Monday, November 2, 2015

GHWP Live Tweet November 2015 Tuesday Movie Line Up & New Friday Time

     With Spectreman behind me, I'm looking to the horizon for... something to do. For what the show offered in entertainment and zany dubbing, I'm not sure I can top it on Friday nights, but I'll try. It was sad to give our cyborg hero and his space ape enemies a final sendoff, but a soft spot in my heart has chosen to believe that Dr. Gori and Karas escaped their fate and opened a little bed and breakfast in Indiana.

Throw pillows, Karas! Just think of what my ultimate genius can do with throw pillows!
     The Japanese Wikipedia page for Spectreman had an interesting notation on Gori and Karas, labeling them as having a master-slave relationship so strong that they couldn't live without each other. The final episode came off as a little anti-climactic, but after looking at the show from this angle, it strengthens my belief that Gori and Karas were perhaps the most unique villains in any Japanese superhero show.

"Why did you save me, master?"              "... because you complete me."

     #GHWP Tuesday Movie Line Up for November 2015: 

                    November 3 - Terror Train

    On November 3, it's like Halloween never ended with one of my all time favorites, Terror Train. An early 1980s slasher, Terror Train got its hands on Jamie Lee Curtis just before slasher movies became cliche and Curtis moved on to other roles. It didn't take long after Halloween for that to happen, but Curtis would squeeze four horror roles in between her career as Laurie Strode in the first two Halloween films before moving on to other genres: The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and the amazing Australian-produced film Roadgames (co-starring Stacy Keach). Terror Train, produced in Canada in 1980, is standard slasher fare and was not highly acclaimed, but it does have the significance of being one of the first horror movies I ever saw as a child. It's become a habit for me to repeat the statement that "I first saw this movie at the age of four," and that is turning out to apply to a lot of movies. I might have seen it at age two when it premiered because my parents, being movie nuts and having a child born knowing to shut the hell up in a movie theater, took me with them to movies all the time, but my memories of it are, like many movies, cemented in that age four bracket of 1982 when my family first decided to get premium cable. For me, the draw was not only Halloween's Jamie Lee Curtis but also celebrity magician David Copperfield, making his first feature film appearance in Terror Train and his only film acting credits outside of his many illusionist television specials in which he did not play himself (but let's face it... he really was playing himself in Terror Train anyway).
     The story revolves around a pre-med school prank gone horribly wrong. Curtis' character reluctantly takes part in luring a fraternity pledge named Kenny Hampson into a dark room for a romantic interlude, but Kenny unwittingly gets into bed with a woman's corpse. I guess pranking friends with cadavers is the logical equivalent of dentists having Nitrous oxide parties. Kenny suffers a complete mental breakdown from the experience and is institutionalized, and the story cuts to three years later as the people responsible begin to drop off one by one during a train-chartered New Year's costume party.

Watch my film career closely. Now you see me. Now you don't. Mindfreak!

      November 10 - Android Kikaider (1972) episode 1 and Mechanical Violator Hakaider (1995)

     Tuesday night, November 10, we go back to Japan for a special Keita Amemiya-themed movie and a show with the first episode of the 1972 Japanese superhero series Jinzou Ningen Kikaider and the 1995 film starring a former Kikaider villain elevated to the role of anti-hero in Mechanical Violator Hakaider. Created by one of the fathers of Japanese manga superheroes Shotaro Ishinomori, Kikaider is the story of an android's struggle against evil to protect his creator and his family. Kikaider and Hakaider might seem more familiar to some from their recent appearances in an anime series as well as a new 2015 film called Kikaider: ReBoot. Hakaider would show up in the 1972 series as a major enemy in the story, but action/sci-fi director Keita Amemiya had something different in mind for Hakaider's starring film role. Amemiya cut his teeth in tokusatsu with Toei in the 1980s with a number of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider series, and he made the transition into feature films in 1988 with Mirai Ninja. Amemiya would go on to produce the successful live action adaptation of Zeiram and its sequel as well as the underrated Moon of Tao: Makaraga.
     Mechanical Violator Hakaider, released in 1995, is a post-apocalyptic tale sure to make any religious studies major question his/her life choices. This world of the future focuses on Jesus Town, a Utopian city ruled by the supposed holy angel Gurjev and his android right hand Mikhail. Suffering from a fragmented memory and rumored to be a prophesied dark savior of the people, Hakaider is released from a centuries-old prison and cuts a path through Jesus Town straight to Gurjev's doorstep.

I am the law... I think. I'm fuzzy on the details, so I'll just shoot everyone until I figure it out.

               November 17 - Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) (my contribution to #noirvember)

      Yes, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. With all the flashy costumes and giant monsters and talking eyeballs, you didn't think I liked "good" movies, did you? I like a little bit of everything, but it wasn't until recently that I took part in enjoying some of the classics with #TCMParty. It was that little Twitter social group that drew me to Twitter again after several years when I saw a few of them showcasing their favorites on a Turner Classic Movies fan favorite Saturday matinee. Before I knew it, a new door opened up to enjoying both ends of the movie spectrum. I love every aspect of movies, but older dramas and thrillers are somewhat new territory for me. As a kid, I loved black and white movies and television, but my experiences were limited mostly to comedies like The Three Stooges, nearly the entire catalog of Abbott & Costello films, and horror/sci-fi like Frankenstein and THEM! I had to grow up and develop a little more maturity and sophistication before I could watch the likes of The Stranger, the first black and white drama I ever watched with any attention span courtesy of an old double feature VHS set with The Trial. I would follow this up a few years later with Touch of Evil after its first DVD release coincided with a heavy focus on the film in a film literature class I took in college, but I soon found myself swept away from the genre again as I developed tastes in more Japanese films by Akira Kurosawa and Italian westerns by Sergio Leone. Old time radio dramas from the 1940s were my true first love of drama, and it took me a little while to move from the stories of The Shadow and Boston Blackie to screen drama with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Shadow of a Doubt, Casablanca, Attack, Key Largo, Suddenly Last Summer, Gaslight, and Laura, just to name a few (but the list is still pretty short). I still have not seen most of the real classics, and part of my reason for picking Notorious is that this will be my first viewing of it. I have seen a number of Hitchcock films, but, in my entire life, I haven't seen a Cary Grant film. Not a single one. I'd never heard of #noirvember until just a day before this writing, so it's serendipity that I already had this one in mind months in advance. I had hoped it might be on TCM's schedule sometime, but this offers a better guarantee that I don't just push it to the back of my DVR list and accidentally delete it again before getting to watch it. My DVR is always full to bursting with movies from TCM, but I seldom get around to watching any of them. I run out of time and space too quickly, and I end up making a note of film titles in a list that never stops expanding. I only know the basic plot of Notorious, so I'll leave it up to you and Google to find out more about it if you wish. It's classic Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains, and I have no doubt it is an amazing film. But of course this is a riffing group, and I don't hesitate to pick even the best movies apart piece by piece to heighten my enjoyment.

For this, however, I have no comment other than "Awwwwww."

                    November 24 - Mega Monster Battle - Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie

     And directly from Hitchcock majesty, we go immediately back to men in rubber suits.

    I would like to take this time to offer a disclaimer. The word "Ultra" appears several times from this point, so I highly recommend you avoid using it as a drinking game word. I take no responsibility for any alcohol poisoning that may result from ignoring my warning.

    Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle was the unique 24th entry in the Ultraman franchise in 2007. Rather than introduce a new Ultraman, Ultra Galaxy focused on an amnesiac man named Rei. He joins a mining expedition crew known as ZAP SPACY, and their travels through space bring them into a number of encounters with giant monsters on numerous planets. Rei, however, has a trick up his sleeve in the form of the Battle Nizer, a mystical device that summons giant monsters from thin air to fight his battles for him, but before you start shouting, "that sounds too much like Pokemon," remember one important detail: the Pokemon franchise might not exist today if not for the inspiration of "Capsule Monsters" introduced in Ultraseven way back in 1967. The Ultra Galaxy series put the monster summoning at the forefront of the plot, digging into its classic catalog of monsters from past Ultraman shows and reviving them for new stories. One kaiju that would find a place on the side of heroes was Gomora, an ancient Earth dinosaur species and the first giant monster to fight the original Ultraman to a standstill in 1966, and he cemented a new role as an ally of justice after years of appearances as one of the Ultra family's most popular adversaries.
     After Rei regained his memory and learned of his alien heritage (he was not a member of the Ultra family but a similar alien race called the Reionyx), Tsuburaya decided to create a story that would tie together all of the past aspects of their Ultra franchises and offer an explanation of some of the Ultra universe's theology with the revelation of the Monster Graveyard, a dimensional warp in time and space that serves as the final resting place for all of the giant monsters, aliens and even Ultramen that have fallen in battle in multiple parallel worlds. The Graveyard had been mentioned several times in past series, but this film expanded upon it as a crucial plot setting. The Ultra series of the late 90s (Ultraman Tiga, Dyna, and Gaia, respectively) took place in a parallel universe, and the same was true for Ultraman The Next and its television sequel Ultraman Nexus. Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie also introduced the first evil Ultraman, Belial, who escapes his ancient prison and seeks to lay waste to the Ultraman home planet of M-78 and take over the universe with an army of one hundred monsters from the Graveyard. Virtually every member of the Ultra series is incorporated into the story including the Ultramen of the parallel 1990s universe, the 1987 animated Hanna Barbera Ultramen (from Ultraman: The Adventure Begins), Ultraman Great (from Australia's Ultraman: Towards The Future), Ultraman Powered (from the USA's Ultraman The Ultimate Hero - see new Friday details below), and the former anniversary spoof hero and "runt of the litter" Ultraman Zearth, and the film was notable for introducing the impetuous son of Ultraseven, Ultraman Zero. Mega Monster Battle - Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie was designed to appeal to Ultra franchise fans of all ages. Anyone unfamiliar with the Ultra series might want to do a little homework because they threw all of it into a blender and hit puree, but I would like to hope that some of the time I have taken to familiarize my audience with the series will have paid off by the time this film is featured.

Join me on the dark side, Luke, er... Ultraman Zero.

                    New Friday Schedule starting November 6, 2015, 10PM EST
      Starting Friday night on, November 6, 2015, at a new earlier time, 10PM EST in between #Kolchak and #bmoviemaniacs, the henshin (transforming) hero adventures travel a new path to some obscure corners of the Ultraman universe, and we're going to Japan by way of Hollywood for a little while. Hollywood adaptations of foreign franchises generally are not considered happy occurrences. The notion of live action American versions of stories like Akira and Ghost in the Shell personally make me cringe, and we already have a decent list of horrors with movie adaptations of Japanese video game franchises such as  Street Fighter, Resident Evil and even Super Mario Brothers. One particular Japanese franchise, however, managed to achieve a decent level of success, Toei's Super Sentai franchise which, when licensed to Saban in the early 1990s, became known as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
     With any successful product, everyone else wanted to get into the act. The USA Network cranked out its own Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, UPN got its hands on the digital world Japanese superhero Denko Choujin Gridman and adapted it into Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad with Tim Curry as the voice of the lead villain. Saban tried their hands at off more Toei franchises with Masked Rider (Kamen Rider), Big Bad Beetleborgs (Juukou B-Fighter), and VR Troopers (a stock footage mishmash of Uchu Keiji Shaider, Choujinki Metalder, and Jikuu Senshi Spielban) as well as a few original series such as The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog.
     As most of these shows would reveal, the concept of live action Japanese superheroes was best left to the originators. Before Power Rangers achieved its fame, however, Tsuburaya Productions decided to cross the ocean to co-produce a new Ultraman series in Hollywood following the American reception of the Australian-produced Ultraman: Towards The Future (known in Japan as Ultraman Great), which some could argue was a logical inspiration for Saban to grab up the Super Sentai franchise. Towards The Future had notable exposure in the US with a line of Dreamworks toys, home video releases, television broadcasts, and one of the first video games released for the domestic Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Teaming with an American production company called Major Havoc Entertainment, Tsuburaya produced the 13-episode English-language series Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (known in Japan as Ultraman Powered).

We've got Hollywood behind us. What could go wrong?
     What? You never heard of it? Well, there's an explanation for that. Despite its roots, Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero never aired in America. Although it did broadcast in Japan, the entire project was considered less than a success due to delicate costume construction that forced action scenes to be toned down ("Made in USA" isn't what it's cracked up to be when it comes to Japanese products), and it would be three years before Tsuburaya would revive their own Ultra series for a new generation with Ultraman Tiga.
     Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero focuses on the members of the WINR (Worldwide Investigation Network Response) as they try to protect the Earth from the invasion of the Baltans (an insectoid alien race resembling cicadas). A number of classic Ultra series kaiju are summoned by the Baltans (classic Ultra foes themselves) including the ancient space dinosaur responsible for defeating the original Ultraman, the monster Zetton. The human race has renewed hope when Ultraman Powered (voiced by renowned Japanese martial arts actor Sho Kosugi) forms a bond with WINR member Ken'Ichi Kai (played by Sho Kosugi's son and veteran stunt actor Kane Kosugi) to transform and combat the alien threat.
     Depending on the reaction to this series, I will be sprinkling in a few other odds and ends or possibly shifting gears to something else entirely. Hopefully this will be enough to fill the void Spectreman left behind just a little. I know nothing will fill it completely.

    #GHWP kicks off a new post-Spectreman journey on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, with the first two episodes of Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero at 10PM EST following #Kolchak on Twitter. Don't forget the new earlier time.