Top 5 Reasons Why I Love ‘Stranger Things’

September 22, 2016 at 8:49 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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Spoiler Warning: This article contains major spoilers of Stranger Things season 1. Read at your own risk!

Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things practically came out of nowhere this year, but it’s currently enjoying immense popularity. I’ve been hearing a lot of good reviews about this show and since horror is one my one favorite TV genres, my interest was definitely piqued. So one weekend, I binge-watched all eight episodes and immediately loved it.

Apart from the fact that it is set in the ’80s, Stranger Things also pays homage to classic ’80s movies I loved — from The Goonies and Stand By Me, to E.T. For me, the show has all the elements of a really good horror story without the campy tropes. In fact, even its theme song has that distinct, creepy sound.

But that’s not all I love about Stranger Things. Here are the main reasons why I love the series.

1. The Mystery

I’m always hooked on stories that deal with mysterious circumstances, the supernatural and unexplained phenomena. It piques my interest and curiosity when I’m not presented with all the answers to the mystery right away. The show kept me guessing about the characters and the situations they found themselves in.

The disappearance of Will Byers kicked off a series of strange events that pulled me into this mysterious world where a monster lurks in a parallel universe.

GIF image credit: giphy.com

2. The Tone

When I watched the pilot episode, it reminded me of The X-Files pilot where it set the tone for the rest of the series. I got a sense of foreboding and dread — that something unexplainable was about to happen. The soundtrack of the pilot heightened that foreboding sense and emphasized the dark tone of the show with songs that were rather melancholic (“I Shall Not Care”) and ominous (“White Rabbit”), which can be felt all throughout the series.

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3. The Characters

While Winona Ryder may be the biggest star of this show, it’s the kids who consistently steal the scenes. It’s interesting and amusing to watch these kids play, argue, tease, and fight each other as they struggle to hide Eleven from their parents and the bad guys. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven might disagree on things, but eventually they were there for each other to work on a common goal: finding their friend Will.

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Eleven has also got me intrigued not only because of her psychokinetic powers, but also because of her back story. Why was she named Eleven? Were there any kids before her who were kidnapped by Dr. Brenner and his team of scientists? Perhaps Dr. Brenner previously did tests on other kids and Eleven was the 11th child he experimented on.

Photo credit: screencapped.net

It’s also interesting to watch Joyce Byers as she tried to maintain a sense of sanity while finding her son Will. It sort of amused me that she went a little crazy with the lights and the wall, but later events proved that she’s right all along.

Barb seemed to be a fan favorite, and her early demise had left viewers wanting to know just what happened to her in The Upside Down. I, for one, would like to know how she died.

4. The Monster & The Villain

The faceless monster that resides in The Upside Down provided enough chill to put me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing. Admittedly, the monster itself was not that all scary for me, but the threat and danger it poses to the residents of Hawkins town got my adrenaline pumping.

Photo credit: screencapped.net

I’m not just talking about the faceless monster that took Will and killed Barb. I’m also referring to the show’s main villain, Dr. Brenner, who can be considered as a monster himself. Not only did he kidnap Eleven, but he also did experiments on her for the sake of science and espionage against the Russians.

For me, he is the ‘80s equivalent of the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files. He is ruthless and only cares about his experiments for his own gain. He does not hesitate to let anyone get killed as long as he gets what he wants.

GIF image credit: giphy.com

5. The Sci-Fi Element

The sci-fi elements in the show complement the mystery that surrounds the story. Finding out about a parallel universe was enough to keep me intrigued. I liked the fact that the show incorporates this seamlessly into the story with the introduction of the science teacher who acts as the kids’ primary source of scientific knowledge.

All these elements have greatly contributed to the success of the series along with the astounding cast. Now that Stranger Things has been renewed for a second season, I can’t wait to find out what new mysteries are in store for Joyce, Hopper and the kids of Hawkins town.

 

(NOTE: This article originally appeared on moviepilot.com)

‘Suits’ Season 6: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

September 20, 2016 at 8:49 AM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This TV review contains major spoilers for Suits season 6. Read at your own risk!

Suits aired its midseason finale last week, and while I had the urge to review each episode as they aired, I waited until the end of Episode 10 of Season 6 to write a proper review. That way, I’d have a better perspective on the season’s storyline and what the characters have been up to.

To get you up to speed, check out the Season 6 trailer below:

This season of Suits has been a rocky ride. Honestly speaking, I consider it to be the show’s weakest season yet. While its midseason finale, aptly titled “P.S.L.” delivered a very satisfying turn, with the shocking revelation of Jessica’s departure from the firm (and Gina Torres’s exit from the show), the rest of the episodes were really difficult to watch.

I’ve been a fan ever since Suits‘ first season in 2011. I really enjoyed the past storylines and have come to love the main characters. But what made Season 6 so frustrating was the fact it dragged out the Mike-in-prison story arc for too long. Long story arcs have never been Suits’ strong suit (pun intended). Just look at what happened in Season 3 with that Ava Hessington case. For me, the show’s best seasons were the first and the second ones, where they mainly dealt with case-of-the-week stories. But with this season, all we got was a soapy drama about self-entitled Mike.

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Photo credit: screencapped.net

Prison Break: The Soapy Days Of Mike’s Life Behind Bars

Mike used to be a likable character — yes, even that time when he left Pearson Specter Litt to work as an investment banker. But this season, his stubbornness made for unbearable TV viewing. I watched the first episode of this season expecting that Mike’s time in prison would give him the chance to reflect on his past mistakes and focus on becoming a better version of himself. But instead, week after week, he acted like a bratty kid, throwing tantrums whenever he didn’t get his way. Here was Harvey, bending over backward just to get him out of prison in the shortest time possible, and yet Mike kept insisting that Harvey bust Kevin Miller out, too. And not only that, he wanted Kevin’s wife out of the big house as well. It’s as if he wanted to stay in prison longer for Kevin.

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Photo credit: screencapped.net

Harvey may be a brilliant lawyer, but he has his own limitations. He cannot guarantee he’ll always win or that he can convince every person to do his bidding. Mike should have known that. Harvey could only do so much. To me, Mike came off like he didn’t think he deserve to be in jail, where in fact it was his fault as much of Harvey’s that he landed there in the first place. And it’s bad enough that I had to watch this whole boring drama play out over the entire season.

I was actually looking forward to Mike getting out a redeemed man, but when he finally got his release, he was just as cocky as he was before. Did he even learn from his mistakes? Where was his character development? I would have thought he’d grown after Season 5, when he was grappling with his secret of being a faux lawyer, and broke down in front of the priest. His time in prison would have been a chance for him to plan for his future. Which brings me to Harvey…

Fifty Shades Of Harvey Specter

Harvey has done some pretty shady things as of late. Aside from drugging Mike to temporarily springing him from prison, he also colluded with Sean Cahill. What made it worse was that he handed Cahill the insider trading program that Kevin developed. And all this because he was desperate to get Mike out as soon as possible, because Frank Gallo was a major threat in the faux lawyer’s life. In the past, Harvey had always managed to bend the law without actually breaking it. But when it comes to the people he cares about, he’s willing to do anything just to save them. And what he did this season — from accepting William Sutter as his client, to colluding with Cahill — just made his shades a lot darker.

While I don’t agree with what Harvey has done, I can understand his motivations. It must have been excruciating and emotionally exhausting for Harvey to be burdened with guilt. He obviously felt responsible for Mike being in prison instead of him. He’s been carrying that guilt ever since the scandal broke that he’d hired a fraud. That decision led to the firm’s employees leaving the company and their clients walking as well — and that doubled his regret.

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SUITS — “Trust” Episode 605 — Pictured: (l-r) Neal McDonough as Sean Cahill, Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Alan Rosenberg as William Sutter — (Photo by: Ian Watson/USA Network)

I had truly enjoyed Harvey’s character development in Season 5 when he had those panic attacks after Donna left him. But this season his growth seems to have stunted. While he learned to apologize and took responsibility for his decision to hire a fake, he’s in danger of making that same mistake again when he offered Mike a job as a consultant after he got him out of prison. At that moment I had the urge to smack him in the head. The firm crumbled because of his past actions, and now he wanted to hire Mike again?! The business’s reputation had been tarnished enough. It’s not a good idea to risk it even more. Seriously, Harvey needs to go back and see his therapist!

Speaking of which, it would have been nice to see him continue his therapy sessions with Dr. Agard. I would have loved to see his struggle and how he coped with the guilt while trying to save whatever was left of the firm. While Donna’s support did help, it would be best that a professional therapist handle the situation. And speaking of Donna…

Not Just A Pretty Face And More Than Meets The Eye

Donna was the most underutilized character this season. Aside from being at her desk, helping Harvey get Mike out, she had little to do other than help Louis with his newfound love. After five-and-a-half seasons, her character is the only one that’s not fully developed. In fact, Cahill and Kevin got a lot more screen time than her this season. While the mudding scene was fun to watch, I would rather see her do more. I think it’s worth exploring that hidden side of Donna to better understand her character, because so far we know so little about her backstory.

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Photo credit: spoilertv.com

Lightning-Fast Love Story

Louis was given a new love interest this season — a subplot that no one really asked for. Instead of him focusing on helping the firm retain its clients, he spent most of his time impressing the woman he fell in love with at first sight and worrying about how she would accept him. But I really didn’t buy this story. First and foremost, there was zero on-screen chemistry between Rick Hoffman and Carly Pope. I remain unconvinced that Louis and Tara were in love after dating only for a few weeks. And the fact that Tara was involved in an open relationship with someone who she meets up with only every six months made this story really weird and uncomfortable. Add to that WTF storyline was Louis proposing to Tara after her boyfriend proposed to her when she told him she’s pregnant. And then she accepted Louis’s proposal. Seriously, WTF?!

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Photo credit: cartermatt.com

Women Power

I liked that Jessica and Rachel banded together to handle Leonard’s case. It’s about time the show’s writers made good use of Rachel. Up until this season, she’d been the weakest female character in the show who spent most of her time whining about law school and crying over Mike. But I’m glad she’s becoming a stronger character in her own right. She truly shines when she’s not with Mike, which says a lot about how her character was written in past seasons. And it’s really a wonderful sight to behold that Jessica has become her mentor.

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SUITS — “The Hand That Feeds You” Episode 609 — Pictured: (l-r) Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane, Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson — (Photo by: Ian Watson/USA Network)

Jessica, on the other hand, had always been the epitome of female power in the show. And I liked that we were also shown her softer side; it made her both endearing and admirable. But I was even more impressed after watching the midseason finale. She truly killed it in those courtroom scenes. The nod to A Few Good Men wasn’t lost on me. Jessica in that courtroom moment reminded me of Tom Cruise badgering of Jack Nicholson when he took the stand and finally admitted his crime. That was the side of Jessica that I would have liked to see more of.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see more of that, seeing as she’s now left the firm. I was really disappointed, since I would have liked to see her stay on long enough to rebuild the business and continue mentoring Rachel. That would have been a great sendoff and it would’ve show her clients, the senior partners who left her, and their enemies like Hardman, that Pearson Specter Litt can rise above the scandal and prove its credibility once again.

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SUITS — “P.S.L.” Episode 610 — Pictured: (l-r) Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson, Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Rick Hoffman as Louis Litt — (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)

So “P.S.L.” explored Jessica’s past and her realization that somewhere along the way she forgot the reason why she became a lawyer in the first place. In the episode, she was torn between rebuilding the firm and saving a man from death row. I’m glad that Jessica finally found happiness with Jeff, but I hope she’ll make an appearance next year when Season 6 continues.

One Step Closer

Of course, I cannot end this review without talking about that poignant scene at the end of the finale. After Jessica made the announcement that she’s leaving the firm, it didn’t sink in with Harvey until the final scene. The firm’s fate now lies in his and Louis’s hands, and while that might be a daunting task, what really affected Harvey was that someone he considered as a long-time mentor and friend was leaving. Jessica shaped him to into the lawyer he is today. They might have fought and clashed many times over, but their bond was never broken and their friendship and respect for each other only grew stronger. Harvey was coming to terms with this realization when Donna found him in his office.

She knew how Harvey must have felt and, as always, she was there for him. Their simple act of holding hands was enough to convey that Harvey, in his vulnerable state, finally let his guard down and showed Donna how he truly felt without saying any words. And Donna didn’t need to say anything to let him know she understood and that she’s there for him.

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Photo credit: newslocker.com

It was a touching scene as Harvey admitted he didn’t want to be alone. It’s another step for him to show his willingness to open up, after years of being emotionally unavailable. And for these two to hold hands while looking out into the night only teased us of what lies ahead for both of these characters as well as the firm.

It’s been amazing to see that their closeness goes beyond words, and I’d love to see their relationship evolve into something more, bringing them closer to each other and deepening their bond. After all, the show still needs to address the elephant in the room: What happened between them in Season 4.

The midseason finale was, for me, the best episode of the season. I liked it for the fact that it was less about Mike and more about Jessica. But I was glad that Mike initially turned down Harvey’s job offer. And I really hope that he will eventually decide not to accept it. He has done enough damage to the firm.

So where can the show’s writers go with Mike, now that he’s out of prison and everyone knows his secret? I can’t wait to find out. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Harvey would handle being the top partner at the firm, now that Jessica is gone.

We’ll just have to wait for Suits Season 6 to return to the USA Network in January.

(NOTE: This article was originally published in moviepilot.com)

Does Size Really Matter?

September 14, 2016 at 10:45 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This movie review contains major spoilers. Read at your own risk.

In these times where body shaming on social media has become more and more prevalent, one movie attempts to address the issue and among others with wry humor.

Zoom is a Canadian indie film about three characters who find themselves in a story written by the other. It’s generally a satire movie about body objectification and the creative process involved in writing books and making films. The movie stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Alison Pill, Jason Priestly, and Mariana Ximenes.

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It tells the story of Emma, a young comic book artist who works at a factory that makes sex dolls. She sculpts and paints sex dolls while drawing comic book characters on the side. One day her co-worker/boyfriend Bob saw one of her drawings and points out that she could never be as voluptuous and big-breasted as the female superhero in her comics. Taking offense, Emma draws a new character named Edward in her comics – a guy possessing all the qualities of her ideal man. In her comics, Edward is a famous movie director – handsome, smart, charming and popular with the ladies.

This is where Zoom starts to get interesting. In Edward’s world, he is struggling to complete a new movie against the pressure of a major film studio. The movie script is incomplete and Edward wants to make it as an art house film. The problem is, the film studio wants a typical action-packed, Hollywood-style movie with lots of explosions – something that he really wants to avoid.

Edward’s movie is about a female model named Michelle who wants to become a writer. Her boyfriend Dale is not as supportive of her plans as she expected. So she leaves their shared apartment and goes to Brazil. It’s while she’s in Brazil where she starts writing her novel.

Eventually, Edward realizes that he’s just a character in Emma’s comics, while Emma soon learns that she’s only a fictional character in the book that Michelle is writing. Michelle, on the other hand, also realizes that she’s just a part of Edward’s movie. She doesn’t even know that she’s an actress in the movie.

Zoom splits between the real world, the comic book world, and the movie world. It’s reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction, A Scanner Darkly and Inception. It also reminds me of A-ha’s comics-inspired “Take On Me” music video back in the ’80s. It’s a shame that I don’t get to see Gael Garcia Bernal in his true form as he only appears in his comic book form in the movie.

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Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t have enough depth and fails to explore and develop the characters. Zoom is muddled, silly, absurd and has no direction. Its attempt as an art house film is as unsuccessful as Edward’s efforts in his movie. The ending is a big question mark as the viewers are left wondering what happened to the characters.

What happens to Michelle after she wrote those words in her book? Why is Emma working in that perverted factory in the first place when she could have used her talent somewhere else? What happens to Edward and his unfinished movie? I guess we’ll never know since they are already “smeared” in the comics.

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