Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

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Follows a group of high school students growing up in southern California. (Letterboxd)
Falls prey to the gross guy’s perspective a few times (see the casual homophobia, teen boobs fantasy, the “bro code” being more important than the girl’s well-being), but not as often as I feared thanks to its loose, authentic-feeling storytelling and a few moments of surprising depth (see Brad picking up Stacy). Brad’s job woes and Spicoli ordering pizza to history class are two comedic highlights (“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” “Eating some food, learning about Cuba”).
6.5/10 (Alright)

Dead Man Walking (1995)

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A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. (IMDb)
Raw and powerful performances from Penn and Sarandon here present an unlikely relationship between a determined nun and a death row convict that grows to develop heart-wrenching emotional intimacy (see Matthew’s confession and Helen’s outstretched arm in the intense climax). Flashbacks to the crime and scenes with the victims’ and prisoner’s families are added throughout to create a thoughtful and well-rounded (but still moving) study of death, violence, and justice that avoids easy answers.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Mystic River (2003)

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With a childhood tragedy that overshadowed their lives, three men are reunited by circumstance when one has a family tragedy. (IMDb)
Fantastic turns from Robbins (the troubled childhood victim), Bacon (the steady cop), and Penn in particular (the tough but broken dad) headline this dark-toned, grungy suburbia-set film that fleshes out its tense murder mystery plot with torturous character drama surrounding three old friends brought together by ugly tragedy. The final twist is a little jarring and unconvincing at first but it sinks in with further thought, and its agonizing emotional aftermath solidifies it within the script.
8/10 (Great)