Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Spored: Greetings Sporefans. Today I’d like to take some time to talk about a movie that I got out of a four movie box set. Now the way this usually works is that I’ll buy four movies for ten bucks and maybe one of them will be watchable. I was greatly surprised when all four movies from this box set were good. For the next few reviews I’ll be talking about each one of the movies from this box set, starting with the 2006 movie Salvage.

Spored: Now as has been my custom as of late, if a movie is worth watching I will try not to spoil it by talking too much about the plot. This makes reviewing Salvage a bit of a tricky issue as the entire movie is a puzzle; and revealing too much might ruin the experience for you. The premise of the movie is that a girl named Claire Parker (played by Lauren Currie Lewis) wakes up at the counter of her job as an overnight clerk in a convenience store. She punches out and on her way home she is murdered by insane killer Duke Desmond (played by Chris Ferry). In a very Groundhog Day fashion she reawakens at the convenience store and has to experience more gruesome and disturbing events that lead to her being murdered over and over again.

Spored: Now I’m sure some of you are sitting there already trying to think about why this might be happening, and you can see my dilemma in reviewing this film. If I say too much, you might get the ending before watching the movie; If I say nothing, it would be a very short review. So, to fill time and page space I’ve decided to take a part time job as clerk working the graveyard shift in a convenience store in Name Redacted, Arkansas. No, the name of the town hasn’t been redacted, it’s actually called Name Redacted, Arkansas. I felt that this would help me get in tune with the character of Claire and the events that transpired in the film.

Mrph buriphmo if reammy, reammy yfmmy. AHHH! Hey, why does my stomach hurt?

Spored: Plus, I’m short on cash. Did you know it’s hard to find work as a human shaped sentient fungus? People keep talking about health code violations and allergies and other such nonsense.

Spored: Now there are some things that you should know about Name Redacted, Arkansas. I could have just gotten a job as an overnight clerk at any convenience store in the country, provided that they would hire a sentient fungus. But if I did that I wouldn’t be really getting in tune with the creepy nature of this film. That’s why I searched high and low to find the creepiest convenience store in the country. As it happens, the Name Redacted Slurp and Gas sits directly in the middle of five closed sanatoriums for the criminally insane.

Spored: Locals say that if you draw lines and connect the sanatoriums on a map it forms a pentagram. I asked one of the locals why they didn’t just draw a pentagon instead; as they’re easier to draw. He didn’t have an answer, but he did reiterate that this store is cursed and that I was damned for taking a job here. Then he bought a Slim Jim and raided the take a penny tray.

Spored: After having to eat one of the microwave burritos here for dinner, I think he might be right. I do feel a serious sense of foreboding somewhere deep inside me.

Mom? Are you there? I'm filled with a horrible sense of foreboding.

Spored: Other than the terrible burrito, I haven’t had any other experiences with curses or being damned. It’s currently 2:38 in the morning and nothing is happening. I can see why Claire would fall asleep so easily at this job. It also explains why she was attending community college, as this is no way to spend the next fifty years of your... oh look! An actual customer! Greetings ma’am. Welcome to the Name Redacted Slurp and Gas, where we promise you won’t pass by unnoticed. How can I help you this evening?

Aged Female Customer: I need milk. Where’s the milk?

Spored: Milk is in aisle six, in the refrigerator. Listen, if you’ve got a minute there’s this really great movie I’d like to recommend. It was was an official selection at the Sundance film festival...

Aged Female Customer: I don’t give a crap about that! Just let me get my milk!

Spored: Oo...kay... Are you sure? You’re really missing out on this...

Aged Female Customer:...

Spored:No, next aisle! NEXT AISLE! So, yeah. She really doesn’t want to hear about this movie. But there is more to tell. For starters, while you may never have heard of any of the cast, they’re all great at playing their parts. I particularly liked Chris Ferry’s portrayal of Duke Desmond. Also...

Believe it or not, this guy does my taxes.

Aged Female Customer: Hey! Stop talking to yourself!

Spored: Huh? I’m sorry, I was recording this... for... uh...

Aged Female Customer: I don’t care! Why is this milk so expensive?

Spored: Uhh... I guess it’s a little on the expensive side, but...

Aged Female Customer: Are you trying to rip me off?

Spored: Ma’am, I don’t set the prices. I just work here.

Aged Female Customer: Can’t you make it cheaper?

Spored: Well ma’am, I can’t do that. The owner sets the prices.

Aged Female Customer: But the bottle’s all dirty. You should give me a discount for it!

Spored: Ma’am, you can get another bottle if you like. There are others over there in the fridge.

Aged Female Customer: … Fine.

Spored: You know Sporefans, one of the things I liked the most about Salvage was its setting. I don’t know where it was filmed, but Salvage had a great feel to it. You can tell it wasn’t shot on a Hollywood set, but in a small town, most likely due to the movie’s relatively small budget. Wherever they found their shooting location, it was eerily empty. Not empty as in movies like Vanilla Sky where they emptied Times Square which lead to a created unnatural feeling of emptiness. It had a more natural tone because there were some people around, but only very rarely. The lack of people leads to a feeling of isolation that...

What you don't know is that Claire is staring at a leprechaun, a cow, a turntable and Buick doing something really strange. No, you pervert; they're performing Shakespeare. What's wrong with you?

Aged Female Customer: They’re all dirty. All of them! They have smudges all over them!

Spored: Let me take a look... Those aren’t smudges, those are the sell by dates.

Aged Female Customer: What? … So you’re trying to sell me expired milk! Did you rub all those dates off the cartons?

Spored: It’s not expired. It says its not due till next week. See, it’s also stamped on the bottom.

Aged Female Customer: No it’s not!

Spored: Yes it is. Look here. Hey, why is your hand all smudged up?

Aged Female Customer: Give me that! Yes.... yes, this milk isn’t expired. But it is all dirty! I want another one.

Spored: Help yourself. They’re in aisle six.

Aged Female Customer: I know where they are. You don’t have to be rude. Your boss can see how rude you are on that camera, you know?

Spored: Huh? Oh, no that’s made of cardboard. They just like to make it look like we have cameras so we’re less likely to die overnight.

Aged Female Customer: Well... do you have any paper towels?

Spored: Yes, they’re at the end of aisle six, past the milk.

Aged Female Customer: ...

Spored: You’re WELCOME!

Spored: Anyway Sporefans, while the setting in Salvage is well chosen, it’s the writing that really makes this film. The Crook brothers, Jeff and Josh, have crafted a great story that keeps you guessing till the end. Just when you think you have the riddle of Salvage figured out, you don’t. Some of you may be able to guess the ending, but something tells me that you’ll have a few wrong guesses before you figure it out. In fact...

You may already have won one-million dollars. No, I'm just kidding... I'm going to kill you.

Scruffy Male Customer: Excuse me sir. Do you have any spaceship fuel?

Spored: Uh... no. I’m sorry, we only have gasoline.

Scruffy Male Customer: Oh. Well do you have any box cutters?

Spored: Uh-huh. Aisle two. We also have this awesome camera, that...

Spored: Man, no one wants to hear me talk today. It’s like I have a badge that says “interrupt me” on it when it clearly says... “Habib?

Spored: Another thing that I enjoyed about Salvage is that all the actors did a really great job selling this story to the audience. It was refreshing to see that people who haven’t made it very far into their careers could deliver such professional performances which complimented the story nicely.

Scruffy Male Customer: Wow, this is just what I wanted! Look how sharp it is? See?

Spored: Yeah, that’s... really sharp.

Scruffy Male Customer: Hey, do you also have human faces here?

Spored: Why yes! Just check the end of aisle six. Speaking of human faces, one of the best scenes in Salvage is when Duke cuts off Claire’s face. I mean, it was really quite graphic...

Aged Female Customer: What are you doing? He’s got a knife! Help! Help!

Scruffy Male Customer: I need your face! Give me your face meats!

Aged Female Customer: AAAAHHH!!!

Scruffy Male Customer: I need it for my spaceship! Don’t make me stay here! I want to go home!

Spored: He starts out by cutting an outline around her face, which is a great effect accomplished with a classic horror movie trick using a sponge and fake blood. The effect comes out beautifully and is much better than it would be using expensive CGI tricks. Then, after Duke digs his fingers into the top of Claire’s scalp the camera cuts to her point of view. You can see that even for a guy as big as Duke it’s really not easy to rip off a human face. There are all these sinews and tendons holding it in place. How do you think you smile? The face ripping is accompanied by these really grotesque popping and tearing noises that make the scene truly disturbing and probably the best shot in the movie.

But I don't WANNA have my face cut off!

Aged Female Customer: This milk has a face on it! I want a discount!

Spored: Uh... What happened to the guy?

Aged Female Customer: Nothing!

Faceless Male Customer: She’s stealing my face-ship. I feel dizzy...

Spored: You know what? I’m going to let you have that face milk for free.

Aged Female Customer: I don’t need your charity!

Spored: OK. How about twenty-five cents?

Aged Female Customer: That’s better. I’d take those paper towels too, but... that have... *ahem*... a pair of testi-

Spored: That’s OK. I’ll clean that up right away.

Aged Female Customer: Such a nice young man! Have a wonderful evening.

Spored: Yeah. You too. Have a nice evening.

Spored: Well Sporefans, it looks like I’m out of a part time job. Until next time, uh... don’t eat the burritos.

Faceless Male Customer: I think I’m gonna be sick.

Spored: Good night!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

2012 and the predictions of the magic E-ball

Greetings Sporefans. Today I’d like to talk about a colossal waste of time, and by that I mean the movie 2012. I’m going to do something unorthodox this week and post the trailer for the movie at the beginning of the review. Take a look at the following:

Congratulations Sporefans; you’ve just seen all of the good parts of the movie. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. The entire one-hundred and fifty eight minutes of the film can be boiled down to about 30 or so minutes of special effects; the best of which you’ve just seen in the two minute trailer. So that’s it; it’s pretty much done. Go home. Do something more productive with your time.

What? You want to know what happens in the other one-hundred and fifty six minutes?

Oh geez... Really? OK. Stuff. Stuff happens.

No, really; it’s all filler. John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a divorced limo driver and science fiction writer. He, his wife, their two kids and the wife’s new boyfriend all occasionally run away from the terrible and expensive disasters that permeate the film. In between these action sequences there are long stretches where the writers decided to spend most of the film dithering between introducing their big name, all star cast and resolving the tension between Curtis and the new boyfriend Gordon Silberman (played by Thomas McCarthy) as they fight over Curtis’s ex wife Kate (played by Amanda Peet).

For two hours.


For. Two. Hours.

You would think that an apocalypse would be a little more pressing, but watching 2012 reminded me of the episode of Invader Zim,Walk for your lives”; where people literally walk away from an explosion because, and I quote, “Explosion is exploding very, very slowly.” Jackson and Gordon spend most of this film in various locations bickering about what they should do next while Kate tries to make them stop bickering. Some other people whom you’ll recognise from much better movies talk about how doomed they all are. Then some stuff blows up, or collapses, or etc., some people die and then the group runs away. They find the next location; lather, rinse, repeat.

Huh? Is the world ending? Man, that's a bummer.

The film concludes when the group finds their way to the secret international arks built atop the Himalayan mountains. Yes, you heard right; giant secret arks built on top of mountains; because nobody would ever notice them up there. They fight to get a group of people who haven’t been invited to live onto the arks before the oncoming wave of doom hits. Then they fight with the door to the ark for ten minutes before narrowly avoiding crashing into a mountain. This all happens very...




So by now you know enough not to watch 2012, but I’m not finished yet. Remember in the last review where I mentioned that directors are currently fond of not putting their names on their movies? Well I have an interesting story about watching 2012.

Blackcloud and I decided to watch a movie one night and she suggested that we watch 2012. I hadn’t seen the trailer for the film, but she said it looked like a fun movie full of explosions, so I figured we would just check it out. After two and a half excruciating hours of movie, the credits rolled and that’s when I finally found out who directed 2012. It turns out that 2012 is directed by Roland Emmerich, and then everything fell into place.

President Platt is thankful he's not being eaten by a giant lake alligator.

Now take another look at that trailer at the top of the page. Do you see the words “Directed by Roland Emmerich” anywhere in the trailer? No. You see “From the director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow” Now, if you’re me, you know who that is; but not everyone makes that connection right off the bat. Then again, not everyone hates Roland Emmerich as much as I do. So when Blackcloud saw the trailer and didn’t realize who the director was, I didn’t really blame her.

I did ask her why she didn’t just gouge out my eyes with a spork, but I didn’t blame her.

To be fair, there are other versions of the trailer out there that have Emmerich’s name on it; but the one I posted was the most popular on my search of YouTube with about 480,000 views. So if this trailer, which was viewed almost half a million times and is arguably the most popular version of the trailer, why was Emmerich’s name not on it? To put it another way, why didn’t they use other movies like Universal Soldier and Ghost Chase as their comparison movies? Or how about they use the tagline “With music by Thomas Wanker” instead? No, really, the guy who did the music for 2012 is named Thomas Wanker; I did not make that up.

What? No! Oh, Thomas Wanker... no, I was just... the cord was loose and... heh. Yeah.

The answer to these questions is simple: they wanted your money.

“But,” you may be asking yourself, “aren’t there people out there who will protect us from these crazy directors who ambush us by leaving their names off of stuff?” Well there are supposed to be these people called “critics” who tell you which movies to go spend your money on and which ones not to watch. Except... they mostly do a pretty lousy job. Many of them use rating systems with “stars” or “thumbs” to try and sum up the movie experience without the hassle of using “words”. The problem with this type of system is that it usually comes back to bite you in the posterior, because when you put stuff on the Internet, it stays there.

Let’s take Roger Ebert for example. Roger Ebert gushes about 2012, alluding to its overly long lapses in interesting stuff by stating that we’re given time to “savor” the destruction (from Roger Ebert, pulled from on 1/30/11). He also makes a point to tell everyone that if they don’t agree with him that they have “ADD”. So Ebert is not only misrepresenting this movie’s allure with his false stars; he takes the stance that if you disagree, something is wrong with you and you should seek medical attention.

Dad, am I really supposed to savor my destruction? Can't we have food instead?

But is this really true? Does being bored by boring crap really mean you have ADD? And should we believe Ebert because he puts gold stars or banana stickers on his review? To put this all in context lets take a look at some other movies that Ebert’s has plastered his stars on. Let’s seee here... what to pick. Oh, I know....He gives The Box... three stars. Seriously? The Box? The movie I just reviewed and compared to getting a pair of itchy, flea ridden socks for Christmas which were also on fire? Did we watch the same movie?

OK, what else out there in main stream movie land sucked and didn’t deserve your money. Hey, how about Hulk, a movie so bad that they had to make another one just to cover up the mistake of making it (hey, that sounds familiar). What does the Eric Bana/Ang Lee version of Hulk get from the magic E-ball? Shake, shake, shake: Three stars. Again; seriously?

Oh, what else is there that everyone went to see that sucked... There has to be some other big budget movie that sucked so hard that... Oh. Yeah.

Waterworld. The world’s driest ocean movie gets... two and a half stars? Keep in mind that this is out of a four star rating system, so two and a half stars is like saying “if you’re bored and you’ve got some extra cash, why not watch this? It’s not terrible.

But... it is terrible!

Mommy, shouldn't we be running for our lives?

But the most damning piece of evidence that I could find that I think clearly shows that you should never listen to what Roger Ebert tells you is this: The Happening deserves three stars according to him.

This was a movie so bad that the running joke was that the characters committed suicide in the film when they realized that they were in it. I didn’t even make that joke up; everyone I spoke to about the movie said the same thing. It was like this spontaneous allergic reaction to M. Night Shama-mekka-lekka-high-mekka-high-ni-amalan’s horrible movie. And yet it merits three magical stars that supposedly take all the suck out of it.

Hurry kids, we'll hide from the apocalypse in this Winnebago!

Look, I’m not going to use stars, or thumbs, or spores, or motes, or the decapitated heads of my fallen foes as a rating system for the movies I review. I’m not going to tell you if it’s a tour de’ force, or a cinematic masterpiece that will change society or the visionary work of a master cinematographer. I’m just going to tell you if I think you should watch something or if I think you shouldn’t in the most amusing way possible. If you agree with my viewpoint, take my advice; and if you don’t, then do as you please. No one’s threatening to cut off my complimentary supply of overly buttered popcorn if I don’t like their movie.

If you worked hard for your money and you don’t want to waste it on a two hour film that isn’t fun then you shouldn’t throw your money down the crapper to get this movie on DVD or Blu-Ray or rent it from Netflix, or even waste your time if it’s free. If you want to watch stuff blow up, there are plenty of T.V. shows with much better explosions. If you want to watch a movie about the end of the world, SyFy will probably assault you with an entire day of doom filled features at some point on their rotation of themed weekend extravaganzas.

I watch crappy movies. I watch bad movies. And sometimes they’re fun. And if they are, I’ll tell you. But I never tell anyone that a fun crappy movie is awesome and the “best of its kind” because I’m buddy-buddy with the director and I feel sad that his poorly animated giant monster didn’t squish the fictionalized Mayor Mc. Cheese version of me in their badly made, star filled giant monster movie. If you want that, go read Roger Ebert.

Just don't touch his popcorn.