Series Review: The Mandalorian – Season 3 (Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been so long since the last season of The Mandalorian aired in late 2020, I honestly had a difficult time at first remembering where things had even left off. But rest assure there’s still plenty of Baby Yoda (or Grogu for those who like to be more technical) to go around.

This time around Mandalorian Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu are joined by fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) on their travels after some initial hesitation. Right off the bat there’s plenty of giant monsters and fire fights involving lasers and sabers, perfect thirst-quenchers for any old school Star Wars fans.

There’s plenty of returning familiar faces (though sadly still no Gina Carano), including Carl Weathers and Giancarlo Esposito, and even some delightful new ones (Jack Black and Christopher Lloyd are especially likable additions). The strangest moment of them all though is The Convert, an interesting enough stand alone episode featuring Omid Abtahi in the lead role that leaves viewers feeling empty without a proper ending or follow up.

It might be overly adorable at times thanks mainly to Grogu (at least the puppetry is actually done right with mainly practical effects instead of all-CGI as in most cases these days), and it’s far from perfect. But if nothing else, it is pure escapist entertainment worth occasionally getting lost in.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal Pictures/Illumination/Nintendo)

By: Jesse Striewski

Remember the original 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, where the late Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo first played the plumber brothers Mario and Luigi in a live action, heaping mess? It was the first ever film of its kind based off of a video game, and the makers of it painfully missed the mark, leaving audiences severely unimpressed. After all these years, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is what (most) fans have surely been waiting for.

This version is your standard search-and-rescue type of set up when brothers Mario (played by the very non-Italian Chris Pratt – but hey, it’s all about the selective outrage though, am I right?!) and Luigi (portrayed perfectly by Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame) are whisked away and separated into an unknown underworld while attempting to save their home city Brooklyn from a plumbing emergency. They also just happen to land while the evil King of the Koopas, Bowser (another spot-on casting move with Jack Black) is plotting on taking over Mushroom Kingdom and marrying Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). But through the help of Peach, Mario learns just how “super” he can become as he sets off to save both his brother, and the innocent kingdom from peril.

Everything that was left out of the ’93 version makes its way into the story here seamlessly and without feeling forced, as the brothers each encounter strange new lands and befriend new characters along the way. And there’s nearly a reference to every Mario Bros.-related game that’s come since the titular hero’s very first appearance in Donkey Kong all the way back in 1981, with everything from Mario Kart to Luigi’s Mansion. Sure, it’s essentially just a large advertisement for Nintendo, but it never crosses any lines that don’t make any sense to the plot.

All in all The Super Mario Bros. Movie is harmless family entertainment without being too overly cute, and focused solely on its story rather than getting in any unnecessary political agendas or jabs. The humor never stoops to low-brow levels, yet still manages to incorporate jokes aimed at adults. And there are plenty of throwbacks for nostalgia hounds to gush over (even the music, which stays very- ’80s throughout, is always well-placed). The film is a rare labor of love that’s beyond easy to find yourself fully escaping into it’s realms, and quite frankly, probably the best video game-related film produced thus far (sorry, Sonic!).

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Dio: Dreamers Never Die (BMG)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’m sure I’ve probably mentioned this a time or two before, but one of the biggest personal regrets I have is not catching the late, great Ronnie James Dio in concert before his death in 2010 (the closest I ever came was a 2019 Dio Returns show, where several former members of the Dio band paid tribute to their former singer while using live backing tracks of Ronnie behind them, along with a hologram of him). The recent documentary Dio: Dreamers Never Die certainly helps confirm this regret.

Spanning his entire life and career, the film covers every aspect of his time in rock music. From Elf to Rainbow, to Black Sabbath to Dio, there’s no shortage of story to tell. And featuring interviews and insight from fellow personalities and rockers like Rob Halford, Eddie Trunk, Lita Ford, and Jack Black, as well as former wife Wendy Dio, and a host of many of Ronnie’s former bandmates.

“The Man on the Silver Mountain,” “Heaven and Hell,” “We Rock,” “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” “The Last in Line,” and “Rock and Roll Children” are just a few of the titles Dio gifted us during his time on this Earth, and remain unmistakable classics to this day. The origins to many of these tracks are meticulously covered in great detail, among many others.

But of course, there’s only one way Dio’s life story can possibly end…with his unfortunate death. The results are some of the most tear-jerking moments compiled on film in recent memory (no doubt enough to make a grown man such as myself shed a tear or two). But that just stands to reason the true testament of Ronnie James Dio; every bit of praise is not only accurate, but deserved. He left behind a legacy that most artists today could only dream of ever having, and those of us who knew his music, understood his deep impact and worth.

Shot from the Dio Returns show Rewind It Magazine covered at The Plaza Live on 6/2/19. Photo by Brooke Striewski.

(Shot from the Dio Returns show Rewind It Magazine covered at The Plaza Live in Orlando, FL on 6/2/19. Photo by Brooke Striewski).

Rating: 5/5 Stars