Sunday, May 26, 2019

YOU'LL GET CAUGHT IN THE CROSS FIRE! Taking in the Millennium-Era Toho Thriller!

 From left to right: Shusuke Kaneko, Toshio Miike, and Hajime Matsumoto. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I had the good fortune of attending a screening of the Toho thriller Cross Fire (2000), which was also attended by no fewer than three major guests. I hadn't see Cross Fire since the early 2000s, so I was glad to approach the film with a fresh perspective.

Toshio Miike. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I wasn't a fan of the film when I first it around 2002, and I have to admit that my opinion hasn't changed much. That's not to say that it's a bad film, but I still find the bad guys too over-the-top and the main character (Junko Aoki) not all that sympathetic. I also felt the movie was a bit too long for the material. That said, I'm glad I saw it again, and there's no better way to experience it than in 35mm.

The guest list was quite impressive. Toshio Miike is a veteran SFX art director and production designer who's worked on: Gunhed (1989), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Zeiram (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2 (1996), Gamera 3 (1999), GMK (2001), Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002), Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), and Shin Godzilla (2016).

Hajime Matsumoto. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

It was my first time to meet Hajime Matsumoto, who has enjoyed a varied career as both a screenwriter and a VFX specialist. His screenwriting credits includes co-writing Zeiram, Zeiram 2 (1994), and Moon over Tao: Makaraga (1997) with director Keita Amemiya. His VFX credits include Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2, Gamera 3, Cross Fire, GMK, and Godzilla against Mechagodzilla.

I have to admit that I didn't realize until Matsumoto-san told me so that he had co-written Zeiram (or any other films with Keita Amemiya) until he told me so. As a big fan of those movies, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Shusuke Kaneko. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last (but not least) was the film's director, Shusuke Kaneko, whom I'm pretty sure at this point needs no introduction. If you're not familiar with his credits by now, I'd highly suggest using the Google machine yo familiarize yourself.

And that's a wrap! What a fun day it was. It's always impressive to be in the same room with so much Toho (and Daiei) history. Many thanks to all who made it possible!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Seeing Aoki-san Onstage!

Hidemi Aoki. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Friday, May 24, I immediately headed out to Ikebukuro to catch a play that Hidemi Aoki was appearing in. Although I arrived a bit late, I still was able to catch the bulk of it.

Among her credits, Aoki-san plays Sumi in Seven Nights in Japan (1976), co-starring Michael York and Charles Gray (directed by Lewis Gilbert of You Only Live Twice fame). She also portrays Kyoko Osawayama in episodes 2-7, 9, 11-13 of Toho's tokusatsu TV series Diamond Eye (1973-74).

I enjoyed seeing and chatting a bit with Aoki-san again. She even gave me a small gift for coming, which I wish all actors would do for those who attend their performances!

Talkin' Tokusatsu

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Wednesday, May 22, I spent a great afternoon with Toho SFX veteran Takashi Naganuma. I learned a lot about the films he worked on. Suffice it to say, he's enjoyed a fascinating career behind the scenes!

Kurosawa Producer Yoichi Matsue Passes Away at 88

Yoichi Matsue (far left) with Akira Kurosawa (next to him) in the Soviet Union during for Dersu Uzala.

Frequent Akira Kurosawa collaborator Yoichi Matsue passed away on March 9 of this year in Hachioji, Tokyo, of pneumonia, the family has announced. He was 88.

Mr. Matsue was born on October 26, 1930, in Ishikawa Prefecture. He joined Toho Studios in 1955 as an actor, appearing as one of the convicts in Godzilla Raids Again (1955).

It was behind the camera, however, that Mr. Matsue would achieve his greatest fame working with Akira Kurosawa -- first as an assistant director on such films as Sanjuro (1962), High and Low (1963) and Red Beard (1965), and later as a producer on Dodeskaden (1970) and Dersu Uzala (1975).

When Dersu Uzala won the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film in 1976, it was Mr. Matsue who gave the acceptance speech, making him the only actor from a Japanese Godzilla film who's delivered an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. The video is below:

Through our mutual friend, I contacted Mr. Matsue last year about interviewing him, but unfortunately he declined my proposal. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Matsue.

Monday, May 20, 2019

After a Long Absence, TAC Is Back!

Keiko Nishi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While on a work break, I made a trek to Keiko Nishi's cafe, and with a bit of luck on my side, she was there. (The last few times I visited the cafe, she wasn't.) It was great to see her again. The last time was almost exactly two years ago! I hadn't planned such a long gap; things just worked out that way.

For those of you not in the know, Nishi-san played TAC member Noriko Mikawa in Ultraman Ace (1972-73). Recently, she's been spending more time away from her cafe, so the timing has to be perfect in order for you to see her there. Thankfully, that's the way it was for me today.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Roll with the Changeman!

 From left to right: Jun Fujimaki, Mai Oishi, and Shiro Izumi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'm not the world's biggest Super Sentai fan, but even I know when such an event is just too good to pass up. Today's Showa Hero event was just that. The focus was Dengeki Sentai Changeman (1985-86), and the presence of one guest in particular was more than enough to motivate me to attend.

Jun Fujimaki. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

That guest was Jun Fujimaki. Fujimaki-san played Kogenta Sarumaru in Daimajin (1966), Yasutaro Oki in 100 Monsters (1968), JGSDF officer Okazaki from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), and Commander Yui Ibuki in Changeman. Suffice it to say, that is an impressive list of credits,  and Fujimaki-san's appearance is what put it over the top for me.

I brought a few items for him to sign. One was a foldout poster of 100 Monsters (already signed by composer Chumei Watanabe), and after he signed it, he spent a few moments taking a close look at it. When I brought out my DVD sleeve of the Daiei flick The Falcon Fighters (1969) for him to sign, he was pleasantly surprised and commented on how nostalgic it was for him. He also signed a DVD sleeve of 100 Monsters, which I previously had signed by the female lead, Miwa Takada. Fujimaki-san was a total gentleman, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet him.

Mai Oishi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The next guest was Mai Oishi, who starred as Change Phoenix on Changeman. Even though I hadn't seen year for a while, she remembered me from the previous time we met.

Oishi-san is a great lady, and it's the fine folks like her who've made me more interesting in checking out Super Sentai.

Shiro Izumi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The final guest was Shiro Izumi  Change Pegasus from Dengeki Sentai Changeman and Dragon Ranger from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (1992-93).

And that's a wrap! It was another fun event, and a great way to spend an afternoon. Many thanks to the hard-working staff who made this event possible. Looking forward to the next one!

An Animated Adventure!

Sadao Iizuka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I spent the afternoon and evening at an event with optical effects master Sadao Iizuka. I've attended similar events for years, and there's always a lot of fun.  

Let's do it again soon!