THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayKevin Smith is the Woody Allen of Generation X, that so-called generation of Baby Boomer children. George Lucas, with one film, "American Graffiti," spoke to the hearts of the Baby Boomers. I suppose that Kevin Smith, with his dialogue driven films about sex, lesbians, the essence of "Star Wars," and not giving a crap speaks volumes about my generation.
The "Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection" is now available on Blu-ray.
Smith's films are much like Woody Allen films. The characters talk a lot about what's bothering them. Everybody seems to have an issue to resolve. His films have a following, but rarely branch out to a wider audience. Smith's fans get his jokes and love his characters. Smith's camera rarely moves, even for a slow pan. Most of his stories revolve around the same premise and the same jokes. I won't say that I'm a super fan of Smith's work, but I do get a few laughs from his films and I admire the fact that a guy like Smith has made it to the big time. The film business is a wicked mother, and Smith has carved a nice niche for himself.
Crude. Crude camera work. Crude acting. Crude sound. Crude jokes. And it's all pretty damned good.
For a first time feature, Smith and his cast managed to endear audiences to his brand of humor. This film is truly one from the heart, even if it's filled with enormous amounts of cussing and gags. This is one of those films, if seen with an audience of college age students or at a film festival, would bring down the house. I never saw it theatrically and could barely sit through it on VHS. Now that it's on Blu-ray, I can finally appreciate what audiences saw in the film.
What works for me is how dead accurate the film is. It's accurate on how young 20-something guys think and react to their girlfriends, how they act around co-workers, and how they deal with morons who come into the store. Anyone who has worked in a store can identify with Dante (Brian O'Halloran). It can be boring work and seem like a dead-end, yet it can be one of the most entertaining jobs you'll ever have just based on the people you meet.
Smith delves deep into the mind of Dante and for a first time feature script, he does pretty well. I'm sure many 20-something guys flipped out finding out their girlfriend has more experience with other guys than she originally told them. I know I did.
The film is talky and like the other two films in the "Clerks" trilogy, the camera is stagnant. As Smith admits, he's a two-shot kind of guy. Some of the film drags.
The Blu-ray picture quality is okay due to the source material. It's extremely grainy and it seems like the grain has been pumped up a bit, because there seems to be a grainy sheen to the picture that is unnatural. It's a little distracting. But the picture quality is probably a huge improvement over the DVD.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also okay. The source material is fine for the film, as it's dialogue driven. The dialogue is easy to hear.
That voice. That Jennifer Tilly-like voice. I can't get it out of my head, and the last time I saw this film was as a Blockbuster rental in the late-90s.
Out of all the films I've seen from Kevin Smith, this one is the most polarizing for me. When I first saw it, I liked that it challenged the conventional love story between a guy and a girl. I liked the acting, even though the lead was Ben Affleck, and I enjoyed the story. Without getting silly, it used the idea of a guy falling for a lesbian as a back-story. In less mature hands, the film wouldn't have worked. But Smith kept it all together with a smart script. The lesbian angle of the story wasn't patronizing and that's part of what made the film work.
I hadn't seen the film for years until the Blu-ray came out. As I sat through the first 20 minutes of the film, it felt contrived. The whole "I'm a lesbian" angle seemed worn out by now. The script was now predictable and even repetitive. I also couldn't get past Joey Lauren Adams' voice. I hadn't forgotten it! The voice didn't seem to fit her cute face. The film didn't seem fresh anymore. Maybe it wasn't as good as I remembered.
After sitting through it and getting passed the clichéd kissing in the rain scene, and some awkward acting and dialogue, I began to realize how well done and sincere the film is. It's not perfect and the things I mentioned above still irritate. But Smith and his cast seem to believe in these characters and that comes out in the film. It's as if Smith's 20-something characters started to grow up. The guys still had their insecurities about who they dated, but they seemed to accept their insecurities better now.
I've never been a fan of Affleck. Sure, he seems like a nice guy, but he's not a solid actor. This film showcases his ability to blink at least 50 times a take. I honestly thought that Jason Lee is the stronger actor of the two. But I'll give Affleck some respect here, because he does a credible job. As for Adams, her voice can make teeth grind in this film. But the longer she's on-screen, the more we come to like her. She's a strong character with conviction in what she wants.
Like Smith's other films in this collection, the dialogue is fast and smart. There are a lot of lines where characters are nasty to each other and act like smart asses. But deep down, Smith's film have a heart.
The Blu-ray picture quality is an improvement over "Clerks." It's not nearly as grainy and looks more like a feature film. Still, it's grainy but that's because of the source material. The film was shot on an ultra low budget and it shows. Yet I give credit to cinematographer David Klein for making the most of Super 16mm.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is, as expected, low budget and low key. Some of the music sounds good, but it's mostly dialogue driving the sound. It's perfectly fine to listen to.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK
The slackers hanging out through "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy" warranted their own movie! I've always found these characters funny, but I'm not sure how they'd do in their own film. They actually pull it off. Loosely plotted, the film takes Jay and Silent Bob on a cross-country adventure to Hollywood.
The best scenes involve the duo talking smack and acting goofy. I felt the film veered off course, though it's essential to the plot, when they guys meet up with the girls in the van. What I found funny were the cameos involving Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamilll. Any original "Star Wars" fanatic will appreciate the gags.
The film is enjoyable, but it's not as memorable and engaging as "Chasing Amy." The production values have increased on "JASBSB" quite a bit, but the camera is still stagnant!
The Blu-ray picture is very good. There's a big difference between Super 16mm and 35mm and it shows. Again, Smith seems to favor the simple approach, at least in this film, of fairly stagnant cinematography and scenes with shallow depth-of-field. So don't expect any "Baraka" style shots, or even a Michael Bay shot.
The uncompressed PCM soundtrack sounds excellent. I still contend that Blu-ray discs should have an uncompressed PCM option and this soundtrack shows why. What stands out is the music. It's very clear and has some punch to it. There are a few sound effects that are loud and sound great, as well.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © BVHE. All rights reserved.