By its third episode, House of Cards Season 2 settles into a low, satisfying hum, like a commercial airliner cruising at 30,000 feet. We know we’re in good hands, we know where we’re going—we’re just hoping to be pampered along the way. For awhile, the service is delightful. The jokes land, the subplots intrigue, and the plot twists arrive with the precision of an air traffic controller. Few shows know just what it takes to steal 49 more minutes of our attention; fewer still know precisely how often to serve the next in-flight snack, scotch, or scandal. Compare this to the first season’s prop plane of a journey—by turns, harrowing and underwhelming—and you’ll be proud to see how far House of Cards has come.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wants desperately to be liked. Where other films tell hard truths, Mitty puts things nicely. When Mitty is about to tell a joke, it hastens to warn us before we're tricked. The movie doesn't want to surprise us—it just wants a smile, a pat on the back, and an invitation to the next birthday party with the guys. We're all friends here, right?
Lone Survivor: Caught Sleeping
It’s been scolded as patriotic combat porn, then praised as the “most extraordinary war film since Saving Private Ryan.” Both assessments are absurd. Lone Survivor is, instead, a routine war film made memorable by a single, near-flawless action scene. You might as well sleep through the first 30 minutes, because when the gunfire finally starts, you won’t be able to blink.