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Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars ( 316

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website,, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.
Lord of the Rings

Now We Know Why the Hobbit Movies Were So Awful ( 175 writes: Everyone seems to agree that the key to the success of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy was years of careful planning before production ever began. Now Bryan Bishop writes at The Verge that in what can only be described as the most honest promotional video of all time, we find out why the Hobbit trilogy turned out to be such a boring mess. In the clip, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, and other production personnel confess that due to the director changeover — del Toro left the project after nearly two years of pre-production — Jackson hit the ground running, but was never able to hit the reset button to get time to establish his own vision. Once the new director was hired, the harried crew members had to scramble to redesign everything to suit Jackson's vision, but they could barely even keep up with the production schedule, let alone prepare anything in advance.

At some junctures in the process, Jackson found himself essentially having to improvise on set because there was nothing really prepared for his actors to do. "You're going on to a set and you're winging it, you've got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you're making it up there and then on the spot," said Jackson. "I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it."

But wait: "Peter has never made a secret of the fact that he took over the Hobbit directing job with very little preparation time remaining before shooting had to begin. It was a challenge he willingly took on. His comments are an honest reflection of his own personal feelings at times during the movie's production," says a spokesman for Jackson. "Somebody has decided to create this cut-down, using only the sections of The Gathering Clouds that discuss the difficulties faced, not the positive ways they were addressed and overcome – which are also covered in this and other featurettes."


Structural Engineer On the Fallacies of Movie Bridge Destruction ( 211

szczys writes: Suspension bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are favorite victims for movie makers but are almost always shown to perform in violation of the laws of physics. Structural Engineer Alex Weinberg couldn't stay silent any longer. He covers how bridge collapses in several major films should have looked. The biggest offender? Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.

How Hollywood's Hedy Helped Heighten Handhelds ( 67

szczys writes: Hedy Lamarr is a household name for the wrong reason. Her name is known as a Hollywood actress, but her legacy is in your pocket and reaches far more people than her movies. She was a brilliant thinker who plied her skills during World War II, developing technology that could help to win the war. Her patent wasn't used at the time, but is a foundation of spread-spectrum which is used in the radio modules of your cellphone: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and others. This frequency hopping concept sat unused for decades before being added to the most ubiquitous of wireless connectivity methods.

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 89 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."

Google-Supported CodeGirl Documentary Makes "Exclusive YouTube Premiere" 289

theodp writes: As part of our Made with Code and media perception initiatives," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki over at the Official Google Blog, "I'm excited that we're supporting award-winning documentary filmmaker Lesley Chilcott — of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman [and] fame — on her next film, CodeGirl. Until November 5 Lesley's film will be available for free on YouTube, before its theatrical debut in the next few weeks." Microsoft is pretty jazzed about the movie too, as is Al Gore. Decidedly less excited about CodeGirl is film critic Inkoo Kang, who writes, "CodeGirl, a chronicle of this year's Technovation contest, is just as well-intentioned as its subject. It coasts for as long as it can on the feel-good fuel of watching smart, earnest girls talk about creating an app, but with virtually no tension, context, narrative or characterization driving the story, the documentary grows to feel like a parent describing their daughter's involvement in an international competition. The girls' achievements are impressive, but you definitely don't want to hear about them for nearly two hours.

IMDb Hits 25 59

An anonymous reader writes: The year 2015 heralded a number of notable Internet milestones — the humble .com domain name reached 30 years of age, while both eBay and Amazon reached the grand old age of 20. That the Internet Movie Database, a gargantuan film and TV show encyclopedia better known as IMDb, began 25 years ago as a pre-Web hobby project and is now one of the top 50 most visited websites on the Internet is a notable achievement. "IMDb is the only pure Internet company that can celebrate its 25th anniversary," said Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Noriyoshi Ohrai, Illustrator of Many Hollywood Movie Posters, Has Died 16

AmiMoJo writes: While far from a household name, Noriyoshi Ohrai painted some of the most well known Hollywood movie posters, as well as numerous posters and covers for Western and Japanese media alike. His most famous work is probably the Empire Strikes Back international poster, but he also did paintings for Godzilla, The Goonies, Spiderman comics, numerous games and more.

Lawsuit Claims Buck Rogers Is In the Public Domain 207

An anonymous reader writes: As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a court will decide whether Buck Rogers is in the public domain. The Buck Rogers comic strip first appeared in 1929. Team Angry Filmmakers claim that Buck Rogers entered the public domain in the mid-1950s, and they want to make a Buck Rogers movie called Armageddon 2419 A.D. They filed a federal suit this year in Los Angeles against the trust claiming ownership of the name, and the trial has been moved to Pittsburgh.

A Real-Life Space Botanist Comments On the Potato Garden In 'The Martian' ( 134

MarkWhittington writes: In the hit movie, The Martian, stranded astronaut Mark Watney famously survives on Mars by creating a potato garden using Martian soil mixed in with composted human excrement. According to a story in CNET, NASA believes that the movie is on the right track as far as astronauts growing their own food on long-duration space missions. However, some caveats exists concerning how the film depicted space agriculture.

"YouTube Red" Offers Premium YouTube For $9.99 a Month, $12.99 For iOS Users ( 236

An anonymous reader writes: YouTube is launching a subscription plan in the U.S. called Red that combines ad-free videos, new original series and movies. The official blog post reads in part: "On October 28, we’re giving fans exactly what they want. Introducing YouTube Red -- a new membership designed to provide you with the ultimate YouTube experience. YouTube Red lets you enjoy videos across all of YouTube without ads, while also letting you save videos to watch offline on your phone or tablet and play videos in the background, all for $9.99 a month. Your membership extends across devices and anywhere you sign into YouTube, including our recently launched Gaming app and a brand new YouTube Music app we’re announcing today that will be available soon."

Ask Slashdot: What's Your Media Setup? 236

An anonymous reader writes: There's no dearth of media technology today. Not only do modern console emulate set-top boxes, but there are dozens of tiny appliances that bring TV shows and movies to your screens with varying levels of convenience and cost. So, what setup do you use? I'm curious about the hardware you use to collect, transmit, and display the media, in addition to the software running it, and the services you use or subscribe to that provide the media. I imagine there are a lot of cord-cutters in this crowd — if that's the case, how do you acquire the shows you want to watch? What problems still need to be solved in this area?

Tomorrow Is 'Back To the Future' Day ( 127

An anonymous reader writes: In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly travels from 1985 to tomorrow — October 21, 2015. The occasion is being noted in a couple of ways. A documentary called Back In Time debuts tomorrow that will chronicle the making of the Back to the Future trilogy. There are also screenings of the films around the world, and even a tour of locations from the film. Much to director Robert Zemeckis's dismay, everybody's judging the predictive accuracy of the films. "I always hated — and I still don't like — movies about the future. I just think they're impossible, and somebody's always keeping score." For example: "big-screen TVs, yes, Mr. Fusion, no; virtual-reality goggles, yes, Jaws 19, no." On the other hand, people are keeping an eye on the baseball playoffs — the movie predicts a World Series victory for the Chicago Cubs, something they haven't managed since 1908. The Cubs actually did make the playoffs this year, and are fighting for a league championship title at the moment of this writing.

Rovi and Michigan State University Establish Largest US Library Media Collection ( 22

New submitter dbosman writes: A donation from Rovi Corp. announced Monday is bringing a gigantic media collection to Michigan State University that includes more than 850,000 CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games. “We are honored to be the proprietors of the largest media archive in the country, which has quickly become the most requested material in the Michigan inter-library loan system,” said Clifford H. Haka, director of libraries, Michigan State University. “The ‘Rovi Media Collection’ dramatically enhances our teaching curriculum and research within the College of Music, popular culture and film studies, and an emerging gaming program. Assembling a collection of such cultural and historic importance and overall magnitude would simply not have been feasible with our current budget. On behalf of all of our users at MSU and across Michigan, we thank Rovi for this generous gift.”

Deja Vu: Microsoft's 2015 Surface Book Ad and Apple's 2014 'Your Verse' iPad Ad 71

theodp writes: With its sweeping vistas and narration by the late Robin Williams, Apple's 2014 'Your Verse' ad dramatically showcased the many ways iPads might help people create, from making movies to calibrating wind turbines. So it's interesting that Microsoft's first ad for its new Surface Book (YouTube) bears a striking resemblance to the earlier Apple ad (YouTubeDoubler comparison). Which is probably only fair, since Apple's soon-to-be-released iPad Pro bears more than a passing resemblance to the Microsoft Surface. Hey, good artists copy, great artists steal, right? By the way, between the release of Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, Apple's iPad Pro, and Google's Pixel C, is the keyboard+touch interface poised to be a four-decade "overnight success"?

Why You Should Be Suspicious of Online Movie Ratings ( 184

An anonymous reader writes: Statistical news blog noticed some odd discrepancies in online movie ratings, which caused them to do some investigating. They found it was generally a bad idea to rely on such ratings, particularly from sites like Fandango. "When I focused on movies that had 308 or more user reviews, none of the 209 films had below a 3-star rating. Seventy-eight percent had a rating of 4 stars or higher." Further, "In a normal rounding system, a site would round to the nearest half-star — up or down. In the case of Ted 2 [which was displaying 4.5 stars], then, we'd expect the rating to be rounded down to 4 stars. But Fandango rounded the 'ratingValue' [4.1] up. I pulled the number of stars listed on the page of each film in our sample of 437 (with at least one user review), as well as the ratingValue listed on the page's source. And I found that Fandango doesn't round a rating down when we'd mathematically expect that ...'s rounding methodology, even if it was just an innocent bug, is a good example of why you should be skeptical of online movie ratings, especially from companies selling you tickets."

A Remarkable Number of People Think 'The Martian' Is Based On a True Story ( 367

MarkWhittington writes: The Martian is a smash hit movie that made $100 million worldwide during its first weekend. The science and engineering depicted was, with certain notable exceptions, near perfect. The cinematography and special effects were so well done that one could almost imagine that Ridley Scott sent Matt Damon and a film crew to Mars to shoot the movie. In fact, perhaps the film was a little too good. Buzzfeed took a stroll through social media and discovered that many people think that The Martian is based on a true story.

Review: The Martian Screenshot-sm 242

I was both pleased and disappointed, as always, when I heard that a book I enjoyed was being made into a movie. Andy Weir's The Martian was the best new book I'd read in years. It was written for nerds, by a nerd — by somebody with an obvious love for NASA, science, and spaceflight. How could it possibly be condensed into the format of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard figured out how. The Martian is an excellent film, well worth watching. Read on for my review (very minor spoilers only), and feel free to share your own in the comments.

Inside the Spaceflight of 'The Martian' 124

benonemusic writes: Science writer Michael Greshko partnered with a team of scientists and engineers to explore the spacecraft and mission plans in The Martian (novel and movie), down to the rescue plan itself. Incorporating the help of Andy Weir, the novel's author, he comes up with a calendar of events for The Martian, explores the hazards of going back to save Mark Watney, and explains how a real world interplanetary spacecraft would pull off a rescue maneuver.

What Ridley Scott Has To Say About the Science In "The Martian" 163

An anonymous reader writes: Sciencemag has an interview with the people behind the movie The Martian. Director Ridley Scott, author Andy Weir, and Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science and an adviser on the film talk about the technology and the science in the movie. Scott says: "Almost immediately [after] I decided to do it, we started to have conversations with NASA about process, the habitats, the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), the suits and everything. And they sent us pictures, almost like photographs, of what they hoped it would all be. If there had been anything in [the screenplay] that actually was suspect—they are not shy—they would have said so."