Friday, July 26, 2019

Stranger Things: Was the 3rd Time as Charming?

Series Name/Year: Stranger Things (2016-)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Length: Season 3, 8 Episodes, Run-time range of 50-60 min. per episode, Season Finale 77 min.
Rating: TV-14
Production/Distribution: 21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre, Netflix
Directors: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Uta Briesewitz
Writers: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, William Bridges, Kate Trefey, Paul Dichter, Curtis Gwinn
Actors: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Joe Keery, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Paul Reiser, Sean Astin, Joe Chrest, Randy Havens, Maya Hawke, Brett Gelman, Priah Ferguson, Jake Busey, Cary Elwes, Michael Park, Alec Utgoff, Andrey Ivchenko

For Season One Info Click Here.
For Season Two Info Click Here.

Official Season 3 Synopsis: Summer brings new jobs and budding romance. But the mood shifts when Dustin's radio picks up a Russian broadcast, and Will senses something is wrong.

The love affair with the nostalgia-rich and pop culture laced Stranger Things is still going strong.

Season 2 of Netflix’s flagship series ended on such a positive note. Surely things in Hawkins might finally get back to normal, right? Without getting spoilery or specific, if you’ve watched the second season finale all the way through, there was quite literally a massive foreshadowing there. The Upside Down and its denizens weren’t through with our Party of adventurers.

I have been waiting only semi-patiently from that very moment until Season 3’s release. Alas, I wasn’t able to binge the new episodes right away – but I didn’t mind. I had to take a brief detour to watch the first two seasons again because my daughter finally wanted to watch the series with me. It was a struggle to not watch ahead, let me tell you. I was dodging internet spoilers left and right. Now I’m sitting on my hands to try and avoid posting any of my own. Fie on those funny memes.

On to the nitty-gritty.

The third season isn’t too far removed from prior installments. We find our characters split in a few new ways, each dealing with their own set of issues. Paths merge and diverge in interesting ways – each with their own adventure element to add to the overall story. Some of the main themes explored deal with the younger characters beginning to grow up, relationships, puberty, feeling odd-man-out, teen rebellion, the struggles of being female in a male-driven workplace, coping with loss, and trying to move on from the grim shadows of the Upside Down.

Now throw in a dose of Cold War paranoia on top of the emerging ‘mall rat’ culture of the mid-80s, and some heavy influence by movies such as The Terminator (1984), and maybe shades of The Thing (1982).

This season is a bit gorier than prior episodes have been, but it’s still generally in the TV-14 or PG-13 age range. It seems to be sliding a little closer to the R Rated edge of the category, however.  The practical effects really delivered a punch in that department. There were a few moments that I was very thankful that I don’t have a weak stomach. My daughter had to look away a few times – but, in fairness, this was also her first foray into ‘horror.’ Where CGI was involved, this season certainly didn’t skimp. The visuals were stunning, as usual.

I loved the new additions to the cast with characters such as Robin at Scoops Ahoy, played by Maya Hawke (Little Women, Ladyworld, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood) and the mayor, played by Cary Elwes (Sugar Mountain, Don't Sleep, Ghost Light). I also enjoyed the fact that we got to see a little more of some characters that have been on the peripheral a bit. Lucas Sinclair’s sister, Erica, played by Priah Ferguson (Perfectville, Mercy Street, The Oath) had me in stitches. We also get a little bit of a deeper peek into some of our returning characters’ backstories.

Will there be a season 4?

I certainly hope so. There are burning questions that need answering after the ending of this season. I don’t think we have anything to worry about in that department, however. Producer and director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel, The Darkest Minds) told Collider that “Season Four is definitely happening.” Netflix just hasn’t announced the renewal officially yet. They’ve been a little slow to release trailers for new content lately so this delay doesn’t surprise or alarm me much.

I can’t wait for the next trip into this stranger world. Until then, I’ll just have to make do with the theme song as my ringtone. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score (Average forFull Series) – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score (Season 3) – 89%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score (Average for Full Series) – 90%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score (Season 3) – 85%
Metascore – none
Metacritic User Score – none
IMDB Score – 8.9/10
CinemaScore – none

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S.  - There is an additional scene during the credits. 

P.S. Again - Once you've watched the episode, call the below number. Caution that this may be a SPOILER if you haven't already finished the season before you call it.  (Applicable phone carrier rates may apply - this is a real number.) 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Beats (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Beats (2019)
Genre: Drama
Length: 109 Minutes
Rating:  TV-MA
Production/Distribution: 51 Minds Entertainment, Global Road Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Chris Robinson
Writer: Miles Orion Feldsott
Actors: Anthony Anderson, Uzo Aduba, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Khalil Everage, Dreezy, Dave East, Paul Walter Hauser, Ariana Burks, Ashley Jackson, Megan Sousa

Blurb from IMDb: A young talented guy who suffered from the loss of his sister meets a disoriented manager who is trying to get back on track in his musical career.

I am generally pretty excited to find a movie that focuses on music in some way. This film was no exception. While I’m not as familiar with the hip-hop genre as I am with others, I still enjoy a chance to get a peek behind the proverbial curtain.

Beats isn’t one of those fluffy rags-to-riches discovery stories. It’s gritty and highlights the struggle of growing up on the ‘mean streets.’ Powerful and poignant are two words that best describe the story that unfolds. Not only is it a coming-of-age tale with a liberal sprinkling of redemption, but this movie also shines a light on the healing power of music.

The cast for this movie really knocked it out of the park. Anthony Anderson (Law & Order, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Ferdinand) and Khalil Everage (Karma (Chicago), Cobra Kai, The Chi) had a captivating dynamic. I was actually shocked to learn that this was Everage’s first film. He has a bright future ahead of him if he continues to deliver this caliber of performance, or better.

This film also explores another theme that is dear to my heart – sometimes it just takes one person believing in you to find a way to believe in yourself. 

I really enjoyed this movie. It was a rollercoaster of feels, but the ride was well worth it. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 66%
Metascore – none
Metacritic User Score – none
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
CinemaScore – none

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Movie Name/Year: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
Genre: Animation, Family, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 112 Minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, B&H Film Distribution, Feelgood Entertainment, Forum Hungary, NOS Audiovisuais, Walt Disney Company Nordic, Walt Disney Studios Japan, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Writer: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon, Rich Moore, Jim Reardon, Josie Trinidad, John C. Reilly, Kelly Younger, Jason Hand
Actors: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, Ali Wong, Hamish Blake, GloZell Green, Rebecca Wisocky, Sam Richardson, Jabouki Young-White, Maurice LaMarche, Melissa VillaseƱor, Katie Lowes, Jamie Elman, Horatio Sanz, Alex Moffat, Phil Johnston, Dianna Agron, Tim Allen, Roger Craig Smith, Brad Garrett, Anthony Daniels, Corey Burton, Vin Diesel, Nicole Scherzinger, Kristen Bell, Irene Bedard, Jodi Benson, Auli’I Cravalho, Jennifer Hale, Kate Higgins, Linda Larkin, Kelly Macdonald, Idina Menzel, Mandy Moore, Paige O’Hara, Pamela Ribon, Anika Noni Rose, Ming-Na Wen, Bill Hader

Blurb from IMDb: Six years after the events of "Wreck-It Ralph," Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Selina’s Point of View:
I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph (2012). Needless to say, when Ralph Breaks the Internet came out, I was hype. In November of 2018, it was #5 on my Top 20 list. (It was Cat’s month, though – so you saw her picks, which put it at #3.)

Now that I’ve seen the film, I definitely think it was worth it.

The story was decent, but I’m more interested in the lessons the movie taught.

To start off, the representation of the internet was pretty much on point. Sure, I’m sure a lot of it was Disney bringing in that sweet advertising money, but it fit the situation. There were ‘buildings’ that represented all the most well-known and oft-used sites: Google, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, IMDb, etc. The annoying little guys wandering around and shoving clickbait/spam signs in people’s faces were particularly amusing. I was also happy with the film’s take on what an ad-blocker is like.

But it wasn’t all just kissing the internet’s ass. Ralph Breaks the Internet was honest. Someone actually has to say that the first rule of the internet is that you don’t read the comments. I was glad they went there. The scene was a very good way to show how all those faceless comments people make affect the person they’re directed to. It also went into an extremely simplified explanation of the ‘dark web’ at another point.

Then, there was the take on friendship. Disney has a tendency to go hard when it comes to friendship and always seems to define it the same way. There was a touch of deviation from the production company’s usual definition. In the end, it was well done and served as a learning moment.

Finally, the story touched on abuse. It addressed the idea of allowing insecurities to control our actions so much that we are essentially abusing someone we care about by trying to exert too much control over them. It was fascinating to watch.

As much as I like this one, I don’t hope there’s a third. It ended perfectly and anything they did in the future with it could cheapen the story. I don’t want to see that happen.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 65%
Metascore – 71/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.7/10
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
CinemaScore – A-

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
P.S. Disney learned a lot from Marvel. There are 2 scenes after the movie ends. One halfway through the film and one after the credits end.

Movie Trailer: