I think I can speak for the average, majority of Americans when I say...thank God that November 8th is almost here, and will soon be behind us....hopefully. Just as usual there isn't really a lot of good news being reported in the world, but I'm sure peppered throughout the world that there are decent, lovely people who are keeping the world from becoming totally dark. God bless them, and hopefully their numbers grow rather than shrink. So recently I watched this science fiction film Ex Machina after having it on my list for quite some time. When I first noted its release, I didn't feel that enthused about seeing it, and after watching the film now I know why I wasn't. It was extraordinarily boring for basically all 1hr and 50min of the running time. For some odd reason it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and who knows why as the writing wasn't that good. The story is basically this employee of a technology company goes and stays with the CEO of the company for a week to work and test on this robot to improve her artificial intelligence capabilities to make her more believably human. However, he begins to develop emotional feelings for the robotic woman, who is more complex than she lets on, or the CEO who designed her. The cast for this film was top notch, although their characters were rather boring, and not fleshed out quite well. Domhnall Gleeson plays the lead character, Caleb, who is the employee that assists the CEO. I thought he was completely miscast, and that actually may have been one of the death knells to the film for me. There were brief moments when his performance of the character was quite remarkable, but most of the time it was dull; also, his character was rather bland to begin with anyways, so he didn't have much to work with. Oscar Isaac played the CEO, Nathan, who was also a rather bland character and although the performance was better than Gleeson's, it wasn't better by much unfortunately. I found his character not compelling at all, or likable to any degree, yet his character had a lot to work with. Alicia Vikander played the robotic Ava, and she was perhaps the best, most compelling, and most interesting character in the film, but all of this wasn't effectively utilized at all in the writing or during many of the scenes. She had the best performance in my opinion, but once again she wasn't allowed to blossom that much. The film was pretty much only those three characters, so that might have something to do with why I disliked it so.
Alex Garland, who wrote and directed the film did a rather atrocious job putting all the pieces of the film together, but the concept behind the film was truly remarkable; he just didn't deliver. The editing also fell through really poorly I thought, and may have been another gigantic reason why the film was so boring; the pacing was very slow and choppy. The music was blandly ethereal with no good emotional anchors to help you fall in love with the characters, or feel what they were feeling. Perhaps the one good thing from the film was the cinematography by Rob Hardy; it was intimate, yet dynamic and edgy at times. The visual effects won an Oscar, which were good, I just don't think that they were that good. All in all, if you never watch it then you aren't missing a thing. I definitely do not recommend this film, even as a film experience unless you want to know what not to do if you make your own science fiction story or film. Well, even though 2017 isn't here yet, I hope that things get better after it starts out as one of the determining factors to a degree is just around the corner. May the Force be with us all.
After sitting on my television for quite some time, I finally watched the film Sicario. This is the synopsis of the film in a nutshell an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to assists in the escalating war against drugs at the border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. I visited El Paso quite a bit within the last year visiting my sister and nieces, which of course is right next to Ciudad Juarez; quite a bit of the film takes place around this area. It was definitely something being that close to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and if the movie is even a small fraction accurate with its depiction then it is definitely not a place I would ever care to visit without some impervious shield/force field. Emily Blunt played the lead idealistic FBI agent, and she did a good job playing the straight arrow, although it didn't seem natural for her; it seemed very forced and not executed well, and she was the only one with whom it was like that. Benicio Del Toro was utter perfection in this film. Calm, cool, mysterious, and excellently executed; this is another film that showcases how well the man can act...but I also really liked his character as well. Josh Brolin pretty much played himself; satirical, humorous, but with a slight edge of seriousness to lighten the rather dark film up a little. Victor Garber had a nice little supporting role as Emily Blunt's boss/supervisor, but it wasn't anything very outstanding.
The film is quite slow, and it reminds me of something more of a technical feature with a lot of emphasis on the cinematography, visuals and music than having the dialog carry the scenes, although there were also times when the action carried the scenes, but that was much later on in the film. I do not know much about the border war with drugs and the cartels, but I do know it is not a pretty picture. When a person comes between a person with no qualms who he or she kills or how and their source of income, be prepared for an unpleasant ending. I think oftentimes the public and public leaders of the world ignore the ugliness of these horrific actions until it hits close to home and affects their polling numbers or their source of income. I saw it frequently when I worked in mental health; no one wants to talk about, they just want it taken care of, and away from the public eye. In the film, there is a very gritty, realism approach about how to deal with drug cartel problem. This is led by the Brolin and Del Toro characters, but you have Emily Blunt pushing back barking that what they are doing isn't by the book. Del Toro has a good line he says to her "....you should move to a small town somwhere. You won't survive out here; this is now a land of wolves, and you are no wolf." Denis Villeneuve directed the film, and for the most part did quite well; it definitely felt quite real to me, but the screenplay could have used a whole lot more work. And honestly, I really think they should have gotten someone else to play Emily Blunt's character; she just didn't seem to really have it in her. The sound design was quite well done and the music by Johann Johannsson while not something you want to listen to on it's own, did such an amazing job of heightening the tension of the film. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in Cinematography, Original Score, and Sound Editing. It isn't a happy go lucky film, and has a conflicted ending, so be forewarned, but it is a good film and I think I'd definitely watch it again. The beginning of the film will definitely get you hooked...quite literally. If you want a clear, and true picture about any issue, always talk to the people on the front lines and ignore the pundits, media, and public officials who sit comfortably in air conditioning behind desks (something else I learned working in mental health). There doesn't seem to be any really good news that I can find lately, and it seems as if the entire world is having a 1970's flashback from what I understand from the time. God help us all.
I have to admit that I didn't expect much when I went to see The Legend of Tarzan, and for the most part I was correct in that regard. David Yates (Harry Potter) directed the film and he did a relatively good job with it all things considering. The story takes place apparently after the initial story of Tarzan before he departs for England to live as an English Lord. Africa was divided up by the Colonial European powers, and Belgium received the Congo and began to take every resource they could. However, according to the film the King of Belgium went broke doing this and thus sent in his man to change the situation in his favor. Enter Tarzan who is returning to Africa to make right the wrongs of Colonial Europe. Whether or not most of this is historically accurate remains to be seen, but it made for a compelling plot at least, although it could have been fleshed out more. Alexander Skarsgard as John Clayton/Tarzan worked quite well I thought (as much as anyone in that situation could be), but I was looking for more depth, and it was almost there. Christoph Waltz as Leon Rom, the film's main antagonist, was of course perfect; not necessarily all powerful, but strong and evil enough to see his goals through. Samuel Jackson as Tarzan's sidekick, George Washington Williams, was boring, flat, and definitely a stereotypical character for the actor. I would have liked to see someone like Anthony Mackie play that role or Michael B. Jordan. Margot Robbie as Jane Clayton, Tarzan's wife, was great but could have been better.
Visually the film was pretty impressive; they took pretty good advantage of the location and period they were filming, but there was a lack of depth oftentimes to the shots, they were quite linear, which I attribute to David Yate's filming style. Perhaps my biggest complaint in this film was the writing; the film touched upon a subject and historical period that isn't typically filmed or spoken about in the big or silver screen world. How the European powers plundered and ruined Africa, thereby engineering many of the current conflicts that exist in modern Africa, is a fascinating and heart wrenching story that is unheard. For some reason, Americans only seem to care or are interested in the oppression that African Americans endured during times of enslavement and colonial advances, not actual Africans. This film barely scraped the surface of what could have been something truly remarkable, as they could have gone more in depth about what European countries like Belgium were doing, rather than focusing on the Tarzan nonsense of communicating, living, and fighting with animals. There were some good moments in the film of drama, some good shots, and some good humor, but overall the film was mediocre at best. It could have been something so much better, but the actors and actresses weren't given enough to make it better than that. Even the action was mediocre at best as well. The only thing that stood out to me was the story of the plight of the people who lived in the Congo, nothing else. I really wish more filmmakers would take the period of 1700-1900 and film more of that time period of Africa; I think they could really get some really good compelling stories and heroes, like David Livingston. So in the end, the film was entertaining, and interesting to a point, but other than that nothing really stood out. If you don't see this film you won't miss out on anything, if you do, well.....you might like or you might not.
Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robbie interview
Legend of Tarzan trailer
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (actually looks rather dreadful)
How I and several other Americans feel about the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election
Now, I didn't mean the title to infer that The Revenant is about how to survive (even though it really is), what I meant was how to survive watching the film...and even I don't have a good solution for that. I spoke to several people who really enjoyed the film, and yes it was reasonably financially successful, but I really don't know why. Honestly, the only thing that I thought was excellent, or just the best part of the entire movie was the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, for which he won an Academy Award for (which was quite well deserved). I'm not entirely certain, but I think the film takes place in Canada during or right before the American Revolutionary War; the film wasn't clear on this end, which now that I think of it, the film wasn't clear on a lot of things. A man/scout is leading a group of fur traders/trappers through the wilderness when they are assaulted by a group of Indians and a lot of them die. They then make the harrowing trek back to the fort, but in the process the scout is viciously mauled by a bear and is constantly cared and watched over by his half-white/half Indian son. But the other Indians are hunting them, so a few of the men stay behind to watch over the scout (including his son) to see him healed of his wounds, or die of them. But one of the more dominant members of the group gets tired of waiting and kills the scout's son, and then talks the other remaining man to leave the scout behind for dead after witnessing his son's death. What then follows is the scout surviving the brutal wilderness half-dead by himself.
So, the film is your basic hero almost killed/watched his family die/now on a mission of revenge which he will stop at nothing to see through. Not a very inventive plot, but there you have it. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar for this role, and I honestly have no idea why. Of all the roles he played, this one had the least amount of dialogue, least amount of character depth, and was the least interesting. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, he should have won the Oscar for The GreatGatsby as that was a fascinating character of great depth, and was also a very unusual type of character for him to play; happy, not dark, depressing, or brooding. Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald, essentially the villain of the film, I was told was amazing, but I was sorely disappointed. His performance reminded he completely of his performance in the film Lawless, which I didn't care for whatsoever. His character didn't really become interesting until the very end, at which point there wasn't much chance for redemption. In the entire film the only character that I liked and found interesting was played by Domhnall Gleason (Captain Henry). He was likable, interesting, and had depth as you could see the internal conflict playing out, but sadly he had such a small role. The rest of the cast wasn't memorable in the slightest. I was so miserably bored out of my mind for nigh the entire film that I almost just stopped it several times, but I wanted to finish it so I pushed on through. The director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, somehow received the Oscar for Best Director when it should have gone to the director of Spotlight. The film is essentially a glorified documentary on frontier wilderness and survival from the time period it is depicted happening in. It is violent and quite visceral, and perhaps that is the attraction; Freud always said people are driven by sex and violence. The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and the director was dreadful; the dialog was boring not compelling, and the story and plots were very fragmented with many of the questions brought up never resolved. Yes the scene where the bear mauls DiCaprio was intense, but so what; what is so cool about being mauled by a grizzly bear. DiCaprio's character grunted more in the film than he actually spoke, and although I'm certain physically the acting for this film was quite difficult, any man in shape probably could have done the same exact thing. I don't think it took a great deal of talent. The only technical element of the film that was good was the cinematography, everything else was mediocre. This was such a boring film, that wasn't even interesting, profound, deep, or thought provoking I would never recommend anyone see it. Yes I am eviscerating The Revenant but I really thought it was a complete waste of my time and I would be more than happy if I never saw it again. Oh, don't bother watching the news; all of the bad news seems to be overshadowing any good news if any exists.
There is a lot of my own "boyhood" that I don't really recall that well, but there are bits and pieces that I can recall quite well. I loved G.I.-Joe's, the Power Rangers, Zorro, swords, magic/fantasy, was teased by other boys, picked on by my sisters, and always loved Star Wars. Granted I had my own fair share of problems and difficulties, but there wasn't anything extraordinary that happened in my life...at least that I can recall. The 2014 film Boyhood films a fictional story about a boy growing up over 12 years, and I mean this quite literally. The filmmakers actually used the same kid over the period of 12 years to film this movie to show what an average boy goes through in his younger and formative years. Fortunately my boyhood was much more stable than this fictional kid's was. Ellar Coltrane played the main star of the film Mason, and all I can say is the poor kid cannot act, but the idea behind filming the same kid growing up over a 12 year period was cool, but they should have at least provided him with acting lessons along the way, or picked someone who could actually have acted. Lorelei Linklater played his older sister Samantha, who aged just like her co-star on screen, and just like her co-star cannot act. Patricia Arquette played the mother, and she did a very good job with her performance which felt real and passionate. At times you wanted to slap her character in the face, who made bad choice after bad choice, but her flaws made her character more real. Ethan Hawke as the father perhaps had the best character in the film, even though at the beginning you wanted to strangle his character. By the end of the film though, Mr. Hawke's character had grown so much, so much so that you ended up liking him more than the mother. When the whole family dynamic was put together it played well, and I believe that is a huge factor for a developing boy during his formative years. Richard Linklater wrote and directed the film, and honestly the concept was immeasurably fascinating and cool, but the execution not as good. The writing needed a whole lot more help, the transitions between the years weren't very smooth and two of the main characters were consistently poor at acting throughout the entire film. I was probably bored most of the film, and I kept wondering throughout the entire film how it was going to run two hours and forty-five minutes long. Somehow it managed to plug along and reach there, but it definitely wasn't a fulfilling film watching experience; I was just thankful that I had finished it finally. There isn't really much to say about the film as none of the technical aspects of the film were that good, and perhaps the editing the worst of all. The only thing the film has going for it is the entire film being shot over a 12 year span. Other than that, I really wouldn't recommend watching this film, unless you were going to show it in a psychology class or developmental class. As I mentioned last time, there really isn't any good news as the violence continues to grow on a global scale, and now I typically end a lot of text messages with "watch out for terrorists," which is no longer a joke or something that shouldn't be taken seriously. The world is much more dangerous than it ever was nine years ago. God help us all.
Making of Boyhood
Rebels Season 3 trailer (and Grand Admiral Thrawn makes his silver screen debut!)
So I watched season 2 of Marco Polo and even though I really enjoy the series and the entire idea behind it, this most recent season wasn't as good as the first. There was some good character growth in season 2, and the production design and cinematography remained stunning, but the writing just wasn't as good as season 1, nor were the fight sequences. The final showdown between the Chancellor and Hundred Eyes from season 1 was so good, yet there wasn't anything that came even close in this season. So Kublai Khan still retains his throne and stranglehold over China and the surrounding area, but his vice-chancellor Ahmad continues to plot against him to destroy his reign and him eventually is his long term goal. Part of that plan is using Mongolian laws to take the mantle of Khan away from Kublai and give it to one of his rivals. Ironically, Kaidu (the one who would be Khan of Khans) believes that in so challenging Kublai's right to rule, he is saving the empire from becoming too "Chinese" and the protecting the Mongolian people losing their nomadic way of life along with other cultural ideology. So all of the characters were relatively good, and the actors and actresses who portrayed them delivered very well. A nice edition this season was Michelle Yeoh, but she wasn't used as well as she should have been considering her fine caliber of an actress and martial arts expertise. She and Tom Wu (Hundred Eyes) were awesome together, but the writers should have done more with that plot point than they did. I felt like Marco Polo was kind of left out of this season while many of the other characters were brought to the forefront as he was then put on the sidelines. The character of Mei Ling (played by Olivia Cheng) was one character I really enjoyed seeing on-screen of most of the characters; she was strong, intelligent, passionate, and has the keen ability to survive anything. Great traits for a great character. In regards to the writing, one problem they had throughout the second season was that there were too many plots and arcs going on that they didn't have enough time to properly and effectively explore each one and gain a fair amount of character depth. It was an entertaining season, and I love Chinese history and Asian history of that era, but it wasn't a resounding successful season in my opinion. I don't know what Netflix's problem is, but a lot of their shows start off really good, and then quickly lose steam after the first season, although with House of Cards it was after season 2. Hopefully they turn it around soon and get some better writers. I honestly don't know what's going on with Hollywood; it seems like there is a vast absence of good writers. Once again concerning international affairs there doesn't really seem to be any good news, and the trend of "out of the frying pan and into the fire" continues to remain true regarding how the state of global affairs is going. I'm going to make a fictional parallel here, but I think it works; ISIS or DAESH is very, very similar to The Brotherhood of Nod. If you haven't played any of the PC game series Command and Conquer then you won't understand the parallel, but basically the idea is that ISIS is going to be around for a very, very long time and will only become more lethal through the passage of time. And to think, it is very likely all of this could have been prevented five years ago.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been perhaps one of the slowest starting but then action packed at the end of the series thus far; it seems like things progress very, very slowly at the beginning of the season and then everything happens in the last two episodes. By the way, if you are not caught up with the entire series, do not continue reading as I will spoil everything.
The Sixth Season of Game of Thrones ends with Cersei as Queen of Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen has her fleet, her armies, full grown dragons and is on her way to Westeros with allies from the Iron Islands, Dorne, and House Tyrell. Jon Snow is King in the North, and his brother Bran has taken up the new mantle of the Three Eyed Raven, while Arya has returned to Westeros to exact her revenge beginning with Walder Frey. People who are dead: Margery and Loras Tyrell along with their father; the High Sparrow, Lancel Lannister along with his father, Tommen Baratheon, Grand Maester Pycelle, Ramsay Bolton, Rickon Stark, The Blackfish, Doran Martell, Balon Greyjoy, Osha, and Hodor. As you can see a lot of major characters died in this season, which I think is good, because hopefully they can create a more focused story now rather than having dozens of independent storylines going on simultaneously. So yes, Jon Snow came back from the dead and is now a king; how fortunes quickly change in the midst of chaos. Danerys also had her fortune change similarly from being a prisoner of the Dothraki at the beginning to sailing to Westeros with a massive army and fleet at her side with all three grown dragons, and with Tyrion at her side as her Hand of the Queen, and Varys as her Spymaster. It also seems that Varys was able to galvanize support most likely for Daenerys from Dorne and House Tyrell, as they want revenge for what she and House Lannister did to them. Blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire while it is packed with people, isn't a very popular thing to do, but when it is filled with your enemies, it is quite clever. However, Cersei's children are all dead now (Tommen committed suicide when all his advisers and his wife blew up) and the prophecy told to her by Maggie the Frog has come true..."Gold will be their shrouds..." So she doesn't have much to live for anymore. My guess is that she would rather die than yield King's Landing to Daenerys, so she will most likely take the Mad King route and attempt to burn everything, but Jaime will stop her by killing her and then killing himself. Very Romeo and Juliet like, which I think will go perfectly with the overall story thus far. Season 6 may actually be the finest season thus far. Bran as the Three Eyed Raven got to see some interesting moments from the past, including what happened to his aunt and why, although not fully revealed but she did have a baby and it seems likely that it is Jon Snow, but nothing would surprise me. It was also revealed how the White Walkers came to be and how the Night King was created and why. You saw a lot of good character development in this season, particularly with Sansa, Arya, and Daenerys which was great; actually this could be called girl power season in Game of Thrones as all of the men seem to be dying off and all of the women rising to power. Has a nice sense of irony and karma after the brutality they have endured for most of the 5 previous seasons.
So in Season 7, I think Daenerys will take King's Landing and finish off House Lannister and reinstate House Targaryen as the royal dynasty and ruling house of the 7 Kingdoms and she will cement her power. Then, in Season 8 (which I believe will be the final season of the show) everyone will band together and fight off the Night King, the white walkers, and his dead army. It is possible that John Snow will actually be revealed to be Rhaegar Targaryen's son from Lyanna Stark, and might fly on one of the dragons, or marry Daenerys. Also, it should be interesting to see what they do with Aegon VI, Daenerys nephew fathered by her brother Rhaegar, because he would have a stronger claim to the throne than her. Then there is Littlefinger, and what his plans are, as he desires to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side; should be interesting to see how he manipulates events in his favor. During all of this George R.R. Martin is supposed to release another two books I think, one of which is titled Winds of Winter, but he is taking over 5 years to complete it, so who knows. All in all, Game of Thrones is a series that has been getting better with each passing season, with perhaps seasons 5 and 6 standing out as my favorites. Yes there is a good deal of violence in the show, and sex (the least sex was in seasons 5 and 6), but there is something quite compelling about the characters and story. Try finding a quiz about which House you'd be; it's really fun! Oh and I do have to give props to the writing in this series which is phenomenal, as well as the production; very impressive for a television show.
Maybe there is just some subject matter that works better in comic book mode, or animated television than a full fledged motion picture, and I do believe that The Fantastic Four franchise qualifies definitely. This is the 3rd attempt at making the characters into a successful film, and honestly I think it was the best attempt of the three. Unfortunately the film got a really bad rap right from the beginning, which considering all of the dreadful films out there was really ridiculous. So it is essentially an origins story and plot where the Fantastic Four are working together...or rather 3 at this point to create an inter-dimensional teleporter for biological matter. Experiment goes awry and thus births the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. Very vanilla like, although their transformation was very dark and visceral, which was a nice difference between some other super-hero films. They then battle and fight essentially Dr. Doom to save themselves and their planet basically. Not a very original plot, but there are some character and story developments that make it work from start to finish. Now, if there was one place this film excelled at it would be casting, which was superior. Miles Teller as Reed Richards was superb; he was funny, clever, heart warming, yet there was depth. Same thing goes for Kate Mara as Sue Storm; such a great talent, depth, humor and a certain level of character intelligence. Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm was perhaps my favorite of the four, and someone they should have gone into further depth with, and I would give him all of the similar traits as I mentioned concerning his cohorts. Michael B. Jordan is a talented actor, but that didn't really transfer to his character in this film as Johnny Storm; maybe it's because I don't really care for the character, but he really came off as flat and annoying most of the time, which is unfortunate because of his immense talent. Toby Kebbel as Dr. Doom was perfection beyond belief....and of course he had a small role that wasn't explored. He was dark, brooding, likable, sympathetic and compelling and then he made for an excellent villain. Reg E. Cathey was Dr. Franklin Storm and he was great to have in the film, so much talent, and he did quite well in his role as the surrogate father to the team.
Now, the reason why I think the film tanked was the material, because it wasn't the talent in front of the camera. I wouldn't come out and say that the writing was completely horrendous, but it was fairly close to that. Also, for some odd reason the running time for the film was only an hour and a half, which doesn't give much wiggle room for smooth transitions and character development; thus despite a very good look to the film and a talented cast, it sank. Okay probably the reason why it wasn't completely atrocious is because Simon Kinberg was one of the writers, the director Josh Trank, and Jeremy Slater were the other two writers. I'm not certain how much influence those two had on the finished product, but it should have been just Mr. Kinberg who wrote the screenplay since he has a proven track record already. Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass composed the music which was kind of forgettable as I just watched it last night and I cannot recall any motifs or themes that stick out, which is disappointing as I really like Marco's music typically. The costumes were well done, I thought, and the cinematography wasn't too bad either. There was one particular scene where the special effects weren't that great, but other than that not too bad either. Yes the film was mediocre, but I would watch it again. It just needed better writing and editing skills, and the film would have been a smash hit. Alas there is seemingly a severe shortage of writers in Hollywood these days. Watch it or don't watch it; it's one of those films. So the news around the world is becoming increasingly bleak, and I definitely believe the world is becoming more and more dangerous; more so than I can ever recall in my lifetime. I had conversations with my sisters to make certain that they can protect themselves, and I've talked about that with other people as well. Between Russia, Syria, North Korea, China, Daesh, Iran, and radical Islamic terrorists it's becoming a huge mess out there as US foreign policy retreats to pre-WWI levels. So God help and protect us all; we're going to need it.
So after watching Captain America: Civil War finally, all I have to really say is.... "Go Team Captain America!!!!!!" Unlike most of the other Marvel films, the Captain America films have gotten far better with each one, and also have gotten deeper; this one of course reaching the pinnacle thus far of the 3 films released. I am truly becoming "comic-booked out" but the Captain America films stand apart from the others. There are two plots going on in this film; one bad dude is seeking vengeance on the Avengers, and the other plot is the United Nations trying to control organized superheroes. Tony Stark is for the UN controlling the Avengers, and Captain America is not, and thus struggles ensue, and of course Bucky Barnes returns as the Winter Soldier further complicating matters. I really don't have to say much about the returning cast, although Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) really took it up a couple of notches in this film which was great; more intimate and human than fake superhero. I really enjoyed Anthony Mackie (Falcon), he's an excellent addition to the team. Scarlet Johnansson (Black Widow) perfection as always. Sebastian Stan was good as Bucky, but was awfully static considering. Don Cheadle is a great actor, but I really do not care for him as War Machine....it just doesn't seem to fit him. Jeremy Renner shot arrows as Hawkeye and witty quips...that's it. Paul Bettany as Vision was good, but static, but I really enjoyed Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch. Paul Rudd's brief appearance was....amusing. Emily VanCamp finally got a larger role, and she did quite well with it. As for the new people, some were excellent some were....not. Tom Holland as Spider-Man was perhaps the only part of the film, aside from Paul Rudd, that I didn't like about the film. I'm sure he's exactly the kind of Spider-Man the filmmakers want, but I for once would like to see a new Spider-Man story start out with the character in college already and skip the obnoxious intro stuff. Not to mention the character is depicted as a kid that yacks on and on endlessly. Not really something I am really interested in. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther was awesome; the best new character from the film absolutely. He presented himself in a compelling way, and his character had a reason for being there; he wasn't merely just haphazardly tossed in. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of him. Martin Freeman (CIA chief) and William Hurt (Secretary of State), and Marisa Tomei (Aunt May) were totally wasted talents; William Hurt should have had a far more prominent role, that was clearly not written well. And as for the other two, their characters weren't even necessary whatsoever; I don't even know why they were in there. Bad casting and writing award there.
The action sequences were relatively good; not too much over the top action, but there were times when more dialog would have been better suited than other ten minutes of punching, kicking, jumping, or flying. The Russo Brothers directed the film and are apparently also directing the Avengers: Infinity Wars, and they did a pretty good job. I would give props for the writing, but I think they really messed up on the villain; talk about severely anti-climactic, especially after The Winter Soldier, so I would definitely say that was a huge flaw in the film. Henry Jackman did the music, and it was relatively forgettable unfortunately, although he did far better on The Winter Soldier. I don't recall anything significantly amazing about the 3-D, but maybe I'm just getting used to it. There weren't any technical elements that really stood out in the film, but I guess they were far interested in 13 superheroes than anything else. It was definitely entertaining and enjoyable, and I have to say that I no longer really care for Tony Stark/Iron Man as a character after this film, I have become disillusioned with his character, and War Machine as well. I can't wait for Thanos to rip them all apart; now that will be fun. Oh, and there are some interesting parallels to what's happening politically in the world now, and what was going on in the film, try to see if you can spot it.
Captain America: Civil War trailer
Captain America: Civil War interviews
Beauty and the Beast trailer (looks like it will be amazing!)
So I'm slowly but surely making my way through all of the 2016 Oscar films. It took me a while, but I sat down and finally watched Room, and the title is not misleading whatsoever. Pretty much for the first half of the film there are only three actors, and primarily Brie Larson who plays the mom and Jacob Tremblay who plays the young son. Up to the point of the opening of the film the mother had been locked up in this room for 8 years I believe, while her son has known nothing else but existence in the room. She was kidnapped and raped for 8 years by the same man as he kept her hidden away. Brie Larson did a fantastic and brilliant job with the role; I think she captured the essence of what a rape victim that has been imprisoned would go through, especially the part of having a child born of rape. Kudos to her indeed. Jacob Tremblay played the young boy with conviction and power that I would think is uncanny for a young boy of his age, but he pulled it off quite amazingly. These two are the driving force of the entire film, and there is really no other reason to mention the rest of the cast, although good, did not have as significant of a presence or performance in the film. Joan Allen plays the captive young woman's mother and William H. Macy plays her father; both did an excellent job with their roles, although I would have liked to have seen William H. Macy given more screen time. The film is a powerful narrative about how to survive imprisonment, rape, abuse, and yet still live for those who love and need you; definitely a story needed for this age of hopelessness and despair. Now, this film is not for the faint of heart; you will cry and possibly be shocked and disgusted at times, though I will say there is nothing graphically depicted on the film thankfully as the allusions are enough to convey the seriousness of the depravity occurring. That being said, if you're a young mother you may have difficulty, or even a young father. This film narrates a story that I and others I worked with dealt with in mental health, and it's fairly tough to watch at times.
Granted, the film is slowly due to the fact that it is hard to be constantly dynamic when you're stuck in a small room, and the other actor is a small child, but all things given they did fairly well. The directing (Lenny Abrahamson) and writing (Emma Donoghue) was quite good, especially the writing which was also based on a novel written by the screenwriter as well. Brie Larson received an Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film received three other nominations for: Best Motion Picture, Best Directing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I'd definitely watch it again, and I did like it, but it's one of those films I wouldn't frequently watch due to the intense nature of the subject material, but I would recommend it if you're interested. There are a lot of hurt and damaged people in the world and better understanding them would make huge strides in helping them. I think this film does an excellent job of creating awareness for rape, mental health problems, but ultimately hope and choosing to live and thrive for those who need and love us. Slowly but surely I am making my way through my musical, and am on Act II, so halfway there, but it is of course the second half that will be the more difficult to write, so we shall see how it goes.
Brie Larson interview
The BFG trailer (it looks interesting, but not at the same time).
The Assassin's Creed trailer (looks like it has some possibilities,
Working in the mental health field I've seen some pretty bad crap happen to kids and adults, but some of the hardest stuff I had to work with were clients that were sexually abused. One time I was very traumatized just hearing the recounting of what happen to a kid who was younger than 5, and was abused by his mother. I knew what the film Spotlight was about, but I didn't know the extent of it. I didn't really start paying attention to politics and news until 2009 when President Obama took office, ever since then I have done my best to know what was going on in the world around me, and everyone else needs to do the same thing, and get their news from a reputable source (this excludes: Facebook, CNN, CNBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS as they are oftentimes highly biased and filled with fluff to boost ratings). Pick up the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, or Watch BBC News, PBS Newshour (can also catch the different segments of the newscast on Youtube), or Al Jazeera.
The film was very good, and very well done. It follows an investigative group of reporters who discover to what extent the Catholic Church leadership covered sexual abuse of children perpetrated by Catholic priests. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery, and Brian d'Arcy James all play the real people at the Boston Globe who investigated these horrific acts perpetrated by the Catholic priests. Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan, and Billy Crudup provide excellent supporting roles. The cast was perfection, and that's all that needs being said, although I do have to say that Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo really shined. Everyone masterfully played their character, and I'm not certain to what extent it was factually representative of the real people, and what really happened, but even if it was just the spirit, I think that it was enough. Tom McCarthy wrote and directed the film along with Josh Singer, and all I can say yet again about the writing is perfection. It was some really, really good writing; compelling, emotionally deep, relevant, and thought provoking in the most numbing and astonishing way. Howard Shore did the music, but I barely noticed it, which I suppose sometimes is how you want it, but I can actually recall nothing musically from the entire film; Howard is one of those composers where it's either an amazing or bad score. Of course the film won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Editing. It was a truly great film and every person in the whole world needs to see this film, and understand why investigative journalism is important and how it is a great check against abuses of power and wealth. I will definitely see this film again.
Now I'm going to move onto the soap box part of my blog writing. I don't know how much of you are familiar with the history of the Catholic Church, but I'm going to say that the Catholic Church is most likely the most corrupt organization that has endured for the past 1500 years ever, period. There are the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the manipulation of political affairs in Europe, warmongering in Italy and the surrounding regions, a disgusting double standard of it's clergy and leaders, and perhaps worst of all were the indulgences which is what pushed Martin Luther to separate from the church during a time when Protestantism was on the rise in Europe. Throughout the world and throughout history many have done terrible things in the name of religious beliefs and ideals, but I don't even think Hinduism and Islam in regards to terrible things done in the same of religion can compare to the Catholic Church. And I think I know what it is that drives these priests mad; sexual repression. An uncomfortable topic it may be, but I've seen what this can do to people while working in the mental health field, and it isn't pretty. I also grew up in a very hostile/strict, religious environment and some of the worst kids in the church were usually the pastor's as well as the church leaders or "sacred families" as we called them. I have an idea of what could be done to solve the problem of what's going on with the Catholic church, but it is quite radical; I will say that reform will never help rid the church of it's centuries of slime and filth, something far bigger needs to be done. In the meantime though, people need to continue to think for themselves, ask the hard and uncomfortable questions, and to never let someone use power to take away another's. I hate bullies and self-righteous, religious hypocrites; this describes the worst of humanity in my opinion. Read good news. Stay informed. Or else, over the next 100 years, the United States of America will lose many of the freedoms we enjoy now all because people would rather read about the Kardashians rather than why a local union is covering up money laundering, or how the Dallas City Council is abusing amortization laws so that they can make money my forcing out "undesirable" businesses to make room for more desirable businesses. Trump says he can make America great again. I disagree. Everyday Americans can make this great country even greater all by themselves; a politician is not required.
Spotlight final scene (watch for the words that come it is truly numbing).
Even though I am getting to the point where I am all 'comic-booked" out, I still watch the stuff as some it looks interesting at least. Jessica Jones wasn't something I was initially interested in but then I spoke with my sister who said that it was good and thought I should consider watching it. So I did watch it, and much like the second season of Daredevil I felt like the show's first season was good at times, and then not so good; times where the characters were spot on and interesting, and then times when they were completely obnoxious. By the way, I know nothing about this part of the Marvel universe, so I am oblivious as to source material accuracy; I'm looking at the technical elements of the show, and enjoyment factor. Krysten Ritter plays Jessica Jones the main and title character, and I have to say that the actress did a fine job. The character isn't all that appealing in my personal opinion, but I do like seeing the darkness and drama unfold in a very real and raw sense with how the character was written. And Ms. Ritter did an extraordinary job bringing that character to life and making it believable. Rachael Taylor played Trish Walker, Jessica Jones' best friend. She actually came across as the moral compass for the show and all of the characters in it, which I thought was nice as it is usually the hero that has that role. She was funny, serious, intelligent, and a very strong positive female character; one of the better ones I've seen written as of late. Eka Darville plays Malcolm who is high for most of the series, but then due to some plot alterations changes and takes a larger role. He was actually a really great character, although I would have written a few things differently myself. David Tennant as the villain Kilgrave was utter perfection. Not only is this actor brilliantly talented, but he created a character who was dynamic and interesting; this villain is not flat and all powerful, but very real with real vulnerabilities. He was the best part of the show. Carrie-Anne Moss played Jeri Hogarth a high flying lawyer, and she was amazing. Slick and smooth and devilish, with great style. Mike Colter Played Luke Cage, and his character was very interesting and cool; definitely very likable, with a strong presence. Apparently he is also getting his own show for some odd reason.
So Jessica Jones is a private investigator with superhuman strength and a lot of personal problems with no people skills whatsoever. She has been mind controlled previously by this man and is trying to get on with her life, but this man is back and wants her back under his control. So this is more of a drama driven show than action, but there are some moments where there is some fairly intense stuff going on. It was very interesting and fascinating with excellent characters and acting, but oftentimes the weight of the drama and the stupidity of the characters would grate on my nerves a lot. The writing was relatively well done and the series was shot well. The pace of the plot was well thought out, and the risk factor that the villain posed was quite impressive as well. Never quite certain who was going to die next (a lot of people die). It was entertaining, but not certain if I'd watch it again...maybe for David Tennant's performance, but that's about it. Not a show for people who don't like dark or gritty; this show is not light and fluffy. In other news, I finished writing the lyrics for my songs in my musical and now I am putting together "the book" so that should be fun, despite the formatting being a pain in the neck. Soon it will be done though and perhaps I'll get some music composed for it and maybe get the whole thing off the ground; who knows.
David Tennant on the show Jessica Jones
Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them trailer 2 (looks really good!)
So I finally got around to seeing Mad Max: Fury Road after everyone kept telling me to see it, and after winning 6 Oscars. It's definitely a very unique film; basically one very large and extensive action/chase sequence that lasts for the duration of the entire film. What's exactly going on and why with the characters and their interactions with the environment isn't clearly explained at any given point, but it sounds like drilling for oil and climate change are the big reasons why what happened in the film happened. So basically this one really bad dude in the desert controls all of the water, and his wives/sex slaves/prized breeders run away with one of his chief lieutenants, Furiosa, to get to greener pastures and along the way they meet up with Max a former policeman (I think) who was also held captive by the evil dude's forces but then escapes per chance and helps the women out. The group of them then embark on an epic journey across the desert to reach their destination growing and learning more about themselves and the people around them. Charlize Theron was amazing as Furiosa; she was both powerful and empathetic with a tender love, but also still possessing the no nonsense let's get down to business behavior. Probably one of the best characters in the film. As for Tom Hardy, I went back and forth with him as Max. He does little more than grunt for nearly half of the film, and then says very little afterwards; however, when he does speak, it is very good and makes me kind of wish that he actually had more articulate lines. Clearly, he has mental health problems that he is struggling to cope with, and there is a great depth to him, but I don't think it was explored as much as it could have. Great character though. Nicholas Hoult as Nux one of the low life henchmen was at first unrecognizable and then as the film went along I started to recognize the actor. I actually couldn't stand the character, but then as he grew and changed he was most likely the second best character in the film, definitely a very talented man. The rest of the cast was good, but it was Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron that drove the film, but truly it was the profoundly epic and excellent cinematography and action that drove people to see and enjoy the film.
I give a lot of credit to the style and success of the film to George Miller the director. It must have taken incredible talent and gumption to pull off this film, so definite props to him for that. The writing was relatively good, although there was a lot of nonsensical moments where things were happening and you didn't know why and it was never fully explained unfortunately. So I get to beam again over Junkie XL (aka. Tom Holkenborg) who did the music for the film which worked so perfectly for the film, and I enjoyed it greatly. The man has talent, truly; his music has a powerful and vivacious energy to it. The true star of the entire film though was the cinematography though; it was breathtaking, gritty, and terrifying at times. John Seale must have needed a long vacation after being the director of cinematography for this film. The other big star of the film though was the action. All I can say is wow (and yes that is a technical word). It was nonstop, almost mind-numbing at times due to the sheer volume. The action was dynamic though and kept pace with what was going on with the story and characters, I was definitely impressed, and description won't do it justice; you need to see it if you haven't. There were some disturbing elements to the film, and one very highly disturbing scene which I will not go into, but I will say it if you're a young mother, then you can't watch this film. In this film you get showcased a taste of how depraved humanity can really become, and what I found so disturbing is that the filmmakers accurately captured the essence of what people could become like in another 100 years or so. Something to think about.
Junkie XL on composing the music for Mad Max: Fury Road
Interviews with Cast and Crew of Mad Max: Fury Road
Rogue One teaser trailer (This to me looks better than The Force Awakens did, hopefully it will not disappoint like Episode VII).
I remember watching Sherlock Holmes when I was 8 years old. Basil Rathbone played the great detective when I first saw him on the screen. The first ever story I read about him was the Hound of the Baskervilles, which was a junior version of the story my mum got me for my 8th or 9th birthday. Ever since then, I have been hooked on the detective and have watched many depictions of him on the screen, and read the books and stories of course. The best Sherlock Holmes in my opinion was played by Jeremy Brett, although Robert Downey Jr. is also quite good. When I heard that Ian McKellen would play an aged version of the man, I decided that would be delightful, and that is exactly what Mr. Holmes is in my opinion. Of course Ian McKellen shines as the timeless detective giving him both wit, humor, and great emotional depth, which was not something the character was keen on displaying most or any of the time. Laura Linney played the housekeeper Mrs. Munro, who was an interesting character, and someone I don't think they fleshed out as well as they could have, but she added a type of restraint and realism to the elderly Mr. Holmes' desires. Her son Roger, played by Milo Parker, was such a great contrast to not only the character of Holmes but to McKellen's great acting as well. The two of them paired together was refreshingly delightful and was how the film worked. These three formed the core of the film and there were some other supporting actors and actresses who did very well, one of which was Hiroyuki Sanada, who's had large roles in The Last Samurai and The Wolverine. In this film Sherlock Holmes is trying to remember his last case and why it so adversely affected him to the point he retreated from the world. His housekeeper and her son help him with his bees, and tend to him as he pieces together his last case which was so many years ago. Bill Condon did a fine job of directing the film, although his track record of films he's directed hasn't been very good. The writing and screenplay were pretty good by Jeffrey Hatcher as he adapted it from the novel written by Mitch Cullin, but I have to be honest and say that some parts dragged and things were occasionally boring. Mostly though, my attention was kept with very little distraction. Carter Burwell did a fine job on the music, but there wasn't anything that was overly memorable. The film was beautifully shot though; such exquisite cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler, it really captured the beauty of the English countryside, and the refined interior of upper class London. All in all it was very lovely film and suited for children and family viewing alike. Definitely will watch it again, but it's not my favorite Sherlock Holmes to watch...that would be Jeremy Brett. Been busy writing the lyrics of my musical and so far so good, although much work remains to turn them into amazing songs, but the groundwork is there. I think I only have six more to go before I start writing the book. After that, who knows. I wish I could say ignore the news, but it really does seem like things are getting worse and worse on planet earth everywhere, and all of the people who should be inspiring are just merely saying how horrible things are. Not very comforting or helpful.
Mr. Holmes trailer
Ian McKellen on playing Sherlock Holmes
Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (some good moments from the BBC series)
Let me start off by saying that I still think comic book themed films are being overdone. However, because of the money in box office receipts and products the studios reap I highly doubt they will be slowing down anytime soon. I didn't think that Batman vs. Superman was going to be that good, but I was surprisingly delighted with the end result of the film. So the film pretty much takes place right after the events of Man of Steel where Bruce Wayne blames Superman (along with some other people) for all of the devastation and death that has been caused since his arrival (this line of self-righteous thinking was at times a little preachy, kind of annoying) and thus he begins to go on a warpath to destroy Superman. But Clark Kent/Superman doesn't like the vigilante style of justice that Batman dishes out and decides to intervene; they clash and have a fairly interesting fight. In the middle pulling strings left and right is Lex Luthor, and boy does he pull the strings well. So after Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale now, Ben Affleck dons the caped crusader's armor. Well, he wasn't dreadful, but he wasn't great either; I think he did well enough, but I don't think it was his performance that sold it. Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent didn't get as much character development as his counterpart, which would have been better, but he remained the moral compass and is that boy/chivalrous man that all men deep down wished that they were. Amy Adams did well as Lois Lane, even though at times her character seemed to really lack a purpose for why she was present. Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was perhaps the most interesting of all the leading roles. He truly depicted psychotic evil in a way I've never seen it depicted before in this type of film or story; I was actually cheering against him (which isn't typical for me as I mostly cheer for the villains). Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was great. I was actually pleasantly surprised how well they pulled off her entry since her character oftentimes does seem so over the top, but it was nicely executed, and I would have liked to see her have a larger role in the film, but what was there was good. And I do have to say that Jeremy Irons as Alfred was excellent, but that may be that I am biased since I think he is one of the most amazing actors in the world.
Now, I mentioned above that it wasn't Affleck's performance that sold the film, but rather it was Zack Snyder's direction of the entire project that made the entire film work; without him, I doubt it would have worked at all. Yes, he is one of my favorite filmmakers so there is a slight bias, but I have to say that I was impressed with the story (David Goyer gets a lot of credit for that). I don't remember ever being bored or that the plot wasn't on pace. The music by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL I thought was awesome, and worked so well with the film (Junkie XL is definitely someone I'll be looking out for in the film composition scene). What really worked was how all of the movie was filmed. There was excellent cinematography, fantastic sound design, and rather dynamic action sequences which has been lacking from a lot of comic book films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one that had all of that recently). The 3-D was also pretty good, although I may be getting so used to it, or was so engrossed in the film because I don't remember anything 3-D really standing out. I think it was a well done film, and was rather entertaining. From what I hear it doesn't follow the comics as closely as some would prefer, but it is after all an adaptation, and as a writer I can attest to the difficulty to bring something from page to screen. I would see it again, and I think a lot of people would enjoy it; it is dark, but that's probably another reason I enjoy it so much; the gritty realism, as opposed to Marvel's popcorn fantasy more often than not. It should be interesting where they go from here for the rest of the DC universe.
Batman vs. Superman trailer
Batman vs. Superman interviews
Alice Through the Looking Glass trailer (actually looks quite good).
So season 1 of Daredevil was amazing, so naturally my expectations for season 2 were equally set. Honestly, my take on the second season of this Netflix show is very much like a roller coaster. There were stretches of episodes where it was fantastic, then boring and irritating, then interesting, then ridiculous, then fantastic again. With that much fluctuation I can't really say that the second season was really that good. There was a lot of over the top drama happening amongst the characters that came off as juvenile and annoying frequently, especially with the character Foggy Nelson, whom I cannot really stand as a character. So in this season enter The Punisher and Elektra and a weird ninja organization (which was never really resolved or explained) and you'd think that with that combination this entire season would be in the bag, but not quite. The story revolved essentially around those two characters and all of the chaos and problems they created. Now I'm just waiting for Blade to pop in (that should be interesting; vampires in Daredevil). So Charlie Cox as Daredevil is perfect and his character got more complex and interesting in this season, but they could have made him more complex, but they really kept that "knight in shining armor" look for him, which really only seems to work completely for Captain America. They had several opportunities for him to become darker and complex, and they never went for it. Eldon Henson as Foggy Nelson was irritating in my opinion all of the time, and very, very preachy to a tiresome degree (there was a lot of preaching in this season from many characters). Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page did good with her character in this season, but her crusading naivety was also tiring as well; her character became more than just a victim and took charge of her life, but her naivety was quite taxing. So Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle the Punisher was for the most part awesome; the best scene in the entire second season was with him and Daredevil, but I don't think his character was explored very well and was used mainly as an element in action sequences. Elodie Yung as Elektra was also quite perfect, and even though I know very little about the character, I think she was definitely an improvement over Jennifer Garner. She was a great foil for Daredevil, I just don't think their relationship, or her character were fleshed out or written very well. There was a lot of predictable lover's drama going on, which was at times exasperating. Thank goodness for Scott Glenn as Stick and Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, even though they had smaller roles in comparison to some of the other characters, they were perfection and those episodes they were in tended to be the better ones. Both men are excellent actors and brought those qualities to their characters, and it really showed. Rosario Dawson was also good in the show with her nurse character Claire, but she was also quite preachy.
So the show was pretty much a bunch of shooting and killing for the first five episodes or so; I thought it was fairly boring, but then it finally got interesting and then was up and down after that for a bit. I really hope they don't give The Punisher or Elektra their own shows, I feel like that would be far too much, and personally I'm getting really comic booked out; that seems to be all that is coming out. Give it some time though, and the same thing will be happening with Star Wars. The second season of Daredevil was good, but not that good. Netflix I think is starting to have a problem with their shows where the first season is stupendous and then they have trouble following up with equally astounding seasons of their shows. If they want to stay in the long run of program creation they're going to have to find a way to make certain their shows are always getting better, not worse. Should be interesting to see what the future of Netflix and Amazon are, as well as traditional cable and satellite programming.
Daredevil season 2 trailer
Interview on Daredevil and Punisher characters
Ben-Hur trailer (new movie, new ideas....looks terrible).
"Do you know the main thing that separates a politician from the the rest of the species? A politician is the one who would drown a litter of kittens for 10 minutes of prime time." -Frank Underwood
So I have finished season 4 of House of Cards, and I have to say that the show redeemed itself after what I would consider a disastrous season 3. Frank and Claire finally came back together in a single united purpose (there were some surprises along the way) to fight their enemies, and it works so much better when it is like that as opposed to them being on separate paths. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are beyond divine, and fantastic and really continue to grow their characters. I'm a little bummed that Kevin Spacey doesn't speak as much to the camera as he did in the first 2 seasons, but the show is still very strong, and as long as the two mains keep coming up on top, I think it will continue to go that way. Michael Kelly who plays Doug Stamper (chief of staff) was a lot more flat of a character in this season than perhaps any other one I thought with season 3 being the most intense for him. Neve Campbell had a nice role in the season as an assistant to Claire, and Ellen Burstyn played Claire's mother which was a great story and character arc; the two had such great and powerful chemistry together. Jayne Atkinson as Cathy Durant (Secretary of State) came into a much more interesting character than in any previous season; she is a fantastic actress, and I love her character in this show. I like where they took Donald Blythe's character (vice-president) in this season; some really excellent character growth. One very excellently crafted character was the Republican presidential challenger Will Conway played by Joel Kinnaman; it's like watching a conservative version of Frank Underwood, very well done. Granted, season 1 is still the best in my opinion, and season 2 the second best, but then comes season 4 and I honestly don't even really want to rank season 3 as of yet (yeah, I think it was that poor). I will say that season 2 had the best ending with Frank assuming control of the presidency; the music and the staging and cinematography as he made his may to the desk in the oval office. It was great. Season 4 had a great ending as well, not as good as season 2, but it was awesome! I really like where the show is going now, and I hope the writers keep the Underwoods strong and powerful, and yes I know I am cheering for "the villains" and yes I did by a t-shirt from Target that had Underwood 2016 emboldened on it. I will not speak of current, American politics other than saying there are a few Underwood like candidates currently vying to become the next U.S. President. I'm looking forward to season 5 of House of Cards, although, I am now wondering how the writers are going to finish it all up. I would like to say that it was ironic that I watched the last episode of season 4 today of all days due to the terrorist attack that happened in Brussels (when you watch the episode you will understand). I don't know what it is like to be personally attacked by terrorists even though it has happened to my country a number of times, but it must be something beyond dreadful to experience, especially firsthand. May God comfort the people of Belgium and the victims and families who suffered personally in the attack, and may all of you find peace one day despite the fear, violence and hatred that Islamic terrorists are attempting to spread throughout the world.