JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Nonstop Crude and Sexual Humor, Pervasive Strong Language, and Drug Content

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Directed by: Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Halloran, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, Jennifer Schwalbach, Will Ferrell & Jason Lee

After starring as memorable supporting characters in four movies, stoners Jay and Silent Bob became the main players in Kevin Smith’s fifth View Askewniverse flick. Lampooning countless films, featuring a bevy of cameos, and resembling an R-rated cartoon, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK isn’t necessarily Kevin Smith’s most heartfelt or well-written effort. Instead, this is a stoner comedy that focuses on being entertaining and funny. It accomplishes both of those things in spades.

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Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) have spent most of their lives peddling pot outside of the Quick Stop convenience store (from CLERKS). When pissed-off employee Randall (Jeff Anderson) slaps them with a restraining order, the two stoners find themselves looking for a new place to hang out. This leads them to a comic book store…which in turn leads them to discover that they are the basis for upcoming superhero blockbuster BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC. Unfortunately, Jay and Silent Bob never received their big Hollywood check and, to make matters worse, anonymous internet trolls are calling them names. Jay and Silent Bob decide to travel from New Jersey to Hollywood in order to stop the film from being made…or at least receive some cash. This road trip leads the pair of stoners to a stolen orangutan, a group of sexy jewel thieves, a loose-cannon wildlife marshal (Will Ferrell), and lots of movie references.

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JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK isn’t going to win over anyone who already hates Kevin Smith. This film was tailor-made for Smith fans who already loved the titular pair of stoners/drug-dealers in CLERKS, MALLRATS, CHASING AMY and DOGMA. The film isn’t as grounded as CLERKS or CHASING AMY, but it’s definitely not as fantastically outlandish as DOGMA. JAY AND SILENT BOB plays everything as a goofy stoner comedy, defying logic and physics when it results in a laugh or furthers the plot along. I’d like to think of this film as Kevin Smith’s equivalent to HAROLD AND KUMAR before there was even HAROLD AND KUMAR. It’s JAY AND SILENT BOB GO TO HOLLYWOOD with lots of stupid humor, general craziness and tons of movie references. I can’t even begin to tell you how many movie references and big name cameos are in this film.

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One of my favorite moments lambasts the then-upcoming SCOOBY DOO flick. There’s also a hilarious chase through the Miramax backlot that’s more than a tad reminiscent of PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and also serves as an excuse for plenty of in-jokes. My point is that JAY AND SILENT BOB is hardly original. The plot is a giant road trip and intentionally borrows from many other movies. However, JAY AND SILENT BOB is well-made where it counts, in being funny and entertaining the whole way through. Whether it’s three of the best fourth wall jokes I’ve seen in a film or the sheer absurdity of a romance between Jay and a hot criminal with a heart of gold (Shannon Elizabeth), this film just worked for me. Is it stupid? Absolutely. Is it Kevin Smith’s best movie? Not at all. Did Jay and Silent Bob really deserve their own feature? Probably not. Yet, this film still inexplicably manages to be funny and engaging for well over 90 minutes.

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It’s also worth noting that JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK predicted the future in regards to internet trolls bitching about superhero movies for the sake of bitching about superhero movies. The flick makes that into the main plot point behind Jay and Silent Bob’s nationwide quest to Hollywood, also providing colorful profanity and insults along the way. Though it’s far from Kevin Smith’s best movie in the View Askewniverse (I think that title will always belong to CLERKS), JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is highly entertaining for Smith fans. Film references, gross sexual humor (one joke about a cup broke me into a hysterical fit of laughter), the screenplay’s sporadic craziness, and the buddy-pairing of real-life friends Jason Mewes (foul-mouthed Jay) and Kevin Smith (almost mute Silent Bob) make this film well worth watching!

Grade: B+

ROSEWATER (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language including some Crude References, and Violent Content

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Directed by: Jon Stewart

Written by: Jon Stewart

(based on the book THEN THEY CAME FOR ME by Maziar Bahari)

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas & Haluk Bilginer

ROSEWATER is among a handful of films that I wanted to see in theaters last year and wasn’t able to catch (the limited release lasted one week here). The trailer intrigued me and the subject matter seemed more than ripe for an intense, heartbreaking, important and inspiring true story about keeping your head high in the face of impossible adversity. Having finally caught up with it on DVD, I found that ROSEWATER is a so-so directorial debut from Jon Stewart (who also penned the script) that doesn’t do justice to a compelling true story.

ROSEWATER, Gael Garcia Bernal, 2014. ©Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-born journalist for Newsweek. In June 2009, he was sent to report on the rigged Iran elections that caused many well-deserved outbursts in the streets and a heavy government crack down. Maziar was one of the innocent bystanders caught in the backlash and was falsely accused of being a spy. He wound up imprisoned for 118 days, while being subjected to regular physical and psychological torture in an effort to gain a televised confession out of him. This film follows his remarkable true story, but first-time director/screenwriter Jon Stewart somehow botches the delivery. This inspiring story of hope and courage in the face of overwhelming odds becomes a melodramatic slog that feels like a big missed opportunity.

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ROSEWATER starts off strong by showing Maziar’s arrest. The film then flashes back 11 days to show how he wound up in this predicament. This beginning is well executed and interesting. The performances from Gael Garcia Bernal as Maziar and Kim Bodnia as his brutal interrogator are both solid. Most scenes between the two are good with a backwards sort of relationship being formed as the nameless interrogator (who always smelled of Rosewater, hence the title of the film) shows that the system at work is broken, but the people in it remain human and not one-dimensional emotionless caricatures. An attempt to paint Maziar’s experience as a story filled with universal themes and not one driven by a specific agenda is admirable. Not everything works out as intended. The film is split down the middle 50-50 with good and bad qualities.

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Other performances range from mediocre to downright forced. There are scenes that try to throw a certain amount of humor into the mix, Maziar dances to music inside of his head or initiates a conversation about New Jersey massages with his interrogator, and these feel drastically out-of-place. What should have been the most suspenseful and emotionally draining portion of the film becomes somewhat boring to sit through. Maziar’s stay in the prison isn’t shown to be as harrowing as it probably was. To make matters even worse, there are clichéd conversations between Maziar and his deceased father within a solitary confinement cell. The intentions behind these were good, but the execution feels like a lesser version of a thousand other similar scenes that have been pulled off in far better fashion.

ROSEWATER, right: Gael Garcia Bernal, 2014. ph: Nasser Kalaji/©Open Road Films/courtesy Everett

The biggest problem with ROSEWATER is showcased in a pointless moment between mother and child being reunited in a prison field. There was no build up to this scene or anything showcasing an aftermath. It happens purely because it happens. I couldn’t help but feel that too little focus was thrown onto Maziar receiving despicable treatment as a consequence for simply doing his job as a journalist. Too much of ROSEWATER is dedicated to a tonally disjointed by-the-numbers formula that could have been a much more emotionally resonant movie. There are things to like in ROSEWATER (two solid performances, an interesting opening, and good scenes), but there are just as many things that don’t work (severe pacing issues, out-of-place humor, and mediocre performances from everyone else). ROSEWATER winds up as a middle-of-the-road flick that I really can’t recommend.

Grade: C

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