Catching Up: A Few Great Performances From This Year So Far

Despite having the lowest summer box office in over a decade 2017 has been a great year for movies. It’s actually hard to believe that the box office has been so bad given just how many great movies have come out. It’s almost like the a glut of sequels and remakes combines with going to the movies being a kind of shitty experience is starting to take a toll. Or everyone spent the summer outside. You never know.

In any event, since I haven’t been writing reviews as diligently as I should (read: at all) I’d like to present you a few performances from this year in roughly chronological order that are worth of both your time and hefty amounts of praise. Mild spoilers for all films discussed.

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Review: Baby Driver

I sometimes find the music in films almost manipulative. You watch something big and brash, like a *Transformers* or *Avengers*, and the aural aim is clear: use the score to generate the required emotional response from the audience. Here’s the hero, *BAM BAM BAAAAM*. Moment of loss; strings in a minor key. Racing through a jungle, peppering Colombian foliage with bullets? Have some dubstep to pass the time. What stands out for me more these days are films where the music is *part* of the story, instead of merely underpinning the action. *Inception*’s slowed-down *Non, Je ne regrette rien*; *Fury Road*’s war drums; Tarantino’s torture music. It’s an elevation of the material, a move that takes it to a whole level of blissful enjoyment.

But even the creative musicality of these great films cannot eclipse the groove of *Baby Driver*. Edgar Wright’s crime story is choreographed like a ballet, where every movement, spin and gunshot is rooted in the music blasting out, and the effect is somewhere approaching pure magic.

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And So Here’s The Trailer For Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare

CoD Kevin Spacey

Hang on, I just need to set my watch by the *Call Of Duty* release schedule. Activision has just released the first full trailer for *CoD Advanced Warfare*, their latest entry in the FPS juggernaut due out as usual in November of this year.

“But how can we make people care about this one?”, scream the marketers.

Two words: Kevin. Spacey.

Little more interested now?

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Awesome: House of Cards Renewed for Third Season

House of Cards

House of Cards may have been a big gamble for Netflix but it paid off in spades. The series was the first digitally distributed series to be nominated in the major Emmy categories, one of which it won (David Fincher took home a directing trophy) and Robin Wright took home a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Claire Underwood, the iron wiled wife of series protagonist Frank Underwood.

The second season of the show is still 10 days away from being broadcast but today the LA Times is reporting that a third seasons has been confirmed.

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Review: House of Cards (series)

House of Cards

[House of Cards is now live and streaming]( I’ve been looking forward to this for some time and I intend to watch it all, probably at least twice. This article comes after I finished the fourth episode. I’m going to my best to avoid spoilers and just talk about tone, performance, plot execution and all that good stuff. Look for a follow up next week for a more in depth (and probably spoilery) discussion.

Based on an incredibly well regarded British series of the same name, this remake casts Kevin Spacey in the role of Frank Underwood, the U.S. House Majority Whip, the man “_whose job it is to clear the pipes and keep the sludge moving_” in his own words.

At the series outset Frank has hitched his wagon to that of a newly elected president. Having done everything right it’s expected that he’ll be nominated for Secretary of State as a reward for his work.

But then that doesn’t happen. The president-elect nominates another man, younger and with little experience. Even more irksome to Frank, the president-elect himself didn’t break the news. He had his chief of staff do it for him, something Frank takes as a sign of great disrespect.

He spends the day alone thinking on what to do. He arrives home to his wife who chastises him for not calling. They do things together she points out, and they are most definitely better as a team even if their relationship seems to be based mostly on mutual advancement. Despite this, when Frank tells us that he loves Claire “more than sharks love blood” it’s easy to believe.

Frank spends the night thinking on what to do next and then he decides: he’s going to take the sons of bitches down. From here the manoeuvring starts. He starts working on playing people against one another, promising one thing while delivering another, and all the while playing the part of the loyal team member.

You know what? It’s all _fucking brilliant_. When Kevin Spacey is on his A Game there’s very few other actors I can say I find as thrilling to watch, and Kevin Spacey is on his A Game here. Robin Wright plays Franks wife Claire and she’s great too. They are the perfect couple in so many ways, equal partners in a relationship built on pursuing power.

House of Cards

Kate Mara plays one of the shows other central characters, the gutsy young reporter who forms a mutually beneficial relationship with Frank: he passes her information which either enhances his, or damages an enemy’s, reputation and with that information her career is greatly advanced. She’s good. I feel like lately people overlook Kate Mara in favour of her sister Rooney (admittedly, has had some amazing performances) but she’s more than capable. Her character has the least surprises to offer as it’s the most stereotyped in the show but she’s doing well with it.

But who am I kidding, this is the Kevin Spacey show. Everything about him is magic. Whether he’s dressing down a rival or buttering up someone he needs or explaining his motives to us by breaking the fourth wall –a technique that’s pretty hard to pull off this well– it’s just a pleasure to watch him talk and the dialogue he’s working with is witty and acerbic (and yes, he gets to use [the now famous quote]( from the original plus a few new better ones). Spacey is able to shift gears between the cynical and self serving Frank and the charming, well meaning utterly sincere persona Frank puts on as a politician, often cutting away from the latter to deliver a short soliloquy to us as the former, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the part.

The story is compelling as well. I think that releasing the entire series at once was a smart move in the end as it makes the series feel more like a 13 hour movie than 13 one hour episodes. In the story we get to see first hand all the wheeling and dealing and back room shenanigans that make Washington, and let’s face it probably every other democratic government, tick. I don’t know what’s worse that it’s some of it’s so outlandish that it’s hard to believe or that none of it is so outlandish that I can’t believe it.

One other major concern I had was that David Fincher directed the first two episodes. Not that that’s a bad thing, but rather that following episodes might not be up to the same level of style and technique. I’m happy to report that’s not the case. Fincher’s two episodes certainly look and feel like David Fincher directed them, but the following two (directed by James Foley) keep the same tone and feel going if not that certain David Fincher look.

All in all the first third of this series is fucking great and, more than that, I feel like this might be the start of something. Netflix goal is “[to become HBO faster than HBO can become Netflix](”. That’s a pretty ambitious goal but if they’re able to keep this up then I don’t see it being a problem. If they keep investing in big chunks (House of Cards was given a 2 series, 13 episode per order) then more’s the better. Guaranteed runs are risky for the studio but they’re great for the creator and the viewer.

So what are you doing still reading this? Go keep watching. I have a few more to go and once I’m done the whole series I’ll post further and more detailed thoughts.

Awesome: Watch the Premiere Episode of House of Cards for Free

House of Cards

Netflix paid a metric boat load of cash for House of Cards and so naturally they want as many people as possible to see it. To that end, they’ve made the first episode available for anyone to watch, regardless of whether you have a subscription, which is pretty cool.

The first episode is directed by David Fincher, and the cast is star studded, so I’m guessing there are worse things you could spend an hour watching. It’s obvious they want you to sign up to watch the rest but you know what? Netflix is only 8 bucks a month. Worth it.

Watch this space over the next few days, I’m going to be watching the whole series and talking about it in chunks (probably 3-4 episodes at a time) as I do.

Meanwhile, relax and enjoy your flight.

[Watch Chapter 1 of House of Cards on Netflix](