. He thinks he’s invulnerable, he thinks everything is in his control, but he makes mistakes. He trusts the wrong people, he does the wrong things, and his empire could topple like a – it must be said – house of cards.

Adam Grant’s premise in Give and Take is that takers eventually fail and fall. Will Frank Underwood?

Trailer: House of Cards, season 2

If you have Netflix and haven’t watched the first season of House of Cards I recommend you watch it. It’s excellent in every possible way storytelling and acting can be excellent. The first season won 3 Emmy awards.

Season 2 will be released February 14, 2014. Here’s the trailer from Netflix.

Among the many featured actors in the series are Kevin Spacey, Michael Gill, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara. Kevin Spacey carries the lead as the ruthlessly ambitious Francis Underwood.