KEVIN SMITH 3-MOVIE COLLECTION
There are certain non-glamorous professions that should be outside the realm of cinematic interest- you know, like cleaning ladies, men's room attendants, convenience store clerks... Somehow writer/director Kevin Smith managed to find enough material in the day in the life of a convenience store clerk to create the quirky comedy hit CLERKS. This ultra-low budget miracle takes a look at the life of a directionless convenience store clerk and his best friend, who just happens to be the clerk in the video shop next door. CLERKS stars Brian O'Halloran as Dante Hicks, a counter-jockey forced into going to work on his day off. During the course of the day, Dante has to deal with insipid customers, sneak out to a funeral, play roller hockey on the roof, and most importantly, come to a decision about the two women in his life. While Dante tries his best to do what he thinks is right, his best friend Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) offers him no help. Since Randal spends more time in the convenience store than he does in the video shop, his surly attitude towards customers only serves to cause more problems for Dante. In addition to O'Halloran and Anderson, the cast of CLERKS also includes Marilyn Ghigliotti and Lisa Spoonhauer, as well as Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith as their well-known alter egos- Jay and Silent Bob.
Being an ultra-low budget movie (which was reportedly financed to a large extent by Kevin Smith's use of his own credit cards), CLERKS doesn't have the polish of most Hollywood films, but it is entertaining nonetheless. Some of the acting is a bit amateurish, but for the most part, the central performances are believable. Non-actor Jeff Anderson is surprisingly good and surprisingly funny as Randal. The camera work in CLERKS is minimalist to the extreme, and the 16mm black and white cinematography is a bit rough in places. Despite the minor shortcomings, the dialogue in CLERKS is very funny, although it is very raw. In fact, CLERKS almost got slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating- a rather impressive accomplishment for a movie with no sex, no nudity or violence.
As evidenced by his output, writer/director Kevin Smith does not make typical movies, and CHASING AMY is not a typical love story. However, Smith’s offbeat story is able to get across the message that true love is a rare and precious gift that too many fools throw away… and yet, go on to regret it, only after they have realized what they have lost. CHASING AMY stars Ben Affleck as Holden McNeil, a graphic artist who writes a cult comic book entitled Bluntman and Chronic, along with his best friend Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). While attending a convention, Holden meets fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), to whom he is instantly attracted. Unfortunately, Holden soon finds out that Alyssa is a lesbian… thus dashing his hopes for romance. Despite the let down, Holden decides to pursue a friendship with Alyssa anyway.
Eventually, Holden’s relationship with Alyssa begins to have a detrimental effect on his friendship with Banky, who can’t quite understand why his best friend is spending so much time with a woman, with whom he has no chance of a future. Of course, the story takes the expected "unexpected" turn, which only serves to complicate the lives of the three main characters even further. CHASING AMY has its share of hilarious moments; the scene in which Alyssa and Banky trade "war stories" is an absolute must see. Although CHASING AMY is a comedy, Joey Lauren Adams delivers such a moving and totally captivating performance that she single-handedly elevates the film way beyond the limitations of the genre- and rendering my personal favorites of all Kevin Smith’s movies. Joey Lauren Adams is such a heartbreaker in CHASING AMY that I expected her acting career to have gone much further than it has… shame on Hollywood! The cast of CHASING AMY also features Casey Affleck, Guinevere Turner, Carmen Lee, Brian O'Halloran, Matt Damon, Scott Mosier, Ethan Suplee and Dwight Ewell, who delivers a scene stealing performance as a gay comic book artist that hides behind a "militant black" facade. Look for those philosophers Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) to have their own profound impact on the story.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK
With JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, writer/director Kevin Smith elevates the well-known pair from the sidelines to central character status. All I can say about Smith’s decision is that this goofball movie is utterly hilarious and is certain to keep one laughing from start to finish. The premise of JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK finds our two title characters becoming aware that the cult comic book Bluntman and Chronic is being made into a motion picture. As the comic book character’s likenesses are based upon the stoner duo of Jay and Silent Bob, our heroes learn they are going to be owed royalties by the studio- Miramax Films. However, after discovering "the Internet" and the negative reaction the film has been getting in chat rooms, Jay and Silent Bob set off on a cross country opus to stop the production of the film and save their good names. Of course, the road from New Jersey to California is paved with potholes, including an encounter with some very hot jewel thieves that leave the boys on the FBI’s most wanted list, not to mention having a gung ho Federal Wildlife Marshal on their tail. In addition to Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, the star laden cast of JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK features Shannon Elizabeth, Will Ferrell, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jamie Kennedy, Jason Lee, Wes Craven, Mark Hamill, Gus Van Sant, Diedrich Bader, Sean William Scott, Alanis Morissette, George Carlin, Carrie Fisher, Judd Nelson, Jon Stewart, Shannen Doherty, Tracy Morgan, Jason Biggs and James Van Der Beek.
Miramax Home Entertainment has made all the films that comprise the KEVIN SMITH 3-MOVIE COLLECTION ($90) available on Blu-ray Disc in their proper aspect ratios, with all three presentations having been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. CLERKS is 1.78:1, CHASING AMY is 1.85:1 and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is 2.35:1. Right up front, I will say that all three films look better on Blu-ray than they do on DVD, but budgetary restrictions prevent CLERKS and CHASING AMY from having optimum 1080p high definition visual presentations.
Considering that the production of CLERKS was pretty much privately funded by Smith, with a large portion coming from a series of maxxed out credit cards, it should come as no surprise that this little black and white wonder looks more than a little rough around the edges. Shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for theatrical distribution, CLERKS appears soft and undistinguished on Blu-ray. Of course, the presentation can’t be faulted for what is and isn’t on the original camera negative. This is the best CLERKS is ever likely to look and nothing can be done to improve the image in any really significant way. Film grain is almost always present, but the image is usually clean, with reasonably respectable detail. Contrast is a bit harsh at times, but then again, so is the film’s original cinematography.
Visually, CHASING AMY is a major step up from CLERKS, but CHASING AMY was shot in the Super 16mm format, so the image is grainier and somewhat less detailed than a production that originated on 35mm film stock. Also, CHASING AMY seems to have undergone a bit of digital processing to smooth out the image, which also seems to have shaved down the fine detail a bit. Personally, I wish the urge to tame the grain had been resisted a bit more. Sure, some grain remains, but not the amount one should expect from a Super 16mm production. Colors are improved over the previous DVD edition, appearing stronger and more appealing this time around. Blacks, whites, contrast and shadow detail all fell within expected parameters for a very modestly budgeted production.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is the newest film of the bunch and the one with the largest budget; therefore, it is rightfully the best looking film in the collection. Of course, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK was originally released during the early days of Blu-ray, and while it still looks pretty darn sweet, it isn’t exactly a disc for the demo pile. Still, the picture is sharp and pretty nicely defined, in addition to appearing pretty dimensional. Colors are strongly rendered, with warm looking flesh tones. Blacks are deep and the whites appear crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are just fine. The elements from which JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK have been mastered appear very clean. Grain is modest.
The first two films that comprise the KEVIN SMITH 3-MOVIE COLLECTION are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, while the last has a 5.1 channel uncompressed PCM soundtrack. Lossless soundtracks may be overkill for CLERKS and CHASING AMY, but I am delighted that the films have been made available that way. CLERKS is talky, with the most front loaded mix of the three. Production limitations leave CLERKS with flat sounding, but fully intelligible dialogue. When one takes into account that CHASING AMY was an ultra-low budget production, with tremendous amounts of dialogue and no action sequences, it will come as no surprise that the sound mix is also primarily front-loaded. Music offers some stereo imaging and fill, with the dialogue largely locked to the center. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK features the most complex sound design, but TRANSFORMERS this isn’t. As a talky comedy, much of the sound is localized front and center, but directional effects are more abundant, with the surround channels being utilized for active effects, ambience and fill. The lossless encode boosts the musical component, as well as the impact of the bass. Dialogue is clean and clear. No alternate tracks are available on CLERKS, CHASING AMY comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish track, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK come with English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks. English and Spanish subtitles grace CLERKS and CHASING AMY, while JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK features English and French subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance each disc's interactive menus. CLERKS offers both the ninety two-minute Theatrical Version and one hundred four-minute First Cut of the film, which offers more than a few differences. The Theatrical Version comes with a running Audio Commentary featuring writer/director Kevin Smith, editor/producer Scott Mosier, actors Brian O'Halloran, Walt Flanagan, Jason Mewes, actor/crewmember Vincent Pereira and Film Threat's Malcolm Ingram. The commentary is absolutely worth listening to, just to hear a very drunk Jason Mewes interject his inebriated observations that have little to do with the actual film. A Theatrical Cut Enhanced Trivia Track is also provided, as is a First Cut Picture-in-Picture Commentary and First Cut Director's Intro. Other significant programs on include The Making Of Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (ninety one minutes) and Snowball Effect (ninety one minutes). Additional Featurettes include: Snowball Effect Outtakes (forty minutes), 10th Anniversary Q&A (forty two minutes), Clerks Lost Scene: Animated Short (ten minutes), The Flying Car (eight minutes), Clerks Restoration (thirteen minutes), Original Auditions (fifteen minutes) and Mae Day: The Crumbling Of A Documentary (twelve minutes). MTV Spots With Jay & Silent Bob, a Music Video for Can't Even Tell by Soul Asylum and a Theatrical Trailer close out CLERKS.
CHASING AMY comes with a newly recorded running Audio Commentary featuring writer/director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier. Next up is Tracing Amy, an eighty-two minute retrospective documentary on the making of the film. Was It Something I Said? offers Kevin Smith and Joey Lauren Adams another opportunity to discuss the film, as well as their relationship. 10 Years Later Q&A is a twenty-eight minute program that Kevin Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Jason Mewes and Scott Mosier responding to questions for the film’s tenth anniversary. Deleted Scenes, Outtakes and a Theatrical Trailer close out CHASING AMY. Again, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK was produced during the early days of Blu-ray and the sole supplement is a running Audio Commentary featuring writer/director/actor Kevin Smith, actor Jason Mewes and producer Scott Mosier.
If you are a fan the KEVIN SMITH 3-MOVIE COLLECTION is a must have. Both CLERKS and CHASING AMY are making their Blu-ray debuts with this collection, and while neither film is demo worthy in terms of audio or video, it is still great to have them available in high definition. Definitely recommended to fans.
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