September 5th, 2022 (Labour Day)

Stranger Things 4: Stranger Things is one of the most popular series that Netflix has every produced. When first introduced it was a nostaligic, retro roll back to the 80s (with 80s stars like Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine) along with a scary tale filled with sci fi elements and decent effects. Set in a small town, there is a local high school who’s students are the stars of the show who have grown before our eyes. In a Stand By Me kind of way, these close friends, who are also not the popular kids, more leaning towards the geeky and nerdy deal with unusual situations in their town. Adding to the intrigue, are experiments being undertaken with young children by a doctor and his team to explore their telepathic powers. In some ways this is reminiscent of the treatment of pre-cogs in the Tom Cruise film Minority Report. Add in a police force that deals on the facts, and some 80s era Russian paranoia and there is the makings of the series.

One of the things that this series seems to do well, written by the Duffer Brothers (great name!), is that they are building on the seasons, even though I am sure that they didin’t initially think that it would go further than season 1. This season four splits up the cast into groups: the police and Winona are dealing with the Russian angle and saving the police officer, Eleven is looking to regain her powers and delve more deeply into her earlier days with other younger children with the gift and then the group of high school friends is looking to investigate some horrific murders and dealing with popular kids. I found that the Russian aspect of this equation was the weakest. I wasn’t fully engaged, while struggling with how Winona and team would be able to assist the kids back in the town to any extent. Meanwhile, the kids were interacting with their own relationships all the while looking to find out the source of these murders. It seems to be someone very powerful who is terrorizing the town once again. The town can’t seem to get a break. Eleven decides that the best way for her to help is to get back her abilities and obtaining them through the doctor who hasn’t always had her best interests at heart. The story continues. This isn’t as good as Season 1 where everything was fresh and new. We learned about the upside down, and parallel plain of existence. It was through one of the boys initially, Winona’s youngest son that this was examined. As these younger kids grow, the complexity of the relationships between them is inevitably. They are young adults. So there is a romantic element explored more fully. We also have early days of being gay for a time when this was not out in the open. All in all, I enjoyed this, it is a substantial commitment in time, with the last episode itself over 2 hours. Much of it could be skipped, since it takes longer than it needs to for us to be ready for the conclusion. If you are a fan, it’s okay. If not, I would suggest at least seeing the first season to better understand the cast and the situation. Jumping in at this point could be confusing. I do really enjoy the fact that a result of this show has been a resurgence in the music of Kate Bush. Her Running Up That Hill/Deal With God plays an important role and young people are making it a chart topping hit again. Good for her. Introducing this generation to good music can only help us all and what we hear on the radio!

LA Confidential: This 1997 film, scarily 25 years ago, has an impressive cast and is a quality crime police caper. Set in the 1950s in LA, the focus is on the police department of the burgeoning city. The police include Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell and the introduction of Russell Crowe. Add in Danny DeVito as a reporter, David Strathairn, and the Academy Award performance of Kim Basinger and this story has a cast worthy of the story. Crowe’s partner has been disgraced and then ends up dead in what appears to be a robbery gone bad at a diner. The alleged black perpetrators are tracked down and interrogated. The police meanwhile have their own issues with Pearce playing the son of a well known detective who is looking to be clean in a sea of dirty. He is making some career headway, but is discouraged by Cromwell his boss to being a detective. Seems Cromwell believes that his detectives should be able to manipulate evidence, set scenes and ensure what they believe are the “bad people” can be put away. That is justice to him. Pearce wants the truth to be seen through the facts. This dichotomy of philosophies is most directly seen with Crowe’s officer who has no difficulty with extracting confessions or evidence within a situation. He has a certain affinity for protecting battered women. Things happen. Suscpicions are raised. Deeper investigations take place which makes the black and white diner robbery appear to be something else entirely. The writing is excellent, the story flows well and makes sense. All the while adding intrigue, making those in power uncomfortable.

I honestly don’t see the award for Basinger, but perhaps it was a body of work nomination. She plays a high priced call girl who is put into a very difficult situation that only grows worse for her. But it fits. It adds to the story and she plays it well. I finished this and truly enjoyed revisiting it. I had seen back in the day, but the details were fuzzy. Twenty five years later Spacey is personna non grata in Hollywood, Pearce has had some quality roles, and Crowe being a superstar has ballooned into a mammoth guy who shouldn’t ever sing again like in Les Miserable. This is on Netflix.

TIFF 2022: TIFF starts this week, back to in person viewing after a couple of years of hiatus from COVID. I presently have two movies I will be seeing. The comedy The End of Sex, and then Patrick and the Whale, which is a documentary. I am looking forward to experiencing the energy and the buzz of having stars back in the city with the streets downtown along King Street filled with moviegoers. The experience of lining up and chatting about movies before a screening has been missed. The chance to see a star before their film debuts is fun. I amy try for more tickets but for now that is where I will be. The fun begins on Thursday until the following Sunday September 18th! For those who attend, enjoy the movie going experience in some of Toronto’s best places to see films.