KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: CLERKS – THE ANIMATED SERIES (2000)

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Clerks: The Animated Series was released in 2000 as adult oriented comedies were part of the television mainstream. The idea made sense at the time and the film Clerks could easily translate into a television show. With Kevin Smith’s love of comic books the show could have been the perfect vehicle for him to explore that side of his writing as he was a cult director with a big fanbase. However the show didn’t live up to my expectations. I love animated comedies especially South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy and it’s too bad Smith couldn’t capture that same oeuvre. I’m also a huge fan of Seinfeld (actually it’s my favourite show of all time) and this show was produced by David Mandel one of Seinfeld’s best writers. I’m not sure what went wrong because this show is only average at best. It has some great film references and great characters with Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob. Perhaps it needed another season to find it’s groove much like the animated shows I mentioned earlier (the first seasons of The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy are also pretty patchy). I enjoyed watching the show but overall I was disappointed that it could have been a lot better with the talent involved.

The series is a continuation of the 1994 independent classic Clerks, with Dante still working at the convenience store with Randal popping in from the video store next door to chat about their daily adventures. Jay and Silent Bob do their regular stoner shtick (however with a PG rating they can’t go as far as they do in the films which also hurts the show a lot too). Alec Baldwin plays the main antagonist Leonardo Leonardo who owns a corporate shopping center putting the convenience store out of business. Most of the episodes deal with Dante and Randal feuding against him while also dealing with their own dramas between each other or with Jay and Silent Bob. The animation style is similar to 90’s afternoon cartoon favourites like Daria and Beavis and Butthead. It deserved a bigger audience only to see if the show could have improved on its first and only season.

Episode Notes:

Episode 1: Leonardo Leonardo Returns and Dante Has an Important Decision to Make
Entertaining but very simple and generic plot involving a corporate takeover of small businesses. Great to catch up with Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob. Reminds me of the Family Guy pilot pretty hit and miss and needs time to grow and develop these characters further. Interesting to see them in cartoon setting considering the original was filled with profanity and sexual jokes.
B

Episode 2: The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives
The episode is a parody of flashback episodes instead it’s only the second episode. The joke gets pretty tired halfway through.
D+

Episode 3: Leonardo Is Caught in the Grip of an Outbreak of Randal’s Imagination and Patrick Swayze Either Does or Doesn’t Work in the New Pet Store
The store develops a virus from a bad burrito and Patrick Swayze works next door. Pretty weird episode with Leonardo from the first episode becoming the series antagonist. Funny introduction featuring a mail bag segment of audiences complaining about lack of female and black characters so they have a running gag of a black character called Lando (another Star Wars reference) passing through random scenes.
B-

Episode 4: A Dissertation on the American Justice System by People Who Have Never Been Inside a Courtroom, Let Alone Know Anything About the Law, but Have Seen Way Too Many Legal Thrillers
Jay sues the Quick Stop and Dante because Randall put too much bleach on the floor and caused him to slip over. The episode parodies legal thrillers and day time court dramas like Judge Judy. This episode is filled with film references including JFK, Beverly Hills Cop, Anime and Randall putting George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee and Woody Allen on trial. Highlight of the episode is Judge Reinhold as a literal Judge (Reinhold).
B+

Episode 5: Dante and Randal and Jay and Silent Bob and a Bunch of New Characters and Lando, Take Part in a Whole Bunch of Movie Parodies Including But Not Exclusive To, The Bad News Bears, The Last Starfighter, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Plus a High School Reunion
Dante and Randal attend their high school reunion where all of Randal’s ex-girlfriends reveal they’ve become gay and Dante isn’t recognised for his contribution to his old Baseball team. The rest of the episode involves Randal discovering his skill in an old video game with dire consequences and Dante has to coach a little league game. Pretty forgettable episode.
D

Episode 6: The Last Episode Ever
Begins with Dante and Randal getting feedback about how bad the show is and how it’s not like the film. The episode then revolves around various events in the day of the lives of Clerks. Filled with references to the Matrix. Overall an odd episode and unfortunate end to the show.
C

Summary:
The show had potential with our favourite characters from Clerks and could have grown in future seasons but overall the episodes never reached the highs of other animated sitcoms like The Simpsons or South Park.

C+

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: DOGMA (1999)

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Bethany: Wait a minute. Christ. You know Christ?
Rufus: Knew him? Shit, nigga owes me 12 bucks!

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: An abortion clinic worker with a special heritage is called upon to save the existence of humanity from being negated by two renegade angels trying to exploit a loop-hole and reenter Heaven.

Dogma is the fourth directorial effort from Kevin Smith following his Jersey Trilogy of Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Dogma actually continues in the same Universe as recurring characters Jay and Silent Bob continue to have adventures.

Dogma is kind of a mix of all Smith’s previous films. There’s the potty humour of Mallrats, the witty dialogue of Clerks and the controversy and independent spirit of Chasing Amy. The film is entertaining for fans of Smith however it does get bogged down by heavy theology based expositional dialogue and a pretty uninteresting protagonist. What saves the film is its excellent cast of supporting players such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. Linda Fiorentino seems miscast as the lead character Bethany. According to the commentary she was difficult to work with.

The film revolves around Bethany a Catholic who has lost her faith in God after losing her husband due to a miscarriage. She still attends church but has no passion for being there. She works at an abortion clinic with Liz (the deadpan Janeane Garofalo) and wonders what her purpose is. She is soon visited by the angel Metatron (hilariously played by Alan Rickman) who sets her on a journey to stop two archangels Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) from entering a Church which is trying to get more people by introducing the Buddy Christ which in turn would prove God doesn’t exist and end the world. She is sceptical at first but everything Metatron says becomes true so she sets on her journey and along the way meets an array of angels and demons including the great Chris Rock as Rufus the thirteenth apostle, Jason Lee as the demonic Azrael, Salma Hayak as the muse Serendipity, and the two prophets Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). All of these supporting characters save the film and have great comical moments. The film plays like a comic book (a trope of Smith) as the protagonist goes on a journey to save the world filled with lovable characters. Especially the introduction scene of Jay and Silent Bob as Comic Book type heroes as they save Bethany from the three Hockey slaying boys/demons and continue throughout the film showing Kevin Smith’s obsession with comic books and turning them into Bluntman & Chronic comic book characters from Chasing Amy. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are excellent as the two arch-angels wreaking wrath on the sinful. The scene where they interrogate a Disney inspired company called Mooby’s featuring men who have all sinned their way to the top strongly reflects the views of these types of men in 2018 especially with the #metoo movement at the moment and the controversy surrounding John Lasseter and Harvey Weinstein (who produced this film!)

At the time the film was very controversial for its depiction of Christianity however Smith who is a Christian said he was only trying to make a fun parody of religion. In the 90’s it seemed Smith wanted the controversy as other independent filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson were being praised for their visions. Smith was somewhere in the middle he was making entertaining dialogue heavy pictures but his visual style was being criticised and he wasn’t having box office success or award love as his peers were. The more people discussed this film the more interest it got. Especially with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck coming off their success of Good Will Hunting and Chris Rock beginning to blow up after his time on SNL and his successful stand up specials. The film was a success making $30 million off a $10 million budget but it isn’t as regarded as Clerks or Chasing Amy. It could have made an interesting new trilogy for Smith because the film seems overstuffed with great characters and strong ideas. Today it could be a great Netflix series. Looking back the controversy wasn’t deserved however for strict Christians there is a lot of blasphemy as Smith says Jesus was black, Joseph and Mary had more kids and Chris Rock as the thirteenth Apostle however if you have a sense of humour you can look over these things.

Dogma isn’t Smith’s best film but I think it is very entertaining and had potential to be something greater. Perhaps with a better director or as a series.

B

Highlights:
– Kevin Smith-isms; Cameos from Brian O’Halloran as the News Reporter, Scott Mosier (Producer), Hockey, Comic Books, the introduction of the Mooby food chain, and Jay and Silent Bob

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997)

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Sean: It’s not your fault

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writers: Matt Damon & Ben Affleck

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser

Synopsis: Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Good Will Hunting is the breakout hit of 1997 for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. These two young actors proved their credibility not only as great actors but also as smart filmmakers. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the script for this film which is smart, witty, emotional and very mature for two young boys from Boston. This isn’t their feature film as Ben Affleck had been working with Kevin Smith (Producer on this film) on Mallrats and Chasing Amy and Matt Damon had some pre-acting work also. However this was the film that put them on the map and also garnered them Academy Awards for Writing (Best Screenplay). Although they both wrote the script the film is Matt Damon’s showpiece. He stars as the protagonist Will Hunting who is a poor orphan boy from Boston working menial jobs who is secretly a genius prodigy.

He is discovered by Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) after he secretly completes a complicated mathematical equation for his students. Will was working as a Janitor at the University and is caught by Lambeau after he notices him working on his whiteboard. Will is happy to just hang out with his best friends including Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser) as they hit bars and work construction jobs. They are all from the same part of town and are as close as brothers. Will doesn’t want to break his bonds with them although he has a secret gift.

After getting into a brawl he is sentenced to prison unless he takes therapy sessions advised by Professor Lambeau. Initially Will isn’t interested in working for the Professor but goes along as he doesn’t want to go to prison. He plays around with different therapists trying to buy time until he reaches 21 and can be free. However Professor Lambeau seeks out an old colleague who he knows can reach out to Will. His old colleague is Sean (played in an Oscar winning performance by the legendary Robin Williams) who connects to Will and knows how to cut around his bullshit. Will eventually gives in and they form a bond which is emotional and heart-warming. Matt Damon and Robin Williams have excellent chemistry and their scenes together escalate this film to a higher status. The film overall is quite slow and follows familiar tropes of a Kevin Smith film. Two best friends, girl trouble, college humour. However with a smart script, delicate direction from director Gus Van Sant and brilliant acting from Matt Damon and Robin Williams this film garnered critical and commercial fame which a Kevin Smith film could not approach (although I find Kevin Smith’s films more entertaining in general.

This is a sophisticated film which put Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into A list stars. It is a little slow but the conclusion pays everything off brilliantly.

A

Highlights:
– Excellent chemistry and performances between Matt Damon and Robin Williams
– Great original script by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
– Matt Damon and Ben Affleck portray two friends very realistically
– Minnie Driver is quite charming
– Robin Williams gives the film a maturity the film is missing in the first half
– Matt Damon and Robin Williams in the “It’s Not Your Fault” scene escalates this film to classic status

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CHASING AMY (1997)

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Silent Bob: So there’s me and Amy, and we’re all inseparable, right? Just big time in love. And then four months down the road, the idiot gear kicks in, and I ask about the ex-boyfriend. Which, as we all know, is a really dumb move. But you know how it is: you don’t wanna know, but you just have to, right? Stupid guy bullshit. So, anyway, she starts telling me about him… how they fell in love, and how they went out for a couple of years, and how they lived together, her mother likes me better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… and I’m okay. But then she drops the bomb on me, and the bomb is this: it seems that a couple of times, while they were going out, he brought some people to bed with them. Ménage à trois, I believe it’s called. Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God’s sake.
Jay: Saint Shithead.
[Silent Bob elbows him; Jay motions as if to start a fight]
Silent Bob: Do something.
[to Holden]
Silent Bob: So I’m totally weirded out by this, right? And then I just start blasting her. Like… I don’t know how to deal with what I’m feeling, so I figure the best way is by calling her a slut, right? And tell her she was used. I’m… I’m out for blood. I really wanna hurt this girl. I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?”, right? And she’s just all calmly trying to tell me, like, it was that time and it was that place and she doesn’t think she should apologize because she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. I’m like, “Oh, really?” That’s when I look her straight in the eye, I tell her it’s over. I walk.
Jay: Fuckin’ A!
Silent Bob: No, idiot. It was a mistake. I didn’t hate her. I wasn’t disgusted with her. I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small, like… like I’d lacked experience, like I’d never be on her level, like I’d never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I’m saying? But, what I did not get, she didn’t care. She wasn’t looking for that guy anymore. She was… she was looking for me, for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figure this all out, it was too late, man. She moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I’ve spent every day since then chasing Amy… so to speak.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian.

Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s third film and possibly his best. After the hit independent Clerks and the extremely disappointing Mallrats, Smith went back to his indie roots and made a personal, touching and often witty romantic comedy. With shades of Annie Hall, Kevin Smith used his real life relationship with Joey Lauren Adams as the template to make a film that was more than low-brow humour found in his previous film. The film is impressive for its realism of male and female sexuality and dealing with relationships in the 90’s.

The film revolves around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) two best friends who created the comic book Bluntman and Chronic (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Banky is the Inker and Holden is the writer. They are a good team and have a successful comic book career. That is until Holden meets Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a charming, sexy and fun fellow comic book writer. Holden and Alyssa immediately hit it off although Banky becomes jealous of his best friends new potential love interest. Holden is head over heels immediately and is eager to meet her again when she invites him to a bar. Unfortunately for Holden he soon becomes aware that she is gay. Alyssa notices his disappointment but wants to be his friend and enjoys being with him. After hanging out with each other for a while Holden can’t keep his feelings back anymore and confesses his love for her. Alyssa gives in and they get together. However with her sexual history and Holden’s mainstream idea of love he can’t get over her past and things begin to fall apart.

This is a very touching and heartfelt film and a huge improvement in filmmaking from Smith. Ben Affleck is great in this film. His acting is superb and he really rises to his leading man status of today after his awful role in Mallrats. Joey Lauren Adams is adorable as Alyssa Jones, she’s every comic book lover’s fantasy. She’s sexy, charming, she’s a comic book writer with knowledge of comic book history too. Her voice is also so sexy. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better career after this film. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams have amazing chemistry and their characters relationship is sweet, charming, realistic and ultimately heartbreaking.

Jason Lee plays a similar character from Mallrats. However he has better chemistry with Ben Affleck than Jeremy London (where is he now?). His scenes with Affleck depict a really strong male friendship that can sometimes become effected by a new girlfriend. Their relationship follows Smith’s familiar tropes of two male protagonists who are best friends (usually man-boys) who don’t understand women; one more sensitive and emotional the other cocky and amusing. However in this film it feels a lot more real and personal than the relationships in Clerks and Mallrats.

The film has other common Kevin Smith tropes including pop culture references including comic books, Star Wars, TV Shows and films. Characters referring to, going to or playing Hockey. Also keeping in the same Universe of Clerks we have a scene at Quick Stop Groceries and a Jay and Silent Bob cameo.

Chasing Amy is a sweet and personal film from Smith which shows a maturity as a filmmaker. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee also help lift the material with great performances. It is not as funny as his previous films but Smith’s skills with dialogue is still very strong and the plot flows with great twists and turns. This is my favourite film of Smith’s thus far.

A+

Highlights:
– Dwight Ewell as Hooper X a black gay comic writer pretending to be a strong Black Activist, especially his opening scene at a Comic Book Convention.
– The idea of a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic based on Jay and Silent Bob

FILM REVIEW DOUBLE: DEADPOOL (2016) & DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL (2016)

Colossus: You will come talk with Professor Xavier.
Deadpool: McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines can get so confusing.

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humour is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.

Deadpool came out in 2016 in the peak of Comic Book Movie saturation. However with its R-Rated graphic violence, tongue in cheek humour and iconic performance from Ryan Reynolds this became the highest grossing X-Men film and a refreshing new take on the genre.

This is an average superhero origin story about a mercenary named Wade Wilson who falls for a stripper named Vanessa (played by the stunning Morena Baccarin) but soon gets cancer and doen’t have much longer to live. He decides to go through an experiment which will give him mutant powers similar to Wolverine where he can grow back his body parts and is unkillable. However the experiment leaves him disfigured and he leaves Vanessa and becomes Deadpool to exact revenge on the man who led the experiments, Ajax (Ed Skrein).

Although the plot is mediocre what elevates the material is the mix of R-Rated graphic violence
with the comedy of the character Deadpool who has constant witty remarks, breaks the fourth wall, insults himself and the X-Men Universe. Ryan Reynolds is brilliant as Deadpool, after many misfires as a superhero including Deadpool in the maligned Wolverine: Origins he finally found his own iconic performance. After this film everyone now knows him as Deadpool. Reynolds has always been a great presence on screen with his charming looks and Jim Carrey-esque humour. However he had more misses than hits. This film changed all of that as it was a massive success for an R rated Superhero film. Something the Studios never predicted.

The film also excels with its wonderful mix of supporting characters. The beautiful Morena Baccarin as Wade Wilson’s love interest is every comic book nerds fantasy. You have Karan Soni as the Indian Taxi Driver Dopinder, who seems sensitive and sweet in the beginning but has a dark side by the end. T.J. Miller as Weasel, Wade’s bartender who offers advice in times of need. Leslie Uggams (scene stealer) as Blind Al the ctrotchety blind old black woman who becomes Deadpool’s roommate.

This film is a lot of fun and similar to Iron Man, I wasn’t aware of the character from comic books or the X-Men Film Universe however this film changed all of that and I am now a huge fan of the character on screen and the comic book page.

A-

Highlights:
– Stan Lee as the Strip Club DJ
– Excellent opening establishing Deadpool as a character with his witty banter, conversations through the fourth wall, and then the action packed car chase sequence.
– The Soundtrack of cheesy 80’s/90’s hits

 

DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

Cable: You’re no hero. You’re just a clown, dressed up like a sex toy.
Deadpool: So dark. You sure you’re not from the DC universe?

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

Deadpool 2 is as fun and entertaining as the original. Ryan Reynolds is still perfect as the Merc with a Mouth. However like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 you love these characters and enjoy the ride but the movie doesn’t surpass the original as it is exactly the same experience without the surprise of the first time you see these characters and their depiction on screen. The format is the same with Deadpool still breaking the fourth wall with witty jokes about X-Men films, comic book and pop culture references, and a sweet heart. This time instead of a love story it is a family story at its core.

The film actually borrows a lot from one of the best sequels of all time Terminator 2. A soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin’s second Marvel villain this year) comes back in time to avenge the loss of his family by killing the Mutant who killed his family as a child. That child is Russell (Julian Dennison) a flame throwing mutant who is tested on in a Mutant Orphanage which is a front for dangerous tests and possibly sexual harassment of Mutants. Cable believes that if he kills him he can change the future and save his family. There isn’t much explanation of the character of Cable, all we know is that he is a strong soldier from the future with a cool gun who lost his family. Josh Brolin has a strong presence on screen however the character is quite underdeveloped and could have had more to do than being a killing machine like the original Terminator. Julian Dennison as Russell is a sympathetic character with a great story arc which coincides with each character. Deadpool’s bond with him becomes the heart of the story and provides drama to each action scene where he needs to protect Russell.

The Deadpool films aren’t your typical X-Men films. They are not dramatic character stories involving Mutants dealing with humanity. They are first and foremost superhero comedies (even parodies at some points) so you won’t get the characterisation and drama you expect from an X-Men film. All of the characters aside from Cable and Russell are comic relief with Deadpool as the main funny guy. I love this as it is a fun and different approach to the typical Marvel and DC fare, especially after the grim Avengers: Infinity War. This is just a fun pop-corn film with great action (new director David Leitch from the John Wick films brings a slickness to the action which was missing in the first) and great comedy from not only Ryan Reynolds Deadpool but from the supporting cast including Karan Soni as Dopinder, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Stefan Kapicic as Colossus, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al. The original built a successful formula with these characters and the sequel continues with their characters building on the original.

The sequel does introduce more comedic sidekicks with Deadpool trying to create his own version of the X-Men with X-Force which includes one of the best sequences of the film on their first mission to save Russell. Domino (played with charm and toughness by Zazie Beetz) is the stand out of the team and a great new addition to the Deadpool films.

If you enjoyed the first Deadpool I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this one. There is plenty of tongue in cheek humour and gruesome violence for the older comic book film fans to enjoy. It doesn’t capture the magic of the original but it is still a fun ride and I hope we get more Deadpool soon.

A-

Highlights:
• Best post credit scene ever
• The cameos
• Every scene with Dopinder
• Dubstep

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: MALLRATS (1995)

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Brodie: My Grandmother always used to say “why buy the cow, when you can get the sex for free”.
T.S. Quint: She didn’t!
Brodie: All the time, before she became a lesbian on her 60th Birthday, but that’s besides the point.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Both dumped by their girlfriends, two best friends seek refuge in the local mall.

Mallrats, Keven Smith’s sophomore feature is a steep drop in quality from the promise of his indie hit feature film Clerks. The plot, characters and jokes are all very lame and it is in some ways structurally very similar to Clerks. Two best friends; one is emotional and depressed with his life and the other is cocky, has witty dialogue and argues with his friend for not “manning” up and enjoying his life. However compared to Clerks these characters don’t have Dante and Randal’s chemistry. Jason Lee is a scene stealer similar to Jeff Anderson’s performance as Randal and he is the best thing in the movie. Jason Lee of course went on to a successful comedy career on screen and television and this breakout performance proves why. Jeremy London however is extremely bland and looks like he was picked out of a generic 90’s sitcom. He in no way compares to Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante in Clerks (Brian O’Halloran has a cameo in the conclusion of the film and you miss his presence from Clerks he should’ve been in this film more) even though he is his surrogate in this film. Another familiar trope from Clerks has our two protagonists spend a day in one location. He swapped a convenience store to a Mall. It parallels Kevin Smith’s career at this point as he made a small independent film based in a small convenience store and now he is more popular as a filmmaker has a larger budget with access to better actors and behind the scenes crew and he has his characters wonder around a giant Mall instead of being stuck in a small convenience store. It’s like a kid with bigger and better toys than his old broken ones but still plays the same game with them. Although he had a larger budget and professional actors he seems to be repeating the same beats as Clerks and the film suffers for it. It looks a lot better than Clerks, the actors and settings are also better however the overall plot arcs, jokes and characters are all quite boring and bland compared to the protagonists and bizarre customers in Clerks.

The film follows TS Quint (Jeremy London) who is dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (the beautiful Claire Forlani) because her father doesn’t like him and he is too clingy and wants to get married right away. Already a poor plot opener. TS’s best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) is also dumped by his girlfriend (Shannen Doherty, in her hot 90’s phase) for being a loser who lives downstairs in his Mom’s house and plays video games and reads comic books all day. The film does reference comic books and Star Wars a lot more having Kevin Smith’s passions start to filter through his films more. The two friends decide to spend their day in the Mall to get their minds off their dramas. Once they get to the mall they meet a few interesting characters including William (Ethan Suplee) a guy staring at a Magic eye image desperately trying to see the Sail boat everyone is seeing, Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams) who is just there to be cute and pretty and ogled by the male characters but nothing else, Shannon played by Ben Affleck in one of his earliest roles at his most unlikable and sleaziest, Tricia (Renee Humphrey) a 15 year old girl who is doing a research project on sex with different men and finally the link to the Kevin Smith Universe – Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). I love Jay and Silent Bob however they seem a bit muted down in this film especially Jay compared to his foul mouth in Clerks and future installments he seems to be trying to play a proper character instead of a fun side character. There plot in the film is also pretty lame as they are asked to stop a dating game show run by Brandi’s father Svenning (played by Michael Rooker in a scene chewing bizarre performance) so TS can win back Brandi.

If you haven’t seen Clerks and you were a young teenager in the 90’s you would probably find some enjoyment in this film. However looking back today in 2018 after following Kevin Smith’s career this is definitely one of his lowest points in his film-making career.

D

Highlights:
– Stink Palm
– Stan Lee’s cameo and possibly his best performance in a film.
– The homages to Batman and Star Wars.
– The Comic Book Cover Artwork for each character in the opening credits
– All the comic book references and the representation of comic nerds that aren’t glass wearing skinny little boys they can be tough and cocky like Brodie. Don’t forget this was the 90’s when comics in the cinemas were portrayed as kiddie stuff. Kevin Smith treated it seriously and look where we are today.

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CLERKS (1994)

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[Randal is on the phone when a woman and little girl come to the counter]
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: Excuse me. But do you sell videotapes?
Randal Graves: Yeah, what’re you looking for?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
Randal Graves: Uh, one second. I’m on the phone with the distribution house now; lemme make sure they got it.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: ‘Kay.
Randal Graves: What’s it called again?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Happy Scrappy”!
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: She loves it.
Randal Graves: Obviously.
[into the phone]
Randal Graves: Uh, yeah, hi, this is RST Video calling. Customer #4352. I’d like to place an order. Okay, I need one each of the following tapes: “Whispers in the Wind”, “To Each His Own”, “Put It Where It Doesn’t Belong”, “My Pipes Need Cleaning”, “All Tit-Fucking, Volume 8”, “I Need Your Cock”, “Ass-Worshipping Rimjobbers”, “My Cunt and Eight Shafts”, “Cum Clean”, “Cum-Gargling Naked Sluts”, “Cum Buns 3”, “Cumming in Socks”, “Cum on Eileen”, “Huge Black Cocks with Pearly White Cum”, “Girls Who Crave Cock”, “Girls Who Crave Cunt”, “Men Alone 2: The K-Y Connection”, “Pink Pussy Lips”, oh yeah, and, uh, “All Holes Filled with Hard Cock”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Scrappy”!
Randal Graves: Yup. Oh, wait a minute.
[to the woman]
Randal Graves: Uh, what was that called again?

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

Inspired by the Richard Linklater independent film Slackers, Kevin Smith who was still a Film Studies College student decided to drop out and make a film himself with his friends. He got loans, maxed out his credit cards and convinced his friends and upcoming actors looking for a gig to join him to create a low-budget film based on a life in the day of a depressed Clerk Store worker. In Melbourne, Australia this would be the equivalent of working in a Milk Bar. Kevin Smith himself worked in a convenience store and came up with the story on those boring days stacking shelves and serving idiotic customers. The film mixes comedy with a side plot that borders on soap opera with the main character in a relationship but still pinning for the girl who got away in High School.

The film was a surprise hit when it came out in 1994 winning awards at Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival and it quickly became a cult hit with teens and young adults in the 90’s for its raunchy dialogue, witty script and relevance to a lot of disenfranchised young adults in the 90’s. Anyone who was working in a job they hated with dreams of more to life could easily connect to the character of Dante (Brian O’Halloran). Dante gets called into work on his day off, which becomes his catchphrase over the course of the film “I’m not even supposed to be here today”. He is a good guy and doesn’t want to upset his boss so he agrees to go to work even though he had planned a hockey match that afternoon (shades of Kevin Smith’s Hockey obsession are apparent here. Also after the 90’s any public appearance Kevin would always be wearing a hockey jersey). As Dante begins his day he has to deal with idiotic customers in and out. We are also introduced to his friend Randal (scene stealer Jeff Anderson) who works next door at the Video store. There conversations are where the film shines. From their musings on porn, Star Wars, customers, relationships all of it is gold and I believe makes this film break out the way it did.

There is a sub-plot involving Dante’s girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) who is good to him and tries to get him to move on with his life instead of wasting it working in the convenience store. Dante is disappointed when they share their sexual history and discovers she had felatio with many men. However the real reason Dante isn’t invested in Veronica is because he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer) who he discovers is getting married. Over the course of the day Dante has to deal with his feelings for both girls, while also trying to fit in a Hockey game upstairs and attend a funeral which doesn’t go well. (Check youtube for the animated delted scene).

Kevin Smith is brilliant with dialogue. His humour mixes pop culture relevance with crude low-brow punchlines. Throughout his films he has a great way with words. I would say this is his strongest quality as a filmmaker. His films (especially Clerks) aren’t visually appealing. He is no Scorsese. He relies on slow takes letting the characters revel in the dialogue with each other. The acting isn’t the best either but as it is a low-budget first feature you can forgive these minor quibbles.

Re-watching the film today you can see a talented filmmaker on the rise to success. He took a chance and he was rewarded with a great career in filmmaking and pop-culture. All his films aren’t classics but they all have entertaining characters, tight plots and brilliant dialogue. This could possibly be his best film and put him on my map of directors to watch.

A

DIRECTOR RETROSPECTIVE: KEVIN SMITH

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Kevin Smith has been one of my favourite figures in pop culture ever since I was a young boy and I rented Clerks from my local video shop. The film was ugly; it was black and white, it had odd transitional editing and poor acting. However the whole idea of making a low budget film in one location based on two slackers that are just doing a menial job to pay the bills and spend all day chatting about Star Wars, annoying customers and musing about the girls that got away when they were younger really appealed to me. Especially at the time I was working at McDonald’s in a similar situation. Doing a job I hated but spending all day talking about movies with my co-workers. Kevin Smith gave hope to those young dreamers to take a chance and go out and make a film yourself. His writing style is spectacular especially in his early New Jersey Chronicles/Jay and Silent Bob era. His dialogue and comedic plots were amazing. Mallrats didn’t hit as well as Clerks but he returned with the brilliant independent films Chasing Amy and Dogma. He turned to television and animation with the hilarious Clerks: The Animated Series in 2000. Inspired by his love of sitcoms and comic books. However the show was swiftly cancelled but grew a cult audience on DVD. He then directed the hilarious Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back which was intended to be the end of the Jay and Silent Bob era. He tried to create a dramatic comedy with Jersey Girl but after that failed with audiences and critics he returned to his roots with Clerks II a worthy sequel to his original independent film. The film was enjoyable to see the continuation of Dante and Randal and how they hadn’t moved on to better things since the original. After that he began to do tours around the globe chatting about his film career which lead to his famous podcast career. He continued to direct comedies including Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Cop Out. He then turned away from comedies and leant into different genres and explored the medium of film further with films like Red State and Tusk. He also collaborated with his daughter Harley Quinn Smith in the teen comedy Yoga Hosers. He directed a segment of the anthology film Holidays called Halloween.

I love following his podcasts on SModcast.com, he has great insight on the history of cinema and comic books. I feel a kinship to him as I love film-making, films and Batman! His ‘Fatman on Batman’ podcast is a must listen for all Batman fans especially his hilarious commentaries on the original 90’s Batman films. These days he directs TV Shows in the DC TV Universe on the CW specifically The Flash and Supergirl. He has stated that he wants to return to film-making and perhaps another Jay and Silent Bob film. Let’s hope so. Over the next few months I’ll be reviewing all of his films including some of his specials and TV Shows.

*I’ll also be interweaving retrospectives on Batman and Star Wars as Kevin Smith is a huge fan of both properties (and so am I).

FILM REVIEW: THE WEEK OF (2018)

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Kirby Cordice: That’s my turn on the AC nod.

Director: Robert Smigel

Writer: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel

Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rachel Dratch, Allison Strong, Roland Buck III, Steve Buscemi and Nasser Faris

Synopsis: Two fathers with opposing personalities come together to celebrate the wedding of their children. They are forced to spend the longest week of their lives together, and the big day cannot come soon enough.

The Week Of is the latest Netflix Adam Sandler comedy and easily its best. Adam Sandler is one of my guilty pleasure actors. His comedies offer silly, low-brow humour that at times is what you need on a lazy afternoon or after a long day at work. However his films over the last decade have been decreasingly unfunny. Instead of low-brow humour he turned to lazy jokes that were unfunny and most of his Netflix films I haven’t even bothered to finish because after a few lazy jokes I would just get bored. I think his last really good film was Funny People back in 2009 directed by the talented comedic director Judd Apatow. He turned in a great performance as a somewhat biographical character who was a comedian/actor who had fallen from his glory days and becomes terminally ill. He had great chemistry with Seth Rogen and I’m surprised he hasn’t worked with them since. It could be because the film was one of his lowest grossing films.

In the 90’s Adam Sandler was a comedy juggernaut with comedy classics including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy. I can watch those films anytime and have a good laugh. He had a bit of a slump once the 2000’s came around. Although he still had box office hits like Anger Management, 50 First Dates and Click. The magic of those 90’s comedies started to dissipate. He also began to dabble in dramatic roles such as Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. He found success again with later hits such as The Longest Yard and Grown Ups but as his box office draw began to slow down he made a deal with Netflix to continue making his comedies without the pressure of releasing them at the cinema. His first film on Netflix The Ridiculous Six was awful. He followed that up with The Do-Over and Sandy Wexler which weren’t as awful but still not on par with his 90’s comedies.

Last year he surprised me with the touching dramedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). He turned in a great performance as a disillusioned son and father dealing with his overbearing father (Dustin Hoffman in a brilliant performance), uptight brother (Ben Stiller) and rebellious daughter (Grace Van Patten). This review has turned into an Adam Sandler retrospective so I’ll get to the film I came to discuss.

The Week Of is a mix of Father of the Bride, Meet the Parents and Punch-Drunk Love. It is brilliantly directed by comedy genius Robert Smigel (writer for SNL, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). He brings a documentary style to an intense week for a father of the bride Kenny Lustig (Adam Sandler) who is trying desperately to give his daughter the best wedding and also keep everyone in his dysfunctional family happy as well as deal with his new in-laws to be. He is a blue collar kind of guy and has organised his daughter’s wedding in a cheap hotel run by Hanan  played by Nasser Faris in a hilarious and always scene stealing performance.

Kenny is an old school family guy. He wants to provide for his family although he seems to be of low income. The film also dips into stereotypical Jewish family dysfunction. His cousins, Aunties and Uncles are all stereotypical comedy Jewish characters. Rachel Dratch as his wife is hysterical in her scenes with Sandler when they argue in private (but everyone can hear). She also wants to provide the best for her daughter while making everyone happy but slowing exploding inside.

Chris Rock plays the father of the groom. He is the complete opposite of Sandler’s character Kenny. He isn’t a family man. He left his family early in his marriage to chase girls. He is extremely wealthy as a successful doctor. He is also calm and collected throughout offering financial assistance to Sandler with constant rebuttal. Although Rock is second billed to Sandler I was surprised at how little he is in the film. He pops up in the first half in random scenes where he is working on his patients or seducing women. This is a different type of performance from Rock. I don’t recall seeing him as a confident ladies man in his previous films or even his stand up specials. I thought he brought something new to his oeuvre and I would like to see more performances like this. He reminded me of Eddie Murphy in the 90’s romantic comedy Boomerang. However in the second half of the film as he arrives to stay with Sandler a couple of days before the wedding, we get the type of comedy we are used to from Chris Rock, witty one liners, black jokes and some slapstick comedy involving a crippled old Uncle. Rock doesn’t have great chemistry with Sandler in this film however in the 2005 comedy The Longest Yard they had great chemistry. It could be that in this film they are playing different types of characters.

The film could have been stronger however for a Netflix Adam Sandler film it provides enough comedic moments to make you laugh on a lazy Friday night. I think it is one of the better Adam Sandler comedies from this decade.

B

FILM REVIEW: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR (2018)

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Groot: I am Groot.
Steve Rogers: I am Steve Rogers.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage and Tom Hiddleston

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

The third entry in the Avengers Trilogy and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the post credit scene in Iron Man (2008) when we were introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Marvel fans around the world leapt for joy as they knew this was the beginning of a Marvel connected Universe. Over ten years we have been introduced to iconic Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and even deeper cuts such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Each film is unique in its own way but they have all grown into a similar formula. Regular man whether rich or poor comes across gaining special powers and learns life lessons from friends and villains then eventually saves the day. It is a common trope among all superhero movies however Marvel Studios has perfected the formula through perfect casting, strong directors and heaps of nods to the classic comic books where they all originate.

One thing that has spanned across most of the Marvel films is the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Fans have been waiting for this epic showdown and I’m sure for the fans it does not disappoint. The film opens with a dark and cold introduction of Thanos (brilliantly played by Josh Brolin with menace and ferocity) to show his true power and cruelty. This picks up straight after the previous Marvel film; Thor: Ragnarok. Thor and his team are powerless to his destruction and Thanos begins his quest to find all of the Infinity Stones. He comes to earth to wreak havoc on the streets of New York as Iron Man meets Doctor Strange and Hulk falls from the sky to warn them of what just happened and the threat of Thanos. What ensues for the rest of the film is the team all trying their best to stop Thanos from getting all of the Infinity Stones and ruling the world (or destroying it). The plot is quite simple and there isn’t much time for character development or character arcs except for perhaps between the Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters are still all played to perfection from the cast we know and love including; Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/ T’Challa), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/ Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (as the voice of Groot), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Anthony Mackie (Falcon/ Sam Wilson), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Benedict Wong (Wong), Don Cheadle (War Machine/James Rhodes), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Peter Dinklage ( Eitri) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Although Josh Brolin’s Thanos is perhaps Marvels best villain to date his henchmen – The Black Order are pretty forgettable. Proxima Midnight (Monique Ganderton) brings a tough female villain for the female heroes to battle and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) is chilling, particularly his torture scene with Doctor Strange. However the rest of the villains just reminded me of the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings films, simply fodder for our heroes to punch and kick.

Most of the film is filled with epic battle sequences and it is very fast paced for a 2 and half hour film. It is fun to see all of our heroes together although they eventually split up into three factions. Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man end up on a spaceship trying to uncover the true identity and motives of Thanos. Captain America, Black Widow, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk end up on Wakanda joining Black Panther’s team to help protect the stone in the Vision. Then we have the Guardians of the Galaxy rescuing Thor from space. Thor’s initial meeting with the Guardians is fantastic especially his meeting with Peter Quill provide some great comedic moments. Eventually Thor teams with Rocket and Groot to travel to another planet to find a weapon to kill Thanos and the rest of the Guardians join Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man to stop Thanos from getting the time stone from Doctor Strange.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a real highlight in this film from their opening to the song The Rubberband Man by the Spinners they add comedy to dramatic scenes (especially Drax) but also have really strong heartfelt moments especially between Peter Quill and Gamora. Rocket and Groot teaming with Thor was also a stroke of brilliance.

All of this leads to an epic fight in Wakanda where Thanos tries to get the stone from Vision. I won’t spoil the rest (read below) however the epic scale of this battle is jaw dropping and reminiscent of the end battles of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Overall the film is quite grim for a Marvel movie. There are jokes and fun banter between the heroes but overall this is the darkest Marvel film and it is more similar to a fantasy film in the style of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones rather than the Iron Man or Captain America films.

I enjoyed the film but I did feel it was a bit too overstuffed with characters and overall the plot was quite thin; stop Thanos from getting the Infinity Stones nothing more and nothing less. What was impressive were the incredible epic action scenes from start to finish and just generally catching up with characters we’ve grown to love over these ten years.

B+

Spoilers & Extra Thoughts:
• Gamora was a real highlight in this film. The scene of her backstory was gut-wrenching. Zoe Saldana’s performance was brilliant. Also her death was shocking and heartbreaking. However I have a feeling she may return in either the next Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
• I thought this would be a stand-alone film like the original Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron. I remember hearing they were going to split it up into two parts like the final Harry Potter and Hunger Games films but Kevin Feige decided against it. However that’s exactly what they did! They ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t enjoy the ending and to be honest I’m still confused as to why some characters began to die/disappear while others didn’t. I guess we’ll find out in the next one.
• I love Drax’s scene watching Peter and Gamora kiss while eating chips stating he has been there for hours and he has perfected the art of being silent and still.
• I loved how Thano’s killed Loki in the opening scene. Loki has been useless since the original Avengers. In hindsight he probably should’ve died in the original Avengers film.
• Speaking of characters dying I am disappointed that (besides Gamora) none of our major heroes died. The scene where Tony Stark got stabbed by Thanos had the crowd in my cinema gasping and I thought this could have been a great end to the character who had been around for ten years and launched the franchise. Marvel could have moved on and created a new path for the series. But they wimped out and let him survive. Most disappointing part of the film for me.