Kevin Smith Box Set (Clerks | Chasing Amy | Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) – Blu-ray Review
By Frankie Dees Nov 23, 2009, 13:49 GMT
CLERKS is one wild day in the life of a pair of overworked counter jockeys whose razor-sharp wit and on-the-job antics give a whole new meaning to customer service.CHASING AMY: Filled with Smith\'s unique ear for dialogue and insight into relationships, CHASING AMY offers a thoughtful, funny look at how perceptions alter lives, and how obsession and self-doubt skew reality.JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK: Wildly irreverent and packed with ...more
Three early pics from Kevin Smith get packaged together in a brand-new Blu-ray boxset with the rather lacking title ‘Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection’. We get indie faves ‘Clerks’ and ‘Chasing Amy’ as well as the esoteric fan fave ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ with some new exclusive extras thrown in for added incentive.
First on the scene in 1993, Kevin Smith was part of that new wave independent movement in the early nineties that also included Tarantino and Soderbergh. Of course, Smith was always more concerned with the written word than developing any sort of filmmaking technique but those static set-ups almost add to the charm of his early comic chamber pieces.
Along with fellow indie stalwart, Tarantino, Smith has also become somewhat of brand name himself with a back-story leading up to ‘Clerks’ that was as intriguing as Tarantino’s own slaving away at a video store chestnut.
Dropping out of some film school only to work at a local Jersey convenience store, Smith wrangled up some money by maxing out credit cards and other such shenanigans to raise $27,000 (I’m actually amazed it cost that much) to shoot at night at the very store that he worked.
Incorporating mostly high school friends and past experiences, you could tell that almost everything that popped up in ‘Clerks’ had probably been laughed about and discussed into the wee hours of the morning by Smith and friends.
Shot in black & white and using a handful of locations, most centered around the ‘Quick Stop’, it’s a distinctively dialogue-heavy pic centered around one day in the lives of a convenience store ‘clerk’ and the next door video store ‘clerk’.
The script consisted of geek chic pop culture references (the reality bites convo concerning the Death Star), some sharp, low-brow gags and relatable relationship and career anxiety for dudes in their mid-twenties not sure what to do with their lives. Notably lacking in professional polish (unlike, say ‘Reservoir Dogs’), ‘Clerks’ mostly makes up for this with constantly engaging and witty wordplay.
The film was also, of course, our first introduction to Jay and Silent Bob, characters portrayed by Smith bud Jason Mewes who essentially plays himself as Jay and Smith as Silent Bob who only chimes in when a poignant declaration needs to be made.
Going on to star in a number of Smith’s next films and becoming a franchise all themselves, they also headline Smith’s fifth film, his self-anointed for the fans pic ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’, a considerably slicker pic that’s almost completely reliant on low-brow, but usually funny, gags.
A culmination of all the characters he created up to that point, it’s a breezy, undemanding pic that takes advantage of a constant stream of fun cameos and casting like George Carlin, Will Ferrell, Judd Nelson, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Mark Hamill, Ali Larter, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Biggs, etc. Jason Mewes would be central to the film’s success or failure and despite no real acting experience actually makes for a fairly affable and funny leading man. Mostly made as a lark, it works on that level.
We now scoot back to Smith’s third and arguably best pic, ‘Chasing Amy’, a film where Smith had a lot to prove after the critical and commercial drubbing of his second effort ‘Mallrats’.
Despite its failure, Smith carried over three actors from that pic that proved to be perfect casting. Joey Lauren Adams (Smith’s then girlfriend), Jason Lee and Ben Affleck (both of whom went on to big careers because of this film) was able to knock Smith’s more personal, volatile script out of the park.
Again hitting close to home, the script was patterned after Smith’s own anxieties with dating the worldlier Lauren Adams and putting all his insecurities into the script gave Adams acting a clearly personal verve, an energy that Lee and Affleck came close to matching.
The film revolves around a pair of comic book artists and best bud roommates with one, Banky Edwards (Lee) becoming overly protective when the other, Holden McNeil (Affleck) becomes enchanted by a charming gay girl, the titular Amy (Adams), a relationship that no good can come out of.
They do end up falling in love but when Holden finds out about Amy’s questionably experimental past, he becomes resentful and insecure and for all intents and purposes breaks things off after a key confrontation sequence. After much self-evaluation and a key speech by Silent Bob and realizing after discovering a revelation that involves his best friend, he thinks he has a plan that will secure that everyone will go home happy. But, of course, not everything works out as planned…
I don’t think anyone is expecting a revelatory high-def image with Clerks or Chasing Amy and nor is that what they will get. This isn’t due to any encoding issues but a more obvious blame on low-budget source.
‘Clerks’ is particularly rough with a 16MM, grainy presentation. ‘Chasing Amy’ is better but still no great shakes although it’s a considerable step up from the Criterion DVD. ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ has the bigger budget and slicker look and therefore fares the best. Notable is that ‘Clerks’ and ‘Chasing Amy’ is new to Blu-ray but ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ is the same Blu that was released a few years back and is repackaged here.
Special Features will probably be the big selling point for View Askew fans and for ‘Clerks’ and ‘Chasing Amy’ at least, they shouldn’t disappoint with Smith always being generous and honest with fans who are picking up his films for the umpteenth time. All the special features from the ‘Clerks X 10th Anniversary’ Edition DVD have been carried over but I’ll start with what is new and exclusive to the Blu-ray.
We get a hilarious new introduction from Kevin Smith and the feature-length doc ‘Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’. You may notice that this doc is not necessarily on the right disc but it presumably wasn’t finished in time to make the already released ’06 Blu of ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’.
It’s as candid and fun as you would expect a making-of to be for a Smith film and considering it was shot by Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach and his friend Malcolm Ingram, you get a much more personal look at all the on-set shenanigans. What have been carried over are both cuts of the film, the theatrical and the ‘first cut’ version.
The Theatrical includes the ‘classic 95’ commentary featuring Smith, Mewes, producer Scott Mosier and others, and an enhanced playback track that includes trivia and cast and crew quotes. The first cut version features an intro Smith and another commentary from the usual suspects.
We also get ‘The Lost Scene’, Smiths first film ‘The Flying Car’, the hilariously awkward 10th Anniversary Q&A, some outtakes, ‘Clerks Restoration’, Original Clerk ‘Auditions’, the feature-length ‘Snowball Effect’ doc, ‘Mae Day: the Crumbling of a Documentary’ with a music video and a theatrical trailer to round things out.
For ‘Chasing Amy’, a lot of the extras from the Criterion DVD are exclusive to that version so fans should definitely keep a hold of that one.
New to the Blu-ray is another commentary from Smith and Mosier (but sans Affleck and other participants that made the DVD commentary a great time), a great feature-length ‘Tracing Amy: The Chasing Amy’ doc that interviews all key players and also incorporates cool vintage behind the scenes footage, ‘Was it Something I Said?: A Conversation with Kevin & Joey’ is a 18-minute chat between Smith and Adams that’s engagingly honest and sometimes uncomfortable and ’10 Years later Q&A’ which runs a half-hour and offers up more great insights from all the key players. What was on the DVD that was carried over is some ‘Outtakes’, ‘Deleted Scenes’ and the trailer.
Most disappointing is ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ which only carries over the audio commentary from the feature-packed two-disc ’02 DVD. The rest of the substantial material was dropped although the addition of the ‘…Tea Party’ doc to the ‘Clerks’ Blu makes up for this somewhat.
There is enough new special feature material to make this worth picking up for Kevin Smith aficionados despite the films themselves not really crying out for a high-def release. Tech specs are as good as they will probably get however so people new to these films will find this boxset the perfect introduction.