KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CHASING AMY (1997)

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Silent Bob: So there’s me and Amy, and we’re all inseparable, right? Just big time in love. And then four months down the road, the idiot gear kicks in, and I ask about the ex-boyfriend. Which, as we all know, is a really dumb move. But you know how it is: you don’t wanna know, but you just have to, right? Stupid guy bullshit. So, anyway, she starts telling me about him… how they fell in love, and how they went out for a couple of years, and how they lived together, her mother likes me better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… and I’m okay. But then she drops the bomb on me, and the bomb is this: it seems that a couple of times, while they were going out, he brought some people to bed with them. Ménage à trois, I believe it’s called. Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God’s sake.
Jay: Saint Shithead.
[Silent Bob elbows him; Jay motions as if to start a fight]
Silent Bob: Do something.
[to Holden]
Silent Bob: So I’m totally weirded out by this, right? And then I just start blasting her. Like… I don’t know how to deal with what I’m feeling, so I figure the best way is by calling her a slut, right? And tell her she was used. I’m… I’m out for blood. I really wanna hurt this girl. I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?”, right? And she’s just all calmly trying to tell me, like, it was that time and it was that place and she doesn’t think she should apologize because she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. I’m like, “Oh, really?” That’s when I look her straight in the eye, I tell her it’s over. I walk.
Jay: Fuckin’ A!
Silent Bob: No, idiot. It was a mistake. I didn’t hate her. I wasn’t disgusted with her. I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small, like… like I’d lacked experience, like I’d never be on her level, like I’d never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I’m saying? But, what I did not get, she didn’t care. She wasn’t looking for that guy anymore. She was… she was looking for me, for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figure this all out, it was too late, man. She moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I’ve spent every day since then chasing Amy… so to speak.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian.

Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s third film and possibly his best. After the hit independent Clerks and the extremely disappointing Mallrats, Smith went back to his indie roots and made a personal, touching and often witty romantic comedy. With shades of Annie Hall, Kevin Smith used his real life relationship with Joey Lauren Adams as the template to make a film that was more than low-brow humour found in his previous film. The film is impressive for its realism of male and female sexuality and dealing with relationships in the 90’s.

The film revolves around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) two best friends who created the comic book Bluntman and Chronic (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Banky is the Inker and Holden is the writer. They are a good team and have a successful comic book career. That is until Holden meets Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a charming, sexy and fun fellow comic book writer. Holden and Alyssa immediately hit it off although Banky becomes jealous of his best friends new potential love interest. Holden is head over heels immediately and is eager to meet her again when she invites him to a bar. Unfortunately for Holden he soon becomes aware that she is gay. Alyssa notices his disappointment but wants to be his friend and enjoys being with him. After hanging out with each other for a while Holden can’t keep his feelings back anymore and confesses his love for her. Alyssa gives in and they get together. However with her sexual history and Holden’s mainstream idea of love he can’t get over her past and things begin to fall apart.

This is a very touching and heartfelt film and a huge improvement in filmmaking from Smith. Ben Affleck is great in this film. His acting is superb and he really rises to his leading man status of today after his awful role in Mallrats. Joey Lauren Adams is adorable as Alyssa Jones, she’s every comic book lover’s fantasy. She’s sexy, charming, she’s a comic book writer with knowledge of comic book history too. Her voice is also so sexy. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better career after this film. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams have amazing chemistry and their characters relationship is sweet, charming, realistic and ultimately heartbreaking.

Jason Lee plays a similar character from Mallrats. However he has better chemistry with Ben Affleck than Jeremy London (where is he now?). His scenes with Affleck depict a really strong male friendship that can sometimes become effected by a new girlfriend. Their relationship follows Smith’s familiar tropes of two male protagonists who are best friends (usually man-boys) who don’t understand women; one more sensitive and emotional the other cocky and amusing. However in this film it feels a lot more real and personal than the relationships in Clerks and Mallrats.

The film has other common Kevin Smith tropes including pop culture references including comic books, Star Wars, TV Shows and films. Characters referring to, going to or playing Hockey. Also keeping in the same Universe of Clerks we have a scene at Quick Stop Groceries and a Jay and Silent Bob cameo.

Chasing Amy is a sweet and personal film from Smith which shows a maturity as a filmmaker. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee also help lift the material with great performances. It is not as funny as his previous films but Smith’s skills with dialogue is still very strong and the plot flows with great twists and turns. This is my favourite film of Smith’s thus far.

A+

Highlights:
– Dwight Ewell as Hooper X a black gay comic writer pretending to be a strong Black Activist, especially his opening scene at a Comic Book Convention.
– The idea of a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic based on Jay and Silent Bob

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: MALLRATS (1995)

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Brodie: My Grandmother always used to say “why buy the cow, when you can get the sex for free”.
T.S. Quint: She didn’t!
Brodie: All the time, before she became a lesbian on her 60th Birthday, but that’s besides the point.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Both dumped by their girlfriends, two best friends seek refuge in the local mall.

Mallrats, Keven Smith’s sophomore feature is a steep drop in quality from the promise of his indie hit feature film Clerks. The plot, characters and jokes are all very lame and it is in some ways structurally very similar to Clerks. Two best friends; one is emotional and depressed with his life and the other is cocky, has witty dialogue and argues with his friend for not “manning” up and enjoying his life. However compared to Clerks these characters don’t have Dante and Randal’s chemistry. Jason Lee is a scene stealer similar to Jeff Anderson’s performance as Randal and he is the best thing in the movie. Jason Lee of course went on to a successful comedy career on screen and television and this breakout performance proves why. Jeremy London however is extremely bland and looks like he was picked out of a generic 90’s sitcom. He in no way compares to Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante in Clerks (Brian O’Halloran has a cameo in the conclusion of the film and you miss his presence from Clerks he should’ve been in this film more) even though he is his surrogate in this film. Another familiar trope from Clerks has our two protagonists spend a day in one location. He swapped a convenience store to a Mall. It parallels Kevin Smith’s career at this point as he made a small independent film based in a small convenience store and now he is more popular as a filmmaker has a larger budget with access to better actors and behind the scenes crew and he has his characters wonder around a giant Mall instead of being stuck in a small convenience store. It’s like a kid with bigger and better toys than his old broken ones but still plays the same game with them. Although he had a larger budget and professional actors he seems to be repeating the same beats as Clerks and the film suffers for it. It looks a lot better than Clerks, the actors and settings are also better however the overall plot arcs, jokes and characters are all quite boring and bland compared to the protagonists and bizarre customers in Clerks.

The film follows TS Quint (Jeremy London) who is dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (the beautiful Claire Forlani) because her father doesn’t like him and he is too clingy and wants to get married right away. Already a poor plot opener. TS’s best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) is also dumped by his girlfriend (Shannen Doherty, in her hot 90’s phase) for being a loser who lives downstairs in his Mom’s house and plays video games and reads comic books all day. The film does reference comic books and Star Wars a lot more having Kevin Smith’s passions start to filter through his films more. The two friends decide to spend their day in the Mall to get their minds off their dramas. Once they get to the mall they meet a few interesting characters including William (Ethan Suplee) a guy staring at a Magic eye image desperately trying to see the Sail boat everyone is seeing, Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams) who is just there to be cute and pretty and ogled by the male characters but nothing else, Shannon played by Ben Affleck in one of his earliest roles at his most unlikable and sleaziest, Tricia (Renee Humphrey) a 15 year old girl who is doing a research project on sex with different men and finally the link to the Kevin Smith Universe – Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). I love Jay and Silent Bob however they seem a bit muted down in this film especially Jay compared to his foul mouth in Clerks and future installments he seems to be trying to play a proper character instead of a fun side character. There plot in the film is also pretty lame as they are asked to stop a dating game show run by Brandi’s father Svenning (played by Michael Rooker in a scene chewing bizarre performance) so TS can win back Brandi.

If you haven’t seen Clerks and you were a young teenager in the 90’s you would probably find some enjoyment in this film. However looking back today in 2018 after following Kevin Smith’s career this is definitely one of his lowest points in his film-making career.

D

Highlights:
– Stink Palm
– Stan Lee’s cameo and possibly his best performance in a film.
– The homages to Batman and Star Wars.
– The Comic Book Cover Artwork for each character in the opening credits
– All the comic book references and the representation of comic nerds that aren’t glass wearing skinny little boys they can be tough and cocky like Brodie. Don’t forget this was the 90’s when comics in the cinemas were portrayed as kiddie stuff. Kevin Smith treated it seriously and look where we are today.

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CLERKS (1994)

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[Randal is on the phone when a woman and little girl come to the counter]
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: Excuse me. But do you sell videotapes?
Randal Graves: Yeah, what’re you looking for?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
Randal Graves: Uh, one second. I’m on the phone with the distribution house now; lemme make sure they got it.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: ‘Kay.
Randal Graves: What’s it called again?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Happy Scrappy”!
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: She loves it.
Randal Graves: Obviously.
[into the phone]
Randal Graves: Uh, yeah, hi, this is RST Video calling. Customer #4352. I’d like to place an order. Okay, I need one each of the following tapes: “Whispers in the Wind”, “To Each His Own”, “Put It Where It Doesn’t Belong”, “My Pipes Need Cleaning”, “All Tit-Fucking, Volume 8”, “I Need Your Cock”, “Ass-Worshipping Rimjobbers”, “My Cunt and Eight Shafts”, “Cum Clean”, “Cum-Gargling Naked Sluts”, “Cum Buns 3”, “Cumming in Socks”, “Cum on Eileen”, “Huge Black Cocks with Pearly White Cum”, “Girls Who Crave Cock”, “Girls Who Crave Cunt”, “Men Alone 2: The K-Y Connection”, “Pink Pussy Lips”, oh yeah, and, uh, “All Holes Filled with Hard Cock”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Scrappy”!
Randal Graves: Yup. Oh, wait a minute.
[to the woman]
Randal Graves: Uh, what was that called again?

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

Inspired by the Richard Linklater independent film Slackers, Kevin Smith who was still a Film Studies College student decided to drop out and make a film himself with his friends. He got loans, maxed out his credit cards and convinced his friends and upcoming actors looking for a gig to join him to create a low-budget film based on a life in the day of a depressed Clerk Store worker. In Melbourne, Australia this would be the equivalent of working in a Milk Bar. Kevin Smith himself worked in a convenience store and came up with the story on those boring days stacking shelves and serving idiotic customers. The film mixes comedy with a side plot that borders on soap opera with the main character in a relationship but still pinning for the girl who got away in High School.

The film was a surprise hit when it came out in 1994 winning awards at Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival and it quickly became a cult hit with teens and young adults in the 90’s for its raunchy dialogue, witty script and relevance to a lot of disenfranchised young adults in the 90’s. Anyone who was working in a job they hated with dreams of more to life could easily connect to the character of Dante (Brian O’Halloran). Dante gets called into work on his day off, which becomes his catchphrase over the course of the film “I’m not even supposed to be here today”. He is a good guy and doesn’t want to upset his boss so he agrees to go to work even though he had planned a hockey match that afternoon (shades of Kevin Smith’s Hockey obsession are apparent here. Also after the 90’s any public appearance Kevin would always be wearing a hockey jersey). As Dante begins his day he has to deal with idiotic customers in and out. We are also introduced to his friend Randal (scene stealer Jeff Anderson) who works next door at the Video store. There conversations are where the film shines. From their musings on porn, Star Wars, customers, relationships all of it is gold and I believe makes this film break out the way it did.

There is a sub-plot involving Dante’s girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) who is good to him and tries to get him to move on with his life instead of wasting it working in the convenience store. Dante is disappointed when they share their sexual history and discovers she had felatio with many men. However the real reason Dante isn’t invested in Veronica is because he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer) who he discovers is getting married. Over the course of the day Dante has to deal with his feelings for both girls, while also trying to fit in a Hockey game upstairs and attend a funeral which doesn’t go well. (Check youtube for the animated delted scene).

Kevin Smith is brilliant with dialogue. His humour mixes pop culture relevance with crude low-brow punchlines. Throughout his films he has a great way with words. I would say this is his strongest quality as a filmmaker. His films (especially Clerks) aren’t visually appealing. He is no Scorsese. He relies on slow takes letting the characters revel in the dialogue with each other. The acting isn’t the best either but as it is a low-budget first feature you can forgive these minor quibbles.

Re-watching the film today you can see a talented filmmaker on the rise to success. He took a chance and he was rewarded with a great career in filmmaking and pop-culture. All his films aren’t classics but they all have entertaining characters, tight plots and brilliant dialogue. This could possibly be his best film and put him on my map of directors to watch.

A

FILM REVIEW: THE WEEK OF (2018)

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Kirby Cordice: That’s my turn on the AC nod.

Director: Robert Smigel

Writer: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel

Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rachel Dratch, Allison Strong, Roland Buck III, Steve Buscemi and Nasser Faris

Synopsis: Two fathers with opposing personalities come together to celebrate the wedding of their children. They are forced to spend the longest week of their lives together, and the big day cannot come soon enough.

The Week Of is the latest Netflix Adam Sandler comedy and easily its best. Adam Sandler is one of my guilty pleasure actors. His comedies offer silly, low-brow humour that at times is what you need on a lazy afternoon or after a long day at work. However his films over the last decade have been decreasingly unfunny. Instead of low-brow humour he turned to lazy jokes that were unfunny and most of his Netflix films I haven’t even bothered to finish because after a few lazy jokes I would just get bored. I think his last really good film was Funny People back in 2009 directed by the talented comedic director Judd Apatow. He turned in a great performance as a somewhat biographical character who was a comedian/actor who had fallen from his glory days and becomes terminally ill. He had great chemistry with Seth Rogen and I’m surprised he hasn’t worked with them since. It could be because the film was one of his lowest grossing films.

In the 90’s Adam Sandler was a comedy juggernaut with comedy classics including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy. I can watch those films anytime and have a good laugh. He had a bit of a slump once the 2000’s came around. Although he still had box office hits like Anger Management, 50 First Dates and Click. The magic of those 90’s comedies started to dissipate. He also began to dabble in dramatic roles such as Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. He found success again with later hits such as The Longest Yard and Grown Ups but as his box office draw began to slow down he made a deal with Netflix to continue making his comedies without the pressure of releasing them at the cinema. His first film on Netflix The Ridiculous Six was awful. He followed that up with The Do-Over and Sandy Wexler which weren’t as awful but still not on par with his 90’s comedies.

Last year he surprised me with the touching dramedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). He turned in a great performance as a disillusioned son and father dealing with his overbearing father (Dustin Hoffman in a brilliant performance), uptight brother (Ben Stiller) and rebellious daughter (Grace Van Patten). This review has turned into an Adam Sandler retrospective so I’ll get to the film I came to discuss.

The Week Of is a mix of Father of the Bride, Meet the Parents and Punch-Drunk Love. It is brilliantly directed by comedy genius Robert Smigel (writer for SNL, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). He brings a documentary style to an intense week for a father of the bride Kenny Lustig (Adam Sandler) who is trying desperately to give his daughter the best wedding and also keep everyone in his dysfunctional family happy as well as deal with his new in-laws to be. He is a blue collar kind of guy and has organised his daughter’s wedding in a cheap hotel run by Hanan  played by Nasser Faris in a hilarious and always scene stealing performance.

Kenny is an old school family guy. He wants to provide for his family although he seems to be of low income. The film also dips into stereotypical Jewish family dysfunction. His cousins, Aunties and Uncles are all stereotypical comedy Jewish characters. Rachel Dratch as his wife is hysterical in her scenes with Sandler when they argue in private (but everyone can hear). She also wants to provide the best for her daughter while making everyone happy but slowing exploding inside.

Chris Rock plays the father of the groom. He is the complete opposite of Sandler’s character Kenny. He isn’t a family man. He left his family early in his marriage to chase girls. He is extremely wealthy as a successful doctor. He is also calm and collected throughout offering financial assistance to Sandler with constant rebuttal. Although Rock is second billed to Sandler I was surprised at how little he is in the film. He pops up in the first half in random scenes where he is working on his patients or seducing women. This is a different type of performance from Rock. I don’t recall seeing him as a confident ladies man in his previous films or even his stand up specials. I thought he brought something new to his oeuvre and I would like to see more performances like this. He reminded me of Eddie Murphy in the 90’s romantic comedy Boomerang. However in the second half of the film as he arrives to stay with Sandler a couple of days before the wedding, we get the type of comedy we are used to from Chris Rock, witty one liners, black jokes and some slapstick comedy involving a crippled old Uncle. Rock doesn’t have great chemistry with Sandler in this film however in the 2005 comedy The Longest Yard they had great chemistry. It could be that in this film they are playing different types of characters.

The film could have been stronger however for a Netflix Adam Sandler film it provides enough comedic moments to make you laugh on a lazy Friday night. I think it is one of the better Adam Sandler comedies from this decade.

B

FILM REVIEW: GET HARD (2015)

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Darnell Lewis: When life throws you Dick you make Dick-ade!
James King: Dick-ade doesn’t sound like a significant improvement over dick.

Director: Etan Cohen

Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson

Synopsis: When wealthy hedge fund manager, James King, is framed for fraud he is sentenced to maximum security prison, San Quentin. Worried about how to handle prison life he turns to his car cleaner, Darnell Lewis, who he falsely presumes knows what it’s like to be in prison because he is black. Needing the money to start his new business Darnell agrees to the offer even though he’s never actually been to prison.

A modern spin on the 80s classic comedy ‘Trading Places‘ with Will Ferrell as the stiff rich white man replacing Dan Akroyd and Kevin Hart as the poor black man (this time not homeless but a struggling business owner with a wife and daughter) replacing Eddie Murphy. It’s not officially a remake but it does borrow a lot from that film bordering on copyright.

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This is an enjoyable comedy not in the league of Ferrell’s superior comedies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers but better than most modern comedies. Hart brings his manic energy to the screen and after his hilarious stand up shows he’s beginning to bring that energy to his films after the disappointing Ride Along. Hart and Ferrell work well together but the film relies heavily on dick and rape jokes rather than their stars natural comedic talent.

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Ferrell stars as James King a wealthy hedge fund manager engaged to the smoking hot Alissa (played with wicked delight by Alison Brie). He has it all – gorgeous house, wealth, power and prestige however he soon finds himself the victim of a false accusation and faces time in prison. He turns to his car cleaner Darnell (Hart) for advice on how to survive in prison. He offers him $30,000 for his help. Darnell accepts even though he’s never been to prison. What follows is a series of sketches involving Hart preparing a disillusioned Ferrell on prison life including how to act tough, how to suck dick, and how to fight strangers. Not all of the sketches work and the dick/gay jokes feel dated in 2015. If this film came out ten or twenty years ago it would have been a lot edgier and in your face but after shock comedies such as Borat, Jackass and the American Pie series unfortunately most comedy fans have seen it all before.

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It is an enjoyable time if you enjoy the humour of Ferrell and Hart but unfortunately little else for contemporary audiences.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

FILM REVIEW: TOP FIVE (2014)

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Andre Allen: I am telling you, everything means something.
Chelsea Brown: No everything does not mean something. Okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Remember those, jokes?

Director: Chris Rock

Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove

Synopsis: A Comedian turned actor discusses the highs and lows of his life of fame with a New York Times writer who happens to share a few things in common with him.

First off, this films title is a running motif throughout the film as various characters list their top five rappers. I’m not a hardcore rap fan however growing up my cousins would blast Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg through their speakers so I was versed in the genre from an early age. As I grew up I came to love the genre and my current top five rappers are;
1. Kanye West
2. Eminem
3. Drake
4. Tupac Shakur
5. Jay Z
Probably a lot of hardcore rap fans would disagree with my list however since ‘Yeezy’ blew up in 2004 with his album ‘College Dropout’, I’ve loved all of his albums since and haven’t missed one. I’ve also been to his concert when he was out here in Melbourne and he was amazing! I believe his albums have each gotten better from 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ to 2013’s ‘Yeezus’. Also his latest track with Rihanna and Paul McCartney ‘FourFiveSeconds’ is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod. Also Eminem has been my favourite rapper since 2000’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and was probably my number one rapper through the 2000s. However I think his latest album 2013’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ was a disappointment and makes him drop a spot. Just like Yeezy I’ve loved Drake since his debut 2010’s ‘Thank Me Later’ to this years surprise album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. He may not be as prolific as Yeezy, Em and Jay but he is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod and I actually prefer him these days over Jay. However I would be remiss not to include Tupac Shakur who I grew up with and introduced me to the genre and also I love Jay’s flow. I also love a bit of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and when I’m working out Pitbull.

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However enough about rap let’s discuss Chris Rock’s latest comedy Top Five. Top Five is Rock’s most personal film to date, dealing with a comedian turned popular comedy star who is hated by the critics and hasn’t had a good film yet. Unfortunately this is also true of Rock’s career. He is an amazing comedian, sharp, energetic, powerful and most of all hilarious. With 1996’s hit stage show Bring the Pain the first comedy show I saw of Rock I remember crying of laughter. It was brilliant and he managed to top that with 1999’s Bigger and Blacker. He returned again in 2004’s Never Scared and 2008’s Kill the Messenger. His live shows are all amazing and sadly he hasn’t been able to translate that to the screen. His two previous directorial efforts 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife were critical and commercial disasters. I’ve enjoyed his films however I’ve only enjoyed moments in them, I don’t think I’ve loved any from beginning to end, including the Grown Up series, Madagascar series, and his work with Kevin Smith. However I think Top Five is the reverse of his previous films where I love it from beginning to end and there are only a few moments I didn’t enjoy.

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As you can see I love stand up comedy and naturally I love films that deal with this subject matter including 2009’s Funny People and Martin Scorsese’s classic 1982’s The King of Comedy. This film deals with Andre Allen (Chris Rock) who is a famous comedian turned popular actor who is about to get married to a reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) (shades of Kanye and Kim) while trying to be taken seriously for his new dramatic film dealing with the Haitian revolution. He agrees to an interview with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (the luminous Rosario Dawson) to plug his film. At first he is hesitant because of the Times negative reviews of his previous films but reluctantly agrees for the press. He discovers a kindred spirit in Chelsea as they discuss the highs and lows in their lives and their shared experiences as recovering alcoholics. The film has an effortless chemistry between the two stars and they elevate the material and help it grow unlike Rock’s previous directorial efforts. However their discussions of the effects of recovering from alcohol addiction I felt didn’t ring as true as Rock’s analysis of the entertainment industry possibly because he could bring more truth to the entertainment industry rather than being a recovering addict. The film still works as a semi-autobiography and dig at the entertainment industry and what artists will do to have their art taken seriously. It is a fascinating film which also deals with topics (strong in Rock’s stage shows) such as race, politics, family and a real insight into the mind of one America’s best comedians.

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With a kinetic directorial style, sharp and witty writing and excellent performances from Rock and Dawson this is the smartest comedy in years and possibly the best film dealing with a stand up comic. It also boasts an excellent supporting cast and cameos from Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, J.B. Smoove, Leslie Jones and Ben Vereen.

Rating: 4 Stars

My Top Five Chris Rock films
1. Top Five
2. New Jack City
3. Madagascar
4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
5. Dogma

My Top Five Comedians
1. Jerry Seinfeld
2. Chris Rock
3. Eddie Murphy
4. Kevin Hart
5. Louie C.K.

FILM REVIEW: FOCUS (2015)

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Nicky: It’s about distraction. It’s about focus. The brain is slow and it can’t multitask. Tap him here, take from there.

Director: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie

Synopsis: Veteran con man Nicky teaches a young apprentice Jess in the art of the con. Never lose focus, however as Nicky grows feelings for his apprentice their latest con may become more difficult for everyone involved.

The old school charming Will Smith is back in form in his latest con caper romantic drama, Focus. Smith was the hottest star of the 90s with blockbuster hits such as Bad Boys (1995), Independence Day (1996), and Men in Black (1997). In the 2000’s he began to explore his dramatic side with the biopics Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) but still found time to provide blockbusters such as I, Robot (2004) and I Am Legend (2007) however the 10s haven’t been as kind to him with the box office and critical failures such as After Earth (2013) and Winter’s Tale (2014). As a comeback vehicle Smith has chosen a con artist caper film in the vein of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and American Hustle (2013) however this film is a pale imitation at best.

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Although Smith returns to form with his charming one liners and buff muscles flexing through his stylish clothes, the film has a flawed script which never lives up to the potential of its excellent leads. Matching Smith’s charm is the beautiful Margot Robbie hot off her impressive debut in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Robbie is not only a sexy foil for Smith but she also has the acting ability to stretch her character from inept pocket thief to a skilled, sexy and appealing hustler. The plot revolves around Smith’s Nicky training Robbie’s Jess into a skilled con artist. Soon enough Nicky falls for Jess and decides to abandon her so he doesn’t “lose his focus” as a skilled con artist who can’t have anything or anyone stop him from completing the long con. Predictably they meet again three years later as Nicky is planning his next con which could make him millions.

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In a film like this I was expecting plenty of plot twists and clever set pieces involving people getting conned. Unfortunately there aren’t many twists and the final act is a convoluted mess which should have left the audience surprised instead of scratching their heads wondering what the point of the last two hours were. With impressive cinematography and good actors unfortunately the script and its surprises aren’t impressive and leaves this film feeling like a waste of everyone’s time.

Rating: 1 Star