Thursday, February 28, 2019

Movie Review: Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day 2U is a satire of slasher movies. If you saw the first movie (which I reviewed here), you’ll get some of the references, but it’s fine to watch as a standalone.

Tree (Jessica Rothe), the main character, had the misfortune of being targeted by a serial killer. Every time she died, she woke up on the same morning, to relive that day and get killed again.

But this time around she notices some details are different, like someone not walking into a room. Then she notices a lot of things are different, including who was in on the serial killings. But why? She discovers a few lab rats on her campus have bungled a quantum time machine, which has shifted her to an alternate universe.

So this time around, it’s not just a matter of screaming and running around to stop the serial killer to break the time loop. It’s a sideways hot mess as they guess their way around and through the multiverse.

The trailer showed too much, so here is an interview with Jessica Rothe with the quantum machine in the background.

Happy Death Day 2U is one of those rare comedy sequels that is funnier than the original. It’s especially hilarious to see how screaming mad Tree is when she finds herself in the loop—again. They changed the genre so that it is not just horror and comedy, but also science fiction. They not only play around with the wacky alternate reality, but it increases the tension with each attempt to solve the quantum dilemma.

The first movie rested entirely on Jessica Rothe’s shoulders. But now there are multiple people trying to figure out what is going on, each contributing to the humor.

Do not make the mistake of walking out when the credits roll. There is a remarkably long set of scenes after them, ala the Marvel Universe.

As a caution, Tree decided to kill herself a few times rather than getting murdered. Her suicides are funny, but if you or someone you know should not watch that sort of thing, be cautious.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Israeli Moon Mission

Today, Israel launched its first moon mission. If successful, the tiny spacecraft will make Israel the fourth nation to land a probe on the moon. (I would list the first three, but that would be telling.) It will also be the first time a private company landed a probe on the moon, as opposed to a government.

The spacecraft is named Beresheet. This is a transliteration of the first word in the Bible. In Western transliterations, it is usually spelled Bereshith. It means “In the beginning,” and that is the Hebrew name for Genesis.

Since I can’t get a public domain picture of the spacecraft, here is the first part of Genesis:

Since Hebrew goes from right to left, Bereshith, or בּרּאּשּיּתּ  is the first word to the left of the number 1. (There are too many dagheshes in the letters, but this is what I had to work with.)

So go to the moon, little craft. And the rest of you read Genesis. It’s good for you.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Deepfake—Jennifer Lawrence and Others

I’ve just discovered the deepfake phenomenon. Seriously, for the first couple seconds of this, I thought, “So that’s what Jennifer Lawrence looks like without her makeup.”

I can’t embed the video because of copyright issues, but here’s

[Steve Buscemi’s face on Jennifer Lawrence]

Yes, this has been done before by multi-million dollar studios. But now this can be done cheaply in a short amount of time.

It gets more serious. Here is how lip movements from a real video can be altered.

[Obama’s lip movements altered]

Note that the actor is not lip-synching. Obama’s lips are being altered. You may have seen movies featuring pigs with animated lips. But this is being done realistically with a real person. And again, this can be done much cheaper now.

Now here’s how easily a person’s voice can be faked.

[Cloning a voice]

I’m aware these are different technologies. But imagine them melded together and easy to access in a few years. Anyone with a sufficiently good computer and enough patience could fake a video of you. Anyone could take a video and some audio of you from Facebook or some other source and come up with a deepfake video of you saying anything.

The nightmare scenario is someone putting a deepfake video of the president online, saying he has launched nuclear missiles towards Russia, China, or North Korea. On a more personal level, it could be a video of you saying something racist, or admitting to a sexual scandal, or bragging about embezzling from work.

In the anime series Ghost in the Shell, videos are no longer used in the future as evidence. One murderer hacked the security footage to substitute a detective’s image for his or her own. This caused consternation among the police when that detective arrived.

I’m not sure how all this will turn out in the future. But it may be important to include in science fiction stories.

In the meanwhile, to include an image in this post, and for those of you who thought I was uncharitable towards Jennifer Lawrence, here’s the soundtrack for The Hunger Games.

Hunger Games [Original Score]
Order from Barnes & Noble
Order from Amazon

I recommended this and other instrumental music here


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