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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hard to describe what this film is about… several lives, that mostly have nothing to do with each other, but share the fact that the sheer existence of social networks and online applications has some form of severe impact on them. Much better conceived than the terrible “Catfish” some years ago, “Disconnect” is interested in the regular lives of its characters, and sees (as one would) connectivity as but one aspect in a person’s life. Some earn their living with the web (in web cam sex), some use it for pranks (suggesting to a classmate that he hooked up with a really hot chick), some are victims of cybercrime out seeking retribution (by chasing down the perpetrator in the midst of their broken marriage), some are out for the next big story for their media outlet (making promises that are hard to keep).

I liked “Disconnect” quite a bit because it has serious acting firepower, in particular with the talent of Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Bateman, but Frank Grillo as the indecently handsome online crime detective is also on  good form.

The script does not pretend (as is sometimes fashionable in such movies) that “everything is connected”, but rather chooses to pick “examples on how you can mess up your own life and that of others, not just, but also by sitting at your computer for too long or in the wring mood”. The cruelty frequent among teenagers, the inability of families to cope with a loss, the vanity driving journalists … these do not require an online setting to make a compelling  story, but if you add this component competently (and the script authors do), it sheds a light on modern life that is fascinating and a tad frightening.

What is the difference between CBS writers and HBO writers? Very simple: one of those two groups is very good, the other one is nowhere near as good. Never has that been as obvious as in “Under The Dome”.

I do not mind the choices made about changing the original story, merging characters, making up new ones… that’s what you have to do when you move a story from one medium to another. My reservations are more basic: If 90 per cent of the actors involved are not first class, then you better have a script that accommodates this deficit and allows them to be clunky on purpose. If, on the other hand, you have the odd professional actor who would be able to handle a slightly grown-up conversation, then you must give him / her lines that do not make them look idiotic.

It comes down to: this is among the worst-written tv shows that I have ever had the misfortune to watch. The dialogues in particular are clunky and redundant (case in point in one of the last episodes: butterfly hitting a dome, creating black spots, actor: “look, the butterfly is hitting the dome leaving black spots”, same episode: all light gone after the dome turns black completely, actress on the walkie-talkie: “Hey Jim, the light has gone”… ). This was painful to watch, and many people wondered in the online forums why, if they think it’s so terrible, do they continue watching. Some argued along the “fascination of a car crash” lines, my own excuse is the “same reason why I hardly ever leave a movie screening before the end” line. A mixture of hope and the urge of completeness, the desire for closure, and maybe a bit of redemption for my past sins. Now that season 1 is done, I will not come back for season 2, the reason being that there is no indication of a story arch leading to a final point. This will go on as long as CBS decides there’s an audience, and when that audience is gone, they will wrap it up within three episodes. I will not be along for when that happens. But I am actually surprised by the large audience share the show got, is there something particularly appealing to a US audience about small town life hitting the fan? Or is it that network audiences are just so rarely exposed to proper modern television that they do not have the same feeling of this playing in a whole different universe than the Breaking Bads or Game of Thrones or Boardwalk Empires? This is kind of weird…

At least the show confirms my suspicion that never will there be a high-quality adaptation of a Stephen King story for the tv screen. It happens rarely enough for the big screen, but tv… no need to keep up hopes.

These days, you can give me just about anything with Professor McGonagall… McConathingy… the guy with the abs and the neck and the not pretty face and the Southern drawl, anyway, him of Magic Mike and Killer Joe and Bernie transformation fame! The guy who used to be a systematic failure when it came to role choices, and now never takes a wrong step, it seems. Real astonishing performances he pulls off one after the other, and moves immediately into the centre of a film, however small or big his part may be.

Not the problem here, anyway, as he is something like the lead actor, cast opposite two kids who – Stand by Me-style – go out into the waters to check out something real cool, a boat that ended washed up in the trees and that would make the perfect hideout (naughty magazines included). If not for its tenant, The Man Called Mud. Nobody ever tells us whether that’s his real name, and is doesn’t matter. What we get to learn is that there are characters that are bad but in a nice way, certainly amoral guys whom we want to forgive their missteps, and not only because the other guys are even worse. Mud treats the kids nicely, treats them as grown-ups in a way, and this they appreciate and become confidants in his effort to stay hidden while reaching out for the girl he left behind while being on the run.

Jeff Nichols has apparently very quickly managed to establish himself as the director to be with (taking over that part from Spike Jonez … what ever happened to that one, by the way?), or how else can the number of not just well-known, but mostly actually excellent actors involved in this project be explained? There is Sam Shepard, there is Michael Shannon (with about 3 minutes of total screen time, but still…), and even Reese Witherspoon cannot spoil the fun.

The atmosphere of a decrepit area in the coastal region of Arkansas is a bit depressing, but what comes across quite well is the true love of (some of) the people who live on their house boats for their way of life, the bond they feel to living on the water, and the strong urge never to become “townies”. In that, “Mud” has certain “Beasts of the Souther Wild” touches to it, but whereas there this way of life is the center of the plot, “Mud” plays out like a mix of coming of age story and thriller. And brings them together in an excellent way!

“Stoker” is a bit of an odd film. It is almost an orgy of beautiful shots, of stylistic adventures, of people being draped in colours, close-ups of innocent faces… a visual feast! As the main character India is not one of too many words, this describes her world quite accurately. She is caught in a family she does not like, her one point of affection, her father, was killed, and now she is trapped with her extremely annoying mother and her uncle who suddenly turned up out of nowhere. I am not sure whether the mother is intended to be as annoying as she is, it somehow appeared to me that the script writers had a lot of trouble writing the right lines for Nicole Kidman, or did they make her intentionally obnoxious? There was some talk in the reviews about the first English-language film of a non-native speaker always struggling with the language. I am not so sure about that, I would rather think that there is an intentional discrepancy between the emotionality of the girl and the artificiality of the mother, explaining why these two just cannot get along.

As this is a Korean director with a certain history in unpleasant occurrences (such as this one or this one or … ah, just about every film he made), it is not surprising that the family drama takes a turn towards violence and ill-conceived family relations. Something wicked this way comes… and as usual the wolf comes disguised in sheep’s clothes …The wolf is the uncle, a mix of physical and intellectual attractiveness and an aura of unclear intentions and vaguely hidden peril.

In total, the film reminded me of Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” in ts partial attempt to break out of the director’s biography, while actually sticking to it, putting the characters’ developments and motivations under scrutiny and leading them towards a rather unpleasant fate. Like the Jackson film, I could very much appreciate the effort, even though I could not get myself fully immersed in the film.


What is it with these Danish film and tv makers? Of course I am only exposed to the best part of their annual output, and no doubt there will be a number of movies and tv shows as mediocre as in other places… but the sheer absolute numbers of great Danish films that you can see in any given year for the last 5 years or so is astonishing.

Another example: “Kapringen” is a very calm film about a very catastrophic event for everybody involved. Pirates hijack a ship off the Indian coast, and the machinery starts rolling to get the hostages free. It is refreshing to see how very deliberately to step out of the way of everything a Hollywood production would have done: they don’t show the hijacking, they don’t make the negotiations culminate to a heart throbbing finale, they don’t introduce a hero who saves the day, they don’t allow any of the characters to step up beyond what they are. These are normal people in extraordinary circumstances, balancing the possibilities, in need of following their procedures. Whether it’s the pirates (they have all the time of the world, only living for money they expect to get out of this, but they also have a degree of machismo and temper that looks dangerous), or their negotiator (pissed off enormously by being identified with the pirates, pissed off even more by not being able to return to his family because the negotiations take such a long time), the ship company’s CEO (desperate to do his duty, but torn between his responsibility to his company and that to his staff on the boat), the hijacking expert he brought in (a mostly patient Aussie who keeps saying the right things, but still comes across as a cold jerk), the ship’s chef (the closest we have to a hero… but soon broken by fear and desperation), and his wife (which would play a heroic role in any other film, but is very much restrained by the needs of due process). Nothing happens, for a long time, and the baby steps towards an agreement between the negotiating parties threatens to break everybody (but the pirates themselves maybe).

The strength of the film is that it allows to unfold this process, that we become witness as especially the CEO and the chef reach their breaking point. What the film is about is them – we wonder how long you can remain calm, when the escalation will come, when they will not be able anymore to contain their emotions and their mortal fear. These moments do come, and since we learned that these will be dangerous moments, the film allows us to witness a thriller, after all. No explosions needed, no retired secret agents wearing a sweaty shirt and shooting at the bad guys while working on the next clever quib… but still tense, intense and very personal, as a good film should be. This is a good film, a very good one!

This film I saw as part of my project “Chinese Box Office Wonders” – I took it on myself to watch the 10 most successful domestic Chinese movies of the last year. See here for the introduction and the list of films.

This film should be established as compulsory watching at film schools around the world. It shatters the notion that anybody can make a solidly entertaining action movie given a certain budget. It provides ample evidence that film making is pretty hard, that it requires skills which need to be built up over time, that the production of a movie is a vocation, a craft which should be learned properly and systematically. It may not be the most complicated of things, but you need to get some people involved who have a vague idea of what they’re doing, and some others who have seen a film or two in their lives. “Come visit our Film Academy”, film academy’s promotion flyers should shout, “or else you will end up making movies like ‘Switch’!”
I read that the reception of the film was not very good, to say the least. There is the suspicion that the film only ended up with the high box office figures because of the spectacularly bad press it got – and many people wanted to see Andy Lau in this kind of car crash of a film. On the other hand, I learned to enjoy “not very good” films on their own level of existence, they are created to provide forgettable escapism for an hour or three, and I don’t mind that. This is the attitude with which I started watching “Switch”… I admit that I was not prepared for the spectacular mountain of incompetence that “Switch” is. There is no hint of skill, either in photography, direction, sound, acting, visual effects… nothing. Some deficiencies are even more outstanding than others. The production design basically consists of buying everything from a designer furniture bargain bin and pretending it is cool. The award of most rotten composition of a movie I remember having ever seen goes to: editing, stunt coordination, product placement:
• Min. 7: realisation creeps in… this will be tough… somebody was shooting footage and then handed it over to a four-year-old, who started pushing all the buttons on the Avid machine and then some… the editing / timing is completely off, creates almost incomprehensible successions of cuts and scenes. This is not “modern-style frantic”, it is “text book incompetent”.
• Min. 10: Andy Lau’s character has a doctorate degree in law from Oxford? Then why can’t he say a single straight (four-worded) English sentence? Thank God for the English subtitles…
• Min. 15: this is what they consider to be a dense atmospheric setting with creepy protagonists? It would be funny would it not look so poorly made.
• Min. 23: I was waiting for this… the Japanese sadist has had a bad childhood …
• Min. 49: Yes, we all thought the “Minority Report” computer interface was quite slick, but that was like 15 years ago. Also: If you show a character handle the screens like that, at least pretend that he has a reason to do so. And don’t show it seven times, 3 minutes each…
• Min. 66: Quite a feat to make Andy Lau look stupid and clumsy in a fight scene. This is called “Dumbass Kung Fu”? Do they not have choreographers, stuntmen, any of the things that you need for a movie fight?
• Permanently: Buy Audi! Because Audi is a very good car. It is very fast and will never get a scratch! Buy! Even when shot at, really! Great car! In silver and red! Even better if you are tapping on your nonsensical Nokia mobile phone interface while driving an Audi, this makes you invincible!
• Min. 72: refer to comments about the Minority Report interface… really, there’s still somebody who thinks the Burj al Arab is a very cool setting for an action movie?? Yes, it used to be, but that was, like, 320 movies ago …
• Min 80: No Audi will ever get damaged in a car chase.
• Any non-Audi car will fall over, hence: buy Audi! Or else your car will fall over and a hand-painted burst of flames will signify that it exploded. Not with the Audi, of course! Take out your Nokia and tell all your friends about it!!
• Min. 91: Even when a shot of a camera moving around a black Audi is superimposed on an aquarium, creating the immaculate illusion of the (unbreakable) Audi to smash into said aquarium, there will never be a single scratch on any black Audi. Hence: Buy Audi, brand of the champions! (Despite Audis being unbreakable, for shooting the scene it looks they used Lego cars to make it appear more convincing, like transcending the idea of a car crash and making a more general point about all this being a child’s play IF you drive an Audi, silver or black. The red one is for social occasions only).
• Min. 104: Is this is the best showdown ever? The two opponents taking the time to dress in white Olympic fencing gear and fighting it out with the foil??? Maybe the two actors were out of contract time or were taking the Audis out on a spin, so the whole scene plays out without even pretending they are present on the set, full-face fencing masks and all…

Summary: I think it’s very likely that BMW and Samsung paid for the whole film, just to make a fool out of the competition. Worked well: Nokia has gone the way of all things mortal within half a year of the movie being released. I expect Audi to call it quits any day now. Andy Lau, on the other hand, is as unbreakable as a silver, red or black Audi. This abomination of a film cannot do him any harm. Everybody else should be thoroughly ashamed on themselves.

I remember an interview with Brad Bird or somebody top-tier Pixar some years ago, where he explained how project selection works at the company: you are only admitted to a pitch if you can present three stories of which you are equally convinced, and the board will then ask you to defend  all three with equal fervour. One might get picked, at least two dumped forever.

I kept imagining what the other two stories were that Dan Scanlon (or whoever has to do that) presented when “Monster University” was chosen: “Toy Story – B Team” (featuring Mr Potatoe)? “Finding Nemo Again After We Already Found Him (but he got somehow lost again)?” Or maybe “Cars 3: More Cars, More ‘Mater”?

Maybe it’s possible to find something interesting in a one-page plot summary for “MU”, but it certainly does not show on screen in the finished product. It is not funny, it has no original elements, it uses the established characters from “Monsters Inc.” in the same way all these direct-to-DVD Disney spinoffs do. By assuming the audience is young (i.e. < 10), and has not formed expectations about Pixar as a brand that stood for original content, stunningly directed, wittily narrated. Maybe those days are over since “Cars 2” committed the sacrilege of a sequel where before there were no sequels. Maybe “MU” actually was intended to be a rushed direct-to-DVD release, milking the cash cow while it still mooohs… Whatever the reason, Pixar is seriously damaging its reputation with this current strategy of not being very particular about script or execution. There is no more “Pixar? Yeah!” in me, but only a “Pixar? Let’s see…”

Did Liam Neeson retire? A former super agent or something running around Europe, being chased by the CIA and who knows who else, trying to save his own life as well as his daughter’s? Seems I have seen this before… only now we have a younger and considerably more handsome actor with Aaron Eckhart, which may justify the film’s existence.

There’s the usual plot devices: all of a sudden, your life is torn apart, your company disappeared, your bank accounts depleted, any trace of your existence evaporated. The reason is “your dark past”, of course, and sometimes it does not pay off to have kept your daughter in the dark about this dark past, because now you have to spend a lot of time while being chased around Antwerp and Brussels to provide monologues in order to bring her up to speed. At least now we, the audience, also know what’s going on, and that it’s all about a super secret … thingy… honestly, I forgot… but you need to have great lock-tampering abilities to get it, and that’s why our friend is in trouble, because he knows too much about all that. In any case, the documents in question threaten the existence of a company that sounded like Haliburton but I must have misheard, maybe Hurtonbali, never mind, their boss is a mean old man and wants his files back, and our eager daddy agent is happy to exchange his daughter against the files he nicked before. Oh now I remember, something to do with a ship’s manifest proving illegal arms deals. …never mind…

It is very conventional… still entertaining of sorts, but there really is no reason to add more items to the “Taken” playlist, unless you have something really new and interesting to tell. This one hasn’t, and it is already drowning in the grey mists of my memory… Good luck I am keeping this blog, or else a year from now I would never have any chance of remembering a single thing about it.

For some reason there are two different titles floating around about the film, the other being “Erased”:

“Based on a true story” usually indicates that the audience can expect slow pace, breaks in the story, and an unsatisfactory ending. The “Zodiac Effect”, I would call it, but there’s a history of that in mobster films as well. “The Iceman” steps onto those tracks, and experiences similar effects: the story is intriguing, we are witnessing the making of a professional hitman, a fixer of problems that the cartel bosses want fixed permanently. There couldn’t be a better casting for this than Michael Shannon. He is slightly tortured by the idea of killing, but would be more tortured by being unable to  care for his family, so stays his agnostic self, killing when killing is needed, apparently never developing a liking for it, doing a job he is better at doing than the rest.

As “real events” keep doing, not much happens for a while. The film jumps ahead to when something does happen, and that usually means something goes awry. A witness gets away, and the cartel is not happy, basically grounding their killer kingpin. This forces him into freelancing, and about this the bosses are even less happy. Nooses start closing around necks, the calm life if crime is in turmoil, finally it becomes clear that all this will fall apart, and that people will start dying.

The script plays this out as a family drama, with Shannon’s Richard first and foremost seeking to take care of his family. Unfortunately the part of the wife is cast with less talent (Winona Ryder), and is seriously under-written, leaving Ryder to perform hysterical fits and windmilling her hands. May well be that this is also based on reality, but then again, if facts are more boring than fiction, a movie should revert to fiction for its own good, shouldn’t it?

There are some nice side-characters, most notably hitman colleague “Mr Freezy” (Chris Evans), who is some variation on the “Dude” type, only equipped with as hacksaw and a strong stomach. Ray Liotta will never play a non-crook in his life, this is also established firmly by his role as gangster boss Roy.

I was not bored by the film, I was not thrilled, I was an interested observer of these lives. As a thriller or drama, this may not be what  the film intended, but to be thrilling, there was a severe lack of drama and surprise. Michael Shannon saved the day, as he does so often. And I was reminded that “Boardwalk Empire” starts again these days, which shows how serious mobster drama can be done.

Alex Gibney makes interesting documentaries, he finds good stories within a bunch of facts that may by themselves not appear too thrilling. He is (at least to me) not a “celebrity documentary director” in the reigns of Errol Morris or Werner Herzog, but maybe that is a good thing. I liked “Enron” not too much (because of its subject matter, mainly) and “Taxi to the Dark Side” quite a bit more (again, because of the subject matter).

In most cases there is very little that would suggest there is a cinematic story to tell, but he manages to balance talking heads and background footage in a way that is often compelling.

Same here: So some guys set up a website that allows for anonymous whistleblowing (a triviality on a technological level), and a US soldiers decides to do just that. Not much to it, if not for the weird fact that the website somehow became the bad guy, whereas the person originally submitting the material (and given the nature of the Wikileaks platform, for a very long time this person would need to be called “unknown”) and the media editing and publishing it got quite a bit less attention. The film looks into the reasons for this, and finds them in the personality of Julian Assange. After watching the film, I am still not sure what opinion I should have on him, but maybe the closest to an opinion I have is “I don’t care about him”. I am surprised that his role in the whole story has managed to make him the centre of attention. And the film is to a large degree about explaining this surprising development.

Most people seeing this film or following the news reports will feel that he is hard to like on a personal level, but the odd thing is that there is no reason for his prominence and popularity. His bloated ego and increasing paranoia are not necessarily justified in terms of what he did or what he would have to fear. Had he been of a more humble and less self-important nature, it could well be that he would continue to be a happy hacker today, sitting alone with all his personal problems in some basement, feeding on pizza and sodas as these people are expected to be. By urging himself on a global centre stage, he somehow messed up the whole project, which could well have served as a role model for sensible and useful whistleblowing, with the moral choices  to be made by the whistleblowers and the media, not by some webmasters.

The way Wikileaks presented itself (mostly through Assange, sometimes in an odd and ill-coordinated tandem with his German co-founder) drew attention to what I would call a scapegoat: there is somebody who is somehow guilty and can be used to draw away attention from the content of the leaked documents, and from the question whether this should be made available to the public or not, and in which form, and by whom. This is quite rewarding for somebody who is paranoid anyway, and I am sure on some level Assange enjoyed the global witch hunt and the weird twists with rape accusations that in the end made him spend a good part of the last years in some Equadorian embassy in London. But the film is rather clear about the interpretation that all this rape story, framing or not, was only allowed to distract from the core of the matter because of the twisted personality that Assange appears to be.

That part about Assange is strangely detached from the part about Bradley Manning and his confidante, Adrian Lamo – as it needs to be, I think. There is a link, of course, but unfortunately for Manning it’s not a good one. Had Manning chosen any other platform, had he just sent the documents to media outlets, had he pushed over a manila envelope with a DVD under the door of an investigative journalist or left in on a park bench… his story would probably have had a more happy ending than the 35 years prison time that was his prize. Seems he did not trust the traditional media, so he chose Wikileaks, and he chose to leak it through the intermediation of an equally sexually confused online friend with sometimes clouded judgement.

I was wondering whether the repeated mention and elaboration on the issue of Manning’s sexuality was not excessive and speculative, I am still not sure whether this is really the most important aspect to the story of leaked documents, but director Gibney seems to believe that it is. And there are some arguments for it, as only through the very personal chats with Lamo did Manning finally get into the state of mind that made him transmit the documents.

I learned a lot of aspects about both Wikileaks and the Manning files that I did not know before. Maybe this is what kept me enthusiastic about the film. Had I known all the facts before (and I am sure many people who will see the film will have followed the news reports more enthusiastically than I did), I might have been put off a bit more by the focus on Manning’s sexuality, and maybe also by the sometimes a tad self-important use of computer graphics (sometimes illustrating a point, sometimes only mystifying Assange’s face…).

I never intended to watch this, honestly! But on the Malaysian Airlines flight, the on-board entertainment offerings were so poor, there was little choice. I swear, it wasn’t really intentional! Still did it, and see what I got… no, it wasn’t that bad, actually. Not as bad as the critics’ community led one to believe. It was terrible and pointless, no doubt, but I have seen one or two worse films this year alone.

Pointless “After Earth” is to an incredibly high degree, actually. If there  is a message, the message is “appreciate nature, even though it can sometimes kill you”? Or is it rather “obey your elders, and call them ‘Sir’, even if the Queen clearly has not awarded them a knighthood (there being no Queen anymore, I think)”? Or “take care of your kids, and if you’re in a position to give them movie parts, do that to show them the limits of their skills and turn them into humble citizens”?

Independent of plot and message, there is stuff: A spacecraft that crashes, a  boy who has to do some hiking, a monster that is free and angry. The most impressive scene was early on, when Space Ranger’s family life is  shown, and man has there ever been anything as depressing as having a father shouting “Where are we looking when talking to each other??” while you’re already a depressed kid? Action sequences are more or less absent, the production design bounces between shots of rather pretty landscapes and some remote virtual communication screens that stop working when it counts (mercifully cutting short lectures on such profound findings such as “danger is real, fear is a choice”). The acting of the two Smiths is absent in one case (the elder) and a bit embarrassing to watch in the other, which made me wonder why the script writers (had there been any) did not make the boy break his legs, allowing him to fool around with the high-tech equipment on board and sending his father on the stroll to whatever he’s looking for. I’d rather see Will Smith fight angry monkeys than his son…

Anyway, the interesting question remains: what is that Shyamalan has in his safe that ensures producers handing over large amounts of money to make films that are really not good. Not good at all. And not successful either. This is the strangest thing…

I admit, I started into watching this more out of curiosity rather than enthusiasm. The original BBC show is splendid, and with its setting in distinguished circles of British politics, it provides an almost insurmountable discrepancy between sophisticated outer appearance and the inner workings, driven by insatiable greed for power. To recreate this in a Washington setting takes off the edge a bit, because betrayal and despair, sex and murder, and virtually everything that is corrupt and vile is the expected rather than the surprising in today’s D.C. system, isn’t it (at least when you’re religiously watching The Daily Show, as I do)?

There are some items about the remake that stand out: casting Robin Wright as a much more active wife of party whip Francis Underwood, allocating her some own pieces on the chess board of politics is what struck me first. Knowing as we do where the story will lead us (if we saw the UK show and if that is any indication about where the US show will be going) that is a good move, and Robin Wright is terrific in what she’s doing, having processed her Carmela Soprano episodes very diligently, establishing a character that is torn between lust for power, heightened pragmatism, and the realisation that this just does not work if there is any aspect of humanity or just biology left inside you. She is suffering without causing sympathy, whatever she is heading towards (more power, more cruelty, less love, or utter sidelining, who knows…), she will deserve it, having sold her soul to the devil, whom she loves and admires, and believes (against indications to the contrary, I would say) that she is loved back. Underwood’s better sentences in the first season, casually spoken to the audience, is “I love that woman, I love her more than sharks love blood”. I am sure that sentence’s interpretation will continue to shift over the seasons.

Underwood himself: this is the hardest bit, I guess, because Ian Richardson plays the original Francis Urquhart so demonic, so perfect as the central manipulator of the political system that you can only fail in comparison. Kevin Spacey does not fail, but he also does not add anything noteworthy to the character that would impress those who know the BBC original. For those being exposed to the Underwood character for the first time, I am sure this works just fine, he is ice cold in his moves, mostly in control of the situation, rarely angry, always willing to make the move that he deems necessary.

My favourite character is actually Underwood’s minion, Doug Stamper, played by Michael Kelly, who has to physically move the pieces when the Master decides on a move, who has to keep an eye on everything that’s going on, keeping open doors for future action, and who at the same time is not immune to affection and disgust, it seems. His relationship with hooker Rachel is among the finest pieces of the Season, he is credible in his caring for her, yet cold blooded when it comes to calling in favours, even though these favours may destroy that girl.

There are many good, some great performances in the first season, but what really convinced me that the US remake has a value of its own is the role of congressman Peter Russo, tortured by his past, used and abused by Underwood, spit out when trampled on, still full of hope as long as he could, at every twist and turn willing to believe in the next chance.  Great performance by Corey Stoll.

At the end of the season, I could not help but think “ah, American remake after all…”, as they shied away from following the original in what I considered to be a key plot point, to do with the role of journalist Zoe. I kept thinking all the time that had they stuck with the original, the build-up would have been really great, even better in the BBC show in that Zoe’s part is more personal, more elaborated. As it turns out, they seem to have different plans, either because they want to avoid merely replicating the original’s plot, or because they believe American shows have to follow different rules for being “meaningful” and acceptable to the audience. I was a bit disappointed by the season finale, because I felt a bit “robbed” of what could have been a major tv moment. Maybe that’s all still to come, as it was, the season anti-climaxed a bit. Still looking forward to the next one.

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