Darth Maul Joins In The Halloween Spirit

Darth Maul may have been cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of ‘Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace‘ but that didn’t stop the writers of ‘Star Wars The Clone Wars‘ resurrecting the character at the end of Season 4 in a storyline straight out of the ‘Dallas‘ or ‘Eastenders‘ textbook of writing! This major Star Wars protagonist was probably the most iconic figure from the first prequel movie and since getting a birthday cake with his image on it that same year I have been a fan. With him back in the minds of the public since the 3D release earlier this year and his rise from the dead in the animated series I was determined to transform myself into the character once I knew I would be attending a Halloween party this year.

 

This year’s party at a local British bar in Ebisu was actually the first time I’ve ever gone out in fancy-dress for Halloween and it was fun. Halloween in Japan has its own style in that its basically just a big fancy-dress party where pretty much anything goes rather than the more typical ghost/witch/mummy-type costumes. As things go my Star Warscostume has a pretty close connection to the Halloween theme!

 

Despite seeing Darth Maul masks being sold in Tokyu Hands a few months ago I just couldn’t find one anywhere in the build up to Halloween so had to go online and having splashed out a few thousand yen on that I went cheap on the rest of the costume. A 100 yen shop provided me with the gloves, belt (actually a scarf), jacket and skirt which was just the bottom half of another jacket cut-off and turned upside down! It’s not only Luke Skywalker who can construct his own lightsaber as I also did likewise using a 100 yen broomstick (minus the brush) wrapped in red colour paper on the ends with white paper in the middle part shaded grey using a pencil with the finishing touches being a few red circle buttons drawn on. All a bit cr*p up close but from afar it looks ok.

 

It wasn’t all about me, me, me though! Along with a load of my colleagues we all got dressed up on Saturday evening after work. All kinds of costumes were on display which can be seen in some of the photos above and below.

  

On the other hand the fun was taken out of the night slightly by some of the impracticalities involved in drinking with a mask on (I tried through a straw for a bit but it didn’t taste good), needing to go to the toilet, having pockets full of cameras, phones and whatever else. Furthermore, it was very hot in my costume and I sweated a lot in the jacket and mask but I saw that as a good thing in my attempt to lose a few kilos. I only had a few beers during my stay as I had to get up the following morning to do a couple of kids Halloween parties in Hibarigaoka which you can read about here.

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Grudge 2’ (2006)

Just reading the blurb on the back of this films dvd gives you an idea of how lazy the storyline is and yet it somehow managed to limp on for a further sequel by way of  ’The Grudge 3‘! On hearing that Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has been hospitalised following her failed attempt to burn the house down at the end of the first movie, her mother sends her other daughter Aubrey to Tokyo to bring her sister, who she hasn’t been talking to, back home. Aubrey then learns her sisters horrifying story and how the curse of the grudge has been unleashed. Very vague and lame indeed as is sadly usually the case with horror movies follow-ups in particular.

Whilst I felt Sarah Michelle Gellar was under-used in the first film (see that review here) she is only in this one as a cameo part (just over five minutes in total) designed to bring some connection to the two films. Or maybe she didn’t really want her name associated with such a production which is why she doesn’t stay alive for long in the movie!

The Grudge 2 focuses on her sister but doesn’t give her too much to do. As the film has three separate stories there just isn’t enough focus on Aubrey’s storyline. Instead we also get a couple of other subplots and with the story constantly flicking between them it is difficult to get attached to any of the characters and to have any or much sympathy with them when they inevitably end up being affected by the curse of the grudge.

Of course its not a complete lame duck and I actually didn’t mind some of the scenes with Aubrey and the journalist Eason as well as the story centring on the three International High School students who go to the grudge house (no lock on the gate or the house but just some tape preventing entry!) but the Chicago apartment building storyline seemed  isolated in the scheme of things and was ultimately more distracting than involving.

There are some chilling moments here and there but if you’ve seen the first one then its nothing original. However, if you haven’t seen the original one then you’re unlikely to be watching this second one anyway! Eason tells Aubrey all about the curse and says “I was hoping you can tell me something I don’t already know but you can’t” which is quite apt given that this film doesn’t really make too much ground on the mystery of the grudge and how it can be stopped.

We learned in the 2004 American original about the Japanese belief that a curse is left behind when someone dies in a powerful grip of rage. It leaves a stain in that exact place  lasting forever which is a little ironic given that this particular horror franchise, having rush-released this sequel on the back of a successful weekend at the box office for the original, did exactly that in the cinema’s showing it!

 

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10

Click on the following links for the filming locations of each film:

The Grudge (2004)     Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2006) 

New York Filming Locations: Ghostbusters (1984)

The pre-title credits begin with a shot of the marble lion outside the New York Public Library (below) at 455 5th Avenue where the first super-natural experience takes place before Ray Parker Junior’s famous title song (which I did as a gap-fill activity in Halloweeen lessons a couple of years back) kicks in.

 

Columbia University (below) on 2960 Broadway is first seen during the opening credits but its first proper appearance is after 14 minutes when Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) explains to Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) on the steps of the Low Memorial Library that it was their destiny to get “thrown out of this dump” so they can go into business themselves.

  

They get their loan on 15 minutes from Manhattan City Bank which in reality is the Irving Trust Building seen below. It’s at 1 Wall Street in lower Manhattan.

Along with Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) they set up their paranormal exterminator service in a retired firehouse and so ‘Ghostbusters‘ is born. This building (below) is better known as Hook & Ladder Company #8 and actually is a real firehouse at 14 North Moore Street and was the first location on my list when I knew I was going to New York. There is a sign painted on the pavement in front of it which is not too dissimilar to the Ghostbusters sign. The firehouse is seen on 15, 20, 22, 29, 45, 60, 64 and 68 minutes as well as in the sequel ‘Ghostbusters II‘ where one of my screenshots is from.

   

Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and Venkman meet by chance on 42 mins at the Lincoln Centre (below) where they dicuss the information he’s found on her apartment and why it may be haunted. This place also appeared in the award winning 2010 film ‘Black Swan‘ and is located on Columbus Avenue between West 63rd and 64th Streets.

   

The Ghostbusters vehicle gets a police escort on 78 minutes along Centre Street and Chambers Street (below right) as the four-some have a “date with a ghost” at Barrett’s  haunted apartment.

 

That apartment is on 55 Central Park West (below right) and is actually first seen on 17 minutes when Barrett encounters paranormal activity which eventually leads to her hiring the Ghostbusters team. This place is pivotal in the films climax as, after ascending to the roof of the building, they eventually come up against the giant Stay Puft marshmallow man.

   

Just a couple of bonus New York locations to add to this from the 1989 sequel ‘Ghostbusters II‘ which sees the team arrive at the Manhattan Museum of Art. This is the old US Customs House on 1 Bowling Green at Broadway. It is now the National Museum of the American Indian (below) and also featured in ‘Batman Forever‘.

 

The movie ends with an event to say ‘Thank-you Ghostbusters’ which is held right next to the Statue of Liberty (below) on Liberty Island where the Mayor and the people of New York give the paranormal exterminators the key to the city as a plan is made to restore the famous statue after it was used (and no doubt damaged) to break through something or another towards the films end.

 

New York Filming Locations: Spider-Man (2002) & Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Whilst I did enjoy this years Spider-Man re-boot I do prefer the Sam Raimi directed trilogy from the 2000′s and I particularly like Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s house (below left) in Queens. The nearest station is probably Forest Hills and from there it is about a 15-20 minute walk to the house at number 8839 on 69th Road but its worth it and was one of my favourite filming locations in New York. There is the added benefit of seeing Austin Street at Ascan Avenue (below right) relatively nearby which is where Parker later runs down having discovered his powers.

 

Before that he goes on his school field trip to a genetics laboratory at Columbia University (below) on Broadway and 116th Street. Parker is bitten here by a genetically modified spider and wakes up the following morning with much much stronger powers. The University also features in the 2004 sequel film as well as others with the most notable perhaps being ‘Ghostbusters’ in 1984.

  

New York Public Library (below) on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street in some ways plays a very important part in Peter Parkers upbringing as its outside here that Uncle Ben drops him off and gives him some fatherly advice about the power of responsibility. After winning his wrestling match Parker is annoyed that the fight promoter only pays him $100 and so when the promoter is robbed he lets the robber get away even though he could have stopped him. All in the name of bitter revenge but it backfires in an extremely bad way with huge life changing consequences as that robber later kills Uncle Ben.

 

The Daily Bugle is really the Flatiron Building (below) at 175 5th Avenue in the Flatiron District and its here that Parker makes some extra cash as he sells pictures of himself as Spider-Man despite his editor thinking the crime fighting super-hero is a menace to New York.

 

Queensboro Bridge (below) is the setting for a battle between The Goblin and Spider-Man after the former takes Mary-Jane and a tram full of children hostage. He wants Spidey to choose which one he will save but of course he is able to save everyone with a bit of help from the people on the bridge and on the boat beneath it.

 

Spider-Man 2 followed two years later with Parker struggling to balance his normal and super-hero duties. In need of financial support to pay his rent he works as a pizza delivery man for Joe’s Pizza’s but not for long though as he is fired for being late too often and thereby costing his manager money who has a 29 minute promise to his customers or they get it free. This place in reality is not a pizza one and the building on the corner of Bleecker Street and Carmine Street (below) in Greenwich Village all looks a bit different nowadays.

 

Parker’s rundown apartment is on 187 Chrystie Street at Stanton Street and Dr Octavius’ laboratory is 32 2nd Avenue at East 2nd Street. Mary-Jane announces her engagement to John Jameson at the Science Library benefit taking place at the Rose Centre for Earth and Space (below) on 81st Street at Central Park West.

 

The church where Mary-Jane is all set to get hitched in is Riverside Church (above) on 490 Riverside Drive and West 120th Street which is just a few minutes walk north of Columbia University up in Mornington Heights.

You can see ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ NYC Filming Locations here.

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)

After a gap of four years the 23rd James Bond film ‘Sky Fall‘ is nearly here, 50 years since the release of ‘Dr No‘ starring Sean Connery. The Scot went on to make six official 007 films (plus non-Eon Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again‘) with my favourite being ‘You Only Live Twice‘ in 1967 which is partly responsible for my filming locations fascination and the inspiration for me going on to watch many more international films set in Japan thereby leading to this series of reviews on the subject.

This was the first film I remember watching which offered an insight into the country that has been my home for many years now. From the haunting but beautiful sweeping sounds of Nancy Sinatra’s soundtrack to the exotic oriental locations this film really does develop a flavour for Japan with its beautiful women, emerging technology and ancient customs.

 

The stakes are high in this film with the threat of World War III. The catalyst for this threat comes after a spacecraft is hijacked which sees both America and Russia blame each other. British Intelligence discover that an Unidentified Flying Object went down into the seas of Japan and so agent 007 is despatched to the Far East. Not wanting him to be distracted by old enemies under such pressure and time constraints Bond’s death is faked.

Bond forms an alliance with Tiger Tanaka, the Head of the Japanese Secret Service who many years later would reappear in the 007 novel ‘The Man With The Red Tattoo‘ which I finally read last year. Naturally, Tiger’s competent agent is a female called Aki who Bond gets together with before she goes the way of so many other Bond girls. But thats ok as she is easily replaced a short time later with another girl….or two!

As ever with Bond films I really don’t think the storyline is of paramount importance as the reason fans watch these films is to see the action scenes, the Bond girls, the lines, the villains and Bond’s charm and seduction when in the face of adversity as he often is.

This 007 film in particular played a huge part in giving Mike Myers his ideas for spoof agent Austin Powers such as the incredibly evil villain with his white cat who has a pedal that when pressed sees the floor taken from beneath his victim. There’s also the gigantic lair with guys in the background turning knobs to make it look like they’re doing something. The volcano base set is an elaborate one and the mysterious man stroking the cat is finally revealed to be Ernst Stravo Blofeld for a few brief scenes 100 minutes into the movie.

You Only Live Twice‘ may tire a bit in the second half but overall its a fun movie and on top of some nostalgic Japanese scenery it also features the “Little Nellie” helicopter which is one of the most beloved Q gadgets (used by Bond to explore the volcano area). As well as Blofeld finally being unveiled we also see the absurd plot whereby Bond is transformed into a Japanese man to maintain cover on his secret mission which can probably be attributed to (or blamed for) the many documentaries we’ve seen over the years with celebrity presenters throwing themselves into Japanese culture.

 

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

You can see my ‘You Only Live Twice‘ Japan filming locations here and here.

New York Filming Locations: Live And Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore’s first outing as 007 in 1973′s ‘Live And Let Die‘ sees him go to New York arriving 13 minutes in at JFK International Airport in Queens on his mission to investigate the mysterious deaths of several other British agents. Typically, of the three airports in and around New York this was the one I didn’t have to go to but no great loss as its appearance is inevitably very different these days.

The same thankfully can’t be said for the ‘Oh Cult Voodoo Shop’ on 33 East 65th Street at 5th Avenue which is first seen after 18 minutes. As I was saying it was pretty surprising to see this place looking so similar nearly 40 years later. A couple of minutes later Bond is

   

seen hailing a yellow cab outside the store and tails a lead in typical follow-that-car movie fashion to ‘Fillet of Soul’ and though the sign post on screen clearly shows Lenox Avenue, it is in fact 2nd Avenue at 94th Street. 117th and 118th Streets were used for the fight scenes which followed and that was the end of the New York scenes. A bit surprising perhaps that no other Bond films have been set in this major world city since.

See other James Bond filming locations by clicking on the places below:

Tokyo  London  Prague  Venice  Como  Istanbul  Las Vegas  Phuket  Vienna  Hong Kong

New York Filming Locations: Batman Forever (1995) & The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The third and final instalment of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies was filmed in Britain, India and the USA with New York playing its part and its there that we start this entry as its fair to say that this one is far more loved than ‘Batman Forever‘.

The aerial shots of Gotham City are not surprisingly (especially in an article about the locations of this famous city!) the skyscrapers of Manhattan in New York and the entrance to ‘Wayne Enterprises’ is Trump Tower (below) on 725 5th Avenue at East 56th Street. Perhaps this was chosen to reflect the similarities in celebrity businessman status between Donald Trump and Bruce Wayne.

 

The exterior of Gotham City Stock Exchange is on Wall Street and its the JPMorgan Building at number 23 (below left) on the corner of Broad Street which is used though sadly it was under construction when I was in town which can be one of the most frustrating things on such location hunting expeditions. For the record, it’s interior was filmed all the way over in Los Angeles.

 

Though strictly not New York, Military Park Station in New Jersey is close enough to the Big Apple to be combined with though I never did make it to this subway tunnel on the Newark Light Rail which is where Kyle lures Batman into Bane’s trap. When Gotham is later closed off under Bane’s power Queensboro Bridge (above right) over the East River in New York can be briefly seen with tanks lined up on it.

Whilst ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ is generally considered to be much better than ‘Batman Forever‘ it doesn’t mean that the 1995 film directed by Joel Schumacher wasn’t without its hype. Val Kilmer had taken over the main role from Michael Keaton and with a support cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman it was a strong line-up. Batman’s partner Robin (Chris O’Donnell) also entered the fray and one of my favourite ever bands U2 recorded the much anticipated soundtrack ‘Hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me’ which I can even remember DJ Simon Mayo playing twice in succession when it got its first ever airplay on BBC Radio One.

Bruce Wayne arrives at Surrogate’s Court on 31 Chambers Street (below) at Centre Street in Lower Manhattan and this was the office exterior of Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). I didn’t have the screenshots with me when I went here early one morning so sadly I didn’t snap the place from the angles where Wayne is seen on 29 minutes.

   

All of Gotham society including Wayne and Chase turn up at The Ritz Gotham Hotel on 70 minutes where Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) has his party is also in Lower Manhattan and is in fact the old US Customs House on 1 Bowling Green at Broadway. It is now the National Museum of the American Indian (below) and also featured in ‘Ghostbusters II‘.

  

You can see the London Filming Locations of Batman here.