Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Pass Thru

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Neil Breen movies really should come with a warning labelLike never watch them alone and pregnant women and the elderly need to avoid them at all costs.



Pass Thru – 0 out of 5

A couple of years ago I was guided towards a very unique filmmaker by the name of Neil Breen.  Breen is a man with absolutely no education in film production or writing whatsoever.  He’s an architect and a real estate agent who used his wealth to fund some passion projects—but since the films are really just monuments to his own ego, they are realistically vanity projects.  Now because of Breen’s lack of film education, his films are messy and horrendously made.  Their quality and writing are so bad that they are sometimes infuriating to watch and possibly even a health risk because they might cause an aneurysm in some viewers (maybe not but it wouldn't surprise me if they did).  However, they have received cult status because of this and, it is in this utter incompetence, that accidental comedy is achieved.  It was recently announced that he is producing a new film and it reminded me that I missed his fourth film; Pass Thru, that came out in 2016.  It is truly a magical piece of shit but, what’s absolutely astounding about it, is that this is his fourth film and he still hasn’t learned how to tell a story yet.

Ah, yes, Breen's abandoned piano.  It's like Chekhov's gun only it's just a scene
that makes no goddamn sense because this is a Neil Breen film.


Neil Breen movies are really hard to sum up because the writing is just awful but here’s my best and what I was able to decipher from this mess.  A junkie/homeless man living in the desert (Breen) has his body taken over (?) by a being from the future/distant planet (or maybe a person from a distant planet in the future).  He’s come to see the world as a vile, disgusting place where corporations (Breen’s favorite buzz word he uses to describe society’s evils), governments, and banks are being immoral and unethical.  He’s decided that there will be a cleansing and he will kill three hundred million people and then the world can get its act together.  He does this by wandering around in the desert, disappearing into rocks, and having disjointed conversations with a woman who is either a drug smuggler, a drug addict or an immigrant from an unnamed country (this distinction is never made clear).  Also, there’s a B-story about some teenage astronomers that never really connects to the main story beyond them constantly saying, “We found you,” to Neil Breen’s alien/future guy character—who is also named Thgil, by the way (pronounced “Till” because the English language works that way now).

Totally immigrants and not college students Breen got to work for him in exchange
for a sandwich or something.

Yeah...that's not how drugs work, Breen.
Neil Breen movies are hard to review for me.  It would be easy to just say, “This is trash” and move on but I don’t feel that really explores the experience I have watching films and the word “trash” as a descriptive of an item is overused and used way too broadly.  The thing is Breen is a completely incompetent filmmaker.  I admire his drive to make these films but he shows no progress for wanting to learn the art.  Pass Thru suffers all the same downfalls as his first film Double Down and these all stem from his lack of understanding of both writing and the technical process of creating feature films.  As showcased in my synopsis, Breen has a major issue with his scripts.  He doesn’t understand how to introduce characters and he has no clue on how to develop them or the story.  For example, there isn’t a single character (beyond his own) that is introduced by name or even referred to by any sort of title.  As a viewer, you are left to figure out who these people are.  Sometimes Breen throws you a bone by delivering lazy narration to inform his audience what exactly is happening or a character has unnatural dialogue that literally tells you what is going on but the rest of the time you are left to conclude details all by yourself.  Breen’s inability to write is further highlighted when it comes to developing the story.  Characters jump wildly from moment to moment, scene to scene and it’s hard to tell if what you are watching has any connection to what came before.  Too often things feel like you are placed in the middle of a scene where you missed the first minute or two and are left to catch up.  Entire sequences play out with no structure, pacing or narrative development.  The passage of time simply doesn’t exist in a Neil Breen film so you are left wondering if the events you are seeing are taking place over a single day or hour.  To put it bluntly, Breen’s writing feels like the ramblings of a madman that is a never-ending stream of consciousness that chaotically erupt into existence and disappear immediately as different streams come crossing the previous one’s path.  There’s no structure and no flow so you are left wondering if what you are watching actually makes sense to the man who made it.

"This has been Breen News.  All Breen, All the Time."

Breen’s next big issue that he seems adamant on never improving on is literally every single technical aspect of filmmaking.  Editing is probably one of his biggest issues and hinders any possible flow his incomprehensible stories could potentially have but he also has the added problem of inadequate lighting, poor shot composition, weak audio and use of green screen that borders on an almost satirical usage.  Breen is notorious for re-using footage over and over again (sometimes dozens of times) and sequences of meandering establishment shots that feel superfluous at best and like he is just trying to pad out his movie to a feature length at worst.  Pass Thru showcases all of these Breen tropes to the point that you could literally edit out about 45 minutes of footage and still have the same film and still have it make the same amount of sense.  

If you like tons of drone footage of rock formations in the desert then this
is the movie for you!

As badly as I am dragging Breen through the ringer here, there is a magic to his products.  Bad movies have their own majesty to them.  Sometimes, they are so bad that they are just hard to sit through but sometimes they are so bad that they are an utter joy to experience.  Breen’s work is exactly the latter.  Pass Thru (and all his other work) is so poorly constructed, so terribly acted and so horribly written that they are fun to watch.  The crummy camera work, the inane dialogue, the horrendous acting are easily to riff on and laugh at.  Most of the time you don’t even have to tease the film and can just laugh at what is presented—for example, the truck that is clearly not moving but the driver is pretending it is or the character who is supposedly the niece of another character but they literally look the same age or trying to figure out what country the college kids who are supposed to be immigrants are fleeing from and sneaking into (and that’s just for starters because Breen’s films offers up a lot of nonsensical moments and bad filmmaking sequences to laugh at).   Hell, you can make a drinking game of all the reused footage or the times Breen tries to act like he’s making social commentary but really isn’t saying anything (like just saying the word “corporations” doesn’t mean you are actually saying anything of substance).  The only real take away Pass Thru (and all of Breen’s works) offer is they are fun to laugh at and become more so when viewed with friends.  I’m just shocked that RiffTrax hasn’t done one of his films yet.

Wow, what a seamless effect.  It really looks like they are in a man--
I can't finish this sentence.  They guy has ties to real estate.  He couldn't
find a mansion to film in?  What exactly did he do with the money that
help crowd fund this project?

Breen clearly is in love with himself.  His next movie will
probably be a romantic comedy that involves him
cloning himself and...well...you can imagine
the rest.
There’s no getting around how bad Neil Breen’s Pass Thru is.  The story is barely a concept, there’s no development of characters or situations.  The conflict is barely introduced and never thoughtfully explored.  The technical aspects are well below what an amateur would create and the performances lack subtlety and nuance.  However, it is in all this incompetence that makes Pass Thru a movie to behold and find an odd entertainment value in.  I would warn against watching it alone (because I’ve done that before with his other films and the effort can be exhausting and make you question your sanity) but when viewed with others in a group, his movies can be a joyful and hilarious experience.  I will rag on him for how awfully produced his films are and how he seemingly can’t (or won’t) learn how to improve as a filmmaker but the magic that occurs from this can’t be beat and I’m sorta glad he is so egotistical that he already thinks he’s at the pinnacle of his abilities (this is the guy, after all, who makes himself the lead and the lead is usually a Christ-like character) because, if he showed a desire to learn, his films might get better and they might lose the accidental comedy quality that they have and then something like Pass Thru would just be a mundane bad movie and not a fun one.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Red Sparrow

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  I'll be honest, I was hoping that J-Law would be a giant bird in this film...this isn't my best button I've put on my disclaimer.  Look, I wrote this late at night and I'm tired.



Red Sparrow – 2 out of 5

There’s only two things I heard about Red Sparrow when it came out:  Number 1) It is boring and Number 2) Jennifer Lawrence gets nude in it.  I’ll be honest; neither statement really made me interested to see the film.  Nudity is great but it’s never a deciding factor on whether I’ll see a movie or not.  It doesn’t help matters that most nudity in movies is superfluous and gratuitous anyway.  However, while I will listen to the opinions of others, I never let them sway whether I’ll see a movie or not—because there isn’t a movie I won’t give a shot to.  When I heard this one was boring (and incredibly so) I figured it was complete hyperbole…it wasn’t.

You'd be surprised how many times I've given a gross, sexist sex comedy a bad
review and I've had some random dude tell me, "But you get to see boobs, it's not
so bad."  I'm glad my tastes in film and story isn't that simplistic.

After popular ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) suffers a career-ending injury, she is given an unusual request by her uncle, the Deputy Director of SVR.  In exchange for caring for her sick mother, Dominika is asked to seduce a Russian gangster.  She accepts and finds herself falling into the life of a secret agent that specializes in seducing their targets and becomes entangled with an American agent named Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) who is on a mission of his own.

Thankfully, Marvel will be putting out a movie about a ballerina turned spy that
will be infinitely better.

There’s no point in delaying the inevitable and I’ll just come right out and say it; Red Sparrow is boring.  The story moves at a snail’s pace and never really feels like it is working up to anything remotely interesting.  The characters weren’t engaging enough to find interesting or invest in and the two leads have very little chemistry together.  The film has some fantastic performances and the premise feels very sound but the final product is just brutal in how dull it is and how the whole thing feels like a chore to sit through.  The movie is essentially a thriller but it feels like it is forgetting to include the thrills.

That blank look is the same face I had the entire film.

There's so much talent in this shot but they couldn't
save this boring story.
The only real saving grace for the movie is the fact that the performances are really good.  There’s supporting players like Jeremy Irons and CiarĂ¡n Hinds bringing gravitas to their roles and then you have two very talented players in the leads with Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton.  Despite how boring and dragging this spy “thriller” is these two are genuinely great in their roles (although I wasn’t a fan of Lawrence’s accent—kinda felt like it came and went).  Sadly, when these two are together, there is no chemistry to make their character’s relationship interesting.  Separately, they are fantastic.  Together, they are as lifeless as the film’s story and plot.

Joel Edgerton is a great actor but he's not a miracle worker.  No one is in
this film.  The performances were not to blame for this one.


Red Sparrow has a premise that feels primed and ready for some great spy thrills and intrigue—even if it doesn’t go the action route, you could still get a tense feature.  Additionally, the acting is genuinely good.  However, the film ended up providing a story that moved too slowly and didn’t provide enough intrigue to make it flow with its slow pace.  The end result is a film that was hard to get invested in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Shape of Water

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Tame down your hardcore fan fiction, give it a beautiful coat of visuals and throw in some great performances and you too can make a movie about odd creatures and humans showing their love physically.



The Shape of Water – 4 out of 5

I think Guillermo del Toro is an amazing director and storyteller.  He crafts some unique tales and delivers them with visuals that are capable of being both haunting and beautiful.  As an incredibly versatile artist, he can deliver drama, horror, action and fantasy.  The Shape of Water intrigued me because it was a love story between something that resembled the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon and a lonely woman.  That concept is certainly…interesting.  I wanted to see it earlier but never got around to it.  Recently, I finally got to check it out and discovered another fascinatingly gorgeous tale from the man who gave us such awesome features as Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and the Hellboy franchise.

I'm disappointed that this film never addressed what the actual shape of
water is though.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a lonely mute working as a cleaner at a secret government lab during the Cold War.  One day the lab brings in a mysterious creature that was captured in the Amazon River by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).  The bosses decide that the creature is to be killed but Elisa has formed a bond with it.  With the help of the government scientist Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and her neighbor and friend; Giles (Richard Jenkins), Elisa helps free the creature (played by Doug Jones).  Elisa plans to release the creature back into the wild before Strickland comes after them but she soon finds her relationship has evolved and the woman and amphibian man have fallen in love.

She doesn't like the fish man.  She like likes the fish man.

The Shape of Water might be the most unique love story I’ve ever watched.  I remember thinking that I would find the love story concept behind the movie Her to be strange but then was shocked to find that I found it oddly endearing.  The Shape of Water had this to an extent.  I will admit that I was sorta creeped out by the human/amphibian man relationship but, as the story progressed, I found their strange love a bit sweet.  One of the roadblocks, however, that held me back was the idea that I felt their relationship evolved too quickly.  When they first meet and Elisa is sneaking away to spend time with him felt like it moved very fast and their blossoming love seemed to move even quicker.  Beyond the fact that both characters are lonely, I really didn’t see much between the two to form the connection that they had.  However, as the film neared the end, I started to get consumed with what the two were feeling and I found myself 100% behind their relationship.  To put it simply, their love is developed effectively well despite my initial thoughts.

Somewhere, a MAGA fool saw this movie and muttered to himself, "See, this is
exactly what I said would happen when they legalized gay marriage."

My reluctance over the very core concept of the film aside, visually I found the feature absolutely gorgeous.  The use of vibrant colors clashing with dirty and somber tones made for a movie that really drew in the eye.  Combine this with the intricate sets and costumes and it made for a film that was an absolute feast to look at.  Even if I possibly couldn’t get into the love story, I knew that I would have walked away thinking I still had seen a beautiful film.

The look of a scientist who has had the unfortunate luck of cleaning fish man
poop.

Richard Jenkins is a national treasure.  I love that man!
Finally, the performances in The Shape of Water are amazing.  Sally Hawkins says so much without saying anything and this formula is mirror by Doug Jones in the amphibian man suit.  While sign language is used on occasion with these two, most of their “words” are expressed through their body language and they are telling so much with so little.  Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer (who is a work colleague of Elisa’s in the film) are all very talented performers in their own right and they show it off very well in this movie.  Finally, Michael Shannon once again astounds me with an incredibly intense performance that was utterly addicting to watch.  He made Strickland a villain that you loved to hate but also wanted to see more of.

I've actually met this man and he was very down-to-earth and nice but I quickly
forget that when I see him act and think of him only as the intense
villain he is so good at playing.

The Shape of Water proved to be a movie that I was initially a tad resistant to but ultimately found a powerful tale of love that holds real beauty and meaning.  The film is visually astounding and filled with performances that are top shelf stuff all across the board.  While it’s hard not to question whether or not del Toro decided to make this movie because he wrote fan fiction about Abe Sapien and his sex life while on the set of Hellboy but, that aside, the film is a damn impressive piece of work and wondrous in its own very unique way.