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Tag Archive: Stranger Things


Stranger Things took the world by storm last year, bringing its mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and nostalgia to the small screen.  Stranger Things is not only Netflix’s best show, its second season is the most eagerly awaited series this year.  Now a household name, star Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) signed on for the second season along with Winona Ryder, and fan favorite Sean Astin will star as a new character aptly named Bob Newby.  The other kid stars are back:  Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), sporting Ghostbusters outfits at their grade school on Halloween Day 1984–a great choice for the season opener since we’ll be watching the episode premiere on Halloween day.

And like the many throwback movies the series pulls from, Stranger Things is getting its own line of action figures.  Funko has produced the first line of figures rapidly considering so many shows don’t get tie-in toys at all.  Six figures have been finalized for the first wave from the series.  Fan demand for everyone’s favorite ill-fated friend Barb will no doubt necessitate at least a second wave.

Best of all, there’s something doubly nostalgic about these figures.  They are from Funko’s ReAction line, which itself bridges the classic 1970s and 1980s Kenner style action figures with modern TV series and movies.  It’s easy to imagine the kids in the world of Stranger Things would appreciate seeing themselves as action figures that look like their own Star Wars figures.

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We now have a Season 2 teaser trailer for Stranger Things featuring the key cast of kids minus Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven.  Check out the trailer below, which aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl game.  We now know we won’t get to binge watch Season 2 on Netflix until Halloween.  So what do we know so far about Stranger Things Season 2?

Although she’s not in this week’s first teaser, we know Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) signed on for the season, and fan favorite Sean Astin will star as a new character aptly named Bob Newby.  The other kid stars are back:  Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), sporting Ghostbusters outfits at their grade school on Halloween Day 1984–a great choice for the season opener since we’ll be watching the episode premiere on Halloween day.

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In the teaser we see Hawkins, Indiana police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is back and encounters some kind of explosion.  In last season’s finale, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) returned from the Upside Down and now may be like Eleven, coughing up that Upside Down world goo.  Is he going to have powers like Eleven?  He’s shown in the same lab with similar equipment hooked up to him as we saw with Eleven and Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who was killed at the end of Season 1.  If you don’t recognize the people in the fuzzy lab video, that’s Paul Reiser as a new character named Dr. Owens and Winona Ryder returning as Will’s mom Joyce.

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We get to see a quick homage to the kid opening the door to the alien abductors in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a great look at the new nemesis alien for Season 2.  The same great title banner is back, and the music.  For those not around in 1980, the Eggo Waffles advertisement at the beginning of the teaser is real, and it features young actor Jason Hervey who would later play the brother on The Wonder Years.

Check out the teaser for Stranger Things Season 2, the original Eggo Waffles ad, and the Close Encounters scene referred to above, after the break:
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Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 yesterday here.

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

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg — Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz), Bruce Campbell.  We searched high and low for the year’s best TV series featuring one or more borg characters, but didn’t really need to go that far.  The brilliantly funny pop culture ace actor Bruce Campbell’s reboot of the borg.com Hall of Famer Ash could have gotten overlooked had it been just another horror series.  Yet underneath this over-the-top, blood and gore-filled demon hunt is a whole lot of silly fun.  And the actors could have been better, with the likes of Lee Majors (pictured above), Lucy Lawless, and Ted Raimi all making appearances.  We couldn’t ask for a better actor than Campbell to take our borg.com TV title this year.

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Best TV Series, Best TV Horror Series – Grimm (NBC).  The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve never seen before.  This season we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement, above every other series on television.  Pulling bits and pieces of folklore from Western and Eastern mythologies and everything in between, the writers delivered all season long.  The writing team’s best work was what they have done all along, taking the story in a direction no one could have predicted.

Stranger Things cast

Best TV Sci-fi Series – Stranger Things, (Netflix).  It’s nearly impossible to list all the influences that came together to form our pick for this year’s Best Retro Fix.  Stand By Me, Firestarter, Silver BulletStranger Things could be another coming of age Stephen King tale, but with nicely creepy John Carpenter undertones and the wonder and sci-fi of a Steven Spielberg movie.  Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Super 8.  Whatever it is, great performances by a lead group of kid actors, teen actors, and a few adults from filmdom’s past made for a fun season one.

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Best New TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV  – Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  We knew Syfy had a winner in the first episode of this year’s best new TV series, Wynonna Earp.  A great mash-up of Western, paranormal, and horror, Wynonna Earp took an American legend and made it interesting for today’s viewers.  Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna is a classic heroine in a supernatural setting.  And her interactions with Tim Rozon’s Doc Holliday include some of the best humor on TV.  Did we mention the villains are basically zombies?  Wynonna’s got a gun–a Peacemaker–and she knows how to use it, giving us a fun, over-the-top shoot ’em up each week to look forward to.

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Best Animated TV Series – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  For the second year in a row, Star Wars Rebels proves that animated shows are just as compelling as big budget theatrical blockbusters.  This season we met the great villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, finally introduced to Star Wars canon.  Every episode gave fans something to be excited about, as in the episode “The Antilles Extraction,” where Sabine goes undercover as a cadet in the Empire’s elite flight academy to bring Imperial pilots over to fight for the Rebellion.  Darth Maul and Captain Rex are also standout characters.  Original trilogy voice actors, compelling visuals, and rousing music, make this one of the best series on TV.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2016:

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What better way to celebrate the strong, determined leader Leia Organa made famous by actress Carrie Fisher than to celebrate her legacy in the genre heroines of today?  What do most of the characters on this year’s list of Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines have in common?  Most have roles that could easily be swapped with a male.  Sure, you can have heroine characters who are written to largely rely on traditional female qualities, but women characters bending gender roles are breaking new grounds.  We met characters this year who were held back in their place in time by their status as women, and it is often that role that prompts them to gain the fire and passion necessary to become the heroine of their stories.  So we have both a dress-wearing, well-read 19th century Jane Austen character on our list, but also a space-faring criminal in combat boots, a sea captain, an alien survivor, an alien visitor, a warrior, a sorcerer, a group of clones, a gunslinger, two cops, a zombie, and a supernatural assassin.

In past years we were able to select our Best Kick-Ass Genre Movie Heroine and Best Kick-Ass Genre TV Heroine, but this year the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever, and instead of ranking them we’re highlighting the very best from an unprecedented slate of heroines, with characteristics to learn from and emulate.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong.  You’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, very human, resulting from trying circumstances, personal losses, and even death of friends and family.  But they all mustered up the strength to rise above it all.  These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2016:

Sara Huntsman

Sara (The Huntsman: Winter’s War).  Heroines can be medieval or fairy tale warriors, a trained Huntsman quick with a bow and arrow or two-handed swordplay.  Jessica Chastain’s Sara was never seen in Snow White and the Huntsman, but we quickly learned why Chris Hemsworth’s Eric was filled with despair when learning of her supposed death.  A loyal warrior to her queen, she must decide whether to join her excommunicated secret husband against the forces of evil or stand with Queen Freya and her manipulative sister.  A powerhouse trio of actresses, Chastain’s Sara rises above them all opposite Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in this great fantasy film.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  You already know Elizabeth Bennet as the eldest sister in the classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.  An obnoxious mother harassing her, unlikely prospects for marriage, and an oppressive society with little opportunity to make her own choices.  Readers finally get to witness how the classic character might react when given opportunity–opportunity to learn Eastern mysticism and Japanese martial arts, and a role where she and her sisters and friends can fully defend their family and home from a zombie onslaught.  Lily James couples lacy dresses, Regency manners, and in-your-face, Quentin Tarentino-inspired kicks, with classic swordplay–and bloody beheadings.  If a war is coming, you want the likes of Elizabeth Bennet on your side of the battle lines.

After the cut, we reveal the rest of our list…

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What a year!  The world’s a changing place and no less so than with the welcome onslaught of new movies, television shows, books, comics, and everything else that entertained us in 2016.  All year long we tried to keep up with the best of what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  We watched all of nearly two dozen TV series, and enough of others to know we’d seen enough.  We watched dozens of new movies, reviewed more than three dozen books (and read even more), and kept up with dozens of comic book titles.  We witnessed the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Archie, and Captain America, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Charles Schulz’s Great Pumpkin, Rocky turned 40, and it was the 30th anniversary of Aliens and Labyrinth.  And the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Today we reveal the best genre content of 2016–with our top categories from movies and television Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero Fix, Best Animated Fix, and Best Borg, followed by our Best in Movies picks.  The big winner was Rogue One, taking 13 spots, followed by Doctor Strange with three.  Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, our special look at Kick-ass Heroines of 2016, followed by our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.

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Best Sci-Fi Fix – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm).  Although the franchise is more space fantasy than science fiction, all the elements of the best sci-fi were crammed into Rogue One.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology.  A compelling story.  We’re wagering this film will be a classic we go back to for years to come, upsetting Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the third best of the eight films in the series.  It’s everything a sci-fi fan could want.

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Best Fantasy FixThe Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures).  Like Rogue One it was a prequel that was also a sequel.  Better than the original Snow White and the Huntsman, this early 2016 release provided a high-fantasy story rooted in the classic fairy tale, rewarding viewers midway with a surprise change-up.  Three tough female leads, four brave (and funny) dwarves, two epic quests, a fairy tale romance, and elaborate costumes and sets made for a perfect fantasy film.

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Best Superhero FixThe Magnificent Seven (MGM/Columbia Pictures).  When we first reviewed The Magnificent Seven we were surprised it had adapted the Yul Brynner version and Akira Kurosawa’s earlier Seven Samurai so well.  We were even more surprised at how well the cast, and cast of characters, worked together to create a true ensemble piece.  It rivaled every attempt by the studios to make a great superhero team-up, and, but for the Western garb and setting, it rates as the year’s best of the superhero genre.  Runner-up, a close contender for the win was the second appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver doing his speedster business slow-motion style again in X-Men: Apocalypse.

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Best Retro FixStranger Things (Netflix).  It’s a TV series that would have made a solid movie hit in 1982.  So many series appear unexpectedly these days with a full season ready to stream immediately.  Most demonstrate why they couldn’t cut it with the networks or a major cable channel.  Not so with some of Netflix’s series, especially the surprise hit Stranger Things.  With a nicely eerie soundtrack, title font, a Twin Peaks-meets Steven Spielberg coming of age film cul-de-sac for the setting, and  John Carpenter meets Stephen King vibe, it’s no wonder Stranger Things was the #1 talked about series this year.  Our favorite part, besides the young heroine of the show, was the attention to throwback clothes, toys, posters, and 1980s pop culture references.  It’s a series we’ll revisit in the future, and look forward to in its second season.

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Best Borg/Best Movie Villain – Darth Vader (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).  Darth Vader returned in his best scene of the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It wasn’t James Earl Jones’s return to voice one of the best villains in the history of cinema that grabbed us, but the full-on rampage Vader takes to pursue the stolen Rebel plans in the film’s finale.  Director (and lifelong Star Wars fan) Gareth Edwards gave fans exactly what they wanted, utilizing an impressive UK creature actor Spencer Wilding to do his bidding as the imposing Lord of the Sith.  We also got a peek at what little of the man remained years after his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We saw inside his cybernetic suit of armor via a scene featuring him floating in a bacta tank.  Darth Vader remains one of the greatest borgs of all time.

Want to know who we picked for best in effects, soundtrack, and best sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and horror movies of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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Stranger Things cast

Stranger Things is a rare thing among plenty of series bombarding viewers of streaming services.  It would never get accused of trying too hard.  It’s good but not great.  It features no major actors.  It has developed a cult following yet it is not produced by J.J. Abrams (think Lost, Fringe, Almost Human, Believe, Westworld).  And for all these things, it’s just what we want.  We’ve had enough of CGI and big budget explosions and special effects.  Low budget is just fine–for now.  It’s that movie you are looking for late on a Saturday night, but stretched to eight episodes long.

More series like this will make Netflix survive despite all the competition from other services.  Stranger Things is good enough–good at sci-fi and horror and coming of age retro fun–to get you to sign up with Netflix for your next binge watch session.  More important than its storytelling is how the story is told, and the efforts taken to make the series, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, all look like it was filmed in the early 1980s.  Several artists have even mocked up the series marketing material into VHS tape packaging.  Were it a movie-length feature it would probably fool many.  It’s in the same vein as Disney’s Watcher in the Woods.  Like Stephen King’s Firestarter, Stand By Me and Silver Bullet it features kids in a coming-of-age setting.  Its monster/alien horror and soundtrack (available here) reflects the look and vibe of John Carpenter movies.  The marketing screams Stephen King, especially that red-on-black title font.  And it will no doubt gin up nostalgia to spur cassette tapes of its soundtrack like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stranger Things VHS

It’s Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, if the story had taken a darker turn, and very similar to Spielberg and Abrams’ Super 8 (Super 8 poster artist Kyle Lambert even created the poster for this series to further lock in the look).  Critics have picked apart odds and ends found in the background of scenes–this item didn’t exist then, etc.  But ultimately the overall feel is very right.  You’ll point to a pitcher on the table, a rug on the floor, a poster on the wall, all that you had back then.  And the season one wrap-up is as satisfying as you’re going to find in a TV series.

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