The Thing of remakes

Remakes seems to be a subject I return yearly. This time inspired by a friend’s words; Remakes of great movies have an almost impossible task to improve on the originals. I’m inclined to agree with him, and the same goes for video games, generally speaking. Even with the technology gap between now and a game from e.g. the NES era, it’s still a task that rarely is done right.

I admit that the requirements this blog tends to set for remakes, mainly that they need to influence the culture of gaming in some significant way and create make the original completely and utterly, are almost far too high standards to meet up. Almost is the key, as if you’re not going to make something better than the original, why make it at all?

The same applies to movies to a very large degree, even prequel remakes of sorts. John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably a good example of this, to both directions. Originally a novella named Who Goes There? in 1938, it was adapted to the silver screen for the first time in 1951 as The Thing from Another World, just in time for the 1950’s boom. While Carpenter’s 1982 version is far more true to the original novella, it still draws elements and inspirations from the 1951 movie. The two movies show what thirty years of difference can do in movies. While the 1982 movie obsoletes the 1951 in pretty much every way, it could be argued that it’s worth a watch for the sake of having a perspective. However, it does lack the signature element of the Thing itself; mimicry. Then again, perhaps it could be said that Carpenter didn’t remake the 1951 movie, but stuck with the source material all the way through.

2011 saw a new version of The Thing in form of a prequel, but it’s essentially a beat-to-beat remake of the 1982 movie. Opinions whether it’s a good movie or a terrible one is up to each of us, but perhaps one of the less voiced opinions is that it was unnecessary. Much like other side stories, prequels and sequels that expand on story elements that never needed any expansion and were best to be left as they were. After all, we’re curious about mysteries that are not wholly elaborated on, but often feel let down if that mystery is shown to be terrible. I’m not even going to touch the PlayStation 2 game here, it’s just a terrible piece.

Both games and movies stand on the same line with remakes; they need to have the same core idea, core function if you will, and create something more era appropriate. One could argue that Mega Man X is a good remake of Mega Man. While it has a new lead, new enemies and stages, it evolves the formula and tackles the franchise in a new way. The idea is still the same nevertheless; beat a number of boss robots in an order selected by you and then advance to the multi-levelled final stages before you face the mad last boss.

However, both Mega Man and Mega Man X got remakes on the PSP, and while we can argue whether or not they obsolete the originals, they are pretty much beat-to-beat replicas with some new stuff bolted unto them and do no deviate from the source material jack shit. This isn’t the case with the Ratchet and Clank remake, which opted not only to change things around, but changed them so that it could have been a completely new and independent game.

Perhaps this is where we should make a division between reboots and remakes. Maverick Hunter X is a remake whereas Ratchet and Clank 2016 is a reboot. Reboots can and often do change things around to fit this new reimagined world. That’s one of the reasons why reboots don’t go well with long-time fans, as it would mean the series they’ve been emotionally (and sometimes financially) invested in for years is no longer the same. There’s an 80 minute video that goes over how Ratchet and Clank‘s reboot missed points from the original game. If you’ve got time to kill, it’s a good watch. Especially if you’re even a passing fan of the franchise.

Mega Man as a franchise is an interesting entity that for almost two decades it had multiple series and sub-franchises running alongside each other. While Battle Network could be counted as a reboot in modern terms, the 2018 series will probably be a total franchise reboot, at least for the time being.

The point of reboots is somewhat lost when the end-product does not stand up to the comparison to the original. Some claim this is unfair, as the new piece should be treated as its own individual piece without any regard to the original. There can be validity in this, if the product can stand on its own without resorting on winking to the player about the previous incarnation. This is a two-bladed sword; on one hand it’s great to acknowledge the history your remake stands on, but on the other hand any sort of reliance devalues the whole point of a remake. It’s a line that needs to be threaded carefully.

Perhaps the thing with remakes (or reboots for the matter) really is that they are facing a task larger than just the original product; they are facing the perceived value of the product from the consumers. People tend to value things on an emotional level a lot more despite their faults (like yours truly with Iczer-1)  and when something new comes into play to replace it, our instinct tells us to resists. It doesn’t help that most of the remakes and reboots then to be terrible on their own right, even when removing from the original piece. Just look at Devil May Cry‘s reboot, which luckily seems to be just a one-off thing. Maybe remakes like this are needed from time to time to remind us that capturing the lightning in the bottle twice is far harder than it seems, and perhaps creating something completely new is the better solution.

Themes of Godzilla

Each summer I have written a long, special theme post about a topic. These have varied from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to the history Original Video Animation. This year I present you Themes of Godzilla in celebration of the theatrical release of Shin Godzilla.

Godzilla is not one monster or theme. Throughout its 62 years run in the movies Godzilla has represented many things from atomic weapons to heroes and Japan itself. The monster is a character that has been fitted into many themes and motifs across the ages. It could be even argued that the original film, despite being the originator, was disregarded at one point in favour of something else, something that fit that particular time. As such, if one argues what Godzilla, either as a character or theme, is based on a selection of media, you can argue otherwise using different selection. After all, we are talking about a franchise that has been running for more than a half a century with almost everything but porn being in the official line up.

Before we dwell into the movies and what they represent, let’s dwell a bit into where Godzilla originates. I will also use the official English name for the character, Godzilla, all the way through the post.

While Godzilla is usually traced to the Second World War, many make the distinction of King Kong and The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms being the film inspirations. King Kong is often seen as the start of the giant-monster genre, thou The Lost World predates it almost by a decade. Nevertheless, it’s the effects and the story that people remember from King Kong, and those two were exactly the things that drove Eiji Tsuburaya into the film industry. The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms comes into play as the movie that inspired Tomoyuki Tanaka to produce a similar movie. The story is that Tanaka was to make a movie in Indonesia that would ease the relations between the countries, but his crew was turned back, denying their visas. While returning to Japan, he was reminded about The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms, and with the S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident still fresh in his mind, Tanaka pitched an idea based on these two elements to the producer Iwao Mori. Tanaka grabbed the director Ishiro Honda to direct the film. Despite few pre-existing scripts, one being submitted by Tsuburuya, Honda and a writer named Takeo Murata wrote the final script in three weeks.

A final person between Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya and Murata was Akira Ifukube, a classical composer who gave Godzilla its sound and music. Without Ifukube’s compositions, the movie would’ve lacked in sound, as each theme emphasizes doubly whatever was happening on the screen. This is to the extent that both the film and music should always be one and the same and never be seen or listened in Ifukube’s mind.

The S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident is what births Godzilla in the original 1954 film. The incident was USA detonating their first hydrogen bomb named Castle Bravo. It was estimated to be about four to eight megatons in yield, but proved to be fifteen megatons due to lithium-5 becoming active in the explosion.  This spread the fallout far beyond what the estimates safe zone was, and caused the crew of Lucky Dragon #5, effectively giving them lethal doses of radiation.

The final element Godzilla had is tied to the nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and probably is the most known aspect about the monster, only second to it fighting another.

Let’s start with the themes in the movies. I want to keep comment on each entry in the franchise short and to the point whenever needed. Each movie would deserve a full-fledged post to dwelve deeper into them, but currently I’m not intending to start multi-year “series” that nobody wants. We’ll leave TV-shows, games and such out from the picture for now, they’re a massive undertaking on their own as is. There is so much history in Godzilla that I can’t touch upon in this one, but maybe in future I will elaborate on certain aspects if there is interest.

Continue reading “Themes of Godzilla”

Monthly Three: Of remakes and remasters

The difference between remakes and remasters to some is cosmetic or about marketing terms, but when you look at the examples, there’s a bit more to them. A remake is based on a previous work, a new piece of product that recreates the original piece somehow. Another meaning of course is that something is taken and remade anew, like reconstructing a knife. Remaster on the other hand is completely tied to the original piece, like video or audio, and then improved on it somehow. For example, the recent Fight!! Iczer-1 Blu-Ray release was a good one, containing a properly digitally remastered version of the original.

NES remaster

Unlike what the package says, Ducktales Remastered is a remake. Nothing really is taking from the original game outside the overall stage designs. The musics have been remade, the graphics are remade and so on. If WayForward had remastered Ducktales, the two screenshots would look the same, except the resolution of the remaster would be higher. Digital things are pretty neat in that way that in principle as long as you have the source code and assets, it should be relatively easy to adapt those to a new machine. This is essentially doing a higher resolution ports, but I’m leaving HD “remakes” for next week.

Remasters on the other hand would look something like this.

dvd_28_09.57.35] screenshot016

The first one is from the Anime Works DVD, the second being the recent BD release. The difference is rather staggering, with higher definition bringing the line work out much more and showing more detail in form of dust specks and the like. For more colour, check the examples for these two stitches, first being from the DVD, the second being from the BD.

A remaster can bring new life and vibrant dimensions to a product that didn’t really have it before. An original master may have all the elements in there, but for whatever reason it could not be put into use. The LP-records  could not contain as much data as the compact cassette could, just as the compact cassette couldn’t hold as much data as the CD could. A CD on the other hand lost its place to digital sound formats that can, in principle, be as large as one wants them to be, even to obscene amounts.

While having as pristine version of something is desirable, the fact is that at some point there is no point of trying get any higher version of that piece. It could be even argued that the screenshots of Iczer-1 above is too highly defined, as it was never intended to be seen at that resolution. That goes for anything in audio and visual department, as in case of Star Trek, sixty years of development in television technology show every bit of those sets, costumes, double actors and the like, which were never visible before thanks to the lower standard definitions. This can have a largely negative effect on the piece from some, as they will point out and laugh at how cheap some of the things look nowadays. Can’t really fault them for using the best technology they had available at the time, which would be a good thing to keep in mind.

Another thing that pops up from this is that now that we can see absolutely everything, we can enjoy and even research the way some of those sets Trek used were made and so on. In animation we can admire all the fine lines and colours that were put in there by the animators and painters, things that we didn’t see before because of the lower definitions.

The necessity of remakes can be questioned, as in film their quality has been largely dubious. From making remakes cult flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street to remaking television series like Charlie’s Angels and Kamen Rider (The First is an atrocious movie with great suits), none of these really all the well received. The idea is solid; take an existing franchise and update it to a modern audience with modern techniques and technologies. However, rarely these remakes are made for the benefit of product and aim for pure nostalgia grabs instead. Very few remakes stand against the originals because of this, like the 1982 The Thing against 1951’s Who Goes There?, and 1986’s The Fly against its 1958 counterpart.

It’s often argued that remakes miss the point of the originals, and that the excess use of CGI elements do not stand up to the originals’ practical effects when it comes to films. Simply put it, it can’t hold the candle in direct comparison. This can be up to opinion to some extent, but it is true that CGI ages faster than practical, so take that as you will.

Maybe the most pressing argument against remakes is that they do not add anything new to table. While everything we produce nowadays is more or less a remade variation of pre-existing myths, stories and legends, exact remakes in and out of entertainment media don’t even try to create a basis for something new or expand into region less explored. An example of starting with a similar core idea and making it its own piece could be made in comparison between Star Trek and seaQuest DSV. On the surface, the both shows have similarities with their missions and overall idea of a top of the line ship send to the unknown for exploration and research. Yet, both shows stand apart from each other because of their themes and how they were handled, adding something to the cultural view in ways that a simple film remake never could.

I would wager that the bottom line is that some expect a remake to simply remake an original piece for the modern era, while some expect a remake to stand on its own two legs and be something more. There is a golden middle way, but not many seem to be willing to take it.

2016 in pop-movies is filled with same thing

First, I have a wound of my left hand that makes typing bit o f a bitch, so I’m sorry about all the typos that will sneak in.

I admit that I am not the biggest moviebuff out there, but I admit that 2015 was a year that I went to see a lot more movies that what I usually do. There were some good movies, and some movies that really overstayed its welcome. 2016 looks like a year when adaptations and sequels will hit the silver screen with a revenge. This year has also been called something like Year of the Nerds when it comes to the movies or the like, and I do see where that come from.

Going through some lists of upcoming movies sort of tell me that I’m not going to visit the theatre as much this year. A lot of million dollar blockbuster movies range from comic book movies to modern book adaptations. Remakes and sequels as far as eye can see. A lot of these movies are something that have no real reason to be made outside brand recognition or because they want to heat up some old franchise. The coldest turkey in the bunch in this field is the Ghostbusters. I still have to ask myself how in the hell are they going to make a better movie than one of the best comedies of the 1980’s? How Ghostbusters became to be is a slight legend on itself, and it was a culmination of many factors coming together just right, both in right and wrong. While I’m not ready to shoot the movie down just yet, it’s not looking good.

On the comic book front we have eight goddamn comic book movies. These comic book adaptations are our Western movies without any doubt, and it just might be that all the TV-series and movies we get out of Marvel and DC characters may end up burning people. The hardcore comic lovers will stay with them until the boom’s dead, but I have to say I’m pretty much fed up with it. Avengers 2 was the worst movie of the bunch for me, concentrating far too much on the fight’s flashiness in similar manner how Pacific Rim did, and Ultron’s design and plot made little to no sense. Deadpool, Batman Vs. Superman, Captain America; Avengers 2.5, X-Men: Apocalypse, goddamn Suicide Squad, Gambit movie with Channing Tatum as the lead and Doctor Strange all feel more or less already visited. There’s Daredevil Season 2 in there somewhere and some other shows, but I honestly am dropping my interests on these all of the previous movies have offered very little anything new. I admit that Doctor Strange might be worth checking out, but seeing how Cumberbatch acts like Cumberbatch in everything he has been in, my expectations are low. We are reaching a saturation point, and some are already guessing this year might break the comic book movie boom.

Adaptations ahoy, we’re getting a sequel to the Snow White movie we got some time ago in form of The Huntsman. Much like the upcoming Jungle Book and Tarzan remakes/re-adaptations, nobody really asked for these. I’m sure the Snow White movie has its fans, but much like Avatar, nobody remembers or talks about it. The Marvel movies already made their impact on popular culture, yet I see none of these making. That Tarzan movie also feels like it’s a prequel to that 90’s Tarzan show. Finding Dory most likely will be just like most of Pixar’s sequels and be forgotten fast. They’re also rebooting Friday the 13th. Again.

I have to admit that I’ve yet to see the first Bay’s Turtles movies, even if I had all the intentions of doing so for some time. The trailer for the second movie is… well, it’s like what I would’ve expected to see done during the 90’s, after somebody had snorted too much cocaine and had millions of dollars in their hands. The trailer itself incorporates what are essentially toy designs, takes itself pretty damn seriously but doesn’t forget that the 80’s cartoon’s vibe. It feels stupidly fun and I hate myself for saying it, but you can like dumb things. Everybody has their own scratch that fixes that itch.

I don’t like Angry Birds, but I do admire how much money they made at one point. Now they’re more or less becoming forgotten with Rovio making less and less money on their games and merchandise. The Angry Bird movie should have come out year or two ago when the boom was it biggest. Perhaps this will revitalise the franchise to some degree. Warcraft is getting a movie too, which is coming out at a time when the MMO is experiencing loss in players.

Most video game adaptations have been more or less awful, with Mortal Kombat still being one of the better ones, but the problem with adapting a game to the silver screen is that it’s a game. You can’t adapt gameplay and its contents, they’re unique to the medium. Mario cartoons tried this with showing the world with some makeshift footage from a game-like perspective, but rarely any of the stories were anything to write home about. The movie adaptations of games suffer from this same thing, and Mortal Kombat did right to stick with doing what movies do best and expand on the game’s world. Warcaft has an expansive story that could be adapted, but how do you adapt a strategy game to the silver screen? Most likely they’ll concentrate on one race only and pick the biggest points from the storyline, and make the battles to showcase some very remote resemblance whatever was in the game.

I guess what I’m getting at is that this year is missing a lot of originality. Just to use the 80’s as an example, we got 1982 that was one of the best year in sci-fi and fantasy movies. Poltergeist, E.T., Tron and The Dark Crystal are examples of movies that can stand on their own, and expanding that to adaptations we have Blade Runner, which strays pretty damn far from the novel. You have The Thing, both a remake and an adaptation and still manages to do its own thing, even thou reviews of the time didn’t regard much of it. Then you have Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which isn’t just the best Trek movie out there but is also one of the best Sci-fi movies out there. Star Trek Into Darkness is not even a shadow of Trek II, and I have no real hopes for either the upcoming Star Trek series (2017) and Star Trek Beyond.

Movies need desperately more movies that are unique to its medium like Flight of the Navigator that have no pre-existing base, less comic book movies with almost a century worth of material to adapt from.

An example how little to no thought can result in an awful particle thrower design

I was about to write your monthly music, but I came across a picture of the new all-female Ghostbusters gang. I’ve seen it before, and outside the damn ugly costumes the upcoming Ghostbusters doesn’t really fetch a reaction from me,  but then I saw the particle throwers. I should not have seen them, because that did pull an emotion from me.  I’m looking at them and  I have to wonder Who the hell designed these pieces of trash?

Here’s the thing; the original particle thrower  / proton wand is an excellent example of great prop design. It looks self-made and yet done by someone who knew what they were doing professionally.  It looks safe, but dangerous at the same time. It has bits and pieces that have an innate quality to them that’s instantly understood because it has a resemblance to real world equipment. There’s nibs and nubs that have at least some sort of clear meaning to them. It being painted black only lifts all the smaller steel and lighted up details towards the viewer’s eye. Sure, it’s essentially a box with two tubes to it with other bits protruding out and some wires going here and there, yet it all works because it is cohesive piece.

The new proton packs and particle throwers we saw from Tufts Medical Centre look like a fucking toy with no thought behind it.

Take a long good look at those particle throwers. Let’s go step by step what’s wrong with their design

The first bit that’s fucked up is the handle. All the weight of the main unit on the wand is on that curved handle, which would stress the arm more than if it was aligned  with the rest of the unit. It has a slight inwards curve to it, which is nice to see, but the handle itself looks incredibly small and lacking in  ergonomics. The handle they have should have larger grip that would conform to the hand, not a screwdriver like circular piece. It’s shiny plastic as well, which usually means it has lousy friction.

The original particle thrower can be argued to be worse in the sense that it had a straight angle handle protruding from the main unit, but that’s where the weight distribution comes into play again. When you have, for example, a spear in your hands, you are able to muster more strength and control to it because of its straight nature. The same is with the original particle thrower. As the particle stream can be compared to a strong water stream that has a nature to wonder around, having an innate idea where straight forwards is for the piece  becomes highly important. With the handle-above approach that the new thrower has is just stupid, especially when you consider the push from the particle stream now comes towards underneath your hand.  Your wrist and the rest of the arm needs to do extra work to keep it the thrower lifted and in  right angle. Notice how Egon’s female version is holding the prop piece from the very end, not from the handle part itself. That alone should tell you how bad ergonomics these particle throwers have.

The problem with handle-above approach wouldn’t be bad if the main unit would be about the same size as the original, but no, the new one has to be huge and look like a goddamn hobbybox. First we see that it’s gunmetal grey for whatever reason with exposed wires, coil and goddamn soldering, meaning that it would degrade at a higher pace than if it was protected, and that if somebody would  touch that those exposed bits it would most likely short circuit and explode in your face. You don’t want an important component of an unlicensed nuclear accelerator to explode in your hands, the short circuit shock may travel to the backpack. If they just had put a damn plexiglass on top of that bit, it would make some sense, but these bits are dangling out just to show that it’s self-made, like the original. On the underside you have some other bits as well, and why in the name of all that is good you’d put what looks like buttons and other important nib knobs on the surface you put on the table? Every frigging side of the main unit has something on it just to make it look busy and it’s so awfully realized.

But you know what’s even better than exposed wiring? Those copper pipes. Copper pipe is relatively expensive, those are very shiny. Like new. The first question we have is Why the hell are they there?  I’m assuming they are coolant pipes, which would mean that the proton throwers warm up even more than in the originals and that the throwers carry cooling liquid inside of them, which adds quite a lot of weight to them, making the handle even more of an  stupid idea. Not only that, but that makes the proton throwers about five times more expensive to build than the original. The original has heatsinks to cool down the thrower, but none of the throwers ever really overheat throughout the movies. Ghostbusters The Game used overheat as a mechanic, but only in regards of the proton backpack. These bitches on the other hand have incredibly expensive active cooling for components that are exposed to air.

You can see a heatsink just there on the right side.
You can see a heatsink just there on the right side. Notice how easy it is to access the buttons

The main unit is an incredibly good example how hard it is to design a box, and whoever did this design just fucked it up. The original particle thrower doesn’t make a real difference between the different parts, blending them more or less seamlessly together. You see a clear welding line where the handle meets the main unit and keeps simple. All the buttons and knobs are positioned near the handle, making it easy to use. There are few separate pieces seen in the movies that are used with the other hand to change the settings. With the new pack everything needs to be set with the other hand, because the hand on the handle has access only to the trigger button. Hell, even the pilot of the animation got it right as well! There’s an extra button next to the copper pipes, which I assume is the main power switch because of red cover, which just shows more that everything is  all over the place, almost literally.

Then you have the goddamn… I don’t even know what to call it. I guess it’s the barrel of the thrower. Visually speaking, it’s a bad design. The connecting piece looks weak and has added useless rectangles glued to it to give it an interesting look, but unlike with Lightsabers  where we can assume them to be some sort of energy packs, these are just glued  on pieces. The large tube is large for the sake of being large, housing a red light inside. Of course, because y’know, proton stream is red. And sometimes blue to white, emits sparks, sometimes white, sometimes core red with an orange aura, but the most iconic one is red with blue electricity surrounding it. But why the hell does the fat barrel have just one black bit on it that looks like electric tape? The original particle thrower had an actual handle, one that the user could grab and have a proper hold of. Now that the barrel is fat like that, they don’t have full grasp on it. Perhaps they were going for a similar grip as with an assault rifle, but that doesn’t work if there is no surface to grab on. Secondly, assault rifles’ barrels grip are specifically designed to fit the shape of the hand be gripped strongly if necessary. The new particle thrower barrel looks like piece of shit because of this. They would almost certainly lose their grip of the barrel the moment the particle stream kicks back harder  because it’s smooth metal with nothing to properly grip on.

Look at how firm grip that is
Look at how firm grip that is

And yeah, nice aluminium pieces at the front, don’t put any effort to make it look interesting like the original’s.

The biggest gripe I have with these designs that they had or have superior alternative. The photo above is the most circulated one from Tufts Medical Center, and shows most details on the particle throwers. However, the gripe I have with those is that we do have or at least did have good new designs for the particle throwers already that were not the old ones.CJQXIcNUcAApwbn[1]

This is from Paul Feig’s Twitter. That looks what it should look more like, even if it the particle thrower is more or less the same. There’s a closer look at the thrower there too. However, this picture is from July 6th, and the photos from Hufts Medical Center are from August 1st. Why weren’t these packs used in Hufts Medical Centre? Why were these “new” packs and throwers used? They are just incredibly awful in design, and should be used as an example how not to design something like this. I sincerely hope that these particle throwers where just kitbashed in five minutes for the hospital visit in order to keep the actual props in the best possible condition, and that these “new” props will not make any sort of appearance in any media again.

Approved recycling

I have this slight condition with certain approaches where I am unable to see faults or have them have any impact on my enjoyment despite being fully aware of them.

On a discussion some time ago whether or not movies should be enjoyed as they are. A point that one of the participants said of themselves is that they are not able to ignore the intent the director wanted out of respect for the director and take as meant. This is a valid argument and applies to the person who made the argument alone, just as one could argue that he enjoys movies as they are as entertainment rather than trying to find meaning that doesn’t exist in them.

However, more often than not it seems people are willing to take in the authorial intent as is with flicks they enjoy, opting to berate those that they don’t enjoy or see something wrong in them. This isn’t really doubethinking or anything like that, it’s as usual. Everybody does this, it’s a standard of human living to let things slide, unless you dislike something.

As mentioned, I tend to have an infliction that I’m able to enjoy things as long as they entertain me. I see the stupidity, I see the faults and yet I give them a pass because… I don’t really know, to be honest. Perhaps it is because I allow myself to be swayed by that authorial intent too much, and be taken by the movie. Well, most of the time. There are products that just make me want to grab a bottle, like Space Thunder Kids. Korean animations are the reason I drink alcohol so much nowadays.

To use an example, the Tristar Godzilla from 1998 is a movie that I can’t help but enjoy. Is it a good movie? No, not really. Is it an entertaining one? Most definitely. The same applies to the team Devlin/Emmerich’s previous two moves, Stargåte and Independence Day as well. They’re not really all that cleaver in the end, they’re a bit annoying but dammit they’re just nice popcorn flicks to watch now and then. The hype for all three movies was insane at the time, and marketing was very well realised in order to grab attention. For Stargåte you saw the gate and people stepping into it, but never saw the other side. For Independence Day you saw White House being blown up and some action, but outside that nothing else much. For Godzilla they went one of the most late 90’s ad campaigns around with the whole SIZE DOES MATTER take, which was both stupid and absurdly difficult to maintain as you couldn’t show the monster itself. I remember seeing the teaser for Godzilla before The Lost World, and it grabbed me. The teaser is famous for featuring no footage from the flick itself, but that never bothered me. While it’s not a good form, it tried to sold the theme of the movie rather than the movie itself. Then again, we’re the audience, not the execs. Sell us the movie, not the idea of a movie.

When I went to watch the movie itself, I remember coming out of it feeling the same as I did with the Nolan’s Batman movies; Well, at least I’ve seen it now. Enjoyed it, but know in my heart that it was a stupid movie. There are scenes that make no sense, like in the early on in the hospital where Philippe takes out a lighter to talk with one of the survivors. The scene overall is stupid, but I still see what’s being done here; the light is to take the survivor’s attention in a hypnotic way to make him concentrate. Of course, this may be me giving Emmerich more credit than he deserves and it could’ve been just to build tension, which I took in hook, line and sinker when sitting there. Just like with the hole in MetLife building. It’s awesome idea, but absolutely stupid one.

The same was repeated with the latest Godzilla movie. I came out, but this time I took some friends with me so I could discuss the movie with. True enough they mentioned all the spots that bothered me.

The difference between the two Godzilla movies is that the Tristar one had an immensely troublesome production having its initial start in 1994, ten years after Henry Saperstein had pressurised for an American take of the monster. When thing fell apart with DePont’s Godzilla, Emmerich took over. While Emmerich gets a lot of hate from changing Godzilla for his movie, all the changes were approved by Toho themselves, so blaming just Emmerich is stupid. To argue Toho knew Godzilla better than the Americans, they didn’t even know how many rows of spikes Godzilla has on its back. Toho and fans went to full damage control after the Tristar Godzilla, and a lot of misconceptions about the name still persists.

The movie was so troublesome and threatened to gobble up all special effects houses of the time, that it could never have been a hit. If you want to read the whole history of Tristar Godzilla, both the original version and the later Emmerich version, Sci-Fi Japan has a large, in-depth four part series of articles dedicated to it. It’s a good read even if you’re not fan of Godzilla, as it shows how the industries were strangely struggling with artists struggling with businessmen, and craftsmen were in the middle.

Emmerich’s Godzilla wasn’t supposed to be the same Godzilla we know. If you hate this idea then you’d hate the rest of the movie. Sure, has only traces of original Godzilla in it, but then again Godzilla has always been changed with the time, even by Toho. Hell, one could argue that making him a hero character is absolutely retarded take on what essentially was a walking nuclear bomb. The 2014 Godzilla was truer than Tristar one, but it was by no means any better. The same applies to Godzilla 2000, and applies to a whole lot of different franchises out there.

Going through franchises from their inception to modern day, you notice that there to be a lot of repetition. It’s bound to happen. That shouldn’t be the norm thou. All that we have now used to be new. King Ghidorah, the fan-favourite enemy of Godzilla was new in 1964. After that we’ve got less high quality monsters for Godzilla to fight. What does it say about the fans and the producers when one of the fan favourite monsters next King Ghidorah is essentially a robotic copy? I applaud the 2014 Godzilla for adding a new monster Godzilla to fight. It would’ve been the best for them to continue with new creations, but it’s already confirmed that the old monsters would return. This is on both fans and the producers, as they are afraid to deviate from the established formula. Don’t break what works is a good idea to uphold, but even then there are always better options. This is one reason why it’s so ironic to call these people as artists, as they barely create anything artistic. They just recycle things with a new lick of paint and call it day.

My doublethink here is that despite Emmerich’s Godzilla is a bad movie on its own rights, at least it tried to be something different and in surprising ways was far more rooted to the original Godzilla than any of its sequels were.

I’m pretty sure I lost some credit with this post among movie enthusiasts and Godzilla fans, but take solace in that this doesn’t only apply to Tristar Godzilla. I like a lot of stuff I know is shit and not all that good, and I am able to admit to that. I would just love to see people do the same and get off their high horse from time to time.

Review of the month; Pioneer CLD-S315 Laserdisc player

I was intending to do a follow-up review on the ceramic knives I handled last year around this time, but when I checked the post I noticed that it wasn’t a review. Bugger. I’ll have to get back to those some later time with a comparative review, as the ceramic knives I got didn’t serve their purpose too long.

The question then became apparent; what should I review for this month? I’ve been doing too many game reviews in a row as of late. Initially the plan was to review Kettou! Transformers Beast Wars; Beast Senshi Saikyou Keitteisen, a Japan-only GameBoy Colour game, as it is the first honest to God good Transformers game, miles better than anything that’s come before it or than its big brothers on the PlayStation or N46.

So I went back a little bit and remembered that I promised a Laserdisc player review… about two or three years ago. Shit. The problem with that still is that gathering comparative information on LD players is rather hard because setups differ so much across the board. I’m also a horrible little piece of shit and use one of the modern flatscreen LCD TVs for my LD playback without anything in the middle to handle the image quality, so I’m automatically thrown out from the hardcore LD club.

As you’ve most likely gathered, this will be more or less a different kind of review from the other ones, because I honestly don’t have enough base information to go by. This is all my personal experience with this single player and the discs I have. Unlike with VHS, BETA, DVD or BD players, this LD player is the only one I’ve ever actually seen functioning to 95% extent. That 5% comes from the fact that I’ve never seen a VCD disc in nature nor have I managed to make head or tails how to connect that AC-3 to anything at my disposal. I would want to say that doesn’t bother me, but ultimately it does. Let’s move on with the show then.

This particular model was produced in mid-90’s, as the user manual shows printing year as 1996. Not a bad year. For technical jargon, the CLD-S315 is a Dual System player that handles both PAL and NTSC formats, plays LDs, CDs and CDVs, has a 1-bit DLC pulseflow, a D/A converter and has Analogue Sound Reproduction for NTSC side. For video it’s got horizontal resolution of 440 lines in PAL mode and 425 lines in NTSC mode, plus contains a Digital Video Processing system. There’s a lot more stuff that’s more or less relevant, and you can check the complete list on Laserdisc Archive.

Is it the best possible model? Far from it, but it’s a good entry model and for the low consumer group. The reason I went with this particular model myself was that it was straightforward and played both PAL and NTSC discs. I’ve got a collection of 40 LDs at the moment, and only two of them are of PAL format. 22 of them are from Japan, 16 from the US. It does what it’s supposed to do well enough for the time being.

420 x 120 x 370 mm of full blown disc-on-disc playback action
420 x 120 x 370 mm of full blown disc-on-disc playback action

Let’s go with the overall design first; it’s a box. It’s clean, simple player that is dictated by the sheer size of the discs themselves. All of the design is basically in the front, and it looks gorgeous. The smooth lines it consists of balance the otherwise industrial bulk it has. As you mostly see just the front, it’s a pretty good balance. The Pioneer gold stands out very well, thou the playback details and model number may be a little too small and thing compared to dominate Pioneer logo next to them. The same goes for the control panel text, but all you really need to see are the symbols. The usual Compact Disc Digital Audio logo in the middle of the disc tray is well placed, although that now means the LaserDisc text on the upper right corner of the tray looks haphazardly placed. The LaserDisc logo on the other fits just fine in the upper right corner of the machine. It’s not that you’ll be watching much the front, but it’s still pretty well realized.

It's beautifully simple
It’s beautifully simple, and you most likely noticed that part is cut out. That’s because I’m too lazy to lift the player out of its rack for now

The control buttons feel sturdy and as responsive as ever. They’re clicky, which elevates them to a higher level. The LD and CD tray open/close buttons look similar to the first Sega Saturn model. While they clash a little bit with the rest of the controls, the shape serves them better. They’re distinct and you can’t mistake them for other buttons. When the player is on, they light up too. The main controls contain slight convex spot where your finger naturally falls. The play button is the opposite and simply control the thing. The menu button on the other hand is something I just noticed, to be honest. It should’ve been similar in shape with the LD/CD tray buttons. The power button on the lower left feel right and is as clicky as all other buttons. The digital panel works as you’d expect, and the additional label just under the control buttons look like they’re in their proper place. There’s nothing special to mention about those.

It's classy green, before the days when every single thing was blue
It’s the classy green, before the days when every single thing was blue

Sadly, it’s the remote is where things fall down a bit.

Rubber and largely awful, but has stood the test of time. Can't say the same about all remotes out there
Rubber and largely awful, but has stood the test of time. Can’t say the same about all remotes out there

The remote follows the basic remote rules of the 90’s, it’s nothing particularly special. The rubber buttons are as you’d expect, and feel more or less the same with other its contemporaries, or even with something like ZX Spectrum. Nevertheless, it’s alive and works, I can’t fault that. The construction is sturdy to boot. It feels nice, but I can’t say wholly ergonomic. It’s just kinda there. I have to say that the added red rim on the POWER is nice and draws your attention to it. The same goes to the red underlining for OPEN/CLOSE. A nice detail on the remote is the lighter gray area for the main buttons about halfway down where the buttons become more irregular, but more important for the main playback. The emphasize for the PAUSE and PLAY are as expected, and with very little memory you can use the controller without even looking at it.

On to the playback then, and here we’re going to hit a stop. I don’t have anything to capture the footage out of and make a comparison, but I don’t think I have to.

The LD I’ve watched the most on other formats is Fight!! Iczer-1. When comparing to the DVD version I have at hand, the picture quality is the same, meaning that the Digital Remaster the DVD offers doesn’t have much to offer over the LD version. As a reference, the LD I use is the 1991 release, TOLH-1048. It being CAV format, it offers superb picture quality. CAV and CLV are basically the normal and extended plays of Laserdisc, where CAV could fit 60 minutes of footage on one side, and CLV could fit double the amount, but with lesser image quality overall.

Early DVDs were commonly either direct VHS or LD rips, and it took well into mid-2000’s companies to put out proper digital remasters that could rival the CAV LDs. It’s not too uncommon to see a DVD with less quality than LD if it’s not a digital remaster. It should be noted that the video a Laserdisc has is analogue, but it differs from VHS footage by simply being far more sharper. Higher end models could produce better quality, and using a CRT TV is recommended for this model.

On the sound on the other hand is superb all around. I’m using Onkyo TX-SR308 as my sound system, and with proper settings it offers better sound than our local movie theatre. It can be brutally honest with discs that have awful sound, but those with that have better audio sound absolutely fantastic, better than what most DVDs ever had. This is because LD could carry an uncompressed PCM digital audio at higher sample rate than DVDs. The aforementioned AC-3 format took advantage of this RF modulated audio, and receivers with their inputs slots could decode it into six channel audio. Even in stereo this model sounds absolutely fantastic, and I’m pissed off now that I can’t access the AC-3 audio.

During playback I don’t notice the loudness for this machine, which I guess means it’s pretty silent. Lately I’ve noticed that resonance happening when the disc reaches full spin, and I’ll have to take the top case off in order to secure whatever is causing the noise. I’ll take some pictures of the internals then.

The connectors in the back seem to be more or less a standard form for this price range; a standard Video Out, 2/R and 1/L Audio out, a SCART Out connector and a control In Out plugs. I’m using the SCART with a high quality cord, so I’m betting I’d get scorned by hardcore LD enthusiasts.

Am I satisfied with the 160€ I put into this one? Most certainly. For a well kept and maintained unit, this particular CLD-S315 plays things just right. All I need to do is to keep the discs in good shape for the player to play them, and if I end up upgrading to a higher end unit at some point, I’m sure to keep this one in good condition as well for possible future use.

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT THING! A Mini-CD in the middle for size comparison.
LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT THING! A Mini-CD in the middle for size comparison. It’s as big as any of your standard size hipster LP, and twice the thickness. In short; these discs feel and look awesome

And before anyone mentions it; yes, I need to clean all that dust away.