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+

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: John Hughes

Written by: John Hughes

Starring: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason & John Kapelos

Often labeled as one of the “greatest movies of the 80’s” and a film that defined a generation, THE BREAKFAST CLUB is one of director/writer John Hughes’s most famous titles. Over three decades later, it still has tons of fans, old and young. This is especially surprising when you consider that this film is basically a bunch of teenagers having different conversations in the space of one day. The film didn’t just get its reputation by being an 80’s comedy-drama featuring the “Brat Pack,” but instead received acclaim from having genuinely compelling characters and an honest emotional core at its center.

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On a Saturday morning, five students reluctantly report to school for an all-day detention. They are there for a variety of reasons. John Bender is the troublemaker who enjoys making the assistant principal’s life as well as the lives of those around him difficult. Claire Standish is the popular rich girl who has a seemingly perfect existence. Andy Clark is a jock who’s trying to do his time in order to compete in his next wrestling meet. Brian Johnson is an over-achieving geek with straight A’s. Finally, Allison Reynolds is the silent outcast. Through the space of day, these teenagers from very different social cliques and lifestyles will come together, bond, and walk away as changed individuals with a new lease on life.

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That sounds like a rather cheesy plot synopsis and it doesn’t quite do justice to the touching, profound nature of this film. This is essentially PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER of the 80’s. The screenplay, by John Hughes, starts off as funny and then slowly peels away (with humor) layer-by-layer to reveal the emotional truth beneath it all. The interaction between these five troubled teenagers feels realistic. We immediately have a sense of who these characters are from their brief introductions in the parking lot to how they compose themselves when the assistant principal enters the room. As the film goes on, the characters’ hostility towards one another gradually gives way to an appreciation of who they are and deeper questions of identity. I definitely wasn’t expecting this from an 80’s teen comedy, but that’s exactly why THE BREAKFAST CLUB sticks out from the pack of many other typical, generic 80’s rom-coms.

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The aforementioned conversations that make up the film consist of what landed these kids in detention, their difficult home lives, and various other problems. However, the dialogue extends into far more mature territory as cliques and social structures are brought up in intelligent, funny ways. Each of these conversations is brought to life by the five protagonists. All of these characters are worth analyzing individually, but my personal favorites are Judd Nelson’s Bender and Molly Ringwald’s Claire. The former starts off as an unlikable (but entertaining) punk and then gradually morphs into a far more compelling, sympathetic character. The latter seems like a stand-offish spoiled brat, but gains empathy for her peers as the detention moves forward.

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For a film that’s about five teenagers stuck in a library, BREAKFAST CLUB is more than interesting to watch and well-constructed in every aspect. John Hughes was an amateur filmmaker at the time and used a meager budget of 1 million to fulfill this passion project. The movie was shot on location at an Illinois high school and packs itself with more believable emotion and hard-hitting issues than most other serious dramas or slice-of-life comedies carry. It’s a film driven purely by believable acting and strong writing and should be praised for accomplishing so much with so little. Even the assistant principal becomes a complex character through his own minor story arc. Hughes could have easily just painted this authority figure as a one-note antagonist, but instead fleshes him out through a couple of stand-out sequences. He’s a man who seems to come to his own revelation by the time the final monologue closes out the film.

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THE BREAKFAST CLUB is far more than just an 80’s classic or well-regarded teen comedy. There’s a reason that the film is still gaining new fans. There are actually high-school students at my workplace who praise this movie to the heavens. It speaks volumes that the film is still being discovered by a new audience and remains relevant to a generation who didn’t even live through the 80’s. That’s because the story and performances provide laughs and dramatic weight in equal measure. It’s as an uplifting viewing experience and I wanted to throw my fist in the air (much like Bender does in the final shot) as the end credits began to roll. THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a wonderful film that will never be forgotten!

Grade: A+

NURSE (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence, Strong Sexual Content, Language and some Graphic Nudity

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Directed by: Douglas Aarniokoski

Written by: Douglas Aarniokoski & David Loughery

Starring: Paz De La Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Judd Nelson, Corbin Bleu, Boris Kodjoe, Adam Herschman & Niecy Nash

NURSE is a slasher film done with some beautiful style. There I said it. Now that’s been said, I can also say that I really don’t understand the love for it. It may be a trashy film done a little prettier than most (the cinematography is awesome), but it’s still a piece of trash. Nothing particularly new is in the plot and the only aspect that could have made for a really cool gorefest is quickly downgraded to a mere narration. NURSE is just a slasher film with some cool imagery, but that’s all it is. The plot is nothing to write home about and neither is the acting…or kills, when you get right down to it.

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Abby has been a strong mentor to newcomer, Danni. What Danni doesn’t know is that her mentor also happens to live a murderous night life. Abby uses her sexuality to lure cheaters into a secluded location and then kill them in horrible ways using her esteemed medical knowledge. After a night out on the town, Danni wakes up in Abby’s apartment and makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with the psycho-bitch. Abby then takes it upon herself to make Danni’s life a living hell, killing anybody that comes in the way of her goal. The kicker (and wasted) element added to this tale is that the story is narrated by Abby, as opposed to Danni. This could have made for something really special, but it seems to be dulled down or flat-out forgotten during long stretches of the film.

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The inclusion of the narration might have made for a new(ish) take on a slasher film that we’ve seen countless times in other movies, done far better. Script-wise NURSE doesn’t just stick to Abby’s killings with her own commentary though. We also see Danni doing the whole Nancy Drew routine. She digs into Abby’s past to find that (shocker) the title character may not be who she says she is. The rest of the movie follows the basics of her trying to convince other anybody who will listen that the supposedly attractive nurse (I may be one of those rare men who isn’t turned on by Paz De La Huerta at all) is actually crazy. We also get the standard lack of people willing to believe her for one reason or another.

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One might argue (with good reason) that the real stars of slasher movies are not the cast members, but the kills themselves. How do these range? For those who don’t know, NURSE was a film originally shot for 3D. This means that we get a lot of things (both blood stained weapons or hands) being thrown out at the screen at an obnoxious angle. I find that this technique always kind of ruins some of the creativity involved with the kills (e.g. MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake). What negates even more of the gory goodness to be had is when a slasher film resorts to cheap CGI blood or gore. NURSE does this a majority of the time. There were two really solid deaths in NURSE. One of which may have had a little CGI and the other being surprisingly restrained. The first comes in the opening minutes and is guaranteed to make all the males in the audience flinch. The other comes as the final third begins and it’s worth seeing (if you can just find this clip separately). Otherwise, the kills just didn’t do that much for me as one who can appreciate well-done gore.

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The performances themselves range from mediocre to just plain bad. Though some will go crazy over Paz De La Huerta’s acting. I really just don’t see her as either a sex symbol or a good actress. She played the typical crazy gal that we’ve seen in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE and FATAL ATTRACTION. Hell, even that terrible film THE ROOMMATE pulled a better performance of a crazy girl from Leighton Meester. The only performance that I really dug (and he’s mostly in the background) was Judd Nelson. Nelson plays a scumbag who frequently gets it on with patients and fellow employees. He was an entertaining presence on the screen.

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NURSE may be self-aware and have a cool visual style to it overall, but it doesn’t excuse the story from being so been-there-done-that. We’ve seen this plot a million times and this one happens to be set in a hospital, for the most part. The acting is bad (sans Judd Nelson). The story is by-the-numbers. Nearly all of the kills are uninteresting and loaded with silly looking CGI. The narration from the killer is a cool element that winds up being wasted, when the film constantly shifts into conventional narrative mode. In the end, NURSE may please diehard slasher fans. It really takes something for a slasher film to stand out to me though and NURSE felt like an overly familiar one that had a pretty bow on top in the visual style. Save for a Judd Nelson performance, two great kills, and some cool cinematography, it’s just plain bad! Skip it, if you feel so inclined to do so.

Grade: D+

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