Stranger Things, S3, Ep1, Suzie, Do you copy?, Review By Case Wright, (Dir. Matt and Ross Duffer)


And…..We’re Back!

This series is special to me. It’s the first I ever reviewed for this site.  It was awesome- Read Here

I have watched every episode of this series.  The first season was epic and even engendered a ride at Universal Studios.  Season 2 was a show that was aired on Netflix with Sean Astin.  This season has a new big bad who looks a lot like last years big bad. So….I hope it’s better than last year’s terribleness.  This episode opened with a bit of meh, but better than Season Two’s sophomore slump.  I’m guessing that it will be kinda of fun to watch.  In any case, I write for an entertainment blog, so this is happening!

Cold Open: The Russians are trying to open the gate and they are EVIL!  One guy goes full on Ivan Drago (Rocky IV) and lifts a guy by the neck and chokes hims to death! Their experiment apparently releases the smoke monster again and he’s pissed at Hawkins!

Our older heroes are really not doing well.  Nancy is a gopher at a sexist newspaper.  Jake Busey is one of the reporters.  I’m not sure if Jake knew this was a role or if he thought, “I’ve always wanted to work at a newspaper in a dying town!” and just ran with it.  Creeper has found his niche working as a creepy photographer for a creepy newspaper.  We’re better off without elitist journalists anyway.  All Hail The Bloggers!!!!

Steve is working at the mall at a terrible ice cream shop and striking out with every girl in Indiana.  I suppose this is possible.  He wears a dorky outfit, but he’s still Steve.  I kinda doubted this whole constant rejection he’s getting.  I think it’s the writers were  thinking that the moment good looking people leave high school, they are nobody.  This doesn’t make sense because IRL beautiful people make tons of money as actors and generally do pretty well getting dates.  It takes me out of it a little.

The gang is all about their hormones.  Mike and El are constantly making out and disrespecting Hop, which I really can’t stand.  Hop is troubled by and turns to his unrequited love Joyce who tells him to get to get all kumbaya and I just can’t watch.  This comes to a head at the end of the episode where Hop loses it and I’m hoping he smacks Mike around- in a nice way.

Dustin returned from science camp and he built a Radio Tower to speak with his girlfriend in Utah.  Everyone keeps acting totally shocked that Dustin could have a girlfriend.  This came across as mean and dickish to me.  I mean Dustin isn’t Brad Pitt, but he’s smart and nice.  Anywho, they erect the radio tower and Dustin can’t reach her, giving his girlfriend claim a “My girlfriend is in Canada” feel to it. To my Canadian readers, we down south have been claiming that you were our girlfriends for generations.  I know this sounds weird, but here we are.   He does pick up a signal from the Russians and they are trying to open their own gate to evil town.

Ok, Cara Buono is at the pool as is Mullet-guy.  Mullet-guy is now the lifeguard and they going to have an affair.  This all seems to be ready to go, but the smoke monster is taking up space in the abandoned Steel Mill and eats him or something.  Why a Steel Mill?  Well, the Smoke Monster is really into depressed real estate and factories can be converted into lofts for the hipster set.  It’s really forward thinking on Smokey’s part.

I would say this episode is a bit clunky, but good.  Is it the thrill ride of the first season? NO NO NO, but honestly what is?!  Stranger Things season 1 was a television event up there with The Stand, Shogun, or It.  In fact, it was never meant to be a recurring series until the last minute, but hey it’s better than watching re-runs of Parks and Rec.

See you soon for ep 2!!!




Lifetime Film Review: Hometown Killer (dir by Jeff Hare)

Penny (Ashley Gallegos) is your worst nightmare.

She’s a former high school outcast who can now legally carry a gun.  How much of an outcast was Penny?  She was such an outcast that she was humiliated at a school dance by a bunch of popular kids who tied her down to a chair, made her up to look like a pig, and then displayed her in front of the entire class.  Seriously, how do teenage bullies come up with stuff?  I mean, I was never one to take part in bullying but, even if I was, my ADD would make it impossible for me to pull off most of the elaborate schemes that always seem to take place in movies like this.

Anyway, Penny was traumatized by the whole incident but she still managed to graduate and eventually become a cop.  That’s right.  Penny is upholding the law and she’s got an entire department to back her up in case she happens to shoot anyone and …. well, can you see why this might be a problem for her former high school classmates?

One night, Penny is called out to investigate a home invasion.  After Penny shoots the home invader dead, she meets with the home’s owner and it turns out to be a former classmate, Tara (Kaitlyn Black)!  Tara, who seems to have no memory of Penny’s life being destroyed in high school, is soon hanging out with her old classmate.  She invites her to a party.  She and Penny go out to the desert for target practice.  The whole time, of course, Penny keeps imagining that she’s surrounded by the taunting laughter of her former classmates.  Penny’s going to get her revenge, even if it means coming up with a scheme that’s even more ludicrously elaborate as the one that embittered her in the first place.

Hometown Killer is a classic Lifetime film, one that full embraces every melodramatic possibility of its storyline.  Penny may be a dishonest murderer but you still feel sorry for her because of what she went through in high school.  This is one of those films that makes you think, “Y’know, she probably she shouldn’t be doing this but maybe she should.”  Director Jeff Hare adds enough little quirky touches to distinguish Hometown Killer from other, similar films.  I especially liked the way the he took us in and out of Penny’s mind, always keeping us off-balance as to whether or not we were seeing what was really happening or if we were instead seeing what Penny thought was reality.  It kept the audience off-balance and, as a result, Hometown Killer generated a lot more suspense than the average Lifetime film.

The success of a film like this pretty much hinges on the actress playing the killer and Ashley Gallegos did a great job of making Penny both sympathetic and frightening.  Perhaps her greatest moment in the film is when she simply watches the chaos that she’s created and allows herself a slightly satisfied smirk.  It’s a small moment but it tells us everything that we need to know about what’s going on in her head.  Also impressive was Kelly Marcus, who was wonderfully obnoxious as the prototypical high school bully who never adjusted to life in the real world.

Hometown Killer aired on Lifetime and, Lifetime being Lifetime, it will undoubtedly air again.  Keep an eye out for it!

Drive-In Saturday Night 4: WHITE LINE FEVER (Columbia 1975) & HIGH-BALLIN’ (AIP 1978)

cracked rear viewer

Breaker One-Nine, Breaker One-Nine, it’s time to put the hammer down with a pair of Trucksploitation flicks from the sensational 70’s! The CB/Trucker Craze came to be because of two things: the gas crisis of 1973 and the implementation of the new 55 MPH highway speed limit imposed by Big Brother your friendly Federal government. Long-haul truckers used Citizen’s Band radios to give each other updates on nearby fueling stations and speed traps set up by “Smokeys” (aka cops), and the rest of America followed suit.

Country singer C.W. McCall had a massive #1 hit based on CB/trucker lingo with “Convoy”, and the trucker fad was in full swing. There had been trucker movies made before – THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, THIEVES’ HIGHWAY, HELL DRIVERS, and THE WAGES OF FEAR come to mind – but Jonathan Kaplan’s 1975 WHITE LINE FEVER was the first to piggy-back on the new gearjammer…

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Lifetime Film Review: The Wrong Stepmother (dir by David DeCoteau)

“I hear that Maddie is one bad mother….”

“Shut your mouth!”

“But I’m talking about Maddie.”

“Then we can dig it!”

Actually, Maddie (Cindy Busby) is not a mother, though she would like to be.  She not even a stepmother, despite what the title says.  Instead, she’s just dating the recently widowed Michael (Corin Nemec).  If she does end up marrying Michael, Maddie will become a stepmother — perhaps even a WRONG stepmother — to his two daughters, Lilly (Calli Taylor) and Nicole (McKinley Blehm).

It doesn’t take Lilly long to realize that there’s something off about Maddie.  For one thing, she catches Maddie trying to check her social media.  Then she overhears Maddie claiming to be her mother.  And finally, Maddie changes up Lilly’s college admission essay.  See, Lilly wrote about how much her late mother influenced her.  Maddie, however, changes it into an essay about how much Lilly loves her future stepmother.

Yes, Maddie has some issues.  As we discover at the start of the film, she has a history of stalking people.  About halfway through the film, she murders two people.  Whenever you’re watching a film on Lifetime, you know someone’s going to get murdered at exactly halfway through the film.  You can set the time by it.

As with all of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, Vivica A. Fox has a small role.  In this one, she plays Ms. Price, the high school guidance counselor who is extremely unimpressed by Lilly’s college admissions essay.  When Ms. Price confronts Lilly about how unimpressive her essay was, Fox delivers the lines with such subtle fury and annoyance that it brought back a lot of high school memories for me.  As played by Fox, Ms. Price is the type of high school counselor who scares you to death but who also changes your life for the better.  If Ms. Price had been my counselor, I definitely wouldn’t have spent so much time skipping class and shoplifting makeup at Target.

Anyway, the main complaint that you always hear about Lifetime films is that they’re all exactly the same but that’s actually their appeal.  They’re fun to watch, precisely because 1) they’re predictable and 2) the viewer is always going to be smarter than the people in the movie.  I mean, we can take one look at Maddie and say, “Okay, don’t let her in the house.”  However, Michael’s not that smart and, if he was, we really wouldn’t have a movie.  Sometimes, you just have to stop crying about plausibility and enjoy what you’re watching.

The Wrong Stepmother gets a big boost from the casting of the always likable Corin Nemec as Michael.  I mean, it’s pretty much impossible not to root for a character played by Corin Nemec, even if that character is way too trusting of someone who he met on a dating app.  Meanwhile, Cindy Busby is properly psychotic as Maddie and, of course, you’ve got Vivica A. Fox changing lives as Ms. Price.

The Wrong Stepmother is an entertaining Lifetime film.  Watch it with your snarkiest friends.

Music Video Of The Day: What Do You Do For Money Honey by AC/DC (1980, directed by Eric Dionysius and Eric Mistler)

One reason why AC/DC has remained popular for such a long time is because there’s nothing phony about them.  They play hard rock, they play it loud, and they make no apologies.  That attitude can be found in all of their songs and also all of their videos.  The video for What Do You Do For Money Honey, like most of their videos, is a simple performance clip because AC/DC doesn’t need to do anything extra to rock you.

This song is from Back In Black, their first album after the death of lead singer Bon Scott.  After Scott’s death, the band came close to disbanding but were encouraged to stay together by Scott’s parents, who insisted that Scott would not have wanted his death to be the end of AC/DC.  Brian Johnson was subsequently brought in to replace Scott and the rest is history.  In What Do You Do For Money Honey, Johnson is singing to an unseen woman who avoids having to work by sleeping with older, wealthy men.

The song may not be as well-known as Highway to Hell but it’s still AC/DC rocking out as only they can.