Tagged: sean astin

Mindy Newell: Even Stranger Things

I walked down to the store on Saturday to buy some groceries. It was a gorgeous day here in the NYC metro area – perfect fall weather, not too hot, not too cold, but with just enough of a chill in the air to warrant wearing my mom’s orange-rust suede jacket for the first time.

I was legitimately creeped out.

No, it wasn’t the jacket; she wanted me to have it. Although it made me feel sad and happy at the same time; sad because it was her favorite cool weather gear – and believe me, she always looked beautiful wearing it, even at the ripe old age of 91 strolling with the aid of her red walker – and my wearing it was an acknowledgement that she is no longer here, and happy because the jacket itself wears so many wonderful memories of my mom.

I was legitimately creeped out because I had just finished watching the first five episodes of Stranger Things 2.

Didn’t mean to binge. But, just like last time, ST2 pulls you in and you just can’t stop watching. I only managed to pull myself away after five episodes because, well, Mrs. Hubbard’s cupboard was bare, I was hungry, and I didn’t feel like ordering out. Also, I wanted to save myself for marriage… no, that wasn’t it. The season is just so damn good that I didn’t want it to be over too soon. Sorta like the wedding night you saved yourself for – well, if you’re lucky.

I’m attempting not to spoil anything here, so I’m going to give you only a brief and wide outline of the first episode. You’ll thank me in the morning.

That first episode, “Mad Max,starts almost exactly a year after Will Byers was rescued from the “Upside Down”; 352 days, to be exact. But we aren’t in Hawkins, Indiana. We’re in Pittsburgh, and we’re watching a robbery take place. And as the police chase the getaway car, we discover that one of those lab rats who came before the girl called Eleven is in the car. And as we watch, she enables a getaway that needs to be seen to be believed. (You’ll understand my turn of phrase when you watch the episode – again, I am endeavoring not to spoil anyone.)

Meanwhile, back in Hawkins, 1984, it seems that everyone is getting on with his or her lives and put the past behind them.


Or so it seems.

As obsessively geeky as ever, Will and his buds (Mike, Dustin, and Lucas) are at the arcade, where they discover that someone has topped Dustin’s score at Dig Dug.  Turns out it’s the new kid in school, whose calling card on the video game is “Mad Max,” only he is a she, Maxine, and suddenly Lucas and Dustin are aware of their raging, adolescent hormones.

But for Mike, there is still only Eleven, and there is no turning back, as he tries to raise her on the walkie-talkie while sitting in the little lean-to he made for her out of seats and sheets in the basement.

His sister Nancy and her boyfriend Steve are still in love, but while Steve has seemingly and successfully moved on, Nancy is quietly suffering from post-traumatic disorder, still mourning her friend Barbara and feeling all sorts of guilt for not telling Barbara’s parents, who are stuck wondering what happened to their daughter, the truth.

And then there’s the wild and crazy but determined investigative reporter who reminds me of a younger Bob Balaban and acts like Fox “Spooky” Mulder on magic mushrooms, who just knows The Truth is Out There.

As for Will…

He is suddenly thrust into a vision of the Upside Down. The arcade is dark, those little particles that look like individual dandelion puffs are floating everywhere, Mike and Dustin and Lucas are gone, everyone is gone, and he is alone, except for an eerie, reverberating, and muffled thunderous noise. He follows the noise outside, and witnesses a landscape and sky turned into a hellish aftermath of a nuclear blast; it is the end of the world as we know it.

And it turns out that Joyce, who is the ultimate warrior mom and hovering helicopter parent (and also has a new boyfriend, Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin, who works at the local Radio Shack) shepherds Will to the Hawkins Department of Energy lab on a regular basis, where he undergoes therapy – or is interrogation? – with Dr. Owens, a seemingly kind man, because this isn’t the first time Will has gone back to the Upside Down. But is there slime underneath the lab coat? (Since Dr. Owens is Paul Reiser, who played the ultimate corporate sleazeball in Aliens, our trust in him can’t, uh, be trusted.)

And meanwhile, Chief Jim Hopper is no longer hiding those Eggos in a box in the woods. Nope. All that beer in his refrigerator has been replaced with those little toaster-oven waffles, and his trailer is swept and dusted and clean. Because he’s sorta adopted a young girl, a pretty little moppet with short, curly hair, and like all fathers, he has sworn to keep her safe.

The moppet’s name is Eleven.

Emily S. Whitten: Nickelodeon and Nostalgia @ SDCC 2016


As you undoubtedly know, San Diego’s Comic-Con International happened this past weekend, and I was fortunate to be amongst the tens of thousands of attendees. There was, as always, a mega-ton to see and do, and it was hard to keep the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from getting completely out of control over the 4.5 days of the con. To stay sane, though, at some point you just have to accept that you’re going to miss a bunch, and focus on what you do have the opportunity to see.

This year, one of my main interests was what Nickelodeon was showcasing. Of course, Nickelodeon is always on my radar, and particularly the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, which I adore. But even beyond the coolness that is the TMNT, this year, Nickelodeon was focusing on its past – in the best way possible. Through its late-night programming block of “The Splat,”  which has been airing from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Teen Nick since it took over for “The ‘90s are All That” late night programming in October of 2015, Nickelodeon has been tapping into the deep, deeeeeeeep nostalgia that a lot of us have for shows like Clarissa Explains It All, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Double Dare, All That, Doug, Hey Arnold!, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, You Can’t Do That on Television, and more. And given that all of those shows were amongst my favorites growing up, I just love that, and was looking forward to experiencing some nostalgia up close and in person.

Of course, for SDCC people are always going to want to see what’s new. But since this is the 25th Anniversary of Nickelodeon Animation; Nickelodeon’s upcoming movie lineup includes updates and sequels from popular ‘90s properties – including Hey Arnold! and Legends of the Hidden Temple; and “The Splat” has proven to be a hit, it made sense that to celebrate that. Therefore, Nickelodeon’s Comic-Con 2016 celebrated the ‘90s with “an immersive retro experience” at its booth, panels, and party.

The booth was a well-set-up and eye-catching blast from the past. It featured a virtual reality experience and King Olmec head from Legends of the Hidden Temple (on which the King was voiced by the ever-talented Dee Bradley Baker), and the King’s head was festooned with 3-D characters from classic shows like Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, CatDog, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. There was also a backdrop area where you could get photos with characters from shows like The Fairly Oddparents. The signing area and schedule included everyone from the TMNT to the cast of All That to legendary creators of the animation world. To purchase merchandise, you went up to windows set in the lenses of the purple glasses that bespectacled a giant Chuckie head from Rugrats (the only thing that would have made it better would have been if you could actually go inside Chuckie’s head. Next year’s virtual reality experience, Nickelodeon?). And, to top it off, the setup featured photo ops with the Hey Arnold! stoop and the original giant nose and red glasses from Double Dare. The merchandise on offer was also cool – including The Nick Box (similar in idea to LootCrate and other monthly “mystery boxes” of merchandise), which featured items from classic Nicktoons for its first release.

Nickelodeon’s panels this year included “Happy Happy! Joy Joy!: 25 Years of Nickelodeon Original Animation,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Return to New York,” “She Made That?: Nickelodeon hosts Women in Animation,” “ and “Back to the ‘90s: Nickelodeon’s All That Reunion and Legends of the Hidden Temple!” They all sounded amazing, but even my FOMO couldn’t bend time and space so that I could experience them all. However, I did get to attend the first two panels, and had the privilege of sitting down with the panelists for interviews.

“Happy Happy! Joy Joy!” featured Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!), Jhonen Vasquez (Invader Zim), Butch Hartman (The Fairly OddParents, Danny Phantom) and Arlene Klasky, who along with Gabor Csupo and Paul Germain, created Rugrats. It was great to hear these innovative and clever creators talk about bringing new ideas to fruition and developing their shows over the years, as well as looking forward to future projects (such as Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, which Craig Bartlett discussed, and for which we saw some cool production art. We also learned that the movie will finally answer the question of where Arnold’s parents are). Butch Hartman showed animation from his latest show, Bunsen is a Beast! And we got to see a TMNT short, Don vs. Raph by Jhonen Vasquez, that was awesome in its absurdity.

I was fortunate to sit down with Craig Bartlett, Butch Hartman, and Arlene Klasky before the panel as well, for a great chat about their careers and work. You can watch the interview here!

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Return to New York” was, as always with the TMNT panels, a total joy. I love this show and everyone involved with it; and this year, we got to meet a new guest, Gwendoline Yeo, who voices new character Shinigami in the upcoming season (airing Sunday, August 14, at 11 a.m.). I also was glad to hear from Mae Whitman, who has been voicing April O’Neil since the get-go, but whom I’d not gotten to see on a panel before (every time she’s been on one I’ve missed it somehow) and from TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman (likewise). And what TMNT panel would be complete without executive producer Ciro Nieli, and more amazing voice talent like Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Sean Astin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), and Eric Bauza (Tiger Claw). We missed executive producer and head writer Brandon Auman, but apparently he was hanging out at the Sistine Chapel, so I guess that’s an okay reason to miss a Turtles panel. Maybe.

At the panel they showed the entire first episode of Season 4, which introduces Shinigami and features some really cool development of April’s story, as well. I hate to use a cliché and say that Episode 1 was all about girl power, but: well, it was, and that was fun! I like how far April has come in the show; and I’m very curious to see more of Shinigami’s backstory with Karai, who we also caught up with. We also got to see a couple of fun TMNT shorts, which you can watch too! The first was Pizza Friday by Kevin Eastman and Paul Jenkins, and the second was Turtles Take Time (and Space) by Brandon Auman. I loved them. Booyakabunga!

I was happy to be able to sit down for interviews with the Turtles folks before their panel as well. You can check out my interview with Greg Cipes, Rob Paulsen, and Eric Bauza here; and my interview with Gwendoline Yeo, Sean Astin, Kevin Eastman, and Ciro Nieli here.


And as cool as everything I’ve just talked about was, there was one more totally rad thing I experienced with Nickelodeon this year; and that was the Nickelodeon Double Dare Party with Marc Summers! It took place at Fluxx Nightclub, and was just So. Much. Fun. For one thing, they literally hosted a mini Double Dare show right on the dance floor – where the obstacle course from the show and physical challenges were set up. To make it even better, the Red Team and Blue Team were composed of great players like Nickelodeon staff, and voice actor Greg Cipes (Michelangelo on TMNT) who had been on the show as a kid. And of course, to make things really authentic, the show was hosted by Marc Summers, who didn’t miss a beat as he ran the teams through their paces (watch it here!). It was super-cool to be “on set” for the show and watch the Blue Team win it all live.

For another thing, it was fun to have some chill time with some of Nickelodeon’s great talent– including folks from the panels like Craig Bartlett, Butch Hartman, Greg Cipes, Eric Bauza, and Ciro Nieli – and to get to know more of Nick’s cool staff. And finally, after the Double Dare show ended, they cleared the dance floor for some totally ‘90s DJing, and we all had a rockin’ time dancing and being completely unembarrassed at knowing, for instance, all the words to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” (Wow, it had been so long since I’d sung that song.) My one complaint about this party is that the dancing ended too soon! And on top of all of that fun, I give high praise to the snacks at this party (especially since I’m always dying of hunger at the end of a busy day at Comic-Con) which included mini burgers, fries, shakes, and eclairs. Small but substantial food, easy to eat, and totally in theme.

All in all, Nickelodeon killed it this year at Comic-Con, and it wouldn’t have been the same without ‘em. I’m already feeling the nostalgia for Comic-Con 2016 and all the Nick fun I had there (which you can see in my photo album here). But that doesn’t mean I can’t wait to see what they do next year, too!

Stay tuned for tons more SDCC reporting from me, and until next time, Servo Lectio!


Emily S. Whitten: Sean Astin at The National Press Club

Emily S. Whitten: Sean Astin at The National Press Club


Actor and radio host Sean Astin applied to become a member of The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 27 after speaking to a rapt audience of journalists and fans about his career and his political radio show, Vox Populi. Astin, most known to fans as Mikey in The Goonies, the title character in Rudy, and Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, started Vox Populi in 2012. Vox Populi, the “Voice of the ‘Occasionally Interested’ People,” is Astin’s vision of an arena for bi-partisan discussion about what are often hot-button issues in politics and media. As host, Astin, who has been long interested in and active in politics, moderates civilized discussions between guests with a wide variety of viewpoints, including Noam Chomsky; Representative Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Ben Shapiro, author of The People vs. Barack Obama; Cullen Hoback, director of the hit information privacy and collection documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply; and many more.

In speaking about his decision to create Vox Populi, Astin cited his mother actress Patty Duke’s time as a talk show host as one source of inspiration, stating that “a good vocabulary had been implanted in me at a young age, and that, combined with my mom’s ease and comfort dealing with issues of the day and social issues and being a public figure, and then being a union leader – something in the hard-wiring happened where I felt that I had the capacity to be able to think about issues and communicate in a way that was comfortable and easy and open for people, and to facilitate learning and social discourse.”

Astin, a “C-SPAN junkie,” went on to talk about his life-long interest in politics and the interaction of his position as a public figure with his desire to be involved in political discourse. He also discussed his career in the entertainment industry, and his charity work, including running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. on October 26. He answered several audience questions, and then closed by saying, ” I want to be a member of this Club, so…this is my field report from yesterday,” and reading a Facebook post he wrote about his experience running the Marathon. Immediately after the event, Astin enthusiastically submitted his application to join The National Press Club.

To view Sean Astin’s entire appearance at The National Press Club, click here.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

The Point Radio: THE STRAIN Proves Grit Beats Glitter

FX’s THE STRAIN winds up it’s first season this weekend and we sat down with Guillermo del Toro and his cast to talk about where the show ended, where it goes next and how their vampires stack up against those who “glitter”. Plus famed actress, Isabella Rossellini takes her GREEN PORNO from TV to the stage and tells us how it all got started.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.