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5 incredible special effects you won’t believe are simple tricks

Someone wise once said, “Movies are the magic butterflies that help us play dreams of transcendence.” Actually, nobody said that, because that makes absolutely zero sense.

But movies are pretty neat. And, more often than not, it’s the jaw-dropping special effects that make them so. Most special effects rely on huge, life-sized replicas of whole city blocks, expensive CGI work, and complex visual illusions. Most special effects…but not all of them.

Here are five movies that managed to achieve mind-boggling special effects by using surprisingly simple tricks.

5. Flying kick—Godzilla

Even though I now know the secret behind this special effect, I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. It’s impossible to believe that you’re witnessing anything other than a real-life scene. But here’s how it was done:

The robotic spaceman and the cockroach monster? They’re simply actors…wearing appropriate suits! What can I say? The simplest tricks are usually the most convincing. And Godzilla? Well, that’s not even an actual lizard. It’s a model, suspended by a few invisible wires. The camera is set up in such a way so as to give the illusion of three giant monsters duking it out. It’s called a “forced perspective” effect, and it’s guaranteed to continue messing with your mind even though you now know exactly how it’s been achieved.

4. Cartoon characters with humans—Space Jam

At first, I—like you—thought of how difficult it must have been to create multiple self-aware cartoon characters and transport them into our world to interact with Michael Jordan and Bill Murray. However, that’s not what’s happening here at all.

Michael Jordan was, in fact, filmed separately. The cartoon was simply drawn around him afterwards. Clever? Yes! Simple? Absolutely! Incredible? You bet. That’s how real special effects professionals work.

3. UFOs—Plan 9 From Outer Space

Now that’s realism! If you’ve ever seen a more realistic UFO in real life, I dare you to show it to me. Didn’t think so! And yet those UFOs are just cheap models placed over the rest of the movie using that same “forced perspective” effect we’ve already talked about. As for the colourless world—that’s done by simply filming it in black-and-white. Nothing more, nothing less.

2. Beheading—Savage Planet

Ignore the nasty captions added by the YouTube user that uploaded this scene. He’s just jealous of the subtle use of relatively cheap special effects. From the motion of the actor’s body to the impeccable blood splatter physics, this scene is nothing if not convincing. As a matter of fact, it’s very hard to find any signs that this is a movie at all. I personally couldn’t see any, until I read about how these special effects were achieved.

Turns out the actor simply pulled the shirt over his head and attached a fake “severed neck” at the top. This created the flawless “decapitation” effect. But wait, there’s more. The blood? Yup, it’s also fake! I know, I’m just as speechless as you are.

1.”I’ll be back”—Terminator

I know what you’re thinking: “Surely the filmmakers must have built a lifelike android for this scene. They’ve programmed it to speak the words in a believable human manner. His facial expressions may not be very fluid, but what can you expect from a goddamn robot? In any case, this is a truly amazing—and undoubtedly expensive—state-of-the-art achievement in robotics!”

That’s what I thought, too. But sorry to disappoint ya, that’s not the case. This scene doesn’t even use any special effects to begin with. That man is—you better be sitting down—actually an actor! His name is Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger. In a surprising twist, we have the case of a human playing a robot, instead of the other way around. His soulless face, his monotone voice, and the almost otherworldy way he speaks the words without any hint of emotion? That’s all Arnold.

Now that’s what I call method acting!

Guest Expressed: “Movie Mistakes and Broken Logic”

Today we hear a rant about some obvious movie flaws and questions about movies that should’ve been asked. Let’s go:

Before you get your fingers at the ready to send in a bunch of angry emails, I should make one thing clear. I know that movies are a form of art for some, and a bit of fun for others, and that we should not take them too seriously. All I am doing here, is just pointing out a few mistakes and pieces of broken logic. Not as a criticism, but as an observer.

You see what gets me (and a few of the film critics too) is that some things happen in movies, and none of the production staff seem to pick up on it. For example there is an old film 1972, called Night Of The Lepus. Now if you know what Lepus means, then you already know what I am going to say.

It is a horror film, and in the 1970s, if they did not advertise the film’s content, then you did not know what was in it. All the adverts showed for this killer-horror was people running from large eyes in the dark. So imagine sitting down with your partner to watch this blockbuster horror film and watching 20 minutes of a film before finding out what Lepus means:

“Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus.” (Wikipedia)

That’s right, it is a horror film about giant bunnies.  This was not a joke and had genuine Hollywood actors in it.  What gets to people like me (and film critics) is that somebody wrote it and pitched it, somebody accepted it, somebody green lit it, somebody financed it, somebody hired actors, actors read the scripts and agreed to play in it, somebody produced it and somebody advertised it.

Out of ALL of those people, wasn’t there one person who raised an eyebrow and said, “Fluffy bunnies are not scary”. It doesn’t matter if they are 20 feet tall with blood dripping from their teeth. They are not scary.

So here we go. In Final Destination 1, when Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott) has his head cut off by flying shrapnel, why is the main character’s first reaction to launch into an exposition monologue? No reaction to the headless friend, no tears, no scream, no pause for effect – just a launch into an unneeded monologue.

Going to have to quote Family Guy here, but on one episode Chris Griffin (played by Seth Green) says, “Erm, do you know in Lord Of The Rings, when the big eagle comes to rescue Gandalf…how come they do not just fly the eagle to Mordor and drop the ring into the volcano, instead of spending three movies walking there?”

How come in The Dark Knight, when Batman is interrogating the Joker, he hits the Joker (hard) repeatedly in the face and on the table, and yet not only does he not make the Joker bleed or bruise, he also does not smudge his makeup. I mean what does Batman have inside his gloves, sponges? Loved the movie though.

How come in Titanic, Jack (Leo Dicaprio) says he went fishing in Lake Wissota yet that is a man-made lake that wasn’t created until 1918, six years after the Titanic went down? How come Dorothy falls in a pig-pen yet doesn’t have a mark on her dress in The Wizard of Oz?

Why in Knowing, does Caleb (Nicolas Cage) continue writing numbers supposedly predicting future events when the world is ending?

How come in the movie Spiceworld the girls change outfits for every scene, but then when Posh Spice puts on something super hot, she is not on the screen long enough for the 12 year old boys watching? Does that movie know how many 12 year old boys broke the “Pause” button on their VCRs because Posh Spice is in a cat suit for all of 5.7 seconds before the scene changes?

The above guest blog write-up is created by Beer Club, where beer lovers can find the top microbrew of the month clubs.

Guest Expressed: “5 Films That Are So Bad They’re Good”

Today Eli McGonagall points out a few terrible movies that may actually prove to be entertaining (sort of). Enter Eli:

There’s no doubt about it: some films are simply bad. They might be poorly written, poorly acted or just so camp that you can’t take them in any way seriously… but is this (particularly in the case of the latter) really such a bad thing? Here follows five films that, in my opinion, have gone far round the bad-o-meter that they’re reading as good as again.

Well, almost.

  • Catwoman

A pretty much universally terrible film; star Halle Berry even accepted the Razzie Award for Worst Actress in person. Deviating from the original story of Selina Kyle considerably, meek artist Patience Phillips is murdered by her evil boss only to return to live as the eponymous superheroine. I could say more about this one but you really have to watch it to fully appreciate its awfulness.

  • Flash Gordon

From the moment the film’s theme tune (performed by Queen) begins, you know that this movie will be nothing but camp. Both heroes and villains are portrayed with the latter firmly in mind: Flash defeats hordes of cars using the power of American football, while Max von Sydow’s Ming the Merciless is so fabulously evil it’s a wonder he doesn’t upstage everyone in the film. The film performed poorly almost everywhere except in the UK, where it was a huge success. Brian Blessed’s typically enthusiastic performance as Prince Vultan arguably seals the film’s reputation as a camp classic.

  • Snakes on a Plane

Seemingly following the format of most monstrous creatures films (X in/on a Y, X being the creature and Y whatever place the filmmakers decide would be most entertaining), albeit with a bigger budget, Snakes on a Plane’s name was purposely chosen as a homage to B movies. The film’s title summarises its plot rather well, with star Samuel L Jackson citing it as why he chose to take the role (and indeed enthusiastically rebuffed attempts to rename it). The film did pretty well at the box office, and received positive reviews from those who appreciated it for what it was.

  • Batman & Robin

Arguably the worst of the 90s Batman films. Tim Burton’s were pretty good (Batman Returns in particular), but things started going downhill with Batman Forever when directorial control was handed over to Joel Schumacher. With the campness amped way up (right up to fitting Batman and Robin with enlarged codpieces and adding prominent nipples to the sculpted pecs of their suits) and Schumacher urged to make the movie more toyetic (as in made in such as a way as to make merchandising easy), the film received largely negative reviews and 11 Razzie nominations (although Batman & Robin only picked up one in the end). However, Joel Schumacher, a big Batman fan himself, actually apologised to fans who found his rather less dark film disappointing, accepting the blame and stating that he would have much preferred doing an adaptation of the comic Batman: Year One.

  • Anything by Hammer Film Productions

Just go and watch one; you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Eli McGonagall works for a company that sells cheap dishwashers, and readily admits that there are some moments in these films where he’s not sure which he’d rather be watching.