For all three who noticed we were gone for a little bit, thank you.
To ensure a more regular posting schedule, I would like to pose a question. As some may know, I also run a site Use Soap, that I use as a repository for my weekly review column at a local newspaper. I would like to propose that I run my reviews from that site on here, along with the regular features in Natsukashi. I still will post the podcast, as well as “Messing with Memories” and other various and sundry nostalgic movie morsels.
Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, I welcome any and all suggestions.
Also, you will notice a certain little logo at the top right of this blog. That piece of artwork is from none other than Flixster.com, one of the largest (and coolest) movie sites on the internet.
Our little blog has been invited to become part of the Flixster fam! Go us!
We are certainly excited about this move and hope that our incredibly inflated egos do not become even more drunk with power and end up snorting blow off the sweaty ass cracks of Malaysian ladyboys…again.
Sorry, where was I?
So we look forward to getting back into things, keeping everyone updated on upcoming remakes, hobnobbing with those in the industry who helped create the movie memories of our youth, and looking at films currently in release.
Thanks for sticking with us and, as always, your suggestions help keep us going, so please let us know what you think.
In a great start to the New Year, our friend Dan at Top10Films.co.ukhas given us a Kreativ Blogger Award. The “award” is more a virtual pat on the back, which is actually much nicer to receive (well, that and a nice fat check). So, first, a big thanks to Dan and his hard work across the pond. We are very grateful. Second, the award stipulates you must “pay it forward” by listing seven other blogs that you deem worthy of such accolades.
So, here is a list of bloggers out there whom I frequent and who have helped to make Natsukashi what it is today (which, I am not really sure what that is, but thanks nonetheless).
Last Blog on the Left: Fans of horror, both mainstream and indie, need look no further than Last Blog on the Left. Run by a true aficionado, Last Blog is serious about horror, but approaches it with wit and wisdom. It features reviews of theatrical releases, the latest in DVDs, interviews and podcast interviews with up-and-comers in the genre.
He Shot Cyrus: A fun, irreverent exploration into the world of film from its host, El Gringo, whose approach to films goes beyond mere reviews. Gringo, who is also a contributor to Film Threat online and frequents festivals such as Sundance, covers films old and new, mainstream and independent with a zeal and passion that true film nerds would enjoy.
Cru Jones Society: Film is just one of the passions of the crew at Cru Jones. They also looks at television, music, politics, and general online mayhem that make it tough to be focused throughout the work day. But it does not merely provide links and laughs, its thoughtful, engaging approach is what sets things apart at CJS.
Castle Vardulon: The Count is always in, and seemingly always on in his witty dissections of film and television. Whether he is tearing apart the legend that is Indiana Jones, eviscerating “CSI: Miami,” or analyzing some of the greatest panels in the history of comics, Count is never at a loss for words. The site also provides aural candy as well, where Count and his partner in crime,The DiveMistress, deftly discuss horror, fantasy ans sci-fi.
Dear Jesus: Don’t let the title fool you. The only proselytizing this film does is in its worshipping at the altar of film. Whitney, one of the site’s contributors (Brian being the other), is also a writer for Film Threat and also ventures to film festivals to report on the seldom-seen cinema and the emerging films screened within. In her frequent “movie marathons” she gorges on celluloid from across the spectrum (expect such divergent films as “X-15,” “Dirty Harry” and “Rocky III” to be included in just one of them).
CinemaFist: Joe Campenella loves film. He loves watching it, he loves making it. See how both of his passions are covered in CinemaFist, where he devotes blog entries to both the creation and the appreciation of movies. He’s also pretty damn funny.
Foywonder: Scott Foy wallows in film’s underbelly, plucking out the seamy obscurities few dare to witness. He rocks out with his schlock out, examining all the B-movies currently creeping under your radar that fill the vaults of such companies as The Asylum and those released directly to the SyFy network. It’s a tough job, but Scott approaches it with the right amount of enthusiasm and humor.
Now, the award also states that you must name seven interesting things about yourself. So here goes:
1) These lists always make me nervous
2) As a child, I was in a fashion show hosted by Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop
3) I was Spider-Man, a Care Bear and Big Bird — professionally (long story, and no, I was not a “furry”)
4) In high school, I got to interview John Frankenheimer, Halle Berry and Jerry Seinfeld.
5) I have been sky-diving and leapt from a hot air balloon.
6) I am friends with a guy who dated Uma Thurman… in the sixth grade.
Steve Lisberger and
Steve Lisberger Starring:
Jeff Bridges as Flynn/Clu
Bruce Boxleitner as Alan/Tron
Cindy Morgan as Lora/Yori
David Warner as Dillinger/Sark
Barnard Hughes as Gibbs/Dumont
Pre-screening memories: It’s hard to tell a story about a play, like it’s hard to perform a play about a book, like it’s hard to write a book about a movie, like it’s hard to make a movie about a video game. I was too young to understand the subtleties of that idea as a child, but I think I grasped the general concept. An avid fan of video games, I would watch or read anything even vaguely video-game related, and even then I found myself underwhelmed by what Hollywood had to say on the subject. By their very nature video games demand to be played, rather than watched, and movies that featured them could never seem to conceive of a way to engage their audience as viscerally as handing them a controller could.
And then there was Tron. While I may have missed the film in theatres, I was absolutely aware of Tron, and enthralled by what little I knew of it. The film’s creators hit on two important ideas. The first was to look deeper than just the surface of the games – to instead ask just what a videogame was, giving people an imaginary look inside a world that they didn’t understand. The second idea, which is both more mundane and eye-catching, was to make sure that the games themselves look far better than anything available when the movie was made. Watching people play video games that I have access to? Dull as dirt. Watching people play videogames so far advanced that I can’t imagine them – now that’s a compelling experience for a 5-year-old.
Which is most of why I watched that movie 50 times once I managed to tape it off television. It was such a ubiquitous presence in my viewing schedule that there wasn’t a moment of the film that I couldn’t recall immediately, or re-enact if necessary. Which I often found it to be, if I’m being perfectly honest. So when I went to watch it for this podcast I assumed that my ability to quote the film verbatim would mean there would be no surprises when I went back to it. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I hadn’t seen something in the neighborhood of half of it.
I’m speaking, of course, about seeing the film widescreen for the first time. Growing up with standard televisions and before the takeover of letterboxing, it was only when I sat down to watch my new DVD that I realized that for my entire childhood I’d been watching just a fraction of the film I loved. The story was exactly as I’d remembered it, a classic adventure in the “ConnecticutYankee” mold, but the visuals blew me away to a degree that I’d never expected.
I’d always known that the movie was visually arresting, but seeing it widescreen was an entirely new experience. Only now do I really understand just how brilliantly composed every frame of Tron was. And beyond the improved look of the film, I was missing jokes by watching it pan-and-scan – a hidden Pac-Man, one of the first references to cubicle farms in fiction, and the true size of that door.
Maybe it’s a little strange, but the only new feeling I took away from this most recent viewing of Tron is that I didn’t get a chance to see it on the big screen when I had the chance. Now I just hope that the upcoming release of Tron: Legacy will give me another one.
Cindy makes her return visit to our podcast, this time to discuss her other iconic role, that as Yori, the shapliest computer program of its time.
With Tron: Legacy in the works, there is a movement afoot to get her into the picture, and you can do your part by signing the Facebook petition here. In this edition, Cindy shares with us the experience of working with some of the screen’s earliest CGI, the video games they played on the set, the film’s fervent following, and her own inner nerd.
We also hear of a few hidden elements in the film that only the keenest eye would observe.
We are grateful to Cindy for hopping on her time-traveling Light cycle and remembering her time spent behind the scenes of Tron.
Sheldon LettichWritten by:
S.N. Warren (story)
Jean Claude Van Damme (screenplay)
Jean Claude Van Damme as Leon
Harrison Page as Joshua
Debra Rennard as Cynthia
Lisa Pelikan as Helene
Ashley Johnson as Nicole
Pre-screening memories: I was old enough, when seeing Lionheart for the first time, that I can’t call it one of the most important formative movies of my childhood. True, I wasn’t a fan of martial arts films before seeing it, and afterwards I became something of a devotee of Van Damme’s, but the most vital part of the film for my developing fandom was that it reinforced the lesson, first taught by Tim Curry’s performance in the movie Clue, that following an actor from project to project would
A: Never disappoint, because if nothing else, you at least get to see a performance by someone whose work you enjoy, and
B: could possibly lead to discovering something fantastic.
Which is my circuitous way of saying that my passion for the TV show Sledge Hammer! led directly to my lifelong love of watching people kicking other people in the face. Still inconsolable two full years after Sledge Hammer’s cancellation, seeing Harrison Page show up in television ads for upcoming film ‘Lionheart’ made me determined to see the film, which was rated a forbidding R, ensuring that I wouldn’t make it to the theatres.
When I finally saw the film on video it didn’t disappoint. Not only was Harrison Page fantastic in the film, but the action was unlike anything I’d seen in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies that dominated my childhood, or even the occasional episode of Kung Fu. After all, who needed a machine gun when you could just spin really fast and crack someone across the jaw with your heel? A lifelong fan of the genre was born, as well as a devotee of Van Damme’s ‘all downhill from here’ ouevre.
New memories: I’m frankly amazed by how good this movie was. Not having seen it in years, I’d assumed that it was going to be one of those embarrassingly Natsukashi moments (that’s how you use that word, right?) where I’d created an epic action extravaganza in my mind that never actually existed – this was certainly not the case. The action certainly wasn’t up to modern choreographic standards, but everything else about the film was far better than I’d remembered.
That’s right, what impressed me most about the film was that it worked, first and foremost, as a drama. Sounds crazy, right? Van Damme’s a pretty limited actor, especially at this fresh-faced stage of his career, before that personal and professional setbacks that would reduce him to the withered husk of ‘JCVD’, but damn if it doesn’t work in this part, as a simply good, almost naïve man struggling his way through the seamy world of underground fighting. He’s helped on this journey by the even-better-than-I-remembered-it performance of Harrison Page, who provides perhaps the most raw, vulnerable, and downright emotional performance I’ve ever seen in an action film. The way his Joshua starts out sad, defeated and desperate and gradually finds a kind of purpose and nobility in training Leon is a great character arc, and it brings him to a moment, right at the end, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in an American action film.
The other thing that amazed me about the movie (other than the fact that it’s a semi-remake of Midnight Cowboy – Who knew?) was the aspect that likely affected me most as a youngster, and that’s the utter contempt that the film shows for the upper classes who are funding the brutal no-holds-barred fights. If the film’s battles aren’t the most spectacular thing ever, their settings are absolutely stunning, and steeped in subtext. Van Damme’s first professional fight is in a parking garage beneath an office building, literally taking place in the underbelly of New York’s wealth-obsessed establishment. From there the action moves out to LA, but the satirical settings don’t stop – there’s a huge pool in a beachside mansion, a squash court, and a ring constructed from the luxury automobiles of the elite who have come to watch men beat each other nearly to death. This all leads up to the final battle which takes place well within the closed walls of the upper-class, a tennis court around the back of a palatial estate. The entire film works as an attack on the kind of people who commoditize human beings, and if the message gets a little heavy-handed at times (and it does), at least the movie was trying to say something important, unlike just about all of its brethren.
I loved Lionheart as a child. As an adult, crazy as it may seem, I respect it.
Fascinated by film at an early age, Harrison sought the Hollywood dream after serving in the military.
He began, as most starting in the business do, by snagging small roles on television, film and stage. And looking back, has amassed a resume in an astonishing amount of popular shows, including C.P.O. Sharkey, Webster, HillStreetBlues, Fame, 21JumpStreet, TheWonderYears, QuantumLeap (which earned him an Emmy nod), MelrosePlace, AllyMcBeal, ER, JAG, and ColdCase, to name but a few.
But it was his role in the cult classic series SledgeHammer! (yes, the exclamation point was in the title) that cemented him into certified pop culture status. In it, he played Captain Trunk, the Pepto-Bismal-swilling, beleaguered head of a police department featuring the titular vigilante office (played by David Rasche). (Ed. note– If you are not putting this series on your Netflix queue this very moment, we don’t want to know you.)
Harrison spoke about his time spent on the set with a young Van Damme, his fond memories of Sledge, and the wisdom he’s amassed in his four decades of Hollywood. Thanks, Harrsion, from your pals at Natsukashi.
Written and Directed by:
Craig Sheffer as Boone/Cabal
Anne Bobby as Lori
David Cronenberg as Dr. Decker
Charles Haid as Cpt. Eigerman
Hugh Ross as Narcisse
Doug Bradley as Dirk
Simon Bamford as Ohnaka
Kim Robertson as Babette
Pre-screening memories: Like many teens, I went through a ‘horror’ phase at around age 13 (that it hasn’t ended yet isn’t the point). It was a common enough occurrence, the kind of thing where you start looking for things to define your rapidly-approaching adulthoood, and set yourself apart from the childish things you imagine you no longer have a use for.
Horror movies are an incredibly socially acceptible way of going about this. Choosing to be scared is something that seems a lot more dangerous than it actually is to a young teen, but has the benefit of being somehting that a child would never do.
I worked my way quickly through the standards of the genre, your Halloweens, Fridays, and Nightmares while remaining largely unimpressed. These are the things that caused me to cover my eyes when the trailers came on in movie theatres? It seemed so ridiculous – they weren’t all that bad. Once the first tier was done with my friends and I started getting a little more random with our choices, which is how I ended up seeing Nightbreed. And wow, was I not prepared for Nightbreed.
The ads has made it seem like just another monster movie, but it certainly wasn’t that – from the early scene of David Cronenberg’s Leather Scarecrow slaughtering a family (including a child!) to a man tearing most of the flesh off of his head with his finger knives, to a trip to a haunted graveyard full of monstrosities that ends abruptly with the main character’s death at around the 20-mintue mark, there wasn’t a moment in the first act of this movie that didn’t have me fascinated and terrified and on the edge of my seat. I’d discovered that horror really could freak you out, and I wanted more of it. This is the movie that led me to find out more about Clive Barker, and see Hellraiser in a local repetory theatres… but that’s a story for another time.
Most recent screening: You may have noticed that in the above recollections of my first viewing I didn’t mention anything after the first twenty minutes of the movie. In point of fact, I didn’t have any memories of the rest of the film, save for a slaughter in a hotel and Cronenberg getting crucified at the end. There’s a reason for that.
Nightbreed is an ungodly mess for most the running time. After the masterfully-paced opening the film bogs down with many, many scenes of lengthy exposition and random nonsense about the monster world and their Jesus-style fated savior. Cronenberg’s always a pleasure to watch, but when he hooks up with a bigoted survivalist sheriff and a group of like-minded rednecks the film goes from being a relatively effective horror film to a supremely muddled holocaust allegory that leads to an overextended war scene that teaches us a valuable lesson – that the Jews would have had a better time of it had there been a few unstoppable armoured killing machines on their side. Of course, that’s true of anything, really.
That’s not to say that the movie is a complete disaster – there’s a really interesting theme in the film about finding your true face – one character has to pull of his skin to discover what he really looks like, and Cronenberg has to put on a mask to reveal himself. And there’s so much random craziness that it’s hard not to recommend a viewing of the film – the parade of monsters that appear in Midian are impressive, featuring more unique creatures than anything this side of Labryinth. Also on the down side, though, is the film’s score, which is wildly inappropriate for the content of the movie, and borrows far too heavily from Danny Elfman’s other major film of that year, Batman.
If nothing else, seeing this film again succeeded in putting me in touch with the younger, more naïve version of myself that was actually capable of getting scared by movies. It’s also reminded me that I really should start reading Clive Barker’s books, since he seems to have quite an imagination on him, that one.
or enter the underworld to listen on our on-site player right here:
Our featured guest: Simon Bamford
Actor/writer/director Simon Bamford is quite the study in contrast. On-screen, he’s collaborated with pal Clive Barker on four occasions — the first two Hellraiser films, Nightbreed and, most recently Books of Blood.
You would hardly recognize Simon as the rather rotund Cenobite Butterball in Hellraiser, a role that he would reprise in the film’s sequel, Hellbound. And even though he would portray another otherworldly creature in Nightbreed, he did not have to endure as many hours in the makeup chair.
Most recently, Bamford was in Barker’s Books of Blood, a piece of fiction that is very personal to him, as he reveals on the podcast. He is currently working on the Nazi zombie film, The 4th Reich with makeup legend Tom Savini.
On stage, Bamford has portrayed everyone from lead Seymour Krelborn in the first UK tour of Little Shop of Horrors to Pip in the Stockholm production of Great Expectations (a role which one him an Actor of the Year award.
Simon also travels the horror festival circuit with his Cenobite buds, including Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley. We are grateful that Simon joined us from acrosss the pond to recollect his time spent on the set of Nightbreed.
We here at Natsukashi love sharing our memories, but sometimes it’s good to go out and create some new ones.
So, as we venture off the grid for seven days (we promise, we will be back with some great new guests, and boy do we have some good ones!), please check out our new Natsukashi Facebook page designed by our wonderful contributor Scott Knopf from HeShotCyrus.com. Sign up and become a fan, so we can get to know our base and hear what you want us to cover here at Natsukashi. Plus, we will fill it with all goodies that we could not pack into our tightly designed format and perhaps give away a T-shirt or two (not that we have any made, I was referring to the ones in our hampers).
Also, be sure to check out our contributors’ blogs, as they celebrate October, our favorite of those 12 months.