Spotify Running Playlists for House of Cards’ Frank Underwood, Claire Underwood and Doug Stamper

Ironically, nothing reminds you that you need to go out for a run more than binge viewing your way through another House of Cards season. Running plays a big part in the TV show and many are still trying to find out the hidden meaning behind the old woman telling Claire Underwood not to run in the cemetery in season one.

Have you ever wondered what Frank and Claire Underwood listen to on those infamous late night runs? Have you been tempted to purchase a North Face vest and live out your very own House of Card’s fantasy while running through the streets of your hometown? For those of you that bravely or nervously answered yes to both of the questions, Spotify has a treat in store for you.

Three running playlists appeared on the music streaming service as Season 5 hit Netflix. We are led to believe that the plalists were created by Claire Underwood, Frank Underwood and even the even the quiet, cold and calculating Doug Stamper gets his own playlist too. We are used to seeing our favorite antiheroes Frank and Claire Underwood wearing all black, putting on a pair of headphones, and heading out for a run before plotting their next dark and dastardly move. But, now you can hear what music they are supposedly listening to.

Sure we could dismiss Spotify’s actions as a stupid and cringeworthy PR stunt that went too far. But, if the motivation to get you away from the couch and out for a run is to pretend to be a character from your fave TV show, I don’t see any harm in that.

It’s fair to say that all three of the Spotify playlists contain an eclectic mix of tracks. Claire Underwood goes for girl power with the likes of Florence and the Machine, Beyonce, Tina Turner. Even though a bizarre appearance of We Are The World appears, it’s Foreigner’s, Cold As Ice that reveals more than she would like you to see.

Frank Underwood predictably opens up with Sinatra’s My Way. I cannot help but think that he is also very aware of the irony of including the often misunderstood protest song Born in the USA. Although I struggle to think of Frank singing Danger Zone from the top of his voice while running through a deserted graveyard. (more…)

The Digital Subscription vs. Ownership Debate

The big success story sweeping the digital landscape is the infamous Netflix business model, which has unwittingly created a long line of copycats who are desperate to imitate their rapid ascent to success in the modern world.

Recently the videogame publisher EA announced plans to offer their own subscription service called ‘EA Access’ in a collaborative effort with Microsoft and the Xbox One console. With many games retailing at $70 each, the allure of having access to a vault full of EA games for $29.99 a year sounds like a very tempting offer on the surface, but could also prompt other publishers such as Ubisoft to follow suit.

However the announcement was received by mixed reactions as many people are coming to the realisation that the average person on the street, no longer owns anything at all in the digital world that continues to move forward, whilst physical media is dying at an accelerated speed.

Shelves that used to contain video cassettes of movies, were replaced with DVD’s, followed by Blu-Ray discs before finally being replaced by all you can eat subscription services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The music industry has also changed dramatically, and despite hard-core music fans keeping vinyl alive, the reality is more and more people are turning away from purchasing or even downloading illegal music in favour of services such as Spotify where you can think of an artist or song at any moment depending on your mood at the time and listen within a few seconds.

Books are safe though right? Step forward the Kindle Unlimited that not only removes the physical book from our lives but Amazon’s latest Netflix style venture intends to remove ownership of a book too and lets you have access to an entire library at your disposal for $9.99 a month. (more…)

I’m Mad As Hell Speech From Network (1976)

I have already spoken about how strangely prophetic many of the finest speeches in Cinema now feel, most notably in my last post about Charlie Chaplin’s amazing monologue from the Great Dictator.

However, you could not talk about unforgettable scenes and speeches in Cinema without mentioning the 1976 movie Network that still resonates today. Network is about a TV news anchor called Howard Beale who is played fantastically by Peter Finch and with low ratings, breaks down on national TV and announces he will commit suicide live on air.

Wandering from the script, the character ignores the teleprompter and lets out all of his frustrations of the world in which he lives before ranting “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” and urges all viewers to open their windows and do the same.

Once again this speech feels more relevant now than its release nearly 40 years ago and seems to predict the world we live in today which is filled with reality TV, tabloid journalism and the overwhelming direction that media in general is taking with its “anything for ratings” philosophy.

The Character Howard Beale gave the following speech in Network that still resonates today.

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’


Popcorn Time – Netflix for Pirates, Torrents For Dummies…

We all know that the traditional method of watching TV is dying; busy lifestyles determine what we want to watch and when we want to watch it. This change in attitude from viewers has seen services such as Netflix flourish and maybe even see the downloading of content via torrents slightly decline.

Do you really want the hassle of downloading illegally and the cumbersome process of transferring your dodgy files by plugging your device via a USB cable, when for only £5.99 a month you can view as much as you want  and not be labelled a thief in the online community by your fellow digital natives.

The only downside is that it can take a while for up-to-date content to make it across to whatever service you subscribe to. However, Popcorn Time has arrived on the scene and this new open source BitTorrent-powered movie streaming app for downloading and watching movies, can probably be best described as Netflix for Pirates or even Torrents for Dummies. (more…)

Amazon Prime Membership £49 For 12 Months of Streaming 15,000 Movies & TV Episodes and Access to 500,000 Kindle Books

LOVEFiLM Instant will shortly become Amazon Prime Instant Video and customers can soak up unlimited streaming of more than 15,000 Movies & TV episodes and access to 500,000 books via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. How much is this going to cost you? From 26th February the price will be £79 for 12 months, which works out just a little more expensive than Netflix.

However if you are smart you can pick up a Amazon Prime Membership right now for £49 for your first year, so for just over £4 a month, you will be able to reap all of the benefits including free delivery, no matter how much you are spending at Amazon.

For me this reinforces my opinion that physical media really is almost dead and buried but if you play the game wisely you could enjoy everything Amazon Prime has to offer and throw in Netflix too, all for just over £10 a month for a whole year, which makes think “Do I really need a £50+ a month Cable or Satellite subscription?

Movies, Books and Free Shipping? (more…)

How Text Messaging in House of Cards Captures the Zeitgeist

Cable and Satellite subscriptions are feeling somewhat irrelevant in the modern world, why do we need to spend over £50 a month for 300 channels of mind numbing garbage when a £5.99 subscription to Netflix gives you access to binge view high quality TV shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

Speaking of House of Cards, the show made a much anticipated return this week as the entire second season landed on Netflix and even prompted President Barack Obama to Tweet “No House Of Cards Spoilers Please.”

Although the first season was somewhat of a slow burner that rewarded those that invested their time, the second season exploded in the opening episode, but don’t worry, there are no spoilers to be found here.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the show is how they include the use of text messages with an overlay. A few years ago it had been notoriously difficult to convey to the viewer what a character was reading on their phone and the audience were left squinting trying to read quickly from a dull and dimly lit phone, normally of the Nokia variety. However we are all used to multitasking now and in these days where innovation is paramount, it’s great to see how House of Cards handles this subtle problem by showing little pop up bubbles on screen in real time as the character sends and receives text messages.

This audio-visual storytelling method of illustrating human interaction with devices such as computers and phones feels incredibly innovative and shows just how our brains have progressed in processing information on screen now.

house of cards

In our own lives, most people effortlessly hold conversations with people whilst also tap away on their smartphones sending messages to someone else, and although this may have been seen before in shows like Sherlock, the way in which the relatively new method is used in House of Cards works perfectly.

I believe this overlaying technique can be traced back to David Fincher’s Fight Club back in 1999 where Ed Norton talks about his obsessive shopping and as he flips through an Ikea catalogue, product descriptions pop up next to the actual product in his apartment giving the viewer a better understanding of the films character.

BBC’s Sherlock employed something very similar, using an overlay to provide the audience with a glimpse of text messages that allowed the audience an extra insight into both the character and the scene.


I see what you did there…

I suspect there are many film-makers making notes and we will probably see this technique imitated and overused in the near future and a quick look at the trailer for the new Liam Neeson film Non-Stop seems to confirm that the use of text message overlaying in scenes is rapidly becoming ubiquitous but right now it seems that Netflix are pushing all the right buttons and more importantly boundaries that have restricted so many shows in the past.

Non-Stop jumps on the bandwagon...

Non-Stop jumps on the bandwagon…

How we view entertainment is evolving and the ability to watch high quality shows like House of Cards when you want, where you want and whatever device you want for £5.99 a month will ensure that this viewer will be turning away from conventional TV with its weekly offerings of soaps, reality shows, adverts and obsessions with Z-list celebrities.

You don’t need focus groups to tell you that there are a growing number of people who feel the same so let’s hope that they pay close attention to the constantly evolving medium and that change or clinging to business models of yesteryear will no longer work.

Lumi – Web Content Discovery Site From Last FM Founders

I binge on music via Spotify and Last FM, binge view my way through TV Boxsets on NetFlix and Info binge from hundreds of websites via content discovery apps like Flipboard and Pulse so I guess it’s of no surprise that LastFM founders Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel have created Lumi which a content discovery app that feeds you interesting content that you probably would have never found based on your past browsing history.

Martin Stiksel advised that users are not interested in being bombarded with details of what their friends were doing but wanted recommendations based on their own interests, reflected in their past browsing.

Whilst every new start up continues the obsession of sharing content, it’s hard to believe that only now are people realising that most people really don’t care what everyone else is doing and have their own unique interests, and this is where Lumi really excels.

Martin told the Next Web “‘I’ve been browsing the Web for 15 years and I have no benefit from that. I have a few bookmarks and I’ve learnt how to write a good Google query but that’s it – all this knowledge I’ve produced, all these choices I’ve made, they all disappear into the ether

No one allows users to put their browsing history to work,” Stiksel told Mashable. “That idea just proved so strong that we came back from retirement.” (more…)

House of Cards: NetFlix Binge Viewing Has Arrived…

House of Cards, will probably go down in history as being the first show that is not being shown on any television channel.

As of today, all 13 episodes of the first series are available on If you have £5.99 and 13 hours at your disposal, you could watch the whole series in one sitting. No adverts, no waiting, just a full season ready to go, is this the future of TV as we know it?

The New York Times recently stated “Television producers have turned bingeing, hoarding and overeating into successful prime-time shows for years, but now they are having to turn their attention to another example of overindulgence — TV watching.”

It seems after a little peer pressure from our friends about the latest must see show, we are all cramming in our TV shows via boxsets and streaming services. After enjoying marathon sessions of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. Are these shows simply modern novels for a visually oriented generation?

It will be interesting to see  how Sky, Virgin etc adapt to this kind of medium, because a £5.99 a month NetFlix subscription is now looking much better value than 200 channels of garbage for £40 a month, especially if you prefer quality entertainment over quantity.

It is an interesting experiment and who knows if it will work or not, the strange aspect to all this, is that  it does not look or feel like a TV shows, which is probably down to David Fincher which gives this show a dark moody atmosphere that would sit right at home on HBO.

As a fan of the comedy show Miranda, I find it hard to take Kevin Spacey seriously when he breaks the fourth wall by talking to the camera, it’s an interesting technique that works well but I must admit now and again I think of Miranda Hart, Harry Hill or the Gary Shandling show and I can’t help but let out a childish giggle.

If you don’t like political dramas littered with rich dialogue and monologues to the camera, then House of Cards won’t be for you, however if the idea of kicking back with a single-malt scotch whilst watching everything unfold slowly before your eyes without the need for explosions, just top quality acting, then give this a try.

A recent review summed the show up in saying “This is a series for the patient, and the more time you invest in it, the more it will reward you as danger thickens. .

The beauty of NetFlix is that you can watch the show on your TV, go to bed and watch a little more on your tablet, and then during your commute to work in the morning you can continue where you left off and each time it remembers exactly where you were up to each time, no matter what device you use.

The traditional TV set-up and their strict one box rule, rapidly need to up their game or they could end up going down the same road of High Street stores like HMV and GAME, who were blinded by their own arrogance until it was too late. Whether you like House of Cards or not, is not important but what is certain is that we are now witnessing the future direction of entertainment and how we access it.