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Featured Blu-ray Review - Kevin Smith Blu-ray Collection

November 15th, 2009

Kevin Smith Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

This week two Kevin Smith films, Clerks and Chasing Amy, make their debut on Blu-ray. They are available individually, or as part of a box set. Clerks and Chasing Amy are considered Kevin Smith's two best movies, but how well do they make the leap to High Definition? Are they worth picking up? If so, is it better to buy one or both of them individually, or as part of the box set?

Clerks - Buy from Amazon
The film that started it all 15 years ago. The movie stars Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson as Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, two slackers still working minimum wage jobs while they are waiting for their lives to begin. Throughout the day, Dante has to deal with annoying customers, a pair of drug dealers that hang out at the front of the store, his current girlfriend who wants him to do more, his past girlfriend who could destroy his current relationship, as well as a really aggressive gum salesman. And he's not even supposed to be there today. If you are even remotely interested in this box set, you know and love this movie, so there's little to say about the quality of the movie. It's one of the most influential movies of the past 20 years and has been imitated and copied by countless people trying to get a break in the world of Indie filmmaking.

Also, if you are interested in this box set, you likely already own this movie on DVD... several times. So the real question is what does the Blu-ray offer above and beyond the DVD? There are a couple of Blu-ray exclusive features, starting with a short introduction by Kevin Smith, who talks a lot about the practice of double-dips, as well as the ... how do I put this? ... the illogical nature of taking a movie filmed on 16mm and converting it to High Definition. The making-of documentary he discusses is actually a making-of for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and not Clerks. And it's massive. At nearly 90 minutes long, it is almost as long as the movie and it is very in-depth, even if it doesn't have a razor sharp focus. In addition to these two new features, the DVD has tons of extras ported over from the 10th Anniversary DVD, and earlier releases. This includes an audio commentary track, trivia track, original cut of the movie (presented in Standard Definition), picture-in-picture track for the original cut of the movie, behind-the-scenes documentary, lost scene, short film, audition tapes, etc. It is absolutely loaded. As for the film's technical presentation... I did mention it was shot in 16mm, right? The video does look great compared to the past DVD releases, but it only looks average compared to most DVD releases and it is possibly the blurriest Blu-ray I've ever reviewed. (I've been pretty lucky in that department and haven't been forced to deal with any real dogs, so keep that in mind.) The audio is as good as the video; i.e. it has issues that relate to the source material, but it is better than one might expect. Definitely worth the upgrade from the previous release.

Chasing Amy - Buy from Amazon
Kevin Smith's third film, and still arguably his best. Holden and Banky are best friends and comic book writers / artists who together created Bluntman and Chronic. At a comic book convention they meet fellow comic book creator, Alyssa. For Holden, it is love at first sight. Banky, meanwhile, is more than just a little annoyed by her. Any chance of a relationship between Holden and Alyssa seems cut short when we learn the latter is a lesbian, but that's just one of the hiccups in their relationship. Like I said, this is arguably Kevin Smith's best movie. It deals with subjects that are not dealt with very often in movies, and it deals with them in a very sensitive and mature way, which are not terms usually associated with his films, which tend to be filled with, "dick and fart jokes" to quote several characters in this movie.

On a side note, I remember seeing an interview with Roger Ebert talking about many movies, this being one of them. It seems he hates the ending, because he thought the plan Holden came up with was terrible. I won't spoil what the plan was, or why he needed it, but I'm sure that's the point. I love how Holden thought long and hard about how to deal with his problem, and that was the best plan he could come up with. It was a terrible plan, but a funny scene.

Strangely, this is the first time Chasing Amy has been released as a real special edition release. Sure, there's a Criterion Collection release, but that DVD only had an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and outtakes. That's not a lot, especially for the Criterion label. Extras here include a new audio commentary track, which replaces the old one. (There's probably an issue with rights to the old one.) Also ported over are the ten deleted scenes and five minutes of outtakes. New to the Blu-ray is an 81-minute long making-of documentary that covers just about every aspect of the film you could hope for. Was It Something I Said? is an 18-minute interview with Kevin Smith and Joey Lauren Adams. They have a lot of chemistry and this is a fun run. There is a 28-minute Q&A done for the film's tenth anniversary that includes most of the cast. Looking at the technical presentation of this Blu-ray, quite frankly, I'm disappointed. The movie is really soft at times, far too soft for a High Definition transfer. I believe DNR is to blame here. Additionally, while the audio is clear, it is also very average. That said, the film was made for $250,000 back in 1997, and this is arguably the best it has looked since then. This isn't a movie that shines on High Definition, but the amount of new extras makes it worth picking up, even if the price is a little high compared to a lot of similar releases.

On a side note... David Schwimmer, Jon Stewart, and Drew Barrymore? Apparently that's whom the studio wanted for this movie. After hearing that, I want them to remake the movie with those people just to see how it would turn out, because quite frankly, I can't even imagine what the end result would be like. Hell, they should have gotten those three people to do a few scenes for the Blu-ray release, just for fun.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back - Buy from Amazon
Finally there's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which came out on Blu-ray in 2006. That makes it one of the very first High Definition releases, but it likely won't be the last time this film comes out in High Definition. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. As a double-dip, I won't spend as much time on this movie as the other two, but there are a few notes that have to be said. Firstly, this is the ultimate Fanboy Flick and you really have to have seen all of Kevin Smith's previous films to get most of the jokes. Even just understanding most of the cameos takes a fair bit of knowledge about the View Askewniverse. Because of this, this film lacks mainstream appeal, but it should please his core fans. As for the extras, there's just the audio commentary track and something called Movie Showcase, which is supposed to highlight the scenes that really show off High Definition, as if this movie pushes the bounds of High Definition. This is much less than the Special Edition DVD that came out in 2002 and is quite frankly unacceptable for a Blu-ray release. The audio and video is marginally better than the other two films in this box set, but it's hardly the kind of film you will pop into your player to show off your home theater system. That said, buying the Box Set is like buying Clerks and Chasing Amy for the regular price and getting this Blu-ray for less than $4. It's worth it, while you wait another two years for the 10th Anniversary Edition.

Speaking of the 10th Anniversary Edition, I have an idea for an extra. Have the option to pick and choose deleted scenes to put back into the movie. A lot of the deleted scenes for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back were cut for pacing reasons and a lot of these are worth putting back in, but not all of them. With Blu-ray, it should be easy to list all of the deleted scenes and let the viewer pick the ones they want back in and save that "playlist" for future viewings.

The Kevin Smith Collection offers two awesome movies that just about anyone will enjoy, plus a double-dip of a Fanboy Flick that is strictly for the dedicated fan. None of the movies really shine in High Definition, but the Box Set is still worth picking up, as there is enough new material found here to warrant the price.

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