Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Childhood’s End Miniseries Has Given Us Some Utterly Superb Spaceship Art

Syfy’s ambitious miniseries based on Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End served up some beautiful spaceship visuals. Including the alien mothership, which looks striking and angelic. Concept artist Ben Mauro shared with us some of his beautiful Childhood’s End spaceship designs.

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They Use Every Part of the Creature

When the giant sea beasts beach themselves, everyone scavenges whatever they can—meat, teeth, skin. And the remaining carcass becomes shelter.

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The Very Best in Bears for 2015

This was an adorable year for the bearcam in Katmai National Park. Here’s our ten favorite moments of coastal brown bears catching salmon, playing with their cubs, sleepily lazing the day away, and frolicking through the Alaskan wilderness in 2015.

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Madame Wu and the Holiday Experiment That Changed Physics Forever

While most of us will ring in the new year with family and friends, science doesn’t take a holiday. And neither do the scientists responsible for big ongoing experiments. One of the more famous historical examples of this is the case of physicist Chien-Shiung Wu—often referred to as “Madame Wu”—who gave up vacationing with her husband in the 1950s to prove that nature is slightly left-handed.

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What Was The Most Tragic Disappointment of 2015?

This was a pretty good year for pop culture, but there were some terrible misfires along the way. Including some stuff that we’d all had high hopes for. But what was the biggest pop-culture letdown of the year for you?

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The Books About Artificial Intelligence That You MUST Read, According to Ex Machina’s Alex Garland

Ex Machina remains a strong contender for the best science fiction film of 2015. It’s jam-packed with ideas along with all that psychosexual weirdness. And now at last, writer-director Alex Garland has unpacked where some of those ideas come from.

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Here’s Why Researchers are Pushing for a New Safer Strain of Polio

Thanks to the miracle of vaccines, we’re close to wiping out the polio virus. But that very success brings its own set of fresh challenges. We need some safe form of the virus in order to keep manufacturing vaccines, but those are in short supply the closer we come to eradicating polio entirely.

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Aww Yeah, the James Webb Space Telescope Has Half Its Mirrors!

What better way to spend the holidays than watching NASA technicians scurry around assembling mirror segments on the James Webb Space Telescope? With the 9th of 18 segments installed last week, we’re that much closer to hunting for signs of life on alien worlds and making our universe a little less lonely .

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Yakuza Apocalypse review – vampire gangsters go wild in freaky, wacky Takashi Miike mashup

The Japanese horror surrealist delivers one of his strangest mashups yet, and it’s great fun, but tiresomely long

Related: Audition review – the stomach-turning birth of J-horror

The bizarre world of Japanese film-maker Takashi Miike has not become any less bizarre with his new film, first seen at Cannes earlier this year. The notorious pulp-arthouse auteur has created another freakily eclectic mashup: a yakuza gangster film and a vampire film – and also a comedy farce. (Miike’s 1999 masterpiece Audition, rereleased late last year, was also a mix of styles: a dating dramedy that morphed into extreme horror; this director derives his own kind of energy from these generic shunts.)

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Bats Respond to Too Much Noise the Same Way Children Do

Bats find their way around at night by emitting noise and listening to the way it bounces back to them. But since bats often congregate in large groups, how do they keep from losing their own signal in the din? A new study found that they do this much … Continue reading

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Sleeping With Other People review – watchable modern homage to When Harry Met Sally

This yarn about two former lovers who bump into each other at a sex addiction clinic is entertaining in parts, but not as edgy as it thinks – and no match for the genre greats it is aping

Leslye Headland is a smart writer-director now specialising in comedies of sexual manners. She adapted her stage play Bachelorette for the screen in 2012, and with this new film has created a contemporary romcom homage to When Harry Met Sally. Inevitably, it pretends to be edgier than it actually is, and doesn’t create a sustained character development in the way Nora Ephron managed, but it’s watchable for all that.

Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis play Lainey and Jake, two single professionals who bump into each other by chance at a 12-step sex-addiction meeting, many years after losing their virginity to each other at college. Jake is now a serially unfaithful guy. Schoolteacher Lainey also has issues: she is addicted to booty-call sex from her commitment-phobe lover and former gynaecologist – euuww – Matthew (Adam Scott). Intrigued by each other’s existences, Lainey and Jake agree to try a platonic friendship in which they will genuinely open up to each other about their tumultuous sex lives. What on earth will happen in the end, do you suppose?

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Ponder the Physics of Chocolate Fountains During Your New Year’s Revels

New Year’s revelers will be heading out to all kinds of parties tonight, and chances are a good percentage will be tempted by the presence of a chocolate fountain—just a teensy bit of indulgence before those resolutions kick in. Perhaps those with a scientific bent could find themselves pondering, just for a moment, the complicated physics involved in all that chocolaty goodness.

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Le Mépris (Contempt) review – Godard’s poetically sour movie-making drama

It has a reputation as one of Godard’s key works, but there is an argument that it has not aged well. Still, its uningratiating deconstructions of cinema and sex make for a fierce watch

Related: Jean-Luc Godard: a beginner’s guide

It is fitting that Le Mépris, or Contempt, is one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most talked-about movies. My (minority) view is that the 1963 film, now on rerelease, has dated and curdled in a way that his other pictures from the 60s haven’t. But Godard is a prose-poet of contempt. He has contempt for postwar imperialism, for the hypocrisy of sexual relations, and even for the commerce underlying modern cinema. He is, at all times, fiercely sceptical of power relations, especially those implicit in movie-making.

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This Is What an Entire Day Where the Sun Doesn’t Set Looks Like

While we’re wrapping up winter, Antarctica is getting fully into the swing of summer—and there that can mean an entire day of sunlight. Here’s what that looks like.

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The Fall of the Krays review – stylish but ropey am-dram gangster biopic

Related: How my negative review of Legend was spun into movie marketing gold

If you thought the florid Legend, the recent bio-drama that starred Tom Hardy as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray, was too classy, then this cheap-as-chips rehash of the same material is the film for you. A sequel to writer-director Zackary Adler’s The Rise of the Krays, it goes into a lot more detail about the lesser players in the Krays’ criminal empire, who killed whom, when and why, and all that tedious saga. The story feels more loyal to the historical record, and the seedy portrait of Reggie’s failed marriage is far more persuasive than Legend’s romanticised version, but the acting standard here would shame an am-dram panto. At least the design – all narrow-lapel suits and nicotine-stained wood panelling – feels plausibly of the period.

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Biggest Book Trends: Print Is Back, and Everyone’s Reading Science Fiction

Rumors of the death of the print book were massively exaggerated, it turns out. According to the L.A. Times, 571 million print books were sold in 2015, 17 million more than in 2014. And ebooks, which had been forecast to hit 50 to 60 percent of book sa… Continue reading

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It Was a Wild, Weird Year to Live on Planet Earth

The year 2015 will go down as many things, but normal isn’t one of them. We saw record-smashing temperatures, exceptional droughts, deadly heat waves and massive wildfires. Add in earthquakes, landslides, and a brewing El Niño and we’re convinced our planet is trying to kill us.

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At Any Price review – Zac Efron lifts a strained family drama

Ramin Bahrani’s excellent movie 99 Homes, released this year, starred Michael Shannon as a sinister real estate salesman and Andrew Garfield as his unwilling protege. It was a fierce drama about the toxic loan crisis, replete with father-son issues. This film, on the other hand, is the odd, flawed work Bahrani made before 99 Homes; it has many similar themes, but it’s nowhere near as good. Now At Any Price is getting a modest UK release, three years after it premiered at Venice, which is where I first saw it. Dennis Quaid plays Henry, who is worried about the farm that has been in his family for generations but is always teetering near the verge of insolvency. Zac Efron plays his son, the boy he hoped would one day take it over, but who seems more interested in stock car racing. It’s a strained picture, somewhere between tragedy and soap opera. Perhaps Bahrani aspired to the scale of George Stevens’s Giant, but he can never quite nail the tone, and Quaid’s performance is uncertain. Zac Efron, however, does a reasonable job. He deserves a decent grownup role in a decent grownup film.

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This Asian Time Travel Thriller Could Be Next Year’s Breakout Action Movie

Asia is becoming an increasingly important market for science fiction and fantasy movies, but we’re still waiting for countries like China to produce their own worthy competitors to The Avengers and Star Wars. A new movie now in production could help to change that.

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The Danish Girl review – chocolate-box charm from Eddie Redmayne

This fictionalised biopic of pioneering transgender artist Lili Elbe is well made and sympathetic, if a little too tasteful

The title is ambiguous, applying to either of its lead characters, but in both cases it should be The Danish Woman, surely? This is the fictionalised reimagining of the story of Lili Elbe, formerly Einar Wegener, the pioneering transgender artist from Denmark who, in 1930, was one of the first people to undertake sex reassignment surgery. Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon has adapted David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel based on Elbe’s life, and Tom Hooper directs with the same accomplishment and flair he brought to The King’s Speech, the same eye for sartorial elegance – Eddie Redmayne’s male suits make him look an elfin Prince of Wales. There is the same Pygmalion trope of remedial transformation.

Related: Danish Girl director Tom Hooper: film industry has ‘problem’ with transgender actors

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