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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #524  (Vol. 11, No. 15)  This edition is for the week of April 5--11, 2010.

"Date Night" †by Mike Smith
Saturday Morning Fever: CBS 1968 †by ED Tucker
What Rhymes With "National Poetry Month"? †by Lisa Scherer
Gamera Revamped †by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... Hypocrite Part 2 .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Gamera Revamped

Back in 1995, Toho decided to reinvent a classic childhood monster favorite called Gamera. This new and improved Gamera would have more bite and attitude compared to his 1960ís self.

Director Shusuke Kaneko decided to make three Gamera movies starting with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.

The cast included Shinobu Nakayama, an ex J-pop star, who co-starred with Jet Li in Fist of Legend (1994.) Fist of Legend was a remake based on Bruce Leeís Fists of Fury, aka The Chinese Connection. In Gamera, Nakayama plays Mayumi Nagamine, a scientist who is studying a strange race of creatures called Gayos that look like pterodactyls. Nakayama won several Japanese awards for Besting Actress for this movie.

Another interesting co-star is Ayako Fujitani, Steven Seagalís daughter. A little side note, Steven Seagal was the first Westerner to operate an Aikido Dojo in Japan back in the 70ís before he was famous. He married a fellow Aikido Sensei, Miyako Fuitani and they had two children, Ayako and Kentaro Seagal. Kentaro went on to co-star in the Samurai movie, Death Trance (2005.) Steven Seagal abandoned his first family and left them in Japan so he could return to the United States because he wanted to be an actor.

10 years ago, as a college student in Osaka, I found the Seagal family dojo in Juso near the train station. When you go inside the dojo there are posters of the new Gamera movies and a few old Seagal photos back in the 70ís when Seagal had long hair and was a hippy.

A lot of talent was on board to make this new Gamera movie like Kazunori Ito who was the scriptwriter. Ito wrote the script for the massively popular cyberpunk classic, Ghost in the Shell, as well as numerous other anime scripts.

However the biggest star of all is Gamera, a giant turtle who is jet-powered and has the ability of firing a powerful energy blast from his chest. Plus the kaiju battles are brilliant in this movie and some Japanese monster movie fans believe that the new Gamera rivals Godzilla. The new Gamera is certainly better then all those Millennium Godzilla revamps like Godzilla: Final Wars. Some believe the new Gamera movies are the best giant fighting monsters movies ever made in Japan. They are definitely fun to watch and offer continuity throughout the trilogy.

Gamera starts out off the coast of the Philippines as a ship carrying plutonium hits something floating around in the water. Scientists, led by Nakayama rush to the scene and discover stone amulets and a slab with weird writing. The names are later revealed to be Gamera, Gyaos, and the Shadow of Evil.

Next the scientist attempt to study a Gyaos by setting up at trap inside a baseball stadium. This leads to the usual monster chaos.

Finally, one Gyaos becomes super-sized and a fight with big bad Gamera ensures. Every time I watch a kaiju fight, it takes me back to a simple time when Saturday afternoons meant a TV monster movie, microwave popcorn, and a 2-liter of Coke. Gamera doesnít disappoint in the big ending battle as he squares off against Gyaos. Nice scenes of Gamera getting slammed into buildings and the mandatory oil refinery. This only makes the big guy mad enough to cut Gyaosí legs. Gamera takes off for outer space with Gyaos in hot pursuit. They both fight it out in space before crashing back down to Earth when Gyaos lands severely wounded and wishing he had some help. Then the end comes for Gyaos resulting in the standard-but-loved big explosion of the rival monster.

After Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera returns in Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. The entire trilogy was made in the 90ís and is available on DVD.

Next week, a closer look at Attack of Legion.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.