Monday, July 28, 2014
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Every year I have great intentions to stay up for the G-FEST movies at the Pickwick Theater, and every year, reality gets in the way. There's nothing like seeing a Godzilla movie with other like-minded fans, but knowing that you can pop in a movie at home does soften the blow considerably (and makes your Crowne Plaza bed look awfully inviting).
That is especially true now that the Blu-ray wave is cresting. So when we got home this week from Chicago, we watched "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah" on Blu-ray for the first time. Sometimes, Blu-ray transfers leave me a little bit underwhelmed, but not this time. "G vs. KG" looks gloriously crisp on this Sony Blu-ray release. It's as if filming just wrapped up this year, not in the 90's.
"G vs. KG" sports a notoriously convoluted plot (which has led to many a speculative article in G-FAN magazine) but it is, in my opinion, a great Godzilla movie, which has far more to say about Japan's place in the world in the 90s than you might expect. On top of that, the cast is great, with a number of recognizable genre stars; the special effects range from good to amazing; and the pounding Ifukube score propels the action forward. Many elements from this years' G-FEST coalesce in this movie, which made it the perfect choice to keep our memories alive.
I'm not really a 'specs' guy; all I can tell you is that the Sony Blu-ray release gives "G vs. KG" a new vibrant look, which is what I'm after with the format. I hope you get to see it this way too.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Our annual trip to Chicago was a complete success this year. The weather was great, roads were unobstructed, no health issues; all was well. We were able to enjoy our run-up to G-FEST in typical style, visiting attractions in the Schaumburg area, such as this Whole Foods being attacked by Andyzilla.
Entering Park Ridge is always enjoyable, especially when one glimpses the Pickwick Theater's distinctive shape. Once again, "Taste of Park Ridge" was revving up, complete with sidewalk sales. Andy was happy to pick up "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" movie posters from the Pickwick's table. It has become somewhat of a tradition to kill some time in the Park Ridge Public Library, a fabulous facility with an immense collection (which includes Bill Warren's incredible "Keep Watching the Skies").
After meeting up with my parents for lunch, it was time to take in the first two movies of the day, "King Kong" and "King Kong Lives." The first was the 1976 edition starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin. This was a movie I chickened out of seeing as a little kid, and in retrospect, I'm kind of glad I did. It is a pretty pessimistic film; reflective, I suppose, of the mid-to-late seventies in its attitude and cultural references. The saving grace is Kong, of course, and that's not saying a whole lot, although the monster's face is quite emotive. My son was really struck by how bipedal Kong was in this movie, and after he mentioned it, I was too.(Peter Jackson's Kong was so naturalistic that I think we've become used to his vision of a giant gorilla.) All in all, to my perception, this seems like a very cynical version of the Kong story, and whether or not it means to make a 'statement' is open to debate.
Next up was "King Kong Lives," a B-movie pseudo-spin-off of the '76 story starring a young-ish Linda Hamilton. Many people would dismiss "KKL" as terrible, and, make no mistake, it is not the height of cinema, but there is a certain oozy, cheesy 80's quality to it that makes it prime for riffing in the grand MST3K tradition. In many ways it epitomizes bad 80's action flicks; gratuitous profanity, the obligatory suggestive scene between leads, more blood than you might imagine, and a curious amount of sentimentality are all features of "KKL." I have to give the writers credit for the audacity to give King Kong a Jarvic-style artificial heart in the opening act (along with the operation itself); it lends the proceedings a certain Bert I. Gordon-esque quality that I found amusing, and from my vantage point, the movie is a kind of homage to those 50's films, run through a coarser 80's sensibility. Would I recommend that you see it? Not really, unless you and your buddies are looking for something to riff. Then, all of a sudden, "King Kong Lives" takes on a new shine.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
The Kaiju have rampaged; the buildings have crumbled; the dust has begun to settle, and G-FEST XXI is in the books.
As anticipated, it was another record-setting year, with attendance surging close to 3,000. The thing that fans will be talking about for years to come is the phenomenal Ifukube concert that took place Saturday night.
G-FEST XXI was made even more special by the participation of my parents; after all, my dad is essentially responsible for my enjoyment of all things tokasatsu. This year, more than ever, our experience centered on friendships both old and new. Kudos to the convention committee; you did it again!
There will be many more posts to come, so stay tuned...
Friday, July 11, 2014
Up from the depths, thirty stories high, breathing fire, it's another G-FEST, our fifth foray into the kaiju universe. With nearly a half-decade of G-FESTs under our collective belts, we are just as excited to see our friends from across the country and around the world as we are to sit in the cool darkness of the mighty Pickwick Theater and shop the spellbinding Dealer's Room!
Of course, the most anticipated event this year is the Ifukube 100 concert, which brings the Godzilla composer's music to life for the first time ever on an American stage.
Check back here for updates and photos from the FEST!
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
This was a quietly awesome moment at Monster Bash. I had the opportunity to talk to Stan Gordon, a Pennsylvania-based UFO and Bigfoot researcher. He is probably most well known for his work on the Kecksburg Incident, but catalogues a vast array of unusual sightings in PA, centering on Westmoreland County. The remarkable thing about Mr. Gordon is his humility and his genuine drive to collect and present the evidence without bias.
I have read both "Silent Invasion" and "Really Mysterious Pennsylvania," and they are uniformly excellent. Gordon stays well away from theorizing, simply presenting the accounts that have been shared with him and offering the evidence that he and other researchers have been able to obtain. This means that "inconvenient" cases are included, such as experiences in which UFOs and Bigfoot are sighted in tandem. Anathema to many "camps" within Ufology and Bigfootology, they are included here because they are the accounts that were shared with Gordon, and relays them "as is."
It was another highlight among two action packed days. I'm always grateful to have the chance to tell my favorite authors how much I've enjoyed their work. It's even better when they are as kind and generous with their time as Stan Gordon.
To learn more about Stan's work, click here.
Friday, July 4, 2014
The G-Fan Junior thread is a series of half-hour sessions geared towards younger fans. All sessions take place in the Kennedy Room on Saturday starting at 9:30 AM. Adults may attend if accompanied by a kid!
Drawing Godzilla With Tom Tvrdik(9:30 AM) - Learn to draw the Big G with the lead designer of the American Greetings Godzilla ornament line.
American Godzilla Toys With Barron Christopher(10:00 AM) - Find out about the Godzilla merchandise that’s available right here from a Godzilla superfan.
Sizing Up the Kaiju With J.D. Lees(11:00 AM) - G-FAN’s editor compares the sizes of various kaiju, what it means in the real world, and how they do it in the “reel” world.
Monster Island Story Time With Sue Matzke(11:30 AM) - A former children’s librarian reads the classics: “Godzilla Likes to Roar,” and more.
TBA With Alison Fey(12:00 PM)
Godzilla’s Greatest Hits(12:30 PM) - Can every Godzilla movie ever made be covered in less than a half hour? Come find out!
Kaiju Kids Quiz Show Raids Again(1:00 PM) - Kids answer questions to get exclusive G-FEST T-Shirts, Ultraman DVDs, and other great prizes!
See the entire G-FEST schedule here.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Throughout the weekend, Bill Riley and Joe Ziegler were on hand as Bud and Lou, with Jason Crutchley as "Scoop" Fields, ace press agent. To say that these guys are phenomenal falls far short of how good they are.
Now, we have seen every A & C movie repeatedly and are pretty darn conversant with their routines. Riley and Ziegler embody the duo and bring their act to vibrant, hilarious life. Andy and I agreed; it was like we got to see A & C live and in person. I was alternately howling with laughter and getting goosebumps.
To learn more, go to www.UltimateAandC.com
Thursday, June 26, 2014
This photo represents the main reason we made the trek to Monster Bash. Joel Hodgson's "Mystery Science Theater 3000" has been a part of my life for over twenty years. It became "appointment viewing" for me and my Dad throughout my college years and a staple of seminary dorm life as well.
Somewhere along the line, I introduced MST3K to my son, and he has become a huge fan and a "riffer" unto himself. In fact, you could say that "riffing" has become a mode of existence for us, with verbatim MST quotes forming a code language that only we truly understand (much to my wife's occasional chagrin.) So the opportunity to meet the person who has influenced our lives to this extent was undeniably fun, yet it had an unspoken poignancy, at least for me.
Here's me, Andy, Tom Servo and Joel Hodgson. Keep circulating the tapes.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
On Friday, we had the opportunity to meet and obtain autographs from the many special guests of Monster Bash. At the top of our list was Julie Adams, who starred in "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," in addition to an number of high profile films and TV programs. She was wonderful to talk to, and she delighted Andy when she said, "How about if I just write, "Love, Julia"?" (Andy also had Ricou Browning sign the same poster/lobby card.) I purchased a copy of her book, "The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon," which she told me she wrote out completely in her own hand. It's a lovely book, which is really no surprise.