Series Review: Willow Season 1 (Disney +)

By: Jesse Striewski

Since its premier last November, Willow, the sequel series to the 1988 Ron Howard film of the same name, has received mixed reviews to say the least. But if swords and sorcery are your type of thing, there’s plenty of adventure to be had here, if you can get past the silly-ness at least.

Warwick Davis returns as the titular character Willow, the not-so-great sorcerer who leads a rescue mission to find the kidnapped Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk) along with his sister Kit (Ruby Cruz), her soon-to-be knight lover Jade (Erin Kellyman), and Arik’s love interest Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), who just so happens to be the same baby Willow protected all those years before with Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and the future Empress of Tir Asleen. Another prince (Tony Revolori), and a boorish treasure hunter named Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) are also along for the ride.

Joanne Whalley and some other familiar faces also reprise their roles from the original film, and one of the better episodes features Christian Slater as Allagash, a former companion of both Madmartigan and Boorman’s. And while Kilmer only appears via archival footage, his son Jack does some voiceover work here as well.

But if only the writers could have kept things straight forward instead of trying to stay “hip” or “witty,” this new series could have been a complete smash. Unfortunately they choose to veer into the absurd far too often, with everything from the dialogue, to questionable choices with the music, making it hard to take things too seriously. The final episode alludes to possible future chapters; hopefully by season two they’ve actually learned from their mistakes.

Rating: 2.5/5 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