Monthly Archives: March 2010

Godzilla Coming in 3D

Godzilla 3D


American movie production company Legendary Pictures announced yesterday plans for the 3D revival of Godzilla in 2012. It would be just the second Hollywood remake and the first Godzilla movie since 2004’s “Gojira Final Wars,” directed by Kitamura Ryuhei. Fans of the giant lizard will be hoping for something better than Roland Emmerich’s 1998 effort.

Legendary are working together with Warner Brothers, and the movie will be distributed in Japan by Toho. No director has been named to the project yet but the lineup of U.S. producers includes Dan Lin (Terminator 4), and Roy Lee, who has produced remakes of several Japanese horror movies. The Japanese side includes Banno Yoshimitsu, who wrote and directed “Gojira vs Hedorah” way back in 1971, as an executive producer.

Back in 2004, Banno said that Toho had given him the rights to make an IMAX Godzilla film, provisionally titled “Godzilla 3-D to the Max.” It later became clear that he wanted to make a sequel to his 1971 movie that the studio had blocked. It was reported that it would feature the Showa Era original Godzilla fighting a pollution-based monster called Deathla in South America and New York City. However it has been speculated that Banno’s involvement in the 3D movie is simply part of the deal to acquire the IMAX rights.

“Godzilla is one of the world’s most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise,” said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. “Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has.”

“Godzilla is a signature Japanese character which we have nurtured over the years. It is a great honor to reach an agreement with Legendary Pictures, the parent to many a blockbuster film, and we are delighted in rebooting the character together to realize its much anticipated return by fans from all over the world,” said Toho President Takai Hideyuki. “We are anxious to find out where Godzilla’s new stomping will take us.”


NHK Dramas Continue Slide

Gegege no Nyobo, Kitano Beat Takeshi


NHK is seeing some more bad audience ratings for dramas this season. The new morning drama series “Gegege no Nyobo” started on Monday. It airs on the NHK General channel at 8am, 15 minutes earlier than usual and the first time slot change in 48 years. But the opening episode had an audience rating of 14.8% in the Kanto region, 10.1% in the Kansai region. These were both the lowest since the morning dramas began in 1964. The previous series “Welcame,” which ended last Saturday, was also reported this week as having continued the trend in record low average ratings.

“Gegege…” is the 82nd drama to be aired by NHK as a “renzoku terebi shosetsu” (serialized TV novel).A movie version is scheduled for theatrical release this autumn. It is based on the autobiography of Mura Nunoe (78), wife of the manga-ka Mizuki Shigeru (88), and will run until September 25. Mizuki is the creator of the hugely popular “Gegege no Kitaro” manga, which has given birth to many anime and movie spinoffs.

Talento Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (63, photo right) spoke out yesterday on the topic of cuts in government funding. Visiting the Tsukuba Space Center of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), he strongly criticized the decision to cut public funding to the organization and other scientific research such as a program to develop supercomputers.

The most prominent member of the government team, whose efforts were widely publicized, is former journalist and TV presenter Ren Ho (42). “I shared a hot bath with her when she was talento, so who does she think she is?” he joked. “A country that puts no money into scientific research is screwed.” Asked what he would cut if he were in her position, he said, “The number of Diet members.”

Other half-joking suggestions included requiring prospective politicians to put up ¥5 billion of their own money, or the creation of an equivalent of the House of Lords where wealthy politicians are less likely to become corrupt. His most outlandish idea was to say, “Japanese love foreigners and will do anything they say. So why don’t we give the job of running the Japanese government to someone like Bill Gates, who’s not strapped for money. We could make Mikhail Gorbachev the foreign minister and get the Northern Territories back (from Russia).”

GReeeeN are All Smiles
The four members of successful J-pop group GReeeeN are now all qualified dentists. Soh (29) announced on his blog yesterday that he became the last member to pass the national examination required for all dental practitioners. The four met while studying at a university in Fukushima and continued their studies even as their musical career took off. In order to keep their careers separate, they have never shown their faces in public. They will be featured performing in silhouette in new software to be released for the Nintendo DS on April 1.


Shibata Hatsumi Dead at 57

Shibata Hatsumi


Singer Shibata Hatsumi died of a heart attack at her home in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Itoh last Saturday morning. She was 57. According to her husband and the president of her management agency, Shibata was found to have breast cancer in January and underwent a mastectomy. She was released from hospital in February and began anticancer drug treatment this month. Last Friday night, she awoke during the night feeling cold and decided to take a bath. Her father, visiting her home the next morning, found her collapsed in her bathroom.

Shibata began singing at a U.S. military base when she was just 9, and joined the band Smiley Ohara and the Skyliners at the age of 11. She made her pro debut in 1974 and had a major hit with “My Luxury Night” in 1977, which earned her an appearance on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” concert. She is perhaps best remembered for the song “Oh! Mouretsu,” which was used in a series of hugely popular TV commercials by Maruzen Petrochemical Co., now known as Cosmo Oil Co. She semi-retired about ten years ago due to problems with depression caused by the onset of menopause. But two years ago her health improved and she said she looked forward to making a return to the stage.

The Start of Something Big?
Actor Miura Takahiro (24) is finally putting one of the finest pedigrees in Japanese showbiz into action. The son of actor Miura Tomokazu (58) and legendary pop idol Yamaguchi Momoe (51), he made his first public appearance yesterday as he was announced as the latest addition to famous the Lipovitan ad campaign. The energy drink’s famous “Fight! Ippatsu!” TV commercials have run for almost 50 years and have featured many strapping young male duos. Miura teams up with Kane Kosugi (35), who’s been doing the gig since 1999, in the 11th partnership. Kosugi knows a thing or two about living up to famous parents – his father is the legendary Hollywood ninja Sho Kosugi. Miura already has roles in three major movies coming out this year and will make his big screen debut in “Railways,” due for release at the end of May.


Romance for Dante, Fashion Model

Dante Carver, Matsumoto Akiko


American talento Dante Carver (33), best known for his ongoing role in the Softbank TV commercials, is getting a different kind of publicity since his romance with fashion model Matsumoto Akiko (23) was revealed at the weekend. Kobe native Matsumoto graduated from university last year and moved to Tokyo. A former reader-turned-model for the fashion magazines “ViVi” and “CanCam,” she now runs her own online fashion store, HerraDura. The pair have been spotted vacationing in Korea and Hawaii together and post photos on each other’s blogs. Once source has said that they are planning to get married in Hawaii this summer. Appearing at a PR event in Tokyo yesterday to celebrate Softbank’s 30th anniversary, Dante was in high spirits but didn’t comment on the relationship or his marriage plans.

Okinawa Film Fest Winds Down
The 2nd Okinawa International Film Festival came to a close yesterday. The festival’s theme is “laugh and peace” and there was a grand prix for each. The winner in the “laugh” category was Watanabe Taku’s “Kurosawa Eiga,” which starred Kurosawa Kazuko (31) of the comedy trio Mori Sanchuu. The Bollywood “Rab de Bana de Jodi” (A Match Made in Heaven), written and directed by Aditya Chopra, took the top award in the “peace” category.

Comedian Hazama Kamperi (60), who is currently on his mammoth Earth Marathon, appeared from Iran via satellite hookup. The festival included the first showing of the movie “Run and Run,” which local film makers in Iran put together in a matter of weeks when they learned of Hazama’s feat.

Held in the city of Ginowan, the festival was largely put together by Yoshimoto Kogyo, the agency that manages most of Japan’s comedy talent.


Japan’s Tax Exiles?

Exile, Moriyama Mirai


Catching up on a couple of stories from the past week…with record-breaking sales and a recent performance for the Emperor, the hugely popular dance/vocal group Exile (photo left) have had a pretty good few years and are rolling in the dough. But it seems even that might not have been enough. It was revealed this week that LDH, the management agency run by group leader Hiro (40), was nabbed by the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau for failing to report ¥300 million in revenue. The missing income – a fraction of the company’s annual earnings, ¥19 billion in 2008 – was from the two fiscal years up to March 2009. LDH said in a statement, “There was a difference of opinion, but we have already filed a revised tax return.” They refused to comment on the details, saying it related to their ongoing business dealings, but insisted that there had been no attempt to hide the revenue. The company represents a few dozen singers and models.

Moriyama Mirai Married, to be a Father
It was revealed on Thursday that acclaimed actor Moriyama Mirai (25, photo right) is not only married but also on his way to being a father. He and his wife, who sources describe only as not being in showbiz, started dating last fall, and got hitched early this year. The new Mrs. Moriyama is expecting to have a baby in October. Moriyama burst onto the movie scene in the 2004 tearjerker “Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu,” (Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World) and won best supporting actor and best newcomer at the Japan Academy Awards. He has since had plenty of exposure in film and television roles, but has made time to work in a dozen theater productions. His latest stage role is in an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s classic novella “Metamorphosis.”


Sekine, Amami are the Ideal Bosses

Sekine Tsutomu, Amami Yuki


In a survey that asked freshmen company employees to name the celebrity who personified their ideal boss, topping the poll for the first time were talento Sekine Tsutomu (56, photo left) and actress Amami Yuki (42, photo right). Sekine, a regular on a wide variety of TV shows, moved up from last year’s third place, helped by a large number of female votes. Part of the reason may be his healthy relationship with his daughter, Mari (25), who has become a popular face on TV in the last year or so. Second in the male standings was former comedian Yamaguchi Tomomitsu (41), popularly known as “Gussan.” And in third was actor Karasawa Toshiaki (56).

Amami, a former Takarazuka star, was a popular choice among both males and females, helping her improve from eighth place in last year’s survey. She beat fellow former Takarazuka actress Maya Miki (46) and TV drama regular Esumi Makiko (43).

The survey of 1,030 people was carried out by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance.

Ei-chan Impersonator Loses in Court
The Tokyo District Court yesterday dismissed a claim by an impersonator who filed for ¥30 million in damages from the very star he mimics. Ishiyama Ryudai makes a living from his resemblance to rock legend Yazawa Eikichi, and claimed on his website that he was the only impersonator “Ei-chan” officially endorsed. When representatives for the rock star denied that claim in 2007, Ishiyama said it damaged his reputation and filed a lawsuit which was settled out of court. The latest case was filed last October. The judge ruled that an impersonator’s reputation was based not on whether he was endorsed by a star, but on whether their act was good or not.

Mokkun a Father Again
Award-winning actor Motoki Masahiro (44) is a father for the third time. His wife Yayako (34), the daughter of rocker Uchida Yuya and actress Kiki Kirin, gave birth to a baby boy yesterday. They have named their second son Gento, saying that its meaning conjures up the image of “the light of the moon against a deep, dark, silent sky.” The showbiz couple had a son in 1997 and their daughter Kyara, born in 1999, made her movie debut last year.

Love Plus Plus
Konami yesterday announced the release of a new version of its popular dating sim video game. “Love Plus+” – an update on the Nintendo DS game (euphemistically referred to in Japanese as a “communication game”) that was a big hit after it went on sale last September – is due for release during the summer.


Kimura Takeo Dies at 91

Kimura Takeo, Tokiwa Takako


Acclaimed movie art director Kimura Takeo (photo left) died of interstitial pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital last weekend, it was revealed today. He was 91. Renowned as one of the finest art directors in the business, he worked on over 200 films, most notably with cult director stop-headaches-now.com. Suzuki said of his collaborator, “Kimura makes every movie as if it were his last. And he would think ‘if this is my last, then I can do anything I want.’ That’s why I love working with Kimura as an art director.”

Kimura joined the scenography department at the Nikkatsu studio in 1941 and made his debut on the film “Umi no Yobu Koe” in 1945. Among his best known films are “Zigoineruwaizen” (1980, dir. Suzuki), “Umi to Dokuyaku” (The Sea and Poison, 1986, dir. Kumai Kei), “Yumemiru yoni Nemuritai” (To Sleep so as to Dream, 1986, dir. Hayashi Kaizo). He made his feature length directorial debut in 2008 at the age of 90, with “Yumeno Manimani.”
Related article:
Suzuki Seijun – Legendary Movie Maverick

Actress Tokiwa Takako (37, photo right) has landed her first leading role in a TV drama since she got married last year. She will team up with writer Kitagawa Eriko (48) on the TV Asahi special drama “Okaasan no Saigono Ichinichi.” The two have collaborated on several popular romantic dramas, but the most recent was the massive 2000 hit “Beautiful Life,” in which Tokiwa fell for Kimura Takuya (37). But as she says herself, “I’m at an age where love stories are tough.” The subject matter of “Okaasan…” is quite different – a mother’s final day with her family before she dies. But she pointed out, “It’s not just a sad story. It also conveys the warmth of family bonds.” Tokiwa married playwright-actor Nagatsuka Keishi (34) last October.


KAT-TUN Announce Asia Tour, Minus Akanishi

KAT-TUN


Johnny’s Jimusho have announced the first overseas concert tour by idol group KAT-TUN, but member Akanishi Jin (25, photo 3rd from left) won’t be joining them. Why? Because he’s going to be busy performing solo in Los Angeles. The other five members of KAT-TUN will be touring Japan and Asia between May and August, while Akanishi will be heading to L.A. in June. KAT-TUN will play 21 arena shows in 10 cities across Japan between May 2 and June 27. They start their “World Big Tour” at Tokyo Dome on July 16 before heading to Bangkok, Thailand; Seoul, Korea; Kyocera Dome Osaka; and Taipei, Taiwan. Negotiations are also underway for them to be the first Johnny’s artists to perform in Hawaii. As an indication of KAT-TUN’s popularity at home, last year they set a new record by playing eight straight days at Tokyo Dome.

Though the KAT-TUN tour had already been decided, when representatives of the American cable network UTB came to see Akanishi’s solo show in Tokyo last month, they approached him about performing Stateside. After consultation with Johnny Kitagawa himself and the other group members, three U.S. shows were set up on June 19 & 20 at Club Nokia LA Live. Akanishi will be staying in the U.S. until at least October where he will no doubt be working toward his dream of performing in Las Vegas. It’s said to be the first time for a Johnny’s group member to drop out of a tour to perform solo, and Akanishi will be first artist from the agency to go it alone in the U.S. He has a history of doing his own thing, and in October 2006 shocked KAT-TUN fans when he took off to spend six months studying in the U.S. For the upcoming L.A. shows, he is planning to speak mostly in English.


Earlier stories:
KAT-TUN’s Akanishi “On Leave” (Oct. 13, 2006)


Singers on the Road to Recovery

Ayado Chie, Sakazaki Konosuke, Yoshida Takuro


Jazz singer Ayado Chie (52, photo left) is expected to check out of a Tokyo hospital today after recently knocking herself out with prescription tranquilizers, according to her management agency. Her manager visited her apartment on the morning of March 19 as they were scheduled to go to Kumamoto for a concert performance that evening, but got no reply. On a later visit, accompanied by Ayado’s mother, they found the singer snoring loudly but were unable to wake her and called for an elavilnews.com.

Ayado has been caring for her mother at home since she suffered a stroke six years ago. Due to stress and her own work schedule, she has been taking tranquilizers for the last month or so. Ayado updated her blog on March 23, saying in her Kansai dialect, “I just messed up taking care of my own health. Due to exhaustion, my usual medication dosage just wasn’t cutting it and I made a mistake. I’m really, really sorry.” She added her usual dose of humor, “I’m in bed wearing my mother’s diapers.”

The Indestructible Yoshida Takuro
Also making a recovery from health problems is singer-songwriter Yoshida Takuro (63, photo right), who yesterday performed in front of fans for the first time since he was forced to cut short a nationwide tour last July due to chronic bronchitis. The long hiatus was the third for Yoshida, who underwent surgery for lung cancer in 2003 and canceled shows because of bronchitis and pleurisy in 2007.

He was at the Nippon Housou studios in Tokyo yesterday to record his regular radio show with fellow musician and The Alfee member Sakazaki Konosuke (55). But for the first time since his return to the show last November, there was a small studio audience who afterward were treated to a surprise performance of two songs. The 111 mostly female audience members were selected by lottery from over 55,000 applications. The 2-hour show will be broadcast on April 5, which is Yoshida’s 64th birthday.


Johnny and Tim in a Tokyo Wonderland

Johnny Depp, Tim Burton in Tokyo


Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Depp was welcomed by a massive crowd as he arrived at Narita International Airport yesterday. He and director Tim Burton were in Tokyo for the Japanese premiere of “Alice in Wonderland” at the Ebisu Garden Place. It is the pair’s seventh collaboration, and Burton’s first excursion into 3D. Speaking at a press conference at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, he described it as “just a great tool, if you love movies. It’s a way to bring you into a movie in a way. Especially with Wonderland, which is such an off-kilter place, it becomes another character.”

He had no problem casting Depp as the zany Mad Hatter, a role the actor described as “not a great stretch by any means.” Asked whether Disney’s version of the classic children’s tale might be a little too scary for a young audience, Depp told reporters that his own kids are big fans of the movie. “My kids actually saw the film because I send them out there in the front lines,” he said. “They absolutely adored it. They loved every character. They weren’t freaked out by it whatsoever.” Japanese kids will have to wait almost a month to see it for themselves as it doesn’t open in theaters here until April 17.