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20 Feb 06:51

Sneaky Ways App Developers Get You Addicted

In a report from Business Insider, Jonathan Kay, chief operating officer of app analytics firm Apptopia goes into several of the ways that app developers use to get people hooked on using them. The article is incredibly detailed, going from Instagram's push notifications, to Twitter using the spinning wheel for loading in the same way as used in slot machines. Fascinating stuff for sure. We have seen for years how companies use subliminal messages in ads and the like, so seeing how it's implimented in apps is new territory. I'm also happy to say I have exactly zero of the apps mentioned in the article on any of my devices, dirty sneaky devs can't trick me. For another, app makers are using deliberate techniques to attract your attention. They aren't simply relying on you to come to them whenever you have downtime. "I think people want to be sucked in," Kay said. "Then it becomes a game of who can be more clever at grabbing that attention." Discussion
18 Feb 22:33

‘Black Panther’ Review: Marvel’s Latest Adventure is a Triumph

by Jazmine Joyner

Black Panther Review

I have never felt the way I do right now after watching a movie.

Black Panther was so much more than I thought it would be. As a Black woman who has loved film her entire life, I know how much representation matters and I’ve never seen a movie on the scale of Black Panther. I knew going in that it is a Marvel Studios movie, which also means it’s a Disney movie. There are expectations that come with that. But in my head, no matter the hype, I figured they would never give us the same love and attention they give to heroes like Captain America.

And I was right. They didn’t give us the same love as Captain America. They gave us so much more.

I have never seen a movie with so many black people in leading roles, playing such complex and unique characters. And on top of that, there are so many powerful black women in a world where they themselves hold great power and respect. And it all takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a place where black people are not only thriving, but excelling at everything they touch. Black Panther is a portrait of black excellence exemplified, and to be helmed by a black director (Ryan Coogler) and feature the talents of a black costume designer (Ruth E. Carter), black hair stylists (Camille Friend), and black writers (Coogler and Joe Robert Cole), all of whom are given free rein to tell their story… I was awestruck by the end of the film.

Black Panther is a wonderful film that completely lives up to and even exceeds the hype that has been surrounding it. Ryan Coogler’s direction is thoughtful and poignant and what he is able to borrow from the original Marvel comics and bring to the screen is so satisfying. Coolger and his team are able to infuse Black Panther with cultural dialogue, that usual Marvel superhero grandeur, and plenty of humor.

But it’s the characters of Black Panther that make the movie work. There’s Chadwick Boseman as the new king T’challa, trying to find his footing in a role he was thrust into by the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. There’s Shuri, T’Challa’s brilliant, funny, tech genius, scene-stealing baby sister played by Letitia Wright. And in a break from the typical Marvel mold, the villain is exceptional – Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger is a standout player.

In order to talk about Jordan’s character and performance (and so much more), I would have to spoil the film for you. And that is a definite no-no. So just trust me when I say that each actor and each character they play is not the typical one-note black character you are used to seeing in a blockbuster film. They are all fully fleshed out and vivid on the screen, each with their own ambitions and agency.

The fight scenes are, as you’d expect, excellent. They are fast-paced, beautifully choreographed, and feature some of the most thrilling moments I’ve seen in a Marvel film. When the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s all-female band of bodyguards, walked on screen and wielded their spears, I couldn’t help but break into a grin. They are the stars of every battle and the film doesn’t shy away from their strength and fierceness.

But even more important than the action is Wakanda itself. The set design is colorful and vibrant, a nation that is opulent and rich in colors and textures. Each space had a defined feel and emotion to it. Shuri’s lab is playful, curious, and bright – just like her. The throne room is sparse, offering a view of the golden city, showing the focus and seriousness of the space. When you are watching the film you are fully immersed in its universe.

I was, and still am, an emotional pile of feelings after watching this film. It’s going to take a few more viewings to sort myself out, but one thing I do know is that Black Panther is definitely an achievement, especially if you are black. I know some people will take that last statement as some kind of weird jab, but all black people should be able to see themselves on this scale. To see a multi-million dollar blockbuster superhero movie with a predominantly black cast is wonderfully jarring, and filled me with so much pride. I want everyone who looks like me to feel the joy of seeing black people triumph in a movie instead of the endless suffering cinema doles out when telling stories about us.

This isn’t a film where you’ll see broken black bodies, a tale of enduring pain and survival. It’s a film where we see a diverse group of black people thrive, fight, and win. I know my emotions are high, but this is one of the best stories Marvel has told so far.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

The post ‘Black Panther’ Review: Marvel’s Latest Adventure is a Triumph appeared first on /Film.

18 Feb 22:30

Andy Serkis on ‘Black Panther,’ Potentially Returning to ‘Planet of the Apes,’ and More [Interview]

by Ben Pearson

Andy Serkis interview

A couple of weeks ago, I trekked over to Beverly Hills to attend the press junket for Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and had the chance to sit down with actor Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as the villainous Ulysses Klaue in Ryan Coogler’s new movie. Klaue is funnier (and deadlier) this time around than he was in his brief appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I spoke with Serkis about the character’s motivations, being involved in some of the movie’s biggest action scenes, a fascinating tease about the future of his Star Wars character, and his interest in returning to Fox’s Planet of the Apes franchise.

Read our full Andy Serkis interview below.

(Ever-so-light spoilers ahead, so if you’d rather go into the movie completely fresh, save this article and come back to it.)

First thing’s first: aside from “What is Love”, what else do you think is on Ulysses Klaue’s mixtape?

Andy Serkis: (laughs) I think he’s probably got a little bit of Janelle Monae, he’s probably got some Burt Bacharach, he’s probably got a little bit of Pink Floyd. I think he’s pretty eclectic.

How did that “What is Love?” moment come about? Was it in the script that Klaue would be singing that specific song?

There was a scene which preceded that moment, where he’s chained and left alone. He just starts tapping his feet and setting up a riff, and I was just making all these noises and singing, and going to this kind of hip hop beat. And Ryan came in and said, ‘Why don’t we try…’ So we tried a few different songs and then ‘What is Love’ came out of that.

How much does Marvel tell you about your character’s backstory? Do you know, for example, if Klaue ever sold Vibranium to Howard Stark?

I knew about Klaue from the comics. Klaue from the comics is slightly different to that of the movies, so I didn’t want to get hung up on either version, in a way. It’s a bit of an amalgamation, I suppose. I’ve picked and chosen the things that I wanted to use for me as stimuli for the character.

I loved the single shot fight scene in the casino. Walk me through how you filmed that and what that experience was like for you.

It was an amazing week. I think it was about a week, or five days of filming, actually. It was choreographed in chunks, in sections. It was thrilling to be a part of. It really was. All the extras there. All the key players there, and the timing was absolutely crucial. Every single set-up obviously took time, and if you cut and it hadn’t gone, it was a big set-up. So we rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed, and then it was just having the confidence of having everyone be in the moment and have freedom with it. I really enjoyed those few days.

The rehearsal part, was that built into those five days? Or did it actually take five days of filming to capture it?

It was rehearsal and then shoot.

What was the most challenging part of that for you?

To be honest, for me, I didn’t have the greatest technical challenges. Some of them were – like Danai had obviously that stunt sequence, which is amazing. There’s the shot where I blow up – using the sonic disruptor – I send the Black Panther flying backwards, and the stunt guy who did that, I mean, they did that for real. I don’t know if you really see that in the shot. But it was an amazing stunt to be a part of, because this guy had the wires around him and he literally went from twenty feet up in the air, right across the room. So that was pretty incredible.

Was there anything else about that scene that stood out to you?

Getting the timing right when Danai’s character kicks that guy off and he lands on the pool table, so getting that timing into starting firing. Getting the bullet shots. For the technical guys, getting the bullet shots to time so that it hits the case. Lots of squibs and practical effects, as well as CG effects. And then the other section for me was up at the top with T’Challa and running away. Oh, that was the first time of using his arm. So it was like [figuring out] in terms of the shot and how that was going to work, and working out the choreography so it was rightly placed in the frame. And what happens to the arm when it fires, where do you feel the recoil, and all of that. The physicality of that. The size of it: how much it expands and extends.

And were you really hanging out of the side of moving SUVs in South Korea? What was shooting that chase sequence like?

No. The chase sequence, the way it was shot was the last part of it was the first part that we shot. The car doing that big tumble, coming to a screeching halt, and me falling out of it. So that was a night shoot, which kind of went on and on. And then T’Challa catching up and beating up Ulysses Klaue, which we did so, so many times. That was brutal. That was brutal. The rest of it was on a gimbal. The car was on a gimbal so it could be moved in all different directions for the jumps and the flips and all of that sort of stuff. We were strapped into the car and I had to lean out, but that was against – that was a blue screen shoot.

Klaue is a villain and does horrendous things, but we know he at least has some kind of moral code. We know he detests hypocrisy, for example. Did you have any conversations with Ryan and Joe about Klaue’s motivations in this movie?

We talked about him on the moral spectrum as being someone who is…this film is about isolationism, or it’s about sharing and inclusion, and he represents the world’s greatest taker. He is a consumer and a taker and a thief and steals stuff. He trades. He cares about no one. He has no empathy for anyone else. He’s like a sort of moral vacuum cleaner in a way, and that’s something we discussed. That he’s on the spectrum of characters in this movie, that’s what he represents.

I’d like to ask a quick Star Wars question if you don’t mind. Supreme Leader Snoke was seemingly set up as this ultimate galactic villain in The Force Awakens, so what was your reaction when you first read the script for The Last Jedi and discovered that your character would die in that way?

Look, it’s Star Wars, so you never know how life, or whether life can be come back to or not. Whether you can be resuscitated or brought back. I was shocked. Dramatically, it felt absolutely right for that moment in the film, so I didn’t question it. I just think it’s a very, very important scene, so I didn’t question it. But I do, I know it’s left fans feeling like, that they were really searching for something there. And what I’m saying is, who knows?

Have you spoken to J.J. about returning?

I’ve not spoken to him, no.

I want to congratulate you on War for the Planet of the Apes and the phenomenal work you did across that entire trilogy. I imagine you’re probably done playing Caesar, but are you interested or have you had any conversations with the people at Fox about the idea of coming back to that franchise in some capacity? Maybe playing another character or directing a movie set in that world?

Certainly both of those, in my mind, would be great possibilities. That’s the great thing about performance capture: you can come back and play anything else. And I love the world, I love the metaphor of talking about the human condition through the eyes of apes. I just think it’s really powerful. And there are still so many stories that can be told, and there are still a lot of chapters in the ape mythology that will get you from where we left off back to the 1968 version, the ascension of the apes. So I mean, yeah, if they were to happen, I’d definitely be interested.

*****

Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018.

The post Andy Serkis on ‘Black Panther,’ Potentially Returning to ‘Planet of the Apes,’ and More [Interview] appeared first on /Film.

18 Feb 22:25

Why ‘Black Panther’ Doesn’t Contain Any Infinity Stones

by Ben Pearson

Black Panther Infinity Stone

Marvel’s Black Panther is finally in theaters, and it’s clear that the king has arrived. The film has already earned tremendous critical acclaim (here’s our full review), fans are loving it, and it’s set to break all sorts of box office records this weekend. But with Avengers: Infinity War looming in the distance, there’s an aspect that detail-oriented Marvel fans might have noticed about Black Panther: it doesn’t contain any Infinity Stones.

Learn what co-writer/director Ryan Coogler has to say about the lack of Black Panther Infinity Stones below. We’ll also give you a refresher of the whereabouts of every Stone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point in the timeline.

Why Doesn’t Black Panther Have An Infinity Stone?

In an interview with IGN, Coogler was asked if there were ever any plans to include the final Infinity Stone in his movie, and here’s what he said:

“I love the Infinity Stones as much as any comic book fan, it’s just Wakanda already has its thing, which is Vibranium. For us, that was special enough, so to throw in something, like another special thing, didn’t feel right. It felt like we should stick with our one MacGuffin for the country and explore that, let that be the important thing because, frankly we didn’t need to have another piece like that. The studio was never really interested in putting a stone in there, either.”

He makes a good point. Black Panther already has enough on its plate with the introduction of Wakanda and filling out the history and traditions of the country without tossing an Infinity Stone into the mix. There’s only so much an audience can take in one film, after all. Plus, one of the best parts of Black Panther is specifically that it isn’t hampered by excessive connections to the rest of the MCU.

If Marvel was never interested in squirreling a Stone away in Wakanda, it seems as if they already have a plan in place for the as-yet-unseen Soul Stone. But what is it?

Thanos gauntlet

Where Are Each of The Infinity Stones?

For anyone who might be scratching your heads about all of this, remember that the Infinity Stones are the remnants of ancient singularities – they’re incredibly powerful, and Thanos (the Marvel universe’s main villain) has been on a multi-movie quest to track them down so he can put them in his Infinity Gauntlet and wreak untold chaos upon the universe. Let’s run through the locations of each Stone, shall we?

Loki Tesseract

Space (Blue)

The Space Stone, encased within the Tesseract, was featured heavily in Captain America: The First Avenger . It has the ability to teleport its owner anywhere in the universe.

Current location: Loki snatched it from Odin’s vault at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, taking it with him on board the ship that now holds the surviving citizens of Asgard. In that film’s post-credits sequence, we see Thanos’s ship pop up in front of it, and the trailer for Infinity War implies that Loki will offer the Space Stone to Thanos.

Mind Stone Vision

Mind (Yellow)

The Mind Stone, originally encased in Loki’s scepter, factored heavily into the plot of The Avengers. It was later used to create Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was fused with Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence personality J.A.R.V.I.S. to form Vision (played by Paul Bettany).

Current location: Vision’s forehead, presumably somewhere around the Avengers’ high tech upstate New York campus.

The Aether Thor The Dark World

Reality (Red)

Thor: The Dark World marked the first appearance of the Reality Stone, also known as the Aether. It has the ability to warp reality according to the will of whoever wields it. (If you’ll recall, Malekith the Accursed wanted to use it to cover the universe in darkness.)

Current location: The Collector’s museum.

Power Stone Guardians of the Galaxy

Power (Purple)

The Power Stone, encased in the orb seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, is capable of destroying entire worlds.

Current location: Xandar, under the watchful eye of the Nova Corps

Time Stone eye of agamotto

Time (Green)

As we saw in Doctor Strange, The Time Stone is inside the Eye of Agamotto and grants its wielder the ability to manipulate time. (“Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain!”)

Current location: Doctor Strange’s New York Sanctum.

Soul (Orange)

This is the only Infinity Stone we’ve yet to see in the MCU thus far, so it’s still unclear how Marvel Studios will choose to utilize it in the movies. Still, it’s all but guaranteed that Thanos will get his hands on it by the end of the upcoming Infinity War.

Current location: Unknown.

***

Black Panther is in theaters now, and you can read much more from Coogler in /Film’s interview with him right here.

The post Why ‘Black Panther’ Doesn’t Contain Any Infinity Stones appeared first on /Film.

18 Feb 21:37

Black Panther End Credits Scenes Explained

by Joshua Yehl

The Black Panther movie has two end credits scenes, so we’re going to explain what they mean for the future of T’Challa and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Warning: beware of spoilers!

Let's start with the post-credits scene first, which shows a small Wakandan village where Bucky is being rehabilitated by Shuri. The last time we saw Bucky was in the post-credits scene to Captain America: Civil War, where he was put in cryogenic stasis until he could be cured of his trigger-word brainwashing.

Marvel Comics released a story that fills in the gap between these scenes called Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1. There, Shuri explains to T’Challa that she put Bucky on ice in order to scan his brain and do tests on a digital copy of his mind. Her goal was to remove the trigger words and “reboot” his brain, with the challenge of not damaging his original personality.

Continue reading…

18 Feb 08:05

Website follows journey of Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster through space

by Jon Fingas
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster may have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, but you can still follow its path through the Solar System. Satellite guru Ben Pearson's unofficial Whereisroadster.com website is tracking the EV based on NASA data and his own fl...
18 Feb 08:02

Facebook Ordered to Stop Collecting User Data by Belgian Court

A Belgian court has ruled that Facebook must stop tracking its citizens on third-party sites and delete all data it illegally acquired. Otherwise, the company will be fined 250,000 ($312,000) euros a day. An investigation by Belgium's Privacy Commission had determined that Facebook was following users around the web with the help of cookies and social plug-ins. Richard Allan, Facebook's vice president of public policy for EMEA, said the company was disappointed with the verdict and intended to appeal: "The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU. Discussion
16 Feb 09:13

3Doodler's new kits help kids make robotic bugs and dinosaurs

by Mariella Moon
3Doodler's safer, cuter 3D-printing pen for kids called Start can already bring their imagination to life. But these new sets can help them get used to drawing objects if they're just starting out and take their creations to the next level. The compa...
16 Feb 09:09

AI Helps to Diagnose Hospital-Acquired Infections

C-diff infectons are a common hospital-acquired malady that 453,000 people contract every year after being admitted to the hospital. Out of the large number of people that contract the infection about 29,000 die. The key to defeating it is early detection and treatment. In order to better the chance of detection and treatment the pairing of a computer scientist and an infectious-disease specialist resulted in the development of an AI program that can track patients and predict an infection five days soon than the doctors could. Overall, I have to hand it to them and once again chalk this up as another great use of AI. Using that information, the duo created a model to predict the likelihood that a patient would contract a C-diff infection at each hospital. According to their research, these models predicted the infection an average of five days sooner than doctors could. If their system is widely implemented, those five days could be the difference between life or death for hospital patients in the United States and across the globe. Discussion
15 Feb 06:57

Rogue IT Admin Goes Off The Rails And Shots Down Train Switches

The Register is reporting that a former IT administrator for Canadian Pacific Railway has been jailed for 366 days for sabotaging the railway's computer network. Christopher Victor Grupe had convinced the railway to let him quit instead of firing him following a 12 day suspension for insubordination. After signing a resignation letter, he took his work notebook and credientials, logged into the CPR's computer network, and started his mischief. Grupe removed administrator-level accounts, deleted certain key files, and changed the passwords for other accounts on the networking hardware then wiped the laptop he used to sideline the switches, destroyed all and any logs in an attempt to cover his tracks, and handed back the computer. Stiff penalty for sabotaging the system like this. I guess he didn't learn his lesson from the 12 day suspension, then being fired. Perhaps a year and a day will help calm him down. Thanks to cageymaru for the story. On January 5, the network hit the buffers. IT staff at CPR tried to log into the switches, and found they were locked out. According to court documents parts of the system went down, and staff had to force reboot, and presumably factory reset, all the switches to regain access to the equipment. Discussion
15 Feb 06:53

The Galentine's Day gang from Parks and Recreation reunites in new photo

by Nick Romano

The gals of Galentine’s Day came together for the best day of the year — aside from Treat Yo’ Self Day, of course.

Parks and Recreation stars Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope), Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins), Aubrey Plaza (April Ludgate), and Kathryn Han (Jennifer Barkley) reunited as a group of ladies celebrating ladies on Feb. 13. As any fan of the NBC series can tell you, the day before Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Galentine’s Day) is like “Lilith Fair minus the angst plus frittatas.”

“Galentine’s Day! Forever and ever,” Jones wrote on Instagram with the reunion selfie.

“happy happy galentine’s day. these women keep me alive,” Plaza added.

What is Galentine’s Day, you ask? Let Poehler’s Leslie Knope explain it to you.

“What’s wrong with setting aside one day a year to think about a group of people you love?” Parks and Recreation producer and writer Mike Schur wrote in a 2015 post on Poehler’s Smart Girls site.

Schur has been credited with creating the idea for Galentine’s Day. As he explained, “‘Galentine’s Day’ was conceived of as a way to show that Leslie cared as much about Ann, and her many other girlfriends, as she did about her romantic partnerships. So every February 13, she took them out to brunch, gave them personalized presents, celebrated their successes, and generally made a fuss about how wonderful they are.”

15 Feb 06:46

Nothing says Happy Valentine's Day like a 'Black Mirror' dating app

by Rob LeFebvre
So, it's Valentine's Day, and what better time to check on the potential end date of your romantic relationship? It's easy to do over at coach.dating, a fun little web app based on the dating AI, Coach, that manages dating relationships in the Black...
14 Feb 07:07

BBC and Google take you under the sea in VR

by Jon Fingas
It's easier to appreciate nature when you witness it first-hand, but that's rather difficult with the ocean unless you have a submarine at your disposal. The BBC and Google have a more practical solution: they've launched a BBC Earth: Life in VR ap...
13 Feb 22:09

Kingdom Come: Deliverance - How To Clean Blood Off Weapons/Clothing

by Charles Singletary

On top of decisions you make, quests you undertake, and how you resolve disputes, your personal appearance in Kingdom Come: Deliverance will impact how NPCs respond to you and the reputation you carry in each village. Here are a few tips on how you can clean your clothing and your weapons of dirt and blood.

Clean Blood/Dirt Off Clothes

If you head over to a bathhouse, you're given an option to have your clothes laundered. There are plenty of troughs around town for you to wash off quickly, but that won't help your clothing. Nevertheless, use them so that your Charisma stat is at the highest you can manage. A good rule of thumb is to keep some backup clothes in your trunk or on your person if you can carry everything. Thay way, after a scrap, you can wash up and change into something better so your interactions aren't hindered by your appearance.

Clean Blood Off Weapons

Walking around with the blood of your assailants on your weapon may seem like a way to intimidate, but players who want to keep their reputations intact will need to clean the blood off their weapons regularly. Luckily, the mechanic to keep your weapons sharp is the same one that cleans blood off. 

Every blacksmith in a town has a grindstone and there's a mini-game that allows you to sharpen and clean your weapon. You can also take them to the blacksmiths themselves to have them cleaned and repaired, but the extra effort on your part will save you a lot of money.

13 Feb 06:26

Boston Dynamics' robots are the politest 'pets' you'll meet

by Jon Fingas
We hope you weren't planning on sleeping tonight. Boston Dynamics has posted a video showing that its SpotMini robot can hold the door open for its fellow automatons. If one bot needs a helping hand, it'll signal to another machine nearby that can...
13 Feb 06:25

New Girl star Hannah Simone to headline ABC's Greatest American Hero reboot

by Dan Snierson

You can officially call Hannah Simone a hero: ABC confirmed Monday that it has tapped the New Girl star as the lead in its female-led reboot of Greatest American Hero.

Just a few weeks ago, the network gave a pilot order to the gone-too-soon early-’80s drama-comedy, which originally centered on a schoolteacher (William Katt) who finds himself struggling with superhero abilities after aliens leave him with a suit of many powers.

The newly imagined version focuses on 30-year-old Meera (Simone), a tequila and karaoke enthusiast who has fruitlessly spent her life searching to find meaning, something that does not please her traditional Indian-American family. But everything changes when she is given a super suit to be used to protect the planet.

The prospective show is being overseen by Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), who serves as executive producer alongside Rachna Fruchbom (also of Fresh Off the Boat), who is writing the pilot. Other executive producers include Mandy Summers and Tawnia McKiern, the daughter of super-producer Stephen J. Cannell, who produced the original series.

A Hero reboot has been attempted before: Fox developed one in 2014 with Last Man on Earth EPs Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Simone has portrayed model-turned-bartender-turned-bar-manager Cece on every season of New Girl, including the upcoming seventh and final one, which begins airing in April. Her recent big-screen credits include the indie films Killing Gunther and Band Aid.

13 Feb 06:21

YouTubers Meg Turney and Gavin Free Survive Home Invasion by Armed Fanatic

by Asif Khan

The Albuquerque Journal has reported that Gavin Free and Meg Turney were victims of a home invasion in Austin, TX by a crazed fanatic. Turney and Free awoke to the sounds of breaking glass and a gunshot. They quickly hid in a closet and called 911 while Chistopher Giles searched their home brandishing a .45 caliber handgun according to a search warrant affidavit, around 3:40 a.m. on January 26. 

Christopher Giles drove eleven hours from Albuquerque, according to documents filed in the 2nd Judicial District Court. A superfan of Meg Turney with a dislike of her boyfriend, former Creative Director of Rooster Teeth, Gavin Free. “A search of Giles’ cellular phone identified various notations identifying Megan Turney and Gavin Free by name,” a detective wrote in the documents. “Furthermore, threatening thoughts were recorded by Giles and directed toward Gavin Free, i.e., ‘I want Gavin Free to die alone, with no children.’ ”

When he couldn’t find the couple, Giles left their house encountering Austin Police Department officers. The police officers found Giles backing his Lincoln sedan with New Mexico plates out of the driveway and ordered him to stop. Instead, they heard a single gunshot coming from the car. An officer returned fire.

Christopher Giles was pronounced dead on the scene. Meg Turney and Gavine Free were physically unharmed.

Both Austin and Albuquerque Police Departments report a frightening amount of evidence that Giles planned to do harm to Free and Turney. 

One detective said it was apparent that Giles had “developed a fondness of Turney yet resented Free for his lifestyle and success.” Albuquerque Police Department detectives who executed a search warrant on Christopher Giles home in Albuquerque said he lived alone and was “an avid player of video games and was known for watching YouTube videos that were centered on his hobby.”

Detectives took a laptop, two tablets, two cellphones and an Xbox console from his home.

Shacknews sends our love to both Meg and Gavin. This must have been a terrifying experience, and we are just happy that they were not physically harmed. This news is a firm reminder of how serious problems in the gaming and YouTube communities like bomb threats at eSports events, swatting, harassment, and stalking can lead to fatal consequences. It's too late for Christopher Giles, but we can only hope that his story will prevent another sad and scary event like this from occuring.

13 Feb 06:17

How Moss developer Polyarc connects you to Quill, the world and more

by Justin Massongill

Since its first reveal at E3 2017, I’ve been completely enamoured with Moss. Polyarc’s debut PS VR adventure casts you as Quill, an adorable (and exquisitely animated) miniature heroine in a lush, foreboding fantasy world.

Moss for PS VR

Moss is the first title Polyarc is releasing as a studio, but the team’s individual members have a wealth of industry experience — around 12 years per member, on average — across a broad variety of disciplines. Despite their diverse backgrounds, a common thread running through the Polyarc roster is their focus on characters.

The studio makes it look almost effortless, but a lot of work has gone into making Quill a character players instinctively care about. Things like the sense of scale in each area, the believable way Quill reacts to situations, and how players can interact with her all play a part. At certain points in the game, Quill will communicate directly with the player using ASL!

 

So which came first, the gameplay concept, or its impossibly adorable protagonist Quill? “We didn’t want to make the player move around a lot, so we wanted to build a game where everything is happening in a reachable space,” said studio director Tam Armstrong.

“For the concept we had, that meant that the character needed to fit within arm’s length. A small character resulted from that, then it was a question of ‘how do we theme that?’ That’s where Quill came from.”

“That physical interaction created this character who also gives you a strong emotional reaction,” adds art director Chris Alderson.

 


Moss: Quill

The positive public reception to Quill herself after her E3 debut has made Polyarc take a second look at where they’ve been focusing their development efforts: “We had theories about VR game design from a mechanical perspective,” Tam explains, “but once we started making the game and this small character we surprised ourselves with how strongly we felt about her.

“Having that reinforced by the response from our audience just affirmed it, and development shifted to focus on her and the things she does. We have things in the game now that we weren’t planning to do, but that we felt needed to happen after watching people interact with her at E3.”

One example of this is being able to wave at Quill (by physically waving your controller in the air) and having her wave back. A tiny touch that some might not even think to try, but one that adds a real sense of believability — that feeling of immersion creators have been trying to perfect since VR first hit the scene.

 


One of the first things players tend to point out after playing Moss is how excellently animated Quill is. Watching her struggle to clamber over obstacles, or timidly unsheathe her sword in the face of looming danger, or even just look toward you with a confident nod is enough to make me want to protect this adorable little hero with every resource available to me. The work of Polyarc’s lead animator, Rich Lico, has a lot to do with the bond players feel with Moss’s petite protagonist:

“I wanted to have her communicate with the player in more authentic ways, like how your friend might communicate with you,” Lico explains. “That led to things like using sign language, and having her represent how the player might be feeling — if the player is upset at something, she might kick that thing the player is upset about. You project who you are onto the character, but she also defines herself separately, and it helps build that realism.”

Moss for PS VR

The response to Polyarc’s work so far, and in some cases Lico’s work specifically, has been overwhelmingly positive. The team wisely strives to channel that energy back into the game.

“When I come into work I’m not thinking about what people’s reactions are going to be, so when I see them I’m just blown away,” Lico says. “Especially with the sign language community, when we put out that tweet and it got such an emotional reaction, it really touched me and motivated me to want to come in and do better.

“I’m just super thankful that I’m able to do this for a living,” he adds, “and that people appreciate what we do.”

It’s clear from playing Moss and speaking with its creators that this is going to be a special kind of adventure, and the team at Polyarc is equal parts anxious and excited to finally send Quill out into the world. But Stephen Hodde, audio lead on Moss, feels that the project is already a success.

“I never felt like I was taking a big risk, honestly,” Hodde admits, to the surprise of everyone else in the room. “The risk is going to a place that doesn’t have heart. We’ve already succeeded, in a way, because we’re making something that is heartfelt.”

Continue the journey with our hands-on with the game right here, and check out PlayStation Access’ own impressions of the game here


Moss iOS Sticker Pack

Moss iOS Sticker Pack
Quill is on the way to add a little cheer to your chats! iOS users can head to the App Store starting right now to download a new iMessage sticker pack.

 


Moss Mobile & Desktop Wallpapers

Moss Mobile WallpaperMoss Mobile WallpaperMoss Mobile Wallpaper

Head to Polyarc’s online store to download a set of beautiful new wallpapers for your desktop or mobile device.

The post How Moss developer Polyarc connects you to Quill, the world and more appeared first on PlayStation.Blog.Europe.

12 Feb 22:41

Star Trek: Discovery producer on that finale twist, season 2 plans

by James Hibberd

Star Trek: Discovery pulled off a shocking reveal in the last moments of its first season finale, and below executive producer Alex Kurtzman takes our questions about what it all means for season 2. Warning: The following contains spoilers for the season 1 finale.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I found it cool that the finale basically had a group of all-female characters who negotiated the peace treaty; was that deliberate?ALEX KURTZMAN: Oh, you bet.

Anything you want to add on that?We planned the finale from the beginning of the season. And since then, Time’s Up and #MeToo have come along and only bolstered our instincts about where we stand on the line of female empowerment and what we want to say about that. L’Rell is very mistreated and disrespected and demeaned over the course of the season. And we crafted all of the season knowing full well the reversal that we were setting up for the ending, which hopefully makes the reversal far more satisfying. Ultimately it comes down to these women seeing past all the ego and the violence to see a way of protecting the Klingon identity as a species, and also stopping the war. Also, Michael Burnham’s arc over the course of the season is that she started the war and also gets to end it, and finds allies in unlikely places. Obviously, L’Rell would never have been that ally to her until Burnham was able to use her history, past, and understanding to know that L’Rell had to be the one in power for the war to end.

What we didn’t get this season was an explanation for why we’d never heard of Burnham via Spock’s family. Did you decide to punt that answer for now?It was always the plan . At Comic-Con fans asked about why Spock has never spoken of Michael Burnham and I said, “Please trust us, we understand that bill is due, and you’ll get that answer.” We always knew we’d platforming an answer that’s coming in seasons.

With the Klingon war storyline done, will we get fewer Klingon scenes next season?Yeah, there will be fewer Klingon scenes, but there will still be Klingons.

What did you guys learn in the first season about what types of storytelling work and what maybe fans aren’t into so much?There was obviously a lot of controversy over the Klingons. We started out really loving the idea of having long scenes that were entirely subtitled in Klingon. Some of those scenes were very effective. At a certain point, the audience started feeling like they were engaging less with those scenes. And that’s not true of the entire audience; some loved that we were giving that much time to the Klingons. Our goal was always to humanize the Klingons and present their point of view and inner emotional life as more than two-dimensional characters at a time of war when we were endeavoring to tell a story about how both sides have a legitimate point of view. We took that gamble, and for some viewers it worked and for others it didn’t, but it gave us what we needed for the engine of the season.

Tyler’s decision to run off L’Rell suggests we won’t be seeing much of him from now on. Yet my understanding is Shazad Latif is still part of the show. What can we expect there?Season 2 will be about a whole bunch of new things. There’s a brand new energy to season 2. Season 1 was about the Klingons and the Federation at a time of war. Season 2 will not be about that. We want to move on. Tyler/Voq has had a major evolution over the course of the season, and we love Shazad. He’s capable of absolutely everything we throw at him, and we have great plans for his character in season 2.

Jason Isaacs, however, is no longer on the show, and he’s off filming The OA season 2. I assume you’d be down for having Prime Universe Lorca makes some kind of appearance at some point?I’d be down for anything with Jason Isaacs, anytime or anywhere.

Okay. Now the actor I don’t know about is Michelle Yeoh. Do you have a deal with her for season 2? At least in the finale, she’s the most fun character you have.Mm hmm. Wouldn’t it be great if she came back?

Yes.

Is that all I’m getting from you on that? Should I stop trying?Yes.

How about this: What are we to make of the mycelial network spore that landed on Tilly’s shoulder?That is such a great question, James! …

Is this going to be like your Michelle Yeoh answer?Yes.

So Captain Christopher Pike swoops in with a rather agile USS Enterprise. Tell me about the decision to jump into an Enterprise storyline, and will something involving the Enterprise be the dominant storyline in season 2?People have a lot of questions about how we’re adhering to canon. The arrival of the Enterprise suggests they’re going to begin to get answers. Those answers will not come immediately, they will trickle out over the course of the season. Here’s what I can tell you: The show is still called Discovery. The show is not called Enterprise. So figuring out a way for the Enterprise to work in that framework is the task of our story-breaking for season 2 right now.

Will the new season be more serialized or less serialized than season 1?As serialized. Although one of the things we found was people really loved was the Pahvo mission, the away mission that we did. And that was more of a standalone even though it existed in the context of a larger story. So it will be serialized, yes, always, but we do love the idea of getting to do individual episodes in the context of a serialized storyline, and you can look forward to more of that.

When talking to original series showrunner Bryan Fuller before Discovery launched, he said he originally pitched CBS as Discovery being the start of a series of shows that waded through the entire Trek canon — starting in the pre-Original Series era like season 1 did, then eventually having stories told during the Enterprise era, then having something during The Next Generation era, and then even going beyond that to a time we’ve never seen before. With the USS Enterprise showing up in the finale, I’m wondering if you’re eventually planning to do just that somehow, only within the context of this show — aided by time travel or whatnot?I would say anything is possible, but Discovery needs to maintain its own identity. What we don’t want to do is pay lip service to something people have a deep love for in a way that feels brief and trivialized. If we were ever to do that, it would have to be a major story choice and given the love it deserves.

How far are you along toward casting a Captain Pike? And will we see younger versions of other TOS characters on that bridge? Or is that not permitted with the deal you guys have in terms of what you can do on the show vs. the films?There are some assumptions in the question that you’re asking.

And deliberately so!Very sneaky reporter move, James. First, there’s no barrier on what we can do in the show versus the films, and since the films are in different timelines we’re fortunate not to worry about that. What I can tell you is if we bring in characters from The Original Series, they have to adhere to canon. So anything that’s been mentioned in TOS, either storyline or character-wise, we have to stay consistent with.

William Shatner has publicly pitched himself for a Discovery role using CG to make him look younger — though that would presumably require half your budget to convincingly pull off. Have you had any talks about trying to figure out a way to get him in there?We have not spoken of it. But if there were a truly organic, wonderful reason to do that, we would certainly be open to it.

What else can you tell us that fans are going to be wondering after that finale?Obviously, they’re going to be wondering who’s on board the Enterprise. I think there will be some surprises there. We will maintain consistency with canon, but there will be surprises.

In terms of designing that Enterprise bridge set, for Discovery you went for a mix of modern and retro, while the 2009 film had its own look. What are you going for in terms of the look of the Enterprise bridge?That’s another sneaky question because you’re presuming we’ve designed an Enterprise bridge.

You just said we’ll be surprised at who is on the Enterprise! Are we going to only hear their voices through the Discovery’s coms the whole season?I said “on the ship,” not “on the bridge.” Here’s what I’ll say: We have to stay consistent design-wise with the Enterprise, obviously we can’t mess around with that. That being said, the technology and the look of the Discovery is so far past TOS merely as a function of the time in which these . Our goal is to be interpretive in a way that feels it’s protective of what the Enterprise would look like if, in theory, if we were to build any Enterprise sets. But if we built it like it looked in The Original Series, there would be a massive visual disconnect. Figuring out a way to bridge that gap would theoretically be the work of a production designer — were there to be any designs like that.

Anything else that you want to add?I’ve seen many articles written about how people started watching the show, and they weren’t sure about it because it felt different from Star Trek; they weren’t sure where they fell on the line about whether it was Star Trek or not Star Trek. And about midseason, they were writing how Discovery had expanded and broadened their understanding of what Star Trek could be. And that was our goal. We felt like we had accomplished what we wanted to do — which was how to take Star Trek to the next place. Every Trek movie and series has tried to figure out a way to do that, and it’s very tricky. You want to please Trek fans and a new audience. It goes back to the 2009 movie, when we were going back to the original bridge crew and setting up an alternate timeline and blew up Vulcan, there were all these huge moves that we recognized would either be totally embraced or totally rejected. And to our delight, they were embraced. It certainly gave me the confidence that there’s room to play in the Star Trek universe as long as you’re upholding what Star Trek is — that it’s a utopian vision of optimism, which doesn’t mean there can’t be violence and darkness and emotional complexity.

12 Feb 22:29

Discovery Producers Explain Season 1 Ending

by Scott Collura

Full spoilers follow for the Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 finale, "Will You Take My Hand?", as well as everything that has led up to this point.

Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts can breathe a sigh of relief, having finally brought the first season of their Star Trek revival to the air (well, the stream) after being under quite a bit of scrutiny from not just fans of the revered franchise but also industry pundits wondering if Trek was still viable in the age of Peak TV. Fortunately for us, Berg and Harberts have proven that not only is Star Trek still achievable on the small screen, but it can thrive and evolve and take the series to entirely new places creatively.

Continue reading…

12 Feb 09:20

Android Users 15 Times More Likely to Judge iPhone Owners Negatively

That's just one finding from Match.com's latest Singles in America study, which offers insight on how singles react to phone usage. While Android users seem pretty judgmental, iPhone owners are even more critical, being 21 times more likely to think the same. Additionally, women are 92% more likely to judge their date for having an older phone model. Three quarters of singles said they would be turned off if their date answered the phone without any explanation, while 66% said it was off-putting if they texted. Singles weren't totally against technology advances in dating, though. According to the survey, one in four people would have sex with a robot if they were given the chance. Discussion
12 Feb 09:19

Activision Blizzard Made Over $4 Billion on Microtransactions in 2017

According to its Q4 2017 financial results, Activision Blizzard made $7.16 billion in revenue the entire fiscal year -- and over half of that was thanks to microtransactions. $4 billion stemmed from in-game purchases, half of which was earned from mobile, and the other from PC and console in-game purchases. Of course, every big game Activision Blizzard makes has microtransactions or add-ons. This includes Call of Duty: WW2, Overwatch, and Destiny 2. In some cases, with Call of Duty and Destiny, the games have multiple means of post-launch monetization. This is quite the figure, and it'll no doubt inform the future of the company, and the wider games industry. Discussion
12 Feb 09:12

Google Maps may let you share your battery life status

by Jon Fingas
Ever wanted to know if someone made it home safely, but didn't know if they had enough battery life to stay in touch along the way? You might not fret quite so much about it in the future. Android Police has spotted code in a Google Maps beta for And...
12 Feb 07:11

Legends of Tomorrow boss teases team's new additions (and subtractions)

by Natalie Abrams

After an extended hiatus, Legends of Tomorrow returns with a new addition on the Waverider.

No, we’re not talking about speedster Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), who joins the team full-time in the Feb. 19 hour, but John Constantine (Matt Ryan), who may hold a clue as to big bad Mallus’ (John Noble) intentions. With the Waverider near capacity, though, viewers soon will be saying farewell to someone on the team. EW turned to executive producer Marc Guggenheim to get the scoop:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Constantine is temporarily joining the show. What can you tease of how he’ll help the Legends when the show returns?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: Basically, Constantine is on his own mission, and he comes across this girl who has been possessed by a demon, and the demon knows Sara Lance’s name. So he comes to the Legends to basically talk to Sara and to find out what is Sara’s connection to this girl, and you’ll have to watch the episode to find out what the connection is.

What kind of dynamic does he now have with Sara?
Oh, it’s really good. I mean, bear in mind they kind of know each other, I mean they had the small little interaction of, you know, Constantine bringing Sara back to life. So they have a connection. I will say that we’ve got a very randy, bisexual Constantine, and we have a very randy, bisexual Sara, and who knows what could happen if we get the two of them in teams together?

Can you tease a little about how Mallus’ plans are going to be ramping up and whether we’re going to actually see him in the flesh soon?
You won’t see him in the flesh immediately. We’re saving it toward the end of the year. He will be a fully CG character. The design of him is really cool. We’re really pushing the envelope in terms of what we can do with the visual effects on the show.

What’s next in regards to Kuasa and how Amaya is handling their connection and eventual destiny?
Yeah, the thing that Amaya is really struggling with is she’s basically learned what her destiny is, and therefore what the destiny of her two granddaughters are, barring Kuasa. One of those destinies is really positive and heroic, and the other destiny is kind of lousy. Kuasa’s definitely fallen in with the wrong crowd, as it were. So Amaya is struggling with that classic time-travel dilemma, which is, “I have two things that put a lot of weight on me — I have knowledge of the future, and I have the ability, through time travel, to change it. What am I going to do?” And that’s something that is a struggle that she is going to really be risking all throughout the year.

We know Wally West is going to be coming in the second episode back. Can you tease a little bit about what brings him on to the team?
We’re basically following his trajectory from The Flash. He’s gone on a walkabout, and he kind of feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere, which makes him perfect for Legends because Legends is a whole team full of people who don’t fit in anywhere. So, Wally is basically brought to the team by Rip Hunter, of all people — so you will definitely see him back — and once he meets them, he decides this is a really good group to stay with.

Wally West has been, at least on The Flash, a bit cocky with his powers. How will the team take to him?
I think Amaya probably struggles the most with it at first because it’s incredibly annoying to have someone on the team who can just fix every problem in the blink of an eye.

In the first half of the season, the show really leaned into horror elements. Will you continue that into the back half?
Yeah, I mean, we’re dealing with a time demon, so there are a fair amount of horror elements. I don’t like using the word “horror,” because, to me, “horror” implies, like, fears and frights and things that, quite frankly, we’re just not doing. I would definitely say we dabble in the supernatural. Not in every episode by any means, but we’ve got a few episodes where there’s supernatural goings-on.

We know Leo Snart is not a permanent fixture on the team since Wentworth Miller has said that he’s leaving, so is there anything you can tease about what’s next with this character and how he’ll be sent off?
Leo never says “I’m staying with the team permanently.” He has said, “I’m gonna stay until they get over their death, until they mourn the death of Stein.” And you see that happen and Leo leaves with— he has a really good reason to leave. And he’s leaving for a very, I think, positive reason. And he leaves with, I’d say, a really good piece of advice for Sara.

So he’s not dying then?
He is not dying.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

12 Feb 07:10

Olympics officials confirm cyberattack during opening ceremony

by Jon Fingas
Officials saw suspicious activity on Olympics systems during the 2018 winter games' opening ceremony, and now it's confirmed: it was a cyberattack. PyeongChang organizers have revealed that someone compromised services (including internet and TV) wh...
11 Feb 15:13

The Cloverfield Paradox won the Super Bowl trailer war by focusing on Netflix’s biggest weakness

by Marc Chacksfield

Well played, Netflix. Well played. It was only recently I was chiding you for failing to build hype in your movie releases, letting them just appear on the site with not much warning. 

And what do you go and do? Release one of your biggest movies of the year with very little warning and go and pull off one of the biggest marketing campaigns of the year. A campaign that lasted a mere 30 seconds but cemented Netflix as one of the most progressive services around. 

Netflix won the Super Bowl trailer war by stealth, by surprise and by giving fans what they want right away. 

That's no mean feat when Solo, the next Star Wars story, was meant to be the gleaming jewel of the halftime entertainment. 

While that trailer finally offered a glimpse of a movie that's been closely guarded, The Cloverfield Paradox also offered a trailer to a movie that's been a tightly-kept secret, but one-upped Disney by offering the movie to stream on Netflix right now, today. 

This is a huge sea change for the movie world, upturning the regular build-up of marketing, the trailer tease after trailer tease and the inevitable talk show promotional surge everyone goes on when a big movie was released. 

Netflix boiled this down to just 30 seconds. But 30 seconds is enough when it's in the middle of the Super Bowl, the most watched entertainment event on the calendar. 

It's a fantastic coup by Netflix and one which turns its biggest weakness into its biggest asset. 

Giving people what they want

The lack of marketing Netflix offers to its new properties is changing, finally, thanks to it plowing billions into its original content. But there's still at least a movie a week that goes up with not even a whisper of promotion. 

Take, for instance, Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. While this was a critical success, its build up was minimal on Netflix. Another Stephen King property 1922 got nothing and it's actually pretty great. 

Compare this to the millions spent on the promotional big-screen campaign for IT, the most successful horror movie ever made, and the turgid Dark Tower, and it's embarrassing how little Netflix has been pushing its movies. 

But Netflix used this model to brilliant effect with The Cloverfield Paradox, except this time its hype went from 0-100 in a few seconds. 

Never underestimate giving people what they want. I will always remember seeing the trailer for Back To The Future III after watching the second movie on the big screen - knowing that movie had already been made and was months not years away was one of the greatest feelings. 

Having the movie streaming now on Netflix makes me want to watch it a whole lot more than if I had to wait a couple of months, where all that would be left of that lightning bolt of hype would be a flash of a memory. But Netflix used its service as a bottle and captured it. 

Even if The Cloverfield Paradox is not great - and initial reviews are underwhelming (though they do smack of movie writers being annoyed that they've been surprised and had to stop watching the game halfway through to do their jobs) - that's not the point, it's the surprise and the majesty of being able to pull off such a trick in a movie world that moves at a snail's pace when it comes to change.

And therein lies the Netflix paradox: it turns out no hype gives its movies the ultimate hype. 

So what should it do going forward with the movies it will be releasing this year? Simple: surprise us, Netflix. Keep on surprising us. 

11 Feb 08:49

A thoughtful Good Place finale changed everything. Again.

by Darren Franich

In its second season, it started to feel like The Good Place could do anything. Years could pass in a blink. The main setting — Michael’s cheerfully corrupt phony Heaven — faded into oblivion. And the season 2 finale set the stage for another series-defining reset.

The scope narrowed to a few key elements: Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Eleanor’s conscience, Michael (Ted Danson) as the helper-angel he used to merely pretend to be. The show is timeless enough to be a parable and too funny to ever be preachy. But coming the same week as the State of the Annihilating Union, the Good Place’s finale was a moving piece of television: An attempt to dramatize, in the length of a network sitcom episode, what goodness is, and why it’s so hard to be good, and why it’s important to be good even/especially if you will never be rewarded for your goodness. More importantly, Eleanor spoiled the end of Kangaroo Jack, you’re welcome.

The finale began where last week’s episode left off, with Michael arguing against, well, the entire moral system of Heaven and Hell. In his neighborhood, four dead “bad” people became better. “That’s not supposed to be possible,” Michael noted. Could people improve themselves in the afterlife? And doesn’t that lead to a provocative idea? That, in Michael’s words, “hundreds of millions of people have been wrongfully condemned to an eternity of torture”?

At that point, I figured this year’s Big Twist would be cosmic: That we’d see the whole foundations of the Good/Bad Places fall apart and reform. That might still happen; if season 2 has shown anything, it’s that showrunner Michael Schur and his writers are crafting a multiverse along the margins. But then the Judge and Michael decided on a stopgap solution. Eleanor and the gang would each go their own private Medium Place, awaiting a trial to decide their fate (and the fate of, like, the whole posthumous moral ecosystem).

At that point, I figured that’s where we’d begin in season 3: Each of the main characters trapped in a stunningly appropriate purgatory. What fun to see the sub-Maggie Smith celebrities that would surround Tahani (Jameela Jamil)! And wouldn’t Chidi (William Jackson Harper), the most medium and neutral of people, actually like a Medium Place, trapped perfectly between the spheres of existence?

Again, that might still happen. But this was the point where the finale laser-focused on Eleanor. She didn’t want to spend an untold amount of time alone in her Medium Place, not least because Chidi just kissed her (hot diggity dog!) But the Judge was unsatisfied with their progress. In her words, they only improved themselves because they wanted “moral dessert,” a reward in the Good Place afterlife.

So there was another reboot, but this time even more reboot-ier. Eleanor never died, was rescued from the shopping carts by a mystery man with perfect silver hair. She changed. She became a Clean Energy Crusader. She left her awful job. She ate vegetables. Michael and Janet monitored her progress, ecstatic.

And then life got in the way. It was harder to wake up in the morning with that same brush-with-death energy. She ditched her job to catch a Taylor Swift reggae cover band. She went back to her awful job, which had somehow become more awful, “a Ponzi scheme within a Ponzi scheme.” A year after she escaped death, she found herself all alone at a bar. (Her friend left her there, because her boyfriend’s wife was out of town.)

This was a light, kinetic take on heavy material. Whole seasons of great dramas have focused on the difficulty of self-improvement in the face of daily human drudgery. I’m talking Sopranos season 6, which began with a comatose Tony experiencing his own life-altering purgatory-verse. When he woke up, he tried to be a better person — “Every day is a gift!” — but time passed, and he stopped trying. Pretty bleak, and so maybe the better reference point here is Enlightened, another story of a person activated toward goodness in an indifferent world. In plot terms, of course, what this episode reminded you of most was the final season of Lost, which rebooted the main characters into slightly changed versions of their past lives, and sent them on a long journey towards their own shining Good Place.

At the bar, Eleanor met her own personal Jacob. It was Michael, of course — and it was Ted Danson, back behind the bar, a Cheers reference so spot-on it felt nigh-Biblical. She talked about Kangaroo Jack, and he talked about morality, quoting her own words about conscience back to her. After a long, boozy night, she asked him what she owed on her tab. “The real question, Eleanor, is what do we owe to each other?”

This codephrase, a reference to T.M. Scanlon’s famous philosophical text, activated something in Eleanor. She looked it up on Google — and found a video of Chidi. The video was three hours, approximately two hours and 59 minutes longer than the experts say a YouTube video should be. But she watched in rapture. “Why choose to be good, if there is no guaranteed reward we can count on?” asked Chidi. “We choose to be good because of our bonds with other people, and our innate desire to treat them with dignity.”

Eleanor flew to Sydney (SCREECH LOST SCREECH) and knocked on Professor Chidi’s door. “Can we talk?” she asked, meeting him again for the first time. “Here we go!” said Michael.

We’ll clearly be spending some time in this rebooted world next season, and I’m intrigued to see how the show defines its parameters. It could be that all four people are in a separate Sideways-verse (though I doubt it), and I guess it’s possible there’s some actual element of time travel (doubt that too) or alternate universes (always fun!). Those ambiguity didn’t bother me, didn’t even feel all that ambiguous, because the emotional through-line of the finale was so earnestly clear. Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani became better people in Hell. Can they become better people on in a place like Earth, which can be pretty hellish on a good day?

This finale was less horrifying than last year’s Bad Place revelation. But it’s just as ambitious, and opens up even more possibilities for the third season. The Good Place is my favorite comedy on television, but even that superlative doesn’t quite capture my love for what Schur and his collaborators have cooked up here. As a fantasy, it makes the current small-screen flood of big-budget genre television look dim, low-ceilinged, always teasing the sort of Big Redefining Twist that Good Place has done five times already. As a work of what I will Chidi-ishly call “moral literature,” it’s cynical and hopeful, an attempt to reimagine all the great philosophies as a sitcom full of people torturing each other toward serenity. And Michael was serving drinks at a place called Sting’s Desert Rosé Wine Bar, the best piece of Sting-related content in this unexpectedly Sting-heavy week.

The Good Place is about people who change, or want to. Slightly-less-vain Tahani reached out to Eleanor in friendship. Jason (Manny Jacinto) used to be the kind of boy who whipped empty spray-paint cans at flamingoes, and he hasn’t done that recently, as far as we know. Janet (D’Arcy Carden) has fallen in love, built a Derek, downloaded untold yottabytes of information. “I’m not a girl,” Janet reminded us. “I’m also not a Janet anymore. I don’t know what I am!”

Like the characters, The Good Place keeps changing. I don’t know what it will be when it returns. I figured season 2 would follow the gang’s comically inept attempts to escape Michael’s clutches, and the show lapped that plot thread by episode 3. You suspect Eleanor and Co. won’t spend the whole season in their Sideways-verse. And the prospect of, like, an existential showdown about the structure of the afterlife sounds like an awesome season finale. So knowing The Good Place, we’ll get there by, what, episode 5? I’ll be waiting patiently for next season. In the meantime, I promise to eat my vegetables.

11 Feb 08:10

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Delivers Some Dark Twists

by Matt Fowler

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Agents of SHIELD delivered up some really dark twists this week, injecting the entire Season 5 space saga with some new life. And not a moment too soon, right?

The whole notion of "the loop" got addressed fully this week (it was briefly discussed in "Best Laid Plans," and only sort of danced around before that) when Yo-Yo came face to face with her future self - a tortured and tormented version who'd been killed and resurrected an obscene amount of times and now acted as Kasius' subservient "seer."

It was a really warped turn and I kind of loved it. It provided this story with the shot in the arm it needed while directly addressing the possibility that everything our heroes have been doing up until this point was futile. The agents were always destined to see the destruction they cause before they go back in time and wind up causing it. And poor future Yo-Yo knows, from having been on the other side, that nothing she says to her past self in this face-to-face moment will change anything.

Continue reading…

10 Feb 07:20

In Amazon’s new sci-fi series, social media destroys the world

by Timothy J. Seppala
Amazon's Electric Dreams on Prime streaming might not make you feel bad about your technology habits the way Netflix's Black Mirror does, but the tech juggernaut has plans to remedy that with its latest show. The Feed is based off a book by the same...
10 Feb 07:17

Google explores texting from your browser

by Steve Dent
Google's Android Messages app could soon get a dramatic makeover with some interesting new features, judging by an APK teardown by XDA Developers and Android Police. Most significantly, it looks like you'll be able to pair your phone with a computer...