Tag Archives: Feature

Netflix’ll Be There For You

Last year I read an article in which Netflix paid $100 million in order to keep the show ‘Friends’ for another year. Apparently, this happened because both Hulu and WarnerMedia (who originally owned the show) wanted it back for exclusive streaming, and Netflix didn’t want to let it go. I’ve never considered myself a fan of Friends but recognize that airing over 10 Seasons and producing 236 episodes it was something a generational phenomenon.

Originally launching in September 1994 the show (for the one person who has never heard of it) focused on the lives of six friends in New York City. The different characters and commotions they encountered evidentially brought them closer as they moved from late 20s into mid 40s – and the actors portraying them became increasingly wealthy in the process. In fact, by the end of the shows final season, it was well documented each actor was receiving $1 million dollars per episode filmed.

So the value of $100 million to each actor across 18 episodes ($108 million) means the show has lost virtually none of its value in the previous two decades – which, in itself, is somewhat of an astonishing achievement. Even if the actors themselves claim to have made virtually nothing from the shows first three seasons, and that it wasn’t until the latter half the shows run that they were able to capitalize on their monetary worth and value.

But asides what makes this show so watchable, as every fan has no doubt watched Friends in its entirety about 20 times now (and I thought I was bad re-watching the entire Breaking Bad series four times and counting) there’s a real question of why we do this and what the point is. Well, we are creatures of comfort, and as humans we enjoy squeezing chance out of our lives. Consider, for a moment the stressful world in which we live, or at least which social media would have you believe the majority of the population live.

Within this world, we look for moments in which to rid ourselves of stress, whether that’s taking a night out with friends and getting inebriated, reading a book we love or watching a film we’ve seen a thousand times. Netflix is, in itself, a reliever of stress.

And as consumers of mass entertainment we’re unlikely – more often than not – to watch programs and films we’ve seen before. Either because we wish to “half watch” a program and pay little attention to it, in the case of tormented parents subjected to the 100th watch of ‘The Greatest Showman’ or ‘The Little Mermaid’ or because we really want to escape to a world where we know all the exits. The kind of person who spends more time checking their phone than watching the movie. Just the other day I visited a cinema where a patron stopped during a film to take a selfie in a darkened theatre, with the flash on, before continuing to watch the film.

No surprises and no shocks from the “real world” make life better. That, coupled with the nostalgia we experience from the familiar – and in this case, we’re literally talking about the cast of Friends – mean that we remember good memories of previously watching this show or interacting with the dated set pieces and situations these characters find themselves in. Particularly when we’ve little to no interest in new experiences or taking chances.

Consider the success of YouTube streaming services over the last decade. Someone will unbox the product, play the video game, reveal the ending, berate and review the movie or react to the trailer – all before you’ve had a chance to express your opinion. Between work and travel we are constantly looking for ways to squeeze the most out of those precious few hours luxury we have a week. I personally choose to write, and many would argue I should stop wasting my time, but I choose to take a chance and challenging myself to create something on a particular topic. Reading a review of an a book before I’ve read it or spoiling the end of a movie so I can validate it’s worth my time isn’t of interest. Because if the Internet does your thinking for you, what’s the point?

But what does this mean for Netflix and streaming services? Well, effectively, it means that Friends is a popular show. But it also means that just like the terrestrial stations of years gone by it is now streaming services who are encouraging people to subscribe to their services by offering long established product. Disney’s recent acquisition of Star Wars will ultimately mean that their offering of the entire franchise created by George Lucas gives another massive boost to their pre-existing animated catalog and makes Disney + an attractive proposition.

I’ve spoken on this site before about streaming services making more physical venues like HMV obsolete. The other day I saw a ‘Rick and Morty’ Season 3 Blu Ray newly released over the Christmas period for £19.99; and considered why someone might purchase content that restricted them to just one season where the entire show was available to view on Netflix, whose cheapest subscription is now just £5.99 a month within the UK. It made no sense to pay so much more for a physical copy, yet on the other hand I’ve done just that, paying over the odds prices on not only physical copies of films and albums but also purchasing obsolete formats on Vinyl and Cassette in favor of just using a streaming service on my phone.

2018 may be recorded as many things, but as we enter 2019, we’ll be looking at the second decade of this millennium truly coming into its own – entering its “roaring 20’s” and that this is an age of streaming and mass consumption based on a whim gives one reason to pause for thought. Social Media such as Facebook and Instagram, Music on Spotify, Film and TV on Netflix, streaming platforms on video games all essentially offering us an a la carte menu through which to consume whimsically and skip ahead to what we like. There’s no sense of achievement in taking that Friday night trip to the video store, browsing the shelves and choosing what you’d like, instead you select your choice (based on pre approved reviews that tell you to absolutely watch Birdbox now) and if you don’t like it you can discard it and move on quite quickly.

With that mountain of content growing, and more emphasis placed on older achievements and nostalgia (as we think about the countless prequels, reboots and comebacks Netflix alone has supported) it won’t be long before we simply stop taking chances – stop paying or investing in new product – stop doing anything but watching reruns of Friends and ironically fail to make our own Friends to grow, share and bond with.

Your mother told you there’d be days like this, but she didn’t tell you when the world has brought you down to your knees.

Bumblebee (2018)


It’s fair to say that I’ve recently fallen out of touch with the latest cinema releases. Work commitments have met that I haven’t been obsessing as much as I hoped. Hearing of Bumblebee long before actually seeing it, I was aware this project existed, but given the lack of a now traditional Star Wars release at Christmas it seemed that this ideal summer blockbuster had been delayed to fill the void. Whether or not this film had actually been purposefully delayed, I’m not sure, but I did find it amusing that with the Christmas decorations all around us we went to see a movie set in the height of summer.

Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is a young woman working at a summer’s fair in 1987. Grieving the loss of her father and listening to The Smiths, Charlie spends her time obsessing over an old Mustang she owns in the garage, hoping that the open road will bring freedom and change from suburban life and her mother’s new boyfriend. In many respects, it’s a very atypical script, but I did find it was written with a view to this being 2018. Supporting character Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) is not your typical “boy next door” and Charlie – although sometimes jealous of others – is not outwardly looking for fame or popularity.

There are several scenes in which you’d expect the typical Shia Le Beouf attitudes, and yet they’re not forthcoming, so as Tears for Fears blasts from the tape deck in the Volkswagen you remember all the fun you can have with your clothes on for a change. In an era of ‘Me Too’ it’s actually rather refreshing to see some elements adapted and incorporated into the film, but it does drag you a little out of reality, and also reminds you just how ridiculous (and possibly dated and even sexist) Shia making moves on Megan Fox was in the original film. The jury’s still out on that.

Into this rather interesting mix comes Bumblebee, fresh from the war on Cybertron, which provides G1 Transformer fans like me with their greatest few minutes on film in the franchise so far. I’ll say early in my review that this film is worth watching but it’s the scenes on Cybertron – which in themselves amount to a relative sprinkling – that bring the film together. Cameos from Cliffjumper, Shockwave, Soundwave, Ravage and Arcee are just the beginning as we learn some vital clues as to B-127’s original mission.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this film was the minimal casting. Asides from Bumblebee and a few cameos, the most predominant involvement comes from two no name Decepticons. To be fair, they do have names, but I found it rather unusual that a female Decepticon would be so well positioned as to climb the ranks in the organization. I’m not being sexist, it’s just that any G1 Transformers fan will tell you that Arcee was about the only female Transformer with a back story; and she was an Autobot!

Shatter and Dropkick (don’t look them up, they don’t have any linage) are introduced as new one shot characters and, to be fair to 2018, it’s a refreshing change. My feeling is that they’re soldiers on a mission and we’re not necessarily dealing with a command line here, which makes the story far less contained then it could have been, and I actually think that’s a real bonus. The appearance of Blitzwing early in the movie is something that caught me off guard, but I was pleased that he was at least given his real name, if not that he used the colours of Jetfire – something that could have made for a really interesting plot dynamic.

The film is set in California and looks glorious, even if it limits the use of urban areas due to the timeframe of the plot, but at least one shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the coastline is enough to put on a postcard. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a real lack of money with this film, but I think this easily makes it my second favorite Transformer film after Michael Bay’s original – something I remember adoring so much about that first installment. There are so many glorious nuggets of 80s culture that I don’t want to ruin it for you, but look out for that moment where Sammy Hagar is playing on the radio and there’s a scene in the tunnel from Back to the Future. Also, for those film fans, it’s the same song Marty hears as he arrives in an alternative 1985 during the second installment.

Of course, as this film is a prequel, there are some serious plot holes. Sector 7 features in the film primarily through Agent Burns (John Cena) and Dr Powell (John Ortiz) but there’s no mention of either Witwicky or the All Spark and – if I remember correctly – it was Sector 7 who built the Hoover Dam around the All Spark and MBE1, that is, Lord Megatron. His complete absence from this film is unsurprising but it’s also interesting that nobody from Sector 7 – especially upon encountering the Decepticons for the first time – doesn’t believe they bear a striking resemblance to a creature that’s been in the basement since 1907.

Looking past plot holes like this, and the one in which Ratchet is still trying to fix the vocal processor Bumblebee had damaged (try ripped apart) almost 15 years after it was first lost, you actually do have a really good film. The soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal and the first twenty minutes of the film paint a picture that between Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and The Smiths we really must be in the 80s…though I myself took a real shine to the scene in which we take a moment to appreciate that Vinyl truly is better to cassette while Bumblebee watches The Breakfast Club on VHS. Oh nostalgia, you’ve done it again.

Sunderland Remembers Ruby Presidential Visit on Wearside V2

Sunderland Remembers Ruby Presidential Visit on Wearside – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

A Sunderland resident has been fondly remembering an historic visit from US President Jimmy Carter to Wearside. Mr. Carter, who served as US President between 1977 and 1981, was America’s 39th President and visited Sunderland on this month forty years ago in an official capacity. Having just three weeks notice to prepare, the visit was very informal by Presidential standards, Tyne Tees Television capturing the event for American networks and the footage of which is now preserved by both Yorkshire Film Archive and the North East Film Archive.

Within this archive is the additional footage captured by local amateur filmmaker Michael Gough. The retired educator, who moved to the area in the early 1970s with his wife Linda, captured the President’s visit much like any other event he felt might have been of greater significance. “I realized that if I only made family style home movies there would be a very restricted audience so I explored subjects that would appeal to wider audiences” he said recently, speaking to Sunderland One.

“When I decided to film Jimmy Carter my expectation was that it would be a newsreel filler which might remain of interest for a couple of years. Who was to know that ‘Welcome to Washington’ would do so well and still be shown 40 years later?” Michael remembers the day itself very well, but says that there wasn’t much time to stand on ceremony off camera.

“I was working only a few minutes’ walk from Washington Old Hall. I filmed it during my 1 hour lunch break so I only had about 45 minutes free on location. The filming was a rush to get crowds before Jimmy Carter came, see him at the Hall, then rush away before he planted a tree on the green. There was no planning at all. I simple [sic] responded to what was happening and tried to get enough pictures to tell the story. It was all a bit too rushed to feel any particular emotion or recognize the historical significance.”

President Carter visited the city as part of his tour of the North East, taking a tour of Corning Ltd glass works accompanied by then British Prime Minister James Callaghan. The centre, which was originally part of Sunderland Glass Works, was bought out by the American Corning in 1973 and closed its doors in 2007. Corning in America has worked exclusively with Steve Jobs since 2006 and are perhaps most famous for providing the hardware glass which encases the iPhone.
President Carter arrived in the region when Air Force One officially landed in Newcastle Airport at just after 9:30am on 6th May. As part of his visit to Sunderland, his Presidential motorcade traveled over the Wearmouth Bridge, cheered by people lining the route. Seated in a Daimler car he was formally greeted upon his arrival in the city by the then Mayor of Sunderland, Charles Slater as well as Fred Willey, then MP for Sunderland North, Gordon Eagier, then MP for Sunderland South and other distinguished guests.

President Carter also took time to visit Washington, particularly Washington Old Hall, where he laid a tree sapling alongside Prime Minister Callaghan. The Old Hall is the ancestral home of George Washington, first known as the “de Wessyngtons”, who settled there from 1180AD. One of the smallest buildings in the possession of the National Trust, it is from a member of the family in the thirteenth century that departed Durham, from whom President Washington could trace his lineage. It is also one of the reasons why Sunderland City and Washington USA signed a unique ‘Friendship Agreement’ in 2006 leading to the establishment of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.

The Washington coat of arms has been said to have inspired the flag of the United States. An example of the Washington coat of arms or shield can be seen in the cloisters of Durham Cathedral. Holding a special ceremony of American Independence every year, the building is often overlooked by tourists in the region, an H-shaped manor house in the heart of Washington village.

Indeed, it is this friendship and jovial attitude which filmmaker Michael Gough remembers most clearly from the day itself, a parallel on how things have changed in the intervening years regarding visits from such a high profile head of state. “I remember being amused by the intended anonymity of the American security guards who stood out like sore thumbs as they wore hearing aids and secretly talked up their sleeves.”

Mr. Carter made a second, far less public, visit to the region in 1987 by which time he had left Presidential office. In 2013 he sent a letter of thanks to Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes after Mr. Forbes had returned to him a framed photo taken on his original visit. Speaking directly to Sunderland One Cllr Forbes said: “Newcastle has great memories of President Carter’s visit”. “As a result of it our city was twinned with Atlanta – a great transatlantic friendship which has remained strong for the last 40 years. I took a photograph of the event with me on a recent visit to Atlanta, which the mayor’s office arranged to be presented to President Carter.”

The former President, who turned 92 in October, is still very much active in public life and was seen attending President Donald J Trump’s inauguration ceremony earlier this year. This is despite the nonagenarian recently informing an audience he had voted for Bernie Sanders.

At a talk on human rights issues, Mr. Carter went on to say “dissatisfaction with the existing system of politics” resulted in President Trump’s election. “People were willing just to take a chance and to abandon democracy and what we knew about its basic principles and try something new, no matter what it was,” he added.

In Feb 2017 Sunderland AFC Manager David Moyes issued Donald Trump an invitation to come and meet the team ahead of their mid season trip to New York. “If Donald Trump wants to come and see the boys, he’s very welcome,” Moyes is quoted as telling The Express. In a four day bonding session the team were photographed jogging around Central Park and being put through their paces on several exercise routines.

It is not believed that Mr. Trump was aware of or was able to respond formally to Mr. Moyes invitation. When Sunderland One contacted the Office for Presidential Correspondence on the matter we were unsuccessful in receiving a response.

Sunderland Remembers Ruby Presidential Visit on Wearside V1

Sunderland Remembers Ruby Presidential Visit on Wearside – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

A Sunderland resident has been fondly remembering an historic visit from US President Jimmy Carter to Wearside. Michael Gough, an amateur documentarian and filmmaker, captured the event using his Super 8 millimeter film camera on May 6th 1977. “I remember the moment of deciding to buy a cine camera in 1967 very well” Michael says, who also used the device to capture footage of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Mr. Carter, who served as US President between 1977 and 1981, was America’s 39th President and visited Sunderland on this month forty years ago in an official capacity. Having just three weeks notice to prepare, the visit was very informal by Presidential standards, Tyne Tees Television capturing the event for American networks and the footage of which is now preserved, alongside Michael’s work, by both Yorkshire Film Archive and the North East Film Archive.

Mr. Gough, a now retired educator who moved to the area in the early 1970s with his wife Linda, captured the President’s visit much like any other event he felt might have been of greater significance. “I realized that if I only made family style home movies there would be a very restricted audience so I explored subjects that would appeal to wider audiences” he said recently, speaking to Sunderland One.

“When I decided to film Jimmy Carter my expectation was that it would be a newsreel filler which might remain of interest for a couple of years. Who was to know that ‘Welcome to Washington’ would do so well and still be shown 40 years later?” Michael remembers the day itself very well, but says that there wasn’t much time to stand on ceremony off camera.

“I was working only a few minutes’ walk from Washington Old Hall. I filmed it during my 1 hour lunch break so I only had about 45 minutes free on location. The filming was a rush to get crowds before Jimmy Carter came, see him at the Hall, then rush away before he planted a tree on the green. There was no planning at all. I simple [sic] responded to what was happening and tried to get enough pictures to tell the story. It was all a bit too rushed to feel any particular emotion or recognize the historical significance.”

President Carter visited the city as part of his tour of the North East, taking a tour of Corning Ltd glass works accompanied by then British Prime Minister James Callaghan. The centre, which was originally part of Sunderland Glass Works, was bought out by the American Corning in 1973 and closed its doors in 2007. Corning in America has worked exclusively with Steve Jobs since 2006 and are perhaps most famous for providing the hardware glass which encases the iPhone.
President Carter arrived in the region when Air Force One officially landed in Newcastle Airport at just after 9:30am on 6th May. As part of his visit to Sunderland, his Presidential motorcade traveled over the Wearmouth Bridge, cheered by people lining the route. Seated in a Daimler car he was formally greeted upon his arrival in the city by the then Mayor of Sunderland, Charles Slater as well as Fred Willey, then MP for Sunderland North, Gordon Eagier, then MP for Sunderland South and other distinguished guests.

President Carter also took time to visit Washington, particularly Washington Old Hall, where he laid a tree sapling alongside Prime Minister Callaghan. The Old Hall is the ancestral home of George Washington, first known as the “de Wessyngtons”, who settled there from 1180AD. One of the smallest buildings in the possession of the National Trust, it is from a member of the family in the thirteenth century that departed Durham, from whom President Washington could trace his lineage. It is also one of the reasons why Sunderland City and Washington USA signed a unique ‘Friendship Agreement’ in 2006 leading to the establishment of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.

The Washington coat of arms has been said to have inspired the flag of the United States. An example of the Washington coat of arms or shield can be seen in the cloisters of Durham Cathedral. Holding a special ceremony of American Independence every year, the building is often overlooked by tourists in the region, an H-shaped manor house in the heart of Washington village.

Indeed, it is this friendship and jovial attitude which filmmaker Michael Gough remembers most clearly from the day itself, a parallel on how things have changed in the intervening years regarding visits from such a high profile head of state. “I remember being amused by the intended anonymity of the American security guards who stood out like sore thumbs as they wore hearing aids and secretly talked up their sleeves.”

Mr. Carter made a second, far less public, visit to the region in 1987 by which time he had left Presidential office. In 2013 he sent a letter of thanks to Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes after Mr. Forbes had returned to him a framed photo taken on his original visit. Speaking directly to Sunderland One Cllr Forbes said: “Newcastle has great memories of President Carter’s visit”. “As a result of it our city was twinned with Atlanta – a great transatlantic friendship which has remained strong for the last 40 years. I took a photograph of the event with me on a recent visit to Atlanta, which the mayor’s office arranged to be presented to President Carter.”

The former President, who turned 92 in October, is still very much active in public life and was seen attending President Donald J Trump’s inauguration ceremony earlier this year. This is despite the nonagenarian recently informing an audience he had voted for Bernie Sanders.

At a talk on human rights issues, Mr. Carter went on to say “dissatisfaction with the existing system of politics” resulted in President Trump’s election. “People were willing just to take a chance and to abandon democracy and what we knew about its basic principles and try something new, no matter what it was,” he added.

In Feb 2017 Sunderland AFC Manager David Moyes issued Donald Trump an invitation to come and meet the team ahead of their mid season trip to New York. “If Donald Trump wants to come and see the boys, he’s very welcome,” Moyes is quoted as telling The Express. In a four day bonding session the team were photographed jogging around Central Park and being put through their paces on several exercise routines.

It is not believed that Mr. Trump was aware of or was able to respond formally to Mr. Moyes invitation. When Sunderland One contacted the Office for Presidential Correspondence on the matter we were unsuccessful in receiving a response.