Archive for July, 2006
Director: Kevin Smith
After Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, everyone thought that Kevin Smith was done with his View Askew series (begun with Clerks in 1994), that he’d moved on to more mature work, born out of his new role as father. That more mature work was Jersey Girl; though an entertaining film, it wasn’t very successful at the box office. Thankfully, Smith returns to his origins and delivers a sharp and entertaining treatise on relationships and growing older.
Unsurprisingly, this film is more similar to Clerks than any of the other Askew films. Less slapstick than Mallrats or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, less serious than Chasing Amy or Dogma, Clerks II is a good balance of funny dialogue and “dick and fart” jokes. The film feels like a sequel to Clerks, both in tone and content; this is impressive considering it was made 12 years later.
The acting is very good, with almost everyone putting in strong performances. Particularly notable are Rosario Dawson and Trevor Fehrman. Fehrman, relatively new to films, holds his own with veteran Dawson and the other cast. The only acting blip is Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach who struggles a bit in a smaller role. There are also a number of funny cameos, both from Askew alumni and familiar TV faces.
Along with the cameos, there are several clever nods to the original Clerks. Smith plays it smart and limits the in-jokes, careful not to alienate anyone unfamiliar with his earlier work. This isn’t Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, after all. The production design is also very clever, with many funny products and signs in the background. This film will improve on multiple viewings.
I do have a few minor quibbles with the film, but they in no way diminished my viewing enjoyment. The working environment is fairly unrealistic, for one: since when do fast food restaurants only have four employees and customers who always have something smart or funny to say? Also, I would’ve liked to see more retail venting, as shown in the first Clerks. Some of the funniest moments came from Randall ripping into the occasional customer and this doesn’t happen as often in Clerks II.
All in all, Clerks II proves that Kevin Smith can still make funny, mature films, even if they’re filled with dick and fart jokes.Colin Le Sueur
Director: Walter Murch
Say the words Disney and Oz, and a cheerful Technicolor land filled with dancing munchkins and spontaneous musical numbers flashes to mind. This couldn’t be further from the truth in Return to Oz. I first saw this creepy sequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz as a child in the 1980s. I’m of the Labyrinth and Gremlins era, so I loved it. The critics weren’t so nice: poor reviews tainted the reputation of this beautifully crafted horror movie for kids and condemned it to video vault hell with the heinous title of Bad Sequel.
Directed by Walter Murch, the film combined tales from L. Frank Baum’s books Ozma of Oz and The Land of Oz and was set six months after the infamous tornado of the first instalment. Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk, The Craft) is haunted by her dreams of Oz, so Aunt Em packs her off to a mental asylum for some shock therapy. You can already tell we’re not in Kansas anymore. One dark and rainy night, Dorothy breaks out of the evil clinic, and escapes down a river in a chicken coop. She awakens in the whimsical world of Oz, where sinister forces are ruling the land. Dorothy must save Oz from the villainous Gnome King who has stolen all the emeralds from the Emerald City, turned the Oz folk to stone and imprisoned the King of Oz, the Scarecrow.
The film is littered with wonderfully demented characters: Tik-Tok the copper robot, gangly Jack Pumpkinhead, a bizarre flying sofa with a taxidermied moose head named The Gump… even Toto has been replaced by Billina the talking chicken. The twisted imagery doesn’t stop there, however. It’s the stuff of nightmares as Dorothy explores the ruins of Oz and encounters the manic Princess Mombie (a terrifying Jean Marsh) and her room full of talking severed heads, disturbing talking rocks and the perils of the Deadly Desert, and is sucked into a life-or-death guessing game in the Gnome King’s Mountain. Most menacing of all, however, are The Wheelers. These demonic minions of Mombie were complete with fiendish laughs and wheels for appendages.
Return to Oz conjures a devilish world filled with dangers and seamlessly merges magical adventures with genuine horror. As a lover of the strange, I believe this fantastically weird foray down the Yellow Brick Road should be set free. Go on, champion the cause of this brilliant and frightening fantasy! Return to Oz is truly one of the underrated greats.Gemma Close