The 10 Nerdiest Things At SXSW 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015 at 5:00 am

Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina
South by Southwest is actually three festivals in one. There's music, which is how it began; film which has kind of taken over; and interactive. Music is out of our wheelhouse but the films tend to be nerd-friendly. The city motto of Austin, TX is "Keep Austin weird" so they certainly bring movies that cater to that crowd. Then the interactive portion can give us all sorts of technological fun, like last year's real life Mario Kart racing. SXSW is the festival where Twitter blew up.

At SXSW 2015 I didn't hear as much about interactive stuff, but a few of the film promotions incorporated technology heavily. There were plenty of midnight movies, big premieres and special events to make SXSW 2015 a truly weird and nerdy experience yet again.

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Robert Downey, Jr. Just Made 10 Insane Short Films About the New HTC One Phone

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 11:50 am


Primarily inspired by different colors, but also influences as diverse as Charlie Chaplin, Andy Warhol and The Prisoner, Downey was given complete creative control to do whatever he wanted, loosely using the themes and buzzwords of HTC's self-described philosophy. He plays baseball with a purple chicken, scares a giant rabbit by popping a balloon, breaks the moon for a mer-man, screws a grenade into a light socket, and more.

I don't know that it'll make me want to buy a phone, but it does make me want to see him direct more. His dad was a very strange filmmaker to begin with.

Funnily enough, I won the HTC One that I have at a Captain America junket. Marvelous.

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Ask Luke's Mother-in-Law: A New Podcast Star Is Born

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 6:30 am


Martha Boyd is former LAPD, a licensed property appraiser and a self-described crazy cat lady. None of which has prepared her for TR readers. All questions and answers are real.

Hi, and hope you all had a great St Patrick's Day. I made a trip to Los Angeles last weekend, as Julia was performing with Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and the show was on Sunday so I was able to make it. After the show we went over to Hollywood and Highland for a great lunch, and while we were there the UCLA band was doing a pep rally for March Madness. They were good, but we would rather have had USC. We also did a little shopping at Hot Topic, then back to the apartment and I got wrangled into a podcast; my very first for Topless Robot, so I hope you all enjoy. It is about 1.5 hrs long and I am the only guest. Had fun doing it.

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"Life Inside Jabba the Hutt" Is Not a Porn Fanfic, but Is a Great Documentary Short

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 12:39 pm


From hearing "Jabba" speaking English on set to seeing the little person hidden in his tail, this documentary short will make you understand why George Lucas much prefers CGI even though the puppet is way cooler - the sheer effort it took to pull off the Hutt's performance is amazing. And the clever way the editing hides a multitude of weaknesses shows you just how budget limits can lead to creativity.

Yes, digital is a LOT easier - but sometimes, having people suffer for their art is better for the end product.

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7 Final Fantasy Secrets Hidden Within the Game Files

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 5:00 am

Square Enix

It's been a rough few years for fans of the Final Fantasy series. Between the numerous poorly made cell phone titles, a new online game that was still in the alpha stage development when released, and a numbered entry that was announced in 2006 with a release date of "sometime this ice age," it should come as no surprise that Final Fantasy fans are still nostalgic for the days when the franchise was at its peak.

To this day, the old games in the series are still making money on services like the PlayStation Network and Steam. The reason Final Fantasy I has been re-released seventeen times, and why a port of the now eighteen year-old game Final Fantasy VII was part of last year's PlayStation Experience event is simple. Fans are filled with nostalgia because they just don't make Final Fantasy games like they used to. Which is why people are still exploring the data of these beloved titles, hoping to find more pieces of the games they love which have never been seen before.

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TOPLESS ROBOT LIVE! "Sexism or Slander?" Feat. Ariel Schudson and Scott Mendelson

Friday, March 13, 2015 at 6:30 am


On the latest podcast, we discuss:

-Scott's history as a writer and box-office analyst, and how Ariel came to be a film archivist and scholar.

-How movie marketing today differs - or not - from the deceptive sales tactics of the '30s.

-What we all think of Chappie.

-That controversial article from last week about nerd culture taking a long hard look at itself (if that made you mad, and agreeing to disagree ain't your thing, beware!)

-How a second Ghostbusters reboot announcement does or doesn't already undermine the first.

-How likely you are to ever watch a film print of unaltered Star Wars again.

-All this and your questions too! If you do iTunes, please be sure to subscribe and leave a good rating if you like it. If not, you can listen below.

Former Firefly Stars Are Crowdfunding a Web Series About Former Firefly-ish Show Stars

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 11:30 am


In what will undoubtedly feel like a massive stretch, Con Men features Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk as actors from a prematurely canceled sci-fi show. One has gone on to fame and fortune, while the other travels the convention circuit, meeting strange characters who are possibly maybe inspired by people the actual actors have met. Gina Torres is also involved, as are Felicia Day, Seth Green and James Gunn. It's either gonna be the ultimate nerdgasm, or the wankiest of fan-wanks. Either way, somebody's getting off. Plus they're building a spaceship.

Both actors seem a tad young to be going straight to Shatner-level self-referential careers, but as long as they record CDs in which they sing or enunciate really terribly while sounding totally high off their asses, I think I'm on board. It's gonna happen anyway - Indiegogo flexible funding lets them keep most of the money raised even if the final goal isn't met. That final goal they've gotten more than halfway to in one day.

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Patton Oswalt Seriously Wants Unbreakable Sequels, Still Likes Shyamalan

Friday, March 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm


I liked Unbreakable a lot too, and thought the ending's "where are they now" onscreen text was a bit abrupt. Like so many more conventional superhero narratives, it was an origin story without the payoff of a sequel unburdened by beginnings. Patton Oswalt still wants more, and in the video below, he discusses his ideas with Screen Junkies.

But I think it's time to let go of the notion that a trilogy is happening, as M. Night Shyamalan used to suggest. (I know, I know, we used to say that about a Blade Runner 2 as well.) If the now nerd-reviled auteur does return to his best work to make two more installments, however, the best part will be that we can call it...


...a Manoj-a-trois.


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Thought-Controlled Planes Are One Step Closer

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 8:50 am


A 55 year-old quadriplegic woman with electrodes implanted in her brain, having previously been able to control a robotic arm, has now been able to successfully fly an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator, according to DARPA.

She has never flown an actual plane, nor is she trained to do so.

"Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they're driving this thing, Jan's thinking about controlling the airplane directly," Prabhakar said. "For someone who's never flown -- she's not a pilot in real life -- she's flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling."
Can we officially call her a cyborg now, or will we have to come up with a more PC term?

h/t Gallen_Dugall

Weekend Open Thread - Now With Comment of the Week!

Friday, February 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm


Since day one of my time here, reader Canadian.Scott has been asking for a "Comment of the Week" feature. I finally told him that if he wants to pick the contenders, I will showcase the winner on the open thread.

So this week's winner, responding to the Jem movie image, is...


Congratulations! You have won a big, fat, invisible set of bragging rights for the next seven days!

Now talk about whatever you'd like, though I suggest that if you want to talk about Leonard Nimoy, it might be better placed in the Nimoy comment thread several posts below, where we've been collecting tributes in the comments.