William Shatner & Stan Lee at the Portland Comic Con

Stan Lee Portland Comic Con 2014

Stan Lee Portland Comic Con 2014

The Portland Comic Con boasted an incredible line up of stars. Stan Lee, William Shatner, Ron Perlman, Bruce Campbell, Adam West, Burt Ward, Nicholas Brendon, Cassandra Peterson and so many others I don’t even remember. Of course with a line up like that and less than infinite funds some tough choices had to be made. For example, I could get Adam West’s autograph OR have my picture taken with Stan Lee. I could get Nicholas Brendon’s autograph OR have my picture taken with William Shatner. Sorry Batman and Xander, truly I am sorry.

I did get my photograph taken with Stan “The Man” Lee. There were so many people who wanted, and paid for, photographs that there was no time to say more than a quick, “hello,” to Stan Lee. He smiled brightly, straightening and seemed genuinely delighted to see us. He looked ready to chat, to share some story or something and I’m sure, had the people tasked with getting hundreds of people processed given him time he would have been happy to. As it was he kind of deflated just slightly when the camera person called, “Next!” It seemed to me that Stan Lee truly enjoys his fans. I should have gotten his photograph.

William Shatner Portland Comic Con 2014

William Shatner Portland Comic Con 2014

Next I had a photo op with William Shatner. He also truly enjoys his fans. He’s a warm and welcoming personality. Once again there wasn’t time to utter more than a hurried, “Thank you,” after the photo was snapped (and pray my eyes were open and I wasn’t making some stupid face since there were no retakes).

I had to get my photograph taken with William Shatner though. Even though I would have loved to have Adam West’s autograph, or Elvira’s. You see, many years ago William Shatner went to a Star Trek convention in a gorilla suit. I was at that convention. I walked right past the guy in the gorilla suit with the attendants and I clearly remember thinking to myself, “why would someone wear a gorilla suit to a Star Trek convention?” And I never knew until I read his book about it. You see there were some very particular and unique happenings at that convention and I knew some of the people involved.

I’m also one of this people for whom Star Trek made a huge difference. It was almost a life line to me as a nerdy bookish child. So you can imagine my angst when I read that chapter in his book and realized that I had walked right past him and not even realized it.

I would have shared that funny little story with him had there been any kind of time. I’m sure he would have enjoyed it. He struck me as genuine and caring.

I have yet to meet a star who wasn’t just a delight to meet. So far they have all been very thoughtful and pleased to meet their fans. I was not able to get Nicholas Brendon’s autograph but I did see him give autographs to two girls who were fans. It was very sweet. He gave them each a hug and played a guessing game with one of them. It’s really touching when a star who has a whole line of people waiting to get an autograph takes that extra two minutes to make a special memory for his fans.

Cosplay & Ron Perlman at the Portland Comic Con

Captain America cosplay Portland Comic Con

Cherno Alpha Cosplay at Portland Comic Con

Cherno Alpha Cosplay at Portland Comic Con

I’ve been busy having fun at the Portland Comic Con and as a result have not been good about blogging about it. Which is disservice to an excellent con. There were some rocking cosplays, quite a few in point of fact. I saw a fabulous I Dream Of Jeanie for the first time at a con. There were a bunch of Doctors, mainly the fourth Doctor, the tenth Doctor and the eleventh Doctor. I even saw a weeping angel get into a stare down with a mop-toting, fez-wearing, bow-tie clad eleventh Doctor. One of my top favorites was a fantastic Sasha Kaidonovsky, pilot of Cherno Alpha from Pacific Rim. There were a lot of Wonder Women and I was glad to see them. Also I saw quite a few Poison Ivys and this con I saw a lot of My Little Ponys and they were adorable. Elsa and Anna from Disney’s Frozen made their cosplay debut at this con and they were gorgeous every time I saw one. I could write a whole article about the fabulous cosplay and perhaps I should.
Xena Warrior Princess Cosplay at Portland Comic Con

Xena Warrior Princess Cosplay at Portland Comic Con

Today, though, I want to write about meeting Ron Perlman. I remember seeing him first in Beauty and the Beast when I was quite young. While he had many roles, I’m sure between that and Hellboy I was not aware of them and Hellboy is a movie I really enjoy. I never got into Sons of Anarchy so next I saw him in Pacific Rim which is far and away my favorite movie of 2013. So when I heard he was going to be at this con I was very excited.

What I really wanted to do was come up with something to say to him that would be as interesting for him as meeting him would be for me. I wanted to say something intelligent, or kind, or anything other than something a squeeing fangirl might say. Unfortunately I could not come up with something to say so, on Saturday, the first time I went through his autograph line I just smiled, shook his hand and said, “Thank you.” Ok, so not very articulate but not too embarrassing. He was charming and gracious.

Then I discovered that someone else in my party also wanted his autograph but had had to get cash. So, I agreed to stand in line with her the next time he was singing autographs to keep her company. That’s twice in one day I met him and he was very kind. THEN, because I had managed not to make a complete fool of my self by saying anything dumb, my nephew found out about the autograph opportunity and, since he doesn’t live in town and it was far too late and too expensive for his parents to ship him in for the con he begged me to get him a signed photo of Hellboy. What could I do? So Sunday I stood in line for the third time, feeling like a total dork because I had gone about this the most inefficient way possible and here I was for the THIRD time getting an autograph.

Mr. Perlman was gracious and if he recognized me (probably since I wore my steampunk cosplay each day), he didn’t make any comments about how many times I’d stood in line to see him this weekend–bless his heart for his kindness.

Ron Perlman is very good to his fans and he gets into character a little bit for each different character photo he signs. I’m glad I got to meet him, even if I could barely string two words together. Also one of his fans drew a picture of a dragon for him and he thanked her for it when she gave it to him. He said it was very nice. I would say it was totally worth standing in line three times to meet him. K.

Captain America cosplay Portland Comic Con

Captain America cosplay Portland Comic Con

Jason Raines at Portland Comic Con

Artist Jason Raines Promotional Flyer

Artist Jason Raines Promotional Flyer

Artist Jason Raines Promotional Flyer

That’s right, gentle reader, this weekend is the Portland Comic Con. I know I haven’t hyped this event like I should have and for that I apologize. I’d like to start off my reporting on the event with this experience I had on Friday.

I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of being present at a discussion Jason Raines had with another aspiring artist and was able to interview him informally at the Portland Comic Con this weekend. What caught my eye on his table was an absolutely stunning and temporally impossible two-page spread of dinosaurs ridden by barbarians arrayed across an immense battlefield across from the war machinery of a modern army. The scene was a moment captured in time before these two massive armies clashed like waves dashing against the rocks of a cliff.

A teen who was an aspiring artist was also at the table and Jason was gracious and happy to talk to her about art and even took the time to look at a phone photo of one of her pictures and encourage her to keep working. He told her that at her age he hadn’t even gotten into art the way she already was. What a wonderful thing to tell a budding artist. What an encouraging and thoughtful man he is. He could have shooed her on, focusing on paying customers. Instead he was happy to take some time out of his day to talk to her and share some art stories.

She asked how long it took him to draw the dinosaur/tank armies and he said around a month. She asked him if he ever felt like he’d never get finished with it and he said, “all the time.” He went on to say that, “Sometimes when I’m working on a big detailed piece and I’m doing the details it seems like it’s going to go on forever. And sometimes I’m working and I’m so caught up in the drawing that I fall asleep working on it.”

(I’m kind of paraphrasing the last sentence or two a bit since I felt it would be rude to whip out my phone and start taking notes but that’s the jist of what he said.)

They laughed about getting in trouble at school for drawing when they should be doing other work. Jason told her that every class is art class. And then it turns out he plays the guitar to which the teen girl smiled excitedly and told him she plays the flute. He finished by telling her to keep working on her art and how at first you love your main characters but then as you start to put them into settings you learn to draw everything as you bring your main characters to life drawing them. He told her at first you may hate drawing plants but then one day you draw these plants and they’re so realistic to live up to your characters that you look at them and think, “Wow these are great plants.” It was just a heart-warming conversation and I felt privileged to be there to witness it.

When they were finished talking I had the chance to talk to Jason a bit. I complemented him on one of his larger posters that had a fully armored woman with guns. It’s nice to see real armor and not the chainmail bikini. He was excited about that too. “Armor that actually can perform the function it was designed for, crazy right?” (Again a paraphrase.) We talked about a couple of memes about the chainmail bikini armor and how that’s completely impractical. It was a delight to meet an artist who took the material seriously enough not to sacrifice plausibility for objectification. Not that he doesn’t have some scantily clad bunnies (see Dust Bunny—which looks like a cute idea that plays on a cultural icon of sorts) in his collection but it seems that the ones I saw had a reason beyond objectification, just to give credit where credit is due.

Jason Raines has an extensive and impressive resume when it comes to comic illustration and animation. He worked in Hollywood doing animation and design for movies and television for 10 years before returning to Portland where he keeps a day job in animation and works on comics at night. Art is truly his passion and joy.

Dust Bunny and Mechismo half sheet promo by Jason Raines

Dust Bunny and Mechismo half sheet promo by Jason Raines

From what I saw of the characters Mr. Raines is currently illustrating he has a certain amount of whimsy about his work. There is a bit of humor and perhaps even poking a bit of fun at the standard comic tropes, but in the way of someone who loves comics. Over all, I just thoroughly enjoyed the ten or so minutes he had to talk to me and to the teen girl. Jason Raines is just a very excellent artist and human being and you can tell he loves being an artist. It lights up his whole being when he talks about it and he is so generous with his praise of others and time. Check out his web site at Jasoneraines.com and the comic site Capes and Heels where his latest creations are coming to life, as his half sheet advertisement says: soon(ish).

(I did ask for permission from both Jason Raines and the teen girl and her parents to share this story. I chose not to name the teenager just because I feel it is safer for her.) PS I’m hoping to get Ron Perlman’s autograph today because I loved him in Hellboy and Pacific Rim (natch). K.

The Valley of Gwangi Ray Harryhausen’s Last Dinosaur Movie

Movie Poster for The Valley of Gwangi

Movie Poster for The Valley of Gwangi

Movie Poster for The Valley of Gwangi

The Valley of Gwangi 1969
Director: Jim O’Connolly as James O’Connolly
Writers: William Bast, Julian More, Willis H. O’Brian (earlier film Gwangi uncredited)
Starring: James Franciscus, Gila Golan, Richard Carlson
Stop Motion Animation: Ray Harryhausen

**Spoilers–whoop, whoop–Spoilers***

I enjoy watching old monster movies. Not only are they fun to watch, they usually contain very little gore. They are by nature violent and yet the kind of violence one sees in an old monster movie is somehow not as terrible as the kind of violence we see today in movies, and not even horror movies but such offerings as Gangster squad or any cop movie these days. I also enjoy seeing what various cultures were like 50 or 60 years ago. The Valley of Gwangi is a cowboys vs. Dinosaurs movie. In 1969 that idea could have flown. The stop motion animation is top notch, as you would expect from Ray Harryhausen.

The Valley of Gwangi is based around the idea of a valley surrounded by high, steep mountains that protects it from the outside world. It is in this sheltered place, cut off from time it would seem, that creatures from prehistory have survived. Wait, no that’s not what The Valley of Gwangi is REALLY about. That’s just what we wish it were about. What The Valley of Gwangi is really about is a con man cowboy who walked out on his fiancee but now that she’s about to make it big with her own rodeo, he wants her to sell out and help him buy a ranch in Wyoming. Ok, maybe not that cynical—yeah, that cynical. The rigid gender roles in this movie are painful to watch and most of the movie is spent following this down on his luck cowboy with no redeeming qualities harass the girl.

You see he’s a man so when she tells Tuck to get out of her trailer so she can change he doesn’t have to because: manly! And when T.J., the woman, decides she wants to pursue her own life of adventure and see if she can’t make the rodeo work he tells her that he’s already been down that road so there’s no need for her to live her own life, she can just give everything up and become his maid.

There is a cute little Hispanic boy, Lope, who councils Tuck and T.J. both. (This is one monster movie where the child works but it’s because he’s not the main character.) Tuck gets to listen to the wisdom of a child because he is “afraid to love” and T.J. who finally sends Tuck away but then is told, “You must go after him, for he is a very proud man.” Yeah that’s the kind of guy you want to give up your independence for. Ugh. Oh well, at least it wasn’t Twilight. I mean we do get to see animated dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi, so there is that going for it.

Now around this riveting backstory we have a struggling rodeo and some rodeo hands that need to be paid. This is the real plot of the movie. Carlos, a decent guy who is in actually love with T.J., as opposed to Tuck who just thinks she’s his due, somehow provides a tiny prehistoric horse to draw crowds to the rodeo and hopefully lift them out of debt.

A blind gypsy woman has once before warned Carlos about taking things from that valley and of course the very first thing Tuck does once he sees the horse is go straight to a roving paleontologist from Britain and tell him all about this secret T.J. trusted him with. Because, you know, a woman trusts you and the first thing you do is tell someone with a vested interest in possessing the treasure; because: Manly! (You know, gentle reader, I had no idea I was quite so offended by the “romance” in Valley of Gwangi until I started writing this review. Honestly the movie isn’t half bad if you can get past that.)

Our scientist, eager to see where the creature came from and hoping to find out how it survived tells the Gypsies where the critter is. And so the cowboys are off on horseback chasing after the prehistoric horse to get it back for Miss T.J. Carlos, after having already saved Tuck’s life, lies and says it was he who stole the little horse and there is very little worse than being branded a horse thief in the old west.

The Gypsies release the little horse in the valley. Right behind them is the scientist and behind him is Tuck. Behind Tuck is T.J. And her posse. The Gypsies vamoose leaving everyone else to gather together and discover the valley. Lope is carried aloft by a Pterodactyl and Carlos has to save him. From there we see two or three dinosaurs, including a shockingly purple Gwangi who is some kind of Allosaur or maybe T-Rex. Shotguns serve only to annoy Gwangi. Carlos saves everyone’s life before finally getting eaten.

The cowboys take Gwangi captive to be the star attraction of the rodeo. This ends badly. This always ends badly. Gwangi goes on a rampage before finally being trapped in a huge catholic cathedral and burned to death. Surprisingly few people get eaten.

Despite the clumsy and sexist “romance” The Valley of Gwangi was a decent example of its era. In fact I found a list of movies Ray Harryhausen worked on and I might see if Netflix has them.

The Valley of Gwangi was inspired by an earlier unfilmed project Gwangi. While Ray Harryhausen would go on to do such classics as The Clash Of The Titans and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The Valley of Gwangi would be his last work animating dinosaurs. K.

The Horse Brass Pub Is Fantastic

Picture taken inside the Horse Brass Pub

Picture taken inside the Horse Brass Pub

Picture taken inside the Horse Brass Pub

The Horse Brass Pub in South East Portland is an English themed pub that specializes in draught craft beers and English comfort food. The special the day we went was Bangers and Mash. Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dish of sausages and mashed potatoes. When done right it is quite delicious. I did not try the bangers and mash when I was there. I ordered the fish and chips.

I was pleasantly surprised when, upon ordering the fish and chips, our waiter, Justin, brought malt vinegar along with ketchup to the table. I love malt vinegar on fish and chips and in the event that it is actually available I have to ask for it. It was nice to have it just brought right over.

When the fish and chips came out they came with plenty of tarter sauce. I know it’s a small thing but I usually have to ask for extra when I get fish and chips. Once again it was nice to have it provided. The fish itself was exquisite. Nice fillets of halibut were deep fried to crispy morsels of perfection that were not at all greasy. The chips were hand cut and also delicious. The cole slaw rated a solid mediocre but that is easily forgiven on a plate of such excellent fish and chips. The fish was so good that I stopped eating the fries because I wanted the last flavor in my mouth to be of the fish.

The service was wonderful. Our waiter, Justin, was knowledgeable and attentive. He even offered a half sized portion of the fish and chips just in case we weren’t that hungry. Although I have to say that it’s worth it to find the room for a full sized portion.

To accompany my dinner I selected the Walking Man Brewing Dark Cherry Stout. I enjoy a good stout and find that I prefer stouts to IPAs. This beer was smooth and mellow yet potent with clear dark cherry notes. It wasn’t a particularly sweet beer like some fruit beers. It was so good I splurged and had a second pint.

I don’t even know if the Horse Brass Pub serves any kind of dessert. The fish and chips with that wonderful beer were so good that I didn’t find I wanted a sweet to follow them. I have a serious sweet tooth so that’s saying something. K.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah A Good Idea Lost In A Sea Of Awful

Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Director: Yoshimitsu Banno
Writers: Yoshimitsu Banno, Takeshi Kimura
Starring: Akira Yamauchi

1971 brings us Godzilla vs. Hedorah. There are people who consider Godzilla vs. Hedorah a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster to be the worst Godzilla movie made. I respectfully disagree. While there are some unbearably bad parts of Godzilla vs. Hedorah it is not unrelentingly bad from start to finish like Godzilla’s Revenge.

The opening credits give us the first clue that this movie will not be kind to Godzilla. The music is 60’s and there is an awful night club that we keep seeing. Dissatisfied with that, someone decided that horns should herald the arrival of Godzilla. Horns can be ominous but not the way they are used here. Goofy is the word that springs to mind, right after–for god’s sake make them stop.

The movie has a decent premise: A monster that thrives on industrial waste. This monster was seeded on the Earth from the distant Andromeda Galaxy. The movie opens with several scenes of terrible pollution, waste and garbage floating in the ocean. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is prescient in that it illuminates the horrible mess we are making in our oceans and atmosphere and did so in 1971. Now we need to do no more than google the great pacific garbage patch to see how well director Yoshimitsu Banno predicted the future. Hedorah also leaves behind a mass of toxic air when it flies over a group of exercising women. Beijing just made headlines around the world for having air so toxic it was over 2 dozen times levels considered dangerous to human beings. As it gets bigger, feeding on polluted waters and industrial waste, it starts dissolving people and buildings as it flies past. One might imagine that with such a great premise, the movie had a chance to be one of the classic greats of the Godzilla franchise.

Our second clue that the movie won’t be all that good is in the segues. Someone, possibly director Yoshimitsu Banno, decided that brief animated clips would be good segues in to insert in the movie. The first part of the movie has a variety of segues. Mostly animated and jarringly out of place but some of multiple television screens with different images or groups of images. I can’t help but get the feeling that the film needed a lot of padding to reach a feature length movie and these horrendous segues were it.

These segues drive the movie deeper into some kind of “wish we were at Woodstock” fantasy. There is a real effort to create a psychedelic feel to parts of the movie. And in what seems to be a reference to the Beatles, four musicians in an open field decide the world is about to end and so they start their own music festival. Did I mention Woodstock? this is just painful to watch. Thankfully these segues stop showing up when the monster fight gets started in ernest.

Which brings me to the main character, a “cute” little boy named Ken. This is actually the tip off that the movie will be bad. A kid with a high pitched voice who thinks Godzilla is a hero does not bode well for any monster movie. Ken can tell when Godzilla is going to show up and he is convinced Godzilla is going to protect him and everyone from the Hedorah. Why, oh why does there have to be a “cute” kid?

Hedorah has several stages it takes throughout the movie. It’s first stage is a larval stage that looks suspiciously like a lungfish. The animated segues compress time so that Hedorah can transform through its life cycle and hit each stage. Finally reaching a fully grown version that is bipedal, because of course animate industrial waste is bipedal; nuclear powered too don’tcha know?

Hedorah can fly, because it’s nuclear powered industrial sludge. It can ooze sludge waste that poisons all it touches. It spits globs of sticky acidic tar-like stuff that burns and maims. It also, because all of that isn’t nearly enough, has laser attacks too. Oh and let’s not forget the toxic off gassing. I say there old chap, would you mind using a bit of febreeze? You seem to have toxic farts.

Godzilla always gets his tail kicked at first. Here we see Godzilla writhing in agony in a pool of toxic Hedorah sludge (eew) while the dim-witted Hedorah looks on. Fortunately for Godzilla and the rest of Japan, Ken’s father is a scientist who has come up with a way to defeat Hedorah. Electrocution will desiccate the mineral that gives Hedorah its spark of life. Although I’m not sure how that works since putting any part of a Hedorah into polluted water reanimates it and well, the next rain could be troublesome. Also, why does electricity work when Godzilla’s nuclear blast breath weapon doesn’t? Pardon me, sir, but could you take a breath mint or something? Because your breath really is lethal.

I will say that the Hedorah suit is pretty good. It would be a difficult concept to design for: Animated pollution. Also I never once saw a wire. For the time the special effects are pretty good.

But I digress. We come to find out that strange, alien pearls are what give the mineralized smog the spark of life that is Hedorah. Godzilla uses the clever device Ken’s father had the military whip up to destroy them and that’s how Hedorah is finally defeated. First it’s weird that Godzilla’s breath can activate the device. Second, after a brief moment when the viewer is relieved that this monstrosity of a movie is finally over, a little Hedorah flies away from the ashes of the one Godzilla killed. Not only is the movie not over yet but this is when it goes completely round the bend. Because while the flying version of Hedorah is pretty ridiculous but no where near as ridiculous as Godzilla flying. OMG Godzilla flying, using his nuclear breath for propulsion and curled up around it like some kind of fetal lizard. WTF dude.

Please note that this review glosses over, and sometimes plain skips over several fairly fake looking monster fight scenes. Also Godzilla flies again because he needs to drag Hedorah’s sorry hide back to the device to finish it off.

Despite having a timely and pertinent message to share, Godzilla vs. Hedorah fails through sheer ridiculousness to make its point. Last, but not least, the Godzilla suit is not one of my favorites. In summation, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is not the worst Godzilla movie ever made but it sure gives Godzilla’s Revenge a run for its money. Also, this viewer is eternally grateful that the flying Godzilla idea seems to have been dropped after this movie. K

Godzilla’s Revenge: MST3K Bait If Ever There Was

Godzilla's Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla's Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla’s Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla’s Revenge
Starring: Kenji Sahara, Machika Naka, Tomonori Yazaki
Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa

I’ve been reviewing all of the Godzilla movies in order at The Geek Girl Project and I’m moving the reviews over to M31 and Random-words. I’ve also been putting off Godzilla’s Revenge because it is, in my humble opinion, the worst Godzilla movie ever made. 1969’s Godzilla’s Revenge kicked off almost a decade of awful Godzilla movies. As I’ve said before: The 70’s were not kind to Godzilla. But they do get better than Godzilla’s Revenge.

So it is with a box of Swedish fish and a pint of beer (with more in a growler in the fridge) I am girding up my mental loins and pushing play on this movie. A movie I own more for completeness sake than because it’s worth watching. I make this sacrifice for you gentle reader, and it has taken me months to brace myself for this viewing.

Godzilla’s Revenge makes no bones about how awful it is. It starts off with a soundtrack that lets you know exactly what you’re in store for. This movie is about a little boy (and you know my thoughts about children in monster movies) who is bullied by other children. The name of the biggest bully is Gabera, which in another shout out to what we are in for as hapless viewers, is the name of the big monster that Godzilla must fight.

To keep things spicy there is also a robbery and whilst running from his little tormenters Ichiro finds and pockets one of the robbers’ driver’s licenses. Worry not; the soundtrack is rife with extraneous and ridiculous sounds so that we never forget we are watching a painfully bad movie.

Most of the movie is actually the vivid imagination of young Ichiro. But don’t worry if the effects aren’t enough to let you know you’re in someone’s imagination the Disney-esque music will. And that’s perhaps the most insulting thing about this affront to Godzilla fans everywhere; the whole thing is this little boy’s dream. It’s like the Dallas of Godzilla movies, only with super annoying voice dubbing.

Little Ichiro, in his imagination, with no one else around, apparently feels the need to announce the name of every monster he sees during his imaginary trip to Monster Island. He also seems to feel the need to mispronounce about half of them. Then again these voice actors aren’t the first, or perhaps that’s last to mispronounce Anguirus.

Ok I said that it being a dream was the most insulting part but I stand corrected. The most insulting part of this movie is the way young Godzilla was voiced as if he was auditioning to be Goofy. Yes Disney’s Goofy. And since this movie is goofy I guess it stands to reason.

So the real plot is the giant, possibly full grown, Gabera who looks like he might be Gamera’s cross-dressing brother and has the cry of a strangling rooster (actually that could be what his cry is) bullying the little Minella and how big daddy Godzilla tells him to pretty much suck it up and punch the bully in the face. Not really a great message for young monsters or young humans. I do have to give them credit for taking on the topic of bullying almost 50 years before it became popular to do so.

Not to be outdone Minella has a misshapen head that reminds me of some of the things kindergarteners might make with clay in art class and sounds like a jackass, no really–the animal.

There’s also a lot of stock Godzilla footage in this movie. It’s a budget movie on a budget. We see a lot of footage from previous Godzilla movies. Then we get to the new footage, hooray….oh, wait…dear lord the new footage is of Godzilla teaching little Minella how to throw a punch, well ok nuclear blast breath. Again, not the best lesson an adult can teach a child.

For fun they throw in a gratuitous attack on Monster Island by the Japanese air force. I don’t know why and they fly off without ever hitting anything or explaining themselves. Maybe they were getting tired of waiting for Godzilla to head into Tokyo to knock over Tokyo Tower and wanted to give him a little reminder missiling. After all, nothing says, “I miss you,” like a missile attack.

Godzilla’s Revenge makes us long for the straightforward monster terribleness of such painful gems as Godzilla vs. Gigan or even, dare I say it, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.

I don’t know what the makers of this film were on but their greatest crime was not sharing with everyone who sat through this awful movie. Children and Godzilla as a fuzzy, cuddly protector do not mix. Godzilla is not cuddly. Godzilla is not a friend to children and Godzilla will not march into town to protect a kid from his tormenters.

If you’re tempted to watch it—don’t. It’s billed as a children’s movie and even kids know this is awful. To be fair Godzilla’s Revenge was filmed during the time Ichiro Honda and company were experimenting with humor and humor is a tricky thing. But this movie, and I say this as a long time Godzilla fan; is just awful. K.

Daimajin Strikes Again But Probably Shouldn’t Have

Diamajin DVD Cover
Diamajin DVD Cover

Diamajin DVD Cover

After watching the first two Daimajin movies I was looking forward to getting back to the set and watching the third one. I enjoy old movies and especially old monster movies. The first two movies of the Daimajin trilogy have a sense of folk tale set in feudal Japan about them and I was anticipating a pleasant repeat in the third movie. What I discovered is that if Daimajin and Return of Daimajin are the Japanese Monster Movie version of a Disney Princess Movie then Daimajin Strikes Again is the Sponge Bob of Monster Movies.

**Spoilers**

Daimajin Strikes Again is based around the same general premise as the first two but instead of a princess offering to sacrifice herself to the god for the sake of her people, the third movie commits the greatest sin a monster movie can commit: it casts children as the main protagonists. Now in Daimajin this could have worked if it had been handled correctly since Daimajin is a god and not a true monster. Although, let it be duly noted that Daimajin is a very monster-like god.

As I’ve noted in my reviews of Godzilla and Gamera movies, children do not belong in them. Monsters are horrible. They are not friends to children. When monsters are made friends of children they become less horrible. Also there is something wrong with a child who can watch some creature slaughter countless other people and still adore the creature.

Point in case in one of the Gamera movies a single child is saved by the titanic terrapin while countless hundreds are immolated by a fireball that same turtle shoots at a Gaos and misses. How does that work? “Oh, so sorry about all those people I just burned to death, but hey look! I saved this one kid.” So while there are notable exceptions (Mothra) in general children do not work out as the main protagonists in monster movies.

Also, unless I’m mistaken, the voice actors who do children’s voices in this and the Mothra movies are the same ones that voice the ponies in My Little Pony. And I don’t know why someone decided that high pitched nasally voices were ‘child-like’ but I wish they hadn’t. The pacing of the dialog is distracting due to odd pauses and the voiced dialogue doesn’t match the subtitles at all. More about those later.

The film starts out with the very angry Daimajin on a rampage tearing up the mountainside while terrified villagers flee for their lives and pray to the angry god. Cut to some time later and a villager staggers out of the forest at the foot of the god’s mountain with a tale of some evil warlord in “Hell’s Valley” that is kidnapping the men and forcing them into slave labor. Seriously? Hell’s valley? That’s the best translation?

Anyway the villagers decide it’s too dangerous to cross the mountain of the god to save their men so four young boys decide to go themselves. This sets the stage for a long, tedious slog through the majority of the movie following these four boys. Whoever wrote the dialogue for these boys makes George Lucas look like the next William Shakespeare. To be fair that could be the fault of the translators and not the original writer. In fact I suspect that is the case.

Moving on, an old woman warns them of a hawk that scratches out the throat of anyone who crosses the god. She tries to warn them to stay off the mountain but they go anyway. We see the hawk watching the boys as they attempt to scale part of the mountain. After miraculously surviving a rock slide that should have killed all four of them I began to have serious doubts about this movie but it wasn’t until the subtitle “GASP!” appeared on screen that the movie fully transformed into full and sadly unintentional comedy.

One of the four boys dies and another’s older brother is horribly murdered by the evil overlord but by the time that happens the movie has fully become so ridiculous that it’s hard to maintain the appropriate level of gravity the subject matter should require. This movie was supposed to be a bittersweet tragedy where some are saved but at great cost. Instead it is unintentionally comedic and in the end the hawk is, as was pointed out to me amid gales of laughter, the best character. K.

Comparing Jupiter To Earth Reveals Wonders Of The Solar System

3 color view of Jupiter by NASA's Cassini space probe

3 color view of Jupiter by NASA's Cassini space probe

3 color view of Jupiter by NASA’s Cassini space probe

Since on January 5 Jupiter was at Opposition (Jupiter is opposite the sun in our sky) and 93 million miles closer to Earth than during the rest of its orbit I thought an article about the giant of our solar system was in order. For reference the Earth is approximately 93 million miles from the sun. Which is called an astronomical unit. So Jupiter is one AU closer to Earth than during the rest of its orbit this week. Now don’t get all excited about this, Jupiter’s average distance from the sun is 5.2 astronomical units. Yeah, our solar system is vast.

So what makes Jupiter so interesting? Well let’s take a look at some of the fascinating things scientists have discovered about the solar system’s big brother. Since we are all residents of Earth and are, therefore, most familiar with it I think a little comparison is in order just for the sake of understanding better what we are dealing with in Jupiter.

For starters the Earth is around 25000 miles in circumference and takes 24 hours to complete a rotation. This makes the speed at which the Earth turns on it’s axis 25000miles/24hr or approximately 1000 miles/hour. (NASA)

Compare this with Jupiter which is around 272,942.9 miles in circumference. Now for the astonishing part: Jupiter’s day is only 10 hours long! Every time I think about that it boggles my mind. Jupiter is so large 1000 Earths could comfortably fit inside and it completes a full rotation in less than half an Earth day. (NASA Jupiter Factsheet)

Now unlike the Earth which has a solid surface Jupiter is a gas giant, so all we see is the gaseous upper cloud decks of the behemoth planet. Because of this the surface of the equator rotates more rapidly than the poles resulting in different lengths of the day depending on your latitude. The day varies from approximately 9 hours and 56 minutes at the poles to approximately 9 hours and 50 minutes at the equator. (Caltech)

Which brings us to composition. We know the Earth has a solid surface, we walk on it every day. Granted 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by vast and life giving oceans but we have dry land to walk on. Also our atmosphere is mostly Nitrogen (N2) a whopping 78% with Oxygen comprising 21% and only traces of other gasses.

Jupiter’s atmosphere is Hydrogen and Heilium. NASA doesn’t even give percentages. The Earth has an iron core with just a smidge of nickel. Jupiter’s core is predicted to either be a solid inner core about the size of earth or some speculate a ball of liquid hydrogen. Jupiter does, in fact, have a faint ring system, discovered in 1971 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The only ring the Earth has is an artificial one made by satellites we’ve launched.

Speaking of satellites, the Earth has one, our Moon. Jupiter has over 50 moons and while Jupiter itself cannot support life as we know it some of its many moons have liquid oceans under the surface and may support alien life.

Hurricanes on Earth last for a few weeks. The great red spot on Jupiter is an enormous storm 3X the size of Earth that’s been raging for hundreds of years and shows no sign of slowing down. Pretty amazing, if you ask me.

On Earth the gravitational constant is 9.8 m/s^2. On Jupiter the gravitational constant is 24.79 m/s^2 wow. this makes the escape velocity of Jupiter 134,664 mph. Again, wow. By comparison the escape velocity of Earth is 25.031mph and look at the size of the rockets we have to build to get going just that fast.

Ok just one more fact comparison, because it’s fun and fascinating. The Earth’s revolves around the sun in 1 Earth year, which is 365 of our days. Our average orbital velocity is 66.622mph. Jupiter revolves around the sun in 1 Jovian year which is 12 Earth years. Compared to the Earth, Jupiter’s orbital velocity is a leisurely 29.205mph. The big planet is farther away from the sun and as a result doesn’t orbit as quickly around the Sun as the Earth.

And one last fact about Jupiter, at 5.2 AU from the sun Jupiter radiates more energy than it receives from the sun. That is amazing! Not a star but an almost star. If it had been but 80X more massive it would have ignited fusion in its core. (NASA Solar System Exploration)

So since Jupiter is at Opposition this week it’ll be at it’s brightest for skywatchers. Go, take a look and marvel at the wonders of our universe. K.

Movie Review: Daimajin & Return of Daimajin

Diamajin DVD Cover
Diamajin DVD Cover

Diamajin DVD Cover

Daimajin
Return of Daimajin
Studio: Daiei Co
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Writer: Tetsuro Toshida

So I heard about this old Japanese monster movie Daimajin at the Kaiju of Pacific Rim panel at the Rose City Comic Con. Now I have been a Godzilla fan since I can remember and I tend to enjoy giant monster movies. I like the kaiju stomping through cities and the countryside and I appreciate the relative lack of gore. I enjoy the morality stories embedded in the plots and I like the old school mad scientist vibe they have. So when one of the members of the Kaiju panel was asked what his favorite monster was that hadn’t been mentioned during the panel discussion Daimajin was his answer and I immediately took note so I could hunt it down. (Godzilla came up during the discussion. Of course he did, he’s the first Kaiju and the undisputed King of the Monsters.)

Daimajin was produced by Daiei Co in 1966, the same fine studio that gave us Gamera. While not black and white the films (there are three, all made the same year) have that feel about them and have recently been made avalable on a region 1 DVD through Mill Creek Entertainment. Although I tried to turn off the subtitles it didn’t work, which could be operator error and to be honest I enjoy reading the subtitles. In this case they were particularly entertaining as they had little to do with what the voice actors said.

****Warning MAJOR SPOILERS****

My first impression is that there was a lot, and I mean a LOT of plot getting in the way of the monster. Not that I mind a good story but I was looking for a monster movie. After thinking about it for a bit I realized that these stories seem to be patterned after, if not actual retellings of, Japanese myths, fairy tales or legends of some kind. This makes them all the more interesting if you ask me.

The first two, Daimajin and Return of Daimajin both follow a similar plot. In Daimajin an orphan taken in by a local nobel plots to attack and wipe out the nobel and his family during a holy ritual the villagers (serfs) perform each year to keep the evil spirit of the mountain trapped by the statue of a good god. Legend has it that the evil spirit was defeated by a warrior and entrapped in the mountain. An elder priestess leads the ritual and intercedes for the people with the god to keep the spirit trapped.

What follows is an ancient morality tale wherein the evil and ungrateful orphan murders the nobel and his wife while a faithful servant rescues the children, a boy and a girl. The priestess hides them on the holy mountain and for 10 years while the evil overlord’s minions hunt for them, provides them with what food and clothing they need. Meanwhile the villagers are treated brutally, forced to work without adequate food or shelter and with no concern for their health or their families.

Finally the young prince and his faithful servant are of age to free their oppressed people. First the servant is captured then the prince when he tries to rescue his friend. The priestess goes to warn the Evil Overlord that his actions are angering the god. He kills her for challenging his absolute authority and sends his minions, who betrayed their former lord for him, to destroy the statue. The climax comes when the princess is captured by the Evil Overlord’s minions and told that her brother and faithful servant are to be executed at daybreak the following day and that they are going to destroy the holy statue.

The princess tries to protect a child who came to the mountain to plead with the god to rescue his father and is taken captive by the evil minions. Once they reach the top of the mountain she tries to protect the statue but in the face of so many armed men cannot. So she falls to her knees and prays to it. All seems lost when the men begin to drive a huge spike into the statues forehead. Then the statue bleeds. Terrified the men flee only to be swallowed up by an earthquake. The girl once again falls before the statue and pleads with it to save her brother. Finally she offers to sacrificer herself to the god if only it will save her brother. She even runs to the nearby waterfall to throw herself over but is prevented by the child and then another earthquake.

The statue comes free from the mountain and marches down to the village where her brother and the faithful servant are to be executed. Since the sun is already rising Daimajin becomes a ball of lightening or magic to cross the distance in time to save the prince and his friend. He kills the evil overlord with the very spike that had been driven into his own forehead (that’s a nice touch). Then, still in a rage the giant statue god starts to head for the village where all of the poor villagers are.

The young child tries to stop it but falls right in front of it. Horrified the princess runs and throws her own body over the child to shield him. Daimajin stops, foot upraised and after a moment steps back. The princess pleads with the god to spare the people for they are innocent and as her tear strikes it’s titanic stone foot it relents, then crumbles to dust.

The Return of Daimajin is similar in that it is about a good and kindly lord verses a cruel and greedy lord who attacks the country for its riches and disrespects the people’s god. This time the statue is on an island and is destroyed by the evil invader. Once again it is a princess who has a kind and noble heart who calls the god to save her betrothed and people.

Knowing more what to expect, I found the second movie more enjoyable than the first but both are quite good. They are from 1966 so the special effects are not what we might expect from one of todays blockbusters but I saw no strings and the models were well done. I haven’t had time to watch the third one but I am looking forward to it. K.