This is a beautifully made film about the huge judicial scandal that became known as \"kids for cash.\" Basically, two judges in Pennsylvania secretly received millions of dollars from the owners of a for-profit prison for juveniles in their jurisdiction, while at the same time pulling strings to give the prison a monopoly on juvenile detentions and (in the case of one of the judges) sentencing hundreds (literally, hundreds) of juveniles to years of incarceration in the same prison, without due process and often for truly minor misbehavior.The documentary tells its story through interviews, news footage, and a limited number of title cards. There is no narrator, and the voice(s) of the interviewer(s) are not heard. The focus is on five of the hundreds of teenagers who were imprisoned in this scam: Charlie Balasavage, Justin Bodnar, Hillary Transue, Edward Kenzakoski, and Amanda Lorah. The interviews with the victims are heartbreaking. We also hear from the two judges (Ciavarella and Conahan), who allowed themselves to be interviewed for the film while the federal cases against them were pending. In some ways, this footage, while infuriating to watch, was the most interesting aspect of the film. Among the other interviewees are Terrie Morgan, the reporter who mainly covered the scandal for the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (and who serves as a de facto narrator), and Marsha Levick and Robert Schwartz, two attorneys with the non-profit Juvenile Law Center who worked to have the cases affected by the scandal vacated.The events covered here present dangerously rich material for a filmmaker. Should the story be about money About power About the juvenile justice system in general The one weakness of the film is that it moves around among all of these themes without clearly digging into any of them. The opening and closing title sequences suggest that the third, broadest theme is the focus. But if so, why use the damage caused by two judges who were clearly corrupt as the vehicleDespite that flaw, the film deserves 8 stars for its excellent production values and, most of all, the powerful interview footage, which brings home the effects the scam has had on so many lives.
Preston Waters is a young boy with no money. His older brothers are taking over his room for their business. His grandma's birthday check isn't enough to open a bank account. Escaped robber Carl Quigley (Miguel Ferrer) threatens bank president Edward Biderman (Michael Lerner) and orders him to launder his stolen money. Carl is sending Juice (Tone Loc) the next day to cash a check. Outside the bank, Carl almost runs over Preston with his car and destroys his bike. Carl gives Preston a check but fails to write down an amount as he rushes away before the cops arrive. Preston fills in $1 million. Biderman mistakes Preston for the expected Juice and hands over the money. Preston creates a fake identity Macintosh to buy a mansion, hire chauffeur Henry, woo bank teller Shay Stanley (Karen Duffy) who turns out to be an undercover cop, and throw a big birthday party.Money obsession is not necessary a great subject for a kids movie. This could still be fun if Preston has friends. It could be loads of childhood fun. Instead, he's alone and it's terribly sad. The young actor isn't charismatic enough and it's probably expecting too much from him. His fling with Karen Duffy is borderline creepy. The villains are not bumbling enough and Miguel Ferrer is actually quite scary. There is simply a lack of fun in this kids movie.
Blank Check is probably the best film that could've been made from such a materialistic idea, with a warm-hearted aura quietly ghosting around every scene and a collection of competently-handled scenes that make a fairly strong film. The story opens showing a convicted bank robber Carl Quigley (Miguel Ferrer) escape from prison, to which he immediately obtains a million dollars he had hidden for quite sometime. Before long, we meet ten-year-old Preston Waters (Brian Bonsall), who finds himself constantly pushed around by his investment-banker father, who continues to bask in the light of frugality. After receiving a blank check from his grandmother, Preston asks his dad to fill it out, to which he puts down only $11.00. All Preston wants is a little spending money so he can buy some toys and feel like he has some sort of freedom, rather than being confined to anything other than pocket change.One day, Preston is riding his bike in a parking lot and winds up being struck by Quigley, who doesn't have time to stick around and fill out police reports, so gives Preston a blank check and tells it to give it to his father, presumably to pay for the bike since Preston is unharmed. Rather than giving it to his father, Preston recalls the blank check of his grandmother's and decides to cash it for $1,000,000. Before he knows it, Preston is filthy rich at the expense of Quigley, who, along with his goons, now needs to track down a kid while struggling to adhere to his criminal plan. Meanwhile, Preston lives the dream, buying a house, numerous accessories, and all the materials he could ever want.Anyone who says they didn't dream of something like this, or tries to shout at Preston for being materialistic, is ridiculous. Preston's attitude is no different than a lot of us when we were younger, whether we'd like to admit it or not. Not to mention, Preston acts entirely on impulse throughout the entire film, as most of us did when we were younger, providing situational realism. The kid isn't a god-child who would donate all the money to charity, nor is he using his money to try and manipulate and control others. He is a kid acting out his dream of having enough wealth to live without the worries or authority of his parents chiming in and ruining his fun, and I don't know what kid didn't want that kind of security growing up.Blank Check also, some way, somehow, manages to sustain a romantic relationship between a young kid and an older woman in a surprisingly genial, refreshing manner. Early in the film, Preston meets the gorgeous Shay Stanley (Karen Duffy), a bank teller for the bank Preston winds up cashing his check at. Preston quickly falls in lust with Shay, mainly for her elegant conversations and her radiant appearance, and tries to sustain something of a romantic relationship with her, even though all signs point to impossibility. In unsteady hands, this relationship could've been cheap and exploitative. Under the care and attention of director Rupert Wainwright and writers Blake Snyder and Colby Carr emerges a more gentler focus on the relationship, one that isn't haphazardly strung-along by nonsensical one-liners, but deep-rooted intimacy, despite both parties knowing they can't carry this on forever.Finally, there seems to be a lot of criticism with Preston's character being \"a brat.\" If one refers to Preston as a brat, then one must refer to Kevin from the Home Alone serious a brat as well. Preston is a character who simply wants some freedom and some liberties, which are not offered by his parents, so when he finally gets the opportunity to take responsibility and encounters his own finances, he is acting out on one of his oldest fantasies. If he's a brat because he wants a little leeway and space, then I suppose we were all brats at one point.Finally, there's the ending, which, like the remainder of the film, comes under certain scrutiny because the lead character allegedly doesn't learn anything. Blank Check's ending is quiet and low-key, never over-emphasizing the idea that now Preston appreciates all he had back when life was simpler. Had the ending been louder and more sentimentalized, it would still be criticized for its sappy handling of what should've been a quieter ending. The criticism here is especially ridiculous because, surprisingly enough for a Disney movie, Blank Check doesn't embellish its conclusion nor its character. It simply comes to a quiet, personal realization, evident enough for the audience to pick up, and concludes. As far as I'm concerned, the biggest issue with the film is its datedness, seeing as how the house Preston acquires would be enough to bankrupt him alone, even with one million dollars.Starring: Brian Bonsall, Karen Duffy, and Miguel Ferrer. Directed by: Rupert Wainwright.
Pretty teen temptress Myra (Robin Mattson) is talking dirty to her boyfriend on the phone when her drunken stepfather walks in and decides to show her what a real man is like. As Myra is being attacked, her big sister Ellie (Tiffany Bolling) appears brandishing a shotgun and gives him both barrels. So begins this gritty slice of sleazy '70s exploitation, which delivers sex, violence and morally dubious characters aplenty as the girls (whose mother was named Bonnie, hence the title) flee their home to start life anew with their uncle Ben, unaware that he is a ruthless crime boss.As drive-in/grindhouse cinema goes, Bonnie's Kids is tough to beat, ticking off many of the ingredients that avid fans of the genre live for: two gorgeous leads in Bolling and jailbait Mattson, both of whom deliver gratuitous nudity; a large bag of dirty cash to tempt the weak; a pusillanimous private eye led astray by a beautiful woman; a pair of hired goons who provide the film with acts of bloody violence; a smattering of lesbianism; and a wonderfully downbeat ending. It's pretty obvious that Quentin Tarantino is a fan, the film clearly serving as inspiration for Pulp Fiction (Does the name Bonnie sound familiar Do Ben's interracial hitmen, hired to retrieve a valuable package, remind you of anyone And what about that Butch/Marcellus-style chance encounter in a store that results in shocking violence). If, like me and QT, your idea of entertainment is watching reprehensible lowlifes living on the edge, this should fit the bill nicely. 59ce067264