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Director Kevin Smith almost croaked a while back thanks to a widow-maker heart attack—so it’s no surprise that his first film since that setback, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, is a bit of a sap fest.

Smith and buddy Jason Mewes reprise the title roles in a film that follows most of the plot points of Smith’s 2001 magnum opus, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The results aren’t as funny as I was hoping, but this is the first film in which Smith does a decent job of handling mushy, lubby-dubby, sentimental stuff.

Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, steps in as Jay’s love child with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth)—and she knocks the role out of the park. She’s actually the most consistently funny person in the movie, and she handles the emotional stuff well, too, proving she’s got major chops.

The cameo list is long, including Matt Damon, Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck a very funny Chris Hemsworth, Melissa Benoist—and even Smith, playing himself (in addition to Silent Bob). Smith poking fun at his entertainment-show-hosting-self is a great running gag, especially during a post-credits scene.

While this is not as funny as the first Jay and Silent Bob, I’m happy this exists, mainly because it means Kevin Smith, now a vegan, is not dead.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I was in the San Diego Comic-Con audience last year when Kevin Smith, doing his annual thing, told the audience about the movie Tusk.

He discussed how the film started with a discussion—about a strange personal ad he spotted—during his podcast with Scott Mosier, his longtime friend and occasional producer. The discussion turned into an improvised, joke-y horror-film scenario in which an old man takes in a boarder and slowly transforms him into a walrus. He then asked his podcast audience to say “yay” or “nay” to a film with this scenario.

Soon after, Tusk went into production.

The finished product adheres closely to Smith’s original podcast plotline, with just a few changes. It’s amazing that this movie was able to get made, let alone get a theatrical release.

Wallace Bryton and Teddy Craft (Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment) are two geeks who run a podcast called the Not-See Party. They like to cover strange stories, and their latest topic is some dude in Canada who chopped off his leg while filming himself doing a samurai trick.

Wallace—a dickhead who treats his girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), like total garbage—heads to Canada for an interview. When that falls through, circumstances lead to him visiting the rustic and alienated abode of one Howard Howe (Michael Parks).

Howard regales Wallace with stories of meeting Ernest Hemingway, and having his life saved by a friendly walrus after a shipwreck. Wallace sips his tea and throws in the occasional crude comment. Then he hits the floor, unconscious.

What follows isn’t as disgusting as I hoped it would be, but it’s still gross and outlandish: Howard starts amputating Wallace’s body parts as he puts the finishing touches on a permanent walrus suit. Before long, Wallace—sans tongue and certain limbs—is covered in a patchwork of human skin, with tusks fashioned from his leg bones jutting out of his face. The resulting monstrosity is more goofy-gross than horrific.

Credit Long for going “Full Walrus” in this movie. Never has an accomplished actor achieved such a realistic vision of a walrus’ characteristics. Actually, he might be the first to ever try.

Parks is masterful in this movie, transforming from a lonely, old, wheelchair-bound man into a menacing, terrifying abductor in the time it takes him to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” While Long goes Full Walrus, Parks goes totally insane, and the moment in which the two share their first dinner together is blissfully creepy.

Things get progressively silly as Howe trains Wallace how to be a walrus and eat fish with no hands. The film’s tone shifts even further into silliness when a well-known actor, in heavy makeup, shows up playing an investigator who helps Ally and Teddy search for Wallace.

Long does a great job of garnering sympathy for real douchebag. Credit Smith for a flashback scene that shows Wallace being ridiculed by two store clerks (Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp). It’s essentially Wallace’s last normal human interaction before his transformation, and it helps viewers feel truly sorry for the guy.

As he did with his superior Red State, Smith loses it a bit with the ending: It’s a bit too serious for this film. There’s a point in the movie in which Smith commits to unabashed lunacy, so a touching payoff seems a bit out of place. However, stay for the credits, because you’ll hear some of the original podcast, and you’ll get an extra scene.

As a fan of good horror-comedy, I appreciate Tusk, even if it stumbles at times. Unfortunately, Tusk is bombing big-time at the box office, so if you are a Smith fan, or if you want to see Justin Long get tortured, get to a theater, fast, before it leaves.

Tusk is now playing at the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews

I went to the San Diego Comic-Con this year (yes, I’m a geek), and Kevin Smith was going crazy about this movie from two young filmmakers that not only takes a different approach to the topic of high school bullying, but is also a new twist on the whole “found footage” phenomena.

Big props to actor/director Matthew Johnson and his co-star, Owen Williams, for making a film that dares to be funny on its way to a completely dark finish. Johnson and Williams play Matt and Owen, two high school students and best friends who make movies together and try to get through a day without running into the high school bullies—the Dirties.

We see Matt and Owen alternately playing around with different film genres, but their movie always takes a dark turn when the camera catches one of the Dirties assaulting them in the hallway or the cafeteria. Johnson does a capable job of steering his film between goofy territory and serious territory.

Ultimately, the movie becomes a scary, horrifying statement as the realization hits that some of these students who have committed horrible, violent acts of mass murder probably started out as good kids who were just trying to have a good time with friends. It’s a searing statement on the horrors and treacheries of bullying—and the last scene will knock you on your ass.

The film is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing