From the Vault: Clerks: The Animated Series

Clerks: The Animated Series premiered in 2000. Oh my god, that was 15 years ago...

After digging through my pile of many DVD's, I came across the short-lived: Clerks: The Animated Series. Not having checked it out in a while, I popped it in and watched all six episodes and verify that the show was still as funny as I had remembered.

Once completing viewing of the show's entirety, I decided to throw a review up because, well, I got nothing better to do. I will review each episode then provide a final score at the end of my review. Also, I will not go too in depth regarding the show's bonus features and they will not play a part in the review or overall score.

Episode 1: Leonardo Leonardo Returns and Dante Has an Important Decision to Make

Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) get re-established in this new setting of Clerks. Randal continues to be a slacker working at RST Video while Dante continues to want more out of his life while slaving away at the Quick Stop. When eccentric billionaire Leonardo Leonardo (Alec Baldwin) returns to Leonardo, New Jersey and opens up a rival "Quicker Stop", Dante and Randal uncover Leonardo's true intentions and attempt to stop Leonardo. Also, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) take their selling of fireworks (since drug dealing can't be shown on television) from the Quick Stop to the front of the Quicker Stop. The episode struggles like most pilots do in setting up and establishing a world and characters. The show hadn't yet found its rhythm, but it wouldn't take long to find its humor and the meta-world that the characters would inhabit.

Episode 2: The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives

After a robbery at the Quick Stop, new locks are installed within the store. Wanting to ensure the locks work, Dante and Randal accidentally get themselves locked into the Quick Stop freezer. While awaiting rescue, the two clerks reminisce about moments in their lives. This episode pokes fun at other television shows that utilize a clipshow as an episode. Rapid-fire dialogue along with a non-stop barrage of jokes; most of which hit, make this the funniest, not best, episodes of the series.

Episode 3: Leonardo Is Caught in the Grip of an Outbreak of Randal's Imagination and Patrick Swayze Either Does or Doesn't Work in the New Pet Store

After a box of burritos goes bad, Randal decides to sell the box to Leonardo Leonardo. At the same time, a new pet store has opened which houses a monkey. Mistaking Leonardo falling ill from the burritos to being bitten by the monkey, Randal begins to live the movie 'Outbreak'. A little more plot-heavy than the prior episode, the jokes still continue to come at a furious pace and include multiple jokes that are on-off and make no sense yet provide at least a chuckle. For some reason, the "big bee" gets me every time. James Woods and Gilbert Gottfried provide plenty of laughs as a member of the military and Patrick Swayze, respectfully.

Episode 4: A Dissertation on the American Justice System by People Who Have Never Been Inside a Courtroom, Let Alone Know Anything About the Law, but Have Seen Way Too Many Legal Thrillers

After Jay slips on some liquid neglectfully left behind by Randal, Jay's case is taken up by a high-powered attorney who plans to sue Dante and the Quick Stop for $10 million dollars (Randal technically wasn't working). Possibly the best episode of the series, this episode is able to balance a solid plot with some of the funniest and most memorable jokes for the show. Everything from the Leonardo jury to Judge Reinhold presiding over the trial works. The jokes may not be as rapid-fire as those in Episode 2, but the laughs are harder and well earned. Extra points for an amazing ending that comes out of nowhere yet you just have to laugh at.

Episode 5: Dante and Randal and Jay and Silent Bob and a Bunch of New Characters and Lando, Take Part in a Whole Bunch of Movie Parodies Including But Not Exclusive To, The Bad News Bears, The Last Starfighter, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Plus a High School Reunion

Taking a step backwards from the momentum gained in the prior 3 episodes, Episode 5 struggles along throughout most of the episode. Dante begins coaching Leonardo Leonardo's little league baseball team. Realizing that Jay has a great arm and is recognized as a child, Dante adds Jay to the team who then begins to win. Meanwhile, Randal is taken and forced into slave labor after amassing a high score in a video game. Neither story works well, though Randal's does have a few funny moments (take break!) and Dante's story does have a nice callback to a joke in prior episodes. The episode as a whole, though, really doesn't gel or have the laughs as the prior episodes did. Interestingly, this is the only episode throughout the entire series' run that Kevin Smith is not credited as a writer.

Episode 6: The Last Episode Ever

Wanting to return to "old school Clerks" instead of the meta-type show it has become, Dante and Randal work a 12 hour shift at the Quick Stop. Jay and Silent Bob inform the clerks that a fair has set up across the street that includes monkeys, cotton candy and Alan Thicke. Circumstances prevent Dante and Randal from leaving the store as the environment begins to crumble in their personal lives and the area in and around the Quick Stop. By far, the most "out there" episode as Dante and Randal keep their positions in the Quick Stop like the film, but the absurdity of the show permeates every other inch of the screen. This could be considered the "kitchen sink" episode as this was written as a finale and is as crazy and over the top as you might imagine. A good way to send off the series.

Clerks: The Animated Series holds up well after being immaturely pulled from the ABC schedule fifteen years ago. Those looking for a continuation from the film might be disappointed by the slapstick and meta humor. If you go in and just enjoy the jokes offered, you will find yourself having a really good time.



Mad Max: Fury Road

With a futuristic Australia resembling a wasteland, a group of humans known as the War Boys capture Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and keep him prisoner. Used for his blood by Nux, (Nicholas Hoult) under the tyrannical rule of Immortan Joe, (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and haunted by visions of his deceased daughter, Max senses no hope.

At the same time, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives a large tanker truck, known as the War Rig, to retrieve gasoline for Joe. When Furiosa veers off course, Joe realizes that Furiosa has kidnapped Joe's 5 Wives and plans on escaping. Not allowing this to happen, Joe sends his army of War Boys after Furiosa; including Nux who brings along Max to ensure Max's blood stays with Nux at all times.

Once established with the set-up, Mad Max: Fury Road becomes one long car chase film. Furiosa and Max eventually team up in an effort to outrun Joe and the War Boys in an attempt to escape Joe's rule through the desert wasteland. Moving from one large chase sequence to another, Mad Max: Fury Road does a very good job at keeping the momentum of the film ratcheted up along with finding just enough time to give the main characters some depth.

There really isn't a whole lot to talk about in regards to story. What the film lacks in story, more than makes up for it with large-scale stunts and characters that you can enjoy just enough. Each action sequence differs itself slightly from the last before the film enters the final chase which ends the film in high style. With a pulsating and thorough score, Junkie XL goes a long way to help these action sequences flow with a really good score.

Tom Hardy's Max is a basically silent protagonist and when he does speak, he adequately grumbles through the few lines of dialogue required. The real star of the film, besides the stunts, is Charlize Theron's one-armed Furiosa. Her strong-willed character is the driving force behind the film, yet Charlize Theron does not play the character so tough that you are turned off by her. Instead, Furiosa, has her emotions pushed to the side in an attempt to complete her mission of escaping with the 5 Wives.

Speaking of the stunts, Director George Miller, instills this film with as much practical effects as possible and only using CGI sparingly, compared to most blockbuster films. This lets the audience stare at the spectacle of the vehicular stunts performed in the film. Everything from the War Boys, in essence, pole-vaulting to other cars and a full-fledged band performing music while chasing the heroes is grandly on display. My only qualm with the action scenes, is that George Miller would rapidly cut each action scene so, in my opinion, I was not as taken aback by some of the stunts than someone who filmed these scenes with a bit more of a sure hand.

That, in the overall scheme of things, is a minor concern. Mad Max: Fury Road is a very entertaining film and if future action films follow in its path, then the action genre will have a bright future in cinemas.



Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers assemble....again.

After the events of the first Avengers film and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron finds the titular heroes in Europe in an attempt to retrieve Loki's scepter. Though successful in their mission, The Avengers come across Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) who prove to be successful antagonists to the team.

Once back on their home soil, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) discover within the scepter lies artificial intelligence. Keeping this secret from the rest of the team, Tony and Bruce try to complete the Ultron defense program. Unforeseen side effects from this tampering, though, create Ultron (James Spader) who becomes fully aware and sets about on a path to destroy all humans with the help of Pietro and Wanda.

Coupled with Ultron's plan of total destruction, The Avengers begin to fracture at the lack of trust and communication. After an attempt to stop Ultron in Africa fails, the team sets about on a second-act downward spiral at Clint Barton's (Jeremy Renner) house to try and get the team back together and reformulate a plan to stop Ultron.Tony, Bruce and Clint along with Thor, (Chris Hemsworth) Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) re-evaluate with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and reassemble The Avengers.

This film tries to go darker than the first, yet comes across jumbled and in need of another pass by the editors. While trying to couple The Avengers along with Pietro and Wanda along with Ultron, some characters get lost in the shuffle while others move to the forefront. This is both good and bad.

On the good side, Natasha sees a relationship begin to form with Bruce. It was nice to see the one female hero be strong and the only person that has a chance to calm Bruce when the Hulk is released (not meant to be perverted in any way). Though the relationship seems to begin out of nowhere, and the time needed to make their growing bond not there, it was nice to see an attempt be made for the human characters.

Along with that, Clint Barton actually gets the most humanistic role in the film. Instead of being a supporting player to the marquee names of The Avengers, we get to see Clint's personal life; including having a family. Even though, like listed above, not enough time is delegated to fully immersing the audience into Clint's life, the seeds have been laid if the filmmakers wanted to showcase Clint's personal life and history. Clint also gets the best speech in the film; near the end, Clint is trying to instill confidence into a character and Jeremy Renner's delivery along with the well-written speech create a satisfying moment.

On the other end of the spectrum, Thor ends up taking a backseat in the film. After the events in Africa, Thor takes off to meet with Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) about nightmarish visions that Wanda put into Thor's head. This sequence comes off as rushed and feels like it was either written at the last minute or the editor had a fun time chopping the sequence down.

Though it may seem like I am being more negative than positive about the film, that isn't the case. What Avengers: Age of Ultron has is an entertaining mess of a film. The climax is the exact same as the first Avengers film (large scale destruction, heroes fighting multiple CGI enemies, etc.) yet was more entertaining to me. The rest of the film was solid if somewhat scattershot with trying to provide enough screen time for old and new characters along with telling a cohesive story  and trying to appease all audiences. With so much going on in the film, it would be almost impossible to tell a story without it feeling like a jumbled mess.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a jumbled mess, but a solidly entertaining jumbled mess.