November 6th, 2008

POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2008) ****

Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma cronies have been working on this flick for what seemed like FOREVER.  I met him last year at a horror convention and asked him what the deal was and he assured me it was coming out “soon”.  Well it took a long time getting here but dammit, it was well worth the wait!

 

This Colonel Sanders rip-off guy builds his fast food chicken restaurant on top of an ancient Indian burial ground.  The restless spirits possess the chicken and when people eat it, they turn into chicken faced zombies.  It’s up to one nerdy dude named Arbie and his best gal Wendy (get it, all the characters are named after fast food restaurants) to fight off the ever increasing flock of chicken zombies.  Oh yeah and it’s a musical too!

 

Poultrygeist is the best flick to come down the Troma sewer drain since Citizen Toxie:  The Toxic Avenger 4.  I couldn’t even begin to describe the carnage that Kaufman unleashes onto the screen.  Okay, I’ll give it a shot:  Blood, slime, semen, and shit sprays everywhere, painting the walls every ten minutes or so.  Heads, eyeballs, arms, legs, cocks, balls, and breasts all get ripped off and eaten and/or deep fried.  Sure, I could tell you all of this but the only way you’d believe me is if you actually check the film out for yourself.  (Which I highly recommend you do.)  There’s also an excellent Jaws parody that made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. 

 

The film has its share of lulls and probably could’ve done without one or two of the musical numbers but in the end, it’s a damn Troma movie and that’s what really matters.  And it’s one of their best to boot.  Denny, the manager gets the best line of the flick when he says:  “Grab those vein-filled pulsating eggs and put them with the breakfast food!”

HOOPER (1978) ***

Burt Reynolds stars as Sonny Hooper, the best damn stuntman alive.  Hooper’s working on an Adam West spy movie and gets to do a bunch of insane stunts (like doing a freefall while holding a dog in his arms).  He also has to contend with an up and coming stuntman named Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent) who idolizes Hooper.  Eventually they become friends and together they concoct lots of crazier and crazier stunts, culminating in a rocket car jump over a blown up bridge. 

 

Reynolds and director Hal Needham both got their starts as stuntmen and Hooper is their love letter to them.  Needham paints a colorful picture of the stuntman’s hard-drinking, risk-taking, rough-and-tumble lifestyle and films the stunts themselves with panache.  There are car stunts, fire gags, and parachuting stunts galore, all of which are top notch.  The highlight comes during an awesome barroom brawl, which has to be one of the greatest ever filmed. 

 

Reynolds’ Good Ol’ Boy charisma keeps you entertained, even when things get all schmaltzy during the third act.  Hooper is a Reynolds vehicle through and through and it features him doing what he does best:  Driving fast cars and making smart ass wisecracks, so I could easily forgive the film for its lapses into melodrama.  Reynolds’ Smokey and the Bandit co-star, Sally Field gets the thankless role of Hooper’s concerned girlfriend.  The excellent supporting cast (which includes John Marley, James Best, Robert Klein, Terry Bradshaw and Robert Tessier) adds to the fun.

Needham, Reynolds and Field re-teamed two years later for Smokey and the Bandit 2.

SHARKY’S MACHINE (1981) ** ½

Sharky (Burt Reynolds) is a decorated narcotics detective who gets demoted down to the vice squad after a citizen accidentally gets shot during a botched bust.  Sharky quickly finds his way onto a case involving a $1,000 a night hooker named Dominoe (Rachel Ward) whose client is a shady senator (Earl Holliman).  He sets up a stakeout where he watches her apartment around the clock and while spying on her, Sharky inevitably falls in love with her.  Sharky then aims to protect Dominoe from both her slimy pimp AND a psychotic killer. 

 

Reynolds was also behind the camera for this hard-boiled crime drama based on the novel by William Diehl.  The film is overlong and moves at a deliberate pace but Reynolds is excellent.  Around this time he was doing all those Cannonball Run movies where he basically played himself, so this must have been a nice change of pace for him to have such a meaty role.  He’s great in the scenes where he’s watching Ward from afar and you can genuinely see him aching for her, especially when she’s bedding down other men. 

 

Ward is pretty good at the object of Sharky’s affection and Henry Silva is awesome as the heroin snorting killer with a serious grudge against prostitutes.  The supporting cast including Charles Durning, Brian Keith and Bernie Casey all hit their marks effectively and provide fine back-up for Burt.

 

After a promising start, things get deadly dull as soon as Burt starts romancing Rachel.  The scenes where Burt and Rachel watch kids playing are about as saccharine as you can get in a motion picture.  These scenes are at odds with the rest of the flick and stick out like a sore thumb. 

 

Speaking of painful appendages, there is one harrowing scene where a dirty cop cuts Sharky’s fingers off one by one that will have you squirming in your seats.  Burt even CRIES during it, which again just shows his acting chops even more.  Had the flick had a couple more scenes like this, one or two more shootouts and an extra random ass ninja attack, it might have been one of Burt’s best.  As it is, it’s close but no cigar.

 

Diehl also has a cameo as a pimp.

TRANSSIBERIAN (2008) **

Woody Harrelson is a missionary who along with his wife (Emily Mortimer) jump aboard the transsiberian express going from Beijing to Moscow.  When Woody hops off at a stop to check out some antique trains, Emily starts up a little fling with their bunkmate, a Latin lothario/drug smuggler.  She puts on the brakes though and it makes the dude so mad that he tries to rape her so Emily’s got to kill him.  Back aboard the train, they get a new bunkmate in the form of a persistent Russian policeman (Ben Kingsley), which makes poor Emily visibly upset, especially when she learns that she’s inexplicably stuck with her boytoy’s stash of heroin. 

 

Like Hostel, this movie reinforces why I never go outside of the good old US of A.  It’s not that I’m afraid I’m going to get killed by lunatics or incarcerated by unfriendly police officials or anything, it’s just that I hate being around a bunch of motherfuckers who don’t speak English.  (It’s comparable to going to McDonald’s.)

 

Director Brad (The Machinist) Anderson tries for that whole paranoia/claustrophobia of being in a confined space in a foreign country type deals.  The result is more like taking a train ride with a bunch of irritating people for two hours.  Harrelson’s incredibly naïve “Aw Shucks” persona is pretty grating and Mortimer’s cunt queen routine gets on your nerves real fast.  Kingsley is good as the steely eyed detective, but his performance alone can’t save this slow moving, boring and dreary thriller.