ET The Extra Terrestrial

Stranger Things

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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

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

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Cathy’s Take on ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – Fun Family Romp | Total Science Fiction

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Dee Wallace and E.T. The Extraterrestrial

How I Watched: The Drive Thru

If you would have told me 30 years ago that a Reeses-Pieces loving alien that looks like a penis would become a cultural sensation, I would have told you, “That sounds like E.T. The Extraterrestrial, and it did become a cultural sensation 4 years ago.” If you were to ask everyone in my apartment building the greatest movie of all time, most of them would say, “Oh yeah, that one’s pretty good,” after you mentioned E.T. The Extraterrestrial. There is perhaps not another movie more emblematic of the 1980s than the tale of a young boy and his non-earthling friend. I watched it originally in the drive thru when it came out and was instantly mesmerized by its love and friendship. It is currently on Netflix and is this week’s must see.

E.T. The Extraterrestrial is about a young boy named Elliott who discovers an alien in his backyard while taking out pizza scraps after getting in trouble by his mom (played by Dee Wallace) for cussing at his brother. He then traps the alien and they become friends. A young Drew Barrymore plays Elliott’s little sister and they have a big brother, though I don’t know his name. There is some weird stuff that happens like when E.T. The Extraterrestrial is watching The Quiet Man at home, Elliott starts sexually assaulting one of his classmates because all the frogs escape. Later on, they dress E.T. The Extraterrestrial up like a ghost and take him trick-or-treating. Then people in space suits find out that E.T. The Extraterrestrial is hiding with Elliott and they kidnap the whole family and put them into a bubble where Elliott and E.T. The Extraterrestrial almost die for some reason, but they escape and E.T. The Extraterrestrial gets picked up by his alien friends and presumably flies home.

Upon rewatching and relaying the action of E.T. The Extraterrestrial, I realize I don’t really understand what happened in that movie. But I really love the film and hope you choose to see it, if you haven’t. It is a fun family romp and deserves to be seen by all lovers of alien movies, especially the ones in which they aren’t trying to kill everyone. It has everything you would want in a science fiction movie; bicycle chases, Peter Coyote, aliens in women’s clothing, and little children flying through the air.

 
Cathy Gives It: I give this movie 10/10 phones home.