Film Review: 13 Fanboy (Voorhees Films)

By: Jesse Striewski

Although I was lucky enough to speak with two of the key factors of 13 Fanboy on behalf of Rewind It Magazine last year – Actress Dee Wallace, and Director/Writer/Actress Deborah Voorhees – I still only had a vague understanding of what to expect from the film. But almost immediately after sitting down to watch it, I completely understood what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this one, which was to simply bring back the basic, root elements to a horror movie.

Without giving away too many details, 13 Fanboy follows fictional versions of real-life horror film stars (mostly alumni from the Friday the 13th series) such as Kane Hodder, Judie Aronson, Lar Park Lincoln, C.J. Graham, and Tracie Savage (among others) and newcomer Hayley Greenbauer, as they are stalked (and in some cases, slaughtered) by an obsessive fan with plenty of ‘whodunit’ -ness done in perfect fashion (Corey Feldman also makes a notable appearance as a sleazy producer). Extremely meta in its delivery, it’s part Scream, part Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and for the most part, all fun (something hard to come by in the genre these days).

The gore is there, but it’s not over-the-top/unnecessarily violent. And although it might lack the big budget of such Hollywood blockbusters as the the recent Halloween Kills, it more than makes up for it with heart and atmosphere. And there’s almost no effort to weave in comedy, which can be “okay” if done correctly, but often overused in horror films these days. In short, 13 Fanboy is the perfect late night fright flick to watch in the dark with your significant other (or even by yourself), especially this time of year.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: Halloween Kills (Miramax/Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

I can’t honestly say I was impressed at all with the last Halloween film released in 2018; not only was it derivative and borrowed heavily from previous entries that it supposedly ignores (it was essentially a redux of 1998’s H2O), it asked us to accept far too many idiotic and implausible situations and concepts; from giving Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a daughter other than Jamie Llyod from parts 4-6, to the fact we’re supposed to believe that Michael Myers is somehow remembered as a great notorious figure (sure, we know who he is as an audience, but if we’re supposed to ignore the events from all of the sequels actually happened, wouldn’t he just be some guy who killed a few people decades ago, and not as revered of a murderer?). And then there was that ridiculous plot twist with the doctor assuming the role of Michael Myers for a second (don’t even get me started on that).

For a brief moment, I was actually intrigued and lost within the onset of Halloween Kills; the flashback sequences tackling aspects from that fateful Halloween in 1978 were admittedly interesting at first. If the whole film could have just somehow stayed in that reality, maybe something could have been salvaged here. But things quickly become a joke, and the updated treatment of the late Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis in these flashbacks are some of the most insulting scenes ever put on screen.

And despite having the returning Curtis paired with other series alumni from earlier films such as Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett, Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers, and Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace, it does zero to add to this dying series. Even having Anthony Michael Hall portray the character of Tommy Doyle from the first film was as out of place as it gets, and by the time it gets to the point of him leading an angry lynch mob through a hospital, chanting “Evil dies tonight,” it felt as though I was watching a parody of the Halloween films, similar to the likes of Sharknado. There’s no drama left for any of the characters to have, just mean-spirited intentions spewing awful dialogue.

The worst is how certain elements are treated; Myers is now an even more ruthless killing machine than ever, torturing his victims mercilessly in some of the most brutal fashions imaginable (at one point he repeatedly stabs a victim with multiple knives even after killing them). Any sense of suspense is taken away in place of more blood and gore in hopes of appealing to the lowest common denominator (and yet that’s somehow supposed to be better for us to see on screen than the gratuitous nudity once so prevalent in these films that has been replaced by by mindless bloodshed?!). The reason The Shape was so menacing to begin with in the original films was not because of the quantity of outrageous kills on the screen, but the motivation behind it.

But judging by the audience reaction on opening night, small details like these are trivial matters to them at best, and do not matter to them one bit. Where there should be screams during kills, there was plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’ instead. Even the most mundane situations were enough to invoke unfounded laughter (a woman picks up a wine bottle to defend herself?! What a hilarious concept!). But it quickly became clear I’m very much alone in not accepting these trashy new dumbed down incarnations.

The flimmakers could have actually done something different with the material here. Hell, it would have been better had they even took the route of 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the best film in the entire series in my opinion, yes, even more than the original) and introduced an entirely new concept, instead of beating this dead horse of a storyline into the ground for so long. But director David Gordon Green has taken this franchise into unforgivable territory ALMOST as atrocious as the Rob Zombie remake films. But until we stop embracing regurgitated garbage being spoon feed to us like this, they will continue churning out soulless entries as long as we continue accepting them. We deserve better than this. Yes, evil really should die, along with this entire franchise (and yet, we still have at least one more film to endure next year).

Rating: 1/5 Stars

Film Review: Cry Macho (Warner Bros. Pictures/Malpaso Productions)

By: Jesse Striewski

Legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood returns to the big screen in this neo-western that’s short on the action, yet heavy on the drama. Based on the 1975 novel of the same name by N. Richard Nash, this live screen adaptation moves with an extremely slow pace, but does offer some escapist payoff to those willing to give it a chance.

Set in 1979, Eastwood plays former rodeo star Mike Milo, who is sent to Mexico by his ex-boss Howard Polk (played by Dwight Yoakam) to retrieve his troubled teenaged son (Eduardo Minett), who is surviving in the underworld of cock-fighting with a rooster dubbed “Macho.”

The two (or three, if we’re counting Macho) quickly bond on the road while trying to make their way back to Texas, encountering difficulties from the police, and henchmen hired by Rafael’s vengeful mother (Fernanda Urrejola) to stop them. But along the way, they also find the “good” in people, are taken in by a kind and giving single mother, and discover things about each other, and about life in general.

Much of the acting is sub-par, and asking audiences to still accept 91-year-old Eastwood as a horse-ridding, grizzly brawler type is a bit much (even with the action toned down and tailored for him). But I couldn’t help but feel as I was watching Cry Macho that Eastwood was taking his final bow, and I was saying goodbye to an entire era. Far from his best work, yet I’ll take mediocre Eastwood, over no Eastwood any day.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Last week, the world got its first look at the long-awaited sequel to the classic 1996 Looney Tunes basketball film, Space Jam. Despite receiving mostly negative feedback in large part to the film’s overuse of advertising and product placement (and beloved character Pepe Le Pew being the latest unfortunate victim thanks to woke cancel culture), Space Jam: A New Legacy is a shining example of pure family-fueled escapist entertainment, reminiscent of long-forgotten, more simple times.

The plot is fairly cut and dry; a fictionalized version of basketball star LeBron James and son Dom (Cedric Joe) find themselves trapped inside a virtual reality world ran by an evil, artificially intelligent life form known as Al-G Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle). The father and son are quickly pitted against each other in a do-or-die basketball match. James naturally enlists the help of Bugs Bunny and co. to win his son and freedom back.

James does his best in place of Michael Jordan as the lead from the first film, but his acting isn’t quite as on par as his gaming skills (his animated scenes are slightly better than the actual live ones). Many of the jokes are even centered around his “legacy” compared to Jordan’s (the cameo by actor Michael B. Jordan in place of Air Jordan is one of the more amusing gags in the entire flick).

And similar to 2018’s Ready Player One, it’s loaded with a plethora of pop culture references and cameos. Blink and you might miss appearances from The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, The Jetson’s, and the Gremlins on top of more in-your-face and obvious spots from various characters from the universes of Batman, Harry Potter, and The Matrix, among many others.

Will Space Jam: A New Legacy win any awards? Highly doubtful. Will it be studied for artistic greatness, or social commentary? Not likely. Yet it just might put some smiles on a few faces, and add a little bit of light to a world currently filled with so much darkness, which we could all honestly use a bit more of right now.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been nearly sixty years since the last time two of the silver screen’s greatest titans ever faced off against one another. Godzilla vs. Kong no doubt delivers on the over-the-top, larger than life, escapist entertainment in the best way possible.

A little Sc-Fi heavy at times, the plot focuses on a now-captive King Kong being released to more or less save humanity from a seemingly hostile Godzilla, who’s really just peeved by the creation of a Mechagodzilla by the evil Apex Cybernetics. Meanwhile, an Apex employee and conspiracy theorist named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) who is hell bent on exposing the truth, teams up with a couple of kids (one of them once again being Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame, joined this time by Julian Dennisen) to get the job done. This aspect gives the film a very real, ’80s-adventure feel to it in the same vein as E.T., where the kids must ultimately save the day from under the adults who only know about half of the actual story.

The other portion of the main storyline involves an expedition to “Hollow Earth” with Kong lead by a couple of doctors (portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall) to find some magical “power source.” And if you think that all sounds somewhat nerdy, you’re absolutely right, though there is a somewhat touching relationship between Kong and a young girl (played by Kaylee Hottle) that helps add a much-needed dramatic element to the film.

In short, Godzilla vs. Kong is far from flawless. But as far as modern action films go (which I’m truthfully not too big on, especially the countless superhero flicks churned out these days), it’s at the head of it’s class. It is without a doubt the ideal type of flick to take the fam out to, sit in a dark theater, and just forget about the rest of the world for a night.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: Coming 2 America (Prime Video)

By: Jesse Striewski

For many in my own age group, the 1988 original comedy classic Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, was a staple go-to default flick on cable TV back in the day. But was a second edition over three decades in the making really worth the wait, or even necessary?

The sequel finds Prince Akeem (Murphy) having to track down a son (played by Jermaine Fowler) he unknowingly fathered his first time around in New York, and grooming him to become the next heir to the throne. Of course this leads to various culture and emotional conflicts for both parties involved and their loved ones (both Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan add to this chaos perfectly in new supporting roles).

The nostalgic factors alone are worthwhile themselves; just seeing Murphy and Hall return to McDowell’s, or hilariously don the makeup for such characters as Randy Watson or Reverend Brown again, or even watching such greats as James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson, and John Amos return in their respective roles, were all welcomed trips down memory lane.

But unfortunately, the actual jokes themselves are often too far and few in between, and come off as either too forced, or often times just strain to be overly timely. At the heart of it, Coming 2 America wants to be an endearing film, but comes up far too short. If you really want to revisit Zamunda, you’re better off just going back to the original.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (Saturn Films/Landmark Studio Group/Landafar Entertainment/JD Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

This Nicolas Cage-driven horror/comedy hybrid romp, directed by Kevin Lewis, ranges from being part harmless homage to such goofy ’80s guilty pleasures as Killer Klowns From Outer Space, to part demented (and ridiculous) Toy Story-induced nightmare.

Cage stars as a silent drifter (literally – he utters zero dialogue throughout the entire film) who gets roped into a diabolical scam by small town locals when his vehicle is abruptly disabled while passing through the middle of nowhere. He ends up in an old, rundown, Chuck E. Cheese-type joint called Willy’s Wonderland (suspiciously similar to Five Nights at Freddy’s, too), where he must fight for his life against maniacal machines that come to life. Lucky for him, there’s also a group of local teens (lead by talented newcomer Emily Tosta) who know the real secrets of Willy‘s, and are hell-bent on taking it down once and for all. This of course leads to some very surreal, A Nightmare on Elm Street-esque moments that range from legitimately creepy, to over-the-top, cringe-worthy deaths.

Character actress Beth Grant (who you may recognize from such films as Rain Man or Child’s Play 2) pulls a worthy performance as the town sheriff, and Killer Klowns… alumni Grant Cramer even makes a brief cameo. And even the soundtrack features some impressive work by Emoi (watch for the mesmerizing scene where the film’s theme song is played during an epic battle between Cage and a pinball machine).

But for every time I found myself getting completely lost in the film, something overly juvenile or absurd would usually come along and instantly snap me back into reality. I really wanted to like the film, and for the most part I suppose I did. But perhaps just a little more effort in the dialogue and acting departments would have put it that much more over the edge. If you’re simply looking for mindless entertainment though, then Willy’s Wonderland is hands down the place to go.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes (Cleopatra Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

Those who know me well, know what a huge fan of ’80s metal veterans W.A.S.P. I’ve been since day one (frontman Blackie Lawless was even the first major interview I ever conducted as a professional journalist more than a decade ago). Guitarist Chris Holmes no doubt played an enormous role in their early sound, yet never really got his just due…until now.

Following heavily in the footsteps of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Mean Man is the ultimate underdog story that finally answers the question (one that I’ve even been asked a time or two over the years) “Whatever happened to Chris Holmes?” perfectly (for those who don’t know, he now resides in France these days with his wife, still making music albeit on a smaller scale).

Current and archive footage, as well as interviews with numerous musicians including Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, and Holmes’ own former bandmates Johnny Rod and Stet Howland, help tell the tale of this once revered guitarist, who no doubt got the raw end of the deal from his former band mate Lawless.

I only wish more of Holmes’ former bandmates might have been included, especially early (and somewhat elusive) members like Randy Piper or Tony Richards, or even Lawless himself for the sake of transparency (although I knew going in the likelihood of that wasn’t very promising). Still, this quite possibly might be the closest the world is ever getting to a straight forward W.A.S.P. documentary, and I can live with that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: Zappa (Magnolia Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Many a year ago, I was minding my own business and listening to music at a friend’s house, when suddenly his dad emerged into the room and proclaimed, “you need to hear this!” He quickly removed whatever punk record we were listening to at the time, swiftly replacing it with a Frank Zappa album. Of course my instant reaction was “what in the world is this?!” before realizing I was already in love (thanks Andrew). So it’s a thrill seeing the late Zappa’s life and work finally compiled into cinematic form.

Directed by Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame), Zappa uses archive footage and interviews to tell the story of one of the most brilliantly inventive and diverse musicians in our lifetimes, but does so in a way that still feels fresh and new. A host of various family members, producers, and numerous celebrities/musicians that range from The Beatles, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Alice Cooper, all help move the story along in the right direction.

It’s obvious Winter is a fan himself, and has treated the material here with the utmost respect and dignity. It’s a fitting tribute to a deserving icon that even the most casual of fans should view for themselves.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: The Last Blockbuster (Popmotion Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

In all seriousness, how could a publication with a name like Rewind It Magazine not be there to review a film dedicated to the people who literally gave us the phrase “be kind, rewind?!” Indeed, it’s almost as if The Last Blockbuster was made by the social outcasts of the world, specifically for them.

As it’s title suggests, this documentary – directed by Taylor Morden – focuses on the last remaining Blockbuster Video standing in the world in Bend, Oregon. Following the store’s GM Sandi Harding, viewers are given insight into what a day in the life is truly like to work at an actual, standing relic. Interviews with celebrities sharing their stories of love (and in some cases, even hate) of the beloved franchise range from Kevin Smith, Adam Brody, Samm Levine, and Lloyd Kaufman (among many others). Everything from the historic company’s rise, to its eventual fall, is covered in great detail along the way.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own Blockbuster experiences while growing up. Although I may have never worked there myself, it was my first real taste of freedom; after originally obtaining my driver’s license as a teenager, Blockbuster was one of my main usual stops on a regular basis. Those longing for simpler times of a now-bygone era should relish in this bittersweet film as much as I did. From start to finish, The Last Blockbuster is a completely harmless, flawless journey worth every single minute of the ride.

Rating: 5/5 Stars