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Simon_III_Msibi
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This is a little late but hey yoir comment on DC. One must also note that DCs core writing is really great. I know you said you superhero movies are not your preference. I think the main problem is that they are trying to keep their movies kid friendly as they can sell merchandise with it instead of focusing on the story itself.

DC has movies like V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight Trilogy when they follow their core they tend to kill it. Joker is another example, they know how to spark up a conversation and make movies you'd still want to watch in the future.

The_Silly_Sibyl
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Jack Thomas
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Simon_III_Msibi said:This is a little late but hey yoir comment on DC. One must also note that DCs core writing is really great. I know you said you superhero movies are not your preference. I think the main problem is that they are trying to keep their movies kid friendly as they can sell merchandise with it instead of focusing on the story itself.

DC has movies like V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight Trilogy when they follow their core they tend to kill it. Joker is another example, they know how to spark up a conversation and make movies you'd still want to watch in the future.


Joker was a movie I liked a lot, as it happens. For all its flaws it was a fresh and interesting and even brave take on a well-worn character. I’ve heard good things about Zack Snyder’s newly released cut of Justice League, though the four-hour runtime puts me off.

The_Silly_Sibyl
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Poultrygeist appeals to a... niche audience. Disgusting, scatalogical, offensive, repulsive, puerile, and also a toe-tapping musical crossed with a rom-com crossed with a horror film and then sprinkled with social satire, it's far from your average date movie. Of its (very) particular B-movie subgenre it's a guiding light, if not high art then the highbrow of the lowbrow, an imaginative slab of acquired taste. Written and directed by legendary schlockmeister Lloyd Kaufman under his Troma Entertainment imprint, Poultrygeist is a fine example of that company's production line, which turns out low-budget genre films (largely horror) with strong elements of parody, farce, and satire. It might be in the worst taste, but it's with the best intentions of giving you the experience you pay for when you opt for a film called Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. And then some.

The plot: a nice but unambitious young man, Arbie (Jason Yachanin), is in love with pig-tailed Wendy (Kate Graham), but loses her to a college protest group called CLAM (Collegiate Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerations). CLAM are demonstrating outside the town of Tromaville’s new outlet ACB, American Chicken Bunker, which has been built on an ancient Indian burial ground (of course) and has less than ethical or sanitary standards. (In one of the funniest - and most offensive - moments we're shown famous war photographs, including the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner, doctored to feature chickens.) Arbie gets a job at ACB just to spite his ex, but in time learns that a dark magic is turning patrons into chicken zombies, not to mention causing them to lay eggs.

Songs ensue, with titles like Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Fried, Milk Milk Lemonade, and Zombie Chickens From Tromaville. They aren’t just quickly written and composed crud either, churned out in the knowledge that this ain’t Singin’ in the Rain. The lyrics might be crude in the extreme, but they’re belted out with attention to performance, direction, and staging. Though the extras might well be anyone the filmmakers found who was willing to work that day, peppered with a porn star and some cult names, the main cast perform to a legitimate standard. Whether they could play Hamlet on the West End I don’t know, but they can play Colonel Sanders knockoff General Lee Roy (geddit?), owner of ACB and formerly “the Georgia chapter, KKK.”

The ACB restaurant is one of the vilest settings for a horror film I’ve ever seen. Forget Super Size Me, Fast Food Nation, and all the rest, THIS film will put you off corporate dining. The kitchen walls are soaked in blood and gore, sickly green snot bubbles referred to as “flavour pods” grow on the chicken, and everything makes you feel unclean just looking at it on a screen. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of toilet humour and the scatalogical stuff, including a riff on Monty Python’s Mr Creosote sketch, had me reaching for the barf bag. (I’ve rarely been more grateful than when censor bars covered up a diharretic explosion.)

To describe the cultural humour as un-PC is like describing the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster as an oopsie. Arbie’s colleagues include a gay Mexican called Paco Bell, a Muslim woman who keeps a prayer mat by her fryer and talks about “chicken jihad”, and a country boy with a fetish for poultry carcasses. Never let it be said that Lloyd Kaufman’s idea of satire is subtle; at one point the CLAM protestors declare their abomination of big business, before loudly slurping down their Starbucks lattes.

Poultrygeist is comparable to the early work of John Waters, also midnight movies, although it’s much more engaged with filmmaking styles and techniques than those films were. Waters shot just to get the scene, the draw being the writing and the weirdos he found to act it out. Once the zombie chickens plot kicks in (which takes a while) Poultrygeist switches to celluloid film, scratches and all, to create a feel of classic grindhouse cinema. This is my favourite sequence, as Arbie and co fight for survival while the restaurant devolves into carnage, people turning into giant chickens and tearing each other apart. It’s gross, it’s gory, and it’s got slapstick worthy of Laurel and Hardy. (Apologies to the wholesome duo.)

A minor controversy attached to the film in 2011, when a man bought a player-cleaning DVD and found that the disc actually contained Poultrygeist. Deeply offended by what he saw, he referred to it as horrifying and “a Triple-X rated” movie. Given that the film opens on its star-crossed lovers having sex in a graveyard while a perverted vagrant watches on, I’d be interested to know how far he got. As for me, I adore Poultrygeist, but my taste is questionable.

3.5/4

JohnnyBlaze
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I raised egg laying chickens the last 10 years. They are disgusting enough without being the stars of a grindhouse gorefest. I will definitely pass on this LOL!

The_Silly_Sibyl
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JohnnyBlaze said:I raised egg laying chickens the last 10 years. They are disgusting enough without being the stars of a grindhouse gorefest. I will definitely pass on this LOL!


ClaireVV
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Great review of the film, I really did not finish reading everything, because you interested me so much to watch this film. I've never heard of him before. I was also looking for a movie on the subject of comedy and at the same time to make it interesting to watch. A friend advised me to watch the movie Gentlemen. At the same time, he came across it on https://watchseries.ga/ and found a site where you can watch online any movies you like. I'm thinking of reviewing all the classics, like The Shawshank Escape, the Green Mile, and so on. I think it's worth it. How do you feel about such films? Because I've heard that not everyone likes them...

JohnnyBlaze
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The_Silly_Sibyl said:I just saw Wonder Woman 1984, and it’s the best superhero movie I’ve seen since Shazam! Although Marvel is considered the experts on this film genre and DC the screw-ups, I’d rather see a DC than a Marvel. (Well, I’d rather see neither if there’s anything else on, but if I had to choose.) DC’s label is stuck on a LOT of stinkers, but even those are much more interesting to think and talk about than the majority of Marvel’s boilerplate product.

Plus, Wonder Woman 1984 is a masterclass in telling a superhero story. Remembering that Patty Jenkins directs it, I thought of Bret Easton Ellis’ statement that men are just better directors because they’re not as emotionally insecure. (Or something like that.) Jenkins’ WW84 is ten times more coherent, organised, structured, and thematic than David Ayers’ Suicide Squad, or any DC movie churned out by Zack Snyder. The emotions are clear and well-developed. There isn't any nonsense about characters bonding at a crucial moment because their mums are both called Martha, or a scene where a shrink falls in love with a patient after he drops her in chemicals.

The film’s antagonists, wannabe oil-tycoon Maxwell Lord and plain Jane academic Dr Barbara “the Cheetah” Minerva, are fantastic and a large part of what makes this film work. I cannot say how refreshing it is to see a superhero movie where the villains get proper characterisation, and thought is given as to why they’re the bad guys. This is the first superhero film I remember seeing where the solution to the problem isn’t just to snap the bad guy’s neck or put his face through a wall as bloodlessly but brutally as possible. Neither Lord nor Minerva is innately evil and the wicked things they do, they do for actual reasons beyond “I’m the baddie, muahaha!”

A surprisingly subtle aspect of the film is its feminist angle. Commonly in popcorn-munchers like this “strong” women are depicted as thugs who’ll break a guy’s ankles because he interrupted her to ask for directions, since that’s how the screenwriters see female strength. Long, tedious ramblings about girl power then redress the gender imbalance.

Here, Minerva is a real and vulnerable person. (Played by the gorgeous Kirsten Wiig, who’d never pass as a plain Jane in life, but that’s Hollywood.) When she gets her powers, she takes revenge on a serial harasser who previously attacked her while she was walking home because he felt entitled to her attention. You see both the sadistic pleasure and the uncertainty in her while she beats this drunken creep to a pulp, but pulls back on seeing that she might be enjoying herself too much, that she might easily take things too far. For a mass-appeal superhero movie like this, it’s a tense scene, and much more effective than if she’d shouted “this is for the sisters, bitch!” and kicked some poor guy in the balls for asking what time it is.

Equally, Maxwell Lord isn’t just a sleazeball. He’s damaged in a way that an audience can relate to, a Beta male repeatedly shoved back down when he tries to assert himself.

The plot is a re-telling of the old Monkey’s Paw story. A magical stone grants wishes but takes something away for everything it gives. Lord takes the stone and finds a way to become it, essentially becoming a genie. There are probably a million holes in the system behind this MacGuffin. Still, it has a motivational logic (person A wants thing A, but must give up thing B to get it, and give up thing A to get B back) to it and the movie generates so much goodwill that I just didn’t have the urge to pick it apart.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman feels like the successor to action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Like them, she’s not a subtle actor but brings a physical presence to the role that sells it better than subtle acting probably could. She’s not as charismatic as Arnie or Sly but ranks higher than say, Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris. (And leaves, ugh, Steven Seagal in the Dark Ages.) Sometimes the role asks for an emotional complexity that she’s not able to convey. I didn't buy her love affair with the resurrected WWI pilot played by Chris Pine, and their romantic moments might be the weakest stuff in the movie. Poor Pine, he does his best, but there’s no chemistry there. Still, Gadot at least contorts her face to get across what her character should be feeling, which is more than Chuck Norris ever did in his movies.

The action set-pieces are fun and exciting. The first 1984 scene depicts a mall heist which is colourful, quick, and inventively staged. It does the obligatory “adorable moppets in peril” trope even better than some modern classics of this genre. (Ugh, flashbacks to Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman saving a schoolbus while New Yoikers throw rocks at the Green Goblin. “This is New Yoik! Youse mess wi’ one of us, youse mess wi’ ALL of us!”)

The film isn’t a complete success. Scenes of WW introducing Pine to the modern world could have been trimmed to a sixty-second montage, especially since the fish-out-of-water comedy falls flat. The child acting is abysmal, which it usually is unless the director has time to coach the kids. And it’s too long at two and a half hours, although that’s the standard now and complaining about it is pointless.

Yet this is a 150-minute superhero movie that I’d happily watch again, something that’s as rare as a unicorn. 3/4.


I finally got around to watching WW84 and ... I was not so impressed.

Jack, it was mostly solid story-telling with lots of origin establishment making the Cheetah and Maxwell Lord three dimensional as flawed humans gone full tilt villain.

However, the desire for me to watch a Wonder Woman movie stems from wanting another compelling story about Diana Prince.

Instead, we were treated to an extended version of a Fantasy Island episode with a plot explored from 3 angles and Gal Gadot, reprising her role as Wonder Woman, seemed like one of the guest stars.

I found the opening scene with the Olympic style challenge on Paradise Island to be overly lengthy just to make a point about "taking shortcuts" - not putting in the effort necessary to earn a reward being no different from wishing something into reality with little investment.

The Armor of Asteria really added nothing to the final fight scene with the Cheetah. Its convenient availability came off as an attempt to give WW a costume change more than anything else.

Hulk sad. 2 out of 4 stars.

The_Silly_Sibyl
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I completely understand your criticisms, Johnny. Other critics I like have raised a lot of structural and execution issues with the film that I really can’t argue with, and I can’t honestly say that I would like the film even half as much as I did the first time around on second viewing.

I think that part of the reason I liked it so much at the time is that I have no investment in Wonder Woman as a character and don’t really like superhero movies. Before WW 1984 the last one I enjoyed was Shazam!, another DC product, and compared to the boilerplate Marvel stuff I found the differences in structure and characterisation refreshing, even if they wouldn’t have worked in a “regular” action picture.

For instance, I don’t think I’d seen a superhero movie, at least in the modern era, where the villains aren’t just rote psychopaths who are beaten to death (or close to it) at the end.

I will say, though, that even at the time I found both the comedy and love story elements to be poor. Gadot and Pine had no chemistry, and the fish-out-of-water stuff with the WWI soldier discovering parachute pants etc was flatter than a pancake.

The_Silly_Sibyl
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Judas and the Black Messiah

I recently saw Judas and the Black Messiah, a historical film charting the rise and fall of Black Panther Fred Hampton in Chicago in the '70s. Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out fame) is the Black Messiah of the title, and Lakeith Stanfield (also of Get Out; he was the one in the straw hat who screams that movie's title at Kaluuya) plays the Judas William O'Neal, a car thief recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the Panthers and get close to Hampton.

The Black Panther Party represented a civil rights protest movement in '60s and '70s America, and was regarded by the FBI essentially as a terrorist militia. Martin Sheen plays the infamous J Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI and generally cast in the movies these days in a negative light. Leonardo DiCaprio played him as a repressed basket-case in 2011's J Edgar, and now Sheen plays him in a small but important part as a sinister Machiavelli, an old man with one drooping eyelid whose fight against the Panthers disguises (just barely) hardcore racism.

What will you do when your daughter brings home a black man, he asks Jesse Plemons' Roy Mitchell, the agent who recruits O'Neal and initially seems to buy into the idea that the FBI's pursuit of the Panthers isn't about race, but merely prevention of terrorism. One of the subtler aspects of the film is how he develops from a relatively honest and idealistic agent, who invites O'Neal to a family barbecue and plies him with good scotch and cigars, into one who's happy to coerce his patsy into doing his bidding.

The script is more interested in the Hampton and O'Neal characters than any specific white villain, however, which is understandable. That said, one issue I had was the somewhat broad characterisation of Hampton and O'Neal. Having not been aware of the real story, I was shocked to see in the epilogue notes that Hampton was just 21 when the events at the end of the film took place, and O'Neal 17 when he was recruited by Mitchell.

During the film I assumed that they were in their late twenties/early thirties. I don't necessarily think that younger actors should have been cast, since the film undoubtedly benefits from Kaluuya's and Stanfield's skill as actors, but a little more reference to their age might have helped me appreciate Hampton's and especially O'Neal's circumstances better.

It's more understandable for a reckless teenager to make some of the choices that O'Neal does than it is for an adult man. How many poor, black, high-school-aged kids wouldn't have been tempted by what Mitchell offered his Judas, which was more than just pieces of silver. It was a way out of prison, poverty, and the dismal prospects faced by so many kids in O'Neal's position. It arguably does the real person a disservice to paint him so broadly as a traitor.

Kaluuya inhabits the Hampton role and gives us a strong idea of the real man's charisma. There's also a sweet scene where his future wife remarks on how shy he is, away from the crowds and battlegrounds. Kaluuya is basically a performer playing a performer. Hampton needed showmanship to command the Panther movement as effectively as he did, and in Kaluuya's performance you see the struggle of a man to bear the weight of so many's people's belief in him. Being a Messiah isn't all miracles and sandals; it's also the Cross.

The filmmaking is very skilled, with a notably exciting scene early on in which O'Neal steals a car. The camera movements are fast and fluid, the angles of the shots creative, building a scene as compelling as any in a crime film of late. Later scenes of police shootouts between Panthers and police are excellently staged.

I'm late to Judas and the Black Messiah, but I saw it on the first day cinemas were open again, after the most recent COVID lockdown. It was certainly a good way to re-start my moviegoing. It's a timely story, well told and with fine actors, my reservations about character depth notwithstanding.

It's really more of a mythic piece anyway. A Biblical one, even, as anyone familiar with the Gospels will be able to trace the outline of the plot. I noticed allusions to the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, the pieces of silver, and even the sleepers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hampton and O'Neal are depicted here as mythic figures, and the film seeks (I think) to mythologise its events in order to bring that period of history to life for modern audiences. We understand the past in the stories we tell about it.

3/4

The_Silly_Sibyl
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Terror Train

Terror Train was one of the glut of slasher movies to capitalise on Halloween’s success and even scored a coup in getting that film’s breakout star, daughter of Janet Leigh and scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. The plot follows a bunch of overprivileged medical students as they charter a train to celebrate impending graduation and throw a sort of costume ball. How do I know they’re overprivileged? The train thing for starters, but also because they’ve hired magician David Copperfield (playing himself) as entertainment.

Terror Train is a much better-looking film than many of the slashers that came out in the ‘80s, and there’s fun to be had watching the scratched celluloid print with its lurid and heavily contrasting colours, which are emphasised by the tacky but vivid ‘80s aesthetic. (David Copperfield in particular looks like a backup dancer at a dinner-theatre revival of Saturday Night Fever. This was the early ‘80s, when disco was on its last legs but still very visible in the culture.) Whoever’s responsible for the digitised version currently playing on Amazon did an excellent job. It really gives you a flavour of the grind-house experience described by such aficionados as Quentin Tarantino, whose Death Proof (at least in its first half) was a homage to this type of movie.

Unfortunately, however, the main characters are annoying and unlikeable (apart from Curtis’; her natural charm shines through), the first half moves at a corpse’s pace once the prologue’s out of the way, and the potential for mystery is squandered because you’re told who the killer is straight away. The prologue, which tells us everything we need to know about what’s happening and why in the rest of the plot, should have been the denouement. There is still a bit of a whodunnit element, in relation to whom the killer is disguised as, but it’s fairly thin.

The last half an hour or so is pretty good, with Curtis doing her Halloween routine, and the killer’s use of masks is genuinely creepy. If the film dedicated more time to the stalk-‘n’-slash stuff it would have been stronger. Though I imagine doing that on a moving train is difficult, since, as the late American critic Roger Ebert pointed out, the killer can only go up and down. I’d recommend Terror Train to anyone interested in the genre and period, but as a general thriller, it’s not up to much.

2.5/4

Ahavati
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Love reading these reviews, Jack.

The_Silly_Sibyl
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Thanks! I write them for a friend’s blog, but figured I might as well share them here too.

JohnnyBlaze
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Awesome! He needs to pay you for your services with free movie tickets!

I've never seen Terror Train. It must have been the slasher flick formula to populate movies with characters you could care less about getting killed off. I'd prefer to become invested in them, like in the television series Harper's Island, and then you are left to wonder if they actually are the killer.  

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ClaireVV said:Great review of the film, I really did not finish reading everything, because you interested me so much to watch this film. I've never heard of him before. I was also looking for a movie on the subject of comedy and at the same time to make it interesting to watch. A friend advised me to watch the movie Gentlemen. At the same time, he came across it on https://watchseries.ga/ and found a site where you can watch online any movies you like. I'm thinking of reviewing all the classics, like The Shawshank Escape, the Green Mile, and so on. I think it's worth it. How do you feel about such films? Because I've heard that not everyone likes them...

I am sorry for the late reply, Claire! Both those films, Green Mile and Shawshank, are directed by Frank Darabont and based on Stephen King novels. Darabont has done some excellent work with original King properties, including The Mist, which is a flat-out horror movie about people stuck in a supermarket surrounded by a mist which contains extradimensional monsters.

I first watched Green Mile when I was far too young, really, given the violent and harrowing subject matter. But I've always liked it. It's an epic piece of historical drama crossed with fantasy elements. "Don't turn out the lights, Boss." Gets you every time. Shawshank is also a classic, of course. For some reason the bit I always remember is when Tim Robbins is in the prison showers and turns down a homosexual advance, at which point the guy says that Robbins is playing "hard to get" Quite disturbing, though, when you think about what happens to Robbins at the hands of "the sisters."

An underrated Stephen King film, if you're interested, is Dolores Claiborne. It's a psychological drama starring Kathy Bates as a woman charged with battering her elderly employer to death. Her daughter turns up to defend her, but they have a very fractured relationship and over the course of the film you learn why. Favourite line: "An accident, Dolores, can be an unhappy woman's best friend."

I'd love for you to review some of those films here, if you'd like!

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The_Silly_Sibyl said:

I am sorry for the late reply, Claire! Both those films, Green Mile and Shawshank, are directed by Frank Darabont and based on Stephen King novels. Darabont has done some excellent work with original King properties, including The Mist, which is a flat-out horror movie about people stuck in a supermarket surrounded by a mist which contains extradimensional monsters.

I first watched Green Mile when I was far too young, really, given the violent and harrowing subject matter. But I've always liked it. It's an epic piece of historical drama crossed with fantasy elements. "Don't turn out the lights, Boss." Gets you every time. Shawshank is also a classic, of course. For some reason the bit I always remember is when Tim Robbins is in the prison showers and turns down a homosexual advance, at which point the guy says that Robbins is playing "hard to get" Quite disturbing, though, when you think about what happens to Robbins at the hands of "the sisters."

An underrated Stephen King film, if you're interested, is Dolores Claiborne. It's a psychological drama starring Kathy Bates as a woman charged with battering her elderly employer to death. Her daughter turns up to defend her, but they have a very fractured relationship and over the course of the film you learn why. Favourite line: "An accident, Dolores, can be an unhappy woman's best friend."

I'd love for you to review some of those films here, if you'd like!


Love me some Stephen King! I just watched Shawshank last week. Green Mile gets me weepy everytime. The Mist with its alternative ending is an improvement over the original novella. Dolores Claiborne is one of the few movies of his I don't have that I need to get my hands on.    

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