Ever Notice In The Movies ...
In the movie "Contact," Jodie Foster says,
"There are 400 billion stars out there, just in our galaxy alone. If just
one out of a million of those had planets, and just one in a million of
those had life, and just one out of a million of those had intelligent life,
there would be literally millions of civilizations out there."
Afraid not, Jodie. If there are 400 billion stars out there, and one out of a
million of those has planets, and one out of a million of those has life,
and one out of a million of those has intelligent life, then the chances of
there being intelligent life here on Earth are actually a million to one.
We'd better start looking!
Check out our Numeracy Page for the Mathemagician's
Here's a letter I received from Petra in Germany. I enjoyed it so much I
thought you might all like to read it.
"You know the TV-series "Manimal"? (Started in 1982). About this professor
Jonathan Chase (Simon McCorkindale) who can change into nearly every animal he
wants to? (Well, I love this kind of story..)
"In one episode, the story is about a young girl found and caught by wolf
hunters. She had lived with a wolf pack since she was about 4 years old.
The prof and his friends try to communicate with her and soon she shows
them - with action figures and a small toy boat - how her family was killed
in an explosion on a river and how she joined the wolf pack afterwards. As
the story continues they meet some people trying to kill the girl for no
obvious reason. Their leader soon turns out to be a relative of her who
wants to inherit her parents' money. Of course the prof stops him and saves
"Nice story, nice performance. No bloopers I found.
"Some time after this series was canceled in Germany, a new one started:
"Thunder in Paradise" (with Hulk Hogan). I watched a few episodes and one
day there was this one:
"A young boy was found and caught by wolf hunters. He had lived...
"I think you can imagine what I want to say. It was the same story, ABSOLUTELY
the same story, including the part with the toy boat and the action figures
and nearly every other scene, too. Even the kids' behaviour during both
episodes was the same, "what" they were saying and "how" they were saying
it! There were only minor differences (the girl was a boy and he was saved
in a different way - it might have been too obvious to let Hulk Hogan change
into some kind of animal to save the boy (grin), but the kid was also i.e.
meant to die in a wooden case thrown in the sea...
"It was an exact copy of the "Manimal" episode. Unfortunately both series
aren't running here any more, so I don't know the episodes' names.
"Since "Manimal" had started about 10 years before "Thunder in Paradise", the
writers of "Thunder" must have copied the story. I don't think it's such a
big crime to do that (heck, EVERYONE does it), but it IS a crime to do it so
"Don't you agree? :)"
Yes, Petra, I agree. Although this is a really blatant example, I've also
noticed lots of copying across TV shows. Often the plot of an episode of
"Babylon 5" would show up on "Deep Space Nine" a few weeks later. And have you
noticed how often all sitcoms will have the same topic in the same week?
Coincidence? No, lack of creativity.
I got a later update on this story from Jackie Stewart, who writes:
"Years ago I was actually a fan of Manimal... so I watched that wolf girl
episode. I was surprised to see it again about three years later.... this
time on "The Wizard" an equally short-lived show starring the late great
little person David Rappaport. Now I have learned from you that there is
yet another recurrence of this same script as an episode of the "Thunder
in Paradise" Hulk Hogan show. Whoever that writer is, that story is a
curse upon ratings."
General Rules about Computers in the Movies
(This is a list we found tacked on a tree, and since it had apparently been
there over the winter, we had some difficulty reading it.)
- Word processors never display a cursor.
- You never have to use the space-bar when typing long sentences.
- Movie characters never make typing mistakes, even though what they type
often doesn't show up on the monitor.
- People typing on a computer can safely turn it off without saving the data.
- ...monitors display ... letters. (we couldn't read this one)
- High-tech computers, such as those used by NASA and the CIA, usually have
easy to understand graphical interfaces.
- Those computers that don't have graphical interfaces have incredibly
powerful text-based command shells that can correctly understand and execute
commands typed in plain English. Note: Command line interfaces will give you
access to any information you want if you simply type, "ACCESS THE SECRET
FILES" on any near-by keyboard.
- You can infect a computer with a destructive virus by simply typing
"UPLOAD VIRUS". (See "Fortress".)
- All computers are connected. You can access the information on the
villain's desktop computer even if it's turned off.
- Powerful computers beep whenever you press a key or the screen changes.
Some computers also slow down the output on the screen so that it doesn't go
faster than you can read. (Really advanced computers will also emulate the
sound of a dot-matrix printer.)
- All computer panels have ... thousands of volts and have
explosive devices underneath their surface. Malfunctions are indicated by a
bright flash of light, a puff of smoke, a shower of sparks and an explosion
that causes you to jump backwards.
- A hacker is always able to break into the most sensitive computer in the
world by guessing the secret password in two tries.
- You can always bypass the "PERMISSION DENIED" message by using the
"OVERRIDE" function. (See "Demolition Man" and others.)
- Computers only take 2 seconds to boot up, instead of the average 2 minutes
for desktop PCs and 30 minutes or more for larger systems that can run 24
hours, 365 days a year without a reset.
- Complex calculations and loading of huge amounts of data will be
accomplished in under three seconds. Movie modems usually appear to transmit
data at the speed of two gigabytes per second.
- When the power plant/missile site/main computer overheats, all control
panels will explode shortly before the entire building will.
- If you display a file on the screen and someone deletes the file, it also
disappears from the scr...
- If a disk contains encrypted files, you are automatically asked for a
password when you insert it.
- Computers can interface with any other computer regardless of the
manufacturer or galaxy where it originated. (See "Independence Day".)
- Computer disks will work on any computer that has a floppy drive, and all
software is usable on any platform.
- Most computers ... have reality-defying three-dimensional active
animation, photo-realistic graphics capabilities.
- Searches on the internet will always return what you are looking for (and
no more) no matter how vague your keywords are. (See "Mission Impossible",
where Tom Cruise searches with keywords like "file" and "computer" and only 3
results are returned.)
(We tried this at Alta Vista and got 7984495 matches on computer and 9740837
on file, which was too many for the search engine)
The case of the vanishing cops! In the 1971 movie "Vanishing Point," with
Barry Newman, he is an ex-racer driving cars from state to state. He is
driving a six pack Baracuda and every cop is chasing him,yet in one scene
he is on the road all alone and puts on his turn signal to change lanes!
In the movie "Blank Check", Brian Bonsall asks his computer how long it
will take $11 to become $1,000,000 at 3.45% interest. The computer works for
a few seconds, and spins up the number 342,506 years.
This is a good example of innumeracy in the movies. The actual time it would
take is 337 years, which is still much longer than the kid could possibly
wait. So the movie is not even close. Doesn't anyone ever check these things?
To see how you could have quickly estimated that 337 years (you would have
gotten 500 years, still a lot closer than the movie), check out our tNumeracy Page.
The Running Man
At the beginning of the movie, the Arnie character gets himself in trouble
by refusing to kill civilians, saying, "I will not kill innocent people." At
the end of the movie, a TAPE of this event is shown. On the tape, Arnie
says, "I will not kill innocent human beings."
What, they had to shoot it again live for the TAPE version?!!
Did you notice the kid glancing at the computer screen, which was showing a
GUI that looked a lot like an X-Window system, and saying, "Hey, I know this,
it's a Unix system!" Of course, X-Window runs on many different systems, and
is designed to make them all look the same.
As if that wasn't bad enough, she then starts opening windows, clicking on
maps, and all sorts of other GUI things. We all know that Unix is a command
line system with arcane commands like grep. Heck, if I had suddenly
been confronted with a Unix system, I would just click into a Bourne shell,
su to the root, do a ps -ef, then probably kill -9 on
the bad processes.
Proving again that there are no actual computer people involved in Hollywood
movies, one of the engineers in this movie holds a computer chip up to a
magnifying glass and says to his boss, Michael Douglas, "Look, there's a
By the way, the 1983 movie, "This Girl For Hire", did it first.
The heroine holds microchips up to the light to find out which ones are
blank and which one contains the video game code.
But if there are no computer people, where do all those great special
effects, like the silly VR scene at the end of Disclosure, come from?
A newspaper article is shown on the screen. The title is "Immobiliare
Takeover Appears Likely, Stock Soars" by "Barbara Law, Staff Reporter."
The first and second sentences of the article are:
"Enter the Procedure commands exactly as they are shown below. Spelling
errors, leading, trailing, or unnecessary blanks are guaranteed to cause
Really! Check out the movie if you don't believe us! Doesn't Hollywood know
we all have VCRs these days?
Earth: The Final Conflict
Just how dumb are these aliens, anyway? They are paranoid and careful enough
to make everyone who deals with them have implants, which ensure
cooperation. But the doctor who works for them and puts the implants into
other people's heads doesn't have an implant of her own! Duh...
In the same series, we have the case of the multi-billionaire who decides to
go undercover and become a spy. What are his qualifications? Well, he's very
old (too old to climb buildings, etc), very rich, and extremely
identifiable... Didn't he ever think of hiring someone more qualified for
We loved the movie. Part of the premise was, if a time-traveller changed the
past, that change affected the present and everyone, except the traveller
himself, would forget the old past. On the TV series, however, if someone
changes the past, guess what happens!? Well, nothing much actually. Books
and newspaper articles change, but people's memories don't. This destroys
the whole science-fiction premise, and turns it into just another action
From the same episode, they have a history 'expert' who has studied Jack the
Ripper in enough detail to have figured out who he probably was. When asked
if anything significant happened on a certain date in Victorian England, he
remembers several things, but forgets about Jack the Ripper until he looks
up the date on his computer.
Another thing we noticed in "Victorian England," was that they apparently
didn't have the budget to hire any English actors! Various people tried to
fake English accents, without much success.
If you have any movie bloopers or TV oddities,
write to Stewart.
Some quick trivia
The plot-twist-filled movie "Blackmail" is based on the short story
"Passing for Love".
The (unlikely) name of the book on which the two movies "Pretty
Poison" are based is "She Let Him Continue".
The original title of the song "Duelling Banjos" was "Feudin' Banjos". So,
why did they bother to change it?
The essence of science: Ask an impertinent question, and you are on the
way to a pertinent answer.
Jacob Bronowski, 1973
Check out some silly ads and slogans.
Ever wonder what happens when movies are pre-empted?
Visit a page of other questions.
Visit a useless page.
Return to Grannus' circle.
Go back to the front gate.
Page maintained by Stewart of Esmerel.