I saw "Stealing Martin Lane" at a pre-release screening in NYC last night and rate it "eight stars" based on its story and technology. It is an original and entertaining comedy following an aging drummer and his band trying to Rock and Roll their way through real life. It is also the first Indie production to validate digital film for citizen-filmmakers. This is exhilarating news to the tens of thousands of Indie and YouTube producers, and ultimately terrifying news to the Hollywood production community - but more on that later.
The film is a day-in-the-life comedy of a slacker drummer and his SoHo band "Young and Fabulous." Both are hard-driving rockers but a quarter-note shy of being true stars. The film follows the band as they bounce between gigs, day jobs, drug rehab and girlfriends with tongue-in-chic and quirky-good dialog. Although their kick-ass music is usually a backdrop to an engaging story of dues and deliverance, the songs themselves are hilarious throwaways like "Daddy's Money," "Your Fifteen Minutes Are Over," and "I Get More Pussy Than Frank Sinatra." By the end of the film, we are really hoping these Glammers either get their butts signed or some Wendy from the real world shows up to rescue the boys from their Neverland lives. A twisted, non-Hollywood ending delivers neither but still tidies things up nicely.
First-Timer Jimmy Furino wrote and directed this tour de force showing a strong ear for snappy and intelligent dialog and a great eye for the noir visuals of New York nightlife. Furino, who also plays his lead character "Snarl," nails the role with the precision of someone who has lived that life. Furino has great chops and cool to spare, bringing a lot of depth to the story's floundering lead. Veteran Dylan Barker also does well as the band's harried manager, but the film's standout acting comes from Isiah Whitlock Jr. as homeless man Harold "Chopper" Jones. Whitlock turns in a knowing performance that captures the daily grind of being homeless in New York and wins us over completely.
In a film about a New York Glam Band, it is fair to expect a lot of the sound track, and the film delivers big-time in that respect. The film rocks with simple but hardcore beats and insanely funny lyrics offering a nice counterpoint to the storyline and helping to keep the film's pace up. The soundtrack boils over with a great mix of New York Glam, Raunch, Rock and even Easy Listening. If there is an unsung hero here it is one of the film's composers, James Maresca, creator of the film's band "Young and Fabulous." Maresca has been writing catchy New York underground rockers dating back to the mothers of punk, the Sick F*cks, and his work shows this spit and polish. Furino is also a veteran song-smith and coyly slips several of his jazzier compositions in as background music.
"Stealing Martin Lane" is a solid first film that plays well on the big screen and is well worth a trek to a festival or theater this year. It is also clear that the technology behind this film will turn it into a film-school classic. It is the first feature shot with two off-the-shelf, high consumer grade (pro-sumer) camcorders and edited running both video streams on a home computer. Of course pro-sumer video Indies have been around since 2000. What is different here is camcorder quality, resolution and look is very close to film with pricing so low, filmmakers can easily work two cameras with astounding results.
All this means faster shoots, zero continuity problems, jump cuts or lack of scene coverage, better sound quality and a cleaner picture that translates well to theater screens. Since these new camcorders also offer spectacular video even under low light, it means better pictures without the cumbersome and expensive lighting gear that can tie up an entire city block on a Hollywood shoot. Assuming this film will eventually make it to DVD, here's hoping the producers include a making-of short to show their camera setups and dual-view editing techniques.
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