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I'll never forget the first time I saw a Kevin Smith movie. It was late one night on Canada's national broadcaster the CBC and the film was Mallrats. I remember reading and hearing about the film during it's theatrical release because at the time I was working at a comic book store and the poster and advertisement for the film was plastered on the back of the majority of that month's new releases. No doubt that had to do with the film's heavy tie-in to the world of comics. I never had the chance to see the film theatrically because at that time I was seeing about 2 films a month if I was lucky, not the two or three (or in recent cases four or five) a week I see now.  Flash forward approximately five years and I'm bored, it's late at night and I have nothing better to do than sit up and watch TV. At first I thought I'd just start watching it and tape the remainder and finish it up in the morning but that proved not to be the case as I stayed up long past my regular bedtime to marvel in the comedy that was Mallrats.  After that I knew I was hooked on the film and even went out and rented the film at the local video store. However before I could watch it a second time, I decided I had to own it and purchased the video immediately. I picked up Clerks a short time after and rented Chasing Amy which I fell in love with just as fast Mallrats.

The humorous menu
Now, here we are a few years and a couple of films later and I without a doubt consider Kevin Smith one of my favorite directors. I eagerly await each project he becomes involved with and, while Dogma was a tad on the disappointing side, Smith regained my trust with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, a film which I felt hit all the right notes. Now as I await Jersey Girl which is said to be more along the lines of   Chasing Amy, I hold in my hands a copy of An Evening with Kevin Smith a 2 DVD set which is certainly different than anything else he's done.

Feature


An Evening with Kevin Smith follows the director as he hits the college circuit to discuss and answer questions about just about anything his fan base can come up. Smith, a popular director amongst the 18 to 32 age group, has accumulated a number of fans mostly through his funny comedic films that touch upon human issues such as love, faith and spirituality.  Smith has always had a positive rapport with his fans through his website (ViewAskew.com) and his audio commentaries and love for creating massive special edition DVDs that contain just about everything a fan could want. He's also a huge attraction for colleges who hire him to give these question and answer talks. In fact, at one appearance that's included on this DVD the crowd is made up of over 3000 fans.

It's tough to know where to begin because this program is so chocked full of good material that almost every minute of the nearly four hour running time contains a noteworthy story. I guess I'll start at the beginning. This program covers just about anything and everything a Kevin Smith fan could want to know from the background on how he got started in the film business to problems with shooting within the studio film system to lighter fare such as how he met his wife. Along the way he also offers up humorous stories about projects he was involved with including Superman Reborn and the cover of "High Times" magazine.  As a Kevin Smith fan I was already aware of some of these stories but to hear them told in true Smith fashion it was like hearing them for the first time.  

Fat joke #265
Just looking at the subject matter one might not except a very exciting technical or creative presentation of the material. After all how exciting can one person telling stories up on stage to large groups of people possibly be. Well in this case, the material has been assembled by producer/director JM Kenny, who is known to Smith fans for working on other Kevin Smith projects including the excellent Mallrats SE. For the most part Kenny does a good job compiling, sorting and editing together an interesting, informative and best of all humorous look at Kevin Smith's life. Kenny shot a number of appearances and the result is sort of a best of compilation. Kenny's visual style is fairly straightforward and he does a good job mixing serious and non-serious stories together and making strong transitions between clips of different appearances. For example, there are a few times where Kevin will answer a question and then say "next question" and point to one side of the room. When the camera cuts to a shot of the audience member it may be from a different angle.

Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about spending "An Evening with Kevin Smith" simply because the 225 minute running time is a long time to invest in a simple question and answer format type program. As my schedule gets progressively busier and I have less time to sit down and watch DVDs, the thought of spending almost four hours watching a man talk about his movies instead of watching between 2 and 3 actual movies was somewhat daunting. I started out just watching the disc for fun, never intending to write this review, however as the hours quickly past I found myself wanting to let others know how a good a ride this is. I'd like to applaud the people at Columbia Tristar who came up with the unique idea to release this DVD set because it allows fans who would never get the chance to see Smith live experience the magic that is "An Evening with Kevin Smith". Regardless of whether you're a fan of the man, there is no question that you'll find yourself enjoying your evening with Smith. This is without a doubt the best four hours I've spent in recent memory. Highly Recommended.

Girl gets 'outed' on DVD

Video


An Evening with Kevin Smith features a 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced transfer. Since this is primarily a one man show there isn't much of a visual style to the production, though the DVD allows the feature presentation to look just about as good as it get's. The documentary was shot over a number of college appearances that the director made and for the most part the material looks very good. I can't tell for sure but the production does seem to be shot on digital video as opposed to film though since this isn't a feature film that choice doesn't really matter. The 1.78:1 widescreen framing is fairly strong, never limiting the visuals and allowing Kevin and his fans to seem well placed within in the frame. Sharpness and detail are handled very well with no information lost in the process. The documentary is well very lit, allowing for both the fans and Kevin himself to command the frame with relative ease.  Detail is especially strong in some sequences that show Smith sweating profusely as well as on the skin textures of some of the fans. As for problems, there are really few to report though the presentation does suffer from the occasional instance of pixelation and shimmer and I did notice some minor edge enhancement on a podium about halfway through the second disc.  Aside from those minor issues this is a well shot, great looking presentation considering the program is one man talking on stage for nearly four hours.

Audio


Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment presents An Evening with Kevin Smith with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio mix. Since this is simply a question and answer format a full on discrete multi-channel mix is not required. The 2.0 presentation is excellent in that for the most part the questions and answers are heard with little difficulty. There are a few spots where the sound quality could have been better but these minor problems are more likely to be related to the acoustics in the auditorium where the sound was recorded than the fault of the DVD itself. The opening/closing and transitional music score is also well mixed though the dialogue is certainly the focus.

A rare serious moment

Extras


Any project involving Kevin Smith is usually packed full of extra features when it hits DVD. However An Evening with Kevin Smith isn't the usual KS project in that it's not a feature film or cartoon series. In fact the concept of the project is made up of what would usually wind up in the extras section of a Smith DVD. So instead of being chocked full of extras the DVD contains only a handful of trailers for other Columbia Tristar titles (Dogma, Mr. Deeds, Spider-Man, Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters and Marvels).

Overall


Although I consider myself a movie fan and critic there are very few directors or actors that command my attention and my respect to the point that I would sit through a nearly four hour presentation of simple question and answers. Kevin Smith is without a doubt one of my favorite filmmakers and although he has only made five motion pictures his portfolio is varied and always interesting. I may not agree with his stance on some issues but he presents his comments in a fast paced format that's often hilarious and at times close to brilliant. An Evening With Kevin Smith allows the fans who haven't had a chance to attend one of his Q&A sessions to take in an experience that is as much about him as it is them. I have no reservation about recommending this title to anyone who is even a moderate fan of the film maker and those who consider themselves diehard should run, not walk to the nearest DVD store to pick up this release. Highly recommended!


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