“OZARK” A TWISTY TALE OF CRIME; “CECIL B. DeMILLE” ON DVD
A TV and DVD Review by Tim Riley
“OZARK” ON NETFLIX
Sometimes it’s okay to arrive late to the party, and now that there is more time for binge-watching TV series, catching up with crime drama series “Ozark” on Netflix offers up the chance for a long-run. “Ozark,” perhaps because of its illicit drug trade milieu, has been compared to series like “Breaking Bad,” and with the Redneck Riviera setting of the Lake of the Ozarks, maybe it’s a little bit more like “Justified.”
Jason Bateman, occasional director and star, has taken a darker turn than usual in his character of Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial adviser whose wizardry in moving around large amounts of money draws attention from the wrong people.
For Marty, the wrong people are not just the FBI, but the particularly vicious Mexican cartel kingpin Del (Esai Morales) who has entrusted millions of dollars in his care, only to discover that Marty’s associates have been skimming a share of the profits.
An ugly fate befalls those who get sideways with the cartel, and though Marty is spared a gruesome terminal outcome, it’s likely only because he just might be indispensable to making things right. Giving up the gleaming high-rise office and the nice suburban home, Marty uproots his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and two children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), for a move to lakeside living in Missouri.
Convincing the cartel that he can launder their drug money without drawing suspicion from the FBI in the Lake of the Ozarks, Marty goes about the business of looking for businesses that are either marginal or failing where he can pursue his trade.
Soon he’s involved with Rachel (Jordana Spiro), owner of a rundown resort motel, acquires a strip club by trickery and tangles with the conniving Ruth (Julia Garner), the sharp young member of a family of deadbeat crooks with designs of her own.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of tension in the Byrde family, from the revelation of Wendy’s infidelity to the teenage Charlotte’s angst and insolence to younger Jonah’s strange fascination with mutilated animals. Almost everyone is grappling with demons in “Ozark,” from the undercover FBI agent monitoring the Byrde family who harbors secrets that could derail his career to a conflicted pastor holding services on the lake. With comparisons to other crime dramas, “Ozark” has the surface feeling of being somewhat derivative, but it’s worth hanging in there to see if Marty can wiggle his way out of inevitable peril.
Cecil B. DeMille, early pioneer of American cinema, gained his directorial fame for the epic scale and cinematic showmanship of his films, most notably in the biblical-themed silent films “The Ten Commandments” (1923) and “The King of Kings” (1927). DeMille obtained pop culture status in Billy Wilder’s 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard,” in which Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, a demented former silent film star dreaming of a triumphant return to the screen, utters the famous line, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Filmmaker Peter Brosnan, passionate in documenting an early tale of the famous director’s penchant for massive sets, devoted decades to an archeological detective story of unearthing the City of the Pharaoh in the sand dunes of a California beach. “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” has been re-released on DVD and streaming sites to coincide with the traditional Easter airing on television of “The Ten Commandments,” the Charlton Heston-as-Moses version that remains a popular Biblical story.
DeMille’s “lost city” refers to what Brosnan heard about in 1982 from his colleague Bruce Cardozo. In 1923, the pioneer filmmaker built the largest set in movie history for the silent film version of “The Ten Commandments” in the sand dunes of a California beach.
After the shooting had finished, the rumor was that the film set, which included 20 sphinxes and four 35-ton statues of Ramses, was buried in the sand dunes of the small town of Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County.Nearly sixty years later, Brosnan began his quest to unearth the remains of the Egyptian setting with the help of archeologist John Parker, who eventually quit the project after growing weary of permitting snafus.
As narrator, Brosnan recounts the annoying red tape battles with government officials dismissively referred to as the “permit people” who dithered over whether an original exemption from regulations would hold up. At one point, Brosnan is described as having a “Captain Ahab-type obsession” in recovering whatever artifacts of DeMille’s faux Egyptian grandeur would be discovered.
In true documentary fashion, Brosnan interviews people who were involved in different ways with the film and still alive to tell the tale, including a gentleman who was a kid when he snuck on to the Paramount lot to witness how DeMille staged the parting of the Red Sea. For serious film buffs, “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” also offers a fascinating look at the creation of epic films from the sand dunes of Guadalupe to location shooting in Egypt for the 1956 version of “The Ten Commandments.”