Tag of the Month: By The Fans

Tag of the Month makes it’s glorious return at the Movie Maestro!

What is the “Tag of the Month?”

Every month, in between my regular reviews, I will be viewing films pertaining to a certain theme, be it seasonal, holiday, or otherwise-oriented. Examples: “Twisted Xmas” for December, something scary for October, etc.

June’s Tag: By The Fans

monthlytag - June 2018

I’ve decided to do something a little more interesting this time–instead of the usual tagged movie reviews on social media, I’ve decided to give the main blog some loving this month. With that said, June will be the month of fan edits and creations! Fan Edits of existing movies, both popular and obscure, will be the flavor of the start of summer, as well as other special articles and posts centered on you, the fans of the wonderful world of cinema!

On my social media accounts, normal movie reviews will continue as usual, however, if you want the Tag of the Month content, check out the hashtag #ByTheFans here on The Movie Maestro!

The (Fan Edit) Reviews:
Godzilla 1985 Theatrical Reconstruction

 

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Stay tuned, believers!

 

Fan Edit Review: Godzilla 1985 Theatrical Version Reconstruction

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Original Film Directed by Koji Hashimoto, R.J. Kizer, Written by Shuichi Nagahara and Lisa Tomei
Fan Edit by Red Menace (a.k.a. OMGItsGodzilla)
Category: Reconstruction

In September of 2016, Godzilla fans in America received what they thought would be the best news they had had since the return of the Big G to theaters two years earlier: the last remaining Godzilla film without a North American release, The Return of Godzilla, finally hit the stores on blu-ray. Months before, however, these same fans learned of an unfortunate footnote to this release–it would not include the popular American recut, Godzilla 1985. To this day, the last official home video of 1985 was the Anchor Bay VHS tape, and to a dedicated Godzilla fan known as Red Menace, this just wouldn’t do.

I’m not going to go too deep into all of the differences between The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla 1985, but suffice to say, there are plenty. The last Godzilla film to be heavily recut with newly-added scenes (and the last to be released theatrically in the States until the Roland Emmerich film), 1985 acts as a sequel to the Americanized version of the first Godzilla film, King of the Monsters. That cut starred the great Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, thrust into the action with some skillful shooting and editing, and the inclusion of a voiceover narration by the character.

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1985 sees Burr return to the role, but this time, he stays far away from the action in several scenes set within the Pentagon, depicting Martin as an adviser to a trio of helpless American military officers watching the kaiju rampage unfold. This makes Red Menace’s job a bit easier than, say, Harmy’s on the Star Wars Despecialized Editions, as this meant only a comparitive handful of shots were needed to be inserted as opposed to a vast number of visual effects integration.

Red Menace achieves this with a popular standard definition capture of 1985 from the premium cable channel MonstersHD in the early 2000s. This does mean the exclusive footage is of a lower resolution than the main Kraken blu-ray rip, but Red manages to smooth out the inconsistencies with overlay of a 35mm film grain element from HolyGrain. The end result does mean that the image is rather thick with noise, but it certainly helps sell the illusion of an older print newly scanned into HD, especially at normal viewing distance. Bitrate is high, approaching blu-ray quality at around 25mbps.

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In addition to these shots, Red Menace also had to recreate a fair share of subtitles, both for location cards and foreign dialogue. Using an Australian VHS rip, they were able to fashion and time nearly-identical subtitles to the theatrical release.

Audio is bit worse-for-wear, however: due to 1985 only ever seeing release with a mono track, the audio is rather tinny and limited. This isn’t a knock against the editor, who surely only had to work with what existed; this is a gripe against New World Pictures. On the reconstruction, the track is in dual mono/stereo configuration, and comes through loud and clear. It seems evident that it was sourced from the MonstersHD broadcast, however, as it contains several subtle differences to the actual theatrical cut (MonstersHD had aired a workprint version, not the released American cut). A bit unfortunate, as this reconstruction cannot be called entirely accurate, but these changes are very minor, and one or two have been fixed. From talking with the editor, I have learned that a future v2.0 is in the works that will address these issues.

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The first of Red Menace’s Godzilla reconstructions serves up a real treat for G-Fans the world over. Finally, a film, or at least a version of it, that was considered to be lost indefinitely to tangled rights issues and null mass demand is now readily available to view by anyone with an internet connection and a bit of space on their computer. It looks pretty damn good for a mix of SD and HD footage, and while the audio does leave one missing the Japanese cut’s 5.1 remix, this is as true to the original American release as it gets, barring that next-to-impossible official release.

HOW TO GET IT:

Simply follow @RedMenaceOfficial on Tumblr, you can find all of their projects there!

Godzilla 1985 is available in several flavors, in both the v1.0 reviewed here and his earlier v0.5 and v0.6 efforts using SD sources, if you’re into seeing a work-in-progress version. 1.0 is available in a lower-bitrate MP4 file for more compact size and a full-quality MKV file. They have also provided two bonus features that can be downloaded separately: a reconstruction of the utterly weird and out-of-place American theme song “I Was Afraid to Love You,” and the original theatrical trailer, restored of course.

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Audio Mix, Pt. 2

It’s about that time for another Resurrection update.

I have finally completed the assembly! The final cut, barring some huge change to come from the feedback I expect to get from upcoming beta-viewings,* will be approximately 114 minutes–over ten minutes longer than the original cut, and almost thirty minutes longer the 1985. While there is still much work to be done with color correction, grain addition, and subtitle creation, not only is the main structure of the film now complete, but the audio mix is–again, barring any major changes from the beta-viewings–now a done-deal.

In my last post, I talked at length about the audio, and the extensive process I undertook to both downmix a proper stereo version of the Kraken Releasing blu-ray, and to meld that with the mono sound of 1985 without becoming jarring in the transition. Well, since then, it’s become a bit more extensive.

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One major problem that I had to tackle was Okumura’s near-death under the helicopter about two-thirds into the film. In TROG, this scene played without any music until the end of the scene, where he is finally pulled in along with the lure tape to Koroku’s M32, “The Couple Left Behind.” In 1985, this scene acquired some new, suspenseful music leading into M32, a track that most likely was an unreleased cue from Christopher Young’s Def-Con 4 score. Being unreleased, this posed a major problem: all I had to work with the mono audio from the film itself, which didn’t quite fit with the rest of the soundscape. Despite the best efforts of myself and another helpful Godzilla fan known as Zarm, an isolated version of the track just couldn’t be found.

After much brainstorming, I came up with a solution: using the faux-stereo wav files ripped from Red Menace’s 1985 reconstruction, I edited and moved around the track to eliminate any dialogue that played over it, and then experimented with ExpressFX Delay and channel panning. The end result, while not perfect, was still impressive, to me at least; the ambient helicopter blades seemed to blend into each other, and the track took on more of an authentic stereoscopic feel, enough for me to declare, “good enough.”

G85 audio fix

This led to my applying the same technique to several other spots in the film, including two more exclusive Chris Young tracks, and a certain infamous “scream” in the grand finale.

This technique didn’t work everywhere, however: I couldn’t use it for the majority of the 1985 Pentagon scenes because it would wreak havoc with the dialogue. So for those scenes, I tried something else: layering in snippets of background sound effects to complement the added isolated Young tracks, in a further attempt to bump up the mix into a more stereo-sounding beast.

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I even went the extra mile and recreated the G85 arrangement of Koroku’s main theme, using the original soundtrack release; the end result is quite powerful, more so than the mono mix could ever hope to be.

Has this all been worth it? Well, I shall see once I start hearing back from people who watch the edit. But for now, I’m happy with my accomplishment.

*If you’d like to become a beta-viewer of three test reels (about half of the film), send me a message here or at temporalproductions@protonmail.com.

 

It’s May at The Movie Maestro

…and there will still be now Tag of the Month. Sorry, life is really kicking my ass now.

I’ll be using what little spare time I have this month to do some blog maintenance and work on Godzilla: Resurrection, so stay tuned for more updates on that fan edit. Of course, if I watch any films, I’ll have those reviews up.

If you still haven’t checked out all of my MCU Marathon reviews, they are all listed right here, and if you haven’t seen Infinity War yet, then well, get on it!

 

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Audio Mix

Here I am, back with another Resurrection update!

I’m still in the process of creating the assembly cut, but I’m almost done; the Super X battle is all done, so it should be smooth sailing until I reach the end sequence, where my next great challenge will involve integrating the various sound effects, such as the famous “B mix” scream and Raymond Burr’s narration, into the audio mix, which is what leads to today’s post.

While The Return of Godzilla is readily available in the United States on blu-ray with both English and Japanese 5.1 surround mixes, I have chosen to mix Resurrection in stereo. The reasons for this are two-fold:

  1. Godzilla 1985 has only ever had a mono mix, which is in stereo configuration on the Red Menace reconstruction, so any fan edit that combines both films must match.
  2. My relative inexperience with surround mixes.

Given the ambitious nature of this project compared to some others I have in the pipeline, I decided on the stereo mix as an easier alternative to trying to up-mix the 1985 footage to 5.1. This presented its own set of challenges, however, as simply down-mixing the 5.1 Japanese mix would not be ideal or easy. So, I decided to take a two-tier approach to the audio.

First, after ripping the blu-ray and acquiring Red Menace’s 1985 reconstruction, I used Audio Muxer to extract and convert each video file’s audio track, in three varieties: a lossless stereo .flac track, two lossless mono wav files for the left and right stereo tracks, and lossless mono wavs for each 5.1 track (left, right, back left, back right, center, and LFE). These files were then used to rebuild a new mix, using the flacs as a base. For dialogue scenes, this track was enough, but for more action-packed sequences, I employed the separate wav files in various configurations to both add punch and nuance to the picture, and sometimes even to cover editorial changes made by myself.

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In effect, even in scenes where it appears I made no major changes, the audio has been substantially altered or even rebuilt, as was the case with Steve Martin’s introduction at the end of the Yahatu Maru’s wreck off of Daikoku Island: all audio in this portion of the scene from Godzilla’s roar on has been rebuilt using the isolated Christopher Young music cue and public domain sound effects, whilst before it has been rebuilt from the ripped audio elements listed above. Many other scenes benefit from this reconstruction, including:

  • Any scene with audio elements added in 1985, including the English news voice of Goro’s sailboat radio, the added Shockilas noises, the Christopher Young tracks, and alternate Godzilla roars;
  • Several scenes in TROG that were noticeably missing sound effects, like numerous sequences within Hayashida’s lab building during the Tokyo rampage and the battle with the Super X;
  • Adding the Christopher Young tracks and other sound effects to the added Pentagon scenes to bump up the mono audio

I hope all this work will be appreciated by viewers of the edit when it is released, because boy, is it a lot of work. But it’s all a bit of fun, really.

And a lot of desk chair sweat.

Infinity War is Upon Us!

It has been a long decade, and finally, the weekend of Avengers: Infinity War is here!

As you may know, I’ve been undertaking the expansive #MCUMarathon challenge ever since the beginning of the year, and while I may have fallen behind at multiple points, I have arrived at the finish line! Not only will I be reblogging all of Tumblr reviews throughout the day, but they will all be collected right here for your pleasure.

I have seen the film, and let’s just say…It. Is. Glorious.

The #MCUMarathon Reviews:
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Philosophy of This Project

It’s been about two months since I started this edit. And what a ride it has been.

I’ve faced difficulty at every turn on this one. First there was the creation of the new prologue, which I restarted several times after becoming fed up with whatever current direction it was taking. And then the ripping process itself, and the creation of the separate audio tracks needed to undertake the new stereo mix. I originally bungled this by neglecting the audio mix entirely, working from compressed mp3 stems. I guess you can you say I’ve got the skills of a novice.

Actually, you can say that. This is my first fan edit.

244979-19776-118733-1-terror-of-godzillaI grew up watching Godzilla 1985 (heretofore known as G85). All throughout those years, I knew I loved the film as one of the best of the Godzilla series, but there was also another thing I owned that always made me wonder about the original cut: the Dark Horse English translation of the manga adaptation, known in the States as Terror of Godzilla. When I first encountered it, I had yet to see G85 or even come to acquire a basic understanding of the Godzilla film continuity, so to me it was just another (cool) Godzilla story. And then I saw G85, and was instantly both confused and intrigued; Terror of Godzilla played almost exactly as this movie, but with a lot of quirky differences. I think it’s safe to say that I was introduced to the concept of alternative versions of films through Terror of Godzilla.

As I grew, TROG became somewhat of a holy grail to me. With its unavailability on the American market and limited presence in even piracy circles, it felt like an eternity before I was finally able to view it in any kind of passable form. When I finally did, it took a few viewings before I finally appreciated it for what it was–a well-structured political procedural film, with its various crises built around the presence of a giant, radioactive monster. Unlike G85, TROG was a brilliant exercise in mounting tension, with each predicament, governmental or natural, flowing from the last organically, providing every character with ample opportunities to define themselves through struggle. Instantly, I could see why this original version was superior to what the American editors had created; all they could see was a monster mash, while Hashimoto was building Godzilla back up into a force of Nature that mankind would have to reckon with.

Still, G85 had a few advantages. There are numerous examples where the pacing of specific scenes are substantially improved by a tighter cut, such as the attack of the Shockilas upon Goro Maki. In TROG, this scene is almost laughable, with an incredibly fake and immobile puppet slowly rolling on the floor towards Goro, who seems to have nothing to fear from this lump of rubber. In G85 however, the scene is shortened by almost a full minute, turning two or three different attacks and dodges between the two combatants into a single, rapid piece of culluloid violence that preserves the shock factor of a giant sea louse suddenly appearing behind our main character.

shockilas

Some scenes are also improved with the new score additions by New World Pictures, which were sourced from a film called Def-Con 4. These selections by Christopher Young actually blend very well into the original score by Reijiro Koroku.

But by far, the additions most everyone remembers are the newly-shot Pentagon scenes starring Raymond Burr as the Steve Martin character from King of the Monsters. While not really adding to the plot in any significant way and stuffed with dismissive American Cold War humor, Steve Martin’s presence within them lends the film a sense of continuity with its past, and Burr’s performance is haunting in a handful of scenes.

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Taking all of this into account, one gets the sense that arguments could be made supporting both versions. Which leads me to this edit: while ostensibly a straight hybrid cut, as you will see over the coming weeks, there’s a lot more going on under the surface. Obviously, there’s my new title screen and prologue sequence, but also some of my own interpretations of certain sequences like the Super X shelling or the end sequence of Godzilla falling into Mt. Mihara. These not only serve to provide myself some much-needed editing experience, not only to leave my mark upon one of my favorite Godzilla films, but to hopefully bring it up to the same level, at least in the eyes of American audiences, of some of their favorite pieces of cinema from the period. Films from that decade and immediately prior, like All the President’s Men, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Trilogy, The Hunt for Red October; all of these films serve as my inspiration on this project.

The end goal will be to create an alternative “export” version, a what-if international cut that posits a collaboration between the American and Japanese creative teams to preserve the original intents of Tanaka, Hashimoto, and Nagahara, with changes to improve the pacing sound design, along with some speculative additions more in tune with the current era, such as the preservation of the Japanese performances through the use of subtitles instead of a dub.

I think more than anything, this is my mantra while crafting Resurrection; not to “fix” the film, but to give it an extra bump or boost, to allow it to stand aesthetically alongside the best of the ’80s sci-fi output as I know it does thematically. In short, I want to “resurrect” The Return of Godzilla, so that it can experience, even if only the eyes of a few dozen, a new apex of popularity.

I know, I sound absolutely crazy. And maybe I am.

But so was Jodorowsky, and he made The Holy Mountain.

Godzilla: Resurrection is now on The Movie Maestro

And thus marks the transfer of Godzilla: Resurrection to The Movie Maestro!

In recent months, I’ve decided on consolidating my professional and amateur projects away from each other, and that is why from now on, any and all material on my fan edits will be hosted here, on The Movie Maestro.

As I’ve stated in the main page for this project, Resurrection is intended to be my vision of a definitive cut of The Return of Godzilla, preserving the political procedural-crossed-with-disaster film that the original Japanese theatrical release was, while including a majority of the American Pentagon footage starring Raymond Burr as Steve Martin. Along the way, I’ll be experimenting with color and contrast grading to improve the rather soft appearance of the print available on US blu-ray, with a general tightening of several noteworthy scenes, and with more avant-garde sequences, like a new prologue montage that will precede the opening credits. Also of note is my decision to create a new stereo mix for the film, one that slightly expands the soundscape of the American scenes while smoothing the auditory transition between them and the 5.1 mix of the Kraken blu-ray.

In a way, my ambition might be a little higher than my reach on this one, as there are a number of more recent films I hope to tackle that, with the advantage of digital intermediates, do not need cross-picture matching work or significant audio remixing done to them, but this is also a learning experience for myself, and I hope it translates into my more original projects down the line.

Continue to check back for more updates as this project progresses!

April 2018: No Tag of the Month

It’s April at The Movie Maestro, and that means….actually, nothing this time.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have disappeared for long stretches at a time lately–it has been quite the stressful month. So, to catch up on everything going on in my weird life, I’m going to take a break on the Monthly Tags.

Will there still be reviews? Absolutely! Just no monthly specials–this will allow me to finish the MCU and DCEU Marathons, as well as actually put a dent into my own work, like Godzilla: Resurrection.

Plus, my birthday is this month. I deserve a break.

Until May, enjoy my marathons and other reviews listed below:

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE (#MCUMarathon)
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther

DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE (#DCEUMarathon)
Man of Steel

Last Month: Super Heroism

Last month, I took a look at films which portray many forms of the perrennial American Superhero, in all its good and bad forms. You can read the reviews here.

Tag of the Month: Super Heroism (March 2018)

It’s March at The Movie Maestro, and that means it’s time for a new Tag of the Month!

What is the “Tag of the Month?”

Every month, in between my regular reviews, I will be viewing films pertaining to a certain theme, be it seasonal, holiday, or otherwise-oriented. Examples: “Twisted Xmas” for December, something scary for October, etc.

March’s Tag: Super Heroism

monthlytag - March 2018

While comic book and superhero movies have no doubt been a fixture of my reviews for awhile, I decided to make them the focus for this month. This is not only to allow myself the means to catch up on the MCU Marathon, but also to examine the DC offerings in greater depth, as well as some other comic-based and inspired flicks that deal with larger-than-life heroes. Films like Flash Gordon, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, even Birdman will make appearances in my reviews this month as I examine all facets of the superhero, both good and bad.

Keep a look out for the tag #SuperHeroism on my Instagram and Tumblr reviews, and check back here each week for links to them all.

THE REVIEWS SO FAR:
I’m gonna do something a little different here. Since I’ve already been doing a lot of superhero reviews, why don’t I collect them here to give y’all something to read while I’m not posting? Collected below will be all the MCU and DCEU films I’ve reviewed, as well as some other super-heroic flicks.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE (#MCUMarathon)
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther

DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE:
Man of Steel

OTHER REVIEWS:
Batman Returns
Flash Gordon
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence)

Last Month: Love Conquers All

Last month, I took a look at several films examining love that conquers all barriers and hardships, romantic, familial, platonic, and otherwise. If you missed the reviews, you can check them out here.