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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 15 2009 - 02:21 PM

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Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection (Blu-ray)

Clerks/Chasing Amy/Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Directed by Kevin Smith

Studio: Miramax
Year: 1994/1997/2001
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/1.85:1/2.35:1   1080p   AVC/VC-1/MPEG-2 codecs
Running Time: 91/113/104 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English/PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish or French with certain films
Region: A-B-C (Clerks, Chasing Amy), A (Jay and Silent Bob)
MSRP: $ 89.99

Release Date: November 17, 2009
Review Date: November 15, 2009
 
 
The Films
 
Kevin Smith’s first seven years in the movie business were filled with ups (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma) and downs (Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), and three of those works have been collected in this Blu-ray box set. Clerks and Chasing Amy are new to Blu-ray, and the older release is packed in the box as it was originally released. Still, for fans of the writer-director, this is a convenient way to have three of his more famous movies in high definition at a price less than their individual releases.
 
 
Clerks - 4/5
 
Convenience store clerk Dante (Brian O'Halloran) endures an endless day of minor catastrophes in his store including having a elderly man die in the employee bathroom while masturbating to an unpurchased skin magazine, fiery encounters with girl friends past (Lisa Spoonhauer) and present (Marilyn Ghigliotti), nitwit customers who ask the same dumb questions, and the constant annoyances and intrusions of slacker friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) who’s supposed to be running the crummy video store next door but who spends much more time locking the door there and hanging out in Dante’s establishment.
 
Kevin Smith’s maiden effort as a film writer and director is this witty piece that is much more about words than it is images. The dialog between the protagonists and the world who comes into the store to buy sundry items is consistently interesting, fresh, and funny, and Smith’s basic, unobtrusive direction captures it all beautifully. Brian O'Halloran has a wonderfully lilting way with delivering lines that, despite their sometimes overwritten essence, conveys a natural presence and believability. Both girls (Lisa Spoonhauer and especially Marilyn Ghigliotti) have great rapport with O’Halloran, and their scenes play simply and realistically. Jeff Anderson’s flea-brained friend is occasionally tiresome but does generate some big laughs. The first appearance of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (writer-director Kevin Smith) may be cinematically significant, but they add little to the film’s otherwise smooth day-in-the-life scenario. It’s only when the film is over that one realizes that there was no plot, and the film isn’t the lesser because of it.
 
 
Chasing Amy – 4.5/5
 
Best friends Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) are enjoying success as the creators of the cult comic book Bluntman and Chronic. When they meet fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), Holden's desire for the effervescent girl is immediate. Alyssa, however, has set her romantic sights on women but decides, nevertheless, to pursue a friendship with Holden. Holden, though enjoying the friendship, wants something more. Banky, who knows Holden best, doesn't think a relationship with her is possible. Cautiously, Holden and Alyssa embark on a romantic relationship. At the same time, Banky grows more and more frustrated at the notion of losing his best friend to someone he’s sure is going to eventually hurt him.
 
Kevin Smith’s surprisingly mature and inevitably moving examination of the complexities of sexual identity and longing is still quite an accomplishment even when seen more than a decade after the fact. Though there are the obvious simplistic views of sexuality and love espoused by many of the emotionally immature male characters in the story, the three main characters slowly discover a darker, deeper truth to the labyrinth that is human emotion, a simple fact that setting labels and limits on proves inescapably pointless. The leads are wonderful in their performances (Joey Lauren Adams has some awkward moments in her parking lot breakdown scene due to the sloppy staging, but it’s more than made up for in her earlier confessional to Affleck and in her farewell in the loft). Once again, Kevin Smith’s script outpaces his direction, but that final scene at the comic convention ends the movie on a sweetly gentle note. Dwight Ewell as gay friend Hooper also makes the most of his three major scenes.
 
 
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 2.5/5
 
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) stumble upon something new called the internet and discover that Miramax is making a movie about their comic book alter-egos "Bluntman and Chronic." In order to cash in on the money-making potential of their personas and images or at the very least protect themselves from the slander found on the internet, the stoned duo set off for California by hitchhiking. On a roundabout road trip from Red Bank, New Jersey, to Miramax's California studios, Jay and Bob meet up with a succession of girl gangs, hitchhikers, and Hollywood stars; they fall in love and get chased by the police after being hoodwinked into being fall guys for a diamond robbery; they kidnap an orangutan and in general find ways to tear down the assurance and morale of almost everyone they come into contact with.
 
Kevin Smith’s big budget opus ($20 million: almost 10,000 times larger than the budget of the much more entertaining Clerks) is mindful of a lot of overproduced Hollywood comedies (1941, The Blues Brothers both come readily to mind). Like those overstuffed epics, there is fun to be had here, but the pacing is erratic (it seems much longer than 104 minutes) and the overloaded cast with a succession of guest stars (George Carlin, Morris Day, Carrie Fisher, Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart, James Van Der Beek, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Biggs, Will Ferrell, Mark Hammill, Chris Rock, Seann William Scott, Eliza Dushku, Jason Lee) sometimes strains the patience. Admittedly, some of them are funny and appealing: Shannon Elizabeth makes a lovely love interest for Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran pick right up where they left off from Clerks with spot-on performances that remind us how good they were at carrying a movie and how overparted Mewes and Smith are when trying to do it (though Mewes has grown tremendously as a natural actor since Clerks). Once again, Smith’s directorial sensibility is unreliable; he desperately lets characters break the fourth wall repeatedly cuing us insultingly that they’re in on the joke, and there are a lot of tiresome movie references (The Fugitive, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Charlie’s Angels, Good Will Hunting, and all of his previous films), and his dialogue is too filled with profanity rather than the genuine wit found in some of his earlier films. A slapdash slapstick farce is not Smith’s forte which is why the movie only works in fits and starts.
 
 
Video Quality
 
Clerks - 4/5
 
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Filmed in 16mm, one expects a very grainy and relatively soft picture, and that’s what is delivered here. Grayscale is adequate for the film’s low budget look (black levels aren’t anything to write home about), but the image is clean and free from compression artifacts (one look at the original cut also on the disc reminds us what great amounts of clean up have been done to the image). The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
 
Chasing Amy – 3.5/5
 
The film has been framed at 1.85:1 and is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Color values are among the transfer’s strongest attributes as flesh tones and color saturation are all appealing and nicely achieved. Sharpness, however, is not one of the stronger suits of this encode, and crispness varies almost from scene to scene with some shots very soft and others closer to what we expect high definition to resemble. The film has been divided into 25 chapters.
 
 
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 4.5/5
 
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the MPEG-2 codec. The movie looks very polished in high definition with usually the right amount of contrast to make images seem natural and appealingly three dimensional (only the initial scenes once they get to Hollywood seem a bit light in contrast) and with color values and flesh tones beautifully delivered and very realistic. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
 
 
Audio Quality
 
Clerks – 3.5/5
 
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a generous encode of a very low budget soundtrack. Dialogue is clearly in the center channel and is always easily discernable, but the right and left fronts and rears are only used for accompanying music on the soundtrack and are otherwise silent for lengthy periods of the film’s running time.
 
 
Chasing Amy – 4/5
 
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a very good job of placing the pop music sources and some nicely delineated ambient noises around the soundfield. Everything from cars passing to game balls in an arcade being thrown willy-nilly gets a definite if subdued handling that’s most welcome. There are a few moments when dialogue in the center channel doesn’t quite come across clearly which could be as much a problem with the actual sound recording of this low budget film as it is a problem with the encoding.
 
 
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 4/5
 
The PCM (4.6 Mbps) 5.1 audio track offers a very rich, spacious sound to the music and ambient sounds being delivered. The rear channels don’t often get used to their optimum levels with lots of opportunities for surround ambiance not exploited, but what’s here is very well recorded and makes for a very appealing sound experience.
 
 
Special Features
 
Clerks - 5/5
 
The disc features an introduction by Kevin Smith explaining how he can justify asking fans to buy yet another release of Clerks for 3 ½ minutes.
 
The film may be viewed in its theatrical cut with or without (somewhat muffled and undermiked) audio commentary by Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes, and Brian O'Halloran and or the first cut version (105 minutes) in its original very rough condition (encoded at 480i) which also has a commentary track which can be viewed in a PiP window, in full screen, or as merely audio commentary.
 
The theatrical cut also can be viewed in an enhanced playback mode which offers pop-up trivia facts and running counts of some particular swear words, the number of times cigarettes get bought, and some particular iconic phrases which get rampant repetition.
 
“Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is the disc’s Blu-ray exclusive, an 87 ¼-minute documentary filmed during the shooting of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Showing behind-the-scenes shots of the cast and crew at work and interviews with its all-star guest cast, this documentary is presented in 480i.
 
Clerks – The Lost Scene” is an animated version of an unshot scene taking place at the wake in the film. The animated short (with a Kevin Smith introduction) runs 10 minutes and is 1080p.
 
“The Flying Car” is a funny follow-up short with Dante and Randal conversing about flying cars, only this time in color. It runs 8 ¼ minutes and is in 480i as are all of the remaining bonus featurettes ported over from the earlier DVD anniversary release.
 
Clerks Restoration” is three relatively short vignettes concerning restoration of the original elements for the film’s tenth anniversary DVD release. Scott Mosier talks about the updated sound for 5 ½ minutes while David Klein briefly speaks of picture enhancement for ½ minute. Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier introduce the (then) new DVD release for 7 minutes.
 
Four original auditions for the film are shown in very soft, smeared videotape footage. Together they run 14 ½ minutes and feature Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, and Earnest O’Donnell.
 
“Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks is a comprehensive 90 ½-minute documentary on the film’s journey from its director/writer and producer’s early years through the Sundance Film Festival and beyond.
 
There are also thirteen outtake segments clipped from the “Snowball Effect” documentary, each running anywhere from half a minute to ten minutes. There is no “Play All” feature for these and must be viewed individually.
 
“Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary” is the film school project written, produced, and directed by Scott Mosier and Kevin Smith about the planned documentary on a transsexual (Mae) who deserted the project after one day of shooting. This runs 11 ½ minutes.
 
A question and answer session held on the tenth anniversary of the film’s release featuring several members of the cast and crew runs 42 minutes.
 
There are eight MTV spots featuring Jay and Silent Bob which can be viewed individually or in one 18 minute group (with a 6 ½-minute introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier).
 
The “Can’t Even Tell” music video by Soul Asylum runs 5 ¾ minutes (with a 1 ½ minute introduction by Kevin Smith).
 
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes.
 
 
Chasing Amy – 4/5
 
A new audio commentary features writer-director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier doing their usual rambling reminiscences about the people and places they see on the screen. They’re commentaries are never screen specific, and they don’t begin to do that here either.
 
“Tracing Amy: The Chasing Amy Doc” is a very effective retelling of the entire saga of getting the movie financed, written, cast, and shot in record time and a very small budget. This runs 81 ½ minutes in 1080i.
 
“Was It Something I Said?” is a fairly forgettable conversation between director Kevin Smith and co-star Joey Lauren Adams about their working and personal relationship and its aftermath. This 18 ¼-minute dialogue between the two is presented in 1080i.
 
Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, and Jason Mewes participate in a 27 ¾-minute questions and answer session after a tenth anniversary screening of the movie. It’s in 480i.
 
There are ten deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 25-minute block. They’re in 480i.
 
The disc offers 5 minutes of bloopers and outtakes from the movie in 480i.
 
The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes in 480i.
 
The first two discs in the set contain trailers for Everybody’s Fine, Extract, and  Surrogates.
 
 
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – 1/5
 
The audio commentary features writer-director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and star Jason Mewes offering rather rambling commentary on the film. Mewes, of course, tunes out early leaving a majority of the talking for Smith and Mosier to do. They keep it up for the entire film offering occasional interesting comments on particular filming experiences but basically singing praises of everyone in the movie.
 
The other bonus from the 2-disc DVD collector’s edition of the movie have not been ported over. The only other bonus is movie showcase, a selection of three sequences which the disc producers feel best show off the capabilities of Blu-ray.
 
 
In Conclusion
4/5 (not an average)
 
Two out of three is not a bad batting average for the films contained in the Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection. Clerks and Chasing Amy are well worth anyone’s time, and there are sporadic moments to like in Jay and Silent Bob as well. The Blu-ray releases of the first two films offer a wealth of new and old bonus material giving the package some added value. Recommended!
 
 
Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
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#2 of 6 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 15 2009 - 02:25 PM

Nice review, Matt!

Thanks for confirming that Jay And Silent Bob is the same disc as previously released.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 16 2009 - 02:09 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR View Post

Nice review, Matt!

Thanks for confirming that Jay And Silent Bob is the same disc as previously released.
Yes, it is, and while they didn't port over the bonuses from the Collector's Edition of Jay and Silent Bob, note that a new making-of documentary for the film can be found on the Clerks Blu-ray.



#4 of 6 OFFLINE   brap

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Posted November 19 2009 - 05:47 AM

Has anyone seen this around for a good price? I picked up Clerks and Chasing Amy for $19.99 each. Everywhere it's $69.99 and one place for $59.99.
Is there an unlisted extra disc or amazing packaging? Otherwise, it doesn't seem worth it to pay an additional $19.99 - $29.99 for a featureless MPEG-2 encode on a 25GB disc of JaSBSB that will most likely show up in the bargain-bin along with all the other early launch Blu-Rays.


#5 of 6 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 19 2009 - 07:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by brap View Post

Has anyone seen this around for a good price?
 

Nothing that beats getting the two new discs for $20 each. Amazon has the box set for $5 more than you would pay for the individual Clerks and Chasing Amy discs there. If you don't have already Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, getting it for an extra $5 isn't a bad deal.

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   brap

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Posted November 19 2009 - 08:37 AM

The box set is $66.99 on amazon.ca up here and 59.99 at HMV.ca. 19.99-26.99 more for JaSBSB. Somehow, I feel I'm getting the US sticker cost for the individual releases by accident. There's usually quite a difference.