TV Binge: Stranger Things (Season 1, 2016)

We FINALLY saw Stranger Things and not to mention, properly binge watched it over our week off from work. It only took us maybe two sittings to get through it all and that is a compliment to it. Whenever we turned it off, we’d always keep wanting to go back to see what happens. That is what makes a good show. But a lot of you already know that since I think we may be the only people in the world with Netflix that hasn’t seen it yet. However, this also gives us an advantage to not have such a long wait for Season 2.

Stranger Things (Season 1, 2016)

Stranger Things

Creator: Matt Duffer & Ross Duffer

Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Noah Schnapp

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. – IMDB

I’m going to admit that I put off watching Stranger Things because I tend to avoid watching things when they are mega hyped up. Almost anything that you go in with the expectation of it being the best thing ever made is going to somehow disappoint with a few rare exceptions, I’d say. I can’t say that Stranger Things is the best show in the world because I can think of a few that I’d probably rank before just for its entertainment value and how I get immersed into it but Stranger Things is definitely an awesome show. Its one that will have its creepy moments but at the same time offer thrills at every corner. It also helps that the cast and story and atmosphere is incredibly charming and wonderfully crafted. What deserves a lot of credit for this film is not only the physical town they are in with its mysterious government facility closed to the public but also the way they utilize the area around it from the forest to every backdrop for the show. The setting creates a lot of it and of course its effective use of building up the Upside Down and how they implemented the use of lights.

Stranger Things

I have no idea where to even start with this write-up so lets just start with our stars: The kids or are you really called The Losers (like in IT?) Anyways, details that I can’t remember because I’m really bad at remembering things like that. However, they were fantastic. Of course, Will (played by Noah Schnapp) wasn’t really there for most of the series as he was the one kidnapped but the other kids here are great, especially seeing that they were able to give them distinct personalities and how they are very cool (and nerdy) with their Dungeons and Dragons match at the beginning, which gave us a good feeling of who these kids were. They are such colorful characters and their naivety in dealing with this situation really helped them feel like they were kids faced with something way over their heads and had to find the courage to figure it out and help their friend out. And here’s where we meet Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown who doesn’t have a lot of dialogue but carries her role proficiently. Eleven is possibly one of my favorite characters of Stranger Things because of where she starts and her story, she also has a lot of character development and you all know, I’m a sucker for that.

Stranger Things

Looking to the teens, we have Nancy, played by Natalia Dyer. I’ve seen her before in a movie called I Believe In Unicorns and you can check out the review HERE. She did great there as well. Something about Nancy here makes her also a fantastic character with a lot of development. When she starts, you see her be that nerdy girl who just loves being liked by the popular crowd at school. She seems to forget who she is but somehow in the process of trying to find her best friend who disappears, she teams up with an unpopular character, Jonathan (played by Charlie Heaton) and sparks a somewhat triangle (but not) relationship alongside her boyfriend Steve. This group also being very compelling to watch as they all find growth in their characters and are each great in their own ways. Natalia however does take it away with her awesome acting and how she finds that courage to be pretty badass by the end of the season.

Stranger Things

And then we have the adults. Before we move on, here is where the magic also is for the show to be able to find characters to like for every age group. The adults were equally strong. Winona Ryder plays a powerful mom who is dedicated and believes that her son is still in danger and that he isn’t dead no matter what she sees in front of her. She might sound crazy but she has to do what she has to do to bring her son back and those moments are some of the most intense especially as she find s way to communicate with Will. Alongside the adult crew is the sheriff, played by David Harbour. If we were to talk about a tough guy, David Harbour is a great sheriff, one with a painful story as well that they touched on slightly. However, while he had some softer moments, he also had some great one-liners and it worked so well with his role. Being movie goers, we’re cynical about many things and at times, we even question our characters actions and Sheriff Jim Hopper makes some crazy decisions at times for the investigation and truly has us at the edge of our seat as he pieces everything together.

Overall, Season 1 of Stranger Things does have it all pretty well. It has the dark creepy atmosphere and a fantastic and mysterious world created. The cast is fantastic from the kids to the teens to the adults who all deliver strong roles. While certain roles had more character development than others, it is important to realize that this is TV and not just a movie, so what isn’t done here could most possibly be continued on and focused on in the second season. The beauty of watching TV series is the ability to tell a story that can keep a good pacing but still leave room for the story to expand and/or go deeper into its world and lore. Suffice to say, this was a refreshing experience and we’re looking forward to season 2 which releases in just a few days!

Netflix A-Z: I Believe in Unicorns (2015)

Netflix A-Z is back! We’re continuing on. Last time, before I left for vacation, we ended on H as in How I Live Now. So far, the Netflix list has been quite a discovery. Not all total winners but all have their charm. I Believe in Unicorns has caught my eye for a while but it sounds rather odd so I haven’t watched it yet. Here is the perfect opportunity!

Let’s check it out!

I Believe in Unicorns (2015)

I believe in unicorns

Director and writer: Leah Meyerhoff

Cast: Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Toni Meyerhoff

A road trip through the stunning and complex landscape of troubled young love.-IMDB

I Believe in Unicorns is an odd film. It is a coming of age tale for a teenage girl, Davina. Davina has had quite the tough life when her mother learned about a disease while she was pregnant with her. As a result, her father also has left the picture. All her life, she has been taking care of her sick mother who can no longer walk. Davina takes selfies of herself a lot and she seems to be unease with herself for the most part. She seems sad about many things. Her joy is to hide away in her imaginary world sometimes through her dreams that features herself as a fairy of sorts that has a unicorn. Or maybe she is the unicorn. Until in the real world, she meets an older guy called Sterling. Right off the bat, as the audience, we already know, Sterling has something. It may be the crowd he is in or the easiness he has of stealing from vending machine or convenience stores. It might be that sly smile or that changing attitude. Many many warning signs. However, at the beginning, Davina falls in love with him and is wrapped up in the beauty and joy of this relationship. Until it starts falling apart…

I Believe in Unicorns

 I Believe in Unicorns takes on a roller coaster ride of looking at various issues of coming of age, mostly in the form of young love, first love (perhaps) and the loss of love. Or even the desire to feel loved. Lots of loving going on. And it shows, there is quite a few making out scenes in here but its done not in revealing way but yet holds the powerful message and dynamic it needs. This movie probably deserves extra viewings. While the real life aspect of it is rather easy to decipher where the story is going, its fantasy parallel with unicorns and Davina as a fairy (or magical creature of some sort finding its wings) create a lot of symbolism. It starts lighthearted in a wonderment and eventually descends into a world of battle. The question I kept asking myself was what is the symbolism of the unicorn? Does it represent first love, or the love she has for Sterling and their relationship, or innocence or simply her naivety or childhood? To really understand this is that we follow Davina who seems to really live in this fantasy world for us to understand her feelings and its how we learn about how she really feels despite her innocent exterior in reality. As the road trip goes on and Davina and Sterling start to fall apart a little, Davina become more vocal about what she wants and how she feels and eventually have a confidence that we didn’t see at the start. What I’m saying is that other than the role being written really well, Natalia Dyer does really well in showing off Davina’s character and development.

I Believe in Unicorns

 I Believe in Unicorns probably isn’t for everyone. Its pretty odd and a little slow and its really reading between the lines. Davina’s character has quite a bit of development as she realizes that running away from her problems and believing that the feeling of first love she had in the first place might be misplaced. Its a lot of realizations. There is something very unique about this movie that makes it not only extremely fitted in the indie scene but also profound and thought-provoking. The parallels breath life into this coming of age between fantasy and reality. When her first love dies, her innocence and naivety seem to leave with it. Watching the process of her growing up and truly being an adult at the end is a very well-written journey. It shows talent not only in the storytelling abilities of the writer-director but also the young star, Natalia Dyer.

I think it is time to check out Stranger Things…

Have you seen I Believe in Unicorns? What did you think?

Next up is letter J! Any guesses?