Netflix’s House of Cards Review

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House-of-Cards-PosterToday Netflix launch their original series House of Cards, I was lucky enough to be given a pre-release screener for episodes 1 and 2.

Set in Washington DC, House of Cards centres around Congressman, Majority Whip, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), who has been promised to be put forward for the position of Secretary of State. When the newly elected President reneges on the promise, Underwood with the encouragement of his wife (Robin Wright), becomes a Machiavellian wizard who plays his co workers like puppets, slowly pitting them against each other to get what he wants.

Meanwhile Zoe Barnes is a lowly reporter in The Washington Herald, fed up of local county court reports and to start a blog about the real behind the news stories of Capital Hill. She approaches Underwood and in return for anonymity, he feeds her his wealth of knowledge and secrets.

Ok, so far so good in this remake of a BBC mini series and there are many television shows that have similar storylines with different backdrops, including the currently broadcast ‘Revenge‘. In the first two episodes where ‘House of Cards’ comes into its own, is in the boundaries it doesn’t have. Traditional television shows have to adhere to certain criteria, what the network want, language being used, even time of day a show is aired. With Netflix, all of these boundaries are gone, the only thing stopping the creativity of the directors and writers are themselves and if the audience can and will adapt to their style.

First off, this doesn’t look like it’s not going to be broadcast on traditional television. It’s crisp, clean and gorgeous. Having Kevin Spacey in your cast is always a good thing, having him put his money where is mouth is, is better, he’s an executive producer. The depth of the cast also makes you this seriously, Robin Wright (Moneyball, Jenny in Forrest Gump), Corey Stall (Law & Order), Michael Kelly (Criminal Minds) amongst others. Back it up with David Fincher (The Social Network/Fight Club) directing and it’s a heavyweight.

For this viewer, where ‘House of Cards’ exceeds is in bending the rules. Spacey’s monlogues, directly to camera, are fascinating. He introduces the audience to the situation, the location, explains everything going on, he catches you up on the backstory in uberquick time. He turns away from the camera and it’s back to the scene with his fellow actors. After the first or second time of this we know what to expect but it changes. At one point Underwood is being spoken to by Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey), the President’s right hand woman. Underwood sits at his desk, Vasquez is standing, she walks out of shot and mid scene Underwood faces the camera and makes an eye gesture, ‘Yea Right’, before continuing with the scene. Underwood’s behaviours make it impossible to back out, the viewer is an active participant in what’s going on.

That’s not the only thing, when text messages are sent, a dialogue box appears on screen with the message, very multimedia like. And there’s some clever editing, cutting back and forth, especially noticeable when the words ‘Monica Lewins…’ are cut off.

At points throughout also, there are certain throwbacks to Film Noir, especially when Underwood meets Zoe Barnes in public. He always seems to be in the shadow, she’s in the light. His face is never fully seen, we mostly see the back of his head, showing how he wants to remain anonymous in the whole information swap.

People are watching television differently now, most people watch their programmes through Sky+ or by watching boxsets. Not everyone can sit down at the same time every week and watch something, life gets in the way. While Netflix is an online content distributor, House of Cards is a great move into making them a content maker. Whether it’s a television series or a web series we watch, it’s all still moving visual content. If Netflix keep up the high quality production, interesting storylines and add to their catalogue of Netflix Originals, they could completely change the television landscape.

How To Be Irish: Get Involved

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rteThis sounds interesting. RTÉ is airing its first user-generated documentary on being Irish on St Patrick’s Day. The programme will be made entirely of clips sent in by viewers talking about, or otherwise illustrating, what being Irish means to them.

Here’s the blurb:

On Friday 17th February RTÉ Television launched its call for people everywhere, in Ireland and worldwide, to tell us #HowToBeIrish and possibly feature in this unique television programme. The call-out is also being led by RTÉ 2fm’s Rick O’Shea on his Rick in the Afternoon programme.

Anyone who wants to take part – wherever and whoever they are – should think about the feelings, images, thoughts, songs, jokes or special moments which they feel best sum up being Irish and use their cameras, camcorders, webcams or mobile phones to capture their version of #HowToBeIrish.

RTÉ will select the funniest, most touching, awe-inspiring and strange responses for the television programme, #HowToBeIrish, which will be broadcast on RTÉ One and on RTÉ.ie on St Patrick’s Day 2012. And we’ll share the best of the rest with our RTÉ.ie visitors.

There are many ways of being Irish and the conversation is open to anyone anywhere who would like to send us their thoughts on being Irish. Whatever #HowToBeIrish means to you, we want you to show us on camera.

Details of how to submit:

    1] Record up to 3 minutes of material, maybe even 5, showing us How To Be Irish.

    2] If you film in public, make sure you have permission to film anyone you interview or feature. If you film in private, make sure you have permission from everyone.

    3] It is not necessary to edit your material, although you can do so if you wish.

    4] Don’t use any music unless you’ve got permission from the rights-holders.

    5] Email a file of your footage, preferably a Quicktime, or send us a link of it on YouTube to HowToBeIrish@rte.ie by 6pm on March 5th (you can even post us in your tapes if you like).

    6]Any questions? Email HowToBeIrish@rte.ie now.

#HowToBeIrish will be hosted by Twitterato extraordinaire Rick O’Shea of RTÉ 2fm, helped by model and Facebook maven Faye Dinsmore and RTÉ Television presenter and You Tube star Stephen Byrne.

For more information on how to send us your material go to www.rte.ie/howtobeirish. If you still have any questions, e-mail us at howtobeirish@rte.ie.

Closing date for submission of material is 6pm on Monday 5th March.

Is Netflix Worth The Subscription?

netflixIt’s just over a month since Netflix launched here in Ireland giving everyone one month’s free access before starting to charge. I’ve got two days left in my free month and I’m not sure if I will subscribe. Netflix is a subscription based film and television streaming service, you can watch on demand and there are no limits to how much you watch.

My dilemma is this. There are not enough current or contemporary films included in their content. Since my free month began, I’ve watched a good few movies trying out the service. There have been a couple I hadn’t seen before. A lot of things that I would be interested in, I would have had on DVD anyway so these would be ruled out to watch, for me, online.

A lot of the content seems, please correct me if I’m wrong, to come from the 80s, 90s and 00s. An awful lot coming up in my recommended stream seem to be from 2000-2002. French movies, I like them, there’s eight on Netflix and some of those in my DVD collection. Continue reading “Is Netflix Worth The Subscription?”

Free Audience Tickets: Family Fortunes with Alan Hughes (Jan 30th)

Family FortunesThanks to my good buddies at DCU Media Production Society, there are some tickets available for the recording of TV3‘s new gameshow, Family Fortunes as hosted by the cheeriest man on breakfast TV, Alan Hughes.

Recording will take place this Monday, January 30th, at 4.15pm. You need to be in The Helix, DCU, Dublin at 3.45. And there’s sure to be a few laughs. If you would like to be in the audience please email pro2(at)dcumpsDOTcom (replace the (at) and DOT) with confirmation of how many tickets you would like and your contact details.

Bye Bye Television

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Yip, we did it. we’ve dumped our TV. We’ve got rid of our cable and have finally decided we’re going to do something productive with our time rather than watching re-runs of Frasier and Friends.

How could you do that I hear you say? Well our little TV has been a friend for many years now. When we bought it first it was mainly because we were in the UK and we could also use it to surf the web. Dead handy when we didn’t have a computer and were emailing friends and family at home.

Being honest though, we probably watch more DVDs have quite a good monitor for doing that so we don’t really need a TV. Any TV we want to watch we normally end up watching online anyway.

I’ve yet to see a down side to this, we save on a TV licence fee, we save on cable bills. We have more time for actually doing stuff at home, like playing music, actual instruments, learning new stuff and believe it or not the thing people used to do before we all had tellys, talking.