Lip synching, Looper, and crushing fools over the Manhattan Bridge in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

Andrew Couts: Robots of war

We are officially in the Age of Drones. Within the next 20 years, the skies above the United States will be filled with at least 30,000 new drones — from police-controlled crafts to home hobbyist creations. For the moment, however, most drones serve a very specific purpose: aiding the U.S. military, either through surveillance or the dropping of bombs. It is the latter use that has generated the most controversy, and led to an important question: Can drones (or any robots, for that matter) be programmed with morality? Can they “know” when to pull the trigger, and when to pull back? In his in-depth report for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Don Troop investigates the sticky ethics of using robots to do our dirty work.

The X-47B is an unmanned military aircraft

caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Lip synching is for suckers

Say what you want about musicals, but they tend to make hit movies. Popularized in the 1960’s, musicals have been tearing it up at the box office right into this century as movies like Dreamgirls, Phantom of the Opera and Chicago bring Hollywood some copious cash. But as great as these recent offerings have been, there’s something about all of them that really sticks in my craw: lip synching.

The soundtracks to those movies were all recorded in a studio well in advance of shooting the film, so the actors had to lip synch. It is as annoying to watch as it is limiting to the actors. That’s why I’m excited for the upcoming release of Les Miserables. For the first time ever, a musical is being recorded as the actors sing live on set. Check out the video below to see just how cool that actually is. 

Amir Iliafar: A Song Of CGI Fire and VFX Ice

I’m a huge fan of the George R.R. Martin’s fantasy masterpiece upon which HBO’s Game Of Thrones is based. My map of Westeros mousepad and my House Stark hoodie help hammer that point home fairly well. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already gobbled up all the books, played the video game (huge disappointment), and are eagerly awaiting season three of Game of Thrones. So you can imagine my excitement when I came along this video from visual effects company Pixomondo highlighting some of the special effects created for season two of the HBO series. Beware of spoilers before you take a peek and remember: Winter is coming…

molly mchughMolly McHugh: Loopy for Looper

Looper looks like it’s got everything: Time travel (time travel that, it should be mentioned, some scientists think could actually be possible! Right?!), a trio of Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jeff Daniels, assassins, and an R rating. It’s like if someone took Back to the Future and gave all the characters guns … and a lot of other things too, sure, but hey, I’d absolutely see that movie.

Looper comes out this weekend and you best believe I will be seeing it as soon as I possibly can. I’ve watched and re-watched the official trailers for weeks now, but this animated version of it is my pick of the week. It was made by artists Zach Johnson and Noah Fisher: They took over 700 frames from the trailer and hand-painted them to create this thing, and you can buy the stills if you want. Talk about time consuming [insert some joke about time travel making time consumption irrelevant here].

Micah Abrams: Gaming the commute

I’m a dedicated bike commuter, less because I want to shrink my carbon footprint and more because the New York City subway at rush hour is it’s own special form of hell. I’m a ridiculously sweaty person, and when I ride my bike to work, at least I have a reason for showing up soaking wet.

Until downloading Strava for the iPhone, the only way I could gauge my rides was against the tragic fixie hipsters I passed and the psychotic food deliverymen I narrowly avoided every day. Now, using Strava’s GPS tracking and social media functions, I see how I fared against thousands of other riders in the community that’s sprung up around the app.

So how am I doing? I’m currently the 158th-fastest across the Manhattan Bridge out of 672 riders, but when they roll out a “sweatiest rider” ranking, I’ll be number one with a bullet.

The web client for the iPhone app Strava

ryan flemingRyan Fleming: Manhattan hears a Who

This Saturday marks a milestone for that select subset of geek: Doctor Who fans. After two and a half years, series regulars Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are leaving the show.

I’m going into this mid-season finale with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Beyond the announced departure of the Doctor’s companions, “The Angels Take Manhattan” will likely feature a major twist that will have fans talking until the show returns this Christmas. Seeing integral components of a beloved show depart is always tough, but showrunner Steven Moffat (who also penned the episode) never takes the easy way out with his characters or storylines. It’s unlikely Gillan and Darvill will simply leave; they’re probably fall back in time and become their own aunt and uncle or something.

Angels in Manhattan

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