Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Seeing Gamera at Kadokawa Cinema!

As part of the ongoing Yokai/Tokusatsu Film Festival at Kadokawa Cinema in Yurakucho, I caught a screening of Gamera vs. Viras (a.k.a. Destroy All Planets, 1968) last night, as well as a screening of Gamera vs. Jiger (a.k.a. Gamera vs. Monster X, 1970) tonight. 

Last night's screening of Viras was billed as the "director's cut" of the movie, but for the life of me I couldn't notice any differences. The movie still played virtually the same, so whatever differences there were must have been fleeting.

The screening for Jiger tonight got off on the wrong foot, as the 4K projector experienced technical difficulties, delaying the start of the movie for several minutes. It's a rare treat to see Showa Gamera films on the big screen, so I was quite pleased to have such an opportunity. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Yokai/Tokusatsu Film Festival!

Starting July 16, Kadokawa Cinema Yurakucho is hosting the Yokai/Tokusatsu Film Festival, which, as you can probably tell, focuses on Daiei's catalog of special effects films, mostly from the Showa era. The lineup is incredible, featuring the Showa Gamera, Daimajin, Yokai, and a bevy of ghost films from the golden age of Japanese cinema.

Today, I saw the 4K restoration of 100 Monsters (1968), the first of Daiei's late-'60s Yokai trilogy. It's a fun film, and it look flawless in 4K. Suffice it to say, I'll be returning to the theater to catch more titles.

 I even picked up a couple of souvenirs from the lobby. I just hope I can find room for all this stuff!

A Message from Kamen Rider himself!

 Takeshi Hongo has a message for you punks who want to get rowdy at the train station!

A Cool Event on a Hot July Day!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night, I attended an event that was virtually identical to one from several weeks ago. The headliners were screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara and actress Kanae Hasebe. 

I was particularly excited to hang out with Kashiwabara-san again, as he is just an all-around great guy. Besides, I think the month of July is a great time to hang out with him, as I'm sure the fine folks of Itasca, IL, would certainly agree. Kashiwabara-san wrote (or co-wrote) three Godzilla films from the Heisei and Millennium series, but it's just as much fun to talk to him about a number of other topics.

Kanae Hasebe. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was the lovely Kanae Hasebe, the daughter of film and television director Yasuharu Hasebe (Horror Theater Unbalance, Spectreman, Assault! Jack the Ripper). In terms of tokusatsu, she appears in episodes 18 and 19 of Kamen Rider 555 (2003-04) as Sachiko Kurata, as well as episode 5 of Kamen Rider Kiva (2008-09) as a housewife.

I met Hasebe-san a few weeks ago and had a great time in her company. When I found out that Kashiwabara-san and Hasebe-san would be returning for another appearance, it was an opporunity I couldn't pass up. Many thanks for the great evening!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Eiichi Asada Q&A on Vantage Point Interviews!

My March 2021 interview Toho SFX director Eiichi Asada has been posted on Vantage Point Interviews. The interview covers his early career as an assistant director on Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Submersion of Japan (1973), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and Espy (1974). Asada-san, of course, would go on to be SFX director on Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). 

As you ought to know by now, content is king on Vantage Point Interviews

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Content Is King at Vantage Point Interviews!

With Don Frye in July 2014.

Vantage Point Interviews is back with several great interviews. One is a never-before-published July 2008 interview with Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) star Don Frye, whose role as Captain Douglas Gordon remains a fan favorite to this day.

The other two Q&As are brand-new and concern the late producer-screenwriter Reuben Bercovitch, whose credits include: Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Monster Zero (1965), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), and Hell in the Pacific (1968) with Toshiro Mifune. The biographical interview was conducted with Mr. Bercovitch's wife and oldest son. A follow-up interview with another son of Reuben Bercovitch reveals a fun tidbit about War of the Gargantuas.

Check 'em out today!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A Heisei Ultraman Experience!

Ryuki Kitaoka (left) and Kazuya Konaka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a special event with an emphasis on the Heisei-era Ultra-series with several special guests. While my familiarity with that era of Ultraman is admittedly limited, it was interesting to explore a new avenue of tokusatsu.

Ryuki Kitaoka, Mai Saito (in character), and Kazuya Konaka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The guest of honor was director Kazuya Konaka  Konaka-san helmed episodes of Ultraman Dyna (1997-98), Ultraman Cosmos (2001-02), Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), Ultraman Mebius (2006-07), Ultraseven X (2007), Ultraman Ginga S (2014), and Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga (2016-17). 

With Ryuki Kitaoka, Mai Saito, and Kazuya Konaka.

Konaka-san also directed the feature films: Ultraman Zearth 2 (1997), Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna (1998), Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace (1999), Ultraman: The Next (2004), Mirrorman Reflex (2006), and Ultraman Mebius and Ultra Brothers (2006). 

Ryuki Kitaoka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Also on hand was actress Mai Saito. Saito-san appears in the movies Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace as Risa Nanase, as well as Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet (2002) and Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice: The Final Battle (2003) as Shau. 

With Ryuki Kitaoka.

On television, she plays Sayaka on Booska! Booska!! (1999-2000), Saya Kimura on episodes 26, 27, 28, 35, and 36 of Kamen Rider 555 (2003-04), Ano on episode 13 of Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy (2004), Lilika on episode 28 of Ultraman Max (2005-06), and Misa Takamura on episode 33 of Ultraman Mebius.

Kazuya Konaka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Suit actor extradordinaire Ryuki Kitaoka was there, as well. Among his numerous credits, Kitaoka-san plays a mutant X-Seijin in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004),  but his suit-acting career includes appearances on Ultraman Tiga (1996-97), Ultraman Dyna, among many others.

With Kazuya Konaka.

 All in all, it was a fun time, Kitaoka-san, in particular, was very warm and friendly. I should give the Heisei Ultra-series a closer look!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

'Godzilla vs. Kong'

I just saw Godzilla vs. Kong, and you'll never guess what happens -- Godzilla wins in the Japanese version!!!!

Well, not really (obviously), but wouldn't that have been fun? Certainly a lot more fun than what we got.

A few weeks ago, I talked to a buddy in the U.S. who had seen the film and asked for his take. Despite all the praise it was receiving at the time, he assured me it was actually pretty bad and that I wouldn't like it. Well, my buddy sure nailed that one. I was looking forward to seeing Godzilla vs. Kong, but I have to admit it didn't come close to meeting my (fairly low) expectations.

First, I should say that I'm relieved that I managed to avoid spoilers for the film, even though it had been out for months (and months) by the time it finally arrived in Japan. I wasn't so lucky with the 2014 film, despite "only" having to wait two and a half months that time to see it after it was released in the U.S.

The movie's biggest flaw is probably its focus on King Kong, a character that just isn't very interesting. Oh, don't get me wrong. The original stop-motion incarnation had plenty of personality quirks that carry it through the movie. This one, however, is just too earnest. He's also teamed up with a little girl, but not just any little girl -- a little girl who is also an orphan, but not just any orphan -- an orphan who is also deaf. I'm pretty sure this means the filmmakers want us to feel sympathy for her. But, much like her chest-pounding guardian, she too lacks any semblance of a personality. She musters a half-smile when she's happy, and she sort of frowns when she's sad. I'm not sure what her role is, other than to humanize a creature who's already too human.

The movie also really goes off the rails in ways I never expected. The whole trip to Hollow Earth was just bizarre. Feel free to count me among those who didn't expect to see Kong opening doors to ancient castles and playing around with magic swords. I'd rather watch Naomi Watts do cartwheels. 

The characters add very little to the proceedings. Millie Bobby Brown returns from the superior Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), but isn't given very much to do. Kyle Chandler (another returning champion) appears in what is essentially an extended cameo. Brian Tyree Henry plays a conspiracy-oriented podcaster, but every time he's onscreen, I couldn't help but be reminded of Joker (2019), in which he plays the clerk at Arkham. (I saw Joker six times on the big screen, by the way.) He does fine here, but all the running around laboratories got just a bit tiresome after a while.

The ending was completely predictable, but the way it's handled is mind-boggling. Godzilla leaves Kong for dead, but just because the little orphan girl tells Kong that Godzilla isn't the enemy anymore, Kong goes along with it? I don't know how many of us would wake up from a coma and immediately jump to the aid of the guy who put us there, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.

I'd thought about coming up with a ranking of all the Monsterverse movies, but all that needs to be said is, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is quite good, and you can keep the rest. I haven't seen Godzilla (2014) since, well, 2014, but I can't imagine my mind has changed on that slog of a movie. I'm sure that would still be my least favorite of the bunch, and I'm glad that the other entries at least had some attempt at a personality.

Was Godzilla vs. Kong worth the wait? I can't say it was. Most of the reviews I've read so far focus on the movie's "fun" aspect, but I was fighting to stay awake toward the end. In fairness, though, I did manage to stay awake, so I guess that puts this flick on a higher level than the second Godzilla anime movie, which actually did send me to Dreamland in the theater.