Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Keizo Murase Interview Now on Vantage Point Interviews!

Yours truly with Keizo Murase in April 2018.

My interview with Toho and Daiei suitmaker Keizo Murase has just been published at Vantage Point Interviews. Suffice it to say, I'm very pleased with it. Murase-san himself told me that he shared some stories in my interview that he has never shared before in any previous interview. So I think you'll find it quite enlightening!

Over the years, for example, there has been a lot of debate about the original color of King Ghidorah. Well, as the man who painted the King Ghidorah suit, Murase-san offers what ought to be the last word on that debate. Was it originally supposed to be blue? Read the interview to find out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Return of FiveBlue!

Kei Shindachiya. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Tuesday, May 22, I returned to the bar owned and operated by Super Sentai series star Kei Shindachiya, who plays FiveBlue on Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91). Shindachiya-san has also made guest appearances on Choriki Sentai Ohranger (1995-96) and Ultraman Gaia (1998-99).

I was joined by a Super Sentai fan from the Philippines named Mark, who is currently visiting Japan. Naturally, he was excited to meet Shindachiya-san and had a great time at his bar. I was very happy to meet him, too , as we've been exchanging e-mails for quite some time. There's nothing like Super Sentai to bring people together!

Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi

Mount Fuji overlooking Lake Ashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've been to Lake Ashi in Hakone several times over the last few years, but last Sunday was the first time I was able to see Mount Fuji from the lake. On previous visits, it had always been obscured behind cloud cover. Of course, it was partially obscured by clouds this time, too, but at least I could actually see the mountain this time.

Lake Ashi is where Biollante makes her first appearance in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), and I think we're all familiar with Mount Fuji's role in various monster movies (such as King Kong vs. Godzilla). So there's quite a bit of kaiju history on display in just one shot!

Scenes from Hakone-Yumoto Station

I always enjoy taking shots of the area around Hakone-Yumoto Station whenever I'm in the area. So, with that said, here's what I took when I was there on Sunday. Enjoy!

A Great Afternoon in Even Greater Company

On May 20, I once again had the distinct privilege of meeting former Toho actress Mie Hama again. Of course, most folks know her from either her Toho days or other film roles she's had, but these days she pursues a different path and has left her acting career happily in the past. It's always great to have a chance to meet her.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Grace Miyabe Speaks at Vantage Point Interviews!

Linda Mabrey as a nurse in The Green Slime. Photo courtesy of Linda Mabrey.

Vantage Point Interviews has a brand-new interview with Linda Mabrey (a.k.a. Linda Malsom), the actress who played Grace Miyabe in episode 19 of Ultra Seven (1967-68). She also appears as a nurse in The Green Slime (1968). These topics and much more are discussed in our interview. So drop what you're doing and check it out now!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle in Shinjuku. Photo by Brett Homenick.

(Some spoilers are contained below, but given all the clickbait websites that are already blaring spoilers in their headlines, you probably know everything that happens by now.)

I'll admit it: I chuckled when I went to buy my ticket for Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle about half an hour before it screened and saw that less than 10 others had bought tickets. Perhaps everyone else knew something the eight or so of us didn't.

If you read my review of Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, it more or less applies to this film, too. Stylistically, the film is exactly the same. Haruo screams a bit less, so that's an improvement. But the animation seemed even weaker here than in the first movie. One step forward, two Anigoji-size steps back.

Once again, nothing really happens of note. All the drama and even the action are tied up in the same bland characters, none of whom I cared about, and most of whom I still couldn't identify. Even after finishing the second entry in the trilogy, I still don't know who any of these people are (except for Haruo and maybe his love interest, Yuko), and I'm not interested in finding out -- there isn't anything to find out. 

Full disclosure: I started dozing off when the humans (in their Vulture mecha) were attacking Godzilla at Mechagodzilla City, so I may have missed something important. But the big tease that we were all expecting simply doesn't happen. The post-credit sequence teases King Ghidorah's appearance in the third film, but I'm still waiting for Mechagodzilla's. Wasn't it supposed to be in this movie?

There are some obvious Mothra references in some of the characters we're introduced to (two in particular), but other than that, I'm already out of things to say. The thing that surprised me most is that Godzilla seems even less relevant in this movie than in the first one. Oh, sure, he's the factor that motivates the characters to do what they do, but when Godzilla shows up, it's like he's just woken up from a deep sleep -- probably because that's exactly what he does in the movie. His lack of enthusiasm sure is contagious.

Long story short: The napping father and the restless boy sitting next to me ought to sum it all up for you.

Personally, I loved the fan-translated title "Godzilla - Decisive Battle: Mobile Breeder City" and hoped they'd keep it. Sounds like quite a title to Netflix and chill to.

The next movie is due out sometime in November. Here's hoping it gets a bit better.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Yuriko Hoshi Passes Away at 74

Actress Yuriko Hoshi in May 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Japanese media is reporting that Toho actress Yuriko Hoshi passed away on May 16 in Kyoto due to lung cancer. She was 74. Making her screen debut in 1959, Hoshi-san was best known in the West for her starring roles in The Last War (1961), Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964), and Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964). She returned to the Godzilla series many years later in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000).

From left to right: Yuriko Hoshi, Yosuke Natsuki, and Yumi Shirakawa. All have since passed away. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When I received the invitation to attend Yosuke Natsuki's memorial event in April of this year, Hoshi-san was listed as one of the guest speakers, so I was surprised when she didn't appear. Now it seems I know why.

RIP, Hoshi-san.

A Toho All-Star Flick in Ikebukuro

Arashi o yobu gakudan at Ikebukuro's Shin-Bungeiza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night, I went to the Shin-Bungeiza theater in Ikebukuro to take in a late-night screening of Arashi o yobu gakudan (1960), an all-star Toho musical with several notable actors from the studio. Among the featured players are: Akira Takarada, Tadao Takashima, Izumi Yukimura, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, and Shinichi Yanagisawa.

I've known about this movie for years but have never had to chance to see it ... until last night. It's a mostly light-hearted take on a jazz band that organically comes together and achieves almost overnight success. However, love (and egos) get in the way, and soon the members break up and go their separate ways. But will they get back together before the ending?

It was an enjoyable film, and I especially enjoyed seeing Shinichi Yanagisawa in a Toho movie. (Yanagisawa-san is better known for his Nikkatsu and Shochiku roles.) Folks who need monsters in their Toho movies are really missing out. Last night was a great night at the movies.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Margot Kidder Passes Away at Age 69

With actress Margot Kidder in May 2009.

Margot Kidder's passing has just been announced by various news outlets. I was lucky enough to meet Ms. Kidder at a horror con in May 2009, and she surpassed all my expectations. I was never much of a Superman fan (in any of the character's incarnations), but I wanted to meet Ms. Kidder, so I bought a lobby card from Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973) for her to sign.

Despite being one of the bigger names at the convention, I found her to be one of the friendliest guests. He had an nice chat in which she seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. That memory was one of the highlights of my convention-going experiences in America, and I'm very sorry to hear that she has passed away.

RIP, Ms. Kidder.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

LIGHT SPEED ESPER! A Day in the Company of One of Japan's Youngest Heroes!

 Kiyotaka Mitsugi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today was all about the the Senkosha-produced superhero TV series Light Speed Esper (1967-68). I attended an event today during which three episodes of the series were screened (from the Blu-ray), which was followed by an interview with the star of the show, Kiyotaka Mitsugi.

Of course, Mitsugi-san starred as the titular hero in Light Speed Esper, but he'd probably be better known in the West for his portrayal of ZAT member Jiro Nishida in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman Taro (1973-74). Super Sentai fans may recognize Mitsugi-san from his role as Dr. Hoshikawa on Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91). 

I asked Mitsugi-san about the difference between working on Esper and Ultraman Taro. He said that, as an adult, he was able to make requests of the crew, but even though he was the star of Esper, as a 14-year-old boy he felt he couldn't make such requests.

As you'd expect, it was a fun afternoon, and I certainly enjoyed meeting Mitsugi-san for the first time. I hope it won't be the only time!

An Audience with Film Composer Chumei Watanabe

Chumei Watanabe. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday night, May 12, I was fortunate to get invited to another private gathering with legendary composer Chumei Watanabe. While his music for TV tokusatsu and anime programs are famous around the world, I'm much more familiar with his film compositions, which date back to the 1950s. Among his credits are: Shintoho's Starman (a.k.a. Super Giant) series, Black Cat Mansion (1958), Ghost of Yotsuya (1959), Hell (1960), Daiei's 100 Monsters (1968), and Along with Ghosts (1969).

Watanabe-san is a spry 92 years old, and he's just about as active as anyone half his age. The discussion covered a wide range of subjects, not just film music. Suffice it to say, it was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

BANDITS ON THE WIND! Attending a Special Screening with a Very Special Guest!

Nami Tamura. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today, I was able to take in a special screening of a 35mm print of Hiroshi Inagaki's Bandits on the Wind (1961), starring Yosuke Natsuki and Makoto Sato. The screening was in celebration of Natsuki-san's life, and the film itself is one of Natsuki-san's favorite movies of his career. The event's guest of honor, Nami Tamura, appears in the film alongside Izumi Yukimura and Akiko Wakabayashi.

Nami Tamura joined Toho in 1959 and began her acting career the same year. In her early days at Toho, she belonged to a trio with Yuriko Hoshi and Mie Hama called Toho's Three Pets, which emphasized the youth and cuteness of the three actresses. Her film acting credits include: Jun Fukuda's The Merciless Trap (1961), Frank Sinatra's None But the Brave (1965), Kihachi Okamoto's Samurai Assassin (1965) and Kill! (1968), and Michio Yamamoto's Terror in the Streets (1970). On television, Tamura-san can be seen in episode 5 of Ultra Q (1966), episode 35 of Ultraman (1966-67), episode 26 of Ultra Seven (1967-68), episode 17 of Space Giants (1966-67), and episode 8 of Operation: Mystery! (1968-69).

It was a great opportunity to see a film that's rarely seen these days. Additionally, Tamura-san shared many fun stories from her Toho days. All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and a great way to celebrate the life and career of Yosuke Natsuki. 

GODZILLA 2000 REDUX! Three Alums from the Millennium-Era Reboot Converge for an Event!

With Shinji Nishikawa, Hiroshi Kashiwabara, and Wataru Mimura.

On Saturday evening, May 5, I attended another special event, this time with three special guests. Screenwriters Wataru Mimura and Hiroshi Kashiwabara were in the house, as was kaiju designer and illustrator Shinji Nishikawa.

 With Hiroshi Kashiwabara.

Of all the guests, I spent the most time speaking with Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Kashiwabara-san is a big fan of classic American action films, especially those with John Wayne and Steve McQueen. We spent quite a bit of time talking about those kinds of movies. Along the way, I managed to work in a reference to Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), which Kashiwabara-san wrote.

Shinji Nishikawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It was also great to see Shinji Nishikawa again, as it had been a while since I last saw him. A young film student is in the process of shooting a documentary about him, and she was filming a lot of the proceedings. She herself is a Godzilla fan and is well versed in the genre.

Hiroshi Kashiwabara mugs for the camera. Photo by Brett Homenick.

And so that concludes another fun evening with cool, laid-back guests. It probably goes without saying that I really enjoyed myself, and hope to see them all again very soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE! Toho Cinemas Shinjuku Gears Up for Godzilla's Latest!

Two massive posters for Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle adorn Toho Cinemas Shinjuku. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While it may not be receiving the fanfare of Shin Godzilla, or even Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the new animated Godzilla film is finally getting its promotional roll-out in Japan. Here's how things currently look at Toho Cinemas Shinjuku.

Now there's a guy who definitely looks like he wants "motto" pancakes!

STOMP! Hotel Gracery Shinjuku Celebrates Its Third Anniversary in a (Very) Big Way!

Well, there goes Kabukicho. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku is celebrating its third anniversary, and in honor of the milestone, a Millennium-era Godzilla diorama has been set up on the hotel's 8th floor (near where hotel guests check in).  The diorama went on display on April 24 (the actual day of the anniversary) and will be remain on display for a month. Check it out while you still can!