Updated on June 19, 2018
He groaned at Valkyrie and despaired at Saving Private Ryan. The award-winning historian takes aim at the war films that make him furious and reveals his own favourite
For a long time now, my wife has refused to watch a war movie with me. This is because I cannot stop grinding my teeth with annoyance at major historical mistakes, or harrumphing over errors of period detail. She only made an exception when Valkyrie came out, with Tom Cruise playing Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg. Such a folly of miscasting was bound to be a hoot, and we were not disappointed, especially when Cruise saluted in that downward cutaway style as if he were still in Top Gun. But I was soon grinding away again when the director and screenwriter felt compelled to improve on history, by making it look as if the 20 July plot to blow up Hitler had still very nearly succeeded.
I despair at the way American and British movie-makers feel they have every right to play fast and loose with the facts, yet have the arrogance to imply that their version is as good as the truth. Continental film-makers are on the whole far more scrupulous. The German film Downfall, about Hitlers last days in the bunker, respected historical events and recreated them accurately.
Posted on June 12, 2018
Fake videos created by AI-assisted algorithms are already causing a stir. So-called “DeepFakes” have put other people’s words into the mouths of politicians and even superimposed celebrity faces onto the bodies of porn actresses.
Now, researchers have developed a new approach that can make the videos even more convincing, which makes them all the more terrifying.
Previously, this technique could only manipulate facial expressions. The results were pretty impressive, although not totally convincing. This new approach is the first successful attempt to transfer the full three-dimensional head position, head rotation, face expression, eye gaze, and eye blinking from a video of one face onto a video of another.
Building on their previous deep-learning algorithms, the new technique offers more realism and subtlety, picking up on fine details such as the slight flick of a head or the wiggle of a shoulder. The new results also show way less glitchy distortions, also known as artifacts, which can make most forgeries easy to spot. The videos are so seamless that their experiments showed that people were unable to detect any video manipulation at all. As far as they could tell, the videos were real.
The researchers believe that the technology could have some useful applications, such as post-production editing. For example, it could be used to superimpose the face of deceased actors into a new or unfinished film. It could also be used for dubbing, either in movies or for teleconferences.
Nevertheless, the technology has raised its fair share of eyebrows. Politicians and computer scientists alike have also flagged up concerns that the tech could be abused to create the ultimate “fake news”, with some even warning that the technology has the power to shape global politics.
“Unfortunately, besides the many positive use cases, such technology can also be misused. Currently, the modified videos still exhibit many artifacts, which makes most forgeries easy to spot,” the researchers write. “It is hard to predict at what point in time such ‘fake’ videos will be indistinguishable from real content for our human eyes.”
But before our civilization falls into a confusing mess of inauthenticity, check out these DeepFake videos of Nicolas Cage superimposed into numerous Hollywood movies:
Updated on June 5, 2018
How many romantic comedies starring straight couples have been made since the dawn of time?
A thousand? A million? There have been a lot!
Rarely do you hear complaints from moviegoers about Hollywood churning out too many of them.
Which is why Jim Parsons has had it.
The actor visited “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on May 7 to promote a reboot of the gay-themed Broadway show “The Boys in The Band.” As the conversation veered into the need for more LGBTQ representation in theater, film, and beyond, Parsons revealed one thing that irked him about the criticism aimed at the film “Love, Simon” earlier this year.
The teen rom-com — the genre’s first to star a gay lead while also boasting a big budget — was dinged by some critics for arriving in theaters about a decade too late. “‘Love, Simon’ Is a Groundbreaking Gay Movie,” one headline announced, “But Do Today’s Teens Actually Need It?”
According to Parsons, the answer is a resounding yes.
The wide release of “Love, Simon” meant an LGBTQ-themed movie for teens was in most movie theaters across the country. That’s never happened before. And for a gay kid in, say, small-town Kansas, that matters.
As Parsons explained:
“I read a couple of articles that were essentially saying – I loved [‘Love, Simon’], by the way — but there were a couple articles that were like, ‘That’s too late.’ … That we’re beyond this now — the kind of tale of coming out that this was. And I thought, ‘Maybe if you’re a 30-something writer living in New York or L.A. it may be like, ‘I don’t need to see this,’ obviously. But I don’t know – I think there are people in many other places that, yes, you do still need to see it.”
Parsons then pointed out how absurd it is to argue a gay rom-com is “too late” to make a meaningful difference when no one holds straight rom-coms to the same standard:
“Never mind the fact [they’re saying] ‘a gay rom-com — it’s too late.’ Well, tell that to ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ you know? Which was brilliant, but I’m saying, ‘How many straight rom-coms do we need? When is it too late for them?’ You know?”
Check out the interview below.
Parsons begins talking about “Love, Simon,” at about the 7-minute mark.
He’s not wrong, is he?
We often eat up straight rom-coms faster than the popcorn kernels in our buttery palms without thinking twice about their relevance to the social consciousness of the day.
Yet with rom-coms featuring marginalized lovebirds, there seems to be a different standard. Did “Love, Simon” explore queerness in a positive way? Was it relatable enough for LGBTQ teens? Was it timely enough to make a difference? Did it revolutionize the fight for LGBTQ equality in 1 hour and 50 minutes of screen time?!
This is exactly why we need more rom-coms featuring LGBTQ people from all walks of life — people of color, people of minority faiths, disabled people, and everyone else. That way, the few films featuring marginalized people that do get made won’t bear the brunt of cramming the experiences of an entire group into one trip to the movies.
Or, as Parsons quipped, to laughs: “Let me get sick of too many gay rom-coms, then, thank you very much. Bring it on.”
Updated on May 22, 2018
Ryan Reynolds is a funny guy.
People in LA are deathly afraid of gluten. I swear to god, you could rob a liquor store in this city with a bagel.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) January 7, 2017
Really, though. His jokes alone are a good reason to join Twitter.
I’d walk through fire for my daughter. Well not FIRE, because it’s dangerous. But a super humid room. But not too humid, because my hair.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) September 11, 2015
But behind the laughs, the “Deadpool” star lives with a more sobering reality: the daunting effects of anxiety.
Reynolds has opened up about living with anxiety before. But in a new interview with The New York Times, the actor shed even more light on what he’s experienced living with the mental health condition and how he copes with its at times devastating hold.
“I have anxiety,” Reynolds explained to The Times. “I’ve always had anxiety.”
“Both in the lighthearted, ‘I’m anxious about this,’ kind of thing,'” he continued, “and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
Reynolds isn’t alone at the darker end of that spectrum. About 18.1% of adults in the U.S. — 40 million people — live with an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The organization reports it’s the most common form of mental illness in the country.
Though occasional bouts of anxiety are a normal part of being human, the Mayo Clinic notes that “people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.”
Reynolds believes his anxiety stems, at least in part, from his childhood in Vancouver, Canada. “Our father was tough,” he told Variety in 2016:
“He wasn’t easy on anyone. And he wasn’t easy on himself. I think the anxiety might have started there, trying to find ways to control others by trying to control myself. At the time, I never recognized that. I was just a twitchy kid.”
As an adult, he said his anxiety has manifested in many ways. He used to wake up in the dead of night, gripped with irrational panic over his future. When he starred on the ABC sitcom “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” two decades ago, he’d often warm-up the live studio audience — not to selflessly loosen up fans, but to re-focus “the energy of just wanting to throw up,” he told The New York Times.
The actor can remember self-medicating in his early 20s as an attempt to avoid the symptoms associated with anxiety, saying, “I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way.”
Reynolds plans on doing many of his upcoming “Deadpool 2” promo interviews in character — not to get laughs, he explained, but to temper his anxiety.
Even after decades in the spotlight, the actor’s anxiety elicits a unique kind of dread before interviews and talk show appearances. Emulating Deadpool’s sardonic stage presence helps him feel a bit more comfortable.
“When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set,” he told the Times. “That’s that great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”
Reynolds also uses a meditation app, Headspace, to stay calm and — after years of living with anxiety — confidently reminds himself ahead of appearances that the awful feelings will soon pass.
If you’re in Reynolds’ boat, there’s no need to feel helpless. Everyone’s anxiety is different, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, but the Mayo Clinic has some advice for those living with its effects: Take part in activities you enjoy, avoid drugs or alcohol (which can worsen symptoms), and consider reaching out for help from a medical professional.
To learn more about anxiety, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.
Updated on May 15, 2018
(CNN)The image of a pilot under stress, making a heroic emergency landing with a disabled plane, is the heart of lots of movies.
Updated on May 8, 2018
Longsword duels were a lot grittier than the movies make them out to be.
Updated on May 1, 2018
Advances in Europe, Latin America drive growth past forecasts
Online service plans to release about 700 titles this year
Netflix Inc. used to worry it would alienate customers by raising prices for its streaming service. Not any more.
The company posted its strongest subscriber growth since going public 16 years ago, despite raising prices for most of its customers over the past several months. Los Gatos, California-based Netflix added 7.41 million users in the first quarter of the year, according to a statement Monday, easily topping analysts’ projections.
Raising prices enabled Netflix to boost sales 40 percent last quarter and quiet investors who fret about all the money the company spends on original series and movies. Netflix will spend $7.5 billion to $8 billion on programming this year to lure more customers to its online TV network, which now boasts 125 million subscribers worldwide.
“You have to earn it by doing spectacular content,” Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said on a call with investors. “If you do that, you can get people to pay more because then we can invest.”
The results, including higher earnings and an upbeat forecast, were welcome news to investors. Netflix rose as much as 8.3 percent to $333.21 in extended trading after the results were announced. The stock was up 60 percent this year at Monday’s close in New York.
Hastings hasn’t forgotten when a price increase almost took down the company. The stock stock price fell precipitously and subscribers canceled over a few months in 2011 after the company split its streaming service from its DVD-by-mail service, a move that amounted to a 60 percent price increase for customers who wanted to keep both.
Yet a growing segment of the population forgave and forgot, replacing live TV services with Netflix’s on-demand library, even as the company’s average U.S. subscription price rose 12 percent in the past year. The popularity of the service surged in the U.S. once Netflix began funding original series, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
The production pipeline has since increased to levels that rival the world’s largest media companies. Netflix will release about 700 original pieces of programming this year, including about 80 movies (more than any studio), more than one stand-up special a week and as many unscripted series as any U.S. cable network.
Worth just $20 billion at the end of 2014, when it had only released a handful of original shows, Netflix will likely surpass $140 billion in market value when trading opens Tuesday. Chief content officer Ted Sarandos has used the company’s rise to lure some of the top creative minds from rival studios.
In February, producer Ryan Murphy agreed to leave 21st Century Fox Inc., where he made “American Horror Story,” for a deal at Netflix worth a reported $300 million. Earlier, the company signed “Scandal” producer Shonda Rhimes, who left her long-time home at Walt Disney Co.’s ABC to make shows exclusively for Netflix.
Netflix has told investors it will save money by bringing development and production in-house and avoiding the markups imposed by rival studios. But spending is still growing as the company expands production in areas like film, unscripted series and kids programming. In the last quarter, the company released the documentary miniseries “Wild, Wild Country,” the second season of the Marvel comic series “Jessica Jones” and the horror film “The Cloverfield Paradox.”
Total streaming content obligations grew to $17.9 billion in the first quarter, from $17.7 billion three months earlier, and that doesn’t account for the ballooning budget to market shows. While Netflix reports a profit, its cash flow last quarter was a negative $287 million, and investors will be paying close attention to whether the company plans to take on more debt, as it has every year since it started releasing original programming several years ago.
Netflix has allayed concerns about its cash burn by continuing to add subscribers. On Monday, the company said it aims to add another 6.2 million subscribers in the second quarter. The company is also forecasting a further 41 percent increase in revenue this quarter, to $3.93 billion, and said profit would rise to 79 cents a share, both topping Wall Street estimates.
This growing output justifies price increases, Netflix says. While $9.99 a month made sense when Netflix was making about as many shows as HBO, which costs more than that, the company can now offer customers as many new shows as several cable networks put together.
Posted on April 24, 2018
Comic books and action movies give an unrealistic expectation of superhuman abilities. In reality, having an extra-human ability isn’t all explosions, saving the world from evil, and flying off into the distance. If X-Men was real, for example, and we were all born with a random mutant ability, you can bet we wouldn’t all be able to read minds and control the weather. While there are some people with some pretty awesome “superpowers” (you can read about them in our article here), most of us would end up with these rather lackluster talents.
Most people only get goosebumps when they are cold, experiencing strong emotions, or listening to “Africa” by Toto; however, a select few people have the ability to consciously give themselves goosebumps on cue.
“It starts in the back of my neck,” an Argentinian man with this superpower recently told The Atlantic. “It’s like I have a muscle there and I just make it work.”
A recently posted pre-print study described 32 people who can control their goosebumps. They found that people with this ability tend to have personalities that are more open to experience. Other than this, it remains a bit of a mystery, although it doesn’t appear to be associated with any health problems.
Pretty cool as party tricks go, but unlikely to stop any villains from taking over the world.
The Real-Life Matter-Eater Lad
Michel Lotito was a Frenchman with the incredible ability to eat more or less anything he wished (except bananas and hard-boiled eggs, which reportedly made him sick).
During his lifetime, he consumed 18 bicycles, 15 shopping carts, seven TVs, six chandeliers, two beds, and even a Cessna 150 light aircraft – yup, he ate a whole plane. Of course, he ate the objects in smaller chopped-up pieces with liters of water, but it’s still fairly remarkable.
Lotito was awarded a brass plaque by the Guinness Book for his achievements. He was so honored, he ate that too.
The Human Towel-Dryer
Scientists have shown that some people are able to consciously up their body temperature through meditation.
During this study, the researchers headed to Tibet to witness a practice where nuns were able to raise their core body temperature and dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies in the cold Himalayan weather (-25°C/-13°F) while meditating. Lab experiments later showed that the nuns were able to consciously increase their core body temperature from 37 to 38.3°C (98.6°F to 100.9°F). It’s likely that the temperature of their fingertips and toes increased even higher.
There’s a genetic condition dubbed “immigration delay disease”, where people have no fingerprints.
Scientifically known as adermatoglyphia, it was first discovered when a Swiss woman struggled to get through immigration control when entering the US in 2007. Her dermatologists looked into the case and found that eight other members of the woman’s extended family also had no fingerprints. There are only four known extended families worldwide that have the condition.
It turns out that it is caused by a single gene mutation and is totally harmless, if not mildly inconvenient (then again, think of all the crimes you could get away with).
The Incredible Aging Rockstar
Ozzy Osbourne remains a total mystery to science. Nevertheless, sequencing his genome revealed some rather interesting insights into the human body and its limits. Despite living like a recklessly excessive, bat-eating lunatic for 40-odd years, Ozzy remains in remarkably good shape. A clue to this superpower could be in his genes and how it affects his metabolism.
As reported by Scientific American in 2010, one of the many findings was an unusual variant near ADH4, one of his alcohol dehydrogenase genes. In theory, a change to this gene could either increase or decrease a person’s tolerance and metabolism of excessive alcohol, but the scientists say they aren’t sure which.
Ozzy, however, is certain: “I used to drink four bottles of cognac a day. I’m not sure I need a Harvard scientist to get to the bottom of that mystery,” he replied in a column for the UK’s Sunday Times.
Once again, it’s a pretty incredible ability, but we can’t see Marvel or DC Comics picking it up anytime soon.
There’s a condition known as auto-brewery syndrome, or gut fermentation syndrome, that causes the gut to produce significant doses of alcohol from the sugars ingested in their diet, sometimes effectively leaving the person drunk. It’s believed that the condition is caused by Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast in the gastrointestinal system.
If you think this sounds like fun, you’re wrong. Many people will experience chronic fatigue, belching, dizziness, disorientation, irritable bowel syndrome, and effectively a non-stop hangover. If you are fortunate enough to not experience severe symptoms, you could still be arrested on drunk-driving charges, as one Texas woman found out in 2016.
Updated on April 17, 2018
While the huge fandom of Game of Thrones are waiting for the 8th and final season of the cult HBO series, the artists from Combo Estudio offer an alternative setting for the show.
Fernando Mendonça and Anderson Mahanski have portrayed how Games of Thrones would look like if it was animated by Disney studios, and the result is as awesome as it sounds. The duo have captured the aura of Disney movies so well, you’ll probably wish they would reboot GoT ASAP.