House of Cards The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 3 Old 06-13-2013, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109939&d=1210373637

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2012
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 674 minutes
Genre: TV Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.00:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Michael Kelly, Kristin Connolly, Sakina Jaffrey, Michael Gill, Corey Stoll, Constance Zimmer
Directed by: Various
Music by: Jeff Beal
Written by: Various
Region Code: A,B

Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 11, 2013

"Witness the power plays, sex and greed that motivate some of Washington’s most powerful decision-makers"

Film Synopsis:

Ruthless and cunning, Congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) stop at nothing to conquer everything. This wicked political drama penetrates the shadowy world of greed, sex and corruption in modern D.C.

My Take:

House of Cards is a modern day political drama series developed and produced by co-writer Beau Willimon in association with David Fincher. The show revolves around congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th congressional district and the House Majority Whip, who gets passed over for appointment to Secretary of State, after being promised the job by presidential incumbent Garrett Walker (whom Underwood helped get elected). This is not only embarrassing to Frank but derails plans that he put into place going forward. With that Frank decides to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him.

House of cards is an adaptation of a previous BBC miniseries (of the same name) which is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs who also co-wrote the show. In an unusual TV series first, the entire first season premiered on February 1, 2013, on the Netflix streaming service. This allowed viewers the opportunity to watch the entire season at once if they chose to. After hearing nothing but positive things from friends that had seen the show my wife and I jumped in and watched the first two episodes while waiting for the Blu-ray set to arrive for review.

This is a well written political drama with a character driven narrative derived from a cache of wonderfully infused and evolving subplots that orbit around Frank Underwood’s unending drive for power and his seemingly unflinching resolve and penchant for remorseless behavior. Frank and his wife Claire are viewed publicly as a Washington D.C. political power couple that work as a team in furtherance of Frank’s career. In reality Frank and Claire’s relationship is built upon an understanding where typical love has no place and is secondary to their ambitions and quest for power and prominence in a world where double dealing, wink & nod handshakes and corruption are not only commonplace but in Frank’s estimation are regular course doing of business.

House of cards is compelling and successfully keeps you off balance as the storyline shifts, ebbs, flows and suspends while effectively drawing you into its world. Season one plays out as a series of chess moves with each one critically relying on the one before. I found the superbly developed interpersonal relationships some clearly defined while others remain somewhat ambiguous, to be the show’s foundation serving to be the springboard from which the juiciest plot points and demonstrably engaging moments are derived from. Definitely an adult drama there is mature themes, sexual interplay, and tongue and cheek humor that underpin the proceedings.

Star Kevin Spacey owns the character of Francis “Frank” Underwood and serves as the catalyst for the show’s terrific ensemble cast. Kudos to the show’s writing and directing team who provided such an engaging flow throughout the season. We loved House of cards and eagerly look forward to what lies in store.
House of cards season one’s 13 one hour chapters/episodes is presented on Blu-ray in a four disc set (BD-50 dual layered discs) that is housed in a cardboard foldout keep case with each disc having its own pouch. The set when folded together slips into a moderately sturdy cardboard slipcover. I don’t care for this type of storage arrangement as getting the discs in and out of the case requires handling the surface to pull it in and out resulting in fingerprints that need to be wiped off each time. Otherwise I found the quality of the packaging to be just fine.

Parental Guide:

The show contains mature themes, sexual content, brief nudity and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Video: 90

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

House of cards season one comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.1 Mbps.

This 2.00:1 framed video presentation offers appreciable high definition resolution that has a satisfying glossy aesthetic. Images are stable and sharp with plenty of discernible texture and revealing fine detail during close-ups. Many of the show’s sequences are shot in uneven and low lighting. Shadow delineation and depth is quite good. Blacks are deep while exhibiting appreciable dynamic range with stable yet slightly elevated contrast that never infringes upon fidelity. Colors are snappy and bright and sullen and muted where appropriate. Fleshtones appear descriptive with variable depth that brings out the differing complexional types among the cast. This whistle clean and faithful high definition presentation easily bests the Netflix streamed image and looks great.

The DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue, gratifying dynamic range and a subtle, yet enriching surround sound mix. I was pleased with its use of spacial dimension and directional cues to create a realistic and occasionally immersive sound field. This worked hand in hand with show’s music to build tension and drive its thematic elements. I thought it sounded quite good.

Bonus Features:

There are no bonus features included

Final Thoughts:

House of cards is a well written and compelling political drama that pulls no punches and leaves you hankering for more. Star Kevin Spacey anchors a stalwart stable of supporting actors lead by the always reliable Robin Wright with whom he shares excellent onscreen chemistry. Season one plays out as a series of chess moves with each one critically relying on the one before resulting in an engrossing and entertaining show that capably segues into the upcoming season two. House of cards comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition video and crystal clear lossless sound. Unfortunately there are no bonus features included. For fans that wish to own the series on home video this four disc set is the way to go.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

Ralph C. Potts
Blu-ray Reviewer
My Home Theater
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post #2 of 3 Old 06-13-2013, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for the review. I would strongly recommend that Netflix streaming subscribers also check out the original British mini-series, which IMO is far superior, especially in the lead role.

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post #3 of 3 Old 06-13-2013, 07:46 PM
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I thoroughly enjoyed the first season minus the video quality issues on Netflix. I will for sure be adding this to my Blu ray collection. biggrin.gif

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