At the movies
“The Infiltrator,” a crime thriller directed by Brad Furman, 41, is based on a true story: In 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) went deep undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking gang by posing as a slick, money-laundering businessman. The case that Mazur helped build led to the indictment of 85 drug lords and corrupt bankers. It also led to the collapse of BCCI, one of the largest money-laundering banks in the world. Amy Ryan co-stars as Bonni Tischler, who was Mazur’s boss in the U.S. Customs Service office in Tampa, Florida.
Tischler, who was 60 when she died of breast cancer in 2005, was a pioneering woman in federal law enforcement. She started as a sky marshal and rose to be a top national Customs Service official before retiring in 2002. She told the Washington Post in 1987 that her parents were horrified when she became a sky marshal: “My mother always said that nice Jewish girls don’t go into law enforcement.”
Variety’s advance review for the film, which opens July 15, was a rave, praising Cranston, Furman and the screenplay. Furman directed small films and ads for about 10 years before getting his big break in 2007 with “The Take,” a taut crime thriller. He followed up with the legal thriller “The Lincoln Lawyer” (2011).
When he first decided to go into filmmaking, his mother, Ellen Furman, 67, then a practicing attorney, asked him to reconsider and find “something more stable.” And who wrote “The Infiltrator” screenplay? His mother! The pair told the now-defunct Tampa Tribune that they had written 10 scripts over the years, but none sold. After Ellen retired, she had more time to hone her writing and turned out a script for “The Infiltrator” that Variety called “ingeniously layered.” A Tampa film professor told the Tribune he couldn’t think of another instance in which a mother wrote a film that her son directed. (Fun fact: Ellen’s late mother was a local president in the National Council of Jewish Women).
When the newest entry in the Star Trek reboot film series, “Star Trek Beyond,” opens next week it will be an emotion-laden event after Anton Yelchin, who co-stars as Ensign Pavel Chekov, died tragically on June 19. Yelchin, who was just 27, also had completed two other films and an animated Netflix series before his death. “Beyond” opens July 22.
In 2000, then-U.C. Berkeley student Anthony Ervin won an Olympic gold medal in 50-meter freestyle swimming and a silver in freestyle relay. The next year he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, which he heralds on his website — while noting that he reflects “the diversity of our modern world” (his mother is Jewish; his father is African American and Native American). The next seven years were not good: too much sex, drugs and alcohol. A motorcycle accident in 2007 pulled him up short. He got sober, returned to Berkeley where he got his English degree in 2010, and began training again. In 2012, he made the Olympic team at age 31. On July 2, Ervin earned a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. At 35, he’s the oldest U.S. male Olympic swimmer since 1904.
In other news of a local nature, on July 15 Netflix will release “Stranger Things,” a 10-episode supernatural series that harkens back to the creepy Steven Spielberg/Stephen King horror fantasies of the 1980s. Winona Ryder, 44, who was raised in Petaluma, stars as Joyce, a small-town mother whose young son goes missing. The town thinks she’s crackers when she says she can communicate with her son via Ouija board, but they change their tune when monsters appear in the shadows.
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at email@example.com.