Monday, June 9, 2014

Locked Out? This App Stores Your Keys Online

Locked Out? This App Stores Your Keys Online

Locked Out? This App Stores Your Keys Online

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:40 AM PDT

Some of you just aren’t going to be comfortable with an app that stores an image of your house key online so you can quickly get a replacement key cut. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Most of you have clicked away from this article already. If you’re still here, let’s move on.

The KeyMe app lets you scan your house key using your smartphone’s camera. Once the key has been digitally stored, you can take it into a place that duplicates keys and have them cut you a replacement (the app charges you $10 to “unlock” your key so a locksmith can cut it). You can digitally share keys with friends and family, too, if they need to get into your house while you’re out of town, for instance.

You can also order replacement keys by mail directly from KeyMe (those cost between $5 and $8), or there are a handful of KeyMe kiosks in the New York area that’ll hook into the app and cut you new keys on the spot (that costs $20 to pull your key from the cloud or between $3 and $6 if you have your key in-hand).

Over at Yahoo Tech, Rafe Needleman took KeyMe for a spin and came away mostly impressed. Needleman points out that you have to remove your key from its key ring and take a very specific shot of it in order for the whole process to work. In other words, someone with the KeyMe app can’t just secretly take a photo of your keys while you’re holding them in your hand, get a bunch of copies cut and then break into your house.

Needleman said two mail-order keys cost him $6 apiece and took three days to arrive at his P.O. box. The two house keys worked perfectly for him, but trying to scan a mailbox key did not. KeyMe’s site says it’ll work with “most common home, office, padlock, and mailbox keys” but it won’t do car keys.

It’s a neat idea, provided you’re okay with the idea of having copies of your keys accessible via your phone and stored somewhere in cyberspace.

[Yahoo Tech]

Is John Green a Bigger Star Than Tom Cruise?

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:35 AM PDT

At the Manhattan premiere of the movie made from his novel The Fault in Our Stars, John Green seems to be the most star-struck fan. “I am sweating through my Burberry shirt,” he reports on his immensely popular Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube, “which is only increasing my already sizable anxiety.” Flanked by his brother Hank, Green gazes in wonder at the long line of TFIOS nerdfighters waving “Okay” balloon posters (from the book), and says that meeting National Spelling Bee co-champ Ansun Sujoe is “unquestionably the highlight of my evening.”

Back in his hotel room, he tells viewers, “I don’t get a percent of ticket sales or anything [from the film version]. And I don’t have to talk about it. And if I didn’t like it, believe me, you’d know. But in fact I love the movie. I believe it’s amazingly faithful to the book, and powerful and funny and moving. … Soon, in fact very soon, everyone will get to see the movie.” He adds urgently, “Read the book first!” Pure hucksterism has rarely been this aw-shucks appealing.

(READ: Corliss’s review of The Fault in Our Stars, the movie)

Or this successful. TFIOS, made for just $12 million, registered a buoyant $48.2 million this weekend at the North American box office. Finishing a solid No. 1, it soundly spanked Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, the sci-fi thriller that cost 15 times as much to produce and earned nearly $20 million less at domestic theaters.

How did a little movie about two kids fighting cancer and falling in love hit the heights? It helped that the female lead was Shailene Woodley, the 22-year-old who heads the new Divergent franchise; TFIOS is a YA novel too, though set in the realistic Indianapolis of today, not in postapocalyptic-fantasy Chicago. The movie’s distributor, Fox, smartly counter-programmed its teen weepie against every expensive action film and rowdy comedy of the early summer; this was the little engine that cried. Fox also eschewed traditional marketing — billboards and saturation advertising — by orchestrating a brilliant social-media campaign that, for a thrifty $20 million, got the word out early to the core audience: lovers of Green’s book.

(READ: Shailene Woodley’s TIME 100 tribute to John Green)

The crucial element of that campaign was the author himself. Cruise may be one of the biggest marquee names of the past three decades, and still going strong at 51, but Green, 36, is a social-media star with the power to transform readers into moviegoers. His good looks help; he has the poised, bespectacled, dimpled, even-featured geniality of a small-town TV anchor headed for bigger markets. Or an Episcopalian rector who oozes sympathy for your sins (long ago he was enrolled at the University of Chicago Divinity School). Or, in his serious moments, the very young Tom Cruise — a passionate salesman of the higher emotions.

"Edge Of Tomorrow" Canadian Premiere
TORONTO, ON – MAY 29: Actor Tom Cruise attends the ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’ red carpet premiere tour at Scotiabank Theatre on May 29, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage) George Pimentel—WireImage

(READ: Lev Grossman’s review of The Fault in Our Stars, the book)

Though the industry site The Wrap claimed a “whopping edge on social media” for TFIOS, Cruise actually has two million more Twitter followers than Green (4.57 million to 2.48 million) and nearly five times as many Facebook “likes” (7.2 million to 1.55 million). But we’d guess that most of the Cruise crew is in foreign countries, where his films often earn about twice their domestic revenue, while the Green team is primarily homegrown.

The temperature of the ardor also matters. Cruise’s “likes” are Green’s “loves”; the author had energized his base to see The Fault in Our Stars. For Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow is just another big scrimmage (though among the best and smartest of his recent films). For Green, this was his Super Bowl.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Edge of Tomorrow)

And he won — the weekend, anyway, at North American theaters — by running up the score early. TFIOS racked up $8.2 million at Thursday evening showings, including a $25-a-ticket special that provided moviegoers with a satellite link to Green and his stars. The film took in another $17.9 million Fri., then dropped to $12.6 million Sat., when it finished second to Angelina Jolie’s Disney live-action fantasy Maleficent but still above Edge of Tomorrow. The estimated gross for Sun. was $9.5 million, giving TFIOS the most front-loaded weekend haul of any movie to earn at least $20 million.

(READ: Our Saturday box office report for The Fault in Our Stars)

So Green got the faithful to the movie; it’s just that a sizable majority went early, and the fervor didn’t quite spread to the wider audience that was either ignorant of the book or reluctant to see a cancer romancer. The TFIOS attendees were 82% female and 80% under the age of 25 — both astonishingly lopsided statistics. By comparison, Edge of Tomorrow attracted customers who were 61% male and 72% over 25. Young women for one, older guys for the other: you have to wonder if anyone in America saw both movies this weekend.

(READ: Our Sunday box office report for The Fault in Our Stars)

Can The Fault in Our Stars duplicate its domestic clout abroad? Eleven million copies of the book are in print worldwide, so the movie has a shot. But international audiences usually resist Hollywood weepies, like The Vow and the many adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels (The Notebook, Dear John, The Lucky One, Safe Haven). The guy they love: Tom Cruise. Edge of Tomorrow has already earned $111 million abroad, including $25 million — nearly the movie’s total North American revenue — in three days in China.

So John Green must take on a new mission if he is to expand on his faultless Stars opening when Paper Towns, another movie of one of his books, opens next year. He needs to start vlogging in Mandarin.


The Difference Between Cancersploitation and Art—According to a Cancer Survivor

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:31 AM PDT

In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel, the story's teenage protagonist played by Shailene Woodley, wears a t-shirt imprinted with Magritte's famous painting of a pipe, ceci n'est pas une pipe (“this is not a pipe”). She explains the picture to her confused mother, saying "All representations of a thing are inherently abstract." Art, in other words, imitates life: it is not meant to be life itself.

So it is with cancer films. These stories are not meant to be literal representations. What it means to watch them depends on whether we come as outsiders, wanting to understand an experience beyond our own, or as insiders, coming to see our own lives reflected.

I am in the latter category. Five years ago, when I was only 38, I was diagnosed with a locally advanced, aggressive cancer. The doctors told me that if the chemo and relatively new therapy did not work, I would have a 10% chance of surviving five years. If the treatment worked, the odds would reverse in my favor.

The world looks different after you have spent time pinned to the mat by death. The gaps between reality and representation are no longer theoretical. They are contentious. Beautifully bald actors shorn to portray chemo patients betray reality with their thickly lashed eyes, much to the chagrin of those of us left lashless by the real medicine. Some of the most egregious side effects of treatment cannot be artfully depicted on film ­— mouthsores and constipation, anyone? — while vomiting, which has become more manageable thanks to newer side-effect medicines, continues its prominent role as a cancer-flick leitmotif.

Obviously, filmmakers are not making medical documentaries. Indicating pain and suffering should suffice without having to make audiences endure it. In fact, film critic Roger Ebert, a fellow cancer insider, found the movie Wit too graphic to watch, as it brought back many vivid and painful memories of treatment.

So what does it mean to use cancer as a backdrop to a story? To be sure, a prolonged or terminal cancer experience is a crucible of one's character, as well as the characters of those around you. The fractures in our relationships break or heal under the strain of mortal threat. Cancer is an economical dramatic device.

Some of the Hollywood cancer tropes get it right. When you can see the finite number of your days, you might go on a truth-telling bender (Funny People), indulge deferred dreams (Bucket List, Now Is Good), or heal relationships (Terms of Endearment, My Life). You might decide you do not care about society's conventions (Breaking Bad, Y Tu Mamá También) because you just want to take care of your own needs and desires. I know some people — though I do not count myself among them — do find they live life with a renewed passion after diagnosis (My Life Without Me).

The make-or-break question for me as a former patient comes down to one thing: is cancer simply a storytelling device — shorthand for eliciting sympathy and turning up the heat on the issues in a character's life — or do the filmmakers take it seriously as a situation to explore? This question sorts the cancersploitation from real cancer art.

Two recent films, 50/50 and The Fault in Our Stars, portray young adult cancer. As representations, they each have their artifice: ceci n'est pas cancer. Despite this (or maybe Roger Ebert would say because of this), they find ways to reflect the human experience of having cancer. 50/50, written and directed by Will Reiser, who himself had cancer, explores the profound identity loss and the insult-to-injury trajectory many patients endure. Adam, the young adult patient played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has numerous relationships tested and feels the peril of his illness to his young career. In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel exhibits delightful self-consciousness about the world she calls Cancervania: the cancer perks, the pitying looks, the treacly cheeriness that mark too many support groups. The stories get enough details right to earn plausibility with us insiders: the outrageously obtuse bedside manner of some doctors, the devastating loss of fellow patients, the need to lay perfectly still for an MRI, the desire to change clothes after an appointment to purge the hospital smell.

Whether we view these films as outsiders or insiders to the cancer world, the best movies in this genre provide catharsis. As I watched The Fault in Our Stars with my 11-year-old daughter this past weekend, we dried our eyes as the credits rolled. The story opened up discussions about her memories of my illness and her uncle's death, helping her make new sense of these painful experiences. Art may merely be a representation of reality, but if it deepens our humanity, then it has done its job.

Ilana Horn is an associate professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University. She has been a breast cancer patient since 2009, two years after losing her stepbrother to cancer. On her blog,, Lani writes about caregiving, end-of-life issues, doctor-patient communication, cultural expectations of patients, and other issues.

Crackdown Is Getting Another Sequel on Xbox One

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:27 AM PDT

Third-person shooter Crackdown is getting another sequel for the Xbox One. At its E3 press conference Monday, Microsoft announced a third game in the series, currently titled “Crackdown.”

In the Crackdown games players use guns and melee weapons to defeat foes in an open-world environment. The franchise’s colorful, over-the-top style was on full display in its debut trailer. Series creator Dave Jones is helming the new title, which should give fans some hope that the latest iteration can live up to the original.

The new Crackdown, an Xbox exclusive, currently has no release date.

Women’s Colleges Are on the Wrong Side of History on Transgender Women

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:22 AM PDT

In 2014, women's colleges remain vibrant and relevant institutions, supported by their alumni and sought after by college applicants. Yet despite their founding missions to provide educational opportunities to people facing gender discrimination, women's colleges remain embroiled in a controversy about whether to admit women who are transgender.

Last year, Calliope Wong, a transgender woman, pushed this question into the public spotlight when she published a letter from Smith College informing her that, because she was listed as male on her financial aid application, she could not be considered for admission to Smith. The controversy brought increased attention to a question that students and alumni are pressuring women's colleges to address: Should women's colleges admit transgender women?

The answer is "yes."

Right now, many women's colleges are on the wrong side of history. By effectively saying "no," women's colleges are endorsing and strengthening a concept at the root of transphobia: the belief that trans people are not who we say we are. Whether written into policies or informally practiced, this fundamental denial of trans people's identities leads directly to our communities being disproportionately turned away from education, healthcare, housing and jobs, and disproportionately profiled by the police and immigration authorities.

Transgender activists work to change the brutal policies that keep trans women out of women's shelters, put trans women in men's prisons, make it difficult or impossible for trans people to use public bathrooms, keep trans people from having ID that reflects who we are, and allow healthcare providers, employers, teachers and other authority figures to exclude us and deny our identities. As trans alumni of women's colleges, we call on women’s colleges to end the exclusion of trans women applicants.

Right now, most women's colleges lack clear policies for admitting transgender women applicants. Many schools determine eligibility on a "case by case basis" by checking that all application materials—recommendations from teachers, school transcripts, test scores and financial aid documents—contain "female" gender markers. This approach to determining a trans applicant's gender is discriminatory, effectively prohibiting trans women from applying to women's colleges, and shouldn't be the basis for determining admissions eligibility.

The rules that govern changing gender markers on identity documents in the U.S. are inconsistent and arbitrary, and there is no such thing as a "legal gender." Every ID-issuing agency has its own rules regarding whether and how people can change their gender marker. Some require a letter from a doctor or therapist, others require medical treatment, and others require specific medical interventions, including surgery. While some agencies are updating their policies by removing surgical requirements for gender ID change, such as the State Department’s passport policy, some are likely decades away from eliminating outdated standards. As a result, whether transgender people can change some of their documents depends on where they’re from. Women's colleges should not be basing their admissions policies on an arbitrary, inconsistent and harmful system.

Additionally, the process of obtaining gender ID change is particularly difficult for young and low-income people. Most applicants to college are barely 18 years old. Many ID-issuing agencies require medical treatment and/or letters from medical providers. Most young people, especially those without supportive parents, cannot access such care. Furthermore, many states' Medicaid systems and some private health insurance companies have bans on covering this care. Tying admissions policies to gender on identification documents disproportionately excludes people who have the hardest time accessing health care and the legal and administrative processes required by these policies: young people, poor people, people with disabilities and people of color.

Women's colleges cannot base their admissions policies on whether an applicant has been able to successfully navigate these systems to get female gender markers on all of their documents. This is not a principled approach to ending gender oppression in higher education.

In recent years, activists at women's colleges have worked to make their schools more responsive and affirming to their transgender students with masculine or male identities by creating gender-neutral bathrooms and using gender-neutral language. This is important, ongoing work. However, adapting women's colleges to accommodate transgender men while excluding transgender women is discriminatory. Trans women are women. They belong at women's colleges.

Furthermore, gender discrimination profoundly impacts transgender people in education and has severe consequences in other areas of life. A survey found that 78% of transgender people have been harassed in grades K-12. Thirty-five percent of survey participants had been physically assaulted in education settings, and 15% had dropped out of school because of their gender. Educational discrimination leads to disproportionate discrimination in employment, poverty and homelessness.

This is not a call to end women's colleges, but to bring their policies in line with their feminist missions. Activists at women's colleges have pushed their institutions to admit, support and affirm students who have historically been excluded from women's colleges, particularly women of color, poor women, women with disabilities and now trans women. Those who believe in the feminist missions of women's colleges must continue to work to fight such exclusions and recognize that trans people must be welcomed at women's colleges.

As the class of 2014 graduates, we need to ensure that every women’s college has an explicit policy of inclusion for trans women applicants and a clear approach for dismantling transphobia on campus.

There is now an opportunity to redefine who women's colleges should serve. Founded in response to gender discrimination and the limited options that women faced in education, women's colleges continue to exist to provide educational access to people who face gender discrimination. Fulfilling this mission would demand that women's colleges serve all trans students, including trans women.

Avi Cummings is the Director of Grassroots Fundraising at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. He graduated from Smith College in 2009. Dean Spade is an Associate Professor at the Seattle University School of Law and a member of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. He graduated from Barnard College in 1997.

Shonda Rhimes: “Anyone Who Tells You They Are Doing It All Perfectly Is a Liar”

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:18 AM PDT

Shonda Rhimes gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth Sunday, and it was just as excellent as you’d expect it to be.

The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal told the graduating class she was seriously worried she would “poop her pants,” because as a TV writer, she’s more comfortable writing words for other people to say. But she kept it together and delivered an amazing speech about the fallacy of “doing it all.”

Shonda, how do you do it all?

The answer is this: I don’t.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.

If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Something is always missing.

And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.

Rhimes also encouraged students to do something to help the world, and explained why she thinks hashtag activism isn’t really activism.

Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething

Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.

Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.

Start at 1:41 to see the speech in full. It’s worth it:

You can also read a transcript here.

Exclusive: Ukraine’s President Seeks ‘Understanding’ With Russia

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko wants to see Russia punished for what he calls the "tragedy" that befell his country this year. But even as Russia has annexed one region of Ukraine and encouraged a violent rebellion in two others, Ukraine does not have the option of breaking off ties with the Kremlin, Poroshenko told TIME in his first interview since taking office. His government has no choice but to seek "an understanding" with Russia, he says, even if for no other reason than the hard reality of Ukraine's geography.

"Maybe some Ukrainians would like to have Sweden or Canada for a neighbor, but we have Russia," he said on Monday inside the Presidential Administration in Kiev, fidgeting with a set of rosary beads throughout the interview. "So we can't talk about a firm sense of security without a dialogue and an understanding with Russia." That is why Poroshenko spent the first full day of his tenure on Sunday in marathon talks with the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. Their positions remain miles apart, at best leaving Poroshenko room for "cautious optimism" for restoring civil relations with Russia, he said.

But whatever progress they will make toward a ceasefire between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Poroshenko has no intention of making nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "To be honest, I'm not very interested in what Citizen Putin thinks of my state," he said. If the Russian leader doubts Ukraine's right to exist within its current borders, the best way to convince him otherwise is to build a powerful army and a thriving economy, Poroshenko said. "No one would allow himself to doubt the existence of small countries like Singapore," the Ukrainian President said, "because when a country is strong, effective, comfortable, monolithic, such doubts would never enter anyone's minds."

Achieving that will require support from the West, he told TIME, not least of all the kind of military aid that he has been requesting. "We're talking about assistance that will be able to stop this aggression" from Russia, he said of his discussions last week and this weekend with U.S. and European leaders. "The help can take all kinds of forms, from intelligence to military technology, from blocking our airspace to enforcing a maritime blockade" in case of attack.

Poroshenko said he discussed these kinds of support last week with U.S. President Barack Obama, and brought it up again with Vice President Joe Biden, who attended Poroshenko's inauguration on Saturday. But no Western nation has agreed to provide any security guarantees to Ukraine, nor have they made any firm pledges to renew the so-called Budapest Memorandum, the 1994 agreement between the U.S., Russia and the U.K. that was supposed to guarantee Ukraine's territorial integrity.

With the annexation of Crimea in March, Russia violated that agreement, and Poroshenko has since become convinced that even the U.N. Security Council is no longer capable of preventing conflict between major powers. "When one of the veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council has in effect become an aggressor, that shows that the old system isn't working," he said. This argument came up in his talks with Western leaders last weekend in France, and he said they agreed "without question" about the need for the "global security architecture" to be revised. “The struggle for Crimea is a struggle to prevent such precedents from repeating themselves in the future," he said. "We can't allow unpunished aggression."

But punishing Russia is not an option for Poroshenko at this point. The best he can do is to build a military that can prevent a future Russian attack and, at the same time, stay at the negotiating table with the country he calls an aggressor. His goals are modest. Apart from stopping the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, he wants Russia to offer a new "model of behavior, a model of guarantees" that would restore a sense of stability. So far, he doesn't have anything close.

Game of Thrones Director: George R.R. Martin Liked Last Night’s Episode

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:11 AM PDT

Spoilers for the June 8, 2014, episode of Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall,” follow.

Neil Marshall has become Game of Thrones‘ go-to guy for epic battles: in Season 2, he oversaw Stannis’ assault on King’s Landing for the episode “Blackwater,” and on June 8 fans were treated to his take on the Battle of Castle Black in “The Watchers on the Wall,” reportedly the most expensive episode of GoT yet.

Marshall spoke to TIME about the difficulty of working with computer-generated mammoths, “hammer time” and one very important piece of fan mail.

TIME: Do you pay attention to what people are saying about episodes that you direct?

Marshall: I kind of can't resist. I think if I directed several episodes I might pay less attention, but coming in to do one episode, there's quite a bit of focus on it so it's difficult not to notice.

So, what are you hearing today?

The word seems to be generally very positive. I'm really proud and pleased that everybody liked it. You want to spice it up a little bit but you also want to keep the fans happy. As long as the fans are happy, it's all good. Actually, the biggest seal of approval was that I got an email from George RR Martin last night. He'd just watched it as well for the first time and he loved it. That's the best one to get. If George is happy, all right.

Did he say he liked anything in particular?

No, it was kind of brief but he was saying that “Blackwater” was a tough act to follow and he was saying that I'd done a great job with it. That was just amazing, to hear that.

Speaking of, how did this last episode compare to “Blackwater” for you? Which was harder to make?

This one was far more complex in terms of the visual effects and the amount of visual effects. In “Blackwater” we had to deal with the ships, but ships are a lot easier to duplicate and put into the action because they don't do an awful lot, whereas mammoths are far more complex. I had a lot more prep on this one. With “Blackwater” I came in at the last minute, so I'd only had a week's prep for the whole episode.

Wow. How long did you spend on this one?

This one, I started work a few months in advance, doing set visits and working with storyboard artists. I finally had like just over three weeks for prep just before we shot it. It was absolutely necessary.

What percentage of what we saw was CG, versus actors and sets?

The mammoth is entirely CG. The giants are real guys in costume and make-up and we simply make them bigger, but they're 100% real. Other aspects were things like the wall; shots featuring the wall are often matte paintings and things like that. We don't have a 700-foot ice wall handy.

How big is the Castle Black set in real life?

When you first walk on there it does seem massive and you have a lot of room, but once you start filling it with 80 or so people swinging swords around, it gets busy very quickly. It's a 360-degree set but it only really works from the inside. It doesn't really have an outside to it. It has a front gate but otherwise it only exists on the inside.

What's on the outside?

Scaffolding and supports. It's not very pretty.

How long did it take to rehearse the combat inside the castle?

That was part of the three weeks, spending a lot of time with the stunt guys, planning and rehearsing individual fight scenes. Alliser Thorne and Tormund, they were one of the standouts, and then of course John and Styr was the other one. They were rehearsing weeks in advance.

And how long did that take to film?

They had the moves very accurately down but the biggest problem with that is exhaustion. How many takes can you get with full energy? But it probably took us 4 or 5 hours to shoot each fight sequence. Maybe more, with John's fight. That involved some elements, like the guy getting the hammer at the end.

That was quite something.

Hammer time!

I've read that you're a student of military history. How does that play into working on an episode like Watchers on the Wall?

It's not so much direct references. It's more strategic things – I look at the castle and it's like, how would I attack it? Where are its weak points? How are these guys actually going to get over the wall? It's all very well saying they're going to climb up something, but then when you see it it's like, you can't do that, so how are they going to get up? Part of the problem that we have is that regular bows and arrows can't shoot 700 feet in the air. The guys on top of the wall are completely safe from regular bows and arrows. Then I had this idea, what if the giants have bows as well? A giant bow is going to be much more powerful and will be like heavy artillery, therefore it could reach the top of the wall, and that puts the guys at the top in danger. I don't know if it's so much military history as military strategy.

This was also, surprisingly, one of the more romantic episodes we've seen recently. The writers really upped the level of romance between Sam and Gilly, compared to how it’s presented in the books, and John and Ygritte get their first big moment in a while (and their last). How do you balance those two very different tones, action and romance?

It's just about giving each moment its maximum respect. I treat each of them with similar importance, whether it be Sam's first kiss with Gilly, which was high romance, trying to film it in such a way to give a sweeping sense to it, or with Ygritte's death. That was high tragedy and I wanted to capture that as well. You do that moment and then you go do some guys knocking it out of one another, and it's equally important to give it some momentum or visual impact, whatever's going to give it the power to keep it engaging. As much as it might seem that you can just put two guys in a shot and have them fight each other, that can become very boring.

What went into the decision to have the episode fade to white, rather than black?

I think it was always in the script. He's walking out of the door into this white, snowy landscape. That was always the plan.

Lara Croft Rides Again in New Tomb Raider Game

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 11:03 AM PDT

Crystal Dynamics is working on a new Tomb Raider game that expands on archaeologist Lara Croft's origin story. The company revealed a teaser trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider at Microsoft's E3 press conference.

In the trailer, a shaken Lara Croft discusses her past deeds with a psychologist. Rise of the Tomb Raider, a sequel to the 2013 franchise reboot, is slated for a 2015 release for XBox One.

Details about potential versions of the game for the PS4 or PC were not available at press time.

Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta Coming This December

Posted: 09 Jun 2014 10:57 AM PDT

Get ready, Halo fans: The multiplayer beta for the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians is hitting Xbox One consoles this December, just in time for the holidays.

Microsoft made the announcement Monday at E3 while unveiling The Master Chief Collection, an upcoming re-release of all major Halo titles for the Xbox One. The Master Chief Collection hits in November, and people who buy it will have access to the Guardians beta in December — along with a totally revamped tenth anniversary version of Halo 2, which will include all multiplayer maps from the original sequel to the Xbox’s most famous game.


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