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Sunday, 14 April 2013


So from the practical effects work, to Jane Levy’s performance, to a domination of mainstream horror, to handily rebooting “untouchable” material thought to be sacred, Fede Alvarez has accomplished the unthinkable. But do you know what the best part is? It all gets to happen again – and hopefully not just once.

By now you all know the plans, right? Nothing is confirmed, but it might as well be with the post credits scene I’m sure you all stuck around for (right?!). Anyway, if you don’t know, here’s the deal – the plan from here on out is for Fede Alvarez to create a sequel for his installment of theEvil Dead franchise still focusing on Mia, for Sam Raimi to create an Army of Darkness 2 which reboots Bruce Campbell’s original character Ash, and then for a third film to come out which joins Alvarez’s world with Raimi’s. Ash is back baby, and he’s ready for some action. Holy shitballs, right?
We have to acknowledge the fact that none of this (hopeful) news would even have been released if Alvarez’s film bombed though. If Evil Dead tanked critically and financially, there would be no plans for dual sequels and a final joint effort – the franchise would be dead. Instead, Alvarez single-handedly resurrected the franchise not only for himself, but for the original creator as well. All those people hating the fact that an Evil Dead film was being helmed by anyone but Sam Raimi are no doubt biting their tongues, because not only did it rock the world of horror, but it inspired Raimi himself to jump back into the game. Only a few months ago we were nervous to even see how Evil Dead would turn out, but now we’re looking at the possibility of three more franchise films.
Fede Alvarez, I could kiss you, you magnificent son of a bitch, you.


OK, based on newer knowledge we know Alvarez’s Evil Dead is actually a reboot leading to a franchise of its own, but still, he did something so many directors have failed to do by rehashing already successful source material beloved by hoards of fans, and still creating a kick-ass movie that lives up to the original hype. I mean, we all know the cult following behind Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, probably one of the most cult-worshiped horror franchises in history, and we know how remakes have been disgracing the horror films of yesteryear we all know and love – so history and trends were not on Fede’s side.
But f*ck history and f*ck trends, because Alvarez confidently attacked one of the most iconic cult horror franchises and spun his own take on “cabin in the woods” type horror to create a film that not only lives up to current horror expectations, but standards set by Raimi himself. The atmosphere, tension, ridiculousness, horror – Fede grabs so much inspiration from Raimi, yet absolutely gives Evil Dead his own unique touch. He defied the odds by taking risks, learning lessons from Raimi’s original material on what works and what doesn’t work, absolutely owning classic material some deemed sacrilegious to alter.
I stand by a claim in my review of Alvarez’s Evil Dead which states the following: “Alvarez made the film Sam Raimi intended to make, only Fede was given the appropriate budget.”


For those with a weak stomach, just know you’ll probably have a hard time making it through Alvarez’s Evil Dead. It’s not just gory, it’s downright revolting and sadistically violent, dismembering cast members while forcing us to watch in all of the gory glory. If you think Ash cutting his hand off in Evil Dead II was tough to watch, there’s a 95% Elizabeth Blackmore’s character Natalie’s appendage removing scene that will make you vomit. Some of the gore was so gruesome and lifelike, people walked out of my showing to wait outside the theater for their friends – which only makes the practical effects mastery by Alvarez’s crew all the more epic.
But what does this mean for mainstream horror? Maybe studios will stop playing it so damn safe with their powder-puff PG-13 snoozefests and give horror fans what they really want – buckets and buckets of gore. Gross us out! It’s a challenge we love facing! By stealing 1st place at the box office its opening weekend with a $26 million dollar gross (already making the film profitable), Alvarez proved audiences will still turn out for a blood-soaked masterpiece even if it makes them squirm with distaste.
Don’t get me wrong, gore still needs to be supplemented by proper storytelling and everything else that makes a good horror movie, but hell, maybe now studios will nut up and start taking risks again – it’s about damn time.


Jane Levy as Mia in this movie was about as perfect a casting choice I had ever seen, but if you’d seen her films before this, you would NOT have expected her performance (she was inFun Size, and that is pretty much it) – but my GOD does she embrace the Mia character.
For those who don’t know, the rewrite casts her as a heroine addict, going up to the cabin (which is now in Weymouth, Ma, where I grew up and was tormented by demons, making this all even more perfect to me) and that idea of having her going through withdrawals is genius. When the madness starts, and she is warning everyone, they all think it is her trying to leave the intervention, so no one believes her. That scene, when she comes in from the woods and is trying to warn her brother, the look in her eyes of pure terror, was maybe the most palpable look and feeling of terror I had ever seen an actor portray, outside of Shelly Duvall in The Shining. But once she slips, all that innocence and nativity is gone, replaced with GENUINE EVIL. I won’t get into the kills, because I want Matt to have some cool shit to talk about, but man, from the french kiss to the (dare I say it), chainsaw, Evil Dead was just brutal cinema at its finest.
Extra Remy Thought:
All the nods Alvarez’s film makes to the original shows just how much love it has for Raimi’s Evil Dead and for the fans. When I saw Mia in the beginning, sitting on the old beater from the first film, still parked there, something big hit me. Holy shit, this is the same universe and same timeline. Which of course, leads to the big post-credit reveal, which I will leave to Matt to talk about.

Nato And Remy’s Last Stand: Why Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead Bitch-Slapped Horror

Remy: With gasps and shudders and clenched fists curled up tight in the pockets of my hoody, the Evil Dead remake reminded me in one blinding flash why I adore the horror genre. It’s down right scary, unsettling, relentless, and brutal. It’s also engaging, interesting, incredibly well shot, and perfectly executed (I’ll take “poor word play” for 100, Alex). Alvarez’s film was a painstakingly crafted love letter to the original and fans of the original, and it also did something most people might have missed if they left early: it bridged the original series with the new series in an attempt to combine them both further down the road. How f*cking awesome is that? So now, for your reading pleasure, Matt and I will discuss some of the things that really stood out to us regarding this awesome reboot. Awesome and reboot are two words we never use next to each other, so you should be aware how big a moment this is for horror.
Nato: Wow, no mentions of phallic objects or being a masked murderer, I’m not really sure what to say now – except I agree with Remy 100% of the way. Evil Dead beat me senseless with scares, thrills, excitement, and gore, all the while giving an emphatic middle finger to the entire mainstream horror genre. Yeah, that’s about right.
With that said, join Remy and I as we dissect Fede Alvarez’s film and list a few of the many reasons why this remake/reboot may have just changed the current horror game.

 Nato And Remys Last Stand: Why Fede Alvarezs Evil Dead Bitch Slapped Horror
HUZZAH, let us all rejoice for a moment over Evil Dead‘s jaw-dropping practical effects.
Make no mistakes about it, bad CGI has become the bane of horror. Animated blood splashing from animated creatures makes me feel like I am watching a rated R Pixar movie, but the Evil Dead remake was like “f**k that noise, we want all our effects to be practical.” Yes, you read that correctly. Outside of the “burning” scene at the start, and the “vine slug”, all the effects in this movie were done with fake blood and prosthetics. While that may not sound too impressive, to see the movie in action proves otherwise. It is visceral, realistic, and in your face. It even left me with a few moments where I was wondering how they did it – flabbergasted and amazed.
The face slicing scene, for example. How the hell was I seeing her teeth from inside her cheek? Sssh, don’t tell me, it was pure magic. But the practical effects alone took the movie from awesome to, in my opinion, the new horror benchmark all other horror films (and their effects) will be measured against.

12o1s Nato And Remys Last Stand: Why Fede Alvarezs Evil Dead Bitch Slapped Horror
I need to say something about this because it has been bothering me. Any person who tells you Evil Dead is “torture porn” must not have any solid idea what the genre means. “Torture porn”, as whack as that term is, is based and steeped in reality. People bound or gagged and being tortured by another person.
Certain people hate films like that because they are vile and gross at times, but Evil Dead is NOT that. It is a group of people who slowly get possessed, one by one, by a demon, and that demon will do anything it can to kill anyone around it, including, and especially, the host. There is NO basis of reality here, and at no point is anyone being tortured. Just because people are slicing off their faces and getting nail guns to the eye does not make it torture porn. It is simply a very violent, gritty, grimy, visceral horror film. All they did was remove the campiness of the original, and now people call it torture porn. Wrong. Those are just people who are having trouble coping with the violence on screen, so they are name-calling at the film to take the emphasis off the fact that their tender minds could not handle it.

Box Office Results: 42 No. 1 Domestically, Oblivion Big Overseas

The ComingSoon.net Box Office Report has been updated with studio estimates for the weekend. Click here for the full box office estimates of the top 12 films and then check back on Monday for the final figures based on actual box office.

Brian Helgeland's Jackie Robinson biopic 42 opened in first place domestically with an estimated $27 million from 3,003 theaters, an average of $9,074 per location. The drama, starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, Ryan Merriman and T.R. Knight, was made for about $38 million. The Warner Bros. release received an excellent A+ CinemaScore from audiences.

Internationally, Joseph Kosinski's sci-fi thriller Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Melissa Leo, debuted in 7,444 theaters in 52 countries. The film earned an estimated $61.1 million and was No. 1 in 48 of the countries. Oblivion opens in domestic theaters and IMAX on Friday, April 19.

Back at the domestic box office, Scary Movie V was released in 3,402 theaters but managed to earn just $15.2 million in second place, an average of $4,454 per theater. Dimension Films' $20 million spoof comedy debuted with quite a bit lower than the $40.2 million that Scary Movie 4 earned its opening weekend in 2006.

DreamWorks Animation's The Croods continued to perform well in third place with $13.2 million. Made for $135 million, the animated adventure has earned $142.5 million domestically after four weeks. Internationally, The Croods took in an additional $25.5 million for an overseas total of $244.8 million. Worldwide, the film has reached $387.3 million.

Dropping down two spots to fourth, G.I. Joe: Retaliation added $10.8 million its third weekend. The $130 million action film has earned $102.4 million so far.

Evil Dead, from TriStar, FilmDistrict and Ghost House, took in $9.5 million this weekend in the fifth spot. The horror remake has earned $41.5 million and was made for just $17 million.

Universal's 3D re-release of Jurassic Park made another $8.8 million in sixth place its second weekend for a total of $31.9 million.

In its fourth weekend, Olympus Has Fallen brought in $7.3 million for a total of 81.9 million.

Xbox 360 SmartGlass App Gets Android Update

SmartGlass technology on Android devices is getting even smarter this week, with the Xbox 360 companion features arriving on more phones and tablets, complete with new features to make your two-screen entertainment experience better than ever. 

This announcement comes directly from the Major Nelson Blog, where the team over at Xbox have unleashed a handful of new features for Android SmartGlass users to enjoy. 

“We're rolling out an Xbox SmartGlass update to Android devices this week with new features and design updates,” reads the blog post. “The power of companion scenarios continue to come to life in new ways with Xbox SmartGlass, enabling your PC, tablet and smartphone to connect to your Xbox console in an intelligent way.” 

I believe you mean in a “smart” way, Sr. Nelson

Either way, you can grab the app now directly from the Google Play Store. These new update includes support for 10-inch Android tablets, an activity browser link that lets you open a web browser from in-app, expanded messaging for use with your Xbox Live friends, an “Awake” state that will keep the device on while the app is running and an all new streamlined design that should help make the app easier to use.

'Veep' Season 2: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

"Veep" returns to HBO Sunday (April 14), with Julia Louis-Dreyfus stepping back into the shoes of Vice President Selina Meyer on the heels of an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for the role in Season 1. 

Louis-Dreyfus teases for Zap2it what fans can look forward to, including Meyer trying to take on a bigger role in policy. 

"She's going to try to get closer inside the West Wing, which is going to be a very interesting challenge for her. It's going to work for her and not work for her, in time," says Louis-Dreyfus.

Along the way, we wonder if JLD has thought of any cringe-worthy situations she'd like to see the Veep stumble into. 

"Oh, sure. But I think I'll keep them to myself," laughs Louis-Dreyfus. "There are just so many. When you're on the public stage, the international stage, there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments."

We have to wonder if those moments would ever come with Meyer as president -- would she be ready to step into the office?

"Well, she thinks she is, for sure," says Louis-Dreyfus. "I'm not saying I do. I'm not even saying I'd vote for her, but she thinks she's ready. That's a ways down the line, though, if at all."

What fans can look forward to are some new faces, including Gary Cole and Kevin Dunn as POTUS staff members. 

"We're bringing in a couple new characters from POTUS' office," says Louis-Dreyfus. "I'm just looking forward to working with these guys again. I can't tell you how much I love this group of actors." 

"Veep" returns Sunday, April 14 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

“Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song”

“Sweet Seymour Skinners Baadasssss Song” (season five, episode 19; originally aired 04/28/1994)

For its one hundredth episode, you might expect The Simpsons to go really big with an episode that’s a veritable extravaganza of a fandango of a lollapalooza, possibly involving the popular alternate rock musical festival Lollapalooza. The show has never been afraid to dazzle viewers with star-power or outrageous premises involving Homer going to outer space, becoming a pop star or being a suspect in the shooting of Mr. Burns.
Heck, the fifth season began with an appearance from an actual Beatle in an episode-length tribute to all things Fab Four, so it would not seem out of place for the show to try to top itself with this landmark episode. Instead, The Simpsons chose an antithetical tactic. Rather than going big and star-studded with its 100th episode, it got intimate and small with one of the subtlest episodes of the show’s 1990s golden years.
“Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” is full of wonderfully realized little moments that convey volumes about characters, like the newly unemployed and rudderless Principal Skinner reciting the invariably hyperbolic names of laundry detergents. Nobody is going to buy a detergent called “Adequate” with so many superlatively-named competitors on the shelves, and Harry Shearer’s deadpan inflection clashes amusingly with the chipper words coming out of his mouth. The episode plunges deep inside the buttoned-down mind of Principal Skinner, exploring the sour sadness of his life with clear-eyed compassion and pity.
But before it focuses on the banal tragedy of Skinner’s terminally square existence, “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” focuses on another member of the show’s extended family: Santa’s Little Helper. I went to a party not too long ago where a puppy was the main attraction. James Franco could have strolled in with Skrillex and started throwing around $100 bills and nobody would pay attention to him unless he was also cradling an adorable golden retriever. Animals have that kind of affect on people. They don’t even need to be a baby animal or even particularly cute: By virtue of being a dog or a cat they are inherently fascinating. They’re natural stars even if all they do is sit and eat and defecate outside. Sure enough, in “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song,” Bart brings Santa’s Little Helper to class for show and tell and is the hit of the day, trumping even Martin’s theatrical display of his geode. When the entire class ignores him to concentrate on Santa’s Little Helper, Martin huffs exquisitely, “My geode must be acknowledged!”

Everything Santa’s Little Helper does strikes the class as magical. When he sneezes, Ms. Krabappel replies delightedly, “He thinks he’s people!”, a line that has become an internet meme over the years on account of it being awesome and awesomely re-usable. Even creepy Groundskeeper Willie is not immune to Santa’s Little Helper’s canine charms.
Bart’s triumph is short-lived, however, as Santa’s Little Helper eventually makes it into the air ducts of the school, where a greased-up Groundskeeper Willie is dispensed to retrieve him. When Willie becomes stuck in the air ducts himself, it leads to a crisis that results in Principal Skinner losing the job that has come to define him. The indignity reaches its peak as an enraged Superintendent Chalmers reams Skinner out for, among other transgressions, “class after class of ugly, ugly children,” another of those all-time great throwaway lines. Without children to whip into shape or a superintendent to accidentally antagonize, Skinner is a man without a country, a king without a kingdom, and, in less metaphorical terms, a Principal without a school to lead. Who is Skinner without his job?
I suspect that every child experiences a moment of intense cognitive dissonance the first time they see an authority figure like a teacher or priest or baseball umpire outside of their usual context. It almost feels like you’re seeing something you shouldn’t be seeing, that merely by virtue of, say, being at the same convenience store on a Tuesday night as your biology teacher, you are somehow interfering with their personal life, making them briefly uncomfortable with the prospect of unstructured conversation. “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” beautifully captures this jarring phenomenon when Milhouse and Bart spy Skinner in street clothes after he’s been relieved of his job and Milhouse says of the man they thought they knew well, “I think he’s gone crazy! He’s not wearing a suit or tie or anything.” Seeing Skinner outside of class inspires a confusing tumult of emotions within Bart: Shame for having started the chain of events that led to him losing his job, awkwardness over the uncertain nature of their new relationship and intense self-consciousness over how to communicate with Skinner outside the boundaries of their well-developed antagonistic relationship.
Skinner losing his job doesn’t just cause Bart to see his relationship with his premier enemy differently. It causes him to re-examine his own existence as well. Who is he without his enemy? Who is Wile E. Coyote without Road Runner? Just an anthropomorphic coyote who exhibits incredible brand loyalty to Acme despite their products failing him 100 percent of the time. And who is Road Runner without Wile E. Coyote? Merely an unusually fast bird that makes odd, repetitive noises.
Instead of feeling validated, Bart is bummed out by Skinner falling from his perch. It isn’t just Skinner that feels rudderless; without Skinner to bump heads with, Bart feels lost and there are some wonderfully subdued, subtle scenes of Bart and Skinner attempting to connect with each other in this weird new phase of their relationship.
Yes, there are few things in the world more jarring to children than seeing familiar faces in unfamiliar new contexts so it’s also a little weird for Bart when Ned Flanders takes over for Skinner. Flanders rules the school with such a soft touch that it isn’t long until the school has devolved into a Lord Of The Flies-like state of complete lawlessness, with Martin, that eternal symbol of fancy-pants civilization, imprisoned in a cage.
Bart ends up helping Skinner get his job back so that the equilibrium of their relationship can be restored. Chalmers doesn’t seem too concerned about the anarchy that has overtaken the school under Flanders’ reign but he loses his shit when he hears Flanders praying. In a line that became instantly iconic, Chalmers hollers defiantly, “Thank the Lord? That sounded like a prayer. A prayer in a public school. God has no place within these walls, just like facts don’t have a place within an organized religion.” 
“Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadassss Song” ends as it must: With Skinner back as principal. He and Bart are comfortably enemies once more but a little of their short-lived friendship remains when Bart impishly puts a sign on Skinner’s back and Skinner in turn puts a sign reading, “Teach Me” on Bart’s back. Instead of proving to the world how big and crazy and outrageous it could be, The Simpsonsinstead proved just how powerful and funny it could be at its quietest.
Stray observations
  • I love the incredibly cavalier, nonchalant way, Chalmers says, “The way America’s public school are sliding, they’ll all be this way in a few months. It’s a hell of a toboggan ride!” in response to the complete breakdown of civilization at his school.
  • How many other shows could generate real pathos out of a line like, “We’ll always have the Laundromat.”
  • “This is great! Not only am I not learning, I’m forgetting stuff I used to know and it’s all thanks to you, Bart.”—Milhouse on the bliss of ignorance, post-Skinner 
  • Another great, subtle moment: Marge answering complaints that she’s an inveterate potato pimp with an abashed, “I just think they’re neat.”
Next up is “The Boy Who Knew Too Much.” If memory serves, it’s a good one, but you didn’t hear that from me, understand?

Albany Teacher Who Assigned Awful Nazi Writing Assignment Put on Leave

A teacher at Albany High School has been put on leave after igniting a brushfire of outrage in upstate New York with quite possibly the worst persuasive writing assignment ever: she asked students to put themselves into a pair of black leather stormtrooper boots and argue why the Jews are evil as if they were trying to convince some incisive Gestapo agent that they were loyal, goose-stepping members of the National Socialist Party.

An “edgy” writing assignment that former students would have used as a friend-making, crazy-high-school anecdote between bong rips in their freshman dorm quickly turned into local controversy this week. The offending teacher, whom Albany school district officials are not naming, was not in class on Friday when the Albany Times Union first reported about the assignment. At a hastily-convened press conference Friday afternoon, Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard assured parents and outraged community members that teacher will most definitely face some punishment, though it wasn’t yet clear if that punishment would come in the form of a letter of reprimand or outright termination.
According to the Times Union, Wyngaard also said that the school district will now begin the hard work of making amends for the teacher’s shitty writing prompt:
She did not say when the district would allow the teacher back in the classroom and suggested it may not happen before the end of the year. The district will also bring in sensitivity trainers from the Anti-Defamation League to work with teachers and students before the end of the school year.
At a news conference on Friday with members of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of New York, Vanden Wyngaard apologized to the community for the assignment and said diversity is valued deeply in the district. She said she was shocked at the insensitive lesson and the awful leap it asked students to make. "You asked a child to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified, that's my struggle," she said. "It's an illogical leap for a student to make."
That “illogical step” that students were asked to make started with the following prompt (not the overzealous use of the exclamation point, as pioneered by Elaine Benes): “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!" Ick.
As reasonably well-adjusted adults who spend a lot of time on the Internet, we can all probably step back and agree that the teacher in this case was using an inflammatory prompt about Nazis to make a point about persuasive writing. “Do you see, students?” the teacher probably said, ignoring that voice in the back of his or her head insisting that it wasn’t too late to stop talking and just dismiss the class. “Do you see how even the world’s most terrible ideas can be put into motion with the magic of persuasive writing? Joseph Goebbels was the ultimate persuasive writer! Be like Joseph Goebbels and craft an essay that will convince us all that you’re a genocidal maniac.”
However, nothing ever good comes from pretending that you’re a Nazi, and there is literally an infinite number of FAR BETTER persuasive writing prompts, such as, “Convince me that you, a human high school student, are actually a glass of apple cider,” or “Convince me that you’re an acorn that is running for the mayor of Oakton on an anti-squirrel platform. Make me believe that you despise squirrels.” The Nazi prompt isn’t just bigoted writing assignment — it’s also a cheap trick, a way to stir up the volatile psyches of high school students in an effort to engage them in a task that they hate, namely, writing essays.

This AI “solves” Super Mario Bros. and other classic NES games

In the 28 years since Super Mario Bros. was released, and it's obviously been comprehensively beaten, thoroughly, many thousands of times in that time by players around the world. But have you ever made the game beat itself?

That's what computer scientist Tom Murphy has done. At SigBovik 2013, he presented a program that "solves" how to play Super Mario Bros., or any other NES game, like it's just another kind of mathematical problem. And for those who know that SigBovik is an annual computer science conference dedicated to spoof research, hosted on April 1 every year, Murphy stresses that this is "100 percent real."
He outlines his method in a paper, "The First Level of Super Mario Bros. is Easy with Lexicographic Orderings and Time Travel... after that it gets a little tricky," but he also presented the results in the video you can see with this story.
Lexicographic ordering is a pretty simple mathematical technique used to determine the best order a set of values should come in. It's most commonly used in libraries or dictionaries for arranging books and words, for instance, with the alphabet determining the order of the letters.
Murphy created two programs, LearnFun and PlayFun, and began recording himself playing the first level (world 1-1) of Super Mario Bros. The NES puts out 60 frames of 2048 bytes per second, and each of these was fed into LearnFun. Everything in the NES's memory—the buttons being pressed, the number of lives left, the score, the locations of enemies, Mario's position as coordinates, and so on—is taken in by the LearnFun algorithm.
PlayFun then plays the game, and uses the knowledge from LearnFun to try and increase the values it knows it has to increase—Mario's score, and how far scrolled to the right Mario is in the level. "It's trying to find the sequence of inputs to make those values go up in the RAM," Murphy explains in the video.
The results are impressive. After some tweaking, Mario plays the first level just like a real person, jumping on enemies like Goombas and hitting boxes for coins. The program even learns how to take advantage of bugs and glitches, like timing jumps so that Mario begins falling again at the exact time that he makes contact with a Goomba. Mario's invincible when he's falling, so the touch kills the Goomba, not Mario, and it gives him a further jump boost.
It's still dumb in places, though—Murphy describes the whole method as "a really simple, mathematically elegant and stupid technique that really works"—so it still makes mistakes. At one point, until Murphy diagnoses a bug in LearnFun, Mario couldn't get himself to go backwards and try a different route. That's down to the simplicity of the approach, which relies on Mario always generally needing to scroll to the right while occasionally jumping over something to increase his score.
It never finishes the game, though—it gets stuck in world 1-3 at a particularly long jump. But it's pretty good considering the short development time. Murphy also shows it working on some other NES games, like the Karate Kid and Hudson's Adventure Island. In Bubble Bobble it's "totally pro," which is surprising because "it's single-screen, and there's no score gradient to help you out." It's also something of a daredevil when it comes to Pacman.
In Tetris, though, the method fails completely. It seeks out the easiest path to a higher score, which is laying bricks on top of one another randomly. Then, when the screen fills up, the AI pauses the game. As soon as it unpauses, it'll lose—as Murphy says, "the only way to the win the game is not to play."
This is not the first example of a Mario AI, and there's actually a Mario AI Championship that takes place every year. Contestants are given a Java clone of Super Mario Bros. and can enter several competitions relating to gameplay, level generation, and, for the first time in 2012, a Turing test. The audience watches footage of both AIs and humans playing the game, voting on which they think is the AI—the winner is the programmer who fools the most people.
The gameplay and learning algorithms rely on different methods to the one Murphy used, mostly related to pathfinding rather than solving it as a computational problem. The results are often impressive, as are the procedurally generated levels, which are rated based on how fun they are to play. Sticking the two together can occasionally create terrifying results too, as in this video of a well-trained AI trying to "beat" an endless level spawning dozens of monsters every few seconds.

It's Vulcans and Volcanoes on the Latest Star Trek Into Darkness Poster

The latest poster for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness is now online and it features Zachary Quinto's Spock surrounded by molten lava inside an active volcano. Check it out below, courtesy of iTunes Movie Trailers.

In the wake of a shocking act of terror from within their own organization, the crew of The Enterprise is called back home to Earth. In defiance of regulations and with a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads his crew on a manhunt to capture an unstoppable force of destruction and bring those responsible to justice. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Peter Weller also star in the sci fi adventure film, opening on May 15 in IMAX and May 17 in conventional theaters.

ASUS Transformer AiO Goes On Sale For $1,299

Back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, ASUS revealed the Transformer AiO, a device which is actually a tablet/desktop hybrid. The Transformer AiO runs dual operating systems, Windows 8 when its a desktop and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean when its a tablet. It was expected to go on sale in Q2, 2013 and it indeed has for a price tag of $1,299.
The Asus Transformer AiO has an 18.4 inch 1920×1080 full HD display with IPS technology and 10 point multi-touch. Yes, it is an 18.4 inch tablet, not exactly one you’d carry around in your backpack. In tablet mode it is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Its 32Whr Li-ion battery is said to good for 5 hours of usage. On the PC front, the AiO will be powered by a 3rd generation Core i5 processor with Windows 8 pre-installed. There’s an NVIDIA GeFore GT 730M with 2GB of VRAM, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 1TB SATA HDD and SuperMulti DVD drive on the PC version. It includes SplashTop Remote Desktop, which would allow wireless connection to the base unit while the Transformer AiO is in tablet mode. All of this can now be yours for $1,299.

The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012

Alright, confession time – I never really WANT to write a “Worst Of” horror list because I try to find value in every horror movie, and it’s always easy to pick on the weak. Making silly analogies, calling filmmakers out, trashing tacky performances, crapping all over nonsensical plots and even worse execution – it’s simple child’s play really. Writing about flawless films and what intricacies make them so stunningly breathtaking is where a challenge truly exists, trying to sway the masses into gobbling up your words of wisdom – which I’ve already done for you in my Top 10 Horror Films Of 2012 list.
But, with that said, some films are so astoundingly underwhelming, so obviously terrible, so egotistically cocky, so downright atrocious, and so painfully time-wasting – I have no choice but to take action. I have nothing against the people involved or those trying to make endearing cinema, but a bad film is a bad film, end of story.
As a critic (devout fan, horror obsessed lunatic, take your pick), it’s my job to steer you away from such pocks that cover our otherwise beautiful genre whether I like it or not, and in the end, I’m also the perfect candidate. I watch a lot of horror films, for better or for worse, so trust me when I say I’ve found the worst of the worst to alert you readers of, and I almost lost my mind doing it. 2012 was actually a rather quiet year for horror, throwing out some highly publicized scare tactics only to watch them fall by the wayside one by one, vanishing from relevance almost as quickly as they entered theaters – like a cut-rate children’s magician clumsily hacking his way through a “now you see it, now you don’t” trick.
So, alright, you’re here for a reason, so I might was well make with the list, right? So be it. Follow me as I begrudgingly re-live the 13 worst horror movies of 2012, forced to relive such mind-numbing stretches of gobbledygook powerful enough to render my senses helpless, paralyzed, bored, and not to mention furious after I’d just wasted $12.50 of my hard earned cash. Originally this was going to be a 10 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012 list, but while sorting out all my reviews for the year, I realized 10 spots wouldn’t be enough, having some films that weren’t even good enough for a “dishonorable mention,” so I extended the list to 13. Not a big difference, I know, but trust me, every spot counts with this year’s crop.
Here’s pretty much how I felt during all these movies, except instead of reacting to the background score, pretend Alex is just reacting to the film…
13. Smiley
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Michael J. Gallagher
What do you get when a bunch of young YouTube sensations transition their ideas to the big screen and try to make a horror movie based on a new Internet urban legend, basically like the “Bloody Mary” of Chatroulette? Well, you get a horror film that shows no understanding of what makes a horror movie scary, annoying characters much better suited for short YouTube videos, and writing that only keeps the LOL-ing cyber generation of today in mind.
Smiley has an interesting concept and at least dares to try something new, but also contains aggravating acting, infuriatingly cheap jump scares, and an ending all too clichéd to take anyone by surprise. Director Michael Gallagher could benefit mightily from studying classic horror films if he wants to stay around the genre, because with a better understanding, his filmmaking could be a decent way to draw newer and younger fans into the horror genre – given his craftsmanship is significantly improved upon.
12. The Tall Man
the tall man jessica biel a h 639x360 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Pascal Laugier
I know some people loved The Tall Man, and I understand their point of view, but I can’t say I share the same opinion. Coming from the man who directed the relentless French horror filmMartyrs, I saw The Tall Man as a tremendous step backwards in storytelling and creativity, and was let down in a big way by predictable pacing and an overall lack of gripping cinema lost somewhere in between an overarching message I believe could have been handled much better.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining because Pascal didn’t amp the gore up this time around. I hate to pigeonhole directors, tying them to one film and complaining every time the same standards aren’t met, so I didn’t care that The Tall Man became more of a psychological and suspenseful thriller. I cared more that I cracked Laugier’s story far too early on and was forced to sit though one of Jessica Beil’s weaker performances for far too long, missing the emotional reaction Pascal set out to draw from audiences.
11. Chernobyl Diaries
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Director: Bradley Parker
I’m actually rather bummed out Chernobyl Diaries was such a dud because I like the concept of “found footage” horror films and this Oren Peli produced vessel brought us somewhere iconic instead of just some woods or an abandoned building. I thought decent fun could have been had navigating Ukrainian horrors on such devastated lands, but alas, in the Ukraine, there’s nothing to fear but stupid characters and terrible acting – and roaming bears?
Instead of bringing ingenuity and life into the “found footage” genre, Bradley Parker was only able to muster another example of what makes the sub-genre so easily exploited by directors who just chop together the same tired and unoriginal formula. Shaky camera work, jump scares, forced plot points to give the camera man a perfect shot – it’s all here. Add downright hateable characters and significantly flawed logic so bad every character should have been forced to wear a “Dunce” hat for the film’s entirety, and you’ve got the next big film which makes “found footage” horror one step closer to extinction.
10. The Wicker Tree
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Robin Hardy
Robin Hardy’s original The Wicker Man has stood the test of time, being a largely adored cult classic praised by horror fans and critics alike as one of the greatest films to come out of 1973. It’s been a long time since then, and even though sequels had been written and teased for years, it wasn’t until 2012 that Robin Hardy directed a “spiritual sequel” to his original film titledThe Wicker Tree – based off of his own novel Cowboys For Christ. While The Wicker Man is historically a true classic by now, The Wicker Tree is anything but.
What Hardy has done this time around is introduce two traveling Christians trying to “save some lost souls” in Scotland by spreading their good word, but are sucked into the dark Pagan religion made popular by The Wicker Man. From here, we get more cult worshiping psychos and more crazy religious jargon, but with abysmal quality. I feel like Hardy simply re-hashed the same story with different characters to achieve the same recognition as The Wicker Man, but with horridly dull acting and a much weaker story, The Wicker Tree falls drastically shorter than it’s world-renown predecessor. At least Neil LaBute’s tragic remake of The Wicker Man had Nic Cage hilarity, spawning a slew of YouTube clips that are comedy gold. The Wicker Tree is simply a dreadful watch, and I can only hope Hardy’s upcoming Wicker trilogy-ender has a much fresher vision.
9. Don’t Go In The Woods
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio
Music and horror, why shouldn’t they go hand in hand? D’Onofrio thought up a pretty stellar concept, sending a bunch of hopeful rockstars into the woods for an inspirational outing, butDon’t Go In The Woods finishes as a pretty cut and dry teenage slasher flick with some songs to split up the killings. Sadly though, neither aspect is dealt with rather well, making for an entirely underwhelming musical horror experience.
In terms of the soundtrack, our band is used to sing about the plot points happening at the time, in a sort of self aware sing along that treats its viewers like toddlers. Another sore point in viewing came from D’Onofrio not known when to insert music and when not to, watching characters being dragged away by a killer while they sing about it. How am I supposed to be terrified of a killer when his victims are too preoccupied to escape because they still have another verse left in their big number? No horror, no fear, poor scripting, flawed characters, and even worse songs? Seriously, Don’t Go In The Woods. Trust me.
8. House At The End Of The Street
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Mark Tonderai
While Jennifer Lawrence had an outstanding 2012 with films like The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, I’m sure she’d love to forget her participation in Mark Tonderai’s critically panned stinker House At The End Of The Street - a bargain bin thriller which didn’t impress in the least.
I don’t blame any of the fault on Lawrence herself, so at least the actress can say it wasn’t her doing, but in a movie so heavily dependent on characters to create horror and tension, not much was done to really make us care about a young girl in trouble or the mysterious boy she so fondly ogles. The chemistry between Max Thieriot and Jennifer Lawrence isn’t one that really warrants us to care about the end, or how Thieriot is able to carry out his more sinister actions without anyone knowing.
You’ll find nothing but a lot of big events with too little explanation if you give Tonderai’s film a gander, making House At The End Of The Street a reward-less and boring watch.

7. Spiders 3D
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Tibor Takács
If Spiders 3D sounds like a ridiculous creature feature that belongs on the SyFy channel sandwiched between Ice Spiders and Camel Spiders, you’re right, as veteran B-Movie director Tibor Takács sets loose numerous arachnid terrors to rampage through New York City. While these kinds of movies can be a ton of fun to watch, displaying what silly carnival-like enjoyment can be had within the horror genre, Spiders 3D doesn’t quite reach “so bad it’s good” levels of grindhouse glory.
Here’s the thing – I hate spiders. Those creepy-crawly fuzzy little eight legged freaks really send a chill down my spine, so I was hesitant to see how Spiders 3D would work for me. Well, considering CGI work never really gives us a foe worth fearing, and how I easily sat through Takács’ film without even flinching, the visual mark was drastically missed. But, considering I didn’t find any humor in his film either, there’s no excuse for shoddy delivery typically found in films that are able to entertain in other ways. Nope, just a lot of shiny “spiders” and made for TV acting.
6. Silent Hill: Revelation
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Michael J. Bassett
While Silent Hill is easily one of better video game adaptations I’ve ever seen, Silent Hill: Revelation is easily one of the worst.
The problem here wasn’t acting by any means, as Adelaide Clemens and Kit Harington did the best they could, but awful pacing and laughably inept scripting doomed whatever visual treats Bassett attempted to show. In no way was Silent Hill: Revelation meant to be comical, yet I found myself laughing out loud in the theater at miserable dialogue not even found in the worst video game cut-scenes, along with anti-climactic storytelling which completely missed any point of enjoyable horror.
My final straw came at the realization I could only rationalize the on-screen events with the word “because,” and that isn’t something I find too appealing. Gamers were treated as if they knew every bit of backstory from Silent Hill 3, and non-gaming horror fans were left in the dark – angry and annoyed.
Pissing off non-gamers is one thing, but to not even play towards the audience members who shat their pants playing Silent Hill 3? *Facepalm*
5. The Devil Inside
The Devil Inside The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: William Brent Bell
“Oh look, what a surprise, another ‘found footage’ horror film in my bottom 13,” he said sarcastically.
Holy moly, where do I begin with the worthless piece of horror drivel known as The Devil Inside, yet another “found footage” catastrophe simply trying to mirror Paranormal Activity‘s overnight success. You’ve got your snore-inducing pace, zero attention to horror, characters you simply want to punch in the face, writing not worth a damn climatically, deceptive/nonsensical story progression, and unquestionably THE WORST ending I’ve seen grace the horror genre in years. The film ends out of nowhere with an incredibly abrupt and stupidly out of place finale, really cheating us out of important story points Bell simply never cares to address with what feels like blatantly lazy filmmaking.
The Devil Inside is about exorcisms and religious horror, yet so much time is spent on the boring talky-talky mumbo jumbo instead of the actual holy crusading. It’s a damn shame because there were a few moments of body-contorting horror that had me hooked, but I can assure you it was only for a brief second, gone in a haze of dimly lit rooms and annoying Real World like confessionals from our characters.
The Devil Inside couldn’t have started 2012 off on a worse foot, and would have been an easy number one pick if it wasn’t such big year for terrible horror films.
4. Rites Of Spring
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director:  Padraig Reynolds
Some people think it’s easy to make a slasher movie, discrediting such genre films for only needing a killer, some pretty wanna-be actors/actresses, and a creepy location. Well if it was that simple, why are there so many awful slasher movies in existence? Just look at Rites Of Spring, an incredibly painful Southern-fried slasher that tries to introduce a new horror villain named Wormface, but forgets to actually establish any sort of backstory along the way.
Reynolds’ initial attempt is to play off of ritualistic beliefs that a sacrifice is needed every spring for a fruitful harvest, and Wormface is the one who does the killing. Enter a creepy old farmer and two poor girls hand selected for his sadistic ritual, establishing the horror. At the same time, another kidnapping taking place in a nearby abandoned building throws more kill fodder into the mix when the two sets of characters cross paths, mixing both stories. The problem is simple though – neither story is properly thought out or executed with any enjoyable logic or horror fun in the least bit. Gore and nudity couldn’t even camp up Rites Of Spring for a cultish saving grace, making the final product only usable for crop fertilization.
When you mix shit with more shit, all you have is an even bigger pile of shit. Sorry for the simple analogy, but how else can I say it?
3. Airborne
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Dominic Burns
The simple reality that Airborne somehow isn’t wrapping this list up at the number one spot makes me want to grab a barf bag in disgust, as this would easily be in contention for overall “Worst of” glory any other year – but this year, Dominic Burns’ horror travesty was saved by even more inept filmmaking, despite the fact his film took a nosedive harder than a plane without engines carrying 1,000 elephants.
Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill was dangled by marketing teams to promote Airborne, hoping people could find happiness in a familiar face, but not even Jedi mind tricks are powerful enough to convince even the simplest mind there exists even an iota of entertaining cinema flying around Burns’ film. What starts as a weak premise turns into a completely mishandled claustrophobic “possession” type “horror” film with zero intensity or tension, never clever nor thrilling enough to raise even the slightest hair on a viewer’s body. I’ve honestly never seen such mediocre work fumbled so mightily, making Airborne not even worth a forced in-flight movie viewing you don’t even have to pay for. Leave the headphones unplugged and deal with the screaming babies, you’ll thank me on that one.
2. The Apparition
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Director: Todd Lincoln
The Apparition – horror movie, or terrible PSA about making contact with the dead? Surely it couldn’t be the first choice, because there wasn’t a single drop of horror to even be found!
Sexy stars Sebastian Stan and Ashley Greene are forced to challenge the existence of an evil force who takes pleasure in Paranormal Activity type activities that upset our couple, and Tom Felton shows up to complicate things and piss off some ghosts along the way – without stringable logic or tactful handling of course. The Apparition features one of the weakest malevolent beings I’ve ever witnessed, having no set rules or regulations for his actions. One minute he can only be seen with a heat detecting device, the other he’s manifesting himself as a contortionist.
Oh yeah, and Sebastian Stan’s character is easily one of the most perplexing horror movie boyfriends in history, doing things even Micha from Paranormal Activity would consider moronic. That, my friends, is the lowest of insults.

1. Area 407
 The 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2012
Directors: Dale Fabrigar/Everette Wallin
If you read my article on 2012′s Worst Horror Films So Far, you would understand there was no way Area 407 was losing its much deserved number one spot, even with films like The Devil InsideThe Apparition, and Airborne release this year. Nope, Area 407 held strong and left such a negative impression, I’m still having trouble shrugging off the whole tragic ordeal.
If you didn’t read my article though, understand these few details and you’ll know why this “found footage” train-wreck easy ousted all other competitors on my list.
Our two directors gathered up some actors with a lazy idea and no script, shot the film in five days, had actors ad-lib all their lines, and brutally bashed their film into a bloody, pulpy mess of tired, clichéd, and stereotypical “found footage” antics – and only the bad ones. No action happens on screen, the scale of our “monster” is never kept proportional throughout the movie, our characters are inconceivably unwatchable – I really can’t rant enough about this movie. Based on the lifeless ad-libbed dialogue alone there’s so much to hate, as our actors stumble helplessly through mood-killing lines, trying to yell over one another for screen time. Improvisation is one thing, but going into a film blind?
Area 407 not only deserves this slot, but also makes a phenomenal case to be the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Hands down. No questions asked. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!
Least Favorite Poster Work Of 2012
A theatrical poster can say a lot about a film, standing as a visual aid that represents a snapshot of everything awesome you want to say about your creation. While these were once hand drawn and mocked up by actual artists, we’re now in a graphic arts age where Photoshop and other computer tools are used to crank out some pretty killer masterpieces. Then again, some posters come out like a cheap cut and past waste of garbage, showing the film in a very negative light. Bad posters can drive people away from a film for numerous reasons like poor execution, failure to reach all demographics, blandness, misrepresentation, or cheap duplication – but any way you cut it, it spells disaster. Here’s some of my least favorite poster art from 2012′s horror pool, and be sure to take note how many of these films ended up in my bottom 13. Coincidence? You decide.