As far as we’re concerned, there’s only one thing anyone should be watching on Netflix right now (in fact, everyone should have already completed it and be patiently awaiting season two) and that is STRANGER THINGS.

STRANGER THINGS – Season One (2016)

In the style of a 1980s Spielberg film adapted from a Stephen King novel, Stranger Things is one of the most original, exciting, and nostalgic series we’ve had in a very long time. Even if you didn’t grow up in the 80s, you’ve seen all of the classic films from the era and you would be easily convinced that this series fits right along side the very best of them. It has everything, evoking themes and feelings from all of our favorite films. The childlike wonder of E.T. The mystery and brotherhood of THE GOONIES and STAND BY ME. The suspense of CARRIE or THE THING. And the thrill and horror of POLTERGEIST. If any of those films are a personal favorite of yours, then make room for Stranger Things.

This eight part series follows the residents of a small Indiana town after a young boy vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Shortly after his disappearance a new child appears in the woods, setting off a string of weird occurrences and uncovering a government conspiracy that puts the whole town in danger. From there, paths diverge while the missing boy’s friends go on a coming-of-age adventure, his mother finds herself in a supernatural horror, some teenagers go on a monster hunt, and the town’s Sheriff gets caught up in a noir-like detective story. Ultimately, all of their paths cross and they come together to work towards a single cause: bringing their friend home.

When broken up like this, the show really shines. It succeeds in telling several different stories all under the roof of a single plot. Even though the audience knows more than the collective characters, we are just as lost as everyone else. There’s no telling how their quests will merge, but by the end everything is tied up in a brilliant (and almost neat) little bow. Of course in such an expansive story, there’s bound to be some loose ends, but that just gives us something to look forward to in season two! And thankfully season two will be happening.

All of the characters are memorable, likeable (and unlikeable when its called for), and incredibly sympathetic. They all have clear goals and are easy to root for. Winona Ryder plays her part as the grieving mother expertly. This is a superb role for her and she really excels. Alongside her is David Harbour who plays Sheriff Hopper. He starts off as a cold and distant authority figure, who we grow to understand and care deeply for. A big concern for a lot of people are the child actors. Rest peacefully, because they are all amazing. They don’t feel like bad actors trying to be adults, they just feel like kids. They say kid things and make kid decisions. It’s refreshing to see them perform such natural characters in a very sincere way.

Basically this show is perfect. Easily the best Netflix Original Series to date. Don’t even try to space it out, either. Sit down, watch the entire thing, and then watch it again. And then show some friends and watch it in one sitting with them. And then wait for season two, watch season one again, and continue forward. It’s that good.

There are no new TV shows for me to recommend this week. Instead, I have two movies ABOUT TV shows. This week we’re watching PLEASANTVILLE and THE TRUMAN SHOW, both from the great year of 1998. So, sit down and tune in for these two excellent “episodes”.

But if you’ve already seen these movies, check out Episode 20 and Episode 19.

PLEASANTVILLE – Dir. Gary Ross (1998)

PleasantvilleTobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon star as 1990s teenage siblings who couldn’t be any more different from one another. Maguire’s character, David, is only concerned with his academics and binge watching his favorite 1950s sitcom, Pleasantville. While his sister, Jennifer, is much too worried about boys and her popularity. But on one fateful night, a mysterious man appears at their door and magically transports them into the world of Pleasantville. This is a dream come true for David, but an absolute nightmare for Jennifer. That is, until she starts having some fun with their scary situation and begins to alter the reality they found themselves trapped in.

Normally these movies make me a nervous wreck. I hate watching people getting trapped in another dimension with no hope for escape. Thankfully, Pleasantville failed to live up to the tropes we’re accustomed to with this kind of movie. David and Jennifer learned to have fun given their situation and even make some progressive changes for the town. Of course, things go wrong and that’s where we get the meat of the plot. It’s comedy, fantasy, a love story, and a social commentary all wrapped into one incredibly fun and entertaining movie.



THE TRUMAN SHOW – Dir. Peter Weir (1998)

images (2)Now instead of finding himself trapped in a fictional TV show, Truman finds himself the main subject of a show created about him for everyone else’s entertainment. The Truman Show is a TV show about the life and adventures of one person, Truman. He knows nothing of the outside world and is ignorant to the fact that his entire reality is fabricated for an audience to enjoy. But one day things begin to clear up and he realizes that his life isn’t as normal and peaceful as he once believed. People try to help him learn the truth, but they’re continually stopped by Truman’s father, the creator of the TV show.

This is one of those movies that effectively explores the human spirit in an interesting and subtle way. We see what happens to a man who learns his entire reality is a lie, how he copes, and the extent he will go to learn the truth. While the entire world is watching, this one man is just trying to figure out what is real and what is fiction. This is one of Jim Carrey’s most iconic roles. He plays Truman heartbreakingly well and makes you genuinely care for the character. His entire life was robbed for the pleasure of others, but it’s hard to think about what would happen if he ever did find himself on the other side of the screen.