TV

House of Cards Season 4 Review

If you haven’t watched up to season 3 and don’t want to know anything about the story right before the beginning of season 4, then do not proceed. However, there are no spoilers regarding season 4.

Season 4 picks up, where season 3 left us, with president Frank Underwood fighting for the democratic nomination against Heather Dunbar. At this point his wife, Claire, has left the White house, after having a big falling out between them and disagreeing on her involvement and her wish of being more than just the first lady.

Many thought season 3, was a low point in the series, as it didn’t focus on the nomination for 2016 and not much happened. It has to be said there is a lot more going on in season 4 and whilst we get the same level of character development as we did in season 3, where it was a major aspect, we also get major story development and the two are very well balanced.

It’s good to see Frank having to juggle both the presidency and his campaign and also having to fight on so many fronts, trying to avoid getting blindsided. He has made so many enemies with his actions, it’s hard to keep his head above the water, especially with his wife abandoning his side. The show dealt with the marital problems very cleverly and gave it the gravity it deserved, considering the two of them have been partners for so long, and have been achieving everything together.

One of the most fascinating aspects of House of Cards, is the inclusion of the viewer. Every time a new season begins I eagerly await for Frank to break the 4th wall and give me a peace of his mind. It took a bit of time for that to happen, but it was worth the wait. It also seems that every year, they remove some small characteristics and choose to add new ones. This year they showed us the preparation and integrated it with the actual event, going back and forth between the two, whether that was a speech or a meeting and it was fascinating. It’s the little details that make it one of the best TV shows around and I am glad they are keeping it fresh and keep bringing new ideas into it.

The performances in House of Cards, are superb. Even new characters that are introduced, are portrayed by more than capable actors, who seem to up their game and try to match the man in the lead, Kevin Spacey. It’s so great to get some more taste of Spacey. He is so good as Frank and aided of course by some of the most incredible writing, he is a constant shining light in the show, even when the story doesn’t evolve as intensely as we’d like.

Coming on to the writing, it has to be said, that it continues to amaze me, how exceptional the dialogue in the show is. There is never a drop in quality, always aiming for the top shelf. Nevertheless, there were some points in the narrative, where things happened with the sole purpose to move the story along, in the way that suited the show and allowed them to push it in the direction they intended. It very rarely happens, but those couple of times do no resonate well with the rest of the plot and feel a bit forced.

The connections with  real life events continue and are very well put in the show, as always, and the parallels are very nicely introduced, just as they were last season with the introduction of the president of Russia, Viktor Petrov. The links aren’t only political, there is focus on some social issues, with Frank and Claire and their issues being the trigger.

Finally, I just want to stress that Beau Willimon has been immense, being the creator of the show and I hope that him leaving as showrunner will not have a negative impact on the quality of the show next season, especially at such a crucial time in the story of Frank Underwood.

Spectacular season with amazing performances, new schemes and new obstacles.

8.5/10

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Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Review

Sherlock and Watson find themselves in Victorian era in this holiday special as they try to solve an old mystery. It’s funny and flashy but is it as good as the 9 episodes of brilliant television that preceded it.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman pick up where they left off, as Sherlock and Watson respectively, with that great chemistry that we’ve become accustomed to and the back and forth banter. It’s also good to see the whole cast involved in one way or the other, reprising their roles in a different era.

The episode does well in tying in with the rest of the show and along with keeping the character interaction the same that’s probably its greatest achievement. The continuous references to people not being happy with Watson’s representation in his tales is as good as any of the multiple on-going jokes that are the closest thing to the Sherlock we are used. The gothic setting is fresh and exciting and there are some genuine jump scares, but the investigation at times comes close to being ScoobyDoo-like instead of Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery at hand isn’t really as mentally and physically tormenting as originally presented in the start of the episode in Watson’s narration, no matter how hard they tried to portray it as such. It doesn’t achieve that feeling of awesomeness that a fan of the show would expect, it’s only in the last 20-30 minutes that the flow returns to its best.

It was great to see our favourite high-functioning sociopath back in action in a different era whilst stills holding links to the overall story and not being just a standalone, unrelated episode. Nonetheless it doesn’t live up to high expectations.

7.5/10

Shouldn’t superhero movies have their own genre?

In the past few days there has been a discussion about Superhero movies and how a time will come when they stop being so loved by the audience, in a similar way to how Western films were the be all end all at one point and now we only get one every year or two.  Well I guess anything is bound to become a talking point when a legend like Steven Spielberg is the one that makes the comment.

That is an interesting topic, nevertheless I wanted to turn the angle just slightly, and instead of focusing on the future where Superhero movies die, to their present dominance in the film industry and their categorization.

It seems crazy to me, that after a series of box office hits and successes of comic book adaptations (including Batman, X-Men, Avengers, Superman and so many more), that increase with each passing month, we still see them being categorized in a varying range, from Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi to Crime, Drama, Thriller omitting one very important word that would be 100% accurate and true to the actual genre.  Action, Adventure is more often than not correct, however Sci-Fi and Fantasy don’t really cut it in terms of giving a complete interpretation.  It is very much like categorizing a Western as an Action, Adventure or Crime, Drama, without using the actual name of the genre; hence the audience isn’t able to comprehend the actual content of the film.

Haven’t we had enough time to get used to the superheroes dominating box office time and again? Shouldn’t we be at a point where we can agree of a genre-categorization that would encapsulate all that comic book-adaptations/superhero movies are about, so that it can be described correctly and accurately instead of being an opaque Sci-Fi, Fantasy, like it is now?

Hannibal Season 3 Review

It was clear for everyone to see in the first couple of episodes of season 3, that Bryan Fuller doesn’t care about ratings at all, all that matters is making a good show and credit to NBC for allowing him so much freedom to express himself. I guess all good things must come to an end though.

It was slower than ever, in terms of the pace of development of things, however we got to see so much happen, from wrapping up a trip in Italy, to getting involved with the Tooth-fairy as the Red Dragon arc comes into play. The most amazing part of season 3, as it has been for the whole duration of the show, is the remarkable way the characters are depicted and the interactions between them, especially after thinking back on what happened in the first 2 seasons.

Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen really give some of the best performances throughout the season.  They have so much room to show the acting talent they possess in abundance, as we dig deep into the state of mind of both Will and Hannibal and they truly hit the ceiling with their work.  We get to explore all of the main characters a lot more, in season 3, and they are all more or less mentally and physically changed after the events of season 2 (as one would expect),  and the whole cast really is amazing, especially the aforementioned ones.  Moreover Richard Armitage is added to the mix and he really took me by surprise with his excellent performance.

Hannibal, the show still maintains of course its unique charisma, from those trademark beautiful shots, the controversial gore and violence, to the cannibalism and the great cooking sessions that accompany the intense dialogues that always take place between some of the most fascinating characters of television.

9/10

The Brink Season 1 Review

Although the premise of the show is very straightforward, the US government, but really just the United States Secretary of state is trying to prevent World War 3 in the light of a geopolitical crisis taking place in Pakistan, the show is quite peculiar, mostly due to its weird and exaggerated characters.

The success of the show relies on three main comedic duos, which have amazing chemistry and work extremely well together.  That of course comes down to some fantastic writing of dialogues and a great cast consisting of Tim Robbins, Maribeth Monroe, Pablo Schreiber, Eric Ladin, Jack Black and Aasif Mandvi.  There is a continuous verbal back and forth that goes on between them, as they get into some unbelievable situations and always deal with them in the most unexpected and unconventional manner, always leading to some hilarious moments.

The show is in the form of 30 minute episodes, however each episode picks up wherever the last one left off, and in the grand scheme of things, it is very similar to a 5 hour movie, in that there are no jumps for the characters since we follow them around watching closely whatever they are on to, except maybe a few plane flights here and there.

Overall the first season of The Brink offered great entertainment, with a great ensemble to act on a very smart and different script.  Totally worthwhile if one can enjoy good comedy.

8.5/10

True Detective Season 2 Review

It was a very tough act to follow season 1, since it was one of the best, most intriguing and remarkable works on television.  It included some of the best writing and most complex characters we have ever experienced.  Season 2 tries to stick to the same formula in regards to the characters, with each of the main 3 detectives and a criminal having their own personal issues in addition to the case/s they take on, in addition to throwing them in a hellhole in the town of Vinci in California, where everyone is more likely corrupt.

The cast is more or less perfectly chosen; from those that have just a couple episode cameos to the regulars of the show.  Colin Farrell shows greatness, his character’s portrayal is the best the season has to offer, and he is one of the reasons to watch the show, with a flawless performance throughout.  One step down the ladder is Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch, who also achieve great heights, only to leave Vince Vaughn a step further down,  with what is a half decent performance, that won’t be remembered.

In terms of the story and how it developed, I have to say, it was quite pleasing as they took a neo-noir direction disregarding the hard-core detective work that led to them chasing a ghost all around the local area, which we saw in season 1 and opted for more gruesome interrogating, and a bit more violence, kind of a first shoot then ask questions approach.  It continues in a similar way to season 1, with slow paced development to the investigation and the unhurried dialogue that is sometimes a bit hard to comprehend.

As I said in my review of the first episode of the season, this feels like a true cop show, with the detectives not being invincible heroes, but real human beings with problems, and of course they try to over-dramatize them to get the most out of it, but without stripping the characters from their integrity and authenticity.

Not as good as the first season, but closer than you’d think if you keep expectations at a normal level.

8/10

Is it Groundhog Day for the Film Industry?

Dotty Jottings

All it takes is a brief glace at this year’s summer blockbusters for a recurring pattern to emerge. Films topping the list included Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys and Mad Max: Fury Road. So what do these films have in common? They have all, in one way or another, been done before; perhaps a remake or a sequel, but essentially just a different spin on another movie. This is becoming an increasingly common occurrence in today’s film industry. Now it seems that a film created from a truly original idea is rare.

Of course, every concept for a film has had to come from somewhere. A large number are adapted from books, plays, and even video games. Even if it are not a direct remake, every movie contains borrowed elements, and it could be argued that there is no such thing as a completely unique film. However, now cinemas appear…

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