Empathy, Inc. Review — Low-Fi Thriller is a Chilling, Clever Must-See - Parade

Empathy, Inc. Review — Low-Fi Thriller is a Chilling, Clever Must-See - Parade

Empathy, Inc. Review — Low-Fi Thriller is a Chilling, Clever Must-See - Parade

Posted: 10 Sep 2019 11:23 AM PDT

Theatrical poster for 'Empathy Inc'
Theatrical poster for 'Empathy Inc' (Dark Star Pictures)

Grounded sci-fi thriller Empathy, Inc. is one of the freshest genre surprises of the fall movie season. Directed by Yedidya Gorsetman and scripted by Mark Leidner, it's suspenseful and provocative–a small-scale yarn that packs a punch.

Zack Robidas stars as Joel, an investor in the wake of a highly publicized scandal, due to a startup gone belly-up. Wife Jessica (Kathy Searle) stands by his side as he's defamed, and together they relocate to her parents' east coast home. Jessica's father (Fenton Lawless) and mother (Charmaine Reedy) waste no time in getting up in Joel's business, rather condescendingly telling him how he needs to rectify things.

Joel takes off for a drink that night, and he encounters old acquaintance Nick (Eric Berryman), who tells of a VR startup he's developing with partner Lester (Jay Klaitz). The [rather brilliant] concept: Users are immersed in the reality of someone less fortunate, which will in turn make users appreciate their life more than they did before. Even though Nick has a sketchy rep, a desperate Joel jumps in head first, swindling his father-in-law out of his life savings to get in on it. Things are not what they seem; informing you of much more of the plot would be a disservice. It's an ingenious story that keeps us guessing until the final moments.

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Truth bomb: This movie freaked me out more than any traditional horror film I've seen all year. The plot deftly grips into real-world, modern-day fears and anxieties that most Americans can relate to, and the high-contrast, carefully staged black-and-white widescreen cinematography is so low-fi it often feels like we're watching real events unfold. The photography calls to mind Darren Aronofsky's Pi and even David Lynch's Eraserhead without feeling particularly derivative. It all amounts to something that's altogether gripping. This could have come off as too chilly, but the story is told and performed with depth of feeling that set it apart. The title is no joke.

The cast is uniformly riveting and believable; I found Searle's performance as an anxious aspiring actress to be touching. Karen Lynn Gorney, best known as John Travolta's love interest in Saturday Night Fever, plays a small key role. Empathy, Inc. is now in a limited release; anyone who's keen on sci-fi that tickles the brain and chills the spine needs to seek it out. It's easy to be curious and excited about where these filmmakers, and the cast, go from here.

Related: The 15 Best, Most Suspenseful Thrillers on Hulu Right Now 

Running time: 97 minutes

Not rated: Contains violence, language and nightmarish elements.

Empathy, Inc. is now playing in select theaters, VOD Sept. 24.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda joins TheaterEars as Global Ambassador - HOLA! USA

Posted: 10 Sep 2019 01:49 PM PDT

Lin-Manuel Miranda wants the movie-going experience to be easier on all Latinx families. The Hamilton creator has teamed up with TheaterEars—an app that allows people to watch movies in cinemas in Spanish. As its new Global Ambassador, the 39-year-old star will help the startup create awareness amongst the Latinx and creative communities about the app that allows Spanish-speaking people see newly-released movies in theaters.  


Lin-Manuel MirandaVIEW GALLERY

Lin-Manuel Miranda is the new global ambassador for TheaterEars

Lin-Manuel, who is of Puerto Rican descent, shared how excited he is to open the door for so many Latinx families. "Shared family experiences are paramount in my household," he said in a statement. "As a member of the Latinx diaspora, English is not the only language spoken at home and in my family. Being able to go to see a movie as a family, thanks to TheaterEars, has opened a whole new world of entertainment for us to enjoy and discuss together regardless of ability to understand English." 

MORE: Lin-Manuel Miranda makes Broadway comeback with new limited run improv show 

The way the app works is easy—all you need is your phone and a pair of headphones. Once you select your movie, theater and showtime of choice, the app will automatically play a spanish audio track simultaneously with the movie on the big screen.  TheaterEars is currently available at all theaters in the United States and Puerto Rico and has already released over 70 major studio films, including Avengers: Endgame, Dora and the Lost City of Gold, and most recently IT Chapter 2.

Lin-Manuel MirandaVIEW GALLERY

TheaterEars is an app that allows people to watch movies in cinemas in Spanish

Over the past few years, Lin-Manuel has stacked up his résumé with his work and next up will make his directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom!  "We are truly honored that someone of Lin-Manuel's talent and intelligence has recognized the value of our efforts. He is an innovator and a disruptor, exactly who we wanted to work with," Dan Mangru, CEO of TheaterEars, said in a statement. "We've seen what a powerful voice for good Lin-Manuel can be, especially with all of the great work he has done for Puerto Rico and the Hispanic community. We share a common mission: to empower movie-going audiences everywhere, regardless of language." 

A $1 trillion opportunity: AmazingCo bags $5 million to capitalise on experience-based spending trend - SmartCompany.com.au

Posted: 09 Sep 2019 10:45 PM PDT

Melbourne experience startup AmazingCo has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding, including repeat investment from Aconex co-founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, to ramp up what co-founders Jeremy Cox and Silvia Hope believe could be a $1 trillion global opportunity.

Rampersand VC and Macdoch Ventures were also repeat investors, and Artesian also contributed to the round.

AmazingCo was originally founded in 2012 by Cox, Hope and co-founder Nick Brozovic as a children's party provider.

Since then, it has evolved into a platform providing experiences — from Blue Mountains picnics to dog-friendly bar crawls to backyard movie nights.

In June last year, the startup raised $2.3 million in seed funding to scale its operations and further expand the business overseas.

Now it's up and running in Australia and New Zealand, and in 23 cities in the US.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Cox says AmazingCo is on track to be in 50 cities globally by "very-early-2020".

"It means the world"

Hope says this latest funding round is "a lot about expansion".

The team will be focusing on "both the global city-by-city rollout, but also the experience creation".

While by early next year the plan is to have additional locations and customers, AmazingCo will also "be offering dozens of new experience formats which have all been designed from the ground up".

However, the round was also about securing continuing support from investors who believe in the startup and its vision.

"It means the world," Cox says.

For founders, it's important to find investors who believe in the mission and the vision of the business, he says.

"We have certainly found that — from the people who were there very early on to those that are coming on board in this round."

While some of the investors are very active, jumping on the phone every week or once a month, others are happy to stay on the sidelines, and to jump in when needed, Cox explains.

Either way, "any time we send an email, or a request for help, there's a significant amount of support that comes back", he says.

"The key here is knowing your investors, working out how they can help, how they want to help, and being targeted in the requests you would put out there."

A $1 trillion opportunity

Ultimately, the co-founders believe the investment will pay off.

In the future, the biggest company in the world "will not be one that sells things, it will be one that sells experiences", Cox explains.

AmazingCo has a huge potential market, he adds. According to the OECD's Better Life Index, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita in Australia is just shy of $50,000.

"Stack that up across 50 cities — you're talking about a $1 trillion opportunity here," Cox says.

Equally, there is a shifting trend in the way people are spending that disposable income, he says, with people buying fewer things, and "more memories, he says.

"We are the sum of our experiences, and AmazingCo can help people deploy their experiences better. If you do that right, then the monetary outcomes will look after themselves," Cox explains.

"For some investors, that's a vision that doesn't make sense. For others, it's a vision that makes complete sense."

Learn, reset, change

For other startups hoping to raise some cash, Cox explains any capital raise is "an ongoing journey".

When you're talking to investors, they may not be interested today, but you still want to make a contact that could come in handy in the future.

"Always have an eye on the relationships your building," he advises.

Equally, in any discussions "you're looking for people whose eyes light up", he says.

"Look for those moments of true connectedness to what you're working on."

If you book a 30-minute meeting that ends up running for 90 minutes, "that's a sign … of people who want to engage you in the problem space you've got".

Also speaking to StartupSmart, co-founder Silvia Hope adds that throughout the journey, there is "so much that we've learnt".

What is important, she says, is to take that new wisdom — both from external advice and your own experiences — and use it.

"As you learn, make sure you are implementing those learnings into what you're doing," she says.

"You've got to learn, you've got to reset, you've got to change … that's been really important for us."

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