Month: July 2016

Stranger Things


Stranger Things (2016) – Science Fiction | Horror

Created by: The Duffer Brothers

Starring: David Harbour and Winona Ryder

How I Watched: Netflix

Best Line: “Mouth-breather.”

Stranger Things is technically a television program. What it plays like, however, is the best 7-hour movie that you’ve never seen. For this reason, I have decided to review the series as a film. Stranger Things begins all too familiar. We are immediately reminded of the Spielberg family-scapes of a 1980’s suburbia and given to a not-so-motley crew of nerdy kids that even The Goonies would probably bully. The 80’s worship does not stop there, though. Everyone enjoys a good helping of neon, John Hughes inspired feels and a good Reagan-era pop hit, but Stranger Things takes the decade and molds the story around it.

I was born in the 1980’s. Before I was 5, though, they were over. I can’t really say I know what the decade was actually like, but I’ve always felt a strange kinship to its music, movies and pop culture. So whenever someone makes the creative choice of setting their story in the 80’s, I’m usually intrigued. Donnie Darko did an excellent job making you feel like you were watching something made in the 1980’s and Stranger Things is no different. The music is blissfully extreme in its synth-heavy soundscape, evoking the most insane crescendos in John Carpenter films. The characters’ fashion choices are tamed but convincing, and even a lot of the architecture looks as though it was ripped from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder hold their respective places in 1980’s filmdom. Ryder is excellent as a grieving mother in the series, slowly descending into understandable craziness while she desperately searches for her son. Modine plays a soft-spoken and mysterious doctor in a laboratory on the outskirts of town, and his looming, often creepy presence grows as the show progresses. Perhaps the most impressive character among the show’s adults, though, is that of David Harbour’s Sherriff Jim Hopper. We’ve all seen Harbour before in small parts (TV and film) but this is really a breakout role for him, as he excellently guides the cast through the series’ ups and downs.

The real stars of the series though, are the four geeky kids mentioned earlier. Never have I been more impressed with children acting than I have with Stranger Things. Led by the spectacular Finn Wolfhard as Mike (who has been cast as Richie Tozier in the new 2017 incarnation of IT), these three boys never give up looking for their friend Will who goes missing in the first installment. Will does not get much screen time, but when he does, he steals every frame. The actors playing Dustin and Lucas are excellent as well, battling bullies and difficulties of middle school life as D&D loving dorks. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is also a really cool character and the focus on her storyline grows throughout the series.

I think what impressed me most about Stranger Things was its ability to take so liberally from those projects that inspired it, and make it its own original story. At times, you’ll feel you’ve seen certain scenes before, whether it’s the bike chase scene in E.T., an alternate universe in Poltergeist or Under the Skin, telekinetic abilities in Stephen King stories like Carrie, a synth-heavy montage in a Carpenter flick…the list goes on and on. Once you watch it yourself, you’ll probably even discover nods yourself that I never would have thought of. It’s really incredible how well the Duffers acknowledge their influences in this.

It’s hard to put into words how much I really loved Stranger Things. It’s become so easy to just sit for hours and “binge” on shows featured on Netflix. But when a project like this comes out and there are only eight nearly hour-long episodes, it really becomes a feature film. A couple “episodes” in, you’re going to be facing a tough choice, just like I did: “I know it’s late, but this is so damn good. I need to finish this.” I suggest you do just that before someone ruins Stranger Things for you.

Final Score: 4/4


Similar Films: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Goonies, Poltergeist


Ghostbusters 3D (2016)


Ghostbusters 3D (2016) – Comedy

Directed by: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy

How I Watched: Theatres

Best Line: “Do NOT compare me to the Jaws Mayor!”

I love everything about the Ghostbusters universe. I grew up absolutely enthralled, playing with the firehouse, the corresponding figurines, multiple Slimer toys, the list goes on. I’ve got the first two installments on Laserdisc and have grabbed each new format that comes out what seems like every year. So when I got the news that Paul Feig was bringing us a new Ghostbusters, I was both excited and admittedly skeptical. How could I not be?

Feig is a funny man. He created Freaks and Geeks for us all, was one of the funniest parts of a horribly underappreciated film called Heavyweights, and has continued the traditions of the Judd Apatow school of drama-injected comedy. He also is a self-confessed Ghostbusters geek, so it makes sense why he was so dead set on bringing a new one to all of us. He knows this universe well and he did everything he could to bring us a faithful adaptation that does nothing to receive the vicious scrutiny thrown its way before the movie even had a chance to hit theatres.

This new installment is not without faults, though. It’s hard to live up to one of the most perfect comedies ever given to the world, but this film is loaded with all the capabilities and opportunity that I’ve ever seen. We all know from Bridesmaids, just how funny Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are together. Trust me, I was not all that impressed with that film the first time I saw it, but after I gave it a second chance, I have come to appreciate just how funny it is. Sure it has what I like to call the ‘Apatow Freeze’ (hilarious up until the middle of the movie, where the characters are suddenly facing some kind of depressing crisis), but its improv powers become more prevalent and hilarious with each viewing.

Though they feel a bit suppressed in Ghostbusters, Wiig and McCarthy do a pretty excellent job filling the shoes of both Aykroyd and Murray, while still carving their own place in this universe. I was under the impression that this new film was going to acknowledge the events of the first two. While it doesn’t really, the whole film feels like a loving tribute to those original two. Leslie Jones is much funnier and more prominent than Ernie Hudson (whose character was actually written for Eddie Murphy, then practically written out of the script once Murphy turned the part down) and Kate McKinnon pretty much steals the whole movie as the Spengler-inspired Holtzmann. Honestly, she’s going to be a force in Hollywood for a long time. If you’ve enjoyed her like I have on SNL for the past few years, you’ll love her character in Ghostbusters.

If there’s one thing I can knock from the first two installments, it’s the lack of making the ghosts a real force in the storyline. Sure, Vigo the Carpathian brings a Lovecraftian presence to II, and Gozer and the Marshmallow Man hold their place in the first, but they are not really frightening in the least. While the ghosts in the 2016 version are not really scary either, they look great and feel like they’re really part of the whole storyline. Slimer is back of course, and there are some new towering spectral entities destroying New York for our enjoyment.

The 2016 Ghostbusters is not perfect. Ramis, Aykroyd and Reitman brought us the perfect version back in 1984, so this one simply could not live up to that. What this new one brings though, is a very loving, affectionate trip into the universe, and rather than a replacement that it seemed like the entire internet feared (misogynist and otherwise), I’d consider this an additional installment in the Ghostbusters universe that already exists. So of course, you can say this new version is unnecessary and a smear on the first two movies. Real fans of the Ghostbusters films though, will consider this the Ghostbusters III that we’ve all been waiting for.

Final Score: 3/4


Similar Films: Ghostbusters (1984), Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters II

Cathy’s Take on ‘Turner and Hooch’

Turner and Hooch (1989) – Wacky Family Romp | Investigative Mystery

Directed by: Roger Spottywood

Starring: Tom Hanks and Hooch

How I Watched: The USA Channel, Complete with Commercial Interruptions

I am so so so sorry to all the Net-Heads and Flix-Feets out there that were so disappointed by the lack of column, especially with such great films leaving Netflix last week. Oh, boy, did I have a doozy of a week, my friends.

It started off well enough with Pam, my bank teller, introducing me in the line at the bank to this wonderful gentleman named Cash Jones, which as I write this seems like a fake name. But he was a really handsome man with a bald spot surrounded by salt-and-pepper hair. He kind of looked like Sam Elliot if Sam Elliot was a foot shorter and a hundred pounds heavier and didn’t have a mustache or cowboy hat.

We got to talking while I filled out my deposit slip and he laughed at all my jokes and anecdotes about when I worked as a receptionist for a veterinarian clinic. We planned a date after I wrote my number on a deposit slip and that evening, I waited in the parking lot of Sonic for him to show up, but he never showed up. I then tried to buy some tater tots from Sonic because they have wonderful tater tots, but my debit card was declined which I thought was strange. I am in no way a wealthy lady, but I am definitely tater tot rich.

So, I called the bank and it turns out my bank account was empty. I had no clue what was going on so I called Pam, but the bank was closed. I called the one eight-hundred number on the back of the card, and they answered and stated that all my money had been withdrawn earlier that day at four-twenty-five from the bank, which was five minutes after I left the bank. 

So, I called Cash Jones’ cell phone, both to remind him that we had a date tonight and also to warn him that there was apparently a thief among us at the bank who had stolen all of my money and could have possibly stolen his money too. But I couldn’t get a hold of him. It would seem that in my haste to write down such a beautiful man’s number, I must have jumbled some numbers, because the line I called was a dry-cleaner’s number in Des Moines.

So, I went home to settle down and watch some of the new season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix which I am over the moon about and came to find out that Netflix tried to bill my account, but since I had no money, it wouldn’t go through. There I was, pennyless and Netflixless and without a friend in the world until Penny got into the bank the next day. 

I toiled around on the cable television, watching the last part of Turner and Hooch complete with commercial interruptions. I had never seen the film before and found Tom Hanks to be delightful and the investigation very interesting, as I was going through my own investigation, albeit without a massive dog. Just me, Pam, and Carmen, my mutt puppy. 

I am still working on getting my money back, but have since got my most recent paycheck and a new bank account and a new lease on a new cautious outlook on life. Netflix is back. It is a scary world out there, kids. Change those PIN numbers and be careful when you stop at an ATM Machine.

As it turns out, Turner and Hooch just got added to Netflix. Haven’t seen all of it, but it is pretty good. You should watch it.

Cathy Gives It: I give Turner and Hooch 10 out of 10 hooches.

Exclusive Chapter from ‘Burning Books’


Chapter Four – Adam and the Big Black Dick

The raw ache of my throbbing head is my only sense as I awaken. Everything is blurry as I’m trying to open my eyes but the right one feels like it’s glued shut. I can hear the wind rustling through the trees above me. I’m pulling down the bottom of my eyelid so I can see but it’s caked so thick that I have to scrape away what seems like inches of squishy goo. Blood. I finally regain some semblance of strength and manage to sit up. My head feels like it is swimming through a sludgy lake of shit.

As I finger away the last of the coagulated puddle from my eye, I look into the forest enveloping me. It’s almost dark, the moon ducking behind and jumping out of the clouds passing by. The path I’m lying on is wet with rain, my suit now covered in mud. For some reason this is a major concern. Somehow, I had just managed to get from a job interview in Munchkin Land to a forest in Who-The-Fuck-Knows, and my biggest worry is the well-being of the donated suit I bought from a thrift store. Fucking idiot. I try to stand up, but the blood rushing through my body seems thick and unwilling to travel to my extremities. I fall, woozy, landing on my ass.  There is a fiery red panic that perches upon my ragged head. This is an unknown land on the other side of some pyrotechnic show called the end of the world, and here I am, an invalid in all its myriad meanings. I settle down, telling myself not to break down. That guy would not resolve to a ball on the floor. I have never had a concussion, but I imagine that unlike countless action flicks, the reality of any post concussive action on my part is not going to happen. For all I know, my brain sustained a trauma so heinous, it decided to peace out for a period. How long, who knows?  Upon regaining my outer motor functions, I stand successfully. I’d assume civilization, including a police station and hospital are somewhere in some general direction, so I decide to walk forward, soon finding myself on a path.

This path is not well traveled. In fact, calling it a path would be an egregious exaggeration. It’s more of a somewhat continuous series of trampled grass and occasional collection of puddles. I stick with it as I conclude that’s the most sensible thing I’ve done all day. I’m reaching into my pockets, feeling around for my cell phone. It’s not there and it makes me wonder if I even brought it to the interview. Nope. Left it plugged in at the hotel. Awesome. The smell of rain is fresh on the air, birds just now coming out of hiding and revealing themselves to each other in what remains of the weirdest fucking day of my life.

I’ve been walking for about twenty minutes, gingerly fingering the small gash on my head responsible for the eye-cake. That tiny son of a bitch did this. Musey. What kind of name is that? Little bastard just dropped me off here in the middle of nowhere. Reeled me into his retarded, sex-fiend scheme. I keep feeling around my asshole to make sure I didn’t get roofied and buttfucked by a midg…sorry, little person. I think I’m ok. Of course, I’ve never been buttfucked or roofied so I don’t really know the residual side effects.

The path is slowly converging into a road and with each step is becoming more and more defined. This gives me comfort, as it is a clear sign of civilization. I see something through the trees around the bend. It is clearly man-made and my heart wells with both panic and excitement. Either my nightmare will be over, or it is simply just starting. Two sides of the spectrum, that is all on which I ever focus. Ahead, I recognize what seems to be a…

Wagon?! Like some horse and buggy shit. Colonial Williamsburg shit. So, this is it? That’s the conclusion. Some midget, as some elaborate prank, has dropped me in the middle of some attraction, or maybe I am the unwilling participant in some Truman Show reality program. “Watch what happens when we drop shitty blogger, Adam Russell, into some Amish community where all the men have beards and bull testicles are used as currency! How will he deal in a strongly patriarchic society having never had a father of his own? How will he connect with other humans without a computer in front of him?”  Yeah, that is what I was thinking too, Mr. Announcer. I can barely comprehend what I am seeing in the waning daylight. In fact, I wouldn’t have even considered it a wagon except for the two horses neighing at the sight of me. I’m stopped cold, fearing yet again a buttfucking. If this isn’t some TV show, there is nothing to stop a burly bear from turning my insides into ramen. I weigh whether or not this thought is homophobic. I conclude it is and the shame rolls in. Fuck. I’m walking now.

There is a sudden flash of blue from the side of the wagon. I jump out of the path, falling into the grass hoping whoever it is doesn’t see me. He totally does. I can see his feet coming toward me in the grass now. I’m on my stomach, frantically scuffling backwards through the wet grass. I probably look like an undisguised, mentally-challenged Spiderman, crawling on a random forest floor. His foot is now right in front of my face and my crotch is soaked through. Hopefully it’s the rain.

“Who are you? What are you doing?”

Goddammit, Adam. That’s a woman’s voice.

I’m looking up and smiling, feeling like the world’s biggest asshole. I flip over onto my back and hold out my hand. She takes it and pulls me up, my disgustingly wet crotch on full display.

“Uh, hey, yeah I don’t know. I just woke up down the road there and then I saw your wagon and yeah. I don’t know.”

She’s staring at me quizzically, a coarse round piece of what looks like a crowbar in her hand. I notice her blonde hair bound tightly against her scalp, giving her a natural, intimidating scowl. She his wearing a blue dress in a style I’ve never seen any woman wear. I’m guessing she’s about my age, which initially excites me. I imagine how close these tourist attraction actors stay to their part. If this lady is method, I am afraid of what the hygiene situation may be. Surprisingly, my penis does not share this concern.

“Don’t look at me like that, you son of a bitch.”

Never mind, boner.

“Listen, I’ve had a really long day. Could you tell me how to get back downtown? I can call a cab from your house or something, or if you could drive me somewhere, that’d be killer.”

She’s staring at me and takes a step back. She’s grasping the crowbar with both hands now, lifting it slowly into the air. There is really nothing left of the sun at this point.

“Whoa, whoa, listen! Hey, I’m sorry, I promise I’m not a creepy rapist or anything. I have a girlfriend. Listen, c’mon!”

She’s still backing up and trips on a rock falling onto her ass. Hard.

“Jesus, lady, you ok?”

I’m leaning down to pick her up and she’s pointing her shaking finger past my head. She’s trying to say something but is just gasping warm air onto my battered face. Finally, I can make out a single word.


She rises frantically and runs toward the trees opposite of me. I’m just watching her run, screaming past the wagon. The horses are going insane. I turn around to see what she was pointing at and there’s nothing but the waving trees in the moonlight. I cautiously follow her, wondering if she may have hit her head. The horses are jumping like baboons in the zoo, so I go around them as best I can. I notice the broken axle on the wagon and discover why she was stranded out here in the first place. I look in her direction and see her run past a tree and decide to catch up to her. The wind is whipping everything into a frenzy, and the frenzy is whipping up a high school sized anxiety attack inside my chest.

I start walking toward the trees, attempting to prove to her I am not a time traveling rapist/murderer. She peers out and motions for me to get down so I go to one knee and look in every direction. Oh shit, it is not me she is scared of. I see nothing. Looking back to her, she motions at the abandoned wagon. The squealing of the horses has been replaced by a looming silence. The sunlight has almost completely vanished from the sky but I can see that the horses are lying on the ground, convulsing violently. Some kind of glossy, black mass is jumping back and forth between them. Imagine five guys in a line taking turns biting an apple and a microphone is up really close to capture the sound. That’s what this thing is doing to those horses. It’s horrifying. I can’t move and I can’t fully make out what is happening. My best idea is to lie down in the grass again. Therefore, I do as if any drastic movement may force the world to turn against me, well, more than it seemingly already has.

For a few seconds, I consider reasoning with the big black thing. I’m not a horse. I’m in a shitty suit. I can’t look too appetizing. Then I realize it’s eating horses and nothing I know of that eats horses raw is reasonable. Besides, even reasonable upstanding humans are a difficulty for me. So, I continue to lie in that wet grass, silent and submissive to whatever may come next. Death? Fuck it, stranger shit has happened today.

It’s walking toward me now. I can’t see it, but I can hear it. It sounds like it’s dragging a shovel with it. With every step it makes a disgusting sound, a lot like someone snoring when they have a really bad cold; that open-mouthed death rattle, where liquid is begging escape from the swollen lungs. Somehow it doesn’t see me. Perhaps it finds no fun in killing a man that openly accepts death. As it walks past, I decide I’m safe to get a look at it. As I’m flipping over to my hands and knees, I observe:

It’s an inky-black monster. No other way to put it. There is no human way to reference what I’m looking at. Other than it’s big fucking cock and balls dragging through the grass. It’s got to be more than seven feet tall. Not its cock, but the monster itself. Its cock is probably four feet long, digging a trench through the violated grass. It’s going right for her.

She jumps out from behind the tree and falls to the ground screaming. It’s like watching one of those black and white monster movies from the 50’s. She’s so damsel-in-distress and acts as though holding her arm out over her face will somehow defend her.  It is a natural reaction, I have heard. Many gunshot murder victims show bullet holes through their hands. I guess the end of your run is considered a good time to test out that superhuman strength you always suspected. Undeterred, it grabs her hand and bites down. I see a soft spray of blood glisten in the moonlight. Two of her fingers fall sloppily out of the thing’s disgusting mouth. Her screams are absolutely deafening.

Without even realizing it, I’m on my feet. Between the dick demon and me is the crowbar, sitting and waiting patiently for a chivalrous action. In one swift motion I’m running through the grass, grabbing the crowbar and crushing the uncircumcised hood of the Big Black Cock Monster’s big black cock into the soft ground. Black ooze sprays in all directions. My face and the woman’s are covered in what’s sure to be monster dick blood. Or cum. The thoughts and possibilities are limitless. Its ungodly shrieks send me sprawling back onto my ass.

I sit up and watch the creature struggle to lift the crowbar out of his pinned dick, his four arms with two elbows each working violently. He jerks the crowbar up and it flies out of his craggy, black hands right at me. A sudden jolt of pain. The seemingly hundred mile per hour crowbar cuts through my forearm and sends me to the ground screaming. I hear the creature shriek and then numerous pulses as it brushes past the trees above me, into the moonlight. The eight fingered blonde woman comes running up to my side, the blood from her hand dripping onto my face.

“What have you done?!”

Damn, she is angry. What have I done?


Eric Scot Lemons and Sheldon Spanjer have been working on ‘Burning Books’ for centuries. Keep your eyes out for the complete novel sometime in the 2100’s. You can find them on Twitter: @ericscotlemons | @sheldonspanjer