This week on the Richard Crouse Show we’ll meet Jann Arden. With 19 top ten singles, like “Could I Be Your Girl,” “I Would Die For You” and “Insensitive,” she is one of Canada’s best-known singer, songwriters. She has also written five books and has a hit sitcom on CTV called “Jann.” Her latest project is an album of new material called “Descendant,” a 15-song collection that represents the last 18 months of her life and headspace.
Then we’ll get to know multi-hyphenate Kevin Smith. He’s a filmmaker, actor, comedian, comic book writer, author, and podcaster. You know his movies like “Clerks,” “Dogma” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” Now he adds another hyphen to his resume. Documentary subject. The documentary “Clerk,” now on VOD, touches on every aspect of his work, from the film that put him on the map to the View Askewniverse to his health problems and a new found self-awareness.
Each week on the nationally syndicated Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to hear in-depth interviews with actors and directors, to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favourite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Recent guests include Ethan Hawke, director Brad Bird, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Roberts, Brian Henson, Jonathan Goldsmith a.k.a. “The most interesting man in the world,” and best selling author Linwood Barclay.
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Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the Johnny Knoxville and the unnatural acts of “Jackass Forever,” the reboot of “Scream,” the unhappily ever after fairy tale “The King’s Daughter” AND the great punk rock doc “Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché” and “Clerk” the documentary on the life and career of Kevin Smith.
Richard joins CTV NewsChannel and anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at new movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including Johnny Knoxville and the unnatural acts of “Jackass Forever,” the reboot of “Scream,” the unhappily ever after fairy tale “The King’s Daughter” AND the great punk rock doc “Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché.”
Kevin Smith has long been thought of as a renegade, a movie director who has never played by Hollywood’s rules. As such his life and career are a natural for the documentary treatment.
Films like “Clerks” and “Mallrats” made him an avatar of indie filmmaking and his early adoption of the internet made him the Methuselah of geek culture. So, it is surprising that “Clerk,” a look at Smith’s legacy now on VOD, doesn’t have any of the rebel spirit that make his story, from “Clerks” to “Tusk” to his popular podcast SModcast, so compelling.
Near the beginning of its chronological look at Smith, director Malcolm Ingram shows a video the young filmmaker made as he prepared to leave home to attend the Vancouver Film School. A thank you to his parents for instilling in him a passion for movies, it’s lovely found footage that displays Smith’s heart and his devotion of his chosen industry.
If the rest of the movie struck the same tone as this footage, “Clerk” might have the depth to make it feel like something beyond an entertaining, but shallow, DVD extra.
Smith is an intriguing character. From DIY filmmaker (“Clerks”) to studio outsider (“Cop Out”) to self-distributor of his movies to podcast superstar and Geek God, he has forged an unlikely but prolific career.
Through interviews with friends—like Ben Affleck, Richard Linklater and BFF Jason Mewes—fans and family—his mother Grace, wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith and daughter Harley Quinn all appear—a portrait emerges of a man who created a world for himself.
We’re told about his drive to create, how he has rolled with the punches and health scares, and also rolled thousands of joints, to become a cultural touchstone who has turned his love of pop culture, into a career. “I didn’t want to be a footnote,” he says.
The most revealing part of the film comes midway. Smith calls a scene in “Clerks II” the moment where he learned who he was “through the art.” The characters, Quick Stop (the convenience store the action revolves aorund) store manager Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and slacker Randall (Jeff Anderson), are in jail.
Dante says, “What would the great Randall Graves do if he was the master of his own destiny?” The answer? “I’d buy the Quick Stop and reopen it myself.”
In that moment, Smith says, this character, once defined by his cynicism and disappointment with the world, is laid bare. That scene tells “the story of my life,” the director says. “The day I realized you could just buy the Quick Stop and reopen it yourself. That’s how you’d be happiest. That was me going, ‘I’m never going to be what other cats would like me to be. The only reason you like me in the first place is because I was me. So, I’m going to go and be me for the rest of my life now.’”
It is a teary moment—Smith wells up several times during the almost two hour run time—that sums up an epiphany for Smith that appears to have influenced much of his career moving forward from that moment.
Self-acceptance is a great message—”I want to be the Smithiest Kevin Smith I can be.”—and it is one of the things that has made Smith so popular with his rabid fans. But by the end of the “Clerk” it’s clear that, despite that life lesson, the documentary is more fan service than deep dive. Smith devotees—that is, anyone who knows what “Snoochie Boochies” refers to—will enjoy revisiting the movies that made the charismatic director famous, but holes—Mewes’ drug addiction for instance—in the storytelling and hagiographic interviews prevent it from being a definitive portrait.
I suppose there is some kind of H.P. Lovecraftian message tucked away, deep inside “Tusk’s” jaded little heart but director Kevin Smith doesn’t bother to unearth it. Instead he’s content to make poutine jokes.
Based on an idea evolved from Episode 259 of Smith’s SModcast about a internet star and a seafarer with a thing for walruses, the movie begins with Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) travelling from Los Angeles to Manitoba to interview a subject for his popular podcast. When that interview falls through he finds another guest, a mysterious old sailor named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) with a storied past and a remote mansion in Bifrost, Manitoba.
Ahoy, mateys! There be spoilers ahead.
The kindly, old wheelchair bound man doesn’t just have marvelous stories about drinking with Ernest Hemingway; he also has a jones for a kindly walrus who saved his life on one of his many adventures. “I have never known such a connection with anyone,” he says, “human or otherwise.” Turns out, he’s a serial killer who lures young men to his home, drugs them and surgically turn them into a walrus. “Man is a savage beast. Better to be a walrus.” Goo goo goo joob goo goo goo job.
There’s more, in the form of a girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and podcast partner (Haley Joel Osment) who, with the aid of a Quebecois detective Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp, in what may be the most tedious performance by a major star in a film this year) search for the waylaid podcaster.
“Tusk” is audacious. I’ll give Smith that. Part “Freaks,” part “The Human Centipede,” and part stoner comedy, it has some truly astounding moments. It’s a deeply weird idea, which in other hands might have been developed into something more interesting than simply a vessel for gags about a restaurant called “Poutiney Weenie” and Canadian stereotypes.
Smith had good stuff to work with. Parks is creepy and eloquent. Long is well cast as an annoying twit of a podcaster, but they are hindered by a torrent of words; endless dialogue that doesn’t forward the story. The idea of “Tusk,” as Smith presents it, warrants a short film, not a ninety-minute movie that feels much longer than it actually is because of self-indulgent direction.
Within the first five minutes of Zach and Miri Make a Porno director Kevin Smith establishes the tone of the next ninety minutes. Mere moments after the opening credits he unleashes bathroom jokes, racial jabs and a sequence involving burning pubic hair. It’s not for the faint of heart, but then again the faint of heart likely wouldn’t be caught dead at a movie about two platonic friends who decide to make a pornographic movie to raise money to pay their bills.
“If it’s so easy why doesn’t everyone do it?” asks a skeptical Miri.
“Because other people have options and dignity… which we don’t have,” replies Zach in one of the film’s better exchanges.
Seth Rogen, Hollywood’s go-to Canadian funnyman, and Elizabeth Banks, Rogen’s 40 Year Old Virgin cast mate, play the titular roommates. When their water, electricity and heat are shut off for non-payment of bills on the eve of their high school reunion their already dire situation gets much, much worse. After a chance meeting with a gay porn star (a very funny Justin Long) they hit on the idea of making dirty movies for fun and profit. Well, mostly for profit. “Paris Hilton makes a night vision sex tape,” says Zach, “and now she’s selling perfume to tweens!” After a casting session turns up some willing actors and actresses they begin production on an ill fated erotic reimagining of Star Wars but as the clothes come off and the cameras roll Zach and Miri reveal much more about themselves than what’s under their clothes.
As usual director Kevin Smith, of Clerks and Mallrats fame, manages to be saccharine and over-the-top vulgar simultaneously—a recipe that Judd Apatow has perfected in recent years—although nothing here approaches the gross out of 2006’s Clerks II. Even a gag about an… unusual cure for constipation comes off as cute. Smith, however, is still better at making us laugh than warming our hearts which is Zach and Miri’s main downfall.
The comedy works more often than not, but when the movie switches to full-on romance mode it flops around more than overenthusiastic actors in amateur porn. Banks has the right stuff to be funny, sexy and romantic on-screen and Rogen displays his usual goofy charm, but Smith’s script has too many gaps in logic—I know, it’s a sex comedy, but it should still make sense—to make the relationship aspect believable, let alone something the audience would really care about.
Zach and Miri Make a Porno features frequently endearing characters, some funny supporting work from real live porn stars—Katie Morgan as a big-hearted but dumb stripper and Traci Lords—and a performance from Justin Long that is guaranteed to become a youtube favorite but it lacks the heart of Rogen’s others films, most notably Knocked Up and Superbad, and gets bogged down when it tries to hammer home its sappy “ain’t love grand” ending.
It is a generally accepted fact that the law of diminishing returns applies to movie sequels. The further away you get from the source the weaker the film. Now, of course “Cop Out,” the new buddy cop movie from Kevin Smith, isn’t a sequel. It only feels like one. One with the number 3 or 4 in the title. It is, more correctly stated, an homage to the buddy cop movies of the 1980s like “48 Hrs.” and “Lethal Weapon.” But it begs the question: When does a movie stop being an homage and start being simply a rehash?
Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play Jimmy and Paul, veteran NYPD cops. They are the typical wildcard movie cops who cause as much carnage as they prevent. After a drug bust gone wrong they are both suspended for thirty days without pay. The without pay part is a tough pill to swallow for Jimmy, whose daughter is about to be married. To come up with $48,000 he needs to foot the bill for her ceremony he decides to sell his prized possession—a rare, mint condition baseball card. When it is stolen before he is able to sell it he and Paul begin their own investigation, which leads them to an obnoxious drugged out thief (Seann William Scott) and a violent drug lord named after a Louisiana sandwich, Poh Boy (Guillermo Díaz).
“Cop Out” is Kevin Smith’s first studio film and marks the first time in fifteen years that indie overlords Harvey and Bob Weinstein haven’t been calling the shots. Not that it seems to have made much difference. Smith’s trademarked vulgar humor is firmly in place—although in smaller doses than usual and without the sweet edge that Judd Apatow brings to this type of comedy—so fans of bodily function jokes will not be disappointed. No, all the marks of classic Smith are here and the only real difference between “Cop Out” and Smith’s low budget work is the addition of more crane shots, bigger stars and higher production value. The only thing missing is a cameo from Silent Bob… and the action and laughs you’d expect from this kind of comedy.
Smith, it must be said, isn’t an action director. His ham fisted way with the climatic shootout scenes (that’s not a spoiler, you HAD to know this would end up in a shootout) is clumsy and sucks the fun out of the film’s latter moments. Worse, it’s not nearly funny enough. Smith seems to find the characters much funnier than they actually are, allowing scene after scene to drag on past their breaking point.
There are some laughs, mostly courtesy of Morgan, who, although he is essentially playing his “30 Rock” character, brings an unhinged energy to every scene he’s in.
His unpredictability, however, is the only unpredictable thing about the movie. It rehashes (there’s that word again) every cliché from the buddy cop genre, including stereotyped bad guys who make Tony Montana look subdued.
According to answers.com the meaning of cop out is “a failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility,” and I can’t help but think that the movie’s title squares with this definition. Kevin Smith may have been committed to the project, but he failed to fulfill the responsibility of making a good movie.