Hidden Netflix Gems: Timecrimes

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: Timecrimes” (2007)

“Timecrimes” is one of those movies where it seems like giving away anything at all is giving away too much. I’ve included the trailer below out of habit, but if you’d rather not have the film’s twist(s) spoiled, you should avoid it as well as the synopses on Netflix and elsewhere. Even most reviews seem to reveal too much. However, this isn’t an M. Night Shyamalan movie. That is to say spoiling the twist won’t spoil the whole thing. It’s revealed fairly early on and it’s not the only thing the film has going for it.

Here’s what I will say: “Timecrimes” is a Spanish thriller based around time travel. Contrary to many films built on the same idea, “Timecrimes” is extremely low-budget. There is no CGI, one location, and only four speaking roles (one of which is held by writer/director Nacho Vigalondo). Perhaps the film’s most important contrast to its many peers is that the time travel elements do not become convoluted or confusing. “Timecrimes” makes up for its inherent bare bones-ness by maintaining a constant state of tension and forward movement—much like Hector, the main character, the audience has no time to stop and think.

Let’s talk about Hector (Karra Elejalde) then. He’s a middle-aged man in the midst of renovating his home in the Spanish countryside, where he lives with his wife, Clara (Candela Fernández). Hector’s spending his Saturday relaxing in the backyard, looking out into the woods beyond his property through binoculars. There he spies an attractive young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) undressing. His wife leaves to go shopping, and Hector decides to be lead investigator in case of the naked lady. When he finds her, she appears dead, and he’s stabbed by her apparent killer, a mysterious man whose face is wrapped in a pink bandage. Hector runs, ending up in the lab of a scientist played by Vigalondo. Soon after, the scientist convinces Hector to hide from his persuer in a large mechanical device. It’s night time when he gets in, but when he steps out just a few moments later, the sun is shining. Hector has traveled back in time by an hour and a half. And that’s when things really start to get interesting.

The film isn’t exactly a character study, so neither Hector or the rest of the parts are incredibly deep. But in the case of “Timecrimes,” that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes Hector into something of an everyman, which allows the audience to wonder just what they would do if placed in his situation: getting sent back in time after being chased through the woods by a pink-bandaged bandit.

The film is getting an English-language remake, which is ironically humorous for reasons that will become clear once you’ve watched it (if you don’t understand what I mean by then, check out Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe’s review). The project was originally in the hands of David Cronenberg, but has since been shifted from United Artists to Dreamworks with Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “Gangs of New York,” “Moneyball”) attached to write, produce, and perhaps even direct.

Like I said, there’s not much more I can say about “Timecrimes” without feeling that I’ve given away too much. I promise it’s an exciting, well thought out thriller. If you don’t believe me, take its 87 percent rating on the Tomatometer as proof. The film’s virtues more than make up for its flaws and it’s a better way to spend 90 minutes on a Saturday night than looking at the woods in your backyard through binoculars. Enjoy!

Check out the trailer below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman

  

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Computer Programs Inspired by Human Brain Functions

We’ve all seen or read the science fiction stories about artificial intelligence—where a computer becomes almost human. Well, it’s closer than you think.

Not Just Science Fiction Anymore

We currently experience voice recognition searches via applications such as Siri, as well as well-developed interactive programs using cloud hosting services. Through several “brain-inspired” computer programs, the technology world is developing and introducing many applications that use the human brain as a model. Here’s a brief look a just a few of them.

Weapons Inspired by the Brain

Driving computers even closer to artificial intelligence is DARPA’s Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program. While that is quite a mouthful, the premise is rather simple. The developers wanted to create a neuromorphic electronic system that will have functions that look and act much like that of the brain. Applications for this system include manned and robotic systems, and image processing.

This technology is being developed primarily to enable today’s battlefield specialists to use computer systems and electronics to collect and process information. This will allow humans to process the correct responses in complex wartime scenarios.

Image Recognition Software

Two British scientists—Drs. Jeffrey Ng and Anil Bharath—developed technology that allows a computer to see. Believe it or not, this technology is already being used. Using this technology, consumers are given the opportunity to view past purchases. In addition, this technology is being used by companies to more effectively advertise their products.

Created by Cortexica Vision Search, the first offering of this type of image recognition software has given consumers WINEfindr. This app allows consumers an interactive experience by photographing a wine label on their smartphones. The results are presented in images, thus using the image recognition part of this application.

Computer Chips That Mimic The Brain

Computer chips are basically what drives computers. And now, researchers at MIT have created a computer chip that mimics the synapses of the human brain. Originally used to study how the neurons of the brain can strengthen over time, the scientists are now studying ways to use these chips as part of brain-machine interfaces. These types of interfaces will be used primarily to control artificial limbs; however, the scientists eventually would like to use them to actually build prosthetic brain parts to help brain-damaged individuals.

As you can see, brain-related computers and software are no longer a futuristic, science fiction theory. In fact, you can probably find a program or two that you are using right now.

  

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