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Plot: novelist vows to end government and corporate corruption.

Staggeringly incompetent on just about every level, impenetrable for the uninitiated, jarringly disjointed for the bad cinema aficionado, and incomprehensible for everybody else Fateful Findings is Neil Breen’s undiluted masterpiece. Breen flabbergasted the world with Double Down (2005) and I Am Here…. Now (2009) – and probably not in the way he intended or imagined. Not since Black Magic Rites (1973) and Ogroff (1983) was something so divorced from reality, so fantastically misguided, so life-affirmingly riveting in its complete and utter direness. If Double Down (2005) offered a mere glimpse into the fractured psyche of a man with a tenuous grip on sanity; then Fateful Findings is where old Neil went gloriously off the deep end. In other words, this is anything and everything you’d want out of a Breen production. Christian fringe cinema has appointed its own Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: David A.R. White, Geovanni Molina, Kirk Cameron, and Neil Breen. Fateful Findings is a transcendental, transformative work loaded to the gill with just about every dell of insanity and one that Breen has had trouble living up to ever since.

His modest body of work might not seem very daunting but the sheer concentration of awful within such a small repertoire has led to a veritable cult worship of his work. Like all true gems enshrined in the pantheon of bad moviedom the power lies not so much in the number of productions that Neil Breen has amassed, but that each and every feature of his defies conventional criticism by their inherent weirdness. As such, Fateful Findings is the third of his religious-patriotic-jingoistic supernatural thrillers and his most ambitious (or unhinged) by a wide margin. Like I Am Here…. Now (2009) before it this one too is imbued with New Age mysticism which might, or might not, be Native American in nature. Like a modern day David L. Hewitt Las Vegas’ most famous former realtor and architect turned Christian geek green-Marxist is dangerously enthusiast and wholly unencumbered by his lack of talent in every department. Breen is a man with a plan, which should strike fear into the hearts of anyone. As always, nothing is ever that simple and as with everything there’s always more than meets the eye.

One day eight-year-olds Dylan (Jack Batoni) and Leah (Brianna Borden) discover a mushroom next to the base of a tree in an open field. The mushroom turns into a jewelry box containing a black token and a few beads. Dylan takes the token and Leah rearranges the beads into a bracelet. The box is buried and changes back into a mushroom. “It’s a magical day!”, they exclaim and as fate would have it the two are separated as Leah moves to another state. Several decades pass and Dylan (Neil Breen) is now an author in talks with his publisher about commencing preparations for his eagerly awaited second novel. He holds an MA in computer science and living with him is his painkiller addicted girlfriend Emily (Klara Landrat). Coming home Dylan is hit by an unmarked Rolls-Royce, and rushed to the hospital where he’s placed under the care of Dr. Rosen (David Scott). Both Emily and his friend Jim (David Silva) visit him in the hospital. Periodically he’s checked up upon by the svelte head of neurology. There Dylan, holding on to his black token, miraculously heals at a record pace. For no discernible reason he unplugs his IVs and waggles home against medical advice.

The situation in the household of his next-door neighbour Jim doesn’t seem much better. Things have been steadily getting worse with his girlfriend Amy (Victoria Viveiros, as Victoria Valene). She works an emotionally - and financially unrewarding job at the bank and they are amidst something of a dry spell. To take his mind off things Jim is seemingly permanently drunk whenever he’s not feverishly working on restoring his prized 1985 Ferrari Testarossa. Caught like a deer in the headlights in that maelstrom of chaos and turmoil is their underage stepdaughter Aly (Danielle Andrade). Meanwhile, Dylan develops supernatural powers such as telekinesis and teleportation at the cost of headaches, narcoleptic seizures, and haunting dreams of a mysterious book. Instead of working on a new novel he decides to dedicate his time to hacking into heavily-protected domestic and international government – and corporate databases to expose the corruption, greed, and fraud that has been allowed to run rampant. Because he’s so preoccupied with his exposé Emily suspects him of having an affair. To help Jim and Amy get out of their impasse Emily throws a dinner party house where nubile Aly decides to throw herself at Dylan near his pool and then again at the tub, but he wards off her advances. At the follow-up barbecue at his house Dylan discovers that his neurologist is none other than his childhood sweetheart Leah (Jennifer Autry). Instead of providing for him and his girlfriend Dylan indulges his hacking hobby and continues to see Leah on the side. This in turn pushes Emily, already struggling with a prescription drugs addiction and junkie lifestyle, further into depression.

To help him cope with the pressure of writing a new novel Dylan sees psychotherapist David S. Lee (John Henry Hoffman) who continues to prescribe him medication. He goes to see Dr. Andra (Gloria Hoffman) to get a second opinion and finds himself enthralled by her flowery, fortune-cookie spiritualist platitudes. Around this time Emily succumbs to her dependency and ODs whereas Amy, tired of their constant bickering and spurning of unwanted sexual advances, kills Jim in cold blood and stages it as a suicide. Aly is witness to the scene and, understandably, confides in Dylan. With Emily no longer a concern Dylan is free to romantically pursue Leah. As Dylan amasses evidence to make his case the powers-that-be facilitate the kidnapping of Leah by a shady figure (Mark Bettencort), but it’s nothing the near god-like Dylan can’t handle. In a televised Washington D.C. press conference Dylan bravely names the opposition and their numerous crimes against mankind’s best interests. During the press conference a last-minute, quickly thrown together assassination is attempted but it’s summarily thwarted by Dylan’s supernatural powers and senses. One by one politicians, Wall Street bankers, insurers, and judiciary confess to their assorted crimes and commit suicide in public. Happily reunited with the love of his life the two walk off hand in hand into the sunset. Corruption has been ended, the guilty have been punished, and Dylan has been reunited with his lost Lenore. Everything is right with the world again…

As expected all the Breen-isms are here: First, there’s the crude, non-specific socio-political commentary aimed squarely at rampant government corruption and greed in the corporate business world, none of which is ever meaningfully explored. There’s the obligatory second act melodramatic exclamation (“I can’t believe you committed suicide!” and “no more books!” here). All of that is neatly spiced up by a thick layer of vague conspiratorial nonsense, and a complete lack of action of any kind. Just like in Double Down (2005) there’s Breen playing an every-man (with a pronounced interest in computer science) turned into a superpowered messianic Christ-like savior by some undefined divine providence to fight the many evils in the world; as well as his penchant for casting well-endowed, permanently braless blonde - and brunette women half his age.

In Fateful Findings we have Klara Landrat, Jennifer Autry, Victoria Viveiros, and Danielle Andrade who all look like they should, or will be, in Rene Perez movies. Or at least in something from either The Asylum or TomCat Films. Old Neil likes busty blonde Valley girls as much as the late Russ Meyer, Andy Sidaris, Cirio H. Santiago, and Jim Wynorski. It wouldn’t be a Neil Breen spectacular if there wasn’t any commentary on a big relevant social issue. In Double Down (2005) Neil expressed his obvious concern over how American society views and treats the mentally ill and the way America handles the psychological well-being of its citizenry. I Am Here.… Now (2009) was about poverty, prostitution, and the mounting energy crisis. It pushed a commendable environmentalist agenda of sustainable, renewable energy. Fateful Findings abandons that thread and concerns itself with pharma culture, substance abuse/dependency, and suicide instead. As far as “controversial” subject matter and “thought-provoking” no-budget filmmaking goes, Breen is the absolute master.

Believe it or not, Fateful Findings is actually a marked improvement over his prior two outings and his opus magnum. John Mastrogiacomo was involved merely as a camera man yet without a director of photography Breen somehow managed to line up a few idyllic shots of the Las Vegas cityscape and the Nevada desert. Old Neil never hid his appreciation and love for the shapes and curves of the female form. A form he isn’t afraid of showing (Breen apparently has a kink for sideboob and bare feet), but he always does so in a perfectly audience-friendly PG-13 manner. He’s exploitative enough to have them braless, with their busts nearly spilling out of their blouses, and/or have liquid spilled on translucent fabric. Yet the money shot remains curiously absent. Instead when his women appear topless or nude they do so with their backs modestly to the camera. This would be understandable had any of these women been name-actresses, but that’s far from the case. To compensate for the apparent lack of bare breasts (Breen needs to take lessons from Jim Wynorski and Rene Perez) there are the obligatory auteur butt shots, but even they would eventually (and thankfully) dissipate. The special effects work is cruddy, the editing is shoddy, the audio wobbly - but the pacing has improved. As far as casting goes Breen never quite assembled an host of nobodies like this again.

Fateful Findings has enough intersecting storylines to fill three movies. We’d be interested in seeing the Closer (2004) inspired romantic drama with Klara Landrat and Victoria Viveiros and their respective significant others, or the proxy Swimming Pool (2003) with Danielle Andrade as the Ludivine Sagnier character and Breen standing in for Charlotte Rampling. Andrade is no Sagnier, and unlike her French counterpart in the François Ozon film, she won’t be flaunting her breasts either. Then there’s the espionage thriller with a novelist being hounded by government spooks after happening upon a worldwide political conspiracy of corruption and fraud. The latter of which is really what Breen likes to focus on. For the most part however Fateful Findings is content to follow the general contours of Jon Turteltaub’s Phenomenon (1996) (with John Travolta).

Compared to the sheer lunacy and opaque mysticism of Double Down (2005) and proselytizing of I Am Here…. Now (2009), Fateful Findings is relatively grounded in its surrealism. Which doesn’t mean it’s any less batshit insane. It doesn’t make a lick of sense at the best of times and will be nigh on inaccessible to anybody but the staunchest and most resilient of bad movie fans. As a director/writer and auteur Neil Breen remains truly unparallelled. He truly is appaled by political – and government malfeasance, fascinated with mysticism and the paranormal; whether they come in the form of enchanted rocks or top-heavy, clothing-averse women. Breen feverishly weaves action, drama, social commentary, and the paranormal like no other. He does so in such a disjointed fashion that hitherto hasn’t been seen before – or ever again. Neil truly is boldly going where no one has gone before, and seems to have lost both his marbles and his much of his composure along the way. That, or he’s having one hell of a midlife crisis. At this point it could be either…

Plot: two friends reconnect and engage in a passionate, steamy affair.

Historically there are two ways for directors to get their foot in the door. That’s either by doing a horror (typically a slasher because of how cost efficient they tend to be) or a raunchy comedy. Miguel Chávez chose the latter for his debut and My Cousin the Sexologist (released domestically as Mi Prima La Sexòloga) marketed itself as “erotic comedy” while nothing comedic ever actually transpires. To nobody’s surprise it was critically savaged and subject of some controversy back at home in Bolivia because of its crude depiction of sexuality and relationships. Both the director and lead star drew the ire of various domestic women’s interests groups and feminist organizations. My Cousin the Sexologist is frustratingly episodic and completely uneventful, and when it’s not it frequently forgets what it is supposed, or promises, to be. Despite all that it was somehow deemed commercially viable enough to secure a domestic theatrical release. The controversy was strong enough to generate interest outside of Bolivia and allegedly at some point there were talks for an American spin-off. It has found its way onto various on-demand and streaming services around the world since. If nothing else, it’s custodian to the urban hit song 'Dale No Pares' by MaJeLo (for which Chávez directed the music video, with Stephanie Herela co-starring). Not bad for a cheap shot-on-video drama resembling a 90-minute pilot to an unproduced telenovella.

Chávez had earlier directed the controversial “100% cuero” ad campaign for Corimexo furniture that lasted (and continues to last) several years. The ads featured popular domestic models Maricruz Rivera (2007), Gabriela Catoira (2009), Pamela Justiniano (2012), and Daniela Lopez (2012) cavorting and lounging around in skimpy lingerie or sometimes even less. The most famous model to appear in said campaign was Stephanie Herela. Herela participated in the 2014 Miss Bolivian Tropic beauty pageant, underwent liposuction and breast enlargement either sometime before or after, and from there parlayed her newfound fame into a lucrative career as brand ambassador, corporate hostess, social media influencer, television personality, dancer, and all-around internet babe. As the Bolivian Stormi Maya or Fernanda Urrejola (with all the curves but without any of the talent) it was all but inevitable that la Stephanie would take up acting. Not only would she star in Chávez’ debut feature, but she would also do her own make-up and provide her own wardrobe. In return Chávez bombarded her to executive producer position as a bonus. Likewise is Kimberly Aguilera also a popular Instagram model but she not nearly has the same clout as Herela has.

Manuel (Andrès Salvatierra) is a bachelor living in the province of Beni who for the past several days has been receiving persistent anonymous calls on his cell phone. His roommate and best friend Marco (Majelo Quiroz) suggests he answer the next call to see what all the fuzz is about. Before long his cell is ringing again and on the other end he hears the sensual voice of Maria Helena or Malena (Stephanie Herela), the girl who he had been carrying a torch for and who he hasn’t seen in over a decade, informing him that she’s now a “well-known and popular” sexologist in Buenos Aires, Argentina and that she will be returning to her old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz for a two-week vacation. Malena invites Manuel over to her studio so they can have a few laughs, some drinks, and catch up on old times and each other’s lives. On the first night the two exchange the usual formalities and there’s electricity in the air. Malena brings up the idea to meet again as much as they can over the next two weeks. Malena is struggling to apply her studies in a way that her family can understand, and what better subject than her good friend Manuel? Manuel, bewildered that an attractive woman like Malena would be interested in him, is so distracted that he completely forgets about the dinner date he agreed to with his ex-girlfriend Verónica (Kimberly Aguilera) which understandably leads to some friction between the two. Over the next two weeks Manuel continues to see Malena and the two engage in a passionate affair. Manuel and Malena go shopping in company of his son Manuelito (Thiago Ribera) and Malena introduces him to her metro/homosexual best friend Francesco (Joaquín Machado Foianini) who, of course, makes a pass on him. Will Malena follow her heart and be with Manuel or follow the money and prioritize her career as a sexologist?

What started as a pithless exercise in comedy that makes the Gloria Guida canon look like that of Laura Antonelli suddenly and without warning explodes into a instructional feature. My Cousin the Sexologist devotes most of its second act to Herela explaining (in easily manageable 5-10 minute vignettes, ideal for classroom usage) half a dozen sexuality - and psychology-related concepts in a pseudo-scientific manner. Which, by all means, is a good thing since sexual education in Latin America differs greatly from country to country, and is non-existent wherever religious institutions are the arbiters of morality. This, after all, is not a shameless “exposé” on the School Girl Report (1970) model but an instructional feature for which there was a widespread and specialized market in the forties and fifties before the advent of television. After that brief detour My Cousin the Sexologist regains its composure and awkwardly limps to the conclusion. It will make you wish for the humid sleaze of Eleven Days Eleven Nights (1987) and Top Model (1988), the playfulness of the average Gloria Guida romp, the zaniness of an Edwige Fenech bedroom farçe, or the sensual scabbiness of an Isabel Sarli flick. None of which My Cousin the Sexologist has. At least there’s Stephanie Herela and her pneumatically enhanced and frequently disrobed form. Not even that is enough to save My Cousin the Sexologist from feeling directionless and on the wrong side of cheap.

The screenplay was written over a two-month period in late 2015 and early 2016. Production was scheduled for eight weeks from March into April that year with a skeleton cast and crew consisting largely of enthusiastic volunteers and first-timers in front as well as behind the camera. Post-release Herela found herself in hot water for appearing in the Corimexo ad campaign that had her lounging around furniture in the nude. This, understandably, generated criticism from women’s interests groups and feminist organizations. One such group Mujeres Creando filed a formal complaint against executives of Corimexo and director Miguel Chávez for psychological and media violence. Protests erupted both on social media and on a grass roots level with the collective outrage effecting the removal of the ad from various platforms and Corimexo censoring the advertisement for their special collection of sofas and leather chairs. Miguel Chávez hasn’t directed anything since, and in 2017 Herela produced/starred in a web mini-series called El Sexo Según Stephanie (or Sex According to Stephanie) and has continued to prosper as both a model and as an influencer on social media.

Which sort of brings up our second point of contention: how can a Bolivian production not exploit the palm trees, sunny beaches, and cultural hotspots to its advantage? Herela’s bikini pictures are the stuff of legend - and not once is she seen sporting one. My Cousin the Sexologist takes place in beautiful Santa Cruz yet is almost exclusively set in a featureless condominium complex and one street that could be literally anywhere. This is a problem that could have easily been solved by the inclusion of royalty-free stock footage or a bout of guerrilla filmmaking. Cine-S classic The Hot Girl Juliet (1981) (with Eva Lyberten, Andrea Albani, and Vicky Palmas) was at least as dirt cheap – and even they took to the beaches and to the streets in between the bedroom scenes. The Room (2003) has higher production values, as does the median Emanuelly Raquel, Lorena Brink, or Reya Reign video for that matter. Hell, even Neil Breen is not nearly as cheap as this. On the plus side, if you want to learn the ins and outs of Bolivian Spanish allegedly the enunciation here is very clear. Supposedly My Cousin the Sexologist provides excellent examples of speech, sayings and slang for adult Spanish learners. When that’s not the case Herela’s wiggling her huge plump ass, or Salvatierra is taking his shirt off.

It’s bad enough when a comedy isn’t funny and it’s even worse when a soft erotic romp isn’t sexy. My Cousin the Sexologist fails miserably on both counts. No wonder then that la Herela has quietly shelved whatever acting aspirations she had. What has become of Miguel Chávez is presently unclear. It would be entirely plausible that he quit the film business altogether after this debacle and returned to the world of advertising. Either that, or he has been brooding on a new project in the years since. What is clear is that Stephanie Herela could be so much more than just a model and influencer, if somebody would only hire her in a feature that played up to her strengths. Here’s hoping that Benjamin Combes, Pedring A. Lopez, or Ernesto Díaz Espinoza will see it fit to bring Herela out of retirement for a proposed sequel to Commando Ninja (2018), Maria (2019), or Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (2012). Either that or Rene Perez should consider her (and Kimberly Aguilera, for that matter) for the next episode in his ongoing Playing with Dolls and/or Cabal (2020) sagas. If Christina Lindberg, Gloria Guida, and Andrea Albani could have careers, why not Stephanie?