Tony Orlando at Epcot’s Garden Rocks on 5/21/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke and Jacob Striewski

This was originally going to be a much different concert review than it is, but sometimes life has a funny way of working out. When I headed to Epcot with the family for yet another Garden Rocks concert I was expecting to see ’80s new wavers A Flock of Seagulls. But it became quickly apparent that was not happening when, after arriving, the older gentleman next to us quipped, “You guys don’t look old enough to know who Tony Orlando is!”

And so began our adventure at a Tony Orlando show, which was surprisingly more entertaining than any of us expected the ’70s performer to be. It’s doubtful that few in attendance were expecting Orlando to open with a blistering cover of Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love” either, but that’s exactly how it went down.

From then on, Orlando ran through his most popular hits including “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree,” “Candida,” and “Knock Three Times,” before going into a medely of “La Bamba/Twist and Shout.” In between all of this, there was a brief solo that found drummer Timothy Pope emerging from behind his set to continue playing his sticks on everything from a bar stool, to the very front of the stage itself.

Tony Orlando and fan during his show at Epcot on 5/21/22.

There was also some interaction between Orlando and a female fan holding a sign with a photo of them from 1979 on it. Orlando promptly invited the fan onto stage, where he finally planted a smooch on her after all these years. This of course drew plenty of applause from the audience.

Next up, 18-year-old bassist Captain Sibley took over vocals for a cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” showcasing the young newcommer’s talent, before finally finishing the set with hyped-up version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” I can’t say I was ever a big Tony Orlando fan, but I also cannot deny how much fun he was to watch perform live, proving that nothing beats live music no matter what.

Retrospective: 45 Years since ‘Star Wars’ Took us to a Galaxy Far, Far Away By Jesse Striewski

Long before the countless spin-offs, Sci Fi conventions, and overly complex storylines, Star Wars was simply just another rite of passage for an average kid growing up in the ’80s such as myself. Back then, we didn’t see it as the crowning achievement of filmmaking that it has since come to be known as today; we just thought it was really…cool.

I was not around yet when George Lucas’ landmark film was originally released to theaters on May 25, 1977, but I was caught up with a quickness, having an older brother and cousins who were already savvy to the series before I was. Original action figures from the toyline were already firmly in place in my household, and each and every time any of the films were shown on TV, it became an event for everyone.

The original film/space opera, which has retroactively come to be known as Episode IV: A New Hope in many circles, introduced the world to some of pop cultures most iconic figures; Mark Hamill as the everyday hero Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as the lovely Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as badass smuggler Han Solo. Then of course there were the unforgettable, non-human characters like droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), wookie Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and the evil Darth Vadar (voiced by James Earl Jones).

Star Wars became the highest grossest film ever at the time, earning over $775 million at the box office, and clinging to that title until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial eventually surpassed it a few years later in 1982. The film’s success spawned two initial sequels, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back (largely viewed by many as superior to the original) and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, each equally essential viewing for kids from my era.

Even without anymore films being released throughout the rest of the decade, various action figures and other media sources kept the franchise alive throughout the ’80s; two made-for-TV spin-off films based off the Ewoks were released in 1984 and 1985, respectively, and an animated series based off them, as well as Star Wars: Droids, also kept the material alive from 1985-86.

The original Star Wars trilogy on VHS, courtesy of the author’s collection.

Then of course the late ’90s brought on the remastered versions of the first three films, which found them with newly added footage thanks to George Lucas (I still despise these versions to this day), and the even lesser-received prequel trilogy, beginning with Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999 (my least favorite entry of all the Star Wars films, yet ironically the first one of the series I ever saw on the “big screen”), which in turn spawned several animated shows, as well as the theatrically-released The Clone Wars in 2008.

In 2012, Lucas relinquished his ownership and sold the rights to Disney, who revived the franchise with yet another sequel trilogy, starting with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Since then there’s been numerous spin-off films in the form of 2016’s Rogue One and 2018’s Solo, as well as a host of new shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s been forty five years now since one man’s imagination took us to a galaxy far, far away, and while the material that has come since may not be quite on par with the original film and trilogy, I still watch with anticipation each and every time something new comes along in the name of Star Wars. I can’t imagine having had to endure a childhood without something as whimsical, and feel genuine pity for those who have missed out. May the force be with you, always.

The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO at Epcot’s Garden Rocks Series on 3/27/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Earlier this month, Epcot kicked off it’s annual Garden Rocks concert series, which hosts a number of different artists spanning the course of numerous decades. This past weekend featured The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO, which not only features members from ’70s and ’80s prog rock outfit Electric Light Orchestra and ELO Part II as their name would suggest, but it should also be noted that former Styx guitarist/bassist Glen Burtnik is a part of the lineup as well. This past Sunday, March 27, Rewind It Magazine was able to make it out to catch one of the band’s many sets over their four day period here.

No doubt that some purists out there will likely scream there’s no ELO without Jeff Lynne leading it, but I’ve always been of the mindset that I’d rather have someone still performing the songs live, rather than no one at all. And after a full day of family fun spent at place like Epcot, what better high note is there to end on then to listen to some classic prog rock?

The band first took stage on this beautiful Florida day at 5:30pm, opening with the massive hit “Evil Woman.” More fan favorites in the form of “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” “Hold on Tight,” “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” and “Above the Clouds.” But nothing quite compared to the one-two punch they ended with of “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” at which point the band had the entire crowd standing on their feet.

As much as I wanted to stick around for their next set to see if they played my personal favorite (“Turn to Stone”) or not, we had other places to hit on our agenda before we left the park for the day. But as luck would have it, we had circled almost completely back around by the end of their second set to hear them performing just enough of said song. It was the perfect ending to an already memorable day, one I hope you can experience for yourself someday as well (the band will also be performing one last round of sets at Epcot tonight).

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

Interview with Actor Keith Coogan By Jesse Striewski

Chances are if you grew up in the late ’80s/early ’90s such as myself, you remember actor Keith Coogan. Not only did he appear in numerous commercials (his first acting job was a spot for McDonnald’s), and popular shows on TV at the time such as Knight Rider and Silver Spoons, he was also lucky enough to work alongside two of the most memorable bombshells of their time, Elizabeth Shue in 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, and Christina Applegate in 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Recently, I was able to sit down and speak with Coogan during a candid phone conversation about these experiences, and so much more.

I instantly wanted to start at the beginning and discuss what it was like making his first movie, a voice role in the 1981 Disney film The Fox and the Hound. He told me; “Yeah, no real huge memories of that! I came from a real big showbiz family with my great-grandfather in Vaudeville, then my grandfather in silent films and television, and my mother was a comedy writer, so they knew it’s a hard way to make an easy living. And I had worked my way up through TV, doing lots of commercials and guest appearances on great shows like CHiPS, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Eight is Enough, Mork & Mindy, and Laverne & Shirley. My mom, or “momager” was the one that took me around, and almost everything with a kid in it I auditioned for. And we got a voiceover job for Disney when I was eight; it was thrilling, but really only like three or four days of work spread over months and months. And they recorded the voices singularly…it wasn’t until Robin Williams was doing Aladdin years later that they decided to bring in whoever he was doing a scene with due to his improv nature.”

He continued; “We started in ’78, and of course the hound was played by Corey Feldman, who I’ve been friends with for decades now. And then Don Bluth left the production and took a lot of animators with him, and they had to shut down before hiring new people to finish the film. And by the time it came out in ’81, I was eleven and had been doing more TV and stuff, so it was kind of an after thought like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s out’ (Laughs). I know how grateful I am to be in a Disney movie, and some say it’s their last classically-animated film before they used computers full-blown on their next production. I think it’s a terrific, sweet film, and I think it made $64 million dollars at the box office, which was a record for them at the time, too.” He added one final thought; “And despite what it says on IMDB, Kurt Russell did NOT record his dialogue wearing Snake Plissken’s jacket (Laughs).”

I also wanted to get into some of those old TV roles he took part of, starting with working with the late Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy; “Oh gosh, working with him, and Jonathan Winters, and of course the anchor holding the show down, Pam Dawber, was so great! And this was actually the last episode to ever air, and they knew they weren’t necessarily going to get picked up for another season, so the set kind of had a dire mood to it. But there was still that spark of creativity there from Williams and Winters, although Jonathan was much more on his own planet (Laughs).”

Of course I had to ask him about Silver Spoons as well; “Rick managed a rock band called Splat, which I was the keyboard player for. And they were going to go on a Star Search kind of thing before their singer got sick, and so Rick had to sing, hence the title of the episode, “Rick Sings.” It was kind of a precursor to future roles I would play, but it was more surfer rather than stoner. I also got to work with Alfonso Ribeiro and Billy Jayne, and it was a welcoming, fun set with the video games and the train, and I think I got about ten feet into the house before three guys came up to me with their satin ’80s jackets (Laughs). And all of the video games on the set had unlimited credits, so you could just walk up and play any one of them! But they didn’t typically have the train out and lying around, so there was probably a ‘no riding the train’ rule!” He went on; “But the audiences on sitcoms used to throw me off. I probably did six or seven more of them, too, including Growing Pains and Just the Ten of Us. And they always were nerve racking in front of a live audience! I remember my entrance I did for the Laverne & Shirley episode I did; I opened the door and just cracked up, so we had to re-shoot it at the end of the night (Laughs).”

And aside from sitcoms, he was also on another favorite ’80s show, the previously-mentioned Knight Rider; “That was amazing! David Hasselhoff was particularity awesome and fun to work with, and I worked with my uncle Don Stroud, who played one of the biker gang members. We shot around southern California, and one of the coolest shots we did was at Mockingbird Square, which was Clock Tower Square at Universal Studios. And the bait shop we filmed in was the diner from Back to the Future. So that was fun to not only get to shoot there, but also ride around in K.I.T.T.!”

As far as his movies go, I asked if he felt Adventures in Babysitting is the one he will always be best remembered for; “It’s entirely subjective to people, but I think for me, it’s a split between that and Don’t Tell Mom...And regarding its 2016 remake, he said; “It was the one-hundredth Disney Channel original movie, and I went to the premiere when it came out, and it was great, lots of fun! The original was stretching the PG-13 and was limited to a certain audience, whereas the G-rated version was more for a younger generation. But it rings a lot of nostalgia bells with some of the little Easter eggs in there. But still, totally different story and tone, but I loved it! And Coogan even explained a little what co-star Elizabeth Shue has been up to recently (despite not having kept in contact with her); “She was involved with a recent article on all the things you ever wanted to know about Adventures in Babysitting answered, and it’s fantastic! They cover everything from the dance scene in the beginning, to the Playboy, to “Babysitter’s Blues.”‘

I also wondered if he had kept in touch with his former Don’t Tell Mom…co-star Christina Applegate, who recently announced a MS diagnosis; “We actually spent some time running in the same circles before shooting the movie, so it was a great pleasure to get to work with her, having already known how talented she was. She’s a total professional, and it’s interesting that both of these films kind of rest these huge budgets on the shoulders of teenagers! But I know that she’s gone through a lot, but she’s a trooper, and just fantastic, and I wish her all the best…sending out good vibes to her. And as far as how close Coogan was in reality to his character Kenny in the film? He tells me; “I was a nerd, a geek, and a “Dexter” as we used to call it in middle and high school (Laughs). So I wasn’t much like my character at all, I didn’t listen to the rock music like Kenny, or the punk music like Mitch in Cousins. But director Stephen Herek was very supportive in helping me find my character. But I loved it, and there was no way I was passing up the role of Kenny.”

One thing often somewhat forgotten about Coogan are his brushes with the action genre, such as the 1991 film Toy Soldiers; “I think they wanted to forget it when it came out (laughs), meaning it did good business, but you know, nothing to write home about. But Louis Gossett, Jr., what a legend, and Denholm Elliot, another legend! I had a great cast to work with, from Sean Astin to Wil Wheaton, and Shawn Phelan who has now passed. There was also Andrew Divoff who is pretty “method,” I don’t think I saw him smile once until we were done shooting (laughs). And the late R. Lee Ermey; at this point I had already done Adventures in Babysitting with Vincent D’Onofrio from Full Metal Jacket, but now I’m working with the Gunnery Sergeant himself, so I was just over the top! But it was an interesting mix-and-match movie…basically Die Hard meets Dead Poets Society (Laughs).”

In more recent times, Coogan even appeared as himself in the 2019 Kevin Smith film Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, and I asked him to briefly tell me about the experience; “Kevin had said something interesting along the lines of, ‘before I started making movies, I watched a lot of movies.’ So he really has a soft spot for nostalgia and for anyone that came before him. And having Chris Hemsworth at the end credits say – as Thor – “The dishes are done man,” I crapped my pants a little when I first saw that! (Laughs).”

While I could continue even further with more from our hour-long conversation, I’ll end things on this note due to time (perhaps I’ll get to the rest in future pieces), but those in the New Jersey area can actually catch Coogan at the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany from the 29th-31st of this month. Regarding this event he stated; “It’s their anniversary for the convention, and it’s going to be a riot and a huge blowout! A lot of great guests, cosplay, and screenings, so it should be amazing!”

Film Review: Onward (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Onward - Edited

By: Jesse Striewski

Disney/Pixar’s Onward was unfortunately overshadowed by the pandemic when it was released to theaters earlier this year. But despite the brief appearance in actual cinemas, it quickly found a new life on home video and streaming services.

The story centers around brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barely (Chris Pratt), two elves who embark on a road trip to bring back their deceased father via a magical artifact. It might sound a little far-fetched on paper, but in terms of computer-animated films set in fantasy worlds, it really is at the top of the line. Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer round out the main voice cast, while veteran voice actors like John Ratzenberger and Wimer Valderrama also lend their talents along the way.

Safe for the whole family, yet still appealing enough to hold adult attention as well, it’s a fun, welcomed piece of escapist entertainment despite it’s somewhat standard storybook plot. Ultimately it’s a trip worth taking for those raised on Toy Story and the like. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars