Let's be honest, this is a boring part of the year. The Olympics haven't started yet. NBA Free Agency is over for everyone except J.R. Smith. MLB is almost exciting, but the Indians have yet to make their move. I believe one is coming, but it's a bit sluggish right now. The Cleveland Browns started training camp, but you can't (shouldn't?) get excited about storylines involving Josh Gordon or Isaiah Crowell, let alone Robert Griffin III. We at least need to wait until they wear pads in a pre-season game to start drawing anything resembling a conclusion. That's why it was the perfect moment for a Netflix marathon. A binge of epic proportions, which brings me to Stranger Things While We're Waiting...
Stranger Things on Netflix was so much fun
I love horror, and I love sci-fi, so naturally I was excited when I heard about Stranger Things while listening to Bennington on Sirius XM. They described it as an addictive suspense-thriller that paid explicit on-the-nose homage to both Stephen King and Steven Spielberg in a classic 1980s style. I'm the kind of person that gets chills just thinking about the boys walking down the tracks in Stand By Me, so when I heard that title get mentioned, I knew what my wife and I would be watching later that evening. A few days later, now that we finished all eight episodes in rapid fashion, I have to say it lived up to the hype.
Without spoiling the show, Stranger Things is about kids coming of age, science fiction staples like other plains of existence, trust in government, and yes, monsters. It has heroes, anti-heroes, outcasts who weird you out until you get to know them, and even a burgeoning love triangle. It's got special effects, but if it didn't have any, you'd still love the show for the character-driven storylines.
The show isn't perfect, by any means. Some of the performances leave a lot to be desired. When you cast children who are around 12 years old, you're going to get some uneven performances and some overacting. When you hire Winona Ryder, who plays Joyce Byers, the distraught mother of a lost boy, you're going to get some uneven performances and overacting, as well. Matthew Modine is menacing as Dr. Martin Brenner, but his character development was so scant in the first season that he seemed more like a caricature than some of the more filled-out versions of that avatar in TV shows like Fringe, for example. But these are little complaints, compared to the enjoyment I got out of this show.
First, let's talk about the little kids. Finn Wolfhard plays Mike Wheeler as an awkward kid who goes from vulnerable to alpha over the course of eight episodes. Millie Bobby Brown plays Eleven and is utterly captivating as she goes on a similar path, yet in a very different way than Mike. The sidekicks, Dustin and Lucas, played by Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin, ended up being complex contributors, even as they filled specific functional roles like comic relief and foil.
The quiet leader of the show might have been David Harbour as troubled police chief Jim Hopper. He's a character that transitioned substantially from the beginning - where he seemed utterly disposable - to the end where he became the surprising glue to bring all the characters together into a single, cohesive storyline. He's the kind of character that (mild spoiler alert) could go from being a side character in Season 1, to being a principal character in subsequent seasons.
Show producers, The Duffer Brothers, have already begun talking about the second season of the show, and I'm already excited. Hopefully, the references to E.T. and the blatant anachronistic soundtrack won't become too distracting going forward. As long as they continue to pay attention to characters and their relationship dynamics in addition to making the audience jump in classic monster movie style, I'm sure it will be great.
Your weekly moment of soccer zen...
Bicycle! Well, maybe a half or quarter bike. Still a great finish.
It's Temple of the Dog week...
Temple of the Dog is going on tour to commemorate its 25th anniversary. That's pretty awesome. So was Hunger Strike with Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses joining Pearl Jam for a rendition of the classic song. You might think you're sick of it, and I thought I was kind of over it until I had a chance to sing it with Chris Cornell as part of a sold out crowd in Lakewood.
Have a great weekend folks.