- Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: AB (No Region C)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 4 (4 x Blu-ray)
- Digital Copies: UltraViolet
- Run Time: 674 Mins.
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013
- List Price: $65.99
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(The below TheaterByte screen captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray Disc and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.
House of Cards made history by being the first original production by online disc rental and streaming service Netflix, who released the series, all thirteen episodes at once, in February of 2013. Calling it “original” might be a little bit of stretch, since the series itself was based on the British mini-series of the same name and novel by Michael Dobbs.
Provenance and historical import aside, the series is a juicy political thriller that revels in the underbelly of politics, the relentless human compulsion to acquire more power, and of course, the sleazy world of sex, drugs, double-crosses and cover-ups that often goes along with it.
Kevin Spacey plays Democratic congressman from South Carolina and House Majority Whip, Francis Underwood, who is angered when he passed over for the position of Secretary of State by newly elected President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill). A veteran of the political game, Underwood decides on a course of political revenge against those who crossed him, including the President, his Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey) and the nominee for Secretary of State Michael Kern (Kevin Kilner). Egged on by his ambitious wife (Robin Wright), Underwood uses every underhanded means at his disposal to bring down his foes, including an ambitious young reporter from The Washington Herald, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). Barnes becomes a willing participant in Underwood’s plan, walking a fine line between journalism and helping to shape the story as she is a knowing party, being leaked specific information by Underwood to accomplish certain goal. Their relationship teeters on the pyscho-sexual as well, even as Underwood’s wife flirts with her own extramarital affairs. Another tool in Underwood’s box is drug-addled congressman from Pennsylvania Peter Russo, whose various run-ins with the law, issues with drugs and prostitutes, put him in a precarious position and make him easily manipulated by Underwood’s will.
Done in a way that fits its all at once, binge viewing style, there are no unnatural breaks in the episodes or silly cliffhangers from one episode to the next. It makes for a really involving, addictive experience. Spacey and Robin Wright clearly tower over the rest of the cast as sort of modern day political Macbeths, though the writing never rises to that great a level, and often collapses into the trite or predictable. Spacey’s performance, in particular, is pure genius, however, as his Southern charm masks a coldness verging on the evil inside. He’s almost a shoe-in for an Emmy here. Mara makes a stand for herself as the enticing and ambitious Barnes, though her role may not be setting the greatest example for young women, giving the impression that young women in politics or journalism must use sex and deceit to get ahead.
The richness of the production is a boost to this series. Given its relatively low budget in comparison to some network and cable productions, House of Cards looks atmospheric, slick, and modern, capturing the richness and power of the halls of D.C. and the people who roam them.
Shot in high definition with the Red Epic, House of Cards comes framed at the unusual 2.00:1 aspect ratio and encoded on Blu-ray in AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24. You can’t get a much better presentation than this on Blu-ray, especially for a series that initially streamed exclusively on Netflix, which just cannot compare. While contrast looks a little weak, perhaps due to black levels being just a bit high, the detail is crisp and shadow nuance is nicely extended.
A fine DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) presentation of the soundtrack is offered. While it is far from aggressive, it is certainly atmospheric and marvelously subtle, capturing all the minor nuances of the offices, hallways, and streets of D.C. Some louder passages of dialogue show just the slightest bit of crackle, but it is the only small complaint in a mix that is full, dynamic, and engrossing.
Nothing here but the UltraViolet Digital Copy.
The Definitive Word
Netflix set a new paradigm for House of Cards with their all at once, binge viewing streaming series, and it was a good series to start with. House of Cards revels in intrigue and the dirt of politics. Its addictive TV.
Additional Screen Captures[amazon-product]B00BC5FN2C[/amazon-product]