With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, May 05, 2017

Godzilla Legend - Music of Akira Ifukube - live performance at Japan Society NY reviewed

Special guests Charan-Po-Rantan and Makigami Koichi (center) performed in Godzilla Legend—Music of Akira Ifukube at Japan Society on April 28, 2017. The concert was conceived and arranged by Inoue Makoto (far left) and performed by the band Hikashu and other special guest musicians. Photo by Ayumi Sakamoto. 

Last Friday, April 28th, I had the extremely good fortune of having a press seat at Japan Society's presentation of Godzilla Legend - Music of Akira Ifukube, a live performance by the innovative and talented Japanese band Hikashu, which was founded in 1978, and several guest artists.

The Godzilla Legend project leader was Inoue Makoto, a founding member of Hikashu, who plays synthesizer. Although he left the group in 1991 to pursue other projects, he still performs with them for the Godzilla Legend concerts. He arranged several Ifukube compositions for Hikashu's debut concert and has been involved in several other Ifukube-related projects, as well as serving as score manager on the Shin Godzilla film (2016). At Friday night's performance, he also provided brief introductions to the event's six sections.

The current members of Hikashu include:

- Makigami Koichi (vocals, theremin, gong); a co-founder and now the current leader of Hikashu
- Mita Freeman (lead guitar)
- Sakaide Masami (bass guitar)
- Shimizu Kazuto (piano, synthesizer)
- Sato Masaharu (drums)

Appearing as guest artists were:

- Tatsumi Kogoro (trumpet)
- Goto Atsushi (trombone)
- Yoshida Ryuichi (baritone sax)
- Charan-Po-Rantan, a sister duo comprising vocalists Momo and her older sister Koharu, the latter who also plays accordion

If you are familiar with Frank Zappa and his group the Mothers of Invention, and can imagine him as a Japanese musician in love with Ifukube's Godzilla music, you'll have some idea of what the performance was like. If I had to use one word to describe the evening, it would be "spectacular."

After performing the planned program of music from various Godzilla movies, including the 1954 original, Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961), and others, the band came back onstage for  two-number encore. A vocal number was followed by an incredible version of the original Godzilla theme that built to a rousing crescendo.

I didn't see anyone still in their seat after this final number ended, but if anyone was, I'm sure it must have been due to a medical infirmity.

It was one of the best concert's I've ever attended, and I've seen Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other great musicians perform live.

Friday, April 07, 2017

ZATOICHI THE FUGITIVE at Japan Society NY tonight, April 7th

Japan Society NY
Zatoichi the Fugitive © 1966 Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
Zatoichi the Fugitive / Zatoichi Kyojo Tabi
Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka
With Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada, and Masayo Banri
Japan, 1963, 86 minutes
35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Friday, April 7th, 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC

The fourth episode in the immensely popular 25-film action series features iconic blind swordsman Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) going up against a legion of local yakuza henchmen who target him after he defeats them in a wrestling tournament and then kills one of their own in self-defense. To complicate things, a former romantic interest reenters Zatoichi's life and a hot-tempered ronin, to whom she is married, seeks to end it for a reward. Composer Akira Ifukube, most famous for his work on the Godzilla film series, provides a characteristically spare and artful score.

Tickets: $13/$10 seniors & students/$5 Japan Society members

Part of Monthly Classics
Year-round screenings of beloved classics, hidden gems and recent discoveries of Japanese cinema. Only $5 for Japan society members

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

SWORD MASTER coming to Blu-ray & DVD on April 11th from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
Sword Master / San shao ye de jian
Directed by Derek Yee
Hong Kong/China. 2016, 105 minutes

Hong Kong cinema giants Derek Yee (Triple Tap) and Tsui Hark (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) join forces for an epic remake of 1977’s Death Duel, when the wuxia martial arts extravaganza Sword Master debuts on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 11th from Well Go USA Entertainment. (It's been available on digital since March 7th.)

Visually opulent, the film follows a master swordsman who must once again wield his weapon against those who threaten his desire to live in peace. Sword Master stars Kenny Lin (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Peter Ho (The Monkey King), Yiyan Jiang (Reign of Assassins) and Mengjie Jiangin (Kung Fu Hero). Bonus materials include the featurette “Mastering the Sword.”

A powerful swordsman is haunted by the destructive impact his deadly talents have on others. Weary of the bloodshed and violence from the martial arts world, he banishes himself to the humble life of a vagrant, wandering the fringes of society. But his violent past refuses to let him go quietly. The master swordsman must regain the ability to wield his sword and fight those disrupting the peace he so desperately craves.

Bonus Materials Include:
-- “Mastering the Sword” featurette

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Korean disaster thriller TUNNEL is available on digital today; will be coming to DVD on May 2nd

Well Go USA
Tunnel / Teo-neol
Directed by Kim Seong-hun
Starring Ha Jung-woo, Doona Bae & Oh Dal-su
South Korea, 2016, 127 minutes

South Korean superstar Ha Jung-woo (The Handmaiden) plays a car salesman fighting for survival inside a collapsed tunnel while rescue workers race against time to free him in the tense, taunt thriller Tunnel, from internationally-acclaimed director Kim Seong-hun (A Hard Day).

With draining cell phone battery power and a rescue effort that might end before they locate him, days pass by without success, and people start to lose hope as the rescue operation becomes an ordeal when incompetence, the media and government interference slow down the process.

Also starring Doona Bae (Netflix’s “Sense8”) and Oh Dal-su (Oldboy), Tunnel debuts on digital today, Tuesday, April 4th, and on DVD May 2nd from Well Go USA Entertainment.


When a tunnel collapses on Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo), the ensuing rescue operation becomes the subject of widespread media coverage and frenzy. But days go by, nerves stretch thin, and Jung-soo must struggle for his life in the suffocating darkness alone.

LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: Vol. 2 available on DVD today, April 4th

10 episodes in a three-disc DVD only collection

Danny Chan (Ip Man 3, Kung Fu Hustle) is back as legendary martial arts icon Bruce Lee in LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: VOLUME TWO, which debuts today, Tuesday, April 4th, from Well Go USA Entertainment. The collection features 10 action-packed episodes on three-discs and follows Lee as he comes to America and begins a revolution in the world of martial arts. LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: VOLUME TWO also stars Michelle Lang, Mark Dacascos, Wang Luoyang, Tim Storms, Ray Park and Michael Jai White.

Determined to promote Chinese martial arts in America, Bruce Lee establishes a small but popular kung fu school. As he encounters different opponents and their various fighting styles, Bruce envisions a new way of kung fu capable of revolutionizing the world of martial arts forever.

LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: VOLUME TWO has a runtime of approximately 456 minutes and is not rated.

I expect to receive a review copy soon and will post my review as soon as I can after watching at least some of the ten episodes.