General questions about movies, TV and more

This page is for general questions - if you've got a question about a specific title, please check the title-specific questions page first. Click the button below a question to answer it or click "edit" to correct a spelling mistake. Ask your questions here, and hopefully someone will answer soon. Members get e-mailed when any of their questions are answered.

Question: I remember a TV show (not a movie) about a guy who was stuck in a computer. That is all I remember about the show - what is the name of it? I think it was an educational programme.


Chosen answer: Could you be talking about Max Headroom?


Question: Anyone familiar with a film about a man with 8 kids who gets transferred to Australia? Once there, the man is constantly traveling for work and the rest of the family have to adjust to outback life. I think they eventually herd sheep and earn money from wool. The father come back, only to tell the mother that he wants a divorce and will be moving back to America. The mother decides to stay in Australia and sell wool.


Chosen answer: It was a TV movie called 'A Place Called Home' made in 1987 starring Lane Smith (who played the senator in 'Air America').

Question: There was a movie I remember where a person dressed as a mascot killed someone by running them through an industrial dishwasher. The scene was set in a kitchen. Anyone know the name?


Chosen answer: That sounds like the Jean Claude Van Damme film "Sudden Death". In one scene he is fighting the terroist in the mascot costume in a kitchen. After using many instruments to hurt her she gets caught on the dishwasher line and Van Damme turns the machine on and it kills her.


Question: Could someone explain how they achieve shots in which two points of objects are at different positions from each other but are both in focus. I have noticed it in a few films and most recently Million Dollar Baby. In one shot I recall Clint Eastwood is standing in his office and Hilary Swank is training in the gym below him. Eastwood is in the right of frame and the left part of the frame shows Hilary Swank and both are in focus despite the large distance between each other. Is it some special camera filter they use? I noticed a little out of focus blur around the middle of the frame. If not how exactly do they achieve the effect?


Chosen answer: Orson Wells first acheived this in "Citizen Kane." It's a combination of position between the lens and actors and the lens focus. There is no exact formula on how to acheive it; mostly trail and error. For example, have the lens tighten in on one actor and have the other move around until they come into focus.

Question: I can't recall the name of the film, and all I recall is a lady stuck in an elevator in her house, while two men and a lady lounged around, teasing her. Any ideas?

Scott Thatcher

Chosen answer: Sounds like "Lady in a Cage" (1964) starring Olivia de Havilland.


Question: Why exactly are film ratings in the US voluntary instead of legally required like in many other countries. I know that in countries like England, Australia and NZ they are legally required for any film/video that will be shown, sold or rented in that country. Also why do studios submit their films for ratings if they are voluntary? I find it peculiar especially for controversial films like Showgirls for example, as the NC-17 rating kills any chance the film has at the box office when they could just leave it unrated and avoid all the stigma it attaches to itself?


Chosen answer: For one thing, the US is a place in which the sociopolitical climate has always favored liberty over governmental control. Certain issues - drivers' licensing, for instance - obviously require intervention; movie rating is not seen as one of them. This is probably also compounded by the fact that the MPAA and similar bodies are hugely wealthy and powerful, and can afford a lot of lobbying to prevent any such legislative requirement from coming to pass. As far as actually getting the voluntary ratings - it's nearly suicide to NOT get one. The number of films that have generated any significant financial success without being MPAA rated is effectively zero. It seems as though the bulk of the movie-watching public WANTS to be protected from certain levels of 'indecency.'

Rooster of Doom

Question: I remember a film as a child and have forgotten the name. A group of children go to stay at their grandparents' house in the country. One day they see a rainbow and decide to go to the end of it. When they get there they see a pot of gold and they meet a leprechaun. At the end of the film all I can remember is the leprechaun character walking off into the sunset with a taller man and the children going back to their parents' house.

Chosen answer: I can't be completely certain, but it sounds like this may be "The Great Land of Small".


Question: What is the film where a mother and her teenage boy live by a lake and the boy is hounded by some gang or organisation and then they send the mother a video tape of her son having gay sex with one of his attackers/kidnappers? She gets revenge on this person/gang?


Chosen answer: 'The Deep End', starring Tilda Swinton.


Question: I remember a black and white film. It was a horror/thriller and it started with a scene of a car driving up the driveway to a spooky house. The excellent thing was the ending of the film was exactly the same with the same scene of a car driving up the driveway?


Chosen answer: This could be "Dead of Night" (1945). It's a good spooky British anthology film about a man who has a recurring dream about going to a party at an old mansion. Within the dream framework, there are other stories about a ghost child, a haunted mirror and a ventriloquist.

Question: What's the horror film about a boy and girl travelling in a car and he ties her shoelaces together while the parents are driving to the new house? The car has an accident and the girl can't get out. At the new house the boy gets haunted by his sister - I remember a scene of a pizza cutter being run up the walls.


Chosen answer: I believe you are referring to the 1982 TV movie "Don't Go To Sleep", with Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper.

Gavin Jackson

Question: I always assumed that the widescreen versions of films were the entire viewing area, and the fullscreen versions had part of the viewing area cut off from the sides so that it would fill the television screen. However, I recently noticed a couple of movies whose fullscreen versions had *more* to see on the top and bottom, meaning that the widescreen versions had part of the top and bottom cut off. Why on earth would they cut portions of the top and bottom off of the viewing area, when it is completely unnecessary to do so?

Matty Blast

Chosen answer: A frame of film is square, rather than rectangular, so there are two options to get a widescreen picture. If an anamorphic lens is used, then the entire frame is used to capture a slightly horizontally squashed image, then in projection the entire frame is stretched out into widescreen. The other route taken is to block off the top and bottom of the frame, resulting in the correct rectangular shape. In projection a metal plate is used to only display this rectangular area. Because only the central region is meant to be shown, filmmakers will very often put boom mikes or other things just outside of that area - after all, otherwise a microphone will have to be further away from the actors just to avoid an unused area of film anyway. However, if a fullscreen (4:3 ratio) version is created by including these top and bottom sections rather than cropping the sides (possibly because both edges of the screen have to be seen in that shot, otherwise something important will be cropped), some things will be seen which were never meant to be. A good example is seen in the fullscreen version of "The Matrix" - when Neo receives the mobile phone near the start, you can see a crew member's hand in shot at the bottom of the screen. This is also the reason some people think a boom mike is accidentally in shot for the entirety of a movie when they see it in a theatre. If the projectionist hasn't positioned the metal plate properly, the bottom of the correct area is cut off, and too much of the top is shown, frequently exposing the microphone. So ultimately the top and bottom can only be used when they don't contain film-making equipment, and even then the framing of the shot may look odd, as the film was never shot with those parts of the screen in mind.

Jon Sandys

Question: What is the difference between subtitles and closed-captions? Over here in England we don't bother with c-c's, but I've noticed that a lot of my R1 discs have subtitles in some languages and c-c's in others. Also, on some discs the 'subtitle' button will display the c-c's but on others it won't. In those cases how do I display the c-c's?


Chosen answer: Closed-captioning is for the hearing-impaired, and thus displays things like sound effects (ie *doorbell ringing*) and musical notes on either side of the dialogue to represent singing, whereas subtitling is usually just a translation of the dialogue. As for displaying the c-c's, it probably depends on the DVD in question, though some TVs and DVD players have built in c-c settings which can be turned on to access the captioning.


Question: Which film features a young girl pulling a young boy inside from the wind and kissing him, and which older film is this directly imitating?

Chosen answer: There is a scene in E.T. where a young boy pulls a girl in and kisses her. The movie being imitated is 'The Quiet Man' with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Jane Doe

Question: Is there any reason why actors/actresses don't have credits in some films when they generally have a small role or cameo. I have seen this seems to especially apply to animated film where top stars are left uncredited. An example is Beavis & Butthead do America in which Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Greg Kinnear were all uncredited despite having large roles. Has this got anything to do with the SAG? I know SAG has tight rules about actors who receive credits are also supposed to be given certain benefits under union rules.


Chosen answer: Sometimes previous commitments make them unable to have their name attached to something. Examples include Michael Jackson and Dustin Hoffman, who both appeared uncredited in The Simpsons (or rather, credited under false names), for the simple reason that they were unable, due to contract obligations, to have their name appear in conjuction with it.


Question: What is the job of the "best boy" that is sometimes listed in movie credits?

Chosen answer: The best boy is traditionally the assistant to the Gaffer (head electrician), although now it is a common term for the second in command of any department, so you may see 'best boy rigging' or similar. It's not even mandatory to be a boy either, female best boys include Julie Fife and Kristina Gore Trevail (who was billed as Best Girl).


Question: I saw a cartoon or similar where a guy needed ivory, so he looked up in a book that ivory comes from elephants. He went up to a live elephant and tried to saw his tusks off, and the elephant threw him off. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Chosen answer: This was from a Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Elmer Fudd. He goes looking for the tusks to cook dinner and this happens.

Question: Can anyone give me a website that has a list of all of James Bond's different gadgets he's ever had?

Question: Around ten years ago there was a made-for-television movie shown in the U.S. The movie was shown mostly like "news reports" about a meteor heading to Earth (which I believe was actually supposed to be some kind of alien spaceship). There was something of a controversy about the movie, and the network constantly showed reminders that it was a movie, not a real news broadcast. I can't remember the network it was on, though it was definitely a broadcast network, as opposed to cable. And it is not "The 4400" (which is a much more recent cable program), nor "War of the Worlds".

Chosen answer: It was called Without Warning.


Question: A long time ago, maybe six years or so, I saw a little bit of a movie that has stuck in my mind. I think it might be The Spiral Staircase, but I've read summaries of that and it doesn't mention the scene I saw. In the scene, there was this huge spiraling staircase and this man and older woman, maybe two women, were running up it. The staircase was collapsing as they were running and the man ended up trying to save the older woman, even though I think the older woman might have been bad. Does anyone know?

Chosen answer: This sounds like "The Haunting" to me (the good one from the '60's, not that junk from '99). In the scene I think you're referring to, the character Eleanor has climbed up this huge rickety staircase, in her sleep I think. Everyone else in the house (3 other people, two men, one woman) gathers around the bottom, trying to figure out how to get her down. Finally, one of the men - a doctor - climbs the staircase to rescue her. It starts collapsing and they both nearly fall. Hope this helps!

Question: I remember watching an old TV show, time period I think similar to 'Who's the Boss' and 'Three's company', but i can't remember the name. About a family, the dad built a robot daughter. She had dark hair, they had a real son too, the neighbour's daughter (red hair, I think) had a crush on him. Episodes include the robot girl going in the swimming pool and breaking, and the boy making a black and white film for class.

Chosen answer: The show was called 'Small Wonder'. Check out the IMDb page for more info:




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