03/31/2013 08:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: House of Cards (2013)

Film: House of Cards (2013)
Cast includes: Kevin Spacey (Se7ev), Robin Wright (Moneyball), Michael Kelly (The Adjustment Bureau), Michael Gill (Ideal), Corey Stoll (The Bourne Legacy), Kate Mara (127 Hours), Sakina Jaffrey (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), Kristen Connolly (Revolutionary Road)
Writer/Creator: Beau Willimon (The Ides of March)
Genre: Drama | Noir (Season 1: 13 60-minute episodes)

If your neighbor's dog is hit by a car and needs to be put out of its misery, Francis Underwood is your man. As he strangles the helpless pooch with his bare hands, he looks us in the eye and tells us, "There are two kinds of pain... the sort of pain that makes you strong... or useless pain. I have no patience for useless things." Frank is always willing to do the necessary thing... even if he's getting ready for a New Year's Eve gala. Frank and Claire are the ultimate Washington DC power couple. It's 2013, and Garrett Walker has just been elected President. Does Frank like him? No. But after 22 years in Congress, he can smell which way the wind is blowing. He also points out Chief of Staff, Linda Vasquez... Frank got her hired, so she owes him. Frank is the House Majority Whip, but he's got bigger plans, and things are finally falling in place. This is going to be a big year for the Underwoods.

Young reporter Zoe Barnes is sick of crap assignments, and she's lobbying for juicier assignments. Then there's Pennsylvania's Representative Peter Russo, whose fancy footwork barely keeps him ahead of his self-inflicted troubles. Whether they know it or not, Frank will skillfully make use of all of them. On the day of the big announcement, Frank learns from Linda that he's not going to be nominated for Secretary of State. Garrett needs Frank to stay in Congress. Education is the top priority. Linda wants to know if Frank will get on board. [After a momentary reboot...] Of course he will! Frank is always the good soldier. Meanwhile, Claire's doing a bit of reorganization in her environmental organization, and Frank's nomination for Secretary of State will help fundraising efforts. Why doesn't he return her calls? "Nine hours, Francis... you don't not call me for nine hours," she declares. "We do things together... when you don't call me, we're in free fall.... What happened?" Frank (stupidly) trusted them. "You don't usually underestimate people, Francis." Frank and Claire are going to have a lot of late nights "making plans... very little sleep." That's fine with Claire. Frank's always thinking of the bigger picture... he lets us know adversaries rarely know that they're on Frank's "platter until he's carved them up and served them to the dogs."

House of Cards is a smart, stylish series, inspired by the 1993 British series of a similar name. As in the British version, Frank regularly turns to the camera and shares keen observations along with his deepest, darkest thoughts. As in the British series, Frank passes as a loyal YES man, while he plays everyone for his needs. Like a typical noir drama, we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy. But unlike a typical noir drama, Frank seems to have some good motives... we're not quite sure. Frank plans his moves far in advance, and our opinion of him changes as events unfold... and sometimes unravel. Even if you're familiar with the British version, House of Cards is addictive. This series had its debut on Netflix streaming video. It was released all at once for binge viewing. But don't expect to feel totally satisfied by the end... Episode 13 definitely leaves us hungry for Season 2.

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
House Majority Whip, Francis Underwood, is DC's most skilled operator... he chews up adversaries and spits them out before they even know they're on his platter

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: TV & direct to video
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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