It’s officially 2020 and the box office is preparing for a new crop of superhero movies, sequels (some of them long overdue), live-action Disney remakes, and more. However, a big difference from 2019 is that more than five of these highly anticipated tentpole films will be directed by women, including women of color. While that number might not seem like a lot, considering that 2019’s Captain Marvel was the very first MCU film to be directed by a woman (or at least co-directed, with filmmaking partners Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck at the helm), it’s needle-moving progress.
Another thing that will be different in 2020: While January has historically been a dumping ground for less-than-stellar films, major releases like Bad Boys and Dolittle will duke it out for box office supremacy. From horror films and superhero flicks to long-awaited sequels and literary adaptations, here are more than two dozen of the year’s most anticipated movies.
Release date: January 3, 2020
A remake of an American film (2004) which was a remake of the Japanese film Ju-On (2002), the 2020 version of The Grudge may or may not follow the mythology of the previous two films and its sequels. This time around, Eyes of My Mother director Nicolas Pesce will step in for Takashi Shimizu, who directed both the original 2002 film and its first American remake.
Release date: January 17, 2020
Robert Downey Jr. is no stranger to playing eccentric men—or starring in big-budget films. Based on the fictional Doctor John Dolittle, the character at the center of Hugh Lofting’s children’s books, the film is a loose remake of 1998’s Dr. Dolittle, which starred Eddie Murphy. Downey Jr.’s a veterinarian who can communicate with animals. Thoughout his adventures, he encounters a number of humans (including Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen) and CGI animals voiced by everyone from Emma Thompson to Rami Malek.
BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
Release date: January 17, 2020
The last time we saw buddy cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) battling bad guys was in 2003’s Bad Boys II. Now, almost 25 years after the original film, the stars will reprise their roles for a third go-around. But Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbio will replace Michael Bay, who directed Bad Boys and its sequel, in the director’s chair.
BIRDS OF PREY
Release date: February 7, 2020
Margot Robbie spins off her Suicide Squad superheroine Harley Quinn and joins an all-women team of butt-kickers. The film, based on the ‘90s comic book, will mark the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe. Keeping with the female theme, Cathy Yan directed and Christina Hodson wrote the script. In 2021, Warner Bros. is scheduled to release a Suicide Squad sequel.
Release date: March 6, 2020
Like so many other Pixar movies, their newest release features a bit of magic and will probably make you cry. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt voice elf brothers who attempt to bring their dead father back to life using a magical staff. Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, Octavia Spencer, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus also supply voices.
A QUIET PLACE PART II (2020)
Release date: March 20, 2020
Not to spoil the first A Quiet Place—which grossed an unexpected $340 million worldwide in 2018—but writer-director John Krasinski’s character Lee died at the end, leaving his wife Evelyn (played by Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt) widowed and tasked with protecting their children, including deaf daughter Regan, in a world full of sound-sensitive monsters. In the sequel, the Abbotts will continue to navigate the dangerous world. Though Krasinski doesn’t act in the film, he will return as both its director and sole screenwriter.
Release date: March 27, 2020
Disney will continue its animated-to-live-action streak in adapting the 1998 film about Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese warrior who disguised herself as a man to take her father’s place in the Imperial Chinese Army. BAFTA-winning filmmaker Niki Caro (Whale Rider) writes and directs a cast that includes Jet Li and Liu Yifei as Mulan.
THE NEW MUTANTS (2020)
Release date: April 3, 2020
The New Mutants is meant to be the 13th and last installment of the X-Men series and follows a group of young mutants—including Anya Taylor-Joy, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, and Charlie Heaton—as they try to escape from a secret facility.
NO TIME TO DIE (2020)
Release date: April 8, 2020
Daniel Craig will return for one final outing as Bond. James Bond. True Detective season 1’s Cary Joji Fukunaga directs, and Rami Malek plays Safin, the film’s Big Bad. Craig personally requested that Fleabag creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge come in and punch up the script, making her the second-ever female credited in writing a Bond script, so you know it’s going to be the funniest and most feminist Bond movie yet.
BLACK WIDOW (2020)
Release date: May 1, 2020
Avenger Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow will finally get her own standalone film. Cate Shortland directs the action-packed plot, which takes place after 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and deals with Romanoff and her Russian past. David Harbour, William Hurt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, and Rachel Weisz are also along for the ride. Following 2019’s Captain Marvel, this is the second MCU film to revolve around a female superhero.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (2020)
Release date: May 8, 2020
The Thick of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci directed and co-wrote this screenplay, which is based on Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. Dev Patel, who plays Copperfield, joins Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, Gwendoline Christie, and Peter Capaldi in the period comedy.
FAST & FURIOUS 9 (2020)
Release date: May 22, 2020
Since the release of the first Fast and Furious in 2001, the films have racked up more than $5 billion in box office receipts. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and more of the previous cast will reprise their roles alongside Michael Rooker, Cardi B, and John Cena. And next year expect the 10th one.
WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020)
Release date: June 5, 2020
If you can’t tell by the title, the movie will take place in glorious 1984. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman/Diana Prince will combat foe Cheetah, played by Kristen Wiig. Patty Jenkins, who became the first woman to helm a superhero film, returns as director and co-writer. If the $821 million worldwide success of 2017’s Wonder Women is any indication, the sequel is bound to also break records.
Release date: June 12, 2020
Jordan Peele co-wrote and co-produced the upcoming “spiritual sequel” to the groundbreaking 1992 horror flick, and Nia DaCosta, who directed last year’s indie Little Woods, helms the film. Tony Todd will return as the creepy Candyman. It’s unclear if the sequel will have anything to do with Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman: Day of the Dead. The events in the new Candyman surround the gentrified Cabrini-Green in modern-day Chicago. In real life, the city demolished most of Cabrini-Green’s buildings in 2011 and replaced them with a Target store.
IN THE HEIGHTS (2020)
Release date: June 26, 2020
Even before Lin-Manuel Miranda wowed the world with Hamilton, he had already established himself as a creative force with2005’s In the Heights, his first musical. Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu directs a cast that includes Miranda as well as Hamilton’s Anthony Ramos plus Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Marc Anthony, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jimmy Smits, and Stephanie Beatriz.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2020)
Release date: June 26, 2020
Thirty-four years after Top Gun, do audiences still have the need for speed? Tom Cruise will once again don aviator sunglasses and play hotshot Navy pilot Maverick. He finds himself training Goose’s son, played by Miles Teller. Jennifer Connelly replaces Kelly McGillis as the love interest, and Val Kilmer makes a cameo. If the trailer is any indication, expect more beach volleyball.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2020)
Release date: July 10, 2020
In the third Ghostbusters film—Paul Feig’s 2016’s female reboot doesn’t seem to count as far as canon is concerned—the characters leave New York City for the cornfields of Oklahoma. Something strange starts happening at a family’s farm, and it’s suggested that the family is related to Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis). Original Ghostbustersdirector Ivan Reitman’s Oscar-nominated son, Jason, directs; Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, and original cast members Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson star.
Release date: July 17, 2020
After 2017’s war film Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan will return to his layered mind-bending roots with Tenet. Robert Pattison and John David Washington star as secret agents who may or may not be time travelers and who might have to prevent World War III. Nolan’s frequent collaborator Michael Caine is in it, too.
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (2020)
Release date: August 21, 2020
It’s been almost 30 years since Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves played slacker musicians William “Bill” Preston, Esquire and Ted Logan, respectively, on screen. The guys now have daughters: Billie (Atypical’s Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving). Bill and Ted are tasked with coming up with a song that will save humanity, and we bet they’ll do it justice.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (2020)
Release date: September 25, 2020
In the prequel to The Sopranos, James Gandolfini’s son Michael plays a younger version of Tony Soprano. The awards season film is set in the 1960s and ‘70s and will show Tony’s upbringing, including his relationship with his parents (played by Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga). David Chase co-wrote the script and Alan Taylor, a regular director on the series, will direct.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2020)
Release date: September 25, 2020
Edgar Wright’s follow-up to 2017’s Baby Driver sounds nothing like the action comedy. The original concept, co-written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, is a British psychological thriller in the vein of Don’t Look Now. It’s set in London in the 1960s and has a time travel element to it. Matt Smith, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp co-star.
HALLOWEEN KILLS (2020)
Release date: October 16, 2020
Fact: Michael Myers will never die, or at least not yet. Because Halloween 2018 was so successful—it had the highest opening weekend starring a female over 55—David Gordon Green and Danny McBride signed on for the sequel and Halloween Ends (no it won’t), which will be released in 2021. In Kills, Anthony Michael Hall and Kyle Richards join the cast, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer will be back.
THE WITCHES (2020)
Release date: October 16, 2020
Yes, Hollywood remade The Witches, 20 years after its release. Based on Roald Dahl’s book, the 2020 version moves from 1980s England to 1960s Alabama. Robert Zemeckis directs and Black-ish creator and Girls Trip scribe Kenya Barris writes the script. Anne Hathaway replaces Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch, and Stanley Tucci, Octavia Spencer, and Chris Rock also star.
Release date: November 6, 2020
With Eternals, Marvel will try to jumpstart a new franchise within the MCU. The comic book adaptation features a race of immortal humanoids known as Eternals. The Rider’s Chloé Zhao will direct Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, a very buff Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington, Richard Madden, and Gemma Chan.
GODZILLA VS. KONG (2020)
Release date: November 20, 2020
This will mark Hollywood’s first remake of the 1962 Japanese film King Kong vs. Godzilla and the first time the two monsters will star in an American movie together. Who will win? The film is a sequel to 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgård, Kyle Chandler, and Brian Tyree Henry star, while The Guest’s Adam Wingard directs.
Release date: December 18, 2020
In 1984, David Lynch took a stab at adapting Frank Herbert’s complex sci-fi novel Dune, but the film bombed at the box office. In the 1970s, avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to produce a 14-hour version of the novel, but he ran out of money; he chronicled his failure in the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. However, Denis Villeneuve finally figured out a way to maybe successfully adapt it from page to screen. Timothée Chalamet will play Paul Atreides and stars alongside Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Zendaya, and sandworms.
COMING 2 AMERICA (2020)
Release date: December 18, 2020
The last time audiences saw Prince Akeem Joffer of Zamunda was in 1988’s hit Coming to America. Eddie Murphy will return as the prince, and so will Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley, and John Amos. In the sequel, Prince Akeem discovers he has a son in America (played by Jermaine Fowler) and must return to America to find him. Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer directs, and Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan, and Leslie Jones also appear
Franchisors should make sure that their franchisees pay their staff on time. They need to ensure franchisees interpret their payroll legislation and awards correctly. When brands lose sight of the action by franchisees, it can cause severe damages. Workers produce best in environments where they feel comfortable and appreciated. Franchisors have been known to offer training and support to companies that need to treat workers well. Learning to manage a franchise business is critical to operating a successful franchise. Here are the top five tips on how franchisees can pay their staff correctly:
Add a clause in the franchise agreement
A franchisor needs to be sure that their franchisees are working on their payroll correctly. A franchisor can ensure that all franchise agreements be done centrally at head office. Being done at the head office will ensure that risks are mitigated.
Use external payroll providers
There is a need to ensure that franchisees are doing their payroll correctly. To achieve this, you need to ensure that your franchisee outsources external payroll providers. External payroll providers, such as payrollHQ.com.au help with this work in an efficient manner. They work to ensure payrolls are provided on time and per the provided legislation.
Auditing of subcontractors for your franchisees
Every franchisor has to ensure that franchisees and subcontractors working for them are well paid. Paying them well ensures that they work efficiently with the company in mind. There is, therefore, the need for franchisees to submit their payroll awards regularly, so as they can do a payroll audit. A payroll compliance audit is not used for tax purpose but instead used as an assurance to the franchisor that their franchise has adequately interpreted the award.
Choose payroll technology correctly
It is essential to have a payroll technology that fits the company purpose. Companies need to ensure that technologies such as facial recognition and fingerprint software are appropriate for attendance monitoring. For instance, a fingerprint scanner should be used in a situation where it is difficult for it to become unrecognizable. There is, therefore, a need to select a payroll technology that is perfect for your industry.
Ensure your payroll professional is well trained and qualified
Every franchisor has to ensure that their payroll professionals have the right qualifications. Companies need to shun a “set and forget attitude.” Payroll professionals need to make it a habit of attending conferences to maintain training requirements. They also need to keep themselves up to date with payroll legislation.
There are always so many movies to pick from these days, and oftentimes movies do not seem to meet the expectations of every viewer. To help simplify the matter, I have compiled a list of 10 must-see movies as well as a quick synopsis of each.
‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’ is set to release on November 22nd. Tom Hanks plays the role of Fred Rogers, and the greatest criticism in regards to the film seems to fall along the lines of stating that it’s too obvious. If you loved Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, then this is a film you do not want to miss.
‘Little Women’ is another well-known classic, and it is set to release on Christmas day. This is the 8th big-screen remake of the classic, however, there is a star cast that has been picked to make this film a little different from the original 1868 classic. Greta Gerwig has written and directed this film, and there is great anticipation in regards to what she has in store for audiences.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ will hit theatres on December 20th. This film is the third installment of the sequel trilogy, and it is sure to please every Star Wars fan who has been waiting for the latest edition of the Star Wars saga. If you have wanted to see the greatest battle between good and evil, then do not miss the latest edition of Star Wars this year.
I list ‘Frozen 2’ as a classic simply because the first film created such a stir among the movie industry. If you have ever wondered about the origins of Elsa’s magic, then you will definitely want to mark your calendars for November 22nd.
If you have always wanted to see the Broadway classic ‘Cats,’ then do not miss your chance to see the movie on December 20th. You will enjoy many of the well known songs as well as a twist on the live show that captivated audiences for years.
‘Knives Out’ will hit theatres on November 27th. If you have waited for an action, comedy, and mystery movie all rolled into one, then you will definitely want to check out the whodunit movie of the year.
‘Uncut Gems’ is set to release on Christmas Day. Adam Sandler plays a more serious role as he walks the audience through the life of a compulsive gambler who constantly places high stake bets.
‘1917’ will also be released on Christmas Day, however, this film is set during the first World War.
Movies Based on True Stories
‘Bombshell’ is set to release on December 20th, and with Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman as the leading ladies of this film, you can expect nothing short of great acting. The story of the Fox News creator is told from the viewpoint of these highly acclaimed actresses who play the role of high profile on-air personalities.
‘The Banker’ is due to hit screens on December 6th. This movie highlights the problems that two African American businessmen fought in the 1950s. You can expect humor, racial injustice, and the fight for equality.
These are the top 10 must-see movies before the end of 2019. Each film is unique and has been suggested to present some of the greatest adaptations and stories of all time. Mark your calendars to ensure you don’t miss a single one.
As Fall season approaches, this is a great time to be a movie fan. Oscar season is also rapidly approaching, which means that movie studios will release films as they look to make one final award-winning push. If you are a fan of movies and the film industry in general, here is a look at several movie-themed podcasts that you should consider listening to.
For over a decade, Filmspotting has produced weekly installments of film analysis. Many of the episodes start with an in-depth look at one of the top new releases. Each episode also features filmmaker interviews and theatrical reviews. The podcast is hosted by Adam Kempenaar, Josh Larsen, and Sam Van Hallgren. Kempenaar has a film studies degree from the University of Iowa. He is also a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. Larsen is a former film critic for the Chicago Sun Times. Filmspotting is known for creating several unique lists based on a number of different movie topics. The podcast also has a popular segment where listeners try to figure out which movie the hosts are recreating a scene from.
How Did This Get Made
The How Did This Get Made podcast explores the deconstruction of movies that are universally recognized as terrible. The comedic podcast is hosted by June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, and Paul Scheer. The hosts make jokes about the films as they try to figure out the plot. Scheer discusses online reviews of each film. Eventually, the hosts make a final decision on the overall quality of the film. Some episodes of the podcast are recorded live in front of an audience. Every other week, Scheer answers fan questions and discusses different movies and TV shows that he personally enjoys.
The Scriptnotes podcast strives to provide listeners with a clear idea of how the film industry operates. The podcast is hosted by screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August. Mazin wrote Chernobyl, a miniseries which helped him win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series. August helped create Go, Charlie’s Angels, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Mazin and August offer advice on how to create a great screenplay. Mazin and August also discuss current events within the industry. During the Three Page Challenge segment, Mazin and August review screenplays submitted by different readers.
The Rewatchables podcast is available through The Ringer network. The podcast features sportswriter Bill Simmons and a guest discussing movies that are considered culturally significant. Some of the movies discussed on the podcast include Remember The Titans, The Shining, and Den of Thieves.
You Remember This
The You Must Remember This Podcast is highly recommended for film historians. Karina Longworth explores many of the secrets during Hollywood’s first century. Longworth is a former film editor at LA Weekly. She has also written for Grantland and Vanity Fair. As Longworth discusses topics such as Marilyn Monroe and The Hollywood Black List, she strives to educate readers about an industry that has greatly relied on spin and myths.
\The stock market is booming as 2019 ends; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the national and world economies will be booming in 2020. Many economists are seeing some ominous signs in the financial landscape, and savvy investors are wise to take notice.
The growing inequality between the rich and poor is a political issue that 2020 United States presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are focusing on. It’s also an economic issue because too much of a gap does not bode well for security in general and consumer spending in particular. Furthermore, this is a problem that looms large in any economic forecast for at least the next decade because the inequality is not likely to disappear any time soon.
In the United States, there is currently uncertainty about whether President Trump will be impeached and removed from office. In the United Kingdom, it’s not clear if and when Brexit will actually happen. In short, the market does not have a clear indication of how these situations will play out, so investors are hesitant to commit capital, and corporations are reluctant to make major commitments.
Furthermore, Wall Street may find itself on a very different playing field if one of the more progressive Democratic candidates gets elected. Warren and Sanders, in particular, have talked a great deal about taxing Wall Street in general; it’s possible that major corporations can roll with these changes, but there’s no way to know yet if they will actually occur. Tech regulation, in particular, is an area of intense concern as candidates talk up the possibility of taking on the tech giants.
Another potential problem is that troubled by political uncertainty in the United States, foreign investors may no longer be investing as heavily in United States credit and treasuries. The implications of a Warren or Sanders presidency, in particular, would mean major changes to regulations, taxes and other factors that determine whether investors in Europe, Asia and elsewhere look to the United States as an arena to put their money into.
What’s more, the debt of the United States government has long been high, and, following the recent cuts in corporate taxes, has gone even higher. This is simply an unsustainable situation for the world economy because the United States government is such a major influence.
While the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies – the United States and China – has shown signs of lessening, it is not certain that the conflict will be resolved any time soon. President Trump has indicated that he’s willing to negotiate; he’s also said, in effect, that he’s not ready to back down.
The truth is that Trump’s policy is a major factor in the decisions corporations make about spending, and there is just not enough information at the close of 2019 to make major calls. The result could be economic stagnation in both the United States and China.
Almost everyone with ambition at one time or another thinks about owning their own business. For many, it is nothing more than a passing thought.
Others give it more careful consideration, but they never follow through. This article is written to give those who are serious about business ownership some helpful insight.
Important First Step
The first, absolutely critical step is an honest self-appraisal. Sure, the thought of ‘being the boss’ appeals to almost everyone. It is too easy to consider only the fun parts. All too often though, the other side to those fun parts gets ignored.
That is, to coin a worn-out phrase, ‘where the rubber meets the road’. An honest inventory of self must also include those unpleasant ‘what-ifs’. Check out some of the more sobering questions below to help you decide if franchising is right for you.
Money is the first concern. An unforeseen lack of it is also why most businesses fail. What is your personal financial situation? This includes every source of money you have. Total these. This is your business start budget.
Did you notice under Personal Finances we did not include loans? You must decide for yourself, but generally, loans are not a wise idea when starting a business.
Why? They must be repaid, with interest, whether your business venture succeeds or not. You are in essence doubling your load at the start line.
Loans unnecessarily encumber the whole process of starting a business. Now you have doubled your burden, the business and the bank.
Not only do you have all business startup responsibilities, you must now visit the lender monthly and hand him a goodly portion of your hard-earned profits.
Guess what. Whether your business generated enough earnings to make the loan payment or not, it is still due. Does this sound like something you would recommend to a friend?
Okay, so you have gathered and totaled all your financial resources. You now have a set figure in mind for your business startup. The next step is to select a business that has startup costs well within your finance pool.
By well within, we mean you have enough money to meet all startup costs plus at least 30 percent. Business budgets must always contain margin. Margin is extra money for when business expenses exceed income.
In the business world, it is commonly known as ‘staying power’. Do you have enough money to stay in business while potentially days or weeks go by without making any profit?
Franchising May Be the Answer
For many, the above concerns are enough to conclude that maybe business ownership is not for them. For the resolute among you, franchising just may be the best answer.
Franchising is basically buying into a business that is already successful. The originator of the franchise has already conquered the startup obstacles common with new businesses.
The brand is established. Demand for the product is already existent. Partnering with success is a much easier path than striking out on your own.
Business ownership is not for everyone, but franchising is definitely a much easier way to enter the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Google is the most recent of the Silicon Valley tech giants that have made a move into the world of personal finance and banking. It was recently reported that Google will soon be offering checking accounts to individuals, and they could be available by next year. Google will be offering these accounts in partnership with banks and credit unions, and the project is being called “Cache.” The partner banks will handle the compliance and financial activities for the accounts.
Caesar Sengupta of Google spoke to reporters about the new venture. He pointed out that financial institutions will be more upfront to interact with customers than other similar programs being offered by other tech companies. Currently, Apple has a partnership with Goldman Sachs to offer its Apple Card credit account. In this venture, the financial institution is not visible to the customers.
Since the banking side of the operation is handled by the financial institutions, it begs the question of why tech companies stand to gain from a joint banking venture. One benefit for Google is the information that the tech giant can gain about banking customers that use its checking account product. This provides a detailed picture of people’s financial lives on a daily basis.
Google intends to offer other perks to customers and bank partners, such as loyalty programs. Google hasn’t decided if a service fee structure should be put in place. Sengupta reported that he believes that a no-fee policy could put Google’s checking accounts in a better competitive position.
The idea to offer checking accounts comes after the success that the company has enjoyed with its Google Pay and Google Wallet services. Other tech companies have followed suit by offering payment services. These companies include Apple and Facebook. The social media giant introduced a digital payment product earlier in 2019, and it is intending to roll out a digital currency that it has named “Libra.” The cryptocurrency is being developed in conjunction with other organizations.
Google is currently teaming up with Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Google is motivated to attract digitally savvy and younger people who want to manage more of their daily activities with online apps. Sengupta revealed that the checking account platform will also provide a means to work with large sets of data to make them into products that add more value to the customer relationship.
Google’s representative assured reporters that they don’t use Google Pay data for advertising purposes, and it doesn’t share personal information from users of this service with advertisers. Google is cognizant that people might be wary of sharing checking account information with an information company. This could pose an extra challenge for the tech giant, and the current sociopolitical climate seems to be a further hindrance that will need to be overcome for the new checking account venture to succeed.
It’s easy to understand why a lot of people would assume that the people with the highest annual incomes would also be the people with the best credit scores. Based on a recent study, that assumption has been debunked.
The study went to great lengths to analyze the financial behaviors of people at different income levels as well as in different states. To say the results are a bit surprising would be an understatement.
At the Individual Level
It turns out that high-income earners tend to have greater difficulties managing their money than low-income earners. This is likely due in part to them leading financially complex lives where they take on more debt, which later results in more debt issues. There’s also a likelihood that the lifestyles of the wealthier individuals cause them to overextend themselves in an effort to maintain said lifestyles.
At the State Level
For the most, the study focused on credit and debt issues for residents by state. Some of the findings were actually quite interesting.
For instance, it turns out that South Dakota residents have the highest FICO scores on average at 727. That’s based on an average annual income of $56,274, which ranked 33 out of 51 for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s worth noting that Montana had the highest average FICO scores in 2016, the last time such a study was done.
At the bottom end of the FICO score spectrum were the larger populated states with the larger urban areas. The list at the bottom included states such as Washington, D.C., Maryland, Texas, and California.
In an attempt to explain the data, Ted Rossman, an industry analyst representing the company that ran the study, ““It shows that it’s not just about how much you have, but also how you manage it. In some of these high-cost states, even though they make more, it goes right out the window. In D.C., they have the highest income in the country but they also have more debt than anyone else.”
He later added, “It is better to live in a low-cost place even if you don’t make as much. It seems to stretch further,”
Other Interesting Data
Some other interesting data came to light from the study. It turns out that the people in Republican-leaning states do a much better job of managing their finances than people living in Democrat-leaning states. As a point of reference, Republican-leaning states held 7 of the top 10 FICO scores on average while the Democrat-leaning states scored 8 of the 10 bottom spots.
One explanation offered for this disparity is the Republican-leaning states tend to be populated with more mature and established residents while the Democrat-leaning states have younger populations.
Another interesting result came back that the average debt burden in D.C, is $86,730, which actually exceeds the area’s average income of $85,203. Clearly, the cost of living in some states is outpacing the rise in income.
According to Rossman, the bottom line is this: “If you can pay your bills on time, and keep your debts low, that’s most of the battle right there.”
It’s no secret that consumers desire convenience. In days past, companies would create a product, build their business, and do what they could through the use of patents and monopolistic practices to prevent competition from becoming relevant. However, most large players today have similar products of similar quality
Banks need to be willing to innovate rapidly and massively to stay competitive. If one financing firm incorporates a new program that makes financial transactions significantly easier and more efficient for consumers, consumers will inevitably migrate to that platform. Technology has advanced rapidly over the years, and that is still the case. Consumer demands evolve with the change in technology, and banks must constantly be looking for trends, evolutions in consumer preferences, and new services to keep up with their consumers and their competition.
Corporations within the finance industry must adopt a philosophy of being open to new and perhaps radical ideas.
This also means striving for a diverse crew of employees. Companies are learning that when people of different backgrounds and areas of expertise are allowed to collaborate openly, they receive the most forward-thinking and innovative ideas.
As discussed earlier, technology is constantly evolving. Whenever a new technology is released on the market the demands of consumers change. Financial firms must stay on top of these changes. This does not mean just keeping up with trends set by other companies in the field. It means constantly searching for new ways to satisfy customers that the customers may not even have realized they wanted before.
Firms must be on top of innovations related to APIs. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are crucial to the customer’s experiences and are being used to make groundbreaking innovations in the industry.
The younger generations are increasingly concerned with the visions of companies. They will abandon companies that lack ethics or concern for the issues that they are themselves concerned with. Financial companies need to show consumers that they are working to empower all members of society and improve the lives of those in the larger community.
Banks need to take these steps to break the molds of tradition. They are going to have to step up if they wish to stay on the forefront of the financial industry.
Sustainability is a huge factor. Companies need to prove to consumers that they are taking steps to create a more sustainable future. People also want to feel like they are empowered to follow their dreams. This means that all individuals and small businesses must be given the tools to be successful.
Masculinity gets a beatdown in Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, a scathing satire about the fragile and toxic variations of modern manliness. After nearly dying from an assault by helmeted motorcyclists, wimpy Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) finds empowerment at the karate dojo of Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), a martial-arts guru who helps him become that which he most fears. Stearns’ off-kilter script is defined by awkward conversations and absurd twists, and its droll approach to its material generates considerable black humor. As he becomes more devoted to the dojo, Casey is drawn deeper into a demented space marked by homoeroticism, sexism, and devious criminality. What he learns, ultimately, is that violence has the power to both transform and corrupt — a lesson that Eisenberg brings to amusingly wacko life via a performance in which Casey’s seething anger and resentment at his own powerlessness lies just beneath his placid surface, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice in a flurry of kicks and punches.24. Toy Story 4
Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of Pixar’s animated toys are back in Toy Story 4, and though their return engagement may not be wholly necessary — considering 2011’s ideal franchise-capping Toy Story 3 — it proves a charming, funny and deceptively weighty saga about independence, purpose and loyalty to both loved ones and, just as importantly, to one’s self. Now the property of kindergarten-bound Bonnie, who’s disinterested in playing with him, Woody finds meaning in life by protecting her newest plaything: Forky (Tony Hale), a makeshift weirdo crafted from trash. Their ensuing road-trip odyssey leads Woody to Bo Peep (Annie Potts), now enjoying her freedom as a “lost toy.” Director Josh Cooley and writers Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom pepper their material with the usual barrage of sharp jokes, and the voice cast — including Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a conjoined bunny and duck — is, as always, top-notch. Plus, it has Keanu Reeves stealing every scene he’s in as Duke Caboom, the greatest Canadian motorcycle daredevil to ever grace the silver screen.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
23. The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch crafts an undeadpan comedy of apocalyptic proportions with The Dead Don’t Die, a Night of the Living Dead riff played for bleak satire. In the “nice” town of Centerville, chief Cliff (Bill Murray) and officer Ronnie (Adam Driver) are forced to contend with a zombie outbreak caused by…well, maybe it’s the polar fracking that’s knocked the Earth off its axis, or the MAGA-type insanity peddled by local farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi), or simply good ol’ fashioned American materialism. “This isn’t going to end well,” warns Ronnie at regular intervals, which he knows because he’s read Jarmusch’s script — just one of many instances in which the film indulges in goofy self-referentiality. A stellar cast that also includes Chloë Sevigny, Larry Fessenden, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, and Tom Waits (looking like a reject from Cats) go through their end-of-the-world motions with laid-back confusion and panic (they’re barely animated themselves). Meanwhile, Jarmusch stages scenes of gruesomeness with a shrug-ish good humor that belies this simmering-with-anger critique of a world going, perhaps deservedly, to hell.22. Fast Color
“If something’s broken, it stays broken,” intones Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) at the outset of Fast Color, which then proceeds to show that things — and people — can be mended through the power of family, love, and connection to the past. Director Julia Hart’s sophomore feature (co-written with Jordan Horowitz) is an unconventional superhero saga about Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who in a near future decimated by lack of rain, flees government agent Bill (Christopher Denham) while trying to control her extraordinary abilities, which manifest themselves as seismic seizures. Ruth’s flight takes her to her childhood home and her mom Bo and daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), both of whom have the capacity to wield swirly-colored constructive/deconstructive energy. The volatility of youth and the vitality of kinship (with present and former relatives) serve as sturdy thematic undercurrents for this low-key genre tale. Far more subdued than its summer-blockbuster brethren, it’s a showcase for Hart’s vibrant visuals and Mbatha-Raw’s heartfelt performance as a woman finding strength not from independence but, instead, from bonds of blood.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
The kindness of strangers is exploited for demented purposes in Greta, Neil Jordan’s playfully bonkers thriller about the trouble that befalls young Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) after she finds a pocketbook on a New York subway and returns it to its owner, lonely Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Courtesy of that humane act, Frances –grieving the death of her beloved mom, as well as adjusting to her new Manhattan environs with the help of her wealthy roommate (Maika Monroe)—nets herself a surrogate mother figure. Their friendship, however, is eventually revealed to be predicted on a lie that turns the proceedings cockeyed. Jordan laces the film with erotic undercurrents but otherwise refuses to unduly embellish his material, instead content to keep it on steady ground even as it grows loopier. It’s Huppert who truly elevates this story about twisted maternal obsessiveness, her Greta a cunning predator who uses sophistication and solitary sorrowfulness to mask more devious desires. Sad, elegant and extremely unhinged, she’s a stalker to remember. 20. Avengers: Endgame
Marvel saves the best for last—at least in terms of this phase of its sprawling cinematic universe—with Avengers: Endgame. This entry is theculmination of its decade-plus run of interconnected films, which offered not only surprising twists and electric superhero spectacle, but also routine chances for its illustrious cast to actually act. Helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo with the same juggling-multiple-strands craftsmanship they brought to their prior franchise installments, this latest saga finds Earth’s Mightiest Heroes trying to undo big bad Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) population-halving “Snapture.” To discuss plot particulars would be to spoil some of the fun, although the real enjoyment derived from this extravaganza comes from its self-referential fan-service nods, its ability to embellish every portentous moment with character-specific humor, and its satisfyingly seamless and cohesive conclusion. It’s a superior piece of tentpole cinema, thanks in large part to A-game performances from stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Mark Ruffalo.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
19. The Mountain
A hallucinatory nightmare of loneliness, alienation, and Oedipal desire, Rick Alverson’s The Mountain boasts shades of Stanley Kubrick and Yorgos Lanthimos even as it carves out its own peculiar, penetrating identity. Set free from the company of his remote skating-instructor father (Udo Kier), miserable Andy (Tye Sheridan) — desperate to reconnect with his institutionalized mother — sets out on a trip with Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), who wants Andy to photograph the psychiatric patients he treats with his unique electroshock-and-lobotomy procedures. Set during the 1950s, theirs is an expedition marked by disintegration and yearning for escape and deliverance, and it ultimately leads to the home of a French healer (Denis Levant) who wants Fiennes to perform his technique on his daughter Susan (Hannah Gross), with whom Andy develops a connected-by-disconnection relationship. Aided by unnervingly stoic, expressive turns from his leads, Alverson dramatizes this off-kilter madness via painterly compositions of figures trapped in cramped, confining architectural spaces, set to ominous audio tones and blowing wind. In this surrealist landscape, humor and horror are almost indistinguishable, epitomized by Levant’s unforgettable dance of the deranged.18. Plus One
Weddings can be a torturous drag for singles, so longtime friends Alice (Maya Erskine) and Ben (Jack Quaid) decide to spend their overbooked nuptials season tag-teaming events as platonic dates. Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer’s romantic comedy is, per formula, bound to have its seemingly opposite protagonists discover their attraction for one another, yet predictability is of no concern when the amorous action is as consistently funny and charming as it is in this jaunty indie. Be it stumbling their way through one ceremony and party after another, or embarking on their own unlikely relationship while dealing with their troublesome parents, Alice and Ben prove to be exceptional company. She uses booze and a sharp tongue to cope with her loneliness, and he clings to high standards as a way to avoid commitment and stave off potential abandonment. Erskine in particular is a revelation—a charismatically uninhibited riot, she seems destined for Hollywood’s A-list.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
17. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick dispatches adversaries in a frantic knife-throwing fight, on horseback through the streets of New York City, and with a library book (!) in Chad Stahelski’s latest go-round—and that all happens in the first 20 minutes. No franchise delivers more crazily choreographed violence than John Wick, in which savagery is carried out with both concussive force and dancer-like grace. In Parabellum, Wick teams up with Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, and Halle Berry (and her two crotch-fixated German shepherds) in order to stave off death at the hands of the world’s assassins, all of whom seek a bounty on his head. Improving on Chapter 2, director Stahelski stages his set pieces as exercises in vicious physicality. Through it all, Keanu Reeves strikes a dashing pose as the increasingly harried (and bloodied) Wick, his trademark designer suits and walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-gun demeanor once again employed to expert effect in a series that continues, like Reeves himself, to improve with age.16. High Life
Fertility and desolation, creation and destruction, isolation and togetherness all intermingle in hypnotic fashion in High Life, Claire Denis’ entrancing sci-fi reverie. Indebted, spiritually if not narratively, to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Denis’ story concerns a space ship on which a doctor (Juliette Binoche) attempts to successfully conceive children through experiments with convicts as they all hurtle toward a black hole whose energy they seek to harness. One of these passengers is Monte (Robert Pattinson), who’s introduced caring for an infant, alone, in what’s soon exposed as a flash-forward. Barren spaces abound, and the French auteur infuses her material with a sense of ominous hollowness, born from longings—for purpose, conception, and reinvention—that remain unfulfilled. No clear-cut answers await those who make it to the end of this mesmerizing journey, only a mood of enigmatic ennui, bursts of sexualized violence and hunger (the latter coming via Binoche’s unforgettable visit to a room known as the “f–k box”), a superbly cagey Pattinson turn, and a finale of cautious optimism.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
15. Birds of Passage
Capitalist modernity, taking the form of the marijuana trade, corrupts a local Colombian culture in Birds of Passage, an ethnographically rich crime drama from Embrace of the Serpent director Ciro Guerra. Split into five sections spanning 1960-1980, and set in the country’s northern La Guajira region, Guerra’s film (co-directed by his wife and producing partner Cristina Gallego) details the disintegration of a Wayuu community thanks to enterprising Rapayet (José Acosta), who marries the daughter of terrifying matriarch Ursula (Carmiña Martinez) and transforms everyone’s fortunes by smuggling weed procured from relatives. The tension between tradition and progress is almost as taught as that between mercy and brutality, as the clan’s rise to drug-running prominence comes at a catastrophic cost. Interjecting their verité tale with doses of hypnotic dreaminess, Guerra and Gallego capture the insidious ways that greed spreads like a poison, cutting people off from their heritage, their morality, and ultimately, from their loved ones and themselves.14. Ash Is Purest White
Cohen Media Group
Love is fractured and the past is torn asunder in Ash is Purest White, another remarkable saga from Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke about individuals trying to plot a course through a rapidly developing nation. Employing expansive and boxy aspect ratios to denote different time periods, and embellishing his action with pop songs (including the theme from John Woo’s “The Killer”), Jia dramatizes the romance between gangster Bin (Liao Fan) and girlfriend Qiao (Jia’s wife and favorite leading lady, Zhao Tao). This abruptly ends after the latter is imprisoned for using a firearm to save her beau during an attack. Upon release, Qiao strives to acclimate herself to a modernizing world that doesn’t care about the collateral damage left in progress’ wake. From young upstarts looking to take Bin’s position, to work along the Three Gorges (which will ultimately submerge towns), change is afoot. Divided into three sections, it’s an epic vision of sacrifice and tenacity in a tumultuous age, led by Zhao’s commanding performance as a woman whose cunning resourcefulness is matched by her devotion. ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
13. Her Smell
Elisabeth Moss gets her riot-grrrl on in Her Smell, delivering a tour-de-force performance of rampant egomania and self-destruction that galvanizes Alex Ross Perry’s film. A mid-‘90s Courtney Love-type who resides in the center of a tornado of her own making, Moss’ Becky Something leaves only chaos in her wake, much to the chagrin of her bandmates (Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin), ex (Dan Stevens), young daughter (Daisy Pugh-Weiss), mother (Virginia Madsen), collaborators/rivals (including Amber Heard and Cara Delevingne), and heroically loyal manager (Eric Stoltz). Split into five chapters that are interlaced with flashback home videos of happier early times, Perry’s tale traces Becky’s journey from apocalyptic drugged-out collapse to cautious resurrection. Throughout, his handheld camera is exactingly attuned to his protagonist’s scattershot headspace. There’s a vicarious thrill to watching this rocker spiral into the abyss and pull herself back out. While Moss doesn’t hold back in depicting Becky’s ugliness, she taps into the underlying hurt and vulnerability fueling her firestorm heart, peaking with a heart-rending single-take piano rendition of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”12. Shadow
Well Go USA
As evidenced by Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou is no stranger to dazzling martial-arts action. Still, Shadow is an aesthetic wonder, drenched in ash-gray hues and wielding serpentine cinematography to enhance its tale. The film follows a military commander’s “shadow” (Deng Chao)—i.e. double—who, when not falling in love with his superior’s wife (Sun Li), attempts to incite a war with a rival kingdom against the wishes of his self-serving king (Zheng Kai). Epitomized by the yin-yang symbol on which many battles are fought, dualities (masculine and feminine, light and dark, real and imitation, mortal and ghostly) are rampant throughout. Romance and court intrigue are also part of this stunning package, yet far more exhilarating than the stock story is the director’s precisely choreographed wuxiacombat, highlighted by Zhang’s signature slow-mo shot—in which his camera trails behind a running fighter’s blade as it scrapes against the ground, casting water skyward—and often carried out with the most badass umbrellas ever committed to film.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Diane (Mary Kay Place) is always looking out for others, be they her good friends, her older relatives, or her son Brian (Jake Lacy), who can’t get his drug habit under control. Kent Jones’ Diane is a character study of this solitary Massachusetts woman, filled with telling details and sharply observed moments that speak to her Christian altruism, her tough love, and the secrets that continue to torment (and, perhaps, drive) her. Revelation, resurrection, abandonment, and mourning all factor into her haunting story. In his debut, the critic-turned-writer/director cuts efficiently. No gesture or expression is wasted, and yet he also tends to linger—on a notepad’s to-do list, or a face trying to hide the reality behind a recent utterance—in order to evoke greater unspoken truths. Buoyed by a script attuned to the sorrowful rhythms of older age (and New England), Jones’ film rests on the shoulders of Place’s stellar, lived-in performance as Diane, a fallible woman whose selflessness is colored by anger and regret. 10. Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Kaili Blues director Bi Gan concludes his sophomore feature with a 56-minute single-take sequence shot in 3D, his camera trailing alongside (and above, and behind) his protagonist, Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), as he navigates a rural dreamscape that he’s travelled to while sitting in a movie theater. The past, memories, and the cinema are inextricably intertwined in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The story—about Luo’s return to his Kaili hometown, where he remembers an old comrade and looks for former love Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei)—comingles today and yesterday in poignant fashion. Motifs involving broken timepieces, dripping water, starry skies, flight and fire all pepper Gan’s latest, which is bookended by telling images of rotating colored ceiling lights and a room spinning around blissful lovers. As beguiling as it is gorgeous, his oblique film charts Luo’s experience in a world at once real and imagined, along the way spying him in, and through, numerous mirrors and glass filters until he resembles a displaced ghost in search of home.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
9. Apollo 11
The term “awe-inspiring” may be overused in critical circles, but it roundly applies to Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11, a definitive documentary about the United States’ first trip to the moon. Premiering on the 50th anniversary of that momentous event, it utilizes a treasure trove of recently discovered 65mm footage and audio recordings to offer an up-close-and-personal view of the preparations for launch, the men and women toiling behind the scenes to ensure its safety, the crowds gathering to witness history, and the outer-space flight itself, shot by cameras accompanying (and sometimes manned by) Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. That imagery boasts breathtaking scale, conveying the literal and figurative enormity of everything involved with the Apollo 11—making it ideally suited for IMAX. Nonetheless, in any format, Miller’s curatorial effort is a work of thrilling enormity, presenting this pioneering triumph as the byproduct of myriad individuals, immense ingenuity, and the colossal bravery of three men who dared to venture to the stars. 8. The Souvenir
Young love is a vehicle for self-definition in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, the writer/director’s finely calibrated coming-of-of age drama. Aspiring London filmmaker Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) falls for older, cultured Anthony (Tom Burke), who has a habit of making every compliment sound self-serving. Hogg depicts their affair with little concern for superfluous in-between stuff, cutting pointedly to the couple’s most crucial incidents together, and in the process she strikes an assured balance between realism and impressionism. A semi-clandestine drug habit eventually becomes a complicating factor for the duo, but the real heart of this enthralling film is Julie herself, whose interior state is brought to vivid life by the director’s intimate, aesthetically diverse approach. Awash in talk about movies and moviemaking, Hogg’s feature is elevated by Byrne’s star-making turn as a young woman caught between genuine love, her recognition that her relationship is perhaps doomed to fail, and her desire to find her voice—personally and artistically—on her own.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
7. An Elephant Sitting Still
Tragedy comes from rejection, resentment, alienation, rage, and sorrow in An Elephant Sitting Still, an intimate epic about Chinese citizens who view themselves as powerless and worthless. The outstanding debut feature from Hu Bo (who died shortly after production was completed) concerns a collection of individuals whose lives intersect during the course of a single day. This includes Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), an angry high-school student who accidentally commits a catastrophic crime; Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu), the guilt-stricken gangster brother of Wei Bu’s victim; Huang Ling (Wang Yuwen), a classmate of Wei Bu’s who’s involved with her vice dean; and Wang Jin (Liu Congxi), a grandfather being coerced by his son and daughter-in-law to move into a nursing home. Hu shoots each protracted scene in long, unbroken takes, habitually foregrounding his subjects in shallow focus while staging key action in the fuzzy background. At nearly four hours, the film imparts an overpowering sense of its characters’ despair, and the misfortune that befalls them whether they remain alone or try to engage with others—a despondency only amplified by its empathy.6. Gloria Bell
Growing old isn’t easy for Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), the single heroine of Sebastián Lelio’s outstanding English-language remake of his 2013 Chilean drama. Between friends being laid off, concerns about retirement, and adult children navigating their own fraught romantic paths, Gloria makes her way through middle age with a brave face, finding temporary solace on the dance floor and, for a time, in the arms of Arnold (a magnificent John Turturro), a recent divorcé struggling to break free from his ex-wife and two needy daughters. With a light touch that allows for instances of escapist lyricism (none better than recurring shots of Gloria spinning amidst swirling colors), Lelio fashions a tender, incisive, heartbreaking ode to the myriad complications of adulthood, where efforts to move forward are burdened by regrets, entanglements, and longing for connection. Led by a tour-de-force turn by Moore, whose expressive work is some of her finest to date, it’s a small-scale story marked by a profound understanding of life as it’s actually lived, and felt.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Dark, demonic power courses through Hagazussa, a legitimately evil folk story of inheritance, corruption, and damnation. In the Austrian Alps circa the 15th century, young Albrun (Celina Peter) tends to her mother (Claudia Martini), a supposed witch, in their remote log cabin. Years later, adult Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) cares for her infant daughter in that same abode, whose only visitor is Swinda (Tanja Petrovsky), a neighbor who, like the local priest, seems concerned with saving ostracized Abrun’s soul. Light on dialogue but heavy on black-magic mystery, writer/director Lukas Feigelfeld’s fable casts its spell via slow-burn plotting and malevolent imagery, culminating with a kaleidoscopic underwater visual orgy of blood, roots, bone, tendrils, and mutating shapes. Like the mist that covers the mountainous region’s treetops, suggestions of profane forces are everywhere—in the sight of Albrun milking her goat, or a shrine for a skull—and they burrow under one’s skin, much like the unholy whispering and thunderous bass heard on a soundtrack that heralds madness, doom, the end.4. The Beach Bum
Matthew McConaughey is the king of bongo-drumming laissez-faire cool, and in The Beach Bum, he assumes the role he was born to play. That would be Moondog, a South Florida “bottom feeder” who, having set aside his once-illustrious poetry career, is now content to coast through his beachside town’s many imbibing establishments. He’s looking for his next toke, drink, and beautiful woman to bed. Writer/director Harmony Korine’s shaggy-dog saga follows the bedraggled Moondog from one absurd adventure to the next (with, among others, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, and Jonah Hill), channeling both his gift for taking life as it comes, and his ability to derive sensualist pleasure from each new encounter. With long hair and a fanny pack permanently affixed around his waist, McConaughey is a magisterial stoner hedonist, and if his rollicking escapades aren’t enough to deliver a potent contact high, Korine and cinematographer Benoît Debie’s rapturously colorful portrait of Florida’s posh and downtrodden landscapes more than do the delirious trick. ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW3. Climax
Gaspar Noé’s cinema routinely traces the line from harmony to chaos, and that’s once again true in Climax, the inspired-by-real-events tale of a dance party descending into hellish madness. Beginning, portentously, with interviews seen on a television set surrounded by the director’s favorite VHS horror films, the French auteur’s latest is arguably his least provocative to date. Regardless, it’s still an escalating nightmare scored to thumping electronica and populated by a raft of potential monsters. Even during its more serene early scenes, his characters’ choreographed numbers exhibit a frightening intensity, and once these artists unwittingly drink some LSD-spiked punch, their emotional equilibrium and interpersonal relationships spiral terrifyingly out of control. Often executed in long single takes, Noé’s swirling, floating, slithering camerawork is as dexterous as his physically agile subjects. The result is an aesthetic performance piece that feels like the psychosexual underworld dance freak-out that Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria wanted to be, replete with a finale that takes up residence in some hallucinatory ninth circle of Hell. 2. Under the Silver Lake
There are codes within codes within codes in Under the Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell’s deliriously shambolic neo-noir about stoner sleuth Sam (Andrew Garfield, never better) traversing a Lynch-ian L.A. landscape in search of a mysterious missing beauty (Riley Keough). Also channeling the spirit of Robert Altman, Brian De Palma, Alfred Hitchcock, and Hollywood golden-age classics (set to a Henry Mancini-esque score), Sam’s cine-odyssey is a quest for meaning in an overstuffed pop-culture world. Movies and myths collide, both mirthfully and mournful, as Sam strives to uncover the knotty conspiracy-theory connections linking everything and everyone. From Super Mario Bros.,new-age cultists, pirates and bomb-shelter tombs, to masturbatory porn patterns, dog killers, comic books (Spider-Man, wink wink) and song lyrics scribbled on pizza boxes, secret world-governing ciphers are ubiquitous. Mitchell reveals them through an adventure that’s witty, aesthetically dexterous, and laced with dark disillusionment about the puppetmaster powers-that-be and their covert machinations. Reconfiguring noir’s fatalistic heart for our tangled modern condition, it’s a portrait of the surreal new bleakness, with everything part of a grander whole that offers no substance or solace—leaving only that eternal desire for truth, and togetherness.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Music Box Films
In a Europe that simultaneously resembles today and 1940, German expat Georg (Franz Rogowski) endeavors to escape Paris before the arrival of encroaching Nazi-esque fascists. Arriving in Marseilles, he befriends the African son (Lilien Batman) and wife (Maryam Zaree) of a former comrade. Through circumstance, he also assumes the guise of famous writer Weidel, whose possessions he acquires and whose documentation permitting travel to Mexico await him at the port city’s embassy. So too does Weidel’s wife Marie (Paula Beer), who repeatedly mistakes Georg for her husband, and who longs for reunion even as she continues an affair with a man (Godehard Giese) whose obsessive amour prevents him from departing. Borders to cross and barriers impeding passage are omnipresent in Transit, which like so much of writer/director Christian Petzold’s transition-fixated oeuvre, is a forlorn romantic reverie about identity, regret, trauma, and rebirth. Moreover, it’s another of his masterworks to confront issues of personal and national consciousness through a distinct cine-filter, with Casablanca and The Passengerproving two of its many spiritual touchstones. It’s an entrancing and inherently mysterious ghost story that’s both timeless and, sadly, of our particular moment.