Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Tag Archives: Kevin Smith

ANCC: Yoga Hosers

Because the Gorehound likes to torture Nick and Jen, we conclude Kevin Smith Month with the one-time promising director’s latest cinematic outing, Yoga Hosers, starring Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp’s daughter, and Kevin Smith’s daughter.  Check out the episode to see what they think of this so-called “movie”.

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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ANCC: Kevin Smith’s Podcasts

Pushing through with Kevin Smith Month, the All-New Culture Cast reviews two podcasts, Hollywood Babble-On and Jay And Silent Bob Get Old. So how much did Jen hate this one? Did the Cast tear them apart and was it a surprising delight? Check it out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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ANCC: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Kevin Smith Month continues with 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and listen as Jennifer slowly dies from watching this film!  But beyond talking about Smith’s then-capstone to his View Askewniverse, the trio eventually wander into Smith’s merits as a filmmaker and overlord of his media empire!  It’s a fun-filled episode, so check it out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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ANCC: Clerks

Check out the newest edition of the All-New Culture Cast with a discussion on the 1994 cult classic, Clerks! Featuring the gorgeous Gorehound, nifty Nick, and jazzy Jen. This is the start of a Kevin Smith/View Askew/Smodcast-themed month so get ready, buckle up, and get excited!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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I Legitimately Hate 1995’s Mallrats

Mallrats is an awful movie with almost zero redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was a considerable box office flop that instantly made a ton of critics as well as the general public immediately reconsider writer/director Kevin Smith’s talent only two movies into his career. Mallrats is an unpleasant, amateur affair that’s about as stupid as Clerks, Smith’s first effort, is good. That is to say, Clerks is a quality piece of entertainment that holds up as a time capsule of the early to mid-90s (with some truly inventive and funny dialogue), while Mallrats is a garbage film perhaps best remembered for its clunky, forced dialogue about superhero penises Jason Lee’s breakout performance (the film’s lone highlight). I have not seen Mallrats in years, but I unfortunately remember it almost beat-by-beat (it is not a complicated movie). I hate that film so much that I really want to write about it and relish in my hatred.

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I remember Mallrats so well because I have actually seen it dozens of times, despite never really liking it all that much in the first place. In the late 90s, I rented this film multiple times from the rental store and watched it on a near loop with friends and siblings for months at a time. I spent the majority of the years 1999 and 2000 watching everything Kevin Smith and his cohorts had a hand in. I purchased Chasing Amy and Clerks and watched them dozens and dozens of times as well. Dogma had recently been in theaters, and I watched that one over and over again as well. To my 17 year old self, there was no one cooler than Kevin Smith. Except for Mallrats – I never truly liked Mallrats. I liked then (and still like now) Clerks and Chasing Amy, but I always thought Mallrats just didn’t fit in with those films.

One particular difference is that Mallrats is Smith’s sole film from his early days not released by Miramax. Miramax very famously purchased and distributed Clerks in 1994 and then Chasing Amy (which had a budget of $250,000 amazingly) in early 1997. But Mallrats is immensely different from those two, as it was a Universal production backed by a budget of several million dollars (estimated to be seven million). It is shot and directed like a studio film from the 90s, and thus suffers in comparison with the other two, as they are far more “indie” looking. Mallrats is also different in that there is actually a very complicated story behind what appears (and is) to be a simple movie.

The originally filmed opening took place in some sort Revolutionary War-era reenactment/governor’s ball, wherein Jeremy London (who spends the entire movie looking uncomfortable with his hands in his pockets and who was clearly not cast by Smith) accidentally shoots a musket (why was he carrying a loaded musket in a reenactment) at the governor. This sets up a chain of events wherein London’s girlfriend Brandi’s father loses his job. Brandi wants to cut ties with London (his name in the movie is T.S. but I’m just gonna call him London), so she breaks up with him, inspiring him to find solace in a shopping mall with best friend Jason Lee, who was also recently dumped by Shannon Doherty. The theatrical cut of the film excises most of this, up until the point where Brandi breaks up with London. Hence, the film takes almost 30 minutes to get to the mall setting. The film is already painful at 94 minutes. I can’t imagine watching a two-hour version of this movie.

The edits, reshoots, rewrites, etc also lead to several continuity errors throughout the film, but these are only a few of the bizarre errors/things that make no sense present throughout Mallrats. Other than the dialogue that doesn’t fit in because the first 30 minutes of the film were redone, there are also moments of inaudible/barely audible dialogue that you can see in the captions but cannot actually hear. Moments like this include a the scene where fans wait to meet Stan Lee, where a child is trapped on an escalator, and where Brandi’s father Jared (Michael Rooker, who is usually money but is awful here) fires an underling. I have to imagine this was not done on purpose despite it being so prevalent throughout the film.

I mentioned earlier that Jason Lee, playing lovely slacker Brodie Bruce, is the sole highlight of the film. He truly shines in this film and it’s easy to see why the ex-professional skateboarder went on to have a solid career in Hollywood. He’s charismatic, funny, and a naturally good actor. There are groan-worthy moments throughout Mallrats, but few involve him. He seems to be the only one who understands the kind of movie he’s in. Contrast this with co-star London, who seriously spends the entire fucking movie with his hands in his pockets. He looks uncomfortable with Smith’s (admittedly dumb) dialogue as well as with his co-stars. There’s very little chemistry between he and Brandi. I hate to pile on the notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty, but she’s just about as awful as London. It’s hard to believe she’d ever even be seen with Jason Lee’s character, let alone date him.

I really like Clerks and Chasing Amy. I really like how they managed to be small-scale movies but still have really investing and emotional stakes. Clerks is about the daily grind of a man who has absolutely no direction in his life. He can’t make a decision about which girl he wants to date and he feels like life is slipping past him at age 22. There’s some pretty serious, heavy material in the depths of that film. Chasing Amy is about one man’s failure to keep the past in the past, which negatively impacts his relationship with the woman of his dreams as well as his relationship with his best friend and business partner. Ben Affleck’s Holden is too short sighted to look past things that happened in high school and move on to the next chapter in his life, not unlike Bryan O’Halloran’s Dante from Clerks. London and Lee aren’t deep enough as characters in Mallrats to get invested in.

Clerks and Chasing Amy garnered critical acclaim and awards for being mature looks at life in the 90s for people in their 20s. No one else was really doing that. Mallrats has a character fly face-first into a ladies dressing room for no reason that to show off a pair of tits. Clerks sees its main character struggle to balance a job, a relationship with a woman he doesn’t have much in common with, and a previous toxic relationship with a high school girlfriend. Chasing Amy explores how fluid human sexuality truly is. Mallrats’ final act hinges on a sex tape that exposes a clothing store manager as a sexual deviant. Simply put, Clerks and Chasing Amy are smart and mature movies, whereas Mallrats is immature, obnoxious, repellant, and just plain dumb.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people my age about Mallrats – many of them really like it. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions (just as I am). Though I suspect they view the film with a heavy dose of nostalgia, because I truly find it difficult to find merit of any kind in Mallrats outside of a charismatic Jason Lee performance. Roger Ebert once claimed to sit in on a panel with Kevin Smith where Smith claimed he’d be happy to make the kinds of movies studios want as long as the studios were paying. Ebert thought Smith was joking until Mallrats came out. The best I can say about Smith as that he hasn’t truly gone mercenary since. Zack and Miri was not a good movie, but it attempted to be heartfelt at least. Cop Out could have (and should have) worked, but was at least a fun misfire at worst. The movies he makes now (such as Tusk and Yoga Hosers) couldn’t be less commercial. I’ll commend him for making what he wants to make, but I still get to hate Mallrats. I’ll always hate Mallrats.

-Z-

20 Years Later Part 2: Clerks (1994)

Kevin Smith’s Clerks was a big part of the indie movie revolution of 1994. In 1994, filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (whose 1994 film Pulp Fiction won mass critical and commercial appeal and is generally regarded as one of the best films of the 90s) and Ben Stiller (people forget what a zeitgeist Reality Bites) became huge Hollywood stars and garnered significant cults of personality. Both Stiller and Tarantino have gone on to remain incredibly culturally relevant, with both men making cult films (Death Proof, The Cable Guy) as well as big, mainstream Hollywood hits (Django Unchained, Tropic of Thunder) in the interim. Somewhere along the way, Kevin Smith got left behind.

I imagine this poster was hanging in every dorm room in American in 1995.

I imagine this poster was hanging in every dorm room in America in 1995.

Perhaps it was due to his slacker mentality, his inability to really grow as a director or a writer, or just sheer bad luck, but Smith has never really progressed beyond the shaggy dog director of 1994’s Clerks, an immensely funny and quotable film that nonetheless typecast director Smith for the entirety of his career, so much so that he has gone back to the well multiple times (his “View Askewniverse” as well as the sequel film Clerks 2 and the proposed Clerks 3), with somewhat diminishing returns along the way. But Clerks remains a revered, cult film – and with good reason. Despite a shaky leading performance, the film oozes personality from its supporting characters, particularly in an hilarious Jeff Andrews performance and from the lovable, goofy Jay character, played by Jason Mewes (both men were amateurs, having never acted in a professional film before Clerks).

So, What Holds Up?:

Other than Mewes’ and Andersons’ solid, hilarious performances? I think the script largely works, particularly the pop culture dissection, which in 1994 must have seemed considerably fresh. In 2014, the Internet is a massive thing, and there are countless blogs (including ours!) that serve as outlets for cultural dissection. During Clerks’ time, however, the Internet did not exist in this form yet. Heck, tabbed browsing didn’t even exist. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. The dialogue in Clerks, which mostly revolved around Star Wars, the daily minutiae of working a dead end job, and frank discussions on sex and various sex acts, must have been downright shocking. The first time I watched the film, which was probably around 1999 or 2000, I can remember being a bit shocked by what was coming out of the characters’ mouths. If anything, Clerks is downright dirty in the best way.

I also feel like the black-and-white aesthetic presented by Clerks greatly holds up. Upon initial viewing, I pouted, “This is in black-and-white? That sucks!” But after actually watching the film, I thought Smith’s decision to film it like that was pure genius – it just simply works. The relationship between Dante and Randall is the best one in the film. Forget about the various love interests, Dante and Randall are where it’s at. Brian O’Halloran isn’t a great actor, but he plays the role of the put-upon schmuck fairly well, and Jeff Anderson is great at driving him nuts. I love the dynamic between them that allows Randall to consistently get Dante’s goat over and over again. The characters of Jay and Silent Bob are also great, and hadn’t yet become parodies of themselves.

And What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

Holy crap, every time Dante tucks his jeans into his boots I just want to slap him in the face with a fish. That fashion faux pas gets me every time. Jay’s haircut is also awful – he looks like he should have “It’s the mid-90s” tattooed on his head. The music doesn’t hold up as well, and some of it oddly feels out of place. The studio made the choice to add early 90s grunge rock, which I like (I imagine the bulk of the money Miramax pumped into a post-production version of Clerks was spent on music rights). But some of the grunge rock on the soundtrack has aged about as well as cottage cheese, and thus dates the film immensely.

The worst part of the film to me is probably the character of Caitlin Brea, who Dante pines for throughout the entire movie. The character is under-written and not particularly well-acted either (Lisa Spoonhauer, who plays Caitlin, has only one other credit to her name). Caitlin is built up throughout the movie as Dante pines for her, but I don’t like what is done with her character. She is also given surprisingly little screen time, and is then quickly ushered out of the film without much resolution to her character (and a throw-away line from Dante doesn’t give me enough closure on their relationship).

So, What’s the Assessment?:

Ultimately, my main issue with Clerks is that it doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious look at a day in the life of two working-class New Jersey store clerks or a bawdy romantic comedy with sitcom-y trappings. This is pretty much what has also plagued Smith’s subsequent films. Mallrats is basically Clerks set in a brightly-lit shopping mall. Chasing Amy is Clerks with a lesbian character. Dogma is… well, Dogma has not aged well (ugh, those special effects). Clerks 2 is exactly what you think it is, except this time it’s in a fast food restaurant. I’m not ruling out the prospect that Clerks 3 will be good, because I actually kind of like all of these movies a little bit. But the fact remains that Smith has shown incredibly little growth as a filmmaker over the course of a twenty-year career.

I still think Clerks is a solid little comedy. I love Jeff Anderson as Randal. He is far and away the best character in the movie. He gets the funniest lines and his anarchic spirit makes him a much more interesting character than the dour lead Dante. Clerks is available streaming on Netflix and other services, and I recommend it for a look into that 1994 indie scene. It’s just too bad that Kevin Smith didn’t mature as a filmmaker and give us something with a little more depth and maybe something with a little more important to say.

-Z-

What Went Wrong?: Vol. 50 – Spectacularly Ill Advised Buddy Cop Edition

The buddy cop comedy/action film is, at this point, old hat for Hollywood. Even after being perfected by Lethal Weapon (and its eventual sequels) way back in the late 80s, every once in a while someone tries to update the genre anyway, usually to mixed success. A few outliers include the Rush Hour franchise, which was huge for a few years, as well as last year’s The Heat, a Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy “comedy” that was one of the worst films I saw in theaters last year. Something about pairing up two people who do not ostensibly go together just has some kind of special appeal to Hollywood, I guess. I’m not necessarily opposed to the buddy cop genre, but let’s be honest here – it is almost entirely played out.

CopoutposterDespite this, in 2009 Warner Bros. gave Kevin Smith, who is not particularly known for directing action films, 35 million dollars to make a Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy cop film titled A Couple of Dicks, a film title that was funny the first time I heard it, but grew tiresome after that (much like Homer Simpson’s barbershop quartet The Be Sharps). Smith was forced, however, to change the title after Warner Bros. decided it might not be a good idea to have the word Dicks on a theater marquee. The best thing he could come up with then was Cop Out, another incredibly dumb title. The difference between the two was that while A Couple of Dicks was momentarily clever, Cop Out was always dumb.

Post name change, negative buzz continued to surround the film, particularly after the initial trailer was released in late 2009. The trailer was met with almost universal disdain, with criticism leveled at the unfunny jokes, the lazy riffing, and yet another bored Bruce Willis performance. When Cop Out was finally released in theaters late February 2010, critics unleashed vitriol not seen in quite some time upon it. The film scored a terrible 19% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and abysmal 31/100 on Metacritic. Reviewers criticized the film’s laziness and poor script (it should be noted that Smith only directed and did not write Cop Out) as well as Bruce Willis’ terrible performance, which marked perhaps his eighth or ninth lazy/disinterested/boring performance in a row.

So, umm, what else went wrong? Well, for starters the film didn’t exactly light up the box office. Though it opened somewhat strongly with 18 million dollars, the film closed with about 44 million domestically and didn’t even double its budget worldwide, meaning it likely never turned a profit for studio Warner Bros. Furthermore, controversy arose in the aftermath of the film when it was revealed that director Smith feuded constantly with Willis on set. In an interview with podcaster/comedian Marc Maron in early 2011, Smith claimed that Willis would not even so much as sit for a poster shoot, and if not for the interventions of Tracy Morgan, that it could have gotten much worse between the two. A representative for Bruce Willis later claimed Smith smoked way too much marijuana on set, a claim Smith essentially owned up to.

In the aftermath of the various Cop Out controversies, Smith essentially retired from mainstream filmmaking. In addition to the Willis feud, Smith also unnecessarily provoked the ire of film critics when he claimed he would no longer hold free reviewer’s screenings for his films. This particularly rankled legendary film critic Roger Ebert and caused the reviewer community to claim Smith was both dishonest and disingenuous. Since Cop Out’s release in 2010, Smith has not directed another widely released film. His 2011 film Red State, which was widely panned but at least met with some positive critical notice, was available on video-on-demand. His next film, Tusk (another horror title), will be probably be distributed on video-on-demand once again later this year.

Kevin Smith has a fairly large and vocal fan base, but he has seemingly alienated everyone else around him. He hasn’t had a hit film in years, his films no longer appear in theaters, and even the movies he has made with big name actors (Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks) have done mediocre business at the box office (2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno was Seth Rogen’s first mainstream flop). 2010’s Cop Out drew Smith’s harshest reviews ever, failed to launch at the box office, ignited significant controversy, and has ultimately failed to endure, largely due to poor direction, a tired and cliché script, and an incredibly lazy Bruce Willis performance. Smith likely thought he had a Rush Hour-sized hit on his hands, but Cop Out ended up being one of the worst films of 2010, ultimately appealing to no one at all and essentially ending Kevin Smith’s mainstream directing career.

-Z-

Who Cares if Zach Braff Uses Kickstarter?

A few months back, Kristin Bell and Rob Thomas (the main actress and the creator behind the long-cancelled Veronica Mars television show) set up a Kickstarter project to fund a possible Veronica Mars movie (I say possible, because as Nick explained here, the movie could potentially fall through despite reaching and exceeding funding goals). Just recently, apparent Hollywood whipping boy Zach Braff also took to Kickstarter to help fund his directorial follow-up to 2004’s break-out hit Garden State. Unlike Bell and Thomas’ overwhelmingly positive reaction, however, Braff faced enormous criticism, not only from the general pop culture media, but from fans as well. All of this has left me wondering, how can Bell and Thomas get such great support and praise while Braff gets nothing but scorn and criticism for essentially doing the exact same thing?

Kristin Bell and Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter in early 2013 to crowd-fund a possible Veronica Mars movie.

Kristin Bell and Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter in early 2013 to crowd-fund a possible Veronica Mars movie.

Veronica Mars was a television show that debuted in 2004 and lasted for three seasons until it was canceled by the CW in spring 2007. I have since watched every episode of the show on DVD. The first two seasons take place in Veronica’s high school, where she and a quirky group of friends solve local mysteries. She also attempts to track down her long gone mother and solve the murder of her best friend. The first two seasons were highly critically acclaimed, and Bell became something of an it-girl in Hollywood (which she subsequently squandered by having awful taste in choosing film roles). The final season put Veronica in college, changing the familiar setting and letting loose a whole variety of new issues to deal with for our now college-aged heroes. From what I remember at the time, fan reaction to the changes in the show during season three were fairly negative, and the ratings dipped to their lowest ever. Watching season three on DVD, it is very easy to see why. The last season of Veronica Mars, while not a train wreck, is nowhere near as good as the first two. I think most people, generally speaking, forget this.

Zach Braff burst onto the scene in 2001 with a starring role in the hit television ensemble comedy Scrubs, which lasted some odd nine seasons on NBC and then later ABC. Braff’s character, Dr. John Dorian, was met with critical acclaim when the show first debuted. Braff was riding a wave of praise when his film Garden State was released during the summer of 2004. Garden State was met with considerable critical acclaim, and Braff seemed to be on the cusp of stardom. Like Bell, Braff’s choice in film roles over the next few years were beyond questionable. His television show continued to chug along, eventually becoming a target of online criticism and mockery. Honestly though, those last few seasons of Scrubs were pretty good. From the musical episode circa 2007 to the finale, Scrubs remained a watchable, funny, brightly lit comedy. It didn’t have the wit and charm of the first few seasons, but it was a more than respectable television half-hour. I would argue that the finale was actually seriously good TV as well, and being that the show is on Netflix, I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to seek it out.

Zach Braff has received a universally negative response to his Kickstarter initiative.

Zach Braff has received a universally negative response to his Kickstarter initiative.

Now, it must be pointed out that Braff has essentially admitted that he could fund the film himself (and that he does have a financier, though this came along after the initial uproar), and that he would potentially have the support of a movie studio behind him. Some online writers and commenters have also come out and criticized him (not unfairly) for potentially using fan money when he could just be using his own money. But to entirely fund a movie on his own would be a completely insane fool’s errand, and possibly bankrupt him (this is what allegedly happened to Casey Affleck in the aftermath of the disastrous mockumentary I’m Still Here). And in fairness to Braff, the Kickstarter fund will not be able to completely cover the cost of Bell and Thomas’ proposed Veronica Mars movie either. Warner Bros., who own the rights to the show, will still have to kick in for marketing/advertising and print costs, which could be anywhere from four to ten million dollars. Additionally, Warner Bros. would probably have to throw in cash to cover the costs of the gifts that Kickstarter donors receive for their pledging efforts. I’m not saying that Braff is right or wrong to turn to Kickstarter, but aren’t we being a little unfair to him based solely on his arguably undeserved reputation?

That is the real question. The truth of this matter remains that Braff is perceived as some kind of douche bag a-hole who no one likes (or will admit to liking) and that Bell and Thomas are unassailable Hollywood geniuses, above and beyond all levels of criticism (so they are essentially Joss Whedon or something, I guess). That, to me, is both unfortunate and unfair. Bell and Braff have very similar career paths (with the notable exception being that Bell has never starred in a hit movie and probably never will – Braff will at least be able to lay claim to Garden State, which was a hit movie no matter what people will tell you in 2013). The internet hate machine has spoken out, however, and it seems that while Bell and Thomas (and seriously, is there anyone in Hollywood who has had more chances than Rob Thomas?) can get away with planning a movie production via Kickstarter, apparently Braff cannot.

Smith has declared he will not use Kickstarter to fund a possible Clerks 3.

Kevin Smith has declared he will not use Kickstarter to fund a possible Clerks 3.

To complicate matters, filmmaker/raconteur/comic book auteur Kevin Smith (he of Mallrats fame) has recently come out to announce he would not be turning to Kickstarter to help fund a proposed Clerks 3. He will instead fund and distribute the second sequel to Clerks (which apparently has a script now) much like his previous film, Red State. Smith’s reasoning for not turning to Kickstarter largely revolves around how he feels the crowd-sourcing website should work. Smith believes that up-and-coming independent filmmakers should use Kickstarter, but established Hollywood veterans like himself should not. Smith’s intentions and statements exude the utmost of Hollywood nobility and humility. In a time when creators could just put everything onto the table and have average Joe’s like you and I fund their projects, Smith has flatly rejected this notion. The internet has praised him for this, while at the same time continuing to chide Zach Braff for his actions a few weeks back. I’ve even heard people theorize that Smith came out and made this proclamation solely to shame Braff, which seems like an insane thing to think. Why would Smith care what Braff does? Smith has made a very nice career for himself out of basically being one of us – a pop culture obsessive. The guy is living the dream, lording over his empire of comic books, television, film, appearances/speeches, and podcasts.

The idea that Kevin Smith would come out and publicly shame Zach Braff is not only probably untrue, it is also ludicrous. Smith very famously walked away from Hollywood a few years back after the debacle that was Cop Out disillusioned him from film making. His credibility took a dip for a year or so, but Smith is revered by his fans and is considered to be almost an elder statesmen of pop culture — I knew the guy would bounce back. He has no reason to foster some kind of feud between himself and a perceived out-of-touch ex-sitcom actor. Additionally, if Smith’s words have been interpreted by “fans” to be a slight against Braff, how are they also not a slight against Kristin Bell and Rob Thomas? Why do Bell and Thomas keep getting off light here? Do the words that Smith has about Kickstarter (that it should be used for up-and-coming filmmakers) not also apply to Bell and Thomas, who should also be rich several times over and have also had fairly sustained success in Hollywood? There seems to me to be some kind of double standard when it comes to Kickstarter, and that is wrong to me. Either it’s all ok, and Kristin Bell and Zach Braff can both have their movies crowd-funded, or none of it is ok and these projects should just be for the indie filmmakers. Let’s not praise one and condemn the other. Who really cares if Zach Braff makes use of Kickstarter? How is it, in any universe whatsoever, bothersome to you? I hope Braff does get to make his next pet project, and I hope it is a huge success.

-Z-

The Mallrats Podcast

Zack and Nick get all nostalgic this week as they discuss the Kevin Smith classic Mallrats!  It is an open and honest talk that goes in many surprising directions!  Do yourself a favor and download the episode!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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