Commentary

September 6, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Orange Is the New Black’, and ‘Getaway’

Orange-Is-the-New-Black-movie-poster

On Netflix: ‘Orange Is the New Black’

One day as I was perusing Netflix for a show to watch, I saw one that stood out. It read “Orange Is the New Black: a Netflix original series.” I thought to myself, “I didn’t know Netflix made its own shows. Would it even be good?” At that point I knew I had to watch it.
The American comedy-drama series is based on a memoir by the same title written by Piper Kerman. In the memoir, Kerman recounts her own experiences in prison.
The series follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a privileged woman living in New York City whose seemingly perfect life comes to a stop when she is sent to the women’s federal prison in Litchfield, N.Y. Chapman is sent to prison for transporting a suitcase filled with drug money for Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), an international drug smuggler and Chapman’s former lover.
Once in prison, Chapman is, as expected, that pitiable nice white girl who doesn’t quite match the rest of her prison buddies. At first she clings to flashbacks of life with her fiancé Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs) and their picture-perfect life in Brooklyn, but she soon realizes that looking back on happy memories won’t get her though the next 15 months in prison.
To make her already miserable life in prison more desolate, Chapman imprudently insults the cooking of a fellow inmate named Red (Kate Mulgrew), which results in her getting half starved to death. Red is the head chef in charge of all the prisoner’s meals. She doesn’t take insults lightly and punishes fellow inmates typically with starvation. Fortunately, Chapman wises up and creatively finds a way to patch things up with Red.
One of the biggest predicaments Chapman faces is trying to maintain her relationship with her fiancé while at the same time being somewhat distracted by her ex-lesbian drug-trafficking lover Vause, who admits to Chapman that she still loves her. Prepon (also star of “That ‘70s Show”) plays Vause wonderfully with calm nonchalance.
This drama series isn’t just about Chapman’s life in prison but also about the characters she meets along the way. It delves deeper than what you might think about each of the inmates and how they ended up in prison in the first place.
Take for example Miss Claudette (Michelle Hurst), a tough, no-nonsense woman who is intelligent and well-respected in the prison. It turns out that Miss Claudette previously ran an all-female cleaning business and when one of her girls was beaten and sexually abused by a client, she went back to not only clean his house but to “teach him a lesson.” I have to applaud the screenwriters for doing such an excellent job of incorporating the characters’ preprison life stories seamlessly into the series.
Of course, nothing makes for a better series than a villain. One villain in particular that I love to hate is played by Taryn Manning as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett. Doggett is a former meth addict who uses God and the Bible to justify her actions, whether it is hanging up a life-size cross she made in the prison chapel or plotting to kill someone. Manning does a superb job in portraying Pennsatucky’s character. She did so well that I actually thought Manning was a meth head in real life.
Overall the best part of the series was the ingenious way “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan used Chapman as a means to tell the stories of the characters which are often insignificant to the rest of society and mainstream media.
This series is rated R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, nudity, drug material, pervasive language and violence.

 

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In Theaters: ‘Getaway’

The aptly named “Getaway” turns out to be more of a suggestion for movie goers to find something else to occupy their time this weekend.
Ethan Hawke stars as Brent Magna, a washed-up pro racecar driver who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria, with his wife (Rebecca Budig). As if his name isn’t silly enough, he costars with Selena Gomez as “The Kid,” a gun-toting hood-rat – give me a break.
Magna returns home to find the place completely trashed and his wife missing – shown through a series of pointless black and white flashbacks. He receives a phone call from some ominous, Germanic voice telling him to follow his instructions precisely if he’s to ever see his wife again. His first task, steal a souped-up Ford Shelby Cobra GT 500 with armor and mounted cameras.
All the remaining tasks essentially consist of driving recklessly and attempting to destroy the endless supply of Fiat police cruisers in the city’s arsenal that somehow manage to keep pace with the 662-horsepower muscle car.
The voice, which is essentially Jon Voight’s lips and stained teeth shot in varied close-ups, tells Magna to park in a garage shortly after a ridiculous rampage through a local park. There, unfortunately, the number one “Bielieber” makes her first appearance, attempting to carjack Magna. It turns out the car actually belongs to The Kid, who’s the daughter of some insanely rich banker. Magna is then instructed by The Voice to kill her, but for some unexplained reason he decides she’s vital to his mysterious master plan. Instead, he must not let her go.
From this point on the majority of the film takes place in the front seat of the Mustang and features terrible dialogue and even worse acting. Hawke for the most part grimaces as though he’s constipated or had an epiphany halfway through realizing he’d be in acting purgatory upon the film’s debut. Gomez is simply terrible. Terrible doesn’t really drive home the point of just how awful her performance is, but with my limited vocabulary the only thing more appropriate to describe her affront to the art of acting would be a series of expletives.
There’s more chemistry between North and South Korea than there is between these two. They look as uncomfortable conversing with their limited dialogue as the audience is watching Gomez trying to act – completely out of her element.
Anyway, the duo drive around Sofia, which turns out to be the best part of the movie, at Voight’s direction, and they figure out he’s creating some sort of blockade. Well, as it turns out 10-year-old Gomez happens to be a computer whiz and hacks into The Voice’s obscure network with her iPad and takes control of the car’s mounted cameras, which buys them time to figure out their next move. Somehow she manages to hack into the system quicker than it takes to delete her from your iTunes – I need that app.
Obviously the next logical step is they figure out The Voice’s intentions and come up with a plan to prevent him from accomplishing it. More car crashes and chase scenes ensue. Magna turns out to be heroic though completely dimwitted, and The Kid is incredibly resourceful and wise beyond her years.
“Getaway” is truly the worst movie I’ve had the misfortune of viewing in years. Director Courtney Solomon, who also directed the equally terrible “The American Haunting,” should probably spend the rest of her film career searching for Yeti in Siberia. As for screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Parker, they should stick to silent films.
This film is rated PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language.




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