Destroy All Planets 2010

Destroy All Planets 2010
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

ULTRA-COOL! Koji Moritsugu and Hiroko Sakurai Rock Fujisawa!

Ultra-icons Koji Moritsugu and Hiroko Sakurai recall their Tsuburaya days at Joli Chapeau in Fujisawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On August 16, the Joli Chapeau cafe in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, played host to two of the biggest icons in the history of Tsuburaya Productions. Koji Moritsugu (Dan Moroboshi in Ultra Seven) and Hiroko Sakurai (Yuriko Edogawa in Ultra Q and Akiko Fuji in Ultraman) held a talk show and signing event at the cafe. And what a perfect location it was, considering that it's owned by Moritsugu-san himself!

I had a bit of trouble finding the cafe, but with an assist from Moritsugu-san's daughter, Aya, I was able to make it to the venue just in time. The autograph session was first, so I brought a couple of Ultra Seven items (a DVD sleeve previously signed by Yuriko Hishimi and a magazine) for Moritsugu's signature. For Sakurai-san, I brought a Japanese book on the heroines of the Ultra-series (already signed by Yuriko Hishimi and Keiko Nishi), as well as a DVD sleeve of 3 Gents in Hawaii (1963).

What is 3 Gents in Hawaii, you ask? It's an entry in the long-running Shacho series, with Hisaya Morishige, Keiju Kobayashi, and Daisuke Kato. In the film, she plays one of the daughters of Morishige's company-president character. Sakurai-san laughed when she saw the DVD sleeve and was amazed that I knew about the film. She showed the DVD sleeve to Moritsugu-san, who was just as surprised as she was! Sakurai-san asked me where I was from in America, and when I mentioned San Diego, she recalled that she attended the San Diego Comic-Con several years ago.

I last met Moritsugu-san at a special talk show event at Ultra Festival two years ago. Our meeting at that time was very brief, but Aya explained to me that Moritsugu-san remembered me from that event! I was quite surprised, to say the least. I told him that I also admired his performance in Zero (1984), which he was surprised (there's that word again!) I had seen it.

Overall, it was a fantastic event, and I'm very glad I went. I had never met Hiroko Sakurai prior to this occasion. Even though she had been a staple on the fan-event circuit in Japan for many years, I just never had the opportunity to meet her. I'm so glad to have finally changed that.

When she was leaving, she sought me out and shook my hand. Naturally, I was very honored. Sakurai-san and Moritsugu-san are the real deals. I hope to attend another event at Joli Chapeau in the future!

WANNA TAKE A RIDE? Seeing Tokyo from the Cosmo Clock 21!

The Cosmo Clock 21 in Yokohama is a sight familiar to Godzilla fans. Since it is prominently featured in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), it is a landmark in Japan that sometimes attracts the attention of various G-fans. The other day, I decided to head to Yokohama and ride the impressive Ferris wheel for the first time.

A word of caution: While the Cosmo Clock 21 is a very slow-moving Ferris wheel, it goes really high. If you're afraid of heights, you probably wouldn't want to ride it. That said, it gives you a great bird's-eye view of Tokyo and Yokohama, so if you have no problems with heights, by all means give it a whirl!

Anyhow, on with the photos!

Monday, August 11, 2014

THE KILLING BOTTLE! Toho's Long Lost Spy Adventure Is Lost No More!

I recently had the privilege of watching the third Toho movie the late Nick Adams made for the studio, The Killing Bottle (1967). The fifth and final installment in Toho's International Secret Police series, The Killing Bottle was directed by Senkichi Taniguchi (The Lost World of Sinbad) and stars Tatsuya Mihashi (The Human Vapor), Kumi Mizuno (Monster Zero), and Makoto Sato (Message from Space), Akihiko Hirata (Godzilla), Yoshio Tsuchiya (Battle in Outer Space), and Jun Tazaki (Atragon).

Having aired on cable TV in Japan recently, I was able to see the film for the first time, and I'd like to offer a few initial thoughts. Here goes. 

According to Toho's English-language sales materials, the Prime Minister of Buddhabal (Jun Tazaki) is the target of an assassination by the underworld organization ZZZ, who have already offed an International Secret Police (ISP) agent investigating the ring. Their weapon of choice: the killing bottle! Once opened, the killing bottle dispenses a shaving cream-like substance that overwhelms its victims until they've expired. 

Can ISP agents John Carter (Nick Adams) and Kitami (Tatsuya Mihashi) work together, in tandem with the somewhat mysterious Lady X (Kumi Mizuno), to keep the Prime Minister alive? If all this sounds rather serious, then I've probably stuck to the official Toho synopses I've read a little too closely. For the most part, The Killing Bottle is a goofy spy thriller that seems to parody James Bond more than imitate him. Though there are moments of seriousness, they seem out of place in a movie that's mostly all about having fun.

I mean, just look at Jun Tazaki! Doesn't he look like he's having the greatest time in the world? It's amazing that any organization would want to take down this leader. Who wouldn't want this guy in charge? Tazaki's Prime Minister can be seen riding the teacups (!), operating a motorboat, and having a blast on a roller coaster -- all while the nefarious members of ZZZ try to eliminate him.

For the most part, The Killing Bottle is an amusing entertainment, but Taniguchi's direction sometimes lets the film drag, and some of the killing scenes are handled a little too darkly for the less-than-serious subject matter. The movie seems to forget its generally silly tone during some of the sequences involving agent John Carter and Ken Hayata (Makoto Sato) which seem like they belong in an entirely different movie.

Despite these criticisms, I think The Killing Bottle is overall a good film and worth checking out. I would love to see it subtitled sometime, but the film's action is broad enough that subtitles are not all that necessary for a non-Japanese to enjoy it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

GODZILLA TOKUSATSU! Akira Takarada and Yuriko Hoshi Headline a Major Talk Show Event!

I bid you welcome! Godzilla Junior greets all who enter the 60th anniversary exhibit.

Today I visited the 60th anniversary Godzilla Tokusatsu event at Ikebukuro Sunshine City (the same venue hosting Ultraman Festival), which was quite impressive. Of course, most of the items, props, and memorabilia on display were off-limits to cameras, but some of the set-ups did allow photography.

Rather than type out a long essay about what was there, I'll let the following photos do the talking for me. I will say that the talk show with Akira Takarada and Yuriko Hoshi was a lot of fun. The two co-starred in The Last War (1961), and I brought a DVD sleeve of the film for them to sign. At one point, Takarada-san asked me to stand up, and he proceeded to introduce me to the audience. It was a huge surprise to me, but one I'll always remember. At the end, I gave Takarada-san a gift: a vintage movie poster in which he was one of the stars. Ultimately, we surprised each other. On with the photos.

GODZILLA IN GINZA! Yurakucho Mullion Is Attacked by the Big G One More Time!

I finally had a chance to get out to Ginza and photograph the large advertisement for the new Legendary film on the side of Yurakucho Mullion, which as we all know was demolished by Godzilla in 1984. Thirty years later, Godzilla struck again!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

VISITING RIICHIRO MANABE: Spending Time with One of My Favorite Composers

I just returned from visiting Godzilla series composer Riichiro Manabe, with whom I spent about two hours. I brought Manabe-san a couple of boxes of manju, one of his favorite Japanese sweets. He always enjoys eating them as we talk.

Manabe-san composed the scores for Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), among other titles.

I will likely visit Manabe-san again in the next month or so. And when I do, I'll be sure to bring a couple of boxes of manju!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

SEEING LEGENDARY'S GODZILLA! Toho Cinemas in Shibuya Is the Place to Be!

I returned home earlier this afternoon from seeing the new Godzilla at Toho Cinemas in Shibuya. Of course, the movie has been playing around the world for months, but it just opened in Japan on July 25.

I invited actress-singer Izumi Yukimura to join me at Toho Cinemas. Although she's acted in numerous Toho movies, she has never appeared in a tokusatsu production. We had seen Gravity together earlier in the year, so I thought it would be nice to see with film with her for the first time. Thankfully, she was game to see it!

We took in a 3-D screening of the film, which was dubbed into Japanese. (And, yes, I did recognize Katsuhiko Sasaski's voice dubbing Amiral Stenz!) I was a bit disappointed not to see the English-language version, but ultimately I don't think I missed much. The story was easy (too easy?) to follow, so I never felt I was in the dark about anything that was going on.

In short, I didn't feel the movie lived up to its potential. There were certain scenes that I enjoyed, but overall the movie felt more like it was trying to be a slightly more serious Pacific Rim (which I did not care for at all). I was hoping for more drama, better acting, and a sense of urgency. Some of that is contained in the earlier scenes (with Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche), but it's largely absent after those actors leave the movie. The movie is just another summer blockbuster, which is fine if that's what you're looking for, but as for me, I've been there and done that.

Still, I had a great time with Yukimura-san who told me she was amazed by the special effects. I don't think she's ever seen a 3-D movie before, so this was a brand-new experience for her.

All in all, it was a great day with a so-so movie. I'm not too anxious to see the announced sequel, but we'll see how that one turns out.