Monday, September 17, 2018

MATANGO! Viewing the Toho Classic in 35mm!

Akira Kubo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I was lucky enough to take in a 35mm screening of the Toho classic Matango along with Toho star Akira Kubo. Matango, of course, is one of Toho's most effective horror films, and it was quite fun to be able to look over at Kubo-san's reactions during some of the key scenes.

I hadn't seen Kubo-san in close to three years, and not only did he remember me, it was wonderful to see him doing so well. All in all, it was quite a day!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

DOWNRANGE! Attending the Japanese Premiere of Ryuhei Kitamura's Independent Thriller!

Poster art for Ryuhei Kitamura's Downrange. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On September 6, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the premiere of the Ryuhei Kitamura's latest film, Downrange (2017). Shot in California on a low budget, Downrange is about a sniper who takes out an SUV full of college students and young adults in the middle of nowhere and tries to pick them off one-by-one. The premise is very simple, but the results of it are anything but.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura discusses the film following the premiere. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The premiere took place at Tokyo Culture Culture in Shibuya. It was an exciting event filled with press and luminaries from the Japanese entertainment world. Naturally, the main attraction was the screening of Downrange, which certainly thrilled and chilled the audience with whom I saw it. Make no mistake, this is an extremely graphic film, and it is not for the squeamish. In fact, part of the fun was simply looking around at the audience during some of the more gruesome sequences. The young women in attendance had some amusing reactions to all the gore.

Ryuhei Kitamura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's a brutal and downbeat film that succeeds when it keeps things minimal. Some of the sequences reminded me of No Country for Old Men, which is high praise, indeed. The film didn't work as well for me when it injected style and flashy camera angles into the proceedings. It just takes me out of the picture, and I prefer to immerse myself in the film-going experience, especially in a realistic horror film like this.

Despite that criticism, I enjoyed Downrange. It delivers genuine shocks and thrills in a time when most horror movies just induce yawns. While most flicks I've seen over the summer have been forgettable, many of the visuals in Downrange are hard to forget. This one sticks with you.

In 2004, I attended the world premiere of Godzilla: Final Wars in Hollywood. I never expected to attend another premiere of a Ryuhei Kitamura movie, but I'm very glad to have had the opportunity. If you like horror movies, and if the current crop the studios are churning out doesn't do it for you, check out Downrange. It's refreshing to see some effective, stripped-down horror in a sea of cheesy jump scares and CG ghosts.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

TOEI VILLAIN! Attending a Special Event with Shinzo Hotta!

Shinzo Hotta. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The second event I attended today also had a Toei theme. It was headlined by Shinzo Hotta. Hotta-san's acting roles date back to the mid-1960s at Toei Studios. Among many others, his credits include: Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Iron King (1972-73), Ninja Captor (1976-77), and Message from Space: Galactic Wars (1978-79).

I first met Hotta-san three years ago, and haven't had a chance to see him since then. Of course, he was very friendly and approachable, which is exactly how he was when I first met him.

TOEI HEROES CONVERGE! Two Superhero Actors Join Forces for an Event in Shinjuku!

Sayoko Hagiwara and Takumi Tsutsui. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a special event in Shinjuku that was guested by two popular actors from '80s Toei superhero programs.

The first guest was Takumi Tsutsui, who starred in Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya (1988-89), which is a show with an intenational following.

The other guest was Sayoko Hagiwara, who played the role of Ryoko Hoshi, Yullian's human form, on Ultraman 80 (1980-81) from episode 43, as well as Dyna Pink on Kagaku Sentai Dynaman (1983-84). She also appeared on Choushinsei Flashman (1986-87) as the villainous Leh Nafel. I've blogged about her many times in the past.

It had been a few months since I last saw Hagiwara-san, so I especially enjoyed seeing her again. We had a nice chat, and when I left the event as things were winding down, she walked me to the door and kept chatting. It's not every day you get that kind of treatment from special guests!

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Tsuomu Kitagawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, August 25, I attended a special event regarding Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), Toho's controversial 50th anniversary celebration of Godzilla. In attendance were two very notable special guests.

Tsutomu "Tom" Kitagawa was one of the guests, and he was the "man in the Godzilla suit" for all the Millennium series films between Godzilla 2000 (1999) and Godzilla: Final Wars (minus GMK). It had been just under four years since I'd last seen Kitagawa-san, and I was surprised that he recognized me.

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was Eiichi Asada. Asada-san served as an assistant director on numerous Toho movies, including: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Submersion of Japan (1973), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Espy (1974), Conflagration (1975), Zero Pilot (1976), The War in Space (1977), Deathquake (1980), The Imperial Navy (1981), Sayonara Jupiter (1984), and Godzilla 1985, among others. During the Millennium series, he was the special effects director on Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and Godzilla: Final Wars

Asada-san is a lot of fun to hang out with, and whenever he's a guest, I always make an effort to see him. It was a fun, low-key affair with nothing but great people all around.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

SHINJUKU AT NIGHT! Revisiting Godzilla Locations!

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (left) next to the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While in Shinjuku, I photographed two notable buildings associated with the Godzilla series. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. Tax Towers) is featured in the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), and the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building is the structure collapses onto in Godzilla 1985 (1984). Both buildings look quite nice at night. Enjoy!

THE MONSTERS OF SHINJUKU! Godzilla and Predator Take Things Over!

The Godzilla head atop the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Wednesday, I roamed around Shinjuku and photographed some of the monsters on display, including the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku and the Godzilla Store. Check 'em out!