Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Gary Varner

wyoming glory
Grand Tetons peak at sunrise with snake river overlook in Wyoming, US

The Last of Us, Episode 6

A tale of zombies and...communism?

Episode six starts out strong. We meet an elderly couple who has been living alone in Wyoming. Joel and Ellie break into their cabin and ask for directions in the rudest way possible—at gun point—which is a little over the top, and even the actors playing the couple seem to know it. As Joel sits beside the old pair, holding a gun and acting dour, the elderly man chats with him, sporting a bemused grin. Joel and Ellie get the directions they need and soon come across a group of men and women on horseback who hold them at gunpoint and check to see if they’re infected. Once it becomes clear that Joel and Ellie are fine, the riders ask Read More ›

underground tunnel
Generative AI illustration of underground sewer tunnel

The Last of Us, Episode 5

The show is back on track and improving

At the end of Episode four, Joel was being held a gunpoint by a mysterious child. We also saw that Ellie was being held at gunpoint by another man as well, but before episode five reveals what has become of them, the writers first give us a flashback, explaining how the child holding Joel at gunpoint, whose name turns out to be Sam, and the man holding Ellie at gunpoint, Henry, the same Henry Kathleen has been chasing, came to find Joel and Ellie in the first place. The two brothers were on the run after FEDRA fell to Kathleen’s resistance movement. Henry was an informant for FEDRA, and he snitched on Kathleen’s brother, who was the former leader of Read More ›

apocalyptic city
Concept art illustration of post-apocalyptic New York city

The Last of Us, Episode 4

After a derailing of the narrative, the actual plot makes a comeback

After a tough episode three, The Last of Us decides to return to the plot, and we see the writing quality improve somewhat. We pick up with Joel and Ellie driving down the road, and to be candid, the scenes are interesting. There was, however, one giant plot hole during this sequence I couldn’t ignore. It’s a little thing, but as someone who grew up in Missouri, I found it hilarious. So, while they are driving along, they come across a herd of bison. The subtext behind the camera shot is painfully obvious, “Now that man is gone, the buffalo have returned. Nature is healing!” Of course, what the camera crew failed to notice, or at least, what they were Read More ›

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wheelchair for physical assistance at nursing home, close up. Generative AI

The Last of Us, Episode 3 (Part 3)

Romanticizing a murder-suicide distracts us from the story and suggests an approval of euthanasia

In the previous review, we discussed the love story of Bill and Frank, and how it must’ve only been written to appease the critics because, while it stirred some controversy, it contributed nothing to the plot. We started out following Joel and Ellie across the countryside, but then, we were unexpectedly forced to watch an approximately forty-minute flashback that literally showed Bill and Frank’s entire cliché and boring life together. And before we can return to the real story, we must see how the two meet their untimely end. This final sequence starts out with Bill getting into a gunfight with some raiders who are all dying horribly at the hands of Bill’s various traps. At first, Bill seems to Read More ›

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looking upward the sky

The Last of Us, Episode 3 (Part 2)

Why were we subjected to this episode if it wasn’t going to contribute to the narrative?

Last time, we discussed how episode three started out relatively strong then unexpectedly shifted to another story altogether. It’s important to note that we are not watching a ten-minute flashback or some b-plot involving a couple of supporting characters. Almost all of the episode is devoted to Bill and Frank, and frankly, their story goes nowhere. As I mentioned before, the subject of this random entry into the series is Bill and Frank’s romantic relationship, and given the fact that this little deviation from the source material contributes nothing to the plot as a whole, it is strongly suspected that the only reason the writers chose to tell this story was to gain the admiration of critics who share their Read More ›

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Wallpaper of cordyceps fungi, realistic detail photo macro, illustration, like the movie the last of us,

The Last of Us, Episode 3 (Part I)

This episode serves as a bad omen when it comes to writers’ willingness to stick to the script

In episode two, Tess sacrifices herself after being bitten, and in episode three, we find Joel and Ellie grieving over her death. This scene is another example of the actors overplaying the anger when the tone should be more somber. Joel is hesitant to talk to Ellie until Ellie insists that Tess’s death wasn’t her fault, and that Joel and Tess made their own choices. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with the scene necessarily, but in the first two episodes, it’s already apparent that the HBO adaptation is having a difficult time establishing the father-daughter dynamic between Ellie and Joel that the game is known for. This scene only adds to that problem. However, this might not be an issue Read More ›

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Man and girl in post apocalyptic city. The last of us style. Generative AI.

The Last of Us Review: Episode 2

A rather slow episode despite the sonar zombies

Last time, we looked at the first episode of The Last of Us and talked about how it was well written, but if you are aware of the controversy surrounding this game and its sequel, then you know bad things are on the horizon. Once we reach episode two, the writing quality drops a little but not much. It’s still pretty good, at least, when it’s consistent with the source material. Ellie wakes up to find Joel and Tess staring at her with a loaded gun. Her guardians are having a hard time believing that she is not infected with the virus despite the fact that her wound has healed. There is a brief debate about whether or not to Read More ›

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Dinosaur Fossil (Tyrannosaurus Rex) Found by Archaeologists

Jurassic World: Dominion Part 4

A bad movie that makes an okay end to the franchise. But does it actually end here?

After Owen and Kayla survive a plane crash, they begin their search for Claire, evading yet another hungry dinosaur without so much as a limp. What follows is a sequence of random dinosaur encounters, each scene driven by a series of coincidences because all our characters are scattered throughout the valley, and we need them to get together somehow. The most egregious of these coincidences comes when our entire main cast finally meets. Ellie, Alan, and Maisie are on an underground train to an airport, but the bad guy, Dodgson, discovers what they’ve done and turns the train off. This forces them to wander through a series of caves, but they eventually escape with the help of Ian. They drive Read More ›

trex on fire
dinosaurs t rex on fire

Jurassic World: Dominion (Part 3)

In case you were still wondering, this movie is crashing and so is an airplane

In the last review, Ellie and Alan arrive in Biosyn and reunite with Ian, while Claire and Owen endure an absurd raptor chase. During the chaos, Owen and Claire learn that Maisie has been taken to Biosyn, Fortunately, a smuggler with a heart of gold, Kayla, has offered to fly them to Biosyn so they can sneak into the company’s complex and free their daughter. As they enter the valley where the Biosyn compound is located, they are informed that they’re flying into restricted airspace. If they do not turn around, then the Aerial Deterrent System will be turned off, and they will be vulnerable to the various breeds of flying reptiles. Kayla tries to stall the tower, but they Read More ›

ellie in last of us
modern concept artwork of a person wandering through an abandoned apocalyptic city overgrown by plants

The Last of Us Review (Part 1)

From a writing standpoint, the story in episode one is about as tight and well-written as one can expect, but will they maintain that standard going forward?

HBO Max has begun airing the series The Last of Us, which is based on one of the most popular video games to come out in recent years. However, if you’ve followed the video game series, then you know there’s a part two, and The Last of Us Part 2 has become known as one of the most infamous bait and switches in video game history. So, needless to say, there was a great amount of suspicion directed at this series before it ever aired. That makes reviewing this first episode rather difficult because the truth of the matter is that the episode is good. From a writing standpoint, it is solid. There are no plot holes or contrivances of Read More ›

dino eye
Dinosaur eye, Closeup yellow eye of the dinosaurs with terrifying. Dinosaur hunters are staring with horrible yellow eye.  Generative AI

Jurassic World: Dominion Review Part 2

Incorporating characters from the original movies gives continuity to the franchise

In the previous review, the clone daughter of one of the engineers from the first Jurassic Park, who was being protected by Claire and Owen from the first two movies of the second trilogy, was kidnapped, and her surrogate parents enlisted the help of the CIA to track her down. At the same time, Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant, our heroes from the first trilogy, suspect the international cooperation, Biosyn, of creating genetically altered locusts to eat their competition’s crops. Another survivor of the first Jurassic Park incident, Ian Malcolm, is working for Biosyn, and he has offered to allow them access to the cooperation’s secret lab. Ellie and Alan fly to Biosyn, where they find that many of the Read More ›

T-Rex side profile
Tyrannosaurus Rex close up on dark background. - Image

Jurassic World: Dominion Review Part 1

Too many unanswered questions and gaping plot holes in the grand finale

Like so many kids in my generation, one of the things that prompted my interest in science was the iconic movie, Jurassic Park, and also, like so many kids of my generation, Jurassic Park Three left me furious. Once the dinosaurs started talking, I was out. Then came Jurassic World, and I was left unimpressed but unoffended, so I called it good enough. And the last movie in the second trilogy left me in a similar boat. It fixed one of the big issues I had with Jurassic Park Three, so I can’t really say this is a bad movie. That being said, it is an excellent example of bad writing. The problem with the film is that it’s convoluted, Read More ›

galaxy quest tunnel
flying into tunnel, sci-fi spaceship corridor. Futuristic technology abstract seamless for tech titles and background. graphic network, big data, data center, server, internet, speed. 3D render

Galaxy Quest Review Part 2: The Show Goes On

The movie isn't perfect, but it's fun, and definitely better than The Orville Season Three...

Last time, we began our review of Galaxy Quest, a true parody of Star Trek. In the previous review, we’d ended with Jason Nesmith encountering a group of aliens which had mistaken the campy television show called Galaxy Quest for a record of Earth’s history, and therefore, had modeled their technology after the tv show. The cast found it impossible to explain to the aliens that they were actors and must now find a way to stop Sarris, the alien threatening to wipe out this race which has asked for their help called the Thermians. Jason and the rest of the cast are led to the bridge to negotiate with Sarris, who, of course, does not wish to surrender at Read More ›

galaxy and planet
Abstract planets and space background

Galaxy Quest Review Part 1: Bumbling Actors in Space

The 1999 Tim Allen movie is a true Star Trek spoof. It's not perfect, but it is entertaining and agenda free

After spending an extended period of time reviewing an abysmal Star Trek parody, The Orville Season Three, I wanted to review a parody I actually remembered enjoying. Galaxy Quest, a movie starring Tim Allen, which came out in 1999, has been referred to as a true Star Trek spoof, and watching it again all these years later, I tend to agree. Now, I should preference this review by saying that this is not a perfect movie. It suffers from plot holes and one big trope I despise, The Liar Revealed. But what it lacks in continuity it makes up for through lack of pretension. There are no sneaky social commentaries, no grand themes the writers are trying to sell. It’s Read More ›

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3D rendered fantasy alien planet. Rocks and  moon

Final Thoughts on The Orville Season Three — What Went Wrong

Unlike Star Trek, which put conflicting opinions in the mouths of beloved characters, Orville 3 screams its opinions to the point of harming the story

What a terrible season! I remember watching the beginning episodes of The Orville and thinking the show wasn’t quite there yet but held promise. Sadly, things did not improve with time. I think part of the problem is that The Orville was taken over by Hulu which is now owned by Disney. This, likely, prompted a degree of studio involvement that dropped the show’s quality. The Orville tried to address controversial subjects, just as Star Trek did years before. But it did not understand or reproduce the most important ingredient of the way the classic sci-fi series dealt with such topics. Star Trek used its main characters as voices that represented various positions. This is not to say that Star Read More ›

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fantasy robot wedding couple

Orville Episode 10: You’ve Heard of Saving the Best for Last?

Well, decide for yourself if you think that’s what the writers did. Some of us would describe it in other terms

Episode 10 fails for many reasons, but it’s not the kind of terrible where the episode is so bad you can throw your head back and laugh. Not only is it bad; it’s boring. Mixed up scenes, clunky dialog, and pretentious diatribes spread through the story. The story opens with Moclans Bortus and Klyden renewing their vows. Apparently, the all-male Moclans have a ritual where they essentially run naked through the forest until the “dominate male” catches the “submissive male” and . . . I’ll let you use your imagination. This scene is painful to watch. Two overweight men shamble through the woods in G-strings and the viewer is subjected to every horrendous second. I’m sure you’re wondering, “what kind Read More ›

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Abstract apocalyptic background - burning and exploding planet . digital art style, illustration painting

Should a Woman Die in Order to Save a Race of Robots?

In The Orville, Episode 9, Charly is confronted with that very choice

In Part 1 of my review of Orville Season Three, Episode 9, Charly and Isaac had invented a doomsday EMP device that can annihilate the robotic Kaylon. Ed doesn’t want to use the device to wipe out the entire robotic species because he thinks they are alive, though why he thinks so is never made clear. But, oh well. The Union decides to offer the Kaylon a peace treaty, and the robots accept the deal. However, unbeknownst to our heroes — such as they are — one member of the Union decides it would be better to destroy the Kaylon, and hands the device over to the humanoid Moclans and the reptilian Krill, who have recently formed an alliance. The Read More ›

Group of female robots close to each others cyborg army concept 3d rendering

Is It Technically Genocide If We Kill a Planetful of Robots?

Orville Season 3, Episode 9, features an EMP-like device that could wipe out the robotic Kaylon

This is the best episode of the third season, but there was still plenty to question about the ethical underpinnings. The first scene shows the Krill’s Supreme Chancellor, Teleya, forming an alliance with the Moclans, who have just been ousted from the Union. This doesn’t make any sense. The Moclans hate women. Teleya is a woman. Now, the writers do take the time to address this discrepancy, but it’s a superficial attempt, and therefore, not enough to convince the viewer that this alliance could really happen. Stop and consider who the Moclans are: They don’t just have a bias against women. They hate women. So much so that they turn every child on their planet into a man. There is Read More ›

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decisions

The Orville 3 8: The Writers Finally Figured Out Moral Ambiguity

Is it right to endanger the lives of many to save one? The Orville crew must confront that in the case of the Moclan girl Topa

Judging by my mixed emotions regarding the Episode 8 from Season 3, I’d say the writers did fairly well with tackling a morally ambiguous story. There are still problems, but nothing that damages the story. For once, the writers do not scream their opinions at the audience. They even chose two likable characters to act as surrogates for the opposing points of view. As the story opens, Topa wants to meet Heveena, the female Moclan who defended her in court when she was a baby and tried to prevent the all-male (by preference) race from turning her into a boy. Heveena was unable to convince the Moclans to spare Topa, but the young girl later learned the truth and was Read More ›

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Graphic abstract butterfly escapes opening heart background

Orville: Isaac Gets To Be a Real Boy … for 30 seconds

Should he be given the opportunity to feel the painful emotions associated with his tragic circumstances? It's a dilemma that Dr. Finn does not seem to recognize

This episode was nowhere near as abysmal as Episode Six. Granted not much happened, but it does offer one interesting idea. There are three main stories going on at the same time, and two of them intersect. First, the Orville is attempting to make peace with a race of aliens called the Janisi, who are a matriarchal society. In order to open negotiations with the Janisi, the crew decides to gender swap the staff on the ship. This is played for laughs, as a kind of a gotcha to all men, but for me, none of the jokes really landed. The bits are mostly just Seth MacFarlane stumbling around while carrying a bunch of suitcases for this alien race. It’s Read More ›