Rating: The Good – 77.7 Genre: Comedy Duration: 103mins Director: Michael Lehmann Stars: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
“Dear diary, my teenage angst bullshit has a bodycount.” Recent addition to the school’s most popular clique, Winona Ryder, is growing ever wearier at the inane conventions of her new friends, three preppy girls all named Heather. In steps Christian Slater, a proactive cynic whose extreme reactions to the superiority complexes of the chosen few are the source of the some shockingly funny moments.
Like all great black comedy and unlike so many recently failed attempts, the darkness in Heathers is effortless and so the comedy is viciously hilarious. Daniel Waters’ delicious script is driven by a playful yet unyielding focus that slices fantastically at the indulgence of the high-school movie genre and indeed society’s broader indulgence of the precious order that its middle class teenagers had so mercilessly forged in the 1980’s in particular.
Ryder has never been better and for those who’ve only seen her Dracula-type performances, they should take a look at this. For such an acerbic story, she brings a level of reality and even warmth to the role that serves to make her incredulous narrations and interactions with the various characters all the funnier. Slater is at his best too, his slow burning charisma making him the perfect choice to play the self-anointed social equaliser. His character becomes both Waters’ main vessel and his target as he slowly works his way through the equally self-anointed social elite. Michael Lehmann’s directing is adequate but a little uninspired, which is actually quite a shame because this movie would otherwise be damn near perfect.
Rating: The Good – 88.9 Genre: Comedy Duration: 98 mins Director: Harold Ramis Stars: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield
If Caddyshack was merely a reflection of the sum of its parts, those parts (top comedic actors, original premise, tremendous script, outstanding soundtrack, and a great comedy director) are of such high quality that the film would still rank as a comedy classic. However, the film transcends the sum of those parts to become one of the most enjoyable movie watching experiences. Set in the hilarious Bushwood Country Club, the movie follows its caddies, the rich eccentrics they caddy for, and the various staff including its unstable groundskeeper as they go about their ridiculous daily business. Michael O’Keefe is perfect in the lead as the likable but cheeky Danny Noonan but this movie is as much if not more about the supporting cast of comedic heavyweights. Ted Knight is a riot as Judge Smails, Rodney Dangerfield finds the perfect vehicle for his unique brand of humour (“hey lady, you wanna make 14 dollars the hard way?”) while Chevy Chase’s Ty Webb is Chase at his skewed and improvisational best. Best of all though is Murray as the deranged groundskeeper Carl. This is easily one of his best performances and one of the most off the wall eccentric characters you’ll find in any film. From his “kill all the golfers” line to “you wore green so you could hide” Murray will have you howling with laughter for the full 90 mins and beyond. The quantifiable magic that occurs when every aspect of a movie comes together in perfect harmony is something we rarely encounter in life so let’s just be eternally thankful that Caddyshack is with us. “In the words of Jean Paul Sartre: au revoir”.
Rating: The Good – 79.8 Genre: Drama Duration: 110 mins Director: George Lucas Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford
For those who (somewhat understandably) used the most recent Star Wars films as reason to doubt George Lucas’ talent as a director, this is one of two films they should watch that will assuage any such doubts (the other being THX 1138). An ode to the 1950-60′s cruising generation, American Graffiti follows a group of friends the night before two of them are due to head off for college. Lucas knits each of the scenes together with a medley of era-specific rock and roll hits which are intermittently punctuated by local radio pirate Wolfman Jack and he quite brilliantly uses the radios of passing cars, restaurants, gas stations, etc to ensure the soundtrack is a constant feature of the background. The fun of the evening’s adventures are had in a series of cracking set pieces ranging from drag races to that now classic liquor store robbery. On the acting front, all acquit themselves admirably with Richard Dreyfuss and Paul Le Mat scoring particularly well. Dreyfuss brings a lot of depth to his character and taps that ever present ability to strike up immediate chemistry with a variety of on-screen partners. On the other hand, Le Mat quite simply gives us one of cinema’s coolest characters as king of the strip John Milner. Unmissable.
Rating: The Good – 75.6 Genre: Comedy Drama Duration: 121 mins Director: Richard Linklater Stars: Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Nicky Katt
Richard Linklater’s completion of an unofficial trilogy of films looking at the plain nuances of late adolescent life in small town U.S.A. is the most understated and indeed pessimistic movie of the bunch. After the ‘devil may care’ optimism of Slacker and the nostalgic charm of Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia (not to be confused with the famous and not dissimilar punk documentary of the same name) takes an acerbic glance at the disaffection of middle class kids a year out of high-school. Following a group of friends over the course of a night as they hang out on their preferred corner of a convenience store, the film looks at the effect that the return of a former friend, now a successful rock star, has on their night and already touchy self perceptions.
Among the group is Giovanni Ribisi’s “Jeff”, who is as close to a lead as Linklater gets here. The tracks to Jeff’s rut are the most worn and, though his rantings are often wearingly familiar, Ribisi layers them with just enough exasperation and angst to make them both funny and relatable. Ribisi always had a sideways charm (that’s probably held him back on the cusp of proper stardom) and it’s in these indie comedies where it works best. Nicky Katt has a (welcome) larger role than he usually gets and he makes the most of it as the twisted ex-soldier “Tim” whose depression has turned to anger because he thinks he’s seen the world outside his town and it’s not much better. Steve Zahn’s manic “Buff” is the only one of the group who seems content with a life of under-achievement and he is the star of the show. Achieving a joyous balance between verbal and physical comedy, his character is the movie’s safety cord, sling-shotting it back from the depths of post-adolescent panic on numerous occasions. As Jeff’s girlfriend “Sooze”, Amey Carrie has the most difficult role too pull off as she plays the only one of the gang with enough optimism to try to escape their rut but who’s barely hidden insecurities are repeatedly exposed by the cynicism of Jeff and Tim.
Whereas most directors would flounder in the earnestness of teenage angst or end up compromising the entire project with the necessary comic relief, Linklater breathes in one and out the other. Like Slacker, a stream of colourful and often disparate experience replaces plot but, through his skill as a writer and director, it coheres around character profile and some marvelously improvised acting. Drunk and stupid is not an easy thing to pull off without losing the audience at some point but so charming is the dialogue, so tangible is the characters’ inertia, and so impeccable is Linklater’s distance that it all plays to the central musings of the film and, with it, a generation of intelligent but under-stimulated minds. And having Steve Zahn’s improvised mannerisms and his remarkable but less seen genius for physical comedy in there hinders not at all.
Rating: The Good – 67.2 Genre: Comedy Duration: 110 mins Director: Roger Avary Stars: James Van Der Beek, Ian Somerhalder, Shannyn Sossamon
Roger Avary’s adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel is a case of the borderline gratuitous times two. What makes the film worth watching is Avary’s genuine talent for finding the comedy in those most debasing moments of self-obsessed human depravity. Rules of Attraction won’t be to everyone’s liking and there are times when this film goes over the line simply for the sake of doing so (such as in that appalling suicide scene) but it’s an interesting project in its own right in that it that shows the do’s and don’ts of filming in equal measure.
Rating: The Good – 71.2 Genre: Comedy Duration: 90 mins Director: Amy Heckerling Stars: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold
It has dated somewhat over the years but Fast Times at Ridgemont High tapped the zeitgeist of its times and remains an enjoyable glimpse of a year in the life of a bunch of high school kids as they deal with romance, sex, jobs, and hardcase teachers. For those who grew up on 80′s comedies, the jokes are bolstered by the sense of nostalgia but for those who didn’t those same jokes may come across as dated and weak. Its major strength is that the movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a bit of fun. This might not be the right tack to take when dealing with some of the trials and travails that the characters go through but, for a slice of teen comedy, getting bogged down in the emotional trauma of abortion or betrayal just won’t do. So everything is artificially sugar-coated and the audience is left all the happier for it.
Rating: The Good – 77.8 Genre: Horror Duration: 97 mins Director: Joel Schumacher Stars: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest
The film that redefined the vampire genre by blending the traditional mythology with the swagger and verve of MTV Generation. Two brothers move to Santa Carlo with their mother to make a fresh start only to fall afoul of a group of troublemaking bikers who have a penchant for sleeping upside down and drinking blood. Although it’s over twenty years old now, The Lost Boys has lost none of its coolness thanks chiefly to its terrific soundtrack. The actors were a who’s who of up-and-comers at that time and armed with the witty script they give the movie a refreshing vibe. Jason Patric and Corey Haim are great together as the brothers, Diane Wiest is (as always) excellent as the mother, while Kiefer Sutherland chews the scenery as the charismatic leader of the vampire gang.
Rating: The Good – 81.1 Genre: Mystery Duration: 112 mins Director: Richard Kelly Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Writer/director Richard Kelly’s sci-fi mystery is easily one of the most affecting and originally conceived science fiction movies to address the issue of time. It follows (literally) the troubled yet highly intelligent young Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) through a period of time when his strange visions and conversations with what seem to be an 6-foot imaginary rabbit have alarmed his parents and seen him sent to therapy. As the visions continue however, Donnie begins to see a pattern that ties into events which are occurring in the real world and ultimately leads him to a key choice that will define his future.
Donnie Darko is a superb film that effortlessly balances the more weighty conceptual content with a cheeky wit and dark humor. There are some delightful exchanges between the various characters which make the whole experience a treat to the ears. But of course, there is much more going on beneath the surface and Kelly switches tone almost instantaneously at times but also seamlessly. The film is coloured with an intense but appropriate film-making style and there are some truly beautiful moments of cinematic self-reference that feed perfectly into Darko’s story such as the sequence in the theatre where images from The Evil Dead bleed into the narrative. The twist is not so much a twist as it is a methodical unveiling which requires the audience to step up and see it (it won’t come to more passive audiences).
Gyllenhaal is extraordinary in a title role that required a lot from its actor and there are a host of other top actors rounding out the supporting cast. The film’s soundtrack gives the proceedings a nice era-specific bedding and the politics of that era become an interesting and informative backdrop to the turmoil (both inner and outer) which is defining the various characters’ lives.
Rating: The Good – 76.9 Genre: Comedy Duration: 94 mins Director: John Hughes Stars: Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton
“Not having a good time? Well, do you think they’re having a good time being catatonic in the closet?” “Weird” is not the word to describe this behemoth of movie madness. John Hughes’ seminal teen comedy is as purely and authentically eccentric as we’ve seen on screen and so it’s a testament to the genius behind it that so many moviegoers of all ages have still found it so irresistibly funny. John Hughes regular Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith star as two dorky teenagers who program their computer to create the perfect woman (don’t ask) who once alive and kicking, promptly begins to give them a wild and madcap series of life lessons.
There are too many standout moments to speak of but those involving Bill Paxton as Mitchell-Smith’s older brother are particularly memorable. Funny as Hall and Mitchell-Smith are, the star of the show is undoubtedly Kelly LeBrock as the mysterious woman who can bend reality to her will. She carries the barely graspable concept on her shoulders with a charming ease and improves every scene she’s in. Watch out too for a young Robert Downey Jr making a decent contribution to the comedy quotient.
Rating: The Good – 67.8 Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance Duration: 107 mins Director: Greg Mottola Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
Quietly endearing comedy set in the 1980′s about a grad student (Jesse Eisenberg) who takes a summer job at the local amusement park called Adventureland to pay for his tuition. Nothing about this film is in your face and that’s exactly what’s so refreshing about it. The comedy, the romance, the drama all unfold naturally giving the audience a legitimate sense that we’re following Eisenberg’s character throughout his summer. Even the retro setting seems incidental. Any other film set in the 80′s would be hitting you over the head with references to the era but in this film it’s just part of the background. If anything this approach actually heightens the nostalgia, the drama, and the comedy leaving us with a film that’s very easy to like. Eisenberg is terrific as usual and in playing yet another geeky college kid it’s a testament to his acting ability that he gives this character a distinctly different personality to all the others.
Rating: The Good – 77.2 Genre: Comedy Duration: 93 mins Director: John Hughes Stars: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Justin Henry
“No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food.” Effortlessly wacky comedy from John Hughes that’s delightfully devoid of all the cliches of Pretty in Pink and the melodrama of The Breakfast Club. This is just 90 minutes of pure fun, mayhem, and outlandish humour. The story focuses on a high school teenager (Molly Ringwald) who turns 16 the day before her sister is getting married. However, the premise is really just a backdrop for a series of wild characters to crash parties and cars and spout one immortal line after another. The scene set-ups are utterly deranged and will live long in memory. Scenes such as the school bus journey, or where the heavily inebriated “geek” (Anthony Michael Hall in superb scene-stealing form) stops to put on his headgear before he passes out in the Rolls Royce he just crashed, or where Long Duk Dong jumps out of a tree shouting “Oohh, sexy girlfriend!”. Sixteen Candles is Hughes’ finest hour and in the modern era when directors-for-hire are cynically trying to simulate quirkiness in order to project a false sense of freshness, Hughes’ film serves as a lesson from the past in authentic quirkiness. “You’re in a parking lot opposite my church”, “You own a church?”
Rating: The Good – 67.4 Genre: Comedy, Crime Duration: 102 mins Director: Doug Liman Stars: Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, William Fichtner
Doug Liman’s Go follows a group of loosely connected party goers over the course of a night as they attempt to drink, gamble, do drugs, sell drugs, pay debts, and escape crazed pimps. This type of scenario could easily grate but it actually works quite well thanks to Liman’s frenetic yet slick direction and a host of actors all performing well above their typical level. There’s some neat dialogue sprinkled throughout and some very funny and well executed set-pieces (most of which involving Desmond Askew’s wild-boy Simon). In the comedy stakes, William Fichtner steals the show as the over-familiar undercover cop but Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr play off him well.