Tag Archives: Kevin Smith

Clerks (1994, Kevin Smith)

Clerks operates on intensity. But it’s mostly dialogue and there’s not a lot of action. So director Smith relies on surprises, whether visual, in dialogue, in plot. At its best, Clerks is creative with its constraints. At its worst, Clerks is lead Brian O’Halloran whining (badly, I might add). There’s a lot of whining. Only O’Halloran is supposed to be the viewer’s POV; Smith structures the narrative from this negative place. That POV allows for a lot of the humor–and it gives Jeff Anderson’s sidekick character more implied depth than O’Halloran gets–but it does get annoying at times. As Clerks progresses, Smith gets a lot less inventive and not just with the filmmaking, but with the narrative.

The film ends up being about O’Halloran and his place in the universe. While it does start with O’Halloran, it’s more about his juvenile behavior in his relationship with his girlfriend, Marilyn Ghigliotti in the film’s best performance. O’Halloran isn’t good and Smith doesn’t know how to direct him to be better. The script requires a lot of charm for the part to work and O’Halloran doesn’t have it. He even gets less likable as the movie goes on and he becomes less and less imposing a protagonist.

Maybe if O’Halloran were actually structured to have everything go on around him, but Smith doesn’t set things up well. Clerks is a lot of solid creative impulses running out of steam before they’re anywhere near finished. Same goes for Smith’s script–he’s got some interesting questions but the answers never surpass mediocre.

Anderson’s fantastic, O’Halloran isn’t. There’s amusing support from Jason Mewes, problematic–but earnest–support from Lisa Spoonauer (in the film’s most problematic role).

Great photography from David Klein, great editing (for the most part) from Smith and Scott Mosier.

Clerks goes from better to worse to a little bit better, but having a strong sense of itself for the finale doesn’t make up for all the time it spends floundering.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kevin Smith; director of photography, David Klein; edited and produced by Scott Mosier and Smith; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Brian O’Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jeff Anderson (Randal Graves), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica), Lisa Spoonauer (Caitlin Bree), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob) and Scott Mosier (Willam the Idiot Manchild).


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The Flying Car (2002, Kevin Smith)

Maybe halfway through The Flying Car, I noticed one of the retakes of Jeff Anderson. The short takes place while Anderson and Brian O’Halloran are stuck in a traffic jam. Smith is setting up the viewer for a joke while Anderson sets up O’Halloran for the same one. Great dialogue, excellent performance from Anderson. It’s a fine little thing.

Except then there’s the retake. There are a few of them, two on Anderson, maybe two on O’Halloran. The entire short is unimaginatively shot–Smith either shoots one or the other. No rapid fire exchanges in the same framing (which only happens twice).

Anyway, that retake. Smith shoots it from outside the car, showing the windshield and–presumably–reflections of the world outside. It immediately gives Car a different, better feel. It seems less gimmicky, more natural.

The dialogue and joke are great, but Smith’s lack of imagination hurts Car bad.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kevin Smith; director of photography, Learan Kahanov; edited and produced by Scott Mosier; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Jeff Anderson (Randal).


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Cop Out (2010, Kevin Smith)

It might be funny to kick Kevin Smith when he’s down–Cop Out, his first attempt at directing someone else’s script (after fifteen years of doing his own projects), bombed and then there was that whole thing with the airplane seating–but Cop Out‘s not his fault. Well, maybe Seann William Scott is Smith’s fault, but he makes up for him with Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak….

The two biggest problems with the film are the script and Tracy Morgan. The script’s unbearably stupid, like it’s intended to be a spoof of buddy cop movies and someone forgot to make it funny. Morgan’s playing a variation on his character from “30 Rock.” It’s never believable for a second he could hold a job (much less be a cop), have a friend (Willis comes off more like a babysitter) or a wife (I’m not sure if Rashida Jones is wasted in Cop Out or useless). During Morgan’s scenes, I kept wanting to slam my head against something, thinking a concussion might get me in the frame of mind to appreciate his performance.

But back to Brody and Pollak. The movie should have been about them. Smith’s trying to do some kind of a throwback to the eighties cop comedies, like Beverly Hills Cop–he even brings in Harold Faltermeyer to regurgitate his Fletch score. Brody’s young and eager and Pollak’s old and cynical. They banter, they have antics. It would have been great.

Instead, it’s not great. Instead, it’s completely insipid.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed and edited by Kevin Smith; written by Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen; director of photography, David Klein; music by Harold Faltermeyer; production designer, Michael Shaw; produced by Marc Platt, Polly Johnsen and Michael Tadross; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bruce Willis (Jimmy), Tracy Morgan (Paul), Adam Brody (Barry Mangold), Kevin Pollak (Hunsaker), Ana de la Reguera (Gabriela), Guillermo Diaz (Poh Boy), Michelle Trachtenberg (Ava), Jason Lee (Roy), Francie Swift (Pam), Rashida Jones (Debbie) and Seann William Scott (Dave).


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Dogma (1999, Kevin Smith)

I have a hard time identifying my biggest problem with Dogma. Is it the lack of good narrative? Smith’s script, which does have some very funny scenes in it, is one of the worst attempts at an epical plot I’ve ever seen. It’s inept. It’s pat. Combined with some of the terrible performances, the whole thing feels like a made-for-the-internet video, the kind of thing someone would have done for cheap as an online video, but with his or her famous friends (giving bad performances). The big dramatic scenes are terrible, the one liners tend to work… a lot of the problem is the acting, and Smith’s inability to recognize his own terrible direction. He shoots Dogma widescreen (sort of, he shot in Super 35 and framed it to his liking… maybe a less wide presentation would have been better) and doesn’t know how to compose for it. With Dogma, Smith was directing his fourth feature film. One would think he would know at least how to do a decent composition with that aspect ratio. At least a workman composition. He doesn’t.

The acting. Maybe the way to start is listing the people who give an okay or better performance in Dogma. Matt Damon, Jason Mewes, Alan Rickman, Janeane Garofalo and George Carlin. I supposed Bud Cort does a fine job, as do Clerks stars Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson. The rest? The rest of the cast give terrible, pedestrian, amateurish performances. Dogma‘s a disaster in terms of acting. Of the remainder, Chris Rock’s at least funny. He gives a terrible performance, it’s hard to even call what he’s doing acting, but at least he’s funny. Ben Affleck’s awful. How Smith didn’t notice he was terrible during filming is beyond belief. Affleck’s just mugging–the problem is mostly with Smith’s script, which is a bunch of speeches, there are no characters, except Damon’s. Smith also gets a bad performance out of Linda Fiorentino, which I wasn’t sure was possible, but he does it. Gold star for him that day! Jason Lee’s terrible. He’s so unfunny I watched his scenes wondering if his agent used clips from Dogma on audition reels. I doubt it. Salma Hayek’s performance is one of the worst in any major motion picture I can think of. I suppose Alanis Morissette’s fine, thinking about it.

Robert D. Yeoman’s photography is atrocious. He’s actually a great cinematographer and has shot a lot of far more complex films–for Wes Anderson for instance–so obviously the problem’s Smith. Big shock. Can’t compose for Panavision aspect ratio nor can he properly convey instructions to his cinematographer–Dogma, which wasn’t shot on a credit card, looks cheaper than many horror directors’ early projects (for example, The Evil Dead and Braindead look a lot more finished).

My wife says I don’t like Dogma because I don’t get all the religious references. Those are fine, but they’re parsley. They’re parsley on a moldy corn dog.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kevin Smith; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by Scott Mosier and Smith; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Robert Holtzman; produced by Mosier; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring Ben Affleck (Bartleby), Matt Damon (Loki), Linda Fiorentino (Bethany Sloane), Jason Mewes (Jay), Chris Rock (Rufus), Alan Rickman (Metatron), Jason Lee (Azrael), Salma Hayek (Serendipity), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob), Janeane Garofalo (Liz), George Carlin (Cardinal Ignatius Glick), Alanis Morissette (God), Brian O’Halloran (Grant Hicks) and Bud Cort (John Doe Jersey).


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