Can “Terminator” be Great Again?

The Terminator

Over the past 32 years, the world has received five different Terminator films, vastly ranging in quality. The first film, known simply as The Terminator was released in 1984, written and directed by the legendary James Cameron and is hailed today as one of the greatest science fiction films anybody has every seen. It had thrills, romance, action, story, and actually make the audience think rather than serving all plot points to them on a platter. The Terminator was a genius piece of cinema and stands as one of the greatest films, period. Terminator_2_posterSeven years later, the second film came out. Titled Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this project marked the return for writer/director James Cameron in one of the best received and successful sequels of all time. As the highest grossing movie of 1991 (and my favorite movie of all time), T2 followed in the spiritual footsteps of The Godfather Part II or The Empire Strikes Back in showing how to be a great sequel: deepen the characters, expand the story, and improve on all aspects of the original and NOT just rehash what made the original good (ahem, all horror sequels ever). Terminator 2 isn’t just a run-and-gun, loud-and-dumb, smoking-barrel and empty-shell of a movie at all; it’s smart, romantic, heartfelt, profound, and inspiring in just about every way. That’s how you make a good sequel, or a good movie in general.Terminator_3_posterIn 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines happened- I mean, was “released.” Honestly, T3 is one of my least favorite movies of all time right next to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Alien: Resurrection and is the textbook example of how NOT to make a great sequel. Lead by an annoying cast, penned by lazy writers, and directed with such bland taste, Terminator 3 would be a pointless movie even if it was a good one- which it was far from. All timeline contradictions with the other films aside, this movie can’t even stand on it’s own as a smart movie because of it’s own plot holes. This film tried to up the ante of villainy by combining the two villains from the first two movies into one, so instead of a terminator with just a metal endoskeleton OR an entirely shape-shifting body, this one had shape shifting metal over a metal endoskeleton…which was actually an embarrassing downgrade all-in-all, topped off with a supermodel body, for the appeal, I guess. Terminator 3 is a mess of a film, but somehow, the franchise kept moving.

MV5BODE1MTM1MzA2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ5MTA2Mg@@._V1_SX640_SY720_In 2009, the franchise made yet another unnecessary return with Terminator: Salvation, which isn’t a “bad” movie- but it doesn’t feel like a Terminator movie at any point in the film which makes it bad for the franchise. And the plot-twist in the middle of the movie really just didn’t make sense as far as the plot of the saga goes; nothing in the movie adds anything to the series. This one can be skipped.

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And then, the return of the series to its roots: Terminator Genisys. For some background information: in order to make The Terminator back in the ‘84, James Cameron had to sell the rights to the movie and all of it’s characters for just $1 to a producer who allowed Cameron to make his pet project. After T2, the rights to the franchise bounced from studio to studio, which explains the varying cast, tone and plot holes that the third and fourth films had. However, Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the franchise and decided to make a trilogy, before the rights return back to James Cameron in 2019. James Cameron has devoted himself to his Avatar series, but the amount of time he needs to allow for the special effects he requires to advance is enough to make another Terminator film if he desired after getting the rights back. So, back to Terminator Genisys; this film was the beginning of Paramount’s new Terminator trilogy- which they decided to make in a hurry before losing the rights to the franchise. Paramount’s film completely ignored Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Terminator Salvation, which made fans (including myself) extremely happy; the fact that this film would respect the roots of the franchise. Before release, James Cameron got to see the movie and told the press that fans would “love this movie!” I thought the film highly respected the originals and was a very fun movie in itself, but critics and audiences didn’t love it, and the film didn’t make as much money as was projected, so the other two films in the trilogy were cancelled. Now, the Terminator franchise has no fate.
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How can the franchise be made to be great again? Well, by learning from the mistakes of the most recent 3 films. A few things that Genisys did well was the villain which- like the second film- was “bigger, badder, and better” than the first. This film paid astounding homage to the original and even expanded the story in surprising ways- which the third and fourth films failed to do. However, the film lacked conviction and was all-around forgettable, mostly because of the confused tone… and the fact that now it’s a cliffhanger without any resolution. So, the best thing a studio could do to make the franchise great again is to hire people who care about the project, even if the last three films in the series have not been loved by audiences- and all three of them aren’t official Terminator films anymore. A studio doesn’t need to pick up where the second movie left off in order to continue the franchise, but the biggest thing to make sure of is that the crew behind it is trustworthy and passionate. Like Predator or Alien, the franchise could be returned to after a few bad movies and still be great (I’m referencing the upcoming The Predator movie written and directed by Shane Black who was in the original, and Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, both directed by Ridley Scott who directed the first). I just hope James Cameron is the next person who says “I’ll be back.”

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However, that is unlikely since he is filming Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 back to back… to back. So, my dream Terminator 3 would actually be directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity) since he can make great, original films like Children of Men, but also direct great sequels which respect the source material as he did with Azkaban (a movie also involving time travel like Terminator). The best reason I have for Cuaron is Gravity, which swept the technical awards at the 2014 Academy Awards, was nominated for Best Picture, and impressed James Cameron who raved about how much he loved the film. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) or Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) would also be good choices. I would pick Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Sunshine) and Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: Episode VIII) for the screenwriters since they have penned some genius and entirely original scripts which have amazed audiences and critics alike. As far as the story goes, I think it’s been too long since T2 to try to continue that plot with those characters, but rebooting and recasting would be absolute sins, so a new team of characters should be introduced for a soft sequel but with a heart of it’s own like Mad Max: Fury Road or Creed last year. As far as the rest goes, I think I’ll leave that to the professionals! Come to IU Media Services in Wells Library to check out The Terminator, Terminator 2, and Terminator Genisys (or many of the other films I’ve mentioned) to see what you think can be done to save the iconic series!

 

Thank you for reading!

-Blake Schwarz

Two or Three thoughts on “Gay Film”

1.

The English language abducted the word “queer” from the Germans around the time English became an entity of large scale language abduction in the 16th century. It was a word that meant some Derridian amalgamation of strange, odd, peculiar, and eccentric as well as referring to something suspicious or “not quite right” and a person with a “mild derangement” exhibiting “socially inappropriate behavior.”

As a verb it meant to spoil or ruin. Continue reading “Two or Three thoughts on “Gay Film””

A Brief Review of Under the Skin (2013)

Source: http://le0pard13.com/2014/10/15/best-album-covers-under-the-skin/
Source: http://le0pard13.com/2014/10/15/best-album-covers-under-the-skin/

This film was directed by Jonathan Glazer, and is loosely adapted from Michel Faber’s 2000 novel by the same name. The key is “loose” adaptation. I was personally excited to watch this film as the novel was part of what made me decide to become vegetarian, however, this aspect is eliminated in the film.  It tells a story of a mysterious woman who drives along the Scottish highways picking up lonely men. The mysterious woman is also helped by a mysterious man riding a motorcycle? The film follows the woman closely as she invites many men into her very creepy looking van. Mysterious.

I can admire the film for it’s beautiful scenery and camera work , however, I was a little disappointed that this film was even tied to the novel at all. By using the same title, many strong themes and messages are called to the surface that were not delivered clearly for the same audience. Themes dealing with factory farming, environmental decay, and big business don’t seem to be covered here. Michel Faber has a talent for creating complex, moving works of fiction that deal with a lot of meaningful issues under the surface (or under the skin) so I was disappointed this film didn’t share the same messages as the novel. However, it does move beyond the novel in an interesting way that took a few viewings to completely etch out.

By choosing to focus on an alien’s perspective of the human world, and only through a female protagonist, Jonathan Glazer was able to touch on themes of sexism and isolation in a very unique way. The film dives deep into personal questions about humanity and mercy, explored through long, slow, shots of each scene and an ambient, beautifully destructive soundtrack perfectly capturing the terrifying emotions experienced in the film. The role of sound in this film is very important to creating the type of experience I think the director was aiming for, especially if it were an alien interpreting the human world for the first time. Both works of Under the Skin are simply a different side to the same dice, and in my opinion, still worth experiencing.

*This film will be available in Media Reserve Services to check out

best wishes,

kl

Catching Up for Lost Films

Like many people today, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of quality media being released seemingly daily.  If I had a nickel for anytime someone has said to me something along the lines of, “you haven’t seen The Martian?!” or “why haven’t you caught up on The Walking Dead?”, I’d have enough money to actually pay for movie tickets so I wouldn’t miss anything.  This is why I took on a challenge.

Last year, Doug Benson of the “Doug Loves Movies” podcast and various Netflix stand-up comedy specials issued himself a challenge to watch 365 movies (that’s a movie a day, folks).  In an effort to catch up on some critically-acclaimed (and some not so critically-acclaimed) movies I’ve missed, I’m attempting this challenge for 2016.  So far, I’m 33 films in (admittedly 6 films behind, but nothing some elbow grease and shirking other responsibilities can’t fix), and I’ve encountered some great films that can be found in the Browsing library here at Media Services.

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Now I was way behind on this one, but between hearing the hype about how brilliantly a young Leo Dicaprio portrays a mentally-disabled teenager, and the desire to see a young Johnny Depp playing a more down-to-earth character, I had to finally watch What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.  This film mainly follows the relationship between Gilbert (Depp) and his disabled brother Arnie (Dicaprio).  Between having to be the main breadwinner for his brother, two sisters, and shut-in mother, struggling to keep the curious (often to a dangerous extent) nature of Arnie in check, and pining for the affection of a young lady (played by Juliette Lewis), Gilbert does a lot of growing up in the time the movie takes place.  Wonderfully acted by the whole cast, especially Dicaprio, who earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination at just 19 years old, and beautifully shot in a rural Iowan setting, I highly recommend this film.

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Now for a slight shift in tone, another film I’ve finally watched recently was Hot Fuzz.  Being a big fan of Shaun of the Dead, the involvement of stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright was an immediate draw for me, I just hadn’t gotten around to seeing it.  This movie, like Shaun before it, is a send-up of a popular movie genre, this time being the buddy-cop movie.  While the adventures of the perfect record-having Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) and the screw-up son of the town’s chief inspector Danny Butterman (Frost) poke loads of fun at numerous buddy-cop tropes from over the years, it does it from a place of affection and appreciation of those films, much like the spoof pioneers Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers.  If your a fan of films like Airplane! and Blazing Saddles, and you don’t mind explosions either, this film is right down your alley.

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In perhaps my biggest mistake of 2015, I missed out on seeing the masterful Interstellar in theaters.  Initially I wrote this film off as a clone of 2014’s Gravity, and didn’t have much interest to see it.  But after hearing critics sing the praises of Matthew McConaughey and seeing that Christopher Nolan, who directed my all-time favorite movie The Dark Knight, was also attached to this, I decided to give it a shot.  I was not nearly prepared for the heartfelt, visually stunning, and blood-pumping saga that I was in store for.  In the not-so-distant future, Earth is ravaged by sandstorms, and food is more scarce than ever.  In a last-ditch effort to save humankind as we know it, Cooper (McConaughey), a former pilot, must lead a space mission to find other inhabitable planets in our galaxy…or outside our galaxy.  With an epic score by Hans Zimmer of Inception fame, a stellar (pardon the pun) supporting cast including Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and Jessica Chastain, and elements of adventure, suspense, and even sci-fi, this film is not to be missed.  I missed this film for over a year, and after watching it once it instantly got on my short list of favorite movies.  Do yourself a favor and pick it up from Media Services today.

If your interested in widening your film horizons, or even taking the 365 movie challenge like me, stop in Media Services in the Reference Reading Room at the Wells Library today!  If you feel so inclined, leave comments below telling what movies you’re adding to your list and how for into the 365 you are!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check out numbers 34 and 35 on my list right now.

-MJH

Aqua Something Blog Post Whatever


WARNING: ADULT SWIM MAY CONTAIN MATERIAL THAT PARENTS MIGHT NOT FIND SUITABLE FOR VIEWERS UNDER THE AGE OF SEVENTEEN.

I will not use this blog as a way to prove I have psychic powers. In fact, I don’t believe that such a thing is really possible of myself or any person I’ve met to date. This is chiefly because I imagine if people could read my mind they’d risk all the alarmed exits as a means of escape. No, I am not psychic. But I bet you’re wondering why anyone would waste time writing a blog post about Adult Swim cartoons. Continue reading “Aqua Something Blog Post Whatever”

Star-struck: Celebrity, Obsession, and Film. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

American
2007
Andrew Dominik

What American doesn’t at least know the name Jesse James? Hero, thief, badass, murderer there are as many legends surrounding the man as there are opinions. However he was viewed by the public, one thing about Jesse which was indisputable was his fame. He has been the subject of innumerable fictions both during his lifetime and after, which helped generate distorted perceptions of his character. The film seeks to right things and show Jesse James as he really was.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford tells the story of the outlaw’s last days and the life of the man that shot him in the back. He is 34 years old, a family man who lives in the suburbs. Nothing about him says train robber or murderer to the casual observer. He is shown baking with his children or taking leisurely strolls through his neighborhood, the very model of a respectable citizen. Robert Ford is 19, socially awkward, and lives with his head in the clouds. He is shown to be the butt of his brother’s jokes and generally looked down upon by his family. He has a rather unsettling obsession with the James-Younger Gang, and a desire to advance his position in the world by any means necessary.

The film opens on the James Gang’s final robbery, a train job near Blue Cut, Missouri. By now the Younger brothers are all in prison and Jesse and his brother Frank must rely on local hicks for manpower. Robert Ford is among the new recruits. Robert actively seeks out the James brothers and is rebuffed by Frank, but welcomed by Jesse. After the robbery, which yields much less than Jesse expected, Robert is allowed to stay in the outlaw’s house, but only to help Jesse move house. There, he meets a few more of Jesse’s associates, including the womanizing Dick Liddil and Jesse’s arrogant cousin Wood Hite. As the association deepens between the Fords and the Jameses Robert begins to understand what kind of man Jesse really is. Jesse has been made paranoid by his long years as a criminal and suspects that members of his gang might be trying to turn him into the authorities for a bounty.
The Fords managed to avoid any suspicion of this until Jesse’s cousin Wood attacks Dick Liddil, who is staying with them, for sleeping with his stepmother. Robert Ford shoots Wood and the Fords hide his body in a ditch on their property. Figuring it is only a matter of time before Jesse puts two and two together and kills every last one of them to avenge his cousin’s death, the Ford brothers decide to take the state up on their offer of a bounty for Jesse’s capture.

From a cinematographic standpoint, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is probably one of the best shot films of the 2000’s. Long takes are used to show the passage of time and to emphasize the tranquility of the natural setting in direct contrast with the slow-building tension between the characters. Even action scenes are filmed with long takes, eschewing the rapid cuts that films like The Wild Bunch helped to popularize. The pacing of the film is deliberately slow, and events in the plot are presented in an episodic, slice-of-life manner. A narrator is used, generally to provide background information. The narrator’s utility lies in that he grounds the audience in the facts of the situation, reflecting the overall goal of the film: to show the real Jesse James. Also notable is the extensive use of chiaroscuro in its night scenes while daytime scenes use a mixture of harsh sunlight and a restricted pallet to produce a washed-out look, echoing old photographs.

The overall tone of the film is melancholic, with moments of levity mostly supplied by the sometimes witty dialogue of its principle characters. There are also brief instances of black comedy such as the inept shoot-out between Dick Liddil and Wood Hite, where they miss every shot they take despite being only about three feet away from each other. But the centerpiece of the film is its study of the title characters. As we get to know Jesse James and Robert Ford better out disposition towards them becomes a mixture of pity, sympathy, disgust and horror. Jesse in particular is revealed quickly as a psychotic bully whose mean temper leads him to cruelly beat a recalcitrant railroad official within an inch of his life and later torture a teenage boy for information on the whereabouts of a gang member he suspects of plotting against him. However, he is humanized by his clear love for his family and is worn so thin by his paranoia and fear that he’s just a shell of man. Robert fidgets his way through most of his early scenes and any attempt he makes to assert himself is dismissed. Everything from his shyness to his reliance of fantasy to his desire for greatness speaks of a deep-seated self-hatred, and all of his mannerisms seem slightly off. He is capable of being quite cold-blooded, a sterling example being when he calmly shoots Wood Hite through the head.

In terms of celebrity, Jesse is a man trapped by his own legend while Robert is an obsessive fan who cannot see Jesse clearly at first. When he finally does, he sees the real Jesse James cannot live up to his legend. When Robert finally kills Jesse out of fear and resentment he briefly becomes a legend himself, but the nation’s love of Jesse James warps Robert’s public Image into conniving back-shooter. Robert is ultimately destroyed after a lifetime of humiliation in a similar manner to Jesse, shot in the back by a deranged loner with a hatred of Robert’s legend. In many ways Robert is a stand in for the American public (and by extension, the audience), we are right beside him as Jesse’s legend is torn down. Unlike Diva, when what is beneath the publicity is revealed the fan can find nothing to love. Understanding is still reached in this case, but to understand a career criminal like Jesse James is to fear him.

The Necessary Film and What it Means

When I was 19, I had very strong feelings about the 1997 Harmony Korine film Gummo. The film presents a fictionalized Ohio town, ravaged by tornado, drugs, poverty, and other cruelties, in a loose barrage of vignettes, some characters recurring and some appearing in raw visceral glimpses like sideshow performers seen through a tear in the tent. And a sideshow of depravity it is–twin skinheads beating each other up over shoes, barely pubescent boys killing neighborhood cats for money and huffing glue, toddlers in cowboy suits screaming obscenities in a junkyard, a murdered grandmother in an iron lung and her tremulously effeminate, be-mulleted grandson, a toe-less albino with a Patrick Swayze obsession–alternately shot on Hi-8 video, dizzying 8mm and 16mm amateur handhelds, and on 35mm with hypnotic fever dream virtuosity by French cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier.

I had a poster the size of a pool table on my dorm room wall, and I could (and still can) quote it front to back.

It was also what I’ll call my Necessary Film: if someone wanted to date me, they had to watch Gummo and like it. To like me they had to like the dead cats, the gap-toothed rabbit boy with the accordion, the grinding death metal and warbling Roy Orbison soundtrack: all of it

Continue reading “The Necessary Film and What it Means”

Star-struck: Celebrity, obsession, and film. Diva

This is the first in a series of film reviews I am writing for the library blog. I will usually do these in groups of three movies which I feel are thematically related. For my first three I’ll focus on films about the strange unrequited love that celebrities inspire in their most intense fans. It’s a trip that will span from the (relatively) innocent to the downright sinister, and even into the completely psychotic. I am excited to go on this journey with you and hope you’ll enjoy it as we travel the strange world of a fan’s obsession
 

Diva

French
1981
Jean-Jacques Beineix

Beineix’s highly stylized thriller Diva was in many ways the inaugural film of the French Cinema du look movement that would come to define popular film in western Europe throughout the eighties and early nineties. The core aesthetic principles of cinema du look were its emphasis on intricately crafted yet sensational visuals and a general foregoing of substance in favor of style. In more action heavy films, such as Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, this translated into complicated chase or fight sequences while in quieter (for the style) films like Diva romantic or dramatic scenes would rely on deliberately overblown visual cues. In terms of social themes, cinema du look tended explore the idea of close-knit groups of friends being the primary support system for the characters rather than the traditional family. One could argue that this was a return to the exuberance of the French New Wave after the depressing realist cinematic movement of the seventies.

Diva’s plot is not particularly complicated, at least no more so than any other thriller. A young Parisian mailman called Jules happens to be an opera fan obsessed with the titular diva, Cynthia Hawkins. Hawkins is famous for both her virtuosity and the fact that she never makes recordings. One night she gives a recital in Paris, singing the aria Ebben? ne andro Iontano from Catalini’s La Wally, which Jules secretly records. However, matters are complicated when Jules also comes into possession of a recording which implicates a high-level police official in a prostitution ring. Meanwhile Jules also makes the acquaintance of a French-Vietnamese girl named Alba and, though her, a mysterious bohemian known only as M. Gorodish. The police official is frantically searching for the tape, and Jules soon has a pair of ruthless hitmen dogging his trail as well as a pair of Taiwanese gangsters who have learned of his pirate recording of Hawkins’s performance and wish to acquire it. Despite the danger growing around him, Jules attempts to take his adoration of Cynthia Hawkins to the next level be introducing himself to the singer. She is initially repulsed but is then bemused at the idea of having a fan like Jules and a romance of sorts develops between the two. As the hunt for the incriminating tape intensifies, Jules must rely on Alba and Gorodish to help him disentangle himself from the precarious web of intrigue he has fallen into.

As a story Diva leans on the contrivances of the thriller genre with a certain degree of self-awareness. Combined with a wonderful verve, means that nothing comes off as forced and there is a freshness to the entire enterprise. The pacing is careful and deliberate. Each facet of the story is resolved with a sort of quirky elegance that only the most careful attention to plotting can make possible. Visually the film makes a very effective use of its muted color palette, at its most dynamic creating a world of greens and blues against black and grey backgrounds. Colors are used as a way of cueing viewers in to the nature of a scene with greens used to suggest danger or malicious intent and blues used to suggest safe havens in the darkness. Romantic or joyous scenes are often attended with a veritable riot of color. The characters are more than well-written enough to hold the viewer’s interest, aided in no small part by the performances given by their respective actors. Jules is portrayed as an eccentric dropout whose sincerity and conscience ultimately transcends his rather creepy obsession with Cynthia Hawkins and allows actual love to take hold between them. Alba and M. Gorodish steal each scene they appear in. Alba manages to be both fey and brash, and seems to coyly dance her way through each scene, M. Gorodish is played as an almost enlightened figure whose whimsy is more than a match for Alba’s. Cynthia Hawkins is sympathetic and believable as a successful artist trying to hold true to her principles as the world changes around her. Special mention goes to the character of the assassin Curé, who brings a deadpan menace every time he slouches into a scene.

Diva uses the relationship between Jules and Cynthia to explore the often one-sided and anonymous love that a particularly passionate fan has for a performer or a celebrity. In this case we begin with Jules’ immature obsession with Cynthia. In the beginning she is only partially real for Jules, almost like a distant star: unreachable but somehow casting her twinkling light into his life. As their relationship develops Jules actually gets to know the real Cynthia and the fantasy he has built up around her begins to crumble. When the recording Jules has made of her concert apparently falls into the hands of the Taiwanese gangsters, who plan to copy and sell the recording with or without the diva’s consent, Jules realizes that his selfishness has brought actual harm. It is only after he returns the recording to Cynthia and admits his mistake that the diva and her fan are able to truly relate to one another. The film closes with Jules and Cynthia embracing on an empty stage, while the pirate recording plays in the background.

Director Spotlight: Wes Anderson

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Wes Anderson

Born Wesley Wales Anderson this filmmaker from Houston, Texas has in recent years become, in my humble opinion, one of the most innovative commercial film directors of the last decade. Granted, I have only been alive just shy of two decades, but still, the man is a genius: let’s talk about why.

In the early 90s,  just as he was about to graduate from The University of Austin Film School and armed with two of the best friends a man with his aspirations could ever wish for (The Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, with whom he collaborated on several films), Wes co-wrote, directed, and produced a short film entitled “Bottle Rocket.”

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House Of Cards Season 2: What Now?

Warning. This post contains extensive spoilers for House of Cards Season 2, so probably don’t read on if you are currently in the process of watching it, plan on watching it, might get into that show some day, or aren’t planning on watching it but tend to change your mind on things a lot. However, if you’ve seen the season or you just enjoy the time-honored practice of experiencing television backwards, by starting with spoilers of the latest season, and ending by watching the series premiere with the back of your head, read on.

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The rib-munching mad-man we love to hate, Frank Underwood does his signature class ring knock-on-wood right onto the desk in the Oval Office, and the screen cuts to black.

Continue reading “House Of Cards Season 2: What Now?”