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TriStar Pictures

12 Hidden Celebrity Cameos in Movies

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TriStar Pictures

Cameo appearances are designed to give audiences special little surprises. But sometimes they are so small, viewers can miss them entirely if they're not paying close attention. Here are 12 blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos.

1. Richard Branson in 'Casino Royale'

When James Bond arrives at Miami International Airport, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson can be seen at airport security. Branson is a big fan of the Bond franchise and had always wanted to be in one of the films. He supplied a few Virgin Atlantic airplanes for Casino Royale's production in Prague, so its co-producer Barbara Broccoli asked him to be in the film as a thank-you.

2. George Harrison in 'Monty Python's Life of Brian'

In 1979, George Harrison co-produced Monty Python's Life of Brian. The British comedy group couldn't finance their second feature film, so longtime fan George Harrison put up his own money and started a production company expressly to fund it. Life of Brian was the first film by Harrison's Handmade Films, as the ex-Beatle also appeared very briefly in a uncredited role (seen above).

3. Chris Isaak in 'The Silence of the Lambs'

(00:57 mark)

During Hannibal Lecter's thrilling escape from police custody, recording artist Chris Isaak makes a cameo appearance as a SWAT team commander in Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs. Demme is a big fan of Chris Isaak's music and tries to cast him in small roles in many of his movies, such as Married to the Mob.

4. Cameron Crowe in 'Minority Report'

(00:17 mark)

During Captain John Anderton's (Tom Cruise) thrilling escape from police, director Cameron Crowe can be spotted as a man reading a newspaper on the subway. Apparently, Cameron Diaz and Paul Thomas Anderson are also passengers on the subway train, but their cameos didn't make the final cut.

5. Lloyd Kaufman in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Director James Gunn cast his mentor Lloyd Kaufman, the president and founder of Troma Entertainment, in a small role as a prison inmate in Guardians of the Galaxy. Kaufman can be seen when Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot first arrive in the Kyln space prison.

6. Chris Martin in 'Shaun of the Dead'

Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland from Coldplay make a brief cameo appearance at the tail end of Shaun of the Dead, but Martin also plays a decaying zombie in the comedy's climax outside of the Winchester pub.

See Also: 11 Disney Character Cameos in Other Disney Movies

7. Ron Jeremy in 'Ghostbusters'

(3:30 mark)

Adult film star Ron Jeremy has an uncredited role as "Man Behind Barricade" in Ghostbusters. He appears about an hour into the movie and can be seen in a crowd of people looking up after the containment unit explosion at Ghostbusters HQ.

8. Glenn Close in 'Hook'

(00:54 mark)

Before she earned an Academy Award nomination in Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close played Gutless the pirate in Steven Spielberg's 1991 film Hook. Gutless is the bearded pirate that Captain Hook punishes with a stay in the "boo box."

9. Peter Jackson in 'Hot Fuzz'

Jackson was a big fan of Shaun of the Dead and invited Edgar Wright to New Zealand to hang out on the set of King Kong. While on set, Wright told Jackson about Hot Fuzz and the Lord of the Rings director jumped at the chance of making a cameo. During Nicolas Angel's career highlights montage, Jackson makes a cameo appearance as the man dressed as Father Christmas who stabbed Angel's hand.

10. Cate Blanchett in 'Hot Fuzz'

whatculture.com

At the very beginning, Cate Blanchett plays an uncredited role as Janine, Nicolas Angel's forensic scientist ex-girlfriend. Most of Blanchett's face and head were covered beneath protective goggles and a face mask, but her voice is clear and distinct. She wanted to be in the film because she was a big fan of Edgar Wright's previous movie Shaun of the Dead

See Also: 25 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books

11. Ian Brown in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'

Ian Brown from the Britpop band The Stone Roses made a very brief cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He played a wizard reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time in the Leaky Cauldron pub. Alfonso Cuarón asked if the British rock star wanted to be in the movie and Brown agreed when his son expressed an interest in visiting the set.

12. Spike Jonze in 'The Game'

At the end of The Game, Spike Jonze plays one of the paramedics who helps Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) after he falls through a hotel's glass skylight. The Game's director David Fincher and Jonze are good friends and both got started in filmmaking through the music video industry.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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