Stranger Things (Netflix 2016)

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Right now at the season of horror and suspense, if you haven’t watched the new Netflix Series, Stranger Things, you better tune in.  It’s strange all right, and the program sort of reminds me of Lost.  You remember, don’t you?  The plane crash, the strange island, the strange things happening.  Well, welcome to the little town Hawkins where strange things are afoot in a town where nothing interesting happens.

It starts out scary enough with a young boy returning home from spending time with his best buddies.  They’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for ten hours in the basement.  On the way home, strange things happen.  Something creepy is stalking Will Byers in the woods and right into his house.  He runs out into the shed in the backyard to load the family rifle, but before he can defend himself he vanishes into thin air.  The story starts and so do the crazy things in this sleepy town turned literally upside down.

The premise of the story is (spoiler) alternative universes.  The show is filled with all those unanswered and mysterious questions, including a secret government installation.  In their captive is a child with special psychokinetic abilities, who escapes her life as a Guinea pig of sorts (played by Millie Bobby Brown, a very talented young lady).  However, while her story continues on one wave length, it is strangely intertwined with the story of the missing boy.  The show has it all – drama and mystery.  If that isn’t enough, add the element of horror, because out of this alternative universe comes a resident monster into our universe preying upon the town and going for blood.

There are quite a few characters to follow in this story.  And, yes, at times you feel as lost as you were watching Lost.  However, the cast is one huge roller coaster of emotion, including Winona Ryder, the mother of the boy who has disappeared.  Her portrayal of grief, terror, and determination is probably worth an Emmy.  Other great performances are from the family members, hormonal driven teenagers, and David Harbour, who plays the Sheriff in town dealing with all the crazy occurrences and trying to make sense of it all.stranger-things-season-2

There are three young boys who try their best to find their friend, Will, who has disappeared.  One of them befriends No. 11, the young girl who escaped her life from the government crazy people.  The three kids are a comedic release as they banter back and forth.  They are the science geeks of the school and played upon by the bullies, until No. 11 (or L) teaches them a lesson.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, I can’t figure it out show, tune in to Stranger Things.  It will make you scratch your head, jump when the monster appears, and give rise to a thousand questions of what in the world is going on.  After eight episodes of Season 1, we are left hanging for answers until Season 2 rolls around.

 

Crimson Peak (Movie 2015)

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Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, and Charlie Hunnam

I hesitated for quite some time about seeing Crimson Peak.  With dreamy Tom Hiddleston dressed in period clothing, I felt drawn to this Gothic movie that had so much secrecy from pre-screening attendees about the plot. Frankly, I don’t like to see horror movies because of the lingering images it leaves in my brain.  On the other hand, I am a sucker for period drama of any kind.  So last night I gave in to the darker side and went to the show after work.

Beforehand, I had read quite a few reviews that contained no spoilers, stating how visually stunning the movie was on the big screen.  I will admit that the costumes and visuals were well done.  As far as the acting, it was top notch from Mia, Jessica, and Tom.  As far as the almost Christian Grey, Charlie Hunnam, he was merely a stick figure insert into a plot that needed him.  His character held no substance except to fill a space.  Thankfully, he dropped out of Fifty Shades because he would have never fit those shoes.

The movie begins in Buffalo, New York rather than England.  Enter Thomas and Lucille Sharpe, who are brothers and sisters.  Thomas has come to the states to raise capital for his mechanical invention to help mine red clay upon his land. He makes a pitch to investors, including Edith’s father, Mr. Cushing, but is turned down.

However, the Sharpe’s are not those type of people who take no for an answer.  Thomas turns his attention toward Cushing’s daughter and begins to woo her into falling in love with him.  It’s easily done by his dashing appearance, smooth English accent, dreamy eyes, enticingly kind voice, and the tenderness of his approach.  Even I would have been suckered into that love affair regardless of the red flags of caution waving all around me and the former ghostly warning to “beware of Crimson Peak.”

After Edith’s father dies a tragic death, she marries Sharpe and is taken back to England and the creepy home that breaths and is sinking into the red clay mucky ground.  Of course, here is where one must zipper their lips in reviews and not give away spoilers as to what is revealed in the story line.  As much as I would like to tell you, I won’t spoil it.  However, I will say that on the scare factor that I was so terrified to experience in this movie, I felt very little of it even through the ghostly special effects.  The movie is more of a Gothic tragic romance, if anything, with a bit of lunacy thrown in for stressful and suspenseful watching on the big screen.

Originally, Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Thomas Sharpe and had to drop out of the role.  I’m glad that he did.  After seeing Hiddleston’s masterful performance, I don’t believe Benedict would have done great justice to the romancing between Thomas and Edith (as much as I like him in other things).  Jessica Chastain is as loony in the role as Rosamund Pike was in Gone Girl.  Mia does well in period pieces.  She did much better in Crimson Peak than her recent Madame Bovary, which I thought flat.

There are a few buggy things in the movie that prey on your realistic senses and don’t sit well.  One is the fact that leaves are always falling through a hole in the roof of the house when there isn’t a tree around for miles.  One individual lives through the violence of multiple stabbings that would surely have killed them in real life just from the blood loss.  A scary ghost warns and comforts her child after death.  Not exactly a visit from a loving mother, which I found strangely odd and out of place.

Is Crimson Peak worth the watch?  Yes, there is graphic violence, but you can close your eyes.  If you like period romances and don’t mind the color red, it’s a must-see.  You may not like the ugliness of ghosts wandering about, but the visuals and underlying story are a tragic tug upon your psyche.

If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack, it is now available on Amazon.  Absolutely love it.  The DVD can now be pre-ordered.  I am also reading the book version, which is really good.