Visualizing the physics in the film Interstellar

Although I like science, or maybe because of it, I tend to get irritated with films that casually break the laws of science merely to achieve a cheap solution to a plot problem. I don’t expect perfect fidelity but gratuitous violations of laws (such noisy explosions in space or the presence of Earth-like gravity on spaceships) are annoying. This is why I liked 2001: A Space Odyssey and to a lesser extent Gravity, because they tried to stick as closely as possible to what may be actually possible.
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The zeitgeist of Divergent and Elysium

I recently watched two films Divergent and Elysium. While mildly entertaining, I would not really recommend either of them. As with many such futuristic films, the plots are full of holes large enough that one can drive a truck through, but I am going to overlook them. What prompted me to write about them was what they said about the prevailing zeitgeist.
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Is this the real Renee Zellweger?

Renee Zellweger has not acted in a film since 2010 but is now about to release a new one. She has thus re-appeared in the public eye and surprised many people because she looks different. Very different. It is not just that she has gone through the normal changes of aging over five years and is an older version of herself but that she looks so different that one might not have recognized her.
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Film review: Kill the Messenger and the Contra-cocaine-CIA scandal

I saw this yesterday and it was excellent. The filmmakers wisely decided to make the entire film cover the two year period 1996-1997 which saw Gary Webb break the series of stories titled Dark Alliance for the San Jose Mercury News that exposed the shady links between the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua, the CIA, and the drug dealers who were ravaging the black communities in the inner cities of the US by flooding them with crack cocaine. (See my earlier posts on this story and film here and here.)
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New documentary on Snowden released

Award-winning documentarian Laura Poitras has just released her new film Citizenfour about Edward Snowden. (The title of the film is taken from one of the aliases he used in his initial communications with her.) Spencer Ackerman provides a review of the film while George Packer provides a lengthy profile of the notoriously publicity-shy Poitras and also discusses the film which he saw in Berlin before its release.
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Killing the Messenger

When a mainstream media organization describes someone as their ‘national security reporter’, I immediately pigeonhole them as basically public relations flacks for the agencies they cover because often their main method of ‘news gathering’ is to cultivate sources at high levels within the agencies who will feed them self-serving leaks that these reporters then pass on to us. There are some good reporters on this beat, one being Jane Meyer for the New Yorker magazine and James Bamford who writes for a number of publications, but they tend to be the exception.
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