Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shh. It Happens.

I must apologize Sporefans. While most of the reviews I post are directed to you so that you might better choose which movies to spend your time and money on, this week's review is actually not directed at you. While you are more than welcome to read it, I'm afraid that I need to address this week's review to someone who needs my help much more than any of you could. This person is in dire straights, and needs someone to help them recognize the pitfalls of bad movies. This person desperately needs my help, because without it they stand to make horrible decisions; decisions that could have consequences and ramifications that could adversely effect all of America. My apologies Sporefans, though I do hope you'll read on; for even though this review is not directed at you, you might glean some important information from my advice to this poor soul who has fallen upon bad times.

Dear M. Night Shyamalan,

You need to stop making movies. Now.

In June of 2008 you released a movie upon the world that you entitled The Happening. You wrote it, produced it and directed it. We know this because for some strange reason, you put your name on it. Its as if... somehow... you're proud of making this movie.

Some say you've lost your touch. Others say that you got lucky when you made your first couple of movies and this is actually the truest work you've ever done. I will admit that the first two major movies you made were fairly good. Unfortunately you seem to follow the same arc that sequels do as they progress over the course of years, spiraling ever downward into the toilet of oblivion.

I know that I've made some pretty biting comments about you in the past. It's no secret that I was not a fan of Lady in the Water, and that I found a space ship sized plot hole in Signs. The Village should have been damned before it ever got to production. But you just kept going, pushing the envelope of sucking to lower and lower extremes; sulking down at the bottom of the movie-making toilet costing everyone valuable time and money.

What's that? You don't know what I'm talking about? You don't see the problem? Allow me to explain Mr. Shyamallamalan. I think the question you should really ask yourself is, where am I going to start?

My god... this movie is... dead!

Indeed where should I start? Let's begin with imdb's claim that you "wrote the screenplay with Mark Wahlberg specifically in mind for the lead role." Let me get this straight, you WANTED Mark Wahlberg? I can't argue that you hadn't seen Max Payne because that movie hadn't been created yet, but if you looked more carefully at many of his previous roles, you'd know that you were hiring a guy who is largely considered to be the discount version of Matt Damon. Please consult the following list of Hollywood face actors:

Top level face actor- Matt Damon. Pros: He'll act wonderfully and help your movie. Cons: He costs a lot of money, too smart to be in anything written, directed and produced by M. Night Shymahimalayamalan.

Mid level face actor- Mark Wahlberg. Pros: Some people will confuse him with Matt Damon, works cheap by comparison. Cons: Can't act his way out of a paper bag, not real bright.

Low level face actor- John Cena. Pros: Two blind retarded guys who may or may not live in a country where this movie gets shown might think he's Mark Wahlberg. Everyone else will leave the theater during the opening credits. Cons: Movie will fail. Massive debt ensues. Director's career over, see John Bonito of The Marine for details.

Mark Wahlberg has a heart to heart talk with a plastic Fichus. The Fichus, by the way, completely steals the scene from Wahlberg.

OK, so you didn't fail epically so far, but you did get yourself a really bad actor as your male lead. Which leads me to my second point. You hired Zooey Deschanel to star opposite Mark Wahlberg, but then made her character so annoying that you probably damaged her career. Think about that Shymalimealon, you just wrecked that girl's career. Think back to the terrible script you constructed by pulling lines from your anti-social backside. Think about the directions you gave her on set. Directions like this:

M. Night: OK Zooey, in this scene I want you to make Mark look like a really good actor, so I need you to be really annoying. Can you do that?

Zooey: I can... but... I really don't feel comfortable doing this.

M. Night: Come on Zooey, I know you have what it takes to be a whiny anti-social loser; someone who is so pathetic that she thinks that by having dessert with another man she's cheating on her husband; and that fills her with... Guilt.

Zooey: So... you want me to act like you?

M. Night: Yes! Exactly!

Zooey: (sighs) Fine. (whispers) No one's going to watch this movie anyway.

I do admit that this is only a facsimile of what I suspect happened on set, but given the on screen results it seems a pretty accurate reconstruction.

Speaking of bad things you do to actors, what the hell did you do to poor John Leguizamo? Leguizamo has had his share of both great movies and stinkers, but it seems to me that you tazered the poor guy until his speech slurred. I get that all of your characters are supposed to be socially stunted individuals, but the raging trifecta of Paxil popping people who populate your unpopular movie about depopulating the planet is just painful. Or was it Payneful, I can't remember.

John Leguizamo attempts to get out of this movie by any means necessary. Fortunately that's not real glass, otherwise he'd actually be dead right now. This is not the type of movie you want as your last feature, kind of like how Raul Julia had to go out on "Street Fighter". Ugh.

Which brings me to the plot.

Let me get this straight... Your movie is about how plants feel threatened by human beings and release complicated deadly neurotoxins into the air that cause people to kill themselves. Seriously, this is your plot. I didn't add any jokes there, that's really the plot to this movie.

Breaking it down retroactively, it seems to me that you wanted a movie where characters killed themselves because you thought that it would disturb people. I mean, that's never been done before, right? Except maybe in that movie Pulse where people killed themselves to avoid turning into spots on the walls because of ghosts. Or in the movie Kairo, which is the Japanese movie that Pulse was based on. Or in that movie Suicide Circle, directed by Sion Sono; which was also a pretty good movie... much better than Kairo in my opinion.

Still, nice try though. This idea does have some merit as it is a fairly disturbing way to kill off characters and provides variety in that different people may find different means to do themselves in.

But then you blamed it on the trees.

You mean... we're all in an M. Night Shyamalan movie? Oh god! Kill me! KILL MEEEE!!!

In your movie plants have become threatened by humans and begin to release toxins that cause the humans to kill themselves, revealing a tired theme of man versus nature with us as the antagonists who defile the world and the plants as the protectors of Earth. Thus, we are vile polluters we will be punished for our hubris. Because, you know... plants never do anything wrong.

One user on IMDB suggested that there is a chemical called Pyrethrin which is derived from Chrysanthemums grown and harvested from Kenya which would account for this phenomenon. Oh, except that Pyrethrin doesn't cause you to kill yourself, it just irritates your eyes and lungs. Sorry IMDB guy, your guess at an obscure insect repellent being the cause for plant initiated suicides in humans is wrong.

But don't worry Mr. Shamalamadingdong, that's why they call it fiction. You're allowed to make stuff up. That part is OK.

The part that's not OK is when you have all of the scientists in your fictional world shrug their shoulders and say "We will never know the mysteries of nature." That part. That part right there... the part where you hit people with the "We will never understand" crap... we call that laziness. The worst part is, this feels like intentional laziness because it could have been fixed in a simple rewrite. Here, let me show you:

"Scientists around the world are studing this phenomenon, but as of yet we still do not know the reason for the release of the deadly plant toxin."

See, was that so hard?

Even though scientists do not know the cause of "the event" in the movie, they know exactly when it will end. You can set your watch to it. They try to make up some funny math about how its all based on statistics, but how do you get statistics on an event thats never happened before? One you can't explain? How do you know it will even stop? Way to drop the ball there Shammy.

Unlike the scientists in your movie, I think I know the problem here. I have the root cause to why your movie sucks so bad. It's because of your writing. Actually, I have proof. Here are some of the worst quotes from The Happening, taken from IMDB's quote page.

Elliot Moore: [Alma looks troubled] What's wrong?

Alma Moore: Okay, I was going to tell you, okay? There was this guy Joey. His name is Joey; he's at work. We went out and we had dessert; I went out and had dessert with him when I told you I worked late and I didn't work late and I'm feeling really guilty in case we're gonna die. I just wanted you to know that.

Elliot Moore: You... lied to me?

"You... lied to me?" That's what you wrote? This is supposed to be stunning, movie quality dialogue? And "Okay, so I was going to tell you, okay?" Did you steal this from some kid in high school? No, I'm sorry, you couldn't have. It's too consistent. Here, have some more:

Elliot Moore: If we're going to die, I want you to know something. I was in the pharmacy a while ago. There was a really good-looking pharmacist behind the counter. Really good-looking. I went up and asked her where the cough syrup was. I didn't even have a cough, and I almost bought it. I'm talking about a completely superfluous bottle of cough syrup, which costs like six bucks.

Alma Moore: Are you joking?

[Elliot nods his head]
Alma Moore: Thank you.

I'm really glad that you know what the word superfluous means. I really am. But it sticks out like a sore thumb. Oh, wait... no it doesn't. Most of this dialogue sounds like you wrote it with pimples on your face. Is this something you've been keeping in your attic for years, for when the artistic well finally runs dry?

They really want you to know that this is an iphone in this scene where you watch a man pet a lion. Product placement ahoy!

Did I hit a nerve? Is that what happened? Is that why the happening happened? A movie so bad people joke about the actors killing themselves to get out of the film. There you go, it wasn't trees. It was you. The scary thing being that I wasn't the only one to come to this conclusion. Here, take a look at this conversation I had with another victim of this movie.

Spored to Death: So... did you see The Happening yet?

Mr. Mazz: Oh yeah, the movie where all the actors kill themselves to get out of the film? I saw that. It sucked.

Spored to Death: You thought of that too? That's kind of creepy. I wonder if that's "happening" all over the world as people watch the movie.

Mr. Mazz: Oh, god. You and the puns. It's like talking to a verbal minefield.

See, that didn't suck because both participants in the conversation don't sound like retards.

So, as I said in the beginning, I think its time you just gave up making movies. You're getting older now... and with some people, they loose their ability to... how should I put this... "create". It's a natural part of the aging process. Some people just can't... "do it" anymore. And when they try, its just... sad. Sure they tell you if you take some pills it'll solve the problem... but honestly, do you want to wind up in the emergency room from strain you're just not meant to handle? Lets face it, its time for you to retire and let other, younger, healthier more talented people have a shot at entertaining America.

The movie ends with some INTENSE HAND HOLDING ACTION! You know... very, uh... what's that word I'm looking for here? Platonically. Yeah. That's it. Platonically. You would think that after risking their lives by crossing a back yard full of grass... You know what? The movie's ending is appropriate, as it fits with the general lameness of the rest of the film.

Come on now... stop crying. You had a good... OK, you had a run. You made some money. But the party's over, and its time you came face to face with your fears. Come on now.

Shh. It happens.

OK Sporefans, I know that I usually put the YouTube video of the trailer for the movie at the end of the post, but I also cannot abide by false advertizing. Here's something else. I find this movie to be of a much higher caliber than The Happening. Enjoy!

And yes, I have seen Shark in Venice. It's still better than The Happening. Think about the ramifications of that statement.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Greetings Sporefans. As you may know, I have been consumed by studying and creative writing. Its a school thing. Hopefully my story about a girl and her mother who embark on a quest of self-discovery and love in the American Mid-West during the great depression will get me an A. If not, I've got a back-up story about zombies.

Zombies rock.

Between submitting a piece of creative writing and constructing a sonnet I find myself with about 2 hours of free time, and in this two hours I intend to review Takashi Miike's Zebraman! If you've never heard of Takashii Miike before, this is the time to check him out. His bizarre style and interesting premises are the driving force behind some of the greatest films ever made. Those of you who are fans of Miike are probably only familiar with his most famous work, Audition. To those of you who have not seen any of Miike's other films, you're missing out on some great movies. Movies like The Happiness of the Katakuris, Gozu, The Great Yokai War (a kid's movie... seriously), Visitor Q (definitely not a kids movie. Seriously.) and One Missed Call.

No, not the American remake. The good one.

If you think that I'm going overboard with praise, think about this first: How often do I review a movie that was actually nominated for an award? Any award. Well I'll tell you. The last time I reviewed anything that was even nominated for an award was when I covered Garth Marengi's Darkplace.

In January.

I know that I have a reputation for watching movies that no one else can stomach, and that most of the movies that I review are terrible. But every now and then I like to watch something... you know... good. Even a fungus man needs a break from crap now and then.

Zebraman is the story of an incredibly mild mannered man named Shin'ichi Ichikawa (played by Sho Aikawa, who was nominated for best actor by the Japanese Acadamy for this movie). Shin'ichi is so mild that he makes Clark Kent look like Hunter S. Thompson by comparison. Shin'ichi is an elementary school teacher who's wife is openly cheating on him and who's children don't respect him. His daughter Midori (Yui Ichikawa) stays out all night dating older men. Older men that happen to be homicidal maniacs. Homicidal maniacs who also dress like crabs. Men like Kitahara the Crab Man (Akira Emoto).

More on that later.

His life in shambles, Shin'ichi spends most of his time reminiscing about his childhood; and in particular a show that he used to watch on television called Zebraman. In true Otaku style Shin'ichi fashions himself a Zebraman suit, toiling late into night over a sewing machine. He starts to wear the Zebraman suit outside his house, skulking about the city to buy sodas from vending machines when he hears a noise coming from a nearby alley. In the alley is a homicidal maniac, Kitahara the Crab Man, who wears a crab helmet and kills young women with two pairs of scissors (like big silver crab claws). Kitahara attacks Shin'ichi, throwing his scissors at the school teacher's head.

And then, for no apparent reason, Shin'ichi gets super powers.

This is one case of crabs that can't be solved with special shampoo and a tiny comb!

OK, there is a reason, but it doesn't get explained until later in the movie. Also, there are aliens. Did I mention the aliens? No? Well maybe I should have. It might have helped.

On second thought, no... it wouldn't have.

What makes Zebraman a great movie isn't the inherent strangeness of Miike's style, but a simple concept that until this movie hasn't been done successfully. To put it simply, Zebraman is a comic book superhero for an adult audience (no, not like that). Allow me to explain this in a little more detail.

See, even Zebraman can have a bad day. That's why he drinks Zebraman brand Zebradrink! (coming soon!)

Think back Sporefans. Remember when you were a kid and you used to watch superheroes on TV? It doesn't matter what you used to watch; whether it was Voltron, Superman or Thundercats. Whatever it was you used to watch you thought it was cool. If you've ever tried to watch one of those shows or movies when you were an adult, you would notice that they're not so cool anymore. The show hasn't changed, its the exact same show you used to watch when you were a kid. The thing that's changed is you.

Some people may say that when you're a little kid, things are more magical; that when you grow up that you lose something deep inside you that you can never get back because you're too old and the magic of being a kid is gone.

Well I say that's crap.

After a long day of fighting evil, Zebraman comes home to dinner with Zebranurse. Unfortunately for him, this is a dream sequence and he won't be getting into and of that Zebracleavage tonight.

Also, notice that they are eating crab. Interestink. Veeeeery interestink!

What's actually happened is that you can now see everything that you missed as a child. There's no missing magic, you're just smarter. You can see all of the contrived plot devices, the bad editing, the animation that had to reuse the same footage over and over because they didn't have a proper budget.

To put it metaphorically, its like a puppet show. (Yes, I know that's a simile, but how do you put things similillililily? See, let's just stay with metaphorically.) When you're a child, all you see is the puppets, because the puppets are cool. As an adult, you can see the strings that move the puppets. Pretty soon, you can't get it out of your head that the strings are there. Sure, you still see the puppets, and watch the show, but its not the same because you awareness of the strings always prevents you from enjoying the show on the same level you used to as a child.

Zebraman is like a puppet show with no strings.

Actually there are strings, but you just don't care.

When you watch the old TV shows or movies, you'll notice at some point there's a moment when you wince. Something is just a little too corny, too contrived and sticks out. Sometimes there's a lot of it. You'll wince and think "why did they do that?", and its at that moment that you notice the metaphorical strings I was talking about.

You won't have a moment like that while watching Zebraman. Though comical at times, the overall tenor of Zebraman is that of a serious movie. The campiness of the film is only inherent through Shin'ichi's portrayal of Zebraman, which seems natural because of his preoccupation with Japanese costumed superheroes or Kamen Rider type show (there are actually more types, but this is the closest).

ZEBRA-BOMBAAAH! (that would be Zebra-Bomber to those of you who aren't used to Japanized English)

The film succeeds not just because of Miike's bizarre style, or the well constructed script, or even Sho Aikawa's brilliant acting; but something that comes from the cohesive whole of the movie. Bluntly put, Zebraman is a super hero movie for adults. There is definitely some content in this movie that makes it a poor choice for a children's movie, but that's part of the point. Zebraman is not a movie for kids. Zebraman is a movie for adults who want to feel like kids for two hours (without Marijuana). This is made pretty clear by Oikawa of the Defense agency complaining about how he's itchy because he contracted crabs from a cheap prostitute in the beginning of the movie.

Come to think of it, there's kind of a crab theme throughout this movie.

Watch out! He has all the powers of the vicious and deadly Zebra!

For those of you who've stayed up late to catch reruns of your favorite childhood TV shows and were disappointed, Zebraman is like late night candy that you can get anytime as long as you have a DVD player. Admittedly I caught this movie on the Sundance Channel, but by the time this is going to publication I will have already ordered a copy of the DVD from Amazon. Zebraman may not be to everyone's tastes, but for those of you who do like this movie will love it. The rest of you... well, your inner child just might be dead. And that makes you a child killer.

You don't want to kill children, do you?

Well then maybe you better watch this movie.

Yeah. It's like that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An admission of guilt

Well Sporefans, I have a confession to make. As many of you may have noticed, I have not posted a new review in a while. Actually, I fully admit that I haven't written a review since M.D. Geist 2: Death Force. I have been busy working on getting good grades in my classes, and haven't had time to fully develop a review by bringing my wit to bear on a movie recently. But there is another, darker and more sinister reason that I haven't posted a review in a while.

You see Sporefans, I have been cheating on you. With Fiction.

That's right, I have made the leap from reviewing things to actually creating them. Like any other fungus, I needed to go where there was sustenance; sustenance for my creative spirit. And like any other fungus, I can eat almost anything, which is why I am currently eating Casper Van Dien's career.

Mmmm... so tasty! And almost gone too! What's that? You can only get work doing Starship Trooper's 3 and in one episode of TV's Monk? No? You were in a TV movie called Mask of the Ninja too? Your time in the spotlight is almost up, Mr. Van Dien! That mean's I'll have to find someone else's career to devour in a few months! Don't worry, I'm sure you can get a job at Starbucks... or if you're really desperate, the Sci-Fi channel.

In any event Sporefans, I wanted you to know that there will be a review coming out soon for Takashi-Miike's Zebraman. I just need to finish this exam on Thurdsay to get started.



Technically I should be studing now instead of typing this. Also, if any of you are interested in reading some of my short fiction, just drop me an email and I'll send you a little something-something.... and maybe a short story. The contact email is in my user profile.

In the meantime, enjoy some awesome fan art. Look, I'm right there in the middle!



Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Greetings Sporefans. This week we have a special guest review from fnord12 over at SuperMegaMonkey. Apparently he and min went to go see Max Payne this weekend.

Then some bad things happened.

As a result, fnord12 wrote this review. I've only made minor editorial changes because Blogger has a thing about swear words, and have taken the liberty of adding imdb links. Other than that, you won't hear from me.

OK, you will, but only in the captions. There were no pics with the review, so I added captions with disclaimers, so you know I'm butting in. As an ass, I do that. Anyway, here's fnord12's review of Max Payne!

[Please note that this review is from memory. By memory, I mean the painful images burned permanently into my brain. While the accuracy of the plot points may be suspect, the agony is most certainly real.]

The circumstances that led us to a movie theater on what may have been the last sunny day of the year are not directly relevant to this tale, but be assured that they were convoluted and not entirely of our own doing. Suffice it to say that this was a compromise movie, but expectations were high, due to the following facts:

  • The trailer looked pretty good. Admittedly we watched it with the sound off while arguing about the presidential debate, but it looked like there would be demons and flying people and a post-apocalyptic landscape. Looking back, this may have been the fatal flaw in our reasoning.

  • We like the Marky Mark. I'm not familiar with his Funky Bunch days, but he's been in a number of snappy action movies, and he's generally quick and witty.

  • This was a video game movie, and it wasn't directed by Uwe Boll. So it *had* to be good.

Looking back, this may have been the fatal flaw in our reasoning.

The movie started with what i thought was a symbolic scene of Payne being dragged down in an icy river (it turned out to be quite literal). "I don't believe in Heaven," Max said, "But i do believe in Payne". I laughed out loud and then looked around, embarrassed that no one else laughed. That was supposed to be funny, right?

Then the movie jumped back a week in time and started in earnest. By started, i mean 'lurched uncomfortably towards the Starting Line, and then got tired and decided to lay down for a nap.' Yes, things seemed to be moving around up on the screen, but upon closer inspection, nothing was actually happening. An interesting detective character, assigned to Cold Cases because of an Internal Affairs investigation, is introduced, only never to be seen again. But we still got a good 10 minutes devoted to his job orientation, providing insight into details of processing unsolved crimes that had nothing to do with the movie.

Then, in a cut so fast i thought it was a dream sequence or another flashback, Max Payne is beating up junkies in the subway and then leaning on his stereotypical informant friend at a party. Max sees a girl with a feather tattoo on her arm. "That's a very interesting tattoo," he says, holding it up to the camera for the audience to see like an anchor for Animal Planet. He takes her back to his apartment, where she immediately gets naked and jumps in his bed (but have you noticed that you don't see boobies in movies anymore?). "Get out", he then tells her. Uh....

Spored to Death here with a caption comment. Apparently the girl with the gun is Mila Kunis. I must admit that I am saddened by the fact that she did not get topless in this movie. Mila Kunis without clothes on might have made me watch this movie. But the PG-13 rating tells me that this ain't happening. At least, not here.

OK, so obviously he didn't want to sleep with her. So the interest in the tattoo wasn't some weird sexual fetish, right? It was a clue? Nope, because later in the movie, after the girl is killed for no good reason, Payne's ex-partner figures out that that tattoo is the same one worn by the people who killed Marky's wife and kid. The ex-partner dies getting Max this information, and when he finally gets it (following the lamest half-hearted "No.. stop... don't..." scene in the history of movies as Max walks into the office of his dead partner over the protests of the police), he's totally blown away by it. It's a complete surprise to him. I want to point out that Max Payne was supposed to have been investigating the death of his wife like a man obsessed, but the tattoo never registered before.

Payne is similarly slow to put the pieces together when it comes to just about every clue that comes along. You'd think once he started hearing that the feather tattoos had something to do with the Valkyries, he'd start making the mental connection with his wife's former company, called Aesir, and the fact that his all-too-helpful friend from Aesir seemed to be constantly popping up and leading him around. I don't expect everyone to grow up with Edith Hamilton and Walt Simonson, but you'd think one day, he might ask "Hey honey, what's the name of your company mean?" The question, "So what are you working on at your job, anyway?" might have been useful too; instead he has to beat up on poor old Chris O'Donnell (who has gained a few pounds since donning Robin's tights) to get that information. Nice to take an interest in your wife's life, Payne.

Spored to Death with another caption comment. In this scene, Max Payne holds a gun.


Yeah, that's it.

!!!!!!!!!Sweaty Red Herring Man interlude!!!!!!!!! Yes, every 10 minutes, we will provide you with the latest footage of a sweaty bald man that, it will turn out, has nothing to do with the plot. He may be screaming, he may be torturing someone, he may be standing around looking shifty, he may just be playing solitaire on the computer, but never fear, no matter what he's doing, we'll cut to him every 10 minutes on the five, with close-ups on his beady sweat whenever possible. And then it'll turn out he's not really relevant to the story after all. It's like a plot twist, but without the plot.

Remember in the beginning when i thought they were making a joke but they weren't? The tables were turned on me later in the movie. The Aesir guy's #2 man says, "Now that he's the security chief, we have to laugh at his jokes." Someone made a joke? Please, tell it again. After an hour of this depressing movie, i crave the mirth.

Then there's the tattoo girl's sister. The sister was at the party too, hanging out with a gang of tough looking guys in shades and leather trench coats and brandishing what looked like a futuristic weapon (or maybe it was just an uzi, but still). She had a cryptic conversation with tattoo girl before Marky Mark took her back to his place for the aborted make-out session. All signs point to the sister being part of some sort of straight-out-of-the-Matrix organization that is in-the-know about all this stuff, but later she's just as clueless as Max, and the rest of her gang is never seen again. "You know what i do for a living" she says to him at one point. "*I* don't!", i shouted at the screen, to no avail.

In between shots of Sweaty Red Herring Man, we got a lot of scenes of Max Payne being dour. Walking alone down dark corridors, sitting dumbly at his desk trying to put clues together, frowning into the empty boxes that he's recovered from his wife's place of work after she died that he never bothered looking into before. Between Sweaty Man and Contemplative Max, about half this movie is literally facial shots (no no no, not *that* type of facial shot, and it wouldn't have helped if they were) with no dialogue. There's a certain type of movie where that could work (one with a plot!), but this was not it.

Spored to Death here with another caption comment. Check out Mark Wahlberg being intense. The intensity of his intenseness was so intenese that it intensified the definition of intenseness to intense degrees.

Then someone bought me a Thesaurus.

In the end Max takes a lot of drugs and shoots a lot of people. There's no drama to it; he just walks into room after room shooting people whose return-fire aim would make a Stormtrooper blush. Occasionally we were subjected to Matrix-lite special effects. One defender of the movie makes the point that the first Max Payne game came out soon after the first Matrix movie, and therefore, five years after the third Matrix movie, it's OK for Max Payne to steal its special effects. I... can't argue with that (literally, i'm too stunned to argue with that), but at least in the Matrix, the "bullet time" scenes were used to show how Neo could dodge bullets. In Max Payne, there was no need, as the bullets were never in any danger of approaching Max anyway.

Spored to Death with a final caption comment. Take a look at some of the preliminary ideas for the Max Payne movie. Check out the sophisticated techniques here, used by professional Hollywood effects studios with advanced programs like "Adobe Photoshop Elements". See how they made Max Payne look like Mark Wahlberg? Now write a movie around this image. Instant hit! This movie will be the most intense movie of intense intensitude ever!

Oooh, look! A Thesaurus!

Technically there is a plot in this movie, but it's worth about a half hour of story. It probably worked very well as a frame for a video game - ten second cut scene and then you get to run around and shoot stuff. Stretched into two hours, and being forced to watch Max shoot stuff (we had a friend in high school who used to make us watch him play video games; this was kind of like that except i'm old enough to drive now and i shouldn't have to humor people anymore!), it's way too thin. Sure it has a lot of other problems: it's way too joyless and serious, there's the usual Action Movie Plot Holes, the characters all have to act extremely dumb in order for the 'shocking' reveals to work, THERE'S NO SPORING FIGHTS WITH DEMON CREATURES IN A POST-APOCALYPTIC WORLD AS ADVERTISED IN THE COMMERCIAL... Ummm, there was gonna be a "but" here, like "but what really made the movie agonizing was having to sit there, waiting... waiting... as the plot slowly oozed its way towards its two hour finish, revealing each mundane plot point like a game show host showing you what Contestant #3 has just won". However, after typing up that list, i realized that the tiny plot is only one of several large, unredeemable problems. Ugh, was that a terrible movie. I walked out of there in a daze, muttering "horrible... horrible...".

Bring back that Cold Cases detective, i think he might have had an interesting story.

*Terrible title at the suggestion of our host.

Final note from Spored to Death: Here's the trailer for the Max Payne movie. I humbly offer it as an example of false advertising. Don't bother watching the movie itself. You might wind up like those guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

M.D. Geist... or is it?

Greetings once again Sporefans. Today I'm going to be departing from the horror genre because I found something so bad that it merited a review. Recently the Sci-Fi channel has been broadcasting Anime films from the Manga corporation. Unfortunately because its Sci-Fi they don't really have a very good selection process for which shows make it to air. I think it goes something like this:

Sci-Fi executive: Hey what's this film?

Manga Entertainment representative: Oh that's M.D. Geist. Its a film about a post-apocalyptic world in deep space where genetically engineered super-soldiers fight in giant robots. It's not very good though.

Sci-Fi executive: Robots! Future! Space! That's just what we need!

Manga Entertainment representative: But sir, that movie's really bad! I don't think people will watch it! Are you sure that you want that one?

Sci-Fi executive: Are the robots kick-ass? They better be kick-ass!

Manga Entertainment representative: I guess they're kinda cool. But the rest of the movie...

Sci-Fi executive: Is it cheap?

Manga Entertainment representative: Yeah.

Sci-Fi executive: We'll take it!!!

And so, the Sci-Fi channel acquired the rights to show the one hour long, highly edited Anime movie M.D. Geist. And let me tell you, that movie sucked.

Too bad that's not the movie we're reviewing today.

Yes, this week we will not be reviewing the abominable movie M.D. Geist. Instead, we will be reviewing M.D. Geist 2: Death Force!

Special thanks to Couchenour for his anime gallery pictures, because I was too lazy to get screenshots from my TV. You can check his or her stuff out here:

For those of you not in the know, here's a blissfully brief recap of the first movie, M.D. Geist: It is the future on another planet. People are at war. There are genetically engineered super soldiers called M.D.S's. (pronounced Em-Dee-Esses). Some mercenaries find an M.D.S. named Geist (Jason Beck). He kills some of them. Then they make him their leader. There's also a hot chick (Joan Baker), because you need that prerequisite hot chick. She wants to have sex with Geist, so she gets naked and jumps upon him.

Geist says "no".

Hot Chick: Geist, sleep with me!
Geist: Hmmm.... Nah!

Then the mercenaries get hired by the army to go on a super dangerous mission to stop a doomsday device called the "Death Force". The Death Force is a bunch of robots that, once activated, will kill all the humans on the planet. They have a big fight. Geist goes to the control room and stops the bad guy.

Then he flips the switch and activates the Death Force. The Hot Chick gets upset because Geist is the bad guy. End movie.

Do you think that this guy might possibly be evil? Maybe? Just a little?

At the start of the second film, the Death Force is attacking and killing humans all over the planet. There are literally only a few hundred humans left alive scattered around the globe of... oh seriously, who cares? I'm calling it planet Fluffy from now on. Its not the real name, but something tells me planet Fluffy is better, and won't set off my spell check quite so much.

So there are only a few hundred people left of Fluffy, and the Death Force is swarming around trying to kill them off. In the first movie, the Death Force looks like a bunch of giant robots with giant cannons for crotches. As a matter of fact, a lot of the machines in the M.D. Geist universe have giant cannon crotches. Obviously the guy who animated this was trying to compensate for something.

Yeah, I've got BIG guns! Really big! Cause I'm, all, you know... big... and stuff. Downstairs. You know?

In the sequel, the Death Force is no longer compromised of giant phallus-bots roaming the land shooting people with their phallus-guns. No, in this movie the robots are giant bug like things that eat people. Which brings to mind this very important question:

Why would you ever make these things?

Seriously, even Oppenheimer had misgivings about designing the Atomic bomb. He knew that there existed a possibility that the Atomic bomb might wipe out all mankind, but it was only a possibility and he thought he was serving the greater good. In M.D. Geist, the entire point of the flesh eating robots (and they do eat flesh) is to wipe out mankind. There is no greater good. Why would anyone build this? Why? WHY?!

M.D. Geist needs to kill bad robots, that's why!

Moving on, Geist pops up in the beginning of the movie and kills a bunch of robots who are killing a bunch of humans. Then he decides to go off and do something else for a while. What does he do? Who cares? The writer, uh...


Oh crap!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. There is no author, I repeat, no author listed for either of these films on or Wikipedia. There are only two possibilities that I can think of that would account for this. First, the author was so ashamed of this crap that they decided to have their name removed from the project. The other alternative is that there was no author, no script, just a bunch of crap stuck together and made into a film.

What? There's no writer? Noooo! I'm melting! What a world, what a world!

If I were to make a metaphor of this production, it would be of a passenger jet with no pilot and no co-pilot; just an inflatable clown bobbing up and down in the passenger seat. You know, the kind you used to punch as a kid; but in this case its safely locked away in the cockpit with 80 screaming passengers as it laughs while the plane plummets to the ocean. Either that, or I'm just getting my metaphor confused with that T.V. show Lost.

Oh yeah, the review! As Geist exits stage desert, the pre-requisite hot chick from the first movie (who survives because she's hot) stumbles upon the last known settlement of humans. Oh, and its run by yet another M.D.S. named Krauser (played by John Hollywood). Krauser doesn't want to kill everyone, he just wants to rule the world. You know, like a king. So, like a typical guy who wants to rule the world, he sleeps with the hot chick.

Now I need to point out that the hot chick conveniently has amnesia. This is great for King Krausa because Geist horribly scarred her mind by, oh... I dunno... trying to wipe out mankind. She gets freaked out at first when Krausa shows her the spiffy M.D.S. dogtag that they all get when they get cloned, or... whatever the hell you do to make these guys. Fortunately he knows exactly how to calm the hot chick down.

He comforts her with his penis.

My memory may be fuzzy, but I think it went something like this:

Hot Chick: Oh no! Those dog tags! You're... you're... I don't remember! But it was bad!

Krauser: Don't worry baby! I know how to make it all better. Hang on, it says I have to take this pill and wait thirty minutes. Dang it, I don't have time for this! Oh! Wait... There we go!

Hot Chick: Oh Krauser!

Krauser: Yeah, that was OK. Now go make me a sandwich.

I hear she makes some great sandwiches.

This leads us into this movie's only distinctive characteristic, a little plot device I like to call the "Geist cut". You see, many movies employ a technique known as a "jump cut". Now in a jump cut, the beginning and end of a scene are spliced together, so it makes it look like the objects in the scene have "jumped" across the screen. In a Geist cut, you just splice together two scenes that kind of happen in the same day, but continue the dialogue as if nothing happened.

Contrary to popular belief, the "Geist Cut" is not a super move. It's just bad editing.

For example, in one scene the Hot Chick is naked and telling Krauser to kill Geist because he's evil. Then the cut occurs and she's clothed and being led away by guards to a holding cell for "being crazy" or something. I've heard of men kicking out women after sex before, but sending them to prison? Only in M.D. Geist 2: Death Force!

Now, I could say that if you wanted to... if you really, really wanted to... you could watch M.D. Geist 2: Death Force, and see the Geist cut in action for yourself. There are a bunch of them all over the movie. It skips having to do things like, oh... writing the plot. I could say that.

But then I would be a rat-bastard and you would get eye herpes.

Nope, all things considered, don't watch M.D. Geist. Don't watch M.D. Geist 2: Death Force. Actually don't even read this review. Oh... well, I guess its too late for that.

Well, don't click on this youtube video. Don't do that! And whatever you do, don't turn up the volume because the sound quality is bad. Never do that!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grizzly Park

Welcome back Sporefans. No doubt you've come looking for another review of one of the worst movies ever made, and I shall not disappoint! This week we have a terrible title of terror, Grizzly Park! This movie was so terrible that I could hardly bear to watch it.


Yeah, that sucked.

Some of you might be familiar with a comedian who has some issues with bears; making them his most threatening threat to Americans and their way of life. Unless you are this comedian or share his ursine-o-phobia you will not be scared by this movie. Not even a little. Typical reactions to this movie include "Yup, that's a bear all right." and "God I can't believe I'm watching See No Evil without Kane in it." Granted, the bear is an improvement, but that's not saying much. To put it metaphorically, its like having a metal spike shoved through your gut and saying "Man I'm glad that didn't hit me in the penis! THAT would have sucked."

Lets take a brief look at some of the plot to Grizzly Park, shall we? Eight troubled teens are sent on a camping trip in woods with a guy named Ranger Bob (played by Glenn Morshower). For some reason they are all eaten by bears. That's pretty much the whole movie. Sure, there's this serial killer in the beginning, be he gets eaten by bears pretty early in. The movie gets formulaic from the beginning and stays that way for most of the movie.

It's... uh... Ketchup. Yeah. That's it. Catsup. I mean Ketchup, Ketchup! Damn!

For example... in the beginning of the movie Ranger Bob stresses the fact that all the campers should stick together. Therefore, it is inevitable that some campers should wander off. Kiki (played by Jelynn Rodriguez) and Ty (played by Shedrack Anderson III... who names their kid Shedrack?) decide to put their faith in modern technology and rely on a GPS system rather than Ranger Bob's advice. During their trek into the wilderness they have a lot of free time to talk, and so they confess their crimes to each other. Kiki confesses that she was poisoning her mother to keep her sick and was caught trying to steal more poison. Ty reveals that he robbed social security checks from the elderly and sold their drugs to kids. Then Ty is caught in a wolf trap. Kiki is then eaten by a wolf and the bear finishes off Ty.

There are several things wrong here. First, by revealing their crimes the teens demonstrate to the audience that they are "evil" and it becomes apparent that they are about to be killed. While some foreshadowing is recommended, it would behoove writer/director Tom Skull to not spell out so clearly the inevitable fate of these two delinquents. For example, before the two teens split off from the group, Ranger Bob mentions that there are wolf traps on the alternate path. You know, the path that Ty and Kiki eventually wind up taking due to their infallible logic and reasoning skills. There is no suspense in this plot, just a resounding feeling of inevitable death by unbelievable stupidity.

"So, like, I have to put a tourniquet on it, right? That's what you do, right? When a guy gets caught in a wolf trap? You put a tourniquet on their neck, right? To stop the head bleeding?"

Even more ridiculous is that after the inevitable event transpires two equally unbelievable consequences occur. First, Ranger Bob makes no attempt to look for the missing teens. I will grant that Ranger Bob did state that he would not go after anyone if they wandered off; but the chances of that actually happening in this situation are pretty slim. There's only so much a signed waiver will cover, and abandoning campers is probably not on there.

Secondly, none of the other campers mention the missing teens for a fairly long time. In fact, the only mention of the missing teens happens in passing; as if someone pointed out to Tom Skull that there was a problem in his screenplay and he fixed it with a two extra lines of dialogue and an extra scene where Ranger Bob finds the bodies. This is pretty much a glowing example of Skull's shoddy writing which is the only constant element in the movie.

Perhaps Ranger Bob was... distracted.

Lets demonstrate how a good writer handles a mistake. Earlier in this review I stated "For some reason they are all eaten by bears," when I made a reference to the eight troubled teens. This was countered by the fact that I mentioned that Kiki is eaten by wolves. There are three alternatives to choose from when deciding how to handle this gaffe.

First there's the bad way or, the Tom Skull way. I could simply go back and say, "most of the teens were killed by bears, except the ones that were killed by wolves". This is also not an acceptable correction to make when you have time for revision, such as when you are writing the screenplay to a movie. These are things that should be corrected before you start shooting the film. Its a mistake you can also correct before you post a movie review, unless you plan to leave the mistake in the review on purpose to demonstrate a point. Like I'm doing.

Also, you can not state after the fact that you left shoddy writing in your movie to prove a point that was not addressed in the movie. Sorry Tom, you don't get to cover your shame by saying it was intentional and artistic. You've got to declare that during the movie (or review of said movie) for it to count.

The second method for dealing with gaffes of this type is to get them before you publish. This is both the accepted method of correction, and very boring. I much prefer the third method.

Guy in a bear suit. Kwality entertainment.

The third option is to play up the gaffe as if it were planned. For example, I could make the argument that wolves are nothing more than small, agile bears. These "Speed Bears" are just as dangerous as their giant brethren; as they not only possess the same sharp claws and deadly fangs, but they also run in packs and work cooperatively. Just what the world needs, deadly packs of speed bears! You think Grizzly bears are bad news? Well wait until a dozen or so of these new speed bears mauls you to death! You'll just wish it were a Grizzly!

The point isn't that the third method is more correct than the second method, just that its more entertaining. Instead of trying to cover up your mistake you make it part of the story. Of course, you also have to have the chutzpah to try and make everyone change their world view to match your own. I think that there's even a comedian who does a similar sort of thing on some television show or something. But in order to pull of such a feat, you have to have a narcissistic ego the size of Michigan, nerves wrought from iron and resolve as solid as granite. You hear me world?


... Ahem.

However, even when we omit Tom Skull's gaffe about the lack of explanation regarding the concern for the lost campers being eaten by speed bears, I should point out that this movie does continue to suck. Skull's script and direction lead me to believe that I was watching high school theater rather than a minor release movie. It was impossible to determine whether all of the actors were told to behave as if they were on stage in front of their parents, or it was just the best they could do.

Given the consistency of the style however, I think that Tom Skull is mostly to blame for this tepid film. Still, as this is his first film there is always the possibility that he will learn from his mistakes and that his next venture into cinema will have benefited from this excursion into suckville. Unfortunately, I think that it is much more likely that Tom Skull will be eaten by speed bears when compared to the almost insurmountable odds of him learning anything about making movies.

Tom, please don't make any more movies. Put the camera down and stop hurting people.


Anyway, for those who are interested, here's the trailer. Just in case you want some torture.

Anyway, watch out for speed bears. They're the real threat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blood of Dracula

Greetings Sporefans. I know that its been some time since the last post, but I needed some time to recover from the horrible beating I took at the hands of the Baltimore chapter of the Sisters of Mercy.

This week we'll be reviewing the 1957 classic, the Blood of Dracula. Like most horror movies from the 1950's, Blood of Dracula is about fear and social issues. Sure, there's blood, and there's a sort-of vampire, but what this movie is really about is lesbians. Or more precisely, how people fear lesbians.

Let me say that again. This movie is about lesbians. And fear.

The starts by depicting a troubled teen, Nancy Perkins (played by Sandra Harrison), who is being driven to the Sherwood School for Girls by her father (played by Thomas Browne Henry) and the woman he married six weeks after his wife passed away (played by Jean Dean). Was it not Hamlet who said "the funeral baked meats, did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables..." (Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2). There was no scene where Mr. Perkins proposed to his new wife over the coffin of the late Mrs. Perkins, as it would have made the movie run a little long. Also, by 1957 morals and standards, it would have been considered ever so slightly scandalous.

But enough about the old codger and his sexy new wife. This isn't their story! This is the story of a teenage girl, sent away to a boarding school miles from home who is exposed to strange new things. Like an all girl campus, female chemistry teachers, and hypnosis. Also vampirism, but that comes later and is also mostly a metaphor.

While enrolled in the Sherwood School for girls, Ms. Nancy Perkins makes the acquaintance of the chemistry teacher Ms. Branding (Louise Lewis) and her lovely assistant Myra (Gail Ganley), who do "all sorts of experiments". Ms. Branding claims that her work will never be taken seriously in the academic world because it is dominated by men; and claims that they will destroy the world with their reckless experiments before they would ever accept her work. Ms. Branding is experimenting with the limitless power of the mind through hypnosis, and is experimenting fairly recklessly in her own right, just without all the physics and isotopes and atomic bombs.

After all, isn't it much safer to experiment with an ancient Carpathian amulet than it is to experiment with physics? What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, right. Vampires.

Myra and Nancy enjoy some breakfast tea together before they jump into bed... er, I mean, go to class.

Now I should mention that the scene where Nancy and Ms. Branding have their first meeting is a pivotal scene in this movie. The dialogue is dripping with subtext which creates a metaphor for Ms. Branding's experiments with girls. Don't believe me? Then read it for your self. The following is actual dialogue from Blood of Dracula.

Ms. Branding: ...Whatever you do should be done under guidance.

Nancy: But who's?

Ms. Branding: I'll tell you that too.

Nancy: Soon?

Ms. Branding: Perhaps soon.

Ms. Branding checks Nancy's hand injury

Nancy: It still hurts.

Ms. Branding: Well now I'll take the pain away. But I'll need your cooperation.

Nancy: What do you want me to do?

Ms. Branding: First I want you to answer a question.

Nancy: All right.

Ms. Branding: Nancy, do you trust me?

Nancy: I think so. I hardly trust anyone except... well Glenn, that's my boyfriend. And of course I did trust my mother. But you? Nancy smiles I think so.

Ms. Branding: I'm glad. Because if you didn't, I couldn't help you at all. And because you do, I naturally trust you. In other words, what happens in this room must not go beyond this room.

Nancy: You can depend on me. What do you want me to do?

Ms. Branding: I'll tell you.

At this point Ms. Branding closes the blinds, whips out her amulet and hypnotizes Nancy. She spends the rest of the movie making Nancy do stuff. You know. Stuff. That she does. Think about it. Also, there's that whole line about how Nancy trusts her boyfriend and her mother, and naturally trusts Ms. Branding as she takes on aspects of both roles.

Boy, this movie is sure is messed up!

You want me to do WHAT Ms. Branding?

During the rest of the movie, Nancy starts to get "urges". First she feels sick when some boys come over to play music and dance with the girls. Later she turns into a vampire and attacks one of her housemates. In fact, the only time that Nancy ever attacks a man in the movie its because she was caught while drinking the blood of another girl. It becomes clear that Nancy only craves the blood of other girls.

And remember dear, this is our secret.

As the movie wraps up, Nancy gets a visit from Glenn, the boyfriend. When Glenn tries to talk to Nancy in the car, she feels odd and leaves him there. She searches out for Ms. Branding and propells the movie into its climax. The movie, not the girls. Pervert!

Eddie Munster called. He wants his hair back.

Of course, you can't have a 1950's horror movie with a subtext about social issues that scare the majority without some cathartic ending. Nancy turns on Ms. Branding in a fit of rage and attacks her. Ms. Branding, no longer able to control Nancy, grapples with her in the lab until they knock over some chemicals and both of them die. I have to admit, I've never seen a vampire destroyed by chemical fumes before, but it does fulfill the requirement that Ms. Branding gets killed by her own experiments. Ah hubris, thy home is in science. With Branding and Nancy both dead, the threat of spreading lesbianism to the other girls is extinguished and good ol' 1950's values reign supreme.

If you have the time, I strongly suggest watching The Blood of Dracula. This movie is a shining example of 1950's horror and really, really funny to boot. Granted, its not funny on purpose, but you'll laugh all the same. Why not check it out? Here's the theatrical preview for Blood of Dracula!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spored to Death Special Report: Otakon 2008

Welcome back Sporefans. Many of you are wondering why there was no movie review last week. Well it may come as a shock to you, but I do other things besides watch bad movies. Some of you might remember that last year I posted A Look Inside Spored to Death Publishing, and it seems that its becoming a custom that each year I post a tale of high adventure, which may or may not contain some fictional aspects. Much like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson, it will be up to you to judge what is truth and what is fiction; even though I made it as obvious as possible. Regardless of your opinion, I now present to you:

Spored to Death's special coverage of Otakon 2008!

Last weekend I took it upon myself to mosey on down to Baltimore, Maryland to check out Otakon 2008. My therapist told me it would be a good idea to get out of the house more often, and Dr. Giggles is rarely wrong; so I took his advice and hooked up with a pair of strange people on a trip into madness, chaos and cat girls.

We embarked upon our journey at the ungodly hour of 11 o'clock in the AM. The sun rained its radiance down upon us, birds filled with foul droppings sang happily in the sky while thinking their little bird thoughts of what to eat and where to poop; and I couldn't have been in a more wretched mood if you put a hand grenade in my pants. The contents of the bottle that I had consumed the previous night demanded that I find another bottle and consume its contents.

We set off in a Southward direction, down the path referred to as "Smuggler's Run" by the people who refer to such things in that way. My companions informed me that we would be blessed with the soothing music of Larc 'en Ciel, The Yellow Monkey and Nightmare; all of which helped soothe the savage beast that bashed the inside of my skull and threatened mutiny on the good ship midsection which sailed the rocky seas of my stomach. I was handed a map which lacked an X, but would hopefully lead to treasure; or at least Baltimore.

And crab. Did you eat crab? He ate two.

Baltimore is home to large ornamental ships. Not to be confused with boats. Click on any of the pictures to get a larger view!

The road was long but not treacherous, full of twists, turns and traffic; leading ever Southward toward our intended destination. Several hours passed and many adventures were had, but those are tales for another time. Our arrival at the hotel on the outskirts of Baltimore put us within reach of our final destination, but my companions and I decided to rest before tackling the madness and mayhem which inevitably waited for us with baited breath just a short ride away.

I refer to, of course, the problem of finding parking in Baltimore.

Unfortunately you can not park inside the submarine. Its a museum or something.

That being said, if you can find parking in the city of Baltimore during Otakon while a nearby an Orioles game gets underway at 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, you can handle any and all weirdness that you might encounter once you actually arrive at the Con. Not knowing what lay ahead of us, I turned to my companions for advice.

"I needs me a cat girl," exclaimed the bearded man, "I brought my tranquilizer gun! I'm gonna bag me a cat girl!"

"I want some Hello Kitty DVDs," replied the well endowed woman, "Hello Kitty's so cute!"

This would certainly be a trip to remember. Now all that we required was parking.

A sea of gleaming steel boxes was all that stood between us and the wonders and madness of the Baltimore Convention Center. We pushed ever forward through the tide, inching toward the parking deck off of Calverton Street, which taunted us as only a shady oasis from traffic for a mere $10 a day could. Gotta love event parking.

Otakon wasn't the only neat thing we found in Baltimore. Check out this Lamborghini parked on the street.

As we approached I noticed somewhere off our port bow was a scantily clad girl with furry ears. "Cat girl ahoy," I cried as the bearded man leveled the darkened steel of the tranquilizer gun. He fired wildly out the window but hit only the wide bottom of a passing nun. Once she was felled, the remainder of the pack of nuns scanned the area for the unknown assailant; for only a deviant of the highest caliber would dare to shoot a nun in her backside.

"Go! Go now!" I shouted, as a gaggle of black and white garbed women turned on the traffic, rulers in hand as they searched the cars for the perpetrator. The nuns were closing fast as we weaved though four congested lanes of traffic. Our car barely grazed the side of a purple cab headed to some destination where a pimp was undoubtedly waiting for a ride to the supermarket. The well endowed woman let out a cry as a man dressed in black clothing with a large sword strapped to his back filled the view of our windshield. He barely had time to spit out a half-eaten corn dog before the collision. He vaulted at the last second trying to leap over the car. Sadly, the poor soul fell short and was affixed to the windshield, which prevented us from realizing that we had shot down the wrong side of the entrance of the parking deck into oncoming traffic. The wiper blades and cleaning fluid proved no match for our obstructing visitor, who's cries had alerted the nuns to our position.

"Oh my god, I'm gonna die," he screamed while hanging on for dear life.

Baltimore is home to "Ride the Duck" tours which allow you to tour the city in an amphibious vehicle. Here, Angry Toast contemplates taking a tour.

With desperate grace the well endowed woman twisted the screaming hunk of steel on to two wheels, tilting the entire frenzied party as we passed over several oncoming cars. It was then that I noticed that we had lost all but the most recalcitrant of the nuns who clung to the back of our car with frightening zeal. She swung wildly with her free arm, attempting to hit anything and everything that would come within the reach of her ruler. The fury of the nun must have endowed her with unrealistic strength as she climbed atop the roof of our speeding vehicle. She lashed out with her handful of hickory hate, closing in on our unsuspecting guest who had camped out on our windshield.

"Look out, you fool," I cried, "She's got a ruler!"

The poor bastard barely had enough time to deflect the blow from the nun's hickory truncheon. They fought like madmen atop the speeding automobile, serenaded by our screams as we careened around the deck looking for an open space. They say that the gods of fortune pity fools, and that day we must have been most foolish. Somehow we had managed to weave our way into the bowels of the parking complex, possibly locating a previously unknown level of Dante's Inferno. At the bottom of the deck lay one remaining parking spot, stuck between two large SUV's. With no time for delicacy the well endowed woman spun the car around, backing into the spot with expert precision. The car barely had time to settle into park as we bolted from the vehicle. The sound of the engine dying still rang in our ears as we sprinted for the stairwell.

Remember that scene in Ghost Busters when Venkman asked to be informed when they reached a specific floor so he could throw up from climbing all those stairs? You don't? What's wrong with you. Anyway, we saw this in the dealer's room, someone made it. It's not a prop or a shot from the movie. Click the picture for a better view.

The nun and the costumed man fought atop the car as we ran for our lives. As I climbed the stairs after my companions I heard a cry from the parking deck behind me. Someone shouted "There can be only one!" as I took the stairs two at a time, scrambling for freedom and sanity. To this day I still can't determine who was the victor in that brutal underground conflict.

Emerging from the stairwell, we had come face to face with downtown Baltimore. It was quite an impressive sight as costumed Anime fans and Orioles fans mingled with the local residents amidst the backdrop of the inner harbor. Shops and restaurants lined the far side of the street giving us only a glimpse of the harbor and the small boats that gracefully passed over its surface. Over the years the local residents have adapted to the yearly convention, accepting that people with crazy hair and fake weapons would be walking their streets for a weekend. You could find a vendor on every street corner selling everything from bottled water to food to glow sticks. Shops advertised discounts for anyone who came in dressed in a costume. A copacetic symbiosis had evolved between Baltimore and the Anime convention, giving off a vibe that might have given Woodstock a run for its money.

I'm not sure what Anime this is from, but these guys sure are dedicated.

The Baltimore Convention Center stretched three city blocks with streets running in between the major buildings. The buildings were connected by a second floor sky walk which passed over each of the streets, allowing visitors to roam from one building to another without ever having to fear traffic. Although it was the first day of the convention, the lobby of the nearest building seemed sparsely populated as many of the convention goers would not arrive until Saturday. We asked one of the guests where we could procure our convention passes, and were told that we would have to go down to the main entrance of the first building.

I feel that I should point out that whoever designed the Baltimore Convention Center was probably a sadist of the highest caliber. The center is constructed in such a way so that if you need to reach a specific area of the center the only way to get there is to exit the building and walk around it in its entirety. While the individual buildings are connected via sky walks, the area inside the second floor where you enter the building may or may not connect to other parts of the building. Indeed Cochran, Stephenson and Donkervoet, the architects who designed the center are probably having a good chuckle as they read this.

If they read this.

They're probably not going to read this.

A young man and his companion cube.

This young lady built up quite a Katamari. I'd say it was at least 1.3m large! Now let's make it into a star!

Once we found the main entrance to the center, my companions and I set about obtaining our passes to the convention. My companions, who only needed access passes had no trouble obtaining entry. I however, required an official press pass to the convention; a back door to the inner workings of Otakon, necessary to obtain the real story about the deepest secrets of the convention. I had questions; questions that needed answers desperately. How did they manage to organize a convention with a capacity for 25,000 guests every year? Did the organizers sacrifice goats to a heathen god in exchange for the powers needed to bring this mammoth building under their sway? Or was it the work of a highly intelligent super computer which housed a never before seen artificial intelligence capable of scheduling all of the videos, panels and special events in this monstrous three day orgy of Anime fandom.

"Good day sir," I said to the young man running the registration booth, "My name is Spored to Death and I am here to cover this convention for Spored to Death Publishing. I believe that my editor has called ahead and acquired a press pass for me to attend this convention. I am here to procure this press pass, and have the proper credentials and visas with me to assure you of my identity."

"I'm sorry, you're who?" replied the young man.

"I'm Spored to Death, with Spored to Death Publishing," I replied, "Now if you'll just give me my press pass I'll be on my way to conduct my interviews."

"I'm sorry sir, but we don't offer press passes at the convention."

"What?!" I shouted, "How can you get by without the good favor of the press? My readers want to know what goes on here! They demand the real story, not some hopped-up white wash that only panders to the powers that be! I need to get in touch with the seedy underbelly of Otakon to really understand the operation you people are running here. I need access to the back rooms where people of power decide the fates of thousands over tables of drugs, money and naked women!"

"Sir, there is no seedy underbelly to Otakon. We're just an Anime convention."

"Lies! All lies," I screamed. If only I could make enough of a scene I might be able to bully a press pass out of the kid yet. "I know that you know what's going on here! You've been skulking about in the darkness with the rest of the villainous scum who exploit the masses and prey upon their fears. You stall because you don't want the public to know the truth! But the public must know and will know. Your press releases can't possibly feed the demand for knowledge that spreads throughout the world even as we speak. Don't attempt to obfuscate the will of the public. That's my job!"

"Sir, I just volunteer for a few hours at the booth this weekend. What the hell are you talking about?"

Stonewalled. This one proved to be more shrewd than he appeared. No matter. There's more than one way to skin a cat. "Very well. I'll buy one of your visitor passes. How much does that go for?"

"Sixty-five dollars sir," the young man said with hints of both relief and annoyance in his voice.

"Very well, but I shall need a receipt for my editor," I replied pulling a heavy satchel out of my briefcase, "Also, I should ask this up front... do you accept payment in pennies?"

Forty-five minutes later I had my visitor's pass to the convention.

Because of my antics people are no longer allowed to pay for Otakon with pennies. If you try they send robots after you.

It took an hour to get acclimated to the environs of the convention center. Throngs of people moved through hallways and across vast carpeted areas between small islands of snack carts, video rooms, a makeshift cafe, panels and events. Our initial attempts to navigate the seas of Otakon were nothing more than a learning experience. We had initially set out for the video gaming hall, but found ourselves unable to gain access though the direct route, which would carry us through the walls of the Baltimore Convention Center. Horrible chains of carbon linked together in a seemingly innocent white wall; but under its bright surface lurked the evil of impasse.

Eventually we found our way to the Artist's Alley and beheld the wonders of some great talents. While all the entries were impressive, sadly I only thought to grab a couple of business cards from the artists in the stalls. One artist in particular showed an impressive amount of patience and fortitude, and I hope that she makes it big before she goes blind working on a level of detail that would frighten most human beings. Huzzah to you!

After we drank our fill of the Artist's Alley we broke for dinner. Baltimore was riddled with upscale restaurants waiting eagerly to suck the money from our pockets in exchange for luxurious food and drink. Luckily this was a business trip, and I planned to hike up the bill and send it to my editor.

One of our first sights in the Artist's Alley were these hand made plushies. You want them. You know you do.

Once our bellies were full with food, the well endowed woman received a call from Machine, a compatriot who also happened to be at the convention. "There's a rave going on, come on over to the rave!" So we set off in search of the rave, around and around the exterior of the convention center. Machine's directions were obscure; undoubtedly he was in the middle of having a good time when he called. We spiraled about aimlessly and clueless, seeking out the "main entrance" to the building. We followed the sounds of music and frolicking until we could see the lights through the deep recesses of the windows, casting the darkness away with their dancing rainbow hues.

Then we saw the nuns.

They were waiting for us in force outside the entrance. One nun kept leaning on the others, obviously still under the effects of the bearded man's tranquilizer darts. We dared not proceed, for they would be on us like large monochromatic flies on so much crap. I felt that it was time to retire to the sanctity of our hotel.

Then some fear and loathing happened.

The next day we set out for the convention from our hotel, but first, a quick stop at Arby's. Yum. After filling our bellies once again we set out to the convention center, this time armed with knowledge gained from the mistakes of yesterday. At once, we seized upon an opportunity to storm the dealer's room; exposing it for the capitalistic orgy that it was. And we partook in that orgy, buying various baubles and trinkets, videos and compact discs. At some point during this hedonistic embrace of the dollar I was separated from my companions, and when I found them once again they had both sprouted ears and tails.

Some of the items that were aquired at Otakon.

"Cat people!" I screamed, and ran for the exit. My companions chased my down, and luckily I was not bitten in the scuffle. One could only imagine the spelling and grammatical errors of a reporter typing with fur covered paws. "Back! Back, you fiends!" I cried as I was summarily tackled and dragged off to eat lunch.

After a few pints I returned to my senses. Once calmed by the inebriating effects of alcohol we returned to the convention and wandered down once again into the Artist's alley.

Then we ate crab.

Go back and buy a plushie. Do it now! It's a zombie plushie, what other justification do you need?

The bearded now cat-man pointed out that one of his friends had set up a booth in Artist's Alley. She was talented and quite friendly. She pointed to the doll sitting on the corner of her table and told us that she had created all of the clothing for the figure.

"By the way, my little doll is also anatomically correct," she pointed out, "I have some more at home like that, but I didn't bring them this time." The fear rose up in my guts again. I had to get out, away from the nice girl with the creepy dolls. I grabbed my companions and we headed out of the art room pausing briefly to pick up some stationary from the artist we had met the day before.

Believe it or not, this is actually a different doll from the one mentioned above. This doll is owned by someone who was working at the chainmail table from Rabbit Dance Designs. I did not ask if it was anatomically correct, nor did I think to check at the time. Check out their website if you're interested in purchasing chain mail or chain mail jewelry.

"We've yet to make it to the video game room," I pronounced, "We'll all be fools if we can't make it to the very first place we set out for. Come on, this way!" We circled round the building yet again until we found the entrance to the appropriate building; but where there was only a small group of conventioneers the day before was now a swelled mass of costumed characters, milling about the floor and pausing occasionally for impromptu photo shoots. We pushed our way through gently, trying not to upset the delicate balance of the crowd, until we found our way to the doors of the game room.

This was just a small section of the room where the cos-players were gathering. I wasn't kidding about it being like a sea, you could crowd surf across most of the room but I would advise against it. The drop from the second floor is a little... intense.

"Yo, don't come in here," a uniformed guard said quietly, but we waved our passes and walked by undeterred. It was as if I had gone back to the halcyon days of my youth; there before me were rows upon rows of high definition televisions all sporting fighting games, shooting games and strange Japanese games the likes of which I had never seen before. The days of old had risen again; the days when you could walk into an arcade and play a myriad of fighting games for only a quarter. The good old days, the all or nothin' days. Hours passed as I stared in amazement and the sharpest graphics of the latest games side by side with classics and not so classics that time had left behind.

I may or may not have been hallucinating at this point, but I think Vega and Dee Jay were about to duke it out in the dealer's room. As always, click the picture for a better view.

After a few hours my companions tired, and I conceded that it was probably time to find some place to rest. Upon exiting the game room, we encountered a cos-player that I had never seen before. Over the two days at the convention (and during my previous conventions) I had seen many different levels of cos-players performing many different roles. There were people dressed like characters from Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Hellboy, Final Fantasy, Bleach, Kenshin, Naruto, Tonari no Totoro, Gurren Lagann, Crayon Shin Chan, Death Note, Sailor Moon and countless other Anime titles.

But I've never seen anyone cos-play as Hard Gay before.

For those of you who don't know, Hard Gay is a Japanese comedian who... well, he does stuff. To people. In public. You see Hard Gay is a... well, just see for your self. Go on, don't be shy. The story will sit right here while you watch.

Here are some shots of the cos-player who came as Hard Gay.

There is no caption in the world that would do this shot justice.

Hard Gay hard at work on a cos-player's sword.

Are you done? Have you had enough Hard Gay? All right, lets move on.

After our chance encounter with the leather clad cos-player, we decided it would be refreshing to get some ice cream from one of the ice cream trucks parked outside the convention center. While paying for my cone, I heard a voice from somewhere in the line behind me.

"Look Agnes, it's one of them," said the hushed voice.

"Weren't there three heathens before," asked a second voice.

"There were, but I don't see the other two," replied the first voice as I decided to try and disappear into the crowded street.

"What about them? Those two right over there," the second voice pointed out.

"No that can't be them. They didn't have cat ears and tails. These people clearly do. Therefore they can't be the one's we're looking for," the first voice said as I moved into a crowd of people passing by.

"He's getting away," cried the second voice as I broke from the crowd, leaving my companions behind. I ran about twenty feet down the sidewalk, looking to join a crowd of people who were not dressed in costumes so that I could blend in; but the crowd parted at the last second to reveal a gaggle of nuns. There was no avoiding my collision with the burly sister who even as I approached swung her ruler forward to greet my face.

The next ten minutes were a blur. The memory of the event is a jumbled mess of black and white flashes, pain, fear and loathing. In case you were wondering, most nuns wear comfortable shoes underneath their habits, but at least one set of shoes were steel toed work boots which found my kidneys with horrifying accuracy. Do these puritanical penguins practice their kicking skills to the plexus, positioning their blows for maximum pain? Perhaps.

The savage beating continued for some time. I couldn't say how long, maybe thirty seconds, maybe five minutes. The concept of time was as distant as a far reaching horizon with promises of wealth and splendor; a luxury I couldn't even imagine as splintered pieces of ruler scratched up my arms while I shielded my face from the blows.

I don't remember when it ended, so I must have had a concussion. I woke up in a pool of blood on the steps of the convention center. It couldn't have been for too long as the sound of sirens approaching told me there was more trouble still to come. I climbed up the steps on all fours and fell over into a shrubbery. "Damn it," I screamed, "the least they could have done was let me eat my ice cream first!"

There were way too many great pictures from the convention. We ran into Hellboy in the dealer's room as well.

I stumbled down the steps of the convention center as blood ran down my face decorating my shirt. "Cool costume dude," a young man cheered, "Who are you supposed to be?"

"Huh? Who me? I'm, uh... that guy from Fight Club. The one that lost."

"Oh cool," cried the pretty young girl hanging from the young man's arm, "Can we get a picture of you?"

I held up my thumb and tried to smile as best as I could. "How'd you get the blood to stay on your teeth like that," the young man asked, "All my fake blood keeps running off and I swallow it."

"Trade secret," I replied.

I found my companions by the ice cream truck. Not only were they unharmed, they seemed happy.

"We need to leave. Now," I said tersely.

"What happened to you," asked the bearded man.

"Nuns. Everywhere, nuns. They're after me, and they're coming for you next." I looked around, they could be anywhere. I needed to get out of the city before they caught up with me again.

"You mean the nuns from the parking deck," asked the well endowed woman, "They complimented us on our ears, and bought us ice cream."

"Don't eat that!" I cried. "It could be poisoned. With, uh.... nun... poison." I paused, realizing what a crazed madman I must have sounded like. "I need a disguise, or we'll never get out of here alive."

I surveyed the area and found a small store. "Follow me. My life depends on it."

"But I'm not done with my ice cream."

"Look," I screamed, spinning around on my companions and screaming through my clenched teeth, "Nuns! Beat! Me! Up! Let's get the hell out of here!"

I purchased a clever disguise at the store. There would be no recognizing me now, I looked like a completely different person. All we had to do was reach the car and we were home free.

Alternatively, I could have used the "box technique" to make my escape, but I'll save that trick for next year.

Parking was $24.

It was the single most important purchase of my life. We fled Baltimore with the dogs at our heels; Dalmatians with rulers for teeth and iron feet. But we sped on into the night up I-95, away from the madness; safe... at least for a little while.

Inevitably someone needed to pee.

We stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Delaware. After cleaning the blood off my face in the restroom, I exited to find my bearded companion speaking to a man dressed as Mario. The faux plumber seemed to be engaging my companion in some sort of illicit deal. My companion received a wad of cash and handed over his tranquilizer gun.

The well endowed woman acted as my photographer on this trip. This explains two things. First, it explains why there are no pictures of half-naked cat girls. Secondly... well, maybe you should just read the wikipedia entry for Yaoi. Next year I'll give a camera to the bearded man as well; for fairness.

"Are you coming from the con," I asked Mario as I walked up to the pair.

"Nope, I'mma goin' to the con," he replied staying in character.

"Watch out for nuns," I said as my companion and I walked off, "They hate it when you shoot 'em in the ass."

"Nuns," Mario asked, his accent slipping, "What Anime are they from?"

I didn't answer. Indeed, I didn't have an answer. Only a strong yearning to be back on the road and to put distance between us and my monochromatic assailants.

We piled in for the last leg of the journey, back up Smuggler's Run into the heart of New Jersey. "So, did we all have a good time?" I asked, wiping my hands on my bloodied shirt. My companions were happy. They had not known the cruel lash of the hickory rulers as I had. I said nothing, but knew that even if it mean more beatings at the hands of angry nuns, I would return the next year. Who knows, perhaps I too would embark on a hunt for one of the elusive cat girls of Otakon.

Nah. Better off just bringing one with me. That way no one gets shot in the ass.

But why take my work for it. Check out this video of Otakon 2008, and the madness.

I'll definitely have to go back next year.