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Intuit to Buy Credit Karma to Create Financial Data Giant

DealBook|Intuit to Buy Credit Karma to Create Financial Data Giant

The $7.1 billion transaction underscores the value of the financial details of ordinary Americans.

Credit…Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile, via Getty Images

Nathaniel PopperMichael J. de la Merced

SAN FRANCISCO — Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax and Mint, agreed on Monday to pay $7.1 billion for Credit Karma, a start-up that has become one of the most popular financial applications for young consumers.

The deal, which is being done with both cash and stock, is expected to create a Silicon Valley financial technology company that can help people easily get their credit scores, calculate and file their taxes and better access loans.

“By joining forces with Credit Karma, we can create a personalized financial assistant that will help consumers find the right financial products, put more money in their pockets and provide insights and advice,” Sasan Goodarzi, Intuit’s chief executive, said in a statement announcing the deal.

The acquisition underscores the value of the financial data of ordinary Americans. Credit Karma grew to be worth billions of dollars by giving people access to their credit scores and then used the information to serve them advertisements for new credit card and loans.

The company has been at the leading edge of a large group of financial technology start-ups that have encouraged younger consumers to make more of their financial decisions online and through their phone. Credit Karma says it has 100 million customers, including a third of all Americans who have a credit profile and half of all millennials.

Intuit has long been focused on helping businesses and consumers organize their financial data with products like QuickBooks and Mint. But the company belongs to an older generation of online financial firms and has been looking for ways to appeal to younger audiences.

After news of the deal leaked over the weekend, Intuit’s stock fell 3.6 percent on Monday before rising in after-hours trading.

Credit Karma had been expected to pursue an initial public offering. Its decision to sell itself to Intuit pointed to the increasing skepticism that investors had been showing toward tech start-ups. Several prominent tech start-ups, such as ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, went public last year but have seen their stock prices fall after Wall Street questioned whether they could make money.

Credit Karma was started in 2007 by Kenneth Lin, the current chief executive, and two co-founders after Mr. Lin had trouble acquiring his own credit score. Signing up for the site became a rite of passage for Americans looking to get their credit score in shape to apply for a mortgage.

Nathaniel Popper reported from San Francisco and Michael de la Merced from London.

How Technology Is Changing the Future of Higher Education

Labs test artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other innovations that could improve learning and lower costs for Generation Z and beyond.

Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

This article is part of our latest Learning special report. We’re focusing on Generation Z, which is facing challenges from changing curriculums and new technology to financial aid gaps and homelessness.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Cruising to class in her driverless car, a student crams from notes projected on the inside of the windshield while she gestures with her hands to shape a 3-D holographic model of her architecture project.

It looks like science fiction, an impression reinforced by the fact that it is being demonstrated in virtual reality in an ultramodern space with overstuffed pillows for seats. But this scenario is based on technology already in development.

The setting is the Sandbox ColLABorative, the innovation arm of Southern New Hampshire University, on the fifth floor of a downtown building with panoramic views of the sprawling red brick mills that date from this city’s 19th-century industrial heyday.

It is one of a small but growing number of places where experts are testing new ideas that will shape the future of a college education, using everything from blockchain networks to computer simulations to artificial intelligence, or A.I.

Theirs is not a future of falling enrollment, financial challenges and closing campuses. It’s a brighter world in which students subscribe to rather than enroll in college, learn languages in virtual reality foreign streetscapes with avatars for conversation partners, have their questions answered day or night by A.I. teaching assistants and control their own digital transcripts that record every life achievement.

The possibilities for advances such as these are vast. The structure of higher education as it is still largely practiced in America is as old as those Manchester mills, based on a calendar that dates from a time when students had to go home to help with the harvest, and divided into academic disciplines on physical campuses for 18- to 24-year-olds.

Universities may be at the cutting edge of research into almost every other field, said Gordon Jones, founding dean of the Boise State University College of Innovation and Design. But when it comes to reconsidering the structure of their own, he said, “they’ve been very risk-averse.”

Now, however, squeezed by the demands of employers and students — especially the up and coming Generation Z — and the need to attract new customers, some schools, such as Boise State and Southern New Hampshire University, are starting labs to come up with improvements to help people learn more effectively, match their skills with jobs and lower their costs.

One of these would transform the way students pay for higher education. Instead of enrolling, for example, they might subscribe to college; for a monthly fee, they could take whatever courses they want, when they want, with long-term access to advising and career help.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the places mulling a subscription model, said Richard DeMillo, director of its Center for 21st Century Universities. It would include access to a worldwide network of mentors and advisers and “whatever someone needs to do to improve their professional situation or acquire a new skill or get feedback on how things are going.”

Boise State is already piloting this concept. Its Passport to Education costs $425 a month for six credit hours or $525 for nine in either of two online bachelor’s degree programs. That’s 30 percent cheaper than the in-state, in-person tuition.

Paying by the month encourages students to move faster through their educations, and most are projected to graduate in 18 months, Mr. Jones said. The subscription model has attracted 47 students so far, he said, with another 94 in the application process.

However they pay for it, future students could find other drastic changes in the way their educations are delivered.

Georgia Tech has been experimenting with a virtual teaching assistant named Jill Watson, built on the Jeopardy-winning IBM Watson supercomputer platform. This A.I. answers questions in a discussion forum alongside human teaching assistants; students often can’t distinguish among them, their professor says. More Jill Watsons could help students get over hurdles they encounter in large or online courses. The university is working next on developing virtual tutors, which it says could be viable in two to five years.

S.N.H.U., in a collaboration with the education company Pearson, is testing A.I. grading. Barnes & Noble Education already has an A.I. writing tool called bartleby write, named for the clerk in the Herman Melville short story, that corrects grammar, punctuation and spelling, searches for plagiarism and helps create citations.

At Arizona State University, A.I. is being used to watch for signs that A.S.U. Online students might be struggling, and to alert their academic advisers.

“If we could catch early signals, we could go to them much earlier and say, ‘Hey you’re still in the window’ ” to pass, said Donna Kidwell, chief technology officer of the university’s digital teaching and learning lab, EdPlus.

Another harbinger of things to come sits on a hillside near the Hudson River in upstate New York, where an immersion lab with 15-foot walls and a 360-degree projection system transports Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute language students to China, virtually.

The students learn Mandarin Chinese by conversing with A.I. avatars that can recognize not only what they say but their gestures and expressions, all against a computer-generated backdrop of Chinese street markets, restaurants and other scenes.

Julian Wong, a mechanical engineering major in the first group of students to go through the program, “thought it would be cheesy.” In fact, he said, “It’s definitely more engaging, because you’re actively involved with what’s going on.”

Students in the immersion lab mastered Mandarin about twice as fast as their counterparts in conventional classrooms, said Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer.

Dr. Jackson, a physicist, was not surprised. The students enrolling in college now “grew up in a digital environment,” she said. “Why not use that to actually engage them?”

Slightly less sophisticated simulations are being used in schools of education, where trainee teachers practice coping with simulated schoolchildren. Engineering students at the University of Michigan use an augmented-reality track to test autonomous vehicles in simulated traffic.

The way these kinds of learning get documented is also about to change. A race is underway to create a lifelong transcript.

Most academic transcripts omit work or military histories, internships, apprenticeships and other relevant experience. And course names such as Biology 301 or Business 102 reveal little about what students have actually learned.

“The learner, the learning provider and the employer all are speaking different languages that don’t interconnect,” said Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work.

A proposed solution: the “interoperable learning record,” or I.L.R. (proof that, even in the future, higher education will be rife with acronyms and jargon).

The I.L.R. would list the specific skills that people have learned — customer service, say, or project management — as opposed to which courses they passed and majors they declared. And it would include other life experiences they accumulated.

This “digital trail” would remain in the learner’s control to share with prospective employers and make it easier for a student to transfer academic credits earned at one institution to another.

American universities, colleges and work force training programs are now awarding at least 738,428 unique credentials, according to a September analysis by a nonprofit organization called Credential Engine, which has taken on the task of translating these into a standardized registry of skills.

Unlike transcripts, I.L.R.s could work in two directions. Not only could prospective employees use them to look for jobs requiring the skills they have; employers could comb through them to find prospective hires with the skills they need.

“We’re trying to live inside this whole preindustrial design and figure out how we interface with technology to take it further,” said Dr. Kidwell of Arizona State. “Everybody is wrangling with trying to figure out which of these experiments are really going to work.”

This story was produced in collaboration with The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

Venmo prototypes a debit card for teenagers

Allowance is going digital. Venmo has been spotted prototyping a new feature that would allow adult users to create a debit card connected to their account for their teenage children. That could potentially let parents set spending notifications and limits while giving kids more flexibility in urgent situations than a few dollars stuffed in a pocket.

Delving into children’s banking could establish a new reason for adults to sign up for Venmo, get them saving more in Venmo debit accounts where the company can earn interest on the cash, and drive purchase frequency that racks up interchange fees for Venmo’s owner PayPal .

But Venmo is arriving late to the teen debit card market. Startups like Greenlight and Step let parents manage teen spending on dedicated debit cards. More companies like Kard and neo banking giant Revolut have announced plans to launch their own versions. And Venmo’s prototype uses very similar terminology to that of Current, a frontrunner in the children’s banking space with over 500,000 accounts that raised a $20 million Series B late last year.

The first signs of Venmo’s debit card were spotted by reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong who’s provided slews of accurate tips to TechCrunch in the past. Hidden in Venmo’s Android app is code revealing a “delegate card” feature, designed to let users create a debit card that’s connected to their account but has limited privileges.

A screenshot generated from hidden code in Venmo’s app, via Jane Manchun Wong

A set up screen Wong was able to generate from the code shows the option to “Enter your teen’s info”, because “We’ll use this to set up the debit card”. It asks parents to enter their child’s name, birthdate, and “What does your teen call you?” That’s almost identical to the “What does [your child’s name] call you?” set up screen for Current’s teen debit card.

When TechCrunch asked about the teen debit feature and when it might launch, a Venmo spokesperson gave a cagey response that implies it’s indeed internally testing the option, writing “Venmo is constantly working to identify ways to refine and enhance the user experience. We frequently test product offerings to understand the value it could have for our users, and I don’t have anything further to share right now.”

Typically, the tech company product development flow see them come up with ideas, mock them up, prototype them in their real apps as internal-only features, test them externally with small percentages of real users, and then launch them officially if feedback and data is positive throughout. It’s unclear when Venmo might launch teen debit cards, though the product could always be scrapped. It’d need to move fast to beat Revolut and Kard to market.

The launch would build upon the June 2018 launch of Venmo’s branded MasterCard debit card that’s monetized through interchange fees and interest on savings. It offers payment receipts with options to split charges with friends within Venmo, free withdrawls at MoneyPass ATMs, rewards, and in-app features for reseting your PIN or disabling a stolen card. Venmo also plans to launch a credit card issued by Synchrony this year.

Venmo might look to equip its teen debit card with popular features from competitors, like automatic weekly allowance deposits, notifications of all purchases, or the ability to block spending at certain merchants. It’s unclear if it will charge a fee like the $36 per year subscription for Current.

Current offers these features for parents who set up a teen debit card

Tech startups are increasingly pushing to offer a broad range of financial services where margins are high. It’s an easy way to earn cheap money at a time when unit economics are coming under scrutiny in the wake of the WeWork implosion. Investors are pinning their hopes on efficient financial services too, pouring $34 billion into fintech startups during 2019.

Venmo’s already become a popular way for younger people to split the bill for Uber rides or dinner. Bringing social banking to a teen demographic probably should have been its plan all along.

Homie CEO resigns after allegations of sexual harassment from job applicant

Jordi Greenham, the co-founder and CEO of Mexican long-term rentals startup Homie, has resigned after a sexual harassment investigation was carried out by the company’s ethics board.

On February 14, Homie launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Greenham, according to a corporate Facebook post. The message followed reports of sexual harassment that were posted to Facebook earlier the same day. In them, a woman, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy, claimed that CEO Greenham propositioned her in a WhatsApp message around 1: 30 a.m. on February 14 to spend the night with him in exchange for 3,000 pesos (about $150 USD).

Below is a screenshot of her Facebook post, which translates to English as:

Today, Jordi Greenham Asensio, co-founder of Homie offered me money to spend the night with him. It should be noted that we do not have a personal connection and that he contacted me on LinkedIn a few months ago to offer me a job at his company, we communicated through WhatsApp to schedule the interviews and for his team to communicate with me. I carried out the process and I did not get the position and there, that is the extension of the “relationship”.

It is not correct that someone, in this case a man, thinks that it is acceptable to make these types of solicitations. It makes me angry that I delayed in saying something about this in thinking that there are no consequences for these types of actions. Attached evidence of the conversation.

The WhatsApp exchange can be translated to English here:

Homie CEO Greenham:

Hi

I would like to see you

Recipient:

Can you explain to me the random texts at strange hours?

Homie CEO Greenham:

No, there is no rational explanation.

It was irrational. But I understand that it doesn’t interest you

How much could I pay you for one night?

3,000?

The woman tells TechCrunch that she met Greenham once through a mutual friend five years ago but had no contact with him since that initial introduction until he reached out to her on LinkedIn in September 2019. She told TechCrunch she had been interested in a role at the fast-growing startup, and communicated with Greenham over WhatsApp to arrange interviews and discuss the position. Ultimately, after interviewing for the role, she says she never heard back from the company.

TechCrunch reached out to both Greenham and Homie on February 21. Homie responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment on the 23rd with this statement:

“On the 14th of February, the Homie Board of Directors was informed of the unacceptable behavior of the CEO and took immediate action. The Board’s Ethics Committee carried out the necessary investigation and on the 16th of February, after having discussed it internally, Jordi Greenham Asensio resigned as CEO and President of the company. The fast and unwavering action of the Board reflects our commitment for the highest standard of conduct, in all levels of the organization. The opinions and comments of Jordi Greenham no longer represent that of Homie.”

Homie’s February 14 Facebook post detailed that its code of ethics deems harassment, discrimination and gender violence to be unacceptable and that those standards apply to “all levels of the organization.”

Homie, which has raised $8.2 million, is currently active in more than 100 Mexican cities. According to Crunchbase, the company employs between 100-250 people. Homie recently raised a $7 million Series A round in December 2019 led by Equity International, a fund founded by American billionaire Sam Zell.

Amy Reeder Takes Us Back to Gemworld with Amethyst’s Latest Adventure

The first year of Wonder Comics’ Young Justice reintroduced Gemworld and its most famous resident, Amethyst, propelling the character to a new 12-issue Amethyst series from writer and artist Amy Reeder, launching this week!

While Reeder is a huge fan of the original Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld series and the ‘80s fantasy aesthetic, she’s embracing a modern-day sensibility for an “entirely new” vision of Amethyst and the unique section of the DC Universe she inhabits. DC Nation talked to Reeder about her plans for growing Amethyst by upending her status quo…and the psychedelic visuals she has planned along the way.

Anyone who follows you on social media can see your affection for Amethyst. What is it about the character that you love so much? 

Princess Amethyst and Gemworld embody all the best elements of children’s fantasy from my childhood. I was born in 1980 and most of my all-time favorite cartoons came from that decade. There is something about the worldbuilding—these fantastical worlds that felt old and new all at once—that became a part of me, influencing the way I dream and see beauty. I wanted to contribute to the world that helped form mine!

I also think it’s really special that Amethyst and Gemworld exist within the DCU. We’re talking female lead, fantasy and an overabundance of purple. That is something I want to encourage and protect!

I love that the princess herself has ties to Earth. She represents us in this strange world, and we get to experience it with her. She’s an earnest 16-year-old who wants to do the right thing—the real trick is, how do you know what’s right?

Also, her name is Amy. How cool is that?

Readers have seen Amethyst in Young Justice as of late, but this is the first solo series for the character in years. How do you see her as uniquely meaningful today? 

I love this question because it’s exactly what sparked the whole plot. Amy has a “Little Miss Perfect” personality, and as a writer that’s not always easy to work with, especially with readers looking for a little more meat. How do I write a story about a princess who already has everything figured out?

For me, it made sense to take the ground out from beneath her—and that starts out literally. She returns to the Amethyst Realm and it’s torn out, her people nowhere to be found. And in her quest for answers, she learns all sorts of other things that turn her world on its head.

For me, upending the status quo seemed like the best way for readers to realistically identify with someone who has that much power over others.

Exploring Gemworld looks to be a huge part of this. What can you share about your process in building the world?

Gemworld gives me so much to work with! Reading the original series by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Ernie Colon, it’s clear that almost anything goes and I’m embracing that. This is a dreamland. It’s divided up into 12 realms, all based on the birthstones, which I love. I’m giving each realm a different geography and a distinct look to each set of people. I have a fascination with landscapes and cultures, and with that I’m trying to create something that feels entirely new.

I’ve also done quite a bit of crystal research! Given that crystals are such a big trend these days, I thought it would be fun to amp up that angle, too. I’m paying attention to the patterns in raw crystal formation, and I’ve thrown a little bit of crystal healing in there, too. It is truly a gem-obsessed book.

Gemworld is a vast and obviously colorful setting. What type of visual inspiration have you drawn from for this series? 

Mostly, I’m just trying to keep my world quiet so I can listen to myself. I often have dreams with crazy visuals, and it’s tough to remember it all, but I know I’ve got libraries of psychedelic stuff stored in my brain somewhere. I just try to trust that it’s there and let it appear.

And that all stems from the visuals I loved from my childhood. If anything, I’d say I was inspired by The Neverending Story and She-Ra, Return to Oz, The Secret of NIMH and Unico in the Island of Magic, too.

You’ve stated this series finds Amethyst “among the people.” How important is that aspect to how you approach the series and its title character? 

It’s vital! Princess Amethyst is more accustomed to dealing with fellow (mostly adult) royals than she is with everyday people, but in this story, the royals turn on her. This forces her to deal with everyday people, but it turns out that slice-of-life Gemworld is actually pretty stunning. She gets to explore the world all over again, from a completely different angle.

I gave her two new teenage friends, and I think they’ll be a major highlight of the book. I’m working to make sure they don’t steal the spotlight too much, but it’ll be the three of them, taking on the world, each one riding a ridiculous animal, because again—no rules!

 

Amethyst #1, written and illustrated by Amy Reeder, is on sale February 26 in print and as a digital download.

DC UNIVERSE What to Watch and Read This March

What to Watch and Read on DC UNIVERSE This March

March your way to DC UNIVERSE for the latest comic books, animated movies and more, only available on the digital platform made for DC fans!

Holy binging Batman! All 13 episodes of Harley Quinn Original Animated Series Season 1 are now available to watch only on DC UNIVERSE. Catch up on all of the antics Harley, Ivy and the rest of the crew got into, ahead of the season 2 premiere on April 3.

The games continue on DC UNIVERSE with original episodes of the unscripted DC All Star Games, premiering every Friday. Executive producers Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sam Witwer are joined by Vanessa Marshall, Clare Grant, and Xavier Woods as they embark on a nostalgic role-playing adventure week to week.

With over 75 digital comics coming to DC UNIVERSE this March, there’s something available for everyone! From the landmark Detective Comics #1000, an issue that explores the past, present, and future of The Dark Knight or the ensemble classic, Super Friends (1976-1981) #1, subscribers will have a plethora of pages to explore each Tuesday in March.

New to WATCH This March:

Friday, March 6: DC All Star Games « Episode 2 »

Friday, March 13: DC All Star Games “Episode 3”

Friday, March 20: DC All Star Games “Episode 4”

Friday, March 27:  DC All Star Games “Episode 5”

New to READ This March:

Tuesday, March 3

  • Martian Manhunter (2018) #3
  • Shazam (2018) #
  • Action Comics (2016)  #1008
  • Batgirl (2016) #32
  • Batman Beyond (2016) #29
  • Detective Comics (2016) #999
  • The Flash (2016) #65
  • Wonder Woman (2016) #65
  • Freedom Fighters #3
  • Heroes in Crisis #6
  • Justice League Odyssey #6
  • Old Lady Harley #5
  • Sideways #13
  • The Silencer #14
  • The Terrifics #13
  • Sun Devils (1984-1985) #7
  • Doorway to Nightmare (1978) #2
  • DC First Issue Special (1975-1976) #3
  • Black Magic (1973) #2
  • Wanted (1972-1973) #4
  • House of Secrets (1956-1978) #134
  • Detective Comics (1937-2011) #351

Tuesday, March 10

  • Green Lantern (2018) #5
  • Justice League (2018) #19
  • Young Justice (2018) #3
  • Batman (2016)  #66
  • Deathstroke (2016) #41
  • Green Arrow (2016) #50
  • Harley Quinn (2016) #59
  • Adventures of the Super Sons #8
  • Doomsday Clock #9
  • Female Furies #2
  • Suicide Squad Black Files #5
  • The Curse of Brimstone #12
  • Teen Titans Go! #66
  • Doorway to Nightmare (1978) #3
  • DC First Issue Special (1975-1976) #4
  • Black Magic (1973) #3
  • House of Secrets (1956-1978) #135
  • House of Mystery (1951-1983) #201
  • Detective Comics (1937-2011) #352
  • Wanted (1972-1973) #5

Tuesday, March 17

  • Catwoman (2018) #9
  • Hawkman (2018) #10
  • Justice League Dark (2018) #9
  • Superman (2018) #9
  • Supergirl (2016) #28
  • Wonder Woman (2016) #66
  • The Flash (2016) #66
  • Titans (2016) #35
  • Red Hood: Outlaw #32
  • The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1
  • Eclipso (1992-1994) #1
  • The Spectre (1987-1989) #1
  • Sun Devils (1984-1985) #8
  • Super Friends (1976-1981) #1
  • DC First Issue Special (1975-1976) #5
  • Wanted (1972-1973) #6
  • House of Mystery (1951-1983) #202
  • Detective Comics (1937-2011) #353

Tuesday, March 24

  • Naomi (2019) #3
  • Electric Warriors (2018) #5
  • Justice League (2018) #20
  • Damage (2017) #15
  • The Wild Storm (2017)  #21
  • Aquaman (2016) #46
  • Batman (2016) #67
  • Nightwing (2016) #58
  • Teen Titans (2016) #28
  • The Spectre (1987-1989) #2
  • Doorway to Nightmare (1978) #4
  • Super Friends (1976-1981) #2
  • DC First Issue Special (1975-1976) #6
  • Black Magic (1973) #4
  • Wanted (1972-1973) #7
  • House of Mystery (1951-1983) #203
  • Detective Comics (1937-2011) #354

Tuesday, March 31

  • Martian Manhunter (2018) #4
  • Shazam (2018) #4
  • Action Comics (2016) #1009
  • Batgirl (2016) #33
  • Batman Beyond (2016) #30
  • Detective Comics (2016) #1000
  • Wonder Woman (2016) #67
  • The Flash (2016) #67
  • Dial H for Hero #1
  • Freedom Fighters #4
  • Heroes in Crisis #7
  • Justice League Odyssey #7
  • The Silencer  #15
  • The Terrifics  #14
  • DC First Issue Special (1975-1976) #7
  • Detective Comics (1937-2011) #355
  • Eclipso (1992-1994) #2
  • House of Mystery (1951-1983) #204
  • Sun Devils (1984-1985) #9
  • Super Friends (1976-1981) #3
  • The Spectre (1987-1989) #3
  • Wanted (1972-1973) #8

Coronavirus concerns have disavowed filming of Mission: Impossible 7

Mission:Impossible 7, Tom Cruise, Coronavirus

With the number of cases of the coronavirus rising to a reported amount of 291 in Italy, the Venice, Italy local government has ceased all public gatherings including a stop to the upcoming production of director Christopher McQuarrie‘s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7, starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, and Vanessa Kirby, among others. The 291 count is the largest report of cases outside of China, Japan, and South Korea.

Before set up on the Mission: Impossible sequel was halted, crew members were scheduled to establish production in three weeks time. According to Anthony D’Alessandro of Deadline, it’s believed that production will likely move the entire crew to another place, or to their home countries until they get a better sense of the continuing situation.

Paramount issued an official statement about the matter this Monday afternoon:

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew, and efforts of the local Venetian government to halt public gatherings in response to the threat of coronavirus, we are altering the production plan for our three week shoot in Venice, the scheduled first leg of an extensive production for Mission: Impossible 7.   During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts.  We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.”

As details for this story were being brought to light, tabloid papers began reporting that Tom Cruise was quarantined to a posh hotel after filming was shut down. These reports have since been proven false, as Cruise has yet to set foot in Italy prior to shooting the Impossible sequel.

As concern for the citizens of Italy continue to grow, Luca Zaia, President of the Veneto Region, has issued a closing for all schools and museums, as well as all cultural, sports, and public events. Even the Venice carnival has ceased operations until further notice. Should the coronavirus continue to spread, it will likely mean more production shut-downs for film and TV productions until a solution can be established and distributed among those infected.

Chris Evans may get sadistically dental for Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors, Chris Evans, Greg Berlanti

It’s been revealed that Marvel alum Chris Evans may be going from patriotic shield-slinger to pathological plant food for Greg Berlanti‘s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

So far, the Berlanti-directed re-imagining has stars the likes of Scarlett Johansson (JOJO RABBIT, BLACK WIDOW) and Taron Egerton (ROCKETMAN, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE) being eyed for the roles of Audrey and Seymour, respectively, with Billy Porter already signed to voice Audrey II, the venus flytrap-looking alien creator hellbent on world domination after consuming enough « food » to grow beyond its flower shop prison. To be clear, Johansson and Egerton have yet to sign on the dotted line, though Warner Bros. is hopeful that both with join the effort in bringing LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS to theaters once more for a spirited update of the classic musical.

According to THR, Evans will play the role of dentist Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s abusive and sadistic boyfriend who finds great pleasure of causing pain to those who dare to indulge his twisted oral fixations. In the 1986 original film from director Frank Oz, Steve Martin assumed the role of Orin Scrivello D.D.S., who portrayed the villain as a motorcyle-riding greaser whose interests included inciting spats of domestic abuse as well as operating on patients while under the influence of nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS started out as a horror comedy film directed by Roger Corman in 1960. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman teamed up to turn the concept into a stage musical in 1982, and director Frank Oz brought the musical to the screen with a film released in 1986. The story goes a little something like this:

Meek flower shop assistant Seymour pines for co-worker Audrey. During a total eclipse, he discovers an unusual plant he names Audrey II, which feeds only on human flesh and blood. The growing plant attracts a great deal of business for the previously struggling store. After Seymour feeds Audrey’s boyfriend, Orin, to the plant after Orin’s accidental death, he must come up with more bodies for the increasingly bloodthirsty plant.

Plans are to shoot the new adaptation, which Marc Platt, Sarah Schechter, and Berlanti are producing, this summer.

Robert Pattinson’s Batsuit Is Inspired By Arkham: What This Means For The Batman


The new Batsuit for The Batman takes heavy inspiration from the Arkham video game franchise, which could have wider implications in the film itself.

The first looks at Robert Pattinson’s batsuit from The Batman bears a number of similarities to the suit from the Batman: Arkham video game series. There is plenty of Dark Knight source material from the upcoming 2021 film to take inspiration from. Countless comics, films and video games exist with Batman at center stage, but one of the most popular forms of modern bat-media is the Arkham video games. So far, the suit is the only obvious similarity, however, there may be more deep-rooted story points that will be shared among the two different forms of media.

The Arkham games are some of the most well regarded of their time. In the span of 4 installments, they managed to take everything that was great about Batman, his rogues and his world and give them a unique twist, while never straying too far from what made them great in the first place. Suffice to say, this approach worked very well as fans continue to reminisce on the topic of the series. They featured a whole slew of villains, from the Joker to Clayface, without making any one of them feel uninteresting or out of place. The story was well written and kept players coming back for more, taking Batman in fresh creative directions.

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In addition to the story, the Batsuit in the games was an entity in and of itself. As the player progressed, the suit would become worn and the cape would get torn up. However, upgrades were never far away, as ballistic and melee armor were improved with time and new gadgets became part of the Dark Knight’s ever expanding arsenal. Especially in games like Batman: Arkham Origins where Bruce is still feeling things out as the vigilante, the suit was an integral part of his character evolution. As he improved, so did his armor, which generated an aura of progression.

Naturally, this is the kind of approach The Batman should take. With Robert Pattinson’s Batsuit giving off the impression that it is, in fact, a prototype, not unlike the one in Origins, and the added knowledge that the film will be set on 2 years into his crime-fighting run, it is implied there will be plenty of story to tell with his suit alone. An approach like this would be clearly inspired by the games, and would benefit the character and the film very much. This has worked previously, as Origins pulled it off quite well, so should the film take after the video game, it will be a smart decision overall.

There is a market for stories that are not straight comic adaptations, which is exactly what the film in question is shaping up to be. The inclusion of multiple villains, such as the Riddler and the Penguin, seems to be drawing from the aforementioned games. This was rumored to be the narrative structure of Ben Affleck’s Batman film before it was scrapped, so Matt Reeves may have used it as some inspiration when he took over, although his Batman will be much younger. Apparently the film will treat Batman as a more of a detective, which was something Arkham was known for translating masterfully to the screen. Bringing a bunch of rogues into the fold could help give the movie a noir presentation, coming across as a crime drama as opposed to a simple superhero flick.

As of now, there is a lot to look forward to in regards to The Batman. The suit is one of a kind, and the film easily could be too. Though it will only loosely look to its film counterparts for inspiration, it will also look to comics like The Long Halloween and maybe the Arkham games and weave them into their characterization of Batman and the run-down, crime-ridden world of Gotham City he inhabits.

More: The Batman Theory: Pattinson Doesn’t Have A Batmobile In His First Movie

Key Release Dates

  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)Release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • The Batman (2021)Release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • The Suicide Squad (2021)Release date: Aug 06, 2021
  • Black Adam (2021)Release date: Dec 22, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022)Release date: May 20, 2022
  • Shazam 2 (2022)Release date: Apr 01, 2022
  • The Flash (2022)Release date: Jul 01, 2022
  • Aquaman 2 (2022)Release date: Dec 16, 2022



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Shane O’Neill is a writer, moviegoer, gym addict and all around nerd. From Marvel to Star Wars, he’s never too busy to catch a movie on opening night. He is currently attending the University At Buffalo for a Bachelors in Film Studies and has been studying film independently for years. For the past year he has reviewed films as a hobby and has been itching to share his thoughts with the world.

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Cyberpunk 2077 Free Upgrade Xbox One Xbox Series X | Screen Rant


CD Projekt Red is giving consumers who purchase Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One a free upgraded version of the game when it releases on Xbox Series X.

CD Projekt Red, the developer of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, has announced that consumers who buy the game on Xbox One will get the Xbox Series X version for free upon release. Over the years, CD Projekt Red has become one of the most respected game developers in the world, not only for its critically acclaimed The Witcher series of games, but for consumer-friendly business practices as well. Just last year, CD Projekt Red’s Krakow studio head John Mamais said that microtransactions are profit driven and come at the expense of consumer goodwill, which is a sentiment that garnered widespread support from gamers.

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Cyberpunk 2077 was originally slated for an April 2020 release, but has since been delayed to September 2020. One report from industry insider Borys Niespielak suggested that technical performance issues and current gen console limitations were largely to blame for the delay. Furthermore, Niespielak’s sources said that the worst of the issues were coming from the vanilla Xbox One, whose « extremely unsatisfactory » performance was bogging down the game’s development. Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced back in 2012, and in the eight years since, the game has grown exponentially in vision and scope. Naturally, this rapid expansion of features has caused many to wonder how the game will perform on outdated machines like the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

In a somewhat unexpected, yet altogether welcome turn of events, CD Projekt Red has shared the news that those who buy Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One will get the Xbox Series X version for free via Twitter. In the tweet, CD Projekt Red quite unapologetically said that « gamers should never be forced to purchase the same game twice or pay for upgrades. » Twitter users were quick to heap praise on the developer too, with many citing this decision as not only a win for consumers but a step in the right direction for the gaming industry as well.

The official Xbox Twitter account responded to the announcement with a classic Cyberpunk 2077 GIF of Keanu Reeve’s captioned statement « You’re Breathtaking. » Keanu Reeves is one of the stars of Cyberpunk 2077, who reportedly loved playing the Johnny Silverhand character so much that he pushed CD Projekt Red for more screen time for him. Although Xbox users were thrilled with the news that they would get a free upgrade of Cyberpunk 2077, PlayStation gamers have been left to wonder whether or not they will get the same deal as well.

It’s clear that the business side of the gaming industry is in the midst of massive change, not only in terms of subscription services and game streaming, but in the fundamental sense of how consumers own games. Year after year, physical disc sales have gone down, with some analysts now projecting that the gaming industry will be 100% digital by 2022. It makes sense that gamers should be able to download a digital copy of a game they bought as it’s updated to a newer piece of hardware. With CD Projekt Red, it remains abundantly clear that the developer puts its money where itsmouth is in terms of consumer friendliness, as Xbox gamers will be able to play on Xbox One and Xbox Series X for the price of one purchase.

Next: Everything Known About Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is set to release on September 17, 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.

Source: Cyberpunk 2077/Twitter



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Chris is a writer here at Screen Rant. He also writes film/TV analysis and short stories on and off the web. In 2019, Chris graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelors degree in Writing, Editing and Publishing. In his free time, Chris enjoys watching his hometown Boston Red Sox and Celtics. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHeckmann for all things gaming, movies and sports.

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