Series Review: Stranger Things – Season 2 (2017)

The Month of Spooks, still going strong! And on the plate today we have the second season of last year’s smash hit Netflix series. So let’s get into it.

Ladies and gents… “Stranger Things” season 2.

It’s 1984, one year has passed since the horrifying events that transpired in Hawkins, Indiana. And ever since he’d been rescued from the Upside Down, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) ihas been experiencing a series of terrifying visions. And we soon find out that a new threat in looming over the sleepy little town, ready to take over. And that’s just the main plot here, we do get several sub-plots as well. This is an ambitious narrative, both in making the monstrous threat feel bigger, and in just expanding this world that we’ve gotten to know. And while that is a risky move for any show, since the multiple sub-plots aspect can tangle itself up and become convoluted, I feel like “Stranger Things” pulls it off nicely. You have the tension of the monster plot, you have the drama of finding out more about Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), you have the kids meeting this new girl (Sadie Sink) that comes to town, you have the struggles of Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve (Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery)… what I’m trying to say is that there’s a metric buttload of threads here, and they never feel like they tangle into a mess. It’s a solid plot filled with good drama, mystery, and charm.

The characters in “Stranger Things” are likable, layered, and endlessly interesting. Let’s start with Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp, because he is more or less the focus of this season. Sure, he’s safe(ish) from the Upside Down, but he’s experiencing these horrifying/traumatic visions, putting him in a more vulnerable position. And Schnapp is great in the role. Then we have Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, the pseudo-leader of this group of friends. Seeing him trying to cope after his friend/love Eleven has been out of his life is actually a bit heartbreaking, but he’s not some mopey idiot about it, keeping him interesting. And Wolfhard is great in the role. Then let’s go with David Harbour who once again plays police chief Jim Hopper. He’s still a stern man with his heart in the right place. Hopper was my fave last season and he still might be. So yeah, Harbour is great in the role. Gaten Matarazzo returns as Dustin, the funny and slightly naive little man with the colorful hat. Like I said, he’s a bit naive, but he’s not stupid. He’s also the funniest of the four main kids. And Matarazzo is great in the role. Caleb McLaughlin returns as Lucas, the slightly more serious one in the group. And McLaughlin is great in the role. Then we have Winona Ryder once again as Joyce, mother of Will, and slightly neurotic person. However, her being a bit nervous like that is understandable after everything that happened last season. But she seems to have found a decent system for her life… until shit starts getting real again, that is. And Ryder is great in the role. Natalia Dyer returns as Nancy and she’s really good. Charlie Heaton returns as Jonathan, and he’s great in the role. Joe Keery is back as Steve, and he’s great in the role. Millie Bobby Brown returns as Eleven, and she’s great in the role. Right, returning faces done, now for some newbies. We get Sean Astin as Bob, Joyce’s new boyfriend. He’s a bit of a dork, but he’s a good person and he does everything to try to be a good pseudo-father for the Byers boys. And Astin is really good in the role. Sadie Sink plays Max, the new girl in town with a seemingly troubled home life. She meets the boys and more or less starts befriending them. And Sink is great in the role. Then we have Dacre Montgomery as Billy, a new guy in town who is a big asshole bully. And while he doesn’t have much of an arc, Montgomery is really in the role. And finally, we have Paul Reiser as a doctor who is likable and kind, but seems to have some shady shit going on. And Reiser is great in the role. Overall, this has great characters and the performances are great.

Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein returned to do the score for this season, and once again they killed it. The synth-heavy sounds perfectly capture the era and tone, and does even manage to create some decent tension at times. Really, it’s more of the good synth-y stuff, not much else I can say. And since this is set in the 80s, we of course get some really awesome licensed songs throughout from not only the 80s, but also 60s and 70s… it’s really just an awesome soundtrack that made me very happy. Overall, great music.

The show was created by the Duffer brothers, and written/directed by a whole bunch of people. And it’s just overall very well handled. The directing is tense, fun, and filled with energy. And Tod Campbell’s cinematography is of course absolutely stunning. And the visual effects in the show look great too. There’s also plenty of comedy in this show, and I thought it was all really funny. I also enjoy that it never overshadows the drama/Lovecraftian sci-fi, but just is another part of the world that comes into play every now and then.

This show/season just came out but has already been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,9/10 and is ranked #37 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Stranger Things” season 2 is pretty awesome. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography/writing. Time for my final score. *Rawr*. My review of “Stranger Things” season 2 is a 9,86/10. So it of course gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Stranger Things” season 2 is now completed.

Awesome.

Movie Review: Girl, Interrupted (1999)

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Hello there, guys! The “Mangoldathon” continues! What, you thought I forgot about it? Pfff… no. Anyhow, let’s get into it!

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Girl, Interrupted”.

Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is a troubled young woman who in the 1960s gets put in a mental hospital. And we follow her as she gets to know her fellow inmates and also maybe learn a bit more about herself. While the plot itself was good, I never found myself fully invested in it. I mean, it wasn’t bad at all, and I was never bored… but I also never felt “Yeah, this is really immersive and investing”. And that’s a bit of a shame, really. Because like I said, the plot in itself isn’t bad, and it is clearly aimed to be dramatically investing… however I was never really invested in it. So it’s overall.. okay.

The characters in this movie are all very interesting. Winona Ryder is great as Susanna Kaysen, perfectly portraying the troubled young woman. Angelina Jolie plays Susanna’s fellow inmate, Lisa, and she is fantastic. Her performance is believable and also a million flavors of fun. Then we also get a whole bunch of great supporting performances from people like Brittany Murphy (R.I.P), Whoopi Goldberg, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave, Jared Leto, and Elizabeth Moss. It’s a very well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Mychael Danna, and I think it’s really good. It was dramatic, it had some good energy to it, and it overall just fit the movie very well. There was also some really good use of licensed track in the movie, most notably “Downtown” by Petula Clark. The music in this movie is really good… not much else I can say about that.

As you probably picked up on through the intro of the review, this movie was directed by James Mangold. And he did a great job here. His directing is confident and it makes scenes flow very well which helps make the pace much better. It’s also a very good looking movie, with smooth camera movements and such.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 54% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. Roger Ebert gave the movie 2,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best supporting actress (Jolie).

“Girl, Interrupted” is a flawed but still pretty solid drama. It has a pretty good plot, good characters, great acting, really good music, and great directing. However the plot isn’t as engaging as it should be. Time for my final score. *Clears throat*. My final score for “Girl, Interrupted” is an 8,88/10. While flawed, it’s still worth buying.
worth-buying

My review of “Girl, Interrupted” is now completed.

I might review one more movie for the “Mangoldathon”. Not entirely sure yet.

 

Series Review: Stranger Things – Season 1 (2016)

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I may have been born in the late 1990’s, but I am still familiar with the 1980’s. The movies, the music, the TV shows… I know that stuff. So when that stuff is brought up in some way, I’m in. Yeah, that was the best I could come up with for the intro.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Stranger Things” season 1!

The year is 1983 and we’re in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. One late night, young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears under mysterious circumstances. So now his mother (Winona Ryder), the local police chief (David Harbour), and his best friends (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin) have to look for him. All of this while a mysterious girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) shows up and creates even more mystery on what the hell is going on. And from that we get supernatural stuff and drama and government conspiracies and I’m not gonna say anymore about that because the plot of the show is terrific and should be experienced. The plot itself reminds me a lot of movies from 1980’s, with a lot of similar themes going on as those classic things. But the story is not just an homage to all of those classic movies and books, because it’s also a pretty original mystery with plenty of great dramatic moments, suspenseful scenes, and twisty turns. The mystery is interesting and it always kept me guessing what was going on and I just loved that. Not gonna lie, there was a moment during the last episode that actually made me tear up… It’s manly to cry, okay!

The characters in this show are great, there’s no doubt about that one. Winona Ryder is an actress I’ve been a fan of for a long time, thanks to movies like “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands”. And she is absolutely terrific in this show, playing a mother who just wants her son back, but starts going crazy… in the eyes of the community, that is. David Harbour as Chief Jim Hopper is simply one of the greatest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in a show. Not only does he give us some genuinely funny lines, but he has a good arc and his performance is absolutely terrific. The three central kids in the show are really good too. And not only because their performance are overall good and they happen to be likable… but because they actually act like real kids. What I mean by that is that when adults write dialog for kids, it doesn’t really fit kids, feels fake. But not here, this stuff is real, this is what kids are actually like. And then we have Millie Bobby Brown as the mysterious girl Eleven… yeah, she blew my damn mind. It’s like the acting talent of an Oscar winning actor… crammed into a 12 year old girl. And the character overall is really interesting, with plenty of backstory given throughout the season. Seriously, give a big hand to this girl for giving such a fantastic performance. We also have Matthew Modine as a strange science man in the show and he’s fine, never really blows me away in any way… but he was pretty good.

The score for the show is aboslutely fantastic! If you’ve seen any of John Carpenter’s films from the 80’s or if you’ve at least seen the sci-fi classic “Blade Runner”, then you should know what the music in this show sounds like. A lot of synths and ominous sounds and I love it, it’s so great. Thank you, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for creating this lovely score for the show. But it’s not just that synth-based score, we also get some 80’s songs and they are all really good too and used perfectly throughout the show.

This show was created by the Duffer brothers and it’s clear that they love the Spielberg/Carpenter films of the 1980’s. They also directed six of the eight episodes and this is a very good looking show. The camera work is terrific and the cinematography is great. I also really enjoyed the 2.00:1 aspect ratio, gave it a very interesting look. There is some CGI in this show, but not too much. And when it’s used, it looks pretty good, never blew my mind but also never insulted my eyes. I also have to say that the show at times was surprisingly scary. I am not one to be scared by movies and such easily, so the fact that the last few episodes managed to scare me was pretty impressive.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,1/10 and is ranked #23 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Stranger Things” is a show that for me just came out of nowhere. I wasn’t really anticipating this show at all prior to it getting so many good/great reviews. But now that I’ve seen it… holy shit. The story is great, the characters are great, the acting is great, the music is great, the directing is great, everything is great! Time for my final score. *Cough*. My final score for the frist of season of “Stranger Things” is a 9,93/10. So yeah… it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

My review of “Stranger Things” season 1 is now completed.

“Mornings are for coffee and contemplation” – Chief Jim Hopper. A sentiment I agree with.

Movie Review: A Scanner Darkly (2006)

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The world of Philip K. Dick adaptations is one that has been explored on my blog for quite some time now. Which is interesting considering the fact that I haven’t read anything by him at all. Oh well, I guess I’ll get to his books at some point. But until then, let’s review this adaptation of one of his books.

Ladies and gentlemen… “A Scanner Darkly”.

The story is about an undercover cop (Keanu Reeves) who gets involved with some people to keep track of where this drug called Substance D comes from. Problem is that he gets a little too involved and he basically starts losing his damn mind and even his own identity. And based on that premise you should expect that this plot gets weird, deep, and pretty interesting. And I’d say you’re correct in assuming such things. The plot gets pretty strange and mindbending as it goes on… and I loved it. Not gonna lie, I had to take a good moment to gather my thoughts about all of this. And when I was done thinking I came to the conclusion that I really loved the plot of the movie. It’s interesting to no end and it’s kind of a mindfuck at times.

The characters in the movie are all kind of a bit… odd, to put it gently. No one in this movie is 100% there, everyone’s a little bit loco. Keanu Reeves has never been that great an actor, but I’m still a big fan of the guy. But I have to say that his performance here is one of his better, he’s actually good in this movie. Robert Downey Jr. is also in the movie, playing one of Reeves’ friends and he does a really good job too, playing a fast-talking, and quick-witted guy who’s like I said… loco. Then we also get some other great supporting performances from people like Rory Cochrane, Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder. Yeah, only good acting in here.

The score for the movie was composed by Graham Reynolds and it’s really weird and psychedelic. Yes, I can still classify it as music, I can still hear the instruments being used. It just sounds really weird. And by weird I mean good, it really works for this movie. I’m just saying that it is the definition of psychdelic.

This movie was directed by Richard Linklater, and this is the first of his movies that I have ever seen, but that’s not important. What is important however is that this is one of the most uniquely directed movies that I have ever seen. I think you would say that too if you have seen the movie or by simply looking at the picture I chose to head this review with. This entire movie is rotoscoped. Or rotoshopped, if I’m to believe wikipedia. Basically they filmed the actors doing the scenes, only to animate over each frame to create something really weird, unique, and pretty fucking cool. Seriously, you can look up image comparisons on google regarding some frames in the movie where you see the normal version compared to the animated one. It’s quite fascinating to say the least. Fascinating, creative, cool, impressive, weird… there are plenty of adjectives that can be used to describe it.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 69% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

“A Scanner Darkly” is one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. It has an interesting story, odd yet interesting characters, really good acting, good music, fantastic directing with a unique style and some really good writing. Time for my final score. Woaw. My final score for “A Scanner Darkly” is a 9,86/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

My review of “A Scanner Darkly” is now completed.

Stay off drugs, kiddos.