‘Joker’ Tracks for $75 Million-Plus Opening After Taking Festivals by Storm

‘Joker’ Tracks for $75 Million-Plus Opening After Taking Festivals by Storm

First it won the Golden Lion at Venice. Then it polarized critics further in Toronto. Now Warner Bros./DC’s “Joker” is getting ready for its big debut in theaters with hopes that Batman and Joaquin Phoenix fans alike will turn out in theaters despite the bleak, nihilistic tone of Todd Phillips’ tragedy.

Since its Venice premiere, “Joker” has rocketed to the top of the awards conversation; particularly for Phoenix, whom prognosticators now say could get his fourth Oscar nomination for his performance as the miserable soul that transforms into the murderous Joker. That awards buzz has helped push the first round of box office tracking to a projected opening of at least $75 million. One independent tracker projecting an opening of $90 million, which would pass “Venom” as the biggest October opening ever.

With a reported budget of $55 million — a pittance compared to the $150-300 million budgets of most comic book movies — “Joker” is set up for a huge return on investment for WB. In fact, even if “Joker” fell short of these projections and opened to, say, $65 million, it will still have had a higher opening weekend than the PG-rated, $100 million budget “Shazam!” or WB’s $175 million summer tentpole “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

The big question, however, is whether the movie’s unapologetically violent nature will turn off audiences beyond the hardcore DC movie crowd. Festival attendees gave “Joker” a standing ovation and critics have been positive with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 78%. But many of the critics who didn’t like “Joker” were scathing in their reviews, with one critic calling it a “predictable brand of cold-hearted cynicism.”

The last DC film to get this dark, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” was received negatively by both critics and audiences as too grim for a film about DC’s most famous superheroes. Warner Bros. and DC subsequently changed their tonal approach to make lighter, more hopeful films like “Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam!,” and reception has rebounded in response.

Of course, the Joker isn’t a superhero. He is a proud agent of chaos, and an origin story about him would be expected to be much darker. For those who have already been sold on the film by its trailer and festival reviews, that should be enough. But it would be a big achievement for “Joker” to match the performance of the last R-Rated superhero drama “Logan,” which opened to $88 million in spring 2017 and went on to $226.2 million domestic and $619 million worldwide.

“Logan” had the novelty of being Hugh Jackman’s final film as Wolverine, and the film’s sad but moving ending won over audiences from all demographics. The ending of “Joker” is said to be much more shocking and might alienate some audiences, weakening its word of mouth. “Joker” will have a strong opening and expand the possibilities of what studios can do with comic book movies on a cheaper budget. But we won’t know just how well the film will leg out until the first batch of stunned audiences walk out of the theater on October 4.

“Joker” stars Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, and Bill Cullen. Todd Phillips directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver. Phillips also produced the film with Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.

From Semba to Hip Hop: Exploring Angola’s Musical Revolution

From Semba to Hip Hop: Exploring Angola’s Musical Revolution

Angola-based American music researcher Michael Smith, names Yola Semedo, an award-winning female artist who fuses the semba and kizomba genres, “the Angolan Queen of Soul.” The complexities of the city’s music scene do not end with semba and its successors.  Musical producer Precilia Mbemba observes that Angolan hip hop is an important component to Angolan culture, noting that the youth-led protests of 2011 would not have happened if it weren’t for Angolan hip hop music.

Mbemba adds that artist Ikonoclasta has played a leading role in today’s Angolan hip hop music scene and has been exceptional at it. Luaty Beirao, whose stage name is Ikonoclasta, is a hip hop artist and activist who was part of the ‘Angola 15,’ a group of artists who were arrested for their opposition to the current political regime.

A new wave of artists like Toty Sa’Med have taken it upon themselves to preserve Angola’s rich musical history.  Sa’Med recently released an extended play recording called Ingombota in which he recreates old semba classics. He says his goal is to recover young people’s pride in old songs and get them to sing and record them, often by sampling and making new versions of these old classics.

With artists like Sa’Med, who recorded his album with producer Kalaf Epalanga, it is certain that Angola’s music is here to stay.

“Angola somehow lost the connection with the old way of making and thinking music, and I hope I start a new movement of preservation and pride of the old Angolan music, because we can’t know ourselves today if we don’t know where we come from,” says Sa’Med.

High-end streetwear is the latest status symbol for rich millenials

High-end streetwear is the latest status symbol for rich millenials

Luxury streetwear is gaining momentum among rich millennials.

The streetwear subculture has been around for decades, but social media and the rise of athleisure have recently brought it to the forefront of fashion.
Luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are incorporating streetwear styles to their looksto appeal to millennials.

Two different fashion worlds have collided, and it’s created a new kind of millennial uniform: luxury streetwear.

The streetwear subculture has been around for decades, originating in skate, surf, and hip-hop cultures, Benjamin Schneider, research analyst at Euromonitor International , told Business Insider. According to him, the most popular streetwear brands today, like Stussy and Supreme, grew slowly throughout the 1980s and 1990s and developed cult-like followings.

“As athletes and hip-hop artists gained influence throughout the 1990s, so did the sportswear brands they wore, increasingly bringing brands like Adidas, Champion, and Nike into the streetwear ecosystem,” he said.

But it wasn’t until social media that streetwear really exploded onto the scene bold logos and graphics resonated with image-obsessed consumers.
“Now that Instagram is the definitive medium for discovering fashion, traditional luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have adopted the defining characteristics ofstreetwear, finding bold logos and exclusivity to be key to reaching younger generations,” Schneider said.

It’s making Gucci cool again in 2015, the brand brought on Alessandro Michele as creative director, who led the brand in a millennial and teen-friendly direction by helping Gucci embrace streetwear and the influence of popular culture, Business Insider previously reported . Celebrities like Lil Pump and Kylie Jenner have further popularized the brand through Instagram and music.

And it’s working: Gucci nearly doubled its sales in 2018, with consumers under 35 accounting for 55% of those sales. Michael Kors, Fendi, and Ralph Lauren have also partnered with streetwear brands.

Millennials have a thing for athleisure

But social media isn’t the only factor behind luxury streetwear’s skyrocketing popularity millennials’ appetite for athleisure is also a driving force.
“They like streetwear’s casual and comfortable silhouettes like t-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers, which have become increasingly accepted in work and social spaces alike in the US in the midst of a larger casualization trend,” Schneider said.

And now that streetwear has gone high-end, millennials are also gravitating toward the trend because of its effect on their perceived social status. Luxury streetwear now numbers among other purchases and symbols like fancy baby strollers, second passports, and “ugly” sneakers that people use to demonstrate their status.

The consumers of luxury streetwear may be a niche group but it’s a group that carries a lot of influence on social media. And while the style is seen on both women and men, it’s more popular among the latter, accordingto Schneider.The male millennial knows what the different brands represent, Schneider said, as well as when and where products will be released and how to get them.

Elon Musk reveals his plan to link your brain to your smartphone

Elon Musk reveals his plan to link your brain to your smartphone

Emerging Tech Trends:

Step one: Drill holes in the skull. Step two: Implant “threads” into the brain.

Neuralink, one of Musk’s secretive companies, revealed the advance at a San Francisco event Tuesday, giving the public its first real peek at what the startup’s been up to since its launch two years ago. Neuralink has also created a neurosurgical robot reminiscent of a sewing machine, which can embed the threads — each much thinner than a human hair — in the brain.

So far, the threads have only been tested in animals, but Musk said he hopes to start testing in humans “by the end of next year,” a timeline that seems unrealistically ambitious. He’ll need to get the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first, which promises to be a complicated feat: The current procedure for implanting the threads requires drilling holes in the skull.

If he succeeds in getting FDA approval, it’ll likely be because he’s pitching the advance as a technology meant to address a medical condition: paralysis. The idea is that the threads will read neuronal signals from a paralyzed patient’s brain and transmit that data to a machine — say, an iPhone — enabling the patient to control it without having to tap or type or swipe.

Neuralink’s trials so far have been conducted on rats, and, it seems, monkeys. In a telling moment during the Q&A portion of the event, Musk veered off-script, saying, “A monkey has been able to control the computer with its brain. Just FYI.” (We don’t yet have evidence to that effect.) Neuralink president Max Hodak’s response: “I didn’t realize we were running that result today, but there it goes.”

If this technology is functional in human patients — and we should always be careful not to extrapolate too much from early animal studies to humans, particularly when dealing with complex brain systems — it could significantly improve quality of life for millions of people. Approximately 5.4 million people are living with paralysis in the US alone, according to a Reeve Foundation study.

As if to underscore Neuralink’s medicinal ambitions, the company’s head surgeon, Matthew MacDougall, spoke onstage dressed in blue scrubs. He emphasized that Neuralink’s main concern is patient safety, adding that eventually the company wants its brain implant procedure to be as non-invasive as Lasik eye surgery. He also said it’s “only intended for patients with serious unmet medical diseases,” like people who’ve been completely paralyzed as the result of a spinal cord injury.

But helping people with paralysis is not, it seems, Musk’s end goal — the futurist made clear he has much grander ambitions. Ultimately, he said, he aims “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” The goal is to develop a technology that enables humans “merging with AI” so that we won’t be “left behind” as AI systems become more and more advanced.

This fantastical vision is not the sort of thing for which the FDA greenlights human trials. But a study on helping people with paralysis? That may get a warmer reception.

Neuralink is arguably one of the foremost startups dedicated to biohacking, the quest to augment human beings’ physical and cognitive performance, often by performing radical experiments on ourselves. It’s now facing a problem common to many biohackers: The medical system, they complain, holds back progress.

“If you were to come up with a compound right now that literally cures aging, you couldn’t get it approved,” Oliver Medvedik, a biohacking advocate who directs the Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering at Cooper Union, recently told me. “By the definition we’ve set up, aging isn’t a disease, and if you want to get it approved by the FDA you have to target a certain disease. That just seems very strange and antiquated and broken.”

Musk said that the event, which was live-streamed, was not about showing off. “The main reason for doing this presentation is recruiting,” he said. He wants more people to apply to Neuralink’s open positions. The company currently has about 90 employees and $158 million in funding, $100 million of which reportedly came from Musk himself.

But Hodak described the purpose of the presentation differently in an interview with the New York Times. “We want this burden of stealth mode off of us so that we can keep building and do things like normal people, such as publish papers,” he said. (The company recently released a white paper explaining its new technology.)

Neuralink isn’t the first to explore brain-machine interfaces. Other companies like Kernel and Paradromics are also working in this space, as is the US military. Some scientists are currently working on brain implants that would translate paralyzed people’s thoughts into speech.

In other words, if Neuralink really has achieved what it says it’s achieved, this could be a major advance with promising applications for people down the road.

Just don’t expect those applications too soon: The company still has to prove that its system can work in human brains, and that the threads, once implanted, can survive in our brains for years without deteriorating — or causing our brains themselves to deteriorate.


Game of Thrones cast says farewell on this week’s EW cover: ‘I will miss this so much’

Game of Thrones cast says farewell on this week’s EW cover: ‘I will miss this so much’

By James Hibberd. Source: Entertainment Weekly

The cast of Game of Thrones says farewell to the HBO blockbuster in Entertainment Weekly‘s new issue going behind the scenes of the final season’s end game.

The issue dives deep into the tragic downfall of Daenerys Targaryen with Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington, along with chats with Isaac Hempstead Wright about playing the new king of Westeros and Sophie Turner on becoming the Queen in the North. There are also 14 new photos from behind the scenes and the show itself.

“I will miss this so much,” says GoT star Peter Dinklage. “But it’s time to move on. A lot of shows stay on television for too long. You got to make room for the new thing. And no decision should ever be made just because something is making a lot of money. [Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] are smart enough, and HBO is smart enough, to not just go, ‘Well, everybody’s getting rich let’s keep going’ — that’s the worst thing you can do with something creative like this. I know it’s difficult to make that decision. This is the greatest role I’ve ever had.”

The younger cast members are ready to move on too, especially after spending most of their lives playing just one role. Like Jon Snow going beyond The Wall to start a new life with the Wildlings, Harington is ready for something new.

“The goal of acting is to gain some recognition and fame — that’s not what I’m looking for anymore,” Harington says. “This gives me the freedom to try things I want to do. I keep nicking beers from David and Dan’s fridge. I left them a note saying, ‘I owe you two beers and one career,’ and that’s how I feel.”

“This show is my life,” Clarke says. “Any doors that are open now, this show opened them. Any major life choice I’ve made have been a reaction to this show.”

Baby gender reveal celebration explosion started $8.2m Arizona wildfire

Baby gender reveal celebration explosion started $8.2m Arizona wildfire

Newly released video shows the moment an off-duty border agent in Arizona started a huge wildfire as part of a gender reveal celebration for his unborn baby.

The April 2017 Sawmill blaze destroyed 47,000 acres and took 800 firefighters to put out, at a cost of $8.2m.

Dennis Dickey, 37, and his wife Rita, planned to reveal the sex of their baby to friends and relatives by setting off an explosive device filled with coloured powder – blue to indicate a boy.

Dickey shot a target containing Tannerite, a legal, but very powerful explosive. The video shows the blast and the surrounding grass immediately catching fire, the ferocity of the blaze exacerbated by months of dry weather.

It quickly spread to the Coronado National Forest

Dickey immediately reported the fire and is said to have admitted starting it, saying it had been a “complete accident”.

Last month he pleaded guilty to starting a fire without a permit and was sentenced to five years probation, a $100,000 fine and $500 a month restitution for the next 20 years.