The atom, the basic unit of all matter in the universe, was discovered by scientists in the early 1800s. This month, atoms have become the stars of the world's smallest movie.
Chalk it up to scientists in need of a creative outlet, or man's godlike grasp on life's fundamental building blocks, but the folks over at IBM have unveiled the first ever stop-motion short animated with atoms. Below, see the Guinness World Record-certified, A Boy and His Atom.
The short film was shot using two of IBM's scanning tunneling microscope, devices that can enlarge a copper surface 100 million times. Using a needle placed only a few nanometers away from their "canvas," scientists magnetized and manipulated the placement of the atoms to create the motion of a boy running, jumping, and playing with a ball.
A Boy and His Atom recalls the first short films from the turn of the 20th century, when the artistic achievement was more about the technology functioning enough to capture any sort of image. We likely won't see IBM's cinematic experiment heralding a new age of atomic filmmaking, but like any great movie, it makes an idea digestible to mass audiences; Science is cool!
To see how the IBM team pieced together their microscopic masterpiece, check out their making of video:
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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When Michael Bay saw What Richard Did for the first time, actor Jack Reynor wasn't on his radar. Now he's the star of the upcoming Transformers 4. Reynor isn't sure exactly what convinced Bay to take a chance on him.
"I'm not 100% certain. It's not something Michael and I really talked about. I'm a bit more, 'Yes, sir. No, sir,' with Michael. I just do what he says, take the job seriously, and get it done," Reynor says.
Having seen What Richard Did at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, we can clear the fog on why Reynor might be the perfect pick to star opposite Mark Wahlberg in the upcoming sci-fi sequel: he's absolutely brilliant in it. In the Irish film directed by Cannes vet Lenny Abrahamson, Reynor stars as Richard, a typical high school senior with a picture perfect life. He's got a lovely family, a great group of friends, a steady position as a soon-to-be-pro rugby player, and he's inching closer to a relationship with the object of his affection. Basically, Richard has it made — but he's modest about it. Abrahamson's film rolls along with tender care, naturalistic and familiar in all the right ways as his character invests deeper and deeper into his relationships.
"We spent a long time working on the movie before we shot it," Reynor says of the preparation. "We spent eight months workshopping and talking extensively about what kind of film we wanted to make. I think in those workshops, where we would talk about pretty much ever aspect of our lives, we came up with the most truthful story that we could."
Reynor describes Abrahamson as a "genius" who employed techniques that created the fluid, recognizable cadence to What Richard Did's scenes. What looks and sounds like off-the-cuff acting is more like guided improvisation. "In scenes where they're badgering back and forth with one another, we had topics we set up," Reynor says. "We wanted to make it improv, but controlled improv. So we had topics: school, girls… conversations where we didn't set the words. Key points that we needed to go to where we needed to pass the ball between each other very quickly."
Abrahamson also pushed the young actor to shade Richard with his own past. In one scene, Richard recounts the traumatizing event of accidentally killing a pet gerbil by drowning it in the toilet. Yeah, that was true. "That was my own personal story. I really killed that poor thing when I was five years old. Buried him in a shot glass," he says. Abrahamson didn't want a carbon copy of Reynor to stand in for Richard, but he was striving for reality. "I think Lenny would tell you as well, it's very difficult to take an actor and force them into a performance without making it feel a little contrived," the actor explains. "So Lenny wanted to bring the character to me. So we got an amalgamation of me and the character. There are definitely elements of myself that I invest into it. Which I think lends a lot of truth into it. But at the end of the day, Richard and I are very different people."
One of the toughest scenes — the kind of gut-wrenching moment that would easily make Reynor a must-have in the eye's of Bay — comes late in the film, as Richard grabbles with the devastating consequences of "what he did." The character's life is shattered and Reynor explodes in a fury of emotion. It works because Richard's never directly reminded of his past actions. Instead, they continue to haunt every second of his life.
"We decided to use this little trigger," Reynor says. "Richard wakes up and is instantly flooded with the thoughts of everything that's happened. It's about feelings. He feels this incredible shame and guilt and terror and it's an overload." The actor says that physicality played a bigger part in bringing the scene to life than any script note or "dramatic" angle did. "But it was very much about waking up and getting into a physical posture that allowed for it to be unlocked. It's difficult to explain, but it came physically more than mentally," he says.
Transformers 4 may sound like an entirely different animal than What Richard Did, but according to Reynor… well, it is. "With Richard, I was excited to make this film with such an amazing role for an actor. Play a wide range of emotion and really invest myself in the character," he says. "With Transformers, I'm going to get to drive fast cars and have a lot of fun. That's what appeals to me about it. I want to have as much fun as possible."
Reynor says that regardless of the scale or subject matter, his goal to be truthful never wavers. The director relationships are the real variable. For instance, the conversations he has with Abrahamson are entirely different than the ones he's had with Bay in these months before shooting the film. "With Lenny, we're talking introspectively about the human condition," he says. "With Michael, we're talking blowing s**t up."
As serious-minded as Reynor sounds, his defining quality (that is quite evident on screen and off) is a desire to enjoy the work, enjoy the people around him, and enjoy the moment. His character Richard can often be seen kicking back and sipping beer while chatting to his friends. Reynor is quick to answer if he himself has a brew of choice.
"Guinness, Guinness, Guinness, Guinness," he says before ruing the fact that'll he live in America for a majority of the Transformers 4 shoot. "I can't drink it here. It's terrible. What makes me so awfully sad is seeing them put Guinness in pitchers. You can't do that! That's terrible. You pour a pint of Guinness a certain way or it's not Guinness!" So while he's happy to be in New York City for Tribeca and revving up for Bay's next blockbuster, Reynor's looking ahead when he can return to Ireland. "When I get home after Transformers there'll definitely be a bit of drinking."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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The circle may soon be complete.
When we last saw Luke Skywalker, he was but the learner. Now, it’s looking more and more like we’ll see him as the master. In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, Mark Hamill reveals that he’s been having discussions with Lucasfilm about the new Star Wars movies slated for 2015 and beyond and has meetings set with writer Michael Arndt and studio president Kathleen Kennedy. Not to mention that his conversations with George Lucas indicate that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia may very well be a part of the new movies—but only if the original actors want to resume their famous roles.
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"George wanted to know whether we'd be interested,” Hamill said. “He did say that if we didn't want to do it, they wouldn't cast another actor in our parts – they would write us out. I can tell you right away that we haven't signed any contracts. We're in the stage where they want us to go in and meet with Michael Arndt, who is the writer, and Kathleen Kennedy, who is going to run Lucasfilm. Both have had meetings set that were postponed – on their end, not mine. They're more busy than I am."
It doesn’t sound like Hamill’s been clued in on any plot points or storylines regarding the new films, but he does have some guesses about what might happen. “I'm assuming, because I haven't talked to the writers, that these movies would be about our offspring – like my character would be sort of in the Obi-Wan range [as] an influential character.” When he found out that Leia was actually his sister, thus meaning that Luke wouldn’t have a love interest after all, he says he thought, “'Well, I'm going to wind up like Sir Alec [Guinness]. I'm going to be a lonely old hermit living out in some kind of desert igloo with a couple of robots.'"
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Of course, in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars publishing that’s explored the timeline up to about forty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Luke does get his love interest: fiery Imperial assassin turned Jedi Master Mara Jade. They eventually marry and the result is a son, young Ben Skywalker, meaning that the foundation is already there for a “passing of the lightsaber” scenario. If we consider that the Star Wars galaxy has progressed at the same pace as our universe, then the 30 years out from Return of the Jedi that we are would place Luke right after the events of the harrowing New Jedi Order novel series in which our heroes faced fearsome extragalactic alien invaders, the Yuuzhan Vong. But that part of the timeline is pretty well mapped out, and Lucasfilm has said that the new movies will be based on an original story. That means either they’re erasing established canon…or pushing the setting of Episode VII back further to at least forty years after Return of the Jedi, where the timeline, as its been explored so far, comes to an abrupt end.
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It’s hard to imagine a scenario, though, where Lucasfilm wants Hamill to return and he turns them down, thus forcing them to write an offscreen death for Luke. When I spoke to him for EW.com he said he always wished he could wield the lightsaber at least one more time. “It was with mixed feelings that I left the series, because, even though it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, I had only just become a Jedi when it finished,” he said. “It’d be like telling the story of how James Bond becomes a Double-0 agent, yet the story ends as soon as he gets his license to kill. Part of me always longed to do just one more film and see what Luke would be like now that he’s on the level of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the student having become the master. But it was not meant to be.”
Maybe it will be “meant to be” after all.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Wenn]
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In 117 AD the famed Ninth Legion of the Roman army inexplicably disappeared. Through the centuries many legends pertaining to the missing squadron have unfurled. Some claim that the harsh elements of northern Britain brought them to their doom while more extraordinary stories suggest that supernatural forces laid waste to the soldiers. Writer-director Neil Marshall sought to set the record straight about the lost faction of fearless Romans with his new film Centurion but his audience receives much more mutilation than explanation.
A highly explosive cocktail of blood sweat and steel the film centers on Michael Fassbender’s Quintus Dias the stoic soldier for whom the film is titled and a captive of the savage Picts who have thwarted Roman subjugation for decades with effective guerrilla tactics. Quintus manages to escape the Picts’ village and regroup with the Ninth Legion led by the brave General Virilus (Dominic West) which happens to be on its way to finally end the devastation at the behest of a pushy Roman governor. Like every failed attempt at conquest the Roman forces are demolished. Quintus manages to survive yet again (cue eye-roll) along with a small group of battered warriors who end up on the run through treacherous terrain trying to stay a step ahead of Etain (Olga Kurylenko) a feared Pict huntress whose only joy in life comes from spilling Roman blood.
Like the movie’s breakneck production pace the story moves incredibly quickly leaving little time for the plot to be fully fleshed out (there’s not much of it anyway). The film would have benefitted from some more character development especially with the supporting cast because it is intended to be an ensemble piece but as each soldier got picked off I began to realize how insignificant most of them were to the narrative. As with all chase films though it’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps you engaged and Centurion delivers in that sense.
Fans of Marshall’s previous films The Descent and Doomsday will be drawn to Centurion’s similarly sadistic depiction of violence which is in no short order. Squeamish moviegoers will likely spend at least half of the movie’s 97-minute runtime with their eyes clenched as heroes and villains hack away at heads and limbs vividly illustrating the less-than-civilized age in which the film is set. Had previous entries into the swords-and-sandals genre like Braveheart and Gladiator not shown audiences and filmmakers alike that blood and story can be successfully balanced Centurion would’ve fared better but the director’s preference of gore over plot points kept me from ever being able to take it seriously.
Marshall’s mind is like an encyclopedia of genre conventions and he puts this knowledge to good use in terms of the movie’s technical components conforming to the visual style that we’ve come to expect from this period. If it’s growth that you’re hoping for don’t expect to find much; the only sign of it that the filmmaker demonstrates is in his at-times surprisingly poetic dialogue which describes the repulsive details of war and gives its deliverer Quintus much-needed depth. Credit is also due to a handful of the actors (namely Fassbender West and Kurylenko) who braved health-hazardous conditions to get the film made and take the on-screen chaos in stride no matter how absurd it gets.