Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now Playing: Godzilla Raids Again and Ultraman Max

Yesterday, my son Andy chose to watch "Godzilla Raids Again" during his afternoon down time. I was only able to catch about the first fifteen minutes with him, but during that time, he asked a number of insightful questions. "Is that Monster Island?" "Why are they fighting?" "Godzilla is really an Angurisaur?""Why is Anguirus' roar coming out of Godzilla's mouth?" Good questions all. I was impressed that he stayed with it, and ended up watching the whole film at one sitting. He likes the ice burial of Godzilla/Gigantis at the end, and was appropriately saddened by the untimely death of pilot Kobayashi. For my part, I really like the Godzilla suit in this film. It has a streamlined look (that, no doubt, helped Mr. Nakajima move and fight more easily) that is fierce and appealing. The first Anguirus is menacing and extremely cool, too. Of all of Godzilla's films, this was the one that I waited the longest to see, not viewing it until the Classic Media edition came out. While certainly not the greatest G-film ever, it has a mood of its own and enough visual dazzle to put it firmly in the "under-rated" category.

Later last night I watched two randomly selected episodes from the 2005 series "Ultraman Max." This show just looks good on the screen, and features Susumu Korobe (the original Hayata) and Hiroko Sakura (the original Fuji) in recurring roles--I love the fact that they are still involved in the telling of Ultra-tales.

The first episode I saw was "The Prophecy of Varaji," and the real star of the show is a fantastic updated version of Antlar, a humongous beetle that made his debut in the original Ultraman series. I was surprised to see Ayako Fujitani, the young star of the Gamera trilogy, in a guest starring role, but then discovered that her director in that series was the director of this episode--Shusuke Kaneko (who also directed one of my fave G-films, "GMK"). I began to suspect something when Antlar's sand destroyed a "Kaneko Oil" gas station in the opening scenes. That makes the first shot a real hoot--two little kids are playing "Gamera vs. Godzilla" in a sandbox!

The second episode was the next in the series, "The Supersonic Attack." This light-hearted story centers on a Japanese heavy-metal band, "The Bad Scanners," and they are the scariest thing we see on screen! (Their "hit song" is admittedly catchy. I have no idea if they are a real band or not.) And the supersonic bird-monster's name? Halen! Ultraman Max rocks!

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