Episode 54: Jurassic World (2015)

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

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In This Episode:

Chris and Allen examine the DNA of Jurassic World. What does it take to build a monster of a movie? Along the way they talk paleontology, ‘Stiletto Gate‘, Health & Safety in the workplace and, of course, sex robots.

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The Jurassic Park logo is based on Chip Kidd’s original Jurassic Park book cover

Welcome To Jurassic Park:

June 11th, 1993, saw the release of Jurassic Park in cinemas across the US. The movie would be a gargantuan hit, breaking box office records and convincing audiences that dinosaurs were back from extinction. Director Steven Spielberg was of course no stranger to blockbuster cinema, having almost single-handedly created the summer blockbuster in 1975 with Jaws. With Jurassic Park he had created something equally as enduring and the movie would usher in a new era of effects heavy spectaculars.

 

The pioneering effect work in Jurassic Park seamlessly blended practical and computer generated visuals with a combination of puppets, animatronics and computer animations. Computer generated imagery, or CGI, while at the cutting edge of technology at that time was still a largely unproven film-making tool.  Directors were still wary of taking risks with the format, due in part to previous costly productions with small returns. Disney’s Tron (1982) is a key example with a large production budget and disappointing box office, at Least from Disney’s perspective.

 

In total Jurassic Park has 14 minutes of dinosaur action with only 6 minutes of screen time for CGI effects. However things  were never going to be the same again.

James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989), and to a lesser extent Terminator 2 (1991), had utilized CGI to impressive effect but Jurassic Park would change summer blockbusters forever and mark the point where the industry began to pull away from practical effects. During Jurassic Park’s production Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), whose work on the Abyss would help that film snag an Academy Award for visual effects, had heard rumblings about Spielberg being unhappy with stop motion footage of the Raptor attack in the kitchen scene. These sequences had been created by animator, “Go-Motion” inventor and industry legend Phil Tippet. Formerly the lead animator at ILM Tippet had left the company to start his own effects house just prior to Jurassic Park. ILM showcased a sequence for Spielberg and secured the job on the film, while Tippet remained onboard as “Dinosaur Supervisor”. It couldn’t have been more clear in that moment that the shift from practical effects was happening and CGI would soon to dominate the cinema landscape like the Jurassic Park’s star attraction the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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Case in point, by the time production would begin on Jurassic World (2015) computer effects have come on leaps and bounds. As such there almost no practical dino effects in Jurassic World (while there is some motion capture according to director Colin Trevorrow). The film’s creatures are rendered, almost exclusively, by machines. It’s an odd experience watching the movie and having a sense that things felt more convincing in Spielberg’s original. The human eye is easy to fool but actors, onscreen, interacting with objects or creatures created in post has an odd dissonance which is hard to ignore, like watching videogame cut scenes. The difficulty in using CGI in ’93 meant that it had to be used sparingly and measured for effect. Modern cinema is awash with computer generated images from simple colour correction to the gravity defying acrobatics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the opening moments of Jurassic World, where a CGI dino is breaking out of a CGI egg, to the final frame the look of the movie is dominated by computer generated images. It also seems strange to film on location in Hawaii, with access to stunning scenery, yet still appear to have been filmed indoor on a greenscreen soundstage.

And that’s the big issue, our brain can’t connect to images that do not conform to how we understand physics to work.

 

A large T-Rex foot sinking into mud makes sense to us (helped no doubt by the use of a life-size, 6 tonne, animatronic T-Rex) as we know how the weight and scale of a large creature’s foot would sink in to soft, wet ground. But compare that, for example, to watching the CGI composite shot of the mosasaurs leaping from its tank to eat the suspended shark. The dino isn’t real, the shark isn’t real, the stadium isn’t real, the train in the foreground is not real. It may look impressive but the moment is far from engaging or convincing, up until actual water splashes on actual people when what’s real makes sense to us again. Crazy that Spielberg’s rubber shark, Bruce, from Jaws more than 40 years ago can still illicit an emotional reaction from the viewer which still can’t be created by CGI today.

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One of several rigs used on Jaws (1975)

Jurassic Park broke new ground and was actually ahead of itself with what we new about dinosaurs in the early ’90’s. Whereas the technology used to create these films has evolved since 1993 the ideas on display have not. We now know much more about these incredible creatures and unfortunately the filmmakers decided not to update their look for Jurassic World.

25 years on Jurassic Park is still convincing audiences that dinosaurs walk among us. Will we say the same of Trevorrow’s Jurassic World in the future?

We are an independent podcast, so remember please subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show. We rely on you spreading the word.

Coming Soon:

Our next franchise episode takes a look at John Woo’s Mission Impossible 2, if you want to watch along.

Follow Us:

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

 

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Episode 53: Infinity What, Why and When?

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

 

In This Episode:

We have another bonus episode featuring a round up of franchise adjacent news, Trailer Talk and recommendations. Plus we help out a listener with a round up of the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading up to Infinity War. Before that we talk about the possibility of Willow 2, Bill & Ted 3, Zombieland 2, Karate Kid: Cobra Kai’s success and think that news of the theft of an Iron Man prop suit might make a great movie.

Our Definitive Guide to the MCU:

On the show Chris freestyles and riffs on his loose recollection’s of the movies from Iron Man to Black Panther. Here, though, is Allen’s abbreviated synopsis and run down of where things stand, just in case you want to skip everything and just go to see Infinity War.

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Phase 1: Things kick off with Iron Man (2008) where genius, billionaire playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr,) sees the destruction his weapons tech causes first hand. Gets kidnapped in a war zone and invents the Iron Mam suit to save his life and escape. Along the way we meet “Happy” Hogan, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. who will all pop up again throughout the MCU. At the end of the movie Stark publicly reveals himself as Iron man then, in the post credit sequence, we meet Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and hear about the “Avenger Initiative”.

Then Edward Norton is Bruce Banner and hulks out in The Incredible Hulk (2008), which is a reboot after Ang Lee’s box office stinker Hulk (2003) which starred Eric Bana as Banner. Nothing happens you need to know about except we meet General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) and there is a tiny post credit scene with Downey Jr.  and Hurt where they talk about “A little team” being put together. Norton will not return to the role of Hulk.

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Iron Man 2 (2010) is a mostly disappointing follow up, but we meet Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and Tony’s dad Howard for the first time, plus Don Cheadle, replacing Terrance Howard as Rhodey from here on out, dons the suit and mantle of War Machine. The only other thing to note is that in the post credit sequence Coulson is in the New Mexico desert at a large crater created by Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.

Which leads to Thor (2011). We get shown around Asgard and meet a host of mythic figures including Chris Hemsworth as the titular god of thunder his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and brother and MCU antagonist/ annoyance Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Jeremy Renner makes his first appearance as Hawkeye and we meet Thor’s pals Sif and the Warriors Three, his love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Idris Elba as Heimdall keeper of the rainbow bridge the Bifrost, just go with it! Post credits Loki, while impersonating Jane’s colleague astrophysicist Erik Selvig, is shown a mysterious cosmic blue cube by Nick Fury.

In Captain America: First Avenger (2011) we find out that cube is called the Tesseract and it’s a powerful weapon. This movie is set in during the Second World War. Chris Evans gets roided up going from weakling Steve Rogers to super soldier Captain America. The patriotic shield bearer goes toe to toe against the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and agents of the secret organization Hydra. We meet Agent Peggy Carter, who get a spin of TV show, see Tony’s dad as young Howard Stark and get lots of stuff with Cap’s BFF Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Shaw). Cap’s shield is made of Vibrainium, it looks like Bucky dies and Red Skull touches the Tesseract and gets sucked into a wormhole. The Tesseract then falls in the ocean and Captain America crashes into the Artic Sea and freezes. Then in the post-credit scene gets thawed out in the modern day where Nick Fury suggests to Cap how he may spend his time now that he’s out of the ice.

Which is of course to say that he should join The Avengers (2012). Which was called Marvel’s Avengers Assemble in the UK to avoid confusion with the Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery bomb from 1998. Here all the heroes team up to save the world from a cosmic threat, in that classic at first they don’t get along sort of a thing. Bruce Banner/Hulk is now Mark Ruffalo, agent Coulson “dies” and Loki is the bad guy, taking over peoples minds with a sceptre which holds a blue stone (important for later). Loki got his sceptre from Thanos who is in the post credit thing looking nothing like he does the next time he shows up.

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We’re now in Phase 2 and Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD after the events of Avengers in Iron Man 3 (2013). He’s got loads of Iron Man suits and they almost all get blown up in a battle at the end of the movie. Rhodey is here, now looking like Iron Patriot but that doesn’t get mentioned.

We also get a second Thor movie, Thor: The Dark World(2013), which may be the worst MCU movie of the whole franchise. A Dark Elf, Maliketh, who tries to open holes to the nine realms with the Aether, Loki “dies” and Natalie Portman makes her last appearance to date. This movie has the first mention of the Infinity Stones and The Collector is introduced, mid-credits, when Sif and Volstagg, one of the Warriors Three, entrust him with the Aether, which is an Infinity Stone. Volstagg says that with the Tesseract on Asgard it is safer to keep the Infinity Stones separated.

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NB: We’ve already glimpsed the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s treasure room in Thor, which will come up later, and The Collector looks like he has Adam Warlock’s sarcophagus. Which is irrelevant in the MCU so far.

So from, possibly, the worst MCU movie to one of the best in Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014). This is more like a political thriller but, you know, with big fist fights. Cap is out to save Bucky, you thought he was dead right? Bucky is now a metal armed assassin under Hydra’s mind control code named Winter Soldier. Hydra have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. Black Widow and Captain America are on the run. They meet Falcon who gets to just become a hero after, like, two seconds. Nick Fury is in hiding. Bucky gets deprogrammed and goes on the run. Cap finds out his pal Bucky killed, his other buddy, Tony Stark’s, parents in 1991. Lastly Hydra have Loki’s sceptre and two mysterious twins.

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Now we leap out into space for some light relief and a killer 70’s soundtrack in The Guardian’s of the Galaxy (2014). We meet loads of characters, two of whom are daughters of Thanos, Gamora and Nebula and find another Infinity Stone. Which gets taken to The Collector who explains about the Six Singularities which form the Infinity Stones, the collector also has Howard the Duck (unimportant). There’s a big fight and the space police, the Nova Corp, are left in charge of the stone.

As we ramp up to the end of Phase two we assemble the Avengers again for the overly convoluted Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Here the Avengers are out to get Loki’s sceptre and destroy the last Hydra base. We find out the twins from Winter Soldier are Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. There are some Marvel Sony rights issues at play here so Quicksilver isn’t a mutant and get his power from an Infinity Stone. Tony uses Loki’s sceptre and accidentally creates Ultron, a super-duper AI robot who sees the human race as beneath him. Along the way Ultron builds a Vibranium body (remember that stuff) from Vibranium stolen from the secret country of Wakanda (important later) by Klau (Andy Serkis) and discovers the Mind Stone inside Loki’s sceptre. The Avengers steal back the stone and Tony, Banner some Thor lightening and the Mind Stone are used to create Vision a good guy super-duper AI robot. The Avengers destroy a place called Sekovia, Quicksilver dies but The Avengers manage to defeat Ultron. Hulk flies off to protect everyone from his anger issues and Thor goes to investigate why there’s suddenly a bunch of Infinity Stone action in the Galaxy.  Tony steps back from his role in The Avengers and Captain America takes over a new Avengers line up including Vision, Scarlet Witch and Falcon. Post-credit Thanos shows up looking different and says he’ll go and get those pesky stones himself.

Then there is a funny film called Ant-Man (2015). We meet a hero called Ant-Man, he meets Falcon. There are two end of credit scenes, one sets up a sequel and the other is actually a clip from the next Cap movie. End of Phase 2.

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Captain America: Civil War (2016) kicks of Phase 3 with an exciting plot about setting up a government mandated superhero oversight committee. Wait! come back, it’s actually pretty good. Anyway General “Thunderbolt” Ross is now US Secretary of State and has plans to monitor our heroes because they destroyed a city, it was cool when he wrecked Harlem all the way back in Incredible Hulk though, yeah?. Tony is cool with the Ross plan but Cap is out. There’s guy called Zimo manipulating the Avengers into self destruction, with a totally ludicrous plan involving Bucky and a Hydra base with other Winter Soldiers.  The Avengers dropped the city of Novi Grad on Zimo’s family during the battle of Sokovia, or something, so he’s pretty mad at them. Anyway Zimo bombs the United Nations in Vienna, during the conference to ratify the accord, but frames Bucky for it.  The bomb kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda, so now the king’s son Prince T’Challa AKA Black Panther wants to avenge his father and kill Bucky. There are some big battles with heroes on both sides, divided by ideology. Spider-Man show up, after Sony’s mishandling of that character in his last three onscreen outings. Rhodey gets paralyzed during a big battle and Cap, still protecting Bucky, has a big fight with Iron Man, who just found out Bucky killed his folks and that Captain Amerca has know for ages. Bucky loses his arm and goes to Wakanda maybe for a new limb but definitely to unscramble his brain. Also Hulk and Thor were off on personal journeys after Age of Ultron so missed all the regulatory fun.

Sorcerer supreme, Stephen Strange, shows up for his first mystical MCU foray in Dr. Strange (2016) and has the time stone in his amulet, the Eye of Agamoto. During his magical adventure he has a wee chat with Thor, who is still looking for the stones.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017) is pretty self contained but has five scenes during the credits. In one of these the defeated villain Ayesha is shown creating an artificial being called Adam. It’s going to be Adam Warlock, but we’ve already seen his sarcophagus as it looks in the comics in the Collectors collection so this one looks revamped. Warlock plays a big part in the comic book Infinity War story but likely won’t show up until Guardians 3.

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Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) has the erstwhile arachnid hero Peter Parker (Tom Holland) hanging out with Tony Stark and then refusing a spot on the Avengers roster, a title card tells us this happens 8 years after the Battle of New York seen in Avengers .

Filling the gap with what Hulk and Thor had been up to during Civil War we have Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Where Thor’s previously unmentioned sister, Hela, shows up tells us Odin’s Infinity Gauntlet is fake, destroys Asgard, Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and takes one of Thor’s eyes. Thor gets a haircut finds Hulk and saves some Asgardians. While escaping Asgard Loki takes the Tesseract. He, Thor and the refugees from Asgard are heading through space when they encounter what looks like Thanos’s spaceship.

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The final film in Phase 3 before Infinity War is the smash hit Black Panther (2018). After the death of his father, in Civil War, T’Challa returns home to be crowned king. However a ghost from his fathers past, Killmonger, challenges T’Challa’s for the throne. Killmonger’s aim is to take the advanced Vibrainium powered technology of Wankanda to the oppressed people of the world. Black Panther defeats Killmonger and relieves Wakanda of its, centuries old, self imposed exile from the world at large. Mid credits we see Bucky Barnes, called White Wolf by some children.

So to recap our heroes are scattered across, not just Earth but the galaxy. Thanos is out to find the six Infinity Stones which before Infinity War are located:

  • The Tesseract holds the Space Stone currently on Thor’s ship.
  • The Nova Corp. are holding the Power Stone on Xandar
  • The Collector has the Reality Stone wherever he is, but he is keen to get the others.
  • The Mind Stone is embedded in Visions head, on Earth.
  • Dr. Strange has the Time Stone in The Eye of Agamoto, also on Earth
  • The Soul Stone, the sixth and final stone needed to complete the Infinity Gauntlet’s power, has not yet been seen.

Excelsior!

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Trailer Talk:

Superfly

Robin Hood

The Predator

Escape Plan 2: Hades

Recommendations:

Allen recommends The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, based on a French comic book series. Which is good fun. And Colossal which is like Noah Baumbach made Pacific Rim.

Chris, inspired by Superfly, picked out Across 110th Street and Punisher: War Zone. A cops and robbers thriller and an uber-violent comic book actioner, respectively.

We are an independent podcast, so remember please subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show. We rely on you spreading the word.

Coming Soon:

 

Our next franchise episode takes a look at Jurassic World, if you want to watch along.

Follow Us:

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

 

Episode 52: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

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In This Episode:

With the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story on the horizon it seemed as good a time as any to look at another Star Wars spin-off in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

There is discussion about the makers dropping some elements traditionally associated with the franchise, a dramatic change in tone and the ethical questions raised with reviving performances through computer trickery. We also get into who directed what. With the news from set of multi-million dollar reshoots and several key scenes glimpsed in the trailer that didn’t make it to screen.

 

We also go mad for Mads, Mikkelsen that is, find a niche crossover between bounty hunters and sexual proclivity and discuss just what this space war movie is. A sequel? prequel? spin-off or midequel? as suggested by a listener. We have an answer for you.

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Now the importance of a female lead isn’t really for us to discuss. We’re two, straight, white, CIS gendered, doughy, middle-aged beardy men. So what do we really know about it?

But, It’s happening and Felicity Jones is brilliant as the complex and interesting Erso. Women have always been important to Star Wars but now, more than ever, is the time to increase the number and importance of those roles and, as movie fans, for us embrace it.

In this post George Lucas world a Disney Era Star Wars release is not complete without some merry band of idiots calling for a boycott. This time they are crying over the politicizing of Star Wars , the diversity of the cast and, of course a female in the lead role, sorry boys it’s always had these thing, it’s just that you’ve never noticed.

With the hashtag #dumpstarwars twitter trolls used the release of Rogue One as an excuse to throw their (Star Wars) toys out of the pram. But It doesn’t look like it damaged the box office at all, The three Disney Star Wars movies have already earned more than the company paid to buy Lucasfilm. It’s almost like the people staying away, and latterly no doubt complaining about The Last Jedi, are the sort of people you don’t want to talk to at a party anyway. So with them not filling the movie theatre there was more space for the rest of us to have a good time.

Here’s the thing. The Empire are the bad guys, the oppressors, the true evil in the galaxy far, far way who are out to kill the heroes of the saga. Stormtroopers look so cool, TIE Fighters are amazing but no matter how badass their equipment the bad guys still need to lose. If you side with them, that says a lot about how you view the world.

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Rogue one writer Chris Weitz went as far as to tweet, then delete, a statement regarding the Empire standing in for white supremacists. Later tweeting an image of support for immigrants and, once more, to dispel the rumor that the movie had been retooled to take an anti-Trump position. Talk about ‘Fake News’.

 

If Lucasfilm are going to continue to make Star Wars films we need them to be good, interesting fare that push things in new directions. Otherwise we’ll just keep getting the same warmed over mess.

If you can’t handle seeing Donnie Yen kick ass as a blind space monk or enjoy Lando, Rey, Rose, Finn, Jyn, Cassian or Bohdi populating amazing casts in movies largely peopled by hairy, green, blue or yellow aliens and droids just ignore it from here on out. You’ve got what you want in the original trilogy, maybe even the prequels, but the rest of us are ready to see what comes next.

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We are an independent podcast, so remember please subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show. We rely on you spreading the word.

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Follow Us:

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

Episode 51: White Picket Fences

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

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In This Episode:

It’s another in-betweenie bonus episode. Some franchise related news, Trailer Talk and some recommendations for you.

Hot off the press for this episode we have a Terminator reboot incoming. Which James Cameron hints will ignore everything after T2 Judgement Day. There is a possible xXx 4, a Fast & the Furious Netflix cartoon and, Fate of the Furious director, F. Gary Gray is taking on 80’s cartoon favourite M.A.S.K, for the big screen, as the Hasbro Cinematic Universe expands.

With several Stephen King adaptations on the way following the huge success of IT last year, don’t mention The Dark Tower, Chris decided to guess the plots of several, as yet unmade, King stories. Featuring lots of esoteric Scottish references and suburban fear as to what goes on over the white picket fence of your neighbours.

Chris also shares a personal tale and his feelings on a Gremlins reboot.

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Trailer Talk:

Venom

In a month when we see the release of Infinity War, this trailer feels like Sony still don’t have a formula to make decent Super Hero fare.

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Should have been called the Sequelizer, but this looks amazing regardless.

The First Purge

Blumhouse seem to be leaning into the current political climate and issues of race in this Purge prequel.

Sherlock Gnomes

Allen rues the handling of Conan Doyle’s fictional sleuth and Chris has a list of movie title gnome puns. There is also chat about the weirdly, borderline inappropriate, poster campaign.

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Recommendations:

We are an independent podcast, so remember please subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show. We rely on you spreading the word.

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Follow Us:

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

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Episode 50: Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

 

In This Episode:

In celebration of the shows half century episode tally it felt like the right time to look at one of the greatest sequels of all time, Aliens (1986) – which happens to be Chris’s favourite movie,  and the movie that kicked of the whole franchise, Alien (1979).

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In Space No One Can Hear You Scream:

Now, on this show, Ridley Scott has come under fire for his latter day tampering with the franchise and his disappointing prequels, in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, but Alien is a stone cold classic. Released in the immediate aftermath of the Star Wars phenomenon at the tailend of the 1970’s. With the public’s appetite whetted for more science fiction cinema movie studios were more than happy to get on board and fund projects. However it’s hard to know if 20th Century Fox new what they were in for when Walter Hill’s Brandywine Productions hired Ridley Scott to direct Alien, from Dan O’Bannon’s heavily rewritten script. The original working title of Star Beast would be changed, O’Bannon choosing Alien due to the frequency of the words use in the screenplay. With O’Bannon and, producing partner/co screenwriter, Ronald Shusett on the verge of signing a deal with Roger Corman’s studio a happy accident brought the script to Brandywine, a production team with links to major studio 20th Century Fox.

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H.R. Geiger’s Necronomicon IV

Where George Lucas had created a colourful adventure, stuffed with outlandish and weird characters, which owed a huge debt to episodic pulp serials of the 1930’s and 40’s, Scott created, with significant aesthetic input from H.R. Geiger, a dark horror movie on board a spaceship. Riffing on the paranoid Sci-Fi of the 1950’s Alien would play like Jaws in space as the blue collar crew of the Nostromo face off against a merciless killing machine. Alien’s brooding atmosphere and deliberate pacing would ratchet the tension and a feeling of dread in the silent isolation of space, where no-one can hear you scream.

Although completely different in tone to the space opera created by Lucas Alien would profit from the public’s desire for science fiction pictures and would become a global success, both critically and commercially. However it’s hard to know just how much money it made at the box office due to creative Hollywood style accounting practices. With Fox claiming to have lost over $2 million on the film. Regardless, the cultural impact of Alien cannot be overstated. The movie would kickstart a franchise and spawn tie-in novels, comic books, video games and toy lines. Most importantly it gave the world a strong, capable female lead character in Ellen Ripley, launching Sigourney Weaver to superstardom and tying her inextricably to the franchise.

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This Time It’s War:

Franchise cinema is so prevalent in the modern world that it is odd to consider a time when an actor would not automatically be signed up for any potential sequels, prequels or spin-offs a movie might generate. Or that a successful movie would have subsequent installments. That was the scenario with the sequel to Alien.

 

With the follow up delayed while Brandywine and Fox resolved their issues regarding the film’s profits it would be almost ten years before Aliens would hit screens. A pre-Terminator James Cameron was hired by Fox to write sequels for First Blood and Alien, after passing on making Sparticus in Space, and with some time on his hands due to the production on Terminator being pushed back, to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to film Conan the Destroyer. With Sylvester Stallone choosing to rewrite Cameron’s take on the second Rambo film, changing the titular hero from a battle damaged vet into an unkillable, gung-ho, Reagan-era, jingoist, Cameron was able to retool aspects of his version of that script for Aliens incorporating PTSD as an aspect of Ripley’s character, and to underpin her motivation. Writing Aliens, with a photo of Sigourney Weaver pinned to his wall, Cameron was keen to focus on the damage done to her psychologically in surviving her first encounter with the alien.

 

No-one, however, had thought to sign on Weaver for the second film. With the producers refusing to pay her agents asking fee, they instructed Cameron to write her out of the movie. The young director held fast, saying that Weaver’s attachment to the project had been one of the main reasons he took the job, and at his insistence Fox paid Weaver $1 million to return as Ripley. With the success of the film, and her performance earning Weaver an Academy Award nomination, she became a truly bankable star able to open movies.

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What makes both of these films successful? In each case the plots are pretty thin and if both handled differently could have just become forgettable B-Movie shlock made in the wake of Star Wars. However, in treating the material intelligently, investing in the concept and giving depth to the characters and the world they inhabit are just some of the reasons these films work. Of course in both cases we have incredibly artful, talented directors working with casts of hugely talented character actors. Some fateful planetary alignments were at play too, from O’Bannon meeting Geiger during the aborted Dune movie to Cameron having to wait for Arnie and stumbling into Aliens while saying no to the Space age Sparticus remake.

And in the case of the sequel telling its own story in its own way, never rehashing what we’d already seen, and pushing the character in a new, but logical, direction opens out this world and gives us that rarest of beasts. A sequel that betters the original, and when that original film is Alien that’s no mean feat.

 

We are an independent podcast, so remember please subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show. We rely on you spreading the word.

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The sequel we are all really waiting for!

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

 

Episode 49: Swimming in Pod-Cash

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

In This Episode:

In between ‘proper’ episodes (where we delve into a particular film or franchise) we’ll be doing bonus episodes where we talk about wider trends in sequel culture, sequel news, new trailers and whatever the hell we like.

 

In the spare minutes between counting their cash and buying yachts, Allen and Chris make time to talk about sequels and stuff along the way there are Backdraft sequel rumors, a look at the highs and lows of Barry Sonnenfeld, obscure football trivia and a discussion on Podcasting as a viable career option.

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We also get in to “sexy” Dumbledore and the decision to out him and how that may be played, or ignored, in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel.

Chris also did a little research for a joke and rediscovered a Stan Lee creation that will never make it to the MCU, not matter how ambitious their crossovers get, in our  #MeToo world. Stan Lee thinks Stripperella “is for everybody“. This was created in the 21st century people FFS!

Plus we mention killer robots and exploding heads. This episode has it all!

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Trailer Talk:

Mary Poppins Returns:

Avengers: Infinity War:

Sicario: Day Of The Soldado:

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald:

We are an independent podcast, so remember and subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show.

COMING SOON ON DIMINISHING RETURNS: Episode 50. Alien and Aliens.

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

 

Episode 48: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life

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DIMINISHING RETURNS: A comedy podcast about movie sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots. Hosted by Allen and Chris. WARNING: Contains Scottish accents and spoilers.

In This Episode:

This month sees the release of the Tomb Raider reboot with Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft so it’s a perfect time to look back at the Angelina Jolie starring duo of films, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: Cradle Of Life. For a video game franchise built, partly, on the pneumatic physique of the main protagonist, it was natural for there to be some debate about the physical attributes of the actor selected to bring Lara to life on screen. Time and progress would have removed that issue we would hope, but it seems Tomb Raider 2018 is still mired in this topic.

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This asshole!

We’re sure that for those in the Tomb Raiding business biceps are more important than boobs, but I guess you can’t please some people. After all Lara has come a long way since her creation in the mid nineties.

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There were also some slightly more troubling, albeit minor aesthetic, issues with the costuming, beyond bra padding for Jolie. With the poster featuring a belt buckle with a Nazi insignia. We can only imagine it was a simple mistake, and the image was meant to project a pirate mentality with a side of bad assery and not Far Right affiliation.

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We also go deep into the secret passageways and tunnels of the production, shining a light on such riveting topics as European tax loop holes, movie title colon usage, the difference between film and game narrative participation, the Illuminate’s project time management and full system cosmological orientation. Don’t worry we make some jokes about boobs too!

 

While the world awaits a truly successful video game movie adaptation, one that captures both the look and spirit of the game pleasing fans and critics alike, you can head off to see Tomb Raider (2018) at cinemas world wide now.

 

We are an independent podcast, so remember and subscribe, rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. Have friends that like cult films and can understand Scottish accents? Send them a link to the show.

In the coming months we would like to increase the number of iTunes reviews we have. We are aware that not everyone is a wordsmith so, to take the pressure off, all you have to do to review the show is go to our iTunes page and leave the name of your favourite actor. That’s it, two words. Trust us that helps us and helps you not have to think too much about your feeling on our babbling.

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How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com