Thursday, May 02, 2013

Seen in April 

A few of the moving pieces of House of Cards

A lot games this month. Games of thrones, card games, silly games of age. There was so much bad news lately (Boston, Texas, Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh) that an entertaining distraction was most welcome. I tried drinking like Don Draper (Manhattan anyone? Whisky Sour to your taste? How about an Old Fashioned?) but I could not keep up and switched back to tap water and TV.

Game of Thrones, Season 2
Why am I watching this? The dialogue drives me nuts. The story is ridiculously convoluted and it can be hilariously melodramatic and pretentious. This isn't "I, Claudius" after all. Still, it does have dragons and swords and wenches and stuff. I maintain that the creator, George R. R. Martin, is more like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons than Tolkien or LeGuin. The story is so confusing. Basically, everyone, everywhere has a "rightful" claim to a throne but have failed to notice the barbarians at the gates etc. Is that right? Whatever – I've fallen for the production design and the mere pretence that something will happen. File this under "guilty pleasure".

Treme, Season 3
Same old, same old. Quality written stories with engaging characters with whom we share their highs and lows in America's beat up, beautiful city of Jazz.

Django Unchained
Another revisionist historical revenge fantasy from Tarantino, reformed in his exploitation / pulp genre. Thoroughly entertaining with some great dialogue. Both Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx are great as a successful bounty hunter partnership. Yet… did the script deserve an academy award? Was it anything new? I really hated the extreme camera zooms - which is as dated as patched bell bottoms and the explosive extreme violence was, well, explosive and extreme. I want to not like DiCaprio as the sadistic slave owner but he was having so much fun as the villain it was contagious.

This is 40
I generally liked this Judd Apatow picture of two 40-year-olds realizing everything that used to come easily is harder than it seems. It got poor reviews and a luke warm reaction from audiences but I think it shows some maturity from Apatow. Maybe it was overly long, which seems to sort of be Apatow's thing - let a story wind down at the third act, then create a sort of crisis which extends like an epilogue. There are still some scatological jokes which seemed out of place, but in general I laughed, and it was honest. As a bonus, Apatow and Leslie Mann's daughter plays Mann's daughter on film and the kid has game. Note that this is the second Apatow film with the number 40 in the title and a climatic sequence involving a protagonist in a bicycle accident.

House of Cards
The Netflix original series about a high ranking congressman and party whip, Frank Underwood and his Machiavellian machinations on The Hill. One thing I like is the quality of the production is really incredible. Everything from the sets, musical score to the costumes feels like a feature film. Netflix have made a series before (Lillehammer) but this time, they doubled down. Another thing to like are the performances, particularly Robin Wright, who as the manipulative woman-behind-the man made my blood run hot and cold simultaneously. Generally I find Kevin Spacey a bit scenery-chewing, as though I can see him "acting" but I think the part called for that kind of affected gravitas and guile. Though I find it hard to believe it took until the end of the series to meet his match in political game play in the Warren Buffet-esque character of Raymond Tusk. I've also just finished Season One of Homeland so I've been watching a lot of Beltway drama, so I feel I should temper this with a season of Veep to keep it lighter. I've also just learned that Netflix has all three seasons of the original British series. It could be a long summer.

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