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  1. GammaDev

    Episode 257.5 - Minisode 257.5

    A few notes: 1) "Laserdisc was a failed format". Laserdiscs were commercially sold for over 20 years. There is no way you can consider that a "failed" format. Was it as popular as VHS? No. But that's like saying In & Out is a failed burger chain because it doesn't have nearly the number of restaurants as McDonalds. Laserdiscs were profitable or else companies like Disney wouldn't have put out hundreds of releases, including specialty box sets. 2) Laserdiscs were very expensive. Not really. Laserdiscs were positioned as an archival format. You were meant to buy them to own them forever because a properly made LD could (theoretically) last forever and never wear out (laser rot excepted). This is one of the reasons why they often had special features like deleted scenes, Director's cuts, audio commentaries, etc. Bog standard laserdiscs were priced in the $30 range while VHS copies were initially priced in the $100-$150 range. That's because originally VHS was considered to be a "rental format". Rental stores were meant to buy these and rent them out hundreds of times because no sane person (who wasn't rich) would spend $150 for a movie in 1980s dollars (over $400 in today's money). Around the mid-80s, some movies companies (most notably Disney) tried the "insane" idea of pricing VHS tapes in the $20 range and selling directly to consumers. Disney doing this for some of their classic movies was seen as a bold, crazy (even sacrilegious) gamble. But it was a gamble that paid off big-time and saved Disney from bankruptcy. When movies like The Little Mermaid earned more money on home video than they did at the box office, home video was changed forever. Once VHS went to $20 (and below), laserdiscs stayed at $30. Studios started to realize the retail value of LD's special features. That's when you started getting the prestige "box sets" where the special features were the selling point, not just extras. I have probably over a hundred LDs while only a dozen are "box sets". Most were bought for $30 (or less). VHS also had box sets with prestige pricing, but those never sold that well because if you liked the movie enough to spend all that extra money on a box set, you probably would be the person who would want the superior audio and video that laserdiscs provided. And without Laserdiscs, home video releases would have been much worse. Laserdisc was the format where you could get films in their proper aspect ratio. As I mentioned before, laserdisc was where director's commentaries came about. The same for alternate cuts of the movie where laserdisc technology allowed movies to insert deleted scenes, a tech that would later show up in DVDs. When DVDs were first released, many were essentially just a digital version of the VHS version (complete with the wrong aspect ratio) and no special features. Video reviewers would complain about DVD release that didn't have the proper aspect ratio and special features because they knew (from laserdiscs) that they could do better. Digital compression artifacts on early DVD releases also weren't tolerated because reviewers could point to the LD version and say "What's up with that? Why should I buy this DVD when the picture quality is worse AND I still have to flip the disc!". Dual layer DVDs (so you didn't have to flip the disc on long movies) and better compression occurred because LDs were still on the market, and DVD had to be better in order to compete. Similarly, you shouldn't diss HD-DVD too much because without it, Blu-ray would be a really pathetic format. The original blu-ray spec didn't have advanced audio and video codecs, interactive features, etc. If you look at the first year of releases on blu-ray, the video looks terrible compared to the HD-DVD counterparts because Blu-ray was still using old DVD video formats. The competition made Sony update the blu-ray spec because movie studios would point to the HD-DVD features and better codecs and threaten to stop supporting blu-ray if blu-ray didn't match those capabilities.
  2. GammaDev

    Episode 244.5 - Prequel to Episode 245

    Re: The Prequels. Paul on how great Clone Wars and reflecting on the Prequel movies says "Lucas should have made a tv series". That WAS the plan. Around the time of Special Editions, Lucas did pitch a Star Wars series to HBO. At the time, HBO would have been the only network that both had the money and would allow the series to be non-kiddie. Lucas was envious of Babylon 5 having the luxury of doing a 5 year story arc to develop its characters. For instance, the character of Mollari was generally hated by fans the first season because he was seen as a buffoon and a weak attempt at comic relief. But over five years he went through an incredible arc where the character took an opportunity to grab power and set in motion the downfall of the galaxy. He evolved into a tragic figure and a fan favorite. But if B5 only had three movies to develop that character (while still dealing with the main plot and characters) the evolution just wouldn't have worked. In retrospect, you can see Lucas had a similar story arc planned for Jar Jar Binks, but simply too little time to develop it into something meaningful (I mean, Jar Jar did basically enable Palpatine to seize power and after Revenge of the Sith probably put a blaster in his mouth). In that original pitch to HBO, after each season there would be a big theatrical movie for key moments in the Clone Wars- stuff that was too expensive to justify in a series like gigantic battles and climatic confrontations. They would serve as sort of cliff hangers for the next season when a time jump could occur. Anyway, the HBO execs at the time didn't think a sci-fantasy series revolving around politics, intrigue, shifting alliances, universe-building, and character development would have mass appeal (*cough* Game of Thrones) and passed. Lucas went to plan B, started making the Prequel movies, but kept trying to get a "dark, gritty" live action Star Wars series off the ground at every break. A lot of material developed for these different series was used in the animated Clone Wars.
  3. GammaDev

    Episode 241: Ninja III: The Domination

    Darn. You beat me to it by literally a few minutes (shouldn't have made lunch first). I too am surprised that as a gaming enthusiast Paul (go 3DO!) didn't bring it up. I hope Paul includes this in the C&As because the best hope of finding one of the possibly three remaining copies of this game is the (uncredited) Special Effects guy who worked on this movie and the hope he didn't throw it in the trash or sell it for $20 at a garage sale. Maybe he'll listen to your podcast ("Hey, I worked on that! I'll give it a listen.") and get in touch with the owner of the Turbosub website. To make an analogy for Paul relative to Unspooled, finding a copy of this game would be the film equivalent of finding Orson Welles' original cut of the Magnificent Ambersons.
  4. GammaDev

    Episode 217 - Jaws 3-D

    Paul mentioned the early 80s resurgence of 3D in the 80s. It started with Friday the 13th Part III (IN 3D!). Paul said the other big 3D movie he remembers seeing was Dreamscape. But Dreamscape wasn't a 3D movie, so I don't know what Paul saw in the theaters. There were a ton of 3D movies to chose from (Spacehunter, Metalstorm, Treasure of the Four Crowns), but I'm not sure how any of those could be confused with Dreamscape. Maybe Paul is conflating Jaws 3D scenes with Dreamscape because they both star Dennis Quad? Was this 3D version of Dreamscape preceded by an animated short of the Bernstein Bears? As for Jaws 3D, this was played a lot on cable when I was a kid (never saw it in the theater). I always thought it was cheesy and boring. But just a few years ago, I bought a 3D blu-ray of the movie and found it extremely entertaining. The bad composites and weird camera angles work great in 3D. The 3D actually hides the bad special effects, and in the restored movie, a lot of the beach shots are quite stunning in 3D. The movie knows it is a B-movie and has some of the most fun, intentionally gratuitous 3D effects you'll find in a movie. Most of the gags and composite shots (like the shark coming at the glass) look completely dumb in 2D, but in 3D they work. It's a great popcorn movie to watch with friends just to see who will jump at stuff coming at the screen. The opening titles alone will make most people duck. It's a guilty pleasure
  5. GammaDev

    City Lights

    Can we once and for all get rid of this silly "X has too many entries on the list" notion? It's the AFI Top 100 MOVIES. It's not the top 100 directors or top 100 actors, it's the top 100 MOVIES. So if a particular director or actor has more than one film on the list SO WHAT? People like Alfred Hitchcock, Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, etc are considered the greatest artists of all time because they have made many of the greatest movies of all time. They're not just one hit wonders or by a fluke made a great movie. Also, how far do you take this "they have already have a spot on the top 100"? Do you say each writer only gets at most one entry? Each editor? Each cinematographer? Is there room for only one film inspired by a Shakespeare play? It just gets silly at some point, doesn't it? It's the greatest movies of all time, not a little league baseball game. We don't need to give out participation awards.
  6. GammaDev

    Listener Questions Special

    Sorry to disagree with Paul about 1984 (and we won't even talk about 1999) but he was so close yet 1982 blows away 1984 in terms of movie quality and historical significance. 1984 has Star Trek III? Well 1982 has the best Star Trek- The Wrath of Khan. 1984 has cult classics like The Last Starfighter and Cloak and Dagger? Well 1982 has Tron, Blade Runner, and The Dark Crystal- films that were studied and mimicked for decades and which (even though they flopped) earned sequels decades later. Amy's favorite teen comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out in 1982. Also, John Carpenter's best movie (and perhaps the best horror film of all time) The Thing also came out in 1982- and it happens to be the only JC film that he can watch and enjoy without picking apart its flaws. Eddie Murphy had his breakout film role in 48 Hrs in 1982. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from bodybuilder to major action star with Conan the Barbarian. Stallone proved he too could be an action hero, kicked of his biggest franchise, and that he could do more than just get hit in the face in First Blood. Jason finally got his signature hockey mask look in Friday the 13th Part III. Animation also saw the historic Secret of NIMH which gave Disney a well-needed kick in the pants and probably inspired animators into saving feature animation from extinction. The best PG horror film, Poltergeist and the best anthology horror movie, Creepshow. Meryl Streep starred in her most iconic role (and gave the world an expression for an impossible situation) in Sophie's Choice. Dustin Hoffman and Julie Andrews both got Oscar nominations for cross-dressing in Tootsie and Victor/Victoria. The historic movies in 1982 just go on and on but let's not forget the all-time box office champ for over a decade and Paul's personal choice for Spielberg's best movie- E.T. was the box office juggernaut in 1982. So next to all that, 1984 doesn't seem nearly as significant, does it?
  7. GammaDev

    Raiders of the Lost Ark

    Interesting article but I fear this is going to lead to another round of "X was the real talent behind Star Wars" when they get around to covering Star Wars. You know who ALSO was a talented editor before George and Marcia met? George. If you listen to the Godfather commentary, Coppola mentions a few key sequences that George Lucas edited and essentially created tense scenes out of literally nothing (empty frames from before the real shot started). George Lucas said (although probably not the first director to say this) that a movie is made three times: the writing of the script, the filming, and the editing. I've seen a few Youtubers/podcasters present tidbits like the above and compile it into a grand conspiracy theory that Star Wars was a disaster until Marcia came in and saved the day. Nothing could be further from the truth. After the grueling live action shoot, Lucas took a look at the assembly cut and discovered his editor was worthless. He fired the editor and took it upon himself to re-edit the movie from scratch with himself leading a team he assembled which included Marcia. Between fighting Fox, setting up ILM, and having to personally oversee editing he had to be hospitalized for exhaustion which is why he didn't direct Empire. Now I bring all this up because I was a little disappointed that this episode barely mentioned Lucas and the few times they did it was usually in a dismissive or negative way. I fear they fell into the trap of the "popular internet wisdom" of attributing everything negative in Raiders to Lucas and everything positive to Spielberg. Simply not true. First, Raiders wouldn't exist without Lucas. Period. He talked Spielberg out of committing career suicide by way of directing a big budget musical after 1941. At the time, Spielberg was only batting 50% (two theatrical bombs, two hits). A second, large flop (even Scorsese and Bogdonavich couldn't get audiences to accept a musical in the late 70s) and he would have been relegated to independent movies and tv. Even Coppola, coming off of Godfather I&II and Apocalypse Now had his career derailed by One From The Heart and Coppola admitted that all the films he directed in the 80s and early 90s were essentially jobs for hire in order to pay off the debts incurred by that ONE flop. We heard Spielberg spin this with "i challenged myself to come in under budget and on time". It wasn't a challenge. It was a requirement. Universal and Columbia (which made Jaws and Close Encounters) wouldn't greenlight Raiders with Spielberg because of fears of budget overruns. Lucas had to put his reputation on the line. Also, Lucas was instrumental in keeping on schedule because he also shared directing duties. In the Making of that aired at the time of the film's release, you could clearly see Lucas directing scenes. If the DGA had allowed it at the time, they probably would have co-directing credits but because it was forbidden (even today it's almost unheard of for the DGA to allow it) Lucas settled for a Producer credit. Now remember the controversy with Poltergeist about who was the "real" director? Gee, where do you think Spielberg got the idea that the Producer could effectively co-direct a movie? How about the movie he'd just made right before Poltergeist where Lucas was the Producer! And my last bit to put a nail in the coffin of the "Lucas bad. Spielberg good" theory when it comes to Indiana Jones- the Nuke the Fridge moment that everyone derides from Crystal Skull was 100% Spielberg's contribution. It was a discarded idea from an early draft of Back to the Future. The time machine was originally a fridge and they used a nuclear test blast (instead of lightning) to generate the 1.21 gigawatts. Just like the coat hanger gag, Spielberg couldn't let go of a (what he thought was) a funny idea.
  8. GammaDev

    Citizen Kane

    You beat me to mentioning that Trump had been interviewed about this movie long before he ran for President. Supposedly it was for a documentary about Trump's favorite movie and why he likes it. It was abandoned and you can see why- Trump either doesn't understand Citizen Kane or he's never actually seen it. Either way, the filmmaker must have realized that watching either someone who completely missed the point of a movie or a guy BSing his way through talking about a movie he'd never actually seen couldn't sustain a documentary of any length. Given all we've seen of Trump, I'm leaning towards Trump just saying it was his favorite movie because of his "everybody says" mentality. "Well everyone agrees it's the greatest movie ever. Ask anyone. So it's my favorite movie, anyone will tell you that!" Then because (before Trump became President) Trump loved to be interviewed by anyone for anything, he agreed to sit down to an interview about "his favorite movie, Citizen Kane" and then had to scramble to have someone brief him on the major points of Citizen Kane. To hear Trump explain Citizen Kane, Kane is the hero(?!) who had a "modest fall" and who needs "to get himself a different woman"- as if Kane has no fault in his own downfall or that the downfall is even that significant or long-lasting!
  9. GammaDev

    Can't Stop The Music (1980)

    This movie is such a natural to be covered. Here are a few more reasons 1) Besides having the bad timing of being released at the height of disco backlash, it also came out the same day as The Blues Brothers. 2) Olivia Newton John turned down the lead in this movie to star in Xanadu- and that was the right decision since Xanadu is the better movie! 3) It pretty much killed Valerie Perrine's movie career. Although Superman II came out later, all her scenes were shot during Superman I production before this movie. 4) In the film, they use the Village People in an ad for milk aimed at children that even features a kid version of the group, including a kid leather biker! 5) This movie cost more to make than The Empire Strikes Back which came out the same year. 6) First big budget Hollywood movie directed by a woman (Yentl was three years later). Comedienne Nancy Walker was signed to a multi-picture deal with much fanfare, but after this movie flopped they just paid off her contract. And the movie is free for viewing right now on Amazon Prime in glorious HD.