reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits
Evening with Kevin Smith 2:
2006 (2006) - Sony
Program Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/C
This is my sleeper pick for the week. It's a title that could
get overlooked in all the Superman deluge, so we think it
deserves a little love from us here. Sure, it's a little raunchy
and sure, it's not going to appeal to everyone. But so what? If
you're a fan of Smith and/or you liked the original An
Evening with Kevin Smith, this is a must have. Even
if you're not a huge fan, you might be surprised - it still
makes for an entertaining evening's viewing.
Ably directed by a longtime friend of The
Bits, DVD producer J.M. Kenny, Evening
Harder follows Smith on stage again for another pair
of live concert/speaking engagements on his college tour... one
at Cornell in London (U.K. for the geographically disinclined)
and one in Toronto up in the GWN (read: Great White North). What
ensues are nearly four hours of Smith's off-the-cuff, insightful
and wonderfully frank musings on his life and his work, the film
industry as a whole, his fan base, his many friends and
accomplices, the nature of superheroes, Star
Wars, recent Mel Gibson news, his own creative
limitations and much, much more. Actor pal Jason Mewes joins him
on stage mid-way through both gigs and things get even more
edgy. Throughout all of this, Smith directly engages his
audience, answers their questions and delivers some great
laughs. It's very funny stuff.
video quality is excellent. Shot in HD, it's presented in anamorphic
widescreen on DVD and, short of a future Blu-ray Disc release, you
can't expect it to look much better. (I'm rather surprised Sony
isn't more on the ball with one - niche stuff like this appeals to
the audience that's buying HD right now. I mean come on... they
released RV on Blu-ray for
gods sake!) Surprisingly, the audio is presented in Dolby Digital
5.0 (surprising, as I would have expected stereo for a program like
this). Given the nature of the material, this isn't going to dazzle
you with surround trickery, but then it doesn't really need to. The
audio is solid and you'll be fine with it.
The 2-disc set includes just a couple of extras (one on each disc).
They're featurettes - one with Kevin cruising around Toronto in his
limo to ask the Canadian "man on the street" about the
nature of Canadian cuisine, and another with Kevin and Mewes out to
see if the latter's American pickup lines will work on the Brit
babes in London. It's not a lot of extra material, but it's worth
It's hard to imagine other big-name feature film directors working
so hard to engage their fans, and to interact with them on such a
personal level. Whether you love Kevin Smith's films or not (and we
DO happen to enjoy them here at The Bits
- Dogma is a fave of mine), he
clearly appreciates his audience a great deal, and he works hard to
give something back to them. It also helps that, when Smith opens
his mouth, he almost always has something interesting and refreshing
to say. It's damn near impossible not to like the guy. Evening
Harder deserves (and gets) our enthusiastic
recommendation. Sit back and enjoy.
The Complete First Season
1975-1976 (2006) - NBC (Universal)
Program Rating: A+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/C-
Well... it's about f--king time! For years fans of SNL
have hoped for an eventual DVD release of the series - more than
just the "Best of" discs that have been available in
the past. The stumbling block in issuing complete SNL
episodes on home video before, of course, has been the
difficulty in negotiating the rights to the musical appearances
at a price that would allow for an affordable DVD release.
Thankfully, that challenge has been overcome and the result is
the first ever complete season DVD release of the series.
I shouldn't have to tell you what a big deal this is. SNL
is America's Monty Python,
and while recent seasons have suffered in quality, those first
several years are absolute gems. There's an insane amount of
classic comedy here, by some of the best performers ever to take
You get Andy Kauffman's classic: "Here I come to save the day!"
bit, the very first Weekend Updates, appearances by The Muppets,
early short films by Albert Brooks, Richard Prior's unbleeped "ass"
monologue, "Samurai Delicatessen", tons of funny
commercial spoofs (Super Bass-O-Matic!), "Duelling Brandos",
the very first Mr. Bill Show, "Great
Moments in Herstory", Chevy Chase as President Ford, "The
Normal Bates School of Hotel Management", the infamous "Last
Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" and the legendary first
musical appearance of The Blues Brothers as part of "Howard
Shore and his All-Bee Band". And that's just scratching the
Speaking of music, appearing here are the likes of Simon &
Garfunkel, Randy Newman, ABBA, Martha Reeves & The Stylistics,
Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Cliff, Desi Arnaz, Leon Redbone, Gordon
Lightfoot, Carly Simon and many more, with hosts including George
Carlin, Lily Tomlin, Dick Cavett, Buck Henry, Anthony Perkins,
Raquel Welch, Madeline Kahn and others.
Universal's 8-disc set presents the season's 24 episodes in their
original TV full frame, arranged 3 eps per disc. You have to be a
little forgiving of the quality. The series was obviously shot on
dated analog video equipment, so the image is going to look a little
soft and washed out compared to what you're used to. That said, the
episodes have obviously been tweaked to look as good as possible,
and they certainly look better than you've ever seen them before.
The audio is 2.0 mono, just as it was presented on the original
broadcasts, and it too has been cleaned up. It won't rock your
world, but it's good enough to satisfy. The cool thing is that each
episode features chapter access to all of the individual skits and
performances - a nice touch. My only complaint is, I would have
loved a complete list of these in the booklet, to make finding
favorite bits quicker and easier.
There are few disc-based extras on this set, but you do get
original screen text footage and a vintage interview with the cast.
Audio commentary with some of the cast (or perhaps producer Lorne
Michaels) would have been nice, but given how expensive getting the
music rights must have been, paying cast to come back would probably
have sunk the production, so we can forgive it. You do get a
gorgeous 31-page booklet featuring great candid, vintage photographs
of the cast and writers (love that Land Shark photo on the front),
and the packaging is a very nice, book-like affair with great cast
shots on both the front and inside covers.
If you love the glory days of classic SNL
as much as we do, this box set is just priceless - certainly one of
the most anticipated and welcome releases of the year. There are
enough good hard laughs here to easily justify the set's
surprisingly reasonable $69 SRP (just $45 on Amazon). THIS, dear
readers, is what DVD is all about. Miss this baby at your own peril.