Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 16: Kids!

The nightmare begins with the kids next door!


  1. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed! :-(

    I DECLARE WAR (2013, CON-TV, Frank Levesque: 6/24/2016)
    What this movie nails better than anything else (besides crisp cinematography of the big Ontario woods where it all takes place) is tone. The small stakes of two factions of kids playing war are shown for what they are to the participants: the most important thing in the world at that precise moment! Weapon sounds, fake-looking gore and profanity as Skinner (Michael Friend) and P.K. (Gage Munroe) try to outwit one another earned this an unnecessary 'R' rating. It's a great cinematic look at normal toxic masculinity at a young age, and how the presence of a girl amongst boys (Mackenzie Munro, a dead ringer for "It's" Sophia Lillis) alters the dynamics of play. I admire this more than enjoy it, but it does what it sets out to do. 3 FLYING PLANE REINFORCEMENTS (out of 5)

    SPACECAMP (1986, Blu-ray)
    You're the leading lady (Kate Capshaw) and in-demand composer (John Williams) from one of the hottest movies of '84 ("Temple of Doom"). How the heck do you end up working in this well-meaning but spectacularly bad kids movie about NASA Space Camp students accidentally getting shut into orbit by a malfunctioning (but also well-meaning) Frank Welker-voiced smart robot? Tom Skerritt does the best acting of his career by keeping a straight face around the nonsense surrounding him. Special effects are decent for the money, but the cast (Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan, etc.) can't sustain 107 minutes worth of non-existing tension. The Kino Blu-ray was dirt cheap, yet I came up snake eyes. 2 UNMOLESTED-BY-HOWARD SMOKIN' LEA THOMPSONS (out of 5)

    THE GOONIES (1985, Blu-ray, Brent Petersen: 6/19/2019)
    This is my third or fourth crack (first time in HD) at trying to get what fans of "Goonies" see in it. Like "Star Wars," this must be one of those 'you had to be there' cultural touchstones. Even when recognizable actors show up (Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano; lil' Josh Brolin, Sean Astin and Martha Plimpton; Anne Ramsey at her Ramsey-iest; etc.) their performances bring me no joy. Uncredited co-editor/producer Steven Spielberg's touch is at his Spielberg-iest (the organ trap leading up to the pirate ship), but doesn't wow me. Characters meant to be comic relief (Jeff Cohen's Chunk, Ke Huy Quan's Data, etc.) are repugnant, and not even Richard Donner's direction can make the 114 min. running time feel any less than an agonizing eternity. Oh well, I still have "Gremlins." 1.5 QUARTS OF MELTING ICE CREAM (out of 5)

    FORTRESS (1985, YouTube)
    Not to be confused with the Stuart Gordon action flick of the same name, this made-for-HBO Ozploitation tale follows a teacher ("The Thorn Birds'" Rachel Ward) and her students in a rural Aussie school as they're kidnapped by four armed men wearing masks (a duck, Father Christmas, etc.). The story is told from the hostages' POV, and despite the grim set-up the filmmakers evoke adventure thriller tropes more than hostage ones. Escapes through water-logged tunnels, turning school supplies into sharp weapons, montage of a last stand preparations, etc. The kids talking about TV shows to amuse themselves ("Kojak," "Gilligan's Island," "Hill Street Blues," etc.) is a nice touch. The "Lord of the Flies"-type violence is tame by today's standards, but raised eyebrows back in '85 when I first saw it. The electronic score is meant to be stirring, but comes across as goofy humming beats. Childhood memories... should remain just that. 2.5 BEATING HUMAN HEARTS IN A JAR (out of 5)

    1. I re-watched Goonies 2 or 3 years ago just to brush up on it and yeah, it really doesn't deserve its reputation.

    2. It deserves its reputation for those that have grown with "Goonies" loving it. Outside of that rather large group of 80's kids, though, it's a case-by-case deal. It's like the "Twilight" series. Unless you were of a certain age, gender and mindset in the late aughts, it's hard for anyone else to get out of these movies what fans got from their rabid fandom.

  2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, Steven Spielberg)

    One my umpteenth time watching Temple of Doom. I only just clicked that the cult is making a form of zombies out of those kids. And I wonder what happened to Short Round after the movie? I like to think designs rollercoasters for a living.

    Actually this might be an 80s Handshake movie. Well today it is.

  3. I originally planned to watch the film the image of today comes from, but, in the end, there was only one logical choice. Two movies a day is, sadly, not always feasible this June.

    LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART IN PERIL (1972, dir. Buichi Saito)

    In 2020, children in genre cinema has meant one thing for me: the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Itto Ogami is an assassin wandering around Japan (“The Demon Way in Hell”) waiting to get revenge on the Yagyu clan that destroyed his life. Coming along for his adventures is Daigoro, his young son, who is pushed in a cart that is loaded with weapons. In this fourth installment, Ogami is hired to kill a young woman, O-Yuki, who left the service of a powerful local lord without permission. Regardless of how Ogami feels about it, he always completes his assignments. Along the way, he will also have to deal with his Yagyu enemies.

    The film begins with a bang: a woman, breasts exposed, is confronted by a group of men trying to kill her. She stabs them one by one with her short sword, their blood spraying all over her. The woman in question is O-Yuki. It is a shame she is not in the film longer because she is such a dynamic character. And quite the lethal lady. The sequence of her getting her tattoos is both sensual and trippy.

    Daigoro plays a bigger part in Baby Cart in Peril than previous entries. He wanders off and gets lost, searching for his father in Buddhist temples. In this search, Daigoro has a fascinating encounter with a man who recognizes the death that the boy has witnessed. Even at the prospect of his own death, Daigoro does not appear to worry about life anymore. In the climactic fight, Daigoro plays a limited but important role in his father’s survival.

    Though not at the stylistic heights of the second entry, Baby Cart at the River Styx, there is plenty to enjoy about Baby Cart in Peril. Certain scenes have a visual poetry that one would not expect from a film like this. There are also some references to Japanese history that have me doing a little research.

    While it helps to see the series in sequence, each of the films can be watched as a separate entity without the risk of being completely confused by the plot.

  4. The Children

    1980, dir. Max Kalmanowicz

    Nuclear misted kids microwave people by hugging them. It’s Troma.

  5. The Wonderful Land of Oz. (1970) Man, this was a chore to get through. The extremely threadbare sets and costumes and effects help it feel more dreamlike and magical, like a kid trying to recreate a dream they had. But everything else- The scenes just drag forever. The actors slouch and mumble through their scenes- Oh my God, the hero child is just… diabolically bad. None of the songs are good, there’s nothing funny or exciting. The visual elements are almost interesting, but it’s so dull it doesn’t even become nightmare fuel. Towards the end, there’s an interminable shot of the defeated all girl army in their ratty pep squad uniforms, trudging out dejectedly of a rickety cardboard castle while the braindead jaunty theme song plays. It's a little encapsulation of the whole movie. At least it was short.

  6. The Lost Boys (1987)

    I know this movie isn't as publicly beloved as The Goonies, but it manages to hold my attention the entire way through more than the Goonies does. Holds up on re-watches for me too.

    1. Saw it on free space day three days ago and enjoyed it a lot. It's basically 2 movies stitched together (an adult vampire movie and a kid adventure/mystery movie), but both are good and the whole thing just works.

  7. Explorers (1985, dir. Joe Dante)

    The first half is a charming movie about kids discovering something amazing, the second half devolves into a silly Looney Tunes cartoon. Both halves are unmistakably Joe Dante, but I enjoyed the first a lot more than the second. James Cromwell's German accent is bizarre.

  8. Son of Godzilla (1967, dir. Jun Fukuda)

    To go from the original Godzilla to Son of Godzilla in less than 15 years has to be one of the weirdest turns for any series. This movie is completely goofy and made for small children. The Son of Godzilla is one of the most off-putting creatures this side of Mac from Mac and Me. It was a chore to get through, for Godzilla completionists only.

  9. The Peanut Butter Solution (1985)

    This was one of those movies that seemed to be on HBO 34 times a day when I was in junior high but for some reason I never got around to watching it before now. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was woefully unprepared for just how bananas it is, so naturally it’s one of my favorites so far this month. Also, it’s so aggressively Canadian that by the climax I half expected Zap Rowsdower to show up to save the day (and in all honesty I’m a little let down that he didn’t. I assume he was off having a beer on the sun. Wonder no more, Zap).

    The story follows Michael, a young boy who loses all of his hair after he sees something that scares him while he’s sneaking around in an abandoned house. He’s given a recipe for a hair restoration formula by a pair of friendly hobo ghosts (because sure why not) that he applies to his head, but he adds too much peanut butter (Skippy actually paid for product placement here which may be the bananas-est thing about the whole enterprise) so now his hair won’t stop growing, which leads to him being kidnapped by an evil art teacher who uses his hair to make magic paintbrushes. If you need some time to reread that sentence and let it all sink in, I understand. It all feels like the filmmakers were making it up as they went along, and what can I say? It works. Considering my current hairline, I may need to seek out some friendly Canadian hobo ghosts myself. I wonder if Skippy’s on sale this week...

  10. The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) dir. Don Bluth, Gary Goldman

    There's a lot of suspension of disbelief I'll put up with in animated movies. The severe curves and eyelashes on the penguin for one, the clothing each one is somehow wearing, and the songbird side kicks that apparently found their way to the Antarctic. But there's one thing I'm unwilling to suspend disbelief for....

    ...the teeth. The full, sometimes sharp, sometimes bucked, ever present set of teeth on these semi-marine, flightless birds. The teeth is where I draw the line.

  11. The Legend of the Christmas Witch (2018) Amazon Prime

    I saw that Michele Soavi, the director of StageFright and The Church made a Christmas movie a couple years back and it was on Prime so I pretty much had to check it out. It's about what I expected, and perfectly ok as a Christmas movie. The premise is that the Christmas Witch has been around for 500 or so years and delivers presents like Santa, but she does it on January 6th. The rest of the year she looks much younger and works as a teacher. Much like Connor MacLeod or Dracula, her love life is complicated by her immortality.

    It's mostly aimed at a younger audience but then there's the occasional curveball like when one of the kids (probably middle school age) not only is trying to peep on his classmate (and then afterwards her mom) undressing but attempts to record it on his phone to send to his buddies also. Also the villain is a bit of a PG version of Conal Cochran in that he's a toy maker using the commercialization of a holiday to do something to all the kids (in this case he's made toys with a chemical inside that will make the kids only his toys).

  12. Paperhouse (1988, dir. Bernard Rose)

    This was one I watched totally on a whim because I was listening to Screen Draft's '80s Fantasy episode this morning and they spoke so highly of it there.

    This is a dark and somewhat sad movie about kids. It follows the story of a young girl who goes into the fantasy world of her drawing everytime she sleeps. But don't let your imagination runaway with you, the fantasy world is a field with a house. There she meets a sick young boy who's in a coma in the real world and she tries to help him. It's actually quite good and emotional. Available on the Roku channel!

    The alleged behind-the-scenes story is that a bunch of small-town kids and their drama teacher made a movie, and the result was extreme horror that shocked everyone. Then of course the movie became a cult thing as the VHS tapes got passed around. I don’t know if this is true or if I’m being Blair Witch’d, but this movie’s a trip. It’s mostly the usual shot-on-video clunkiness until you get to the last 15 minutes. That’s when the movie really does go full-on horror and it’s just as mind-blowing as everyone says.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 16
    More unanswered questions about Michael Ironside’s character, Principal Billy. He sees signs that Mary Lou has returned. But when the priest warns Billy about this, Billy rejects him by saying it was all in the past and he doesn’t need protection. Billy later finds the priest’s body and he breaks down crying. It’s ambiguous, but I think the idea here is that he now knows how many steps behind he is, and what it’s going to take to stop Mary Lou. Or maybe I’ll see it differently after more watches.

  14. Its Alive! (1974)

    No not all babies are cute.

  15. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, dir. Stephen Hopkins)

    Okay I'll say it, the baby stuff in this rivals 2001: A Space Odyssey

  16. Lucas (1986)

    After a series of movies ranging from violent to really violent, this nostalgic journey to the 80s suburbia was a welcome change of pace. It's a very traditional coming of age story about first loves, first heartbreaks and finding your place in a high school social structure. Doesn't sound terribly original, but a smart script which makes the effort to avoid the obvious choices, and earnest performances by young, up-and-coming actors (Corey Haim in a breakthrough role, Kerri Green, who's given a lot more to do than in Goonies and hits it out of the park, a shockingly fresh-faced Charlie Sheen, and Winona Ryder in her very first role, already showing flashes of what's to come just a couple years later) keep the movie from becoming a cliche. Lucas doesn't seem to be mentioned too often among the genre's heavyweights like Fast Times, Breakfast Club or Heathers (all movies I love), and maybe that's because it's a much gentler, quieter and more innocent kind of movie. Unlike them, it's not cynical or disillusioned in the slightest, it doesn't satirize, only empathize. Most of all, it's sentimental without ever becoming saccharine, which I think is an achievement in itself. In case you can't tell, I'm really, really glad I saw it.

  17. The NeverEnding Story (1984, dir. Wolfgang Petersen)

    Yes yes that's right, I had never seen this before. It's a movie I've always been aware of but never watched. I think the flying dog on the cover put me off.

    But even seeing it for the first time as an adult, I still liked it! It's an astounding looking Fantasy film with brilliant practical sets and creatures. Everything looks amazing. It's also nice to see a children's film actually try to be about something and be more beneath the surface. Sure the story was a little hard to stay engaged with at points, but every now and then it cuts to the little boy reading the story and his extreme enthusiasm for it always brought me back!

    This is a solid '80s Fantasy, I just wish I saw it younger.

    1. It's kind of crazy that he made this a couple years after Das Boot. They couldn't be more different. Later in his career he settled into a fairly predictable sort of movie, which I find so watchable. One of my favourite directors.

      I had seen The NeverEnding Story sometime on TV in the late eighties, but didn't see it again until maybe 5-8 years ago. It was weird that I had remembered so much of it. Perhaps we had recorded it on VHS and I had watched it more than once. Still have to introduce it to my kids. Maybe later this month.

  18. Hugo (2011, dir. Martin Scorsese)

    Pretty this is the first time I've gotten Scorsese into my Junesploitation line-up.

    I liked it! I had heard this was somewhat of a tribute to silent movies, but I had no idea it was to this extent. Some might say Scorsese is laying his movie-love on a little thick here, but (surprise surprise) it worked for me. It's pretty lovely movie all around.

  19. Children of the Corn (1984)

    Most Stephen King adaptations are less hit and more miss IMO. This one was part of the latter but still goofy fun. Some of those kids were creepy though and that score by Jonathan Elias was spot on!

  20. Wonderful Nightmare (2015), Prime
    A high powered successful lawyer dies in a car accident, but when she gets to heaven, they realize that it is a mistake. She needs to spend a month in another woman's life before she can return to her own. If this sounds to you like somebody put Heaven Can Wait and Overboard in a blender, you would be right. In honor of Junesploitation, they exploit the troubles of the children for as much as heaven will allow. While there is nothing new, there is a Korean effervescence that makes it all go down well.

  21. The Paperboy (1994)

    Super fun Omen rip off I guess? YouTube quality was not that bad.

  22. Becky (2020, dir. Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion)
    13-year old girl dispatches of Nazi home invaders, including the King of Queens. Well directed with some good moments, but I didn't like it as much as I was hoping to. Kind of reminded me of The Aggression Scale, which I have to say I like better.

  23. Day 16

    The Bad News Bears Breaking Training

    A long, painfully slow, and unfunny sequel. This felt like it was made more grandparents instead of adults. Not worth the time.

  24. The Pit (1981, dir. Lew Lehman)

    Very much in league with other horror films about adolescence like Pin and Sleepaway Camp in which an undercurrent of queasy conflicted sexuality churns beneath the surface of what might otherwise be something remotely conventional. The brassy upbeat score (which feels like it belongs in a live action Disney film from the ‘60s about a talking dog or a plucky little league team) is completely at odds with the tone of the film, and that constant incompatibility adds to the fever dream state that the movie thrives in. I recommend this if you enjoy bonkers films, and I also recommend that you go in as cold as possible.

  25. The Omen (!976)

    Lots of fun stuff, highlighted by a few over the top sequences. I've seen so many things that have referenced or stolen things from movies like The Omen, so was happy to see there were still surprises in this.

  26. Super 8 (2011):

    You ever have movies you like when you see them and then for some reason don't revisit enough? I need to revisit this more.

    The Bad News Bears (1976):

    Mainstream movies need to start letting kid actors loose again. Not in a raunchy Good Boys way, but in an honest way that lets them be charismatic and sincere. This movie rules.

  27. Motorama (1991)

    Talk about a hidden gem. I have never heard of this movie and a friend of mine recommended it after having a 2-month long sabbatical from work where he just watched whatever movies on Prime he came across.

    This film is like a combination of Repo Man, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Mad Max, and a Gilliam movie all into one. It plays like a children's film and a road movie, but also a bizarre surrealist fever dream---while always retaining the sweetness and wonder of kid’s movie. .

    The world it takes place in has this crazy card game where he needs to spell out “Motorama” to win 500 million dollars and has run-ins with lowlifes, bikers, horny teens, and weird cameos by Dick Miller, Meatloaf and Drew Barrymore along the way in a fictionalized alternate reality America with unrecognizable states, strangely colored money and desert landscapes.

    This movie made 10K at the box office and 1,000 votes on IMDB. I have found barely anything about it online. It must have been a film festival movie that didn’t receive distribution or something? How this isn't a cult movie by now, I will never know.

    Directed by a producer of The Stuff (who hasn’t really made much since) and written by the writer of After Hours, this film is a cult movie in the making (I hope).

    Free to watch on Prime.

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  29. Troll 2 (1990)

    Despite its reputation, it was pretty engaging and fun to watch. I really liked how there was a lot of camera movement and blocking taken from weird angles. The story was good, if a little nonsensical at points. Mix of horror and comedy, which is fine by me! But the acting was just not very good. The kid was alright, but many of the other characters were wooden as hell. All in all, I was entertained. It doesn't deserve the reputation that it has.