Brid-Aine Parnell

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TIE Fighters and Millenium Falcon credit Lucasfilm Disney

After Death Star II blew: Dissecting the tech of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars special Despite the quasi-disaster of The Phantom Menace run of films, expectations are high for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 1977, Star Wars achieved a rare feat in sci-fi film history – going boldly where Star Trek went before, and establishing a look and feel so distinct and so powerful it spawned a whole culture. Not just …
Sir Maurice Wilkes photo Computer Laboratory University of Cambridge

Cambridge’s HPC-as-a-service for boffins, big and small

Cambridge University has been involved in high performance computing for 18 years, starting with a “traditional” supercomputer, before a major restructuring eight years later led to what would now be considered high-performance computing (HPC). We read much about how IT needs to become a profit not a cost center. Well, as part …

Jurassic World: All the meaty ingredients for a summer blockbuster

Film Review Over twenty years later, the Hollywood dino franchise is back with a fourth film, Jurassic World, that ignores numbers two and three and attempts to recapture the magic that made the first an industry-changing, blockbuster ride. And it mostly succeeds. Whether dinosaurs can still interest the public twenty years later is, …

Spy: Acres of comedy talent make this smart spook spoof an instant classic

Film Review Plenty has already been written about Paul Feig’s attempts to prove that women are, indeed, funny in films like Bridesmaids and The Heat and still more has been said about the potential of Melissa McCarthy to break out of the frumpy, fat supporting roles and into the Hollywood A-list. But anyone who thinks they’re getting …

Candy-cane optimism tastes sweet in Disney’s Tomorrowland

Film Review I don’t think there’s ever been as Disney-esque a movie as Disney’s new offering, Tomorrowland, from writers Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Damon Lindelof (Lost). It’s an old-school family adventure about hope and optimism that’s also chock full of corporate in-jokes (many Star Wars props) and product placements based on a …

Mad Max: Fury Road – two hours of nonstop, utterly insane fantasy action

Film Review The one thing you can definitely say about George Miller’s revival of his post-apocalyptic Aussie outback petrolhead Mad Max is that it stays true to the original films. There’s no Mel Gibson this time around, of course, instead the mantle of the monosyllabic, mentally-compromised desert drifter is worn by Tom Hardy. Mad Max: …
Spooks

Spooks: Big-screen upgrade for MI5 agents fails to be a hit job

Film Review Most serious spy movies seem to be pretty much the same these days: a parkour-fuelled, adrenaline-pumping, extremely violent rollercoaster through an occasionally thin plot, such as the Bourne and modern Bond franchises. However, every so often, you get the quiet, studied manipulations of a film like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy …
Galaxy NGC 2623 captured by the Hubble Space Telescope

Building the world's biggest telescope array - with machines that don't yet exist

Once completed, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the biggest radio astronomy telescope in the world. "Biggest", though, really is too mild a term for the sheer size of this project. The first phase, SKA1, will be broken up into two instruments, SKA1 MID and SKA1 LOW, based on their frequencies. SKA1 MID alone is made …
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, credit: Brunel Museum

Bridge, ship 'n' tunnel – the Brunels' hidden Thames trip

Geek's Guide to Britain When you mention Brunel to most people, they think of the one with the funny name – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A few folks will know that his father Marc Isambard Brunel was the first famous engineering Brunel, but not many will know that Isambard's own son, Henry Marc Brunel, was also an engineer and finished some of Isambard’s …
Bostrom drinking coffee. Image credit: Ken Tancwell under creative commons attribution-share alike 4.0 international licencelicence

Meet the man who inspired Elon Musk’s fear of the robot uprising

Exclusive Interview Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom is quite a guy. The University of Oxford professor is known for his work on existential risk, human enhancement ethics, superintelligence risks and transhumanism. He also reckons the probability that we are all living in a Matrix-esque computer simulation is quite high. But he’s perhaps most …

Unfriended: Odious screen-teens get theirs in this flat horror

Film Review Few movie genres see as much innovation as horror, pioneer of the found-footage style and master of the macabre comedy. Just because something is new and clever doesn’t actually mean it will make a better film. Unfriended has a good idea and it runs with it for the whole movie. We open on a pretty teen girl’s Mac screen and …
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron – blisteringly big banter, brawls and brio

Film Review Marvel’s Avengers franchise is such a massive, behemoth of a marketing machine, such a merchandise-heavy, almost decade-long suction of talent, time and money that I want to hate it. I want to say, why don’t we spend all that money on independent films? Original stories? Something new, for God’s sake! But there’s just no denying …
Robot Overlords

Robot Overlords: Tween babysitting fodder with no in-jokes for the adults

Film Review Robot Overlords is an old-school kids’ movie, with none of the surreptitious nods to the dragged along adult audiences that we’ve become accustomed to, just friendly, under-13s fun. When a race of giant alien robots come to Earth, the war (represented by sound effects behind a blank screen for the youngsters) lasts just 11 …
The Voices

The Voices: A horror-comedy that’s as schizophrenic as its protagonist

Film Review Horror comedy is not an easy genre-mishmash to pull off, although when it’s done right (Shaun of the Dead, The Faculty), it’s usually brilliant. Unfortunately, The Voices doesn’t quite manage it. Things start promisingly enough, with Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, the apparently aw-shucks hometown boy who works in the bathtub factory …
X+Y movie

X+Y shows teens are teens, regardless of where they are 'on the spectrum'

Film Review X+Y plays a familiar tune on our heartstrings, echoing movies like Little Man Tate, Rain Man and Beautiful Mind in its portrayal of Nathan Ellis, a mathematical prodigy with mild autism struggling to navigate his way through social relationships. Despite an early diagnosis of being “on the spectrum”, Nathan has a close …
Chappie

Chappie: The AI tale that’s about heart, not intelligence

Film Review Director Neill Blomkamp has recovered from his E​lysium ​stumble with this cross between P​inocchio, S​hort Circuit and R​obocop, ​which brings a whole lot of heart to the dystopian AI future trope. Like so many tales of the future, C​happie ​takes place in a city on the verge of tearing itself apart, where criminals can lay …
Blackhat

Blackhat: Michael Mann brings an informed cybercrime yarn to the silver screen

Film review You don’t expect much from a storyline that reads like a cyber remake of the cheesy classic The Rock – crime happens and only dastardly criminal taken out of lock-up by the Feds can stop it. But director Michael Mann has turned out a pretty decent thriller in Blackhat, even if it does take itself a little too seriously. For a …
Colin Farrell surveys the planet in the Total Recall remake. Credit: Sony Pictures

Something Coming Through – aliens, LA noir, techno-thriller, dystopia ALL in the mix

Page File Something Coming Through is a story that manages to be all over the genre map but still somehow work. We’re in clear sci-fi territory in one way – humanity has made first contact with aliens known as the Jackaroo, we’re now living on alien worlds and it’s a short hop into the future in Earth time. But otherwise, the book has …

The Glittering World: Some style, but no substance

Page File When I hear “mysterious race of beings” on the back of a book, my mind goes straight to aliens, not strange, supernatural, fairy-like creatures, so The Glittering World wasn’t quite the book I thought it would be. It’s being pitched as a Neil Gaiman-esque kind of story and you can see why the publisher went there. The novel …
Row of victorian london black cabs. Photo by Shutterstock

Cannonbridge sells us a dummy – great premise, crap ending

Book review When you set up a central mystery in a story, make it the crux of your tale and drop tantalising clues about it all the way through, you’ve set yourself a difficult task. You’ve made a promise to the reader from page one that the answer to your mystery is a good one, you’ve beckoned them from page to page with the assurance …
Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending – a literally laughable train wreck of a film

Film review It’s usually not a good sign when a film’s release gets repeatedly delayed, as happened with the Wachowski siblings newest sci-fi extravaganza Jupiter Ascending. Knowing this, I tempered my expectations. But even my preparation to view what I expected to be a cheesy, largely nonsensical movie in the vein of the third Matrix …
James Franco clutches puppy alongside Seth Rogen in a still from The Interview

The Interview? Kim Jong-Un, you really shouldn’t have bothered

Film review North Korea really didn’t need to go to the trouble of hacking Sony Pictures over The Interview – even if it did have anything to do with it. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea should have just objected to the movie on the basis of good taste (and the possession of a sense of humour) and it would have been a fair …
Artist’s impression of sunset on the newly discovered super-Earth world Gliese 667 Cc. Credit: ESO

Hardboiled, fast-paced, mind-bending fun – Dark Intelligence IS sci-fi

Page File It’s not easy to come in cold on something like Neal Asher’s Polity universe, a hard sci-fi world spanning 12 books and counting that I’ve never quite got around to starting. Instead, it was a dive into the deep end with the twelfth novel, Dark Intelligence, the beginning of a trilogy about the black AI Penny Royal, who’s popped …
Big Hero 6

Cuddly robots, whipsmart laughs and plenty of heart in Big Hero 6

Film review Disney still has that cartoon magic. Just look at the awesome phenomena that is Frozen. The latest from the Mouse House is Big Hero 6, the studio’s first cartoon collaboration with Marvel. Rather than go for a showy, already-famous tale, Disney has plumbed the depths of the Marvel collection for a little-known comic, featuring …
Ex_Machina_film

Ex Machina – a smart, suspenseful satire of our technology gods

Film review It’s not easy to say something new about artificial intelligence in the movies. It’s pretty much a toss-up between the they-could-be-people-too argument of sweet child robot David in A.I. or the sphincter-tightening terror of HAL and the Terminator. But with Ex Machina, we get a more complex picture of our android future …