Stranger Things

I finished the first season of “Stranger Things” tonight, and much to my chagrin, the second season does not come out for several months. I don’t watch a lot of television, and when I do, it tends to be binge-watching a series; I will not schedule my life around a TV show, and thanks to Netflix, Amazon, etc., now I don’t have to do that.

“Stranger Things” is sort of a mash-up of some of my favorites from the past: “Twin Peaks” (small town, eccentric characters); “X Files” (parallel dimensions, weird monsters, government conspiracy); and “The Goonies” (a gang of geeky, pre-teen heroes). The first season finishes with a climax and a happy ending, but with enough hints and unanswered questions (what happened to Barb?) to portend another spell-binding season to come.

I give it 4 1/2 stars, and encourage the Duffer Brothers to bring it on!


Good-bye to Gene Wilder

One of my favorite funnymen.

Gene Wilder, who established himself as one of America’s foremost comic actors with his delightfully neurotic performances in three films directed by Mel Brooks, his eccentric star turn in the family classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and his winning chemistry with Richard Pryor in the box-office smash “Stir Crazy,” died Sunday night at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 83.


Goodbye to Kenny Baker

The British actor played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3ft 8in tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.


Meet Pennywise, evil personified

I really like most of Stephen King’s books, because King is a great storyteller, never mind the genre in which he usually writes. I read King because I want to be entertained, not to be frightened. In fact, some of his better stories are not frightening at all. Some of them scared the bejeebers out me, and It, his 1986 novel, ranks right up there, along with Salem’s Lot, on my list of scariest books.

It tells the story of the fictional small town of Derry, Maine. Derry is terrorized every 30 years by a malevolent being which can assume any form, but frequently manifests as Pennywise the clown. Pennywise reinforced my underlying coulrophobia, and I still am repulsed and frightened by most clowns (including Ronald McDonald).

In the 1990 television miniseries, Pennywise was played to horrifying effect by Tim Curry. A new movie version of It is due out next year. Pennywise will be played by Bill Skarsgård, and recently our first peek at Pennywise was released.

Can a clown personify evil? One look and I was convinced; you can judge for yourself.