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10 Movies Roger Ebert Really Hated

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When Roger Ebert hated a film, he really didn't mince words. Here are 10 films he absolutely loathed (including a couple of surprises) and his dry assessments of their value.

1. Armageddon, one star. OK, say you do succeed in blowing up an asteroid the size of Texas. What if a piece the size of Dallas is left? Wouldn't that be big enough to destroy life on Earth? What about a piece the size of Austin? Let's face it: Even an object the size of that big Wal-Mart outside Abilene would pretty much clean us out, if you count the parking lot.

2. The Brown Bunny, zero stars. I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny."

3. Jason X, half star. "This sucks on so many levels." Dialogue from "Jason X"; rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. "Jason X" sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought.

4. Mad Dog Time, zero stars. "Mad Dog Time" is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching "Mad Dog Time" is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line.... "Mad Dog Time" should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor.

5. The Usual Suspects, one-and-a-half stars. Once again, my comprehension began to slip, and finally I wrote down: "To the degree that I do understand, I don't care." It was, however, somewhat reassuring at the end of the movie to discover that I had, after all, understood everything I was intended to understand. It was just that there was less to understand than the movie at first suggests.

6. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, zero stars. [The title character] makes a living prostituting himself. How much he charges I'm not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie. "Deuce Bigalow" is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes.... Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.

7. North, zero stars. I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it. [Note: Alan Zweibel wrote this film, and he got a chance to confront Ebert about the review. In a bathroom.]

8. Spice World, half star. Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies...the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented--while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts.

9. Good Luck Chuck, one star. There is a word for this movie, and that word is: Ick.

10. Freddy Got Fingered, zero stars. This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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