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

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.

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.

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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Gamora: We’re just like Kevin Bacon.

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

Synopsis: A disparate team of thieves and bounty hunters join together to save the galaxy from an evil tyrant named Ronan the Accuser.

Review:

The latest blockbuster from Marvel Studios delivers all of the adventure and excitement of their previous comic book adaptations. A fast and enjoyable ride that will push these Marvel characters into the mainstream. The problem is it also doesn’t improve or transcend the genre either. This is not a complaint as this film not only delivers the thrills of the best superhero genre films but also subverts the conventions with quirky humour and a superb soundtrack of 70s and 80s hits. The only problem is that it doesn’t attempt to move beyond what has come before such as this years Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which delivered breathtaking action with excellent character drama. Perhaps it is too soon to compare this film to Captain America TWS because we have gotten to know those characters through multiple films and this is an origin story which ultimately must follow those conventions strictly to gain a wider audience. The inevitable sequel may use its time to delve into the characters further and create a deeper and more realised narrative. However what we have here feels somewhat rushed and fast paced to the point of shallow character development and more emphasis on special effects, action and humour. For the average movie goer this is sufficient for a good time at the movies and although this film is better than most of the blockbusters this year, including The Amazing Spiderman 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction, it’s not a game changer either.

 Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-team

The story begins in 1988 with a child named Peter Quill listening to ‘I’m not in Love’ the smooth 80s ballad on his Walkman, while waiting in a hospital preparing to see his ill mother. A heartfelt opening which is perhaps unlike any opening of a Marvel film we have seen. The heartfelt sequence is soon interrupted by Peter running off and randomly being taken by a spaceship. Cut to the future where Peter is a grown man still listening to his Walkman searching for a lost orb on another planet. We can see shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars immediately. Director James Gunn quickly subverts the genre with the Indiana Jones looking Chris Pratt dancing around the planet while he looks for the orb. This is a fun film with lots of humorous moments throughout and possibly the closest we’ll get to a great sci-fi comedy in the vein of Ghostbusters. Chris Pratt is almost a lighter Bill Murray. The film quickly gets into the space action and Gunn films it clearly and allows special effects to dazzle the audience. Peter quickly gets introduced to the other members of the team including Gamora (the sexy Zoe Saldana), Rocket, an anthropomorphised raccoon (voiced by a scraggly Bradley Cooper), the dumb and lovable tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and the bulky Drax the Destroyer (played with deadpan humour by professional wrestler, Dave Bautista). The crew come together rather quickly and I didn’t completely buy their immediate friendship based on how they get together. The films biggest fault in my opinion is in their introductions and the fast paced plotting of having them immediately all come together to become friends and ultimately defeat the evil force threatening the world. It’s almost as if the writers thought “Hey, we’ve got a team of badass characters who all have individual quirky traits who need to get together to save the world and then become best friends just like the avengers!” However these characters would have benefitted with more character development in their earlier introduction scenes and also remain individuals by the end. I’m not sure if it was necessary to establish them as a great team by the end because of how independent their backstories are. *Spoiler alert* I have to say I didn’t buy the ending where they all got together to go on another adventure. The film set them up to get together to fight this evil but I didn’t believe that they would always stay together and remain a team because of their pasts. I guess the comic book might have developed the characters better, but I have never read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic and I didn’t quite buy them as a team in this film.

 Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Movie-Photo-Gamora-Concerned-Close-up

However these complaints aside I have to say the humour, action set pieces and the characters were all excellent and I did have a great time watching this film. Narrative problems aside this was a fun ride.

 Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Preview-Rocket-Raccoon-www.scifiempire.net_

Rating: 3.5 Stars