Jun 15, 2024

Johnny Polo Shirt

Happy birthday to Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs.  The Chicken Man was undoubtedly the only member of Raven's Flock that could pull off a striped polo.

Jun 13, 2024

Father and Son Strikeout Kings

Last Fall, Roger Clemens shared this fun record that he and his son Kody hold.  It's really not too shocking that Kody Clemens has such a low career strikeouts total considering the fact that he's not a pitcher.  He was, however, brought in to pitch on a few occasions in his career.  His most recent strikeout, and the only one to come in a Phillies uniform, took place on May 1st, 2023 in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Phillies were losing 13-4 when Kody was brought over from first base to pitch in the bottom of the 8th.  He struck out Michael Busch for the second out of the inning to record his second career strikeout and 4,674 of the father/son record.

Jun 12, 2024

Follow The Birds

The Watchers
New Line Cinema (2024)
Ishana Night Shyamalan's directorial debut is very Shyamalanian.  I suspect that if you showed this to a moviegoer without telling them who wrote or directed it, their first question would be to ask if this is an M. Night Shyamalan film.  Either Ishana's producer father had an extremely heavy hand in the finished product, or she has been so inspired by her father's films that her own work is indistinguishable from his. 

The Watchers feels like a longer film than it is.  The tension didn't feel very tense.  It just kind of dragged on, with plot devices that mean nothing because the movie breaks them whenever it feels like it.  For example, the creatures in the woods are supposedly unable to enter The Coop (the building in the poster), except when they easily do so with no explanation.  The main character's backstory with her mother and sister fell completely flat, and while the mythology of the creatures was pretty interesting, it just made me wish that it could have been explored by a better filmmaker.

I left the theater feeling the same as I did after seeing Knock At The Cabin and Lady In The Water, which is to say that what I saw on the screen wasn't bad enough to be called a bad movie, but it also wasn't good enough that I'd recommend it or want to watch a second time.  I've generally been kinder to Shyamalan's films than the critics have been.  Hell, I still go to bat for The Village and The Happening, but this schtick is wearing pretty thin.

Jun 11, 2024

The Home Of Register Roulette

Electronics Department
Boscov's (1993)
This photo of the fourth floor electronics department of Boscov's in Wilkes-Barre was taken and shared by Tom Raski.  See if you can spot the Metallica box set and the wall of Nintendo games.

Jun 10, 2024

Communism Is Just A Red Herring!

One of the funniest movies of all time was screened at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater on Sunday night - the 1985 Jonathan Lynn comedy: Clue.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The second annual Retro Toy Market was held on the lot in the hours prior to showtime, with roughly 20 different vendors selling vintage toys, video games, movies, crafts, and other things.  There were also tables set up under the screen for folks to get together and play card and board games.

The Big Kid Store had the biggest presence out of all of the vendors on site, and they also handed out game cards for a fun contest that everyone was invited to participate in.  Each of the weapons from Clue were hidden somewhere on the lot.  They were fastened to a large board that included an ink stamp.  If you found each of the clues and stamped your game card with the ink stamp attached to each of them, you could turn it in at The Big Kid Store's table for a raffle ticket to win one of three prize packages that were awarded prior to the start of the movie.

I found a few things for my NES collection, including loose cartridges for Road Runner and Gauntlet, the latter of which included its instruction book, a copy of Cybernoid complete in box, and a Nintendo Power player's guide called Top Secret Passwords.  I had Road Runner and the player's guide when I was a kid, and I remember renting Gauntlet back in the day.  I hadn't played or even heard of Cybernoid before, but it looks like a fun shmup and it was less expensive than any in-box NES game that I had come across in a very long time, so I couldn't pass it by.

The last thing I found was this incredible Electronic Full-Color TV Scoreboard (model 60-3057).  It's a four player Pong clone that was sold by Radio Shack in the late 70's and early 80's.  It hooks up to CRT televisions and runs on six C-batteries.  It can play tennis, hockey, squash, and it has a ridiculously large plastic gun for skeet shooting and target practice.  All of these games are extremely basic (essentially just bars and squares on a screen), but they're a lot of fun to play.  The unit and all of its accessories are in pristine condition, and the man who sold it to me was only asking ten bucks.  This is going to have a good home in my game room!

Clue hit the screen after sundown.  I saw this for the first time when I was a teenager and haven't watched it too many times in the years that followed, so I had forgotten how hysterically funny it is.  It's a fast-paced comedy that's dripping with puns, sarcasm, and dark humor that I don't think I fully appreciated until Sunday night on the lot.

The thing that most people remember about this film today is its multiple endings.  Theaters who screened the film during its initial run in December 1985 were sent a 35mm print that featured one of three different endings that were filmed.  The side effect of this is the fact that you discussed the movie with a friend who saw it at a different theater, there's a good chance that you both would have watched different endings and thought that the other person was crazy when they told you that they remembered it ending differently than you did.  We were all pretty curious to learn which of the endings we were going to see at the Mahoning, but it turned out to be a print that included all three endings.  This is how the film was released on home video, with the first ending taking place, then a title card that read "here's how it could have happened" before the second ending, followed by another title card that read "but here's what really happened" before the final ending.

If you haven't watched Clue before, I cannot recommend it strongly enough.  You can stream it for free on Pluto TV, and if you find yourself laughing your ass off from start to finish, you are my kind of people!

Jun 9, 2024

Double Remake Double Take

Remake Double Take
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This has been a one-night annual event since we started coming to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, but they've doubled the offering in 2024 with a William Castle film kicking off both nights, followed by their Dark Castle Entertainment remakes from the late 90's and early 2000's.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Poster designed by Tom Bifulco

Friday night's double feature was the original and remake of House On Haunted Hill.  Saturday night was the 1960 film 13 Ghosts along with its 2001 remake, Thir13en Ghosts.  These screenings were originally scheduled for May 3rd and 4th, but were rescheduled for this weekend.

This weekend also included the first in-person meeting of the Mahoning Book Club for the 2024 season.  My wife and I are in the book club... not that you could really tell that from the group photo (thanks Louie!  :p).  The book we read was the 1976 memoirs of director/producer/screenwriter William Castle called Step Right Up.  I didn't have time to finish all of it before we met, but I'm definitely going to read the rest of it this week.  The stories of his career and early experiences make me think that Mr. Castle was to movies what Paul Heyman is to professional wrestling - renegades whose creativity reinvented the industries where they made their living.

The first movie of Friday night was the 1959 Vincent Price classic House On Haunted Hill.  Price plays a millionaire named Frederick who, along with his wife Annabelle, invites five guests to his haunted mansion with the promise that he will pay $10,000 to any of them who can remain in the house for one night.  If you enjoy classic horror films, this is one that you really shouldn't miss.  The movie is in the public domain, so you can stream it for free on YouTube.

I wish that I could tell you more about the 1999 remake of House On Haunted Hill, but it ended up being this season's first victim of the Friday Night Curse.  I wake up early for work on Friday, so I'm usually pretty tired by the time a second or third movie hits the screen at the Mahoning on Friday nights.  I've been able to stay awake so far for all of the Friday night movies this year, but I was out like a light about five minutes in to this film, and I didn't wake up until the credits rolled.  I've been told that it's pretty terrible, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not fun.  I'm kind of bummed to have snoozed my way through it.

13 Ghosts is a fun horror flick from 1960 that is filmed in what William Castle called "Illusion-O".  It was filmed in black and white, but any scene involving the ghosts was given a blue filter, with the ghosts appearing in red on an otherwise all-blue background.

The filming style tied into a gimmick that was used in theaters during the initial screenings of 13 Ghosts.  Fans were given a Ghost Viewer when they went to see it in theaters.  It's similar to the red/blue 3-D glasses that were used by some films at the time, but instead of being designed to place a red filter over one eye and a blue filter over the other, the Ghost Viewer was designed for you to look through one color if you wanted to see the ghosts and the other color if you didn't want to see them.  The Mahoning gave 3-D glasses to fans in attendance so they could experience the effect, but I thought the effects looked much cooler on the screen without it.

The second half of Saturday night's double feature was the 2001 remake Thir13en Ghosts.  This movie was slammed by critics and fans alike when it was first released, and it doesn't seem like public perception has improved too much over the past 23 years.  Holy crap... this movie is 23 years old?!  I still can't wrap my head around how fast time has flown in my adult life.

I've only seen bits and pieces of this movie before Saturday night.  I'm not going to say that it's a must-see modern classic or even that it's as good as the original, but it isn't nearly as bad as popular opinion led me to believe.  At the risk of damning it with faint praise, I'd say that if you go into this movie with tempered expectations, there is fun to be had here.

And that's a wrap for Remake Double-Take 2024.

Jun 8, 2024

Drink Up... The Dead Have Risen

Jawn Of The Dead
Neshaminy Creek (2023)
The Neshaminy Creek table didn't have this beer on hand when they visited the Mahoning Drive-In Theater last Saturday, but they had these can stickers available for their George A. Romero inspired brew.

Jun 7, 2024

It Isn't Raining Rain You Know...

Mahoning 75th Anniversary Celebration: April Showers / Jurassic Park
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This advertisement was published in the April 29th, 1949 edition of The Morning Call newspaper to promote the opening night of my favorite place in the world to watch movies, The Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The movie that was screened on opening night at the Mahoning was the Warner Bros musical April Showers.  Sixty-five years later when the industry had transitioned to an all-digital format, they screened Jurassic Park to kick off their second life as a home for folks who enjoy watching classic films on 35mm.  Last night, they celebrated their 75th anniversary with a double feature of these two films.

Prior to sundown, the Mahoning was acknowledged by the community with certificates in honor of their 75th year, and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony on the stage outside of the snack bar.  Mark (bottom left) appears to be doing an impersonation of a deranged crossing guard in this photo.  Sorry buddy... it's the best picture that I got.

You might have noticed a strange looking face in the group photo above Rob and Krista.  That face belonged to this very cool balloon statue of Freddy Kreuger that was created by Robbie Furman.  He's a balloon artist and performer who owns and operates Robbie's Balloons & More in Lehighton, PA.  His work was also on display during opening weekend, and I have a hunch that we'll be seeing more of it this season.

The pre-show cartoon was a 1943 Tom & Jerry short called The Yankee Doodle Mouse.  This reel was a part of Jeff's collection of classic animation on 35mm.

April Showers is a musical about a husband and wife vaudeville team (The Happy Tymes) whose performances have grown stale over time.  The act gets new life when their 12 year old son leaves school to join them on stage, and they achieve new heights as a three-person family act.  Unfortunately, their big opportunity to make it in New York falls flat because of a law that prevents their son from performing.  This causes the father to spiral out of control with alcohol, which gets him blacklisted from the venues where he and his family once performed.  With no other option, his wife and son go on the road with a song-and-dance man named Billy Shay, who is pressuring the wife to leave her husband for him.  The father returns just in time to catch Billy smacking his son around and make his triumphant return to the stage with his family.

This is not at all the kind of movie that I gravitate towards.  I can't imagine any scenario other than this 75th anniversary celebration at the Mahoning that would have put this film on my radar at all, let alone inspired me to give it my full attention.  It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but I enjoyed it for what it was.  The title song of the movie was nice to hear on the lot.  It's a song that my grandmother used to sing to me when I was very young, and a song that she sang to herself from time to time throughout my life. 

One fun fact about this film that my dad pointed out to me is that the actor who played Billy Shaw (Robert Alda) is the father of actor Alan Alda, who is best known for playing Hawkeye in M*A*S*H.

The 35mm animation that played during intermission was called Runaway Brain.  This is a Disney cartoon from 1995 that we have seen at the Mahoning twice before, once in 2021 and again in 2022.  It feels more like a Looney Tunes than a Mickey Mouse cartoon, which is probably why I enjoy it as much as I do.  I'm not sure if it's available to stream through official channels, but someone has uploaded it to YouTube.

Jurassic Park was the second half of Thursday night's double feature.  We saw this at the Mahoning in August 2021, but I was at a ballgame with my dad earlier that day and didn't get there until later in the day and were parked pretty far back on the lot.  This time, we got to see it from "our spot" in the front row to the right of the digital booth, and it looked as incredible on the big screen as it always does.

Before we headed home, we got to see a 35mm print of a 1947 Woody Woodpecker cartoon called Smoked Hams.  We saw this once before during Opening Weekend 2022, but vintage cartoons are always a welcome sight on the big screen at the Mahoning.  It was a great end to another perfect night at the drive-in.

Jun 6, 2024

Bloody Murder Never Felt So Dull

In A Violent Nature
IFC Films (2024)
I've seen a lot of slasher films in my life, but this is the first time that I've ever been bored by watching one.  In A Violent Nature is an homage to Friday The 13th, but shot mostly from a third person perspective of the killer.  Sounds like a cool idea in theory, but in practice, it's a lot of walking... and more walking... and more walking.  I'd estimate that a good 25% of the footage of this movie is watching the killer's back as he walks through the woods looking for his next victim.

Some of the kills are brutal, but they came across to me as being so over-the-top that they ended up feeling silly, like when Wile E. Coyote gets blown up while chasing the Road Runner.  There was no character development whatsoever.  The cinematography was gimmicky, and the dialogue reminded me of scenes out of a soap opera.  The only scene in the movie that kept my interest was the ride in the truck at the end with Lauren-Marie Taylor who delivers the only respectable acting performance in the entire film, but it's not even close to being enough to save the movie.  Hard pass.

Jun 5, 2024

Going Dutch For Dinner

Dutch Burger
Sapore - Lehighton, PA
We decided to stop for a bite to eat on the way to the ballgame on Monday night rather than to wait through what was sure to be long lines at the ballpark.  I'm happy that we did because it gave me the opportunity to try this very tasty burger.

The Dutch Burger is an 8 oz burger topped with fried onions, mushrooms, gravy, and provolone cheese, and it's served with a side of french fries for under $10.  It's a little challenging to eat because the gravy caused the cheese and the toppings to keep slipping off, but if you're not opposed to some creative head tilts or eating your burger with a knife and fork, it is definitely worth the effort.

Dad and I stopped at Sapore in Lehighton for lunch over 20 years ago, and this is the first time that I've been back to the restaurant since then.  I wasn't deliberately avoiding the place.  It's just that I'm usually headed for the Turnpike when I'm in this part of town and not often looking to stop for food at this point in my travels.  I'm going to have to keep this place in mind for the future though.  Any place where you can get a tasty burger and a chocolate dipped cannoli is a place that you want to keep on your radar.

Jun 4, 2024

Rhys Lightning Strikes Philadelphia

One of the motivating factors when I'm picking which Phillies games to go to at the start of the season is whether or not I've already seen the visiting team play in person.  As of today, the only teams that I have yet to see in a live game are the Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies.

I already saw the Brewers play back in 2009, but there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to see Rhys Hoskins in his first game at Citizens Bank Park since he signed with Milwaukee.  I had no way of knowing when I bought these tickets over the winter that I'd be watching two first place teams battle it out in early June in what may very well turn out to be a preview of the post-season.

This game was a bittersweet experience.  On one hand, it was an excellent game and a very cool experience to welcome Rhys Hoskins back to Citizens Bank Park.  However, I originally got these tickets to see the game with my dad.  He's been having some health concerns recently that kept him from being able to come out to the ballpark.  Hopefully we can make it to a game soon.

The announced starters for the game were Phillies ace Zack Wheeler against Brewers right hander Bryse WilsonWheeler did start for the Phillies, and Wilson did pitch the most innings of the game for the Brewers, but Milwaukee have been using an "opener" to pitch the first inning in some games, so left-handed reliever Jared Koenig pitched the first inning.  I'm not entirely opposed to this strategy, and it did seem to work out for the Brewers as Koenig quickly retired Kyle Schwarber, JT Realmuto, and Bryce Harper on three straight groundouts.

The real story of this game was Rhys Hoskins returning to Philadelphia.  He hasn't played a game on this field since the 2022 World Series.  He missed all of 2023 due to injury, and with Bryce Harper at first base and Kyle Schwarber at DH, he didn't have a place to play in Philly by the time he hit free agency before the start of this season.  It's just one of those things that can happen in baseball.

I've followed Rhys Hoskins for most of his professional career.  I got to see him play in Lehigh Valley alongside JP Crawford, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery.  I was in attendance for his first MLB hit, and for his 8th career MLB home run, which occurred during an incredible stretch in August 2017 in which he became the fastest player in MLB history to hit ten home runs in the big leagues.  I've followed the highs, the lows, the bat spikes, and the injuries, and over the past 8+ years, he has become one of my favorite Phillies of all time.  Being in attendance for this night seemed almost mandatory.

The Phillies played a nice video package before the start of the game to honor Hoskins contributions in Philadelphia.  That got a great reaction, but it paled in comparison to his first at-bat in the top of the 2nd inning.  I took a video of it from our seats in Section 421, but this video from MLB.com of the Brewers broadcast of the game does a much better job of capturing Hoskins reaction to the standing ovation that he was given by the fans.  Even if you're not a baseball fan... even if you have no context of what is going on in the moment... that has to give you chills.

There is a ton of credit to go all around for this incredible moment.  First of all, all of the respect in the world goes to home plate umpire Sean Barber, who recognized the importance of the moment and suspended the pitch clock to allow it to happen.  I'm sure there are some umpires who wouldn't have been as respectful of the game and its players and fans, but Mr. Barber is a true class act.  Secondly, the fans in attendance gave Hoskins the respect he deserves.  The national media likes to characterize Philadelphia fans as classless jerks, mostly for a few isolated incidents that took place years before I was born.  I'm in my mid 40's, by the way, so we're talking about things that took place roughly a half century ago or longer.  Hoskins reacted with class and dignity, as did all of the other players on the field on both sides.  The whole game played out almost like a Rhys Hoskins appreciation night, and you could not have scripted the game on the field any better than the way that it played out.

Hoskins popped out in his first at-bat in the top of the 2nd.  He drew a walk in the top of the 5th and stole second base.  He came around to attempt to score off of a Blake Perkins single to center field, but Johan Rojas made an incredible throw to gun him down at the plate.  Hoskins came up to the plate one more time in the top of the 7th and hit a solo home run to left field.  There was a split of cheers and boos for this in the crowd, but it was mostly cheers by the time he crossed home plate.  I'm sure it would have been different if it gave the Brewers the lead, but all it did was narrow the Phillies lead to 3-1, which ended up being the final score of the game.

One of the cool stories of this game that has gotten lost in the Rhys Hoskins return was the Phillies debut of left fielder David DahlDahl was the Colorado Rockies first round draft pick in 2012 who tied the all-time record with a 17 game hitting streak to start off his MLB career in August 2016, and who made the NL All-Star Team in 2019.  However, a string of injuries that started during the 2020 season derailed his career.  He has spent the past four seasons bouncing between the Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Padres, and Dodgers organizations before signing a minor league contract with the Phillies on February 17th of this year.  His signing flew completely under my radar at the time, but he has raked this season with the Iron Pigs with a slash line of .340/.416/.660 with 12 home runs, 26 RBI, and one game in which he hit for the cycle.

No one is expecting Dahl to break through the Phillies incredibly talented outfield to land a starting job, but this is a guy who was at one time a top prospect, and it's not completely unheard of for a 30 year old player who has been hampered by injuries to rebound after getting healthy.  His opportunity to return to the big leagues came yesterday morning when Brandon Marsh and Kody Clemens were both placed on the IL, and he responded in his first game as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies by continuing to produce the way he did in Lehigh Valley.  He singled in the bottom of the 2nd to put runners on first and third.  Edmundo Sosa and Johan Rojas both followed up with consecutive RBI singles which allowed Dahl to score to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.  In his next at-bat in the bottom of the 4th, Dahl hit a solo home run to right field that increased the Phillies lead to 3-0.

In all likelihood, Dahl will be sent back down to Lehigh Valley when everyone is healthy, but it's depth like this that makes the difference between a contending team and a championship team.  Injuries happen over the course of a 162 game season, and it's good to know that there are talented prospects and hungry veterans working their way back to a full-time spot in the big leagues who can step in and produce.

I couldn't find separate videos of the key moments of the game, but this game recap video captured them all.  The whole game played out like it was scripted by Hollywood.  Below are shortcuts to skip ahead.

What a cool game!  This is easily in the top 5 games that I've ever been fortunate enough to be in attendance for at Citizens Bank Park.  It's the Phillies 42nd win of the season.  They're tied with the Yankees for the best record in MLB, and they've increased their lead over the Braves to seven games.  Things are looking very good right now for the Fightins!