Series Review: Stranger Things Season 2 (2017)

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If you’ve read my review of Season 1, well, then you know how much excited I felt for the arrival of Stranger Things Season 2. I love Stranger Things more than Eleven (Jane?) likes Eggo Waffles. I would have loved to binge the entire series, but work kept me so busy I had to act like a normal person and settle for one or two episodes each night.

The first season of Stranger Things was such a compelling hit because it was so unexpected. The shock of the upside down and the ingenuity of the writing contributed towards addiction and despondency I developed and experienced subsequently when I finished the measly amount of available episodes. Season two kept some of the elements, but loses that biggest appealing factor – the surprise. Sure the children are as adorable as ever, there are some seriously excellent scenes and flashbacks to the 80s, but the wow factor was missing save for the first episode and episodes eight and nine. The writing was off at times and felt lazy at times. Episode 7 irritated me so much I nearly didn’t finish the series. It was an absolute disaster. Removing Eleven from Hawkins and sending her to find her “sister” among a merry bunch of thieves for an entire episode? What a stupid power trip and unnecessary when there were a million other things that episode 8 could have focused on.

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New additions Dacre Montgomery, Sadie Sink and Sean Astin were welcome additions. Dacre Montgomery seems particularly well cast as Billy the Bully – he’s an 80’s bully personified with his mullet, cigarettes, blaring rock music and really tight pants (circulation could not have been easy). He was particularly good in scenes where he loses his cool and you are able to see that this kid isn’t just a run of the mill bully; he has serious anger issues and is dangerous. Montgomery lived himself into the role and is utterly convincing – excellent work from this young Aussie who donned an American accent like it was no big thing. Sadie Sink is Max, who is in the unfortunate situation of being Billy’s stepsister. She hides her stress and worry and fear under some smart mouth comments, and I enjoyed her. It is also nice seeing another girl join the male dominated cast. Sean Astin as Bob was a sweetheart and I enjoyed seeing him in something again. He had some unlikely hero moments and although he was obviously written as a bit of a nerdy, offbeat character there was such goodness in him that you couldn’t help but root for him even though clearly he’s in the way of a romantic engagement I root for.

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I really like that they promoted Joe Keery to series regular as Steve Harrington. Steve has the best character growth, some of the best lines (#FarrahFawcett) and is such a likeable guy. He’s evolved from the typical high-school prick. He still at odds with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) for the affections of Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and in season one I was unsure who I would choose, but Steve is now clearly my favorite. He has some great moments where he gets all parental and authoritative with the younger kids, and I had such a good time witnessing him. I like the mentoring relationship he’s begun with Dustin, who in himself is so darn adorable with his pearly whites.

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My favorite characters at this stage are Hopper, Steve and Dustin. My least favorite is Nancy because that girl must stop messing with Steve and Jonathan’s feelings. I won’t go on a rampage against her but my tolerance for girls who play with multiple men’s’ feelings are quite strong. She redeemed herself somewhat in the last episode, though she still makes me narrow my eyes.

I won’t discuss all the characters – seriously, my love is strong. Caleb McLaughlin gets more screen time and I loved it. Lucas is such a great character and revealed his inner strength when he stood up to Billy. Finn Wolffhard has a great career ahead of him – boy can act! Noah Schnapp is updated to series regular and boy, did little Will suffer greatly again. Poor kid. He managed to be creepy and still have the audience feel protective over him. Milly Bobby Brown is as fascinating as always – she taps so much emotion into her performance it seems unreal that she’s only 13 years old.

The 80s nostalgia makes me so nostalgic – and I wasn’t even around back then. That dance scene in the final episode made me so darn happy and reminiscent about my own primary school days – who hasn’t done those awful “close” dances? So much love. Oh, and Dustin’s hair in that episode. GOSH so darn cute.

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The last two episodes make great strides in repairing the disaster of Episode 7. It is still more lopsided than it needs to be, and the writing needs a more structured approach in season 3. I would love to have Billy get involved in what is really going on in Hawkins, that would help wipe that punk ass attitude off him. I would also like to have him evolve a bit more, become a slightly decenter person while maintaining the ‘tude. If Eleven cannot be called Jane, that would also be great. Maybe Steve can get someone who isn’t Nancy because she doesn’t deserve him? More Dustin too, with his pearly whites.

Rating: 7/10

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Watched, Read, loved: March 2017

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Here is my monthly rundown of what I was up to the previous month. Right now it is still pretty much only addressing entertainment, but I hope to add some more life things into it soon too. Please feel free to comment below if you’ve seen any of these, or just to say hi!

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Southpaw (2015) – I love a good sport movie. Even though they are all pretty much the same story, I’m always caught up. It was no less with Southpaw, and even though Jake Gyllenhaal irrationally annoyed the shit out of me, I really enjoyed this one.

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Letters to Juliet (2010) – Amanda Seyfried delivers another charming performance. Objectively I know this isn’t a strong film, but it is so feel good I actually couldn’t care less about ratings. It is foolishly optimistic and cheerful, and a great film to watch if you are feeling down.

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The Wedding Singer (1998) – The 90’s atmosphere, combined with a surprisingly affable Adam Sandler and an adorable Drew Barrymore, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Definitely one of the best Adam Sandler films I’ve ever seen.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) – I HATED the ending and I really disliked the main character. What a stupid movie.

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Enchanted (2007): This spectacular Disney production made me so happy when I watched it again. It is on a grand scale and very elaborate and so lovely to look at.

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Underworld (2003), Evolution (2006), Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Awakening (2012)

After years of ignorance I am finally familiarizing myself with this franchise. I had a great time with all these movies. Seline is such a strong female character and saves herself and her love more than once, and the feminist in me was cheering all the way.

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Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Continuing on this journey to watch more romantic films that are seen as classics, I got to see this. It was… okay. Hugh Grant really was quite the adorable English actor in his prime, and it is easy for him to be quietly charming. Andie McDowell also had no clue how to act. I’m not sure if she’s ever had a clue in that regard, but it really is prominent here.

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The Lucky One (2012)

The Lucky One  is not by any means the worst Nicholas Sparks film – Best of Me still holds that title – but what is most notable is the awful acting. Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron just don’t gel together. I’m forced to ask whether Zac Efron actually has a brain – there is nothing shining behind those pretty blue eyes. Sure, he’s cute and ripped, but his attempt at a tortured marine invoked less sympathy than concern about synapses firing at an appropriate rate. Schilling, yeah, also pretty bad. They also have zero chemistry and the scenes looked stage and neither actor really wanted their hands on each other. Okay, I’m done. But sheesh.

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island is what it was supposed to be: a nice action packed adventure with a handsome cast and a big gorilla. Ticked all the boxes for me, excellent popcorn entertainment.

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Power Rangers (2017)

I had not planned going to cinema for this. I would have preferred John Wick, but I was sorely outvoted by a bunch of 30 year old men who wanted to watch Power Rangers. There is something to be said for nostalgia. I ended up having a decent enough time – I  was unaware up until this point that Power Rangers could be made into something that resembles a non-cheesy film. I’m still shocked.

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The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts: Stars of Fortune, Bay of Sighs and Island of Glass

I read these three books in the span of two weeks and I don’t regret one second of it. It is the most fun I’ve had in ages with Nora Roberts’ fantasy work.

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Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (JK Rowling)

The penultimate book in the best series to have ever been written is overshadowed in intensity only by the last book. Half Blood Prince is consistently one of my favorites. It features the more mature trio, naturally Dumbeldore’s death and the discovery of the reason behind Voldemort’s apparent immortality.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)

Horace Slughorn returning to the castle to fight, Snape’s secret, Fred dying, Lupin and Tonks, Colin Creevy being tiny in death, Kreacher’s bullfrog voice, Dobby’s death, Hagrid throwing MacNair, Molly vs. Bellatrix– the last hundred pages of this book is nonstop goosebumps. I get tears in my eyes every time. Every. Single. Time. Deathly Hallows binds every single event that occurred in Potter from the very first page of The Philosopher’s Stone to the very last page of Deathly Hallows in a neat bow. This is truly the best thought out work I’ve ever read by an author.

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Angel’s Fall (Nora Roberts)

I really enjoy reading through my Nora collection at least once a year. Right now I’m with Reece and Brody, and I particularly enjoy the book – I like both main characters, the setting, the plot and development of said plot.

Movie Review: Power Rangers (2017)

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Plot:A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers,harness their abilities in order to save the world.

Rating: 7/10

The world has seemingly not run out of the need to reboot franchises. Before I get started about what I think is the ridiculously unnecessary reboot of Spiderman, I will just talk about Power Rangers. I really never thought I’d say this, but this film handled its’ source material in such a way that I didn’t want to laugh out loud in the cinema because of the cheesy factor.

I never saw the original Power Rangers series, that was on MNet in South-Africa and my parents didn’t really see the need for us to have that luxury. I somehow survived my youth without being too scarred about that admission and as a result I have no attachment to the Power Rangers. Hell, I thought there was only one girl Power Ranger so I was pleased when yellow was also a girl.

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This 2017 adaption is full of youths who have some or other trouble – Zac Efron-esque Dacre Montgomery plays Jason Scott, the Red Power Ranger. He’s been kicked off the football team after a cow incident – the exact incident remains quite unclear. He’s been sentenced to detention for the rest of his natural born life and there meets Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott). He and the cheerleader barely know each other which is complete BS because we all know that cheerleaders and jocks all know each other because rules of society. Kimberly is in detention because she was an awful person and slut shamed another girl via social media. Joining them in detention is Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler). He has some sort of behavioral problem and likes to blow up things, hence detention.

The three all end up at an abandoned mine, where they meet Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin). Billy causes an explosion and they discover their respective discs, and they are all bemused to find themselves alive and powerfully strong after a truck accident.

First and foremost I’d like to impress that I was impressed with the inclusivity of the film. Unlike the current administration in the States, the world has a need for inclusivity and for children to understand that they can be superheroes with any skin color. I liked that they didn’t make the black kid the black Power Ranger. Would have felt strange.The inclusion of a gay character was also necessary – because again, perhaps we should understand that people of all genders, races and sexual orientation want to see themselves represented as strong and capable.

The movie is not without humor and it is well placed and paced. RJ Cyler provided the majority of quips and he is very well suited. However, for a kid with behavioral problems he sure didn’t exhibit them too much. Naomi Scott and Becky G were very girl power and I liked them for it.

They only played the song Go-Go Power Rangers once. I think the producers couldn’t help themselves. It’s okay, I’ll forgive them as it was only once. It was included for nostalgia, and even I knew its importance and relevance, though I did laugh at it.

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Elizabeth Banks impressed me as the villain. She is actually quite the diverse actress when she wants to be. Her take on the villain was very one sided, but she can take some applause for the creepy way she handled herself throughout the film.

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The last part of Power Rangers is just one big spectacle, with motorized dinosaurs and burning Krispy Kremes (by the way, I will love to know what they paid for that product placement). The Power Rangers realize up until the very end that if they aren’t working as one team, they have no chance to save their city and ultimately the entire world – because if we are dealing with teenagers, let’s make it even more dramatic. This part was really a lot like Transformers. I don’t know about you, but I am not a Transformers fan for a very specific reason – it is stupid. I think a stronger message could have been passed with the team defeating their enemy without machinery present.

I  enjoyed Power Rangers. I never thought they’d be able to bring such ridiculous source material to the big screen in a remotely respectable fashion. I was wrong. The cast worked well together and the graphics were done really well.

PS: I will return in April with regular posting. I am just currently in a cold war with my service provider about data usage. See you soon!