House of Cards (Netflix): Season 5

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS for the latest season of the streaming series. Fun fact: My dad also doesn’t like “sorry” (like Claire). 

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“I will not yield!” Frank (Kevin Spacey) declares to Congress.

“You don’t want me to stand for something,” Frank states to the viewer late in season five. ‘You just want me to stand.” But, uh, reality would beg to differ. We increasingly want politicians to push back against the bland, corporatist kind of politics Frank and Claire represent, to elevate outsiders. House of Cards is a show about the ultimate insiders, and it can’t overcome that central fact. -Vox

Frank’s “war on terror” has deadly consequences for ICO-inspired Joshua Masterson. With a little help from Dir. Green (FBI), Underwood had stashed the homegrown terrorist in an underground/high-tech prison. Frank tells Green “to get rid of the asset.”So, did you think that Frank was upset re: the reaction of the Millers’ teen daughter at the funeral? It’s like that girl saw through Frank, though she was SO young and grief-stricken (b/c of her father’s murder). 

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Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) drink a toast.

…the name of Frank’s secret society can be traced back to Greek mythology. “Elysian Fields” is said to be a true paradise where gods who are gifted immortality are sent. Basically, only the most favored gods got to go to this place and live out their endless lives in bliss. This is especially fitting for a reference point because on House of Cards, Elysian Fields is essentially a place for important men (and only men) to hang out together in the woods. -Bustle

It was one of the most talked about ep of the season, as I learned from Twitter (and later on- few articles). Viewers wondered: “Is that real!?” once it was revealed that prominent men were behind the masks at the weekend retreat (or shall we call is “glamping?”)

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Marc Ursher (Campbell Scott) and Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman)

Will Conway, the Republican presidential candidate was clearly modeled on Obama (w/ a side of Kardashian-level status on social media, as we saw in S4). We learn that he has PTSD, which he keeps hidden from even Marc Usher (Campbell Scott- still slim and handsome) and retired Gen. Brockhart (Colm Feore- one of Canada’s best theater actors). The CEO from Pollyhop, also Conway’s old pal, knows about the PTSD.

Marc finds out what’s up when Conway loses his cool on a small jet, demanding that pilots let him fly (“I’m going to be the president and you’re going to flip me those motherf****ing controls!”) This rant is caught on tape, then later leaked to the Underwoods. The tall telegenic family man is a damaged individual (after serving in Afghanistan after 9/11). 

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Eric AKA Augustus Underwood (Malcolm Madera) comes to the White House.
At the peak of Frank’s unpopularity, it seems that Eric [who role plays Confederate soldier Augustus Underwood- Frank’s grandfather] is just about the only person left who truly believes that the man could make a great president… -Bustle
Eric never openly states why he thinks Frank could be a good president; I think it’s his youthful naiveté. Eric and Frank get closer over his visits; he starts working as a personal trainer (his day job). Over talking about the world and laughing about how Eric actually made up Augustus’ backstory, the two become fast friends (something rare/unexpected for Frank). Things eventually get VERY intimate (which I expected) and also a BIT scary (nope, did NOT see that).  
Secretary of State Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson) decides to testify to the senatorial investigation into the President’s misdeeds. She goes to the White House and delivers the news to her frenemy Frank (VERY bad idea). “You need to take a fall,” he says, before pushing Cathy down a flight of steps. She’s alive, but won’t be testifying any time soon. Poor Cathy- she was one of the FEW good characters on this series! 
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Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) in the Oval Office.

Something terrible always happens when I go to a party. -Jane tells Claire

…I’m more interested now, going forward, with how this murder [Tom Yates’] will wind up compromising Claire since Mark Usher knows about it and – perhaps Jane Davis too! The two people Claire’s now relying on to steer her forward have a big advantage over her, and she doesn’t fully trust them. -Mark Fowler (IGN)

Some of you on Twitter thought that Miss Davis was NOT a believable character. Is she a war profiteer?  She has created this unassuming personality, BUT under it all, is a force to be reckoned w/, no doubt.

Claire turns more to Jane over time, shutting out LeeAnn (Neve Campbell), who is worried re: her old friend Aiden Macallan (Damian Young). It took me a BIT of time to figure out what was going on w/ Mac! I felt bad for the guy, even though he was NOT the most exciting character.  

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Tom Yates (Paul Sparks) and Claire (Robin Wright)

Stamper has never made peace with killing Rachel Posner – shouldering the responsibility for Barnes’ death is his penitence. –The Telegraph

Lisa (Rachel Posner’s girlfriend) turned to drugs, and also became a threat, BUT Doug (Michael Kelly) decided NOT to kill her. The story of Anthony Moretti being bumped off the organ donor list, then dying to save Frank, is found out by Sean, Seth, and Claire. Back in S2, then VP Underwood murdered Washington Herald reporter, Zoe Barnes, by shoving her in front of a metro train. Over dinner, Claire and Frank share their plan w/ the ever-loyal Doug: “We need you to implicate yourself in the death of Zoe Barnes.” 

Tom, don’t cheat on my wife. –Frank tells Yates (after seeing photos of him w/ a White House tour guide)

Yates’ death cannot be considered a surprise. He had persisted in writing thinly-disguised accounts of the Underwood’s double-dealings and, as his ill-considered interview with a journalist early in the season confirmed, had a big mouth to boot. Applying patented Underwood logic, he had to go. -The Telegraph

Now, I was NO fan of Tom Yates (Paul Sparks), BUT I was troubled by his death. Claire poisoned him; like Lady Macbeth, there is “blood” on her hands now. Did she ever love Tom? We see that Tom became possessive over time, which she was turned off by (duh). 

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Claire (Robin Wright) as the Acting President

Hauled before young/upstart Arizona Congressman Romero (James Martinez) and his House Intelligence Committee, Underwood snaps and says he is resigning- WHOA! 

In real American politics, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is composed of 75 representatives, led by co-chairs Rep. Raúl Grijalva (a Democrat from Arizona) and Rep. Mark Pocan (a Democrat from Wisconsin). There’s a good chance Alex could be loosely based on either of the co-chairs of the caucus or any of the 75 representatives who are members, though the the House Of Cards showrunners have not indicated that there’s any real inspiration behind the character. -Bustle

What is this job? -Angela asks her boss

Not what it used to be. Tom Hammerschmidt replies

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this is that Frank has himself become a leak to Tom Hammerschmidt as the Washington Herald, revealing insider secrets to add press interest on the crumbling administration and justify monitoring of the entire White House and its staff…  –Screenrant

Frank will walk away from it all, so that Claire will step in as the new President, and pardon him for his crimes. Then, in the private sector, Underwood will become a source of power, working in tandem with his wife, to “own this house.” It turns out that Claire will NOT be pardoning him too soon!

If she doesn’t pardon me, I’ll kill her. -Frank states in his last monologue

But while he’s thought of every possibility, like the constitutional loopholes he took advantage of to get here, there’s one eventuality not accounted for; while Frank is functioning on a higher sociopathic level than seemingly anyone else in Washington D.C. and able to connive his resignation and transition of power, he doesn’t consider his wife’s fury. Screenrant

Claire also breaks the fourth wall (NOT a total surprise, as it had been hinted at before). I think MANY of you enjoyed those moments. Did you notice how Claire’s outfits became more conservative, buttoned, and (somewhat) militaristic as the season went on? 

 

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The Night of the Hunter (1955) starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, & Lillian Gish

 

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A poster of the film

[1] Great art transcends time, but The Night of the Hunter has not lost an iota of relevance (or quality).

[2] Whoa. Lighting, framing, performances, all so unsettling…

[3] Robert Mitchum is fantastic, but Lilian Gish steals it for me.

#TCMParty (from recent live-tweeting session)

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Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum)

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them. -Rachel Cooper (in the prologue to the film)

I saw this VERY effective (and a BIT scary, even for adults) film for the first time recently on TCM. It was directed by actor Charles Laughton, who hit it out of the ballpark on his first (and only) try. It was a box office failure, perhaps b/c it seems way ahead of its time (as several critics/viewers have written). 

Spike Lee paid homage to this film, which is one of his faves, in Do The Right Thing; Radio Raheem wears love-hate on his knuckles. 

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Radio Raheem (Do The Right Thing)

[1] Mitchum is tremendous in the title role, his role is larger than life and was also slightly playing with fire in it’s portrayal as a reverend as corrupt or evil. Chapin is really wonderful as young John and has a much better character than some of the others in the cast. Winters is good in her performance.

Lillian Gish is another luminous presence in the film because she projects no-nonsense kindness and sweetness toward the children she takes into her home.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Later on in life, Mitchum said that Laughton was his favorite director and this was his favorite role. Laughton originally offered the role of Harry Powell to Gary Cooper, who turned it down as being possibly detrimental to his career.

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Harry (Mitchum) talks with Willa (Shelley Winters)

In this parable of good and evil, Harry Powell is the ultimate boogeyman – a relentless, nightmarish force who preys on children and it is even suggested by John that he doesn’t even sleep. …he often casts imposing shadows and is sometimes seen as a lone figure in the fog, almost a mythical force of terror.

-Excerpt from blog post (Plain, Simple Tom Reviews) 

It’s the time of the Great Depression somewhere in the Midwestern U.S. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his son, John, and very young daughter, Pearl, not to tell anyone, including their mother, Willa (Shelley Winters), where he hid the money (inside Pearl’s cloth doll). Ben is captured, tried and convicted. Before he is executed, Ben is put in the state penitentiary with a cellmate, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), who calls himself a preacher (and dresses as such). However, he is really a con man and murderer, swindling rich/lonely widows before he killing them. Harry does whatever he can to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben, but is unsuccessful. After Ben’s execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry’s outward charms. Her gullible older friends/neighbors (The Spoons) help convince her that a husband is a MUST to help raise kids.

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 7 (“The Broken Man”)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you have not yet seen or don’t want to know details from the latest episode of Game of Thrones

Cold Open

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A bunch of smallfolk (peasant) men are building a sept in a beautiful green valley, watched over by a new character (played by the FAB Brit veteran actor, Ian McShane).  The women are prepping veggies for cooking while children run about.  Three men are carrying a tree.  The biggest/tallest man is carrying a tree by himself; it’s Sandor Clegane (The Hound)!  As some viewers guessed, he was NOT dead after his tough battle w/ Brienne and abandonment by Arya.

Then the credits play.

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What I believe is that there’s something greater than us! -Brother Ray concludes re: his view of religion

We learn how Brother Ray found The Hound (when he was close to death) and helped him get better, then on this (more peaceful) path.  Though The Hound is skeptical re: the gods/religion, Brother Ray is NOT bothered at all (being a chill spiritual type, NOT someone w/ all the answers).

Kings Landing

Congress does not require desire on a woman’s part, only patience. -The High Sparrow gives his view of marital relations

The High Sparrow and Margaery talk re: the poor, before he gives her some (creepy) advice.  Looks like he and Tommen have been talking about some VERY personal matters!  He also gives a NOT quite veiled threat to life of Lady Olenna.

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Lady Olenna is pissed off- she insults/threatens Septa Unella w/ a few sharp words before Margaery calms her down a bit.  Though her grandma fears for Loras (“the future of House Tyrell”) and wants her to leave, Margaery insists that SHE is the one who should leave ASAP!  The crumpled up pic of the rose tells the older woman that Margaery is NOT a fanatic (merely playing a role).

The North

Jon gets the support of the Wildling leaders after winning over the giant (Wun Wun).

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I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met…

Lady Olenna gets some nice cuts into Cersei w/ her sharp tongue (LOVED it)!  And Cersei WAS “stupid” to put The High Sparrow in such a position of power in the first place.  The Faith Militant are beyond anyone’s control, since now King Tommen has swallowed the hogwash fed him by the High Sparrow 

Riverrun 

Bronn is back… FINALLY!  Twitter was abuzz w/ love for the profanely funny sellsword turned reluctant knight. 

Two of Walder Frey’s sons argue w/ Jaime for a bit, BUT he slaps one down (w/ his golden hand- OUCH).  The siege is now under Lannister command, with Bronn organizing the set-up. But why does House Frey have such terrible-looking clothing!?  And they ALL dress and look alike, too, which is NOT helpful to viewers. 

Bear Island (The North)

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My mother wasn’t a great beauty, or any kind of a beauty! She was a great warrior though.  She died fighting for your brother, Robb. -Lady Lyanna Mormont retorts when complimented by Sansa

This child actor is just FAB- sassy, decisive, & only 12 y.o. in reality (though playing a 10 y.o.)  She has NO patience for flattery, history, or small talk.  Lady Lyanna (who was named after Lyanna Stark) even rides into battle on the back of a bear (in the books)- WOW!   

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Ser Davos (who had such a way w/ Shireen Baratheon) is able to get the little ruler to listen. 

…make no mistake- the dead are coming. -Ser Davos predicts

Then we learn that ONLY 62 men are available to fight from House Mormont!  LOL…

Back to Riverrun

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As long as I’m standing, the war is NOT over. -Brynden (Blackfish) Tully explains to Jaime at their parlay

Blackfish is NOT impressed w/ Jaime; they met for the first time here.  Jaime’s armor (could be Tywin’s) doesn’t fit quite right on him, as Joanna Robinson noted (A Cast of Kings podcast).

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House Glover

They don’t want to fight; after all, the Boltons helped them get their castle back.  The new lord (younger brother of the one who died fighting for Robb) is disgusted that the bulk of the Northern army is made up of Wildlings. 

A portside brothel (Volantis)

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We quickly learn that Yara likes the ladies (NOT a big shocker there).  Then she urges Theon to drink.

“Why couldn’t they have done that… w/ a guy?  You can say, oh, she’s dominant, but she also takes a woman’s role,”  Peter Segal (Nerdette) wondered the SAME thing as me on my first watch of this ep.  

If you’re so broken that there’s no coming back, then end it.  Take this knife…  -Yara begins, but then gives him a pep talk (tough love- she’s Ironborn after all)

Back to The North

Sansa wonders if Davos is the best man to be Jon’s right hand man.  Then she sees the men arguing and shoving each other; this army is NOT looking cohesive.

Sansa writes a secret letter to someone (Littlefinger, no doubt). Follow this link to learn more about her letter!

http://winteriscoming.net/2016/06/07/see-most-of-what-sansa-wrote-in-that-mysterious-letter/

The Riverlands

Brother Ray talks about his past life (as a soldier), the violence he participated in, and his view that a person can change their life.  Then three men (maybe from The Brotherhood w/o Banners?) ride up, asking him about horses, weapons, and food.  He is calm and pleasant, but these strangers don’t seem too happy.

Braavos (Island of Essos)

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Arya survives being stabbed multiple times by The Waif (who was disguised as a VERY old woman)- yikes!  She stumbles through the streets, clutching her stomach that’s bleeding.  No one helps her!  Or is this even the real Arya? 

We are led to believe Arya got stabbed, however there are some problems with what happened this episode. First off, Arya seemed different from the start. Her scene with the merchant, her walk all seemed very confident, which is unusual after the events this season. … Also, where did she get the money from? Why was she not carrying Needle [her sword] with her? How come after all she knew about the faceless man she just stood there on a bridge not paying any attention?  –Reddit user iPlayNL wrote.

That wasn’t [A]rya. She would have been carrying Needle. She wasn’t aware that [Jaqen] said not to make her suffer, so making a big show of her suffering doesn’t make sense. It was [Jaqen] testing the waif, and by stabbing her in the stomach and not just slashing the throat, she disobeyed orders just like Arya did. [Jaqen] is gonna lay some faceless justice down. -Reddit user froschkonig expanding on the above theory

Back to The Riverlands

While The Hound was off chopping wood, some men (who could be followers of the Lord of Light) came along and killed ALL the Smallfolk.  And they hanged Brother Ray from logs of the unfinished sept- what a shock!  But, let’s face it, Brother Ray and his followers were just TOO good for this world (of GoT).  The Hound gets the big axe- ready to fight!