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Not clear to me why I did that, but I happened to stumble into a Kevin Smith marathon the other day, starting with watching “Clerks” again, a film that I had not seen since its original theatrical release, I believe. It quite grabbed me, and one after the other, the Smith Oeuvre came down on me. My general assessment is: whatever you say, but if a guy makes films of which you can watch five or more in a row, that’s some achievement…

Clerks (1994)
The movie describes a day in the life of two clerks in New jersey. Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) called to work in his day off, and his daily problems starts: His girlfriend wants to leave him, his friend Randall (Jeff Anderson), a clerk of a video store next to him, make him ashamed constantly in front of his customers, his ex-girlfriend getting married, he need to go to a hockey game in the noon and none can replace him, he has to go to a friend’s wake, he has to deal with annoying customers, a pair of drug dealers outside his store annoys him, etc. Just about everything goes wrong and he is not even supposed to be working that day… Dante is a great character developed for this film that turned out to be the moral backbone of many of Smith’s movies – sometimes even without being present. He is in the midst of all this hilarity, tries to keep a sober head, has all these girls fighting about him because he is such a nice guy, and bit after bit, his life falls to shambles. But never mind, because it kind of always turns out to be better that way, in a “Candide” fashion at least.

Clerks II (2006)
In New Jersey, when Dante arrives to open the convenience store “Quick Stop Groceries” for another labor day, he finds the place on fire. Dante and his friend, Randal, find another job at the fast food restaurant Mooby’s, managed by Becky, and work with the Christian employee Elias. Drug dealers Jay and Silent Bob also move their traffic spot to this new location. Dante is planning a new life in Florida getting married with his fiancée Emma while his friend Becky is a woman that does not believe in romantic love. On the eve of Dante’s departure to Florida, Randal decides to throw a farewell/bachelor party for his best friend. However, things go wrong and Dante rethinks his future.
I watched this right after the first part, so it was nice to see the continuity of these slightly aged, a bit chubby characters. Actually, they all have matured as characters, became wiser, but trying to hold on the looks of ten years earlier. The film is actually equally entertaining as the first one, but more flawed at the same time. The combination of melancholy and comedy, merged into one continuous world view in “Clerks”, is sequential here: first a comedy more straightforward (and more easy to digest) than the earlier film, then the melancholic bit, with monologues and deeper expressions of love and schmaltzy proofs of friendship in the last third. That was unnecessary – and it is not as clever. Still good to have those guys around.
The ending is really messed up, though: after a montage with a crappy song, they realise that, oh, the film is over, and you have another crappy song. Script-writing mess-up, sorry.

Dogma (1999)
Two Fallen Angels try to con their way back into Heaven by playing some tricks involving an Earthly church and what turns out to be a very special girl.
Matt Damen and Ben Affleck, Alan Rickman and Linda Fiorentino, this is a blast of a cast. Never mind the story, which may or may not make sense, but leads to a big finale involving God herself, the Stygian Hockey Players, Jay and Silent Bob, and some more. Slightly too long for its own good, and slightly undecided about the moral underpinning it wants to carry, it is still good fun as long as those angels fo not take themselves too serious.

Mallrats (1995)
Brodie Bruce, a Sega and comic book obsessed college student, and his best friend, TS Quint, are both dumped by their girlfriends on the same day, and to deal with their loss, they both go to the local mall. Along the way, they meet up with some friends, including Willam, a guy who stares at Magic Eye pictures, desprately trying to see the hidden image; Gwen, one of TS’s ex-girlfriends; and Jay & Silent Bob, of Clerks fame. Eventually, they decide to try and win back their significant others, and take care of their respective nemesises (TS’s girlfriend’s father, and a store clerk who hates the two for not having any shopping agenda).
The one where I slightly Iost my patience. The plot builds up in a very forseeable fashion, and that culmination is not very original – if you see a boring ending coming 80 minutes in advance, that does not make for very good entertainment. Of course there is a decent amount of swearing and existentialistic hanging out, but it clearly fell off from the level of cleverness “Clerks” had established.

Chasing Amy (1997)
Holden and Banky are two average guys who just need someone to bring out their hidden secrets. Enter Alyssa Jones and Hooper LaMont, two homosexuals who are slightly more experienced than the former two. Together, Hooper and Alyssa show Holden and Banky that being gay isn’t as bad as they might think. Meanwhile, Holden develops an ‘untainted’ love for Alyssa, one which she finally sees in him as well, taking Holden on a journey through the complexities of love in the 90s.
The weakest one I have seen in this marathon so farm, even a bit more boring than Mallrats. The film appears to work hard to make everyody involved grow up, but frankly it is … well not mature enough to do so. The hilarity of the earlier scenes, when life is all about comics and sex, is perfectly fine. When the tide is turning, and Alyssa is throwing some serious fits, it appeared to me that this way of acting is a bit over the head of either the actors and actresses, or maybe of the director in his role to give them guidance. Having plenty of moist eyes is not enough to evoke drama, you have to earn it, and then you have to play it out. Maybe the film is evidence that Kevin Smith has a very clear niche in film-making, as defined by “Clerks”, and would be well-advised to further develop his strengths there.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a tale of adventure on the open road. When Dante and Randal (of Clerks fame) get a restraining order to keep the punchy Jay and his hetero life-mate, Silent Bob, from selling drugs in front of the Quick Stop convenience store, their lives are suddenly empty. They find new purpose when their friend, Brodie, informs them a movie is being made featuring two infamous characters based on their likenesses. After visiting one of the creators of the Bluntman and Chronic, Holden McNeil, they set out to get what fat movie cash they deserve and hopefully put an end to people slandering them on the Internet. Along the way, they learn the rules of the road from a hitchhiking George Carlin, ride with a group of gorgeous jewel thieves, and incur the wrath of a hapless wildlife marshal for liberating an orangutan named Suzanne. The quest takes them from New Jersey to Hollywood where a showdown involving the police, the jewel thieves, and the Bluntman and Chronic filmmakers will decide the fate of Suzanne, Jay, Silent Bob, and their good names.
This is not work of cinematic genius, but more like a reverence to Kevin Smith’s most famous creations (the characters oddly ineptly played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith – especially the latter is no actor, no he ain’t!). A bit of a brainless fun ride over to Hollywood (I always thought Miramax was in New York? Never mind…). And the film gets special bonus for providing the clearest definition of the Internet I have seen so far: “The Internet is a communications tool used the world over by people to come together, bitch about movies and share pornography with each other.” The scenes on the film set at the end are nonsense, not in a very good waym, though.

Zack and Miri make a porno (2008)
Zack Brown and Miriam have been friends since high-school and share an apartment with many unpaid bills. In a reunion party, they find that the former high-school star is now a porn actor, and this inspires them to make a porn film to pay their bills. They cast the actors, actresses and crew, and Zack writes the screenplay.
In any respect the most predicatable of all the movies, in as it has a clear plot, a simple development, clearly cut characters and a proper three-act structure. That allows to focus on the characters and their performance, which is nice, as Seth Rogen is, well, Seth Rogen, with all you can love or hate about him, Elisabeth Banks – whom I did not know before – is just lovely, and the rest of the crew (including some ever-cast like Jason Mewes) clearly enjoy what they are doing. A streightforwardly entertaining night out at the pornos.

Jersey Girl (2004)
Ollie Trinkie is a publicist, who has a great girlfriend, Gertrude, whom he marries and they are expecting a baby but while he is looking forward to being a father, he doesn’t lighten his workload. Gertrude gives birth but dies in the process. Ollie doesn’t live up to his responsibilities as a father. Eventually the strain and pressure of losing his wife and being a father gets to him and he has breakdown, which leads to his termination. So with nothing much to do he tries to be good father to his daughter, Gertie. He also meets a young woman name Maya, who likes him but he is still not over his wife.
I almost skipped that one due to the devastating reviews I have seen and heard. Would have been a shame, as it is – despite being of course surely a letdown to the average pottymouth-and-pothead-expecting fan crowd, it is a very nice simple film, warm-hearted and inoffensive. The story is nothing much, but the film lives off its actors, and through my Kevin-Smith-athon I grew increasingly fond of Ben Affleck. He, together with ever beautiful Liv Tyler and a very nice little girl actress the name of which eludes me, creates an unspectacular tale of family values. Works well if you do not expect something else. And you get to see Will Smith, which you will enjoy if you are a girl and into gorgeous and very funny and incredibly hung… anyway, whose house? Will’s House!

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