Category Archives: Film Reviews

Dogma review

This is why I’m a fan of Kevin Smith; he makes movies that he personally relates to and just makes a comedy in his universe that we all know as the View Askewniverse. Back in 1999, a lot of people have predicted the world would end in 2000 due to the Y2K problem (funny). Even Christians had to send their message to the public that the apocalypse is nigh, especially the Left Behind books and movies. Kevin Smith used his Catholic faith as inspiration in making this movie. He had a bigger budget, more recognition, and more familiar stars who are casted to make this film. Upon the release of the film, Christian churches protested this movie for it was to make the end of the world to be a joked and fooled around. Even Kevin Smith had to make a jackass out of himself in joining the protest, which he said in “An Evening with Kevin Smith.” With so much controversy and recognition, let’s see how the end result of this film.

The concept of the film is two fallen angels are Bartleby (Affleck) and Loki (Damon), were banished from Heaven after an inebriated Loki, with Bartleby’s encouragement, resigned as the Angel of Death. Exiled to Wisconsin, the pair see their salvation when a church in Red Bank, New Jersey celebrates its centennial anniversary with a plenary indulgence. They can have their sins forgiven by passing through the doors of that church, and get access to Heaven. They fail to realize that this will overrule the word of God and destroy existence. These two will kill anyone who commits a sin, like that one scene where they shot a man in the buss for committing adultery and they stop at nothing. So who’s stopping these two fallen angels from doing such heinous actions? Well, surprisingly enough, an abortion clinic named Bethany Sloane. A messenger from god named Metatron, the voice of god, was sent to her to prevent Bartleby and Loki’s return to heaven. Bethany is attacked by the Stygian Triplets, but is saved by Jay and Silent Bob (YES!), two prophets whom Metatron said would appear.

Constantly, Jay and Silent Bob kept begging Bethany for sex and pretended to be in a relationship with her, but she continues to resist such temptation and move onward to her mission. She is also aided by Rufus (Chris Rock), the thirteenth apostle who was left out of the Bible for being black, and Serendipity (Salma Hayek), a Muse with writer’s block. The demon Azrael, a former Muse, warns Bartleby and Loki that the forces of Heaven and Hell are attempting to kill them, as Satan will not let them succeed where he has failed. Bartleby and Loki vows to to kill Bethany and her party from stopping them.

What’s most funny about this wild adventure is that Bethany is completely annoyed and is frustrated with everyone doing all the things that she does not want; sex with Jay and Silent Bob and converting back to Christianity with Serendipity and Rufus. Meanwhile we have Bartleby and Loki having a hard time trying to get to the Catholic Church and murder anyone who they see sinning. This epic somehow became a road movie, which we had a lot in the 1990s movies, like Dumb & Dumber, Tommy Boy, etc.  Like all road movies, it’s not about the destination but the journey of getting there. The characters always stops by at a special location and do all sort of ridiculous decisions or have constant problems keeping from reaching their destination to make the film more interesting.

You can really see more than plenty of Christian and Biblical references throughout the film as you can see Smith’s beliefs come alive; like Bartleby and Loki discuss about intimacy, the angels discusses about passages from Revelations, and more. But like all of Kevin Smith’s films, there are a lot of well-written dialog that mixes very well with comedy. The character interactions really shines here as they become defensive and argue constantly to make the comedy to stay alive. One great example is when Chris Rock tries to prove to Jay and Silent Bob that he knows everything by saying that Jay is gay and to prove that he isn’t, they had to go to a strip club. It’s really one of those movies that you have to pay attention to the dialog to see what happens next, even though there are aspects of the film where there are cartoony comedy; Dogma is a blend between Clerks and Mallrats.

Even though that this film is proceeded as a fantasy-comedy, one of the biggest downfalls I have is that there isn’t enough fantasy in it. Other than the inclusion of angels, I really dislike the fact that its just as a cartoony comedy that happens to feature angels who rarely look like one. Sure it would be more than difficult to have angel characters to have wings on their backs and a halo on their heads, but Kevin Smith could have put in a lot more imagination in the film. One of my least favorite part of the film will always be the giant shit monster that was thrown in there and have no rhyme or reason to include it in the film. If they can put in a shit monster they minus well make other heavenly or hellacious creatures to go after our heroes. Even Azrael’s minions, why are they just children wearing hockey gear? It lost all threat and seriousness in the film. While everything in the end, where Bartleby and Loki started the apocalypse, actually felt like that was the whole film should have been instead. And one more thing, can any one get Linda Fiorentino who plays Bethany to get her more emotion when she’s so damn monotone at many instances? Seriously, she lacks in acting so much that it made her a very unlikable character nonetheless.

On to the positives, I really did like that road movie feel as the journey really did make everything interesting. It’s really nice to actually know what its like to see Jay and Silent Bob to really feel like main characters instead of a cameo appearance or a side character. Minus the Shit Monster and Azrael, this movie questions religion in a very funny way. I always thought it was a smart move by Smith by casting George Carlin as the Priest of the Catholic Church… that’s hilarious! Another one of my favorite aspects is Bartleby and Loki on a rampage in killing sinners, just like that scene where they shot all the businessmen in the boardroom for breaking the first commandment and their other sins they’ve exposed. There was that one scene where Bethany’s party ended up meeting Bartleby and Loki in the same train ride and that scene is one of the best parts of the movie.

So at the end result, what do I think of Dogma? It’s a mixed bag. There are a lot of instances where I was loving the story and the humor carried out by big names who were casted into the film. Other moments where I just cringe was the lack of imagination in many instances, moments that were cheap and lazy (demons and monsters), and especially Linda Fiorentino subpar acting. Overall I love the whole concept of the film, I just wished that it wasn’t as underwhelming like the “Left Behind” series is in making the time of revelations. There were a lot of likeable things in the film like much more screen time with Jay and Silent Bob, an impressive cast, and the great budget to richen the quality of the film, and even the climatic ending that felt that it fit so well together. No doubt this is a memorable flick and a great entry of the View Askewniverse series and it was more successful than Chasing Amy in the box office. This is the film that brought Kevin Smith to more recognition and without the controversy and hype around this film, who knows if we would have got “An Evening with Kevin Smith” to be released. Though it didn’t really have that much of an impact like Clerks or Chasing Amy did, it was a worthy successor to this series.

Things I love

  • Salma Hayek pole dancing
  • George Carlin as the pope

Things I like

  • The concept of the film was interesting
  • Jay and Silent Bob are finally main characters instead of cameo appearance
  • The train scene (that was one of the best parts of the film)
  • Characters interacting and questions religion in a humorous way
  • The ending where they reach the Catholic Church

Things I dislike

  • Lack of imagination when it comes to monsters and demons
  • Azrael is a pathetic villain and his minions wearing hockey gear isn’t helping
  • Linda Fiorentino’s acting was subpar and monotone

Things I hate

  • Seriously! Where did they come up with the shit monster?

The Top Lister’s rating for Dogma  –  4 out of 5

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Chasing Amy review

Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse series has started out as a piece of art and the second film was the most underwhelming poor comedy. Kevin Smith realized his faults with Mallrats and he wanted to go back to that down-to-earth film making that Clerks will forever be remembered. Upon the development of the film, Kevin Smith went through a tragic break-up with his girlfriend and this motivated him to make the third movie of the View Askewniverse series. Out of all of Kevin Smith’s movies, this one is the most serious out of his films, which is a very interesting approach from a guy who likes to make mature comedy films. More often than not, comedians really don’t know how to make a serious story interesting but some how, some way, Kevin Smith pulled off some of the best romantic films ever made. He used the same cast from Mallrats and put them to their full potential in acting and their delivery.

Right from the get-go, this is proceeded as a romantic-comedy film but as I already stated, this is the most serious out of Kevin Smith’s films because there is very little comedy towards the end. Usually, romantic-comedies are considered a “chick-flick” because their demographic is for women who are obsessed with the romantic genre, but throughout the corse of this film, it doesn’t feel like a chick-flick; it felt like a guy’s movie. Why? Because the premise of the film is a comic book artist falling in-love with a lesbian… wow! Now who wouldn’t want to see this film after hearing the concept?

As stated earlier, Kevin Smith brought back the cast from Mallrats and they put all the actors who played a small role from that film into main characters in Chasing Amy. Remember Ben Affleck who was a bully-boyfriend from Mallrats, now he’s the main character Holden McNeil. Holden is a struggling artist who’s trying to make his comic book series, Bluntman and Chronic (who are Jay & Silent Bob as superheroes), to sell well. He’s teamed up with his best friend, Banky Edwards (played by Jason Lee once again as a main supporting character), who’s his inker and roommate. These two felt like the dynamic duo until Holden meets a beautiful woman named Alyssa Jones (played by Joey Lauren Adams) who was there to support Holden and Banky to make Bluntman and Chronic successful, but that somehow motivated Holden to intimacy, despite the fact that she’s a lesbian… or so it seems.

I really love the beginning of the film for it was trying to sell the Jay and Silent Bob characters into comic book pages during the credit scenes. At first it was confusing to see what kind of movie is Chasing Amy but later on it just opens up to a comic book convention where Holden and Banky are trying to promote their comic book series having a few problems with comic book fans. The beginning of the movie is actually the funniest part of the movie then later on at the part where Holden & Banky were invited to drink with Alyssa and found out that she’s into girls, it all gets more and more serious towards the story telling of Holden turning his friendship with Alyssa into a romantic relationship. But this also wrecks the friendship with Banky as he kept telling him that it will never work.

I was so sold into the dialog as it really fit perfectly towards sexuality and the lifestyle that we choose. I mean, we get a chance to see a point of view of both why we chose either the opposite sex and the same sex interest. We’re also getting a chance to see really strong character development towards abandonment and distraction as we see all the characters evolving into a different person. As Banky kept telling Holden that what he’s actually doing is way beyond stupidity, Holden gets very defensive towards everything Banky says about Alyssa and tries further to get closer to her. Now this is a daring move considering that there are a lot of liberal gay-rights activists who are easily offended towards discrimination, but this movie does indeed make sure that both sides of straight and gay have their say on their beliefs. I find it all the more fascinating that this communication of sexuality does tackle the spirituality within us. There are scenes where Banky and Alyssa discusses about battle scars during sex, Holden telling Alyssa that the only way to loose virginity is through male and female, Banky trying to prove to Holden that once a person is either gay or straight they can never jump to the other home team, and so much more! This movie really has no shame towards this subject.

This was all build-up towards the turning point of Holden’s confession towards Alyssa as being in-love with her after all the fun they both had together. That very scene where he finally confesses his feeling towards her was some of the most engaging scene I’ve ever witnessed in a romantic film for it shows Alyssa’s anger towards Holden not respecting her lifestyle choice and how much she desperately not want to be involved with another man. That shot was so good that it certainly matches up to Clerk’s phenomenal camera shot which we no longer see in Kevin Smith’s directing. Why? Because there’s hardly any camera editing that it felt real. After all that build-up and reasons in the world that the connection between Holden and Alyssa was there, she turns around and kisses him with an emotional passion as the rain pours down on them.

Now at the course of the film, Holden now seeks why she somehow turned a lesbian into a relationship with a man who’s straight as an ox. Then the jealousy of Banky starts to appear as he tries his best to find who Alyssa really is and this movie, surprisingly, gave us a plot-twist! And this twist fully explains why Alyssa decided to be in relationships with women before she met Holden. This is a very different romantic movie that has everything that you’ll never expect. This movie became so much more emotional towards the end where almost everything falls apart and it left the audience speechless. This is a prime example why I think Kevin Smith is both a great director & writer because even though his comedy isn’t really the best ever, but underneath those laughs comes a spiritual, emotional, and sexual subject that somehow ends up in all of his movies that get people thinking.

Since this movie is set in the View Askewniverse, where the hell is Jay and Silent Bob? Well they only made one appearance in this movie and it was to give Holden the message about love and what exactly is Chasing Amy about. This was some of the best appearance of Jay and Silent Bob ever as it comes emotionally towards situation the characters are in. Funny that these two characters are at the poster/movie cover of the film and they only give out one scene in the entire film, but it was a very good scene

I was left speechless that such a movie has ever been so mature towards the subject matter of the lifestyles these people chose in their sex lives. While Mallrats was a totally cartoony comedy, this is a day-and-night difference of being as real and as human as possible. I really felt a deep connection towards all the characters in this film and it was actually a convincing and very interesting relationship between Holden and Alyssa as it delivered some of the most well acted roles ever seen in a romantic film. It showed at getting into a relationship changes everything, the two people falling in love, the performance at work, and even your friends who look at you differently these were great messages towards romance in general. Bar-none, this is the beginning of Kevin Smith’s success in budget as it had a budget of $250,000 and it came back to an over $12,000,000 at the box office. Just like Clerks, Chasing Amy is filled with explicit dialog as it really is conversations and words that ordinary people would actually say. If you’re coming in to see Chasing Amy expecting to laugh hard, be prepared to be disappointed as it is Kevin Smith’s most serious film, but if you’re coming in hoping that this movie is as intelligent and as emotional as Clerks was, you’re in for a real treat! I’m still having a hard time deciding whether Clerk or Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s best movie but being that this movie does take risks that has never been done before (in terms of the content it brings) it was indeed some of the best romantic movies I’ve ever seen!

Things I love

  • The scene where Holden confesses his love for Alyssa
  • Jay & Silent Bob’s appearance and Bob’s message on what Chasing Amy is
  • The tragic ending towards the end left me emotional

Things I like

  • The dialog of sexuality as it get people thinking of their own choice in preference
  • Comic Book references as it does show Kevin Smith’s love for comics
  • Alyssa is some of the best girlfriend characters ever!
  • The opening of the film where Holden and Banky were in a comic book convention
  • Everything was down-to-Earth

Things I dislike

  • Banky comes as a total douchebag when he tries to stop Holden from falling in love with Alyssa

Things I hate

  • None

The Top Lister’s score for Chasing Amy  –  6 out of 5

Mallrats review

After the success with Clerks, Kevin Smith got a deal with Universal Studios to write and direct a follow up film. So how could this film hold up to that stature? Kevin Smith wanted this to be a wacky romantic comedy being set in the mall and has a better romantic focus than Dante Hick’s love life with Veronica and Caitlin. He was aiming for mainstream success by getting big names to be in this movie and have better budget to do all the stuff that he couldn’t do in Clerks. Of course the general public is a sucker for any kind of movie that does this sort of thing, but Kevin Smith wanted to do his own twist and style upon its release. So let’s see how he did with Mallrats.

Mallrats was an entirely different take because it doesn’t have the spirit or the same tone as to Clerks does. Now Kevin Smith is able to make a picture in color, have variations with camera angles to stop make it look like a still camera shot, and also get better editing. The film is based on two best friends who both, at the same time, are having trouble with each of their girlfriends. They are Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) and T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) and these two men tried to regain the affection of their girlfriends… in the mall. Brodie lost his girl because she thought he wasn’t enough of a man and kept ignoring her when he wants to play video games and Brandi Svenning (T.S.’s girlfriend) broke up with T.S. because he was too much of a control-freak that reminded her of her father. Since T.S. was feeling so bad at the break-up he heard that Brandi was going to be on a live gameshow called Truth or Date, being produced by her Father, and it was going to be seen live on television at the mall. So T.S. and Brodie tries to stop Brandi from doing this and win her affection for T.S.

They are also bumped into the drug dealing duo Jay and Silent Bob seen from Clerks. Jay and Silent Bob are as funny as before having Jay swearing like before and Silent Bob does his funny expressions without saying a word. Their role in the movie is that T.S. and Brodie hired them to try and stop the show from happening which became the subplot of the film of various situations of failed attempts to ruin the show. However there’s another subplot where Silent Bob tries to develop telekinesis after seeing the force from the Star Wars movies. There’s so much going on at once in this film due to the fact that there are so many characters doing something in this mall. The big focus on the comedy here is the cartoon slap-stick. This was a huge downgrade from Clerks that had original comedy and a hard edge to it, Mallrats just had a unrealistic tone which lost the down-to-Earth feel.

However I’ll give Kevin Smith this, at least this is done from an original concept, not a parody movie that are so over-the-top that its embarrassing to watch. There’s also plenty of comic book references where the opening credits used characters of the movie as comic books. It’s because both of the reasons why Kevin Smith is a fan of comics and Stan Lee is in this film as a special guest. Mallrats has plenty of sex jokes (like a three nippled fortune teller), Jay and Silent Bob fighting the easter bunny, and plenty of failed attempts to destroy the gameshow.

Almost everything else just didn’t make me laugh as much. Most of the time we’re just watching Brodie and T.S. seeing each other’s girlfriend’s life after their relationship with them and how to improve to be better boyfriends, talk about comic books, and acting crazy in the mall causing mayhem. I really didn’t find any sense of urge or large consequences due to the fact there’s not a serious tone when making this film. Plus it’s not really helping because of the fact that we’re not interested in seeing T.S. and Brodie get back with their girlfriends because Brodie and his ex has nothing in common. I really wasn’t looking forward to see a generic happy ending but I will have to admit that final scene in the movie where Truth or Date gameshow started was a bit of a surprise. I won’t say that this film was at all pointless because it got Ben Affleck to be a big name today and Kevin Smith has made himself a bigger name in the movie making industry. So this film actually did made a lot of opportunities upon its release and who knows where would Smith and Afflict be if they didn’t make this movie. Sadly, the second film of the View Askewniverse didn’t shine as well for me.

Things I like

  • Jay and Silent Bob played a bigger role
  • The gameshow’s ending was pretty good

Things I dislike

  • A lot of jokes weren’t funny
  • Couldn’t care for the romance between the main characters and their ex’s
  • Unrealistic and cartoony gags that lost its edge

The Top Lister’s movie score… 1/2 out of 5

Clerks review

What’s inspiring about Generation X is that they’re trying to make a difference to show previous generations before them that they do amount to something. At least they have a voice, unlike Generation Y (sadly the generation that I’m in), the many of them that wanted to make a difference had shown a darker, more serious, more suggestive, and a more down-to-Earth point of view to the world. The 1990’s was proof of what they were capable of and one of them was Kevin Smith. What I find so inspiring about Kevin Smith’s directing and writing style is that he wanted to make movies that are so down-to-Earth that he was able to reach out to people who felt the same way.  So let’s look back to his very first film Clerks. What I find most inspiring about this film is that Smith showed that even despite that a film has a small budget, if you had your heart in it you can make something special! From starting all the way at the bottom at the indie scene in New Jersey to making it in Hollywood in short period of time is truly impressive. Today, we’re looking at Clerks by its own merits and see how did this little movie become the phenomenon that is now remembered.

Clerks is set in a convenience store next to a road way in Leonardo, New Jersey.  Our main character, Dante Hicks (played by Brian O’Halloran), works in this store as a clerk and it’s a miserable job for him.  Though the premise about the film doesn’t sound interesting when you say it out loud, but Kevin Smith thought of all the possibilities of what can go wrong working as a clerk and this movie is about what can the worst day working in this place be like when you’re at the lowest point of your life. As we watch this film, we get to see what Dante’s life is like by how opens the stores (getting everything prepared) and tries his best to keep everything under control because where he’s at right now, this is the highest point of his life (in terms of social class). Since Dante is the straight man of this comedy, that means he’s surrounded by characters who make the comedy that gives him a hard time. Our second main character Randal Graves (played by Jeff Anderson) who works in the video rental store right next to the convenience store where Dante works. So very often Randal locks up the place and goes to next store to visit Dante and start some of the most interesting conversations that young men often talk about like sex, nerdy Star Wars topics, pornography, and how much Dante hates his life. The friendship between Dante and Randal is an interesting one because they can’t live with each other and can’t live out them because Randal is always cautious, responsible, defensive, and worries about making everything right so that he might catch a break after feeling like the world is crushing him out of sheer malice. Even if customers treat Dante like dirt, he keeps his cool in order to keep his job. Randal on the other hand  is the opposite where so very often Randal causes the most problems around their work places (like treating customers like crap), doesn’t care one bit on how badly it really was, and Dante get the blame for it with hardly any consequences put upon Randal himself. No matter how bad every situation they’ve been together (that could reck real-life friendships) they can’t hate each other because they actually enjoy each other’s company and they care for each other.

But they are also given more of a hard time with the troublesome drug dealers, Jay and Silent Bob (played by Jason Mues and Kevin Smith). This duo have been appearing together as characters who has been in Kevin Smith’s movies which is now a series called View Askewniverse. To me, Jay and Silent Bob are some of the best duos ever where Jay foul-mouths every sentence thinking about money, drugs, and sex while Silent Bob only offers physical comedy with very little to say which makes him stick out as more of a character than the loudest comedian. These guys embodies 90’s comedy and whenever we see these two in any film, it gets so hilarious and outrageous. They had the stereotype of a 90’s kid and just rolls with the stupid stuff they’ve done that we find most amusing, if not the funniest thing ever.

Speaking of which, what makes the movie stick out as a totally different comedy is it doesn’t focus on physical humor, gross out comedy, or even reliant on giving out a punchline for the whole theater to laugh.  Instead, Clerks focus on the dialog in which it almost feels like it’s inspired by comic strips. This is comedy like we’ve never seen before where the conversations themselves are so realistic and humorous; they argue, they complain, they joke, and both agree that their jobs sucks. I love seeing how they would pick up surprising conversations with each other, customers, and girls that Dante’s is in a relationship with the stands out as being very mature and it builds up to something that leads to a good or bad situation. There particular situations where an anti-smoking customer starts a riot against Dante’s store for selling cigarettes, playing hockey on the store’s rooftops, and so much more that needs to be seen to be believed. The dialog is so brillaintly written that it feels improvised half the time and even make Quentin Tarantino a run for his money as a screenwriter.

To be quite honest, Clerks has less of the plot and more of a conscious feel to it. Like I said earlier, this film is set in one day where Dante had to go to work on his day off ruining everything that he has planned like having lunch with his girl Veronica and going out to play in a big hockey game with all of his friends. Annoying customers come and goes, problems build up ending in a strange yet funny conclusion, Dante goes through them as a Kevin Smith’s catharsis. Throughout this film, it’s shot entirely in black and white which really sticks out as great film to look at. Just watching the cinematography just sticks out as being from that era upon its release because it’s almost like looking at the photographs of the Grunge era in Seattle, Washington. Since this was Kevin Smith’s first movie, many of the shots just focuses on one still image on to the the characters as they say their lines to make a scene and doesn’t cut as much (in terms of editing) as films do to day. It really feels like you’re there and it’s a shame that Kevin Smith doesn’t do this classic movie making style anymore. Plus backed up by some of the most “grungiest” of Grunge music, you got yourself the most “90’s-ist” movie ever since “Slacker”!

Towards the end of the movie, after all the crazy shit that Randal and Dante been through, it concluded with probably the best climatic conversation I’ve ever seen in any media period! After you see them ending that last conversation, it makes you wonder about where you’re at in life and how can you improve upon the social class. Clerks is so well written that I got it memorized like a preacher and the bible. You have to remember that when this film was released, this was the return of independent film-making with other indie films such as Quintin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” Richard Lanklater’s “Slacker,” Robert Rodriguez “El Meriachi,” Edward Burn’s “The Brothers McMullen” that all became huge success and got Hollywood’s attention in bringing them to their industry and look at them now; they’re some the biggest names in Hollywood! But Clerks isn’t just a film aimed towards to Generation X, but instead all generations of people who are bored with their lives and hopes that they can make a difference. The reason why Clerks is so special to me is that it is the most relatable movie I’ve ever seen and it got me watching it again and again. I basically got every scene memorized and still can’t get enough out of it. This was the first film of the View Askewniverse series, still throwing in Jay and Silent Bob for good comedic relief, but because Kevin Smith was so desperate for success that he made a film that’s his catharsis I can easily say that this is his best movie. Even despite the large amount of adult content by the end of the film it has a lot of heart!

Things that I like

  • Kevin Smith’s screenwriting and dialog
  • Feeling like a 1990’s film
  • Crazy Situations that our characters faces
  • Has a lot of heart despite its adult content
  • Awesome soundtrack
  • Jay and Silent Bob

Things that I dislike

  • Pretty slow pacing of a film
  • The deleted scenes are lost

The Top Lister’s movie score  –   6 out of 5

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