Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Kaiju Christmas Part Two

This 11" x 17" "Destroy All Monsters" reproduction is a real looker!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Kaiju Christmas Pt. One

Some great stuff found its way to Monsterland Ohio HQ this Christmas, beginning with this full-sized, double-sided G2K movie poster!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Gigan!

More work from the mighty Kaiju Modeler--classic design Gigan, cyborg partner of King Ghidorah and Megalon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More G-FEST Memories

From the Kaiju Modeler Table, familiar friends, plus Matt's own Xian flying saucer design. Only seven months to go...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Troll Hunting with the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club

At an undisclosed location somewhere south of Cleveland, Ohio, the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club recently met for fun, fellowship, and monster flicks. After catching up with our friends, attention turned first to the European release, "Troll Hunter."

Comparisons with "The Blair Witch Project," and "Cloverfield" are inevitable and understandable. The "found footage" approach is definitely in effect. Yet it fits the subject matter well, and a few quick establishing shots sneak into the film in an unobtrusive manner.

All that is secondary to the real attraction: big, mean, trolls. The creatures look ridiculous--like huge, storybook trolls--but within the context if the story, this only enhances their believability. If they're going to be real in the first place, why wouldn't they look exceedingly strange, almost goofy? That's not to say that the effects are lacking; on the contrary, the monsters fit seamlessly into their surroundings, and the final act, featuring a Kaiju-sized troll, is truly gripping.

"Troll Hunter" is a fascinating collision of ancient and modern folklore. On one hand, you have trolls literally lurking beneath bridges, who can smell Christian blood. On the other hand, you have secret government agencies and conspiracies working to hide the truth about such entities. "Troll Hunter" is presented with subtitles, but the real soundtrack was hilarious, good natured riffing provided by the CKC.

Next up was "Godzilla 1985," which is, to put it fairly, not the most action-packed entry in the series. The American scenes, which star Raymond Burr, reprising his role as "Mr. Martin," are almost self-consciously campy. In short, it is a Godzilla movie ripe to be riffed on, which the CKC did in grand style. Having watched it in this setting, I'm not sure I need to see it again--it could not be nearly as entertaining as the treatment it received here!

Other highlights of the evening included getting to see Tom's prototype for next year's Godzilla ornament and an archive of CKC newsletters, photos, and artwork.

The next day, we went to the Lego KidsFest in Cleveland with our friends. It is still amazing to think that a combination of Godzilla and this blog has brought such great, cool people into our lives!

Here's a shot of Lego Harrison Ford with the CKC's own Don Kaiju...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: The Nightmare Before Christmas


Tim Burton's stop-motion extravaganza has become a Halloween staple for us, and has been on constant rotation for the past couple days. While it is a technical masterpiece, the music and characters raise it to a greater level. The song "This is Halloween" has become a holiday anthem, and I really enjoy the Cab Calloway-esque "Oogie Boogie Man" number.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: Matango

"Matango," also known as "Attack of the Mushroom People," is a dark horror film from the storied Toho production team that brought Godzilla to life. It features a who's who of the Toho acting stable, most notably Akira Kubo and Kumi Mizuno.

The movie tells a deceptively simple story of a group of Tokyo natives who are shipwrecked on a desolate island. When their rations run low, loyalties shift and civility wanes. However, there are plenty of mushrooms to eat...at a horrific cost.

There are no cheap scares here; instead, a sense of unrelenting dread builds throughout the story. Neither is there a marauding monster to be found, despite the "attack" of the anglicized title; instead, the evil strikes from within, as lust, greed, and despair drives the course of action taken by the castaways.

"Matango" is ultimately a merciless meditation on human nature, and for that reason, it just may be the scariest movie we'll watch during our film fest.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: Werewolf of London


Henry Hull stars as a botanist-turned-lycanthrope in tonight's chiller. "Werewolf of London" feels more like a stage play than a film in some respects; there is quite a bit of dialogue in the film, along with scenes that would be more at home on the stage than they are on the screen. In that regard, it bears somewhat of a resemblance to Universal's "Dracula."

Be that as it may, this is an enjoyable werewolf movie--the transformation sequences (which really are the drawing card of such pictures) are good enough to make my 8-year-old son say "cool." It must be said, though, that the titular monster is more than a little Mr. Hyde-esque. That's not a complaint, merely an observation. I enjoyed the plot point involving Tibet, which implicitly brought together werewolf and yeti legends, if only in the imagination of the viewer.

While too civilized to be terrifying, "Werewolf of London" is atmospheric and effective, with a few moments of authentic creepiness. Hull's lycanthropy serves as a thinly veiled symbol of his workaholic tendencies, both of which wreak disastrous consequences on his marriage. Werner Oland also appears in a pivotal supporting role.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Phantom Film Festival: The Creature from Black Lake

Tonight's movie was 1976's slice of Sasquatch cinema, "The Creature from Black Lake," starring Jack Elam, Dub Taylor and Dennis Fimple. I caught this for the first time years ago on a local independent station and now have it on DVD.

TCFBL is different in style and tone from its thematic cousin, "The Legend of Boggy Creek." Where "Boggy" takes a docudrama approach, "Black Lake" is purely melodramatic, resulting in a less haunting but more purely entertaining viewing experience. Many scenes are played purely for laughs, a nice counterbalance to the final act, which is mostly suspenseful.

TCFBL is the story of two college students from Chicago who take it upon themselves to investigate Bigfoot reports in Louisiana. They eventually find what they're looking for, despite running afoul of local law enforcement and offending the locals. This Sasquatch rather aggressively makes it clear that he'd rather not be found, and minor mayhem ensues.

"Black Lake" benefits from a number of good ingredients: an authentic sense of place, filmed, as it was, on location in Louisiana; plenty of pitch-perfect, scenery-chewing performances from the likes of Elam and Taylor; a believable "buddy" relationship that carries the story and the wisdom to never really show the cryptid in question. Earnest, specific, and totally unheralded, this movie is a personal favorite of mine.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Phantom Film Festival Kicks Off

Our first annual horror film fest has begun! From now until Halloween, we will watch sixteen genre classics, starting tonight with 1924's "Phantom of the Opera," preceded by the Walt Disney Silly Symphony, "Skeleton Dance."

Lon Chaney's performance and appearance in "Phantom" leave an indelible impression, as he manages to make Erik a horrifying-- yet somehow sympathetic-- character. Despite the conventions of silent film, there are plenty of unsettling moments and images to behold. It was a fittingly creepy start to our monstrous marathon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Postcards from G-Fest 18: More Models

Godzilla and Minya got a great layout here at the Kaiju Modeler table at G-Fest. Long live the Son of Godzilla!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

G(rampy)-FAN

What do you get the Grampy who has everything? A Cuyahoga Kaiju Club T-shirt, of course!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

G-FEST XIX Dates Released

The word on the street--OK, on Facebook--is that G-FEST XIX will convene July 13--15, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont. There had been some talk about a possible change of venue, but apparently the deal is done!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Kaiju Modeler

Our first G-FEST (XVI, featuring Guest of Honor Kenji Sahara) was punctuated by a raffle win from the Kaiju Modeler booth. It was an awesome Godzilla 1964 from a Paradise kit. However, the best thing to come out of that was making contact with the Kaiju Modeler himself, and learning, to our astonishment, that he lived a mere twenty miles away from us in Northeast Ohio. Matt E.'s been a great friend to us ever since, and we were really happy to see him this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finally...Fake Monsters

Two years and one new home later, our G-Fantis poster is at last properly displayed!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Kaiju Kindness


As the Awards Luncheon was wrapping up, we said a tentative good-bye to our guests. Here's Noriko Higuchi and Andy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Lucky Winners

Door prizes are a part of the fun at the Awards Luncheon, and Andy and I both walked away with some cool stuff this year! As you can see, Andy ended up with a King Ghidorah model kit (which included a Bullmark t-shirt), and I received a Japanese language book about Toho Studios, whose cover was created by Shinji Higuchi, as well as a t-shirt that he had brought for the purpose of giving away. It has as its main feature the formula for a special effects explosion!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Shinji Speaks

The Mangled Skyscraper was presented to Shinji Higuchi, special effects wizard and director in his own right. In Mr. Higuchi's remarks, he mentioned that his G-FEST experience had rekindled his desire to make a kaiju film. You can imagine the response those words received.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Awards Luncheon


This year's Awards Luncheon was highlighted by the presence of our friends Jake and Tom. The luncheon is a nice part of the weekend--a chance to relax, enjoy a little more standard dinner fare and to let our special guests know how much they are appreciated.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Android M-11

Robert Scott Field is known within Godzilla fandom for his role in "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah," but among G-FEST-goers, he's even better known for being a genuine friend of the fans. With an endless stream of intriguing stories to tell and an affable nature to match, he's become a mainstay of the G-FEST experience and is invaluable for his abilities as a translator and goodwill ambassador. We certainly enjoyed his company on our trip to the Field Museum, and here he is at the CKC Dealer's Room table, with the M-11 t-shirt designed by Tom.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Now Playing: Gamera the Brave



We're screening "Gamera the Brave" today in Monsterland HQ, and are having a great time. In many ways, this is the perfect "kid's kaiju" movie, as it deals with raising a baby Gamera from the moment it hatches from the egg!


The special effects are exceptional and the story is straighforward and heartfelt. I suppose some might object to the cuteness of the heroic creature, but within the parameters of the story, it just works. The relationship between Toru and Toto/Gamera adds a new layer to the "friend of children" theme, since Toru actually saves Gamera's life early in the film!


A new villainous monster is introduced in "Gamera the Brave," a frilled lizard named Zedus, who has some effective, menacing scenes, like when he tail-whips Gamera into a high rise, then scales the building to finish the job with a hideous tongue-lashing.


"Gamera the Brave" is a winsome meditation on grief, friendship, and the powerful love that children have for their pets, starring a giant flying turtle. If you can read that sentence without rolling your eyes, you owe it to yourself to see this feel-good kaiju film!



Monday, August 29, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Kaiju Kids


If you are a Godzilla fan, you either are young or young at heart. It is pretty gratifying to see the "next generation" get excited about Japanese monsters and superheroes. It's even better when friendships develop around said movies and characters. Here's Jake, Jadon, and Andy, also known as the Cuyahoga Kaiju Kids, enjoying a moment in the Dealer's Room.







Saturday, August 27, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Toybox Treasures


Ever since seeing an Eiji Tsuburaya vinyl figure in the book "So Crazy Japanese Toys," I've wanted to add one to the collection, but never really thought I'd see one in person, much less get my hands on one. Leave it to Linda at Chibi Goji Toys to come through for us! This is far and away my favorite purchase from this year's Dealer's Room--the Eiji Project Bset, featuring Mr. Tsuburaya and Godzilla, Gomess and Jiras. Truly spectacular!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Mothra!

It seems to me that the single most heavily attended event at G-FEST is the Costume Parade. Entries such as this spectacular Mothra explain why. Contestants include everything from kids wearing masks and pajamas to suits that are almost indistinguishable from the "real thing."


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Silent Auction





One unheralded element of G-FEST is the chance to give charitably to good causes. "G-Fans helping G-Fans" collects funds to help families dealing with autism, and this year there was a special collection for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief. One exciting way this works is through a silent auction, through which we won two really cool items. Kudos to our friend Dave Nunes, who coordinates this part of the Fest!




G-Fans raised nearly $5000 for Japan and over $2700 for North American families this year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Tokasatsu Room



"Tokasatsu" is Japanese for "special effects," and G-FEST now has an entire "thread" devoted to creating self-produced special effects films. This portion of the G-FEST experience evolved naturally from the Costume Contest thread, and now short films have been produced by G-FEST attendees that can be located on You Tube.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Model Room IV



Biollante takes on Godzilla in this incredible diorama. If I'm not mistaken, this was voted the "People's Choice" award winner.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Kaiju Quilt!



The creativity one encounters at G-FEST is sometimes downright jaw-dropping. Take, for instance, this Godzilla quilt. I stood up on a chair to take this picture, looking down at the quilt that was resting on a table. Wouldn't you love a whole bedroom set like this? Well, I would.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ultra-Fan



Andy got this Ultraman bank on eBay from a seller in Hong Kong. Since returning from G-FEST, our Ultraman viewing has gotten a somewhat predictable "bump." We've watched the latest Ultraman Zero movie, the Ultraman Gaia movie shown at G-FEST, and episodes of Ultraman Ace, UltraSeven X and Ultraman Mebius.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Model Room III



This wondrous piece captures the conflict at the heart of the very first Ultraman episode. Bemular has risen from the lake, and Ultraman has saved Hayata's life. Now the battle is about to begin.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Video Postcard from G-18 Dealer's Room



video



This GMK Godzilla was on display at the Chibi Goji Toys Booth. I don't know if anyone purchased it, but it received a great reaction from everyone who saw it in action.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: The Dealer's Room



The Dealer's Room continues to be a great draw for us. Walking into it still overwhelms the senses; it's a monster kid's lucid dream. What is really neat is that we've become familiar faces to many of the dealers, and many of them have gone out of their way to be kind to us. Sue spent her volunteer hours this year being the Dealer's Room gatekeeper, and was able to see quite a few people get their "first ever" looks at the place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Model Room II



Another great selection from the model room: Gorgo with the diving bell. I'll never forget watching "Gorgo" under the stars with my Cuyahoga Kaiju Club friends.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Coloring Contest




This was Andy's entry in the Minya's Place coloring contest. Rodan was a popular pick among young artists. It was fun to encourage the kids to give it a try.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Mad About Monsters





On Saturday, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel called "Humor in Godzilla Films" with a number of super G-fans, including Martin Arlt, who edits and publishes Mad Scientist magazine. I was able to mention my favorite humorous scene ("I'll take a picture, and then we'll run" from GMK), so I considered it a success. It was lots of fun; all the different perspectives expressed were fascinating. Pictured here are Pam and Martin Arlt with Andy and me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Model Room



Later Saturday morning, models were on display. One of my favorites was this Hedorah figure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Minya's Place


Saturday morning is always a happy time at G-FEST; lots of fun has been had and there's lots more on the way. This year I volunteered in Minya's Place on Saturday morning. Minya's Place is an arts-and-crafts Sollgel Island paradise, with all the designs by kaiju artist Ron Lipecky. Here's Andy with just a couple creations available to young crafters. Part of my job was to encourage youngsters to enter the coloring contest, some examples of which will be appear here soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: What a Day!

Can't resist one more shot from Friday's foray to the Field Museum. All the guests of G-FEST 18 are here, from top to bottom: Shinji Higuchi (striking an artistic pose); Horoshi Sagae; Noriko Higuchi; Hiroyuki Watanabe; the M.O. Matzkes; with Robert Scott Field safe at home!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Allow Me to Introduce...




Friday evening is traditionally the time when the special guests are introduced at G-FEST. Here you see G-FAN's J.D. Lees (far left) making opening remarks, as (left to right) Robert Scott Field, Shinji Higuchi, and Hiroyuki Watanabe look on. At this point, we were still sort of stunned that we had spent part of our day with the guests of the Fest!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: CKC in the Place to Be



Tom and Don were on hand in the Dealer's Room, offering new CKC and Android M-11 T-shirts (and other kaiju goodies) to Fest-goers. It is really cool to go to G-FEST knowing that you'll see people you consider your friends there.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hiroyuki Watanabe on the Drums







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Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Matzke had a little hands-on fun at the Field Museum.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Backseat Buddy


This photo, taken with Hiroyuki Watanabe's cell phone, is a fun reminder of the whirlwind Friday we spent with the guests of G-FEST 18. Andy brought out the "Dad" in Mr. Watanabe; one of my penultimate memories of this experience will be the two of them doing Donald Duck voices on the way back to the Crowne Plaza. I'll always be grateful to G-FAN and G-FEST for making this special day possible.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Fest Guests at the Field Museum

Talk about making a memory; here's the entire group that enjoyed the Field Museum on Friday. Left to right: Robert Scott Field; Carl, our other driver and Chicago street expert; Hiroyuki Watanabe; master sculptor Hiroshi Sagae; Andy, Mark, and Sue Matzke; Shinji and Noriko Huguchi.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Explore & Roar

With about two hours to get around the Field Museum, we had no time to lose. However, Scott and Hiroyuki Watanabe were not low on energy. Sue the T. Rex featured in a number of photo opportunities, with this one being most memorable. The look on Andy's face here says it all.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Field Fun III

As usual, Andy became fast friends with everybody he met at G-FEST, including the Guest(s) of Honor, Shinji and Noriko Higuchi. Here they are in the main hall of the Field Museum. All of our guests went out of their way to make him feel special, and, to be candid, we are still amazed that this really happened to us!


Friday, July 29, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: More Field Fun

Here is a picture taken by Shinji Higuchi of Hiroyuki Watanabe taking a picture of a pteronadon and us with Robert Scott Field. If it looks like we were having a blast, it's because we were.





Thursday, July 28, 2011

Postcards from G-FEST 18: Fun at the Field



I told you Friday wasn't low-key. We had the privilege of taking Special Guests Robert Scott Field and Hiroyuki Watanabe to Chicago's Field Museum for a fun-filled afternoon. The other guests of G-FEST came along in another vehicle. It was a day my family will never forget!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

G-FEST 18: Kaiju Film Festival




This year's G-FEST began Thursday, with a "double-double feature" at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, Illinois. First on the bill was "Gamera: Super Monster," which apparently received its North American big screen premiere with this showing.



"Gamera: Super Monster" is an exceedingly strange movie, but I still found it oddly enchanting. It was made at a time when Daiei Studio was closing, and it shows. New footage of Gamera is almost nonexistent, save for a couple rather static flying shots. All the monster battles (and there are plenty) consist of edited footage from previous Gamera films, which are knitted together by a nonsensical story about spacewomen and kids who use Kawasaki keyboards to save the planet. Oh, and then an evil spacewoman who finds redemption. No, seriously. But it is all done with enough heart to make it something I would willingly watch again. There are a couple of shots (one quite blatant, one recurring) that reveal a clear Star Wars influence (GSM was released in 1980).




Next up was the original "Mothra," (1961) a wondrous film that finds Toho's "dream team" of director Ishiro Honda, writer Shinichi Sekizawa and spfx master Eiji Tsuburaya operating at the peak of their creative powers. Intentional humor, exotic music, an incredible cast, crazily detailed miniature sets and one big moth add up to a moviegoing experience that is still transportative fifty years after its release.




After the dinner break, it was time for the second double feature, beginning with "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," which benefitted greatly from being shown on the big screen. Released in 1993, this entry in the Godzilla pantheon is one that I have never seemed to connect with very strongly, but this viewing brought out its strengths. The effects work is actually quite impressive. Godzilla gets his tail handed to him by Mechagodzilla, and it seems possible that he could actually lose the duel. Akira Ifukube returns with a score that is intense and sounds fantastic in the theater. Most of the Heisei films seem about forty minutes too long to me, and this is no exception. In this setting, though, it was undeniably enjoyable, and the crowd, which had grown since the afternoon shows, laughed at the silly parts and cheered in the right places, too. There is nothing like watching a movie at G-FEST when the crowd is really "live."




Last on the list was 1995's "Gamera, Guardian of the Universe," regarded by most fans of the genre as a masterpiece, and you will get no argument from me on that point. A clear, crisp print only enhanced the meticulous effects work created by G-FEST guest of honor Shinji Higuchi, a real treat for all in attendance. The intensity of the day (combined with the shift to the Central time zone) caught up with us, and we returned to the Crowne Plaza before the movie's conclusion. But we perked up once back in the room, thanks to "G-TV," the in-house tokasatsu channel that is the unsung hero of the G-FEST experience, enjoying "Gomess" episodes of Ultra Q and Ultragalaxy.




It was great to be back on the G-FEST scene. It was a fun, exciting, yet relatively low-key day. That was good, because Friday would be anything but low-key!




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

G-FEST 18: All Kaiju, All the Time



Another G-FEST has come and gone. I wasn't sure how last year's show could be topped, but it was...at any rate, it will be fun to relive the experience here on the blog.


Three years ago we made it to our first G-FEST. We were rookies, and didn't know anyone else in attendance. This year we were truly among friends, which makes for a richer experience all around. So come along with us as we share virtual postcards from G-FEST 18, which promised "All Kaiju, All the Time," and did not disappoint!