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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Popin Cookin Sushi 07:13 PM -- Sun October 6, 2013  

Popin Cookin Sushi
8/10 YUMS
This is fun stuff! To fully understand what you're getting yourself into, and what a social phenomenon it is, you need to see a Youtube video showing you how to make it (the Japanese instructions make it a bit challenging otherwise). Plus, they give you a far better review than I could. There are many videos of each of the different Popin' Cookin kits, and they are both informative and entertaining. If you buy your own kit, you absolutely must use a youtube video to guide you through, or you'll make a terrible mess of things. Well, unless you can read Japanese.

So what is Popin' Cookin? It's a candy that you make yourself, using the provided packets of powder, little plastic tubs and tools, and water (not included - I hope you have access to water). It's a really fun little science experiment of sorts, which ends up with something... edible? Sorta. Let's get that out of the way: for yummiest candy, stay away from Popin' Cookin. For fun and adventure, Popin' Cookin is what you want. As you can see in the video, there are a lot of steps involved in making this, though it's all really easy, mostly you just pour a packet of powder into one of the slots in the tray and then stir it up. Then you put it all together, and it looks super cool. That's all there is to it! Then of course you eat it, and it's not so great, but you had so much fun you don't mind.

There are quite a few different Popin' Cookin kits, from hamburgers (that one looks amazing, I will try it one day - it even involves a little microwaving!) to bento boxes to donuts and ice cream. They're all sort of the same food-wise: semi-gummy edible playdoh type stuff, generally with a fruity sort of flavor. What's really special about the sushi are those fish eggs you see on the seaweed roll. Those are made by mixing up two different liquids, and then using the included eyedropper to drop one liquid into the other. Some mystical chemical reaction takes place, and each droplet becomes a little ball of jelly with a liquid center, like boba if you've ever had that. It's super cool.

As I mentioned above, these aren't very tasty. Well, I've heard different things about each different box, but I can tell you from experience: the sushi kit is not very tasty. By far my favorite part is the seaweed - it's some kind of grape fruit roll almost (that doesn't come as a powder, it's just a thin sheet you roll out flat with your fingers), and combined with the rice (which has a ramune-like flavor) and the fish eggs (which are... well, something fruity, and also kind of weird/fun because they pop open in your mouth), they make that particular sushi actually enjoyable. The other 3 sushi you create are a lot less tasty, because the egg and tuna toppings are this kind of fruit-flavored jelly that isn't really that pleasant, and the rice is rather a weird texture.

If I were truly rating this kit on the Yums, it would get something like 2/10. It's pretty much barely edible, other than the seaweed roll. But I actually highly recommend Popin' Cookin kits, and I will definitely get more of them in the future, because they're really fun. I'm willing to eat the results to justify creating them, and I'm sure kids would be less discerning, because hey, at least it's sweet. And sometimes weird is its own entertainment. So overall, I'm going to give these 8/10 Yums and I hope you find some of your own. By the way, you can buy these on Amazon.com, pretty much all of the available kits, and they're only around $5-10 shipped. That's a whole lot of money for the food you get, but not too bad for the entertainment. Oh, also expect to wait at least 2 weeks for them to arrive - they ship from Japan.
And that's it for the Candy Fest! Hope you enjoyed this tour through odd candy. Now let us continue on with October movie funtimes.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: From Within 09:45 PM -- Fri October 4, 2013  


Synopsis: A boy commits suicide, and then it seems to be catching... whoever was the first person to come near the last dead body then kills themselves shortly after too, and the first person to come near their body, and so on. C-C-C-Combos ensue!

Scariness Type: General dread and the occasional sort of jump scare.

Rating: 3/5 Necronomicons. I think. The movie is no longer on Netflix so I can't check my rating and it's been almost a week since I saw it.

Body Count: 9 in the movie, and 6 more in the credits! Those are some unhealthy credits.

Fun Fact: This movie also has teenagers who irrationally hate a fellow teenager who lost a parent through no fault of their own. Why is that a thing? In this movie it makes more sense though, it's a religious thing.

Best Moment: It's never super clear how the people are being killed, except in a couple of scenes. The one that stands out a bit is when the main character's mom is slain by the evil force, and I kind of liked how that worked. It didn't make a lot of sense (and did nothing to explain the guy who hanged himself earlier...), but it hinted at some kind of mental trickery going on and that she thought what she was drinking was a nice healthy beverage.

Worst Moment: Maybe not a moment, but I felt like the cousin who just shows up and acts surly was a needless addition. Maybe that's why the Hebrew Hammer set her on fire. Spoiler! She did have some significance, but anything she had to say could've been said by the guy whose cousin she was, who was actually an important character. And she was surly.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: Nothing really took me out of the movie here that I can remember. There was one very low-speed car crash that set the car on fire, but there was ghostly intervention involved, it's not like they were actually suggesting that car crashes do that by default.

Horror Tropes: It's good to be the hero... this evil force that wiped out everybody else it was attacking in 2 seconds flat spends the last 15 minutes of the movie slowly pursuing the hero. Not because she had any sort of special skill or anything, it just came after her much more slowly out of respect for her star status.

My Take: There's a twist at the end of this movie, as there should be in any movie according to me, but especially horror movies. But the twist here (I'm not doing a very good job spoiling these movies, am I? I only spoil when it's necessary!) is of the lesser variety. Twists come in 2 flavors - ones that send you back through the whole movie, re-evaluating everything you've seen in one amazing revelation (always kind of lame when they flashback to do all the mental work for you, though); and ones that don't change your view of the previous events, they just make the rest of the movie take a new direction. This is the latter kind, and since it comes about 30 seconds before the movie ends, it doesn't change much. It does make it a pretty depressing conclusion (and possibly the end of the entire human race, depending on exactly how magic works - spoiler!). But despite that, it's still something fun, because for a minute or so you think things are resolved in a nice way, then they go down hard. Anyway, overall this movie was okay. Didn't blow me away, but it all made sense and worked alright. I found the doppleganger monsters to be ineffective. They did the usual stretched face, black eye type of stuff you get in a lot of modern horror movies, but just didn't pull it off in a way that really creeped me out at all.

The Lesson: Stay away from books. They're evil.

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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Yummy Pencils 09:42 PM -- Fri October 4, 2013  

Yummy Pencils
8/10 YUMS
You know, I was way into these at first... they're hard candies, so my "way into" can only go so far, but I was really liking them. Then I came across one of the odd flavors. There are, I think, 2 of the flavors in here (there are something like 8 flavors! Quite a variety) which contain some sort of weird cactus or flower flavor/smell in them in addition to the nice fruit flavor. It's very offputting to be enjoying this lovely fruit and suddenly almost feel like you're smelling perfume, or eating aloe vera. Not good.

But other than those oddities, these are great. They're very strongly fruity and sweet, and it's fun that they're shaped like pencils and have pictures of various pencils making faces on their packages, so even with the failure flavors, I rate the experience an 8/10.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The House At The End of the Street 03:22 AM -- Fri October 4, 2013  


Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen and her mother move into a new house. Next door a high school boy lives alone, his parents having been murdered by his brain-damaged sister when he was younger. However, he doesn't actually live alone... his sister still lives there, locked in the basement! Teen angst ensues.

Scariness Type: Serial killer's got you trapped, and craziness is becoming apparent...

Rating: 3.5/5 iPhones (but I must note that I saw on IMDB that the iPhone in the movie is actually an iPod... no idea how the person could tell, and moreover, not a clue why they wouldn't just use an iPhone rather than making fake phone-call images on an iPod!)

Body Count: 6

Fun Fact: Elizabeth Banks, Elisabeth Shue, and Parker Posey are all remarkably similar looking.

Best Moment: The reveal of the twist is really the best part. I didn't see it coming, not exactly, and it was kind of a big surprise that was a lot of fun. I will say they kind of broke it later on though - the movie ends with a very brief scene that's supposed to cap it off with a final mini-twist, but what is revealed in that moment was really obvious to me, and had already been revealed if you were paying attention to the dialogue, so it felt almost insulting to have it spelled out there.

Worst Moment: I don't know if this is truly the worst moment, but I found it really ridiculous when the world's hottest lightbulb was touched to some cloth and skin and instantly smoke starts pouring out, and in less than a minute, the cloth was burned apart. It's a great argument against incandescent bulbs, you can really see the waste of energy.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: There were a few things that yanked me right out of the movie here. One was the way the kids in the school would become irrationally violent and set to murder the boy whose parents had been killed. For what? Having suffered a trauma? It just wasn't established in any clear way why they would hate him. Another is somebody's neck getting snapped completely on accident, just because somebody else was trying to hold her tightly and keep her from yelling. That is a very dainty lady. And lastly, there's this hidden trap door, and for plot reasons, Katniss runs down into the room with the trap door and after about 2 seconds of glancing around, not having any idea there would be a trap door, she spots the hinge sticking out from a carpet and goes right to it. Just way unlikely to me.

Horror Tropes: Ah, the classic flashlight failure. Nobody has good batteries in their flashlights in horror movies. Not even the cops apparently! Also, the whole thing wouldn't be complete if the corpse of the killer didn't suddenly reach up and grab you when you thought he was dead!

My Take: I kinda liked it. It was slow to get going, but the ending third or so kind of turned the first part on its head with fun revelations. That kind of stuff is one of my favorite things to get out of a movie. But aside from the twists, you have half a movie of kind of uninteresting teen drama, and another half of pretty ordinary hostage-battling-to-escape stuff.

Missed Opportunity: I liked the ideas and twists, I think the missed opportunity here is making the movie more interesting to support them.

The Lesson: Very simple - never make friends.

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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Pureral Gummy 01:22 AM -- Fri October 4, 2013  

Pureral Gummy
6/10 YUMS
I'm not even sure what to call these. Here are some various names I can find in English on them: Pureral Gummy (pureral isn't a word, is it?), Soft Candy, Kabaya Pualalu, and Okinawa Passion Fruit & Citrus. That last one is probably your best bet - This is a package of two flavors of gummies - passion fruit and lime. They have a semi-liquid center, and the outside is a soft sort of gummy, about like konnyaku jelly if you've ever experienced that (I'm not a fan of those). The fruit flavor is strong as you'd expect from Japanese candy, the texture is a bit odd and off-putting, and it's all rather sweet.

That's about all there is to these! I'm not a gummy guy in general, and these are rather odd gummies. The flavor helps pull them through, but the texture is a little tough for me to get past, though it's not nearly as blurky as konnyaku jelly. I give them 6/10 Yums.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Scream 3 05:27 PM -- Wed October 2, 2013  


Synopsis: Well, they're making the movie Stab 3, and cast members start to get murdered. So... well, that's really all. That keeps happening until a final confrontation. Exposition ensues.

Scariness Type: Many attempted jump scares, I guess. Not scary. Also not funny, interesting, exciting, or involving.

Rating: 1/5 Voice Changers.

Body Count: 8 or so

Fun Fact: They just keep making these stupid movies. I'm done watching them now though. This was the final straw. I saw Scream 4 a few months ago, and I know it was bad, but there is not a chance it was anywhere close to this bad.

Best Moment: The best is when Jay & Silent Bob show up for no reason! Which just kind of emphasizes how shlocky and hollywoody this whole thing is. It's a cartoon.

Worst Moment: All the moments that contained Parker Posey. I truly have no idea what she was doing in this movie, what kind of crazy instructions the director gave her, but I highly recommend you watch her in this movie, even though I can't recommend you watch the movie itself. My favorite is the scene where they meet Carrie Fisher and Parker Posey's just boggling and looking disgusted and horrified at everything around. Plus she begins that scene by doing a Scooby Doo wall-sneak. I kept wondering what weird dark secret she had that made her face do the totally crazed expression she made nonstop, until I finally realized she was just doing that. She was practically frothing at the mouth, and everybody else acts like she's being a normal human being. I think they were afraid.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: Pretty much every scene in this movie blows apart any suspension of disbelief you could have. There is no logic to anything that occurs, it's basically pure insanity on film. Ironically, it's not the unkillable killer stalking people that's so hard to believe (at least they offer a bulletproof vest as some kind of reasoning there, even though it's a magical super bulletproof vest), it's just the regular interactions. The thing I remember most is one scene where Dewey is walking through a house yelling peoples' names because they got separated (of course) and he's trying to find them. He literally yells at full volume, gets no response, takes two more steps, and the guy whose name he was yelling pops up behind him, scaring him, acting like he hadn't heard a single word. This same kind of non-comprehension of physics happens again and again in the movie, scenes where people clearly had to be standing just outside of the camera's view and they pop in not having heard a word that was going on on-camera. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Horror Tropes: All.

Missed Opportunity: They really missed out by not just turning the camera around and following Jay & Silent Bob for the rest of the movie once they were onscreen. It would have been a hundred times better.

My Take: This was so terrible. I was just shocked. As I mentioned above, I saw Scream 4 recently, and didn't like it, but this was so much worse. I really couldn't believe it. I don't think I've ever seen a movie which so completely disregarded reality. I shouldn't have to suspend my disbelief for scenes of normal human interaction, I think that ought to be reserved for the 'magical' parts. I can't remember ever actually liking Scream movies, but I thought there'd be some fun in the mystery and stuff. Not even the kills are interesting - stab stab stab. Nothing scary or surprising. And that mystery? Like in every Scream movie, the killer turns out to be someone you've met, but there's never been a clue that it was them and the reasons are stupid, and it's just more of a letdown than a revelation. Oh yeah, and the whole "plot" hinges around a totally ridiculous piece of impossible technology - a voice changer box that perfectly duplicates anybody's voice.

The Lesson: Stop watching Scream movies! What are you doing to yourself?!

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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Look 05:19 PM -- Wed October 2, 2013  

7/10 YUMS
This is another hard candy. These ones are quite different from anything I've had before. They are somewhat chocolate flavored, or maybe a bit caramel flavored, maybe even a little coffee. Whatever it is, it's different! They're not super hard, because after sucking on them for a fairly short while, the thin outer layer gives way to a softer center that kind of just falls apart. The center has a stronger flavor, maybe more coffee-ish? It's a hard one to describe, I'll tell you that.

So, I don't know quite what to tell you about these, but they are brown-flavored semi-hard candies, and I rate them 7/10 Yums. Kind of enjoyable, but kind of odd.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Bay 01:10 AM -- Wed October 2, 2013  


Welcome back for another round of Belittling Horror Excessively! Thirty-one screamtastic tales of terror picked apart to death over the month of October. I wanted to do the Hamumu Halloween Home Horror Hoedown again, I do sort of enjoy it... but it's just so much work to film and edit the reviews each day, so I'm going back to the basic written reviews. Besides, I really miss saying that things ensue. The thing I'm doing differently this year is that I will spoil the movies for you! So don't read on if you plan to watch the movies I'm discussing. I'm tired of not being able to talk about the most important parts of the movie and just sounding dumb trying to be as vague as possible, so let's have a nice proper discussion of the movie as a whole!

Synopsis: The mayor of a small town on the Chesapeake Bay decides that all of the following are good ideas: dumping tons and tons of chicken manure into the bay, being near a nuclear power plant, holding a big summer celebration, setting up a desalinization plant to convert the bay into drinking water, and of course drinking that water. Excessive filming ensues.

Scariness Type: Hey, we're starting right off with a found-footage movie! This isn't just one lost tape from a kid in the woods though, it's actually a documentary put together from all the assorted possible sources in the town during this unfortunate incident, from traffic cameras to tourists' videos to security cameras to iPhone Facetime to videoconferencing to news reports and more. What all this conspires to do is create the "deadly outbreak" kind of scariness. Nothing much is going to jump out at you, you're just supposed to worry about the horribleness of the situation. Could it really happen (hint: no)? Are you sure you should be drinking that?

Rating: 2.5/5 Isopods.

Body Count: 700+. I think this movie might win the body count contest this month, kind of a letdown since it's the first one!

Fun Fact: Steroids can make you grow dozens of times faster than normal. That's why you see pro football players that are 25 feet tall. And chew on people.

Best Moment: I'm not sure... Honestly, nothing stands out and makes me cheer (hence the middling rating), the movie just kind of putters along.

Worst Moment: When the movie defies its own fiction. In a scene clearly built entirely for the trailer (well, that's my guess anyway, not having seen the trailer), one infected cop acts like a zombie and shoots his boss before shooting himself. It's so unrealistic and completely out of character for what is really happening that it just makes no sense. Nobody else in the entire movie has any kind of weird mental issue like that, and while I'm at it, what's up with shooting somebody else to save them from the infection you carry? Shoot yourself, be nice! Of course he does, but he shoots the other guy first. And again, why is that? For shock value. Not even close to something that would actually happen.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: This is the moment when the movie went too far for me to suspend my disbelief... When a pair of cops went to investigate somebody's house, one of them walked inside, then after a while a gunshot went off. The remaining cop went running in to see what was going on. A problem for a found-footage movie - there's no camera in that house. The only footage here is being shot from the dashboard camera of the cop car. So how does the movie choose to let us in on what happened in the house? By saying "We enhanced the audio so you can hear what was happening". So this little dashboard camera 20 feet in front of the house was recording people speaking at a low volume in a back room of this house, which they enhanced to perfect clarity. It's the "Zoom And Enhance" CSI moment of the movie.

Horror Tropes: Well, being a found-footage movie, this movie is full of people insisting on recording when they would never do so in real life. "Why are you filming? Stop that!", "Oh come on baby, we're gonna be glad we filmed every second of us walking down this empty street! I refuse to stop despite your reasonable request." But also, let's not forget the ultimate classic: the blood-dripping-on-you-from-above trope! We have a nice example in this movie. Ooh, what's this dripping on me? Is that blood?! I better slowly look upward without even moving out of the path of it.... AIYEEEE!!!!

My Take: Well, what you have here is a mockumentary about a massive disease outbreak, basically. It's not actually a disease (I told you there'd be spoilers! I told you in red!), it's isopods (basically tiny horseshoe crabs) in the water which for Movie Logic Reasons grow to several inches in size in just hours after you swallow them, eating their way through your body. But it might as well be a disease, same difference really. Definitely an eco-terror thing here, the usual "stop polluting or Godzilla will destroy you" message. What it really reminds me of is movies from the 50's, how they would end with a voiceover saying, "With all our fabulous technology, has mankind doomed himself to extinction? When you leave the theater, will YOU make giant mutant ants? The END!?!?!" or something. This doesn't end with that kind of thing, but it feels like it should. What I respect in this movie is how it feels quite different from your usual horror movie, because it really does feel like it's actually documenting a real-life outbreak, something that could really happen (even though it couldn't). And it even sensationalizes it like a documentary would. What I don't respect is that there are no real characters in the movie, no motivations or growth. Just people who muddle along and end up with ocean bugs popping out of their mouths. There's no "story" here at all, except in the sense of a news story.

Missed Opportunity: If you watch this movie, look behind the main character when she's doing her interview thing... there's something on the ceiling. It's probably a smoke detector or something, but it really looks a lot like an isopod, and once I noticed it, I spent the rest of the movie waiting for it to move and give us a nonsensical shock twist ending. Which by the way would've made some sense - this girl washed herself off in a fountain in the town at one point in the movie. Why is she alive?

The Lesson: And lastly, in case you don't watch the movie, I'm here to sum it up into one simple lesson you can carry with you for the rest of your life. If you get nothing else from this review, let it be the powerful and important lesson. The Bay has this lesson for you: Don't drink the water.

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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Guimauve 06:12 PM -- Tue October 1, 2013  

9/10 YUMS
This is an altogether unique experience. Even the name is awfully unique. What you get here is a bunch of rather dense, firm marshmallows, in 2 colors. the peach-colored ones (or mango-colored ones) are mango flavored, and the green ones are kiwi flavored. The flavor is very strong, mainly because it comes straight from actual fruit juice. The texture is just dandy... they're not as airy and collapsible as normal marshmallows, yet not as dense and stale as Lucky Charms marshmallows. They're almost like much-less-dense taffy.

And it is an enjoyable experience to chew on them! I give them 9/10 Yums. They remind me a bit of Now & Laters (which are basically squares of fruit taffy), but they're so much softer and they don't get all up in your teeth like taffy does. Fruitastic!
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  Japanese Candy Fest 2013: Animal Crackers 08:55 PM -- Mon September 30, 2013  

Animal Crackers
5/10 YUMS
Japanese animal crackers are not American animal crackers! Let me preface my remarks by pointing out that Sol Hunt really likes these. Because I don't. They're okay, but they're pretty odd. They are a very dense and dry animal-shaped cookie, coated with a dried frosting in one of several colors. But these aren't just colors! Oh no! They are actually flavored. The pink frosting has a little hint of strawberry, the green one is... well... it doesn't taste the same as the pink. There are differences even if I'm not sure quite what they are.

Overall, these are acceptable to put in your mouth. If they were sitting out in somebody's living room, I'd crunch a few without making a face. But they are not exciting, and they don't wow me in any way. I wouldn't buy them for myself again. 5/10 Yums is what we call that situation.
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