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: This applies to all of the Star Wars films: I know that Denis Lawson is Ewan McGregor's uncle, but which side is Lawson related to, McGregor's father or mother?

Cubs Fan Premium member

Chosen answer: Denis Lawson is the younger brother of Ewan McGregor's mum.

Baz94

Question: There was a show on PBS that was on when I was a kid and I don't remember the name. It was about kids who ran a TV show and I think they may have sang songs on it. What is the name of that show?

Bowling255 Premium member

Chosen answer: The show is called Kidsongs, the premise being that some kids are given the opportunity to run a show of their own. Kidsongs really started as a set of home videos and then had a brief run on the Disney Channel in 1992. It later ran on PBS for about eight years, with some changes to the format during that time, until 2002. There are some episodes available on DVD at Amazon.com, including 'A Day at Old MacDonald's Farm' and 'Play Along Fun'.

Super Grover Premium member

Question: I'm after the title of a film about a boy obsessed with a horse. He rides out on them at night and then stabs them in the eyes. Very weird, black film. Sure the title had Phoenix in it?

Sarah Davis

Chosen answer: I believe the film you're referring to is "Equus", from 1977, which received three Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Richard Burton. I might add that before the film this was originally a play at the National Theatre and then an acclaimed Broadway show, which earned quite a few awards, including awards for Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Super Grover Premium member

Question: I used to watch a show either on Disney (before it was free) or Nickelodeon, it was about two store mannequins that would come to life every night when the store closed and then do crazy things and have to be back before the store opened the next day. The title or any info would be great.

Saramarie

Chosen answer: "Today's Special" - the mannequin was Jeff, and there was a woman who set up displays. There was also a small mouse named Muffy, and a night watchman who was a puppet type figure, Sam. Jeff wore a special hat that allowed him to become human, and if it fell off he was a mannequin again.

Ral0618

Question: What is involved in the process of principal photography?

Cubs Fan Premium member

Chosen answer: Principal photography is simply the shooting of a film, whether on location on city streets, on an island somewhere or on set at a studio, etc., during a specific number of months - for instance beginning in the summer of 2005 carrying into the spring of 2006. Many times the production can be halted or pushed ahead because of actors' and crew's schedules or even strikes. Once principal photography is wrapped the actors go on to their next project and post-production attends to things like CG work, numerous sound effects - like foley and special effects, and if necessary (usually it is) actors come to the studio for looping/ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) or pickup shots - usually close-ups for a particular scene, which means that the actor's 'look' in the film has to be duplicated.

Super Grover Premium member

Question: When I was a little kid in Ukraine, late 80's, I saw a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in which he was a detective or a police officer. Anyway, the only scene I remember was at the very end when he was executed at a kindergarten playground, or just a back alley. In the movie there was also kids, but this wasn't Kindergarten cop, because he doesn't die at the end of it. Does anyone know this movie? Or at least any movie where Schwarzenegger is killed at the end, excluding Terminator.

Kirill Ostapenko

Chosen answer: The only movie that Arnie dies in (except the Terminator movies) is End of Days, but he died in a church, protecting the heroine. It must be another actor.

Question: In many films where the makers wish to show a character as having gymnastic skill, they include a shot of them doing a sequence. In many films this sequence is the same: a cartwheel, followed by a back handspring, followed by a back somersault. Is there any reason why this sequence is used so often (is it well-rehearsed by stuntmen or something)?

Moose Premium member

Chosen answer: As a gymnast I can tell you why - it's one of the first (and easiest) things to learn that still looks hard to do.

Question: Can you give some examples of other films with deliberate 'additions' to them? For example the 'ghost' in Three Men and a baby. Do the film makers put these in to encourage people to buy or watch the film or are they genuine mistakes?

Sarah Davis

Chosen answer: The ghost in Three Men wasn't actually a deliberate addition, more rumour than an addition. An example of a supposed addition was a munchkin that had supposedly commited suicide on the Wizard of Oz set and was captured on screen. Many of these high profiled additions are not usually put into films. Most who claim they have stumbled upon something of great interest will generally make something out of what is usually nothing there (like the Virgin Mary in the cheese sandwich). Much like how many people claim to hear and see things in many Disney films. Filmmakers sometimes put little fun additions in their films like visual items or using lines from previous films. However its not their main priority, as I said most of these additions are just coincidence. For more rumours or supposed additions www.snopes.com is a great site for urban legends.

Lummie Premium member

Question: I'm looking for a TV show I watched as a kid. The show was about a group of kids/teens who found a highly intelligent super computer that helped them carry out missions to save the world etc, it was of course a secret that the kids had the super computer. It was a kind of hacker/agent crossover show. I've narrowed it down to that the show must have been from somewhere between the late eighties to mid nineties. I know this description is very vague but I'm hoping someone out there knows what I'm talking about.

Andreas[DK]

Chosen answer: The show was Whiz kids, but I can't remember much more than that. It was a long time ago (1983). Stick whiz kids into IMDb, there's a bit of stuff there about it.

umathegreatstationarybear

Question: Maybe an older member will be able to help me out. Circa 1975, there was a original Ghostbusters cartoon that aired. It was not the one we all know today with 4 guys and Slimer. In this one, there were two ghostbusters, and they had a gorilla that would help them. Does anyone know where I could get a copy of it on VHS or DVD? I have tried looking, but the only place that seems to have even heard of it is imdb.com.

T Poston

Chosen answer: In 1975, there was a live action TV series, 'GhostBusters', starring Forrest Tucker (Jake Kong), Larry Storch (Eddie Spenser) (both of F-Troop btw) and Tracy the Gorilla. In 1986, Filmation's animated 'GhostBusters' starred the two sons of Jake Kong and Eddie Spenser, with Tracey the Gorilla, Jessica (a TV reporter), Futura (a girl from the future), and Belfry the Bat. There are animated episodes available only on VHS at Amazon.com, and they are: 1. Prime Evil & The All Ghoul Band; 2. Heroes Haunts & Hilarity; 3. Revenge of Prime Evil; 4. Second Chance; 5. Ghosts Coast to Coast; 6. Ghoul in Every Port; 7. Outlaw Inlaws; 8. Ghost of a Chance; 9. Spirits Spooks & Specters.

Super Grover Premium member

Question: It seems that most TV show and movie characters use Mac computers, at least a far higher ration than I see in real life. Is there a reason that Apples are so prominent on TV and movies?

Nick N.

Chosen answer: Apple pays a sum of money to have their products shown on screen - because of their obvious logos and often unusual designs they stand out more than most PC brands.

Andreas[DK]

Question: Does anybody know the title to this foreign film (japanese I think.) I saw it in a shop, and it's review was that it is "Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead", and it's tagline is "The hills are alive with the sounds of screaming!" - I've searched IMDB, but can't find the film.

Hamster Premium member

Chosen answer: It's "Katakuri-ke no k├┤fuku" ("The Happiness if the Katakuris"). And it's "Sound of Music meets Night of the Living Dead."

Myridon

Question: What was the first movie to be shot in colour?

rabid anarchist

Chosen answer: The first feature-length color film was The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, in Kinemacolor, it premiered in London in 1914.

pross79

Question: For all you filmsleuths - Does anyone know what this film is called? It is about a little girl who is deaf. The film is in black and white and the only bit I can remember is her being shouted at and not being able to hear. Very vague I'm afraid.

Sarah Davis

Chosen answer: In the first scene of "The Miracle Worker" (1962), Helen Keller's parents discover she's deaf and blind when they clap and shout at her in her crib. There are two other films with the same plot. Johnny Belinda (1948) starring Jane Wyman and Lew Aryes. A girl living in backwoods rural community, has everyone believing she is dumb. She grows up a wild child, Aryes plays a teacher who realizes her condition and her to sign. The other is the Story of Esther Costello, a young girl is rendered deaf and mute by an accident. Joan Crawford plays a wealthy woman who takes pity on her and takes to the big city to educate her. Both are soap opera dramas.

ChiChi Premium member

Question: Back in the 80's I watched a film on video and I can't remember the title. Set in Italy (I think), its about an bearded inventor who builds a yellow Volkswagen which can do many things like fly, clean up messes, drive sideways, etc., and naturally it can talk. At the end he enters a race pitting him against many people including a pair of nuns. For some reason the Volkswagen continuously betrays him, dropping him from a high distance, leaving him in the middle of nowhere and eventually deciding to let the nuns win. Any help would be much appreciated.

Gavin Jackson

Chosen answer: What you're referring to is SuperBug. A five to seven film series that came out in the 70's. Two or three made it to U.S. theaters. They were made in Germany.

Question: Some people (through correcting some goofs) state that it is illegal for film producers to imitate U.S. military officers (in use of medals, insignia, where they are arranged, etc.) in their films. What civil or military code states this?

Onesimos

Chosen answer: It's not illegal. But if the military branch in question has not given their approval and doesn't like the film, they can sue for copyright infringement. For example, the uniforms in U-571 were a little bit wrong as the Navy had not endorsed it. However, Stargate SG-1 has the uniforms correct, as it has the official backing of the USAF.

Grumpy Scot

Question: Since film preservation is required for old films, why is the film material very fragile?

Onesimos

Chosen answer: Film contains chemical substances which deteroriate and "bleed out" over time. When this happens, the picture is washed out; even to the point where it is unrecoverable. Preservations means transferring the picture from the old film (which in the old days were flamable) onto a new media (digital nowadays), frame by frame.

Question: Why is it so significant that a film in the ending credits mention that animals were neither harmed or killed during production?

Onesimos

Chosen answer: Because people tend to care about that sort of thing. While it can be safely assumed that filmmakers aren't going to inflict actual harm on human beings during the making of their films (intentionally, anyway - James Cameron notwithstanding), it's something more of an open question as to whether the same hesitation would apply in the case of an animal. As such, the relevant organisations tend to monitor the film production process for evidence of such cruelty - the notice at the end of the film simply certifies that those organisations are satisfied that nothing along those lines occurred. As such, any animal-lovers who might be watching the film won't feel the need to phone up and complain.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: In film production, there are different levels of producers from "producer" "co-producer," "executive producer," and even "executive co-producer." What is a producer, and what separates the different levels?

Onesimos

Chosen answer: A producer is the person responsible for acquiring money to make a film. They talk to investors and deal with the studios for big films, or sometimes have invested their own money on smaller films. They are basically the business end of filmmaking, while the director and on-set crew are the creative side. The executive producer is head producer; the buck stops with him. Other producers work under him just like in any company, and there are various "co-producers" or "associate producers" that sometimes have little or nothing to do with the film itself. Sometimes it's someone who just writes a check or gives money to the production. IIRC, in the film "State and Main" they offered the mayor of the town they were shooting in an Associate Producer credit if he allowed the town hall to stay open late for them, or something to that extent. So someone credited as a "producer" can be a huge part of the production, or essentially have nothing at all to do with it.

Krista

Question: I am aware that different aspect ratios were used by studios since the early 1950s, but why is it that dramatic or action films are usually shot in 2.35:1, while comedies are usually shot in 1.78:1?

Onesimos

Chosen answer: The correct ratio's actually 1.85:1 (1.78:1 is 16:9, which is what's used for home widescreen). The simple answer is that 2.35:1 (cinemascope) gives a broader picture, ie. more screen space to work with, which lends itself better to more visual presentations, be they action-packed or period dramas. Cinemascope is also more expensive, so lower-budget films will opt for the more regular format. I'd also argue that your generalisations are incorrect - just looking at the technical specifications for the first two films I thought of on the IMDb, 21 Grams was shot in 1.85:1, while Dodgeball was shot in 2.35:1.

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