Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Bill Murray is Baloo in JUNGLE BOOK – Will he sing?


News broke from Disney today that Bill Murray will voice the character of Baloo in Jon Favreau’s upcoming hybrid live action/animated version of JUNGLE BOOK.

Josh Dickey at Mashable writes “Murray’s casting comes on the heels of news that Christopher Walken will play King Louie, while Giancarlo Esposito will voice Akela.

Murray will reprise the role made famous by Phil Harris, the actor and musician who sang the 1967 animated feature’s most beloved song, a tribute to the easygoing spirit of the character and his passive way of living.”

It is tantalizing to imagine Murray’s cover of this classic… Or a fresh rendition of a new number that equals “Bare Necessities.”

To help stimulate your imagination, take another look at Bill’s performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” — in full Liberace outfit — as his tribute to David Letterman.

Other Jungle Book voice actors include Scarlett Johansson (Kaa, the python), Idris Elba (Shere Khan, the duplicitous tiger), Lupita Nyong’o (Rakcha, the mother wolf) and Ben Kingsley (Bagheera, the friendly leopard).

Disney’s version of The Jungle Book is scheduled for an Oct. 9, 2015 release, in 3D.

Lady Gaga Arrives At Roseland Ballroom

Personality Amplification: HER vs. TRANSCENDENCE

The Wall Street Journal examines HER, and finds that the Artificial Intelligence community is intrigued by the optimistic view of the future presented in the Spike Jonze film. TRANSCENDENCE, coming soon, may offer a different perspective. her-joaquin-phoenix-spike-jonze transcendence-full-trailer-johnny-depp

Above: A rosy Joaquin Phoenix. Below: A darker Johnny Depp.

“Exploring personality amplification through technology is a key concept” in HER, writes Robin Kawakami in WSJ. “In the same way that various gadgets enhance our abilities—whether it’s finding our way around with a GPS or moving objects with machines—an AI might enable us to accomplish certain goals, just as Samantha nudged Theodore toward a book contract.”

The article quotes Stephen Wolfram, “whose Wolfram Alpha drives the artificial intelligence-like component of Siri on the iPhone, thinks that an operating system like Samantha as depicted in the film is not only possible, the technology behind it isn’t that far off… ‘What could you achieve by having an emotional connection to a sophisticated, AI-like thing?’ he said. ‘Can you be the best instance of what you intended to be?'”In this future view, technology is here to enhance us.

Erik Sofge, writing in Popular Science, finds this optimistic vision refreshing: “even if it wasn’t intended as a counterpoint to the collective upswing in robophobia, Her does the job nicely. It presents an AI that feels realistic, in the way that it interacts with humans, and, maybe more importantly, in its complete disinterest in conquering us.” Sofge believes that “robot-related hysteria is on the rise,” pointing to developments such as Google’s recent purchases of robotics and AI companies.

Google, which spends nearly $8 billion per year on research and development, announced today it has acquired DeepMind, an artificial intelligence firm in the UK.  This follows Google’s purchase of 8 cutting edge robotics companies in the last 6 months. The crown jewel is Boston Dynamics, profiled here at Singularity Hub. “The firm’s humanoid Atlas and Petman robots can balance on two legs, walk, and do calisthenics…Beyond the bipedal, the company’s Cheetah robot runs faster than Usain Bolt; their WildCat robot recently took Cheetah’s tricks beyond the treadmill; their robot SandFlea leaps onto tall buildings; and LS3 autonomously follows soldiers across rough terrain, carrying gear and supplies on its back.”

Consider this Boston Dynamics model, the Petman, and then imagine this robot with advanced artificial intelligence:

TRANSCENDENCE, starring Johnny Depp, opens April 17, 2014. This film investigates a different course for the future of human/machine interaction.

TRANSCENDENCE promises to consider whether Personality Amplification is always a positive enhancement. Kawakumi anticipates this issue:

“can an AI-driven agenda aimed at personal improvement actually limit us? Since machines are generally better at predicting a little bit into the future than humans are, Wolfram sees a possibility of people following computer recommendations. ‘A funny view of the future is that everybody is going around looking at the sequence of auto-suggests,’ he said. ‘And pretty soon the machines are in charge.’”

Ultimately, Sofge finds hope in HER:

Being smart doesn’t guarantee malice, or a callous urge to enslave or destroy less-capable beings… Which is why Her, and its version of the Singularity, is so refreshing. Samantha doesn’t lose her charm, or her compassion, even as her intelligence surpasses biological comparison or understanding. In fact, she claims to love us more. The AIs (Samantha is one of many) don’t follow the vicious Darwinian logic that many in the Singularity camp see as a given. The machines become smarter, but not superior. They’re the ultimate intellectuals—far too busy with discourse and theory to even consider something as superfluous as enslaving or supplanting their creators.

Her is a beautiful movie, for Joaquin Phoenix’s stripped-bare performance, its patient direction and plotting, and a host of other reasons that belong in a genuine review. But it’s also a film that understands that AI doesn’t have to be inherently terrifying. Her is smart enough to find beauty in intelligence, whether its modeled after our own thoughts, or ascending towards something much stranger.

The Future is HER

Production Designer K.K. Barrett received a well deserved Oscar nomination this morning for the ‘slight future’ romance HER. For a movie so centered on technology, the film startles by depicting a world in which technology is mostly invisible.


In Wired Kyle Vanhemert makes the case that HER will dominate User Interface design more significantly that MINORITY REPORT. “It’s not just that Her, the movie, is focused on people” he writes. “It also shows us a future where technology …  has receded, or one where we’ve let it recede.” Designer Barrett explains: “‘We decided that the movie wasn’t about technology, or if it was, that the technology should be invisible,’ he says. ‘And not invisible like a piece of glass.’ Technology hasn’t disappeared, in other words. It’s dissolved into everyday life.” Barrett sums up the aesthetic: “The future is much simpler than you think.’”

Simpler for the humans, that is. A smart home that requires no control pads or light switches. No software or hardware keyboards for computers or phones.  “We wanted it to be natural,” Barrett says. The dominant channel for human/computer interface is auditory. Vanhemert points out that “the voice-based UI was … a perfect fit for a film trying to explore what a less intrusive, less demanding variety of technology might look like…Conversational interfaces make everything easier to use. When every different type of device runs an OS that can understand natural language, it means that every menu, every tool, every function is accessible simply by requesting it.” Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, “with his voice-based valet as intermediary, is burdened with even less under-the-hood stuff than we are today… In other words, Theo lives in a future where everything, not just his iPad, ‘just works.'”

The most important design choice in HER is the adaptable personality of the artificially intelligent OS, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. “You don’t want a machine that’s always telling you the answer,” Barrett says. “You want one that approaches you like, ‘let’s solve this together.’…I think it’s very important for OSes in the future to have a good bedside manner…. you can’t talk at someone all the time. You have to act like you’re listening.”

One thing is certain: Designers are listening to HER.

HER, Warner Bros. Written/Directed by Spike Jonze. Produced by Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay.