House of Cards: Chapter 17 Review

“Think of Remy as the guy who shows up with a six pack after the liquor store’s closed”

Time is of the essence as we open chapter 17. There is still much work to be done to push the retirement bill through the house and Frank accepts an olive branch from Tusk with the same reaction a toddler has to their first taste of citrus fruit. Tusk has sent in Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) to provide incentive for votes and is teamed up with Jackie, who must be sucking on the same lemon as Frank because she has a similar reaction to her new whipping shadow, really Jackie? I mean, I can see how being followed around all day by a cashed up, classy, Adonis could be a problem for most hot blooded women; NOT! There is definitely something wrong with the new Whip #justsayin I am enjoying the competitive undercurrent between Frank and Remy, as we know from the first season Remy was in the employ of Frank but “chose money over power”, a decision Frank has never grasped. But Frank, despite the interference and embuggerances of Remy to his ambitions during the Watershed Bill, has not yet put Remy to the sword. Is it because Frank genuinely needs the leverage Remy provides in the private sector or because he’s hoping his protege will return to the fold? A kind of “the son I never had” thing maybe? After all, eight years is a long time to hold Frank’s attention and live to tell the tale, there’s investment in Remy on Frank’s part but to what end? So while Jackie and Remy are out corralling votes, with Jackie doing so in a manner that demonstrates she’s her own Whip and not a Frank clone, or worse; his puppet, Frank steels himself to take on the now very bitter (the citrus sucking look is a recurring theme in this chapter) Donald Blythe (Reed Birney). If you recall, Donald was our Education Bill martyr and now wears the legacy of the debacle around his neck like the scarlet letter. Meanwhile Claire is at home with Connor preparing for the joint interview that is to take place later that day. As they walk through the line of questioning, which will inevitably include the “why no children or did you eat them?” queries, Claire enters her walk-in Wardrobe to select an outfit. It has the colour palette of and E L James best seller (don’t pretend you don’t know the books I’m referring to…). I’m beginning to think Claire might bleed charcoal. Elsewhere, Lucas is enduring Hackers Boot Camp with Gavin and Cashew.

“I don’t hold grudges Frank, I just don’t negotiate with people who are fundamentally deceptive.”

You know Frank’s in for a tough day at the office when Donald is obstinate from the moment he walks through the door and makes even the attempt to get him a drink difficult. He finally settles on a Seltzer as he has an aversion to caffeine, I wonder how he’s lasted in politics so long, I’m not worth speaking to until I’ve had my first heart-starter for the day. As Frank goes to work on wooing Donald in Jackie’s office, Frank’s old office, a White House Aide is about to open a letter that will set off a chain of events even Frank couldn’t have foreseen. The letter contained white powder, the Aide, looking like she’s had a minor coronary; is covered in the substance. Nancy goes into “like a boss” mode and initiates lock-down procedures. With less than an hour until the vote, Frank and Donald are trapped. Frank makes contact with Claire to provide reassurance that the scare will come to nothing but confides the vote looks shaky “If we’re lucky it’ll be anthrax and I won’t live long enough to see the bill fail”, way to instil confidence Frank. In scenes reminiscent of Outbreak, the HAZMAT crews flood the offices and are working to identify the substance. It’s during their time of confinement that we learn Donald’s wife Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, you can almost hear the weapons system recalibrating as Frank acquires a new target “I should have thought of this before, appeal to the heart, not the brain.” Frank probes Donald about Marjorie’s illness and how awful it must be for Donald, there’s some flattery as well, but it falls on deaf ears. Donald won’t budge. Things go from bad to worse when inconclusive test results mean the quarantine is to continue for another four hours at least, prolonging Frank and Donald’s captivity. The silver lining to this Addams Family cloud? The vote has been delayed.

“Good things happen to good people.”

With all communications in and out of the White House being jammed for security reasons, Frank is able to use his powers, for good instead of evil, to facilitate contact with their respective wives. On Frank’s say so, Claire will go ahead with the interview solo, while Donald is able to speak with Marjorie who slips into non compos mentis mode; the strain on Donald is visible. A supportive hand on the shoulder and a stiff drink breaks the tension between Frank and Donald. Frank discloses that he wouldn’t know what to do without Claire, or if she couldn’t remember him, it’s likely the most sincere thing Frank will say throughout the whole ordeal. The truce is short lived however when Donald reacts to what he perceives is Frank’s attempt to use his wife’s condition as leverage for his vote. That’s the end of that and Frank concedes defeat to the audience. Back at the house, Connor is putting the final polish on Claire’s prefabricated response to the question of children, she’s a veteran, that much is obvious. Across town Lucas prepares to debunk from Hacker Boot Camp to cover the white house lock down but is slapped, literally, into submission by Gavin. Ouch! Gavin doesn’t like the pattern that is forming with Lucas’ movements in and out of his lair and needs to ensure if they get caught Lucas goes down too. Lights, camera, action! Claire Underwood, one on one with Ashley; Frank and Donald in less than companionable silence take up viewing positions in their cage. The interview starts out with some glimpses into Claire’s childhood including a “hearts and minds” story about her Daddy taking her to where Kennedy was shot. I’m not even a citizen and I want to vote for Frank! The questioning moves to Claire’s affluent upbringing and how her family money financed Frank’s ambition. Claire dances with the finesse of a member of the national ballet.

“Some people think that your marriage may be a bit more calculated than you let on?”

Thanks Captain Obvious, Ashley clearly hasn’t watched the last sixteen chapters. But the question of connection beyond political benefit has been posed, Claire launches into a grand jete “our partnership extends far beyond that” and, nails the landing. We cut to Frank looking on with distinct pride and affection at his other half, we can see their relationship extends beyond anything mere mortals could ever understand. Wright is positively luminous in these scenes and absolutely owns this chapter. Frank and Kevin respectively, take a back seat. However, after rolling out the “party line” on the question of children, Claire baulks at a report that she was pregnant during Frank’s second congressional campaign. I heard the collective squeaks, creaks and groans of millions of couches as we all leaned forward in anticipation of the response. What comes next must have put more than a few of us on the floor, all now wondering what this will mean for Frank’s career as we dust ourselves off and climb back into our seats, poor Connor looks like a cod fish. Claire admits to a pregnancy and an abortion, career suicide as I understand it in American politics. Cut to Frank and it’s Donald’s turn to ply him with alcohol. By the look on Frank’s face though, whilst he doesn’t seem to have had any advance warning of this reveal by Claire, he doesn’t look like someone who’s concerned with setting any records for being the shortest serving Vice President either. He’s calm, ponderous, “what’s she up to?”. Connor on the other hand has gone into damage control during the break requested by Claire. To add to the PR nightmare she tells Connor there were actually three abortions, running through the circumstances of each as though she’s ticking off all the places she normally leaves her car keys, in a bid to work out where they are now. Connor calls for a full retreat but Claire disregards his counsel and goes back for more, I’m with Frank; what on earth is she up to? I quickly sort back through my long term memory and locate Claire’s nightmare about “the children”, Frank comforts her at the time as she’s genuinely distraught. One moment Claire is stalked in her dreams by the loss of children then as we’ve already seen previously in season 2, has about as much regard for them as something she’s almost stepped in but narrowly avoided. Claire’s complexity is turning into a Rubik’s Cube torment.

“Francis pinned stars on him.”

In a contrived moment of tactical brilliance, Claire re-rails Frank’s career, de-rails another, redeems herself; and sets up her next cause. Claire fingers General Dalton McGinnis, on national prime time television, as a sexual predator responsible for assaulting her; the unwanted pregnancy being the result. Frank did say that only Claire could “stop the bleeding” when it came to the McGinnis wound, did he know then that she was a combat medic in a previous life? Consider that wound sutured! Queue the end of the lock-down saga and Frank, like a father late to his daughters recital, can’t get out quick enough. There’s an exchange between Frank and Donald as they’re liberated from their confines, Donald tells Frank he has a brave wife, to which Frank replies that he does to; he will get Donald his research funding regardless of how he votes. I want to believe that through a shared love for the women in their lives, who have suffered such grievances, that Frank meant what he said to Donald and he will come up with the funds. The alternative is that Donald is right and Frank really is that fundamentally deceptive. As he barrels his way out, Frank bumps into Jackie and concedes defeat in the battle for Donald’s votes, without a hint of bitterness or implied retribution. Jackie however, isn’t going to let Donald off the hook so easily though; Donald’s big picture stance gets a lot bigger when Jackie confronts him. I bet Donald was wishing he was still in the cage with Frank now. Frank arrives home on the tail end of Claire’s interview, instead of joining her he admires her from the shadows as she basks in the sunshine of her glorious victory over McGinnis. Stick a fork in him, McGinnis is done! We move from the Underwood’s briefly back to Gavin, who in a cliched moment meets his new handler, Stamper’s buddy; on a dark and rainy night in an empty car park. Gavin is a snitch for the FBI, the price of his freedom for past crimes, a price he is starting to think too costly. As far as chapter endings go, this is one of my favourites. We return to the window of casa Underwood for a victory cigarette, the impostor promptly replaced when Claire declares she would prefer the real thing. Frank had at some point secreted one under a lamp, conniving to the last detail “I’m always prepared.” Silhouetted by a moonlit sky, the two share their precious contraband and Claire asks Frank to sing her something. My heart skips a beat, I know that Kevin is an accomplished singer but its been a while since he’s done any crooning. He breaks into a rendition of the Stanley Brothers’ murder ballad “Pretty Polly”, the hair on my neck stands up. Whether it’s because I know that the song is about a man who kills his wife because of her past, or because I’m in swoon mode; I still can’t decide. The southern bayou vibe, moonlight and murder, it’s a poetic end to the chapter and we fade out to the sound of twanging strings entwined with the orchestral standard. Magic!

300: Rise of an Empire review

“We chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees!”

I’ve had the debate, I’ve trawled the comments and I’ve brushed up on my history. For those who know the story of the first and second Persian Wars 480 – 490 BC, and know it well, you may be disappointed that this latest instalment is not entirely accurate. But it’s still a damn good movie and if you know nothing of the history but like the genre, SFX or are just into the gore; you’re going to love this film. It features a host of actors from the small screen juggernaut Game Of Thrones and the Spartacus anthology, with quite a few Australian names top billing; even our own David Wenham’s abdominal muscles reprise their role as the only survivor of the original 300. I went and saw it in 3D which only enhanced the experience but I did keep checking to make sure I didn’t have any blood on me after each brutal exchange.

Rise of an Empire is a combination of prequel and sequel to the 300 film released back in 2006. Directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) it uses narration and cut-ins from the first 300 to bring you up to speed and progress to the crux of this versions narrative quickly. It blends fairly seamlessly and there’s no confusion as the two storylines run concurrently for a period. Without delving into a convoluted history lesson here, the basic premise of the film is the Greek fight against annihilation at the hands of the Persian war machine. The Persian Navy is lead by Artemisia, played by Eva Green (Casino Royale) who is bent on avenging the death of King Darius. Darius was slain by Athenian General Themistocles, played by Sullivan Stapleton (Gangster Squad & Animal Kingdom) who became a hero, but it was his decision not to kill King Darius’s son that would come back to haunt him. You see Artemisia is actually Greek and, as a result of the one thing that can’t be argued about the history of the time, Greek infighting; her family was slaughtered by rival Greeks and she herself was raped and held captive. It would be a Persian Emissary that would find and raise Artemisia, under his care she would find her inner sociopath and Persian King Daruis’s favour. When King Darius is killed, Artemisia is driven by vengeance and will use his son, Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro (300 & What to Expect When You’re Expecting) to destroy the Greeks.

After the death of King Darius, Artemisia sows the seed in Xerxes that only a God can defeat the Athenians. A meek and distraught Xerxes is sent packing by Artemisia into the desert and, near death, he stumbles across an exclusive hole-in-the-wall day spa where he is transformed into the very luminous “God King”. The “God King” emerges from the desert, looking as though he’s been rolling around in honey dust, and sets off to slaughter the 300 Spartans. I kept waiting for a flock of honey suckle birds to descend and lick him to death every time I saw him, at first I thought the things flying around the screen were just there to emphasis the 3D effect, but it could have been a swarm of bees they couldn’t shake from the set; obviously attracted to the scent of honey. Shiny surfaces aside, Xerxes plays the figure head and empowers Artemisia to indulge in her vengeful game with Themistocles. When Artemisia starts to run short on cannon fodder, and patience, she changes tactics and tries to employ Themistocles; with an offer of more than just world domination. When Themistocles gives in to his base desires the two go at it like lions, apparently the threat of violence is all the foreplay they needed and they set to throwing each other around roughly indeed! But it’s coitus interruptus when Themistocles still says no to joining the dark side, awkward…

Themistocles pays Queen Gorgo, played by Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), another visit knowing that if Greece is to survive the wrath of Artemisia now, they will need Sparta to come to the party. Themistocles is greeted first by Dilios, reprised by David Wenham (300 & Lord of the Rings) and looking worse for wear as the only surviving member of the 300 Spartans. The Queen is mourning the loss of the 300, in particular King Leonidas, and is not receptive to the idea of serving up more Spartans to Themistocles’ cause. As Themistocles sets to depart, he presents Queen Gorgo with King Leonidas weapon which he was given by the hunchback that betrayed the 300; “avenge him”. Well played that man! We’ll be seeing the Queen later I’m sure.

In an “all in” last pitched battle, Artemisia and Themistocles will collide in a flurry of sea spray, abdominal and pectoral muscles, and as much gratuitous violence as three seasons of Spartacus combined! I would love to have seen the storyboarding for the final scene alone, the movement and flow of action, the choreography of the fighting; and a horse! I’m not one for films that rely solely on their SFX but this was something to behold. The SFX propels the story rather than overshadowing it, the slow motion sequences and close ups of death blows; pure, exhilarating, entertainment. Artemisia takes a parting swipe at Themistocles “you fight harder than you f**k” which is not emasculating at all… With Queen Gorgo’s armada of ships on the horizon bearing down to join the fight, Themistocles finally decides it’s easier to dispatch Artemisia than get a restraining order. But the “God King” remains at large and the door is left open for another instalment. I can’t imagine it will be too difficult for Themistocles and Queen Gorgo to find him though, just follow the trail of glitter!


Attention: House of Cards Fans

House of Cards Fans – Facebook Page

If you’re a House of Cards fan then you know that this show generates more questions than it does answers, it also means you’re spending unhealthy amounts of time burning brain calories trying to work it all out, and there’s a better than good chance you’re driving family and friends insane with your obsession. Well, you’re not alone and there’s help out there for you. That help is the House of Cards Fans page on Facebook. It’s a refuge for fans looking to analyse, hypothesise and do a little Monday quarterbacking about all things HoC. The group shares fan artwork, (some of which I’ve featured above) hosts shirt giveaways, loves a good meme and post HoC related news. These are your people and they’re all over #OneNationUnderwood like Frank on Freddy’s ribs! So head over to the page and join in all the diabolical fun!

“Let the butchery begin.”


House of Cards: Chapter 16 review

“There are two types of Vice President, door mats and Matadors. Which do you think I intend to be?”

Well I don’t think it’s going to take a degree in political science to work this one out! This is the question Frank poses to us as chapter 16 opens. President Walker is fretting over the State of the Union (SOU) address and the VP is bored out of his mind, his well endowed doodle of a bull evidence of his contemptuous inattention. Tusk on the other hand is paying close attention and is none to pleased with the domestic focus of the draft address, Tusk needs international affairs to be front and centre, with the podium draped in the Republic of China flag just so there’s no confusion. As we now know China has the precursor Tusk’s nuclear plants require to keep glowing, and like Monty Burns he’s nothing without his radioactive industry. The domestic nature of the address plays into Frank’s hands, (surprise surprise) as an ongoing beef between the democrats and the republicans over raising the retirement age becomes the poison chalice threatening to sink the SOU address; and leave the Government dead in the water. Who doesn’t love a good Government shutdown? Apparently not Frank, Tusk or the President, but this will turn out to be the only thing they all agree on for some time. Now, we know how much Frank dislikes sludge clogging up the pipes so it’s time to get his hands dirty, again; by accepting the inevitable and acceding to the republicans who are in favour of raising the age of retirement. Hey presto! Avoid a shutdown, spice up the SOU address and get China back on the agenda for tiresome Tusk. Three of a kind baby! Then there’s the rub, the President will have to backflip on his retirement age stance, he’s firmly against it. Frank’s about to break this to the President when Tusk decides that he might be better placed to play devils advocate on this one, and with all the sincerity of a used car salesman, Frank agrees and stops just short of rolling out red carpet for the Presidents “trusted confidant”. Frank now has three days to bring in the herd and push the amendment through the Senate, no pressure… Something has caught my eye in this scene, apart from the President looking a little frazzled all of a sudden, it was Christina’s elevated profile. The President appears to have become quite reliant on Christina, but is it for more than just coming up with a good tagline? While Walker doesn’t have that ‘any intern will do’ feel about him there’s definitely a connection of sorts that he doesn’t have with Linda “tougher than a two dollar steak” Vasquez.

“I can’t have this conspiracy stuff going mainstream.”

With only three days to strong arm the retirement age amendment through the Senate, Frank gets to work on the Republicans, he dangles leadership support; staving off the freeze and bipartisanship in front of a reluctant Hector who also has the Tea Party to contend with “you’re the Senate Majority Leader, you don’t have to sell, you can dictate.” Lucas pops back up like a crazed stalker accosting Christina on Pennsylvania Avenue. He tugs at the Russo heart string to get Christina to sing like a canary on Frank. Fail. Christina’s not having any of it, she’s put Russo behind her, traded up for the President and doesn’t mind dropping Lucas in it with the VP if he doesn’t make like a thousand startled gazelles and get the flock away from her. It’s just getting a little embarrassing now Lucas, Frank’s murder count is clocking higher numbers than your fan club, and people actually like you. A routine threat assessment brief to Linda by the FBI and the Secret Service, involved the usual apparatus measuring between agencies, but with a lack of credible threats the all clear was given; the President and VP are SNAFU, that is Situation Nefarious All Frank Underwood (work with me on this one, I think it will stick). Stamper’s old buddy the FBI Executive Liaison was holding out however, he has already passed information on to Stamper, found by one of his agents, that there is some deep-web VP activity (sounds like nerd porn doesn’t it?) that isn’t looking good for Frank. In the best interests of the VP, this VP “digging” turns into a potential VP “threat” and the threat must be contained. It will need to be off the books of course and Stamper morphs into a Frank mini-me regurgitating the “I’ve got White House influence now” pitch to close the deal with his FBI buddy. Frank would be so proud. Meanwhile, poor Rachel has gone from working Johns to working phones in an equally unsatisfying job at a call centre pedalling firearms education and legislation awareness (yawn). Visual: she finally drops her bundle and goes postal, irony? I’ll check in with Alanis and get back to you… What Rachel does do is call her mother, which is interesting because she told Stamper she couldn’t go home in season 1. We know from Zoe’s snooping that daddy dearest may have been the problem, so her reluctance to have anything to do with home could be because Mum and Dad are still together. Whatever her reasons for distancing herself from her family, they’re now being overridden by her natural instinct to seek the support of her mother, a sure sign that life is starting to overwhelm her. I do hope she doesn’t capitulate, there’s fight in Rachel, a drive I don’t think she’s recognised yet.

“Francis faints at the sight of his own blood, he won’t even let them break the skin.”

Now we meet Connor Ellis (Sam Page), a delightful piece of soft, mouth watering eye candy, amongst some bland hard boiled jaw breakers. Connor is vying for the role of the Underwood’s Media Advisor, spin doctor, or professional redecorator as I like to refer to them. Claire is quite taken with Connor’s initiative “When I want a job, I do my homework” and gives him a little assignment of her own before he can be permitted membership to team Underwood. As Claire sees Connor out, and I do a neck muscle trying to follow him beyond the edge of my TV screen, the President with entourage in tow; barrel their way through the corridor. Who do you think Claire and I both spot looking more like a limpet than a staff member attached to Walker? Christina. I know what you’re thinking Claire, I’m hungry too… oh, and what is going on between those two? We know flirting when we see it don’t we ladies? Speaking of flirting, Frank, with the added aesthetic appeal of Claire; turns his attention to persuading the democrats that unity can be achieved with the republicans on the retirement age bill. This is done over a few glasses of wine, a seemingly innocuous activity that Frank and Claire still manage to make look downright sinister, I don’t think Judas would have been the problem if these two had been at the Last Supper. While Frank and Claire are busy dining on the souls of democrats, Lucas is tethered to his laptop and I suspect, begrudgingly to his melancholic existence as well. Even the sudden explosion of porn on the screen proves nothing more than an irritation until Zoe’s face pops up, mocking him from the grave. Low and behold it’s the hacker he contacted previously, cruelly tormenting him then enticing him with the promise of information. Progress at last! In a scene that could have been in any number of Bond, Bourne or Mission Impossible movies, Lucas is directed to a diner where an iPad is delivered to him; it would have been less obvious if he’d had ‘rookie operative’ tattooed to his forehead, he’s no Ethan Hunt! It all starts to get a bit techno-geek from here and there’s a freaky talking avatar, some fingerprint scanning, and “this iPad will self destruct” stuff going on but in a nutshell Lucas has to help the hacker get into the Washington Post system. Lucas does this under the nose of the most oblivious IT support guru in the known universe and, mission accomplished, he sends the data to the hacker and waits for further instructions; the instructions turn out to be a meet. Tusk lets Frank know the President has agreed to green light the retirement age amendment and the SOU address is being worked on accordingly, although Tusk is apprehensive about including details until Frank can lock down the agreement between the democrats and the republicans; who are now bickering over the implementation timeframe. Time is running short for Frank and he still has to mitigate Tea Party filibustering of the final bill through the house, so the last thing he needed was to hear from Stamper that Lucas is now another ball that requires juggling. Ever the diligent servant, Stamper takes the lead on this loose end but one gets the feeling Frank wishes the Washington Post would go up in flames.

“The higher up the mountain, the more treacherous the path.”

Lucas comes full circle back to Janine who still isn’t playing ball. Lucas it’s time to suck it up and get it over with, I’d rather give myself paper cuts then keep watching you search for validation and get shut down every time. No such procrastination from our smiling assassin Frank, he’s back to playing moderator between the democrats and the republicans only this time he gets his hand-shake deal and it’s smiles all round, no threats of violence or career destruction required; how disappointing. My disappointment soon turns to intrigue as Rachel pops up again. Rachel makes a friend on the bus who’s giving off a ‘Woodstock’ vibe, I can see her singing folk music and eating lentil burgers already, but she is affable and Rachel seems quickly at ease with the stranger; if a little drained from her day job. Our flower power girl gives Rachel a flyer for her church group and invites her to come and check it out. Stamper is going to flip if he finds out Rachel is making friends because I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’re going to see of our free love stranger. Jackie makes a brief appearance, long enough for her callous elimination of Congressman Havemeyer to come back to haunt her, momentarily mind you and she completely denies any involvement and moves on. On to getting some wicked ink in the form of poppies and barbed wire, Frank and Claire aren’t the only masochists on Pennsylvania Ave. I’m beginning to think there’s more to Jackie than just ambition, something even Frank isn’t aware of, I can’t quite put my finger on it; she’s had a traumatic military career so I haven’t ruled out PTSD. Whatever it is, Frank will sniff it out. Back at the White House Claire and Frank seem to be settling in and we now start to see them interact in new environs during the daylight hours, like normal mortals, it’s something of a novelty really. They are enjoying a salubrious lunch together in Frank’s office when Claire asks if Frank has noticed anything about the President and Christina, in typical male fashion he hasn’t, but on recalling the SOU meeting he joins a few dots of his own and like a pair of gossiping teenagers they toy with the possibility of a torrid affair. Hold that thought, Stamper’s here to ruin lunch, the Tea Party faction of the republicans has spooked Mendoza and the retirement amendment deal is off. Damn! That salad looked so good, I’ve been binging for nearly 3 hours by now and my stomach is rumbling, time for a fridge dive; I can’t watch what happens next on an empty stomach. I fear the next few scenes will make the opening 20 minutes of Saving private Ryan look like a Looney Tunes cartoon.

“I need to prove what the Vice President is capable of.”

Frank tells the President of the reneged deal, which went down about as well as you would expect when you’re swallowing razor blades, this will impact the SOU address and the relationship between the two men “Don’t embarrass the Administration Frank, you’re part of it now.” Once again Tusk has been duplicitous and given the President a different version of the conversation that transpired between himself and Frank. I can’t see Frank being quite so humane when it comes time to do what is necessary for Tusk, can you? Frank is now at DEFCON F.U. and when Mendoza refuses to back down the war machine is put into active duty, the Senate is about to become a battle ground. The camera work here is a standout again, following the action down the stairs and along the corridor, capturing the posse as they talk tactics on the fly and thunder along like Abrams tanks. Frank acts quickly to “stack” people and shift votes, favours are being dropped like propaganda flyers from a C130; and there’s so much leveraging even my TV looks like it has a slight lean on it. Assembly is about to start and a quorum is required for Frank to push his amendment through now that he has the numbers. In a move rarely seen, and presumably to maintain control and expedite the process, Frank takes his seat as the President of the Senate; this is going to be political Opera! As the roll is called the republicans work out what Frank is up to and bail like rats from a sinking ship. But Frank and the war machine anticipated the move and enact their contingency plan, the Sergeant at Arms is called upon to compel attendance. I’ve leant forward on my couch again, scanning the Senate floor for stashed weapons and land mines, Frank’s probably got the duress button under the desk wired to nerve gas! When news breaks of the unfolding drama “The Vice president is replacing democracy with tyranny and the Senate has been transformed into a Police State”  Claire is with the eye candy, I mean Connor, discussing the benefits of a joint interview for the Underwood’s. Connor, having already viewed a 1980’s joint interview, explains that the physical gesture of Claire running her fingers through Frank’s hair was an intimate moment; one that will draw votes, and if replicated will give them time to fly under the media radar. Cut to the search for the absent members of Congress and it’s like watching a well orchestrated prohibition raid! Hector’s worried and heads in to the democrat bunker where Frank is as calmly as you like sipping, of all things, tea. Frank’s got enough numbers to push the amendment through in whatever form he likes, but he’s only interested in the original hand-shake form and will settle for six of Hectors M.I.A to reach a quorum. Hector strikes his deal with the devil. The six republicans are hauled into the Senate to the sound of the fat lady singing, the roll is called, quorum is reached. The Tea Party ring leader moves to filibuster and threaten the bill in the House but is thwarted when Frank reveals the deal with Mendoza “read the fine print Curtis, it’s much more important than the selling price”, you see passage of the amendment constitutes passage of the bill; two birds, one bullet. Frank, you’ve outdone yourself this time.

It’s ok Raymond, Jesus forgives you.”

Our lentil burger friend is back, her name is Lisa (Kate Lyn Sheil) and the lure of good music, cookies and cake proves too much for Rachel; she’s off to church. Good for you Rachel! Frank calls Tusk out on his two faced politics with the President, telling him he’ll receive divine forgiveness, omitting any forgiveness of his own. Tusk does not look at all comfortable after their phone conversation is ended abruptly by Frank. What did you expect Tusk? Flowers and a box of chocolates? Lucas decides to go deeper into the deep-web and heads to the meet arranged by the mysterious hacker. On arrival Lucas is greeted by a late twenties or early thirties, well dressed, red wine sipping, hacker in a fancy looking apartment. Not at all what I expected, I thought we were going to see a pimply faced 16 year old with coke bottle glasses working out of his mothers basement. Lucas is interrogated one last time just to make sure he’s not law enforcement, gets a quick lesson in National Security and is introduced to Cashew. Ok, here is the oversized rat I spoke about in my opening review, this compensates for the lack of pimples, coke bottle glasses and basement; and is probably weirder. As we close the chapter, Lucas, Gavin (Jimmi Simpson) and Cashew; are watching the Presidents SOU address on the multitude of screens that feature in the apartment (I wonder if this set is modelled on NSA?). The President, flanked by the Vice President and House of Rep’s Speaker Bob Birch, is spruking retirement entitlements and a strong America. Frank, looking very pleased with himself, has secured the retirement bill for now along with Bob’s support; the pipes are clear of sludge and…

“I used to be on the edge of the frame, now I’m only three feet away.”

Captain Phillips

COMING SOON to Blu-ray and DVD: Captain Phillips

If you missed seeing Captain Phillips on the big screen then you missed an extraordinary performance by Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Charlie Wilson’s War) in a gripping, true story, of high seas piracy; courage and desperation. So you’ll be pleased to know the Australian Blu-ray and DVD release is set for 6 March, which is not too far away. I was fortunate enough to see an advanced screening of the movie late last year and was blown away by it, so much so that I had to Facebook my thoughts and tag producer Dana Brunetti (The Social Network & House of Cards) while the end credits were still rolling; which was responded to with a ‘Like’ and induced an air fist pumping episode from me. I can assure you the hype surrounding this flick was absolutely validated. So, in support of the upcoming DVD release (I pre-ordered my copy over a month ago) I thought it timely to do a quick recap, particularly since the film has been nominated for Best Picture at this years 86th Academy Awards to be held on 2 March or 3 March for us Aussies; this is why it received the nomination…

Imagine a tin can sinking silently, blindly, with a hypnotic pendulum motion through liquid darkness. Imagine you’re inside that can, on a collision course with oblivion, helpless, scared; and alone. The pressure building incrementally until the imminent, unwitnessed and violent demonstration of physics takes place. The can will Implode. Crushed. No longer recognisable as the cylindrical vessel purposefully transporting a precious cargo. That state of hyperventilation you might be experiencing on the way down, that’s the perpetual feeling I had from about 20 minutes into this movie until the last moments; then I just wanted to climb into the screen, hug Tom Hanks and have a good cry.

“They’re not here to fish.”

Director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Ultimatum & Bourne Supremacy) has successfully managed to portray both sides of this geopolitical life and death struggle, that follows a group of haunting looking Somali pirates, as they bite off a little more than they can chew when they attempt to hijack the Maersk Alabama; a container ship bound for Mombasa. What ensues is nothing short of terrifying as the pirates and crew play cat and mouse within the bowls of the superstructure. When Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) ends up on the ships 28 foot life boat with the pirates, that’s when my anxiety really kicked in, the cinematography was masterful and claustrophobia became a very realistic concern. The last 20 minutes was very nearly the end of me when I realised I was holding my breath! I felt like I was right there riding every wave, I could almost taste the salty sea spray and feel the heavy; stale air, close in around me as I waited for it all to end. Even with the Navy SEALs (SEAL Team Six to be precise) dropping in, I still expected a traumatic outcome.

Tom Hanks performance in the last 10 minutes alone should have seen him take home a tidy haul of awards. His omission from most of the awards season has baffled fans and critics alike but on the bright side, Barkhad Abdi was a revelation in his film debut as Muse, the head of the very convincing pirate gang; and worthy of his own accolades. Barkhad did pick up the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor while Billy Ray (Hunger Games) took out the Best Adapted Screenplay award from the Writers Guild of America. The screenplay was adapted form the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, co-written by Captain Richard Phillips about his 2009 hijacking experience. The film was also named Movie of the Year by the AFI and has a total of 6 Academy Award nominations tomorrow. In closing, Captain Phillips is an epic, action packed, thriller with an ending that will affect you deeply; and leave you feeling like you’ve been pummelled by rogue waves for an entire Deadliest Catch season with a gun to your head the whole time!

Good luck at the Oscars tomorrow Captain Phillips!!

 “I’m the Captain now.”