As much as I look forward to Apple’s big iPhone reveal every year, I’m more excited this year by what I’m seeing about the upcoming Pixel 6. And I’ve been a happy iPhone owner for years, so this feeling is coming as a surprise. In part this feeling comes from Apple’s lackluster iPhone 13 upgrades. Don’t get me wrong — the iPhone 13 is impressive. Better screens? Yep. Better cameras? Yep. Longer battery life? It’s there. A “free” iPhone 13 for trade-in? Sign me up right now. (Actually, I’m not big on upgrading my phone every couple of years, and those carrier deals come with a lot of caveats anyway.)
But by and large, it was a sleeper year for the company in terms of the iPhone 13 lineup, at least. Sure, that smaller notch is swell, and holy smokes, have you seen the dramatic videos you can take with Cinematic mode? I adore those features, and I can’t say I didn’t feel my skin tingle when I watched them in action. But apart from the routine improvements to things like the processor and those features I mentioned earlier, there was a bevy of features that remained remarkably unchanged, like the overall design and dimensions for starters. CNET’s Patrick Holland even said in his iPhone 13 review that the phone isn’t radically different from the iPhone 12.
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Take a look at the Pixel 6 and you’ll see it’s undergone a sweeping design transformation and glow-up. Gone are the squircle camera bump and the modest color palette of the Pixel 5. That design makes way for a camera bar that runs the full width of the phone, with splashy colorways and glossy metal highlights.
As a renowned mobile software developer, Google had previously designed its phones in a manner that let the Android mobile operating system take center stage. In the user’s eye, the hardware was meant to fade in to the background, serving as a mere vehicle to Android. But for 2021 Google seems to be doing away with that design philosophy in favor of a bolder, eye-catching look. I think the hardware of Pixel 6 is visually distinctive, and I think it’s clear that Google is playing to stand out in the competitive field of high-end phones this year.
Pixel 6 processor: Tensor SoC
But there may be more to the Pixel 6 than meets the eye. Under the hood, Google says, it’s equipped the Pixel 6 series with a custom-built system on chip known as Tensor, which CEO Sundar Pichai touts as Pixel’s biggest innovation to date. It was designed in-house by Google engineers, meaning it’s been tailor-made for Android — much like Apple does with its own mobile processors.
Google’s kept mum on performance, and whether Tensor can keep up with Apple’s chips remains to be seen, but I think it stands a better chance now that it’s not relying on Qualcomm chipsets. According to years of CNET’s performance benchmark tests, Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon processors have consistently underperformed against Apple’s own in-house silicon. Hopefully, it could also extend the number of years of software support with that control, allowing you to hold onto a Pixel 6 for more years with security updates. Previous Pixel phones have been guaranteed three years of support, which is substantially less than the six years of support the iPhone 6S has received or the four years of support Samsung is now providing its Galaxy phones. Either way, this represents another “seismic break from the past,” as CNET’s Brian Bennet put it. Don’t forget last year’s Pixel 5 ran on the midtier Snapdragon 765G processor, which is a notch below the Snapdragon 865 built into flagship phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S20, to allow Google keep a lid on the price.
Pixel 6 software: Android 12
Another thing I’m excited about is the software. The Pixel 6 will ship with Android 12, making it one of the first phones to carry the updated mobile OS — and there’s lots to be excited about. You’ll be able to do cool things like take scrollable screenshots (finally!), a minute-by-minute privacy dashboard and the customizability of the OS looks lovely. But apart from that, Google has teased that the Pixel 6 series will lean heavily into AI, and the Pixel 6 could be the most AI-centric phone Google has ever made. That could translate into things like better language translation and even better computational photography for Pixel’s already excellent cameras.
Specs aside, maybe I’m more excited by Pixel this year because Apple has crossed that threshold where greatness is expected, if not guaranteed. Google, meanwhile, still has a lot to prove in the smartphone arena. The Pixel’s market share is minuscule compared to that of Apple’s iPhones. Or maybe it’s the fact that the iPhone and iOS already had an overhaul in 2017 with the iPhone X, while Pixel’s transformation is long overdue. But now it looks like Google is doing things we’ve been waiting years for. We’ll have to hang on until Oct. 19 to find out for sure, but I’m hopeful that Google’s Pixel 6 has the potential to be the 2021 phone heavyweight I’ve been waiting for.
If your love of watching psychologically twisted films can only compete with a thirst for reading late-night Reddit theories about their endings — looking at you, Tenet fans — I have a request.
Please stop endlessly scrolling on whatever streaming service you’ve been staring at, pop on Amazon Prime and watch 2013’s low-budget sci-fi flick Coherence ASAP — it’s free for subscribers, right now. I know. I just watched it… for the fourth time.
The initial premise of Coherence is fairly simple. A few friends meet up for a dinner party the same night a mysterious comet is scheduled to fly overhead. It begins as many indie movies do, with a troubled love story, tension between exes and witty banter.
Then the power goes out. It gets weird. Act two.
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Inexplicable events ensue while the ensemble of characters scramble to restore the power. Nothing is as it had seemed. Some start to doubt where they are, others are more concerned with who they are. This isn’t a movie about longtime pals’ small talk. It’s a tale about them coming face-to-face with the terrifying truth of their reality.
If I share any more, I’d be risking massive spoilers about the shocking revelations uncovered during the film. I can assure you, though, that the onscreen confusion is potent enough to force you to question your own sanity.
I’m only mildly exaggerating.
The next hour or so overflows with plot twists that could rival those of 2010’s Shutter Island. The film also expertly alludes to scientific — and rather philosophical — concepts that have probably crossed the mind of the late Stephen Hawking.
Coherence ties together the social, personal and existential consequences that would arise from a complex theory of space and time with a heart-thumping mystery. Speckled with red herrings, easter eggs and a few ambiguities, Coherence is arguably one of the most mind-bending sci-fi films I have ever seen.
And trust me, I’ve gone down several sci-fi IMDB lists, diligently watching them in order.
Perhaps I can sell you with the fact that Coherence, which occasionally verges on horror, was made with a scarce budget of just $50,000 and shot over a mere five days. For context, Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 film, Gravity, was made with $100 million.
I’ve recently been binge-watching low-budget sci-fi movies because I have found that what these films lack in theatrics, they overcompensate for in story. Shoutout to Operation Avalanche (2016), Another Earth (2011) and Primer (2004).
Coherence, however, was the film that started my journey.
Interstellar may have offered the striking image of a giant, iconic wave that nearly wipes out the main characters to the tune of Hans Zimmer. The Martian likely stole your heart with its stunning portrayal of an arid Mars amid a blanket of fog. And Arrival might’ve been the first time you cried over a shadowy alien doing some inky-looking sign language.
But Coherence elegantly tells the story of a group of friends grappling with actuality, navigating the frightening turns that reality can take — without the help of CGI, from only one location and with just the sounds of the actors’ voices.
Director James Ward Byrkit even decided to forgo a script for the quietly experimental film. “Each day, instead of getting a script, the actors would get a page of notes for their individual character, whether it was a backstory or information about their motivations,” he told IndieWire.
Because the actors were left in the dark about how the story unfolds, any stress and perplexity in their performances is authentic. The film’s chaotic disarray was actually happening during the movie’s filming.
Coherence will keep you guessing along with the actors, elicit audible gasps and make you feel a bit like a sci-fi spy. Hours after the credits roll, you might well experience chills as previously overlooked clues and nuances slowly wash over you.
In fact, I just got goosebumps thinking of that one scene. You’ll know which one.
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On Saturday NASA had great reason to celebrate after the successful launch of Lucy, a spacecraft it hopes to use to investigate asteroids locked into Jupiter’s orbit. Less than 48 hours later, Lucy appears to have encountered its first roadblock. One of the craft’s two solar arrays, each of which are a set of solar panels Lucy will use to power its exploration, may not properly be locked in place.
“Lucy’s two solar arrays have deployed, and both are producing power and the battery is charging,” a Sunday NASA blog post reads. “While one of the arrays has latched, indications are that the second array may not be fully latched.”
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“In the current spacecraft attitude, Lucy can continue to operate with no threat to its health and safety. The team is analyzing spacecraft data to understand the situation and determine next steps to achieve full deployment of the solar array.”
The two solar arrays were folded when Lucy launched, and are designed to unfurl like Chinese fans once the spacecrafy is in orbit. The arrays were expected to take 20 minutes to fully unfurl, which the mission’s principal investigator said would “determine if the rest of the 12-year mission will be a success.” The solar panels were successfully deployed 91 minutes after launch; now it’s just a matter of getting the second one to latch properly.
NASA’s associate director for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, tweeted that he was confident the array issue would be solved quickly.
“NASA’s Lucy mission is safe and stable,” he wrote. “The two solar arrays have deployed, but one may not be fully latched. The team is analyzing data to determine next steps. This team has overcome many challenges already and I am confident they will prevail here as well.”
Lucy’s ultimate goal is to explore the Trojan asteroids, a set of asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit that have never been studied up close before. These Trojan asteroids move as huge swarms, or camps, at the “Lagrangian points” in Jupiter’s orbit. The Lagrangian points are regions where gravity’s push and pull lock the camps in place, leading and trailing Jupiter in its journey around the sun in perpetuity.
The collection of amorphous space rocks is like a series of cosmic fossils, providing a window into the earliest era of our solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago. Lucy will act as a cosmic palaeontologist, flying past these eight different “fossils” at a distance and studying their surfaces with infrared imagers and cameras.
It’s inevitable that such a global, life-altering event will seep into movies, music and TV for years to come. But for me, living through it has been enough. So no, I don’t want to see the characters from my favorite TV show reuniting on Zoom.
I’ve made a grand exception, though. In May, comedian Bo Burnham released a special for Netflix called Inside. Set in a small guesthouse, Inside is an hour and a half of Burnham’s signature comedic songwriting, laced with some in-between scenes, and framed as if he spent the entire year locked inside with a B&H catalog’s worth of gear, playing with lights and cameras and barely patching up his ever-worsening mental state by making the special.
Burnham gets increasingly disheveled. He sits in the dark by himself and wears ratty T-shirts and sweats. Despite my deep-seated desire to not think about the hellscape outside anymore than I have to, I’ve watched Inside five times.
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One of the best arguments for Inside as an ideal piece of pandemic art is that it doesn’t outright acknowledge the pandemic. It’s a feeling so deeply familiar at this point, Burnham never has to utter “COVID-19.” There are allusions, for sure. At one point Burnham says, “I’ve learned that real-world human-to-human tactile contact will kill you.” But many of the songs have nothing to do with the pandemic, such as Welcome to the Internet, a wild and unsettling overview of the chaos of life online, or his ode to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The problems that existed before the pandemic — the contrived nature of social media (White Woman’s Instagram), the maw of content production (Don’t Wanna Know), the inevitability of aging (30) — all continue to exist, but they now stand backlit by the inescapable reality of our collective situation.
There are no jokes about sourdough starter or toilet paper. Because the mental load of living through a pandemic isn’t really about the TP, right? It’s about the persistent malaise, the fear, either low-lying or full-blown, and whatever German word means “watching the world end but still having to pay rent.” Burnham captures this not in tired jokes about hand sanitizer, but in the way he runs his hand over his face during the in-between moments, or more obviously in bits such as the sendup of Twitch streaming, where he plays a video game that includes the option Press A to Cry.
The sheer vibes of lying on a pillow on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed while speaking into a mic — having not much to offer but still having to perform — are real.
When Inside hit Netflix, I’d been fully vaccinated for a month. I didn’t rush back into the world, but rather took small steps out, returning to my strolls through Target, ducking into the grocery store because I forgot to buy an onion. I dared to hug a friend. As it seemed for a brief moment that we might actually come out of this whole mess, I was chased by a nagging feeling that there should be some kind of worldwide debrief on everything that happened. Surely we could all have a meeting and say, “Well, that was absolutely awful.”
Of course, that’s not feasible, and the pandemic did not, in fact, end. But, somehow, Inside helped scratch that itch for me. The claustrophobia and isolation Inside represents on screen — the quick, knowing lyrics about “being inside, trying to get something out of it” — made me feel a little better about confronting the preceding year of living solo, looking it dead in the face and acknowledging how much it sucked, even if I guiltily got through it with job, health, friends and family all intact. No matter how much time you spend on Zoom, there’s no fun way to hide from sickness and death.
What Inside pulls off is all the more impressive because I know it’s not real. Burnham didn’t actually spend every waking minute in that guesthouse. As I’ve learned from watching earlier specials of his and plenty of clips on TikTok, he’s got a penchant for constructing moments that feel real, only to be revealed as a part of a bit. If he didn’t wash his hair, it was on purpose. If he knocked over the camera, it was on purpose.
Maybe that speaks to his capacity for empathy as an artist. Toward the end of the special, Burnham performs a song called All Eyes on Me, a nearly delirious number bathed in blue light, in front of a nonexistent roaring crowd. His voice is digitally pitched down, and he sways, against a wall-size projection of himself. He talks about having quit touring the last five years because he was having panic attacks, and how just as he felt he might be ready to go back out into the world — well, you know what happened. You don’t need a pandemic to keep you cooped up.
Now, at the other side of the summer, the horrors haven’t ceased. But with the help of the vaccine and a mask, I know I’m a bit less inside than I was. In my head, I hear the dark undertones of the otherwise bouncy, artificially optimistic little song that plays over the credits of Inside: “It’ll stop any day now, any day now. Any day now.”
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I vividly remember the first time Outer Wilds made me say “holy shit” out loud.
I’d gotten the launch keys to my spaceship for the first time. Still confused, still a little bit unsure. What’s happening here? What is this video game about? How does this all work? Where am I supposed to be going?
Still, I followed the prompts. I approached my spaceship — a rickety wooden shack of a thing. I pushed some buttons, and soon I was afloat, soaring effortlessly into the darkness of space. Still confused. Still unsure. What the hell is going on here? I don’t get this at all.
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Then, in the distance, a planet. A vivid green dot splotched in the void. “I’ll head there I guess,” I said to myself, more out of confusion than anything else.
Struggling against the controls of the ship, I headed toward the green planet, eventually hurtling into its dense green atmosphere at top speed. “I can’t see shit,” I whispered, but then I emerged from the fog.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I only had a split second before I splashed headfirst into the ocean, but I saw it. This was a water planet, toylike in size. But that didn’t startle me — it was the whirlwinds. Six of them at least, competing with one another in an otherworldly storm on the waves. As I floated back to the surface, water streaming down the windows, my eyes turned into saucers.
The wind whipped as the competing whirlwinds galloped across the surface, so powerful they launched entire islands into the atmosphere — literally into space — before they crashed back onto the planet. I’d never seen anything like this in a video game. I’d never seen anything like this before, period. But this was Outer Wilds. In Outer Wilds, the blisteringly imaginative becomes normalized.
Outer Wilds is a video game about exploring space, but it’s also a mystery to unravel. Following in the footsteps of the Nomai, an alien race that perished thousands of years ago, Outer Wilds is a game that has you playing space detective, investigating the ruins of an extinct civilization in an attempt to find exactly what the hell happened? The twist: Outer Wilds is centered on a Groundhog Day-esque time loop. You have precisely 22 minutes to investigate before the sun implodes, taking your entire solar system with it. All that remains: The knowledge you acquired during those precious few minutes.
Outer Wilds is a mystery that reveals itself in a traditional video game manner — through audio logs, written notes and so on — but the execution is so inspired you barely notice the tropes. Through its inventive locales and subtle puzzles, Outer Wilds consistently inspires a level of awe unlike any video game I’ve ever played.
Outer Wilds has you traveling back and forth to a handful of different planets, each more bizarre than the last. Each is laden with strange advanced technology left behind by the Nomai. A clue found on one planet might lead you to a new locale in a planet you visited previously. Slowly you worm yourself deeper into these dazzling environments, and into a deeper understanding of the mystery you’re trying to solve. There’s no shooting, no complex platforming. In Outer Wilds the currency is knowledge, knowledge players use to figure out their next step and, consequently, solve this strange mystery on a meta level. The result: a constant, revelatory joy, a series of “holy shit” moments that make Outer Wilds unforgettable.
Outer Wilds is constantly evoking awe. There’s Giant’s Deep, the aforementioned planet with its competing hurricanes, but there’s also Brittle Hollow, a world collapsing before your eyes. Descending deep beneath the surface you watch as entire sections of the planet are swallowed by a black hole vibrating at its centre. One false step and you yourself could fall through it.
And what happens when you fall through a black hole in Outer Wilds? Well, it would be rude to spoil the surprise. But it’s as mind-bending as you might expect.
Outer Wilds is punctuated by its holy shit moments. A quantum moon that disappears when you stop looking at it. Technology that allows you to warp instantaneously between two far-flung points. Twin planets connected by a pillar of sand that flows endlessly back and forth, dramatically reshaping both planets like a complex hourglass.
But unlike the cool, clinical sci-fi of, say, Interstellar or Arrival, Outer Wilds is a homely, almost acoustic invention: a small-scale snow globe of a universe, precisely imagined and executed. As if it expanded wholesale from the collapsing atoms in Bon Iver’s beard. That’s part of its charm. Its most outlandish moments inspire awe because they’re grounded in a world that’s familiar to us, almost anachronistic.
You sail into space in a craft made of wood, wearing a spacesuit that looks like it was built in the 19th century. Your home planet is a hipster’s dream, like a shrunken vision of the Canadian wilderness or a Grizzly Bear music video. Outer Wilds’ unique cast of characters swing on hammocks on alien planets and play the banjo at campfires as the universe collapses around them.
It all leads to this overwhelming feeling: You’re trapped in a universe where your traditional ideas don’t make sense. Where gigantic sci-fi ideas of space travel feel just beyond your primitive brain. All you can do is stare — in awe — as the sun implodes in a brilliant blue flash, your time loop complete. Before you awake once more with a gasp, ready to explore the strange universe of Outer Wilds all over again with fresh eyes.
Succession season 3 opens with helicopters, because this is Succession. Logan Roy soars among the gods, remote and elemental. Kendall hides in a bath.
But despite this initial appearance, the roles may be reversed. Logan is, for once, adrift, while Kendall seems to be in charge of the situation, even throwing Waystar’s PR guru Karolina out of the car. His bombshell means no one knows which way to go — literally — but it’s Kendall who establishes a base more quickly. Sure, it’s his ex-wife’s home and he’s oblivious to her dismay as his new squeeze shows up and cracks into the good wine. But it’s better than Logan winding up marooned in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (a town that knows a thing or two about civil war).
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Season 3, episode 1, titled Secession, airs on HBO on Sunday, Oct. 17, as well as streaming on HBO Max. Let’s delve into the details and delights of the season premiere, with spoilers and bad language — you’ve been warned…
Season 2 ended with media magnate Logan Roy dispatching his nervy son Kendall to be a blood sacrifice by taking the blame for a scandal engulfing their company. But Kendall turns the tables, publicly blaming Logan — effectively declaring war on his own father.
As season 3 picks up in near real time, Logan seems uncharacteristically quiet, almost diminished. He’s lost his wife, his son just turned on him, he can’t find his daughter, and his life’s work is threatened like never before. The heavyweight may actually be on the ropes.
The games begin
The scandal means Logan is tainted and a new broom is needed, even if it’s only an interim broom. But the CEO role is very much back in play, and everybody immediately begins circling, probing, and of course sharpening the knives.
Karl and Frank immediately shoot their shot, and are immediately shot down. Roman asks Shiv what she’s thinking — and the maneuvering begins. Shiv indignantly insists she backs their dad, but it’s clearly open season on Logan and the top job.
It’s ironic that everybody is so desperate to climb over one another’s corpses to claim a role that Logan himself derides as a “nameplate.” It’s still his hand jerking around whichever puppet strings itself up.
The first skirmish arrives fast. Both sides need to lawyer up, and both land on the same name: high-profile attorney Lisa Arthur, played by Sanaa Lathan. Kendall draws first blood by recruiting Arthur to his side, even over Shiv’s friendship with Arthur. The narrative is on Kendall’s side, at least for now, as he blows the whistle on historic wrongdoing and echoes the real-life revelations rocking many industries and societies in the #MeToo era.
But that may go to his head. Kendall is smart enough to call Arthur, but too self-involved to listen to her. His head’s in the clouds with talk of changing the climate, while she tries to bring him back to earth with words like “subpoenas” and “warrants.” Even if Kendall’s sudden righteousness is genuine, the law has been broken and the sword of Damocles that is the Department of Justice hangs over both factions.
Gerri wants to cooperate, because everybody cooperates sooner or later. But Roman is quick to reject any suggestion of talking to the authorities, probably anticipating his father’s predictably bullish attitude.
Of course, it helps to have a direct line to the president, aka “the Raisin.” Except the Raisin isn’t taking Logan’s calls, which means Logan’s power and influence is still in the balance. Casting news revealed that in season 3, Linda Edmond plays White House staffer Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (who Shiv dubs “the pantsuit barnacle”), so doubtless there’s more political shenanigans to come.
The court of public opinion
As Team Kendall’s first (only) player, Greg’s first (only) task is to “slide a sociopolitical thermometer up the nation’s ass” — i.e., check Twitter. And Kendall may’ve beaten Tater Tots to be a top trending topic, but good meme-age alone isn’t going to win the day. This isn’t just a war of words in penthouses and boardrooms: Even if the winner is decided behind closed doors, they’ll be anointed by stockholder confidence and public opinion. Image and reputation matter. Optics. Narrative.
For Kendal, that means an alternative corporate manifesto, maybe a rapid reaction TedX talk, definitely some cool tweets. For Logan, it means family. But his wife is furiously estranged and his kids are lining up to drive a knife further into his heart.
Is Kendall for real?
Logan thinks Kendall’s revelation was a move. A snake move, but still a power play. The old schemer’s first response is to offer a deal. Kendal refuses. But is he still making moves? Or is he genuine in his desire to improve the company, and by extension the world?
Then comes the real battle. Logan calls Kendall, but the wayward son ducks the conversation. Here we see a little more of the old Logan, and the old Kendall: Logan angrily threatens to grind his son’s bones into bread and Kendall can only mutter something about a bean stalk. Even when he’s in the better position, the younger man simply can’t match his father’s force, strength and will.
Maybe Roman is right when he predicts Kendall will self-destruct. Sure, the youngest Roy sibling is unpleasantly quick to put the boot into his elder brother, but he may have a point. What Kendall needs is allies.
As the episode ends, nothing is decided. The chess players are still fighting over the same pieces. And Logan’s rage, for once, may be impotent. “We’ll go full fucking beast!” he yells, but he’s still an old man in a strange city, lost in the dark….
Season 3, episode 2, Mass in Time of War, airs next Sunday, Oct. 24.
When Kendall faces himself in the mirror, is it just me willing him to start rapping?
Frank lists the worst things the company and family have faced: Tabloid suicides. Argentina. The Tiananmen accommodations. The black cloud after Sally Ann (a previous Logan affair, also mentioned in season 2). But according to Karl, this scandal is “the full Baskin-Robbins: 31 flavors of fuck.”
Greg can’t stop yelling “No comment!” Like many of the characters, he just can’t keep his mouth shut. Kind of a problem with that big secret weighing on him (that he supplied the smoking-gun papers to Kendall).
“The Raisin” is such a great nickname for a fictional president. It’s evocative enough to be funny but vague enough that it could refer to any politician ever.
When Shiv casually lobs a declaration of love at her amoebalike husband Tom, he calmly replies, “Thank you.” Is Tom actually growing a spine?
Has Kendall forgotten that he killed a guy — and Logan knows?
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more
Bitcoin is at it once again. The original cryptocurrency broke the $60,000 barrier over the weekend, to a brief high of $62,600, for the first time in six months. The price of Bitcoin stands at $62,300 at the time of writing, putting it in range of the all-time high price of $64,800 reached on April 14.
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Futures are contracts that commit investors to buy or sell a commodity at a certain price on a certain date. For instance, you could commit to buying a 1 Bitcoin for $100,000 in 5 years. If the price of a Bitcoin on that date is $200,000, you’d have made money. If the price of a Bitcoin on that date is $50,000, you’d have lost money.
A futures ETF is notably different from a standard exchange-traded fund, which Bitcoin enthusiasts have been lobbying for. A typical ETF would give investors exposure to the underlying asset, in this case Bitcoin, whereas a Futures ETF allows investors to speculate on the price of the asset. Policymakers have said in the past that cryptocurrencies are too prone to fraud and manipulation to be approved for ETFs backed by actual Bitcoins.
Regardless, the fact that cryptocurrencies are being integrated into the SEC’s framework was enough to boost Bitcoin and many other currencies. Ethereum, which is the most widely used cryptocurrency, is up 13% from a week ago. Its price stands at $3,847, close to its all-time high of $4,168 on May 11.
After The Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor, horror auteur Mike Flanagan is back with another meticulously layered horror series to savor. All seven episodes of Midnight Mass are streaming now on Netflix. If you’re reading this post, you probably know the show has a high chance of being the best horror series of the year.
Midnight Mass sees Riley Flynn, a man haunted by a drunk driving accident, return to his hometown on Crockett Island, where he struggles to find a purpose in life. Enter the mysterious Father Paul. What are Father Paul’s intentions? Why did he have red eyes in the series trailer? Is he the… devil?
Let’s dive into all the answers below, in full-on spoiler territory.
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Any Easter eggs?
A ton. Flanagan fans know that a prop novel titled Midnight Mass has been peppered throughout the director’s other works, from 2016’s Hush to 2017’s Gerald’s Game.
Midnight Mass was referenced in 2016’s Hush
Kate Siegel, who plays Erin Greene, starred in the 2016 horror Hush as an author who writes a book titled Midnight Mass.
“Because [Hush] was a low-budget movie, we needed a story that Maddie, the main character could write — she’s an author in the story. We needed a book that wouldn’t cost us any money,” Siegel told Pop Culturalist. “Mike was like, ‘Oh, I have this now-defunct idea for a novel called Midnight Mass. I have three chapters written. We can use that so we can use those pages and we can use that story.”
She continued, “If you look, there’s a screengrab in Hush where you’re looking at Maddie’s computer screen and it says, ‘The red and blue lights of the cop car twinkle off the Jesus fish.’ That’s the first shot of Midnight Mass.”
Flanagan and Carla Gugino cameos
Another Easter egg: Flanagan himself appears in a cameo in episode 3. A member of the tour group on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, his character helps to direct the elderly, dementia-suffering Monsignor Pruitt. Oh — and Carla Gugino, who starred in Hill House and Bly Manor, has a brief voice cameo as the judge in the first episode.
The antique mirror from Oculus appears in the recreation center
For anyone who’s seen Oculus — Flanagan revealed he embedded a huge nod to the 2013 horror starring Karen Gillan into scenes set in the recreation center. The movie’s titular possessed, antique mirror can be seen in the background, sitting on the stage during Riley’s AA meetings.
“It’s behind them in the profile [shots] on stage,” Flanagan told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s all becoming incredibly convoluted, really connected. That’s our goal. I want all of [these projects] to just be a big ball of rubber bands by the time we’re done, just impossible to extricate from each other.”
Is Midnight Mass based on a true story?
Yes and no.
Midnight Mass comes from a very real place for creator Mike Flanagan and has been cooking for a while. Flanagan was raised Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy at his parishes on Governors Island in New York and in Bowie, Maryland. In this small-town setting, “midnight mass, that was a pretty big deal,” Flanagan said in the Making of Midnight Mass Netflix featurette.
“Midnight Mass has been in my head since before I had a career,” he continued. “The idea of a Catholic parish in an isolated community that appears to be going through some kind of miraculous religious revival — that’s what came first.”
Flanagan also said that Riley Flynn is based on himself in a way, that he’s Flanagan’s kind of “avatar” in the story. “Back in the days when I drank, there were times where I felt like the consequences weren’t going to apply to me.”
The figure Riley Flynn chases on the beach during the big storm at the end of episode 1 is, of course, the Angel in Monsignor’s signature fedora and long coat. When Riley stumbles, it gives the Angel enough time to disappear, presumably flying up into the air. Some residents comment on seeing a huge albatross sweeping across the sky above the island, a bad omen.
How did the Angel get to Crockett Island?
In episode 1, we see a scene in which a mysterious figure enters the pastor’s house. He slides a massive chest across the floor and unlocks it. Strange events ensue. In episode 7, Monsignor Pruitt says that he bribed and lied to smuggle the Angel to Crockett Island, inside the trunk.
What happened to the cats?
A wild-cat infestation is flourishing on the island, rumored to have been caused by people bringing pets from the mainland. The kitties’ diet has been slightly unconventional. Up until the ’20s, residents used to bury their deceased family members in their yards. During a particularly major storm, the Uppards area of the island would overflow and corpses would wash up on the beach… and the cats would feed. Somewhat helpfully, this infestation is handled in the days following the Angel’s secret arrival.
Following a storm, it isn’t human remains but the dead bodies of dozens of cats that are found strewn across the beach. Their necks are broken and there isn’t a drop of blood to be seen. When Warren — Riley’s younger brother — and his friends sneak out to the Uppards, they’re freaked out by the sound of a broken twig. If you look closely at the moment, you can see the outline of the Angel in the wild shrubbery, as well as the unmistakable two bright dots of its piercing eyes. Clearly, the Angel was hungry.
Who is Father Paul?
Put simply, Father Paul Hill is really Reverend Monsignor John Michael Pruitt, the longtime island pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The residents don’t recognize him because he’s about 40 years younger. The clue to his true identity was dropped early on. In episode 2, Dr. Sarah Gunning’s elderly mom, Mildred, who once had a romantic relationship with Monsignor Pruitt (and a child in Sarah), addresses Father Paul by his real name, John, when he visits their house.
Is Father Paul the devil?
You’d think so after that series trailer. But no, in typical Flanagan fashion, the director brings a spin on a famous folklore creature. Father Paul is a vampire, albeit a reluctant one, who becomes sick and dies when he refuses to feed on anyone’s blood (he eventually spurts back to life). He was created by the Angel, the original “vampire,” who fed Father Paul its own blood when Father Paul was still the 80-year-old Monsignor Pruitt, going on pilgrimage for two weeks in the Holy Land. When Pruitt returned, his youth restored, he pretended to be a different priest. Lying about who he really was until his true identity was exposed by an old newspaper clipping hanging on a wall inside the pastor’s house, featuring a picture of his younger self.
Father Paul heavily hints that he borrowed his alias from Saul, an enemy of the Church, who later becomes the Apostle Paul. He tells the story of Saul, who while on the road to Damascus to round up believers and take them prisoner was met by Jesus. Days later, Saul became a follower of Christ and then became the Apostle Paul.
Where did the Angel come from?
On the same road Saul was traveling to Damascus, Monsignor Pruitt wandered from his tour group. Confused and lost in the desert, he was swept up into a sandstorm. The sandstorm uncovered the entrance to an ancient ruin of what Monsignor later believes to be a church. Monsignor stumbles inside — and meets the Angel. With sharp-edged wings and a thirst for blood, the Angel bares a striking resemblance to a vampire.
Yes. For those expecting another ghost story similar to Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House or Bly Manor, a tale of vampires might come as a surprise. Where did the inspiration come from? Flanagan, who once served as an altar boy, has discussed in interviews how he found ideas of the supernatural in the Bible itself.
“It’s impossible to separate the Bible as a book from horror literature. It has everything in there,” Flanagan told Vanity Fair. “It’s overtly and unapologetically espousing supernatural, horrific events left and right. Even the hero of the story — God, the embodiment of love — drowns the world when he gets angry enough in the Old Testament.”
What are the connections to the Bible?
“This is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”
Father Paul intones this “old translation” from a new missal “closer to the original Latin” during his first session taking Sunday mass. It pretty much sets up the rest of the series. The drunk driving accident that saw his girlfriend Beth killed four years ago continues to haunt Riley. The idea suggested is that, by literally drinking their blood, Riley will join Father Paul and the Angel’s “covenant” and be relieved of his sins.
Will there be backlash to the religious aspects of the story?
We’ll have to wait and see, but it feels like there will be.
How did the miracles happen? (Scientifically, speaking)
Father Paul was secretly mixing the sacramental wine in the cruets with the blood of the Angel. This blood — containing a virus, enzyme, a new type of cell or even a parasite, Dr. Gunning theorizes — has been altering the cells of people who drink it. Dr. Gunning, who’s been analyzing Erin Greene and her mother’s blood, which sizzles and catches fire in the sun, explains: “So there’s this blood disorder called erythropoietic protoporphyria. EPP. A lot of those myths probably came from EPP. People with it are extremely sensitive to light, to the point of burning and blistering in the sun. And very anemic.”
She theorizes that their blood — and likely the once wheelchair-bound Leeza’s — contains “something that repairs damaged cells, is violently photosensitive and causes an insane anemia. A desperate hunger for iron. Iron in blood.” As the ratio of this infection in the blood increases, the physical alterations become more pronounced.
Why does Erin lose her baby?
Though Mildred Gunning’s youth is restored and her dementia remedied, Erin loses her baby. This is how Dr. Gunning explains it: “Hypothetically, a pregnancy is an alien presence in a human body. A lot of processes occur to stop a mother’s body from attacking a fetus in the womb … but hypothetically, given how aggressively this thing alters the body, its response to a fetus could be equally aggressive.”
What happened to Erin and Mildred Gunning’s blood?
Dr. Gunning’s tests on Erin’s and her mother’s blood provide a glimmer of hope that everyone can return back to normal. When Dr. Gunning places samples of their blood in the sun, the infected part burns away, leaving their normal blood behind. Because the ratio of the Angel’s parasite is still only at trace amounts in their systems, Dr. Gunning reasons, they might be able to pass it through, similar to what happens when you ingest alcohol. “Before a certain point, if we stop taking it in, maybe our body can push it back out. Filter it out, the way it does any other harmful substance, if it’s not too much.”
What happened between Mildred and John Pruitt?
In episode 7, as the vampiric townspeople run riot, Mildred Gunning and John Pruitt sit inside the church, ruminating over their days in love and the miracle of having a second chance to be together, as a family. It’s implied that Mildred and John had an affair during the war, but Mildred chose not to disrupt her family with her then husband, letting her daughter Sarah believe he was her father. But Sarah’s real father, as she finds out just before Sturge shoots her, was John.
What other incidents have happened on the island?
Strange things have happened before on Crockett Island. In episode 7, Sturge says that in 1984, the whole island “burned to nothing.” Everything — except the church. When the cats wash up on the beach, Mayor Scarborough informs Sheriff Hassan that in 2002 a flock of starlings fell out of the sky. “Never did get a satisfying answer. Lots of theories. Lightning, noises, disease. Whole pile of dolphins once too… More than a dozen and they had bites missing.” It gets worse. Three years ago, an oil spill saw all the fishermen’s catches spoiled. Then came a rat problem, pantries invaded after the rodents’ regular fish food source was polluted (at least, according to nosy priest’s assistant Bev Keane).
Across these events, since the island community was established in the 1800s (according to the old newspaper clipping in the pastor’s house), the island’s population has diminished. “We used to be hundreds, now we’re just dozens. This isn’t a community anymore, honey. It’s a ghost,” Riley’s mom Annie says.
These events play into Father Paul’s idea that “we tend to dislike mysteries. We feel uncomfortable not knowing.” They also paint a picture of a forsaken town that, according to Father Paul, needed the Angel to save it with its promises of rebirth, second chances and eternal life.
Who killed Pike the dog?
In episode 1, when Bev Keane passes by Pike at the local store, she jumps at the sound of the dog’s bark. She scolds Joe Collie for letting his dog snap at her. Joe tries to explain that that’s just Pike’s way of saying hello, but Bev declares Pike a “menace,” implying the same of his owner. Joe is the outcast town drunk after accidentally shooting the mayor’s daughter Leeza and paralyzing her legs.
At the Crock Pot Luck festivities in episode 2, Pike is found dead, having apparently ingested a poisoned hot dog. Erin remembers that Bev, who’s also a teacher, was acting nervously with a canister of rat poison she had easy access to from the school store cupboard. If you go back to a few moments before Pike is found dead, a hand and the hem of a floral dress flash past the pet, revealing a hot dog now discarded on the ground. That same dress is seen worn by Bev Greene a few scenes earlier as she peruses the food selection.
Who’s Harpoon Harry?
A spot on the island called the Uppards is rumored to be haunted by Harpoon Harry, a dead fisherman who “harpooned kids for their meat.” Really, the story was told by older kids to prevent their younger siblings from following them to their favorite drinking spot. This story both builds atmosphere and provides misdirection for the real threat preying on the people of Crockett Island.
What happens to Crockett Island and the Angel in the end?
In the end, Bev and Sturge’s plan to burn down all the buildings — to create a “new flood” with the church as the arc for the “good citizens” — backfires. After Monsignor Pruitt sees the destruction he’s caused and after Sturge shoots his daughter Sarah dead, he angrily sets the church alight. Then Sherif Hassan, with the help of his son Ali, burns down the recreation center. With Erin, Sarah and Mildred having already burned the remainder of the large boats, this leaves no shelters whatsoever on the small island for the vampiric townsfolk to hide beneath and escape the sun. Nor can they spread their contagion to the rest of the world.
Leeza and Warren are the only two to escape to safety, their blood not infected enough to see them turn to cinders. They row out into the sea in Erin’s canoe, where they see the Angel attempt to flee, but its wings — shredded in Erin’s last living act — are already failing it. Warren points out that the Angel is running from the sunrise, but it’ll have to make it 30 miles to the west to reach safety, when it can barely fly. “No, I… I don’t think it can [make it],” Warren says, making it pretty clear the Angel is toast.
The pair remain in the canoe, as the island burns in the distance, watching the sunrise flecked with falling ash. Leeza, with a small laugh of relief, says she can no longer feel her legs, the infected blood fading from her system. The two teenagers will presumably wait for the next ferry to arrive on the island to save them.
Will Midnight Mass get a season 2?
Short answer: No.
At least, it’s extremely unlikely. Following the success of 2018’s The Haunting of Hill House, it was announced at the beginning of 2019 that Flanagan and longtime producing partner Trevor Macy (they’ve been working together since 2013’s Oculus) have a multi-year deal with Netflix to develop new series exclusively for the streamer.
The prolific creators went on to serve up the second installment of The Haunting anthology and Midnight Mass was announced as their next project. In July, 2019, Deadline reported that it would be a seven-episode series and, after that ending, it seems pretty definitive it was only intended as a miniseries.
Plus, Flanagan is incredibly busy.
What’s next for Mike Flanagan?
If you were hoping for more of The Haunting, sadly, the wait continues. While Flanagan has said he’s open to another chapter of the anthology, he has to find the perfect piece of literature to reimagine first, just as he did with the previous two ghost stories.
The Midnight Club
He’s also extremely busy busting out more content for Netflix. Filming has reportedly wrapped up on The Midnight Club — a limited horror mystery thriller series unrelated to Midnight Mass. An adaptation of Christopher Pike’s 1994 young adult novel, it follows a group of terminally ill young patients who gather together at midnight to tell scary stories.
The series will incorporate several other of Pike’s novels and feature Zach Gilford, Samantha Sloyan and Matt Biedel, who played Riley Flynn, Bev Keane and Sturge respectively in Midnight Mass, along with several more of Flanagan’s growing acting troupe. Unlike with Midnight Mass, Flanagan will direct only a couple of episodes (it’s not yet been announced how many there’ll be).
The Fall of the House of Usher
Then came the big news on Wednesday that Flanagan would be adapting Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher for Netflix. Also incorporating other works from Poe, the limited series will run for eight episodes, four of which will be directed by Flanagan. Still waiting for any release date announcements.
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more
The first, arriving on Friday, is Akilla’s Escape (2021). The crime drama follows a drug dealer who captures a 15-year-old boy who happens to be a member of a dangerous gang. Critics liked Akilla’s Escape, so. Make of that what you will.
On Saturday, you have two options: Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and Wanderlust (2012). Watch the former if you’re on a Daniel Craig kick after his final go as James Bond in No Time To Die, or go for the latter if you want a middling comedy about a married couple who end up at a commune. Big decision.
Mélanie Laurent directs, co-writes and stars in this emotional French thriller set in the late 19th century. Laurent is Geneviève, a nurse who attempts to free Eugénie (Lou de Laâge), a woman committed to a mental asylum when her family learns she communicates with spirits. Carried by outstanding performances from its two leads, The Mad Women’s Ball poignantly sweeps the inequities of the era into its disturbing melodrama. An accomplished watch.
The Coen Brothers meet Wes Anderson in this black comedy thriller steered by two brilliant young female leads. Set in a snowy fishing town in Maine, Blow the Man Down follows sisters, played by Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe, who try to hide the body of a man after he attacked one of them and she fought back. While on their crime caper, they find themselves digging up the town matriarchs’ dark secrets, spinning this into a noir mystery. It’s as wonderful as it sounds.
A psychological thriller starring a pre-Joker Joaquin Phoenix? Yeah, more people need to watch You Were Never Really Here. Lynne Ramsay’s masterful take on a story about a hitman who’s hired to rescue a politician’s daughter from a human trafficking network, is stark, brutal and mercifully straight to the point, running at a taut 90 minutes. With Phoenix doing his brilliant committed actor thing, You Were Never Really Here is more than your average thriller.
Even if you’ve heard good things about The Handmaiden, nothing can prepare you for the insane twists this exquisite South Korean movie takes. Classed as an erotic psychological thriller, The Handmaiden contains explicit scenes you should probably avoid watching with parents around. It all kicks off with a con man wooing a Japanese heiress with the intention of committing her to an asylum once they’re married. But his pickpocket partner who poses as her maid strays from the plan. If you’ve been getting into South Korean films thanks to Parasite, this is a must watch.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021)
Following in the footsteps of Palm Springs, The Map of Tiny Perfect things is a rom-com exploring the lives of its protagonists through a time loop. Katheryn Newton and Kyle Allen star as Margaret and Mark, two teens repeating the same day over and over again. Their meet cute involves saving someone from being knocked into a pool by a beach ball. Charming and heartfelt, this is solid if not totally perfect viewing.
The Vast of Night is a curious indie sci-fi flick from debut director Andrew Patterson that plays with narrative in clever ways. Long, sweeping shots carry us after two young radio workers who investigate an audio frequency they think could be traced to aliens. The distinctive 1950s New Mexico setting, and characters delivering monologues with the smooth intonations of those on radio, all build an eerie atmosphere with satisfying payoff.
Luca Guadagnino’s horror picture framed in a bleak, art house window won’t be for everyone, but for those who go down the rabbit hole of its prestigious Berlin dance school, you’re in for a twisted treat. Tilda Swinton is the majestic lead teacher, who mentors young ingenue Dakota Johnson. Be warned: The flexible dancers bring new contortions to body horror. It’s a long movie, at over two and a half hours, but if you’re into disturbing visuals and a touch of witchcraft, there are a couple of jaw-dropping scenes you’ll want to stick around for.
Small Axe (2020)
A sublime anthology that doesn’t drop the ball across its five films. Small Axe is a collection of distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the ’60s to the ’80s. They’re all directed by Steve McQueen, who’s working at his exquisite best (when doesn’t he?), crafting stories such as courtroom drama Mangrove, based on the 1971 trial of the Mangrove Nine and starring Black Panther’s Letitia Wright. Take a seat and devour this massive achievement.
Sound of Metal (2019)
Sound of Metal scored a bunch of Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for the outstanding Riz Ahmed. (It won in two categories: best sound and best film editing.) He plays Ruben, a punk-metal drummer who unfortunately starts to lose his hearing. As well as struggling with a drug addiction, Ruben is forced to settle into his new life in the deaf community and to learn American Sign Language. The film’s stunning sound design immerses you in Ruben’s suspenseful story and the experiences of those around him.
Selah and the Spades (2019)
If you’re into the dark-things-happen-at-boarding-schools genre, then Selah and the Spades might be the subject to sign up for. A senior leads a faction called the Spades who sell drugs to other students. But Selah’s about to graduate, so must find the right candidate to carry on her legacy. Shot beautifully and guided by debut director Tayarisha Poe’s unique lens, this is a taste of even greater things to come.
Shia LaBeouf wrote the screenplay for this autobiographical movie about a child actor and his relationship with his father. We follow Otis, who’s traumatized after days on set accompanied by his father, a former rodeo clown. LaBeouf actually plays the character inspired by his father, giving Honey Boy even more psychological layers. This is fascinating, cinematic therapy from a singular perspective.
Following lovers from different backgrounds and temperaments, Pawel Pawlikowski’s historical drama is set in a ravaged, post-World War II Poland. Zula is an ambitious young singer faking a peasant identity, while Wiktor is a jazz musician holding auditions for a state-sponsored folk music ensemble. The politics are handled elegantly and the black-and-white visuals are precise and beautiful. For an 88-minute treat of a sumptuous, passionate, almost impossible love story, look no further than Cold War.
King Lear (2018)
King Lear is, of course, an adaptation of the Shakespeare play, but two powerful forces help this one stand out: Anthony Hopkins and Black Widow scene stealer Florence Pugh. Not to mention Emma Thompson! This adaptation is set in an alternative universe during the 21st century, where London is under strict military control. Lear is ready to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, but not all of them are accepting. If you’re OK with the Shakespearean dialogue, then simply sit back and marvel at Hopkins and a stacked ensemble cast, including Emily Watson, Jim Broadbent and Andrew Scott.
Pass Over (2018)
Before we jump into this Spike Lee film, note that it’s technically a recorded stage play. And yet somehow it captures cinematic magic, thanks in large part to the engaging performances from Jon Michael Hill and Julian Parker. They play two young men dreaming of the promised land from their fixed spot on the sidewalk. Educational, moving, funny and surprising, Pass Over will keep you on your toes more than you think.
Prepare for Amazon’s first big, prestigious movie to wallop you in the chest. A broken man who’s experienced terrible losses becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew. Lee Chandler’s story will hit you with punch after emotional punch, as will the immense performances from the likes of Michelle Williams. Another accomplishment from Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is full-bodied, unforgettable storytelling.
In trademark Jim Jarmusch style, this low-key indie narrows in on the finer details of regular life with a distinct sense of humor. Spanning one week, Paterson follows a bus driver and poet named Paterson who listens to passengers talking, takes his dog for walks and stops for beers at his local bar. Adam Driver alone makes all that endlessly watchable. Dotted with the idiosyncratic characters living in a New Jersey town, Paterson offers a wise take on life, delving into personal setbacks and the new paths weaved around them.
Uncle Frank (2020)
Need more Paul Bettany in your life? Of course you do, especially since WandaVision is done and dusted. Try Uncle Frank, a road flick set in the ’70s about a gay man and his relationship with his family, including niece and college student Beth (Sophia Lillis from the It movies and I Am Not Okay With This). The pair drive across America to attend a funeral, Frank grappling with whether to let his partner Wally (Peter Macdissi) come along. A comedy with sharp edges, Uncle Frank ultimately leaves you on an assuringly positive note.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
Amazon Prime Video
Nearly 15 years after Kazakh journalist and TV personality Borat first graced our big screens, he’s back playing pranks on unsuspecting Americans while delivering some incredibly incisive cultural commentary. In Borat 2, or Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Borat’s on a trip to the US to offer his daughter Tutar (played by a revelatory Maria Bakalova) to Vice President Mike Pence during the 2020 presidential election — and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare to cringe at the doubled-down political incorrectness before succumbing to the outrageous laughs.
Get Duked! (2019)
A teen comedy-horror-thriller with a dash of social commentary. What a combo! Get Duked! follows three slacker students, one nerd and their mundane teacher as they head to the Scottish Highlands to attempt to win an award involving navigating the area using just a paper map. Everything becomes a little more thrilling when the four teens end up fending for themselves against murderous hunter the Duke, played by the brilliant Eddie Izzard. The whole young ensemble is fantastic, playing with a tight script crackling with banter. Boy Scouts meets Attack the Block, Get Duked! is chaos walking, cussing and eating questionable local flora.
An enjoyable comedy, yes, but Brittany Runs a Marathon also hits close to home, focusing on the things we’re all obsessed with: food, body image and exercise. Brittany, played by the effortlessly relatable Jillian Bell, receives strong advice from her doctor to lose weight and cut the hard-partying lifestyle. She starts running, taking all the tough steps toward the life-changing finish line. Watch it from your couch, then be inspired to head outside for a jog.
Written by and starring Mindy Kaling, Late Night follows an acclaimed news show host whose ratings are on the decline. She hires a female, Indian-American writer to shake up her white-male writer’s room. Never preachy, while making an argument for transforming Emma Thompson into a real-life talk show host, Late Night is lively comedy with hints of The Devil Wears Prada. That alone should be a solid reason to watch it.
Sylvie’s Love (2020)
While Sylvie’s Love is, at its core, an old-fashioned love story, its dewy romance is remarkably refreshing: a period drama centered on Black people that isn’t dominated by issues of race and bigotry. Set in an aesthetically enchanting ’60s New York City, it follows Sylvie and Robert, who have a chance to reconnect after a summer romance five years earlier. Both work in music, and the film’s soundtrack, featuring Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and more, helps transport you to this glowing place.
The Big Sick introduced the world to Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the movie based on his real-life romance with partner Emily V. Gordon. After the pair go on a few promising dates, Emily inexplicably falls ill and must be placed in an induced coma. While Kumail gets to know her worried parents at the hospital, his own Pakistani family keeps arranging dates for him with other women. Not only ripe for cultural comedy setups, The Big Sick is also a down-to-earth and heartfelt story of an interracial couple.
I’m Your Woman (2020)
Not your usual crime thriller, I’m Your Woman follows the perspective of a mobster’s wife, played by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan. A betrayal forces Jean to go on the run with a newborn baby and a bodyguard, her husband’s former associate Cal (Arinzé Kene). The ’70s-set neo-noir circles around themes like racial tensions, privilege and survival. It moves along at a surprisingly steady pace, giving you time to absorb the powerful psychological impact of Jean’s new situation.
Based on the life of British adventurer Percy Fawcett, The Lost City of Z drops you into the Amazon rainforest on the search for an ancient lost city. If that setup for adventure isn’t enticing enough, the movie stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland… with a mustache. A beautiful, grandiose film put together with great care, The Lost City of Z might move slower than you think, but that only enhances its fascinating psychological layers.
Guava Island (2019)
This tale comes from the minds of a stellar team, including Donald Glover, his brother Stephen Glover and Atlanta collaborator Hiro Murai. Donald Glover voices the free-spirited Deni Maroon, a musician who lives with Kofi, voiced by none other than Rihanna. Deni encounters various obstacles on his mission to hold a music festival for his island community, exploring big themes such as capitalism through the film’s short, 56-minute runtime. Note that Rihanna doesn’t sing, but overall this musical is just catchy and sweet enough to warrant a look.
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more
A ton of movies hit Netflix this week. Which ones are actually worth watching? Well…
On Monday, fans of Zach Braff’s directing work can catch Going in Style (2017). It’s no Garden State, but the crime movie has an all-star cast, including Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman.
On Tuesday, you have animated movie Bright: Samurai Soul (2021). If you watched Bright (2017), the odd, poorly-received Will Smith live-action urban fantasy from a couple years back, this is a spinoff. Let’s hope the anime, set in the early years of Japan’s Meiji Restoration, fares a little better. Notably, Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu has a voice role.
On Thursday, try the very Black Mirror-esque A World Without (2021). The Indonesian movie is set in a dystopian future where dating is outlawed.
On Friday, give the well-received The Trip (2021) a go. The Norwegian action thriller follows a dysfunctional couple who go to a remote cabin under the pretence of working on their relationship. Secretly, they both have the same plan: To literally kill the other one. Perfect for a Friday night.
Notably, on Saturday, you can watch Victoria & Abdul (2017). The historical drama stars Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an Indian clerk, played by Ali Fazal.
Now playing:Watch this: What’s new to stream for October 2021
Best Netflix Original movies
The Dig (2021)
This fine British drama excavates a whole lot of buried treasure with a distinguished cast in Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James and Johnny Flynn. It’s based on the true events around the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo, yielding a priceless trove of Anglo-Saxon artefacts hidden in a burial ship. Romantic, intellectual and moving, The Dig is a full sweep of elegance.
While it’s not the next Sideways, Uncorked offers another look at people working in the wine business. Mamoudou Athie stars as Elijah, an aspiring master sommelier torn between his dream and his duty to his struggling family restaurant. The strained father-son relationship between Elijah and Courtney B. Vance’s Louis is handled with a welcome realism that elevates this sweet-tasting film. Worth cracking open.
A black-and-white David Fincher tale about the unsung screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz who helped Orson Welles write Citizen Kane. Step back into Old Hollywood, with beautiful cinematography and take in the behind-the-scenes of how studio systems functioned in a different time. Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried are among the exceptional cast of this biographical drama filled with the lightness and darkness of its hero’s life.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Falling into the movies that make you cry category, Pieces of a Woman is an emotional well that’ll steep you in melancholy. Martha’s home birth leads to a schism in her marriage as her life falls to pieces. Known for its opening 24-minute childbirth one-shot, this portrait of grief will ultimately take you to poignant places. Plus, see Vanessa Kirby put in her career best performance.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
An Aaron Sorkin drama based on a true story? The Trial of the Chicago 7 lives up to its pedigree, following the real-life trial of a group of anti-Vietnam War protestors charged with conspiracy to incite riots. With a stellar ensemble cast, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is both topical and full of compelling theatrical energy.
Marriage Story (2019)
A movie about divorce might not sound like the best viewing experience, but Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a journey you’ll want to take. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver give two of the best performances of their careers as Nicole and Charlie, a couple who embark on the emotionally and logistically complicated legal processes involved in prying a partnership apart. Painted with an emotional complexity that includes poignantly funny moments along with the painful ones, this is happy-sad at its best.
The Two Popes (2019)
Set primarily in Vatican City, this biographical drama follows Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the aftermath of the Vatican leaks scandal. It’s as fascinating as it sounds. The Two Popes carves up a slice of real-life drama with a first-class two-hander featuring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins.
Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical snapshot of the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City tells a small story with staggering prowess. Let Cuaron steer you through the ups and downs of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family. His lens captures intricately beautiful scenes in an album that quietly envelopes you with wonder and grace.
Happy as Lazzaro (2018)
This Italian film has the seal of approval from Bong Joon-ho, so let’s listen to the Oscar-winning director of Parasite and add it to this list. Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, Happy as Lazzaro is set in the ’70s on a tobacco farm, where good-hearted young peasant Lazzaro dutifully works. When a nobleman convinces him to help him fake his own kidnapping, a story of friendship, innocence and social commentary unfolds. A gorgeously shot, cinematic fairytale.
Sunday’s Illness (2018)
This elegant Spanish film will steep you in its rich imagery and phenomenally good performances from its two leads. Susi Sánchez and Bárbara Lennie star as Anabel and Chiara respectively, an estranged mother and daughter who reunite for reasons that aren’t as clear as they first seem. The precision of the filmmaking here is worthy of soaking up for those who’re partial to deliberately paced meditations on pain, love and loss. Masterful.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)
Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a career best performance in The Kindergarten Teacher, a drama about, yep, a kindergarten teacher. Lisa is dissatisfied with her own life, which leads her to make some questionable decisions regarding one of her young students. When Jimmy exhibits child prodigy levels of poetry writing talent, Lisa may or may not take credit for it. The Kindergarten Teacher’s slightly disturbing character study might leave you feeling conflicted, but there’s no question about Gyllenhaal’s mesmerizing performance. Watch it.
Mudbound gives you a historical look at class struggle through the lens of a Black veteran and a white veteran who both still have one foot stuck in World War II. Dealing with PTSD and racism in the Mississippi Delta, with a cast that includes Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell, Mudbound’s tempest will rivet you to the spot.
Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
This lauded independent film from several years back showcases the talents of Tatiana Maslany, aka one Marvel’s newest heroes, who’ll be starring in the Disney Plus She-Hulk series. Before that, see her in Two Lovers and a Bear, alongside the similarly talented Dane DeHaan. The dark love story follows Roman and Lucy, two lovers living in small-town Canada. Roman can speak to bears, while Lucy believes she has a stalker. Become swept up in this surreal and thrilling adult fairy tale elevated by the chemistry between Maslany and DeHaan.
I Care a Lot (2020)
This propulsive, stylish comedy thriller is based on real-life crimes, which makes it all the more riveting. I Care a Lot stars a cooler than ever Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a con artist whose figured out a way to exploit old people and take their assets by becoming their legal guardians. Crime lords, devoted criminal girlfriends and aviator sunglasses feature in this rip-roaring flick with a fascinating morally ambiguous lead character.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
A psychological thriller that dives deep into the surreal. I’m Thinking of Ending Things definitely won’t be for everyone, but it connects you to the frustrations of the young woman (Jessie Buckley) at its heart, who grapples with breaking off her seven-week-relationship with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons). While it overstays its welcome a little, I’m Thinking of Ending Things always keeps you on your toes, with atmospheric cinematography and strong performances from Toni Collette and David Thewlis as Jake’s fairly odd parents. Fans of director-writer Charlie Kaufman will be pleased.
The Call (2020)
Two movies named The Call came out in 2020. Watch the South Korean one, a time travel thriller revolving around, yep, a phone call. Twenty-eight-year-old Seo-yeon finds a phone buried in a closet in her childhood home. It rings — and the caller, it turns out, is living in the same house 20 years earlier. Twists right up to the final moment, plus a wild cat-and-mouse chase that alters the past and present make this a must-watch.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
If you’ve had a bad day, this might be the movie for you. When the police refuse to help with a robbery, nursing assistant Ruth and her weird neighbor Tony take matters into their own hands. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore spots the idiosyncrasies of everyday life, before escalating its story into dark places with even darker humor. With a touch of Coen Brothers’ flair, its perfectly packed 96 minutes will leave you surprisingly emotional.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) in this contained sci-fi thriller. Inside a coffin-like medical cryo unit, Laurent’s Elizabeth Hansen wakes up to find that she’s trapped, running out of oxygen and can’t remember why she’s there. Claustrophobic and high on tension, Oxygen is a solid sci-fi entry, efficient and satisfying, without breaking any ground.
Adjust your expectations for this astronaut sci-fi. With only a handful of main characters played as the most normal of people, this is grounded space fare focused on a moral dilemma: When ship captain Marina (Toni Collette) discovers a stowaway (Shamier Anderson), a life or death decision must be made. Oxygen’s running out and won’t be enough for their two-year trip to Mars. Anna Kendrick’s medical researcher Zoe emerges as the heart of the crew, though Collette’s intense deliberation as captain makes it all believable. Watch out for a divisive ending.
I Am Mother (2019)
I Am Mother might cover familiar sci-fi territory, but if you’re after some James Cameron and Ridley Scott-channeling thrills, you’re in the right place. We follow a young girl named Daughter, who lives in a post-apocalyptic bunker with her robot, named Mother, whose purpose is to aid the repopulation of Earth. This intriguing premise and setting is ripe for suspense and dark twists, which I Am Mother delivers in style.
The Platform (2019)
From Netflix’s impressive stash of international films comes Spanish sci-fi horror The Platform. Its high-concept story centers on a tower that delivers food to people on each of its many levels via a platform. Those at the top get the best and most abundant spread, which is devoured as the platform lowers down the levels. Social commentary rings throughout this dystopian thriller, which takes shocking, occasionally gruesome turns all the way to the bottom.
Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)
Vampires vs. the Bronx is a unique comedy-horror in more ways than one. Set in the New York borough of the Bronx, it follows young Miguel Martinez, a big-hearted kid helping to raise money for his struggling local bodega before it’s forced to sell. But it’s not just new designer clothing stores threatening to move in: Creepy pale neck-chompers are eating up people and their properties. A commentary on gentrification with goofy charm, twists and thrills, Vampires vs. the Bronx is a fresh, entertaining spin on the genre.
His House (2020)
His House is a horror flick that hits close to home. Revealing its supernatural evils through a harrowing human story, it follows Bol and Rial, a refugee couple from Sudan, who struggle to adapt to their new life in an English town. Don’t expect straightforward jump scares — His House plays into the psychological specters of the past, adding even more corridors of torment. A heartrending, powerful piece.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
If you liked The Haunting of Hill House, then check out Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Stephen King novel Gerald’s Game. Carla Gugino is immense as Jessie, who goes on holiday with her husband at an isolated lake house in Alabama. Largely sticking to a bedroom setting, we see the couple’s troubles go from bad to worse, with Jessie ending up in the impossible situation of being handcuffed to the bed with no one to help her escape. Gerald’s Game leads to narratively and emotionally satisfying conclusions, with Flanagan’s melancholy-suffused horror that surges into quiet triumph for its haunted characters.
Tennis-playing buddies Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) receive devastating news: Michael has terminal stomach cancer. Struggling to let go of his dying friend, Andy joins Michael’s road trip in search of medication to end things before they get too painful. Folding comedy into melancholy, Paddleton eases the touching friendship at its core into deftly-affecting places.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy returned from his acting break with a glorious performance as Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who played a character called Dolemite in stand-up routines and blaxploitation films from the ’70s. Dolemite Is My Name follows Moore from his job at a record store to the big screen. Tracking Moore’s rise to fame and its bizarre and enthralling turns, Dolemite Is My Name does justice to both Moore’s and Murphy’s talents.
The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)
The Meyerowitz Stories is a bittersweet comedy-drama told through Noah Baumbach’s grounded lens. The titular stories concern dysfunctional adult siblings, played by Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, trying to live in the shadow of their father. An effervescent cast, including Dustin Hoffman, play these intelligent, albeit miserable, characters as they weave their poignant tales.
The Half of It (2020)
This original YA movie tells the story of Ellie Chu, a shy Asian American in the remote town of Squahamish discovering her sexuality. A straight-A yet friendless student who has a side-hustle writing papers for her classmates, Ellie helps footballer Paul Munsky write a love letter to Aster Flores. But it turns out Aster’s perfect for Ellie instead. A story of self-acceptance told with a delicate touch, The Half of It is a joy.
Always Be My Maybe (2019)
A rom-com with a Keanu Reeves cameo and a deep love of food, Always Be My Maybe might just have everything you could wish for. Chef Sasha and musician Marcus reconnect long after their brief fling as teenagers. Always Be My Maybe wraps you up in warm comedy that doesn’t always go to expected places.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
Aside from its unconventional name, this historical romance film is cosy fare that’ll cover all the right bases. It’s the 1940s and the island of Guernsey is under German occupation. Juliet Ashton (Lily James) and her friends avoid curfew by pretending they’re returning from a hastily made up book club. Later, Juliet decides to write about said book club, which goes ahead and becomes a real thing. With a little mystery, a whole lot of romance and the occasional tearjerking moment, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is prime period drama viewing.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
The YA book adaptation that rocketed Noah Centineo to heartthrob status. Playing off a charming concept, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sees Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), a half-Korean, half-white girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, write letters to all the boys she has crushes on. Then her fun little sister sends them off without her knowing. While it hits all the comforting rom-com beats, there’s a layer of rare representation that gives this an edge over your average teen flick.
The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
The Incredible Jessica James introduces a delightfully self-possessed main character played by an equally delightful Jessica Williams. The confident and independent Jessica James goes on a blind date where she ends up talking about nothing but her ex. A fresh take on the breakup movie with an empowering lead, this is an easy hit for an entertaining night in.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
One of the best new family movies has just hit Netflix. From some of the same people who made Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse comes this adventure to save the world involving Mom, Dad, the kids and their slobbery, bug-eyed dog. But amid the robot apocalypse, led by Olivia Colman’s sinister Siri, really The Mitchells vs. the Machines is about a strained relationship between movie-loving daughter Katie and her technophobe father. The technology-inept parent gags are rife, the colors frenetic and the character growth moving. A near-perfect package with the timeless message that embracing your weirdness is a superpower.
You guessed it — this one’s about Christmas. But Klaus isn’t a conventional Santa tale. It spins an alternative origin story for the big guy with inspiration from history’s Saint Nicholas of Myra. In a fictional 19th-century island town to the Far North, we follow a postman who befriends a reclusive toymaker named Klaus. Along with its beautifully hand-drawn animation, Klaus is a unique, complex take on holiday generosity.
I Lost My Body (2019)
This award-winning French film begins with a severed hand escaping a refrigerator in a laboratory and embarking on a Paris-wide search for the rest of its body. What an opening! With a few flashbacks and elegant animation, this strange, satisfying story delves into loss, both physical and emotional, in the most poetic of ways.
News of the World (2020)
Tom Hanks in a Western directed by Jason Bourne’s Paul Greengrass. Enjoy Hanks going full Mandalorian single dad mode as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who discovers a young girl years after she was captured by Native Americans as a baby. In between helping to return her to her family, he does his usual job of traveling to towns and reading newspapers for a small fee. Don’t expect high-octane action: This road movie is fueled more by character development and the beautiful views. Still, you’ll want to settle in for a comforting ride with pure sympathetic Hanks at the steering wheel.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Coen Brothers kick up the western dust with an anthology film that gives you six vignettes all set on the American frontier. One of them is about the titular Buster Scruggs, a chipper singing cowboy who casually sets off a shoot-up in a cantina. But there’s a dark twist that keeps you on your toes. Sewing the rest of its stories together with a constant black humor, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Coen Brothers winner.
2017’s Okja comes from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho — which should be incentive enough to watch it. Part cheeky dark comedy, part surreal environmental thriller, Okja follows a young South Korean farmer girl whose pet pal is a genetically enhanced super-pig. But Okja is the target of a big corporation that wants her delicious flesh. With an English supporting cast including the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, Okja sucks you in with its sweetness before showing you a distressing close-up of the meat industry.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Spike Lee’s fierce war drama follows a group of aging Vietnam War veterans who return to the country in search of the remains of their squad leader — as well as buriedtreasure. With a frenzied energy coursing through it, Da 5 Bloods gives you a look at the Vietnam War through Black experiences, delivering an all-too-timely critique of racism and warfare.
The Irishman (2019)
Spanning the lives of its mobsters over multiple decades, The Irishman pulls off a 3-and-a-half-hour crime saga. But don’t worry — you can break up this tour de force if you need to. Always clever and entertaining, with Martin Scorsese favorites Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci commanding the screen, The Irishman creeps up on you, offering a haunting look at aging mobsters and the havoc they wreak.
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga gives you a sobering look at the life of a boy who becomes a child soldier in a West African country embroiled in civil war. Idris Elba stars as the ruthless Commandant along with the astonishing Abraham Attah as the young Agu. A confronting yet quietly hopeful snapshot of war from a human perspective, Beasts of No Nation needs to be on your radar if it isn’t already.
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more