Dacre Montgomery

She’s Our Friend And She’s Crazy

Last summer, Netflix released a series that transported viewers back to the 1980’s as part of a sci-fi drama set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. The series, Stranger Things, was an immediate hit and rightfully so. The attention to cinematic detail and inspired story line is an ode to 80’s horror and science fiction films. Today Netflix released the second season of the Emmy-winning series.

The setting of Stranger Things begins when a young boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), disappears through supernatural means to another dimension, “The Upside Down”, and follows the journey of the Will’s friends’ and mother Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) quest to find him again. Will’s friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), also receive help in finding him from a mysterious girl they encounter with psychokinetic abilities who goes by the name, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). The cast also includes David Harbour as police chief Jim Hopper, Cara Buono as Mike’s mother Karen Wheeler, Natalia Dyer as Mike’s sister Nancy Wheeler, Charlie Heaton as Will’s brother Jonathan Byers, Joe Keery as Nancy’s boyfriend Steve Harrington, Shannon Purser as Nancy’s best friend Barbara “Barb” Holland, and Matthew Modine as scientist Martin Brenner. The series was created by twin brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer, known professionally as “The Duffer Brothers”.

When creating the series, The Duffers used influences from other science fiction and horror films as well as from Stephen King novels. In fact the name “Stranger Things” was similar to the name of King’s novel “Needful Things”. The brothers also used influence from King’s novel “Firestarter” for the name as well. While filming the series, it was the Duffers’ intention to pay homage to as many 1980’s films as they could by creating similarities to the films like using every day objects and turning them into supernatural means of communication (the Christmas lights), using similar film shots, and using a Leica lens and 6K Red Scarlet Dragon (80’s film equipment) to shoot. The head of props also used eBay, flea markets, and estate sales to find as many 1980’s artifacts as possible to use for props for the series. Almost all of the props were authentic, aside from some pieces, like the Dungeons & Dragons books, that needed to be replicated for the show.

I began hearing about the show some time in late August-September of 2016, but I didn’t watch it for another 3 months. I started watching it in mid-December. I wasn’t sure if I’d be into it, but I decided to give it a chance because there was a lot of hype surrounding the series. It definitely hooked me, although I wouldn’t claim to be a super fan. I still don’t understand the hype over, “Barb” (to be honest, not even The Duffer Brothers anticipated that). The series is entertaining though and highly reminiscent of 80’s films. Honestly, it really isn’t something I’d normally watch, but I like the fact that the kids in the series play leading roles. I think that’s what attracted me to it, if anything. I like a good coming of age story. This definitely isn’t coming of age, but I attributed the kids as leads to that.

As I mentioned, the second season of Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 2, released today on Netflix. The second season begins close to a year after the first season began as it approaches the anniversary of Will’s disappearance. The characters are still dealing with the aftermath of what went down a year ago. The new season also sees some new faces join the cast with Sadie Sink as new girl Max, Dacre Montgomery as Max’s older stepbrother Billy, Sean Astin as Joyce’s new boyfriend Bob Newby, and Paul Reiser as Department of Energy executive Owens. I began watching it this morning. I’ve already watched the first two episodes. I love a good binge, but I’m going to try to savor these 9 episodes as much as I can, which is why I took a break to write this blog post. If you’re reading this, I guess you’re probably taking a break too, but if you’re not and you’re now interested in the series, log on to your Netflix account and give the acclaimed series Stranger Things a chance, mouth-breather.

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It’s Morphin’ Time

If you saw my tweets recently, you could’ve made a good guess that this blog post was coming. Yesterday I saw the much anticipated Power Rangers movie. If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you probably watched or at least knew about the Power Rangers. They were all the rage back then.

Power Rangers (TV) was a TV series created by Haim Saban about teenage superheros that defended Earth against monsters and creatures who tried to threaten their town and their planet. The rangers were recruited by the leader Zordon. Becoming a ranger gave each teen special powers that allowed them to fight those that threatened Earth. Sometimes that wasn’t even enough to defeat the beasts. When that happened, the rangers utilized vehicles called Zords that were based off of prehistoric animals to help them win battles. The Zords could also come together to create a giant Megazord when necessary. The original TV series used battle footage from a similar Japanese TV series called Super Sentai. The only difference was that the American series used American actors for parts of the show when the Rangers weren’t in battle and voiced over the other parts in English using the American actors.

The movie which was released last weekend was based off the original TV series but set in modern time. It was written by John Gatins and directed by Dean Israelite. It stars relative newcomers Dacre Montgomery as Jason (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger), Becky G as Trini (Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin as Zack (Black Ranger).

Power Rangers (Film) tells the story of the formation of the rangers and ends in one giant battle with villain and former ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and her minion Goldar. Rita, who was banished to the bottom of the sea from a meteor strike ordered by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Red Ranger, comes back to life when her body is discovered while simultaneously the group of teenagers discover the power coins (the Rangers’ power source) in the mountains of their hometown Angel Grove. Zordon of course returns as well once the Rangers discover his underground spaceship/base. He is still the commander/go-to guy of the Power Rangers. (Fun Fact: Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon, actually did voice overs for the original series and the Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston, was named for him.) Zordon’s assistant, the robot Alpha-5 (Bill Hader), returns as well.

The movie does something the TV show failed to do though. It goes deeper. The film really explores the rangers on an individual level. Each teenager has depth and a story to contribute to the overall concept of the film which is the whole Power Rangers/teenage superhero thing. That’s why I consider this new film to be based off the old series and not a remake of it. The Power Rangers concept in total is re-imagined in this new film.

I saw the Power Rangers preview trailer a few months ago without knowledge of the film at all. I never thought I’d be interested in seeing the Power Rangers again, but the trailer made the film look so good that I couldn’t help but want to see it, especially as a former fan. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long. I was anticipating the release for the last month or so though.

(WARNING: Some spoilers in here.) My first impression of the film gave it this sort of Breakfast Club vibe with a few of the kids meeting/recognizing each other in Saturday detention that they all received for different reasons contributing to each characters’ story lines. As the film went on though, it lost that feeling and created this new age Power Rangers that was better than the original. It was as if the story of the Power Rangers grew up while at the same time so did its fans. I thought this new movie represented exactly where the Power Rangers needed to be in this day and age from the setting, to the characters, and to the characters’ stories, which provided brief moments relevant for those on the autism spectrum as well as for members of the LGBT community that didn’t overshadow the main story. It also provided just the right amount of nostalgia for fans of the original series with the brief incorporation of the Power Rangers theme song and the cameo appearance by Amy Jo Johnson (the former Pink Ranger/Kimberly) and Jason David Frank (the former Green Ranger/Tommy). It’s a movie that people of my generation who were fans can bring their kids to see and both can share in this new yet old experience together.

According to what I’ve read, there’s supposed to be 6 Power Ranger films so the story and story lines will obviously develop much further if the first movie is any indication. The end of Power Rangers also teases the next film in such a way that fills fans with anticipation. I know I’m already ready for the second installment in this new series. I might just have to satisfy my Power Rangers craving by seeing this movie again. It was that good and even better than I expected! If you were a Power Rangers fan and you haven’t seen this movie yet, go see it! I promise you’ll love it.