Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and second film or series available on DVD or instant-streaming service.
Follow “Indie Prof” on Facebook for updates about film events and more reviews.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017)
This fascinating documentary tells the little-known story of Native American influence on the history of American music. The film starts with proto-rocker Link Wray and his instrumental riff “Rumble,” from 1957, which many believe to be the most influential piece in rock history, or as Stevie Van Zandt calls it in the film, “the theme song to juvenile delinquency.” From that landmark in the ’50s to present-day Standing Rock, the film charts a path of music, politics, and identity that is equal parts interesting, sad, provocative, and uplifting.
The film shines when it concentrates on the music and the specific involvement of Native Americans therein. The likes of Van Zandt, Slash, and Robbie Robertson chime in with worthwhile stories, but the depth of the film lies in the music itself. This is one of those documentaries that makes you realize no matter how much you think you know about a specific subject, there is so much more there. And that is quite refreshing.
You will like this film if you enjoyed Muscle Shoals, Sound City, and/or 20 Feet from Stardom.
Opens Sept. 1 for one week only at the Chez Artiste.
A suburban Chicago financial planner finds out his partner has stolen millions of dollars from the Mexican drug cartel for which they have been laundering money. The partner is brutally murdered in front of him. The same man finds out his wife is unfaithful, and the cartel throws the woman’s lover out of a 70th-floor window, also in front of him. The cartel threatens to kill the wife and kids as well. The family is spared when the man concocts a cockamamie story about moving to the Ozarks where he can launder the cartel’s money. The cartel agrees, almost amused at how the story will play out. The family moves to the Ozarks that day.
I can only imagine someone pitching this absurd pilot to an executive at Netflix. Somehow, they bit. The strangest part of the whole story is that it all works. Wonderfully.
Such is the pilot of the new Netflix series Ozark, a wild, unpredictable, interesting, lively, and unlikely new show that continually surprises and delights. Much of the credit goes to Jason Bateman, the star, executive producer, and director of the first two episodes. Bateman is known for comedy, but this part allows him to expand his repertoire. We’ve seen evidence of his depth, especially as the creepy husband in Juno. Here, he doesn’t necessarily grow into the role as the season moves along, as Bryan Cranston did in Breaking Bad; Bateman, from the very first minute of the show, is the part. Bateman’s character of Marty Byrde comes into the TV world fully formed.
The writing and acting are the true stars of this show. Laura Linney as Marty’s wife is as equally wonderful as Bateman. Linney is a veteran of all different types of parts, but just when we think we know her, she surprises us. And then does it again. And again. Stage and screen veteran Julia Garner pops as the snappy leader of a band of malcontent Ozark locals who become embroiled in the Byrde-world, once again in surprising and unpredictable ways. The difficult roles of the Byrde children are also solidly played, by Sofia Hublitz as the older sister to Skylar Gaertner’s younger brother. Imagine being pulled out of your big-city life one day, ferried to the woods, and then … well, you’ll have to watch for the rest. I’ve already spoiled the pilot, sort of.
Season one is now streaming on Netflix.
You will like this show if you enjoyed Breaking Bad, Weeds, and/or Fargo.
And a bonus “micro”-review:
The Brave (NBC)
I have never reviewed nor even suggested a network show before, so this is a first. I previewed the pilot, debuting Monday, Sept. 25, and I was impressed. The grand premiere was here in Denver, and I spoke with some of the stars, including Anne Heche and creator/writer Dean Georgias. The series follows a U.S. undercover special ops team on missions around the world. The show doesn’t break any new narrative ground, but it does excel in diverse characterizations—the kind we rarely see on American TV. For example, co-star Natacha Haram, who plays a Muslim-American sniper, says that she hopes the series will help American audiences deconstruct common stereotypes. In the pilot, we find her undercover in Syria with the team, wearing a hijab to blend in. But she is one of the good guys/girls, chasing a terrorist, and we sympathize with her character. “I want the audience to identify with her and root for her, and in some small way, I hope the character can help dispel negative notions of Muslims and Muslim women.” The show is well done and engaging, and I root for its success along with the cast. They have a big job ahead of them.
You will like this show if you enjoyed Homeland, The Blacklist, and/or Quantico.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at email@example.com