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Van Launches From a Traffic Circle in England Like a Life-Size Hot Wheels Car

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This crash, where the BBC reports everyone involved somehow had non-life threatening injuries, gets wilder each time you watch it. It looks like a flashback to childhood toy destruction, if Hot Wheels cars were silver vans launching themselves off of roundabouts in England.

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smallfrogge
2 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Mandy

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More than most movies, it’s hard to know where to begin with an appreciation or critique of Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy.” It’s a really difficult film to capture tonally and even narratively in a review, largely because it is such a stylish, visceral experience that it demands you give yourself over to it actively instead of passively analyzing it. On the one hand, it’s a thriller, of sorts, a vengeance piece about a man killing those who destroyed his life. But, man, does that not really capture the experience of this movie. Some have compared it to an ‘80s heavy metal album cover sprung to life, but that’s only part of “Mandy,” and doesn’t convey the emotional depth that saturates every frame. And then there’s the fact that “Mandy” is kind of two movies in one, a slow-burn journey into hell in the first hour and a blood-soaked climb out of it in the second. Did I mention the chainsaw fight yet?

Nicolas Cage stars in “Mandy” as Red Miller, a lumberjack who lives a quiet life in the woods with his girlfriend Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough. One day, Mandy catches the eye of a cult leader named Sand Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who proceeds to conjure motorcycle-riding demons to steal the girl and make her one of their own. In the process, Red is tortured and nearly killed. The first half of “Mandy” is filled with long, color-saturated takes of impending doom. Even casual behavior like quiet scenes between Mandy and Red have a foreboding nature, and then the film peaks in the middle with a waking nightmare as Red sees something no one should ever see happen to the love of his life. Deeply traumatized, Red is destroyed, and there’s a sequence in which Cage drinks an entire bottle of booze (well he ingests the stuff that isn’t poured on his wounds) while in his underwear, howling like an injured animal. It’s going to be GIF-ed and mocked, but it’s actually a great bit of acting, conveying a man not just mourning or in grief but literally destroyed.

Like a character in a Queensrÿche concept album, Red emerges from this destruction with his plans for vengeance. With a title card that divides the film in half, “Mandy” then becomes the movie that most people will remember in that it’s about Red working his way through both the demons that Jeremiah conjured and, inevitably, the gang itself. The heavy metal comparison is apt not just because the genre often included figures like the nightmarish creations that Jeremiah brought to life but in the very structure of “Mandy,” which unfolds in a very untraditional manner in both halves. Scenes play out like songs on an album, episodically cast in extreme color palettes that amplify the trippy, surreal natures of the entire experience. “Mandy” is a fascinating genre exercise in that it is as untraditional a horror movie as you’ll see this year but also relies on so many classics of the form. It is, at its core, a downright biblical tale of evil and vengeance.

It’s also pretty bad-ass when it comes to stand-out moments, particularly an already-acclaimed fight with two men wielding chainsaws like they’re swords. It’s a perfect blend of the old and new in “Mandy” and a distillation of what the film does well in how it takes a familiar good vs. evil sequence and twists it to fit Cosmatos’ vision.

Having said that, there are times when I felt the length of said vision. “Mandy” runs over two hours, and a little of its style goes a long way. I think there’s a masterful version of this movie that runs notably shorter, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an unforgettable one the way it is right now. 

One more thing before you go on this journey with Nicolas Cage: the incredible Johann Johannsson ("Sicario," "Arrival") does the best of his career in this, his final film composition. The score here is another character, a series of screeching, violent noises that add to the tone of the film in ways that can't be overstated. The film simply doesn't work without it. And, as much as I like other parts of the movie, Johannson's work alone justifies a viewing. It reminds us how much we lost by his early passing.

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smallfrogge
4 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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A Simple Favor

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"A Simple Favor" is a pretty delicate balancing act. It's a thriller told with a broad sense of humor (even slapstick at times). One false move could have been deadly, resulting in a film self-serious, or straining to be "relevant," or—worse—just plain old boring. But "A Simple Favor," directed by Paul Feig, has its cake and eats it too. It's suspenseful, but also hilarious. It's insightful about the head games women can play with each other, but it doesn't burden itself with trying to be "meaningful." It's not trying to "say something" about "how we live now" or anything like that. What a relief to watch a film unafraid of letting its hair down. 

The funky stylized credits sequence (designed by David Clayton) clues us in immediately that this isn't going to be a gloomy by-the-book thriller. A throwback to 1960s comedies or spy capers, the credits involve single-color images of stilettos and purses moving around in angular cut-out shapes, a collage of conspicuous consumption, with one of the many classic French pop songs blaring behind it. The soundtrack is filled with Serge Gainsbourg songs, including "Bonnie & Clyde," his duet with Brigitte Bardot, plus "Une Histoire de Plage," "Laisse Tomber les Filles," and Jean Paul Keller's "Ca C'est Arrange." Mood-setting is one of the most important aspects of film-making, and so many films fail to establish the proper mood from the jump. "A Simple Favor," written by Jessica Sharzer, an adaptation of Darcey Bell's novel, knows exactly what it needs to do to establish the mood for all that will follow.

Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, a single mom who runs a popular "vlog," where she shares recipes, parenting tips, and DIY how-tos. She's a type-A personality all the way, over-volunteering at her son's school, making other parents feel like slackers. In a couple of swift scenes it's established that Stephanie is virtually friendless ... until Emily Nelson (Blake Lively)—whose son goes to school with Stephanie's son—strolls into her life. Emily has a high-powered job "in the city" (New York), and ropes Stephanie in to drinking martinis after picking up the boys from school. The two sit in her palatial glass-walled home, and get drunk. Stephanie is dazzled. It's not hard to see why. Emily is casually gorgeous, she wears high heels and pinstriped suits complete with gold watch chains. (Renee Ehrlich Kalfus deserves a lot of credit for her costume design.) Emily swears like a sailor (even in front of the kids), and has a direct way of speaking: she looks right at Stephanie, intimate, encouraging. Stephanie can't believe she has been "chosen" to be this fabulous creature's friend.

There are some red flags in Emily's behavior, which Stephanie ignores. Stephanie takes Emily's picture once, without Emily's consent, and Emily, in a tone that could cut glass, tells her to delete the photo. Emily's beauty is a smokescreen for an intimidating and mercurial personality, warm and encouraging one moment, slightly scary the next. Stephanie constantly apologizes for things, and Emily tells her to stop: "It's a fucked-up female habit." She's right. But Emily always keeps Stephanie just slightly off-balance. Both actresses are in high gear here. Kendrick is so awkward you yearn for Stephanie to just relax, but her awkwardness is why the performance is so funny. And Blake Lively is the reincarnation of Julie Christie in her best work in the 1960s and '70s: ruthless and charming, sexy and detached, a completely destabilizing presence to men and women alike. This is a great role for Lively.

And then, Emily goes missing. The police are called, and Stephanie finds herself the center of attention as Emily's "best friend." She helps Nick out with the kids, supports him in his grief and anxiety, and gives updates on her "vlog" (her follower count goes through the roof). But slowly, Stephanie starts to wonder if there might be more going on than meets the eye. What does Stephanie really know about Emily? Who is Emily? Even Nicky refers to his wife as a "beautiful ghost." Stephanie, underestimated and mocked, intimidated by Emily's cool gaze, finds a strength she didn't know she had, and "A Simple Favor" shifts, fluidly, into Stephanie: Girl Detective. She tries to piece together Emily's past, looking for clues. The whole situation is so gratifying because Stephanie is the same mousy overachiever, dressed in cute little combos from The Gap, only now she's sneaking through apartments and offices, breaking into filing cabinets, doing things she never thought she would—or could—do.

One of Paul Feig's gifts as a director is working with strong charismatic women, giving them space to whoop it up, work off one another, be co-creators. There's space in his approach, space left for behavior, humor, spontaneity. (Think of Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in "The Heat." That pairing could easily have become a franchise, should have become a franchise.) "A Simple Favor" has an intricate plot, with many surprise reveals as well as some truly spooky sequences, but it doesn't feel over-planned. Stephanie, at one point, goes into a panic, and shouts at Nicky, "Are you trying to 'Diabolique' me? Oh my God, you're trying to 'Diabolique' me!" It's a funny line, requiring you to know "Diabolique"— a remake of 1955's "Les Diaboliques," directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot—about a wife and mistress conspiring to kill the man they share in common. Those French pop songs don't dominate "A Simple Favor"'s soundtrack for nothing. The plot shares some similarities with "Gone Girl," but that's where the comparison should end. "Gone Girl" took itself very seriously. "A Simple Favor" doesn't take itself seriously at all. And that's a good thing.

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smallfrogge
4 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Solo Colonoscopies, Cannibal Calories, and More 2018 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

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From workplace voodoo dolls and self-inflicted colonoscopies to cannibalistic diets and using roller coasters to pass kidney stones, here are the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes.

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smallfrogge
4 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas review – a dazzling genre-defying debut

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Era-hopping sex, trauma and therapy … four scientists make a world-changing discovery in a novel that breaks the rules of detective fiction, space and time

A door bolted from the inside, blood, bullets and and unidentifiable corpse. These are the classic ingredients of the locked-room mystery, but when Kate Mascarenhas deploys them in her genre-defying debut, she doesn’t play by the rules of detective fiction, or even the rules of space and time. As the novel opens, we learn that time travel was invented in 1967 by a four-strong group known as the Pioneers. There’s aristocratic cosmologist Margaret; Lucille, who has “come from the Toxteth slums to make radio waves travel faster than light”; enigmatic Grace, “an expert in the behaviour of matter”; and Barbara, a specialist in nuclear fission.

Their discovery is, of course, world-changing, but only some of them will get to share in it. Time travel throws Barbara into a manic-depressive episode, and while the other Pioneers form an organisation called the Conclave to oversee the technology, she is frozen out. Meanwhile, in 2018, student Odette is discovering the mysterious corpse, which leaves her shaken and desperate for an explanation. And in 2017, trauma counsellor Ruby Rebello is learning more about the history of her Granny Bee (for Barbara), and how the Conclave is entwined in their family’s fate.

Trauma here is a kind of time travel, compelling the sufferer to return again and again to the scene of their shock

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smallfrogge
6 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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An Ultra-High Resolution Map of Antartica

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Antactica Detailed Map

Antactica Detailed Map

Antactica Detailed Map

Using years of satellite data and photography, researchers have constructed an extremely detailed terrain map called the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica that maps 98% of the continent down to a resolution of 8 meters. That makes it the most detailed terrain map of any continent. The NY Times has the skinny on the new map.

Previous maps of the continent had a resolution similar to seeing the whole of Central Park from a satellite. With this new data, it is now possible to see down to the size of a car, and even smaller in some areas. The data is so complete that scientists now know the height of every feature on the continent down to a few feet.

“If you’re someone that needs glasses to see, it’s a bit like being almost blind and putting on glasses for the first time and seeing 20/20,” said Dr. Howat.

The team used 187,585 images collected over six years to create the map.

“Until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” said Dr. Howat.

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DexX
7 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
smallfrogge
8 days ago
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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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