Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Junesploitation 2019 Day 19: Kids!

These aren't children...they are demons!



    WATERSHIP DOWN (1978, 91 min.) on TCM Underground
    for the first time.

    Before the current Netflix Original CG re-imagining, generations of British children were traumatized by this animated adaptation of Richard Adams' book about bunnies dealing with displacement of their home after human developers prepare to bulldoze the land they inhabit. You know, a thinly-veiled metaphor to introduce little ones into the dog-eat-dog world of knowing your place in UK society and what awaits one in the afterlife. The are-the-animators-doing-peyote-for-inspiration opening and ending sequences explaining this universe's version of Gods, religion and what happens when you're a bunny too old to keep on hoppin' (!) wouldn't make it past the pitch stage of a Pixar or Illumination project... (shrugging) and that's a good thing?

    I've seen my share of made-for-adults cartoons, but "Watership Down" might be the most violent and adult-oriented 'PG' cartoon ever meant to be seen by small children I've come across. Though they're drawn as cute little bunnies, eventually the cute rodents' struggles and inner conflicts result in bloody scratches, infighting and deadly dog bites... WTF?!?! The voices, dialogue and attitude of the animals don't get more stiff-upper-lip stoic and steeped-in-British-class-struggle than the likes of John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Nigel Hawthorne and Denholm Elliott. I had to pause the movie frequently, which probably helped me enjoy it more than if I had been forced to live in it for 90 straight minutes (yikes!). Recommended with strong reservations. It's a Criterion worthy flick (out on Blu-ray and everything), so what the hell do I know? :-(

    THE FALLING (2014, 102 min.) on ConTV for the first time.

    In the tradition of "Heavenly Creatures" comes this odd British indie about besties whose intertwined personalities take them to strange, bordering-on-too-dark places. It's 1969 (never mentioned except for TV coverage of the first lunar landing), and gorgeous/charismatic Abbie Mortimer (Florence Pugh) is the center of attention at the all-girls school she attends with her best friend, mousy Lydia Lamont (Maisie Williams, aka "Game of Thrones'" Arya Stark). Though there's a mutual attraction between the girls, they channel their energy and passion toward William Wordsworth poetry and being there for each other. Lydia takes it personally when she finds out Abbie has lost her virginity to a guy in the backseat of a car. Lydia's so taken by Abbie's charm, however, that she forgives her friend for eyeing Lydia's dopey brother Kenneth (Joe Cole) as her next conquest. Though they're barely 16 Abbie is comfortable in her sexual awakening, something that the still-a-virgin Lydia rejects.

    About 30 minutes into "The Falling" a major plot twist happens that, frankly, left me speechless. I won't spoil it, but the narrative completely changes and turns an already-uneasy "kids are growing up too fast" tale into an ethereal, bordering-on-artsy story of bonding among new-and-old friends in order to cope with major trauma. Director/writer Carol Morley (2018's "Out of Blue") seems to know what she is doing, which helps guide the film through some potentially-derailing, off-putting incest scenes. The supporting cast is solid, which is important because they have to pull their weight in the last two acts. Pugh and Williams have excellent chemistry, and even the grown-up characters (particularly Maxine Peake playing Lydia's meant-to-be-unlikable mother) get plenty of character-building moments. Recommended with strong reservations for those that want a sprinkle of indie teenage angst with their Junesploitation! diet.

    1. I think many of my parents generation ones not to show Watership Down to their kids due to their memory of it being too traumatic! I didn't actually see the film until after I read the book. I find the film beautiful but far more upsetting due to seeing it does emphasize the books themes. Plus who isn't moved by bunnies?

      I am glad you liked The Falling! I love Maxine Peake! - can of British TV are we J.M? :)

    2. I'd seen Maxine as Miss Wade in the late 2000's "Little Dorrit" mini-series. And who can forget her episode of "Black Mirror" from two seasons ago? Maisie William gets the lion's share of attention because (a) "The Falling" revolves around her character and (b) she now has "GOT" aura, but Maxine Peake (and some of the adult actors playing teachers, particularly Greta Scacchi's Miss Mantel) really do standout work for a movie with and about kids.

  2. BULLY (2001, dir. Larry Clark) – Not being sure what to watch this day, I stumbled upon Bully browsing through Prime. The description seemed perfect for the day, and I have no regrets about it. It is a drama about a group of friends, seemingly in high school and their late teens, getting together to kill another teen because of his abusive behavior towards them. As you may expect, the outcome of the murder is not what they expected.

    I see the confrontation with reality as the major theme of Bully. All of the young characters are aimlessly drifting through life, either not going to school or caring little about it. Nothing seems of much consequence to them. In their social bubble, the murder sounds perfectly reasonable.

    I remember the controversy surround Larry Clark’s first film, KIDS. If it was anything like Bully, I can understand why some people got upset. Clark does not idealize children and teenagers, showing the ugly sides of life they can get caught up in. Bully may be a downer, but it is a compelling downer.

    1. This has, for me, been the most interesting day as far as viewing choices. Kids is a theme with many angles, and the variety of films watched is reflective of that. Most of them I would not have thought of.

      I was excited to see the 1968 film Our Mother's House mentioned on Twitter. It have not thought about that one for a long time, but I remember it being very effective. Dirk Bogarde is always great, and I probably first noticed Pamela Franklin in that.

  3. Before I Wake (2016, dir. Mike Flanagan)

    In a story that feels totally Stephen King-inspired, a young boy's dreams, both good and bad, manifest themselves in reality. The story's a bit hokey but Flanagan's direction is tight and keeps a momentum going.

    Blank Check (1994, dir. Rupert Wainwright)

    Not much to say about this one. A typical silly 90's Disney comedy. Only reason I watched this was because the Blank Check podcast (no relation) did an episode on it.

    It does have a good supporting cast with the likes of Miguel Ferrer, Rick Ducommun and James Rebhorn. And Worf's kid plays the lead.

  4. "Bloody Birthday" 1981, Dir. Ed Hunt

    Like "The White Ribbon", but with more boobs.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Patrick. A thoroughly enjoyable nutty-evil-killer-kids flick.

    1. Also caught this one. Pretty crazy for sure, can't believe the stuff they got away with using kid actors... definitely went all out.

  5. Village of the Damned (1960)

    One of my all time favorite "scary kids" movies. The mystery is compelling and the slowly dawning dread is superb. Great cast, awesome script, and cool effects for the eyes of the children. I seem to recall preferring the sequel, but I really love this movie.

  6. The Children (1980)

    These kids seemed far less threatening than most killer kids do, but the whole thing is so campy and strange that it kind of makes up for it.

  7. Baby Geniuses (1999) - first watch

    I saw this on Netflix and was heartened to see that it was directed by the late Bob Clark. But then I saw it had a rating of 2.6 on IMDB and 2% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh my!

    This wasn't great, but not nearly as bad as it was made out to be. I thought it was well crafted and the technological effects of making the babies mouths move was very well done. It's pretty much Spy Kids but with babies instead. The shtick of talking babies wore off after a while but there were enough laughs and plot machinations to keep it interesting.

    This was just an ok family comedy, not directed by satan himself as critics would have you believe.

  8. Come Out and Play (2012)

    A remake of the notorious 1976 Spanish horror movie Who Can Kill A Child?, this update finds Eben Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw as a couple stranded on a remote island where all the adults are missing and the kids have murder on their minds. I haven’t seen the original, but according to some people I trust the differences in the narrative are minimal.

    As for the movie’s fine. It’s not as shocking as it seems to think it is and it’s not particularly scary, but there are a few effective moments. It all feels a bit like Children of the Corn without the religious angle (or the corn), and some of the horror elements come across as kind of silly. It’s not completely ineffective, but it also feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Still better than most of the Children of the Corn sequels, at least.

  9. US (2019):

    This counts for Kids Day, right? Also, when are we getting Elizabeth Moss' Joker film?

  10. The Black Cauldron (1985)

    Watching it I kept trying to put me at 5/6/7 years old while watching the movie. There is a lot of this I would have absoutley responded to. There's a lot in this that lines with the 80s fantasty I watched as a kid; Labyrnith, Dark Crystal, Neverending Story, Willow and Return to Oz. I really liked quests with cute creatures when I was a kid. Which to be fair, was a lot of the 80s. That an cocain.

    But even at 7 I'm not sure I would have completely understood that the bad guys where threating to torture and murder a pig. Though there are a couple of images with th Horned King that would have gotten me to go nope and leave the room, much like the Wheelers in return to Oz. Watching it as an adult, I loved the imagation and weridness of tone of this movie. It feels all over the place, it feels if they were trying to go for the more darker early Disney, but went a little too far, but also with the cutsey of the 70s. I loved it because it is such a werid beast.

    I very much want to believe Tim Burton was working on the Skeleton sequence. And I also want to rewatch it as a double with Army of Darkness.

  11. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

    I'm not prone to hyperbole but this is one of the best pieces of art in the long and storied history of cinema. Ok, that's only a slight exaggeration. Corn II is also wonderful but I would take this one by a husk(sorry). Both are much better than the first and I don't hate that one, either. I can't imagine the next few could be better but let's find out.

  12. DADDY’S GIRL (1996)
    A murderous little girl doesn’t want anyone getting between her and her single dad. (Ew.) This is a bloodless slasher, with the girl’s gimmick -- aside from being a killer little girl -- is making all her kills look like accidents. I suppose the filmmakers are more going for a thriller/Hitchcock thing rather than a slasher, but the result is a film lacking in any real intensity. It’s just… there.

    Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA: BATTLE FOR THE EARTH (1992)
    After some Indiana Jones-style jungle adventure where explorers find a Mothra egg, we’re off and running. Mothra in this movie is just as destructive as Godzilla, knocking over buildings left and right. Hey, why does the Mothra larvae get so much more screentime than actual Mothra? Does the larvae have a big fanbase I’m not aware of? Even though I said earlier this month that I’m not a Mothra fan, the final brawl is another fun one.

  13. The Parent Trap (1961, dir. David Swift)

    My first viewing of a movie on which Erika grew up. Overlong but very charming.

    1. I came to this one after the remake (the one I grew up with) due to my love of Maureen O'Hara. She really is so charismatic, funny and stunning in this movie it is such a treat to watch!

  14. Child's Play (1988) (key word Child, starring child Alex Vincent, I'm counting this)

    Chucky is only the second worst person Catherine Hicks has had to act against.

  15. The Omen (1976, dir. Richard Donner)

    This movie worked for me this time more than ever before. Forgot there is some real Final Destination stuff that happens! Performances are generally good and creepy, and I found the child in peril imagery at the end really powerful and tough to watch. This movie still holds up over 40 years later.

  16. Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

    Naomi Watts comes back into town. All the kids get sick...coincidence? Yes. Karen Black looks like death has already taken most of her soul. Part 3 was a beautiful miracle. This was an okay finefest.

  17. Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

    This is the first entry where teenage kids happen upon the cornfields. Alexis Arquette rocks a bowl cut. Worst of these first five but not so horrible I would never watch it again. It's worth checking out just for David Carradine. There are moments in all 5 movies that make them at least interesting.

  18. The Goonies (1985)

    Still perfect. #Goonies4Life

  19. Raising Arizona (1987)

    Only the Coen brothers can make a couple that steals a baby relatable. It doesn't hurt to have Holly Hunter crushing every second she is on the screen. Broadcast News was released in the same year and both performances should have won her 3 Oscars. Nicolas Cage is why there are movies. Everybody kills and the world gives birth to John Goodman.