TV series

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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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

The Feeling of Loss after Binge-watching

Whenever we watch all the episodes of a TV show in a short period of time (essentially binge-watch) whether that show has ended or it’s still ongoing, we are filled with a feeling of loss.  It is as if we have lost something and it has left a void in our lives.  It’s a different feeling from the one we get when our favourite TV series ends or gets cancelled, that is probably just sadness and nostalgia.  This is deeper and quite terrifying when you think about it.  We invest so much time in the characters and their story over a just few days and we end up making a connection with them.  Most of the time after the end of the binge-watch we end up looking on the internet for more videos and stuff that involve the same actors, or characters so that we can fill that void.

In fact a study was made on binge-watching and they say that their findings in the research show that those who feel more depressed and lonely tend to watch more programs.  I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. A different study, which I consider closer to the truth is that stopping binge-watching has a similar response to giving up food or substances.  There are no side-effects, however the feeling of needing it all the time is there.

Maybe we should be more careful of what we watch and for how long…after I finish binge-watching Daredevil.

Breaking Bad-Full Review (No Spoilers)

Breaking Bad demonstrates the power of television, with some of the most fascinating episodes ever broadcasted, with captivating acting and stunning film-making.

Bryan Cranston’s performance is simply breathtaking. Every actor in the show did an excellent job, especially Aaron Paul, who was stupendous, but Cranston was just different class from everybody else. Everything starts and finishes with his performance, he is the alpha and the omega. One of the best performances I have ever experienced and it
lasts for 5 whole seasons. How was that even possible I will never be able to understand. He is always at it, being Walter White and he manages to shine. He gels everything together, even during the first two seasons when the story feels a bit stagnated, and generally whenever that happens, he still comes out on top, keeping the viewer at the edge of their sit.

We could talk about the inaccuracies and things that wouldn’t realistically happen, people not reacting as people in real life would, but then if we are looking for something that is as dull and uninteresting as our daily life then why are we even watching movies and TV shows (there are some exceptions of course-see:Boyhood).

The intricate way that the series is shot has left me in awe. Not sparing any expense and taking the time to take shots from different angles, different places just to make it more immersive, making it feel as if we are spectating from up close. Shots from shovels, vacuum cleaners,from under glass, in the ground, every place that you could think of. Taking us further and deeper, not just scratching the surface, both metaphorically as a TV series and literally.

The music in the show is absolutely superb, every song, every piece of music, or even every sound they decided to include was spot on, augmenting the feelings of the viewer that occur in any particular scene, anxiety, suspense, happiness, enjoyment, everything was masterfully executed.

The montages of cooking, dealing, killings, daily routine or anything that they were supposed to show, were expertly implemented, choosing the best possible song that would complement the picture on screen the best.

The whole story from start to finish was as absorbing and interesting as a story can be, and it’s the fundamental building block that makes the show so good. Even at times when episodes were more filled with Marie and Skyler boring us to death with their whining wife stuff, I was still interested to see what Walter will do next. Just about the middle of part of season 4 and up to the end of season 5 (every episode in season 5 was absolutely astonishing, masterpiece of a TV series season) Breaking Bad provided us with some of the best, if not the best television that one can see.

If you haven’t watched it, you probably should just because of season 5 alone, but be warned, it’s not gonna be easy, some episodes are very wearisome, mainly up to season 3.

8.5/10

How did we get here? (Ignorance is a blessing)

You know how in movies and TV shows they sometimes show a situation that will happen in the future (or the present, depends on how you look at it) and then take us back to explain how the events unfolded in order to end up in that specific situation? Well that way of telling a story, even though it might be executed to perfection, takes something away from the enjoyment, or even some of the appeal.

Let me break it down.  When we are watching any story develop before our eyes, we are interested in seeing both what will happen and how.  Now if we already know where the story will end up; well then we miss out on one of the elements that makes the plot intriguing and enthralling to follow, even if it’s not the finale, it’s still an end point.

Don’t get me wrong I know that we still get to see all the events that take place up to the moment which we have already witnessed and we still get to enjoy the journey, but it is just a bit less absorbing.  It is as if part of it has been spoiled by the filmmakers allowing us to take a peek into the future.

Can’t we be left in the dark? Just once. Please!