Friday, April 19, 2019

Godzilla vs. Full Metal Jacket

If you've been into Godzilla or Japanese monster movies for any length of time, you've probably heard all kinds of rumors about how major Hollywood blockbusters have ripped off various obscure kaiju flicks. Of course, many (if not most) supposed instances of "inspiration" from Japanese tokusatsu turn out to be completely false. But every now and then, some of these turn out to have a basis in reality.

On a 2017 episode of Kevin Pollak's Chat Show (link above), actor Vincent D'Onofrio, who memorably plays Leonard Lawrence (Pvt. Pyle) in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), reveals that he prepared for the pivotal scene in which he snaps and suddenly kills R. Lee Ermey's Sgt. Hartman by watching several monster movies, including those with Lon Chaney, King Kong, and Godzilla. D'Onofrio interpreted his character as becoming a monster in that scene and so decided to prep for it by studying other movie monsters.

The clip begins around the 1:09:48 mark. Now we just need to find out which Godzilla movies Vincent D'Onofrio watched!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Portrait of Brothers

 Signage at the Portrait of Brothers press screening. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I was invited to attend a press screening of Shinichi Yanagisawa's newest film, Portrait of Brothers, which I attended today. The film is set to open in Japan on May 25. Shinichi Yanagisawa, one of the movie's stars, would be best known to readers of this blog as the comic-relief character Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), though his other work at Nikkatsu and Shochiku studios is certainly more prestigious. Yanagisawa co-stars with Choei Takahashi, who played the male lead in Toho's vampire thriller Lake of Dracula (1971).

Portrait of Brothers is a drama about two elderly brothers who reunite in the small town in which they grew up after the death of their 100-year-old father. The focus is mostly on Takahashi's character, a quiet, serious man who still lives in the small countryside town in which he grew up. Yanagisawa plays the older brother, a more worldly bon vivant living in Tokyo. Yanagisawa's character returns to his hometown after their father passes away, but the completely different lifestyles of the two brothers cause more than a few clashes among them.

Those who enjoy the family dramas of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse will probably enjoy this movie. More often than not, the movie moves at a slow, deliberate pace, which will no doubt put off some Western viewers. But the portrait of countryside life in Japan in Portrait of Brothers is authentic, and if you're interested in seeing a slice of life from a point of view not often reflected in the movies, I would recommend this film. Besides, those countryside scenes are absolutely stunning.

I would also like to point out that the always lovely Izumi Yukimura (the leading lady of Toho's all-star musical You Can Succeed, Too) has a brief cameo at the very end of the film. It's a very short scene, but she's always a welcome presence in any film in which she appears.

The trailer for Portrait of Brothers is below. I hope those interested in Japanese cinema will give it a look.

They're Back -- and Better Than Ever!

Shinichi Yanagisawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Well, it had been a while, but Shinichi Yanagisawa and His Swing All-Stars finally returned to the HUB Asakusa on Tuesday, April 16. That's because the HIB underwent some major renovations during the winter and was closed in February, when they would have held their usual performance.

I got a lucky with my work schedule and was able to attend just about all three sets. It was great to see so many familiar faces again and to have a lengthy chat with Kyoichi, the saxophonist.

Yanagisawa-san, of course, was great on the drums and the vocals. His new movie, Portrait of Brothers, opens in Japan next month, and I encourage everyone to see it. (Details in the following blog post.)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Toho Night to Remember!

Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Saturday night proved to be another busy night. As soon as work finished, I made a beeline to another special event with Teruyoshi Nakano. And as expected, it was another fun evening.

Nakano-san was eager as always to discuss his work and career. But the most fun was with SFX veteran Takashi Naganuma, with whom I shared many laughs.

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've said it a million times already, but it was a great time. I always look forward to these events, and they never disappoint.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

REBIRTH OF MOTHRA II! The Director Joins SFX Alums for a Special Screening!

 Director Kunio Miyoshi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a special screening of Rebirth of Mothra II (1997), which was the first time I'd seen the film in many years. Overall, it was OK. I expected worse, and even though it bored me to distraction a few times, I still had a good time with it.

The guest of honor was Rebirth of Mothra II director Kunio Miyoshi. Prior to his helming Mothra II, e was an assistant director on Conflagration (1975) and Deathquake (1980), as well as chief assistant director on Sayonara Jupiter (1984), Reiko (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (1994), Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), and Rebirth of Mothra (1996).

Yoshifumi Shimizu. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Production manager and assistant director Yoshifumi Shimizu was another guest. He worked on every Godzilla movie in the Millennium series as either assistant director or visual effects supervision assistant.

From left to right: Yosuke Nakano, Kunio Miyoshi, yours truly with a shooting script, and Toshifumi Shimizu.

SFX assistant director Yosuke Nakano was another guest, as well. I really regretted having to leave the event a bit earlier than I usually do, but that's life. As brief as it all was for me, it was a heck of a good time.

SHE'S BACK! Tanaka-san Takes the Stage One More Time!

Yumiko Tanaka. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Saturday evening, April 6, I immediately left work to attend a special performance with actress Yumiko Tanaka. The first half of the show was a comedic stage play, and the second half was made up of various vocal performances.

For the uninitiated, Tanaka-san stars in Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81) as Harumi Kusanami and also appears in a small role toward the beginning of Godzilla (1984) in a scene with Ken Tanaka.

Eri Kanuma. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Also on hand as an attendee was actress Eri Kanuma. Kanuma-san plays 007/Yoko Kato in Himitsu Sentai Goranger (1975-77), as well as appearing in episodes of Kaiketsu Lion Maru (1972-73), Inazuman Flash (1974), Spider-Man (1978-79), Battle Fever J (1979-80), and Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan (1981-82).

During the intermission, I had a pleasant chat with Kanuma-san. When I attended a similar event last year, Kanuma-san also attended as an attendee. She is quite supportive of her fellow actresses.

Naturally, I had to take a photo with Tanaka-san and the other performers. As you can see, their costumes and makeup were elaborate. The show was a lot of fun, and I look forward to attending the next one.

Cherry Blossoms Along Meguro River!

It's that time of year again. On Saturday, April 6, I took a walk around Meguro River in Naka-Meguro and photographed the cherry blossoms around the river. Meguro River has become a popular destination for cherry blossom-viewing in recent years, and I think you can see why. Here are my photos. Enjoy!