Directed By Kevin Smith
Starring Brian O’Halloran, Jason Mews, Kevin Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku
Kevin Smith has become as important in the pop culture history books as all of his movies all together. I have to admit I actually appreciate him and his commentary on the world in general more than his films. His A Night with Kevin Smith is one of the most entertaining DVD’s in my collection and his podcast titled Smodcast is one of my favorites. So I’m an unabashed Smith fan even if I haven’t always cared for his films. What’s so fantastic about this collection is that if you’re a fan of his career then these three films are a strong representation of his evolution as a filmmaker and if you’re like me and are more of just a Smith fan then all of the bonus features on these discs will satisfy too. I was curious to sit down with these films and see how they’ve held up since they were first released. Will I like them better this go around?
Clerks was Smith’s first feature film and it was an unabashed success, at least in terms of an indie film. This little black and white film was simply about a couple of guys that work in adjoining shops, a Quickstop market and a video rental store. The majority of the film is focused on these two guys hanging out in the market commenting on pop culture subjects that are obviously close to Smith’s heart such as Star wars. Smith even put himself in the film as “Silent Bob” a character that hung out on the sidewalk with his stoner buddy Jay. Jay, played by Jason Mews was a standout in the film stealing virtually every scene he was in.
When I first saw this film years ago I couldn’t get into it because I knew that people just don’t speak the way these people did. I don’t care for Juno for the same reason. Now all of these years later I still feel the same way about the dialogue but I do admit that I enjoy it a lot more than I did upon first viewing the film. There’s not much to the film as far as style but that’s actually appealing to me. This is a true indie film, not some bogus studio film being sold as independent. Clerks was shot with a little bit of money and so cleverly written that years after it came out certain people working in retail would still be saying “Those two guys are just like me at my job.” Clerks is a true pop culture classic.
Chasing Amy is an evolution in filmmaking and writing for Smith but much of the Clerks aesthetic, for better or for worse, was still in place. It became a joke that Smith can only shoot characters leaning against a flat wall. This film had stronger balance of dialogue from realistic to that Smith style of clever that fans of Clerks love. The film also featured better character development and a level of romance not present in the relationships in Clerks.
It certainly didn’t hurt the film that Smith was able to attract a solid cast of character actors including Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, and Ben and Casey Affleck. This film follows two friends that both work in comics whose relationship gets turned on its side when they meet a woman, a lesbian woman actually. This film is full of classic themes of friendship, romance, and jealousy all held together with that Kevin Smith pop culture glue.
Some of the references are definitely dated as is common with films founded on so much current pop culture of the era in which the film was made. The universal elements still work in this film making it one of the better romantic comedy/buddy films of the 90’s. This film is Smith at his best crafting a fim with mainstream appeal but using characters based in his geek world.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
This film could have been a major mistake. After the flop that was Mallrats Smith went scurrying back to the world that he had created with his first film. As is obvious with the title of the film two secondary characters from Clerks are at the center of this film. Jay and Silent Bob have crafted a comic book called Blunt Man and Chronic based on their real life experiences. The film gets picked up by Miramax for a big screen adaptation but Jay and Silent Bob get left out of any profits. In a fit of revenge the dynamic duo set out to destroy the film.
This film doesn’t require having seen Clerks to get into it. The two characters quickly get introduced and the romp begins. This film is a geek-gasm and completely hilarious. This isn’t a comedy for everyone though. This movie is for comic book fans and it featured a bevy of referential types of jokes that require some basic familiarity with comics and genre films and TV. There’s a bit of really funny potty humor and slapstick stuff that all generally works. This is easily Smiths funniest film.
The 1080p presentations get better with each film. The black and white Clerks doesn’t honestly look that much different than it did on DVD. This is a low budget 16mm super grainy film and all of that comes through in this presentation. On the up side black levels are solid throughout the film. Chasing Amy look a little better featuring higher detail and more vibrant colors than in previous DVD releases. Oddly though, flesh tones are a bit off looking washed out. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is the best looking offering up vibrant colors, strong detail, little grain, and good contrast. None of these are really eye candy types of films but they’re at a minimum marginally better than in any other releases.
The same goes for the audio as it was for the video; everything gets better with each subsequent film. None of these films are good demos for sound as they are “talky” pictures. With that said dialogue, score, and sound fx are well balanced and fairly clean across all of the films with Clerks coming across the weakest in the sound department. Overall these are the best sounding versions of these films available.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
There are tons of bonus features (many hours actually) on these DVD’s with the majority falling on the Clerks disc. All of the previous bonus features that appeared on previous releases are included on these discs with Clerks featuring a few new blu-ray exclusives. The biggest blu-ray exclusive is What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay and Silent bob Strike Back. This hour and a half long documentary was made by Smith’s wife and it featured interviews and behind the scenes footage from that film. I wondered why this documentary was included on the Clerks blu-ray and I got my answer in a 3 minute intro to the film done by Smith. He wanted to give fans a real reason to upgrade to the blu-ray and this appears to be the last bit of bonus stuff he had to offer from any of these three films.
Along with that film there are tons of interviews, behind the scenes specials, fan comments, and anniversary Q&A’s for these films offering up extensive making of information for these films, Clerks and chasing Amy in particular. Considering all of the blu-rays together there appears to be an overwhelming amount of bonus material. If you were to buy the Jay and silent Bob blu-ray separately you’d be a little disappointed as they film features the least amount of extras. This is probably due to the fact that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Chasing Amy have been on blu-ray for some time so this three pack really only features one all new blu-ray; Clerks. With that said though the features all together are comprehensive. You couldn’t really ask for more.
These three films packed together offer a good look at Kevin Smith’s career and the bonus features allow you to truly see how he’s become the filmmaker that he is.
Overall (Not an average) 8.5/10
The Movie 7.5/10, 8/10, 8.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10