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My God, It's Full of Nerds!

Sour Grapes

“Lost? Did we make that? Oh, that hadn’t occurred to us.”

Dragon*Con 2010 Pictures

My small collection of photos. Just click on the picture below.

Green Lantern and Star Sapphire

Michael Gross, you are already dead!

Vanity Fair just ran a scathing profile on Sarah Palin, and includes a surprising anime reference.

Watch out! He’s got a rattle!

I admit, I’m completely fascinated by the concept of Terror Babies. If you’re lucky enough to have missed this, two Congressional representatives from Texas are promoting the idea that Al-Qaeda is having pregnant women come to the U.S. to have their kids, therefore giving the newborns the proper credentials to get back into the U.S. decades later. Obviously, this is in the context of immigration reform and the current Republican push to repeal the 14th Amendment. The reps in question are Louis Gohmert and Debbie Riddle.

What draws me to this bizarre idea is just trying to figure out how Terror Babies as a strategy could possibly work. I think it’s obvious Gormert and Riddle just made the whole thing up in a fit of McCarthy-esque political expediency, but let’s looks at terror babies from a logical standpoint for a minute.

The first and most essential ingredient of this plot would be pregnant women. If we are to assume this plan was hatched by Al-Qaeda proper, that would a problem. The people who make up the central core of the current version of Al-Qaeda are not exactly progressive in their views of women. From what I’ve read of Al-Qaeda, they publicly only talk about women as victims of American/Jewish oppression (along with all other Muslims), and in his personal life Bin Laden has only used whatever female relatives may be around him (mostly his daughters) to cement relationships in the upper echelons of Al-Qaeda through arranged marriages, as is traditional in the society he grew up in. No woman has anything like a leadership or operational role in Al-Qaeda. Some of the groups that are in nominally affiliated with Al-Qaeda have recruited female bombers, but that’s rare.

Let’s assume that Al-Qaeda’s terror baby plan is so important to them that they’re willing to recruit some pregnant women, and they even find some. The next problem, and this is not trivial, is getting said pregnant women into the U.S. Would they do this legally or illegally? I suppose illegally would be easier, but not necessarily cheaper or more reliable. And either way, another problem soon presents itself. Al-Qaeda can’t just send over any old pregnant women. After all, half of all the pregnant women would be having a female child, which would not be a terribly useful Terror Baby, at least from Al-Qaeda’s point of view. So they’d either have to wait until they could be sure of the sex of the baby before sending the woman over, or they’d have to live with a maximum success rate of 50%. Either way, the expense and complexity of the operation is increased immensely.

Okay, so the Terror Mommy is the U.S. What next? The Terror Mommy would have to have the baby, and she’d have to do that in a hospital. After all, the whole point of this plan isn’t to just have the baby on U.S. soil, but to have it documented. The Terror Baby would need a U.S. birth certificate in order to get a U.S. visa later on.

But wait, isn’t the whole point for the Terror Baby to grow up indoctrinated in the philosophies of Al-Qaeda? So presumably the Terror Mommy and Baby would have to go back to some Al-Qaeda stronghold to be raised in the ways of radical Islam. Buuuuttt… wouldn’t that mean dropping off the grid? That’s a big stumbling block. When the Terror Baby wanted to get back in the U.S. he’d have to prove who he is, and if he’s been living for the last few decades in a yurt on the most godforsaken mountain range in Pakistan he’s going to have a tough time proving he’s the same person named on the birth certificate. And what if any of the Terror Babies don’t want to be terrorists? Was the whole thing for nothing?

Finally, the delayed payoff for this plan is insane. If the first Terror Mommy had the first Terror Baby today, said Terror Baby would be old enough to cause trouble in the U.S. in 2035, at the earliest. Think about that. How much has the world changed in 25 years? Twenty-five years ago Saddam Hussein was the Arab dictator we liked, and the C.I.A. was moving arms into Afghanistan with Osama Bin Laden’s help. Who can say what the political dynamics of the Middle East will be like in 2035?

Going through the steps of the Terror Baby plan is just my way of showing how absurd the whole thing is. Terror Babies would be far more expensive and complicated than just getting a few adult terrorists into the country today with fake credentials or whatever. And Al-Qaeda could do that today, not 25 or 30 years from now. I can’t believe that anybody would even propose the idea of Al-Qaeda Terror Babies, but Gormert is still sticking to his guns today, and he’s quickly displaying all the signs of being a crackpot. Now he’s saying he could name his source for the plot, but it would endanger her life. In other words, he’s slyly implying he got the story straight from a Terror Mommy. Riiiggghhhtttt….

Have these people been living in a cave since 1962?

From a new petition by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood:

It’s hard to believe, but McDonald’s Happy Meal toys have hit a new low.

The fast food giant’s latest giveaway for preschool boys features eight Marvel comic action figures. One, The Human Torch, is a man engulfed in flames. Another, The Thing, menacingly roars “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” at the press of a button.

I kinda thought we were past the days where people thought Superman comics would make kids jump off the roof.

If had existed in 1954

183 of 256 people found this review helpful

* There and Back Again — For Your Wallet!, July 29th, 1954

by NixonLover (Worm Gulch, California) See all my reviews

I loved The Hobbit, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s newest book is a huge disappointment. Why is the Fellowship of the Ring only 1/3 of the story? The only answer is greed! I knew when I read Tolkien was going with Collins as his publisher it was just a grab for money.

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45 of 52 people found this review helpful

** Sure, the writing’s good…, July 29th, 1954

by LonnyMooners (Skirt City, Alabama) See all my reviews

This very late sequel to The Hobbit is just more of the same. Hobbits, check. Gandalf, check. Goblins (now called orcs), check. Dwarfs, check. Elrond, check. And the story is not just about a ring, but the same ring from The Hobbit! Someone tell Tolkien to get a new idea.

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34 of 51 people found this review helpful

* Don’t encourage lazy writers!, July 29th, 1954

by CheeseFed (Favreville, Wisconsin) See all my reviews

It’s been 17 years since the release of The Hobbit, and that’s just too long. You lost out on a sale from me!

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Is This What Godzilla 2012 Will Look Like?

I haven’t see anything about it yet from the sites I using to follow San Diego Comic-Con, but these augmented reality shirts are at the convention from Legendary Studios and Talking Dog Studios.

You can try out the augmented reality effect at home by visiting this web page.

Here’s a better look at the picture. Is this representative of how Godzilla will look in the new movie?

The design pictured is quite similar, in fact, almost identical, to the one used in the two most recent Godzilla movies, Godzilla X Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. The long, semi-hooded neck, small head, prominent ears, and irregular, almost crystalline back spikes are all the same. It makes me wonder if this is just a place-holder design based on the most recent Japanese design. As far as I know Legendary hasn’t even announced a director yet. Maybe that’s happening later today.

Godzilla vs. Arkansas

This is what I call a worthwhile hobby.

(Per the comments, more about the suit and its construction can be found here.)

Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975)

"Hello, I'm Sonny Chiba, and I'll be making all your dream come true."

First, the important information: Sonny Chiba is Team Jacob.

There are so few actually obscure movies left these days. Nearly every movie of any cult interest has now been released on DVD, reviewed on a zillion websites (sometimes by me), and probably lined up for a remake somewhere in the world. Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope is the exception, a movie that has made an admirable attempt to fall down the memory hole despite an instantly exploitable premise: Sonny Chiba as a werewolf.

Wolfguy was made in the midst of the Japanese exploitation boom, and features all the blood, boobs, and karate fights the genre required. The plot, such as it is, was made by taking all the conventions of Japanese detective/yakuza movies and putting them in a blender, then spreading the chunky results over 90 minutes. It doesn’t really make sense. It’s possible the version I saw was missing some scenes, but then again, it’s entirely possible it wasn’t.

Chiba plays a man called Inugami. He’s the last survivor of a hidden werewolf clan that was wiped out by Japanese villagers when he was a boy. Inugami doesn’t change into a wolf or anything so gauche. On the fifteenth day of the lunar cycle (full moon?) he gains Wolverine-level healing powers and perhaps some extra strength and agility. The rest of them time he still seems to be pretty hardy, and he may have enhanced senses. But we don’t find any of this out until well into the movie, and it doesn’t have much do with how the plot is set in motion.

In the movie’s first scene we see man in a fancy white suit running for his life throughout the streets of a Japanese city. Inugami happens on the scene, and follows the man dawn an alley. There he witnesses the man in the white suit get torn apart by an unseen tiger! Inugami discusses this bizarre event with his only friend, Arai. Arai is a reporter (one line of dialogue suggests Inugami may be one too, but he never acts like it), and he quickly determines that the dead man was a member of rock band called The Mob. Moreover, two other members of the band have already died under similarly bizarre circumstances.

Inugami and Arai track down the last member of The Mob, who is living on the streets. He’s terrified, and he spills that The Mob was ordered by someone to rape an up-and-coming singer named Miki Ogata. Miki got syphilis and is now working at two-bit strip clubs. The last Mob member is sure that Miki has somehow cursed him. The interrogation is interrupted, however, when local yakuza thugs show up.

Inugami fights the thugs, but is shot in the process. He’s rescued by a woman on motorcycle, who takes Inagumi to her apartment. The apartment features a bedroom with mirrored walls and a heart-shaped rotating bed, and Inugami and the woman, Katie, stare into each other’s eyes for minutes on end and talk about the importance of being married before they have sex.

Sonny Chiba has a name for when this happens: Tuesday.

Just kidding! Katie talks about how much she wants to have sex with a man who smells like an animal, licks blood from Inugami’s gunshot wound, and then they have hot monkey sex.

The movie then cuts to Inugami in a restaurant, eating meatloaf. Arai joins him at the table and tell Inugami that it was the head of Manabe music group who ordered Miki raped, but he’s not sure why.

Inugami dons his best green velvet suit jacket (and if you think that’s his only green velvet suit jacket, you don’t know Sonny Chiba circa 1975) and heads out to the two-bit strip club where Miki is performing songs about tigers to an audience that throws stuff at her because she keeps her clothes on. He tries to talk to Miki backstage, but he’s interrupted by more yakuza thugs. The thugs take Inugami and Miki to a hideout, where they have Arai prisoner as well. We find out that the yakuza have addicted Miki with heroin, and when the thugs try to kill Inagumi he retaliates by throwing coins at them, with deadly results. Then Miki’s phantom tiger kills the last member of The Mob (who the yakuza also brought along), and the rest of the yakuza flee. Inugami is so into karate chopping fleeing yakuza that he barely noticed that Arai was killed. Luckily Arai left behind a notebook which explains that Miki was engaged to a politician’s son, so the Manabe music group and the yakuza were acting on the politician’s behalf to make sure his son didn’t marry someone too far beneath him. Ah, the music-political complex, that unbreakable cabal ruling Japan.

Inugami takes Miki to her apartment and watches over her. She tries to seduce him, then passes out. Later Inugami visits the head of the Manabe Music Group and tells him to watch out. That night Inugami is attacked in his apartment and captured by the “JCIA,” a secret organization looking for ways to make paranormal assassins. Katie, it turns out, is a member. The JCIA also kidnaps Miki, so every character in the movie is back in one place. Eventually the JCIA’s surgeons cut Inagumi open for some reason and leaves his guts hanging out, but they do that on the night of the full moon, so his entrails pull back into his body and he escapes his cell. On his way out Inugami is attacked by a JCIA agent who has been enhanced to Wolfguy status with transfusions of Inugsmi’s own blood. The fight isn’t very long, however, because Inugsmi’s blood is poisonous to humans, so… that all led nowhere. Oh, and Katie helped Inugami escape for no particular reason other than he’s a good lay, and she gets shot to death for her trouble.

Boy, that's one secret organization.

Free, Inugami returns to the one place the JCIA would probably look for him (wait, what?), the rural village where the wolf people used to live before being wiped out by the local humans. There Inugami meets a young woman named Taka, which just happened to be Inugami’s mother’s name. Taka explains that her mother idolized the wolf people, and that’s why she’s named after Inugami’s mother. Now that any relationship they might have is tainted with weird incest overtones, Inagumi and Taka have sex with each other. Their happiness is short-lived, though, because some time later the JCIA shows up looking for Inugami, and they have the brain-washed Miki and her phantom tiger in tow. So long as they don’t attack Inugami on the 15th day of the lunar cycle they have a chance… so of course they attack on the 15th day of the lunar cycle despite every indication that they know doing so would be very bad idea.

I’m led to believe this movie was based on a comic book, which may be why the movie is so episodic and Inugami’s wolfiness is played down early on. I can’t seem to find anything about the original manga, but I did find a remake of it from a few years ago where Inugami is a high school student. In the new manga Inugami explicitly turns into a hulking wolfman on the nights of the full moon, assuming he takes enough damage, which I guess he always does because he’s constantly being beaten up by rape gangs. I’m curious as to whether the original manga features Inagumi as a wolfman, or if the movie is accurate in having Inugami just be kind of macho. It’s more than a little disappointing, though, to keep talking about how Sonny Chiba is a werewolf and never getting to see him transform, or do anything more exciting than heal. Just some claws would have been nice, and added a little more similarity to a certain comic book character.


Proposed Doctor Who Figures

I can’t help but feel like the first wave of Character Options’ series 5 Doctor Who figures are lacking. The figure selections are a little bizarre, even. Bracewell, from “Victory of the Daleks”? Hawethorne? I had to look it up to figure out that he was a old guy in a hoodie from “The Beast Below.” I know that traditionally female characters don’t sell as well in the action figure world, but wouldn’t Liz 10 make a much more interesting figure, both visually and because she actually did something in the story?

Here are my humble suggestions for what figures Character Options should make for the remainder of series 5.

Kiss-a-gram Amy Pond

In-Her-Nightie-On-A-Spaceship Amy Pond

Bachelor Party Rory

The Facing Death as a Peruvian Folk Band boxset

''Fezzes are cool'' Doctor

The Dream Lord with condescending action

Krafayis deluxe figure

Dressed for Rio Amy Pond

Not-Felicia Day

Surprisingly Revealing Pantsuit River Song

Plastic Roman Rory, preferably with the Pandorica

The Big Bang and the Time After

Saving the universe, one dirty floor at a time

It’s been a week since the Doctor Who finale, “The Big Bang,” aired, so I think now’s a good time to see how well we did with our speculations of a week ago.

I think we have to get a grade of Incomplete, because the mystery that I found most interesting was not addressed at all. We didn’t find out who the Big Bad was. At the very end of the episode the Doctor wondered aloud what “The Silence” was and why the TARDIS was lured back to explode at that particular moment. Steven Moffat has already said that “The Silence” (plural) and River Song’s story will be central to next season.

I loved how “The Big Bang” tied the whole series together thematically around Amy’s wedding. That she was running from her wedding seemed like a bit of cheap character motivation in the first two episodes, but now we know it was significant and wonderfully complicated.

Perhaps the biggest mystery involving Amy that’s still left unanswered is why she doesn’t recognize Daleks and Cybermen. Now we know that the phenomenon isn’t restricted to just Amy. Rory doesn’t seem to recognize the Cyberman he killed in “The Pandorica Opens.” Assuming that it isn’t a mistake, I would guess that the Big Bad has in some way wiped the memory of the recent alien invasions from the collective memory of humanity, or that Leadworth is a fake town created by the Big Bad. I lean towards the latter, if only because I don’t see any compelling reason to return to the days of two or three invasions/evacuations of London per year, but people still being incredulous when the Doctor says there are aliens.

More than likely the next River Song story will be about how she meets the Doctor for the first time. What an odd paradox, that the Doctor and River never meet for the first time at the same time. In some sense that makes their friendship impossible, because it has no beginning. I liked the explanation given in the Big Finish plays that Rassilon had used the Eye of Harmony to create a universe free of paradox at the same time he invented time travel, at least that explained why the Timelords always seemed to meet each other in the right order. It wasn’t very convincing, of course, as any time travel story immediately creates paradoxes, but it did keep things simple from a story point of view.

So River Song will meet the Doctor, and for the first time he’ll know more about her than she does about him. That will be interesting. I’m going to speculate that she’s more than human, judging from the fact that she remembered the Doctor even after he was removed from the timeline.

The other big mystery with River Song is who she will kill to be imprisoned in the Stormcage Facility. The way-too obvious candidate would be the Doctor himself (though why would killing the Doctor be a crime?), but with all this wedding stuff going on I can’t help but wonder if the future corpse will be whoever is the “best man” (in River’s words) at any possible wedding the Doctor is involved in. If it turns out the Doctor is getting married, the obvious best man would be Rory… But would they really kill off Rory again? As a friend of mine pointed out, Adric they just killed. Rory they killed twice in three episodes and wiped him from existence. Killing him again would be piling it on.

Fossils of the Neverwere

Another observation: It’s funny that when the entire universe was wiped out the Autons, Cybermen, Daleks and Sontarans left behind were turned into statues. Could this perhaps be an explanation for what the Weeping Angels are? (The Doctor earlier said they were a product of evolution, but he could be wrong. Most everything he said about the Angels in “Blink” has been contradicted to some extent.) Will there be some angelic alien race next season who get wiped out and leave statues behind that are later reanimated? And I suppose that if any alien race can be described with the word “Silence” it would be the Weeping Angels.

But I’m still hoping for the Celestial Toymaker.

One last note. For all the kevetching about how the new candy-coloured Daleks were in so many colours just to sell more action figures, Character Options has been very stingy with the Dalek figures. There’s a red Dalek out now, and an orange Dalek will be a SDCC exclusive later this month, and that’s it. I hope they will cover all the colors, and hopefully throw a stone Dalek in there too.


Christmas in July, Godzilla style

It’s July, so new Christmas ornaments should be out at American Greetings stores. And in a tradition that is as awesome as it is inexplicable, there’s a new Godzilla ornament.

As always, manufactured by Carlton Cards. This is Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Destroyah, and I’m sure that the glowing patches light up in a festive fashion. Nothing says “Christmas” quite like a giant nuclear behemoth destroying Singapore.

Godzilla is Back! In Pachinko Form!

This is pachinko. Dear Jeebus, how many rules can it have? I’ve played Xbox games less complex.

The monsters in the live action footage are an odd mix of old costumes. Godzilla appears to be from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, the Ghidorah is the one from Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidora: All Monsters Attack (looking pretty raggedy), and Gigan and Anguirus are from Godzilla: Final Wars. Even if it is accidental they’ve put together the gang from Godzilla vs. Gigan, but with Anguirus fighting on the wrong side.

(Thanks to Patrick Macias for finding this)

OK, You Win

This has go to be the strangest crime story from the last couple of years.

Back in 2009 a human rights lawyer in Guatemala was murdered, which is not that unusual. What was a little unexpected was that the lawyer in question had left behind a tape in which he predicted he would be killed on the orders of Guatemala’s President. It all sounded a little too much like something out of a conspiracy thriller. In the months following it developed that the lawyer had contracted his own killing. You can read the latest developments here.

Space Battleship Yamato, in Live Action

Two Video Games with Nothing in Common

First up is the upcoming PS3 game Ni no Kuni, coming next year. The games look was designed by Studio Ghibli, and it’s completely gorgeous.

And somehow Roger Ebert will still claim it isn’t art.

Our second video game is Naughty Bear, which, well… Just watch.

Finally, a phone capable of reaching Yuggoth

Because Florida doesn’t have enough problems

Found on CNN’s iReport site.

The Pandorica Opens and the Longest Week Starts

Last night the penultimate episode of series five of Doctor Who, with new Doctor Matthew Smith. If you’re watching the series and you’re not up to episode 12, please be warned there will be many, many spoilers from this point. Big honkin’ spoilers, sometimes about the lack of ducks.

I’ve really enjoyed the season so far. Matthew Smith’s doctor is odd and funny, and always fun to watch. Karen Gillan as Amy Pond is easily one of favorite companions ever, gorgeous and vivacious. The chemistry between the two is perfect.

“The Pandorica Opens” acts as a capstone for the current series. From the pre-credits sequence where we follow a lost Van Gogh painting travel though the hands of several characters who we’ve seen this season to the “alliance” of every alien race who hates the Doctor, there’s a lot to reward someone who’s watched the entire series. There are even some shout-outs to old school continuity, with the Draconians, Terileptils, Zygons and Drahvins being mentioned among the alien races coming to capture the Pandorica. By the time the first part of the two-part finale ends the most obvious question has been answered (the Pandorica is opened and we find out there’s nothing inside) and we’ve seen a collection of every alien costume the BBC still had lying around, yet we are left with so many more questions. Time for speculation! Speculation that look completely idiotic a week from now when “The Big Bang” airs! But we speculate anyway! Everything that follows is the result of either my own silly ideas or ones that were gleaned from discussions with my friends Joel and Jyo.

Despite the alliance of rubber costumes locking the Doctor in the Pandorica there seems to be an as yet unseen Big Bad truly responsible for the TARDIS’s destruction. At minimum the Big Bad appears to have hijacked the TARDIS when River tried to pilot it to Stonehenge, made it land at Amy’s house next Saturday, and in some fashion arranged for it to blow up, thereby causing the destruction of the entire universe. When the TARDIS lands at the fatal location we hear a voice say “Silence will fall!” Who is this Big Bad? We don’t have much to go on, but I’ll list a few possibilities, and the arguments pro and con for each one.

- Davros. The voice that says “Silence will fall!” sounds a bit like Davros. In “The Stolen Earth” Davros had developed technology that could destroy the entire universe. But would he? Davros wanted to destroy the entire universe except the Daleks, and he couldn’t control a TARDIS remotely.

- Rassilon. Seems a little early to have Rassilon back, and the voice wasn’t Timothy Dalton. Rassilon is probably crazy enough to destroy the universe, and he could control the TARDIS, so he’s got to be considered a possibility.

- Omega. Another Timelord, this one quite insane and trapped in the anti-matter universe. He certainly could do everything the Big Bad has done, but he hasn’t been mentioned in the new series.

- The Celestial Toymaker, my personal favorite candidate. He’s a villain who appeared in a single story back in 1966, though the Doctor recognized the Toymaker at the beginning of the story, and at the end of the story the Doctor was oddly adamant that he would have to face the Toymaker again. The Toymaker was insane and capable of creating his own universe, so destroying the current universe wouldn’t be out of the question. He was certainly capable of hijacking the TARDIS. I don’t know why he would want silence in particular, but I could argue there was a game-like quality to the Stonehenge trap. He would be an obscure villain to resurrect, especially since three of the four episodes he’s appeared in are lost.

- The Black Guardian. Supremely powerful, evil, and has a history of using ginger-headed companions against the Doctor. Also wears a bird on his head.

- Satan from “The Satan Pit.” He’s probably pretty pissed about being dropped in a black hole.

- The Doctor himself. This is the favorite theory of Joel and Jyo. The idea here is that the Doctor spends millennia inside the Pandorica and when he comes out he’s a lot less nice than he used to be. There have been some hints this season about the Doctor’s darkness, particularly in “Amy’s Choice.” I don’t really buy this one. I think the Doctor will escape the Pandorica immediately.

How will the Doctor escape the Pandorica? At the beginning of “The Pandorica Opens” River Song acquires a vortex manipulator “off the wrist of a handsome Time Agent.” A vortex manipulator is the time travel device of choice of Time Agents Captain Jack Harkness and Captain John Hart, so the it could be from either of them. Later in the episode we see the vortex manipulator sitting on the Pandorica dais as the Doctor is working, and finally we see the Doctor slip something in his pocket when he’s talking to Rory. The Doctor used the same trick to escape the Futurekind at the end of “Utopia,” but I suppose if something works once it can work again.

With the Doctor free to travel in time without the TARDIS we’ll no doubt see him go back to some previous episodes and start meddling. A second Doctor can be seen in Amelia’s house in “The Eleventh Hour” when Amelia goes outside to wait for the TARDIS to return, and it was almost certainly a second Doctor who told Amy to “remember what I told you when you were seven” when she was forced to keep her eyes closed in the forest on the Byzantium. (The tell is that the Doctor is wearing his coat, which he lost several scenes earlier.) There is no obvious thing that the Doctor said to Amelia that the older Amy would need to remember, so presumably the Doctor tells it to Amelia after his earlier self has already left her. Timey-wimey, indeed.

The other big mystery is why, as the Doctor observes, Amy’s life doesn’t make any sense. The Doctor reveals that the real reason he took Amy with him was because he noticed that it didn’t make sense that she lived in such a large house by herself. The implications now is that Amy used to live with a much larger family, but they all got eaten by the crack and therefore “never existed” is the same way as Rory. Of course, this version of “never existed” is a not exactly ironclad or complete. Rory still appears in photos and left the ring behind, and if Amy’s father was consumed by the crack then Amy shouldn’t exist either. I assume that Amy’s mother died before the crack because Amelia definitely remembers her and her produce presentation skills. Or perhaps the large family Amelia was living with was directly related to her aunt by marriage, and Amelia had been orphaned years before. I suspect one way or another we’ll find out on Saturday.

Another possibility, albeit an unlikely one, is that Amy Pond is not a real person. Perhaps she is an Auton, or some other creation of the Big Bad. Following this through, perhaps all of Leadworth is fake, which the Doctor subconsciously noticed when he demanded to know how Amy knew it was a duck pond if there were no ducks. The fake Amy/Leadworth theory would explain why Amy didn’t know about Daleks or Cybermen.

Now for the lightning round. Each of these is just a quick question.

What were those strange burns on the lawn in front of Amy’s house when River arrives there? From the shape they could be Daleks landing. The shape is closer to the Bling Daleks of seasons 1 – 4, as opposed to the new, rounder Candy Daleks. Or perhaps those shapes were left by the Big Bad?

Who is River to the Doctor? Theories have been all over the place, from the Doctor’s future wife, to his mother, to the Rani, to Romana, to a future Doctor. At the end of The Pandorica opens she does call the Doctor “my love,” so I guess “wife” is now the frontrunner.

Why do the alliance aliens think only the Doctor can pilot the TARDIS? Obviously that isn’t true, as several other people have piloted the TARDIS, and two other just this season. Is that just a mistake on their part, or did the Big Bad lie to them to get them to go along with his plan?

Why did River Song tell the Doctor to meet her in Roman Britain near Stonehenge, which just happened to be where the Pandorica was? I suspect that this plot hole probably has an explanation that was cut for time, like that the coordinates were also part of Van Gogh’s painting, or that River had independently located the Pandorica to that general area.

Who did River kill to be put in the Stormcage Containment Facility? “The Pandorica Opens” starts with her there, so that’s a story we’ll have to wait for.

Who lost their arm? Jack Harkness or John Hart?

Who are all those spaceships? Daleks, Sontarans, Judoon and Atraxi are easy enough to spot. There is another very prominent ship seen in many shots, but I’m pretty sure it’s not one we’ve seen before. There’s also a gold-ish organic sphere that I like to think is the Zygons.

That’s it. Now all that’s left is the waiting. The tortuous waiting.

Just When I Thought I Couldn’t Hate a Character Any More

A couple days ago I watched Tidal Wave, a South Korean disaster movie. From the title you can figure out more or less the whole plot: a series of tsunami hit a Korean resort town. There’s also a focus on nautical rescues by helicopter, as seen in The Perfect Storm. It’s not a very good movie, mostly because the characters are completely unlikable. It’s a bit like The Host, the Korean monster movie from a few years back, in that the kind of people who would be comic relief in a regular movie are the central characters of this movie. Though I liked The Host very much, there were a few points where I thought the broad slapstick was a bit much. In Tidal Wave the worst parts of The Host are magnified several times. I counted 14 main characters in Tidal Wave, and fully eight of them are comic relief. After an hour of these characters bickering and prat-falling I was rooting for the tsunami to come and kill them all. That’s not the worst part, though. I guess that being the comic relief in a Korean film makes you kill-proof, because none of them died. Only sincere (or mean) characters died.

At one point the movie does feature a bit Michael Baysian excess, where a huge cargo ship ends up sticking out of the water by its prow, propped up by a bridge. Then one of the comic relief characters drops a cigarette into a pool of fuel on the bridge and blows up the entire ship and bridge up — but he survives.

I thought I couldn’t hate the characters any more, but the Blu-Ray of the movie includes extras, and I decided to check out the gag reel, or “NG” as I’ve always seen it listed on Korean DVDs. (“No Good,” maybe?) The first segment of the gag reel shows one of the adult actors accidentally hitting one of the child actors too hard in the face, then continuing with the scene as the child cries and curls up in a ball. That’s when I stopped watching. It was one thing when I wanted the characters to die in a crushing torrent of water, but now I wanted the actors to die that way too.

Eurovision – And the Winner is….

Here it is, the best song Europe could muster, “Satellite” by Lena! This song is so staunchly anti-feminist I assume it will be featured on the soundtrack to the upcoming The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Eurovision 2010 Ends Tomorrow

It just came to my attention that the Eurovision Song Contest finishes up tomorrow. I thought I’d take a look at some of the songs that were in this year’s competition. This isn’t every song, just the ones that I found noteworthy (read, funny).

First up, Armenia, with a song that informs us that the country is littered with apricots. “I see the northern stars shining brightly in the storm”? Does she see in radio waves or something? Also, if you’re trying to grow trees by seeding frozen ground, you’re doing it wrong.

The next two videos, from Iceland and Ireland respectively, perhaps reflect the influence of Susan Boyle on western Europe. They both feature surprisingly unglamorous women singing soulful songs. One could argue that the song from Iceland also reveals that the corruption to humanity’s collective soul that was ABBA is also still going strong.

This next song has the following three phrases associated with it: “Gjoko Taneski,” “FYR Macedonia,” and “Jas Ja Imam Silata.” Your guess is as good as mine as to which is the country, which is the artist, and which is the title. The video for this song appears to have been shot in Tyra Banks’ subconscious, with guest appearances by the less attractive European cousins of Billy Joel and Justin Timberlake. Oh, and when did Keanu Reeves switch from bass to lead guitar?

I’m card-carrying, Doctor Who-watching, comic book-reading, vinyl-figure collecting, all-around nerd of the highest order, but even I want to give the first male singer in the following clip a wedgie.

Aquaman’s homeland of Finland decided to try the oldest trick in the book: A woman playing polka on an accordion while wearing an evening dress. C’mon Finland, try a little originality.

Latvia’s video is a heart-wrenching portrayal of the existential horror that comes with being stunningly beautiful. Sure, she’s gorgeous, but she doesn’t know why people live until they die! And she has to call God by his more formal title of “Mr. God.” (I guess God never finished his stint at medical school.)

Is there a male equivalent to Edie Brickell? In Belgium there is.

Fun fact: “Lako je sve” is Croatioan for “One for the Foot Fetishists.” The video is a pretty boring. Leeching all the color out and and using red spot color? That’s so trite.

Estonia decided to go the “Good Old Fashioned Nightmare Fuel” route with their video.

Some people are theorizing that the performer in Switzerland’s video may just be gay, what with the muscle shirts, the metallic jackets, leather pants, Flock of Seagulls haircut, and, oh yeah, they shot him with a rainbow filter. But I’m more concerned with the golden shower 51 seconds in.

Is “Eastern European Funk” an oxymoron? You’re one kazoo solo from the answer to that question.

“Attention America. This is Sun Stroke Project. We’ve traveled here from the 1980s and we’re holding Pink hostage in Moldova. We demand more LEDs and more seasons of Miami Vice on DVD so we can get more fashion tips.”

Next up, Abby Holland and the Jason Woodrue dancers!

The lyrics to this song from Slovenia? I’m going to amuse myself by imagining they’re exactly the same as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

Denmark brings yet another ABBA tribute band to the contest.

This is France’s entry. Yes, that France.

Is Liza Minelli still alive? I just want to make sure she wasn’t reincarnated in Malta.

Could the singer in this Greek entry look any more uncomfortable during the opening dance bit?

That’s it until next year. Stay cheesy, Europe.

Kamen Rider Decade/004 “Second Movement ♬ Prince Kiva”

When I left off Tsukasa, Natsumi, and Grandpa had just been transported to a new world. Tsukasa mysteriously recognizes a building in the distance. It’s the sort of manor house/castle with a dragon sticking out of it we saw flying around in the “Rider War” part of the first episode, but it’s embedded in the top of a skyscraper. Tsukasa knows he’s in “Kiva’s world,” and now he’s in the disguise of a violin player.

We also find out at the outset of the episode that Yuusuke (Kamen Rider Kuuga) has also been transported to this same world, but by an alien-bat-robot thing he calls “Kivaara.”

Rather than give a blow by blow of the whole episode, I’ll just recount the set-up of this world as I understand it. Not much really happens in this episode, other than to establish the world.

In Kiva’s world humans and the monsters co-exist peacefully. The monsters are called “Fangires,” and their looks are based on stain glass and classical European sculpture. Add in the importance of classical music and this whole world is very provincially European, though still in Japan. The Fangires is beginning to get restless, though, because the position of ruler of their kind has been vacant for years. The inheritor of the throne should be Wataru, a little kid who also happens to be Kamen Rider Kiva, but he doesn’t want the position for some reason. Also, Wataru wears a cravat, and has his own alien-bat-robot thing.

Tsukasa witness a Fangire chasing a human woman, and transforms into Kamen Rider Decade. Decade easily defeats the monster, but Wataru witnesses the fight and transforms into Kamen Rider Kiva when he hears the name “Decade.” Decade and Kiva fight, while Stupid Hat Man and the little alien-bat-robot thing that transported Yuusuke look on. Then Kivaara bites Stupid Hat Man’s finger (Kiva’s alien-bat-robot thing does a similar thing to make Kiva transform) and we don’t see him for the rest of the episode.

Kiva’s somewhat odd power is that he can plug little modules into his belt and call monsters from his castle to him, but they appear as weapons he can wield. So he calls a green monster and he gets a gun, or a purple monster and he gets a hammer. For his part Decade transforms in Kuuga!

Interesting, confusing, it’s all the same thing.

The fight between Decade and Kiva is broken up by Yuusuke, who arrived a couple weeks before Tsukasa and has been working as a “Guard” for Wataru. Yuusuke explains over fondue that he’s decided that his mission is to help Wataru.

The second half of the episode reveals that there’s a Fangire running around turning people into glass. While investigating this Tsukasa meets a sad Fangire who was once in love with a human woman, but it didn’t end well.

On his way home Tsukasa is intercepted by Kivaara, who tells him that he’s on this world to destroy it. Then Kivaara transports Tsukasa to a sports stadium (wa-huh?) and he’s confronted by a another Rider. The other Rider wants Decade’s belt. They shoot at each other for a bit.

Back at Wataru’s castle a large Fangire breaks in and attacks Wataru, saying he wants the Kiva armor. The episode ends there.

The Golden Age of Crap Now Available

My friend Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video just published a book. Please click below to buy it!

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Ultra Galaxy Legend (2009)

Ultra Galaxy Legend is perhaps the ultimate Ultraman continuity porn. It starts out with a scene that references the first episode of 1966‘s Ultraman and then goes on to explain the entire origin of the Ultramen and the Land of Light, while also being a direct continuation of both Ultraman Mebius (2006) and Ultra Galaxy Mega Montster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey (2008). If none of that sentence made a lick of sense to you this movie is not aimed at you, but it is a fast moving sci-fi romp with constant special effects and tons of rubber monsters.

The plot is set in motion when the Alien Zarab (as always, played for laughs) releases Ultraman Belial from the prison that orbits the Land of Light. Belial is the only evil Ultraman, who long ago coveted the Plasma Spark that gives all the Ultramen their powers. He was exiled for his transgressions, which led to him allying with Alien Rayblood. Gifted with the Rayonix power of controlling monsters Belial attacked the Land of Light but was defeated. Now free, Belial assaults the Land of Light again, beats up every Ultraman he can find, and makes off with the Plasma Spark. The Land of Light is left a frozen wasteland, and the only beings who can retrieve the Plasma Spark are the few Ultramen Belial didn’t freeze (including Mebius, Ultraman, Ultraseven, and the new Ultraman Zero) and Ray from the Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle shows.

The plot is just an excuse to cram in nearly every Ultraman from the past 40 years plus (allegedly) one hundred monsters into one movie. From that perspective the movie is a roaring success. Though the cynical sci-fi nerd could argue that a lot of the special effects are cheesy, the effects make up for quality in sheer quantity and enthusiasm. There is no downtime, with super-powered kung fu fights happening between Ultramen, aliens, and monsters every few minutes, always against interesting backdrops. By the end of the movie I felt like my eyeballs were full, just from the sheer variety of fantastic beings and settings onscreen.

The attempt to include so much does have a downside. Ultraman Belial is a suitably bad-ass opponent, but his hundred monster army is a bunch of push-overs. There certainly isn’t time for there to be a ten minute long fight with every monster, but it is a little odd to see Red King explode after a single shoulder throw, or Birdon, a monster that (temporarily) killed two Ultramen, blow up after getting hit by a single small ray blast.

The move also doesn’t do itself any favors by perpetuating two of my least favorite trends in Ultraman movies. It’s nearly become standard ever since Ultraman Dyna & Ultraman Tiga: Warriors of the Star of Light (1998) for movies to end with a giant CGI monster, usually made up of a bunch of other monsters combining into one. Well, Ultra Galaxy Legend takes this to its logical conclusion, with every monster combining into one. Once the combo-monster shows up you know that the only way the movie can end with with all the Ultramen shooting combined beams at the monster until it blows up. Ultra Galaxy Legend also throws open the door on Ultramen who have been killed being resurrected for no apparent reason, after episode 3 of Ultraman Mebius seemed to slam it shut by stating that death really is final for Ultramen. I won’t spoil too much here, but a very prominent Ultraman is killed, only to show up in the last scene perfectly okay.

I had never really noticed this before, but the Ultramen and their Land of Light greatly resembles the Green Lantern Corp and Oa. I suppose part of it is that the Land of Light is portrayed in this movie as being made up entirely of translucent green crystal, but it’s more than that. The origin we see for the Land of the Light is that it was an ancient planet inhabited by a race that looked exactly like humans (except, I assume, 150 feet tall), but their sun was extinguished. The planet’s scientists built the Plasma Spark to replace the sun. The Spark worked, but it had the unintended side effect of turning everyone on the planet into silver and red superheroes. The Ultramen renamed their planet the Land of Light and swore to use their power to bring justice and peace to the universe. I suppose that the Plasma Spark turning everyone into a silver and red giant isn’t much more unlikely than a Power Battery allowing rings to manifest the “emotional spectrum of willpower” as giant green boxing gloves.

And now that I think about it the story of Hayata being given the Beta Capsule by Ultraman after his spaceship crashed in the original Ultraman series is pretty similar to Abin Sur giving his ring to Hal Jordan. Is it possible that the Silver Age Green Lantern comic book was influence on Tsuburaya? I’m not really sure how much awareness there was of DC Comics in Japan in the 1960s.

Now I’d like to talk about a thorny issue: Continuity. Continuity has always been a fluid concept in the Ultraman universe, to put it mildly. In the original Ultraman series there was plenty of evidence that the stories were taking place in the present (i.e. 1966), while at the same time the Science Patrol had airplanes capable of traveling all over the world in minutes and spaceflight was routine. Even things like the public knowledge of the existence of aliens and monsters was highly changeable from episode to episode. But there are general guidelines, like certain series are direct sequels to others, and many series take place in their own self-contained universes. Ultra Galaxy Legend acts a capstone for the whole series, and pulls together many Ultramen that have never interacted before, while leaving some others out. I think the rest of this piece will be about how this movie fits in with all the Ultraman continuity that’s been established.

First I’ll all out all the various Ultraman universes that exist. For the most part these are based on TV series. Many of the Ultraman movies, like Ultraman Story, Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace, and Superior Ultraman 8 Brothers don’t seem to be taking place in any established continuity but don’t introduce any new characters either, so I’ll leave them out.

- All the Ultraman series from Ultraman (1966) through Ultraman 80 (1980) take place in one continuity. Arguably Ultraman Neos (2000) takes place in this continuity, and Ultraman Mebius (2005) certainly does. The Ultramen in this universe include (roughly in order of appearance) Ultraman, Zoffy, Ultraseven, Ultraman Jack, Ultraman Ace, Father of Ultra, Ultraman Taro, Mother of Ultra, Ultraman Leo, Astra, Ultraman King, Ultraman 80, Yuria, Ultraman Neos, Ultraseven 21, Ultraman Mebius, and Ultraman Hikari. Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle (2007) and its sequels also takes place in this universe. I’ll call it the M78 universe, after the location of the Land of Light.

- The Ultraman (1979) was an animated series in Japan. The main character was Ultraman Jonias.

- Ultraman: The Adventure Begins (1989) was backdoor pilot American animated series from Hanna-Barberra. There were three Ultramen: Ultraman Scott, Ultraman Chuck, and Ultrawoman Beth.

- Ultraman: Towards the Future (1990) was shot in Australia, and features Ultraman Great.

- Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (1993) was shot in the USA, but never aired here. It has Ultraman Powered.

- Ultraman Tiga (1996) and Ultraman Dyna (1997) take place in the same universe. The only Ultramen are the ones in the titles.

- Ultraman Gaia (1997) is set in its own universe. Ultraman Gaia and Ultraman Agul star.

- Ultraman Cosmos (2001) is yet another new universe. The Ultramen are Ultraman Cosmos and Ultraman Justice, and they combine to be Ultraman Legend.

- Ultraman Nexus (2004) and the related movie The Ultraman (2004) take place in their own universe. Ultramen include Ultraman Next, Ultraman Nexus, and Ultraman Noa.

- Ultraman Max is its own universe. Ultraman Max and Ultraman Xenon appear.

Back to Ultra Galaxy Legend, the Ultraman featured include:

Zoffy, Father of Ultra, Mother of Ultra, and Ultraman Taro

Yuria, Ultraman 80, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Jack

Ultraman, Ultraman Leo, Astra, Ultraman Mebius, Ultraman Hikari


Ultraseven 21, Ultraman Xenon, Ultraman Boy, Ultraman Max, Ultraman Neos

Ultrawomen Beth, Ultraman Scott, Ultraman Chuck, Ultraman Powered, Ultraman Great

Ultraman Dyna

Ultraman King

Ultraman Zero

So what does this tell us about Ultraman continuity? Well, there are some curious decisions. The animated American Ultramen are included, but not the animated Japanese one?

I don’t detect a lot of love for Ultraman Great, who is dressed in a baggy spandex costume. Sure, that Ultraman was portrayed by a guy wearing spandex back in 1990, but the costume looked pretty good. And there’s no real reason they couldn’t make the Great design using the better-looking rubber.

Also no love for Ultraman Nexus/Next/Noa continuity, as none of those Ultramen appear. I should say here that I’m basing continuity on the Ultramen, and not the monsters. At least two monsters unique to Ultraman Nexus appear during the course of the movie, but let’s face it, they were using every monster suit they still had laying around whether or not it made any sense to be in the Monster Graveyard.

Ultraman Boy is here as comic relief, and as a far as I can tell the character is from Ultraman Tiga toy commercials.

Ultraman Dyna’s somewhat sudden and inexplicable appearance in this movie apparently reflects the end of the Ultraman Dyna TV series (which I haven’t seen), with Dyna being pulled into a black hole, and then, I guess, being transported to the M78 universe. He appears familiar with the Land of Light and environs, but he doesn’t hang with the other Ultramen. He says something about “being on a journey,” but there’s no specific references to his being from another universe.

I’m really wondering where Ultraman King fits into the whole pantheon. He seems to the Grand Poobah of the whole Land of Light, and as near as I can tell his whole job description is delivering ludicrous motivational speeches (voiced by former Japanese Prime Minister and international Elvis aficionado Junichiro Koizumi). He doesn’t do squat in fighting Belial, even though he’s not among the Ultramen frozen at the beginning of the movie. I guess it really is good to be the king.

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Most. Improved. Character. Ever.

DC Comics’ new series Brightest Day follows a number of characters who were resurrected by the “White Lantern” power at the end of the previous event series, Blackest Night. One of those characters is Aquaman, who was, I assume, dead until recently. I’m not really sure, and by that I mean I don’t really care. I’m not sure anybody really cares if Aquaman is dead or alive. Certainly not DC’s editorial staff, which allowed Aquaman to appear in the Final Crisis event despite being dead for two years.

So Aquaman is back for real this time, with one little change to his powers.

ZOMBIE SHARKS!!! Aquaman can control undead sea life! Now we’re talking! I bet James Cameron is wishing that Aquaman movie was real right about now.

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Kamen Rider J (1994)

I’m going to take one more detour before I get back to Kamen Rider Decade. For whatever reason the Kamen Rider franchise seems to have lost steam in the 1990s and existed as a series of specials, none of which did well enough to spawn even a single full sequel. Kamen Rider J was a theatrical movie (presumably part of a double feature), and like all of the 1990s stories it strays quite far from the established parameters of the Kamen Rider mythology. That’s saying something, considering one earlier Kamen Rider series is about a Japanese foundling in the Brazilian jungle who is transformed into a Rider by a combination of cybernetics and Incan magic. The series was already pretty flexible.

The story of Kamen Rider J is very simple. So simple, it requires only five actors to appear on screen during the 45 minute running time. The villain here is Fog Mother, a semi-mystical evil being who travels through space in a gigantic bio-mechanical fortress. Her “children,” slimy things with lots of teeth, eat everything in their path and were responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. In order to release her children she has to perform a ritual. The ritual involves sacrificing a human, and Fog Mother’s three disciples (an older man, a younger man, and a woman in matching white suits) spot the perfect one while the fortress lands on a mountain in rural Japan. That sacrifice is Kana, a little girl who is camping on the mountain with her family (I assume), though we never see them. When the fortress comes down Kana is visiting the camp site of Koji, a nature photographer. Fog Mother’s disciples appear at the camp and kill Koji in the process of kidnapping Kana.

Koji is resurrected by the “Earth Spirits,” and given a magic belt and annoying animal sidekick in the form of Berry, a large grasshopper that yells all her thoughts out loud. The belt, of course, allows Koji to transform into Kamen Rider J, though it’s left unexplained why the Earth Spirits have a fetish for green leather and dirt bikes.

Koji heads for Fog Mother’s fortress, and along the way he’s attacked by one of Fog Mother’s disciples, who transforms into a dinosaur/lizard monster. Kamen Rider J finishes off the monster with a flying punch to the brain.

Soon thereafter Koji is attacked by the female disciple, who turns into an insect creature. During the course of the battle the disciple carries Kamen Rider J into the heart of Fog Mother’s fortress.

Breached, the fortress starts rolling around the countryside, crushing buildings and blowing up highways. Inside Kamen Rider J faces the last disciple, who transforms into armored cobra monster.

Kamen Rider J is triumphant, but Fog Mother is able to trap him and keep him from getting to Kana, who is hanging over a pit full of Fog Mother spawn. Faced with this impossible situation Kamen Rider J does the really unexpected: he teleports out of the fortress and grows to Ultraman size! Kamen Rider J (for “jumbo”?) punches a hole in the fortress and rescues Kana, but Mother Fog fights back with the fortress’ various cannons, drills, and saws.

It does seem like a big part of this movie was an attempt to reposition Kamen Rider as an Ultraman type hero, which I suppose makes a certain amount of sense because Ultraman was a dormant franchise at this point. Kamen Rider J’s sleek design is even vaguely like that of an Ultraman character, though obviously the coloring is two tones of green instead of silver and red. There’s also a strange environmental theme here, with Fog Mother seemingly representing pollution. It’s a little odd, because Fog Mother is presumably a being of magic, but her fortress looks like industrial equipment.

With its short running time and minimal cast I’m a little surprised this was shown in theaters. It feels more like a straight-to-video episode. On the plus side, the lack of any supporting characters means that the movie gets straight to the action. In fact, there isn’t much here besides action. If you like the HK wire-fu epics of the early 1990s you’ll find something to enjoy in Kamen Rider J.

As I mentioned earlier, there was no sequel to Kamen Rider J. The character did appear in a short 3-D film with Kamen Rider ZO, and has been featured in some of the later movies, but beyond that never had much effect on the Kamen Rider franchise.

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Hanuman and the Five Riders (1974)

A quick detour in my Kamen Rider writing to an older, and far stranger, entry in the series. Sort of.

Allow me to throw in a little back story. In 1974 Tsuburaya Productions, the makers of Ultraman, teamed up with the Thai studio Chaiyo to make a movie featuring the Ultraman characters meeting a Thai hero. The new hero was called Hanuman, after the Hindu monkey god, and his origin was tied directly to Ultraman continuity. The movie was called Hanuman and the 7 Ultramen in Thailand, and The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. The Monster Army in Japan. The discrepancy in the number of Ultramen comes from the Thai movie counting Mother of Ultra. I can’t imagine the movie went over well in Japan (and decades later it became central in a bizarre legal saga that resulted in Tsuburaya losing the rights to Ultraman for a while), but I guess it did well enough in Thailand that Chaiyo went ahead with a sequel. That sequel featured another popular Japanese superhero group, the Kamen Riders.

Wikipedia is of the opinion that Chaiyo didn’t get the rights from Toei to make a Kamen Rider film. I have no reason to doubt that, but damn, that must take guts. Even worse, Chaiyo’s film features chunks of the real Kamen Rider film Kamen Rider X: Five Riders vs. King Dark (1974). Between this theft and the Ultraman rights fiasco of later decades I get the impression that Chaiyo’s management philosophy falls somewhere between Enron and Latveria.

The movie opens with the five Riders (Kamen Rider 1, Kamen Rider 2, Kamen Rider V3, Riderman, and Kamen Rider X) leisurely driving their motorcycles around Bangkok, occasionally passing in front of local landmarks to convince us that, yes, this is Thailand. My favorite part is that the local traffic doesn’t seem to be very impressed by these superheroes, and twice they get passed by Volkswagen Beetles. That’s just funny on so many levels.

This goes on for a while. A long while. With Thailand firmly established as our setting we cut to the secret headquarters of King Dark. King Dark was the villain of the Kamen Rider X series, and as I understand it he only appeared as a giant reposing statue. For example, here he is from some of the stock footage.

But in the Thai production they must have wanted a villain who could interact with his underlings a bit more, so King Dark appears most of the time as a guy in a costume that is literally coming apart at the seams. His henchmen are guys in ski masks, complete with pompoms on top. Except one guy didn’t get to the store in time to get a ski mask, so instead he’s got a luchador mask.

I should mention that I watched this movie with subtitles, so I’m guessing when it comes to things like names of characters and finer plot details. So from what I can tell King Dark spends his time drinking blood sucked out of women using an amazingly complicated machine. In stock footage he also sends a bunch of monsters out to kidnap children, though all these kidnappings are foiled by various Kamen Riders showing up and delivering a heaping helping of kung fu to the bad guys.

After this setback King Dark has his henchmen shove one of their number in a cage with three cute dogs. The shovee fights like his his life is at stake, but I’m not really sure why. Lookatthepuppies!

After this bizarre scene the movies progresses through an even more bizarre progression of scenes, especially for what I assume was supposed to be a kids movie. We see paintings depicting what I assume is the Thai/Hindu version of hell, with men and women being mutilated by demons. Then it jumps to live-action versions of such scenes, including naked women being chained to thorny trees and men being boiled in oil. Finally we arrive in what I assume is the throne room of the god of the underworld (Yama, perhaps?). Three men are being judged for their sins and OMIGOD it’s the three temple robbers from Hanuman and the 7 Ultramen!

The movie treats us to another chunck of stock footage, this one from the previous Hanuman film. We see the thieves steal a head off a statue and shoot the orphan boy who tries to stop them. Then a hand reaches from the sky and resurrects the boy as Hanuman, the giant monkey god. In the previous movie the hand was Mother of Ultra’s, but that’s left out here. Hanuman chases the thieves down and kills them all in gory ways.

Now that any children watching are guaranteed to never be capable of feeling human emotions again, we go back to the underworld. Things aren’t looking good for the thieves, but as they are about to be judged an earthquake strikes hell! In the confusion the head thief escapes. He then magically appears in King Dark’s throne room, sporting a really fashionable purple outfit and inexplicable magical powers. I need a name for him, so I guess I’ll call him… Prince. Yeah, that works.

Prince was either working for King Dark all along, or he’s decided to now. Prince teleports away, and, using magical disguise abilities, kidnaps a scientist and his girlfreind. The scientist, I note, is the same actor who played the scientist in Hanuman and the 7 Ultramen, though I’m pretty sure he’s not supposed to the same character. For the sake of simplicity I’m going to call him Doctor Khan, which I’m fairly sure was his name in the earlier movie. I’ll call the girlfriend Tulip, because that’s close to the Thai name they say in the movie.

In more stock footage we see Kamen Rider X fighting Gengis Khan Condor and Toad Goemon (oh, if only Starfish Hitler had made this movie!), and King Dark uses his high tech computer to analyze the fight.

Now King Dark wants Doctor Khan’s help in making a new monster to fight the Riders. They torture him in various ways, including tickling him, but he won’t capitulate until Dark’s henchmen start draining Tulip’s blood.

In the only example of the characters from the current movie being integrated into the Five Riders vs. King Dark stock footage in any way, Doctor Khan works some computer consoles while in the stock footage we see the creation of Bat Franken, a bat/Frankenstein’s monster combination.

The new monster doesn’t fair any better against Kamen Rider X than the previous monsters.

More attempts are made to kidnap children, again stopped by various Riders. After one these attempts the Riders have a confab, and then Rider X drives off into an ambush by Bat Franken and ton of monsters. Then the other four Riders show up, and a big fight breaks out. (This is all still stock footage from Five Riders vs. King Dark.) The Riders drop kick all the monsters into a big pile which, unsurprisingly, blows up.

That’s about the end of the stock footage. Now we get to see the Thai versions of the Rider costumes in action. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference, especially with Riderman.

Now Prince blackmails Doctor Khan into making more monsters. This time the monsters are made using a booth sitting out in the middle of a field.

Oh, the suspense! After an hour of all the monsters being from Japanese stock footage, we finally get to see the full creativity of the Thai filmmakers given life! How cool will these monsters be?

You have got to be fricking kidding me. Guys in breech cloths and paper-mache animal masks? And I wonder why Toei didn’t want to work with these guys.

The scientist manages to get a radio message to the Riders, and when Prince tries to move all the various prisoners Dark King has collected in a cart (for reasons I can’t figure out) the Riders ambush them. Prince and the new monsters have a long fight with the five Riders. Um, don’t ask what’s happen in the next screencap.

The monsters defeated, the Riders confab with Doctor Khan. The Riders then run off, and immediately get blown up.

King Dark appears on the scene and recaptures all the prisoners and resurrects his monsters. The Riders are left behind, apparently dead.

Wasn’t Hanuman supposed to be in this movie? Oh, there he is, at a temple, doing what Hanuman loves most: dancing.

Hanuman teleports to the Riders and does a dance that resurrects them.

Hanuman hugs each of the Riders in turn. Then the Riders ride off, and Hanuman stays behind to dance some more.

The Riders raid King Dark’s headquarters, and there’s a big fight between the Riders and the monsters, Prince, and King Dark.

The monsters are defeated and Prince Flees. King Dark grows to gigantic, Tokyo-stomping size.

Not to harp on this,but are we supposed to be able to see Riderman’s face? How lazy were they in recreating these costumes?

One of the Kamen Riders (V3, I think) absorbs his compatriots and and attacks King Dark with his flying motorcyle, with not much effect. Luckily, Hanuman shows up in his giant form.

Hanuman stabs King Dark in the throat.

Hanuman then chases down Prince and sends him back to hell. Evil defeated, Hanuman waves to the Riders and dances some more.

Back in hell we see that the temple thieves have been decapitated, ending this delightful romp for children on an appropriate note.

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Kamen Rider Decade/003 “Transcendental”

The episode picks up where the previous left off, with the two new armored guys attacking Decade and Kuuga.

After a short fight I guess Stupid Hat Man calls in another dimensional riff, the new guys jump “into another hell,” as one of them says. Stupid Hat Man vows that this is just the begining, and walks away. I have no idea what the point of any of this was.

With tempers cooled, Tsukasa, Natsumi, and Yuusuke finally get to talk like civilized people. We find out that Tsukasa is convinced that by stopping the ritual in the previous episode he’s saved the world from the “Ultimate Darkness” that is sleeping under a nearby mountain. For his part Yuusuke explains that when he received the belt that transformed him into Rider Kuuga he was told that someday a devil called “Decade” would appear and destroy everything. Who told him this? None other than Stupid Hat Man.

After this revelation the conversation is interrupted by Grandpa’s TV. Black smoke is coming from the nearby mountain, signifying that the Ultimate Darkness awoke anyway. Ane, who was investigating the mountain, is fatally poisoned and taken to the hospital. The smoke rolls into town and everybody who chokes on the gas turns into a Grongi. The rest of the episode is very much like a zombie movie in tone. Yuusuke sits at Ane’s bedside while Tsukasa transforms into Decade and heads off to fight the growing horde of Grongi, headed by Ultimate Darkness himself.

Initially Decade gets his plastic chaps handed to him, but Yuusuke (as Kuuga) arrives to help with the fight, having been convinced by the dying Ane to fight for the good of humanity. Actually there this whole weird thing about fighting for smiles that carries through the rest of the episode, but I’m going to gloss over that.

After fighting the horde for a little bit Decade swipes the card for “Final Form Ride: Kuuga.” Kuuga transforms into a giant robot beetle.

The Kuuga-beetle grabs Ultimate Darkness out of the air. Decade swipes a card for “Final Attack Ride: Kuuga,” gives Ultimate Darkness a flying kick and that’s the end of U.D.

Tsukasa and Yuusuke arrive back at the hospital and find out that Ane died while they were gone.

Tsukasa and Natsumi go back to the photo studio. Tsukasa explains that the world has been saved. Then Grandpa accidentally drops another background the studio, this one showing the dragon/mansion combo from the first episode.

I guess we’re off to the next world.

The Flying Saucer (1950)

In keeping with my reading on the Roswell incident I decided to take a look at one of the first, if not the first, movie to deal with flying saucers in a dramatic way. The Flying Saucer is a crappy movie with very little actual flying saucer action, but it is important for highlighting a certain truth about how flying saucers were perceived at the time. This truth explains a lot about the whole Roswell incident, and has been all but ignored by the UFO community.

The Flying Saucer was produced and directed by Mikel Conrad, who also stars. Conrad plays Mike Trent, who worked for the U.S. government in some capacity never explicitly described. He retired and has been living the life of a playboy in New York, but he’s called to Washington by his old boss. Uncle Sam is worried about the flying saucers that have been spotted over various parts of the country. Trent’s boss explains that the only use for a craft like a flying saucer would be to deliver an atom bomb, and therefore the U.S. must find the flying saucer before any foreign power. Mike was originally from Alaska, and because the most promising lead they have is up there, Mike is to pretend to have a nervous breakdown and hole up in his father’s hunting cabin north of Juneau. The government sends a pretty female agent, Vee (Pat Garrison, beginning a rich career of one movie), with him to pretend to be his nurse.

Mike is generally sour, unlikable, and basically the worst secret agent ever. When he arrives at cabin and finds a creepy new (German!) caretaker the first thing he asks the man is, “Have you see any Russian spies around here?” Vee wants to follow orders and stay at the cabin until their local contact shows up, but Mike grouses and eventually sneaks away to Juneau, where he proceeds to get roaring drunk for no good reason. After trying unsuccessfully to take a ride on the town whore, Mike runs into an equally drunk guy he knows, and finds out that someone is renting the other guy’s boat for a hundred dollars a day. Obviously these are Russian agents, and the next day Mike sobers up enough for all the information he needs to know about the flying saucer to just fall into his lap. As it turns out the scientist who built the saucer is actually in the lower 48, trying to sell the design aeronautical companies, but the scientist’s assistant is going to sell the craft to the Russians. Mike rents a plane, finds where the saucer is hidden, then flies back to the cabin. After he lands the caretaker tries to kill him, either because the caretaker is a Russian agent or because the guy is just fed up with Mike being a jerk. The Russian agents manage to kidnap Vee and the scientist (who arrived back in Alaska when no one was interested in buying his designs), and Mike flies out to the hidden flying saucer to rescue them. He confronts the Russians in an ice cave, takes one of them hostage, and in a truly hilarious moment, uses the man as a human shield when the chief Russkie empties the entire clip of a machine gun at him from about 6 inches away. Apparently the hostage was wearing his kevlar thermal underwear, because Mike is untouched. There’s a cave-in, and Mike, the scientist and Vee escape. The scientist’s assistant reaches the flying saucer and takes off, only to have it explode. Seems the scientist booby trapped it, meaning nothing Mike or Vee did really mattered. The end.

There are only three or so shots of a painfully cheesy flying saucer model flying around, though Mikel Conrad tried to pass this footage off as genuine flying saucer footage. The movie opens with a card thanking the “those in authority” for helping the movie be a reality, and the following article ran in the Long Beach Independent in the months before the movie was released.

I assume that describing Conrad as “husky” is a nice way of saying “pudgy and looks nearly twice his actual age.” Mikel Conrad’s career never took off, despite this vanity project. His last screen appearance was as George Lawrence in the American scenes of Godzilla, King of the Monster.

So what makes this film interesting as it relates to Roswell? Notice how I never mentioned aliens. Never in this movie does anybody even hint that a flying saucers are alien. This reflects the general thinking on flying saucers in the first couple years after that terms was coined in June, 1947. People might not have known what flying saucers were, but the debate was generally between people who thought they were Russian airplanes intruding in U.S. airspace and people who thought they were the U.S. army testing secret aircraft. This movie reflects that. The Roswell incident occurred a scant three weeks after original “flying saucer” report, so when the Roswell AFB press office announced they had found a flying saucer in early July of 1947 they weren’t admitting they’d found an alien spacecraft as UFO believers claim, but rather that they’d found a Russian secret aircraft of some sort. The alien identification of of flying saucers didn’t start to become popular until 1950 or so. As far as I can tell the first fictional take on flying saucers as alien spacecraft was the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Maybe I should revisit that movie.

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