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

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