As you can see from the following concept trailer, Red Jade shares an ancestry that grew from Gojira/Godzilla (daikaiju eiga) and split off into the tokusatsu TV series Ultraman (most notably) — in which a human “host” channels the power of a gigantic alien monster-fighter to fight an unending array of weird kaiju. It’s apparently going to be a 100-minute feature and is in production as we speak, through Worldwide Film Entertainment, for release in 2015.
An archeology student and his professor who find that vandals have loosened a ferocious earth-bound monster wrecking havoc on the city of Hong Kong, discover a talisman that turns the young scholar into a superhero.
The following teaser has just been uncovered by kaiju hunter extraordinaire, Avery Guerra.
Red Jade looks like some sort of collaborative effort between Hong Kong/China (where it is being filmed) and the US, though at the present little is known about it. Undead Backbrain is on the case, however, and hopefully we’ll have more news soon.
In 2014, Godzilla — the iconic progenitor of the entire daikaiju eiga subgenre, if not giant monster films as a whole — not only gets a new American re-boot, but officially turns 60 — his first film being Gojira from 1954 (dir. Ishiro Honda).
It seems, though, that Toho — the Japanese film studio that first introduced Godzilla to the world and kept him going for a total of 28 films — has decided to embrace the US re-boot and to throw themselves into the occasion via a new website that kaiju newshound Avery Guerra has stumbled upon.
At the moment it’s basically a one-page affair, but it has some cool features:
As you’ll see when you go there, you can make Godzilla trampled the cityscape but also release another surprise if you can work out which key to hit. I got it first go, so it’s not hard to guess!
Go to http://godzilla.jp/ and check it out! I look forward to whatever surprises await as we plunge into 2014.
As I write this, barely a day has past since the trailer for Gareth Edward’s Godzilla (US-2014) was let loose on the internet — and already it’s everywhere. So none of the following is news. I put it here … well, just for the record.
Given the state-of-play out there in the movie world, kaiju (or daikaiju) have a large appeal to at least a certain (maybe-growing) percentage of the cinematic audience. But when does attraction become perversion?
Relativistically, giant monster sex is not something too many people would consider viable, not across species anyway. Still that never stops anyone. Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki has never been one for keeping his absurdities confined to the dungeons of the mind — as some of his previous films, such as The Calamari Wrestler, Executive Koala and The World Sinks Except Japan illustrate. Sooner or later daikaiju porn was bound to occur to him. Miscegenation on an impossible scale!
Now he’s wedded daikaiju eiga (giant monster films) and hentai (roughly translated as sexual perversion and used to refer to porn) together to produce Chikyuu Bouei Miboujin [aka 地球防衛未亡人 or Earth Defense Widow]. In it, actress Mitsu Dan stars as a widowed ex-geisha, now a member of an Earth Defense Force doing what Earth Defense Forces do — that is, dealing with invading giant monsters. The problem is, she’s turned on by the kaiju she is fighting. It can be awkward.
Anyway, it’s all rubber suits and masochism … um, machismo, and who knows where that will lead?
Here’s the rather good-looking trailer. Note that Kotaku.com reports the words spoken by the doctor to the main character at the end translate as: “You are a magnificent pervert.”
Is pushing your imagination beyond reasonable limits the key to success?
Maybe. Here’s proof.
Jack Perez is a director most commonly known for a film he does not consider to be anywhere near his most satisfactory work. Under the pseudonym Ace Hannah, Perez directed the infamous Asylum giant monster wrestling match Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (US-2009 – UB review). The whole modern giant monster B-grade flick movement may not have started here, but a few of that film’s more ludicrous moments were highlighted in a trailer named by Yahoo as one of the top 10 trailers of 2009 — a trailer which, in fact, made Undead Backbrain’s YouTube Channel (where it was first released) the hemisphere’s hit leader for a month or so — and it changed the landscape of B-film monster-mash production. The film’s “success” seemed to suggest that low-budget monsters could draw a massive audience (however objectively good they may or may not be) as long as they pushed the boundaries of imagination to ludicrous extremes. Since then such films as Sharktopus (US-2010; dir. Declan O’Brien) and Sharknado (US-2013; dir. Anthony C. Ferrante) have tested the truth of that piece of pop-cultural wisdom time and time again.
Perez was quite frank regarding the production issues he had with Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (which has itself spawned two “sequels” — Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus (US-2010; dir. Christopher Ray) and the upcoming Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark (US-2013; dir. Emile Edwin Smith). You can read his account of the process in the Backbrain article Straight From the Mega-Shark’s Mouth.
Yet clearly the whole giant monster schtick is one that is close to his heart. His earlier Monster Island (Canada/US-2004; dir. Jack Perez – UB review) was an exercise in old-school SFX and tongue-in-cheek MTV nonsense, while coming soon is a SyFy Channel original called Blast Vegas, which features a giant storm-serpent.
“I was the one who added the giant sand-snake to the story,” Perez commented, the bare premise being one of a curse that creates massive dust storms. “And there are some good moments in it. But that movie is a prime example of compromise up the wazoo — and the weakness of CGI when too many cooks enter the kitchen.”
Of more interest to the kaiju enthusiast, however, is his latest project — the beginning of a web series called Fear Force Five.
Why is it so interesting? Well, for a start, it has this in it:
When I saw that trailer, the first thing I thought of — notwithstanding the absence of a giant alien superhero — was the long-running Japanese tokusatsu franchise Ultraman. It was the weird creature that did it — a giant monster that makes Godzilla and Gamera look feasible.
“Absolutely!” said Perez, when I put the question to him. “Ultraman was a big part of my childhood — a daily after-school ritual. In a way that show was much more surreal and free than any of the Toho features. It inspired me to go with my imagination regarding FF5′s monster-design. What would the 9-year-old me really like to see?”
The first three episodes of the series — which will premier on December 23 at CineFix and continue from there – features what Perez describes as “a raging giant pirate zombie. With a giant lobster claw and a mutated shark swimming inside its skull — if you can believe it!” Oddly, I can.
The monster assaults a sleepy seaside community and the Fear Force Five team is formed to do battle with it. “It’s the ‘origins’ chapter for sure,” he added.
What follows from these three episodes is, he says, “new whacked-out giant creatures attacking every week.” Just like Ultraman. “And the on-going personal dramas of the FF5 defenders which threaten to tear them apart and risk planetary destruction.”
I asked Perez about the appeal of all these surreal giant creatures.
For me, it’s mostly the scope of this genre. The sheer magnitude of giant creatures assaulting the planet. The imagery and the drama is inherently monumental. Of course, when you see this stuff as a child the impact is even greater.
In fact, making FF5 was like being teleported back to childhood, getting to work again with all those beautiful miniatures. Like when I was a kid making Super-8 movies! I love doing practical VFX, really get off on it. And directing a fully realized monster in a suit was a dream come true. Also the cast was terrific — a young bunch of very cool and thoughtful actors. I also had great fun working again with Rob Beckwith from Some Guy Who Kills People [Perez's previous, non-kaiju film] and Vic Chao from Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
Given the behind-the-scenes problems he had with the production of his other giant monster efforts — problems that limited his ability to realise his vision — how did the production side of this one go? How is it reflected in the final product?
“Production was limited by budget as always, but the executive producers trusted me with the material and that meant everything. They allowed me to do my business and as a result the bizarre tone and style I was going for is preserved. Basically, the show is the show I set out to make.”
I asked Perez if more giant things were slouching towards his future, eager to be born.
“Hopefully,” he replied. “It’s a genre I tend to return to. And if FF5 gets picked up there’ll be an avalanche of giant monsters comin’ down the pike! So please, everyone, visit Cinefix.com starting on Dec 23. Hope you all enjoy it!”
Source: Jack Perez, director. Written by Robert Hood.
What if your best friend was a giant tree monster?
Peter and the Colossus (US-2013) is an independent feature-length film written, directed and produced by Mitchel Viernes. It stars Aubrey Robbins and new child star Marcus Lavatai.
Rachel, a young woman who was estranged from her family for several years, returns home to take care of her little brother Peter after the sudden passing of their parents. Ever since the traumatic experience, Peter refuses to speak, making a social connection with anyone extremely difficult, including his sister. Between work, finances, and trying to handle her own love life, Rachel finds making a connection just as much of a challenge. Things change when Peter turns to the forest near his house as a means to escape the real world, and it is there he meets a tree giant. Despite the verbal barrier and obvious difference in size, the two form an unlikely friendship.
The Colossus, it seems, has been created using suitmation, in the style of the original Gojira and other Japanese kaiju eiga. It is a gigantic tree-creature, somewhat akin to the Ents of Lord of the Rings fame perhaps — though this one is not the product of CGI technology.
“The giant for the film was inspired when I was walking on a hike and was looking at all the different trees,” director/writer Mitchel Viernes explained. “I wanted a very naturalistic and practical way of approaching the giant, so a suit was made by our costume designer Vanesa Furnari, and an actor in the suit was filmed against a blue screen, which we later composited into the film.
“The giant develops a very close connection with Peter and ultimately helps ease him out of his shell and relieve some of the grief and trauma that has been weighing him down.”
Shot entirely in Hawaii, the film’s cast and crew are completely Hawaii-based as well, including Aubrey Robbins as Rachel and Marcus Lavatai as Peter.
“We’re aiming to release the film into the various festivals,” Viernes added, “specifically targeting the Hawai’i International Film Festival.”
For more images from Peter and the Colossus and its production, go and like its Facebook page. On the strength of its trailer, not to mention its suitmation FX, this is definitely a film to look out for.
It’s official. CGI hasn’t totally killed off the latex suits and miniature sets. Undead Backbrain, in the person of monster-film hound Avery Guerra, has unearthed a new, good-looking daikaiju eiga (giant monster film) being made using traditional Japanese SFX techniques.
It’s called Zella: Monster Martial Law and features three kaiju — the Good, the Bad and the … Cyborg. The monster effects are being done via suitmation and miniature sets.
There’s no denying that the creation of SFX via digital means (whether in conjunction with more traditional techniques or not) has revolutionized the cinematic depiction of giant monsters, taking them to a new level of acceptance. However, we tend to forget that no matter how realistic they look, they are nonetheless unreal and hence dependent on the viewer’s willingness to accept the inherent artifice involved in their creation. All fiction, in fact, is artifice. It’s just that CGI is currently favoured by the cultural zeitgeist and hence more easily accepted by audiences. Yet we readily accept the fictional “reality” of such stylised characters as Homer Simpson and family. So why not old-style monster suits?
I love what CGI has to offer. Once it (as a FX technique) worked its way through its more primitive stages, it certainly allowed filmmakers to delve into cinematic worlds that were previously a lot harder to create successfully. Is it a coincidence that superhero movies are currently both prolific and box-office gold? I think not. Yet at the same time it’s good to see that older monster-creating techniques have not been totally abandoned. Stop-motion animation and suitmation/model-work are still being used, and both have an attraction of their own. This is especially relevant in the world of the kaiju.
Giant monsters (known as kaiju or daikaiju in Japan) weren’t invented by the Japanese film industry. But in their most extreme form — and within certain almost ritualistic contexts — they are most readily identified by such Japanese creations as Gojira (Godzilla), Gamera, and all their often bizarre opponents and allies. The tradition reaches a pinnacle of monstrous weirdness in the unending line of creatures that populate such franchises as Ultraman and other lesser-known tokusatsu TV series. Generally speaking, the giant creatures in these Japanese films and TV series are filmed using miniature sets and complex (or cheapjack, depending on the budget) monster suits (with added CGI enhancement in more recent times). Nevertheless, it was with Guillermo del Toro’s epic kaiju vs giant robot film Pacific Rim (2013) that full-on CGI came into its own within the genre outside of Japan, despite the many Western CGI giants that cameoed beforehand in films such as Men in Black, Hellboy, Skyline, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Clash of the Titans, and headlined in the 1998 US Godzilla remake and in Cloverfield (2008) — not to mention all the giant snakes, dragons and other rampaging giants that created low-grade havoc at a B-grade level. In the pipeline, of course, is a much-anticipated second Hollywood Godzilla film, one that fans are hoping with be more artistically successful and more respectful of its origins than the last.
Yet despite Del Toro’s success in kaiju creation, there’s still an undercurrent of old-school enthusiasm, no longer within the bigger studios perhaps, but readily adopted by the indies — buoyed as they tend to be by cinema geeks. Through them, suitmation and miniature city destruction, Godzilla-style, is likely to continue.
Such a film is Zella.
An independent production made by students from Osaka University of Arts, Zella: Monster Martial Law follows the exploits of a group that comes together to deal with a demonic-looking kaiju named Zella — all done with suits, make-up FX and miniature buildings.
Zella’s monstrous co-stars are the good-guy kaiju Zen, and a super cyborg named Isoroku.
Directed by Shingo Maehata, Zella runs for a mere 41 minutes, but it promises to be jam-packed with giant monster goodness. Helping the students is Hiromasa Mitsudome, who has worked as special effect supervisor for the Ultraman TV series and began teaching at Osaka University of Arts in 2013, offering to assist the film students with his FX knowledge. So far, it’s looking good. Check out the teaser below. There are no subtitles, but go with it through to the end to view some spectacular scenes of combat and destruction:
Some of Godzilla’s mates may have been strange — and the monsters that Ultraman regularly wrestles with may cross the “strange” boundary into outright bizarre — but the real-world Quetzalcoatlus northropi — a winged critter from the Cretaceous period — shows yet again that the giants of our past were more than capable of boundary-pushing strangeness in their own right.
At nearly 5 metres tall [16 feet], with a wingspan of about 10 metres [33 feet], and with a beak bigger than the average human, this member of the pterosaur family would have been a monster not to be trifled with.
We all know that despite humanity’s profligate populating of the planet, we are still vastly outnumbered by the insects. It is said there are more insects in a few random acres of practically anywhere than there are people worldwide. Fortunately, each individual bug is rather small. But what if they weren’t?
There’s a grand tradition of giant bug movies that seek to remind us of our true status in the scheme of things — the heyday of the genre being the 1950s, when such classics as Them! (US-1954; dir. Gordon Douglas), The Black Scorpion (US-1957; dir. Edward Ludwig), The Deadly Mantis (US-1957; dir. Nathan Duran) and Monster from Green Hell (US-1957; dir. Kenneth Crane) sought to metaphorically put us in our place. Add the giant arachnids, and let’s face it! We’re doomed.
The tradition lagged for a time, but the Big Bugs do crop up again every now and then, in films such as Ticks (US-1993; dir. Tony Randell), Mosquito (US-1995; dir. Gary Jones), Bugged (US-1997; dir. Roland K. Armstrong), Centipede! (US-2004; dir. Gregory Gieras) and the more recent Infestation (US-2009; dir. Kyle Rankin). Even the King of Monsters, Godzilla, has had his fair share of trouble with mega-giant insects, such as the prehistoric throwback Megaguirus from Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jii Shômetsu Sakusen [trans. Godzilla vs. Megaguiras: G-Eradication Command] (2000; dir. Masaaki Tezuka).
Well, it seems that another insectoid gargantua is on the way. Twitch reports that director Benni Diez is well advanced in the production of Stung, a slice of reel-life drama about giant wasps.
The film stars Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, the inevitable and always welcome Lance Henriksen and Clifton Collins — and a host of rather nasty stingers. From the conceptual trailer below, they’re smart little buggers, too.
Though it’s no doubt everywhere on the web by now, here’s some footage of the new Godzilla film as shown at San Diego Comic-Con. It was taken on someone’s smart phone and is, no doubt, test stuff — definitely not finished. But be patient and you’ll get more than a glimpse of the Big G.
[It didn't take long. Warner Bros. has caused the clip to be removed. However, I downloaded it before they did. Stay tuned.]
[Addendum: Meanwhile I have learned that the "clip" was actually a special audience participation "preview" created just for Comic-Con -- a sequence in which YOU the audience were caught up it an evacuation, and got to see through first-person pov the Big G through the window as a bonus when he turned up to trash the place... I'm a bit relieved, because I'm not a fan of found-footage, shaky, camera-verité style films generally and I feared the new film might be taking that route. But apparently the "clip" isn't part of the actual movie.]
At least he’s looking like the real Godzilla. Let the whingeing begin!
Read Dread Central’s interview with Gareth Edwards about his Godzilla: click here.