Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Another Jazzy Evening in Asakusa!

Shinichi Yanagisawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight was another night at the HUB in Asakusa, listening to some live jazz as performed by Shinichi Yanagisawa and His Swing All-Stars. Suffice it to say, it was another great evening of entertainment.

At this point, I really hope I don't have to explain who Yanagisawa-san is. I blog about him all the time, and I've attended his performances for nearly five years. But yes, he was Miyamto in The X from Outer Space (1967), though there's much, much more to his career.

Best of all, I get to spend a bit of time in the company of such a wonderful gentleman. His fellow band members are great, too. I always look forward to attending these shows. I hope there will be many more to come in the future.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Happy Birthday, Chumei Watanabe!

Chumei Watanabe. Photo by Brett Homenick.

August 19 marks the 94th birthday of film and television composer Chumei Watanabe. If you're not familiar with Watanabe-san or his work, here is a good place to start.

Chumei Watanabe plays with a Daitetsujin 17 toy. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I was privileged to attend a special celebration of Watanabe-san last night. I was pleased to see that Watanabe-san hadn't lost a step and is still going strong.

Most of all, I was just happy to see him again and personally wish him a happy birthday. I know that Watanabe-san is an inspiration to me, and I can only hope to be in such good health if and when I reach his age.

Happy birthday, Watanabe-san!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ultraman Festival 2019!

Today, I attended Ultraman Festival in Ikebukuro. Here's a look at what I saw. Enjoy!

Back to 1966 ... Again!

Bin Furuya. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended a special event with Bin Furuya (the original Ultraman suit actor) and Tsuburaya Productions cameraman Masao Nakabori. I attended a similar event about two months ago. As before, the focus was on the making of the original Ultraman (1966-67).

I arrived fashionably late (I'm always on the move, you know), but shortly after I arrived, I was treated to an interesting sight. Nakabori-san pulled out a model VTOL and demonstrated how the staff of Ultraman would manipulate them with piano wire.

Masao Nakabori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During the demonstration, Furuya-san took the model and held it in his hand, as if he had just rescued it from a monster attack. Naturally, just about everyone in attendance pulled out his or her camera for that scene!

Overall, it was another great evening, although I came home completely drained after all the running around I did today.

Furuya-san rescues a damaged VTOL. Photo by Brett Homenick.

And that's a wrap! See you next time.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

THE HUMAN BULLET! An Evening in the Company of Minori Terada!

Minori Terada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I had the distinct privilege of meeting actor Minori Terada. Terada-san stars in Kihachi Okamoto's The Human Bullet (1968), but he is also known for his supporting parts in such films as Okamoto's Red Lion (1969), Station (1981), Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky (1986), Akio Jissoji's Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (1988), and Ultra Q: The Movie (1990). On TV, he guest-starred in Ultraman (1966-67) episode 14 as the assistant truck driver.

Terada-san was a lot of fun to talk to. We spoke about Akira Kurosawa movies and Japanese movies in general. Suffice it to say, his acting resume is extremely impressive, so there was no shortage of topics to discuss.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

New Kazuki Omori Interview on Vantage Point Interviews

Kazuki Omori in May 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When I visited Osaka at the end of May, I had the privilege of interviewing Heisei Godzilla series director Kazuki Omori for the second time. Unfortunately, there was only enough time to cover Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), but there's plenty of great information.

The interview can be found here. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Our Memories on the Beach!

Shigeo Kato answers a question about his career. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I did something today that I usually try to avoid: get up early on a Sunday morning. But I did it for a very simple reason. I wanted to catch a screening of Shigeo Kato's newest movie, Our Memories on the Beach (2018). 

Congrats, Kato-san! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Our Memories on the Beach is a 52-minute feature, and it also happens to be Kato-san's first starring role in his 70-year career. Kato-san plays a 93-year-old fisherman named Shigeta, a widower who's very much set in his ways. He encounters a 20-year-old aspiring photographer who takes an interest in him. The two have enjoy each other's company on and around the beaches of Kamakura, but when Shigeta's daughter gets involved, things suddenly take a dramatic turn.

The movie was quite enjoyable, and it was fun to see Kato-san essentially play himself. Kato-san began his acting career in 1950 when he joined Toho Studios, but it wasn't until 2018 that he starred in his first film. And what a role it was for him! Suffice it to say, I was glad to attend and personally congratulate Kato-san on a job well done.

Netflix and Chill with Ultraman!

Seen today in Shinjuku Station.

In and Around Shinjuku

Another random batch of photos taken today in and around Shinjuku. Enjoy!

An Evening of Spooky Ghost Stories!

With Shoji Mori. 

Earlier this evening, I attended another dramatic reading with Masanori Machida, Shoji Mori, and other performers. Given that it's summertime in Japan, the theme was scary ghost stories, so it was right up my alley. But there was some comedy involved, too, such as when several female performers did an amusingly half-hearted "Thriller" dance.

With Masanori Machida.

Mori-san was a special guest, so it's a bit rare to see him at such events. Machida-san, on the other hand, is a regular, and he's always a lot of fun to visit. And yes, it was nice to celebrate Halloween in July!

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Fly's David Hedison: 1927-2019

David Hedison (left) poses with Brett Halsey in April 2010. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Actor David Hedison (née Al Hedison), best known for his roles in The Fly (1958), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68), and the two James Bond films (Live and Let Die, Licence to Kill) as Felix Leiter, passed away on July 18. He was 92.

I met David Hedison at a convention in Los Angeles in April 2010. He was there with Brett Halsey, star of Return of the Fly (1958). As a fan of classic horror films, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet them. About 10 years ago, Hedison published his autobiography (co-written with two other authors), The Fly at 50: The Creation and Legacy of a Classic Science Fiction Film. There was even a Godzilla fanzine that ran an interview with Hedison about the book, which still puzzles me to this day.

Rest in peace, David Hedison.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Remembering JFFJ Editor Greg Shoemaker (1947-2019)

Greg Shoemaker meets Akira Takarada in 2010. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The editor and publisher of the Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, the first and perhaps the best Godzilla/tokusatsu fanzine in the U.S., passed away on July 19.

In late 2009, I was pleased to conduct an interview with Greg about the history of JFFJ. The interview can be found here. To be honest, I was shocked that no one else tried to document the history of this ground-breaking fanzine (despite all the lip service many in the fan community paid to it), but I was honored to be the one to do it.

Yours truly with Greg Shoemaker in 2010.

I was also privileged to meet Greg in person in July 2010. I was able to introduce Greg to Akira Takarada when I was assisting Mr. Takarada during his first con appearance in the U.S. I had a few moments to share with Greg, but I wish I had many more. 

However, I'm pleased to report that the JFFJ legacy lives on. In February of this year, I was contacted by the clearance coordinator for a new Netflix series that wanted to feature issues of JFFJ in the series but wanted permission from Greg to use them. Naturally, I provided his contact information. I certainly hope permission was granted and that JFFJ will be exposed to a whole new generation of fans.

Rest in peace, Greg. Thank you for paving the way for the rest of us. 

MOTHRA FLIES AGAIN! But Was the Third Time the Charm?

Kenji Suzuki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I took in a screening of Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) in glorious 35mm. I don't think I'd seen the movie in close to 20 years, and I'd only seen it once before. I basically remembered only two things from the film -- that King Ghidorah captures children, and the less-than-convincing dinosaur puppets. 

Overall, I found the film a bit too slow for my liking. I'd rank it as my least favorite of the late '90s Mothra trilogy (with the first Rebirth of Mothra being my favorite). The only characters who stood out were the returning characters from the previous entries: Moll, Lora, and Belvera. The rest were instantly forgettable. It was nice to see the ubiquitous Koichi Ueda in a small role, but that's about all. It's not a bad film, but it is a something of a let-down.

The special guest of the screening was SFX director Kenji Suzuki. Before joining Toho, Suzuki-san was a freelance SFX director who did some work at Tsuburaya Productions, most notably Ultraman 80 (1980-81). At Toho, he served as an assistant SFX director on The Imperial Navy (1981) and Sayonara Jupiter (1984). On Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), Rebirth of Mothra (1996), and Rebirth of Mothra II (1997), he served as the chief assistant SFX director under Koichi Kawakita. On Rebirth of Mothra III, Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), he was the SFX director. In the 2000s, Suzuki-san returned to Tsuburaya Productions and lent his talents to various Ultra-projects.

And that's about all. I had an enjoyable afternoon. I'm glad I saw the film again, and despite my misgivings, I can recognize the film's positive aspects. It's been great to reevaluate the entire Mothra trilogy this year.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A National Holiday in Japan, Toho-Style!

Naomi Hase. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Given that today, Monday, July 15, is a national holiday in Japan, there was a special event with screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara and actress Noami Hase that I attended. Naturally, I had to work today, but when I was finished, I made sure to stop by.

Naomi Hase is an actress and singer who started her career in 1974. In Japan, she still has a lot of fans from her role on the TV series Howl at the Sun! (1972-86). For me, however, her most interesting credits are Oshare daisakusen (1976), director Kengo Furusawa's last film, and Clash! Young Guy (1976), directed by Tom Kotani. Interestingly, however, when I asked her about director Kengo Furusawa, she didn't seem to remember him at all!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Kashiwabara-san was the other guest at the event. He, of course, wrote the screenplays for Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla 2000 (1999), and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). For more information about Kashiwabara-san's career, check out this interview with him.

As usual, it was great to see Kashiwabara-san again, though this time we didn't talk about American movies -- well, not very much, anyway! It was another fun time.