Movies of My Yesterdays: Blank Check

In what would have been 1995, I was a little confused at how Macauley Culkin had made two movies about having a lot of money that came out so close together. Maybe I thought Culkin was in this because of the similarity with Richie Rich, or maybe Bonsall just looks enough like Culkin that I didn’t really notice he wasn’t. In actuality, Brian Bonsall played both Andy Keaton on “Family Ties”, a show I discovered in reruns in the early 2000s, and he was the best version of Worf’s son Alexander on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

I think I wanted to see Blank Check sooner, but as I recall, I didn’t get to see it until a summer movie screening at the public library. I remember the inciting incident scene, and I remember “Mister Macintosh”, and not a lot else. Which is more than I can say about Richie Rich.

Preston’s older brothers are using his bedroom for their new business. His father will only tell him about the value of working hard for his money. His birthday is next week, but nobody seems to care. Carl Quigley just escaped from prison, and has a million dollars in easily-traceable bills he brings to bank manager Biderman, an old accomplice, to launder. Biderman gives him a book of temporary checks he can have his associate cash for a clean million. On the way out, Quigley runs over Preston’s bike and, in a hurry to leave the scene, signs a blank check to pay for the bike. Preston writes the check for “one million dollars” and takes it to the bank, where Biderman mistakes him for Quigley’s associate and fills his backpack with the money. In order to spend the cash he’s suddenly acquired without adults getting too suspicious, Preston creates “Mr. Macintosh”, a newly wealthy older man who just moved to town and hired Preston to help decorate his palatial home and generally have fun so that “Macintosh” can enjoy childhood vicariously through him. Obviously, Quigley wants his money, and the FBI is very interested in this Macintosh person.

I was expecting there to be an extreme suspension of disbelief required for the central conceit of “kid is spending a bunch of money”, but that was satisfactorily explained between “there’s this man you can’t meet who pays me to spend his money” and “you gave me a wad of cash so I’m going to stop questioning things”. But what actually bothered me more was that nobody seemed terribly interested in what this secretive man wanted with a random neighbor boy. When Preston’s parents realize that neither of them have ever met Macintosh, they still just shrug it off as kinda odd.

I’m also not fully comfortable with the subplot of Preston’s crush on bank teller Shay, a grown adult person who he is trying to give heart-pendant necklaces to. Shay comes to care about him as a sweet kid who’s fun to hang out with, but the closest Preston comes to getting over his crush is when he thinks she was only interested in him to get to Macintosh’s money.

This is not the big event movie I had built it up as when I was a kid. I wondered several times if it’s the kind of money that would go to theaters now, or if it might be direct to Disney Channel or a streaming platform. There’s a touch of the Home Alone style using the environment of the kid’s house against the bad guys at the climax, but it’s a very limited sequence, and I don’t think it contributed to my confusion about the casting, unless it was heavily featured in the trailers.

I don’t know if this is even a “summer movie”. It’s just a light bit of fun for kids any time. Children’s wish fulfilment stories are probably always more exciting when watching as a kid than when watching as an adult.

Stargate

Stargate. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes of Stargate: SG-1 I’ve seen, and still have room for the number of episodes of Stargate: Andromeda and Stargate Universe. I think there are two other series now? It was the Star franchise I cared least about.

So Stargate and the Stargates have always been a thing that the show has expected viewers to know about in everything I’ve seen. I’m interested in seeing how the concept is introduced for the very first time, from the very beginning.

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In The Army Now

In The Army Now. Hollywood Pictures 1994.

Before watching the movie:

So Pauly Shore made a movie about bumbling through the military. I have a sense it will be more like At War With The Army than Stripes. I don’t think Pauly Shore is worth the many vehicles he got in the 90s, but he’s not the anti-comedy people seem to make him out as.

His partner in comedy is Andy Dick here, and I’m kind of looking forward to his awkward but slightly less creepy than Woody Allen style.

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Street Fighter

Street Fighter. Capcom Entertainment 1994.

Before watching the movie:

This was going to happen pretty soon after I chose Mortal Kombat. I don’t have a clue what the plot of “Street Fighter” is, which I at least had a basic understanding of for MK. They’re just like, a bunch of people beating each other up in the street? But apparently there’s a world domination plan Raul Julia gets to camp his way through? Hopefully the movie does a decent job of explaining these things.

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Quiz Show

Quiz Show. Baltimore Pictures 1994.
Quiz Show. Hollywood Pictures 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I have a dim memory of being aware this movie was in theaters. It was nothing I would have gotten to see at the time, but it vaguely sparked some interest as a regular viewer of Jeopardy. I didn’t know what it was about then. It was 20 years later that Jeopardy had their own ratings-driving long-runner, but the reason it hadn’t happened before is that they had only recently dropped the forced retirement rule instituted to keep above the appearance of doing the same rigging that actually happened on Twenty-One.

There is absolutely no reason I can think of why this should remind me of The King’s Speech, but here we are. Maybe one of the posters for that movie shows the King making the radio address from behind? It’s completely immaterial, so. Continue reading

Hoop Dreams

yesterdocs

Hoop Dreams. Kartemquin FIlms 1994.
Hoop Dreams. Kartemquin FIlms 1994.

Before watching the movie:

This is one of those movies I’ve heard the title bandied about and little else. Perhaps the phrase predated the movie, since I’ve always known it as an idiom rather than a title.

Unfortunately, that gives me very little to go on for comment in this section. It apparently has an incredibly positive reputation, but yet I only came across it by specifically researching documentaries to consider for this month. I know it follows two inner city kids who are trying to get basketball scholarships to lift them out of where they are. Do they compete, or simply run parallel? I couldn’t say. There must be plenty of athletic scholarships out there, but they might be both scouted by one school for one spot. I can see the potential for a powerful portrait of their lives and potential, but I couldn’t guess at much more.

Unrelatedly, anyone who wishes to can now support this blog on Patreon. I promise not to have obtrusive reminders about it, whether it works out or not.

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Mixed Nuts

Mixed Nuts. Tristar Pictures 1994.
Mixed Nuts. Tristar Pictures 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I found this because I was looking for Christmas movies. I thought I knew what this movie was about, then I read more than one description. Now I’m less sure. Something about a crisis hotline, and somehow a tangled mess of relationships is involved.

Lots of big-to-medium names here. It’s sold as a comedy, and Steve Martin is in it, so it should be fun.

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Greedy

Greedy. Imagine Entertainment 1994.

Before watching the movie:

Way back in my first year of doing this blog, I found a four-movie set of Michael J. Fox comedies. For practical reasons, the only one I ended up reviewing, or even seeing, was For Love or Money (though I prefer the other title, The Concierge), which happened to be the one I was least interested in. It was still a very enjoyable movie.

I recently remembered that and got around to tracking down the other movies from it that I hadn’t seen (I already own one from the set, which I’ve been wanting to watch again), and now that the musicals theme has reached its end, I can watch this one.

I know I’ve seen other stories of families backstabbing each other to get in good graces with the rich dying relative, but I can’t name any. The closest specific thing that comes to mind is YouTube: a sketch by The Frantics.

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The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy. Poly Gram Film Entertainment 1994.

Before watching the movie:

The plot reminds me vaguely of Trading Places, without the “trading places” part. A guy lands in the CEO position of a major company because somebody above him is plotting nefariously. It’s a comedy! Tim Robbins and Paul Newman are in it! It’s made by the Coen Brothers! It’s a comedy!

I’m hoping for Wall Street meets The Secret of My Success.

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Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction. Miramax et al, 1994.

Before watching the movie:

This is one of the films that college students flip out over, and any “true film buff” needs to have in their top ten. We’ll see about that.

Tarantino is perhaps held in too high of regard, but this is early days, and a good example of his talent. I’m prepared for the non-Euclidean timeline, which is usually considered good, unorthodox storytelling.

Because of the way it’s formatted, the large cast shouldn’t be as indicative of an over-reaching, complicated plot. Or it may be more indicative than most. Or both at the same time.

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