The story of Kevin Smith making his first movie starts out like the story of most indie filmmakers following a dream in the ’80s and ’90s: Maxing out credit cards, risking financial ruin all in sheer tyranny of belief that the majorly groundbreaking screenplay you wrote is your ticket into the business. Smith’s story ends differently than most: He actually made it.
‘Twas the right time, right place (unlike all those contractors on the Death Star) for Smith’s Clerks. Audiences and studios alike were hungry for outsider voices, and the guy from New Jersey holding a scuzzy black-and-white comedy was as outsidery as you can get. Released the same October week in 1994 as Pulp Fiction, Clerks set a new high for those aiming low, and thus the American independent movement of the ’90s was born.
Smith’s next movie, Mallrats, showed he was serious about giving voice to pop culture nerds, slackers, and stoners, throwing more references to movies and more reverence to comic books, to the point of roping in Stan Lee as a sage, secondary character. Smith had his most promising leap forward in writing and direction with Chasing Amy, and then took on a more aggressive front against the status quo with the iconoclastic Dogma. The organized religion send-up featured a growing cadre of stars willing to yuk it up in Smith’s unified Askewniverse (like Matt Damon, Salma Hayek, Alan Rickman, and Chris Rock), with Jason Mewes and Smith himself as Jay and Silent Bob a consistent, comedy presence. (Check out our oral history of Jay and Silent bob with Smith.)
The two characters were upgraded to lead status with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, before Smith returned to his roots in Jersey Girl and Clerks II. With the Judd Apatow style changing the comedy landscape, Smith stuck his own thumb into the pie, mixing extreme raunchiness and sweet sincerity in Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
The 2010s began with Cop Out, a failed stab at Hollywood big-budget action filmmaking, and an experience Smith now openly derides. Red State just edged by with enough critics for a Fresh rating, and would begin a 3-movie string operating in horror. Tusk has its defenders. Yoga Hosers definitely does not. For his latest, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Smith hit the streets, doing roadshow screenings with Q&As city by city. Not only did that bring together his fans in community, but also played up Smith’s strengths as a world-class raconteur, whose gift of gab has helped him create an empire of podcasts and review shows, overshadowing his directing career in recent years. Currently, Clerks III is due for a September 2020 release. Now, take a look back on all Kevin Smith movies ranked by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
What makes a comedy a classic? Something that floats on the changing tides of time and taste, remaining relevant – and hilarious? It probably takes more than a football to the groin or a juiced-up fart on the audio track. (Though we’re not not saying those can sometimes be the pinnacle of professional-grade jokes.) We don’t have the answer, but with our Essential list assembling 150 of the best comedies ever made, we’re getting closer to laugh-out-loud enlightenment than humanly thought possible. We’re melting minds, splitting sides, and slapping knees here.
To that end, we’ve included all forms of the comedy movie. From slapstick (Dumb & Dumber, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) to silent (The General, Modern Times). Rom-coms (Moonstruck, Annie Hall) to screwball (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby). Parody (Airplane!, Scary Movie) to postmodern (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Galaxy Quest). These 150 movies will take you to college (Animal House), past some fan favorites (Step Brothers, Super Troopers), and all around the globe (Kung Fu Hustle, Amelie).
There’s no minimum review count for this list. We opened it up to movies of yesteryear, which typically don’t get as many reviews as their modern comedy rivals. Many of these inducted films have high Tomatometer scores and are Certified Fresh, but the Tomatometer was not our only guide. Some comedies that stand the test of time did not necessarily pass the critical test on release, and we’re honoring those here. These are not the best-reviewed comedy films ever released, but they are the essential comedies, movies that broke the Laugh-O-Meter – we’ll totally trademark that soon, so dibs – shaped the genre, molded generations, and which audiences return to time and again, to lift the spirits.
And with our most recent updates, we’ve added the latest and greatest in new funny movies (Booksmart, Blockers, Game Night), and some more comedy classics that have definitely earned their place in the pantheon of guffaws (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harold & Maude).
Ready to whip out your funny bone and bash it violently on the nearest flat surface? Then you’re ready for our list of the best comedy movies ever: Rotten Tomatoes’ 150 Essential Comedies! —Alex Vo
As we near the end of the summer movie season, you may start to notice that there are fewer and fewer worthy choices at the multiplex, and you might just want to spend the weekend at home instead. If that’s the case, and movies like The Meg, The Happytime Murders, Crazy Rich Asians, or Alpha aren’t particularly appealing to you, here’s a list of some solid new choices streaming on Netflix in August.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Martin Scorsese’s multiple Oscar-winning 2004 biopic of legendary filmmaker, businessman, and pilot Howard Hughes.
Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson star in Kevin Smith’s feature debut comedy that follows the lives of a convenience store clerk and his best buddy who works at the video store next door.
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this drama about a curmudgeonly veteran who grapples with his racial insensitivities when he develops a relationship with the Hmong neighborhood kid he catches trying to steal his car.
Matt Damon stars in Steven Soderbergh’s tongue-in-cheek retelling of the true story of corporate whistleblower and sometimes unreliable FBI informant Mark Whitacre.
Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen lead an ensemble cast in the first chapter of Peter Jackson’s genre-defining fantasy epic trilogy based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkein.
Clint Eastwood’s multiple Oscar-winning sports drama follows a down-on-his-luck trainer (Eastwood) who reluctantly agrees to work with an aspiring female boxer (Hilary Swank) when her tenacity wins him over.
Diane Lane and John Malkovich star in this inspirational sports drama from Disney, based on the true story of the titular 1973 Triple Crown-winning racehorse.
Kevins Kline and Costner, Brian Dennehy, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, and Rosanna Arquette headline an all-star cast in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1985 western about four men who band together in opposition to a corrupt sheriff.
Before Ghostbusters, director Ivan Reitman and stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis (who also wrote both films) collaborated on this comedy about a couple of slackers who join the Army and get into all kinds of trouble.
Sarah Bolger stars in this twist on the home invasion thriller in which a babysitter slowly reveals her sinister side to the children she’s watching over.
Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer star in this Netflix original comedy about a woman who’s left at the alter by her fiancee and ends up taking her estranged father on what would have been her honeymoon.
Lily James and Michiel Huisman star in Mike Newell’s period drama set in 1946 about a writer who receives a letter from a literary club located on a Nazi-occupied island and decides to visit.
Lauren Gussis’ Netflix original dark comedy series centers on a vengeful, bullied woman who decides to become a beauty pageant queen under the tutelage of her attorney.
Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem star in the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning dramatic thriller about a man who discovers a briefcase full of cash, the deadly hitman ordered to retrieve it, and the grizzled local sheriff trying to make sense of it all.
This CW sci-fi series centers on a group of juvenile delinquents who are sent back to a post-apocalyptic Earth to see if it is habitable again. Season 5 comes to Netflix this month.
Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and West Studi star in Scott Cooper’s western about an Army captain tasked with escorting a Cheyenne war chief and his family through dangerous territory back to his tribal lands.
The Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening takes to the past in his new Netflix animated series about a young princess, her elf companion, her personal demon, and their wild, fantasy-tinged misadventures.
Briga Heelan, Andrea Martin, and John Michael Higgins star in this Tina Fey-produced NBC sitcom about a news anchor struggling to set herself apart from her peers.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in this high-concept sitcom about a rude, selfish slacker who dies unceremoniously and shockingly finds herself among the residents of an afterlife utopia.
This documentary examines the growing income gap in the United States and explores the effects it has on society at large.
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star in this Netflix original crime drama about a finance man who runs afoul of drug lords and moves his family to a remote resort community in an effort to make amends… and possibly find a way out.
1999 was one of the most important years for modern cinema. From defining originals like The Matrix and Fight Club to sleeper favourites like Office Space and Election, 1999 was a landmark year for the internet generation of movie fans and set a high standard for the big screen as we headed into the new millennium. Ten years on, we’re celebrating a remarkable twelve months of movies with new features around some of the year’s best and most important releases.
Shot on a budget of just $22,000 by film school graduates Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival ten years ago this month and started a journey that dominated public consciousness for most of the year. It was an unprecedented success, holding the world record as the most profitable movie of all time after making more than $10,000 for every $1 spent, and became one of the most important horror films of all time. It spawned a wave of imitators both amateur and professional and is the cultural yardstick against which hoaxes, horrors and movies shot with a camcorder are measured.
Now, ten years on, as RT reveals an exclusive Behind the Scenes featurette revealing how the project was put together, we reunite directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick to share their memories of making and releasing the film, as well as their plans for more from the Blair Witch franchise…
Dan and I went to film school in Orlando together and we started hanging out and we really dug each other’s films. This was in the early nineties. The Friday the 13th series had really run its course and Nightmare on Elm Street was starring Roseanne and Tom Arnold. There was a really a lull in horror movies at the time and Dan and I just started talking about the films we really liked and we had a lot in common. We started kicking around the idea of doing a very realistic film about something happening to these explorers and them filming their own journey. The best idea we came up with was for Blair Witch and at the time it was called The Woods Movie.
When Ed and I first got together with the idea we spent quite a bit of time outlining the film from a structural standpoint. We wanted all the story beats to be in there and for it to follow a narrative path, so we had a pretty detailed — almost hour-to-hour — shooting outline for what the characters would be going through throughout their journey. We had a pretty good idea of what the characters needed to do, but a looser idea of exactly who they were. Their personalities where what the actors brought to the characters. During shooting it was a very collaborative experience of us guiding them through the woods and allowing them to explore their characters on their own. If they strayed too far off the narrative path, Ed and I used this directors’ notes system we worked out to steer them back in the right direction.
Between the actors there were a lot of real arguments and emotions in there. Heather, in particular, I don’t know if it was because of the kind of character she decided to be out there, or if the guys were playing it up a bit, but she did get on Josh‘s and Mike‘s nerves a lot. We spent some time trying to calm Josh and Mike down and steer Heather into being more accommodating of the guys. But once we got the footage, and there was about 20 hours of footage, a lot of it was them arguing with each other. I’d say about 50%, in fact! We had to whittle it down and create the whole idea that there was tension between Mike and Heather when there was actually a lot more tension between Heather and Josh. That’s really where the film was born — as Dan and I went through all that footage. It could have gone a million ways.
Taking the film to Sundance was, for us, the moment where we got some validation as filmmakers. After all the work, when you get into Sundance you can at least start to feel like you’ve been accepted. It was a big part of the experience for us and being there for the premiere was really kind-of surreal. We were really thrown into the blender right off the bat. We were the first film that sold there, and the next thing we know we’re doing interviews for Premiere magazine and photoshoots and all the rest. It all happened so quickly and it snowballed from there. We were elated, excited, exhausted and complete virgins to this film sales phenomenon that happens at Sundance. That was really when the film took on a national awareness that lead us into Cannes later on, which is when things really went crazy. But Sundance was special because you’ll only ever sell your first film once, and there we were, deep in the snow, taking this journey together. Blair just took on a life of its own from there.
Fortunately, we made out very well with Blair Witch; probably better than anyone else had ever made out on their first film. Artisan built their deal around a film that was going to made $5-8m dollars — $10m max — so basically anything above $10m, they gave us a great deal. They didn’t think they’d ever have to pay on those promises. At the time, nothing had ever happened like Blair Witch. The big indie success stories were She’s Gotta Have It, Clerks and El Mariachi, and none of those movies broke $10m. Their thinking was, “Man, if we can make El Mariachi money, we’re set!”
In our wildest predictions we couldn’t have guessed the financial success of the movie. We were joking with Artisan — and they had high hopes, expecting it to do $5-8m at the box office — and we said, “If it breaks $10m, you have to buy us a competition-grade Foosball table.” They said, “Yeah, no problem!” I think in its first weekend it made $30m or so, and they lived up to their promise; they sent us a Foosball table shortly after that!
When the film was on the covers of Time Magazine and Newsweek in the same week in the States, I think that’s when we realised Blair was a really big deal. But for the filmmaking world, I think the first weekend it opened wide, where it came in number 2 — but on much fewer screens — to Runaway Bride. When that happened, and we were competing for space in theatres with the world’s biggest movie star at the time, for us that was a huge moment.
Ed and I have a prequel idea and a couple of sequel ideas and we’re in the process now of revisiting a prequel idea that we would like to do in the hopes we can get Lionsgate on board with the ten year anniversary raising awareness again. You know how the economy is, but it seems like films that already have a brand and an established lineage like Blair Witch are the kind of films getting made, so we’re hoping we can get it resurrected somehow. Some of the ideas we have are more traditional narrative ideas that play with the mythology we’ve created around Blair Witch and what we really don’t want to do is betray that mythology. We don’t want to come up with some gimmicky way to shoot a sequel that’s reminiscent of the first film — because shooting like that is a gimmick — and for it to come across as contrived. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other innovative ways to play with style and process, but I think Ed and I are most concerned with honouring the mythology.
The first time we cut the movie, we knew it was too long — it was about two and a half hours. There’s a lot of good stuff that didn’t make the film. I’m really happy with the film and I think we cut it as well as we could. There’s plenty of fan interest, though not so much from Lionsgate, but I really would love to put out a two-and-a-half hour version of the movie on DVD; like a Criterion edition with a bunch of extra footage.
There’s a great confessional with Mike that didn’t make the movie. He also had this great scene in the woods where he lost his mind, started punching trees, it was really hardcore. There’s a really cool poetry reading scene in the hotel they spend the night in where Josh and Mike are duelling with their own poetry. At that point in the film we just had to get them into the woods, so as cool as it was it had to go. They shot so much cool stuff and they rolled on everything. I think we could put together at least another hour of really, really solid footage.
At the end of the day, no matter what Dan and I do, and no matter what success or non-success we have in our careers, we have our Star Wars. Not that Blair Witch is as good as Star Wars, but we have this film that’s going to be remembered for a long time, particularly in the horror genre, and I think both of us consider ourselves extremely lucky to have had a film like that.
I get surprised when I read a book that has nothing to do with film at all and the author’s talking about getting “Blair Witched” or something like that. It’s almost become a verb. That’s when I step back and go, “Wow.” It has transcended what it originally was and it’s become such a part of the lexicon, and synonymous with being scared or hoaxed, and that’s really kind of amazing. For that I’m so flattered and so thankful. We could not have hoped or imagined anything more fantastic and grander than Blair Witch. I really feel, if I don’t make another movie ever again, we got our opportunity to leave our mark, and as a filmmaker that’s one of your dreams. It’s why you do what you do.
And that’s not all for our celebration of all things Blair Witch. Click here to watch our exclusive look behind the scenes on the film, featuring new footage from early auditions and the film’s shooting.
The Blair Witch Project is available on DVD. To read the script with which they shot the film and delve into a massively-comprehensive archive of production content, check out woodsmovie.com.
RT spoke to Smith for his five
favorite films ever, and followed up with an interview about the process of
creating the Zack and Miri universe.
on, it’s common sense. Jaws is a fantastic film. Maybe the second film I
saw in my life — I saw The Gumball Rally prior to Jaws — but
Jaws is the first one that made a deep, deep impression. I saw it a drive-in
with my parents when I was five, which is kinda weird in retrospective. It was
PG at the time.
My kid’s nine and my wife still won’t let me show her Jaws.
I made the mistake of showing my kid Gremlins when she was six and I have
heard no end of it from my old lady. She’s all, “She’s still afraid of
Gremlins.” Gremlins is a harmless f–king movie.
Brilliant writing. Brilliant performances. Fantastic editing. That is
the most well-edited film I have ever seen in my life. I like a lot of Oliver
Stone stuff in general.
A Man For All Seasons is basically porn for people who love dialogue.
Paul Scofield’s brilliant performance. Robert Shaw’s equally brilliant performance
as Henry the VII. It’s always appealed to me. I was 13 years old the first time
I saw it. Absolutely fell in love with it because it’s wall-to-wall language
with compelling performances. And [it’s] about something to me, in terms that I
was raised Catholic. So Thomas Moore’s decision to not sign the oath of
succession appealed to me as I was growing up because this is a dude who’s
martyred for his beliefs and whatnot.
And people will always compare that movie
to The Crucible for some reason. But I never felt the same connection to The
Crucible because in that instance John Procter is just going to great
lengths to try to keep his name. Whereas Thomas Moore went to great lengths to
keep, what he felt was his soul, intact. By taking that oath it would’ve been
selling out on his soul, it would’ve been lying. He couldn’t do it and I always
found that insanely admirable and the life one wants to emulate to some degree,
without being crazy Catholic at the same time.
Spike Lee’s finest movie. One of the movies that made me want to get
into the movies as well. I knew I was never going to make Do the Right Thing, to
do what he did with cinema and tell a story comedically but also dramatically.
Very intense. That movie goes from a fun comedy — I don’t know if you can
say fun comedy, but it’s a funny comedy — to a dramatic shift in tone. It’s a
slow burn. You don’t notice it when it happens. It comes out of left field but
it’s keeping in what has come before. You realize how masterfully it’s put
That movie informed Clerks to a large degree: it takes place all in
one day, in one particular block, in one very specific city. So that was the
model I used for Clerks. So much so that the original version of Clerks Dante
gets killed because I was like, “I want to do something like that.” Then I
realized I’m not Spike Lee.
I was raised Catholic and I still consider myself a fairly spiritual
person even though I have a hard time identifying with most Christians in this
country. But I still maintain a belief in God and in Jesus, and that gets tried
on a daily basis. The older I get, the wiser I get, the tougher it is to believe
in a divine power or whatnot. So that movie appeals to me on that level alone.
To take it beyond, it’s just a fantastic Martin Scorsese picture. Great
performances in it. The first portrayal of Christ where I was, “Wow, this might
be what it was like.” He wasn’t a guy of all beatitude and perfection. He was a
man, first and foremost, who just happened to be the son of God.
Our interview with
Kevin Smith continues as we discuss the MPAA, the process of movie appeals, and
making comedies during a Judd Apatow era.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a really sweet movie.
KS: Thank you.
Jersey Girl is also a really sweet movie, but the reaction wasn’t
KS: [Laughs.] No, not nearly as good.
With Judd Apatow’s productions currently the standard bearers
of American comedy, do you think people are now more receptive to this mix of
vulgarity and sweetness?
KS: Absolutely. It felt like once 40 Year Old
Virgin did over $100 million, suddenly it made the type of movie that I
make, the kind that mixes vulgar stuff with sentimental stuff, or raunchy stuff
with sweet stuff, viable. Economically viable. For years, I felt any movie that
mixed raunch and sweetness couldn’t make more than $30 million. It was the best
we’ve ever done.
It was a niche thing.
KS: Totally. Absolute niche. Judd blows the ceiling out,
crashes through the glass ceiling, makes over $100 million with 40 Year Old
Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, and suddenly it proves that
genre viable. So, that to me was a blessing. I’m like, “Right on.” Now I can
totally make Zack and Miri Make a Porno without having it on a $200,000
budget on a 50 screen release.
Has Zack and Miri‘s MPAA process given you a new
enthusiasm to do [upcoming horror project] Red State?
KS: [Laughs.] I don’t take as much umbrage with the
MPAA fiasco, if you will, as everyone else. Like everyone else wants to scream
“censorship” the minute it happens. I don’t feel that way because they’re not
saying, “Cut it or it don’t go out.” They’re saying, “If you want your rating,
the rating you want, you’re gonna have to make some changes.” So I would
much rather deal with one governing body than deal with it on a state-by-state
basis, which is what it was before the creation of the MPAA. A movie that
played in New York might not play in Texas, because that state’s censors could
shoot it down. And I assure you, if we were going state by state, I don’t think
any of my movies would have played in Texas at this point.
So I’m glad there’s only one body you have to deal with
that governs the entire country and how we view movies, as opposed to 50.
They’re also fairly generous, and as much as it’s a pain in the ass, they do
give you the option to appeal. Like, you know, they’ll tell you what your
rating is, and they’ll tell you what you need to look at if you want to reach
the rating you want via cuts.
Or they give you this last bite at the apple, which they
really don’t have to do. Like, if I was in charge of the MPAA, I’d be like “F–k
you, the rating is the rating. Either cut or accept that rating.” But they give
you this alternative, where you can actually go and flip it. Go above their
heads to a third party altogether, and I think that’s kinda generous, man. The
fact that they do that at all.
I mean, to me, it is what it is. At the end of the day,
it’s part of the business. If you want to be in this business, you have to be
willing to play that game. And you know, the key is finding a way to play the
game where it works in your favor. And so far we’ve gotten lucky. Three times
I’ve gone to the appeals process; three times we’ve flipped it without having to
make any cuts.
Clerks for one.
KS: Clerks. Jersey Girl they gave an
R rating initially. I had to flip it to a PG-13. Clerks 2, first time we
submitted it: R. That’s why I never thought we’d have problems on Zack and
Miri because I’m like, “Nothing in this movie is nearly as outrageous as the
donkey show in Clerks 2. If they let that pass, this should be fine.” I
How does the appeals process work?
KS: There’s a bunch of people that work on the
ratings board. I don’t know if they all watch every single movie or if they
just use this many people and they rotate it or something.
First, you go before the ratings board. They watch the
movie, they give you your rating. Then you could either choose to work with the
ratings board, try to cut it to get to your rating, or you go to the appeals
process. The appeals process is made up of an audience that has no ratings
board members on it. There are MPAA members in the audience, people who work in
the studio system or whatnot, members of the Motion Picture Association, but
they’re not ratings board members. The other half of the audience is made up of
members of NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners. I’ve always felt
that those members of NATO should be what the ratings board is made up of.
Because they’re the ones who exhibit the movie.
KS: They are the last line of defense. They’re the
ones that deal with the public on a regular basis. So a guy who owns a movie
theater, an exhibitor, can tell you precisely what will get a person on their
feet, out of the theater, asking for a refund. And that’s an opinion I trust
more than some nebulous body with people who may or may not be parents of
children who are of a young age.
Anyways, the appeals screening is made up of those members
of the audience. What you do is you screen the movie for them, and then you as
the filmmaker get up and you get 15 minutes to make an argument for why you feel
the movie should be rated R as opposed to NC-17. Then Joan Graves, who is the
head of the ratings board, gets up and she does 15 minutes as to why she feels
the movie is NC-17. Then you get 10 minutes to rebut her, and she gets
10 minutes to rebut you. Then you two leave the room, and people take a secret
ballot. That’s how it all works. And you have to win by 2/3 majority. You
can’t win by one vote. So we had 14 people in our screening. If eight of them
had voted for us, we would have lost. We had to have 2/3, so we wound up
Now after getting the R rating, people are taking
issue with the posters.
KS: It’s weird. After we won the appeal, it felt
like the MPAA got a little more stringent with our marketing materials. Like,
they started kicking back our posters and potential trailers. We had done a
bunch of behind-the-scenes shorts on Clerks 2 and put them up on the
Internet and ran them for almost 6 months in advance of the movie. Never once
had to approve them through anybody. We do what we want, because it’s the
Internet, and who governs the Internet?
We were gonna do [the shorts] again [for Zack and Miri,
and] this time around, the MPAA told us that we couldn’t run without getting
them approved by the MPAA first. The MPAA’s manifest is they have approval over
all movies and of signatory members of the MPAA. A studio has to be a signatory
MPAA member [and] most studios are. All of them are, as a matter of fact. But
[the MPAA] also governs the marketing material. So in the same way that they’re
like, “We can tell you what can go in a trailer that plays on TV, we can also
tell you these can or cannot be played on the Internet.” And that’s the first
time I’ve ever encountered that.
Suddenly, after years of ignoring the Internet, they’re now
paying attention. So all those [shorts] had to get rated through them as well,
and that was kind of weird. They were insisting that we install an age gate on
the site. An age gate is ridiculous. Anybody can beat an age gate. You don’t
even have to be Einstein to beat an age gate. You’re just f–king picking a
date that makes you 18 or older. And in a world where you can jump to a porno
site and watch a 15-second mpeg of people f–king without clicking an age gate,
how are you protecting people from anything, you know? It’s like, this movie is
a comedy. It’s not true porn, you know. All the f–king is fake, and silly at
that. What about the real porn over here? But they’re like, “We’re not in
charge of that. We’re only in charge of movies.” Because no parent calls up the MPAA to say, like, “My kid saw something weird on largelabia.com.”
I’ll be honest with you, I’m shocked they’ve let it go as
long as they have. The one thing I’m really terrified about is when they start
rating the extras on a DVD. So far, people have left that alone. Jersey Girl
was a PG-13 movie. Those two commentary tracks are R, if not worse. And some of
the features we had on it were definitely not PG-13-friendly. So for years
you’ve been able to do that. I’m scared that one day those cats are gonna start
turning on home video as well and being like, “We have to rate all the extras on
the disc.” So you could conceivably have a PG movie with R-rated extras. So as
long as they leave that alone, I’m fine.
Largely, I don’t make PG-13 movies, so it doesn’t matter.
If most of my [DVD extra] content was rated R, the movies are usually rated R,
so I’m okay with it. But, you know, [a potential MPAA crackdown] will prevent
things like that Jersey Girl commentary track from happening. Which, you
know, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn’t be
the collapse of the American infrastructure. But it is kinda vexing.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno opens in theaters this Friday.
Joining the already-announced starring duo of Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are Craig Robinson (NBC’s The Office), Traci Lords (Cry-Baby), Ricky Mabe (Frankenstein and Me), and Katie Morgan, as well as Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes, both veterans of previous Smith productions.
In the film — which started shooting in Pittsburgh yesterday — Rogen and Banks play friends who decide to film a porno in order to help pay off their debts, only to discover their feelings for each other might be more complicated than they thought.
The Dimension production, currently without a firm release date, will mark the latest chapter in a long partnership between Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and Dimension/The Weinstein Company co-chairs Bob and Harvey Weinstein; previous outings have included Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma.
Some journalists are lucky to get 15 minutes with a director; RT-UK hit the jackpot of good fortune when "Clerks 2" director Kevin Smith agreed to a two-hour long kick back, foul-mouthed, rollicking good time chat, so awesome that we’re presenting it in not one, not two, but five daily installments! Click here to start reading.
Kevin Smith has long been one of the most accessible directors around — between his frequent appearances in online forums, on his own site (ViewAskew.com), and his world-traversing Q&A shows, he’s made a name for himself as a decidedly fan-friendly filmmaker (and earned his reputation for being the closest thing any fanboy could possibly come to being a director). RT-UK’s Joe Utichi caught up with Smith recently in London, where Smith was giving one of his patented answer ’em-until-the-questions-run-out Q&A sessions.
Up first: Joe and Kevin release their inner nerds with talk of the "X-Files" and the exciting potential of a second "X-Files" movie (guess which one named his pets after Scully and Mulder?)…
Joe Utichi: Speaking of the dogs, I was kind-of relieved to hear you’d called them Scully and Mulder because, rather embarrassingly, I was big into "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" back in the day and I had a dog called Kira and a cat called Dax.
Kevin Smith: [laughs] Did you really? Yeah, we’re kind-of gay like that as well. It’s so weird, the show’s been over for a few years and we’ve had the dogs for like eight, nine years. Sometimes you don’t even think about it but every once in a while you mention their names and people are like, "Did you say Scully and Mulder?" And it’s like, "Oh, yeah… That’s right…"
JU: Talking of "The X-Files," I’m excited about the potential of the second film.
KS: I just read that; I read it on f*cking Rotten Tomatoes yesterday as a matter of fact! I guess it was the Gillian Anderson somewhat semi-confirmation which complemented something Duchovny had said last week or earlier in the week.
JU: Yeah, he’d said it’s happening and we want to get it in before the strike.
KS: Right, and then she kind-of flat-out confirmed it.
I can’t wait, I mean, it’s just a no-brainer. And the fact they’re talking about doing a non-mythology entry… That just makes a lot more sense.
JU: Right, you can’t tell mythology over ninety minutes. They had trouble telling it over nine seasons.
KS: Totally, and when they did that first feature as well you’re sat there going, "Well, it’s good, but it’s not nearly as good as some of their best shows." I think just doing a one-off that doesn’t go all into it… I’m sure they’ll sprinkle a bit of mythology in there, but doing a one-off that’s not tied into, like, the Cigarette Smoking Man, aliens and sh*t like that.
KS: Yeah, Krycek… No more black oil. It’ll be kind-of stimulating to say the least.
JU: Just to be in an environment with those characters again while they’re just doing their jobs is an exciting prospect. Because that show was always at its best when they were solving those one-off cases.
KS: Totally. Some of those episodes like "Home," where they go and meet that backwards family with the mother under the bed, that has nothing to do with mythology but they’re so f*cking terrifying.
JU: I’m really excited by the prospect. I probably shouldn’t be…
KS: You know, I think that’s one where you can probably get your hopes up in a good way. Enough time has gone down between the end of the series and a lot of time has gone down between the last movie and the next movie.
JU: I hope so. Plus, Chris Carter’s used to doing TV and coming up with ideas week by week…
KS: He’s had enough time to think something great.
Next: On reading reviews (from critics and fans alike on Rotten Tomatoes), Kevin’s infamous "Revenge of the Sith" RT thread, and getting drawn into message board flame wars…
JU: So I wanted to talk to you about reviews, I know you read reviews but most filmmakers I meet tell me they never read them.
KS: That’s horse-sh*t. I don’t believe that for a second. I think everybody does and I think it’s very fashionable to say, "I don’t read the reviews." Maybe, at best, what they mean is they don’t read the negative reviews. With Rotten Tomatoes it’s very easy to skip the negative reviews; you see that little green splotch and unless you want to torture yourself you just avoid it and go to the little red tomato.
I think, best-case scenario, they’re probably just avoiding the green splotches. But, you know, it’s a communications medium where it’s manufactured for use; you’re putting something out there to get a response. What filmmaker would not want to read that response? The box-office response only tells one part of the story.
In the age of the Internet it’s not like you’re just relying on the opinion of published cineastes to get their take on it. Film criticism, as democratised as it’s been over the last five, ten years of the Internet, suddenly you’re getting the opinion of people who, if they weren’t writing for some Internet site, would be paying to see the movie anyway. You’re almost getting the opinion of the same guy who’s paying for a ticket. And then if you go beyond even the published critics, the Internet critics, you can just read what people write on a message board and kind-of get the true opinion.
Now, you know, it’s good and bad because the Internet being the Wild Wild West that it is, and the anonymity that it affords, you get people saying things that they would never in a million years say to your face. And sometimes they’re just saying sh*t to get a reaction.
KS: Yeah, totally. But I think when you read a message board you can’t believe the most insanely positive thing you read and you can’t believe the most belligerently negative thing you read. The truth lies somewhere in between.
JU: I remember something brought you to the Rotten Tomatoes message boards a couple of years ago…
KS: It was the "Revenge of the Sith" thing. I wrote a little piece that wasn’t even meant to be a review. I had seen it and so I wrote on the View Askew website about seeing the movie. It was kind-of a mini-review but not like a three-page, well-thought-out thing. It was kind-of like, "This is what I thought about the movie."
JU: Which, by the way, I read and hated you for, because that was before all the press screenings and I was desperate to see that movie.
KS: [laughs] Right and that’s, I think, why it circulated as much as it did. I remember I just put it up on the message boards and our server got crashed and it wound up getting linked from all these places. I hadn’t really thought about it but I guess it was the first review and I had no idea. For some reason I thought the press had already seen it and they were talking about it.
So when that review went up, there was one thread on the Rotten Tomatoes message boards where some people appreciated my thoughts and some people totally took me to task and some people just shredded me for it. That was in an age where anything I saw that I thought was an unfair shredding I would respond. Which is such a self-defeating practice but in those days I felt the need to do it. I’ve since kind-of gotten over it.
I’d never go after people with whom I differed in opinion; people who were just like, "My opinion is completely different from yours." I would tend to just go after people who printed untruths or misstated facts or something like that to just be more corrective than anything else. But that thread wound up going on and on and on, and there was one broad there whose insults were just getting weird and mean and I just kept going back at her with things that were even more weird and even more mean and wrote some of the most f*cking biting but f*cking cut-and-slash type of sh*t in response to her, to the point where she did the internet equivalent of crying; completely changed her tune, cried foul and that she was under attack.
It was just this weird phenomenon but parts of it were really entertaining. I felt like I did write some of my most biting and f*cking mean-spirited sh*t in one way but to this anonymous person that I’d never met.
JU: To a certain extent you’ve got to have more respect for those people who stick to their guns.
KS: I think in theory you’re supposed to but, you know, let’s be honest; it’s human nature to like people who are saying nice things to you rather than f*cking horrible things to you. I’d rather see them all just f*cking flip-flop and be nice. I don’t know anybody – unless you’re a f*cking masochist – you don’t want to read horrible things about yourself. You’re supposed to respect that commitment to their opinion and their ideals but it sucks sometimes. You’re just like, "Dude, just cave. I’m here, I’m reading."
But I’ve since kind-of calmed down about reading all that stuff. It’s an ever ongoing process and learning curve and I’ve been making films for thirteen years now but – at least for me, I don’t know how other people deal with it – it takes a long time to process that if you don’t want to read negative things you just don’t have to. And Rotten Tomatoes makes it easy by seeing that splotch. Even if you see on your message threads a subject line that’s just heinous, you simply avoid it if you don’t want to take an hour, two hours out of your day to wind up addressing it. Or if you just don’t want to feel like sh*t because there are times when you’ll read something that’s just so negative and finds all the chinks in your armour and really cuts you to the quick and addresses your own insecurities that it will effect the rest of your day in a way like, "They’re right, I suck. What am I doing?"
And it’s so easy to believe the negative over the positive. Overwhelmingly the majority of the things people write are positive but you will remember verbatim the negative things. I think that’s part of human nature as well, to focus on the bad rather than the good. And when it’s you sitting in front of a computer screen, alone in a room, that is the whole world. That is the most important thing in the whole world; suddenly everything boils down to you and this person and their horrible opinion of you. And then your kid walks in the room and you’re like, "What are you doing? I’m going to get out and hang out with my kid."
Because ultimately whether they’re right or wrong it’s just opinion. It’s subjective. There is no right and wrong; if that’s how they feel that’s how they feel and nothing you do, no film you can make, is really going to turn them around. But it’s so easy to get lost in that; to get lost in the opinion of some faceless individual on the Internet. When it’s just you alone on the Internet that person represents everybody else in the world. It’s tough to kind-of keep perspective and just be, "This is just one dude." Even if they’re a bunch it still represents a small sample.
Click here to read more, and check back tomorrow for the next installment, in which Kevin talks more about his horror movie, "Red State," the movies that inspire it, his Minnesota-set comedy script, indie cinema in 2007 and, erm, Britney Spears…
This week at the movies, we’ve got cops and robbers in Boston ("The Departed," starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon), chainsaw massacres in Texas ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," starring Jordana Brewster), and retail employees in New Mexico ("Employee of the Month," starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook). What do the critics have to say?
Is Martin Scorsese America’s greatest living filmmaker? He’s certainly bolstering his case with "The Departed." The film, which is a loose remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," tells the story of two moles, one of whom (DiCaprio) a cop undercover within a Boston crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other (Damon) a hood who has infiltrated the police department. Critics say Scorsese has created a crime drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality that infused such past triumphs as "GoodFellas," with outstanding work from an excellent cast. At 96 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Departed" may signify a new arrival for the master director; Scorsese’s best reviewed wide release since "GoodFellas." And it’s not only Certified Fresh, but it’s also the best reviewed wide release of the year.
The lives of wage slaves are often grist for the cinema’s mill, whether comic ("Clerks"), dramatic ("One Hour Photo") or both ("The Good Girl"). Now comes "Employee of the Month," starring Cook as a slacker at a Costco-like box store who whips himself into shape when attractive new hire (Simpson) comes on board. Critics say the movie has a few good laughs, but Cook and Simpson lack chemistry, and the film doesn’t do much beyond showing employee antics. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, audiences may want to hire a different "Employee."
For horror fans who are interested in the origin of Leatherface, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" provides some back story on the Lone Star State’s scariest resident. It also provides oodles of gore, and a style reminiscent of the original. Unfortunately, the critics say it doesn’t provide enough scares to make the experience worthwhile. The plot involves a group of young adults headed to Mexico for a good time before two brothers go to fight in Vietnam; naturally, Leatherface curtails their enjoyment in a hurry. The scribes say the film is a little too rote, and at 14 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Chainsaw" doesn’t cut very deep. (Read RT’s interview with director Jonathan Liebesman here.)
Also opening this week in limited release: "Blood Tea and Red String," a handmade stop-motion fairy tale 13 years in the making, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "So Goes the Nation," a documentary about the 2004 election season in Ohio, is at 100 percent; "49 Up," the latest in Michael Apted‘s remarkable documentary series about growing and changing in England, is at 94 percent; "Black Gold," a documentary about the global effects of the coffee trade, is at 88 percent; "Little Children," a tale of suburban angst starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly, is at 79 percent; "Shortbus," John Cameron Mitchell‘s warmhearted exploration of unconventional sexuality, is at 68 percent; and "Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner," a documentary about the eponymous Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning scribe, is at 55 percent. And "The Queen," which is expanding this week, is at 98 percent, making it the third best reviewed limited release of the year.
Recent Martin Scorsese Movies:
92% — No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
89% — The Aviator (2004)
77% — Gangs of New York (2002)
100% — My Voyage to Italy (2001)
72% — Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Texas Chainsaw Massacres:
86% — The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
50% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
23% — Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1989)
16% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
37% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Best Reviewed Wide Releases Of 2006
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
96% — The Departed
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84% — Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
78% — The Devil Wears Prada
Best Reviewed Limited Releases Of 2006
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
98% — Kekexeli: Mountain Patrol
98% — The War Tapes
98% — The Queen
96% — Army of Shadows
95% — Wordplay
93% — Fateless
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
92% — The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
92% — An Inconvenient Truth
92% — Lassie
This week we’ve got some magic in ordinary dwellings (M. Night Shyamalan‘s "Lady in the Water" and "Monster House") and some funny couples ("My Super Ex-Girlfriend," with Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, and Kevin Smith‘s "Clerks II," featuring Jay and Silent Bob). What do the critics have to say?
For a moment, it appeared that M. Night Shyamalan would join the top tier of contemporary directors. "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs" were commercial and critical hits, establishing a winning combination of spooky, twisty plots and spiritual quests. But now, after the lukewarm critical reaction to "The Village," and the absolute drubbing that his latest, "Lady in the Water," is taking, it’s looking like Shyamalan may be adrift. (The fact that "Water" star Bryce Dallas Howard‘s dad was piloting the craft when Fonzie jumped the shark is purely coincidental.) The film tells the story of a super (Paul Giamatti) at a drab apartment complex who discovers a mythical creature (Howard) living beneath the swimming pool. Though its description makes "Lady" sound like a simple fairy tale, critics say the film is needlessly complex, ponderous, and pretentious. At 22 percent on the Tomatometer, "Lady in the Water" is out to sea.
On every street, there’s one house that’s just a little creepy, a place that inspires trepidation and even fear among the neighborhood kids. In "Monster House," there’s a residence that actually attacks people. The critics say this CG film, featuring the voices of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nick Cannon, and Steve Buscemi, is technically excellent and effective as a funny, scary funhouse ride of a movie. But perhaps it’s a little too effective; more than a few of the scribes say the movie may be way too scary for younger viewers. Still, at 66 percent on the Tomatometer, this "House" may be a prime piece of real estate.
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend" has a pretty amusing premise: A guy is on the outs with his girlfriend, but she’s a superhero, and uses her powers to thwart his budding romance with a coworker. Plus, director Ivan Reitman and stars Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson are pretty adept at light comedy. So what’s the problem? Well, the critics say the movie never quite transcends its premise. While the scribes say the leads are solid and the script does a decent job of poking fun at the superhero genre, the execution is ultimately too flat to make this material soar. "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" is at 45 percent on the Tomatometer.
It appears Uma has seen "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" one too many times.
If it wasn’t for Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Smith would likely be the voice of New Jersey. His "Clerks" changed the landscape of indie cinema in the 1990s; its DIY aesthetic inspired hundreds of other kids in the suburbs with demented minds and big dreams to pick up a camera and document their existential crises. In "Clerks II," he revisits Dante and Randal, those lovable, potty-mouthed slackers, who’ve barely changed a lick in a decade (aside from the release of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the presence of Rosario Dawson, which at least gives them something new to talk about). The critics say that while "Clerks II" will not break any new ground, it will please the legions of Kevin Smith acolytes with its witty, ribald humor. At 70 percent on the Tomatometer, "Clerks II" may be worth a stop, though it’s still a cut below the original, at 85 percent.
Also in theaters this week in limited release: Ryuhei Kitamura‘s "Azumi" is at 57 percent on the Tomatometer; "Shadowboxer," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren, is at 44 percent; and the bloody indie "Mad Cowgirl" is at 17 percent.
In this week’s news, the creators of "Lost" hope to one day transfer the show’s success to the big screen; rumors are heating up that Johnny Depp will co-star with Will Smith in "I Am Legend"; Eric Bana is reportedly out of "Hulk 2," and the sequel will adopt themes more closely related to the 1970s TV show; "Superman Returns" conquered the holiday weekend box-office to the surprise of no one; and this week’s opening movies are receiving mixed reviews.
In Other News: both "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" were shut out of the major Emmy nominations; you too can be in "Pirates of the Caribbean 3"; Dolly Parton and Dakota Fanning are among those invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; the existence of one Suri Cruise is still unconfirmed; and David Hasselhoff recovered from his accident rapidly enough to get kicked out of Wimbledon. Read on for details.
The Week’s Most Popular News
You’ll Eventually Be Able to Get "Lost" at the Movies
First we learn that "24" is planning to make the leap onto the silver screen, and now comes the (not very surprising) news that smash series "Lost" also has its sights set on life after network.
Johnny Depp, Futuristic Vampire?
Now here’s a juicy piece of casting gossip that just might be true: Johnny Depp as a (semi-)vampire, playing opposite Will Smith, in Francis Lawrence’s "I Am Legend." This, of course, is the long-awaited adaptation of Richard Matheson’s frankly awesome story.
A Few More "Hulk 2" Happenings
Some good news and bad news seems to be floating around regarding the "Hulk" sequel. Word is that Eric Bana is entirely out of the running for the follow-up, but also that the flick might harken back to the classic 1970s series that old folks like me remember fondly.
Box Office Wrapup: "Superman Returns" to Top of Charts
The Man of Steel conquered the North American box office this weekend as the super hero adventure Superman Returns claimed the number one spot over the pre-Independence Day holiday frame.
Critical Consensus: "Dead Man’s Chest" Is Overstuffed; "Scanner" Shines Darkly
This week at the movies, we’ve got pirates back for more box office bounty ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest") and a journey to the center of the mind ("A Scanner Darkly"). What do the critics have to say?
In Other News: