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For a truly immersive movie experience, you might need an iPhone.

For a truly immersive movie experience, you might need an iPhone. (photo)

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The ’50s saw the introduction of Cinerama, which synced up three simultaneous projectors aimed at a giant curved screen. “You are there!,” the advertising promised, because of course it would take the biggest, most immersive screens to ever hope to fool you into think you were something else.

So there’s something fitting about “Murder on Beacon Hill,” a movie (sort of) that really can mean you are there, involving the tiny screen of your iPhone. It’s an app from Untravel Media that you download and then, ideally, wander around Boston with, tramping through historical landmarks with your guide, local girl Alexandra McDougall. The story is that of the 1849-50 Parkman-Webster case, and the scenes illuminate what happened — though you can watch and visit the sites in any order.

The whole thing will be shown in a 43-minute block Sunday at the Boston International Film Festival. This is, as the Guardian‘s Ryan Gilbey notes, “not quite the Lumière brothers at the Grand Café in 1895,” but it’s something different anyway.

Unfortunately, the app doesn’t seem all that compelling; you can watch it here. “I like the idea of history as jazz,” announces McDougall at the start, before informing us that a while ago she began obsessively rewatching a PBS documentary called “Murder at Harvard,” and which, with evidence and letters read out by overacting voices in that uniquely PBS-y style, seems to have influenced “Murder on Beacon Hill” stylistically a little too much. But hey, you can hold up your phone and look at something twice over, once as revealingly contrasting image and once in real size. That’s cool.

04152010_gaudi.jpgThe most exciting aspect of this is the promise of how much more could be done in this direction. At the very least, some movies — judiciously clipped for iPhone or whatever — could make useful compare-and-contrasts for the tourist/visitor. It’d be great to walk through Barcelona armed with a copy of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s documentary “Antonio Gaudi” (nothing more than reverential shots of the buildings, with music and no narration) for suggestions on which of his buildings to visit and angles to look at it from. Or perhaps the herds of tourists who come to New York for “Sex and the City” tours can break off from loud groups and become inconspicuous individuals and pairs wandering at their leisure. Even better might be montages of public places as they appeared in the past, to hold up and see how they’ve changed while standing on the spot; rare is the place completely identical to even thirty years ago.

The applications so far look mild, but I’m pretty sure the first person that combines an iPhone narrative that lures you from one dark corner to another in an intense haunted house, only to be attacked by some kind of ghoul or serial killer, will make a killing whatever Halloween they come up with it.

[Photos: “Murder on Beacon Hill,” Untravel Media, 2010; “Antonio Gaudi,” Criterion Collection, 1984]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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