House of Cards – Season Two

Kevin-Spacey-in-House-of-Cards-Season-2-Chapter-26Since season one of the show I have watched the first two series of the original British version. What’s quite impressive is that the first three-part British miniseries covers the same more ground than the entire first 13-episode American season. By the end of this second season we have still only reached the point in the plot that the original British version reached in three episodes. That said it would be a bit too easy to judge this American incarnation on the fact that it’s spread the plot across so much more material, and it would be very unfair. So we rejoin Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) after seeing just how ruthless the pair of them can be at the end of the first season.

Episode one doesn’t hang about in hitting that ruthlessness home with a very sudden and unexpected death of a major player in proceedings. From here on in Frank and Claire become more and more cold and calculated as they plot Franks rise to the Presidency not caring about any casualties on the way. In the first season one of the issues was that the power-hungry couple were unrivalled in their ability and only a very small handful of characters had them properly sussed. In this season that issue is addressed and it makes for much more entertaining viewing seeing the Underwoods struggling to keep people on their side, and for the first time see their positions actually threatened. However, when the episodes start to come to an end it seemed as though none of this threat had any point to it and we come out of season two still believing that Frank and Claire are completely untouchable. On top of this we have a number of new storylines in this season which when we get to the end seem to have very little bearing on what actually matters. For example we have our computer hacker, Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson) who has quite a few scenes and whenever he’s around I just simply didn’t care. We also had Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan) an ex-call girl linked with Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) who until the very end of the season seems to have very little bearing on the main plot, that said she does do something very interesting when the season draws to a close. It may well be that these stories will eventually have bearing on proceedings but in season two particularly in the middle section that they just detract from what the shows actually about. I can’t even begin to try and understand why they felt the need to include a scene involving Franks, Claire and a certain assistant in some sharing a very strange experience which again seemed to have no point other than to provide the show with a sex appeal that it didn’t have before, but did it need it?

For me season two is another very enjoyable collection of TV but it felt like it spent too much simply treading water, though I said it would be unfair to judge it against the concise nature of the British nature I really think this could have done with being significantly shorter. That said this is still a show worth watching and I look forward to it’s third season.

 

CAGE RAGE: Zandalee

Zan1Zandalee looked very much like a promising venture for Cage. Featuring one of the most insane Cage meltdowns and casting the man himself as a manic artist who acts on impulse and is, supposedly, really sexy. What ensued however was one of the worst things I have ever witnessed in my life.

The plot, if you can call it that, follows Zandalee (Erika Anderson) who is having marriage problems with her poet husband, Thierry (Judge Reinhold). Being such an emotional sol Thierry has deemed himself unfit to have sex with Zandalee anymore, this is explained through his ridiculously non-sensical and just plain boring dialogue. It actually beggars belief just how absolutely awful his dialogue is, its as if with every line he’s attempting to speak poetry but none of it sounds good nor has any meaning. After watching this film for ten minutes you learn that it’s actually impossible to pay any attention to any of the dialogue because its such utter drivel. So, anyway, Zandalee and Thierry are having their problems and then Cage turns up and Zandalee falls for him eventually leading to a sexual fling. After a couple encounters between the pair Thierry catches on to what’s going on between them and starts to go about dealing with the issue in a really bizarre way. There are ridiculous scenes in which he talks in his strange anti-poetry and explains that he should be angry with someone for sleeping with his wife but is actually grateful that he’s satisfying her in a way that he can’t. When things draw to a climax the three of them go on a trip away with a speed boat and things kick off in what is possibly the lamest resolution ever written. After this Cage has his meltdown, in which he covers himself in black paint.

As great as the meltdown is this makes up for five minutes of an hour and forty of completely awful shit. This may well be the worst film I’ve ever seen, perhaps, even worse than Stolen and not even a Cage meltdown can save this, its a wonder anyone involved in this movie went on to have a career in the business.

CAGE RAGE RATING – 4/5 (begrudgingly)

Only Lovers Left Alive

only-lovers-left-alive03So the Oscar season may have drawn to a close but that’s not to say there’s not a load more quality films to get excited about in the coming weeks. This week saw the release of Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. Starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton the indie auteur takes us on a dark yet warm trip with this rather unconventional couple. In his distinctive unusual style the film is not especially plot-driven but is an artistic depiction of these two incredibly interesting characters and array of their acquaintances.

The casting here is superb and can’t be faulted. Hiddlestone’s Adam is a reclusive, suicidal music lover, with a particular taste for funeral music. He is taken care of by Ian, (Anton Yelchin) a human, or zombie as the vampires name them, who delivers Adam anything he needs mainly guitars and in exchange Ian spreads his music into the club scene, albeit without naming Adam at any point with unmarked plain records. Swinton’s Eve is a very different personality to Adam, she is excited and amazed by any knowledge she can gain and has some friends in the outside world, including a fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt). Swinton looks absolutely incredible throughout, he back-combed silver-white hair coupled with her otherworldly features, especially her big, dark eyes, have never looked better. Jarmusch manages to create an authentic look for all the characters as a matter of fact and that authenticity is really at heart of why I liked this film so much. Another great character Ava (Mia Wasikowska) is also brilliantly written, turning up un-announced she really provides with an idea of just how different these vampire can be. Music is pumping through this films veins, at times there are long sections of just music without dialogue and these work particularly well to create the Jarmusch’s desired mood throughout.

If there was a problem it would be a lack of tension or excitement, perhaps, it could have done with a more plot-driven script. However, overall this perfectly crafted mood piece is enough to carry you through to the end and leave the cinema having witnessed two characters who define cool and redefine why vampires are such an interesting idea. very much the anti-Twilight the vampire genre deserved.

CAGE RAGE: Industrial Symphony No.1: Dream of the Broken Hearted

Industrial Symphony No. 1 - CageWell I’m surprised I managed to find a picture of Cage from this film, seeing as the shot above is the only shot of Cage in the entire thing and it lasts for less than two minutes. It’s bizarre that this is even counted on his filmography as the initial scene is almost identical to one from Wild at Heart and then we move onto Lynch’s bizarre experimental musical performance. While this wasn’t terrible and was a great example of how Lynch creates mood and feeling in his film making using lighting, music and camera techniques at 50 minutes long and no discernible story to follow this did drag. And watching it as part of the Cage project ended up being a waste of time so it gets the first and hopefully the last N/A rating.

CAGE RAGE RATING – N/A

 

CAGE RAGE: Wild at Heart

wild-at-heartFollowing Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart is only the second film on Cage’s filmography that I’d seen before starting this project so going in for a second viewing I knew what I was going to be facing. And simply I couldn’t wait to get back into David Lynch’s Bonnie and Clyde-like road movie. Wild at Heart follows Sailor (Cage) a convicted killed who brutally beats a man to death in the opening scene after having a knife pulled on him and his girl, Lula (Laura Dern). After serving his sentence Lula comes rushing back to him against her mothers demands and the pair of love birds go on a wild escapade across the vast plains of America in what seems to be a particularly strange, Lynchian interpretation of our modern day world.

This film is one of the reasons why I love Lynch so much, its packed to the brim with his unique, stylish, yet awkward and uncomfortable hyper-realistic style. Wild at Heart has a more understandable plot than other Lynch films but that’s not to say its normal by any stretch. There are a number of scenes that don’t seem to have any bearing on the actual storyline, and lots of cryptic lines and shots that are difficult to read and understand. Out of these cryptic tendencies comes one of the films most intriguing themes, the constant reference to The Wizard of Oz, of course, this is partly a nod to one of cinema’s greatest achievements but it’s also an acute and incredibly well thought-out metaphor for what’s going on with these bizarre central characters. As they spiral out of control in a burst of sex, violence and crime it’s as if they’re trapped in this strange new world with larger than life characters. As the film goes on the references become more explicit to the point where Lula even taps her red heels together three times and wishes to go home. There is no escape for her though and she is trapped in this chaotic and haunting place, stuck in a particularly unusual relationship with Sailor. Before going into Cage’s performance it’s important to mention just how brilliant Willem Dafoe is in this movie as Bobby Peru, a slimy wheeler dealer who isn’t introduced till late in the proceedings. He has a habit of saying particularly disturbing stuff before laughing it all off as a joke, but his yellow-stubby braced teeth and crazed eyes show us a bubbling insanity and a dark core at the centre of another strange metaphorical character in Lynch’s vision. Cage is simply exceptional in this film, too. He is perfect casting for Lynch’s over-the-top and almost cartoony world. Every move cage makes, every line and every action is just a bit more hammy than you’d expect and it really gives Wild at Heart it’s all-important mood.

In terms of Cage Rage rating this film has to get top marks, with a scene of hideous violence at the hands of Cage to kick things off the insanity doesn’t let up throughout. While this may not be Lynch at his absolute finest Cage is a perfect match for the director and it’s a real shame the two haven’t worked together since. A great watch and the second 5/5 rating.

CAGE RAGE RATING – 5/5

 

Her

her-fp-0864_wide-1921514ec201ced0a9f0385827ba5e1b7bf29287-s6-c30Another week sees another Best Picture nomination with Her. The movie I’d been looking forward to perhaps the most of them all directed by Spike Jonze whose flawless track record makes him one of my personal favourites. While his last movie, Where The Wild Things Are divided many opinions I thought it was beautiful film with a tone and mood that is completely unique to Jonze’s style. Her stars Joaquin Phoenix in a slightly futuristic version of our world where the technology has advanced to the point of almost artificial intelligence. Theodore (Phoenix) buys a new operating system OS-1, which simulates a personality and becomes a new love interest for the emotionally awkward Theo.

As with Where The Wild Things Are Jonze manages to create a mood throughout Her, with it’s drained yet bright colour pallet and unique vision of future fashion the film is just visually stunning. The look provides the perfect setting for a touching, emotional story that raises a number of serious questions about where society is headed. Her is beautifully written, Theodore works for a company in the movie called ‘BeautifullyHandwrittenLetters.com’ and with that comes a number of really sensitively letters he’s written for other people but they provide the perfect way in to this complex character and all through the film is used to give us sympathy for him rather than laugh at his plight. The love between Theodore and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is so well written as well, Jonze manages to capture a real essence of what it is to be in love and at the same time cleverly works in the issues that arise with falling for a machine. When the relationship inevitably hits some problems Her finds a real warm heart and whereas it could have left you feeling depressed it leaves you feeling warm yet still wandering about where the world might be headed.

Her is one of the most beautiful films you will see this year and a worthy nominee for best picture. Jonze further makes his name as a unique auteur with a talent for screenwriting that hasn’t been showcased before. Performance-wise Phoenix is just perfect and Her won’t leave your head for days after viewing.