Sunday, April 20, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Written and Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman

If you’ve never been exposed to the wonderful world of Troma, then this review will probably lose you very quickly and you’ll be wondering why the hell you have ever listened to any of my movie recommendations. Hopefully though, this will push you to experiment a little bit with your Netflix queue and give Troma a shot. Don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand through the process.

First, a trip down my yellow brick road past…to my first induction into Tromaville. Somewhere around 1986 while living in Boynton Beach, Florida, we happened upon the local video store and towering over me was a stand-up of The Toxic Avenger, a mutated muscle man in pink tutu, brandishing a mop. I’d never heard of “toxie” before, but was very curious about this freakish thing before me.

The video clerk explained to my mom that the movie was “awesome” and that he loved it and that he had a copy behind the counter that he would rent to us…that we would be so much better off with this than, say, Harry and the Hendersons. My mom, God bless her, knew nothing about movies, like most parents it seems. She never had the internet or really, the interest, in delving into what we watched. It was only when she overheard some swearing or saw some boobies pop up onscreen or a splay of blood after a good beheading that we were sent packing back to the video store for lighter fare.

But, in this instance, she bought the farm and the fucking cows to go with it when she rented her three sons The Toxic Avenger. We took it home and immediately popped it in to enjoy the wonders of our induction into the world of Troma. I’d never seen a gore-fest B-movie in my life up to that point and this movie truly shocked me…and I loved it. Seeing a kid on his bike getting run over by a group of savage teens, crushing his head and watching his brains spill out…then the savage teens running out to take pictures of the carnage they created and loving every minute of it.

What the fuck did my mom just rent us? And it just kept coming…mutating cheese-ball gore effects, a blind woman raped after her dog is blown away by a shotgun, only to have our freak hero show up to save the day, breaking off a man’s arm and beating him with it…then, some boobies…then, a street fight with real live head crushes…a weight lifting fatality with a missing head…and a fat man getting his guts pulled out…

Mom let us finish the opus, but I don’t think she ever listened to the video clerk again…even when he tried to tell her that Dirty Dancing would be a good, family film. That son of a bitch. Gyrating teenagers was a beautiful thing for a ten-year-old boy.

Over the years I saw many more Troma films, however not many of them come close to the power and rawness of the original Toxic Avenger, to include the sequels, which are pretty weak in comparison.

A few years ago I saw the internet ads for Poultrygeist, which highlighted much of the gore effects and I was completely intrigued. This looked promising. This looked like a return to the oddball, gore-filled, and supreme cheese of Toxie and it was directed by original Toxic Avenger helmer Lloyd Kaufman. Could it be?

Now, I’ve never seen a Troma movie in theaters, due largely to the fact that I don’t think a Troma movie as they’re made now would ever pull in the kind of “Men in Black” bucks that it takes to push a studio film over the hill to megabuck world.

However, specialty and art-house theaters are no strangers to such fare, and luckily for me, one day, while waiting to be seated at the Bears Tooth restaurant/pub theater we see that they are hosting special screenings of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.

Sold. I’m fuckin’ there.

What follows is my attempt to put in words what this movie has in store for you. And by you, I mean anyone that would take the plunge into this bizarre, sick, twisted, gore fest, B-movie world and love every second of it. You need to be a little or a lot sick and twisted yourself to love this shit.

And me? I’m pretty sick and twisted. This is right up my alley.

Poultrygeist wastes no time letting us know what we’re in for, as we meet our two title characters, Arbie (Jason Yachanin) and Wendy (Kate Graham), two teens making out in a graveyard and about to seal the deal. Wendy is going off to college and Arbie has to stay home and take care of his retarded (and/or blind…I can’t remember) parents and is afraid that Wendy will go away to school and forget about him.

As their exploits get deeper and deeper (literally), they are interrupted by zombie hands popping out of the ground, one of them tickling Arbie’s prostate. And of course a graveyard sicko masturbating to the unfolding action.

We then flash forward to a year later where a KFC inspired fast food chicken joint called The Chicken Bunker, is opening up at the very same gravesite, which we see is an old Indian burial ground. Tons of protestors are outside, one of them a lesbian group called C.L.A.M. (which I can’t remember what it stands for but the L is definitely lesbians). Arbie stumbles into the fray and is shocked to discover that his beloved Wendy is now a full blown lesbian and left-wing liberal protestor.

From this point, the movie skips into musical mode, where we are treated to some belted tunes as raunchy as or raunchier than anything Matt Stone or Trey Parker could deliver. Here, Arbie decides to join the staff of the Chicken Bunker in order to revolt against his lesbian girlfriend, who is now torn between her lesbian girlfriend, Micki, and her true love.

Now, that’s all pretty tame thus far, however I can’t recite word-for-word the lyrics…but I assure you, the beauty of this thing is that nothing is sacred. This is satire at its finest and most raw. Christians, Muslims, Liberals, Conservatives, Fast Food Chains, Lesbians, College, Overweight, Rich, Poor, Ugly, Stupid, it doesn’t matter…everything is fair game and there is, without a doubt, nothing left to chance. If you are an atheist, then just maybe you’ll escape without a bruised conscience…everyone else is fair game.

And to me, that’s a beautiful thing. We are beat over the head on a daily basis with how far we are allowed to go in not only the words we speak, but the thoughts we keep, and it’s a rare thing when something of this venue takes a leap and just gives it back to us in full force. Poultrygeist is like social touerette, sputtering out everything we try so hard to keep tied down and it’s secretly wrapped in a big piece of immoral B-movie shlock that is a blast to sit through.

Now, if you are squeamish and can’t handle some serious gore (and if you are thinking that something like “The Ring” is serious gore then you got another thing comin’.) then you better bring a blindfold. From a seriously obese man having the worst case of diarrhea known to man, literally painting the walls with his ‘problem’ to a gay cook being shredded in a chicken grinder, this movie attempts to toss it all out there.

By the end of the film, when all the customers have been spawned into zombie chickens, we are thrust into a montage sequence of gruesome deaths, almost like a highlight reel of some of the most off the wall and grotesque fatalities ever and it-is-a-RIOT! If gore’s not your thing, then neither is this movie, but if you can lighten up for two seconds and realize that not every movie is When Harry Met Fucking Sally, then you could really find yourself letting loose and enjoying the hell out of this schlock fest.

We are even treated to a threesome dream sequence, which feels a lot like Grease, only with zombie chickens. Although the cast of this film is filled with relative unknowns it ends up being one of its greatest strengths. Everyone seems to be having a blast…nobody is trying to win an Oscar, they’re just jumping into the B-movie rollercoaster and riding it to the end. The two leads are especially great.

Jason Yachanin plays the aloof and hyper Arbie with the perfect balance of an unrelenting hero and overall goober with precision and delivers some great lines, one in particular when he’s about to mow down a zombie chicken with an M16:

Arbie: You just won the contest…

Zombie Chicken: What contest?

Arbie: The wet t-shirt contest, MOTHERFUCKER!

And proceeds to light the chicken up. Brilliant.

Kate Graham as Wendy is hilarious, her facial expressions hitting the mark every time, almost like a wink to the audience that yes, she understands what we are sitting through, and yes, she gets it, and yes, she is your energy-filled host that will guide you the rest of the way. Hilarious and spunky and sexy to boot. For those that are hoping for some gratuitous nudity, Kate and co. provide plenty of that, leaving very little to the imagination, but still much to be appreciated and sought after.

There is an Arab-American character named ‘Humus’ (get it? After Hamas, the radical terrorist group?) who bears the brunt of the Muslim/War on Terror/Terrorist/Bomb-Strapped-To-Chest jokes and proceeds to grind them to a pulp, once again tearing down the politically correct world in which we live and forcing us to take stock of how much value we place on such things.

Now, I’m not saying that Poultrygeist is going to change the world, but it certainly doesn’t leave any stone left unturned in the field of hush-hush, no-no’s that we surround ourselves with. Think of it as your chance, if you are normally stuck up with these thoughts and never take the opportunity to voice yourself, to open up and laugh out loud at the shit you normally would nod your head and say “Yes, yes, I agree, that’s terrible.”

There’s so much more to this that I can’t even begin to cover, and mostly because I’ve probably already lost you all…However, my advice, if you happen upon an art house theater that is showing this bad boy…RUN, don’t walk, to bask in its B-movie splendor…or if you catch it on DVD, toss this to the number one spot in your queue and kick back in the comfort of your living room and enjoy the ride.

This is the Titanic of B-Movies. Don’t miss it.

MOVIE GRADE: A

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Written by: Jason Segal

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller


This much publicized next entry from the Judd Apatow camp looked promising from the trailers, if not mildly amusing, with a hodgepodge of the usual suspects and relationship hijinks. We’ve come to expect the raunchy ‘real-world’ dialogue as demonstrated in The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, not to mention the painful process of falling in love and making it work theme.

These are themes which reflect the day-to-day lives of billions of people on the planet, wrapped up and served to us in the style we’ve come to expect from this comedic brain trust. At this point, you have to wonder if they’ll ever run out of material…I mean, how many different relationship stories can you tell?

Apparently, many, many more, if Sarah Marshall is any indication. In short, this film takes so many of the familiar relationship comedy formulas and mixes them together, shakes them up, and serves them back to us in a risky, raunchy, brave, heartfelt, utterly relatable and ultimately hilarious way.

The usual break up scene is taken to a new level as Segal plays the scene completely nude, sharing his genitalia gratuitously in multiple shots, enough that you could guess the actual size. Unfortunately for me and fortunately (?) for the ladies, the usual booby nudity is switched out for cock shots, which although not a real treat for me, is a brave move, one that seeks to defy the usual norms for this genre, but what the hell…perhaps it will pave the way for more from the ladies.

What is good about Segal taking this 'pinky and the brain' risk is that although it’s gratuitous and silly and funny, it will hopefully help people (especially American movie audiences) to lighten the fuck up on nudity and get over it already. While I’m not cheering for an all nude, all the time style movie (that’s what we have porn for), I think it’s time we stop getting so worked up over it. I see myself nude everyday and I have no problem with it. No black boxes or cutaway shots, no digitally enhanced abs...I face it everyday and although in my own 'beer-goggled' way I may look like King Leonidas, the fact remains...I have no pants on and I'm okay with it.

Okay, stop trying to picture me nude and focus on the review. We're here to talk about Sarah Marshall (or better yet, Kristen Bell nude...but, no she's not in this...sorry), not me.

Perv.

Jason Segal, who played a small role in last year’s “Knocked Up” takes center stage as a TV music composer who is dating the titular hot babe from a CSI-style show, played by Kristen Bell. When she breaks up with him, Segal goes through some of the usual heartache activities until he is snapped out of it by his stepbrother (Superbad's Bill Hader) who suggests he go to Hawaii to get away from it all.

After arriving at a Hawaiian resort, Segal is shocked to discover that his Sarah Marshall is vacationing there as well…with her new Brit rock star boyfriend (Russell Brand) who is as hilarious as he is obnoxious. Segal finds comfort in one of the resort hosts, played by the beautiful Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show), who really impressed me with her acting and comedic chops. I never watched much of That 70’s Show, so it was a pleasant surprise to see an actress step forward like her. Kunis plays it perfect and sells every scene she’s in, defying the normal “replacement girlfriend” clich├ęs by playing it genuine and sweet.

As the two groups run into each other throughout the resort, they stumble through regret, jealousy, loss, love, and heartbreak all over again. The film pulls off all of these themes without missing a beat, keeping the laughs at a constant and steady pace. I found myself cracking up at so many points in this film that there’s no way for me to pinpoint even the highlights. Consistently funny and hitting all the right marks, you’ll find yourself giggling like a schoolgirl one minute and then totally engaged in the next. What truly impresses me is that the film was written solely by Segal, a knock out of the park for a first time feature. Before Jon Favreau was directing big budget fare like Iron Man, he wrote and starred in Swingers which is another heartbreak journey film which hit all the right marks. Like Swingers, this is a fresh, original voice on a familiar theme.

Movies like this don’t come along on a regular basis, and Sarah Marshall has definitely earned its place among the best of the genre. Although it has the ‘Apatow’ blend of comedy, I think it would be fair to say that it stretches beyond that in many respects, due largely to Segal’s own comedic vision, while still retaining the feel of the camps usual flair.

Sarah Marshall has all the laughs you can handle and will stain your eyes with quick cut images of Jason Segal’s limp noodle, and leave you with a new perspective on the sacrifice of a pig for a Lua, pink bikinis, hotel room sex, obsessed fans, Dracula musicals, Mila Kunis’s almost anime beautiful eyes, how to learn to surf, dirty video chatting tricks, and will teach a lesson to the spring breakers that get drunk and flash their boobs while cameras are everywhere.

Movie Grade: A

NEXT UP: My review for "Poultrygeist" the newest addition to the TROMA family of films and my long-awaited (?) Playboy interview with my dogs. Does anyone care anymore? OF COURSE YOU DO!