Friday, March 31, 2017


Probably the coolest name for a boat ever created. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When paying a visit to Edogawa, Tokyo, the other day, I saw a boat in a nearby river with a great name.  Can you see what it is? Here's a closer look...

I'm pretty sure you won't any boats named MUTO!

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS! Speding the Big Day with a Great Guy!

My birthday was a few days ago, and I spent it at the home of actor Ulf Otsuki. There we watched an old Hollywood flick I'd never heard of, September Affair (1950), with Joseph Cotten. It was pretty enjoyable. After that, we went out to our usual haunt for some dinner.

What a great way to celebrate a birthday! Many thanks to Ulf-san for his never-ending kindness and hospitality.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND! Seeing the New Monster Romp from Legendary Pictures!

Spoilers herein.

I finally had a chance to see Kong: Skull Island, which opened yesterday in Japan. It was exactly what I expected it to be, which overall isn't a terribly good thing.

It improves on several weaknesses from Godzilla (2014), but that movie was so bad it's hard to imagine things getting any worse. For one thing, there was an attempt at creating some interesting characters. Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly are the standouts here. (Everyone else is more or less forgettable.) Reilly comes close to stealing the show with (what seem to be) some amusing ad libbed lines (recalling some of his best work in Boogie Nights and Magnolia). Jackson and Goodman elevate some otherwise one-dimensional characters with their presence and acting abilities. The rest of the cast does not.

As for the monsters, Kong is just a big ape -- a roaring, chest-pounding fighting machine. That's all. He is completely devoid of the personality and pathos that endeared him to Depression-era audiences. The other beasties in the film don't fare any better. There are oversize buffalo, spiders, octopuses, and lizards with skull faces, and none of them seem particularly inspired.

Much is made of the giant skull-faced lizard, who remains unseen until the end of the movie. But its appearance is more of an anticlimax than anything else. We've already seen a whole army of these creatures in action. This one just happens to be a bit bigger than the others. So what's the big deal? I was bored to distraction during the battle between Kong and the big skull-faced lizard, and for the life of me I can't even remember how Kong defeated it. I'm sure it involved chest-pounding, though.

Yes, I stayed for the post-credits sequence, and I have to admit I found it a bit confusing. For example, it appears that the next Godzilla film will adhere to the Skull Island timeline, meaning it will take place in the '70s. So how exactly will it connect with, you know, the last Godzilla film, which did not? Also, the characters in this sequence refer to the Toho kaiju as other "kings" (besides Kong), but how exactly do they make that determination? Why doesn't ol' Skull Face count as a "king"? Not marketable enough? Beaten too easily? Doesn't have Rodan's agent? Pretty arbitrary if you ask me.

In closing, Kong: Skull Island is an assembly-line product that is sure to please fans who want to see some computer-rendered monster action. It is a better movie than Godzilla (2014), so I'll give it credit for that. But I guess I can't get excited anymore about watching disposable characters perish in predictable ways while the protagonists easily avoid any and all danger, rarely even getting their hair mussed. Been there, done that -- way too many times.

Save something for the grownups, please.

CELEBRATING YASUYUKI INOUE! A Special Exhibit Salutes the Life of the Famed Toho Production Designer!

The Ebina Civic Art Gallery in Ebina, Kanagawa, is hosting an exhibition of Toho SFX production designer Yasuyuki Inoue's design work from March 25 through April 2. The event is completely free to attend, although if you're interested in spending some money, a souvenir book of the exhibit (along with other books and even DVDs) are available for purchase.

Due to my work schedule, I wasn't able to attend the opening ceremony yesterday. Godzilla series producer Shogo Tomiyama attended the opening, along with other SFX luminaries. Luckily, though, I was still able to meet a couple of them.

SFX production designer Toshio Miike. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On hand at the gallery was veteran SFX art director and production designer Toshio Miike, who has 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). Yesterday, Miike-san hosted a special screening of Godzilla 1985 (1984) at the nearby Ebina Culture Center.

Shortly after I arrived at the gallery, former Toho model maker Akinori Takagi entered the building. I was quite surprised. I met Takagi-san (along with Yasuyuki Inoue) back in 2004 at a movie screening in Hollywood. I hadn't seen Takagi-san since. Suffice it to say, I was glad to see him again, and it was long overdue.

After viewing the exhibit, which included scripts, design sketches, and behind-the-scenes photos, I added my sketch of Godzilla to one of the gallery's sign boards, where it stands among the signatures of other fans and SFX pros alike,

Toho model maker Akinori Takagi (left) and Toshio Miike (right). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

During this time, I struck up a conversation with Miike-san. We talked about a variety of subjects, and it was nice to get a chance to have a detailed conversation with him. (When we last met, it was very brief!) When Takagi-san and his family finished viewing the exhibition, he joined our conversation. Through his granddaughter (who recently studied abroad in Australia), he talked about his tokusatsu work, particularly the details of creating Mothra's elaborate eyes.

All in all, it was a great celebration of the life of Yasuyuki Inoue. I couldn't imagine it being celebrated in any other way. I'm very glad I was able to attend, and I must thank Miike-san for his help and hospitality.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

TOHO MINI REUNION! Dinner with Three Studio Alumni!

Yours truly with SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano.

Tonight, I attended a wonderful dinner with three Toho alumni. One of the guests of honor was SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, a man I've blogged about many times on this site.  

Yours truly with Takashi Naganuma.

Another guest of the evening was Takashi Naganuma, an SFX crew member at Toho from the 1970s through the 1990s. Naganuma-san is always one of my favorites to visit.

It was great to speak with director Tom Kotani again after several months. (I hadn't seen him since last November.)

Not much else to say, other than it was fun. Many thanks to all involved!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

PAYING RESPECTS TO AKIRA KUROSAWA! Visiting the Celebrated Director's Grave in Kamakura!

 Akira Kurosawa's final resting place in Anyoin Temple. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of the places I'd wanted to visit in Japan for some time was Akira Kurosawa's grave in Kamakura. Kurosawa, of course, is the famed Toho director who brought such classics as Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), and Ran (1985) to the big screen. He is the most famous film director Japan has ever produced. 

Actor Shigeo Kato offers a gift to director Kurosawa. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Given that retired actor Shigeo Kato lives in the area, I phoned him up and set up a meeting. When I arrived in Kamakura, I asked him about going to Anyoin Temple to visit Kurosawa's grave. Kato-san knew exactly where to go, so off we went.

Shigeo Kato worked with Akira Kurosawa numerous times. He has a speaking role in Ikiru (1952) as a government bureaucrat, and he appears as a farmer in Seven Samurai (1954). He even appears in Kurosawa's final film, Madadayo (1993) as the stationmaster.

Shigeo Kato speaks with a visitor to the cemetery. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Along the way, Kato-san suggested that we purchase flowers to leave as a gift. I thought that was a great idea. We stopped at a local flower shop and each picked some up (which I dutifully paid for). We kept walking until we arrived at the temple.

Shigeo Kato at Akira Kurosawa's final resting place. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

When we arrived at the temple's cemetery (which is in a slightly different location from the temple proper), we placed the flowers in the appropriate place. Then we each offered our prayers to the late director.

Interestingly, while Kato-san and I were there, we happened to be joined by another American movie fan who also wanted to see Kurosawa's grave. Even more interestingly, he recognized me from my various writings on Japanese movies. I introduced him to Kato-san, and we all took our requisite photos.

After visiting Kurosawa's grave, Kato-san and I went to a coffee shop for some refreshments. I asked him about his small role in Battle in Outer Space (1959) as one of the conductors on the doomed train that crashes when the Natal aliens lift up the bridge. As it turns out, Kato-san doesn't remember the film at all! Otherwise, we talked about Kato-san's favorite directors, among whom are Kurosawa, Ishiro Honda, Yasuki Chiba, and Shiro Moritani, and also about which Japanese directors and actors were famous in the U.S.

Thank you very much, Kato-san, for making the day one I'll never forget! (Thank you also for the birthday card!)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

MORE SHOTS! Our Tokusatsu Exhibit in Chofu!

Here are a few extra pictures from the "Bokutachi no Tokusatsu!" ("Our Tokusatsu!") exhibit at the Chofu City Cultural Hall.

OUR TOKUSATSU! Chofu City's Special Exhibit on Japanese SFX!

From March 5 until March 12, an exhibit entitled "Bokutachi no Tokusatsu!" (roughly, "Our Tokusatsu!") was held in Chofu, Tokyo, at the Chofu City Cultural Hall. Because of a last-minute cancellation, I found myself with some extra time today and was able to check out the exhibit firsthand. A picture truly does speak a thousand words, so I'll let them do the talking.

KONG VS. GODZILLA! Well, Sort Of...

Don't you just love it when the unexpected happens? Photo by Brett Homenick.

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Kong: Skull Island, Toho Cinemas in Shinjuku has found a clever way to advertise the SFX extravaganza from Legendary Pictures. A few shots (including one taken at night) are provided for your amusement. Enjoy!

THE ULF-MAN COMETH! A Day with a Godzilla Series Legend!

Earlier tonight, as I often do, I visited actor Ulf Otsuki at his home, and together we watched another Hollywood classic. This time, it was Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Ulf-san is a big admirer of Gary Cooper, and this film was particularly moving for him.

After that, we went out for dinner at our usual haunt and talked about a variety of subjects, from his acting career to the world of American politics. As always, it was a blast!