Tag Archive: Stranger Things

Our Best of 2017 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC). From the awakenings in the first episode of season 2, AMC’s Humans kicked in full throttle as the borg show to watch this year.  Continuing to explore what it means to be real and addressing the desire and need to overcome oppression, the show took ideas from Frankenstein and THX-1138 and everything in between to show us realities of life as a borg as it took the world from robotic cyborgs to sentience.  And this year’s best borg goes to all the Synths on the series, as each showed a different side to what a world full of cyborgs might be like.

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best Soundtrack for TVThe Orville (Fox).   The Orville expanded on elements from across all sci-fi, like space battle sequences and planet flyovers using Star Wars-inspired camera angles (including real model ships, not just CGI), completely new and unique aliens (the only thing close to these can be found in Doctor Who), and a fantastic, triumphant musical score from Bruce Broughton.  A visually gorgeous show that took itself seriously more than trying to mock anything that came before it.  The science fiction series we’ve been waiting for since Star Trek Voyager ended.

Best Fantasy TV SeriesWynonna Earp (Syfy).  Wynonna Earp’s second season proved the first wasn’t a fluke.  The sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter, her sister, the sheriff, and the ghost of Doc Holliday added some new team members and some great supernatural villains, providing a series we couldn’t wait to get back to each week.  Wynonna’s handling of the Revenants and a transport back in time was even more fun while she managed her pregnancy.

Best Retro TV SeriesStranger Things (Netflix).  The only question after binge-watching the second season of Stranger Things was struggling to decide whether it was better than the first.   It had the same look and feel of its first season, but somehow the characterization was really amped up, the action more exciting, and the tension pretty much perfect.  Stranger Things really had it all–stars of our favorite 1980s movies, throwback references to video games, music, fashions, and the obscure like no other show–and with a second season that eclipsed the first, it proved it is the real deal.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2017, including our pick for Best TV Series:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all, let’s be clear:  For goodness sake don’t read anything anywhere about this new season of Stranger Things if you haven’t seen it yet.  Pin this and come back when you have.

There are many problems with shows that drop at once as with the Netflix original series (other channels have done this as well).  For simple discussion purposes, whether you’re on social media, whether you’re a critic or commentator, or whatever, you don’t quite know when it’s time to delve into a discussion of a show.  The other thing is that from a cultural standpoint, how many times have you defined a period of your life with reference to a season of a television series?  I grew up as a kid with the networks and a black and white television, followed by the introduction of cable channels and color TV sets.  Much of my memory can be tied to the Magnum, p.i. and Simon & Simon years, the Buffy years, the Voyager years, the Chuck years, etc.  With one-drop seasons that you gobble up in one bite versus savoring over a few months, that kind of life reference may drift away.  Is it important?  Not really, but it’s mildly interesting that we may be in some kind of transitional phase, from a pop culture standpoint.

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Still here?  Let’s chat about Stranger Things, Season Two.

As a lover of all things retro, and an uber fan of John Carpenter movies, I thought the first season of Stranger Things was a great first season.  But I wasn’t convinced it was the real deal–that the Duffer Brothers were going to be able to pull it off again in a second season.  After the anticipation and wait, I couldn’t have been happier with the result–except for one factor, but more on that later.  In fact I think Season Two was better than Season One.  Probably not lots better, but enough that I had more fun with the show this round.

So what did I love about Season Two?

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Don’t those pumpkins look like they have seen better days?  This weekend Netflix released the final poster (above) for the second season of Stranger Things, on its way to Netflix this Friday.  Last year’s blend of 1980s sci-fi and horror returns one year later, and as the poster suggests, a focus of season two will be young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who was absent for most of the first season, sucked away into the “Upside Down.”  And Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) looks… angry.

Netflix also added two new features on the Web to help fans of the show get ready for the season premiere.

A retro-style free Stranger Things video game is available now for download.  You can find it on both Google Play here and via iTunes here.  Here’s the description from game creator BonusXP:  It’s 1984 all over again. Stranger Things: The Game is an action adventure game true to the games our heroes would have played back in the day.  Explore Hawkins and its surroundings. See your favorite locations like Mirkwood Forest and Hawkins Lab.  Uncover exciting areas you’ve never seen before!  Solve puzzles with the unique abilities of each character.  Lucas can nail anything with his Wrist Rocket.  Nancy has a whole set of bats to swing this time.  Collect all the Eggos and Gnomes you can lay your hands on.  You never know what they might unlock.

You can look forward to some new, driving beats, along with some haunting sounds from the Stranger Things season 2 soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.  As with last year’s soundtrack, the duo provides funky techno arrangements in the style of John Carpenter.

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How often does a young actor get a week where he is featured in two studio trailers?  Last week that was Charlie Heaton, the 21-year-old actor known for his role as Jonathan Byers, the awkward teenage brother of missing kid Will and son of Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers on last year’s hit retro series Stranger Things.  He’s back in the final preview for Season 2, premiering on Netflix next week.  One of the questions that fans of Stranger Things will be watching for this season is whether Jonathan and Nancy finally get together this year.

Last week 20th Century Fox released a trailer for the next Marvel Studios X-Men spinoff, The New Mutants.  Based on a three-issue story arc from the comic book series in 1984, this very different X-Men story is being marketed as Stephen King meets John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  A horror film blending with the superhero genre but without supersuits or supervillains, it focuses on five mutant kids including Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball, played by Heaton.  Doctor Who and Game of Thrones viewers will also notice Maisie Williams co-starring in the film–she will play the character known as Wolfsbane.

Even the feel of The New Mutants has a retro vibe, which is probably why Stranger Things’ co-star Heaton was cast in the film.  Check out these two new trailers featuring Charlie Heaton, the final Stranger Things season two trailer and the first trailer for The New Mutants:

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The season two premiere of Stranger Things is only six weeks away.  Since August Netflix has released several posters to get viewers back in prime throwback 1980s-mode.  Netflix’s marketing team was careful to suggest their source material without being exact duplicates of past posters, but some are closer than others.  It’s all about getting viewers prepped for another trip to the Upside Down, and a darker sophomore season.  We’ve already seen the kids sporting Ghostbusters costumes in previews.  And earlier posters carried images inspired by the work of motion picture poster artists that defined late 20th century film advertising, like John Alvin, Drew Struzan, and Bob Peak.  It all started with the season two general homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and twelve character posters (all shown below).  If you’ve ever collected movie posters, you know how close the creators got these to the fading prints after all these years, plus posters in the 1980s were often shipped folded to theaters just like many of their creations for the series this summer.

The new round of posters focuses even more on the horror pop culture with a nod to the B-movie genre.  If these posters are any indication, adding to the Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg callbacks throughout season one, expect even more horror in season two a la Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and even Paul Michael Glaser (that’s right Starsky from Starsky and Hutch directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man).  We’re not sure how The Running Man fits in other than a unique poster to emulate, but maybe the action will be kicked into higher gear this year.


So check out these posters (below and above) and their inspirations from Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, Glaser’s The Running Man, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Stephen King’s Firestarter, and the Stand By Me adaptation of King’s original story, The BodyThe Elm Street match-up may be the best because of the common show’s Nancy reference.  But the picture they all form is pretty clear.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller backed the summer’s best preview from San Diego Comic-Con 2017 seen here.  Darkness and nostalgia are coming.

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The 3D movie is here to stay and it’s as big as it’s ever been.  Not only new movies continue to hit the big screen and impress us with newer ways to turn a movie visit into an amusement park ride, whether in 3D or IMAX 3D.  Old films continue to get the 3D treatment, too.  An entire branch of films and home video releases are devoted to this category, with films that weren’t originally filmed in 3D like Titanic, Jurassic Park, Top Gun, I, Robot, and Beauty and the Beast among the films getting the upgrade–the best results coming from the incredible 3D work done to The Wizard of Oz (reviewed here) and Predator (reviewed here).  But a music video getting a 3D upgrade?  That’s new.

This year the 1980s are coming back in a big way.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller knocked our socks off as part of the latest trailer for Stranger Things season 2 last month.  The powerhouse music video (which even made the National Film Registry) has been given a complete 3D and sound upgrade for a premiere at the Venice Film Festival this summer followed by a return to the theaters for the first time since a limited run in Los Angeles when it debuted back in 1983.  Thriller is truly a one-of-a-kind film, directed by John Landis (The Twilight Zone, The Blue Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places) and co-written by Landis and Michael Jackson, the film was a dream project for Jackson, who was a fan of Landis’s fang-filled An American Werewolf in London.  Jackson spared no expense, pulling in monster maker Rick Baker for prosthetics and Michael Peters for choreography input.  It’s a little bit meta–Vincent Price’s Thriller was the (fake) monster movie Michael and his girlfriend watched in the theater in the video, with a great shot of the marquee as they emerge from the theater.  Fans of a new generation will be able to see Thriller in real life on their local theater marquee.

A fan of 3D, Michael Jackson pioneered the re-launch of 3D films in 1986, starring in his sci-fi film Captain EO, a 3D musical with executive producer George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, scored by James Horner and co-starring Dick Shawn (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Producers, The Year Without a Santa Claus) and Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor, The Addams Family, The Grifters, The Watcher in the Woods) as an incredibly designed borg villain (an inspiration for Star Trek First Contact’s Borg Queen).  John Napier (Broadway’s Cats) created the costumes, Rick Baker returned for makeup and monster creations, and Tom Burman (Planet of the Apes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Goonies, Dead Again) created Huston’s makeup.  A Disney theme park exclusive, Captain EO was shown up until 2015 in the parks’ 3D theaters, but has not been released in a home version.  The Captain EO 3D comic book is regularly still available here at Amazon.

Michael Jackson’s first (and then, presumably only) 3D film featured Anjelica Huston as this spectacular borg creation, the Supreme Leader.

Michael Landis returned to lead the 3D, music, and sound effects upgrades for the new 3D release of Jackson’s film/video Thriller, saying, “I am so happy to have had the chance not only to restore but enhance Michael Jackson’s Thriller!  We took full advantage of the remarkable advances in technology to add new dimensions to both the visual and the audio bringing it to a whole new level.  Even though Thriller was shot traditionally, I was able to use the 3D creatively.  Let me just warn you, there is a rather shocking surprise in there!”

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We saved the best for last: Netflix’s full trailer for Stranger Things, Season 2.  If you thought the trailer previewed earlier here at for Ready Player One didn’t provide an adequate 1980s retro fix, then you’re in store for something awesome.  Dragon’s Lair!  Vincent Price and Thriller?  A nicely creepy vibe from The Sixth Sense, only here, “I see Demogorgons.”

The cast from season one is all here, plus some new.  At Hall H today at San Diego Comic-Con creators The Duffer Brothers, and returning cast Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), David Harbour (Chief Hopper), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), and Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), were joined by new cast members Sean Astin as Bob, Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, and Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink, as two siblings.

Wait no longer, check out all the great 1980s vibes, John Carpenter and Stephen King style, with the next Stranger Things trailer, straight from Comic-Con today:

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It’s been nearly five years since we first reviewed the award-winning, low-budget sci-fi alien invasion flick Attack the Block.  Now that Jodie Whittaker is in the spotlight for her selection as the next Doctor in the BBC’s Doctor Who, and John Boyega will be returning this December for his second stint as Imperial turned Resistance fighter Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, let’s look back to them working together as co-leads in writer/director Joe Cornish’s modern cult classic.  Attack the Block should be in every sci-fi fan’s arsenal.  When we first reviewed Attack the Block here at, we compared it to another low-budget British sci-fi/horror mash-up, 1985’s Lifeforce (which co-starred a then less-known Patrick Stewart).  After repeat viewings since then, it’s clear Attack the Block is a much better film, full of action, suspense, humor, and good acting by young actors who all feel very real on-screen.  In 2011 only fans of the actors from the Cornetto films would have noticed it, because of the slightly larger than cameo performance by Nick Frost, one-half of the Simon Pegg/Frost comic duo (Shaun of the Dead, The Fuzz, Spaced, Paul).  Attack the Block was an unknown commodity that didn’t get much reaction at the U.S. box office in 2011 because it was not marketed well and it was not a typical, Hollywood-made sci-fi epic.  It was before its time–it’s Stranger Things, UK style.  It’s Judgment Night and John Carpenter’s original Attack on Precinct 13 meets E.T., if E.T. didn’t have good intentions and Elliot wasn’t a nice little kid.

It takes a bit to warm up to the main cast of Attack the Block.  We follow a teen gang of British kids in masks led by John Boyega’s character Moses as they unabashedly and violently mug a nurse named Sam, played by Jodie Whittaker.  From the beginning Whittaker’s Sam really is the only person in the film we are completely sympathetic toward, despite efforts of the writer to get viewers to understand this gang of kids.  We almost get to the point of sympathy for the others once Sam decides she may very well be killed by aliens if she does not join up with the gang, and this film takes a swing at answering the question: “Under what situation would a victim, however reluctantly, join up with her attacker?”  Violent alien beast invasion, of course!  Despite playing the thug, Boyega had charisma even early on and it’s understandable why he has his own band of followers.  He gets in over his head dealing with a slightly older drug kingpin who “owns the block” and takes the kid under his wing for a drug sale.  His followers are a motley sort. Along with a pair of much younger kids that add some comic relief, and an additional wandering, stoned teenager, they must come together to fight the gang leader and worse—the onslaught of big hairy aliens.

The scarf of a future Doctor!  Jodie Whittaker in Attack the Block.

Six years later, Attack the Block easily holds its own.  For alien invasion film fans, it offers one of the best aliens of any 21st century production–big or low budget—giant dark, furry beasts built like hybrid gorilla/buffalos, with phosphorescent blue fangs, able to leap and spring and climb buildings.  We don’t ever see clear views of these creatures, and that mystery and an overall lack of gore throughout the movie helps form the mystique of these creatures–think the uncertainty of when the shark appears next in Jaws–and it makes them just plain scary as they chase their targets down hallways and up buildings.  They aren’t hive-minded aliens from Alien or conniving predators as in Predator, but they don’t need to be.

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In advance of next week’s San Diego Comic-Con, Netflix released a slick new poster for Season 2 of Stranger Things, and more tie-in products are now in the works.  We have a look at the second wave of the Funko Pop! figures for the series, expanding into the older teens and adult characters.  Plus McFarlane Toys is now a licensee, meaning fans can expect some highly detailed figures in addition to the retro, Kenner-style Funko ReAction action figures (previewed earlier here at  That’s good for fans, giving them a choice for their Stranger Things fix.

Stranger Things Season 2 premieres on Netflix, Friday, October 27, 2017.  So expect many to be locked away binge-watching the new season that weekend.  In advance of that, take a look at these mock-ups from McFarlane Toys showing the general look the company will be aiming for with its toy line:


The McFarlane Toys figures have not yet been finalized and are not yet available for pre-order.

Check out the new Funko Pop! figures after the break, with many available now (many with steep discounts) and others available for pre-order.

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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