“House of Cards” Season 5 – The Power Shifts

     I’ve been with “House of Cards” for a while now. This is easily one of my favorite shows out there, even though it did have a season I really hated. This is a season that plays on what made last season work and strengthens it further. This is the season where we see just how wonderfully awful the Underwoods are and how their quest for power does and doesn’t payoff.

The season picks up where last season left off with the Underwoods running against Conway in the 2016 election. The race is tight as the Underwoods prepare to go to any means to hold onto power and win the election.


The Pros: The Election – The election is fantastic as we see political dealings going down as Conway’s advisor Mark Usher is convinced to work for the Underwoods when they find the dirt on Conway after they successfully cause a political crisis by using one of their assets (a hacker) to cause panic across swing states. This eventually leads to a special election being called in one of those states where Frank and Claire rise to victory.

The Underwoods – The Underwoods are the main reason to watch the show. They are so corrupt and compelling as we see just how far they are willing to go to tie up loose ends and to keep in power. This season is a shining example of this and ends showing that even the Underwoods loyalty does not fully extend to one another.

Frank – Frank wins the election but the corruption of his rise to power becomes the forefront as the former president comes forward and people begin calling him out for the shady dealings and situations that surrounded him in his rise to power. In the end he decides to resign as his time in Elysian Fields (a secret society) showed him the true power lies outside the office of the President and controlling it, as Claire is left in charge as she became Vice President last season.

Claire – Claire is the better of the Underwoods as we see that she does not act out of spite and is good at building bridges between members of the party and opposition. Unlike Frank she doesn’t care about revenge, but can be just as ruthless (she kills her lover who knew all of the Underwood secrets), just holding power and this season ends with her as President holding Frank’s sins against him as she refuses to pardon him for his crimes, leaving him alone and under threat with her at the top, it finally being “her turn.”

The Rat Race and Cost of Power – Those underneath the Underwoods all pay the price in the end. Doug is alone and underground and as of the end of the season has not been pardoned for his crimes, Frank is just like him…LeAnn is dead with her former lover the hacker dead as she was loose end that was cleaned up and the government is in disarray as people seek to jump ship or find the Underwoods blackmailing them with their past actions. I really liked LeAnn’s character and her death for me was the strongest one since Frank’s murdering of Russo, who was also an actor and character I liked. This season was all about consequences and those consequences paid off with those who still hold power being isolated and those who trusted the Underwoods being just as isolated or dead.

Okay: Russia – Russia is the only one who can blackmail the Underwoods, but even he loses his asset, though we see that Claire’s adviser is working for him, so he isn’t out yet, but we don’t see what Russia’s agenda really is at this point.

This was an amazing season that gave us a major shift in power as we have seen Claire hold power but Frank’s unpredictability and secret agenda always detracted from Claire’s potential. Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey once again do an amazing job and I loved watching the power shifts take place…from Frank going to the private sector to control government and Claire using the power of the Presidential office to consolidate her power and agenda and with it shift power away from Frank. Where next season leads is anyone’s guess but this is show about their partnership which Frank left behind this season in his quest for revenge against those who had opposed him. I think he’ll realize this or he’ll fall as Claire has shown to be the better leader now on multiple occasions.

Claire Underwood 2020

Final Score: 9.8 / 10


The Grudge (2004): An Amazing Horror Film that Captures an Unstoppable Hate

The Grudge

    After I had watched “The Ring” with my friends and partner the next film we watched was “The Grudge.” Like what it shows on the DVD, it is scarier than “The Ring” in my opinion. This is a film that shows why people are afraid of the idea of ghosts. What can you do against a thing that cannot be killed by any known means that is driven only by a single emotion? The design for the Grudge is really great too and I think the fact that they brought the director Takashi Shimizu who is responsible for the original series “Jo-Un” in Japan is part of why it is so great. This was a film that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

     Takashi Shimizu directed the film with Stephen Susco writing the script, while Sam Raimi was the one who produced this remake.


    The story begins with a suicide of Peter (Bill Pullman) who kills himself as before we learn that in any location where something horrible happens a curse is born out of sorrow or rage that kills those who enters this location and hunts them after they leave it. The story follows a few characters who come in contact with it from a foreign exchange student named Karen (Sarah Michelle Geller) to Detective Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) and a few others who made the house their home.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is fantastic and does a wonderful job at capturing the monster around the corner. The fact that Shimizu has done this before helps as he truly shows himself to be a master his craft.

The Soundtrack – Christopher Young creates an intense soundtrack that keeps up the fatalistic outlook the film brings as we see each character eventually be taken out by the evil Grudge.

The Story Structure – The structure begins with the mystery of the house and Peter’s suicide as over the course of the film we learn the story behind the ghosts (a woman and child) who continue to kill those who enter the house and hunt the people who had entered the house for any reason.

The Characters – The characters overall aren’t as developed as those in “The Ring” but the family dynamics in each are interesting and those are what I’ll be exploring here. Sarah Michelle Geller is one of the weaker characters in the film as the older actors are the ones who really shine in this.

Detective Nakagawa – Ryo Ishibashi is great as the detective who has been avoiding the horror of the house for a long time as he is one of the few who knows about the Saekis and the fact that the father killed the mother and son before killing himself but he knows that everyone who has investigated it has ended up dead. When the Grudge starts hunting him after he had entered the house he gets gasoline and is prepared to burn it down, until he’s stupid and enters one of the rooms where he hears a boy choking who is the spirit once again hunting and he ends up dead.

The Kirks and Williams – This is a family whose mother is being cared for in the house and haunted by Mrs. Saeki and her son. They don’t believe what is going on and each are hunted down by Mrs. Saeki until they are all dead. There aren’t any standout performances as they aren’t really given enough time until the Grudge is active in their lives. So the most interesting part is just the relationship dynamic between them as the son is all about business, the daughter-in-law doesn’t want ot be there and the daughter of the mother is successful and distant.

Peter – Peter is the professor who Mrs. Saeki was stalking. It was he who discovers the murder suicide and Mrs. Saeki’s awakening into The Grudge as he retreats and later kills himself from the horror as she stalks him in death as she did in life.

The Saekis – The Saeki’s are messed up as the father is unstable (he kills the cat, his son and wife after learning she loves Peter) and it is this messed up darkness that creates the Grudge in the first place as the kid and Mrs. Saeki are it’s main forms it uses to hunt all who enter it’s territory.

The Grudge – The grudge is an evil spirit that uses those it kills as a mask to hunt down those who enter it’s home. It’s creepy as it can jump around and see through windows and television screens and isn’t bound by time (it shows Karen the events of it’s creation) and is unstoppable. Fire probably kills it but we never learn if that’s the case since the fire is put out when Karen tries to finish what the Detective started.

Okay: Karen – Karen is an interesting idea but is the weakest in this film. She does way too many stupid things and kept putting people at risk. The one good thing she does is pull the professor to action but than she can’t even burn the house down when she knows her boyfriend is probably already taken by the Grudge. She had one job. In the end the Grudge gets her, to no ones surprise.

   “The Ring” in my opinion has the stronger story, though this film is much scarier and I really enjoyed the story structure. The biggest problem is the ensemble cast and writing doesn’t always hold up. A lot of characters including Karen and her boyfriend do stupid things for no reason and the Detective should have burned the house and left and not stuck around given he knew the house was haunted and had lost a bunch of detectives already. These were the biggest issues that brought it down and kept it from being the same quality as “The Ring,” though it is still a horror film that is a favorite and one I’d highly recommend. I look forward to reviewing the original “Jo-Un” as well.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10