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February 7th, 2017

PRETTY PEACHES 3: THE QUEST (1989) **

Peaches (Keisha) has been having some weird sexual dreams so her mom (Tracey Adams) sends her to see Dr. Thunderpussy (Rachel Ryan). (“I saw her on the Oprah show!”) After a rough (but thorough) examination, Dr. Thunderpussy tells her there is nothing physically wrong with her. She suggests Peaches should go on a quest for spiritual enlightenment. On her quest, she meets various crackpots, gurus, and priests, all of whom want to get in her pants.

Alex de Renzy returned for his third go-round in the director’s chair for this final installment of the Peaches series. It’s easily the weakest of the lot. Although the sex scenes are more stylized this time around, very few of them are actually sexy. Most of the scenes are either too short or have too much build-up and not enough payoff (like the exercise seduction scene).

The only returning characters are Peaches and her mother. Both Keisha and Tracey Adams lack the spark they brought to the previous installment. Even the usually sleazy Jamie Gillis (who plays a televangelist inspired by Jim Baker in this one) doesn’t really seem to be into it.

The only performer who throws herself into her work is Rachel Ryan. She is simply awesome as the demented Dr. Thunderpussy. If you thought the scene where she vigorously probed Keisha’s orifices was great, wait until you see her go to town on a male blow-up doll. It manages to be hilarious and sexy at the same time.

If only the rest of the performers were as inspired as Rachel, Pretty Peaches 3 might have been a worthy successor. As it is, it ends the series on a down note. Still, it’s worth a look just for Ryan’s brief, but memorable work.

AKA: Pretty Peaches and the Quest. AKA: Sex School.

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) ** ½

The Equalizer’s Antoine Fuqua, Denzel Washington, and screenwriter Richard Wenk reteamed for another remake. The Magnificent Seven is of course, a remake of the 1960 classic directed by John Sturges, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. While Sturges’ film nice complimented Kurosawa’s by transplanting the situation from feudal Japan to America’s Wild West, Fuqua and company are merely content on rehashing Sturges’ movie and calling it a day. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything. It just seems uninspired and unnecessary.

Remember when Walter Hill made Last Man Standing? That movie was a remake of Kurosawa’s samurai movie Yojimbo, which also had an equally famous western remake, Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. Hill didn’t simply do a remake of Dollars. Instead, he made a ‘30s gangster flick using the same structure. I kind of wish Fuqua did the same thing here.

You know the story. A bad guy (Peter Sarsgaard, who probably could’ve done this brand of quiet villainy in his sleep) lords over the town instilling fear in the good-natured villagers. They seek out seven hired guns (led by Denzel Washington), all of whom with different backgrounds and skills, who teach the frightened townsfolk to fight back.

Seven Samurai is one of the sturdiest templates you could ask for from an action movie. However, this version doesn’t bring much new to the table. While it offers more in the way of diversity as it has a multi-ethnic cast, it still manages to be a rather colorless (no pun intended) and joyless affair.

The problem is that we never really care about the bulk of the Seven. Despite the inflated 132 minute running time, not much time is spent on making the seven heroes into genuine characters. The two most effective characters are Faraday (Chris Pratt) and the awesomely named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, who also collaborated with Fuqua and Washington on Training Day). The only character subplot that works comes when Pratt needles Hawke because he’s got PTSD and can’t bear to pull a trigger. The only dramatic sparks the movie can eke out are between these two.

Washington’s bounty hunter character, Chisum has badass swagger to spare. So much so that it substitutes for an actual character trait. He has one or two cocky/cool moments, but honestly that’s not nearly as many as I was expecting. There isn’t really anything wrong with his performance. What’s wrong is the way they reveal his character’s motivations. It was an odd move to keep his motivation hidden until the final moments of the film. If we knew what drove him from the get-go it would’ve served his character better. By doing it this way, the movie kind of shoots itself in the foot.

The other characters are pretty much a wash. Yes, you have a Mexican, Korean, and a Native American in the bunch. However, there’s no real attempt to flesh any of them out. I guess the filmmakers thought that their mere inclusion was progressive enough.

The flat cinematography doesn’t do the film any favors as it lends the flick little in the way of personality. It feels more like a Hollywood product than the mythic western that it could’ve been. Also, what’s with saving the iconic theme song until the end credits? Sure, we hear snippets of it here and there, but imagine what it would’ve been like to see the Seven in action with Elmer Bernstein’s score behind them the whole time. Sigh.

Fuqua’s direction ebbs and flows. The set-up is fine, but the scenes of the Seven bonding feel curiously rushed. It’s almost as if Fuqua couldn’t wait to get to the action-packed finale.

The finale, it should be said, is rather great. It is a veritable bonanza of western carnage. In fact, it almost completely rescues the film from total mediocrity. Lots of cowboys are gunned down, shit blows up, and there’s a great bit where Washington runs over a guy with his horse. If we cared more about our characters, the ending could’ve packed a real wallop. As it is, we do get at least one touching death scene, although that has more to do with the actor’s performance than the actual script.

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GREASER’S PALACE (1972) ½ *

Greaser’s Palace starts off like your typical western with a maniacal villain keeping a town full of settlers in constant fear. Then a guy who dresses like a ‘70s pimp parachutes into the situation claiming to be an actor on his way to Jerusalem. When the townsfolk see he has the power to bring people back from the dead, cure the sick, and walk on water, Jesus Pimp attains more and more followers. Really, all he wants to do is be a song and dance man. Like Jesus, he eventually winds up being crucified.

Greaser’s Palace was made when writer/director Robert Downey was still hot off the success of his counterculture classic Putney Swope. At that time, he could’ve made virtually anything and it would’ve gotten financed and released. From the looks of things, that’s exactly what happened.

It is quite frankly a goddamn mess. I guess Downey was trying for one of those El Topo numbers where they try to turn the western genre on its ear. Whatever his intentions, Greaser’s Palace is an interminable slog.

This is just one weird, slow moving, off-putting, often nearly unwatchable movie. Nothing happens for long stretches at a time. Every now and then, you get a joke, but it’s hardly ever funny. Every now and then something will startle you awake like the sight of Toni Basil’s boobs or the sound of Herve Villechaize’s screaming. These moments are fleeting and far apart, let me tell you.

If there was a point to all of this, I clearly missed it. I guess you can say this for Greaser’s Palace: It’s the only Jesus Pimp Western in existence. That’s something. Right?

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With a different lead, Support Your Local Sheriff! could’ve been a breezy and harmless little western comedy. James Garner’s amiable unflappable charm makes all the difference. His undeniable charisma and easygoing appeal turns what could’ve been a light and forgettable comedy into a minor classic of the genre.

A gold strike turns a small village into a booming mining town overnight. The town is overrun by a gang led by Walter Brennan, but since he and his sons keep plugging holes in the sheriffs the mayor (Henry Morgan) appoints, he stops hiring. Garner comes to town with no intention of being sheriff long term. He just wants to earn a little money to take him to Australia. He accepts the job, and immediately causes trouble when he puts Brennan’s son (Bruce Dern) behind bars. Well, the jail is so ill-equipped that the bars are still on order, but the mayor assures him they’ll be in any day now.

Garner is a hoot in this. Sure, he’s more or less playing a slight variation on his famous Maverick character, but he is certainly working at the peak of his powers here. Whether he’s casually confronting gunslingers or trying to protect his overpriced meal during a lunchtime brawl, he's so much fun to watch that you forgive the film when some of the jokes fail to land.

His best scenes are with Dern. The ways Garner comes up with to outwit him are often hilarious. I especially liked the scene in the jail with no bars where he drew a line on the floor with some chalk and splattered red paint in the jail. He tells Dern it’s the blood of the last prisoner who crossed the line and Dern quickly stays put.

The supporting cast is great too. Jack Elam is quite funny as Garner’s sidekick and Henry Morgan gets some laughs as the mayor. Brennan also is fun to watch, particularly when he’s verbally sparring with his dimwitted sons.

Director Burt (Suburban Commando) Kennedy handles all of the gunplay and western clichés smartly enough. It’s only during the romantic subplot sequences in which the film doesn’t fire on all cylinders. Still, whenever Garner is diffusing tense situations or cleverly outmatching ornery cowpokes, Support Your Local Sheriff! is a winner.

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