1945 World Series

The 1945 World Series is considered by some to be one of the worst World Series ever played, mostly due to how World War II had depleted the MLB rosters. I wrote a lot about what the war did to MLB rosters in my 1944 World Series post.

Researching these wartime World Series is tough. Every stat I look at, every performance I read about, needs an asterisk next to it that reminds me: “The best baseball players on the planet weren’t even playing that season, so of course they dominated.”

Imagine facing the 2015 Dodgers if Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke both enlisted in the military. Suddenly Buster Posey is hitting .400 off Brett Anderson and Friends and the defending champion Giants are making a postseason run in an odd year for a change.

But the flip side of the conversation is also true: If the Dodgers didn’t have their staff aces, then the Giants probably wouldn’t have Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner either. So the featured matchup is no longer Kershaw/Posey…instead you’re really excited for Brett Anderson vs Nori Aoki or something. Shoot, if half the league was off to war, suddenly Aoki might be an All Star and a Gold Glove outfielder.

My point here is two-fold. 1. Wartime baseball was mediocre baseball all around the league and 2. Statistics can’t be given any significant value. It’s all a mirage.

So when I tell you the Chicago Cubs led the NL in team ERA (2.98) and batting average (.277) take those stats with a grain of salt. This is exemplified in Phil Cavarretta, who hit .355/.489/.500 and won the NL MVP that season, despite never coming close to those numbers in any other year. He was a career .293 hitter, but his best years were 1944 and 1945 due to the war.

Bullpens have evolved over the years as teams are becoming more and more aware of their value, but the Cubs apparently never had one. They led the league in complete games in 1945 with 86 – over half of their games. Their primary regular season arms were Claude Passeau, Hank Wyse, Paul Derringer and Ray Prim, but they acquired Hank Borowy from the Yankees mid-season and he became their best pitcher down the stretch. Chicago Manager Charlie Grimm leaned heavily on this battery in the Series – especially Borowy and Passeau – and, in the opinion of this blogger, was the primary reason the Cubs failed to win it all that year.

There are two other major reasons the Detroit Tigers managed to come back from a 2-1 series deficit and steal 3 of 4 games at Wrigley Field to win the 1945 World Series. One is a human. The other is not.

Hammerin’ Hank

The human is Hall of Fame slugger, Hank Greenberg, who was the first ballplayer to return to baseball from active duty. He hadn’t played since 1941, yet on July 1, 1945, he hit a home run against Connie Mack‘s Philadelphia Athletics in first game back in the bigs. From there, he started poorly: .219/.324/.438 in his first 29 games back. Essentially for the month of July he was 2015 Omar Infante with a slight power boost. But then over the final 49 games of the season he hit .362/.448/.603 and powered the Tigers to the AL pennant finishing a game ahead of the Washington Senators.

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Here’s a fun story: on the final game of the 1945 regular season, the Tigers were playing in Sportsman’s Park against the reigning AL Champs, the St. Louis Browns. The game was 3-2 Browns in the 9th. It was getting late and the umpire was about to call the game due to darkness. The bases were loaded for Greenberg, when the umpire said, “Sorry Hank, I’m gonna have to call the game. I can’t see the ball.”

Hank replied, “Don’t worry, George. I can see it just fine.” He hit the next pitch over the fence and the Tigers won the pennant, avoiding a one game playoff against the Senators.

In the World Series, Greenberg hit over .300, slugged nearly .700 and hit the only two Tiger home runs of the series. So if the Cubs want to point the finger at one person who cost them the 1945 World Series, it’s Hank Greenberg.

But Cubs fans rarely point the finger at a human at all. Instead, they blame a goat.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

The Cubs went into Game 4 – the first game at Wrigley Field – having taken two games in Detroit and leading the series 2-1. All they needed to do was win 2 of the next 4 at home.

Greek immigrant and tavern owner, Billy Sianis, purchased two tickets to Game 4. And accompanying him to the game was his pet goat, Murphy. The goat had fallen off a truck outside his tavern one day and Sianis decided to take in the animal as a sort of mascot. The goat was allowed to enter the ballpark, and was allowed to stay in its seat through part of the game. Some complaining from nearby fans were quelled early, but after a short rain delay, the goat began to stink, and that was when Sianis and his goat were asked to leave Wrigley Field.

Upon leaving, the angry tavern owner supposedly declared a curse on the Cubs, stating that the team would lose the game, the Series, and would never play in a World Series again.

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The Cubs lost Game 4, and proceeded to lose Games 5 and 7 as well, dropping the series 4 games to 3, and as of this post, 1945 was the last time the Cubs have ever played in a World Series. Despite a few exceptionally good Cubs teams, the Curse of the Billy Goat has yet to be broken.

Charlie Grimm loves Hank Borowy

But again, when I look at this series on paper, I don’t think Hank Greenberg OR Murphy the Goat were the reasons for the Tigers eventual triumph over the Cubs. If I’m pointing the finger somewhere, I’m pointing it at manager Charlie Grimm’s use of starting pitcher Hank Borowy.

Borowy debuted as a rookie in 1942 and even got some MVP votes. He won 14 games for the Yankees’ 1943 championship team and won Game 3 of that series. In three and a half years in New York he won 56 games to the tune of a 2.74 ERA. And down the stretch with Chicago in 1945, he was even better, going 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA. He was downright dominant – all during the war, mind you…he was exceptionally average in 1946 and beyond.

So sure, ride your ace to the championship. I get it. It’s a solid strategy that we’ve seen play out numerous times. But this was on another level.

Hank Borowy

First of all, Borowy threw a complete game shutout in Game 1 in Detroit scattering 6 hits and 5 walks and a hit batsman. The Cubs led 4-0 after the first, 7-0 after the third, eventually won 9-0. A potential first demerit against Grimm: the game was well in hand after the first few innings, why couldn’t he have rested his best pitcher a bit? And it’s not like he was dominant – he faced 37 batters and allowed 12 baserunners. But you can’t really get on his case about it. It was a different era entirely, and why waste other pitchers? It’s nitpicking, I suppose, and inconsequential to Grimm’s major blunder later in the series.

So since he threw a bazillion pitches in Game 1, he didn’t pitch again until Game 5 in Chicago. He made it into the 6th with minimal damage – the score was tied 1-1 at that point, the only run coming off a sac fly. But then the floodgates opened the third time through the Tigers’ lineup: Doc Cramer singled, Greenberg doubled making it 2-1, Roy Cullenbine singled advancing Greenberg to third and Rudy York singled scoring Greenberg and forcing Borowy out of the game with 2 baserunners on, nobody out, and the score 3-1. Those two baserunners would score, making it 5 earned runs credited to Hank Borowy, who would got the loss.

Game 6 was a marathon. It was 5-1 Cubs entering the 7th inning, but when starter Claude Passeau – who had thrown a 1 hit shutout in Game 3) gave up his second run of the ballgame, Grimm made a move and brought in Game 2 starter Hank Wyse.

Wyse was, in a word, awful. He gave up another run before getting the final out in the 7th. The Cubs scored 2 in the bottom half with Wyse striking out with 2 outs and the bases loaded to end the inning. Wyse came back out for the 8th and gave up 2 more runs before getting an out. Grimm had seen enough and made another move bringing in Game 4 starter, Ray Prim, who gave up 2 more – one inherited form Wyse and the other his own. The Cubs failed to score in the bottom half. The score was 7-7 entering the 9th.

It was an ugly chain of events. Grimm couldn’t have known Wyse and Prim would be so awful. Nor would he have known the pitchers spot would come up with the bases loaded after the Cubs sent 8 men to the plate the next half inning. Up 2 with 10 outs to go, He probably thought he could ride Wyse and Prim to victory and bring back Borowy for Game 7 on short rest. Plus, now with the Cubs one loss away from elimination, Grimm had to pull out all the stops.

When Charlie Grimm looked over at the bullpen, he saw 5 options…

Paul Derringer, Hy Vandenberg and Paul Erickson had thrown the most during the regular season. Derringer was in the rotation before Borowy was acquired from New York, and was moved to the bullpen for the World Series. He had also thrown 2 innings the day before. Vandenberg and Erickson had both made appearances in Games 4 and 5 the previous 2 days and weren’t as fresh, but in an elimination game everyone is available.

Bob Chipman was probably just happy to be there. The 26 year old was one of the few young guys in the Series with the majority being drafted into military service. He’d faced two batters the day before, walking one before recording a groundout. So he was availble. But he was a lefty, and the Tigers had Rudy York, Jimmy Outlaw and Bob Swift coming up – all righties. Not a terrific option either.

Which left the guy who had just given up 5 earned runs in 5+ innings the day before: Hank Borowy.

Incredibly, Borowy was awesome. He allowed two singles to reach in the 9th before Houdini-ing out of the jam with a play at the plate. He then faced the minimum the rest of the way allowing two more singles, but getting Greenberg to hit into a double play in the 10th and Joe Hoover was caught trying to steal in the 12th.

He went 4 scoreless before the Cubs finally managed to win 8-7 in 12 on a Stan Hack walkoff double scoring the speedy pinch runner Bill Schuester from first.

The Cubs had survived, but the Tigers had forced the bullpen dry. With a day off between Games 6 and 7, the Cubs manager had another choice: Who should start Game 7?

Derringer was the best option. The guy was a 6-time All Star once upon a time, and he had finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting three different times and as recent as 1942. He had logged 30 starts and 213.2 innings during the regular season. And he was fresh having not pitched since Game 5. Grossly under-utilized.

Vandenberg, Erickson and Chipman were all options too. They’d combined for 26 starts during the regular season and had each put up an ERA in the low- to mid-3’s. Prim and Wyse had only thrown an inning or so each, so should’ve both been available to start. Even Passeau, who had thrown 6.2 innings two days ago, would’ve been a better option than the man who got the ball.

Because Grimm did the unthinkable.

He gave the ball back to Hank Borowy.

I mean, come on. He’s literally the only guy who should not have been an option. Sure, he’d shocked everyone by throwing 4 shutout innings just two days ago, but he was fortunate to get out of that unscathed, and he’d thrown 5+ innings and taken the loss just the day before that magic act. How in the world Grimm thought the solution to the problem was Hank Borowy is beyond me.

To start the game, Borowy gave up 3 consecutive singles and Grimm pulled him for Derringer. The Tigers scored 5 in the 1st and went on to win the game 9-3 and the Series 4-3.

The Tiger were beatable. The Cubs were the better team outside of Greenberg. Cubs fans can act like they’re cursed by some smelly wet goat, but the truth is this: Charlie Grimm’s inability to manage his pitching staff is what cost the Cubs the 1945 World Series. Overusing Borowy and underusing the rest of the bullpen, specifically Derringer.

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The Last of the Living from 1945

One last bits of info: the last living ballplayer from that Detroit Tigers team is Ed Mierkowicz. The only action he saw in the World Series was playing left field the final three outs of Game 7 as a defensive replacement for Hank Greenberg.

The first batter of the inning singled to Mierkowicz in left, but Detroit starter, Hal Newhouser (who got roughed up in Game 1, but threw all 9 innings of Games 5 and 7) gets the next three outs to end the game and Mierkowicz gets to party on the field, running in from the outfield. I encourage you to go read his story by The Detroit News here.

And the last living Cub from that 1945 team died last Spring. Lennie Merullo was 98. He played shortstop for the 1945 squad. Here’s an article from the NY Times about his life and legacy.

-apc.

Image credits: Program here. Billy Goat here. Wrigley facade here. Greenway card here. Borrow card here.

 

Independence Day: Resurgence – A scene-by-scene trailer breakdown of the best movie coming out in 2016.

“We always knew they would come back.”

There are literally dozens of us who consider Independence Day our favorite movie of all time. I confess this for myself with no reservation whatsoever. Empire Strikes Back is good. Back to the Future is better. But Independence Day…well, that’s just the pinnacle of cinematic achievements, if you ask me. It can’t be topped.

Independence Day has everything anyone could ever want out of a movie. Will Smith as the rugged, hilariously glib yet sensitive fighter pilot, Captain Steven Hiller. Jeff Goldblum as the tech savvy MIT dropout who cracks the alien code embedded in Earth’s satellites, David Levinson. His ex-wife happens to be the top assistant to the President of the United States, and say what you will about Daniel Day Lewis and the All State Guy’s performances, I’m sure we can all agree that the greatest POTUS ever cast was, without a doubt, Bill Pullman in ID4.

But wait! Don’t forget about Randy Quaid! YES! Uncle Eddie stars as the drunken crop duster who claims to have abducted by aliens. And he’s the first to tell everybody that he knows exactly what’s going to happen when those creatures make it into our atmosphere: “They’re going to kill us all!”

And oh, they try. And they’re wildly successful those buggers. They take out a dozen or so major cities – New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, most major European cities. The Americans unsuccessfully try to “nuke the bastards” over Houston, so that city goes to crap too. But just when everything seems lost, Jeff Goldblum saves the day by giving the alien technology a computer virus – “a cold” – long enough for Randy Quaid and others to fly in there and “take em down…do your…stuff.”

Queue the dramatic presidential speech before the attack – only the third most dramatic moment in United States history following only Al Michael’s call of the USA hockey team defeating the Soviet Union in the 1980 winter Olympics, and – also from Miracle (my 4th favorite movie) – Herb Brooks’s pre-game locker room speech about tonight being “your time.” Pullman works a few dozen make shift “fighter pilots” into a victorious reverie before they all fly off to attack the giant saucer hovering above Las Vegas.

And wouldn’t you know it, but Goldblum’s crazy harebrained idea works. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum pilot an undercover alien spacecraft into the mothership. They upload the virus. They get stuck. They smoke celebratory “fat lady sings” cigars after the mission turns into a suicide mission. They deploy the nuke with a 30 second timer. They somehow manage to escape the mothership, and – just before the alien craft explodes in a Death Star II white orb – Goldblum regretfully does an Elvis impersonation.

Meanwhile, Randy Quaid and President Bill Pullman are engaging in close-range maneuvers with the local craft over Vegas. Everyone uses up their missiles except Quaid, who has to fly his craft straight into the ship’s mega-weapon in order for it to go off. It does. And the entire ship goes down.

They spread the word, and soon there are Randy Quaids in every nation taking out hostile alien crafts around the world.

Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum land in the desert. They’re somehow still smoking the same cigars, because somehow traveling between Earth and space is 15-20 minute process.

But that was 20 years ago. That was the War of 1996, as they’re calling it. It lasted just two days, but cost millions of lives. This is 2016, and the buggers have finally come back, just like we all knew they would.

***

About a year ago I remember hearing through the grapevine that they were making a sequel. I probably danced a jig of some sort in the moment, but then promptly forgot about it until Sunday afternoon when they released the trailer for “Independence Day: Resurgence” during a mid-afternoon Cleveland Browns football game. As all major movie releases do.

I had a mild freak out as it aired. I hopped on YouTube and watched the trailer again. And again. Things escalated quickly, one thing led to another, and I changed my Twitter avatar to a screen shot of Jeff Goldblum in an astronaut suit.

The trailer looks awesome. It’s embedded at the top if you want to take a look. Or it’s on YouTube here.

In a simultaneously executed marketing maneuver, a website was launched with the chronology of events that’s taken place in the world since 1996. The website is Warof1996.com if you’d like to be fully up to date.

Essentially, there are 6 major bits of information we need to know about the earth in 2016…

  1. Twenty Years of World Peace – Earth has experienced 20 years of World Peace essentially, since the enemy is no longer each other, but is now a different species entirely.
  2. Earth Space Defense – Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is appointed as head over the Earth Space Defense program (ESD).
  3. Technology – The earthlings learn to utilize the alien technology, creating things like “smart phones, bladeless fans, drones and airport security scanners.”
  4. RIP Will Smith – Tragically, we learn that Will Smith’s character, Steven Hiller, has died. Apparently while they were trying to harness the alien’s weapons there was some malfunction and he ‘sploded. Sounds like they just didn’t have Willie in the budget.
  5. Moon Base – There’s a base on the moon that is fully operational (and, perhaps, based on one of the images on the website, bases being built or planned for Mars and one of Saturn’s moons). I can’t find anything on the site that denies the fact that this Moon Security Base is actually called the Death Star and is also a mega-weapon of some sort. It’s a working title, for now.
  6. Aliens in the Congo – Okay this is the final and probably most important bit of info: when all the Randy Quaids were able to take down the alien ships, one of them went down in Central Africa, in the Congo, and had survivors! According to the interactive site, it took them 10 years to neutralize that group, but based on the trailer I just watched, it seems to me this is where everything new begins.

There’s more than that, but it’s the nuts and bolts. I encourage you to take a gander at the site yourself. Again, warof1996.com.

None of that is a spoiler alert, by the way. All of that is stuff they want you to know. It’s not like this Star Wars: Episode VII secrecy business. ID4 is freely giving you the storyline between July 4, 1996, and July 4, 2016.

The world is united, but, again, we always knew they would come back.

***

Can we talk about the trailer? I’d like to talk about the trailer. Let’s take it scene by scene…

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It opens with a convoy headed, presumably, into the Congo where the aliens survived in some capacity for a decade after their initial invasion. Some woman has found something that only Jeff Goldblum would understand…

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..creepy alien skeletal structures? They’re present, but is this what they’ve found? It’s not stated that they’re out in the Congo, but the terrain certainly would suggest it and those structures look a lot like these from the @IndependenceDay twitter handle advertising the interactive site:

My best guess: ever since they finally took out the surviving aliens, archeologists and anthropologists and scientists have been going ape trying to learn about the species. And they’ve found something, but it isn’t just these creepy remains that they found, but something much larger.

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Enter Goldblum to raucous applause in theaters across the globe: “Oh my God.”

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What is THAT?! Is it some sort of civilization? Are those ruins from the alien ship coming down back in 1996? What is it they are looking at from that bluff? Is it Mos Eisley? Hard to say, but whatever they found out there is likely some sort of signal that the aliens are returning, or, at minimum, not entirely dead.

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Wait…Gale?! What are you doing here? It seems Liam Hemsworth is taking over the Will Smith role for the sequel. Here’s what I want to know – was it Will Smith’s decision to not come back, or was it Team ID4? On the one hand, Will probably doesn’t look as cool in dog tags in 2016, but c’mon, the guy just put out Focus where he plays the quintessentially smooth broseph. The Fresh Prince still gots it.

Anyway. Liam seems to be the new cool kid in town. Moving on..

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Hemsworth flies one of these bad boys. They appear to be a hybrid fighter jet/alien craft. Kinda disappointing. They look more like a Nerf dart/football product than they do a plane or ship, but whatever.

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Obligatory moon shadow shot.

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Then it appears some men are playing laser tag. This suggests that unlike the original, there is actually going to be some individual battles between aliens and humans and not just between flying vessels. Hand to hand combat even. I’m assuming the gun this gentleman is holding is one of the updated technologies humans have managed to harness from the aliens. During this shot, there’s a gravely voice talking about how the aliens haunt his dreams, which ends by saying, “They’re coming back.” But who is talking?

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Gasp. It’s Pullman! He’s hardly recognizable with his grey beard and receding hairline, but it’s him, and he’s as intense with his monologues as ever. In the original, the alien enters into the mind of Bill Pullman and takes him as a hostage or something. I was never totally clear how that worked. Anyway, after the fact, the President reveals that he saw it’s thoughts and saw what they planned to do. If Bill is saying that the aliens haunt his dreams, you wonder if the former POTUS is able to communicate or at least have some level of vision into their world and existence. It seems as though Pullman is the one who is first aware that they’re coming back.

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And look there – it’s another familiar face! It’s Julius Levinson! The actor is Judd Hirsch, and he play’s Jeff Goldblum’s dad. The outspoken Jewish man is probably the most underrated character in the original. He has some of the greatest one-liners in ID4, and it’s encouraging to see that he’s making a return performance. But what is he looking at?

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Ah. Of course. I tell you what, if Independence Day was able to win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects back in 1996, imagine what it’ll be able to accomplish in 2016?! I have high expectations, and this shot is a beautiful start.

Thus completes the set up. Now we enter into the sequence of characters we don’t know yet…

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First up. This has to be Will Smith’s son, right? I mean, he’s the only black guy in the original, so it’s the only explanation. I’m assuming this is adult-Buckwheat until I hear otherwise. But what will his role be? It appear Liam is already filling the fighter pilot role. Perhaps this kid has some other purpose? He looks pretty fierce.

Next up…these three…

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No idea. But I’m sure their plot line can’t be more riveting than the tertiary characters in the original. Randy Quaid’s three kids – the Responsibly Oldest Miguel, the Sickly Middle Child and the Angsty Crop Top Daughter from Mrs. Doubtfire – their roles are so vital to the story! I can’t wait to see what deeply moving parts these folks have.

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Woah. Carnage. 

I’ve only spent about 12 total hours in D.C., but that’s clearly the nation’s capitol. You can see the Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in a line on the right. That smoke is where the  White House sits, but it was blown up in the first movie, so this has to be a flashback or something – what it looked like out the window of a plane nearby when it was smoldering after the aliens moved on to Baltimore or whatever major city came next on their annihilation tour. Will there be flashbacks in Resurgence? Hmmmm.

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It’s Hemsworth and Goldblum running on the moon while missiles or meteorites or something explode behind them. One of the two astronauts gets launched…not sure which one though. Things are starting to look like Armageddon.

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The money shot. This appears to be inside some command center. On the War of 1996 website it says that the moon base is commanded from Bejing, China, but we just saw Goldblum on the moon, so my guess is this is inside the moon base. But since space travel only takes a cigar’s-length, it’s possible he could make the trek off-planet during the film.

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She has to be the new President, right? The guys next to her start shooting through an open door moments later and she just stands there. Highly protected individual. Gotta be some politician or world leader.

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Then there’s this scene with some woman chasing down a trio of helicopters. Sure reminds me of the scene when the First Lady’s chopper gets taken out by the White House explosion. As in the original, it seems that the battle is happening on two fronts simultaneously: Earthside and in space.

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Okay, I think I’ve got it – Not Jaden Smith follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes a fighter pilot too. Duh. While Gale follows Jeff Goldblum into space to do…whatever he’s doing up there.

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Okay now it REALLY looks like Armageddon. What is that guy doing there?! He’s going to sabotage the whole mission by trying to revert to a secondary protocol against Bruce Willis’s orders! No! The drill has to keep going! Get more water on it to cool it down! It’ll work!

Then there’s a smattering of dramatic looking faces and some explosions that I can’t really make sense of, but the final moments are very clear:

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The title screen followed by one more Goldblum one-liner…

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“That is definitely…bigger than the last one.”

The aliens are coming back, and this time it’s more dire than 1996. Ahhhhhh!

Kinda makes you forget Star Wars is coming out this Friday, doesn’t it? Will it be as good as the original? Impossible. Without Will Smith it’s bound to lose some of what it had. Liam Hemsworth doesn’t provide the level of humor and whit Will Smith brought – but perhaps the other kid will be the humor while Liam is just the eye candy. Who knows.

That said…we’ve already gotten to see Jeff Goldblum in a spacesuit, so it’s got a lot going for it as it is, and as long as he’s the main character of this operation it’s bound to be a true treasure.

It’s too early for more theories than I’ve already mentioned. Thankfully, we have over 6 months to continue to surf the fan sites and dig into ID4 Reddit and what not to keep up with the overwhelming buzz a movie like this generates. Try to keep yourselves under control.

See you at the theater at midnight on June 24, 2016 – exactly 20 years after the first one was released.

This is going to be so fun.

-apc.