“Don’t you think it’s weird…that we only seem to hang out when the world’s about to end?” – Nancy, aka Nance
The residents of Hawkins, Indiana have been through a lot. At least the ones we got to know back in Season 1 of Stranger Things: the Netflix show that unexpectedly became a meme-generating, merch- selling phenomenon last summer (#justiceforbarb). Whether it was losing a best friend, getting trapped in a supernatural underworld by a demonic presence, or having their very first crush on a girl, these characters endured some heavy stuff.
And that’s where Season two picks up. Enough time has passed (almost a year, or 353 days to be exact) so that it feels like things should be back to normal in this small Midwestern town. But “should” doesn’t always line up with reality, especially when trauma is involved. And that incongruity is highlighted from the first episode of this surprisingly strong sophomore effort. On the surface, it seems like Will Byers has settled back into his old life after having almost died in the Upside Down. Remember how we barely ever saw Will in Season 1, except in flashbacks or as an unconscious prisoner? Well he’s now a main character, with the 80s bowl haircut that all of our moms really should have had the good sense to avoid. But in truth neither his mental nor his physical health have fully recovered – he’s secretly coughing up strange things into the sink and losing time to what appears to be flashbacks to the dark world he was caught in for so long.
I’ve seen other articles praising Noah Schnapp, the young actor who plays Will, and I agree that his impressive performance holds so much of this season together. From the minute he appears on-screen, there’s a specter of sickness and foreboding that hangs over Will, even as he tries so hard to fit back in with his family and friends. As much as they care and worry about him, they can never really understand what he’s experienced, so his isolation from them becomes another heartbreak he has to endure.
Of course Will may be the most traumatized of everyone – if that’s the sort of thing you can even measure – but he’s certainly not the only character dealing with grief, confusion and shock. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) seems happily coupled up with Steve (Joe Keery), but can’t get past her guilt at losing Barb (yes, Barb, she was a thing, RIP Barb and just fyi that Shannon Purser is on Riverdale now). Will’s mom, Joyce (Winona Ryder) has a wonderful new boyfriend named Samwise, I mean Bob (Sean Astin), but can’t feel safe whenever Will’s not in her sights. And Chief Hopper (David Harbour), who never tried to hide being a screw-up, is having secret rendezvous with someone in the woods. And then there also are plenty of new characters, all of whome seem just as damaged as everyone else.
And I haven’t even talked about Will’s brother, Jonathon(Charlie Heaton), Will’s friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas(Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin(Gaten Matarazzo), and this Eggo-fiend with a shaved head, you might remember she went by Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). One of the strengths of this show is that with an ensemble cast so big, you figure you’re bound to get stuck with a few dud characters or storylines that drag. But in the world of Stranger Things, every subplot or side character is moving enough, endearing enough, or at least has ridiculous enough hair, to keep you interested. And Season 2 plays to that strength by mixing things up and pairing people off in new ways. Ever want to see a buddy comedy starring John Hughs-esque heartthrob Steve and the adorable moppet/smart aleck Dustin? You will after this. And while none of the new characters really steal the scene (good luck with that with the incomporable Millie Bobby Brown around) – Paul Reiser’s suspicious doctor, the very sweet Bob and Max, the new kid in town, all come close – none of them diminish the amazing chemistry the original cast already established.
If the show – and particularly this season – has a weakness, it’s in the recycled feel of the scifi elements in some storylines. Why did it feel so fresh last year to see a bunch of rag-tag kids taking on all kinds of evil – real world and supernatural – as they biked through the 80s, the decade perfectly recreated with every shoulder pad and hair metal band on the soundtrack? Maybe because we weren’t yet in the middle of a Stephen King-assaince? (Seeing Finn Wolfhard in this and IT definitely blurs the line). Maybe just cause this season was bound to feel like a call back to itself? Anyway, it’s not the perfect pop culture reverence that bothers me – put an ET doll in a scene where a character feeds his new alien pet some candy any day – I get it and I love it. But some of the plot starts to feel like a paint-by-the-numbers for anyone who’s followed sci-fi movies or TV for the past 30 years. The aforementioned “cute” alien pet that quickly gets not so cute. Check. A ragtag group of rebel youth, some with special powers. Check. A bitter father-figure and precocious but violent child who team up to battle evil. Ugh, Logan was great though, wasn’t it? Let’s just say there were times when I wanted the show to surprise me and it didn’t get quite there.
But that’s not to say I was ever bored. I binged the entire thing in one day, and sure, maybe that’s partly because I was on deadline for this, but the truth is I would have done it anyway. Once things really start rolling at the end of episode two – and that’s the Halloween episode, so get ready for some throwback costume perfection – I was along for the ride. And I suspect you will be too. The Duffer Brothers – who created the show and write and direct a good percentage of the episodes – are just too good at getting you hooked, at making you care. You’ll notice in the first few paragraphs of this review I mention a lot of words like “trauma”, “foreboding”, “heartbreak” and “isolation”. So you might have been asking yourself if you were gonna have any fun watching this. Absolutely you are – it’s also a riot – with the jokes and callbacks you’ve been dying for since you binged season 1 last July. And that’s what gets you – that combination of so many great, original characters, who go through some really interesting and serious emotional development, plus all the meme-able dad jokes you could want. All that makes Stranger Things a highly addicting TV show and thoroughly satisfying way to spend nine hours on your couch, even if the world will be ending soon.
Finally, the Cinderella story of the Richmond Greyhounds has come to an end.
We are now in a new season for the team, and they have started off on the wrong
foot. The team is broken up and Ted has his work cut out for him. The team goes
through a slump, and Ted is now doubting his coaching ability. Ted’s personal life
has also gotten out of control, and he discovers his ex-wife Michelle has started a relationship with their therapist. The wonderkid, Nathan Shelley, the former manager of West Ham has had a change of heart and leaves his job to be with his one true love, the waitress from his favorite restaurant.
She convinces him to return to the Richmond team he started out in and it’s quite evident that
everyone wants him back and held no hard feelings. All of Lawrence’s series he has worked on with others have just that right balance of slice-of-life drama with a little bit of ridiculous comedy that reality dishes us, normal folks, every day.
This all comes to a head in the potential series finale where Ted announced to
Rebecca that he will be returning to the States to his family after his mother tells
him that his son misses him. This puts the Richmond owner into quite a state of denial; doing everything from offering Ted the position of being the highest-paid coach in the league to selling the team after he leaves. The team is also affected by this decision as they perform a number from the musical The Sound of Music that is a more than touching farewell to this family.
This bleeds into their playing as in the final title match the first half is met with
bumbling and possible injuries to their star player Jamie.
After an energizing pep talk and a circle back to the first motivator in the
beginning, a sign Ted made up that said “BELIEVE”, the team dominate the second
half and win with a rousing closing scene that is reminiscent of any 80’s party
movie. It’s a fitting end for this pandemic darling that emotionally carried us through. It is
a must-see series even if you don’t like soccer (football).
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm