The Student

I’ve got to tell you, there’s another movie I’m going to have to be on the lookout for and perhaps you will be too. “The Student”.

After Venya’s mother receives a call from school reporting her son’s refusal to participate in mixed swimming lessons, she first suspects her teenager of being shy and derides his claim that it is “against his religion.” As Venya is finally exempted by the school’s devout principal, he grows confident that his strict and rigorous study of the Bible gives him the ability to manipulate all forms of authority.

Challenged by a teacher who refuses to consent to his dogma, he sets out to eliminate her and subdue an entire community. At a time when arguments over the teaching of religion in public schools are prominent in the media, this wildly escalating classroom drama — based on a play by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg — serves as a frightening cautionary tale.

Variety says, “At a time when arguments over educational ‘safe spaces’ and belief-based ‘micro-aggressions’ are prominent in the media, this wildly escalating classroom drama — based on a stage work by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg — serves as a frightening cautionary tale. Whether it ultimately comes down for or against unqualified free speech, however, is one of many potential topics of post-screening conversation.”

“The Student” opens in San Francisco this month with more screenings nationwide to follow. You can learn more here.

The Transfiguration

I know, long time, no post. My headaches have been particularly bad these past few weeks and when you pair that up with me thinking I should write about the Saratoga Beer Summit (a huge, daunting task) I essentially stalled out. However, I let go of my beer writing ambitions, at least for the moment, and decided to share a truly haunting looking film I just learned about.

“The Transfiguration was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Writer/director Michael O’Shea’s debut feature “The Transfiguration” follows troubled teen Milo who hides behind his fascination with vampire lore. When he meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to challenge Milo’s dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. A chilling portrait of violence, The Transfiguration is an atmospheric thriller set against the grit of New York City. – from the official website.

This looks like a unique take on the vampire myth. Of course it appears the question will be, is he a vampire that needs to kill to live, or is he a human killer? Scream said, “Imagine if ‘Let the Right One In’ was directed by Larry Clark. That might not sound like the most pleasant of viewing experiences, but it’ll certainly pack a hard-hitting punch. Michael O’Shea’s ‘The Transfiguration’ takes the troubled teen urban drama and injects it with dose of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and the results are an impressive, if a tad harrowing at times.”

“The Transfiguration” opens in New York, NY on April 7th and in Los Angeles, CA on April 22nd. You can keep up with release dates and locations on their official website.

They Will Have to Kill Us First

I was tardy to the party on getting the word out on this one. It opened in Los Angeles on April 1, 2016, however it is continuing to pop up around the United States. Keep your eyes open for this one!

Timed to coincide with Music Freedom Day 2016, BBC Worldwide North America released Johanna Schwartz’s timely and powerful feature documentary “They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile”.

Music is the beating heart of Malian culture, but when Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law by banning all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned, and Mali’s musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, the country’s revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile, where most remain — even now. But rather than laying down their instruments, these courageous artists fought back, standing up for their freedoms and using music as a weapon against the ongoing violence that has ravaged their homeland.

“They Will Have To Kill Us First” is director Schwartz’s debut feature, and follows Songhoy Blues and musicians Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, and Moussa Sidi as they each deal with the unfathomable situation in different ways. Telling the story of the uprising of Touareg separatists, revealing footage of the jihadists, and capturing life at refugee camps where both money and hope are scarce, Schwartz and her indefatigable, mainly female, crew chart the perilous journeys to war-ravaged cities, as some of Mali’s most talented musicians set up and perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban.

Co-written by Schwartz and Andy Morgan, renowned journalist and former manager of Grammy® Award winning band Tinariwen, “They Will Have To Kill Us First” is produced by Sarah Mosses of Together Films and executive produced by Andre Singer (The Act of Killing) alongside Stephen Hendel, Victoria Steventon, OKAY Africa and Knitting Factory Entertainment.

“They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile”, features an original score by Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and a commissioned soundtrack featuring Songhoy Blues, Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, Moussa Sidi and many more.

To learn more and see where it’s playing, visit: http://www.theywillhavetokillusfirst.com/

THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST – SHORT TRAILER / US THEATRICAL from TWHTKUF – Doc on Vimeo.

Icaros: A Vision

A film is making its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and I thought I’d give you the heads up because I thought some of you might find it interesting. The film is “Icaros: A Vision” and it’s directed by Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi and stars Ana Cecilia Stieglitz, Filippo Timi, and Arturo Izquierdo. Here’s a synopsis:

Looking for a miracle, Angelina (Ana Cecilia Stieglitz) lands at a healing center in the Peruvian Amazon where shamans minister to a group of foreign psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. Her perceptions altered by the ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca, she bonds with Arturo (Arturo Izquierdo), a young indigenous shaman who is losing his eyesight. In their hallucinogenic journeys together they attain a different sense of their destinies. She learns to accept her fears while Arturo, in turn, realizes that he will be able to see in the dark and sing his ceremonial healing songs, the icaros.

Icaros Poster
Icaros Poster

You can learn more at: http://www.icarosavision.com/

Geek Month in Review: July 2015

By JB Sanders

Fireworks!

Touching Holograms
Remember that scene in Iron Man or Avengers where someone moves holograms around like they’re real, physical objects? Yeah, we’re not that far away from having that.

Star Trek Bluetooth Communicator
So sure, it’s nothing more than a bluetooth headset in a weird form, but it does look freakin’ cool. How odd is it (for those of us above a certain age) to see something like this and think “that’s retro-future nostalgia tech”.

TWA Terminal in Time Capsule
It’s a view back to the Jet Age, when the wealthy travelled by jet airliner and smoked in their designer finery. It’s like a posh version of the Jetsons.

Super Camper Van
Planning an expedition to the arctic? Or that trackless wilderness that hides a pyramid? Then this “camper van” is your ideal companion. It’s something the company in the movie “Congo” would have bought. It has everything.

Blade Runner Prop Photos
See the miniatures created for all the effects in Blade Runner. You know, because there was a time before CGI.

Underground Drone Video
Not just for high-level aerial footage anymore — now drones are flying around the tunnels under London.

LEGO Queen Mary
Yup, an ocean liner model made entirely of LEGOs. It’s 25-feet long, has over 250,000 bricks, and weighs 600 pounds.

Giant Arrows from a Bi-plane Age
Obsolete infrastructure can be found all over the place — just look out the train window in the Easter US and see the telegraph cabling. There used to be arrows all over the US guiding early flyers to the nearest airport.

Healing With Ultrasound
Scientists are working to heal wounds with ultrasound, sci-fi style. Not instantly, mind you, but the technique appears to work on chronic wounds which won’t otherwise heal normally.

Plastic Roads
Like giant LEGO(tm) bricks, Plastic Roads are being developed in the Netherlands, and are designed to be modular.

The Tree That Bears 40 Different Fruits
Yeah, really. It’s not some weird genetic hybrid that might have tentacles if someone slipped a digit somewhere, this is straight-up ancient-as-hell hybridization. Or more specifically, grafting. Some joker grafted 40 different varieties of fruit-bearing tree limbs onto one tree, and then repeated the idea in several dozen locations. The article has a link to a map, if you want to see these trees in person.

World’s Largest Vertical Farm
Kickin’ it scifi-style in New Jersey with the indoor, sunlight-free, aeroponic farm. The facility will be capable of producing 2 million pounds of produce a year when it’s finished, and it doesn’t use nearly the resources of regular farming.

EM Drive May Actually Work
When it was originally announced, the EM space drive got a lot of scorn. Thrust from “nothing” (no reaction mass)? Yeah, lots of doubt. However, several independent scientists have now tentatively confirmed that there is something going on there. Space travel, ahoy!

Quietest Rooms in the World
Soundproofed, shielded from electromagnetic noise, and isolated from pretty much any odd earth movement, these rooms in Switzerland are great places to mess with particle physics.

Lamp Runs on Sea Water and Metal
Two Phillipine geniuses (genii?) have invented a lamp that can run on salt water and electrodes that only need to be replaced once or twice a year. It even has a port to charge cell phones.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-brother-and-sister-in-the-philippines-invented-a-lamp-that-runs-entirely-on-metal-and-salt-water?c=bl3

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Women. Aren’t. Funny.

Midway through Goldie Hawn and Michael Eisner’s on-stage conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival at the beginning of July, the former Disney CEO proposed a theory for what made Hawn stand out in Hollywood over the years.

“From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman,” he said. “By far. They usually—boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online—but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.” – The Atlantic 07/03/15

He of course thought Goldie Hawn was beautiful and funny, and she is, but this whole “women aren’t funny” and now upping the ante with a “woman can’t be beautiful and funny” really gets my goat. Hopefully it bothers you too.

I don’t understand why people think women aren’t funny, and seriously, why can’t they be beautiful and funny? Obviously humor, and beauty, are in the funny bone, and eye of the beholder, but I can easily show you a bunch of beautiful women with quite the knack for comedy.

Sandra Bullock
Aisha Tyler
Lucille Ball
Mila Kunis
Joan Cusack
Salma Hayek
Tina Fey
Sarah Silverman
Kathy Griffin
Wanda Sykes
Rita Rudner
Madeline Kahn

And I just can’t resist with Madeline Kahn…..

There you go, a dozen beautiful, funny women just like that. BAM! And I could easily go on. I bet you guys know other hot and humorous ladies, and yet this idea persists that women aren’t funny. There’s even a documentary exploring the idea.

Now Streaming on Netflix!

Now unfortunately comments are still broken on the website, but if you know some other seriously funny and attractive ladies to share, feel free to share them on our Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ page. And let’s tell the world beautiful women can be funny!

The Geek Month in Review: February 2015

by J.B. Sanders

Stupid groundhog…

RC Millenium Falcon
So, build your own flying Millennium Falcon model. No, really.

No Big Bang. Universe Is Forever.
So these quantum physicists, always at the crazy end of the physics spectrum, have come up with a cosmological theory that the universe has no beginning and no end. We’re not talking just spacially here, as in an infinite physical universe, but also in time — no beginning, no end. Thus, no Big Bang. Read the mind-bending details in the article.

Viewmaster for the Modern Day
Instead of getting fun 3D images via circular photo disks, the modern Viewmaster is instead a plastic holder for your smartphone. Grab the Viewmaster app, and then point your head at the new “Experience Disks”, which are basically triggers for content. It’s better if you watch their movie to see what I mean, but it does seem ultra-cool.

Tesla Model S Easter Egg
Fun little visual easter egg in Tesla’s Model S onboard controls.

The Overlook Maze
Ever wonder what a scale model of the Overlook Maze, from the movie The Shining, would look like? Or how hard it would be to build it?

12 Optical Illusions Based on Color
In case you weren’t over color-based tricks of the eye.

Over-the-top Clockwork Hidden Drawers
For all you steampunks out there, this one’s for you.

Watching Aliens with 11-year-olds
Great article by a guy chaperoning a slumber party full of kids watching Aliens for the very first time.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

An Honest Liar

Today a documentary about the life of Randall James Hamilton Zwinge released into theaters. You may know Zwinge better as James Randi or The Amazing Randi. Upon reflection, a documentary about Randi is long overdue. However, after watching the film “An Honest Liar” any documentary released prior to this one would have been woefully lacking. Filmmakers Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom managed through goodwill and happenstance to be on hand to capture real truth from a master magician, thus a master of diversion and manipulation. Or as Randi says, “in other words, bullshit.”

“An Honest Liar” could easily have been twice as long. We’re talking about a subject who at the age of 17 years-old ran off to join a carnival, and who now at over 80 years-old has never sat still. The film briefly touches on Randi’s childhood, then dives into his successful career as escape artist/magician The Amazing Randi, and we see how that segues into his career as professional skeptic. If you find that Randi’s arc follows in broad strokes the life of Harry Houdini, you’re not the only one who finds that parallel. The coincidence is brought up by magician and skeptic alike throughout the film.

It’s odd that I never knew Randi as The Amazing Randi. I always knew it was part of his background, but until “An Honest Liar” I never saw him escape a straightjacket, a pair of handcuffs, or even a length of rope. To see him so young and roguish, for me, it was like being introduced to a stranger. Then thanks to some excellent archival footage and interview legwork I got to bear witness to stuff that to me was almost legend: Randi vs Uri Gellar, Randi vs Peter Popoff, and Project Alpha, as well as other investigations from that era. Finally the film gets to the only James Randi I’ve really ever known. Long white hair, long white beard. The consummate skeptic, proud atheist, and founder of James Randi Educational Foundation (amongst many other things). He has a keen intellect and a razor sharp wit.

Then, due to a strange twist of fate, a deception that had been lying dormant in Randi’s life being revealed, I come face to face with a James Randi I’m not entirely comfortable with. Gone is the man who is certain of how the world works and who brushes things that disagree with him off with aplomb. In those few moments I am face to face with the fully realized human being that is James Randi.

Weinstein and Meason captured a master escape artist from every angle with “An Honest Liar”. If you get a chance to see it, do so.

To learn more and/or help get the film in more theaters visit: http://anhonestliar.com/wp/

The Geek Month in Review: December 2014

By JB Sanders

Happy Yule!

Alien Fonts
Great article on the fonts and symbols used in the movie Alien, and how they influenced other scifi movies. Bonus points for a tie-in with The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky.

Touchable Holograms
Yeah, you read that right. Projected images that have haptic feedback — meaning you can feel them. Go ahead and let your brain explode on that one.

Hand-Illuminated, Hand-Bound Copy of the Simallarion
You remember that Tolkien book, the one that is basically lifted from his hand-written notes about the world of the Lord of the Rings, but it is basically unreadable except as a reference work? Yeah, this German art student decides to just go ahead and create a copy of the book by hand. It’s awesome.

Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer, Project Apollo
Yeah, that headline pretty much tells the whole story, but for the details, read the article.

Interactive 3D Display
Nope, not the same as the link above. This is more like a telepresence version of that toy with all the pins in it that everyone always presses their hand into. Only with color.

Lord of the Rings Partially Explained
Ever wonder how Gandalf got to be so badass that he could go toe-to-toe with a Balrog? Check out the video!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

24 Hour Joe Show

I suspect it comes as no surprise that my political inclinations are progressive, and thusly I found myself curious when given the opportunity to watch an advance screener of “The Joe Show”, a documentary about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Would it celebrate him? With publicized appearances from known Arpaio supporters Ted Nugent and Steven Seagal it would seem like it. Yet even if it celebrated someone whose politics I felt certain no documentary could give me a warm fuzzy about, I couldn’t resist. I watched the Sarah Palin documentary “Undefeated”. I could handle whatever “The Joe Show” had in store.

Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. You may know him as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. Sheriff Arpaio is nationally known, and in many cases internationally known, for having prisoners wear pink underwear, erecting Tent City (an outdoor tent prison), feeding prisoners food salvage, being overly enthusiastic about cracking down on illegal immigration, investigating the origins of President Obama’s birth, and more. Fortunately for the press, he loves media attention.

However “The Joe Show” was eight years in the making, and that means eight years of access to the Sheriff and Lisa Allen (the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Media Person), as well assorted constituents, activists, and supporters. It’s not surprising to think Arpaio would allow a documentary film to be made about him, and as the film starts it’s a very neutral experience. Basic background, friends and supporters.

Then things begin to turn. As I said, I already know my politics don’t mesh with Arpaio’s. I’m not down with Tent City, meals of food salvage, or the birthers. Yet with not living in Maricopa County I never went out of my way to follow what had been going on over there. I don’t want to do a big info dump on you here, because you should really just watch the documentary, but we’re talking about abuse of power, devastating failures to investigate sex crimes, and racial profiling. While it’s going on he just keeps getting re-elected. Apparently “The Joe Show” is just too entertaining for the voters of Maricopa County to let go.

Love him or hate him you’re not going to want to pass up on watching “The Joe Show”. It is a well-paced, entertaining, and eye-opening documentary.

The Joe Show – Official Trailer from FilmBuff on Vimeo.

“The Joe Show” will be released December 16 on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, GooglePlay, Xbox, Playstation, and Vudu.