Category Archives: SEEN

One Zero Eight: Dracarys!

Episode One Zero: Dracarys!

Recorded 4/6/2019

We react to episode 4 of Season 8 of Game of Thrones.  The Long Night is over and now the final war begins, but first drinking and sex and betrayal!  It feels like classic Thrones.  We endure two tragic deaths   Jon can’t say farewell to his direwolf and Dani is oh so close to the edge.  The series is truly in its final phase and gas pedal is pushed all the way to floor. We just hope this car isn’t headed off a cliff. 

 On Your Left…

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The Battle of Winterfell and Existential Knife fights- Reaction to GoT Season 8 Episode 3

By Christopher Schmaltz

I’m a devoted fan of the world that George RR Martin has created. As you may know about me, I grew up reading Tolkien, playing Dungeons and Dragons, embracing and absorbing the science fiction and fantasy genres in art, literature, gaming, movies, all of it.
A Song of Ice and Fire is a universe that does what all great art does – examines the human condition through the lens of a fictional and in this case, fantastical world. The literature of Game of Thrones turns many a fantasy trope on their head by relegating those fantastical elements to history. The current time period of the world to which we are introduced is seemingly bereft of magic and monsters. The game of GOT is human conflict, power, and survival. People are preoccupied with the accumulation of wealth, power and prestige (as humans do), to the detriment of a shared knowledge of history, and appreciation for the fragility of human existence, except when that existence is threatened by the tip or edge of a sword. The Wall and the Night’s Watch are punch lines.
These themes dominate the early parts of the story in both the books and the HBO show. Martin does an amazing job of teasing the forgotten history, sprinkling his world with memory, myth, and subtle, unexplained but acknowledged family lore. It is a wonderful approach to a genre tale, because the people like me who love genre worlds are curious and pay close attention to all these elements. We search for connections, fact behind the fantastical, and love knowing more than the characters in the world know. The anticipation, the setup, the reveal of knowledge and amazing experience is why we love this type of world, and why the world of GOT captivates – because it teases the bigger explanation for the unexplained, the lurking threat or moment of epiphany when the currents of the fantastic are revealed to our heroes.
Martin’s books are weighty tomes, filled with details that close readings reward. And they are frustratingly slow to reveal that knowledge, but so well plotted to include sprinklings of fantasy elements that keep that longing fed with a trickle of fantasy spirit. The HBO show in its early seasons did a great job of replicating that tantalizing flow of knowledge and wonder. As the show grew in popularity, with characters captivating and repulsive in equal measure (all built

upon the rich base Martin created in his books), the show allowed us fans to finally see the GOT world in all its grimy, bloody and human glory. We are enthralled by it.
Martin has been…glacial….in his publication output of the main story. And as a result, given the demands of money, time and artistic desire (which cannot be discounted), the show has moved beyond the books. And it has lost something in that process. Decoupled from the admittedly dense books, the show writers and producers have been able to graft their vision into Martin’s world. Sometimes to great affect, and sometimes to less than ideal results, rooted in a…simplification of approach.
For non-readers of the books, purely watchers of the show, you may not understand that the Night King is only hinted at at this point in the tale written in the books. I have zero doubt that Martin has heavily influenced and guided the introduction of and early interactions with the Night King in the show. And the limitations of the medium of TV, regardless of how creative the team at HBO really is, make it very difficult (but not impossible) to effectively reveal knowledge and wisdom about the Night King in a subtle way. We’ve received teases of lore, smidges of knowledge, hints of speculation – all definitively coupled with a looming existential threat, but often with less than the deft touch of the creator of this world.
That being said, the teases have been relatively effective, peaking our interest in what the Night King is all about, what is his plan, what does he want, what is the source of his enmity to humanity and life, and what could be his undoing. Close readers and watchers THINK they have an idea, but the internet is, at its most effective, a speculation delivery system.
And as Jon Snow has repeatedly emphasized lately in every conversation he has in the show, the Night King and the dead approach to wipe out life in this wonderful universe we love. Nothing is more important than this threat to humanity in this world of Ice and Fire. And it is a credit to the writing and Harrington’s performance that the Queen of Dragons, and others in the North

and elsewhere in Westeros, and we as fans, are all persuaded by him.
Yet, the show has unfortunately devolved to the simplest, surface level explanations or resolutions. Contrary to this, episode after episode has teased the Night King’s power, and his connection to the ancient lore and conflict between the Children of the Forest and humans. And, the books and show have hinted at the connection between the Three-Eyed Raven and the Night King, suggesting a powerful bond, or at the very least, a role the Three-Eyed Raven plays in resisting the oncoming winter personified in the Night King and the dead.
The books and the show have teased deep magic. The return of the dragons, and Daenerys as the Mother of Dragons is the most visible example, but there are regular references to at the very least magical elements to the lore. And as genre fans, it is these elements that need more development. We don’t need a complete explanation, because we never get that, but we love the best fantasy worlds because we get introduced to fantastical systems that have a internal logic, an consistent rationale, and at the same time a fulfillment of our interest in things beyond our senses. We crave deeper knowledge, because from that flows the wisdom at the heart of the tale.
And what we got was the enemy defeated by a knife. Don’t get me wrong – that moment in Episode 3 of Season 8 was a badass confluence of all the Arya training, skill, and magic she possesses, Red Priestess Melisandra’s lore-ifying and the shared knowledge of the capabilities of dragonglass. Oh, and the characters’ speculation that if the Night King is killed, all the walkers cease to exist as well. For me, I loved that Arya struck the blow, if a blow was to be struck.
But we also got the Three-Eyed Raven, with all his powers of sight, warging and who knows what else, as passive bait. We get nothing more of the interesting and unknown connections between the Night King and the Three-Eyed Raven. We get nothing on the Night King’s motivations and history – maybe other than he was created to kill humans?

Bran’s discussion of the role of the Three-Eyed Raven plays in this world in Episode 2 helps to explain my disappointment. The Three-Eyed Raven is human memory, and the Night King wants to wipe out humanity, including its shared history, which we only know through memory. And then Bran suggests that he be bait to draw the Night King to him. This discussion is at the core of why we love this genre – it involves more than simply the clash of swords, the solving problems with violence, the basic human approach to challenges by brute forcing the solution. It teased the “more” that we love in these tales.
And what we got was the existential threat defeated by a knife.

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REVIEW: Captain Marvel

You know? I like the Marvel universe. I know it’s some basic shit. I know there has been a billion of them (21 now) and  most are either pretty good, or at least entertaining, so I go see them. I like the universe, I like the connected characters, and I like superheroes in fun costumes!

So here we come now to Captain Marvel, number 21. The first female led superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Films is a inferring a new beginning after Avengers Endgame. Robert Downey Jr. will be done, Chris Evans is done, Brie Larson is the future. I am unsure what will happen in Endgame, but I am sure not everyone is going to make it out alive. Before I go any further I should say, I am a white male. I don’t know why that matters, but I feel like I should say it before going any further.

Story (Plot) 3-5

SPOILERS YO! Superhero Origin story, told in kind of a funky-out-of-order-way. Carol Danvers is already on Hala, the Kree homeworld.  She already has her glowy powers and she’s learning to be a soldier from Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law). Carol has no memory of being human.  The audience already knows she is…so much of the plot is us just waiting for her to figure out what we already know.

“YADDA YADDA”  The Kree and Skrulls are at war.  Space and shit, the story has some unexpected turns and I didn’t guess everything and I was pleasantly surprised by some happenings. The most unexpected development is the Skrulls are not really the bad guys.  In the Marvel Comics Universe, the Skrulls have always been dicks. It turns out the Kree are the dicks! Carol has been working for the bad guys all along! OH NO! Also I don’t know how I feel about Nick Fury losing his freaking eye from a “cat” scratch. Yep…

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)3-5

Most of this was pretty straight forward. Some of the mystery is lost and Carol finding her past takes too long. I feel like the last fight sequence was drawn out and didn’t have significant consequences.  I would have liked her to have fought something that actually given her a more substantial challenge, maybe we see that in Endgame? The tone is just wrong. Captain marvel just has many random lines, scenes and acting choices that doesn’t need to be there. I think the film needs a second cut and some scene retakes.

Music was like every other Marvel movie. The score to put it mildly is not memorable.  There is for one notable difference, the inclusion of 90s nostalgia stroking mostly through the use of alternative rock anthems. The clearest example of is Carol’s big fight scene against her former Kree squadmates set to No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl”. BEGIN RAGE RANT! It wasn’t even like it was playing the jukebox randomly while they fight, just started playing. THEY ARE ON A SPACESHIP!  At the very least in Guardians of the Galaxy the inclusion of notstalgic pop musis is given some context. There is usually a character listening to Quill’s mixtape, so the nostalgia made sense. There is a shot in this scene that she blows up the jukebox, like this is what they wanted to do, the jukebox is supposed to be playing “I’m just a girl”. It’s just playing out of thin air. No, this scene didn’t work, and took me right out of the movie  Rant over.

Characters (Likability, Acting) 2-5

I like Brie Larson.. I was really excited for her in this movie. But she is the weakest part of the film. Her character doesn’t really have an arc, maybe this example should go under the review heading of  “Directing”, but honestly when people talk to me about this movie, no one really mentions her being likeable or her doing a great job. She was just kinda “meh”. This sucks because I like the actress and the character of Carol Danvers from the comics. She just didn’t work here.

Sam freaking Jackson killed it. The digital de-aged stuff is batshit! After a few scenes, you forget that he’s not 30 years younger! The man is 71 people! This technology has come so far. I thought it looked a bit funky in “Captain America Civil War” when Tony Stark appears as a hologram in which he is 20 years younger. It looked ok, but this movie was damn perfect. I never doubted it for a second.  Bravo, Marvel! Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury the best part of the movie. The man is seriously funny. This is bizarre because Nick fury is such a chromogen in other films. Maybe they digitally de-assholed him? Don’t think too hard about that imagery.

And now we turn to Goose the Cat.  I have never really been a cat person. So most of the cute factor is lost on me.  Sure, I love animals and all, but it’s just a cat. So every scene the movie really wants you to love this cat, I end up going the other way.  I start to hate the cat. There are perhaps 5 “ahhh cat” moments. The “ahhh cat” scene I actually liked was the end credit scene. Cats are so awkward when they puke.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)3-5

This movie wanted to Guardians of the Galaxy 3 so badly. But the tone was wrong. Most of the jokes fell flat. Carol’s character never really grows. The majority of the movie is just spent telling us stuff we already know. I had so many questions. Like she has no memory right? How does she know how to ride a motorcycle? How does she know anything about anything on Earth? She should have been really confused, and she wasn’t. There should have been more fish out of water stuff. Are the writers just afraid of making her look like she doesn’t know what she was doing? Because that would make more sense.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care) 4-5

All said, it’s a Marvel movie. The problem is it is not a stand alone movie. It’s part of a bigger universe, so I give it some wiggle room. It adds to an existing narrative that I enjoy. The action scenes are fun, and Carol’s powers are cool. I feel like they steered the wheel too far into making her unstoppable. She becomes too like Superman, too powerful and ultimately boring.

BLACKOUT COMIC BOOK DORK MOMENT! She got her powers from the Tesseract, which makes her about equal to how powerful Scarlet Witch, who got her powers from the Mind Stone. I would love to see them slug it out. It’s just too bad Scarlet Witch is dust right now.

Overall score 15-25

This film pretty low in the list of Marvel movies for me, somewhere between Ant-man and Iron Man 3.  I have been pretty hard on this movie until this point, but honestly it was fun. I just wanted it to be great, but then, most of the Marvel movies are not great. They are just good. I am unsure about the future of Marvel movies. I know I will keep watching them.

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The Wire (Series)


By Christopher Schmaltz

Um, ok. I finished watching the entire series The Wire this past weekend. I binge-watched the last 2.5 seasons or so, but watched the entire series beginning to end over the last 6 months. The last 2.5 seasons were watched over about a 2 week span. It’s fresh in my mind.

I didn’t watch the Wire when it was on HBO a decade ago. I have always read, in all my pop culture and entertainment reading and podcast listening, that the Wire was incredible and woefully under appreciated in modern entertainment culture. I heard and read references to Omar, and Bubbles, and Stringer Bell, and Bunk, and McNulty, and Prop Joe, never really understanding what those references meant. The references, however, were always made consistently in the tones of awe, amazement and reverence. I didn’t understand because I had never watched it.

I understand now.

The Wire is easily the best show I have ever watched. It has to be objectively considered, if not the greatest television drama ever, then top 3 of all time. (Sopranos, and [insert many contenders here] the other 2)

I know, I know. You haven’t watched it, and this statement seems ridiculous. I am here to shout from the rooftops that everyone in America needs to watch The Wire. EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.

You are right to be skeptical. I absolutely support and encourage your skepticism. I will attempt to provide you with a rationale to investigate and evaluate it for yourself, and convince you why it warrants a Constitutional amendment requiring every adult in America to watch it.

The efficiency and effectiveness of its storytelling over 5 seasons is breathtaking. It follows a group of police officers in Baltimore from Season 1 all the way thru Season 5, weaving tales of drugs, politics, city management, blue collar workers, schools and newspapers in and around the core group. The show examines each of these areas of modern American life, not in a rote or check the box, I need to comment on this way, but in truly elegant organic storytelling. Honestly, I would call it Homeric.

What do I mean by that? Homeric in the sense that the tale is a compelling story, in and of its own right, with characters and plot that are beyond interesting, always engaging the viewer, and demanding attention at all times. And at the same time, every moment is a deep examination of modern American city life, its culture, pressures, power, and humanity. It’s a tale of us, a cultural touchstone for all time.

The show never loses sight of the humans at the center of it. Lots of shows want to be commentaries on, …name your Big Idea. Politics, or Power, or Crime. The humans in those shows are simply vehicles to move around to tell the big tale, or vessels from which flow Important Statements.

And note that it is not until late here that I mention race and race relations. The racism in the show isn’t one of the things it wants to overtly Comment on. The racism is simply a given. Of course the show is commenting on it, but the racism is not treated as a separate thing to be examined, dissected, and disapproved of. The racism, from everyone, is treated as an immutable part of everything that all the characters say and do. The show’s genius is found in its ability to depict the unconscious (and conscious) bias and racism in all the characters, without putting neon on it. And yet, every human watching gets it.
What the makers of the Wire mastered is grounding all that commentary in real humans, making real decisions, from which emerges the devastating view on all those big things other shows try to shout about. Every character evolves. Some evolve in the direction of extinction (real or metaphorically) and some evolve toward some version of success. I am still shaking my head at how they managed to sustain it over 5 seasons, with threads in every season stitching all the central characters together to create a tapestry of hope, love, faith, despair, frailty, chance, pragmatism and outright venality.

Humans encompass all of those things. The Wire depicts it all almost perfectly. It is a stunning artistic achievement. Add it to your bucket list of life, watch it, think about it, discuss it, and share it. It is transformative art.

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The Expanse Season 1 Rewatch

By Christopher Schmaltz

Damn, what a good show. I binged this show over the holiday break, and was so engrossed in it that I was surprised when the final episode ended and there wasn’t another one. It does such a good job of capturing the books and an even better job of distilling the characters and challenges for an episodic effort. The CG is fantastic. Full stop, no caveats.

I can’t wait till they dig deeper into the rest of Book 1 and the story that unfolds. So much to tell and so much to reveal.

The show also does an excellent job of looking like a plausible human future. The books and this show are tremendous is postulating a future that looks real. From the subtle touches of the high barriers around the Statue of Liberty (to address the rising waters from global warming), to the actual design of human habitation off Earth. The ship designs are great. The idea that ship design would reflect zero g, but also the “gravity” generated by the Epstein drives is excellent.

Bringing Avasarala into the first season was a great idea too. She doesn’t appear until Book 2 I think, but her character is so meaty and fun that it was really smart to introduce her early. Only bummer is her swearing from the books isn’t depicted in the show. They try, but the TV character loses a bit of her no nonsense, I don’t fuck around, from the books.

I love everything about this show. 

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Swiss Army Man Review


By Patrick Schmaltz

These days, it’s pretty hard to find a film that really comes out of nowhere. So many films are predictable and boring, follow just the basic things we expect. I think the past few years we have seen some really good and original films come out. The Ots (2000-2010) were some of the worst years for film. Everyone had CGI and didn’t know how to use it, not we are getting the revolt and rebalance. Filmgoers are seeing films that are unusual and sometimes crazy. Films like Swiss Army Man gets the “WHAT THE FUCK?!” award for sure.

Story (Plot) 5-5 Swiss Army Man is just insane. Let me lay it out for you – I will be careful not to reveal anything too important – part of this movie’s charm is its ambiguity. You have been warned – small spoilers ahead. Paul Dano, who plays Hank, goes into the woods to escape society for…reasons. He is about to kill himself, because he’s starving on a small island, when Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Manny, washes up on shore as a dead body. Hank comes to find Manny is not dead, but has super powers and helps him to survive in the woods until he finds his way back to civilization. That’s the plot, but the real question is who is Manny? Why is he dead and why does he have these powers? Why did Hank go to the woods? Is this all in Hank’s Mind? It’s so silly and entertaining. Also! NOT a sequel or a remake.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 It’s pretty amazing how fun and interesting this movie is. It’s fast and crazy, and the reality just as absurd and they know it. The film is shot beautifully, and edited really well with many fun montages of pretending together and surviving in the woods. The music is interesting also. Playing into the let’s do something different theme, all have instruments and score, but with Dano and Radcliffe singing and humming together, it makes for an eerie choir-like sound. An Example of this is, one of the best scenes is when they hum the theme to Jurassic Park while re-enacting it together. They are just in the woods so part of the music is in Dano’s head but, It works so well. You guys know how much I love movie music!


Characters (Likability, Acting) 4-5 Paul Dano is stellar again. He’s so interesting to watch in all his films. I do not think I have enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe so much since his Harry Potter days, he’s really fantastic in this. Hank is obviously insane. He’s got some things he needs to work through, but he’s so likeable and interesting you are okay with being on the crazy train with him. Manny is like a newborn baby, he doesn’t know anything so he’s having things explained to him by Hank with hilarious results. From farts, to love, to masterbation, all seem to be centered around what society deems to be normal. There are so many interesting things about our society in this movie including: technology isolation, father son dynamics, and sexual expression.


Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)5-5 How does anyone come up with something so crazy, and how does anyone read this script and agree to do it. I would have loved to be in the room for the pitch meeting. “Guy stuck in the woods, finds dead body, which comes back to life and has super powers, which he uses to survive”. YEAH, who thinks of this crap? Well it fucking works. The movie is entertaining and fun as hell. The powers they come up with are crazy, all powered by “love”.  The Interaction between Manny and Hank is where it’s at. As Hank explains the world to Manny, we find out about Hank and his perspective and what inevitably led him to running away.  

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)4-5 Once you just accept what’s happening, and you need to accept it pretty quickly, you can just sit back and enjoy the fun! It’s strange and it knows it. It’s so silly and deadpan, with very little explanation. It’s filled with ambiguity, and emotional confusion. You just can’t stop watching it even though it doesn’t make sense. The world is crazy, this is for sure through a crazy person’s perspective, but you just learn to roll with it.

Overall score 22-25 I am just fascinated with this film. It’s crazy, interesting, and out of control. I might just be sick of seeing all the same shit over and over. This is not the same shit. There is some darkness to this movie for sure. The real world questions and emotions that Hank feels are rough. When you walk out of the movie you can’t help but think about it. Ask questions and try and make sense of what you just saw. This film is art and like any good art, it’s in the eye of the viewer.


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Finding Dory Review


By Patrick Schmaltz

It’s understood these days that when Pixar makes a movie, it’s good for all ages. They seem to know how to tell a great story – one that encompasses heart, well crafted animation, and comedy. Finding Nemo was one of their hallmark all-time successes. I was an adult without children watching this film, and I enjoyed it as much as everyone else did. It makes sense that they would would want to make a sequel to this blockbuster hit; it just took them thirteen years to do it.  

Story (Plot) 3-5 Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Nemo. Dory is presently living in the reef with Marlin and the eponymous Nemo. Slowly she is starting to remember that she has a family out there, which she has forgotten. She has suffered from short term memory loss her whole life, as seen through adorable Baby Dory flashbacks. She has a series of memories and needs to go find her parents and piece it all together. Marlin and Nemo owe her one, so they go with her to help. This film has a much more a bleak overtone than Finding Nemo. What this story lacks in laughs, it makes up for in emotion-screwing heavy shit.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 Pixar does it again. But there hasn’t been much improvement in the level of quality animation in thirteen years – there doesn’t really need to be – it just looks like the same movie. Maybe if you put them shot for shot next to each other you might see a difference, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just wish, maybe, that it looked crazy good. In 2003, Nemo looked crazy good. Now, Dory just looks normal. The music is exactly the same, again: ain’t broke.  The film’s pacing, however, is a little off – things could have moved things along a little faster. You know, gotten to the point a little sooner. Much of the film is told in flashbacks for emotional impact, which problematically creates a herky-jerky movement.


Characters (Likeability, Acting) 2-5 I love the characters. Albert Brooks as Marlin is good, but he’s a side character in this film. Nemo is the child voice of reason, and the glue that holds it together. Here is my major gripe with this movie:  Ellen Degeneres as Dory takes the reins as the main character and that’s where this movie fails. I don’t know that Dory is a strong enough main character. Sure, she is great as a foil in Nemo. But when the main character keeps forgetting what she’s doing, all I felt was frustration. Additionally, the memory loss bit gets old, seems inconsistent, and has no rhyme or reason. She is coherent one second, then forgets the next, and vice versa.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)3-5 They really hit you in the face with some heavy family tragedy here. It’s a good story, and you care about these characters, but man is it sad if you think about what these “people” have gone through. This is all well and good, but where are the jokes? The side characters just are not as funny as the first film. Nemo was funny because of the “Mine” idiocy of the seagulls, and the vegetarian sharks. Dory’s side characters come across as just not as funny or memorable. The best character in my mind is the Octopus Hank played by Ed O’Neill, who is mostly a grump. This movie just lacks the forethought and clever characters. Also, Sigourney Weaver, is all I will say.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)3-5 They succeeded in making us sad and give a crap about finding Dory’s parents. But where is the whimsy of the first one? Dory just feels way too self-serious. I want fun! I want Adventure! Instead we are given a sad story about losing family. It’s a good story and all, but I think it misses the tone set by the first film. The message of the film mostly centers around how Dory has a handicap, and she inspires the characters around her with how affable and genuine she is. The problem is, you suddenly feel bad about laughing at someone with a disability. They are teaching children some valuable lessons about life, I understand that. But don’t sully my previous enjoyment of a film, now that it has some darker overtones. Dory also never goes it alone – she always has someone there to help her. Someone to guide her, or physically carry her to her destination. I wanted that moment for her character to figure it out alone, yet instead she is guided and falls into things seemingly out of blind luck. Where is the lesson about you can do it yourself?

Overall score 15-25 This movie is very well made, and is already making lots of money, but it just feels soft and flat to me. No big moments of hilarious scenes. No hilarious quotes that stay with you. You don’t walk about of the theater singing this movie’s version of “Just Keep Swimming”. Dory will not be remembered. To my mind, the best word to describe the film is “meh” – it’s good but not great. It’s funny, but not as much as the original. It’s clever but lacks genius. I am sure the kids will love it.


 1,183 total views

Independence Day Resurgence Review


The first Independence Day film came out July 2nd 1996, when I was thirteen years old (THIRTEEN!). I was young, so I loved this film. It was amazing in a few ways; likeable, relatable characters, played by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman. The script makes these characters interesting and alive, and the audience wants them to succeed. The act of film construction was amazing also, as they actually built sets and blew them up, with a little CGI thrown in as frosting. Real sets as backdrops and physical creatures as enemies.  I really enjoyed its fun adventure story, as it made you feel something for the loss these humans faced – millions of humans died in this first movie. And just as you think that humanity may be lost, Bill Pullman makes a speech: “we will not go quietly into the night”. And you say “YEA, fuck these aliens!”


Story (Plot) 2-5 Independence Day Resurgence takes place 20 years later. Humanity has survived and is prepared for another attack should the alien destroyers return. This generation is full of the PTSD-suffering survivors and war trained orphans. It seems like a cool idea, and a solid jump off point into a new battle – except it stops being interesting there. The aliens have no plan; they just kind of bungle around leaving the humans’ weapons and preparations pointless. The plot leaves you with the idea of these groups as two idiots staring at each other. The characters prattle on about how the alien ship is bigger than the ships before, but besides its first attack/landing it serves no purpose, and comes across as pointless. Lacking the vigour of the first film, it comes to Earth smashing soulless, meaningless, distant CGI cities and people.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music) 1-5 The film is downright boring. It wants to be a fun action/science fiction romp about humans overcoming great odds. Instead, they give us a lackluster, idiotic, and senseless film. It has gone the way of the new film genre, the-quick-edit-computer-animated-mess. Just cut every 2-3 seconds, and the people will not realize they are watching stupid shit. The Transformers films are the epitome of this genre. The musical score only serves to stroke your nostalgia, and doesn’t blaze a new path for itself.


I am not convinced that Roland Emmerich knows how to direct anymore, maybe he never did. I did enjoy his early films, so I have given him the benefit of the doubt even after 2012, and White House Down. Maybe I was just young enough to not see the flaws. How much of my positive thoughts about those films( Independence Day, Stargate, Godzilla) is nostalgia overriding sense?  


Characters (Likability, Acting)2-5 Pretty horrible, really. Liam Hemsworth has been shoehorned into Will Smith’s character’s spot in his absence, but he can’t hold a torch to Will “Welcome to Earth!” Smith! They just gloss over the fact that he is not in the film, because of some accident. I was really disappointed that Smith did not return for the sequel, as I heard he had already promised to do Suicide Squad. Maybe Smith read this script and said “no,” because I don’t know if his presence would have saved this movie. Jeff Goldblum’s character, David Levinson, is a very small part of the film. He really serves no purpose to the plot, as his character doesn’t save humanity as he did before. Bill Pullman plays President Whitmore, who has a moment of greatness speaking to Goldblum and random soldiers who need inspiration again, but his character has become a crazy person, scarred by his interactions with the aliens. So he’s not the enjoyable character we know and love; neither of them are. From the three I mentioned before, one is dead, one is crazy, and one absent and pointless. Thanks filmmakers.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness) 1-5 The script is just silly. The dialogue feels forced and overly serious. It just hits the wrong beats: serious when it should be fun, joking when it should be serious. The character pool is just too thin, leaving only surface-level depth to characters. No time is taken for us to get invested or learn about characters we should care about. These characters are shoved down our throats and we are expected to enjoy it. The plot has a nice base, but doesn’t take us anywhere. All the characters and aliens just feel insipid. I found myself questioning the decisions being made by both sides. It’s just a bunch of idiots hurling explosions at each other.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care) 1-5 I wanted to love this movie. The first film was part of my formative years of film appreciation. I look back and think of it fondly and am now afraid to rewatch it for fear of it not holding up. Independence Day Resurgence is boring. I didn’t care about any of the characters, kill them all. I didn’t care about Earth, why should I? The movie doesn’t make you feel the weight of what happened. I have seen this in past disaster films, like San Andreas. These films just gloss over the fact that millions of people are dead, and probably millions injured. The world economy is probably fucked, and it will take them years to recover. “ NO, LET’S JUST BLOW SOME SHIT UP!” is the mindset of the film. I have to give a shit about the things you are blowing up!  Make me care about some people in your film, then I’ll give a shit when you kill them.

Overall score 7-25 Disappointment and betrayal are what I feel towards this movie. Yeah, they got my money. So many people saw this movie because they enjoyed the first film so much. But all they have done is betrayed what we enjoyed about the original. We live in a time of CGI wonders, but when I can see they are standing on a stage with a green screen, you should have filmed it in an actual desert (a scene in the climax). Maybe your film’s acting would be better and more realistic, if your actors were actually acting against something, instead of standing in a green void. I leave you with a list of questions I had throughout watching the film. Some of these have spoilers in them so don’t read ahead if you care about that stuff.

Why does the Queen leave her big ass ship and go herself to hunt down the orb thingy?

Why doesn’t the Queen just chill in her big mothership and drill the core out of the Earth? (the humans have shown they can’t defeat the big ship, and all she needs to do is wait)

Why do the aliens need the Earth’s core? They have advanced technology and they want molten metal? You know once you take the core away from the heat and the mass of gravity pressing down on it, that is just becomes rock and metal, It’s like the core has its own power to it? It’s hot because of pressure dumbasses, not some magic source of energy

Why does the orb come to Earth and say nothing? It has gone to countless worlds where aliens have attacked and it’s got to imagine humans will be on the defensive. Instead it sits and does nothing, getting shot out of the sky, maybe send a message ahead, you fools.

In the climactic fight with the queen, the fighters swarm around her as she bashes the orb out of the base, and two alien ships commandeered by humans are the only ones that break free and are able to shoot her. Why don’t the thousands of ships flying around her shoot them down? Two ships versus a thousand.

Why do humans have all the weapons of the aliens except for the shields? They still prove a problem and not having the shields makes the humans outmatched.

Why don’t the aliens use their ultimate city destroying weapons once? They shoot lasers at the humans, but we never see the city destroying lasers of the first film, just low powered versions used by the humans.

How come Bill Pullman wastes an hour shaving his beard, when the battle is about to happen? Oh yeah, dramatic effect.

How come humans don’t just hack their computers again? Not even a mention of doing this.

What is the point of half the characters in the film? Most of the 10 characters serve no purpose to the plot and just muddy the waters.

Why does this movie have the terrible trope of “once you kill the queen all the others give up” ?  This is so dumb. If you kill my leader, I will still fight you and I will find a new leader, this should stop being written into films.

Why is Jeff Goldblum’s character’s wife/ex-wife not in the film? Not even brought up

Why didn’t they cast the actress that played the president’s daughter in the first film? She is the right age to play the character, and would give us another recognizable face.

Maybe she read the script also? Mae Whitman

Once the first ship shows up, (the orb that they shoot down) why is the planet not on high alert? Get all your defenses ready, power everything up, get everyone to battle stations. Instead, they go forward with their speeches and festivities. It’s Independence Day after all.


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Thoughts on Ex Machina


Thoughts on Ex Machina

By Christopher Schmaltz

The robot is hot…until she puts on her short-haired wig. This was one of my thoughts after seeing Ex Machina. See, I’m generally not a short hair fan on women. And exactly therein lies the triumph of Ex Machina.

Ex Machina adds significantly to the genre in movies and literature of the human pursuit of artificial intelligence (A.I.).  It is at the same time cerebral and visceral. Cerebral in that it is a close scientific examination of the attempt to create A.I. – one that is indistinguishable from human intelligence and consciousness. The movie explores one man’s creation, and another man’s testing of that creation. Why it works so well is that it hits the tester (and movie viewer) in both the mind, and even more importantly, in the viscera. The tested program is in a futuristic, elegantly designed female robot form. A form that is very clearly a robot, and yet, has all the visual cues intended to target the id of the tester (and movie viewer).

The film is a surface examination of the attempt at A.I., and a far more incisive exploration of humanity and the combination of intellect and emotion in humans. It’s a fascinating look at how emotion affects judgment, and how it is so difficult to distinguish actual emotion from the appearance of emotion. What I find exhilarating is its central storytelling that explores how emotion can override logic in a conscious being. (That sentence is carefully constructed so as to avoid any and all spoilers.☺)

To me, the movie asks a key question – if humans are fallible in this way, often subservient to emotional reactions from a primordial place in our brain, how can our creations not be influenced by this conception of what we think it means to be a conscious being? And as so influenced, will the A.I. we attempt to create be “flawed” in the same way, or be missing a key ingredient that is impossible to quantify or “create?”

As successful as the A.I. may or may not have appeared to the tester of the A.I., a similar suspension of disbelief happens to the viewer. My reaction, the robot is hotuntil…, is a testament to the art of the film and its insightful exploration of the human experience. Ex Machina is worth your time and thought.

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The Leftovers “The Garveys at Their best”



By Christopher Schmaltz


“The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.”

That is a quote focused on, and slightly puzzled over, in the most recent tremendous episode of The Leftovers. This will be a spoiler free comment, so if you are behind in watching the show, no worries. I was struck by this quote and its usage in this current episode, and its commentary on the show as a whole.

So let’s examine the quote first. It suggests that a thing isn’t aware of itself except in relation to something else. Going further, it offers the viewpoint that the thing, namely “the foot,” needs feedback from an outside force or resistance in order to be that thing. This concept seems totally contrary to the “I think, therefore I am” classical philosophical proposition by Descartes. Or is it? The fascinating use of the “foot” quote in the context of this show continues the show’s deep exploration of emptiness, loss, and the meaning of existence.

How does it do that? IMO, the whole show to this point has been a close examination of the people who remain, and their response to the void that is created (it too remains) when they have lost someone to this unexplained event. It is the existential crisis of all existential crises. A person (or multiple people) that helped define who you are abruptly vanish. The serious theme being examined here is that the people who have lost loved ones (via the event, or because of it in its aftermath) are struggling to come to grips with themselves. The absence of their familial feedback has set them adrift. That void, contradictorily enough, provides strong feedback too. Is the absence of the “ground” also feedback for the foot, when it expects feedback from the ground, or “remembers” the feedback?

“I think, therefore I am” is about knowledge, awareness. It isn’t about feeling/being/living. Knowing you exist and existing are 2 very different things. The show continues to effectively explore that difference. But to what point? Navel gazing for its own sake is a feedback loop to nothing. The payoff is in growth – we’ll see if The Leftovers manages to communicate growth for some or all of the characters by the end of this season.

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