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.

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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.

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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
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.

Tag of the Month: Love Conquers All (February 2018)

It’s February 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.

February’s Tag: Love Conquers All
monthlytag - February 2018

Yeah, I know. A romantic tag for the month of Valentine’s Day. How original. But we all need stories of love at least every now and then to revitalize our tired old hearts, so this is as good a time as any. But, to put a little spin on the proceedings, I’m going to focusing more on the kinds of love stories that make us root for the underdog; tales of unlikely love mixed in with the usual to remind us that there just may be a soulmate for everyone out there.

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

THE REVIEWS:
50/50
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Purple Rain
The Shape of Water
The Sound of Music
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
August Rush
Lady Bird

Last Month: Visions of the Future

Last month, I took a look at various futuristic films, ranging the gamut from post-apocalyptic to urban dystopia. If you missed the reviews, you can check them out here.

Tag of the Month: Visions of the Future (January 2018)

It’s January at The Movie Maestro, and since it’s a new year, it’s time for the first 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 romantic for February, etc.

January’s Tag: Visions of the Future

monthlytag - January 2018

Every New Years in my youth, I used to view futuristic films; pieces ranging the gamut of speculative science fiction, from the post-apocalyptic vistas of Mad Max to the dystopian metropolis of Blade Runner and beyond. This New Years, I’ll be cutting you into the fun with a series of reviews revolving around glimpses into civilization to come.

Keep a look out for the tag #FutureVisions on my Instagram and Tumblr movie reviews, and check back here for links to them every week.

The Reviews:
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Star Trek Beyond
Total Recall
Logan’s Run
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
Dune
Mad Max
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Fury Road
Blade Runner 2049 (more)

Happy New Years!

A New Year at The Movie Maestro

It’s 2018, a brand new year for a brand new Movie Maestro!

At about this time last year, I never would have expected to be where I am. Sure, money and time problems did not allow me to accomplish all of the goals that I had set for myself in 2017, but I did start a whole new endeavor–this blog! Since March, I have shared with all of you my love of cinema and its power over our hearts and minds, and hope to continue to share it for many years to come. To all of you who have visited and read the blog, whether in passing or as faithful fans, thank you so much!

Changes In Store

When I first started this blog, I had visions of a full multimedia site–a foolhardy ambition, this I now know. So, over the fall and winter, I have slowed down on posting, moving my film reviews onto my social media accounts for quicker and easier-to-write content.

With this in mind, I will be continuing with this format into 2018 and beyond, with my own personal stamp: the Tag of the Month. Every month, I will announce a monthly tag which many of my reviews will revolve around. Some will be seasonal or holiday oriented, like the recent Twisted Xmas posts, others will be at my own whimsy.

In addition, I will be making changes to how I post in the regular columns. The Double Bill Drive-In will continue, although I will be thoroughly viewing every double feature idea before I write the post, ensuring I have a actual opinion on the suggestion. Maestro’s Marathons is also continuing, although with my shift to the Tag of the Month posts, there will be less holiday marathons, and more original ideas. Casting Calls, Editorials, and Head Canon will all be going on, but Weirdo Cinema is closing doors.

Fan Edit Reviews will be continuing as well, but I will be moving info on my own edits to my new studio blog, Temporal Productions. This new side project will house all info on my personal work, including my films, edits, artwork, any and all original work by moi.

Here’s to another year and more of cinematic goodness!

FAN EDIT REVIEW: The Star Wars Trilogy – Harmy’s Despecialized Editons

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Original Films Directed by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, and Richard Marquand, Written by George Lucas, Leigh Brackett, and Lawrence Kasdan
Fan Edit by Harmy
Category: Reconstruction

While most fan edits can usually be distilled down to the editor’s subjective goal for a film, there is a rapidly-growing facet of the community that involves the creation of reconstructions. These are edits which do not seek to create a wholly new version of the film, but rather to restore a previously unavailable version, using a number of different home video sources. While he was hardly the first, one can say this method of fan editing truly came into its own with Czech editor Harmy, and his excellent Star Wars Despecialized Editions.

First, a brief history lesson, courtesy of the first half of this very informative short documentary:

In case you can’t watch the video, in effect, everything that the original Star Wars film won Oscars for–the visual effects, the set and costume design, sound design–was significantly altered by George Lucas twenty years later to produce the Special Edition, a series of cuts that he felt lived up to his original vision for the trilogy. While the merits of these versions have been and continue to be endlessly debated by fans, the original versions are, at the time of this writing, MIA, in either original print form or on high definition (or acceptable standard definition, for that matter) video.

Enter Harmy, a Czech English teacher and video enthusiast, who sought to restore the original versions of the trilogy in the vein of an early effort by Revisited editor Adywan, by combining different video sources to bring the film back to its original state. Thus, the Despecialized Editions were born.

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The first versions of the edits, available in MKV form, concentrated on two major fronts: correcting the massive alterations to the color timings of the films, and of course, reversing the editorial and visual effects changes that Lucas has made over three successive variations of the Special Editions. Even in these lower-bitrate versions, made with upscales of the Laserdisc-derived 2006 DVD releases of the original trilogy, were quite a step above the official Blu-ray release of 2011 in fidelity to the first-released cuts.

In the years since, Harmy has kept up with changes in both video editing technology and newly-available preservations of the original films, updating each edit accordingly. For this review, I used v2.7 of Star Wars, v2.0 of Empire, and v2.5 of Jedi, in two forms: the full MKV files and a custom blu-ray set made by editor NJVC. While both versions contain the same multitude of audio and subtitle tracks, the blu-rays lower the bitrate slightly in order to fit every feature onto a disc. This doesn’t bother me much, considering I don’t sit close enough to my 40-inch TV to notice a difference, but pick accordingly to your tastes.

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Star Wars v2.7 is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Harmy’s set, considering how extensively the original film has been altered in 4 decades. In addition to the highest number of new visual effects, Star Wars suffered a heavily-skewed color palette, to the point that flesh tones begin to take on incredibly rosy complexions. The Despecialized Edition mercifully corrects this, using a well-preserved 35mm print as reference for correct theatrical color timing. The film is no longer forced to conform to the look of the prequels, appearing as it once did in 1977.

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Top: 2011 Bu-ray, Bottom: Despecialized v2.7

And of course, every successive VFX change is reversed–from things as huge as the original ILM Death Star battle to tweaks as small as restoring the orange blob of Vaseline under Luke’s desert speeder, nothing goes unnoticed by Harmy. Each original shot is returned through numerous different sources, depending on which is the highest quality version available; while most of the video is a color-corrected blu-ray rip, changes made to that master are reversed by taking from HD broadcasts of the 2004 DVDs or the 1997 Special Edition, and so on.

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When it becomes necessary to restore a shot that was only in the original version, fan-produced upscales of the 2006 DVDs are utilized, with elements taken from two noteworthy film preservations, Team Negative 1’s Silver Screen Edition and the 16mm Puggo Grande Edition. The video above explains the process in much better detail than I can in these paragraphs, but to over-summarize, the amount of work that went into creating these cuts prove that sometimes, the fans care more about something special than the creator.

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Empire and Jedi, while containing their fair share of VFX alterations, were less butchered by Lucasfilm, with the changes limited more to the inclusion of previously deleted footage and alternate audio takes. The latter example further displays the collaborative nature of the Despecialized Editions, with Harmy enlisting the approved usage of another fan project: a recreation of the original theatrical mixes. Produced by Hairy_hen mainly using the 1993 Laserdisc mixes, the main audio options replicate the standard 35mm stereo and the 70mm six-track mixes that were originally heard in theaters, with the first film also including the mono mix. All are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio, and while most certainly aren’t reference-material, hold up to the official releases quite well.

Each MKV file is quite massive, weighing in at an average of over 30 GBs, with bitrates approaching an average of 20 MBPS. The latest versions are still in 720p, but look stunningly beautiful in their original forms compared to the official releases, which are varyingly faded or glossed over with digital enhancements. The blu-ray set by NJVC doesn’t really handle the grain field as well, but as I mentioned before, unless you’re sitting right in front of the TV, this isn’t really something you will notice. Later versions of the MKVs are stated by Harmy to be in full 1080p resolution, owing to new elements pulled from Team Negative 1’s now finished Silver Screen Edition and a new set of prints being restored by an OriginalTrilogy Forum member known as Poita.

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But that’s not all! Both options include a selection of interesting and excellent features, many of which aren’t easily available anywhere else. On the MKV files, no less than twenty different audio options are available: in addition to the theatrical mixes, the original Laserdisc tracks are included in Dolby Digital form, along with a wide array of foreign dubs (my favorites are the German and Japanese tracks. So awesome and funny at the same time). There are also audio commentaries available from the Laserdiscs, DVDs, and Blu-rays, with Star Wars also presenting a rare official website podcast commentary by Pablo Hidalgo. Finally, each one provides an English Descriptive Audio track (so caring and thoughtful of the fans. If only Lucas could be the same).

In addition to the audio tracks, an equally-impressive selection of subtitles is collected from the Project Threepio effort, ranging from English to such overlooked languages as Thai and Navajo.

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The NJVC blu-ray set, available in several options, ups the ante in the extras field with several more commentaries such as Internet podcasts by Rebel Force Radio and Collider, and even Rifftrax by the MST3K crew themselves, along with a few more subtitle options. The bonus features discs include a collection of goodies from around the inter-webs, such as featurettes detailing the changes made to the films over the years, parody productions, documentaries, deleted scenes, trailers and TV spots, and even the excellent filmumentaries by Jamie Benning. All of the discs are finished with full motion menus which further push the official feel of this set.

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All in all, this is a great time to be a Star Wars fan. The dark years of the late 1980s have passed, as have the Lucas years, where Star Wars was kept under the stranglehold of a veritable Darth Vader, a man who has become everything about the Hollywood system he used to hate. Look at it now, with new, acclaimed films in theaters, TV series killing it on the small screen, and fan productions restoring to us our most treasured memories of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, things are finally looking up. So this Christmas, or Star Wars Day, or anytime you want, fire up the Despecialized Editions and enjoy yourself. You finally can again.

HOW TO GET IT:
Despite the crackdown on p2p file sharing going on these days, the Despecialized Editions are still easily and readily available in just about every corner of the web today, thanks in no small part to their popularity. If you are going through the official channels, visit this Harmy-approved guide, which will walk you through the different methods of obtaining the digital files, whether in the full MKV versions or lower-quality AVCHD files.

NJVC’s blu-ray set was briefly unavailable due to the creator pulling it from circulation–it appears that several unscrupulous individuals were selling the sets on Ebay. However, another fan has graciously and with NJVC’s support made them available again. All you need is a blu-ray burner and the discs, and you are good to go!

Happy Holidays from The Movie Maestro!

December 26: With most of the holidays behind us, I’ll be wrapping up Twisted Xmas with a couple more reviews I missed in the hoopla of presents and family get-togethers, in addition to some updates to my collection posts on Instagram. I’ll be updating you all in depth soon on the future of The Movie Maestro and what’s in store for the first few months of 2018.

I hope you all have enjoyed your holidays!

Here at The Movie Maestro, I’ll be celebrating the holidays, whichever one you prefer, with viewings upon viewings of festive films. In addition to traditional Christmas fare, I’ll also be reviewing some of my favorite “Twisted Xmas” movies.

What is a “Twisted Xmas” Movie?

Good question, glad you asked. A Twisted Xmas film, to this reviewer, is any film that takes place at Christmastime, but does not concern itself with the themes of the holiday, or perhaps does so in an increasingly twisted and non-traditional way. Think Die Hard or Batman Returns.

The Reviews:

Home Alone
Iron Man 3
Ghostbusters II
Batman Returns
Die Hard
Enemy of the State
Trading Places
A Christmas Story

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like…Star Wars!

You may have noticed that I didn’t get around to the Star Wars flicks last month. Well, that was partially due to my being rather busy, but also a little intentional, since Star Wars: The Last Jedi is opening this month. My Star Wars reviews are being moved to the next two weeks to prepare.

The Reviews:

Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
The Force Awakens
Rogue One
The Last Jedi

Harmy’s Despecialized Edition Fan Edit Review

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Once the holidays are over, I’ll be doing some major restructuring, as well as introducing you all to my dedicated Temporal Productions blog, where my fan edit and short film information will be permanently transferred to, allowing me to keep my critical and professional work separate. I hope to see you all then!

Once again, Happy Holidays to you all!

November at The Movie Maestro

Now that Halloween is long behind us, it’s time for me to refresh myself with some of my favorite films and film franchises! Until the end of November, I’ll be reviewing a wide array of entries from the Star Trek series to Indiana Jones to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all just in time to read while you stuff your face with Thanksgiving turkey! Also on the plate will be a complete review of the Star Wars saga to prepare for the December 15 release of The Last Jedi.

Stay true, believers!