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. 

Godzilla Vs. Kong Review: Pleasing My Inner Child.

3 and a half stars
Growing up, I always loved giant monster movies.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake was the film that got me interested in movies in the first place.
However, my favourite giant monster as a kid was not Kong but Godzilla.
I watched many of his films and even now still own a lot of them.
I’ve always been a fan of Kaiju movies, which has honestly made me disappointed in the whole monster cinematic universe so far.
I loved the first of these films, Godzilla, when it came out in 2014.
However, this was mainly because I was excited to finally see an accurate blockbuster representation of the big G on the big screen.
As time went on, I realized the film’s flaws more, like that it gets rid of the only interesting human character way too early and leaves us with only bland and generic ones, not focusing enough on Godzilla himself.

Killing off Bryan Cranston’s character and focusing on the rest of the bland human characters, instead of Godzilla, were the 2014 film’s biggest mistakes.

Then there’s it sequel and spinoff, King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, which were even more disappointing to me.
King of the Monsters just could not live up to its trailers, delivering an even worse cast of characters than the first, and Kong: Skull Island also focused on a mostly uninteresting cast, while I felt that one characters’ backstory should have been the entire plot of the movie.
So, taking all of this into account, I came into Godzilla vs. Kong excited to see these epic monsters have their first cinematic showdown since 1962, yet I was slightly skeptical.
You know what, though?
I came out of the theater actually very pleased with Godzilla vs. Kong. 
It’s a fun, cheer inducing film that pleased the inner child in me, who so loved Kaiju movies growing up.
Directed by Adam Wingard, the movie justifies its big fight between the two monsters by having a group of mostly uninteresting scientists using Kong to search for a power source inside the earth, with Kong’s presence drawing Godzilla out to fight.
Given how I just described the human characters, you can obviously see that I once again find them to be the biggest problem with the movie.
With a talented cast among the likes of Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, and Julian Dennison, I’d hoped they would at least be more interesting than the ones in the previous movies.
Alas, it was note to be, with many of them being incredibly one dimensional.
Not only this but I found that the storyline centering around Brown, Henry and Dennison’s characters could have been removed entirely from the film.
However, there is one interesting human character in the movie, Jia, a deaf girl played by Kaylee Hottle who has a connection with Kong, leading to a moment that gave me chills in the theater.

The bond between Jia and Kong is fantastic. This is how the relationship between humans and monsters should be portrayed in these movies.

I just wish that instead of the pointless conspiracy theory plotline we got more time with Jia and the characters surrounding her because this could have also made them way more interesting.
I think in the next monster movie they make whoever’s writing it should cut down on the number of characters, so they actually have time to develop some of them to the point that we can actually care about what happens to them and their arcs.
These flawed characters had me concerned for the first quarter of the movie, since it mainly focused on them.
I was worried this was going to be another movie where everything focused on the humans instead of the monsters fights, which were what we all actually wanted to see.
I am so glad that I was wrong and the film actually focused on the monsters.
After this first quarter, the movie picks up, delivering epic fight scene after epic fight scene, as Godzilla and Kong duke it out numerous times.
The way that these fights were shot, edited and given a sense of scale really amazed me.
It was something I’d been wanting from this monster cinematic universe since the very first one.
And that final fight.
That. Final. Fight.
What an incredible climax it was, gifting us with epic scenes that made me grin so hard I was sure my mouth was going to fall off.

The final battle between Godzilla and Kong gave me an experience that I have been waiting to see in theaters for a while.

These fight scenes saved the film for me, making up for the many uniteresting characters, unfunny jokes and pointless conspiracy subplot. 
I came to see the two most famous monsters of all time engage in a battle and that’s what I got, in sometimes spectacular fashion.
This makes the film worth the price of admission for me. 
I am sure that it pleased every single Kaiju fan’s inner child. 

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.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review – Cool Monsters, Boring People.

I have been a fan of the Godzilla series for a while so I was very excited to see the adaptations.
I found the first of them, Godzilla from 2014, to be good overall but with a lot of problems.
Sadly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Doughtery, also has many problems but less good things with the film largely focusing on boring, exposition spewing characters.
I was concerned about this right from the trailers, which were genuinely fantastic but also showed there were a lot of characters in the film, maybe too much even.
My fears were unfortunately realised yesterday when I went to see the film.
Picking up five years after the original, King of the Monsters follows the experiences of the Russel family, including Gary sue Mark (Kyle Chandler), his ex-wife with confusing motivations Emma (Vera Farminga) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), who I honestly forgot was in the film at times.

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Sadly, the Russell family does not hold that much emotional value. They did have potential but it is bogged down by the exposition.

Speaking of forgettable characters, Charles Dance plays the villain Alan Jonah whose character feels unneeded and, much like Emma, has very confusing motivation.
There are some returning characters like Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), who are just as forgettable as in the first Godzilla. 
Say what you want about that film but at least it had one interesting character in Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters does not have one interesting character, and almost every scene has them sprouting exposition in ways that are not at all interesting.
I already got sick of them saying Godzilla was a beacon of hope in the first film, I did not need to hear it multiple times in this one.
Thankfully, the film does get entertaining when the monsters do show up and fight.
These battles between Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan have some very spectacular moments.

Whenever the monsters are on screen the movie gets exciting, with King Ghidorah looking especially threatening.

There are even some points when an updated version of Godzilla’s original themes plays and this is my favourite part of the film, as it left me grinning from ear to ear.
Sure, the shots of the monsters are not as good as they were in Gareth Edward’s original film but they are competent enough here.
It is just annoying that they kept cutting to these boring characters, the worst offender being Emma because of the lack of connection between motivation and goal.

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Emma’s goal makes absolutely no sense based on her motivation. Not only this, but it is never explained why the human villains have their goals either.

Whenever the monsters appeared on screen I was entertained, which is good because they have more of a screen presence than in the first film, but whenever it cut to the human characters I was bored out of my mind.
What makes it worse is that these boring humans took up most of the screen time.
Overall, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a disappointing film.
There are some good moments of monster action, but you have to sit through scenes of boring, unrealistic characters who spew useless exposition to get to it.