KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (2001)

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Holden: If the buzz is any indicator, that movie’s gonna make some huge bank.
Jay: What buzz?
Holden: The Internet buzz.
Jay: What the fuck is the Internet?
Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Will Ferrell, George Carlin, Seann William Scott, Jon Stewart, Judd Nelson, Tracey Morgan, Diedrich Bader and Chris Rock

Synopsis: The comic “Bluntman and Chronic” is based on real-life stoners Jay and Silent Bob, so when they get no profit from a big-screen adaptation, they set out to wreck the movie.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith’s fifth directed film and his best straight up comedy. Instead of mixing drama and comedy with Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma he chooses to let his two characters Jay and Silent Bob take the lead on a road trip comedy filled with excellent comedic supporting characters. He succeeds in his comedic tone and in jokes for fans of his previous films. Unlike Mallrats which used potty humour throughout this works better as Smith’s film making skills have grown. After the successful Dogma he chose to use an excellent comedic supporting cast to make his plot and dialogue work unlike in his early films when he didn’t have the resources.

The film revolves around Jay (Jason Mewes in great comedic form) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) trying to stop a film being made about them based on Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) comic Bluntman and Chronic (from Smith’s previous film Chasing Amy). They are so offended by the fans on the internet bagging the film on the website Poop Shoot (which went on to become a real thing and inspired Smith’s ongoing internet presence. Also could be the genesis of Twitter) that they decide to travel to Hollywood and stop the production. The film then follows them on a road trip and is filled with call backs to Smith’s previous four films including cameos from Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) from Clerks, Brodie (Jason Lee) from Mallrats, Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), Hooper X (Dwight Ewell) and Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) from Chasing Amy. Also other call backs include the Buddy Christ on the Nun’s dashboard and the Mooby’s fast food chain from Dogma.

This is just a fun film throughout and easily re-watchable. I consider it Smith’s best comedy since Clerks. It’s not as uneven as Mallrats and Dogma. The humour works because he sticks to Jay and Silent Bob’s humour and he populates them with great comedy talent such as George Carlin, Seann William Scott, Will Ferrell, Jon Stewart, Judd Nelson, Tracey Morgan, Diedrich Bader and Chris Rock. He also uses actors to send themselves up as absurd versions of themselves including Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck playing absurd versions of themselves. Will Ferrell is really good in this as he was still in his early Saturday Night Live days and proving himself on the big screen.

The climax in the Hollywood studio is a real highlight and shows Smith’s great skill in parody. Especially when he sends up Star Wars, Good Will Hunting and Scream. I love this film even though it is rather indulgent for Kevin Smith to make a film all about characters from his previous films. If you aren’t familiar with Smith’s previous films I’m not sure how you would appreciate this film. However as a fan I loved it.

A

Random Notes;
– Ties to Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Marc Blucas (who played Riley, Buffy’s love interest during Season four) plays the Fred looking character in the Scooby Doo van and Eliza Dushku who played the bad girl Vampire Slayer Faith on Buffy plays the bad girl Sissy part of the CLIT group of girls who are really jewel thieves
– Ties to American Pie with Shannon Elizabeth, Seann William Scott and Jason Biggs
– Kevin Smith-isms; Star Wars style introduction, Jay and Silent Bob’s own film!, Tons of Gay jokes, Scott Mosier cameo, Jay and Silent Bob’s Monkey friend, Film references –including Star Wars, Charlie’s Angels, Entrapment, The Fugitive, Good Will Hunting, Scream, E.T

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

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: TOP FIVE (2014)

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Andre Allen: I am telling you, everything means something.
Chelsea Brown: No everything does not mean something. Okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Remember those, jokes?

Director: Chris Rock

Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove

Synopsis: A Comedian turned actor discusses the highs and lows of his life of fame with a New York Times writer who happens to share a few things in common with him.

First off, this films title is a running motif throughout the film as various characters list their top five rappers. I’m not a hardcore rap fan however growing up my cousins would blast Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg through their speakers so I was versed in the genre from an early age. As I grew up I came to love the genre and my current top five rappers are;
1. Kanye West
2. Eminem
3. Drake
4. Tupac Shakur
5. Jay Z
Probably a lot of hardcore rap fans would disagree with my list however since ‘Yeezy’ blew up in 2004 with his album ‘College Dropout’, I’ve loved all of his albums since and haven’t missed one. I’ve also been to his concert when he was out here in Melbourne and he was amazing! I believe his albums have each gotten better from 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ to 2013’s ‘Yeezus’. Also his latest track with Rihanna and Paul McCartney ‘FourFiveSeconds’ is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod. Also Eminem has been my favourite rapper since 2000’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and was probably my number one rapper through the 2000s. However I think his latest album 2013’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ was a disappointment and makes him drop a spot. Just like Yeezy I’ve loved Drake since his debut 2010’s ‘Thank Me Later’ to this years surprise album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. He may not be as prolific as Yeezy, Em and Jay but he is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod and I actually prefer him these days over Jay. However I would be remiss not to include Tupac Shakur who I grew up with and introduced me to the genre and also I love Jay’s flow. I also love a bit of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and when I’m working out Pitbull.

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However enough about rap let’s discuss Chris Rock’s latest comedy Top Five. Top Five is Rock’s most personal film to date, dealing with a comedian turned popular comedy star who is hated by the critics and hasn’t had a good film yet. Unfortunately this is also true of Rock’s career. He is an amazing comedian, sharp, energetic, powerful and most of all hilarious. With 1996’s hit stage show Bring the Pain the first comedy show I saw of Rock I remember crying of laughter. It was brilliant and he managed to top that with 1999’s Bigger and Blacker. He returned again in 2004’s Never Scared and 2008’s Kill the Messenger. His live shows are all amazing and sadly he hasn’t been able to translate that to the screen. His two previous directorial efforts 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife were critical and commercial disasters. I’ve enjoyed his films however I’ve only enjoyed moments in them, I don’t think I’ve loved any from beginning to end, including the Grown Up series, Madagascar series, and his work with Kevin Smith. However I think Top Five is the reverse of his previous films where I love it from beginning to end and there are only a few moments I didn’t enjoy.

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As you can see I love stand up comedy and naturally I love films that deal with this subject matter including 2009’s Funny People and Martin Scorsese’s classic 1982’s The King of Comedy. This film deals with Andre Allen (Chris Rock) who is a famous comedian turned popular actor who is about to get married to a reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) (shades of Kanye and Kim) while trying to be taken seriously for his new dramatic film dealing with the Haitian revolution. He agrees to an interview with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (the luminous Rosario Dawson) to plug his film. At first he is hesitant because of the Times negative reviews of his previous films but reluctantly agrees for the press. He discovers a kindred spirit in Chelsea as they discuss the highs and lows in their lives and their shared experiences as recovering alcoholics. The film has an effortless chemistry between the two stars and they elevate the material and help it grow unlike Rock’s previous directorial efforts. However their discussions of the effects of recovering from alcohol addiction I felt didn’t ring as true as Rock’s analysis of the entertainment industry possibly because he could bring more truth to the entertainment industry rather than being a recovering addict. The film still works as a semi-autobiography and dig at the entertainment industry and what artists will do to have their art taken seriously. It is a fascinating film which also deals with topics (strong in Rock’s stage shows) such as race, politics, family and a real insight into the mind of one America’s best comedians.

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With a kinetic directorial style, sharp and witty writing and excellent performances from Rock and Dawson this is the smartest comedy in years and possibly the best film dealing with a stand up comic. It also boasts an excellent supporting cast and cameos from Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, J.B. Smoove, Leslie Jones and Ben Vereen.

Rating: 4 Stars

My Top Five Chris Rock films
1. Top Five
2. New Jack City
3. Madagascar
4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
5. Dogma

My Top Five Comedians
1. Jerry Seinfeld
2. Chris Rock
3. Eddie Murphy
4. Kevin Hart
5. Louie C.K.