Film Review: Falling For Christmas (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

Hailed as Lindsay Lohan’s “comeback” film (it’s been nearly a decade since her last major starring role), Falling For Christmas at best is a bag of mixed emotions that can’t decide if it’s a straight romantic comedy, or a parody of every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made.

Lohan plays the spoiled diva daughter of an Aspen business tycoon who suffers amnesia immediately after her uppity boyfriend (George Young) proposes to her on a mountain top. But she’s of course taken in by a local lodge owner (Chord Overstreet) who happens to be a single father. Of course, sparks eventually fly, and without giving away too much, the two realize their respective destinies (despite seemingly not the best real life “match”).

The material isn’t always concise, but Lohan is undenibly likeable here, especially in the many the fish-out-of-water scenarios her character is thrown into. Nothing life-changing here, but a harmless film and Lohan vehicle no doubt.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Hocus Pocus 2 (Walt Disney Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

The original Hocus Pocus from 1993 was an innocent enough family film from Disney; while not a “hit” at the time, over the years it has since grown to cult status thanks to repeated showings during the Halloween season and seeping its way into pop culture via costumes and various other merchandise and yearly decorations.

Nearly three full decades later, Disney finally had enough foresight to realize the time was right to reunite Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters from the first film for another round of Halloween mischief. If you’ve already seen the original film, then it should come as no surprise just how the three witches appear in Salem again. And just like the first film, they’re put in plenty of familiar fish-out-of-water scenarios with amusing results (the Walgreens scene is fairly ingenious, albeit a shameless cross-promotion all the same).

Gone though are the rest of the old cast and characters (aside from Doug Jones, who also returns as the zombie Billy), an unfortunate missed opportunity, as well as director Kenny Ortega’s presence. The effects this time around are also noticeably lazier, and of course, you can’t make a Disney film in 2022 without at least some underlying message of “equality” (though thankfully not overly in-your-face as some others). Overall though, the young newcommers are definitely admirable with what material they have to work with here.

All in all, Hocus Pocus 2 is a fairly harmless adventure, sure to please all the little ghouls and goblins in your haunted house this Halloween.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: Halloween Ends (Miramax/Blumhouse/Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

So, Halloween finally ends, huh? For me, it was over twenty years ago when Michael Myers offed Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in 2002’s Resurrection, but that’s just me. Last year’s atrocious Halloween Kills had to be my least favorite of all the films in the franchise (next to only the Rob Zombie entries), but what can really be said about this latest installment that hasn’t already been said, and without giving away too much?

On the surface, it could just be considered an experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong. But there’s much to unpack here. And in the five days since its release, audiences have almost universally panned the film for the direction it takes. It starts out a basic origin story, highlighting the torment and eventual descent into madness of the bullied Corey Cunnigham (Rohan Campbell). The problem that exists – other than the fact that this takes away from the Michael vs. Laurie showdown that everyone was hoping for – is who is this character, and why in the hell should we even care about him?

The ensuing love story aspect between Cunnigham and Laurie’s adorable granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) actually works in its own weird way, but feels better suited for another film entirely. But that aside, the rest of what is left is a heaping pile of metaphorical mess, clumped together by Director David Gordon Green’s would-be unique vision. Even the “kills” feel forced and largely unnecessary, if one can actually believe that.

Speaking of unnecessary, this entire newer trilogy that began in 2018 could have honestly just never happened and the world would not have missed a single beat. In fact, the best thing to even comes out of these films in my opinion has simply been the well-crafted John and Cody Carpenter (and Daniel Davies) composed music score, which was indeed the highlight of Ends (throwing in the Dead Kennedys’ “Halloween” during a party scene was a nice touch as well).

But you know where the music and storylines were even better? The original films. I’d much rather go back and re-watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch (my personal favorite, and yes that’s right, the one without Michael Myers) any day of the week. With that being said, keep an eye out for an upcoming 40th anniversary piece on the latter, dropping at the end of the week on Rewind It Magazine!

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Spirit Halloween: The Movie (Strikeback Studios/Hideout Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

On the surface, Spirit Halloween: The Movie appears to be not much more than one long promo ad for the annual store in which it takes its name from. But despite its obvious flaws and cheesy-ness, it actually works as family entertainment in the same vein as the Goosebumps films, with a nostalgic touch similar to Stranger Things thrown in for good measure as well.

The plot is far from groundbreaking; a trio of adolescent friends (played by newcommers Donavan Colan, Jaiden J. Smith, and Dylan Frankel) faced with the pressures of growing up and the societal norms that come along with it, decide to spend Halloween night in said novelty store. But of course the ghost of a crabby old landlord (Christopher Lloyd) cursed by a witch before his demise in the 1940’s, is haunting the joint and looking for a permanent new body to possess before it’s too late.

Former ’90s babe Rachel Leigh Cook co-stars as the mother of one of the young boys, and Marla Gibbs (best known from such ’70s and ’80s staples as The Jeffersons and 227) plays the strange but wise old grandmother of one of the other children, each bringing just a tad more talent to the mostly unknown cast.

Spirit Halloween (the store) has become a pop culture staple, and an annual tradition as common as the haunted house for many. All in all, the film is harmless (perhaps even a bit shameless, depending on your viewpoint) fun, and perfect fodder for the spooky season.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: This is GWAR (Shudder)

By: Jesse Striewski

If any band deserves an in-depth, career-spanning documentary, it’s everyone’s favorite shock rockers/Scumdogs of the Universe, GWAR, and I was a bit surprised by just how invested in This is GWAR I found myself becoming while watching it.

Beginning with the band’s early roots as a collective art outfit founded by Hunter Jackson and the late Dave Brockie in the mid-80s, the film goes through the band’s evolution and entire history in great detail (the way a proper documentary should). Along the way there’s copious amounts of interesting tid bits and fascinating footage that should delight even the most casual fan.

The only real downside is the rapid pace that sometimes speeds through certain eras of the band faster than desired. Personally, I would’ve liked a tad more emphasis on the making of lesser-received albums such as Ragnarok or We Kill Everything. Still, aside from including interviews from several past and present members of the band, there’s a number of celebrities that lend their thoughts and help the story along as well, including Alex Winter, Thomas Lennon, and even “Weird Al” Yankovic himself.

It’s safe to say that my interest in GWAR was put firmly back in place since viewing the film, and I’ve found myself falling down a rabbit hole of sorts and revisiting a lot of the band’s music again; hopefully it will have the same effect on you as well.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Nova Rex: Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy (My Productions USA)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was first introduced to Nova Rex back in 2016 via band founder and bassist Kenny Wilkerson, when I was scheduled to interview him for a now-defunct magazine I was writing for at the time (whose name I will never utter here). Since then, I’ve come to know and deeply respect Kenny and all the endeavors I’ve watch he and the band create for themselves since.

So it was my pleasure to attend the premiere of the band’s new documentary Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy – their follow up to 2011’s Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy – last week along with numerous friends, family, and colleagues – as well as most of the band themselves – in tow (a night to remember indeed). And it was all the more special to personally receive a small credit in the film for contributing some brief interview questions during one of its segments.

At first, the film seemed all-too familiar as it once again recounted the band’s early days as they experienced various lineup changes and tried their hands at different markets. Eventually this segued into their current incarnation and many of the things they’ve done since, such as played the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach with fellow ’80s rockers Pretty Boy Floyd, or played the Amway Center in Orlando, not once but twice now (all events Rewind It was lucky enough to be there for).

Of course things finally cumulated with the addition of current frontman John Bisha of The Babys in place of most recent vocalist Adrian Adonis, which includes some bittersweet moments while also ending things on a high note. All in all, Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy is a fun ride from start to finish, and should be required viewing for just about any true ’80s-era rock fan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

From left to right; Jesse Striewski (author), Kenny Wilkerson (Nova Rex), Jacob Striewski (photographer), and Terry Harger (photographer) at the premiere of Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy at Aloma Cinema Grill on 7/13/22 (photo by Brooke Striewski).

Film Review: Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

The latest (and final?) installment in the Jurassic World series, and overall sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, has received some negative backlash since its release. But in comparison to the last lackluster entry, 2018’s Fallen Kingdom, it’s world’s above in every way possible.

The story picks off exactly where the said previous film had left off, with Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) living off the grid and raising the clone we were first introduced to in Fallen Kingdom, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) in total seclusion, in a world where mankind is now living side-by-side with dinosaurs.

But of course there’s some bad guys out there who will go to extreme measures to get her back (as well as the young velociraptor offspring of Blue’s, Beta), including the crooked CEO of Biosyn Genetics, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). While Owen and Claire fight to get her back along with the help of some new friends they meet along the way (including a former air force pilot played by DeWanda Wise) doctors Grant (Sam Neill), Sattler (Laura Dern) and Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are also uncovering the corruption at Biosyn after a series of events reunites them all back together.

Jurassic World: Dominion is everything a nerd fan boy could want, honestly; high speed chases, loud fights between gigantic monsters, and original characters/actors thrust back together and put onscreen alongside the newcommers. Is Jurassic World: Dominion often cliche and predictable? Sure, I won’t deny it doesn’t tread into those territories from time to time – how can it not at this point?

But overall, I fond myself getting totally lost and engrossed in the material here, probably for the first time since going to see the original Jurassic Park on the big screen all the way back in 1993. Steven Spielberg truly opened our collective imaginations with that first film all those years ago, and for my money, Dominion is the closest I’ve come to having that same feeling again from any of the other films in the franchise since.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and director Joseph Kosinski takes over for the late Tony Scott (whom the film is dedicated to) to deliver the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably already well aware of what an all out thrill ride Top Gun: Maverick truly is.

Kenny Loggins’ hit from the original film “Danger Zone” opens the film the only appropriate way possible, as we quickly find our protagonist still working as a test pilot in the U.S. Navy, purposely avoiding promotions all these years in order to continue flying. But he’s quickly whisked away back to Top Gun to train a group of elite pilots for a specialized mission that ultimately only he can pull off.

Initially, my only complaint was the actual establishments of said new pilots – who come off just a tad on the obnoxious side at first – and the quick pace we’re introduced to new characters as though we already know them (the lovely Jennifer Connelly plays a former love interest perfectly, though). But once the awkwardness passes, it’s pure escapist entertainment of the highest level, filled with plenty of action, and unexpected drama (no spoilers, but the scenes with Val Kilmer, who briefly reprises his role as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky from the first film, really got me).

In this entry, Maverick not only faces adversaries in the sky, but several on his own team, having to prove himself not only to an admiral (Jon Hamm) who doesn’t want him there, but the son (Miles Teller) of his former late RIO and best friend from the first film, Goose (Anthony Edwards).

Forget whatever negativity the anti-establishment, blue-haired “critics” out there might want to spew about this being a “recruitment” video (they’re just miserable with their lives anyway); this is a damn good film that brings back the days of when movies were actual “events,” and I felt like that kid in the ’80s again, popping his copy of the first film in the VCR to re-watch it again for the umpteenth time). Cruise is at the top of his game in Top Gun: Maverick, and you’re missing out if you don’t take flight along with him.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Paramount Pictures)


By: Jesse Striewski

Very few times can I recall actually sitting in a movie theater and thinking “This was a mistake,” but the thought did indeed cross my mind a time or two during Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (though to be completely fair, it may have had something to do with the screaming toddlers running amok through the theater the entire time).

I only saw the first film based off of the popular Sega character once, and while I don’t remember much standing out about it at all, it was harmless and even like-able enough. But for some reason, this second entry just seemed so tired and tedious, even with the addition of the Tails (Colleen O’Shaghnessey) and Knuckles (Idris Elba) characters this time around.

In a nutshell, Dr. Robotnik/Eggman (Jim Carrey) has enlisted the help of Knuckles to seek out his revenge on Sonic (Ben Schwartz), and Tails more or less comes from out of nowhere to come to Sonic’s aid. The “adventure” that ensues is anything but captivating, and the majority of the jokes fall flat (though the one Carrey manages to squeak out on Limp Bizkit was rather amusing).

To the flimmakers behind this; put more effort into the next installment’s story line. And to the parents who had to bring their brats to the theater the same night I was there; please spare the rest of us, and wait until they’re old enough to have attention spans that actually last a bit more than just a few seconds.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Film Review: Metal Lords (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

I really wanted to like Netflix’s attempt at appealing to the metal community with this new teen comedy/drama. But while the film is harmless enough, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling there was just something missing from it the whole time.

The plot follows high school outcasts Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) as they navigate through bullies, parents, and trying to find a bass player for their would-be metal band in order to play their school’s “battle of the bands” contest. They eventually find some camaraderie via an equally awkward social misfit (Isis Hainsworth), but not before some predictable “but she’s a girl!” arguments first.

While the music is spot on and the metal references are heavy, nearly everything feels driven by cliche and predictably. Not even some cameos (and some fairly bad acting) from metal greats Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and, um, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) can save things in the end.

Is Metal Gods a bad movie? No. But is it really anything we haven’t already seen before? Not really. In the end, it really is “just there,” and the world would not miss a beat with or without its existence.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars