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The Infiltrator (2016)
A decent but lazy effort by Furman!
The Infiltrator is a terrific story that ends up only being a decent little picture because filmmaker Brad Furman drops the ball in some key areas. First off, the opening 45 minutes feel like every single drug/undercover/gangster picture you've ever seen all rolled up into one. If I told you the filmmakers chose to use the Curtis Mayfield song Pusherman, would I have to say anymore? Wow guys, really?
Along those lines, this film takes place smack dab in the middle of the 80's but feels like a rehash of every 70's drug film. If one just looks at the 80's as some cheesy period, then it will be so... If one looks at it as a lively time w/ new music- 2nd British invasion, new design, some cool fashion aspects (and some cheesy) and some continued sexual experimentation. (The bi-sexual adviser to Escabor fit right in the times, too bad they kind of squandered the chance to do more w/ him.) Look no further than here for a great primer on the time period: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GG0MR5E#_swftext_Swf At bare minimum, the musical cues were awful, nothing even remotely 80's like at all. Eminence Front by The Who, that's your 80's tune? A classic rock icon of the 60's and 70's and from a record in 1982. A great Rush tune, Tom Sawyer, 1981, opens the film and sets the tempo for a nice scene. It would be okay to open w this but to bookend end w/ another classic rocker indicates the filmmakers had no regard or feel for the period. Try Depeche Mode, Yaz, PiL, hell Bauhaus or Love & Rockets for something edgier. Try something that at least evokes the period... There are a ton of mis steps just like it.
For instance, Mom's are great, I bet Brad's Mom is especially awesome. But, letting her write the script? She may be apt to miss things like Wiseguys don't do facial hair (which was more a 70's than 80's thing.) The Wiseguy bodyguard has a big bushy beard, the pic of the real guy at the end of the film clearly illustrates the point. Look no further than here for some Made Man elucidation: https://www.amazon.com/Real-CASINO-Special- Bonus/dp/B008PBCT0A/ In addition, there's a definite sense here that no one associated w/ this film knows anything... and I mean anything about blow. Like uggatz, tho I'm sure Ma Furman loved to dole out mounds of the Colombian marching powder in her day. I mean, there was absolutely no sense of Cocaine permeating this picture at all, none! Just watch how GoodFellas & Casino do it, as Marty clearly did more than dabble. It's egregiously negligent seeing that the film is all about taking down Coke Cartels! And trust me, more than a few of these fellas got high on their own supply, no doubt. Also, it's not as if Ma Furman brought any new, rad feminist sensibility to the pic, it's neutral on the bechdel test at best. It easily could have been so much more.
I know Brad's a talented dude, his first films The Take & Lincoln Lawyer were very skillfully crafted, and demonstrated real chops. Even tho the performances were very strong in The Infiltrator, This feels frankly like a wasted, half assed, lazy effort. When folks wanna get it right, they do the work. Take a TV show like Halt & Catch Fire, they really studied to capture the feel of 80's Dallas to get the details right, even renting the aforementioned doc, Warriors of the Discotheque, on the Iconic club of the area designed by Philippe Starck. Cities like Miami, Atlanta, and Dallas went thru a major growth spurt in the 80's, bustling w/ activity and construction, architecture, etc. you get no sense of it in this film, despite shooting in London. it seems they could've a more modern look and feel to the pic. The color scheme and design just screamed 70's!!!
Films like these are not easy to make, and every time one gets made that doesn't reach its full potential it Def pisses me off. It makes it that much harder for (possibly better) projects of similar ilk to get lift off.
Solid effort-Not Cannes Worthy!
Wow, the other review sure spent more time and thought on the film than the filmmakers did. Stepsister is a more than competent effort. Well shot, solid performances, but frankly didn't add up to much. It certainly did NOT live up to it's pedigree. When I see a film has screened at Cannes and San Francisco International FF, I'm expecting something truly exceptional. Not a kind of meandering character piece that could've been fired off on a couple of afternoons. And frankly felt longer than it's 17 minutes. It was certainly worth a watch, but not much to get excited about. It's an issue I see again and again and one has to wonder about the incestuous nature of film festival programming.
Stinking Heaven (2015)
Following an unsettling trend in 'filmmaking'...
I can somewhat understand the enthusiasm for Nathan Silver's Stinking Heaven, and his body of work in general, but I have to say it represents a trend in Cinema I wish would go away. In the specific case of SH, the performances, narrative, and at times camera work and editing, are pretty skillfully crafted. The film succeeds at evoking the early 90's time period, and does a reasonably good job of creating the drama of a sober living house. (At times things get a bit maudlinly over the top, enough yelling, screaming, and scenery chewing to make Tony Montana proud. To be fair, if you've ever spent time in or around sober living homes, it's not totally misplaced.) Nathan Silver clearly has some skill as a filmmaker. His first feature, The Blind, a very ambitious endeavor shot by a top notch DP, with strong actors, did not always work as a film. But it was certainly a glimpse of his potential. Made on a budget that would total almost all his films since, it certainly did not enjoy the festival or distribution success of his subsequent ouvre such as: Exit Elena, Soft in the Head, Uncertain Terms, and the best of the bunch Stinking Heaven. However, it had something these films lack imo, that is real ambition. Getting with the trend, still going after a decade plus, of the whole minimalist, mumblecore bowel movement each film deals in the microcosm of daily living mined by other auteurs like Joe Swanberg (completely devoid of talent other than sporting a classic Frankenstein, box style hair cut) and the Duplass Bros. I must say I think Mr. Silver is more talented Filmmaker than these guys but we won't get to see his real potential fully realized because he's found some validation following this trend.
While this film is certainly worthwhile, I'd like to see Nathan Silver do something a tad more dynamic, following up on the daring of his first feature rather coast on a tired, overwrought trend that has certainly run its course....
Official Rejection (2009)
Well done, but nothing we didn't already know
I was impressed w/ what Paul Osborne and his team were able to do w/ this film. Of course, if you've been involved in the Indie film scene for any period of time, the idea that the fest circuit is a bit of a scam has been pretty well known for a long time. Never the less, makes for a fun and engaging watch still.
I was astounded and flabbergasted at some of the absurd naiveté (and stupidity) of some of the filmmakers, in particular Blayne Weaver.... Seriously bro? Why would you even bother flying from LA to Chicago to attend the 2nd annual Chicago Indiefest? Chicago Int FF, yes, Chicago Underground (CUFF) maybe, but some mickey mouse fest no one's ever heard of? Chicago's a great town but talk about walking around blind w/o a cane, not to mention emails like 'your film may be pulled if you don't sell it out..." I may love, and have roots, in the NY Metropolitan area but ask me if I'd fly from LA to NY to attend the Ozone Park film festival, come on:) What that whole scene in Chicago speaks to, as well as the festival circuit in general, is this self aggrandizing, ego stroke that many Indie filmmakers are looking for. Something the OR filmmakers seemed unaware of is the fact that so many of these scam, mediocre festivals exist because there's an endless supply of self serving, ego maniacal saps who want to get in on the circle jerk of saying, "hey, I made a film, check it out." At a certain point filmmakers have to look in the mirror and be realistic about their place in the Industry, if any at all.
It consistently baffles me how Joe Swanberg has carved out such a successful career out of so many reliably mediocre films and Autoerotic is no exception. While Swanberg has improved his awful camera work and overall production value. (He tends to make Kevin Smith look like a combo of Stanley Kubrick and Terry Malick.) This film is just pedestrian in about every way imaginable.
I'm not going to waste anymore of my valuable time on this but to say, Gee thanks Matt Dentler for foisting this garbage on the Indie world. What would we do without the cinematic genius of LOL or Hannah Takes the Stairs? Oh what exquisite taste you gatekeepers have....
Earth to Jasontodwillis, 150K is NOT a low budget for a short film! especially one shot on 35!!! I love the film because it's very well made, well crafted, and accomplished for any budget! The performances were quite good as well, very solid script.
This film played at Holly Shorts, I suggest catching it on the festival circuit!
I'm getting exceedingly irritated w/ IMDb as it won't let me post my comment because there aren't enough lines of text. When did this start? I mean what do I have to be Pauline Kael for god sakes before I can leave a comment on the film. This is completely absurd!!!!!!!!!!
poor acting mars film series!
I'm sorry, but it's a copout as suggested below, that just because Santo's in Boston he doesn't have access to talented actors or screenwriters. I'm sorry I don't buy that for a second. Writing a script and casting actor's really doesn't cost much at all. you don't need to be in Hollywood to get good performers delivering good material...
I finally saw, endured is more like it, all 3 volumes of Jason Santo's series Bent. On the positive side Santo shows some glimpses of talent w/ his camera work. However, the entire series is marred by very poor acting, (it's clear he's using strictly friends and family, not a trained actor in sight.) And with the exception of Marisa every other film (9 to be exact) was way too long, in some cases like His Life and The Haunting and A Sky w/ No Angels even The Aftermath, Santo could have lost 10 minutes on each film easily. There was a lot of redundancy and by the 3rd volume I had my finger on the FF button on every film. The 3rd volume started off great, some fantastic helicopter shots and the look and camera work on the first film Aftermath was just awesome. However, the sound was uneven, and once again hampered w/ poor acting and was way way too long. Here Comes Your Man faired a little better, the editing style was interesting, but once again too long. Also, the story was a bit lame, it's not very often someone w/ HIV develops full blown AIDS that quickly let alone Caposi Sarcoma. In dealing w/ such a serious subject Santo should have done more homework. I've been reading all over the net some very positive reviews of this series so for a moment I thought it just might be me. But, I spent last weekend at The NewPort Beach Film festival and saw a program of shorts and even tho none of them were stellar all were better than the best film in the Bent series. All had professional actors, several recognizable from films and TV, all the films were shot on 35 and 24p, sound was consistently good, and although most were a bit longer than necessary, were fairly engaging. This brought me back to the countless film fest programs I've been to, and even tho there's a lot of crap, thinking back, most shorts I've seen in fests were better than what was offered up here. To wrap it up I can't say it any better than Barry Meyer in film monthly who wrote of this series, "Santo seems so wrapped up in the idea of being a filmmaker, and all the fun stuff that it entails, that he never gets around to talking about the passion involved in telling a good story. And good film-making is good storytelling......I also took into account that the DVD is out on the consumer market, so if he's asking film fans to support his pleasures, then he'll need to get more serious and do some serious work on putting out more worthy products."
compelling doc on Chicago "outfit"
I feel I was let in on a secret I didn't want to know about. Compelling, disturbing, and ultimately sad to see the reality behind these damaged people. But, still peppered with a few humorous dashes like the "Rat a Tat Tat" cutaway. For a doc pretty stylish in both the camera work and editing. The cinematography was very well presented. Fast scene changes evoked the warning of watch your back. Unexpected movements in the film highlighted the dangerous and violent theme of mobster life. Fitting the topic, the film was also a little dark. Shifts from color to black and white were dramatic and well placed. The Real Casino was an interesting and entertaining look at how real mobsters rationalize their environment and justify their lives. A must for anyone into mob lore. Check out both the deleted scenes and the making of...
Nothing So Strange (2002)
I've been a fan of Brian Flemming's other work including his segments on the old IFC show Split Screen, but Nothing So Strange is just plain irrelevant. I saw it on DVD as part of the Had to Be Made film fest which included an interview w/ the director.
Bottom line is the film is a take off of the whole cult like conspiracy mania surrounding the JFK assassination. In this case Bill Gates is substituted for JFK, MacArthur Park in LA for Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Guess what? JFK was killed in 1963.... Oliver Stone's JFK, which rekindled the whole thing came out in Dec. 1991. Flemmings film started making it's rounds in 2002, really, who cares? It's pretty well executed and convincing, but quite frankly not all that funny and not all that satirical. I think much of it stems from Flemming's misguided mind set and his total lack of understanding about the JFK conspiracy theories.
In an interview after the film Flemming reveals he got the idea when he was researching the whole JFK thing and noticed the religious like quality of the conspiracy buffs. Then he states, almost as an aside, "I found no evidence supporting the conspiracy." Huhhhh! No matter what your feeling or opinion is, it is clear there is some kind of evidence to suggest more than one person was involved in the plot to kill JFK, hence a conspiracy. Therefore, all the controversy that's surrounded JFK all these years later!!! Hello!!! As a matter of fact, a special committee set up by the U.S. Senate did an exhaustive investigation and concluded in 1978 that indeed there was a conspiracy...I guess this little tidbit must have escaped Mr. Flemming's thorough research on the internet... If there were no evidence to suggest anything but a lone killer, obviously the issue would be dead and buried. Because of Flemming's lack of understanding here, or rather lack of knowledge, his total dismissal of any possibility of conspiracy, it makes the whole film fall flat and lose any satirical edge. You've got to fully digest and comprehend something to lampoon it. I feel the choice of subject was the problem.
In reading about the film I thought it would have more to do w/ Gates and Microsoft and greedy corporations, etc. With all the things going on in the world in the last few years:, Iraq, Enron, 9/11, the corruption of the Bush administration, etc. Let's pick on the crazy conspiracy buffs. Once again totally irrelevant film...
How's Your News? (1999)
Overall weak effort given the possibilities. There's simply not enough context presented for the viewer to be more involved in the story. I thought the totally blown opportunity would have been for the director Bradford to become more involved in the story and present his commentary from time to time, or other crew members for that matter. It would have lended a more rounded view and been more compelling.
Quite frankly, after the first 10 minutes or so, the interviewing of people on the street gets pretty repetitive. I had the FF button on my DVD remote working overtime. A little bit went a long way. Again there were so many possibilities and chances to make this a much more interesting film. There's no doubt in my mind that any positive response to this film has much more to do w/ the PC nature of the subject matter than anything else. In terms of style there really is none to speak of, the film is made in an unpretentious way, but is also totally unremarkable in every way. very flat! The short film that was included on the DVD was a much better effort imo.