The fourth season of the Netflix signature original series Orange is the New Black brings new inmates (including Blair Brown as a Martha Stewart-like lifestyle mogul) and who new squadron of high-security guards to join Piper (Taylor Schilling), Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), Red (Kate Mulgrew), Alex (Laura Prepon), Poussey (Samira Wiley), the inmate formerly known as Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), and the gang at Litchfield Women’s Prison.
The fourth season is ” as good as any that it has aired, and good in ways that are fundamentally linked to our deep knowledge of its characters and setting and tone,” writes Slate TV critic Willa Paskin. “This intimacy gives OINTB the cushion to treat provocative issues—rape, racism, prison violence, excessive force—in ways that are not just nuanced for scripted television, but nuanced full stop, nuanced compared to the news, social media, and public discourse. The season is an extended plea against snap judgments, against reducing tragedies to arguments. It could not be more timely.”
Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
10 Cloverfield Lane was a stealth success when it came out of nowhere in early 2016, a claustrophobic psychodrama in a locked underground bunker during what may be the end of the world. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the bunker’s newest tenant, trying to piece limited clues together to understand what really going on, and John Goodman is unnerving as the survivalist with control issues and a fantasy of a cozy family life under his strict rules. It’s not quite a sequel to the 2008 Cloverfield but it does occupy another quadrant of its world. Also on DVD and Blu-ray and at Redbox. PG-13. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
The regal Charlotte Rampling earned an Oscar nomination for 45 Years, a portrait of a long, happy marriage suddenly jolted when the distant past of the devoted husband (Tom Courtenay) suddenly resurfaces. A hushed British drama of powerful feelings under placid surfaces. Also on DVD and Blu-ray and at Redbox. R.
Also new: the comedies Hello, My Name Is Doris with Sally Field (R) and Eddie the Eagle with Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman (PG-13), the action thriller London Has Fallen with Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart (R), and the biblical drama The Young Messiah, based on a novel by Anne Rice (PG-13).
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is the romantic comedy No Stranger than Love starring Alison Brie, Justin Chatwin, and Colin Hanks and featuring a gaping hole into another dimension. R.
Monster Hunt (2015), an epic fantasy from China with martial arts action, slapstick comedy, and a cute vampire baby that resembles a radish, is the official all-time box campion in China. Director Raman Hui, a longtime animator at DreamWorks, co-directed Shrek 3 and a number of DreamWorks TV projects before he was drafted to helm this live action fantasy with CGI creatures.
The Giver (2014), based on the award-winning young adult novel by Lois Lowry about an emotionally strangled society, failed to launch a franchise. Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites star. PG-13.
Also new: the romantic comedy It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015) with Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg (not rated) and Naz & Maalik (2015), an intimate drama about two gay Muslim teenagers in Brooklyn (not rated).
True stories: new documentaries to Netflix include Boom Bust Boom (2016), a historical study of financial crises from filmmaker, historian, and Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones (not rated); Poverty, Inc. (2014), which looks at the unintended damage done by certain programs designed to fight poverty around the world (not rated); TransFatty Lives (2015), an intimate portrait of life with ALS (not rated); and Top Spin (2015), a peak into the competitive table tennis world (not rated).
Streaming TV: Shonda Rhimes’ addictive Scandal: Season 5 with Kerry Washington (22 episodes), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3 with superheroes and secret agents (22 episodes), and the BET series Being Mary Jane: Season 3 with Gabrielle Union (10 episodes), plus the animated kids show All Hail King Julien: Season 3 (13 episodes).
Amazon Instant Prime
Mr. Robot: Season 1 came out of nowhere to become the cult hit show of last summer. Rami Malek is riveting in the intense, socially awkward computer hacker who works for a computer security outfit by day and metes out digital justice by night. You can catch up on all 10 episodes before the second season debuts on USA in July. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Trumbo (2015) stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, the left-leaning screenwriter who, while blacklisted, won Academy Awards for two screenplays. Cranston was Oscar nominated for his witty, slightly prissy, often acerbic performance and the film features memorable turns by Helen Mirren (as the red-baiting Hedda Hopper) and John Goodman (terrific as B-movie producer Frank King), but it’s a frustrating cartoon of Hollywood during the blacklist. At one point in the film, scripted by John McNamara and directed by Jay Roach, Trumbo schools a fellow (and in this case fictional) writer played by Louis CK in Hollywood screenwriting after reading a script filled with speeches about unions and social justice. The filmmakers weren’t paying attention to their own lessons for Trumbo not only wears its politics on its sleeve, it puts it into dialogue and continually hammers its points home. The real Trumbo would not have approved. Diane Lane and Elle Fanning co-star. R.
Amazon’s Pilot Season is back and you don’t have to be a Prime member to view the pilot episodes of series hopefuls The Interestings, based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer and starring Lauren Ambrose, and Hollywood drama The Last Tycoon, from the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic and starring Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer. Viewer response will help decide which shows get picked up for a full season.
There are also six kid shows tryouts: the live-action revival of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and the animated Little Big Awesome, Morris and the Cow, and Toasty Tales for ages 6-11, and The Curious Kitty and Friends and JazzDuck for preschoolers.
Prime members can watch new episodes of the CBS summer series BrainDead four days after its network showing. Episode one is now available.
James Franco stars in The Adderall Diaries (2015) based on the memoir by author Stephen Elliott. R.
A batch of Miramax titles from the past couple of decades slipped onto Amazon Prime this week, including a batch of Oscar winners: The English Patient (1996, R), The Crying Game (1992, R), Pulp Fiction (1994, R), Shakespeare in Love (1998, R), Cider House Rules (2000, PG-13), and My Left Foot (2005, R). Other highlights include the whimsical French comedy Amelie (2001, R, with subtitles), the Chinese martial arts comedy Shaolin Soccer (2004, PG-13, with subtitles), Jim Jarmusch’s offbeat western Dead Man (1996) with Johnny Depp (R), and the Australian drama Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002, PG).
The celebrated documentary He Named Me Malala (2015) profiles Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani-born schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her outspoken support of girls’ education. PG-13.
The survival drama Everest (2015), based on a true story, strands Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, and Jake Gyllenhaal in a blizzard on the highest mountain peak in the world. PG-13.
Available Saturday, June 18 is Ted 2 (2015). R.
Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx star in Miami Vice (2006), Micheal Mann’s big screen version of the cult TV show he helped launch. R.
The documentary In a Perfect World looks explores the dynamics of being raised by a single parent in the modern world. Not rated.