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The Disorienting and Disturbing Arthouse Science Fiction of Under the Skin [Review]

If Her was all about Scarlett Johansson's off-screen presence–the vagaries of her voice, and what meaning might be read into its inflections–Under the Skin is all about Johansson's looks. And her looking. At you. It's about skin, and bodies, and silent facades. Johansson plays her extraterrestrial invader practically as a mute.

The script for Under the Skin, which opens today in New York City and Los Angeles, and April 11 in select U.S. cities, probably contains a few thousand words of dialogue, max. What conversation there is bridges long silences. Viewers will find no traditional alien versus human action. No chases, or gun battles, or heads exploding with green goo. No little green men or tattooed Klingon wannabes hatching plans to destroy the earth, either.

Likewise, fanboys (and girls) drooling over Johansson won't be treated to some mindless sexcapade. As a nameless woman, Johansson cruises the streets of Glasgow, using her newfound wiles to seduce men for her nefarious purposes. She's an alien femme fatale, and once she's snared you in her spell, gentlemen, her sultry face clicks back to its poker-faced, robotic demeanor. Look out.

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Community revisited one of its best episodes and avoided the sequel curse [Recap: season 5, episode 10]

“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” stands as one of Community’s all-time greatest episodes, both stylistically impressive and narratively heartfelt. It’s an immensely satisfying episode of television that forms the peak of the show’s run in the heart of its second season. For the show to tackle that style again flies in the face of how the show has normally operated. The paintball sequel was a chance to make a stylistic adventure cap the emotional narrative struggle within the study group. But this is much riskier. And Abed blatantly states the meta-joke that everyone will ascribe to Dan Harmon, as the group makes the plan for a second role-playing game intervention: “A satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off. Many geniuses have defeated themselves through hubris, making this a chance to prove I’m better than all of them. I’M IN.”

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Picking up the pieces of How I Met Your Mother’s finale

“We’ll always be friends. It’s just never going to be how it was. It can’t be. It doesn’t have to be a sad thing. There’s so much wonderful stuff happening in all of our lives right now, more than enough to be grateful for. But the five of us hanging out at MacLaren’s being young and stupid? It’s just not one of those things.”

On various social media channels Monday night, it must’ve seemed like the “group of white people hanging out” sitcom equivalent of The Red Wedding had just gone down. The finale of How I Met Your Mother inspired wildly vitriolic reactions, from righteous indignation to calls for CBS boycotts—that now threaten to undercut the legacy of a good-to-great sitcom about young people living, loving, and learning in New York City.

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The Birth of the Lightsaber, a mini-documentary

George Lucas, Mark Hamill, and Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt provide deep background on an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.

Documentary "Stripped" shows the past and future of comic strips

Stripped is a new film about comic-strip history and cartoon artists, and about the scary and wonderful future we’re living in, that’s been four years in the making.

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The Dune in our Heads

A problem crops up when filmmakers try to adapt epic fantasy worlds to the big screen—particularly beloved, richly-imagined literary ones. Sacrifices must be made. Characters are cut, and plotlines are re-routed. Scenes and places don’t match what readers have pictured with their minds. Fans of the original book cry foul.

In the case of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, his vision for Frank Herbert’s masterwork Dune was so over the top, so surreal (and, at times, so absurd), it probably would have blown the minds of critics before they had a chance to grumble.

That is, if Jodorowsky’s translation and transmogrification of Dune had ever been made. It never was.

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Bot & Dolly and the rise of creative robotics

Remember this incredible video above? In the new issue of BusinessWeek, I profile the brilliant minds behind it, creative robotics studio Bot & Dolly, whose astonishing technology was also instrumental in the special effects of Gravity:

Behind a small cafe in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood stands an unmarked warehouse where the future of human-machine interaction is taking shape. Inside this sprawling maze of soundstages, machine shops, and computer labs, artists collaborate with engineers, cinematographers brainstorm with coders, and everyone has a collegial relationship with the small army of industrial robots stationed here. This is Bot & Dolly, a boutique design studio that specializes in combining massive mechanical arms with custom software for movies, architecture, digital fabrication, and entertainment installations. “We’re a culture of makers, of creators with open minds,” says Tobias Kinnebrew, Bot & Dolly’s director for product strategy. “We work on things that don’t seem possible and try to make them possible.”
"Bot & Dolly and the Rise of Creative Robots"

On Justified, Raylan’s getting a little old for this... [Recap, season 5, episode 10]

 

I never thought I’d say this, but Justified could really use Arlo Givens back. Without his father, Raylan Givens has meandered throughout the season, unmoored from his family connection to Harlan County, and detached from his ex-wife and infant daughter now residing down in Florida. He’s truly the lone wolf now, with barely any professional connection to the other Marshals in his office, a Cold War standoff with Art, and a clean break from Alison. There was a time when a lonely Raylan made for some fireworks—as recently as last season, with him living above the bar, getting into trouble with the owner downstairs. But now, as he ticks closer to his breaking point of frustration with the area, with the office, and with the long lonely existence ahead of him, Raylan has become a lethargic quip-machine. It’s still a joy to watch Olyphant in the part, and his drawl is intoxicating, but he’s now been around the track one too many times, rounding up criminals who are just a spectral repetition of more interesting characters from previous seasons.

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Photos of actors playing historical figures

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VanVictor made a terrific image series showing historical figures played by various actors, from Aristotle to Edgar Allen Poe, Jesus to John Lennon. "Famous people in fiction" (via Laughing Squid and Reddit)

New Peanuts movie represents three generations of the Schulz dynasty

A new Peanuts movie will come to the big screen on November 6, 2015, produced by Charles Schulz's son Craig Schulz with a screenplay co-written by his son Bryan Schulz.

"It's about a round-headed kid and his dog, and that's about as far as I'm willing to go," Craig Schulz told USA Today.

Hal Douglas, famed movie trailer narrator, RIP

Imagine a world... where film trailers have emerged as their own art form. Where today, we learn that one of the greats of that genre has passed on. Hal Douglas, the familiar narrator of thousands of Hollywood trailers, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 89 years old. (New York Times)

Captain America, then and now

"When Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who chose to oppose his shield must yield."

Elliot The Bull music video; incredible stop motion animation

Animated by Samuel Lewis for Elliot The Bull's single, Colorblind.

True Detective ends its first season as it began: with two indelible performances [Recap: season 1, episode 8]

Kevin McFarland reviews the finale of HBO’s crime drama “True Detective,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. If you’re new to the show, start with our introduction here. This post contains spoilers.

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Community: Greendale points to fictional dystopians to comment on social media apps [s5e8]


Never let it be said that Community goes halfway in its genre homage episodes. “App Development And Condiments” is a full-on dystopian meltdown that pitches Greendale into a disastrous state of rigid social classes determined by an upstart social network. It’s not as airtight as some of the show’s other clear homage episodes, nor is it as coherent as some of the more sprawling, cafeteria-homage episodes (like the David Fincher Ass-Crack Bandit episode earlier this season), but at least it has a kernel of a clear message. If I’m placing this on my scale of Community styles, this is a batshit insane, throw-everything-at-the-wall stylistic extravaganza, but not everything sticks.

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