Divergent Image Jumps Down A Hole

Divergent Shailene Woodley

Well, doesn’t this look harrowing? There’s nothing quite like standing on the edge of a tall building while a dozen or so of your compatriots wait around for you to go splat. That’s exactly what this latest image from the upcoming sci-fi film Divergent looks like.

The image shows star Shailene Woodley (The Descendents) poised on the lip of a tall building. Maybe it isn’t a skyscraper, but it’s tall enough to do the job. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this is part of an initiation ritual for her character, Tris Prior. She apparently has to face this challenge—jumping into a big, dark hole—in order to join the brave, or Dauntless, faction. This looks like a clear-cut case of hazing, like she’s pledging a dystopian fraternity. And this is after we’ve already seen photos of Tris having knives thrown at her head.


Chris Pine, Amanda Seyfried, And Chiwetel Ejiofor Take On The Apocalypse In Z For Zachariah

Chris PinePost-apocalyptic and dystopian stories are big these days. What that says about our collective psyche is better left for professionals to decipher, but it makes for some damn fine movie watching. Now a trio of stars, including Chris Pine, Amanda Seyfried, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, have signed on to take a tour around a ruined Earth in the adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah. These three join Tobey Maguire, who will also produce the film, which Craig Zobel will direct.

Zachariah is kind of a throwback. Lately all the destruction of humanity movies all seem to revolve around pandemics and zombies. This, however, is a good old fashioned nuclear disaster flick. Makes sense; the novel was written in the midst of the Cold War, when most of us assumed that we would eventually die in an all-out nuclear holocaust. I miss movies like A Boy and His Dog.

A psychological thriller, the story revolves around a teenage girl named Ann Burden. Seyfried will play this role, and if you’re keeping score, the actress is currently 28 years old. She appears to be the sole survivor of a nuclear war, surviving in a high valley that remains untouched by radiation and fallout. When a scientist (Ejiofor) shows up, the two fall in love, and when another survivor (Pine) arrives, this serves to complicate things even further.


NASA And Google Will Try To Figure Out Artificial Intelligence Together

aiSo apparently I was way off when I thought the limits of artificial intelligence were met whenever Teddy Ruxpin made the cassette tape crossover. How was I supposed to know what they were when the bear didn’t tell me?!?

There is still a lot to learn about A.I., though, and two of the greatest think tanks in the world are coming together to see if they can’t just crack the metaphorical code. NASA and Google have teamed up to launch the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, to be hosted by the Ames Research center, where they’ll house a quantum computer that international researchers are encouraged to spend time with. The goal is to study quantum computing’s role in how an artificial system can adapt to learning. You can’t know what’s in a room unless you give it a door or a window, and they’re hoping the Lab offers insight previously untapped. It’s something people like Alan Turing are probably spinning in their graves over.

The press release talks a bit about what makes designing smart computers so challenging, though the language is on a a sub-layman’s level that doesn’t really give any details about anything. Here’s the most useful paragraph as far as getting into what they’re working with:

We’ve already developed some quantum machine learning algorithms. One produces very compact, efficient recognizers — very useful when you’re short on power, as on a mobile device. Another can handle highly polluted training data, where a high percentage of the examples are mislabeled, as they often are in the real world. And we’ve learned some useful principles: e.g., you get the best results not with pure quantum computing, but by mixing quantum and classical computing.


Nineteen-Year-Old Nuclear Scientist Has A Perfect Redesign For Nuclear Reactors

wilsonIt’s strange to me that many of the people who fight to increase gun proliferation after every single mass shooting that occurs are the same ones who want nothing to do with nuclear energy due to the relatively minuscule number of accidents that nuclear power plants have incurred. This despite the fact that it is in fact safer, cheaper, and more reliable than any other source of energy that we currently have. At least, on a large scale. People hear nuclear and think “bomb” instead of “the future.” Well, not Reno, Nevada resident Taylor Wilson, who aims to reinvent how America looks at nuclear reactors. For a bit of background, Wilson become the youngest person ever to create nuclear fusion, which he did in his basement at age 14.

Wilson recently gave an informational TED Talk about his ideas for a smaller, assembly-line redesign of reactors. Instead of using high-pressure water boiling to produce the steam to run a reactor’s turbines, Wilson designed a compact molten salt reactor which would both increase efficiency and power, with nearly no downside, and it drastically updates the ways that people can view fission.

A traditional turbine runs at temperatures of 200 to 300 degrees Celsius and at 30-35 percent efficiency, while Wilson’s concept would bring the heat up to 600-700 degrees Celsius, ramping the efficiency level up to 45-50 percent. Wilson’s reactor would generate between 50 and 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 to 100,000 homes, depending on how many of them have teenagers inside of them. And it’s not as if you’d even have to worry about seeing these devices dot the landscapes, because they’d be installed underground, where they could go up to 30 years without personal maintenance. It also makes accidents and proliferation much less of a threat than is the case with modern reactors.


Gerard Butler May Become The Raven In Adaptation Of Action-Packed Short Film

butlerIf any of you readers want to get in touch with me to team up in creating a high-concept short film, let’s get it started. Making shorts and writing post-apocalyptic young adult fiction seem to be the surest ways to get a feature made nowadays. I’ll now remove my hyperbole hat and get on with this story.

Back in 2010, Universal acquired the rights to Ricardo de Montreuil’s sci-fi chase short The Raven, and once had Liam Hemsworth attached to star. But we’re in the future now, Hemsworth has moved on, and Gerard Butler is now in negotiations as the titular Raven, though that appears to just be a code name. Production company Gold Circle has stepped in to co-finance the feature, and de Montreuil will be directing it himself. The script was written by Michael Gilio (Kwik-Stop) based on the short’s story, which came from de Montreuil and Antonio Perez.

Butler will always be Leonidas from 300, and never any of the beyond-shitty romantic comedy roles he’s taken, so it’s refreshing to see him adding yet another action film to his slate. He was just in Antoine Fuqua’s White House thriller Olympus Has Fallen, and has the war drama Thunder Run and Hunter Killer as possible future projects.


Got A Joke About J.J. Abrams And Lens Flares? Simon Pegg Says F*ck You

peggI’m not comparing lens flare jokes to bullying on a grand level or anything here, because morals don’t come into this. From a purely creative standpoint, bullies are aggravating because the things they use to antagonize their victims are repetitive, trite, and stick to the surface. You want to be a more impressive douchebag? Get some better material. The same goes for people who batter J.J. Abrams for his rampant use of lens flares. Most of whom take their residence here on the Internet, usually in comment sections. I seriously doubt anybody is having vocal conversations with other people about this artistic choice more than they are about the subject matter. But that’s just my take on it. Simon Pegg had a lot more to say.

Star Trek Into Darkness finally opened here last night, and it’s already got some positive reviews out there. People will be talking about the film for quite some time because it’s full of action sequences and Benedict Cumberbatch. There are more interesting things to pick apart than lens flares. But for those still hung up on them, Pegg has a few choice words, given in an interview with Collider. Check out the entire quote below, because it’s too good to edit. He’s answering the question, “Who made the first joke about lens flares?”

Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition. It’s become a sort of communal stick to have a crack at JJ with, mostly by people who didn’t know what the fuck lens flare was, until someone started sneering the term all over their blog. It demonstrates JJ’s supreme talent as a film maker that the main means of knocking him is to magnify a throw away artistic choice, into some sort of hilarious failing. Lens flare is essentially an anomaly caused by light hitting the lens and creating refracted shapes. Because it draws attention to the fact that we are looking at a filmed event, it actually creates a subliminal sense of documentary realism and makes the moment more vital and immediate. In the same way Spielberg spattered his shots with bloody seawater in Saving Private Ryan, JJ suggests that the moment we are in is so real and alive, there just isn’t time to frame out all the light and activity. The irony is by acknowledging the film’s artifice, you are enhancing the reality of the moment. It’s clever and I love it. On set we call it ‘best in show’ and our amazing director of photography, Dan Mindel has a special technique to achieve it. To the detractors, I offer a polite fuck you and suggest you find a new stick to beat us with, if being a huge, boring neggyballs is necessary for your personal happiness.

Of course, you may not agree with either Pegg or my views, and I’m not calling anyone a huge, boring neggyballs. Let’s just go back to bashing everything but the children in Abrams’ Super 8, can we?