Post Weekend Open Thread (07/18/11)…

I had a nice long weekend because I had taken off Thursday and Friday (although technically I didn’t need the latter) because G-Fest was in town and they were showing dai kajiu movies at the Pickwick Theatre, a very sweet 1920s’ movie palace that I grew up watching films in as a kid.

Thursday was the big day, as there were four movies playing, an afternoon double bill and an evening one. I knew I was going to give Friday night’s 10:30 movie a pass, because I wasn’t that interested in an Ultraman picture, and also knew that sheer inertial might keep me from going to see Gamera II on Saturday night, which in fact is what happened. I admit this with some degree of shame.

The first movie was a 1:00 showing of Gamera Super Monster, which was indeed as awful as I always heard. It was also HILARIOUS. Basically a clip show featuring Readers Digest condensed versions of all the fights from the earlier color Gamera movies, this had an evil spaceship that looked *coff* just slightly like a barely modified Imperial Cruiser threaten the Earth with a bunch of monsters.

Luckily, the film’s Obligatory Kenny has a pet turtle that he asks to become Gamera, and I guess the turtle does, although that all happens off camera. As the heavy use of stock footage referenced above would indicate, this was an extremely cheap production. They did build a (maybe) new, largely inert Gamera prop (not a costume) for a few insert shots, although oddly it was green, despite Gamera being his normal gray in all the recycled footage. I guess nobody noticed, or more likely were like, “Eh, whatever.”

Imitation Kenny (who spends a fair amount of time playing Camptown Races on his home, Wurlitzer-esque organ) is aided by three Space Chicks who appear to be relatives of Starman, and who live in a travel bag inside their van (really) and are, I guess, the sole survivors of a previous planet destroyed by the bad guys.

Nothing makes a damn like of sense, and man, it was awesome. Everyone should have the opportunity to see this in a theater. Hell, maybe we’ll at least show it at T-Fest someday.

Speaking of awesome, the second afternoon movie was the original Mothra. ‘Nuff said. The stuff in America the ‘Rolisican’ metropolis of ‘New Kirk City,’ where all the signage looks oddly American, was pretty hilarious. Mothra just flat out kills a zillion people because he’s out to save the Fairy Princesses of Infant Island, and nobody holds a grudge because there’s an evil capitalist of the Mwa-ha-ha! school to blame.

Took a dinner break (mmm, mac ‘n cheese at Noodles and Co.) and headed back for the evening flicks. The first was my favorite of the modern Godzilla movies, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2. Mothra got a lot of play in the Hensei movies, but Rodan didn’t, so this is the bee’s knees as far as I’m concerned. And really, any Godzilla movie with an Ifukube score is aces with me. I kind of wish these movies didn’t feel the need to actually verbalize their ‘messages,’ which aren’t exactly subtle, but I guess you should just take that as part of their charm.

The last movie was (yay!) Gamera Guardian of the Universe, a film that kicked off what I firmly believe to be one of the two or three best sci-fi trilogies ever, no lie. It’s also, aside from maybe Cronenberg’s The Fly, the best remake I’ve ever seen, and a roadmap for the way to update material without losing what made the original tick. I’ve been lucky enough to see this in a theater several times before, but it really holds up, especially when you’re watching it with a crowd that lets go with a lusty cheer as each monster is introduced.

As our ultra-nerdy, middle aged and fat assed crowd left the theater, we were confronted with well over a 1,000 high schoolers lined up outside; they were there to watch the midnight opening of the last Harry Potter movie. I knew those were crazily popular films, but it wasn’t until then that I got that this must be the Star Wars for this generation of kids. And man, they must have started watching them when they were six or seven, because that first movie came out like a decade ago. Maybe of the kids were dressed in English school outfits, a few even in robes and stuff, and I sadly had to turn my eyes purposely away from the scads of teen girls in their little skirts and button up shirts. Were I a better man I wouldn’t even have noticed in anything about an academic fashion, but I’m not, so all I could do was steadfastly avoid the temptation to gawk.

In the end, it was a good day for the Pickwick. I’d eyeball the total tickets sold combined for the two G-Fest double bills at 700 to 800, while the Harry Potter showing was a sell-out, which is saying something because the Pickwick seats over 1,400. Yep, it’s a barn. I can’t imagine what it was like inside; even on the street the combined noise of a thousand plus happily burbling teens was pretty loud. God love ‘em, though. I hope it was everything they hoped it would be. And aside from tickets, the Pickwick was offering nicely affordable $10 T-Shirts emblazoned with both the theater’s trademark façade, with four designs, one for each of the school houses in the movie; Griffendorf etc., or whatever they are. Anyway, a nice souvenir for the kids, and cheap enough you could afford all four if you wanted. Cheers to them for not trying to gouge anyone.

Saturday I got together with Paul and Holly, who will be returning to California soon, and we caught the early morning matinee of X-Men First Class. I personally thought it was better than any of the previous X-Man movies, and loads better than the awful Wolverine movie. It will also make less money than any of them, and I’d be surprised if they made a sequel to it. The X-Men meets James Bond design esthetic was fantastic though, and it had great theme music, which we only seem to get now in films like that and The Incredibles that are purposely trying to invoke the ‘60s. Anyway, really good, and if you haven’t seen it on a big screen yet, you might want to hurry up and do so while you still can.

Oh, and I also finished a fantasy series by Kevin Hearne with a book called Hammered (following Hexed and Hounded). It’s about an immortal Druid in modern America and his travails with witches, gods from various pantheons, vampires, etc. Good clean writing, some snark, lots of action, an interesting take on magic and a lot of humor. Recommended for anyone who likes the Sandman Slim books, assuming anyone’s read those. Interesting publishing idea; the three paperbacks were released sequentially one a month for three months. The third book indicates a major shake-up, assuming the trilogy sells well enough to warrant another. In any case, although it takes a pretty big leap of faith on the publisher’s part, it was kind of cool to read the entire set of books over three months.
That’s the highlights of my weekend. How about you guys?

  • Ericb

    I watched Mission Impossible season 3 and read “Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home” by Susan Harman Moore.

  • Rock Baker

    I started writing a new script at the request of Joshua (Attack of the Octopus People) Kennedy, a tribute to Itailian space operas of the 60s to be titled Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cave-Women!

  • zombiewhacker


    Gamera Super Monster: Was that the one where the Kenny was so relentlessly, nauseatingly perky that at one point he sits down at a piano and performs a Gamera song he has just written. (Kind of like Bieber only less irritating?) Another scene springing to mind was Kenny skipping merrily home like a girl after Gamera flies overhead.

    To everyone:

    Movie recommendations, people. I’m strictly an old school Godzilla fan. The original G vs. Mothra, KK vs. G, Ghidrah the 3 Headed Monster, Destroy all Monsters, and Son of G. That kind of thing.

    Based on these, are there any newer (meaning post 80s) Godzilla films that might be worth renting?

  • GalaxyJane

    Great movie weekend. The bit that will likely interest folks here is that’s Drive-In Classics ROKU channel has added a pretty fair lineup of about 15 old 3D movies from the 50s on. They had sent me a couple pairs of the red-blue anaglyph glasses a few months back as a promotion for one of their other channels, that I didn’t end up purchasing, so I was able to watch straightaway. The quality ranges from so abysmal as to be unwatchable (Robot Monster) to the best I’ve ever seen in anaglyph (Creature From the Black Lagoon, House of Wax). I don’t know if that alone is worth the cost of the channel as a lot of it is public domain stuff that you can get free through Internet Archive, just sort of pre-sorted for your convenience, but a nice find nevertheless (3 bucks/year last time I looked, but I got I for a flat 3 bucks for getting it when it first came out, which seems to be standard practice for flickstream channels, flat rate the first few weeks, then a monthly or annual fee for those that sign up later). So with that sufficiency of riches, what did I watch? Um, Gorilla At Large, my inordinate fondness for that flick is probably a sign of some sort of underlying pathology.

    This weeks Classic Who night was The Gunfighters, which possibly had a pretty decent 3 story hiding behing that god-awful theme song. Oh my lord, that theme song.

    Also saw the last Harry Potter flick, which I liked quite a lot. It does run into the same problems as the last few in that there are major plot points that only make sense to those who have read the books, which is a major weakness in a film francise, but still a pretty satisfying conclusion. I left wishing it had been longer, which I supose is a good sign from someone who spends a lot of her time bitching about why can’t movies go back to being 90 minutes and less loaded with filler.

    The kids and I have also been having a great time with TCM’s Essentials Junior on Sunday nights at 8. Last night was Horse Feathers. Gotta get ’em started on Marx absurdity ASAP. Next week is The Thing, so I can introduce them to the terrors of James Arness as the killer carrot from outer space.

  • fish eye no miko

    zombiewhacker said: “Based on these, are there any newer (meaning post 80s) Godzilla films that might be worth renting?”

    Godzilla: Final Wars is pretty cool, though you have to sit though a fair amount of Matrix-inspired bullshit with the human characters (seriously. can we just watch the monsters fight, please?). Still, watching the Big G own the American version of “Godzilla” (in Australia, for some reason) is pretty sweet. And it features a lot of monsters (I think it’s an update of Destroy All Monsters).

    I’d like to second Ken’s recommendation of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and its sequels. Especially the second one, Attack of Legion (Sometimes called Advent of Legion). Hell, Gamera: GotU even has a good explanation for its (female) “Kenny” character. And AoL [snicker] actually makes the humans an integral, important part of the story, in a way I’ve not seen since the original Gojira.

  • Reed

    I spent more time working on my guitar. I’m taking a class where I’m building a solid body electric guitar from literally a block of wood to a finished product, including fret work, paint and finish, setting the neck, etc. Hopefully 2 more weeks and it will be finished!

    I have been reading a lot of Golden Age Batman comics. Or, as they insisted on referring to him in Detective Comics #27 The “Bat-Man”. Yes, with the quotes just like that every single time. Holy crap those Batman, excuse me, “Bat-Man”, stories in the 30’s were gruesome! I had no idea that the current murderous psycho version of the Joker was really just a call-back to how he was in his first appearance. And all this for a book aimed squarely at 8 to 10 year old kids. Add that to the pederasty and it’s not to tough to see how the Comics Code came about. I’m normally a died in the wool Marvel guy, so I’m not sure where my current Batman obsession came from.

    Didn’t really watch any movies. I’m re-watching Babylon 5. I really enjoyed some of that series, and deeply disliked some of it, but at least it was mostly interesting.

    I’m re-playing Fallout 3 on the ol’ PC. I didn’t care for it the first time (huge fan of Fallout and Fallout 2 back in the day), but I loved New Vegas so I thought I’d give it another go. Having a much better time this time around. When I’m done I’ll probably play through Arkham Asylum again to keep my current Batman thing going.

    I’m not sure that sunlight touched my skin all weekend.

  • Reed

    Oh, and I believe that Harry Potter is now the single largest money making fictional construction ever. The first 6 Harry Potter films made more money than all 20 James Bond films put together, and those were some of the most profitable films ever made (admittedly over several decades). I am an unabashed Harry Potter fan. I found the movies to be generally dissatisfying with a few good moments in each film. There was no way I was going to fight the crowd to see the last movie this weekend, but I hope to catch it tonight or tomorrow. The Deathly Hallows book made me cry like a baby in one spot, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I wonder if the movie will have the same effect?

  • Flangepart

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…Ken, you lucky bastich!

    Ah, yes. A proper theater, with a proper audience. How can I not envy?

    The Space Chicks. It’d be a great name for a band who does music from japanese Sci-Fi and kaiju flicks.

    And they do dress like Starman! or as I like to call him, ‘Capt. Codpiece.’

    Mothra, Godzilla, and all the fun of Japanenerdology. I envy, and I’m proud of it!
    Keep up the good work, dude.
    And we’re looking forward to more.

  • Rock Baker

    ZW, I’d say the two Mechagodzilla movies are worth a shot (Godzilla X Mechagodzilla and the direct sequel Tokyo: SOS), they try pretty hard to echo the earlier films. SOS is, in fact, also a direct sequel to the 1961 Mothra.

  • The Rev.

    zombiewhacker: Ooo boy, you unleashed the Kraken with that question. I’ll try to be brief. I would suggest:

    Godzilla vs. Biollante (technically late ’80s, but close enough)
    Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
    Godzilla vs. Destroyah
    Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

    Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah have some of the best monster stuff post-Showa, but the non-monster stuff can get pretty bad (more the former than the latter).

    The rest of them range from OK to pretty bad.

    I can’t echo the prior recommendation of Final Wars. WAY too much crap about the alien mutant ninjas and not NEARLY enough monster stuff (almost every monster scene is done in less than two minutes; a few are less than 30 seconds), and that AMN stuff is not very gripping at all. Not even Don Frye and his Perfect Ideal Moustache can save things. (If I ever get my live-action Attack of the Supermonsters remake off the ground, Frye is TOTALLY playing Professor Carmody. Although he’ll probably punch the shar–er, a dinosaur at some point in my version.)

    I would absolutely recommend the Gamera trilogy. It is glorious. I think the third’s my least favorite, but it’s still great. The first one is super great, and the second one…probably my second favorite giant monster movie ever. Gamera vs. Queen Legion may very well be the most spectacular giant monster fight ever. I’m getting chills just thinking about it, honestly.

  • Toby Clark

    My highlight was finishing the TV series of Neon Genesis Evangelion – I have Death and Rebirth and End of Evangelion on order from my library, although annoyingly it looks like I’ll have wait several weeks longer for the former. I’m also keen to read the Angelic Days manga.

    Very much agreed with Ken on First Class (though X-Men United is still my favourite). Gotta say I was annoyed by the continuity problems though (including with the first one – Charles was supposed to have met Erik when he was 17!)

    I’m seeing Harry Potter later in the week, and I’m expecting to be as disappointed as I was for the last three, but not to the same level as Goblet of Fire (I facepalmed at the line “Send a message to Azkaban. I think they’ll find they’re missing a prisoner”).

  • The Rev.

    zombiewhacker, part 2: You are indeed remembering Gamera: SM as the one with the Kenny playing that song on the piano.

    So, Ken, you hadn’t seen G:SM before? You mean I had one up on Jabootu’s High Priest all these years, and never knew it?? Damn it!

    I recall enjoying all the fights (most of which I hadn’t seen, as I actually saw this before most of the other Gamera movies) and pretty much hating everything else. It’s been a long time though, as my dub wore out a while back. However, it is important in my career as a bad movie enthusiast, as it was one of my first gateways to Jabootu’s realm. After the third or fourth time the “superheroes” are stopped before they can do anything heroic, I was laughing very hard at their impotence. The blatantly obvious enemy spaceship was also a hoot.

    Come to think of it, it was my love of giant monster movies that brought me to bad movies in general…some of Godzilla’s most risible adventures being the start, with Gamera later joining in. Heck, the only episode I ever saw of “MST3K” during its CC run was Gamera vs. Guiron, which was also my first Gamera movie.

  • fish eye no miko

    The Rev. said: “I can’t echo the prior recommendation of Final Wars.”

    Fair enough. It’s a pretty mixed bag.

    “WAY too much crap about the alien mutant ninjas and not NEARLY enough monster stuff”

    True, dat.

    “I would absolutely recommend the Gamera trilogy. It is glorious. I think the third’s my least favorite”

    Yeah, the third one was… not bad, but compared to the others, it was… meh.

    “but it’s still great. The first one is super great, and the second one…probably my second favorite giant monster movie ever.”

    I think it’s my fave.

  • I miss the days when I could drive on over to the local theater and see something worth watching, that wasn’t on a first run. Nothing like that out here. But it’s nice to see a lot of the old Universal horror films on Youtube for free. Netflix won’t run out here – so my old account is useless (even though it was opened in the U.S., they know my ISP is now in the Philippines – so no dice). But at least with Youtube I can treat the wife to a world of film she’s never seen, such as “House of Frankenstein”. Oh yeah, Cinemax was showing “The Mummy” (1932) and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” this weekend – so that was cool…

  • Reed

    While the third Gamera movie (can’t remember the title) is also my least favorite of the 3, I think it has the best opening of any giant monster movie. The scene where Gamera chases Gaos through the city and the destruction caused thereby… It’s very intense and is really the finest example of kaiju as natural disasters that I can think of.

    That is at the beginning, right? It’s been a few years since I saw it.

  • Flangepart

    The 90’s Gamera series…what’s not to love?
    The effects blow the old films out of the ocean…okay, not a challenge, but the fact is they do!
    And the lady playing the heroine, she’s a heart breaker.I love watching her figure out the situation, and get the menfolk to pay attention.
    Gamera himself looks good, and he kicks a$$. The battle with Gayos works up some really well thought out ‘catastrophy choreography.’
    No, we’ll never see Godzilla Vs. Gamera, as neither dude can be allowed to win…kinda like the DC/Marvel crossovers…but we can dream of a team up, against a massive monster mania like the world has never seen.
    And I have very vivid dreams!

  • The Rev.

    Reed: It’s near the beginning of the movie, and yes, it is incredible.

    I actually quite enjoyed that movie until near the end, when I had a feeling of, “Wait…that’s it?” towards the last fight, which led me to realize that it’s a fine movie but, damn, there was not a lot of monster stuff in it. I was also really left hanging by that ending, and desperately want to see Kaneko finish what he was hinting at. I think my expectations were just so high due to the first, and even more so the second, films in the trilogy.

    After further thought, I’m taking away that qualifying “may be” about the final fight in G2. Not only does it give us some of the most intense and amazing monster fighting ever, but the emotional content is high. Gamera is in such a desperate struggle against a seemingly unstoppable foe, which the human actors ably convey. It features one of the best “Oh SHIT” moments I’ve ever seen (coming from a giant turtle, no less…and I echoed his feelings at that point), and it’s got some just incredible cinematography. It just builds up, with tactics and weapons being unleashed in an tense series of scenes, building up to Gamera’s insane trump card and its utterly astounding effects…and while Queen Legion absolutely does not play around, it turns out that when the chips are down, neither does Gamera.

    OK, I am SO watching this again tonight.

  • The Rev.

    Forgot one thing I also liked about it: the fact that the humans are actually able to contribute to the defeat of Legion. Unlike most giant monster movies, the people take an active role in the victory, and in fact Gamera and humanity couldn’t have won without the other’s help.

  • Gamera

    Suppose it’s no surprise I loved the ’90s Gammy trilogy as well and for the same reasons everyone else already noted. Guess I’m a little odd in that ‘Iris’ was my favorite of the three. I found the schoolgirl (don’t remember her name now) that befriended Iris to be sorta an evil anti-Kenji which I thought pretty amusing. Plus yes, replacing the nominal Kenji with a couple of beautiful young ladies didn’t hurt any of the films in my view.

    As to Gojira I loved the last three films leading up to ‘Final Wars’ best. Esp the one where Big-G is the incarnation of all the souls the Imperial Japanese hurt and killed during the Second World War and the heros must awaken the three guardian monsters- Baragon, Mothra, and King Gidorah to stop him. ‘Final Wars’ was yes, a let down- the monster action was great but too much of the human kung-fu stuff.

  • The Rev.

    GMK was easily the best of the Millennium series. G2K and GxMegaguirus were all right; the former had a huge monster-free stretch in the middle, and the latter kept shooting itself in the foot with dumbness. I find myself surprised by how many people liked GxMG; it’s one of my least favorite Godzilla movies ever. Oddly enough, I found I liked its sequel rather more. And, of course, I’ve already made me feelings on Final Wars known…

  • fish eye no miko

    The Rev. said: “Forgot one thing I also liked about it: the fact that the humans are actually able to contribute to the defeat of Legion.”

    Yeah, that’s what I meant about the humans being actually important to the plot. I’s pretty awesome. (-:

    The third film is called The Awakening of Iris. (-: