Stranger Things Season Four, Volume 2 Review: Epic Prelude to the Final Season.

In my review for the first volume for Stranger Things’ Fourth Season, I called it “one hell of a return,” and even stated that it “may be the best season of the show so far.”
Well, after watching Volume 2, I can now state that Season Four is definitely the best season of the show so far, at least in my opinion.
The final two episodes of the season, “Papa” and “The Piggyback”, made for an intense first-time watch, with “The Piggyback” making me grip the chair arm I was sitting by tightly for the entirety of its two and a half-hour runtime.

“Papa” and “The Piggyback” are both nerve wracking episodes with plenty of highlights.

Picking up from Episode Seven’s cliffhanger, Volume Two sees our various groups of characters preparing to take the fight to Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower).
In California, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) decides to engage in this fight prematuely to save her friends, which Dr Brenner (Mathew Modine) is against, unaware that Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) are on their way to rescue her.
Back in Hawkins, Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), Dustin (Gaten Mazzaro), Max (Sadie Sink), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) prepare for their own fight with Vecna, initiating a complicated plan in the hopes of killing the monster.
Meanwhile, Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) attempt to escape Russia, before realizing they may have to deal with the Demogorgons connected to the Mind Flayer’s Hive Mind. 

Almost every character has a part to play in Season Four’s epic conclusion.

These three storylines intersect as the plan to kill Vecna is put into action, with various excellent cases of editing connecting the characters in different locations together.
Speaking of these characters, there are so many standout moments from all of them, from Eleven confronting Brenner for his horrific actions, to Will’s confession to Mike through taking about Eleven, and Eddie and Dustin’s epic distraction that was teased so often in trailers.
The best scene by far, however, is the one I’ll call the  “Running UpThat Hill” scene and leave it at that.
Just as Volume One’s best scene centered around the Kate Bush song, so does Volume 2’s. 

It’s crazy how Stranger Things revitalized the song through using it in epic scenes twice for Season Four.

The aftermath of this scene even has some of the best acting of the entire series, with Caleb McLaughlin’s performance being so gut wrenching it brought me to tears.
This was not the only moment in Volume 2 to do this because there is another scene with Dustin that also had a similar effect on me.

There are a few scenes in the final episode that are tear inducing but McLaughlin’s scene takes the cake.

However, this is where my my one criticism of Volume 2 comes in and that is the character fates, some of them anyway.
A few of the saves characters get do feel a little too deus ex machina, though I do understand the Duffer Brother’s reasoning for making the saves happen.
I just think such moments could have been written a little better.
Otherwise, I would say that Volume 2 is excellently written, with so many scenes that made me feel tense, fearful, gut punched, overjoyed and extremely excited for what is to come in Season Five, which I think it has been said is the final season.
If it is indeed the last we get of Stranger Things, then I’m looking forward to it even more than I was previously because Iam now pretty confident that the Duffer Brothers can end this story right, after the greatness that was Season Four.       

Stranger Things Season Four Volume One Review: A Dark Return.

After almost three years, Stranger Things has finally returned to Netflix for its Fourth Season and, wow, was this one hell of a return.
Created by the Duffer Brothers, this may be the best season of the show so far, delivering stellar story telling, character development, scares, comedy, you name it and it’s probably there.
Season Four picks up with the main characters divided, Joyce (Winona Ryder) having taken Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) to California, leaving Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Max (Sadie Sink), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) in Hawkins.
It is with the latter group that the story is most engaging, as they investigate a series of gruesomely horrific murders in Hawkins that somehow involves the mysterious monster in the Upside Down known as Vecna.
Meanwhile, in California, Joyce and Murray (Brett Gelman) begin their own mission, when they learn that Hopper (David Harbour) may just be alive but a captive in Russia.
At the same time, Eleven dealing with some over-the-top bullies at school sets her down the path of confronting her horrific past, eventually learning the horrible truth about what happened to the other numbers. 

The exploration of Eleven confronting her past is thankfully done much better than Season Two’s “The Lost Sister.”

So, as you can gather, there are a lot of moving parts to the Fourth Season of Stranger Things but the Duffer Brothers and their team juggle it all seamlessly with some excellent pacing.
They even somehow find enough time to bring in new characters like Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) and make them just as interesting as the older characters.
All of this results in some truly brilliant episodes like the fourth, “Dear Billy,” and the seventh, “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”, which has a mind blowing ending.     
“Dear Billy” is especially amazing, potentially being the best episode of the entire series with plenty of spectacular action, horror and character development, especially for Max, who Sadie Sink plays excellently.

Max is definitley the best character in this season so far, with Sadie Sink delivering by far her best performance as the character.

As for my criticisms of the season, I did find the California storyline, with the exception of Eleven’s sections, to be not as interesting as the rest of the storylines.
Sure, there are some great moments, one action scene in particular but, for the most part, I was just wanting to get back to the other storylines whenever the focus went back to the California group.
Another problem I have is characters constantly receiving injuries that should leave them unable to walk, yet they are running with no problem in the next episode. 
It stretched believability a little bit. 
Finally, and this is a minor nitpick, but it was especially apparent this season that some of the actors cast as teenage side characters are way into their twenties and maybe even thirties.
Some of them did not look like high-schoolers at all and this could be quite off putting at times.
Thankfully, these were only side characters so it was not a massive issue.
Otherwise, this season is absolutely fantastic.

The issues this season has are far outweighed by its many, many positives.

What’s even better is that this is only Volume One.
We still have Volume Two to come, where the final episode will be two and half hours long.
The only downside is that we have to wait until July 1st to see these final two episodes of Season Four and, with how incredible this season has been so far, that is going to make the wait even longer.   

I cannot wait to see how Volume Two will conclude this season.

If you somehow have not checked our the Fourth Season of Stranger Things yet, then I would highly recommend you drop everything and go watch it.
Although, now that I think about it, maybe you should wait for Volume Two to come out to watch the whole thing.
It would certainly make your wait to see Season Four’s conclusion a lot shorter. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review: Bringing a Smile to my Face.

The Ghostbusters franchise has an interesting history, with the first one being considered a classic by many and its sequel also being enjoyed, although thought to be not as good.
Personally, it’s been a while since I saw the second one, but I do remember quite liking the first one.
Unfortunately this was not the case for the 2016 reboot, which I found to be quite bad and unfunny, apart from a few moments that made me chuckle.
Coming into the latest film in the franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I was actually pretty optimistic since it’s directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the director of the first two film’s, Ivan Reitman.
Sure enough, Afterlife is a charming movie which I am sure a lot of fans of the first two Ghostbusters films will enjoy. 

I found myself smiling a lot watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The movie follows a struggling family who move to the small remote town of Summerville to live in their dead grandfather’s rundown farm.
However, after strange happenings, the daughter of the family, Phoebe, begins to realize that something paranormal is going on in Summerville, something which their grandfather had been trying to stop, as he may have been a Ghostbuster.
Phoebe is without a doubt the heart and soul of this movie, with McKenna Grace delivering an excellent performance as the quirky and courageous kid.

I hope McKenna Grace’s career takes off after this film because she is excellent in it.

Phoebe’s mother Callie (Carrie Coon), and her new science teacher Gary Grooberson are also interesting characters, and I actually wish Gary got more screen time, since I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s performance.
The one exception to all this is the son of the family, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), whose story I quickly became disinterested in and felt that it was kind of out of place with the rest of the narrative.
Said narrative is also entirely predictable and full of fan service.
However, I am not saying that either of those things are bad things.
Sure, I guessed where the story was going pretty easily as I was watching, but the story was so charming that I was just along for the ride.
As for the fanservice, we already know from Spiderman: No Way Home that it can be used excellently, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is another example of this.
I remember grinning from ear to ear during one exciting chase sequence in the film.
It made me feel the same level of enjoyment that I remember feeling when watching the original Ghostbusters all those years ago. 

And this chase is not the only scene in the movie that brought me joy seeing.

This all culminates in a heartfelt ending that really pays respect to the old cast, both those still with us and one who has tragically passed.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a perfectly enjoyable movie with a lot of charm and I would recommend it to any fan of the franchise who has somehow not seen it yet. 

Stranger Things Season Three Review: Best Season Yet.

4 and a half stars
Stranger Things 
is one of Netflix’s biggest shows and there was much excitement surrounding its third season.
I enjoyed the first and second season a great deal and was hoping that this third one could live up to them.
Well, I am happy to say that Stranger Things season is probably my favourite so far.
Dropped on the fourth of July, the Duffer brothers take the story in an interesting direction with plenty of great character moments, laughs, horror, and, of course, nostalgia.
After defeating the Mind Flayer, our central characters are no longer kids, growing into their teenage years where they begin to value dating over Dungeons and Dragons, much to Will’s (Noah Schnapp) dismay.
However, when the evil force returns because of experiments committed by stereotypically evil, cold war Russians, it is up to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends to find a way to stop it once more.

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The Mind Flayer is back with an all new, disgusting, CGI monster at its disposal.

The first few episodes start off slow before it all builds towards an epic conclusion.
Much like the previous seasons, this one has the characters split up into multiple groups, giving them all a chance to shine.
The relationship troubles of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven are endearing, as is Eleven’s friendship with Max (Sadie Sink), which is a nice change of pace considering Max was treated unfairly for no reason back in season two.
Then there is Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) who make a great pair again, especially with Hopper’s hilarious anger issues.
The best group of the entire season though has to be Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery), Erica (Priah Ferguson) and new character Robin (Maya Hawke).
These four characters have plenty of hilarious scenes that had me clutching my stomach with laughter.
Not only that, they have plenty of great emotional moments as well, with one conversation between Steve and Robin, in a bathroom, giving me a feeling that a life long friendship had been forged.

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The bathroom scene between Steve and Robin is one of my favourite character moments of the season with Keery and Hawke doing a great job.

This season is sadly not all laughs though because there is plenty of horror to be had with the Mind Flayer’s new weapon.
The CGI is handled very well for this disgusting creature, which begins to influence many characters, including Billy (Dacre Montgomary).
Which reminds me of another thing I love about Stranger Things, character redemption.
The Duffer brothers are able to take characters that seem irredeemable at first only to turn this original perception of them on its head.
Billy is one such character because, even though he is a villain this season, he is made a very relatable one by the final episode.

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Montgomary makes Billy both threatening and sympathetic this season as the Mind Flayer begins to use him as its latest host.

Sadly, he is also where an issue I have lies.
There is an ultimately pointless subplot where Billy tries to have an affair with Mike’s mum and it has absolutely no impact on the story, feeling like a complete waste of time.
This took up so little screen time though that it is forgivable.
Season three of Stranger Things is almost certainly my favourite season of the bunch, and I am excited to see where it goes from here.
Even if some people do have more issues with the season than I do, they still have to admit that there is nothing as terrible as the “Lost Sister” episode of season two.