Series Review: The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers Season 2 (Disney +)

By: Jesse Striewski

This latest season of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is even more predictably wholesome than the last, yet somehow it still works. All the familiar underdog story tropes are thrown in as usual, but even the “bullies” are painfully likable this time around.

Our heroes now find themselves fish (or ducks?) out of water when they arrive unintentionally invited to an elite summer hockey camp ran by a former NHL player (Josh Duhamel). As the team and their coach (played by the returning Lauren Graham) struggle to fit in and make their own individual marks at the camp, they encounter new allies and adversaries, and plenty of conflicts to contend with.

Gone is Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay, replaced this time by Duhmal, who does his best take on the stereotypical alpha male role. And the returning team itself is again made up of some talented youngsters, lead by Brady Noon, Taegen Burns, Swayam Bhatia, Maxewell Simkins, and Luke Islam, this time joined by the likes of newcomer Naveen Paddock.

There’s obvious similarities to other youthful contemporary shows like Cobra Kai, though everything is kept family friendly. And as corny as it may be, both seasons of Game Changers so far have been the most fun I’ve had watching a fictional hockey-themed show since going to see D2 in the theater all the way back in 1994. With that being said, the kid in me actually enjoyed skating into this one with the fam, and you just might too if you slide into the neutral zone with an open mind.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Walking Dead Season 11 (AMC)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween night 2010, I was a single father at the time, in need of some definite escapism to fill the void after completing a full night of trick-or-treating with my son and dropping him off to his mother’s place for the rest of the night. The show was the perfect remedy I needed, not only that very night, but for many more to come.

Since then I’ve never seen a show climb so steadily (and painfully) down hill before in my life. What once was a concise series filled with relatable characters and plots worth emotionally vesting in, became muddled with far too many ridiculously tedious and (often non-sensical) subplots, as well as the addition of far too many unlikable characters that it became impossible to keep track of them all, many just being added for no better reason other than to show how “woke” the show could be. Even the special effects have suffered an immense loss of quality.

The show had been on a noticeable decline for several seasons now, ever since the writing staff started going through changes and main characters like original boss man Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincolin) left (no doubt seeing the writing on the wall). But this latest season has just been so predictable, and just plan weird at times. You’ve got all these different communities (or “Commonwealth”) intertwined together, with these storm-trooper looking morons walking around now that it all just feels like, frankly, a joke. There’s even an episode that featured a full-on wrestling match in the zombie apocalypse, if you can believe that.

The core trio of early cast members that consists of Darryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Carol (Melissa McBride) hold it together as best as the can among the noise and chaos, but are given little to nothing to work with here. It’s not until the very last finale episode that anything of any real interest actually occurs, with some standout emotional performances from the likes of Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) that offers some sort of closure at least.

But it doesn’t really end there now, does it? With multiple spin-offs still very much in motion, we’ll still be seeing more from this “dead” horse for years to come. Let The Walking Dead be a lesson to AMC of exactly what not to do to a once-flawless show. Hopefully at least one of said spin-offs (I’m putting my money on the one about Rick and Michonne) will manage to bring some integrity back to the brand, instead of just continuing to tarnish it.

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Goldbergs Season 9 (ABC/Sony Pictures Television)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Goldbergs first premiered on TV in 2013, it was a quaint throwback that perfectly captured the essence of when the ’80s sitcom reigned supreme, and was still an event for the whole family. That initial magic has since dissipated somewhat, yet the show keeps trudging along regardless.

The show started its decline in quality by season six or seven, and season nine (which originally aired in September of 2021) asked us to accept a lot to say the least. The first noticeable change came with the unfortunate loss of “Pops,” played by the late George Segal, who passed away in March of 2021. His death was addressed in the first episode, then mentioned a few more times throughout the season.

Then of course there was the sudden controversy that supposedly came along with actor Jeff Garlin, who has played the father Murrary on the show since day one. Some vague behind the scenes “misconduct” allegations caused the producers to replace Garlin midway through the season, deciding to use a stand-in and weird CGI to replace him instead. It was about this time that I realized the show had hit a new low.

Aside from all these issues, the plots were really nothing all that spectacular, either, many just revolving around Adam (Sean Giambrone) navigating his future with both college and his girlfriend Brea (Sadie Stanely) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) and Geoff’s (Sam Lerner) eventual wedding. And of course there’s the usual meddling from Bev (Wendi McLendon-Covey) throughout all of these situations.

Only a couple of episodes from this season really standout; the Halloween episode that sees Adam finding solace in still celebrating the holiday via his “other” grandfather (Judd Hirsch) despite the loss of Pops. The episode also sticks out for featuring the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira.

And then of course there’s that wedding episode. We not only get an appearance from yet another ’80s pop star (Richard Marx), but one of the most awkward moments in the show’s tenure featuring the “stand-in” Murrary that the flimmakers actually tried to pull off as authentic. The result is one of the most cringe-worthy scenes ever to be displayed in small screen history.

The final episode (which aired in May of this year) Adam not only graduates, but we also find out that Erica is pregnant, leaving us with a somewhat predictable cliffhanger to end the season on. With season ten about to drop this evening, there’s no telling what to expect from this once-great, dwindling show. The only thing we know for sure is they’ve obviously learned from their mistakes by keeping the Murrary character going in the fashion they had, and finally decided to kill him off all together; perhaps at this point it’d be best to just put the show down as well before it gets any worse than this.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 5 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

After a dismal season four, which centered around basic high school bullying stories and juvenile humor geared towards the lowest common denominator possible, I wasn’t expecting much from season five of Cobra Kai at all, though I went in with as much of an open mind as possible…

…And I’m definitely glad I did. Surprisingly, season five reels it back in and once again makes us actually care about the characters, starting with Johnny (William Zabka) traveling to Mexico to find the down-and-out Miguel (Xolo Mariduena), who set out to said country to find his birth father he never actually knew. This instantly brings the much-needed human element back into the picture, something sorely lacking for too long now.

Meanwhile, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and the Miyagi Dojo are still at odds with Cobra Kai and its vengeful owner Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), and goes as far as enlisting not one, but two former nemesis’ to help infiltrate the dojo and take him down; once again, Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto) from The Karate Kid Part II, and this time, Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) from Part III.

Is it a stretch to try to make us believe that these characters would actually care so much about childish rivalries that they’d be willing to take a round trip around the world to fight these battles? Perhaps. But if you’ve been a fan of the series since the first season, but felt discouraged by the direction of the show after that horrendous last season like me, this might just win you back. It may not be the “best around” overall, but it certainly crane-kicks that last season to the ground (can you tell how much I didn’t care for that one?).

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series Review: Stranger Things Season 4 – Vol. 2 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

By now I’m assuming most fans of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things are likely already caught up the entire fourth season of the show, so hopefully no spoilers can be found here for anyone. This season truly was a gift to fans of the series, and even though volume two consists of just a couple of episodes, there’s so much compacted in it it’s almost overwhelming.

The numerous storylines all feel like small movies that could stand alone themselves. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) isfinally forced to come into her own once the secret government facility she’s been regaining her “powers” at is ransacked and officially put out of business for good, leading to a tearful goodbye with her “Papa” (Matthew Modine).

Meanwhile, Eleven’s extended support system is broken off into three separate groups, each trying to fight the evil that’s threatening mankind, while making it back to each other. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Noah Schnapp) make their way across state lines to get to her, while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) and the rest plot to take on Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) himself head-on. Lastly Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) escape their way out of Russia after fighting their own demons.

Each specific plot leads to its own satisfying conclusion, with enough twists and turns to make your head spin, often with emotional results. But what makes these characters so endearing is the ability to relate to them on a human level, which is ultimately a reflection of well-crafted writing. Thankfully, the door is left ajar again for another follow up, which all of us already engulfed in this little world created by the Duffer Brothers are already waiting for with much anticipation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series Review: Stranger Things Season 4 – Vol. 1 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

It speaks volumes for a show to still be as captivating as Stranger Things is four seasons in, and yet somehow this series only gets better with time. Within seconds of it starting, you’re instantly sucked into its world, and forgot about everything and anything else going on around you, the ingredients of not only great, meticulous writing, but flimmakers who actually care about their art.

This latest season contains so many subplots, I’m not sure if I can even sum it all up accurately without giving too much away. Long story short, a new evil in the form of a demon named Vecna is threatening Hawkins, and after the popular school cheerleader (Grace Van Dien) is killed in the house of local metal head and leader of the local D&D club, Eddie (Joseph Quinn), the kids get wrapped up in solving the mystery while trying to stay alive.

Meanwhile, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who has since lost her powers and struggling to adjust to living a “normal” life, is brought back to a facility by Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) to help regain her strength back. And while all this is going on, Hopper (David Harbour), who survived the events of season three but has since been imprisoned in a Russian hell, is plotting his escape while Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murrary (Brett Gelman) get tangled up in a kidnapping while attempting to free him.

While the show has always paid homage to ’80s films like E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial (among many others), this particular season has a strong influence from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, with dream-like sequences similar to those from said franchise (there’s even a brief appearance from Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund). And the tributes to such metal bands as Dio and W.A.S.P. via the Eddie character are a nice touch as well.

Since the show first started in 2016, it’s caused an unprecedented pop culture phenomenon, and rightfully so, considering the care and attention to detail put into Stranger Things is immaculate. There’s an artistic integrity often not found elsewhere these days, and I find myself wanting to go back to revisit the earlier seasons each time a new one emerges. There’s a simple reason why we respond so strongly to ‘throwbacks’ like Stranger Things; maybe it just reminds us of a time when the world – and life itself – was just a simpler place.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Book of Boba Fett (Disney Plus)

By: Jesse Striewski

The direction the Star Wars franchise has been heading into starting with The Mandalorian in 2019, has been nothing short of impressive. The Book of Boba Fett further builds on the foundations set up by the previously mentioned show and expands on it perfectly.

Like The Mandalorian, the events of Boba Fett take place directly after 1983’s Return of the Jedi, even going so far as to show how the title character (once again portrayed by Temuera Morrison) emerged from his seemingly original doom from the sar lac in Jedi. Eventually with the help of assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Fett rises to a position of power in the place of the notorious Jabba the Hutt.

There’s plenty of side stories, and characters new and old that fans of the original series should appreciate, including Luke Skywalker himself (Mark Hamil and Graham Hamilton), and yes, even Grogu, a.k.a. baby Yoda. I was exceptionally elated to see appearances by former Suicidal Tendencies bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner (whom I had the pleasure of personally meeting back in 2010), and Jennifer Beals, who still looks as good as she did when she first threw on those leg warmers for Flashdance back in the early ’80s.

Look, I’ve never been one of those unforgiving nerds with high expectations with each and every franchise they follow religiously (in fact, Star Wars has always been one of the few of its kind I even bother following at all). But for the most part, I think what Disney has been producing here lately has put the franchise back on the right track, and you can’t really ask for much more than that.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 4 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

Like many, I too was excited for yet another new season of the hit series Cobra Kai. But even with some returning familiar faces, the show unfortunately feels more tiresome and strained than ever before this time around.

It starts off promising, albeit predictable enough; John Kreese (Martin Kove) recruits his former partner and Cobra Kai co-founder Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, who returns to the franchise for the first time since 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III) to compete with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who have now splintered off back to their own respective dojos.

It’s painfully obvious this season is solely a Netflix production; not only is it dumbed-down to the most low-brow levels possible every chance it gets here, the characters show such little signs of any actual human development. The adults still exude constant unrealistic immaturity, while the teens continue to answer any conflicts with as much whining and/or ridiculously reckless behavior as possible.

It takes until the eighth entry for things to finally start picking up a little, eventually peaking by the tenth and final episode. And of course the door is yet again left ajar for a fifth season, with Silver (hopefully) hinting at the return of Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) from Part III. But even still, the show has sadly become far too self-aware, and not much more than just a parody of itself; I truly hope it can somehow find its way back on track to being “the best around” by the time the next season drops.

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney +)

This sequel series to the popular Mighty Ducks franchise from the ’90s is surprisingly refreshing, despite falling into some familiar cliches. Fans of the original family-friendly films will most likely rejoice with this updated take on the material, which thankfully lacks much of the corney-ness of the old films.

Now a quite literal “mighty” force to be reckoned with, the junior league Ducks have more or less become the bullies at this point. After cutting twelve-year-old Evan Morrow (Brady Noon) for not being up to par with his hockey skills, his mom (Lauren Graham) and him form a team themselves with (surprise!) more similar outcasts.

Of course they have no idea what they’re doing, and their only hope is to enlist the help of former Ducks coach himself Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), who is now jaded and hates hockey. What follows is of course a predictable, albeit fun, story of underdogs rising up against the bad guys. The talented young cast do more than admirable jobs in their respective roles, and there’s (thankfully!) no unnecessary agenda pushing that the eye can see. There’s even an appearance or two from some of the original Ducks, which should delight many a fan.

Game Changers is not about to change much at all honestly, but it’s likely to bring a smile or two to a few faces. Simply put, it’s good, harmless fun, which is something we can all use a little more of these days.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series Review: Chucky Season 1 (Syfy/USA Network)

By: Jesse Striewski

Everyone’s favorite evil doll Chucky is back in this sequel series that takes place right after the last film, Cult of Chucky. I was initially looking forward to what Don Mancini and co. might be able to bring to the table here, but quickly realized it’d probably be best to just revisit the old films again instead.

Things start off innocently enough; when New Jersey teen Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) finds an old Chucky doll at a yard sale and brings it home, he soon discovers who Chucky really is when his father (Devon Sawa) is killed by the hands of the doll. Jake is then sent to live with his aunt and uncle and their spoiled son, and more carnage is predictably unleashed. Only Jake and a couple of school friends know the truth about the killer doll, and must stop him at all costs.

Fans of the original series might enjoy some aspects of Chucky, such as the return of alumni Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent, and Christine Elise, not to mention of course Brad Dourif returning to voice Chucky, and his daughter Fiona adds some much-needed sex appeal by not only reprising her role from Cult.., but even assuming a younger version of her father’s human character in flashbacks from the ’80s (which is both interesting and weird, considering Brad still does the voice in these sequences). For the first time ever, audiences are even given a glimpse at Chucky as a child, too.

But whatever hope of things playing out as another Stranger Things-type show with the teen kids at the forefront as heroes is diminished fairly early on, and bogged down by sub-par acting, crass characters, and an urgent need to make the series unnecessarily humorous and “woke.” The dialogue and special effects are often laughable, and there’s very little time dedicated to actual suspense, just a fast-paced agenda bent on packing in as many sloppy kills as possible.

If not for the previously mentioned flashbacks into the character’s origins, this show would be almost completely unwatchable. Chucky may be back, but the franchise is still suffering from a muddled execution as usual.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars