Monday, June 23, 2014

Batman 1989: The film we needed AND deserved

Get the funk up to Batdance, because today is the anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman, which premiered twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five! How frightening it is how Bat-time flies. It's one of the first movies I can remember seeing in the theater and there was just no escaping the Batmania that movie caused. The movie tried so hard to shake the image of the 1960s series, yet was so popular that I remember the show making a comeback in reruns, such was the hunger for all things Batman.

As I just mentioned recently, I'm a big Batman fan, and the 1989 Batman is responsible for that. I had so much Bat-merchandise (I still think the quick-change Bruce Wayne figure is awesome and I still remember what a total disappointment the NES game was and how delicious the cereal was), and I remember just constant coverage of the remains one of my favorite iterations of the character. As much as I've come to enjoy the comics or the Christopher Nolan movies, I feel like Tim Burton's oddness was really at home in Gotham. (The die-hards of the comics grumble about Burton not being a comics fan, but he at least got the character and the character's world and was able to express himself through the character, whereas Nolan expressed himself in spite of the character.)

I love that Burton took Bruce Wayne in the direction of being an eccentric weirdo. Nolan ran with the Bruce Wayne that comics like Frank Miller's Year One used -- the idiot, frivolous playboy persona Bruce uses as a mask. So, I feel like Burton really took the character in a different direction, and that Michael Keaton was the perfect choice to bring this version of the character to life. Keaton also captures the haunted, tortured side of the character that I think can be lacking in other live-action adaptations.

Maybe it comes from becoming a fan of Batman through this movie, but I like film and live-action adaptations of superheroes the most. I mean, I've read a LOT of comics, especially Batman, but I still don't feel really super knowledgeable about comics. So, I don't really have an iron-clad image of a lot of superheroes. Being a movie buff, liking live-action, I know that there are necessary changes that need to be made in adapting a work. Basically, this is a long-winded way of me saying that I'm one of the only Batman fans who doesn't see a problem with Joker being the one who killed Bruce's parents. To me, it's actually kind of genius -- Joker is Batman's top nemesis. How to really solidify that, to really take it as far as it can go? Have Joker be the one behind the incident that shaped who Bruce Wayne is. That just adds another interesting dimension to the Joker, especially considering the Joker was a young thug when he killed the Waynes, not quite the Joker yet but well on his way...

While I enjoy Batman Returns, I feel like it's a step down in quality from the first one. Returns is a really closed in movie with its claustrophobic sets, and Batman '89 benefits from being filmed in England -- a lot of it is done on backlots, sure, but sets feel massive, and the set designer for the '89 movie created such a unique world and he ended up making Gotham seem like such a grimy, scary place. It's just sad to me that the sequels -- mainly Schumacher's movies -- take such a goddamn nosedive and pretty much bury all that the 1989 film accomplished and tarnish its image.

Batman 1989 is one of my top favorite movies, period, and is just such a cool, solid movie that's a good movie on its own and not just as a Batman movie. People need to remember how good it is, how gigantic and authentic of a phenomenon it was, how much it influenced the comic book movie adaptations that followed, and show it respect. (Comic book purists who always looked down on Burton's movies worship Batman The Animated Series, a show which wouldn't exist without the Burton movies.)

Batman 1989 Forever!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Toku Heroes Who Could Have Been

This post is about actors who auditioned for certain shows or characters or had characters written for them that fell through: you recognize them as one hero, but they could have been another, and it's just a funky thing to think about. I did a thread like this on HJU a while back, but wanted to do a post since there's a couple of others I've found out since then. This obviously isn't all of the heroes who could have been out there, but these are the ones I know about, the ones I'm most interested in talking about and/or have at least confirmed. (Like, I remember reading that Kakuranger's Teruaki Ogawa auditioned for the role of Kamen Rider Black, but when I did a quick little recheck before compiling this list, I couldn't find anything about it, so I nixed including him.)

Jun'ichi Haruta as Hiryu Tsurugi/Change Dragon

This is a big one for me. When Toei was having trouble casting the part, they were just going to hire reliable JACtor Haruta as Tsurugi. I'm a huge fan of Haruta's, and while Tsurugi would have most likely had a ton of awesome out-of-suit action scenes, I just can't picture anyone but Haruki Hamada playing him. Haruta SHOULD have played a Red, but I don't know if Tsurugi would have been the best match. Haruta would have been the oldest of the five cast members (he would have turned 30 early into Changeman's run; Hamada was 23) and maybe seem a little too mentory, whereas Hamada was younger and you could believe him in Tsurugi's more hotheaded, stubborn, intense and impassioned moments. (I think a lot of Tsurugi as we know him was shaped to fit Hamada.)

Because of Hamada's casting, Haruta ended up joining the Juspion cast in the role of Mad Gallan, who was originally supposed to be played by Shun Sugata. (And thank goodness for that, too, because Sugata probably wouldn't have gone on to play Tatewaki in Janperson and he's awesome in that.)

Shirou Izumi as Hiryu Tsurugi/Change Dragon

Izumi auditioned for Dragon, but was thankfully cast as Yuuma/Change Pegasus instead. I don't think he's quite Red material, but he's a perfect fit for Yuuma and just nails the part.

Kihachirou Uemura as one of the Changeman

He didn't specify which role he auditioned for, just that he auditioned. (I think he'd obviously have been Hayate/Griffin if he was cast.)

Yutaka Hirose as Jin/Red Flash

Someone at Toei used their head and realized he'd make a better villain, and a legend was born.

Hiroshi Kawai/Kazuoki Takahashi as Kenta/Black Mask

The role was intended for Kawai/Takahashi to play. (He instead joined the cast of Metalder.)

Kenta Satou as Burai/Dragon Ranger

It was interesting to find this one out, and it's the main reason I wanted to do this post. Now, as a Changeman freak, I love that Shirou Izumi, by playing Burai, has such a big, important role in Super Sentai's history. He's a good actor and one of the reasons I was even drawn to the Burai character. But I always felt he held back, you know? Or maybe he just wasn't comfortable going full villain turned tragic elder hero. His casting always puzzled me and I've long wondered just how they chose him or who else could have been up for the role...

Well, supposedly in the pamphlet for the Gokaiger-Goseiger Super Sentai 199 movie, it was revealed that designer Tamotsu Shinohara, when designing Burai's costume, based the design off of the person he was led to believe was playing the role -- Turboranger's Kenta Satou. This shocked the bejesus out of me, because...Kenta's an awesome guy, he's one of my favorite Reds, but I really can't picture him playing Burai, especially the early pissed off version of the character. (He's also the same age as Geki's actor, Yuuta Mochizuki, when Burai NEEDED to be a bit older. Heck, Satou's a few months YOUNGER than Mochizuki.) So, finding this out has made me appreciate Izumi even more, even if I can think of a couple of other ex-Sentai heroes who, in my opinion, would have been even better.

Keisuke Tsuchiya as Ryou/Ryuu Ranger

I talked about his a couple of times before. I guess the thinking in casting him was "Hey, do you guys dare me to cast a blander guy than the dude who played Goggle Red?" Thankfully, someone at Toei ignored that guy and replaced his pick of Tsuchiya with Wada. And it wasn't even just auditioning -- they even went as far as sending the guys to wardrobe and started shooting promos! So, this casting was THIS close to happening! Scary.

Keiichi Wada as Kazu/Kirin Ranger

What a waste that would have been... Wada's the Last Action Hero of toku. Can you imagine him being wasted as Kazu, stuck with obnoxious turtle storylines?

Hideki Fujiwara as Yuuji/Oh Blue

The role was offered to him, but I guess he turned it down. Which is probably good, since Yuuji's supposed to be cool and Fujiwara's a big goofball, and always looks like a tween.

Joe Odagiri as one of the Tatsumi boys in GoGoFive

It could have happened, if he wasn't so stuck up. Hard to picture him as anyone other than Nagare/Go Blue, though.

Masayuki Deai as Ryouga/AbaRed or Ban/Deka Red

Deai auditioned for both. I didn't really like him in Boukenger, but I feel like he's the kind of guy who needed a better show. I don't think he would have worked as Ryouga (Kouichiro Nishi was kind of perfect for that show and role) and I think he would make a better Houji than Ban.

Tsuyoshi Hayashi as Nakadai/Abare Killer

I've mentioned before how I don't really like what Koutarou Tanaka did in the role of Nakadai, but Hayashi would have probably been worse. He's just too damn young and too stiff of an actor.

Mitsutoshi Shundo as Nakadai/Abare Killer

Now THIS guy would have been awesome. He made for a good villain in Ultraman Nexus and I think he would have given off some classic Sentai villain vibes in Abaranger. (He reminds me of Shinji Yamashita/Shunsaku Kudou from Fiveman.) Shundo's the appropriate age that the character SHOULD have been and is actually menacing. He'd make a villain you could be afraid of. I guess he'd have been a little TOO intense for how soft Abaranger ended up treating Nakadai. They really pussed out, man. (Could you imagine Shundo singing Dead End Game? Get out of here with that crap.) Shundo also had auditioned for the role of Himeya/Ultraman Nexus before being cast as the villain of that show.

Naoya Gomoto as Ban/Deka Red

Ended up guest-starring in an early episode of Dekaranger instead. So, who's this guy and why am I bothering to mention him? Because just about anybody else would have been a better Ban than Ryuji Sainei.

Mayu Gamou as either Jasmine/Deka Yellow or Umeko/Deka Pink

Going on to guest star as Succubus and then later joining the cast of Kamen Rider Hibiki, Gamou had auditioned for one of the heroines. (She would have made a good Jasmine, IMO. I like Gamou, she deserved more than what she got from either Hibiki or Deka.) She also auditioned for the role of Rejewel in Abaranger.

Shoko Nakagawa as Umeko/Deka Pink

Sentai super-fan Nakagawa is said to have auditioned several times for Sentai Pinks, but came closest in Dekaranger. (She eventually guest-starred in one of Dekaranger's later episodes.)

Yutaka Kobayashi as Captain Jean-Luc Marvelous/Gokai Red

Kamen Rider Gaim co-star Kobayashi was a finalist for the part before deciding to drop out. Which is kind of good, because Marvelous needed to have that likable, rascally quality which I thought Ryouta Ozawa pulled off. (If Kaito/Kamen Rider Baron is any indication, Kobayashi ain't exactly likable.)

Jiro Chiba as Takeshi Hongou/Kamen Rider

This one's interesting to think about, because Kamen Rider fans have long wondered if -- as awful as it sounds -- Fujioka's accident HELPED the show. Because what if the show stayed as dark as it was and it ended up getting canceled? Takeshi Sasaki's Hayato/Rider 2 was popular and brought levity to the series -- you can't dismiss his involvement in the show's continued success. Would the show have been doomed if Chiba had been cast?

Shun Sugata as Kazuya/Kamen Rider Super 1

Before he ended up playing ZX, he had auditioned for Super 1. He's said he was bummed that he lost the part, but...c'mon, he wasn't a good match for that dopey Rider. He deserved something more than ZX, though, IMO.

Hiroyuki Watanabe as Kazuya/Super 1

When he was cast as Ga-ou in the Den-O movie, Watanabe -- known to most toku fans as Kouga's dad in GARO -- mentioned he had auditioned for Super 1 way back. It's surprising he never ended up playing a Rider -- I guess the franchise being dead for a majority of the '80s is to blame -- but like Sugata, I don't think he would have worked as Super 1.

Yutaka Hirose as Koutarou/Kamen Rider Black

Hirose would have made a great Rider. He would have been a great Black if the series had stayed the same tone as its premiere episodes, but...can you imagine Hirose riding down the road, befriending every crying kid he saw? Hirose hopping into video games to save kids? Hirose pulling over to the side of the road to sing "Ore no Seishun"?

Kazuhiko Nishimura as Koutarou/Kamen Rider Black

He could have worked, but that means he wouldn't have been Jou/Yellow Lion, and I feel like he's a great fit for that part. And Tetsuo Kurata's such a giant, it's pretty hard to imagine anyone else as Koutarou, really.

Toshihide Wakamatsu as Kouji/Kamen Rider J

He was considered for the part, and thankfully someone must have had the thought "Hey, let's not waste an actor like this in this turd of a movie." Wakamatsu would have made an awesome Rider, though.

Masaya Matsukaze as Godai/Kamen Rider Kuuga

I previously have said that I don't think what Odagiri did in the role was all that special, that a combination of writing and production talent was what made Godai and Kuuga what it was. I said ANY actor could have played Godai and it would have been the same. Well, Matsukaze kind of proves me wrong, because he's just...not that strong of an actor. There's a reason he moved on to voice-acting, me thinks.

Noboru Kaneko as Godai/Kamen Rider

To this day, Kaneko desperately wants to play a Rider, and he auditioned for Kuuga. He's more Godai-like than Matsukaze, but...maybe a little TOO soft? (It's funny to think that, despite how really young Kaneko always looks, he's actually OLDER than Odagiri...!)

Shou Tomita as Takumi/Faiz

As much as I love his work as Yukito/Abare Blue, I remember being so frustrated in 2003 at how bad of a pick Kento Handa was as Takumi, and how someone like Tomita would have been better. So, imagine my surprise to find out he actually DID audition for Faiz at the same time he auditioned for Abaranger.

Some genius at Toei wanted Handa because they thought he looked like a young Takuya Kimura. (I do remember reading that. How sad is that? No wonder the quality of casting has gone so downhill for toku. "Kento, forget that you look 12 years old and are anorexic and a wooden actor -- you remind me of one of our over-the-hill celebrities, so here's a show that you will be completely incapable of shouldering!") My opinion of Handa has changed somewhat, though. When I rewatched Faiz last year, I was surprised that he wasn't AS wooden as I remembered him being, but...still, there's a ton of other actors who would have worked better. You certainly don't look at Handa and think "street brawler."

Masayuki Izumi as Takumi/Faiz

He was great as Kiba/Horse Orphenoch, and since everybody in that show got to be Faiz -- Kiba included -- no big deal. I don't think he could have pulled off Takumi's bad, stand-off attitude, though.

Jun Yoshida as Dai/Shaider

He went on to play antagonistic Poe in the series, but auditioned for the main role. I don't know how that would have worked out -- I think Hiroshi Tsuburaya is a strong actor who did about as good as anyone could have done with such an underwritten role -- but I do think Yoshida could have pulled off being a hero in some other show.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Remember the Rik Mayall

I'm pretty bummed out about the passing of comedic actor Rik Mayall. (I just had a big marathon of his sitcoms a couple of months ago, too, and was just wondering if Ade Edmondson would finally come around to doing a new series of Bottom set in a retirement home as Rik had been hoping for.)

My introduction to Mayall's comedy madness was with Drop Dead Fred. (I'm sure British comedy fans roll their eyes that that movie is the introduction to Mayall for a lot of American fans, when Mayall played such an important part in England's comedy scene long before that box office disappointment.) Hey, the movie might not have been any great shakes, but Mayall's hilarious in it, and really makes it worthwhile. Through that, I got into The New Statesman (Mayall's character -- slimy politician Alan B'Stard -- is what inspired my handle. If you remember my "WTF Moments in Tokusatsu" videos on YouTube, his was the face that kicked off each video.) Then I went on to The Young Ones, Filthy Rich and Catflap, Bottom...

He was just such a hilarious and dedicated performer who you could tell always gave his all -- to be honest, I'd get sort of uncomfortable watching him in Bottom, because he would just go at it so hard that he'd sweat so heavily. I always thought he'd pass out! You'd always be guaranteed a laugh by him, whatever the project or episode. (To really prove the point, check out An American Werewolf in London. He's in the movie for about three seconds -- he's practically an extra -- but has the damned funniest spit-take in the history of comedy. "Remember the Alamo!")

To bring this around to pertaining to superheroes, as a big Batman fan, Mayall was always my number one choice to play the Joker. (I'll be a nerd and admit it: I once wrote some Batman fan-fics, and Mayall was always who I pictured when writing the Joker. Hell, it's his voice I imagine when reading Joker in the actual comics.)

I know some people roll their eyes at someone reacting over a celebrity death, but this is one that legitimately depresses me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


This sonuvabitch finally arrived! I don't have many Figuarts, but one thing that drives me nuts about them is the way they come with about 500 extra hands and stuff. Not Shin, though -- he's a minimalist. He has just four extra hands, so it wasn't like playing a twisted version of Perfection getting pieces back in the packaging. Still, though, they could have thrown in Level 2's decapitated head or Rider Baby or something. Anyway, this toy is friggin' awesome and probably the best Shin toy I've seen.

There's not much Shin merchandise out there if you're one of the seven fans of this movie. I guess one of the good things to come out of that piss-poor excuse of a show Decade was that it forced Toei to pay attention to Shin again. So, I'm very grateful that I was able to grab the poster, which...I don't know if it's rare or not, but I can't imagine many posters of it floating around out there when the movie was a bomb that Toei buried for years. But I freakin' love this poster: