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Fifty thousand Canadian dollars, a great script, a great cast and just to top the fruit, glorious black and white…what more could you ask for of an independent flick? Well, for starters, this just so happens to be one of the best debuts I’ve seen in a long time…read on to find out why.

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Movie
Brewster McGee (Brent Neale) whiles away his time like most guys do; stuffing his face with chicken while concocting elaborate plans of wealth and power with his oddball friend Malcolm (Reid Edwards). Things only become more textured as they reel in a helpless misfit who seemingly has problems with his boss (and his life) at the Chicken Hut (a fast-food locale similar to KFC). Oliver (Don Ackerman) brings with him just enough vulnerability and helplessness that Brewster needs to envelope his obscenities around the trio. Indeed, he seems to latch onto people of this variety; in effect they glue themselves onto his ever expanding ego which is both dangerous and unethical as it transpires. Needless to say things eventually go spiralling out of control in the later parts of the story as Brewster becomes more eccentric and overpowering as ever.

From the haunting opening titles to the finale, Brewster McGee simply reeks of the purest form of quality. Characters literally jump out of two dimensional surroundings to become fully fledged three dimensional beings. Everyone seems to bounce off one another, particularly Brewster and his friend Malcolm. While elementary in nature, there seems to be an abundance of twists and double meaning interwoven throughout the whole runtime that really does have more buried beneath the surface for those willing to look deeper. Think of it as you would a deep abyss of parody and sublime intellect.

This can be interpreted as both intelligent and deceptive. For one, I bet most of us can fully relate to most of these characters. The aptly titled lead himself may remind us of somebody we know or knew once before. So to will Malcolm. His insecurity and pacifism reminded me only too prominently of myself in most respects. Indeed, Ross Munro seems to have based these characters on either lampoons or on people he knows himself, bold people that are very much standouts in today’s society. This works tremendously as it fully provides the all-important latching factor and understanding of their motivations and ultimate actions.

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This leads us to the next part of the filmmaking process, that of the screenplay. Firstly, and all you really need to know is that it is very well written. Dialogue feels perfectly natural and moves the story along in much the same way as Quentin Tarantino movies often do. This is the trademark of powerful scripting, and while not entirely flawless, it is about as good as I have ever seen under these budgetary and technical constraints. At times the merest conversations (generic in most features) are virtually as life-like as conversations could ever be and I often forgot that I was in the realms of cinematic entertainment. I don’t think I’ve experienced this since 1994’s Pulp Fiction; impressive indeed.

Visually the film is very vapid, as you might have expected, though it’s not without merit. Camera angles are always interesting and most of the time the transition between scenes are smooth to the eye. Also, being filmed in black and white and with grain aplenty, I think the look and feel suit this film perfectly. Come to think of it, I don’t think colour would have been as magical on Brewster. I sometimes feel that black and white averts the audience from the artistic side of film and makes one focus more on the story and character palate instead. Intentional or not, monochrome makes this film better in my honest opinion.

Don’t be fooled by the packaging or any stigma regarding low-budget features, as Brewster McGee is a tremendous first effort from one of those rarely talented filmmakers who will hopefully make it big anytime soon. If you miss it you’d be making an honest mishap and that’s as big a complement as I could offer in favour of this movie. It comes highly recommended and just as highly regarded.

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Video
With a 1.33:1 frame, glorious monochrome and more grain that a desert sandstorm you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this image is not worthy of the all-digital format that is DVD. That’s where you’d be wrong. Indeed, those things may make one wince but honestly it isn’t all that bad. I wouldn’t be so gracious as to compare this visual aspect with modern releases but in all honestly the image looks as good as it will evidently get.

Though badly grainy throughout things are modestly sharp and the separation between both black and white looks visually refreshing to say the least. A common problem cinematographer’s often face while shooting in black and white is for colours to look natural. Such colours as green and blue, for example, can often look bad when paired together in monochrome. I however noticed no niggles between colours here, a major credit to the guys behind the camera for pulling this off.

For what it’s worth, and while admittedly a dirty print, I wouldn’t exchange it for a better one if the opportunity arose. Reason being, some films simply become bettered with murky transfers, this is one of those films. Atmosphere and added tension arise though these conditions and it doesn’t really get much better.

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Audio
Mono only folks, but don’t be duped. As Brewster is fully dialogue-charged and very little that could have ever gushed from any other channel other than the centre, things are perfectly nailed here. Audio can often seem a little loose if truth be told, but that’s a fault not of the filmmakers (specifically the sound guys) but more to do with the obvious technical inadequacies of the film and the principal budget themselves. No matter, the monaural track is both well crafted and detailed enough to satisfy.  

Extras
While this disc has so far delivered in terms of film, picture and audio, Mr. Munro wasn’t about to let us down with the extra features section. While slender at best, the one standout feature carries this whole section though to supremacy. I am referring specifically to the audio commentary of course.

Ross delves into all kinds of filmmaking joys and serves up one of the best filmmaking commentaries this side of the now infamous Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings commentaries. It’s truly fantabulous stuff considering the rather abrupt sixty minute runtime, but he gets it all in and certainly gives you your money’s worth. Film students can also take pride in this disc and I would most certainly recommend it as one to own in that regard, but for rest of us it proves insightful, fun and most important of all, educational and inspirational.

We’re now sadly left with but two trailers, an English and Spanish theatrical to be precise, but they make for a few minutes of harmless fun. Packaging-wise the disc is nicely presented and housed in a solidly built DVD case with decent artwork to boot. The menus are static but good enough. In all, a nice little disc with a truly outstanding audio feast by the writer/director (and co-star Brent Neale) that nobody should miss!

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Overall
A Quentin Tarantino-esque hour-long flick from an up and coming talent should be all the information you need to buy this great little DVD. If not, then one can simple see it as a piece to study and learn from. I’d heartily recommend it to all however, it really made that much of an impression on me.

Student filmmakers alone will find this an engaging DVD, and its minimal but nonetheless satisfying extra features will have you flaunting your newfound knowledge to your professors. Ross Munro’s feature-length audio commentary proved an insightful listen, both for hands-on experience and a bit of laid back fun seamlessly mixed for best results. The image and audio aspects of the disc might not shine like other DVD’s do but they suit the movie fine and you really couldn’t ask for better in this instance.

On another note I must express that I really don’t exclusively want to associate this DVD release as purely film study material. Unlike so many film of this sort, Brewster McGee differentiates itself from the norm and stands on its own as a truly entertaining endeavour into film; Black and white, low-budget or not, its pure cinema.


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