Your Questions Answered

With Euro 2012 taking up most of my movie-watching time this month, time to open up my bulging mail-bag and respond to some readers letters. Or at least, respond to the ones that are left once I remove all the hate mail and begging letters. Below, I clear up some movie mysteries, dispense sage advice and generally educate you all in cinema matters. Because cinema matters. See what I did there? See? Okay, enough frivolity. Wipe those tears of laughter away and let's crack on.

Every time I look at cinema listings in the paper, it says 'Free List Suspended'. What the hell does this mean? David Smith, Tunbridge Wells
It simply means that no-one with a free pass is allowed in to see the film. For example, newspaper journalists, cinema employees and competition winners often turn up clutching a grubby pass for free entry to a film. Naturally, this takes up a seat that someone else might have paid for, so the bigger movies wield their Free List Suspended slogan to maximise earnings in the first few weeks of release. After the crowds slack off, they're happy enough to let freeloaders in.

I like reading movie credits. What on earth is a Best Boy? Anto Feely, Dublin
It's a chief assistant to either the Gaffer (in charge of all the electrics on a movie set) or the Key Grip (in charge of all the physical logistics of filming, such as scaffolding, camera tracks, cranes, lighting etc). When they grow up, they get to be Best Man at weddings. Confusingly, many Best Boys on a film set these days are actually female.

These Blu ray disc things. Why are they called that? Tom Ngozi, Uganda
The name refers to the fact that a blue laser is used to read a Blu ray disc, compared to a red laser for DVDs. Since blue light has a shorter wavelength than red, it can be focused more precisely. This means information can be packed at a higher density onto a Blu-ray disc and the blue laser can still pinpoint it. In other words, it gives higher definition pictures and there's far more stuff packed on the disc for you to ignore. The real injustice in all of this for fans of the electromagnetic spectrum, is that, at a wavelength of 405nm, the 'blue' laser is actually in the violet range. So next time someone mentions Blu-ray, inform them that they should really be called Violet-ray. That'll get you a good laugh. Or a good kicking.

When you squeeze a bottle of tomato ketchup, why is there always a thin, runny juice that comes out before the ketchup? Alex Sanchez, Buñol
That's the tears of a thousand dead tomatoes.

What is the most successful movie ever made? John Carter, Mars
Depends what you mean by successful. The easy answer is Avatar, which grossed $2,783,918,982 at the box office worldwide. However, when adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind is the champ with estimated worldwide takings of $3,301,400,000. However, if it's return on investment you're talking about, then Paranormal Activity is the true winner, making $196,681,656 on a film that cost $15,000 to make, a percentage profit of 655,505.52 %.

I'm a bit of a geek. Can you explain to me what a match cut is? SidRulz, My mom's basement
It's an edit within a film in which the position of an object in one scene is exactly matched by another object in a new scene, in order to thematically link two elements of the film. Famous examples include the bone-to-spaceship edit in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the flame of a match being replaced by the rising sun in Lawrence of Arabia. This second example is especially revered throughout the editing world because it is quite literally a match cut. Match? Geddit? That's film-making gold, right there.

Was that you standing in my garden last night? Cameron Diaz, LA That was someone that looks a lot like me. If you find my his night vision goggles, can you return them, please?

Sometimes we overhear pretentious movie-types talking about film noir. Are they really talking about a 'black film'? Bruce & Sheila, Western Australia
Sort of. It was a term coined by French film critics in 1946 to describe a number of American crime and detective films from the early 1940s, which were very 'dark', both in terms of looks and themes. The primary themes of classic film noir include disillusionment, melancholy, alienation, evil, desperation and moral ambiguity, and they rarely feature happy or optimistic endings. All of this is shot in atmospheric black-and-white, wherein the light/dark contrasts reflect the shadowy motives and morals of the protagonists. I've reviewed a couple of classic film noir here.

How to I transfer my DVD movies to my iPhone? Without paying for it? Detective Inspector Jones, Metropolitan Police, London
You know this isn't strictly legal, right? But if you're prepared to turn to a life of crime, then you need 2 bits of software. First, you need to download a free program called DVD43 (, which decrypts the DVD when you are playing it in your computer (essentially it removes the copyright protection, so you can copy it). Then you need to download another free program Handbrake (, which will convert the movie to MP4 format for iPhone, iPad - you need to select the correct settings in Handbrake for your particular device. When selecting the DVD title for converting, be sure to pick the right one form the drop down list in Handbrake. DVDs often contain several partial or mixed up versions of the movie on them to confuse you, so usually the correct one is the longest one. Conversion takes about a hour or two, after which you can add the converted videofile to your iTunes library.
Disclaimer: There are other ways to do this, probably quicker and slicker, but this is the way that worked for me my friend - I take no responsibility if it doesn't work for you, or cocks up your computer completely.
Extra Disclaimer : I've never done this myself, you understand, since it's not really legal and I'm an upstanding, clean-living member of society. In fact, forget I told you it.

Is The Dark Knight Rises going to be any good? Batman, Gotham City

Is The Amazing Spider-Man going to be any good? Peter Parker, New York

I'm making a new zombie film and need to source gallons of fake blood. Any ideas? Daniel Donaghy, Cork
A quick recipe for fake blood (this really works).
Chocolate Angel Delight
Bright red food colouring
Method: Add water and the food colouring to the Angel Delight, experimenting with different amounts of water and colouring to get the correct thickness and redness. That's it.
Warning: This will stain clothes indefinitely and will result in lots of foamy pink suds when you try to wash them. Which is fun, but which won't pay for new clothes. Also, you should not eat it. But then, it's Angel Delight, so you knew it isn't really supposed to be eaten anyway.

Why is cinema popcorn so expensive? Pat Siske, China
Two reasons. Firstly, most of the money from ticket sales goes back to the studio, so cinemas have to maximise earnings in other ways, such as showing adverts before films and by selling food/drink at extortionate prices. Secondly, cinema chains have been secretly funding health services worldwide to conduct Pavlovian experiments on babies to make them crave popcorn whenever they enter a cinema when they grow older. Note that there is little or no actual proof for this, but how else to explain why seemingly normal, well-adjusted people decide that what they really need to enjoy a film is to scoff their own body weight of a foodstuff that is so disgusting and evil?

What is the point of Sarah Jessica Parker? Kim, Kristin & Cynthia, New York City
There are some things that remain a mystery to all of us.

That's your lot for today, folks. I'm off to steal money to pay these bills that came in the post along with your queries. Remember, if you have questions or troubles that need answered, don't be afraid to drop me a line and I'll do my best to answer them. Or if I can't answer them, I'll put them up on the site so everyone can laugh at you.

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