11/30/2011

In Time explores a fascinating concept, but an unsatisfying ending and some weak acting by Justin Timberlake spoil an interesting film.

The film In Time has a simple premise. Everyone has a counter on their arm that tells them exactly how long they have to live. It is accurate to the second and when it goes to zero the person dies immediately. In this world of the future they discover the secret of immortality. Everyone gets to stay 25 and live forever.

The catch is that it costs to extend your time. The rich can afford to keep living, while the poor live one day at a time. All this would be fascinating, but then it adds another wrinkle: Time is literally money. People spend time from their clock and earn time when they work. For example, it costs five minutes for a cup of coffee, but they earn two hours working in a sweatshop all day. This leads to some gut-wrenching decisions like deciding whether to eat or take the bus.

Andrew Niccol, a former commercial TV director, wrote and directed this fascinating analogy of poverty and desperation. I prefer his film Gattaca to this film. Both had a sociological theme behind it, but this one came off a little heavy-handed.

Timberlake plays Will Salas, a man living in a slum. He lives with his mother, Rachel Salas, played by Olivia Wilde. At first Olivia Wilde's performance as his mother is kind of jarring. Seeing a woman younger that Justin holding and kissing him is weird. Like a modern retelling of Oedipus. After a few moments though, her phenomenal acting shines through and her motherly attitude quickly won me over.

Since Will works at a factory where he makes the very machines that dispense time, I figured the story would be about him stealing one of the time dispensers. Instead, he goes to a bar where a guy Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), is spending time like water on drinks. The glowing green counter on his arm shows a century. In a place where people live minute to minute, this is an unheard of amount of time.

He saves the man from a bunch of male models who steal time and the man gives him a gift. Turns out he's over a hundred and tired of living forever so he gives Will all his time committing suicide.

The story follows Timberlake on the run from "Time Keeper" police man Cillian Murphy for the perceived murder of Hamilton and his attempts to join high society on his borrowed time.

The film makes an amazing, although preachy, statement on class society in our world. A world where the divide between the rich and poor grows every day. Unfortunately, while the film itself is good, Justin's acting is wooden and we slowly get bored when people aren't running and jumping. This happens a lot. Not enough to save the film.

I give it three stars.

Would you watch the film? If you saw the film what did you think? If you could buy time how much would you buy and what would you do with it?
[Image Source: Wikipedia]

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This week we're doing something different with Free Scifi. We're doing an original. You see, a few months ago, one of my favorite anthologies, Machine of Death, held open submissions for the second volume. If you haven't heard of it, it's a collection of stories about a world where a machine exists that can predict the way you will die.

I submitted an original short story, "Alien Abduction." And, well, it was rejected. So I've posted the short story to read free on my writing blog. I thought it was okay.

Here's a sample:
By the time Thomas Wiseman found out his wife was dying, the debate was almost over. At the moment the hospital struggled to keep her alive, Wiseman prepared to give his killing stroke.
Wiseman drew a small, blue, octagonal card out of his coat pocket. He held it up in front of his face so it could be seen. The audience gasped at the distinctive shape and size of the card. Even so, Wiseman still said, "This is my prediction, produced by a death prediction machine at my doctor's office, just twenty-four hours ago. If the camera could zoom in, I think the viewers will find it enlightening."

The other three people on the stage of the TV show Fact vs. Fiction glanced at each other, then at Wiseman with quizzical looks. The audience murmured as the camera brought the card into view on the large TV screens mounted on the ceiling.

Wiseman smiled as he said, "As you can see, my prediction reads, 'Alien Abduction.' Aliens do not exist, so this prediction cannot be true. It might as well have predicted that I will die from an encounter with Bigfoot. That's how I know the machine of death is a hoax..."
 If you'd like to read the whole thing, just head over there.
 
What do you think of the story?

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11/29/2011

In August, NPR released the results of their poll to pick the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books. SF Signal created an epic infographic to help you pick from the selections.













If that's not enough for you, SF Signal made an interactive version available. They also made a high-res version suitable for printing (25MB file).

Based on this list, which book will you read?

[Image Source: SF Signal]
Get the The Ultimate Matrix Collection [Blu-ray] for less than $25.49 (that’s 61% off the list price of $64.98). Its Tuesday, which means I let you know the latest DVD and Blu Ray deals. This is CyberMonday Deals Week at Amazon which means some crazy deals.Today's Gold Deal is the seven (or ten on DVD) disc set of the Ultimate Matrix collection.

I described my love for the original Matrix and dislike for the sequels already. I'll just say these films are important yet flawed. The Blu-Ray and DVD collection of the trilogy is inspired though.

The following comes from Wikipedia.
Summary of new features
The first movie has been digitally enhanced so that it matches the clarity and color palette of the sequels.

All three films now include two audio commentaries: one by the film critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson; and one by the philosophers Ken Wilber and Cornel West. In a written introduction, the Wachowski's explain that this is to inspire an implied dialogue between both camps so that the audience "might triangulate their own position".

The set also features The Matrix Reloaded Revisited and The Matrix Revolutions Revisited, two new 'making of' documentaries on the sequels, divided into segments on larger sequences or aspects of production, which may in turn be viewed as short (~5-20 minute) segments. The Reloaded Revisited disk also includes the footage shot especially for the Enter the Matrix video game, which previously could only be seen after having completed certain parts of the game.

Three of the disks are not connected to specific movies in the series. "The Roots Of The Matrix" contains two short documentaries, discussing the philosophy and science of the series as a whole. "The Burly Man Chronicles" provides a documentary on the trials and tribulations faced by the crew in the production of "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." Finally, "The Zion Archive" is a collection of information on the merchandising, marketing and spin-off franchises; as well as miscellaneous material such as concept sketches.

The Blu-ray Disc collection:
  • Disc 1 - The Matrix feature film, including The Matrix Revisited
  • Disc 2 - The Matrix Digital Copy
  • Disc 3 - The Matrix Reloaded feature film, including all the featurettes encompassing Reloaded Revisited
  • Disc 4 - The Matrix Revolutions feature film, including all the featurettes encompassing Revolutions Revisited
  • Disc 5 - The Animatrix
  • Disc 6 - Side A: The Burly Man Chronicles Side B: The Roots of the Matrix
  • Disc 7 - The Zion Archive
Originally selling for over $79.99 IGN gave it a nine out of ten. Smokin' deal.

This sale is for only for today, Tuesday, November 29, 2011, until 11:59PM PST while supplies last. These will probably sell out quick so act now!



In this week's new releases Smallville Season 10 came out on Blu-Ray along with a cheesy Japanese sci-fi film called Zebraman. Not only is it Zebraman. It's Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City! So it's gotta be good.


What do you think of the Matrix trilogy or Smallville? Would you buy this week's deal? Is there a deal you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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11/28/2011

If you want to have your phone ring with your favorite Star Wars song, then follow these six easy steps.

What you'll need
  • An MP3 song
  • Audacity sound editor
1. Find A Song
Get a song by ripping a CD, using your library or buying one. I'm going to get the song from Amazon since they sell them as MP3s. The promo code STUDYBRK will get you a $2 credit. So, you basically get a free song.

The song I want to use is John William's "Duel Of The Fates" from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. This song is one of my favorites from the first film.

2. Load the Song Into Your Sound Editor
For this demo I'm going to use Audacity, but you can use any editor you like. Click Project > Import Audio or File > Import > Audio.

3. Find the Best Section
You could just load the whole song into your phone, but chances are it won't sound good. First, most cell phones have a limit of two minutes. Second, the opening is rarely the part you want to start with. Usually the chorus is what you want.

Select the portion of audio you want to use for your ringtone. In Audacity you click in the audio track and drag a selection area to left or right with your mouse. In this case I'm going to start with 00:01:03 where the chorus picks up and end at 00:02:05. You can fine-tune it using the "Selection Start" and "Selection End" windows at the bottom.

4. Make Sure Its Not Annoying
You could just toss it into your phone and be done, but if you don't want to come back and find a pile of plastic instead off a phone make sure it doesn't drive people nuts. First, listen to the clip on a loop. A song can sound great the first time a get steadily more irritating as it plays. If you're not around the song could play the three or four times without you. Very annoying.

In Audacity type L on the keyboard or hold down SHIFT while clicking the green Play button. Hit the spacebar or click the yellow Stop button when your done.

If the section doesn't loop right or has a weird bit, move the slider to change the opening and ending until you get it right. This is also a good time to add a fade in and fade out. Select a couple of seconds at the beginning and the end of the clip and select Effect > Fade In and Fade Out.

5. Make Your MP3
Select File > Export to make a MP3. Assuming your phone supports MP3 that is.

6. Move It To Your Phone
If you're phone supports mp3 then you're done! Just add it like any other song and use the phone's built in tools to add it as a ring tone. I have an Android, so I just click on the song in the library and choose "Set as Ringtone." If it doesn't support MP3 it gets more complicated.

There's a whole article on how to make a ringtone at the Audacity wiki, so check there if you need more help.

You can use these steps to enjoy your new ringtone!

Which song would you use as a ringtone? If you followed these steps how did it go?
This picture, taken backstage at the 2011 Scream Awards, is so awesome and so bizarre at the same time that we couldn't even come up with a comment. So it's up to you. Come up with a caption for this image....click to enlarge






What evil deeds could Darth Vader and Peewee Herman conjure up? Or would Peewee Herman turn Darth Vader to the Light Side? Let us know in the comments.
[Image Source: I Heart Chaos]

11/26/2011

If you've ever wondered why the featured post slider on the blog doesn't updated regularly, then read this post. It may answer some questions you have.

At the top of the page is a slider that shows five posts with an image. It's the reason I chose this new design template. I looked high and low for a slider we could just add to the old template, but couldn't find one. So, we got a whole new template for the blog mainly for the slider.

We've gotten feedback that it's the best new feature of the design.

The only problem? It's manual. I have to update the slider every day. So, on a busy week like this it doesn't get updated too often.

If we were on Wordpress we could choose a jquery wordpress plugin like SlideDeck that could do the job for us. I heard there's a way to add it to Blogger, but I can't get it to work.

There's are a huge list of great plug-ins for Wordpress. Not so many for Blogger. We may move someday, but Blogger is pretty cool, so we'll stay for now.

Have you ever wondered about the slider? Is there a Blogger plugin you'd recommend?
If you're a fan of Doctor Who and want to collect some cool merchandise, the show is ready and willing to accommodate you. There are literally hundreds of gadgets and toys based on props from the show. The TARDIS is a great example. Here are five items from Amazon that can bring the TARDIS into your home and life.


Doctor Who: Flight Control Tardis Motion Activated Model - This is, I think, the ultimate TARDIS toy. It's a model TARDIS that makes noises based on how you move it. If you pick it up, it plays the dematerialize sound. Put it down, makes the re-materialize noise. Shake it, spin it, it makes more sounds. Also lights up. And you can open the doors and see a contoured image of the TARDIS' interior.

Doctor Who Timelord Spinning TARDIS - This toy will get attention from people, even if they have no idea who Doctor Who is. It features a TARDIS suspended in a magnetic field, so it floats in mid-air. With the right twist, you can even get it to spin. Definitely a conversation piece.

Doctor Who Tardis Cookie Jar Lights and Sounds - When you're craving sweets and feel like some Doctor Who fun, this jar fits the bill. It plays the TARDIS materialization sounds when you open it, and also lights up. Satisfy your sweet tooth and your love of the Doctor at the same time.

Doctor Who Tardis USB Hub - So you've got a lot of USB devices to connect and also like Doctor Who? You can solve both problems with this USB hub. It's a 4-slot USB hub shaped like the TARDIS. Pretty self-explanatory, but useful.

Dr. Who Moon Landing TARDIS T-shirt - Thanks to Doctor Who, we know the truth about the Moon landing, and you can share it with others. Get this T-shirt showing the Moon landing with the TARDIS in the background, and you'll spread the word, and look good doing it.

Any of these TARDIS gear you'd like to own? Any other cool TARDIS gadgets that you know of? Let us know in the comments.

11/25/2011

We love Doctor Who here at the Geek Twins, as well as trivia, so wanted to take the chance to combine the two. Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about the Galaxy's most famous doctor.

1. Doctor Who's Name Was An Accident - According to Sydney Newman, one of the show's creators, the name of the show came from a question. He was discussing the concept with another producer, who suggested that the show's main character be called "a doctor." Newman asked, "Doctor who?" The name stuck.
2. Doctor Who was Educational - Doctor Who was originally supposed to be an educational show for children, where they would teach about history and science. Over time, the popularity of the science fiction pushed the historical lessons into the background, and the popularity of the show among adults moved it to prime time.
3. TARDIS Changes Shape - The TARDIS was written as shaped like a police box in the first episode, but was intended to change shape. The concept was that it would take on different shapes based on the episode, like a column in ancient Greece or a sarcophagus in Egypt. However, the expense of building a new TARDIS each episode led them to change the concept so that the TARDIS would be frozen in the shape of a police box.
4. Doctor Who was Supposed To Be Senile - Doctor Who's legendary age was supposed to be a factor in his operation of the TARDIS. In the original concept, Doctor Who was supposed to be so senile that he didn't even know how to operate the TARDIS anymore. The crew would have had to re-discover how to operate it by trial and error.
5. Doctor Who's Theme Is Electric - The theme music was composed by Ron Grainer, and created by Delia Derbyshire. It was one of the first electronic musical compositions on television. When Grainer heard the final version, he didn't even recognize it.
6. There were Two First Episodes - Much like Star Trek had to re-shoot its first episode, Doctor Who's first episode "The Unearthly Child" had to be re-shot due to wiriting and technical problems. There were slight changes, including the Doctor and Susan's wardrobe, and some effects.
7. She Really Is Doctor Who's Daughter - In the episode "The Doctor's Daughter," Doctor Who was accidentally cloned to produce Jenny, Doctor Who's "daughter." In real life, Jenny was played by Georgia Moffat, the real daughter of the fifth Doctor Who, Peter Davison.
8. The Keys to the TARDIS - The iconic groaning of the TARDIS materializing was created in a very simple way. The original sound of the TARDIS was created by dragging a set of keys across some piano wires.
9. The Daleks Were Encyclopedic - For years, writer Terry Nation said the name "daleks" came from the spine of an encyclopedia he saw that read "dal-lek." He later admitted he was lying and just made up the word.
10. The Daleks Were Almost Banned - When Sydney Newman created the series, he distributed a memo that decreed no "bug-eyed monsters." He was furious when Nation created the Daleks, because he felt they violated his monsters rule. Despite his protests, the Daleks aired, and turned out to be the biggest hit of the show.

11/24/2011

Will Iron Man be duking it out with the Hulk in his "Hulkbuster" armor? Concept artist Adi Granov doesn't think so. He would know since he's worked on two of the Marvel films Iron Man and Iron Man 2.

Italian website BadTaste had an interview with Granov where he says the Hulkbuster isn't going to show up in The Avengers.

About this topic, there is [an Iron Man armor] that everybody is looking forward to seeing on the screen: the Hulkbuster.

"In the first ['Iron Man'] movie we had the Iron Monger ... the idea for him came from the Hulkbuster. I did a cover with the Hulkbuster in it. Jon Favreau liked that design and asked me to draw something similar to it for the Iron Monger. So, technically, the Iron Monger is the Hulkbuster, and that I think is why for a while we won't see it in a movie. It would only be yet another Iron Man big type of armor."
Of course he could be wrong and it may show up. But, add Renner's comment about being "the only one" who can stop the Hulk and Adi is right.



So, what is the Hulkbuster armor?

Hulkbuster Armor (Modular Add-on)

First Appearance: Iron Man (vol. 1) #304 (May 1994)

The Hulkbuster armor is a heavy-duty exo-frame (an add-on to the Mk. XI Modular Armor) designed for maximum strength amplification at the cost of reduced versatility and mobility. As its name suggests, it was specifically designed for hand-to-hand combat with the rampaging Hulk. The armor was rated with a lift (press) capacity of 175 tons. During its maiden run, the armor enabled Stark to hold his own in sustained physical combat with the Hulk. - Wikipedia
For reference, here's his concept art from Iron Man of the Iron Monger.



Iron Man movie - Keyframe art: Final pencil version of this keyframe featuring Iron Man vs. Iron Monger.


Iron Man movie - Keyframe art: Keyframe art for the first movie.


Iron Man movie - Keyframe art: Final version of this keyframe featuring Iron Man vs. Iron Monger.

Check out more of Adi Granov's work at adigranov.net.


This is a cross-post from Film Sketchr.

What do you think? Should the Hulkbuster armor be in The Avengers? Will It?

11/23/2011

I'll never forget my first time. I guess we all remember the first time we saw Doctor Who. November 24, 1963 was everyone's first time, since that's when the first episode of Doctor Who aired. I'm not old enough to have seen that one. My experience was a little bit different. You see, I had quite a bit of experience with Doctor Who. I just hadn't seen him.


My first encounter with Doctor Who was as a kid with my older brother's computer. I was playing it, and stumbled a program that played some strange music and a spinning box floating among stars. When I asked my brother what it was, he said, "The theme song for Doctor Who." Never heard of him, but the song alone fascinated me.

A few years later, I was in a bookstore and saw a book on the shelf that caught my attention. It was an encyclopedia for Doctor Who. I bought it immediately. Finally, I could find out about this mysterious TV show with the cool music.

I couldn't tell you how many times I read that book. Looking back, it was a pretty comprehensive book with entries on everything from the Doctor to the TARDIS to the Cybermen. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. I read about the Daleks and the sonic screwdriver and how the Doctor regenerated. I knew everything about the show, except I never actually saw it. I didn't know how I would ever see the show, but I was determined to.

Years later, I was going through the TV listing when I saw "Doctor Who." There it was. But it was on once a week on a UHF station (that tells you how long ago it was) well past my bedtime. I went to every TV in the house, trying to tune into the station. The only one that even came close was in the living room with the antenna tuned just the right way. Patiently, I waited until the hour came, then crept downstairs and turned on the TV.

And there it was. The music I had heard years earlier. Not in a tinny computer speaker made of beeps, but in all its glory. And there was the spinning police box. And then there was Doctor Who.

Now truth be told, I'm not really sure which episode it was. The reception was terrible, and kept fading into static, and I watched every week from that point on, and they all turned into a blur of Daleks, Doctors of various incarnations, companions, K-9 rolling around, and weird stories. Pretty sure it was the Tom Baker era, but I think they didn't play them in order, because I saw Peter Davison, Pertwee, and a few black and white episodes. It was years before I got to see an episode on VHS, and the first time I saw an episode airing anywhere near contemporary was the TV movie, which I loved in my naivete, because I knew no better.

By the time of cable and BBC America, the show was off the air. When it returned, I was cable-free and had to have my brother send me a tape of the new episode, "Dalek." At that point, my addiction returned. And never stopped.

Happy anniversary, Doctor Who, my old friend.
When did you first see Doctor Who? Let us know in the comments.
The American Revolutionary War was pretty thrilling, but how much more awesome would it have been with light sabers?

Lucas, dump the 3-D Star Wars prequels and start making Revolutionary War movies!


How much more cool would the revolutionary war have been with light sabers? What other time period would have been awesome with light sabers?
[Image Source: Pics and Gifs]

11/22/2011

Doctor Who is a great show with a great problem. As a time-traveling alien, the Doctor finds himself in a limitless variety of situations. The problem is how he can possibly handle all of them, given the technological and cultural differences in different time periods. It's one thing for the Doctor to be in ancient Rome, dealing with Roman soldiers and aqueducts. Quite another when he's in London in 1999, where he has to deal with computers and the CIA. As a result, the show has equipped the Doctor with a wide variety of gadgets based on alien technology. Three of them alone give the Doctor the ability to do pretty much anything. Let's review...

Psychic Paper - Psychic paper is a small white card that normally appears blank. However, the Doctor can make the paper look like anything he wants. So if the Doctor needs a driver's license, it will look like a driver's license. If he needs a police badge, it looks like a police badge. Usually he'll use it to make it look like he has the credentials to get into restricted areas, but it does more. At one point, he uses the psychic paper as a boarding pass for a bus, and in another, he uses it as a keycard. It's even able to send and receive messages. It basically appears as anything the Doctor needs it to be.

Sonic Screwdriver - The sonic screwdriver is a small metal wand with a glowing tip that the Doctor carries everywhere. It emits some sort of energy or sound (never really explained what) that have a wide variety of effects. It can cut things open. It can seal things together. It can repair or destroy machines as simple as barbed wire or as complex as spaceships. It can give him information on anything or anyone. It can perform surgery. Basically, it does whatever the Doctor needs to do at any given time. All he has to do is wave it at or over the object, and the job's done.


TARDIS - The Doctor's ubiquitous transport is the TARDIS. The main function of the TARDIS is as a time machine. All the Doctor needs to do is program a time, and it will send him there. From the Big Bang to the end of the Universe, the TARDIS can have him there in the blink of an eye. It can also instantly teleport to any location in the entire universe. That means the Doctor can go anywhere, anytime, instantly. As if that wasn't enough, it also has a planet-sized interior that carries whatever he might need, including clothes from every time period, a vast library of books, and even a swimming pool.

These three items combined give the Doctor the ability to do just about anything, anywhere, anytime. Coincedentally, they also make him easy to write for. A little too easy. The Doctor has a tendency to lose his TARDIS and sonic screwdriver on a regular basis, then find them just in time to save the day. Which is kind of cheesy, but we love him, anyway.

Which of these gadgets would you use? What other Doctor Who gadgets can you name that do more than these three? Let us know in the comments.
On this day, November 22, 1968, television's first inter-racial kiss appeared on Star Trek and opened the door to racial equality for generations.

In the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" the crew is forced to do the bidding of "gods" who force Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) to kiss.

One critic said, "The underlying message was, 'If I have to kiss you to save my ship and crew, by God, I'll do it.'"

The moment was so ground-breaking the studio shot two versions of the scene: One with them kissing and one without in case they changed their mind.

In her autobiography, Beyond Uhura, Star Trek and Other Memories, Nichols says she got a letter from a White Southerner who said: "I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it."

Below is the full scene from the episode if you haven't seen it. What's funny is that Shatner says their lips never touch, while Nichols insists they did. It's hard to tell from this angle.

Happy Anniversary Kirk and Uhura's kiss, thanks for opening the door to racial equality. I speak for many when I say I wouldn't mind trading places with you.

What did this kiss mean to you? Do you remember where you were when you first saw it?

11/21/2011

William Shatner said that Star Trek is better than Star Wars. Carrie Fisher responded via YouTube.

Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, made headlines by saying "Star Trek had relationships, conflict among the relationships, stories that involved humanity and philosophical questions...Star Wars was special effects. It was ILM at it’s best". He also claimed Lucas ripped off from Roddenberry.

Shanter is always mouthing off to get attention, so this is no big deal.

However, Bill made a colossal mistake saying, "Princess Leia, as beautiful as she was and as wonderful an actress as she is can’t compare to the marvelous heroines we had on Star Trek."

Knowing how outspoken Carrie Fisher is, she had to respond.

Fisher starts by saying they're not in the same league. She then challenges Shatner to a bikini contest and makes fun of his auctioned kidney stone. Watch the whole video below and you decide.



I'm shocked by the horrible plastic surgery Fisher has had. So, I guess one point goes to Shatner for that. The whole argument seems kind of silly, but Fisher is definitely funnier.

Related Posts
Who do you think won the battle? Is Star Wars Better than Star Trek?

11/20/2011

On October 24, 1997, the movie Gattaca was released in theaters. Set in a dystopian world where everyone is judged by their genetic profile, one man buys someone else's genetic identity to become an astronaut. Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, the movie has become a cult hit and a milestone in science-fiction film. You may have seen the movie, but here are a few things you probably didn't know.

1. Gattaca Was The First - Gattaca was the first film directed by Andrew Niccol. He went on to wanted to direct another of his screenplays, The Truman Show, but that movie ended up being directed by Peter Weir. Gattaca was also Jude Law's first American movie role. Niccol had to re-write his character's dialogue to fit Law's accent
2. Gattaca Comes From DNA - The name Gattaca is based on ATCG, the first letters of DNA's four nitrogen bases (Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymine). The four letters are used in the notation of genetic sequencing.
3. Gattaca's Futuristic Building Was From The Past - Many of the exterior and interior shots of the Gattaca Corporation were filmed at the Marin County Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Though it was built in 1960, it had a futuristic look that Niccol wanted for the film. The Civic Center was also used for George Lucas' film, THX 1138.
4. Gattaca's Futuristic Cars Were From The Past - Niccol wanted to avoid the typical sci-fi trappings of floating cars and spacesuits. Niccol also didn't have the budget to create futuristic cars for the movie, so he used existing cars such as the Citroen DS Cabriolet and the Studebaker Avanti, because of their futuristic design.
5. Gattaca Got Too Close For Comfort - The original ending for Gattaca featured images of Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Jackie Joyner, along with text stating that if genetic screening had existed in their lifetime, they would never have been born. All three suffered from genetic flaws; Einstein had dyslexia, Lincoln had Marfan’s Syndrome, and Joyner had asthma. It also ended with the text that "you" (the viewer) wouldn't have existed, either. The ending was cut, because test audiences were uncomfortable with the suggestion that they were genetically inferior.
6. Gattaca Started An Argument - The movie has inspired a term called the Gattaca argument, which is based on the idea that genetic engineering will lead to a divide between the rich and the poor. The fear is that as science makes it possible to screen humans for diseases in vitro, the desire to screen out other "undesirable" traits will be too great a temptation. Gattaca portrays an extreme vision of a world where people are defined entirely by their genetics, not on their abilities.
7. People Wanted It To Be Real - The movie was promoted with a fake ad in the Washington Post for a company offering to genetically alter embryos with the tagline "Children made to order." The ad had a list of genetic traits that could supposedly be added to the child, along with a phone number. Thousands of people called the number, wanting to have their unborn children altered.
8. The Eighth Day - The original title for the movie was The Eighth Day, a reference to the Bibilical days of creation. By the time the film was completed, another movie had been released called The Eighth Day, so Niccol had to change the title to Gattaca.
9. Gattaca Is The Most Plausible - In 2011, NASA declared Gattaca the most plausible science-fiction movie ever made. The idea of a world defined by genetic traits is one that many scientists fear will come to pass if genetic screening becomes more common. By contrast, Armageddon is considered by NASA the most implausible scifi movie ever made.
10. Gattaca Was a Bomb - Gattaca was a box-office flop when it was released, making only $12 million in theaters, not even recovering the budget of $36 million. However, it has gained a large following on home video.

UPDATE: Fixed error about Niccol directing The Truman Show.

Sources:
http://talentdevelop.com/interviews/aniccol.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism#Genetic_divide_.28Gattaca_argument.29
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm5KAQnFgHI
http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/essays/gattaca.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Lloyd_Wright
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gattaca

11/19/2011

My wife and I signed up for "Disney Movie Club" this weekend. While browsing through the list of films, I was struck by how many "un-Disney" Disney films there are in the catalogue. You know, movies that you don't think of as fitting into the traditional Disney style. All great films though.

So, I decided to make a short list of films that you wouldn't think of as Disney films. Some of these are produced by Touchstone, which is basically Walt Disney Pictures under another name.

1. The Black Hole (1979)

This film still haunts me. Directed by Gary Nelson for it stars Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine, The main robot characters are voiced by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens. It was Disney's first straight science-fiction film about a research vessel that finds a mad scientist at the event horizon of a black hole. As the crew investigates it becomes clear the scientist has gone mad and his crew is a bunch of zombies. Besides having some shockingly violent scenes it has one of the strangest endings ever filmed. Kids wouldn't get it and most adults wouldn't either.

2. National Treasure (2004)

Directed by Jon Turteltaub the film stars Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, and Christopher Plummer. Cage plays a treasure hunter who discovers a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. With it's wild action and Cage's mugging you'd never think of it as a traditional Disney film, but it's good. It even spawned a sequel. Both are better than the horrid Indiana Jones sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

3. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The story goes that Tim Burton used to work for Disney when he was starting out. His first animated short *Frankenweenie" was so freaky that Disney shelved it and he never made another project for them while he worked there. Decades later, Burton is one of the hottest director's ever. So, Disney hires him back to make a "sequel" to the 1957 animated film and makes an even more bizarre version of the original. While not insanely weird it's grown up protagonist and themes are mostly above little kids. Adults get a kick out of it though.

4. Surrogates (2009)

This movie about a world populated by human-controlled robots (called Surrogates) gets a bad rap, but I thought it was brilliant. It's based on a 2005–2006 comic book series and follows Willis' character having to leave the safety of his robot duplicate to track down a killer. Along the way he
discovered a terrifying secret about the Surrogates. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike and Boris Kodjoe. Ving Rhames delivers a charismatic performance as the anti-surrogate religious leader Prophet, and James Cromwell delivers another superb scientist
performance as Dr. Lionel Canter the creator of the surrogates.

5. Armageddon (1998)

Directed by Michael Bay and released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures this movie follows Bruce Willis and a rag-tag group of deep-core drillers trying to blow up a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Besides delivering a hilarious performance by Steve Buscemi it also gives a touching love story between Live Tyler and Ben Affleck. When my wife found it was a Disney movie she was shocked. With it's themes of death and destruction you'd never know by looking at it. Rockhound's antics with women don't help either.

6. The Prestige (2006)

Based on a 1995 novel, this film blew me away on so many levels. Aside from the incredible direction by Christopher Nolan, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale deliver some of the top ten performances of their career. Whatever you do, don't give away the plot twists. They're all good and all mind-blowing. Not what you'd expect from the "mouse house".

7. The Village (2004)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan this film about a group end-of-the-19th-century villagers living in fear of the creatures living in the woods was pretty much the nail in Shyamalan's career coffin. But, it did deliver a healthy dose of scares from "Those We Don't Speak Of". Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, Adrien Brody, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver it One of the tenth highest grossing PG-13 movie of 2004 and made over $200 million dollars. Worth watching at least once and definitely one you want to put the kids to bed before watching.

8. Splash (1984)

This fantasy film directed by Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy was a super-sweet love story. A boy falls in the water and is saved by a mermaid. Years later she goes to New York looking for him. Candy plays a sex-crazed, but faithful friend. His jokes alone take it over the top, but don't forget Daryl Hannah's famous nude walk through Ellis Island. Not exactly "Little Mermaid".

That's it. My wife and I are excited about our choices coming in the mail soon and, since we only paid $1 for the first four in the movie club, I'll be reviewing some in the future.

What do you think of as a Disney film? Are there any you'd add to this list?
[Image Source: wikipedia]

11/18/2011

Germain Lussier at SlashFilm reports that Fandango now offers "mobile tickets" you can purchase to avoid movie lines and they're everywhere but Arizona!
Many airlines have already done away with paper tickets and now one of the largest sellers of movie tickets is finally making the digital leap. After almost two years of development and smaller test runs, Fandango‘s Mobile Ticket initiative begins its major roll out this weekend at select Regal Cinemas with the release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. People who buy tickets online (not just for Twilight, for any movie) can have a message sent to their phone with a barcode that theaters scan, allowing people to skip lines at ticket booths and kiosks.
So, I'm all excited and happy, since I love using these at the airport. Imagine my disappointment when Arizona isn't in the list of theaters! Eleven cities, including Portland, and Phoenix isn't on the list. [Ed: Portland is on the list. Changed sentence since it was confusing.]

Life is so unfair.

In other news, apparently Fraggle Rock, the beloved puppet show from the eighties contains a racial epithet.
Texan Keith White was furious to hear what he interpreted as a racial slur in a 1984 episode of the Jim Henson series Fraggle Rock while watching the show with his two-year-old daughter. 'I heard him say "Jigaboo," said White. "My reaction was to keep replaying to see if that’s what I really heard, and that’s what I heard, and that’s what I hear." - SlashFilm
Turns out one of the characters was saying "Gee, Gobo." Gobo being the name of one of the characters.

Good thing the puppet didn't say "Nice, Digger".

Here's the link love for this week from our friends and neighbors in the blogosphere.
  • Empire reports that they're making a movie out of one of my favorite arcade games: Rampage!
  • Reid Kemper has a great suggestion to get free eBooks. He even lists ten good authors to get into. Pretty cool.
  • Casting for Ender's Game has begun and io9 reports that the star could be Asa Butterfield, the child star of Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. I've seen Striped Pajamas, but can't think what he was like. I'm too depressed by the film to look him up.
  • Arlee Bird has a great story about a mysterious drive through Roswell, New Mexico. I won't spoil it by giving anymore details, but it involves UFOs.
  • If you had to list all all the Star Trek movie titles in order, how long would it take you? SpacerGuy reports on one dude that can list it in 10.5 seconds! I have trouble remembering them all at all. I keep forgetting Undiscovered Country for some reason... 
  • B. Miller lists ten reasons you should start your novel (or any other artistic endeavor) NOW. Very motivational
Daveart created this really cool artwork of a Batman Transformer. There's even a backstory, where the Transformer's name is Gloom, a robot who took the appearance of the Batmobile. See the full pic after the jump...


Click to enlarge
[Tumblr via Hero Chan]

Would you see a movie featuring Batman and the Transformers? I know I would.

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