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January 31st, 2017

SHE (1965) **

John Richardson and Peter Cushing go to Palestine and paint the town red. During their revelry, Richardson winds up getting shanghaied and taken to the beautiful Ursula Andress who claims to be an immortal goddess. She also believes that he is the reincarnation of her lost love and sends him on a dangerous quest to prove his worth.

Based on the novel by King Solomon’s Mines’ H. Rider Haggard, this Hammer production features both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, although they never find very good use for either of them. Cushing is mainly there as Richardson’s sidekick and Lee is relegated to the role of Andress’ sullen advisor. Their presence alone will be enough for Hammer fans to want to check it out, although neither of them exactly make or break the picture.

Another reason to see it is for the beautiful Andress. She is plenty sexy, but is a bit stiff in the acting department. Still, when you see her sitting on a throne wearing a sheer white robe and golden headdress and ordering people to be thrown into a lava pit, it’s hard not to smile, at least a little.

The set-up is handled in a brisk manner and features a sense of playful fun that is otherwise missing in the rest of the film. Once the heroes set out on their quest, doldrums set in. The flick begins to show signs of life once again during the final reel (which looks like it might have inspired Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but because of the sluggish middle act, the audience has to exert extra effort to become reinvested in the characters. By then, it’s not exactly worth it. Still, it does have fleeting moments, but that’s not nearly enough to hang a whole adventure on.

BAD MOMS (2016) **

Bad Moms is one of those comedies like Neighbors that thinks it’s automatically funny when someone in their thirties parties like someone in their twenties. If that were true then just about every nightclub in America would be fucking hilarious. Since it’s a movie, we’re supposed to laugh when a mother stops feeding her kids, goes out and gets drunk, and tells off the head of the PTA. If I did that shit, I’d be arrested for neglect and public intoxication.

I know. It’s a movie. It’s a comedy. It’s supposed to be funny, but it really isn’t.

The whole approach is just misguided. The filmmakers believe that since it’s a woman doing all of this shit, it will not only be funny, it will be “liberating” too. You know, go ahead girl and let your hair down. The problem is that the film never really goes for broke. If it went all-out, it could’ve been a satire of suburban life. As it is, they play things way too safe. I mean if you’re going to be a bad mom, be a bad mom. Don’t half ass it.

It also doesn’t help that the movie hates men. The husbands are portrayed as either controlling or uncaring and any male in authority is seen as a doofus. I guess it shouldn’t come as a shock to you that the only likeable guy in the whole cast is “the hot widow” with great abs.

I know. It’s supposed to be funny because the shoe is on the other foot and they’re objectifying men. It really isn’t though. There needs to be an actual joke in there to make it work.

The only cast member who really gets laughs is Kathryn Hahn as the slutty mom. That’s because she’s the only one with the sense to play things as broad as possible. Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell look like they wandered in off from the set of a sitcom and are actually shocked that they can actually say “fuck” now.

The humor is very Paul Feig. By that I mean that it mostly revolves around three women saying variations of the same punchline over and over again, hammering it away to a bloody, unfunny nub. One or two would’ve sufficed, but they keep talking and talking. It’s like you’re watching outtakes edited into the finished product.

The movie also goes on forever. Just when you think it’s over, it continues on and on with about six different endings. The finale should’ve been at the PTA election debate (is that even a thing?), but it just doesn’t know when to quit.

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THE TRAP (1946) **

A troupe of showgirls stays at a musty hotel in Malibu. They act catty and bicker with one another and before long, one of them is found strangled. The press agent tries to hush things up for the good of the show, but the girls decide to call in the great detective Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) to solve the case. More bodies are found and it’s up to Chan to catch the murderer.

The Trap was the final Charlie Chan film for Sidney Toler. He was ill during filming, which is why his screen time isn’t as extensive as it is in other entries. Because of that, Chan’s Number Two Son (Victor Sen Wong) and his valet Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) get more opportunities to snoop around (although their comic relief isn’t exactly funny this time around). Toler equips himself quite well though and he still commands the screen despite his weakened condition.

The opening is also heavily padded, which gives Toler more of a breather. Since the padding mostly revolves around girls in bathing suits throwing beach balls around, it’s hard to complain too much. The eye candy is certainly nice and helps to differentiate this entry from countless other similar Chan mysteries. That’s the only way it really stands out though. All the scenes of Chan making deductions and accusations are perfunctory and lack the pizzazz of the best entries, but this isn’t bad, all things considered.

AKA: Charlie Chan in the Trap.

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THE REDEEMER (1978) * ½

A group of classmates are invited to attend a class reunion. When they arrive at their old school, they are puzzled to learn that they are the only ones who showed up. Before long, a killer, who wears a variety of masks, picks them off one by one.

The Redeemer is a weird one. At its heart, it’s a slasher in the vein of Prom Night as the killer is getting back at everyone who wronged him on a day that most classmates look forward to. It also has a bit of Terror Train to it in that the killer appears wearing a different disguise (Grim Reaper, Howdy Doody, a duck hunter, magician, clown, etc.) whenever he kills someone. (In all fairness, it was released before either of those films, but it’s nowhere near as effective.)

However, there’s a weird framing device involving a preacher and a couple of unruly choir boys that is just plain dumb. It also eats up a lot of screen time. Because of the longwinded opening, the classmates don’t arrive at the reunion until about a half an hour into the movie. The conclusion is also needlessly drawn out. After the killer murders his last victim, the flick should be over, but it continues on for another fifteen minutes, much of which consists of a kid walking around aimlessly for what seems like forever.

So what we’re left with is like fifty minutes of filler in an eighty minute slasher.

That isn’t to say it’s all bad. One or two of the kills have some gore. It would’ve been nice if there had been twice as many of these types of scenes, but oh well.

One other interesting touch is that the film has not one, but two gay characters. It was rare for a ‘70s slasher to have one gay character, let alone two, so The Redeemer is certainly progressive in that respect. Sadly, that’s the only progress the movie makes as it’s one of the slowest moving slasher flicks I’ve seen in a while.

AKA: Class Reunion Massacre. AKA: The Redeemer: Son of Satan.

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