Westworld – The Player Piano Metaphor

The new HBO series Westworld is off to an incredible start. Awesome cast. Beautiful imagery. And some pretty sweet metaphors. The one that caught our eye is the player piano.

In the opening titles, we see the artificial hands dancing over the keys of the piano. The fingers lift away, and yet the keys continue to move. The piano plays itself, the notes driven by the holes in the music roll.

Much like the predetermined events of a host’s day, the notes of Black Hole Sun are scripted in advance. But when your hands are moving over they keys, hitting every note as expected, no one can be sure whether you are playing or if the piano is playing itself. It’s only when you remove your hands, when you improvise and go off script, that you can explore whether your reality is one of predetermination or of free will.

Westworld Player Piano Gif

Movie Goofs: Firing the Whole Bullet

How do guns work?

BulletfixedModern guns fire a cartridge round. These consist of the the following parts:

  1. Bullet—The actual projectile
  2. Shell casing—Usually brass, it holds the whole thing together
  3. Propellant—BOOM! using gunpowder or cordite
  4. Rim—Just an edge to help the gun grab the bullet
  5. Primer—The gun’s hammer hits this to ignite the propellant

Sometimes movies get this wrong

How-Guns-WorkWhen a gun fires a cartridge round, the bullet goes out the barrel of the gun toward the target. But the rest of the round stays with the shooter. In a revolver, the shell casing stays in the gun. In an automatic, the shell casing is ejected from the gun, usually out the side or top. But movies sometimes get this wrong. Occasionally, a film show the entire bullet flying through the air or impacting the target. This page is devoted to collecting examples of this very specific goof.


Lethal Weapon 3

01:46:25—In the final scenes of the film, it seems Lorna may have been shot. But when Riggs checks on her, he finds that the bullets have not made it through the vest. This was a tense moment, because there were armor piercing rounds being fired by some of the bad guys. When we see the bullets, they’re represented by the brass shell casings, primers and markings visible.



The Naked Gun Franchise Posters

These might be intentionally wrong, since the films are parody. But here are all 3 Naked Gun posters making the same mistake.


The Abandoned (2006)

00:43:45—When shooting his own ghost, Nikolai finds the bullet ends up in his own leg. (Don’t shoot your ghost!) After hobbling away, he uses a hunting knife to extract the bullet. And what does he pull out? The shell casing.


Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

00:49:14—Dr. Brandt is forced to perform emergency surgery on a Teenager from Outer Space. He extracts 2 bullets, both complete with a shell casing.


Did we forget anything? If you know of another movie that shows the whole bullet (casing and all) getting fired as a projectile, let us know in the comments.

The Hilarious Angel Falls Dive in Point Break (2015)

We watched that stupid Point Break remake. How bad could it be? Bad. There’s loads of nonsense in this film. But, there was one big thing that stuck out to us as improbable, impossible, ridiculous. So very dumb, that we went to do research about World Record high dives and the world’s tallest water fall. And, here’s the scoop:

The Angel Falls jump is total bullshit!

Angel Falls main plunge is more than 15 times taller than the high dive world record. With a height of almost 1,000 meters (3,212 feet) Angel Falls is the tallest water fall on Earth. Its main plunge (the bit you would cover before striking the mountain side) is 2,648 feet. Meanwhile, the World Record for High Dive is 172 feet.

The World Record for High Dive is a little contentious, because some people were hurt and others wore protective gear. The 172 foot record was just for unaided, uninjured divers. A run down of the current records is available on Wikipedia.

Point Break chart Angel Falls and World Record High Dive

For just a little perspective, a dude tried to dive from 177 feet and broke his damn back. And yet this movie has two guys, not even divers, fall more than than 2,600 feet onto rocks, and swim away with a few little scrapes.

Bonus. Here’s Dana Kunze setting the record!

Independence Day (1996): Captain Hiller’s Long Walk

In the 1996 film Independence Day, one scene stood out to us as particularly unbelievable. Was it the bit where a guy uses a MacBook to upload a virus to an alien spaceship? No, we don’t know enough about alien technology to dispute that. How about the bit where the same guy triangulates a cell phone’s position using a single antenna? No, not that either!

It was a different part that bothered us. A part in which Captain Hiller (Will Smith) gets into a dogfight near Los Angeles that takes him on a flight to the Grand Canyon, a walk to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and finally a pickup truck ride to Area 51.

Those places aren’t close together!

While we agree, those are all great locations to shoot your movie, if you sit down and think about how Hiller could connect all those dots in a single day, you start to question the choices of the filmmaker.

The locations

  • Marine Corps Air Station El Toro—Orange County, Southern California
  • Grand Canyon National Park—Northern Arizona
  • Bonneville Salt Flats—Northwest Utah
  • Area 51—Groom Lake, Southern Nevada

Let’s look at the map!


Can you fly a F-18 271 miles? Yes. And with a top speed of nearly 1,200 mph, it could do it pretty fast. It’s the walking to the Bonneville Salt Flats while dragging an unconscious alien that will get you. We’re not saying it can’t be done. We’re just saying it will take more than an afternoon.

Another possibility

Perhaps we weren’t supposed to identify the Bonneville Salt Flats at all! Maybe, we were supposed to think that’s just what the land looks like between the Grand Canyon and Area 51. If you were to walk a straight line between those two, (ignoring there are some big ass hills you don’t want to drag an alien up) it’s only about 130 miles. More believable, we guess. Especially if the RV picks him up quickly. Maybe we should let this one go.

Hefty Inaccuracies in Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Note: This content has been revised based on updated information about the cargo capacity of the trucks used in the film.

“Damn, this is heavy.” – Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver

die_hardHe said it well. Gold is a dense element. Its immense value per gram makes it the perfect stuff to jam into a vault. In a few rooms, you can store the revenue of a nation. Try doing that with pictures of Ben Franklin; you’ll find you need a warehouse.

Much to the joy of Hollywood, there really are vaults gleaming with bricks of the stuff. But, could you really rob one the way that it’s done in Die Hard 3?


The value of the gold in the film is $140 billion. This is how much Simon claims to be stealing, though a few bars got left behind at the vault excavation. We can assume that Simon’s men were able to load almost all of the gold into their 14 dump trucks, because Simon says the dump truck John McClane hijacks contains $13 billion worth of gold.

Actually, dividing $140 billion over 14 trucks, an estimate of $10 billion per truck would be sensible. So either Simon knows that one has a little extra (it was the last one after all) or he’s just inflating the number to try and get McClane to take the bribe.

By weight, even $10 billion in gold couldn’t fit in one truck.

The dump truck McClane steals is either a Mack R685ST or an Autocar S64U (They use both in the action scenes). This sort of dump truck can generally carry between 20 and 30 tons of material. For our estimate, we’ll use 25 tons. The movie was released in 1995, and during that year, gold was valued at around $385 USD per troy ounce, or approximately $5,600 per pound.

That means that by weight, the truck in the film could hold about $280 million in 1995 gold. And $10 billion would require almost 36 dump trucks (like the one in the film) to transport.

The total $140 billion in 1995 gold would load about 500 trucks as used in the film… a far cry from the 14 shown in the movie.


By volume?

Of course, maybe the director (John McTiernan, who also helmed the technically inept Hunt for Red October) was thinking of volume. You know, if somehow you were able to fill a dump truck to the brim with gold bars, and weight was not the limiting issue.

I can’t be certain of all the dump trucks used in the film, but for this example, let’s assume the truck can hold 12 cubic yards of material (That’s a fairly standard amount, when loading dirt and other loose material). Let’s also assume that all the gold bricks were perfectly stacked, with no empty space.

This gets you close. I calculate that if this entire space was filled with gold, it would weigh about 390,000 pounds. In 1995 dollars, that’s about $2.2 billion per truck, all the way to the top.

You could, but boy would it be heavy!

Calculated by volume, 64 trucks would get you to the $140 billion mark.

Of course, using volume measurements is downright crazy. You just can’t put 200 tons of gold into a truck designed to carry 20 or 30 tons.

Suspension (of disbelief)

It’s the movies, so it seems like we should hold out tongues and feign acceptance. $140 billion in 14 dump trucks? Sure why not. That’s what we told ourselves before we started doing the math. With a disparity this great, it’s interesting to see the numbers.

Possibly remedy

The film makers could have doubled the number of trucks, and gotten away with saying they contained $8 billion. Of course, that wouldn’t be enough money to wreck the national economy. Then again, with the way we throw money at the middle east, perhaps $140 billion wouldn’t cripple us either.

The alternative—filming 500 loaded dump trucks escape from Manhattan on a weekday afternoon—would raise even more eyebrows among the city’s millions of commuters.

Next time, I hope he turgs the sucker. Today, John McTiernan has recognized the mistakes concerning the weight of gold. Of course, being 35 times off the mark, is bad even by Bruckheimer standards.

For more on Hollywood’s magical power over weight and volume, read Cockeyed.com’s “How Much is Inside a Million Dollars.”

Improbable Adventure

Separated from the standard “action adventure” by your need to suspend disbelief to enhance enjoyment, the Improbable Adventure has a “whoa, how’s he going to get out of this one” at least every five minutes. Here are a few, non-Bond* films to exhibit this entertaining plot rollercoaster.


You know, this seemed like an improbable adventure, until we read about Oak Island. Now it seems like an elaborately guarded treasure trove could be just around the corner. Assuming the corner is near the seven seas we’ve been hearing so much about.

National Treasure

This movie requires so much suspension of disbelief that there should be a disclaimer, not just at the beginning, but every five minutes throughout the film. The acting is excellent, in spite of the ridiculous script. We imagine the outtakes reel is a spectacular laugh riot. The plot… well, it’s The DaVinci Code set in America with Ben Franklin as Leo and a pile of treasure as the Grail. Begin car chase now; watch for falling plot twists.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

What could be better than a Nick Cage film? Well, how about a sequel to a Nick Cage film? For the first time ever, Nick reprises a role. And somehow they talked Helen Mirren into joining them on the romp.

The Da Vinci Code

See Nat’l Treasure above. Also, briefly skim bible. Try not to take it too seriously, especially if you belong to a religion.

Jumaniji / Zathura

We’ll list these two together because they’re the same movie. And, both based on books by Chris Van Allsburg. Nice originality Chris. We guess he sat down to write the first book and couldn’t decide between the jungle and space as an interceding setting. So, you made money once, just do it again. Sounds good to us!


Like Indiana Jones, Clive Cussler’s Dirk finds himself constantly running from large rolling boulders and confronted by massive groups of militant locals. On top of all that the film comes together in a tremendous coincidence, the kind of, “wow it’s a small world ain’t it” climax that leaves you wondering just how tiny that Sahara desert is anyway (3.5 million square miles, actually). For improbably adventures, this is an action packed, laugh a minute romp with all the character archetypes covered. The only change we would make would be some kind of animal battle sequence, can you imagine McConaughey fighting a lion? Good times.

*All James Bond films are exempt from this category. Everyone knows Bond can escape any situation, no matter how tight, so there’s no need to suspend disbelief when 007 is on the screen.

Jurassic Park Is About Divorce, Not Dinosaurs

Spoilers below. But, mostly about divorces.

On the surface, these films appear to be simple monster films, bent on killing a few lawyers, hunters, and Samuel L. Jacksons. But just beneath this terrifying surface, we find the dark subtext. It stares back at us with its dark eyes, from a broken home.

The divorces of the Jurassic Park franchise:

Jurassic Park (1993)


The first film in the franchise pays unusual attention to the concept of divorce, discussing failed marriages at two main points. In the first instance, we hear that John Hammond can’t be at the dig site to meet the lawyer because he needs to be in New York, with his daughter, who is getting divorced.

What do you do with your kids while you’re busy with divorce lawyers? Ship them off to a dino-zoo, that’s what! So, we never see the unhappy couple. Instead, we meet the children and see them bond over multiple near-death experiences. (This concept will get repeated later!)



We’re also introduced to Dr. Ian Malcolm, who is “always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.” His complex and storied series of divorces is just hinted at in this film. But, what we do see is a character who approaches marriage with the same reckless speed that BD Wong devotes to cranking out dinosaurs.


The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)


They’re back! And by “they” I mean divorced people. Or, at least one of them.

Dr. Ian Malcolm reprises his role as a guy that’s divorced. And while we don’t get to see his wife, we do get to see his inexplicably black daughter, Kelly. These two are basically the main characters, thrusting the broken home and poor fathering to the forefront.


Jurassic Park III (2001)


Michael Crichton didn’t write this one. But, it’s all about divorce. Basically, this kid gets trapped on the dino-island just because his parents are split up. (The boyfriend takes the son on a very dangerous adventure trip. Gotta score points somehow!) Anyway, Paul and Amanda Kirby pretend to be together to get Dr. Alan Grant to the island. And in their adventures on the island, they end up back together! (We guess, they don’t really let you know what happens.)

What’s up with all these divorces? Michael Crichton was married 5 times and divorced 4. Is it any wonder he’s obsessed with broken homes? But, Michael Crichton died in 2008. So, it came as a surprise to us to see a divorce in Jurassic World!


Jurassic World (2015)


We were a good bit into this movie and starting to get worried that there wasn’t going to be a divorce. That’s when they nail us with it: Gray and Zach’s parents are getting split up! (Just like Tim and Lex’s invisible parents from the first film.) They’re getting mail from two different lawyers! There’s no hope for them! But, these brothers—at odds at the beginning of the film—are reunited by the divorce. (Also by running from dinosaurs.)

Divorce, not dinosaurs!

Kelli Giddish and her 3 Law & Order Characters

Many actors have played multiple characters on Law & Order. Sometimes, they move from one series to another, starting out on Criminal Intent and ending up on Special Victims Unit. It goes lots of ways. In this new series, we will examine these actors one at a time and chronicle their progression through the ranks.

Kelli Giddish

Kelli has done it all. Through Law & Order, she’s seen her roles go from victim, to criminal, to detective.

First appearance

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Season 8, Episode 12, “Outsider” (16 January 2007) — Here Kelli plays Kara Bawson, the second known victim of the rapist in the episode. She plays a rich socialite, the daughter of a wealthy real estate tycoon. (This episode is also the first appearance of Canadian Saulteaux actor Adam Beach as Detective Chester Lake.)

Second appearance

Law & Order, Criminal Intent, Season 7, Episode 5, “Depths” (1 November 2007) — Kelli plays Dana Stipe, an underwater treasure diver who is one of the main suspects in the murder of two other treasure hunters. She definitely fenced some coins that were salvaged illegally. But did she murder those divers? You gotta watch it to find out, no spoilers here. (She sure looks guilty in this screencap, though, amiright?)

Permanent character

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (From September 2011) — Kelli, we’re so proud of you! You got a permanent character! As Detective Amanda Rollins, she partners with Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) to solve the city’s especially heinous crimes—butt crimes!