Thursday, July 29, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: An Unforgettable Friday

Friday morning dawned on our second G-FEST, and we were more than ready to go. Thanks to GTV we were able to watch "The Green Slime," then headed downstairs to see what was shaking. At the elevators, we happened to meet a familiar android: M-11, to be exact. Robert Scott Field of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah fame accompanied us on our way down to the first floor, and we chatted like old pals. (Those who know RSF far better than we do are probably not surprised; he is truly a goodwill ambassador for G-FEST.)

Mark and Andy with G-FAN's Brett Homenick and filmmaker Fabien Mauro

As we trekked between skywalk and convention center, we saw a number of people with whom we were hoping to touch base: we greeted a busy J.D. Lees, and then we saw Martin and Pam Arlt as they were waiting to take the Guest of Honor, Mr. Akira Takarada, on a day of sightseeing in downtown Chicago! (Martin publishes Mad Scientist magazine.) Also around this same time we were able to say our first personal hello to Brett Homenick, super contributor to G-FAN, and even though he was very busy with convention arrangements, he took a moment to talk, pose for a photo, and say a few encouraging words regarding my participation in upcoming panel discussions. (Oh yeah, did I mention that? When Brett put out an invitational e-mail earlier this summer, I volunteered to sit in on two panel discussions, and to offer my thoughts on many things kaiju. It sounded like fun...) That was much appreciated, and got things off to a nice start--and the convention programming hadn't even begun yet!

The Queen of Monsterland, my wife Sue, voluteered to help patrol the Dealer's Room entrance, so Andy and I took to wandering around the convention hall. We poked our heads into the costume/filming room, and were amazed! An entire handcrafted, nighttime cityscape awaited us. A few costumes were also present. This thread looked to be kicking things up a notch or two this year, with the actual filming of monster scenes being the focus.

The Costume Thread's impressive miniature city

Artists Jared Proust and Matt Frank (foreground)

We also found our way to Artist's Alley, where we we treated to some fascinating creativity by the likes of such artists as Matt Frank and Jared Proust. One of Matt's prints sold out in a matter of minutes--a fantasy battle between MechaniKong and MechaGodzilla (visible in the above photo). We picked out a few pieces for the collection, which, as you can see, made Andy quite pleased.

Andy poses with his autographed Matt Frank Titanosaurus

Soon it was time for J.D. Lees' G-FEST Orientation Session, which we attended, even though we had a pretty good handle on how things worked and what we wanted to do. It sort of serves as a symbolic "cutting of the ribbon" moment, I guess. When that wrapped up, we ate some lunch and eventually claimed a spot in the Dealer's Room line. Personally, I liked the fact that the Dealer's Room opened about four hours earlier than last year. Even though waiting longer makes it more of an "event," the initial rush last year was pretty pronounced and not easy for a then-six-year-old to navigate. I had hopes that an earlier opening would alleviate a bit of that crunch.

This is only part of Kaiju Modeler's Dealer's Room table!

The crunch would be alleviated, but not in the way I had thought! Our friend Matt Evangelista learned we were waiting in line, came and found us, and brought us into the Dealers Room about a half an hour before it officially opened! Kaiju Modeler strikes again! Just like that, we were back inside the ultimate kaiju toystore, the one we had dreamed of (and saved for) for slightly over a year! This year's layout was far more expansive, with wide aisles and lots of elbow room. We marveled at the Kaiju Modeler booth for a while, then moved on to secure some "wish list" items while the Room was still relatively quiet.

Don Kaiju, Jaden, MOGERA, and Mark in the Dealer's Room

As we made our way around the horn, we were happy to see our Cuyahoga Kaiju Club buddies Don, Jaden, and Tom. We stayed at Tom's booth for quite while, catching up on how our trips had gone so far. Andy and Jaden almost immediately started talking about toys, monster battles, and the like, in a pattern that would continue over the next couple of days. I was proud to have my CKC 10th anniversary T-shirt on! I wanted to wear that one in particular for my first panel later in the day, to "represent" for the CKC!

That was the biggest difference between this year's G-FEST and last year's: last year we were there as face-in-the-crowd fans--this year we were among friends, which made things even better!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monster Dog Sighted at Minor League Ballpark

Some of you have been kind enough to ask how Theo is doing since we adopted him, which was mentioned in a post from December 09. The answer is: fantastic! He has been a great addition to our home, and I usually tell people that his heart is as big as his body. He is a very gentle and patient companion, unless you are slow in getting out of the house to go for a drive!

Last night our local minor league baseball team, the Lake County Captains, hosted "Bark in the Park," where dog owners are invited to bring their best friends to the game. We took full advatange of this promotion, and had a fun-filled evening, as the above photo attests.

We entered Theo in the "Biggest Dog" contest, but he lost to a Great Dane that walked in just as the contest was starting. That was fine, because Theo made a big splash during the competition, wading into a kiddie pool to get a drink. But the biggest suprise came at the end of the seventh inning, when Theo was tapped to participate in a race across the outfield with two other dogs! His opponent decided to jump on Theo's back, resulting in a crowd-pleasing collision, and for being such a good sport Theo walked away with a 22-inch rawhide bone. It was a memorable night, to say the least!

Not every day is quite like that, of course, but we couldn't be happier with our kaiju-sized pal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday Morning Kaiju Krafts

This past Saturday morning, Andy had a fun idea. We took copies of G-FAN covers and artwork we had made for last November's library exhibit, and fashioned our own movie poster. It advertizes an upcoming "Monster Marathon" (date and time TBD(!)).

Saturday afternoon's mail included the latest issue (#92) of G-FAN, which we briefly glimpsed at G-FEST. It was a great day for Godzilla fans!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: Thursday's Films

This marquee greeted G-Fans on Thursday afternoon.

Readers of this blog know that we were looking forward to Thursday's double-double feature for more reasons than one. A family emergency prevented us from enjoying G-FEST XV's double-double, which was to include Destroy All Monsters, one of our very favorite films. The 1:30 p.m. start time suits the sleeping patterns of a seven-year-old (and parents) much better than 10:30 p.m. showings do. But most of all, things were getting started with Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra, two movies that are on Andy's short list of classics.

We were a bit dismayed when we arrived in Park Ridge and discovered that G-FEST was coinciding with "Taste of Park Ridge," a street food festival and sidewalk sale. Parking is always at a premium in that vicinity, and we feared it would be harder than ever to find a spot. Fortunately, we have discovered enough lots through two years of trial and error, and never had to waste much time trolling back and forth for parking. It helps if you don't mind walking a few blocks, either.

Andy looks "ready to crumble" at the Pickwick box office.
I am an unabashed fan of Son of Godzilla, and was really happy to see it on a movie screen for the first time. No matter what some fans might say, Son of G has a lot going for it; a colorful setting; great actors; a jaunty, complementary score; and, at the heart of the story, a giant monster and his son. I enjoyed seeing Kenji Sahara on screen and I think Akira Kubo gives a winning performance as the brash ace reporter.
What really struck me about viewing Son of G in this format was the sound work. The rasping sound of Kamacurus really was alarming, and the other monster sounds had a lot of punch to them as well. The toe-tapping score can also be sensed at varying levels in the mix, depending on the action at hand.
And, for the record, I love the ending of this film, with the snow falling and the monster hug, and no, I am not ashamed.
Next up was Godzilla vs. Mothra, the Heisei era take on the great daikaiju rivalry. I don't actively dislike this film, but it is hard for me to understand how it became the highest grossing of the Heisei movies, as the supposed romance/family drama at the center of the plot doesn't amount to much. Perhaps it was simply the chance to see Godzilla and Mothra go at it again, with the fearsome Battra thrown into the mix.
OK, the truth is I find Godzilla vs. Mothra mildly entertaining at best. It sort of epitomizes all the things I don't prefer about the Heisei films, such as: big-scale Godzilla and the resultant fakey-looking sets; lots of static energy beam battles; inscrutable plot lines and human characters who don't do much but watch monster destruction on video screens. I don't mind the whole transforming monster device, either, but Battra's leap from larva to winged creature is downright disappointing.
I will say this for Godzilla vs. Mothra: it has the presence of Akira Takarada going for it, which helps. There are also some great moments, such as Mothra peering into the windows of a building, looking for the fairy twins; the top half of a huge skyscraper collapsing on Godzilla's head; and the chance to sing along with the new-school arrangement of the Mothra song. A handful of great moments do not make for a great movie, though. Then there's the whole Indiana Jones-esque opening sequence...I don't know. It's kind of a weird movie all around. When it was done I was really ready for supper.

The stately Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, Illinois

We were back in our seats for the 7:30 showing of Godzilla 2000. What an enjoyable experience! The occasionally dopey and nonsensensical dubbing only adds to the fun of seeing this film with a theater-full of true-blue Godzilla fans. There was lots of applause and just as much laughter at the expense of the brazen character Katagiri, who in the end, stares down Godzilla with a cigarette dangling from his lips! In my opinion, the G2K suit is really cool and very fierce-looking. It is an update, to be sure, but one in keeping with the Godzilla character. Seeing G2K on the big screen reinforced for me that there is no substitute for seeing a Godzilla movie this way. TV and home theatres are great, but there is something fundamentally right about viewing these films in their intended setting.

Because the hour was drawing late (and eyelids were growing droopy), we only made it through the opening sequence of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus before heading back to the Rosemont Hotel. I love the score to this film and the Godzilla theme which it develops, and we heard just enough. We wanted to be sharp for the next day's activities--and I wanted to get my hands on the convention program book to chart our course for the next several days. Little did I know the great surprises that were in store for us!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monsterland Ohio Turns One

Mr. Akira Takarada with the Monsterland Ohio crew at G-FEST XVII's awards luncheon. Photo courtesy of Brett Homenick

Exactly one year ago today "Monsterland Ohio" was born as a response to our enjoyment of G-FEST XVI, our first. Here we are, approximately 185 posts later, and it is more fun than ever to be a Godzilla/Toho/Tsuburaya fan. In fact, it is not a reach to say that this blog has changed our lives in a pretty positive way.

Lots of great G-Fans have taken the time to post comments on the site, which is always appreciated. What's more, it was this blog that brought us to the attention of the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club, to which we now belong. I'm glad to say we count our fellow CKCers not just as fellow fans but as friends. Plus, we made new friends at this year's G-FEST who recognized us from the blog! Small wired world, eh? And as recently as this past weekend "M.O." keeps connecting us with folks who love their kaiju, living right in our own neck of the woods.

We've had a lot to share in a year's time: Andy's "G-Mazing Collection" exhibited at the Perry Library and it's subsequent report in G-FAN; meeting Kaiju Modeler; CKC updates; and, of course, reflecting on G-FEST. There will much more to tell you about in the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned!

Finally, we'd like to thank the G-FAN crew, especially J.D., Ruth and Brett, for their kindness and encouragement; Martin and Pam at Mad Scientist for their friendliness at G-FEST; Kaiju Modeler Matt for his ongoing generosity; Don "Kaiju" and Tammy and Jaden for their hospitality (thanks for sending that e-mail, Don); Tom for welcoming us as well; and for Chris from St. Petersburg who invited us out for pizza--we had a great time with you guys!

We hope you enjoy reading M.O. At the end of the day, it's all about celebrating the imagination and feeling conveyed in Andy's latest drawing (posted here) and knowing that there are other people out there who know what we're talking about.

Thanks for dropping're always welcome at Monsterland Ohio.

Mark and Andy

"The Earth vs. the Nexess: The Battle of the Two Worlds"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Return from the Return to Monster Island

Godzilla and Anguirus greeted visitors to the Kaiju Modeler table
Dealer's Room, G-FEST XVII

It is hard to believe that exactly one week ago, G-FEST XVII was in full swing, and we were right in the center of the action. After last year, our expectations were admittedly very high. However, I am pleased to tell you that once again our expectations were exceeded, with highlight moments coming one after another. It is going to be fun re-living the FEST with you in future posts, so stay tuned!

Andy and Gomora take a break from "The Manster" to say hello!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Consul General of Japan to address G-FEST XVII audience

From the G-FAN website:

Mr. George Hisaeda, the Consul General of Japan at Chicago will attend the Saturday night screening of Gojira, accompanied by his wife. Prior to the screening, Mr. Hisaeda will speak to the audience. Mr. Hisaeda and his wife are hosting G-FEST XVII’s special guest, Mr. Akira Takarada, for a dinner at the consulate on Saturday evening.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cuyahoga Kaiju Club Convenes for Pre-G-FEST Fun

What could make for a better night than perfect weather, good food and even better people to hang with? If you said, "Watching Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah under a star-filled sky," then you either must've been at the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club's recent "Kaiju Cookout," or should have been.

Our second excursion to the home of Don Kaiju was blessed with picture perfect summer weather, making the promise of an outdoor Godzilla movie a reality. As fun as the "drive-in-in-miniature" vibe was, though, it was even more enjoyable to converse with new friends who share a passion for Japanese sci-fi and fantasy. When someone is able to name Ultraman kaiju and describe the plot of the episode from which they came, or talks about the different model kits they can't wait to build, you know you've found kindred spirits.

Andy had a great time holding his own in tokasatsu conversation as well as playing Godzilla: Unleashed with his G-pals, and the Queen of Monsterland Ohio even made the trip and enjoyed herself in the company of other kaiju wives. The family atmosphere is genuine and welcoming. And, of course, there's nothing like watching a Godzilla movie with other G-fans.

Don surprised me with an insanely cool CKC 10th Anniversary T-shirt designed by co-founder Tom (photos forthcoming), and you had better believe that I will be "representin'" at G-FEST! All in all, it was a pretty perfect Friday night--now I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my CKC buddies in Chicago.
Special thanks to Don and Tammy for their hospitality, and everybody who helped make it a night to remember.
"Take that, you dinosaur!"