‘Heathers’ ‘The Treasure’ ‘Cape Fear’ Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
Remember high school movies? They’re thin on the ground these days, meaning the kids might have to reach back to older teen films whose stars are now pushing 50. The ones made by John Hughes are weirdly undying. But far more respectable than “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” is the one dropped into that nice and peppy era.“Heathers,” with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater offing demonic popular girls and dumb jocks, was both a bomb, in that it tanked at the box office, and a ticking time bomb, in that it eventually destroyed an entire genre. Once it bloomed on home video, it created a generation of smart alecks, quick to deploy sarcasm and make jokes about cow-tipping. Yes, it birthed the likes of “Mean Girls,” but it’s always better to go back to the source.
Romania doesn’t come off too hot in the films of the Romanian New Wave. In the likes of “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” we see broken social systems, cartoonishly hostile denizens and general, sometimes darkly amusing misery. Corneliu Porumboiu (“12:08 East of Bucharest,” “Police, Adjective”) is the director most prone to actual comedy. His latest, last year’s “The Treasure,” is deadpan comedy at its most deadpan, charting three down-and-out men as they embark on, yes, a treasure hunt. But instead of thrills, they find petty bickering, gobs of bureaucratic red tape and a metal detector search so hilariously long it lasts nearly half of the film. But if you’ve seen enough RNW titles, you’ll likely find the best joke was saved for last.
It was a classic “one for them, one for me” scenario: The story goes that Martin Scorsese only got to make “Goodfellas” if he agreed to do a splashy remake of the classic 1962 Robert Mitchum-Gregory Peck thriller. Time has proven “Goodfellas” the real classic, but don’t hate on his “for them” entry. Now 25 years later we can see it’s no soulless sell-out piece but a for-hire work where the filmmaker really brought it. “Cape Fear” features some of Scorsese’s most keyed-up and arresting set pieces, plus a sturdy foundation of anguish and guilt as Nick Nolte’s lawyer is taunted by the newly freed con (Robert De Niro) he wrongfully put in the slammer. The climax occasionally goes to OTT, but seen amongst today’s visually bland blockbusters, it plays like a missive from a time when studio movies could be truly and verily directed.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge