Tag Archives: kevin smith

Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Review

7 May

I’m sure that by now, a hefty amount of people have seen Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and it’s safe to say that I’m a little late to the party. This movie did very well at the box office and has since done well in sales. I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith as a director but appreciate his body of work the most as a writer. I was excited to see this movie because of the combination of Smith and the rest of the cast, but I have to say I was really disappointed by what I saw. Zack and Miri isn’t what you call a bad movie or a completely unfunny movie, but if you look at movies like Clerks and Chasing Amy, it’s pretty obvious that Smith is capable of much better work.

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Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) are two slacker best friends whose least most concern is paying their bills on time. As the unpaid bills pile up, their luck finally catches up with them and their water and electricity are turned off and an additional threat of getting locked out of their apartment also looms over them. Zack finally hatches a get rich quick plan that, in his mind, seems fool proof. That is to shoot and distribute pornography. As the two gather friends from work and around town which include an overly sensitive Delaney (Craig Robinson), they also begin hiring talent like the astoundingly oblivious Lester (Jason Mewes). Things start looking up for the make shift crew of pornographers, but it isn’t long before real human emotion starts to penetrate the lustful set of the porn movie.

As a comedy, it is pretty average when it comes to the jokes. Something that I really love about Smith’s writing is his ability to write long and drawn out conversations and speeches that seem random, but oddly intelligent and thoughtful. The writing in this movie is pretty average. There are some funny references about film thrown in that made me chuckle, but the really heavy laughter was pretty few and far between. The witty writing and dialogue that seemed to have confidence all its own is nowhere to be seen. Instead, I mostly heard a constant barrage of sex and poop jokes. Now don’t get me wrong. These can be really funny, but when that’s all a movie is I feel kind of ripped off.

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There is some joy to be had in this movie, however. A lot of the laughs in the movie didn’t come from the writing, but more so from the delivery of the jokes that were already written. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks work very well off each other and I feel like a lot of the funnier things in this movie were improvised between the two of them. My favorite part of Zack and Miri is when the two title characters have to film their sex scene for the porno and the way the whole beginning of the scene plays out is incredibly awkward for the both of them. The quick lines of dialogue they say are really funny and just the way they play off each other is great. It was also cool to see Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson, both of whom acted side by side in the two Clerks movies.

As much as I’m putting the writing down, I have to give it to Smith for creating two characters whose developments work very well in the context of the movie. Let’s just say, I buy everything that’s happening between the characters. No one is a cardboard cutout of other characters in comedies like these, and while this isn’t an absolutely hilarious movie, it is nice to see originality in it. For that, I can’t say that this is a bad movie, because any movie that shows honest to goodness originality and spirit put into it, I have to respect and appreciate on at least some level.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a pretty weak attempt by Kevin Smith, especially compared to his other movies that are so memorable and well done. This is also definitely not a comedy for people who can’t stomach things that get too raunchy or dirty, because that’s pretty much all of the comedy involved. I makes me miss the times where Smith made movies that examined a level of society and philosophies that aren’t always explored out of fear of offending people. This movie seems to want to offend just for the sake of offending. If you’re a Kevin Smith fan it’s an alright movie to see, especially for the cast and cameos (including one hilarious one of Kenny Hotz from the show Kenny vs Spenny). Don’t expect too much out of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but it does have some heart and may be good for a chuckle.

 

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Red State – Review

21 Dec

Kevin Smith is a huge inspiration of mine as I’ve made clear with numerous past reviews. His name is synonymous with raunchy, yet smart, comedy. That’s why Red State is such an out of the blue movie for Smith. The long winded and quick dialogue is still there, but this is an intense action thriller/horror film that is aimed to shock and inspire thought. Even amongst all this, there is still some room for comedy.

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Three horny teenage boys are invited by an older woman named Sarah (Melissa Leo) to come to her house for a night of drinking and sex. The boys are thrilled until they realize their drinks have been drugged and the pass out. They awake to find themselves held hostage by the Five Points Trinity Church, a fanatical Christian group led by Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who is using the boys as an example against sin. As the boys fight for their lives, the local police are alerted and inform the ATF who send a task force led by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman). Negotiations end quickly as a firefight erupts…

It isn’t hard to believe that this is a Kevin Smith movie, despite the drastic change in genre. The character’s dialogue is as quick and as sharp as ever, filled with youthful cynicism and sarcastic commentary. That is until 20 minutes into the film where we meet Abin and his family. The audience is treated to an entire sermon said by Abin that goes on for quite a long time, but never gets dull. It’s a terrifying speech filled with a strange brew of hate towards others but also sweet love for his family. There are times where Smith injects his own brand of comedy that often works, but sometimes throws the mood off. There are some quick scenes of comedic dialogue between the ATF agents right before the firefight, which isn’t really the best time.

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The combination of genres is also pretty impressive. In the beginning, the movie fools the viewer into thinking that this is just another movie like Mallrats or Clerks. There’s a lot of talking and banter that doesn’t serve much purpose except to entertain. Then the movie gets scary with the Cooper family murdering a poor guy while preaching their hateful message. The genre changes again when the ATF force shows up and the massive shoot out starts. The shoot out is kind of odd. For a lot of it, you can only hear what’s going on, but can never see a whole lot of the action going on outside. We’re mostly stuck inside the house with the Coopers, while occasionally moving outside. It was an interesting way of filming. Speaking of filming, Red State was filmed on the Red camera system that allowed Smith to edit on the spot, but it also left the finished product looking digitally extra crisp.

Let’s look at the topical side of this movie. This isn’t a religious movie like Dogma is a religious movie. Red State is far more serious. The Five Points Trinity Church has a lot in common with the bastards at the Westboro Baptist Church. Now, I’m not saying that they kidnap and kill people, but the family in the movie protest at a funeral and share the same beliefs as WBC. The way the family follows Abin so unquestioningly can be compared to those at Jonestown, which truly ended in disaster. The point is that this isn’t totally fiction. There are fanatical groups in the world who would be willing to commit such atrocities as seen in this film. This is an action thriller that provides some food for thought.

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I really liked Red State a lot. Like a whole lot. It was great to see Kevin Smith leave his comfort zone and make a mature and brutal film about something that is all too real. The multiple genres, characters, and choices that this movie includes proves that it is intelligent and creative. It’s a great movie that I don’t think gets as much credit as it really should. Check out Red State.

Clerks 2 – Review

11 Jun

Although Kevin Smith intended to end his View Askewniverse series with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he was always open to the possibility of making more. After the failure that was Jersey Girl, Smith reopened the Askewniverse to properly end the series with Clerks 2. 

As Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is about to open the Quick Stop store for another long day at work, he is shocked to find it in a blaze. How could this have happened? Well he soon finds out that the blame falls on his co-worker Randal (Jeff Anderson) for leaving the coffee pot on after closing. Now they are forced to find new jobs, and wind up at a Mooby’s Restaurant. Dante is soon to be married to his fiancé Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach) and moving to Florida the next day, so Randal has to give his best friend the best going away present ever at the expense of their boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson), who has her own plans when it comes to Dante. All this is done over the watchful eyes of Jay and Silent Bob who occasionally put in their two sense or wreak their own havoc.

When fans of Clerks found out that there was going to be a sequel, many were very upset even though they haven’t even gave the film a chance at that point. To be honest, I was also a little nervous before popping in Clerks 2 just because of how fantastic the original was. It seems like a very difficult act to follow, and after how ok Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was, I wasn’t as confident in this one.

To my pleasant surprise, I find it easy to rank Clerks 2 up there with the original. It still hasn’t lost it’s irreverent flair that made it so fantastic. There are jokes ranging from the Holocaust to beastiality. The slapstick humor that invaded Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is gone, which leaves room for Smith’s use of brilliantly clever dialogue that mirrors real life and his talent for creating ridiculous situations.

Seeing the original characters again for one last hoorah was a little sad, but awesome at the same time. Throughout the films in the Askewniverse, we’ve heard references and briefly seen Dante and Randal, but we never got to spend a lot of time with them. They are the original characters, and I find them the most interesting so another slacker adventure with them was a must. Jay and Silent Bob are back as well and as crazy as ever. Since they both are clean of drugs (yet, still selling them) they have to do their best to keep themselves occupied to avoid relapse. This is a clever and surprising twist on these beloved characters.

That’s what has always made these characters so great. They are so relatable. I work in retail and love talking about movies and annoying customers, although I do like to think I work a little harder than Dante and Randal. But still, seeing them just trying to get through the day is so satisfying. This time around, Kevin Smith has added a new level of maturity to the characters. They still are mostly up to no good, but they’re beginning to realize that they need to find a set path in their life. They also deal with changing friendships as adults, which may be easier the younger you are. There is a great dramatic monologue given at the end which is surprisingly impacting.

In the end, Kevin Smith has created a foul mouthed gem with Clerks 2. You can tell that Smith treats these characters with a special kind of respect and works hard in creating a story arc that we can all believe. This is a fitting end to the Askewniverse, leaving us with a newfound knowledge of Dante, Randal, and Jay and Silent Bob. The characters live on without our eyes watching, and I even caught myself thinking about what these guys would be up to today. If you love Clerks, then Clerks 2 is a must see.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – Review

8 Jun

It was going to happen eventually. There was no point in hiding the fact that there was going to be a film all about Jay and Silent Bob. Kevin Smith has always been shocked to hear that the most popular characters he has ever created are the two stoners who hang outside of the QuickStop food mart. Nevertheless, he gave the fans what they wanted when he made Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

It seems that Jay and Silent Bob’s lives can’t get any worse when Dante and Randal finally slap them with a restraining order to stay away from QuickStop. They find refuge at the local comic book store run by Brodie (Jason Lee), who tells them that the Bluntman and Chronic characters are getting their own movie. Jay and Silent Bob are infuriated when they hear this since they never got any money from Miramax for their likenesses. They then decide to head to Hollywood to stop Banky (Jason Lee again) and Holden (Ben Affleck) from making the movie. Complications arise, however, when they get mixed up with jewel thieves and an orangutan, all while being chased by Federal Wildlife Marshall Willenholly (Will Ferrell).

Newcomers to the View Askewniverse, beware! This film is Kevin Smith’s giant inside joke to all of the fans of his previous movies. Many of the jokes are references pulled directly from all of his films from Clerks to Dogma. For the viewers who have seen these films, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is going to be a film that will give you a great amount of entertainment, but is probably Smith’s least strongest in the Askewniverse series.

As a person who is really interested in the world the Kevin Smith has created with his motley of characters, it was really rewarding to be able to see most of them in the same movie together. This is the film that really ties all of the other ones together. It almost added to the humor that Jason Lee plays both Brodie and Banky in the same movie, but it didn’t detract from the movie watching experience since I can easily discern between these two very different characters.

There were more funny and talented people in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back than you can really imagine. George Carlin has a great bit as a naughty hitch hiker willing to do anything for a ride and Chris Rock made me laugh considerably as his overly racist director of the Bluntman and Chronic movie. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill even have cameos in this movie, making this the first movie they appeared in together since Return of the Jedi.

As funny as all of these actors are in this movie, having so many of them in there made it difficult to concentrate on one main plot. The movie starts to become almost a sketch film of sorts with Jay and Silent Bob running into the strangest of people on their cross country trip. I began caring less and less about Bluntman and Chronic and more about what the next silly thing is that’s going to happen next. When the amount of stars and jokes begin to overshadow the plot of the movie, the movie is put in danger of becoming less and less interesting.

I also had a bit of an issue on the way the jokes resorted to something involving farts, sex, or falling over. Sure, it’s great to hear the foul mouthed Jay rant about his thoughts on women and seeing both Jay and Silent Bob get into crazy situations are fun to watch, but it gets a little old after a while. The movie went on for way too long and the witty dialogue that is relevant in most Kevin Smith movies is missing.

If you have seen the other films in the Askewniverse and don’t mind tossing your brain out the door for this often mindless comedy, than this is a movie worth seeing at least once. Jay and Silent Bob are great characters and I liked seeing them in the main role with the leads from the other films taking a back seat. It’s also interesting to see how Smith’s universe ties so intricately together. It’s certainly not Smith’s best movie, but it’s an ok film if you’re a Kevin Smith fan.

Dogma – Review

6 Jun

With Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith proved that he had the capability to write screenplays that are both funny and dramatic, but also very mature and personal. This cinematic tradition continues with his 1999 film that both praises and mocks religion, Dogma.

Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) are homesick. Problem is, they can’t simply just go home being fallen angels banished to the Wisconsin area by God. When they find out that a sacred archway of a church in New Jersey is their ticket to heaven they vow to use it to get home while seeking out violent retribution on the way. Meanwhile, the angel Metatron (Alan Rickman) is sent to the house of Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino) to task her with stopping these two angels from ever passing through the archway which would consequently destroy the world. She is given help from a few unlikely beings: the forgotten apostle, Rufus (Chris Rock); the muse Serendipity (Salma Hayek); and two “prophets”, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith).

When Dogma first came out, many different Christian communities were up in arms due to the so called “offensive nature” of the movie. Kevin Smith is clearly not mocking religion or faith. He is mocking the fanatics and bigots who shove their religion down the throats of other people or those who are un-accepting of others beliefs. It’s a very personal film for Smith, much like Chasing Amy, because there are times where his own beliefs are made clear, despite what other may think of them.

This film is packed with stars. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have great chemistry as actors, and I would go so far as to say that Affleck gives his most under rated performance of his career. Linda Firorentino and Salma Hayek are just fine as their characters if nothing special. Chris Rock delivered a few chuckles, but came off as a bit too over the top. Alan Rickman owned every scene he was in, but the real scene stealers, in my opinion, once again go to Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I’m just a sucker for Jay and Silent Bob.

What you will probably notice is that Smith’s graphic crude dialogue is significantly dimmed down for Dogma. This is for the best considering the religious themes that are dealt with. Not only would it be disrespectful, but out of place for a movie like this. This isn’t to say anything is lost in the dialogue. It is still as sharp and witty as ever with lines that will most definitely be quoted. The long monologues are also back, and save for a great one once again delivered by Affleck, they seem to go on for a bit too long sometimes and I found my attention drifting.

Smith also amps up the violence to a surprising level. With Clerks and Mallrats, there were a few scenes of very mild comedic violence, but in Dogma there are some crazy action bits that are highly entertaining. Going into it the first time may be a bit shocking to newer fans of Kevin Smith, but it’s fun as hell and just adds a little unexpected flavor to the film.

To compare this to Chasing Amy and Clerks may be a bit unfair, because they are works of comic genius. On the flip side, I have no problem saying this tops MallratsDogma works not only as a comedy, but also as a part fantasy, part action film. Kevin Smith goes all out on this one and it shows. Die hard Askewniverse fans and casual film goers will have a great time with this movie. I easily recommend it.

Chasing Amy – Review

5 Jun

Up until this point, Kevin Smith only created two films which simply felt with the angst of Generation X and had stories that hardly even existed. Clerks was about some guy’s shift at work and Mallrats was about two friends hanging out in the mall, although there was a sort of “love” story. Chasing Amy on the other hand explores deeper levels of friendship and love in both a comedic and dramatic way.

Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) are two comic book writers who have become famous from their successful series of books, “Bluntman and Chronic.” While at a ComicCon, Holden meets a fellow comic writer, Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) and immediately falls for her. To his disappointment, he soon finds out that the love of his life is in fact a lesbian, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to win her over even at the expense of losing his best friend and business partner.

It would have been easy, as we see with many romantic comedies today, to make a simple minded sex comedy that is packed to the brim with anatomic and scatological humor and silly falls. This one, thankfully, stays far away from that and exceeded my expectations with deep and realistic characters and a personal message that Kevin Smith was trying to get across to his audience. This personal touch was present in Clerks but not so much in Mallrats, which detracted from its value.

After getting critically bashed for going way too over the top with his big budgeted Mallrats, Kevin Smith decided to go back to his low budget roots for Chasing Amy. Instead of going for laughs with physical comedy, the laughs once again come from brilliant dialogue and the characters. Jason Lee steals the comedic show as Banky, and of course Jay and Silent Bob are back again to give Holden some helpful advice.

But make no mistake, this movie is just as dramatic as it is comedic. The themes of loss of personal relationships and romantic goals being so far out of reach are enough to make the hardest of hearts crack if even a little bit. There are powerful monologues given by all of the major roles that are just a great expulsion of weighed down emotions that are so expertly written that I believe someone would actually talk like this. There are parts in this movie where I actually talked to my computer screen in hopes that the characters would hear me (it’s not that weird. we’ve all done it). I would be laughing one second and be angry the next. This kind of emotional play is not an easy task to write, let alone act, so it really shows the talent involved in this film.

The topic of unconventional true love is also explored in Chasing Amy in a way that I’ve never seen done before. I’ve seen movies with gay and lesbian lovers, but never as serious as the ones present here. For some reason, this is a very controversial thing in our present society and it really got me thinking that love is love, and everyone should be able to share in it. It was great to see a film make jokes about this in a very harmless way, and then stand up and defend it in the very same scene.

Chasing Amy is a huge step up from Mallrats and a landmark film in Kevin Smith’s career. This was the film that showed how he had matured and that he was capable of dealing with heavier stories. This is a surprisingly powerful film with top notch performances, dialogue, humor, and emotional value. Out of all of the Kevin Smith films so far reviewed, this is the one I recommend the most. It is truly a fantastic film.

Side Note: Chasing Amy was Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film of 1997. That says a lot I think.

Mallrats – Review

2 Jun

After the surprising success of Clerks, there was really no doubt that Kevin Smith would be back with another audacious film about slackers and the crazy lives that they have. Little did everyone know that he would create a whole universe of interlocking characters that would be seen again and again. His sophomoric outing, Mallrats, gives that audience another perspective of the world he had created: the side of the consumer.

After Brodie (Jason Lee) and his best friend, T.S. (Jeremy London), both get dumped on the same day, they do what any other slacker would do to get their minds off of their worries: go  hang out at the mall. While there they both run into their respective girlfriends and decide that they are happier with them than without them, so with the help of Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) they set out to sabotage a game show featuring T.S.’ ex and exposing the crimes of Brodie’s girlfriend’s love interest, the slime ball Shannon Hamilton (Ben Affleck).

The first thing that you might notice about Mallrats is that it looks absolutely nothing like Clerks. The budget of Mallrats is exorbitantly higher than his first film. Another major difference is that Mallrats is a lot less cynical. There’s a light mood that is always present and the silliness of the random occurrences are turned up a notch to deliver a great farcical comedy about America’s consumers.

There is a lot more physical and overt humor in this film. This is the weakest point of the movie. Seeing Silent Bob crash through a wall is funny the first time, but seeing him fall over again and again is a bit much. The real comedy stems from the characters and dialogue, which is really how I feel about most comedies. Kevin Smith has once again crafted such excellent and relatable characters that they truly feel like real people whom you care for.

The character of Brodie is an absolute riot. He’s callous, rude, and slightly perverted but he is just the hero a Kevin Smith film needs. I probably not would want to hang out with him in real life, but I enjoyed spending an hour and a half with him through the film medium. Do I even need to comment on Jay and Silent Bob? Anyone who knows me knows that they are two of my most favorite characters. The dynamic duo has a much bigger role in this movie and their actions legitimately affect the story.

While watching Mallrats, I felt like I didn’t need to worry about the story (or lack thereof) an just focus on the characters and the environment around them. This is a film to purely enjoy without too much thought. Sure, there can be discussion about the characters and what they were all about, but this isn’t a brain buster nor is the comedy hidden deep within the dialogue.

Anyone can enjoy Mallrats. This really is a very easy movie to laugh at and enjoy. The characters, the atmosphere, the awesome cameo, and the dialogue is puts this film above many other comedies. If you enjoy Kevin Smith films or just comedies in general, then make sure you check out Mallrats.