Sep 16, 2021

Joe Bob - Wrapped In Plastic



Wrapped In Plastic
Hometown Farmers Market - Tamaqua, PA
There's a book and music shop inside of the main building at the Hometown Farmers Market that's owned and operated by a really good dude who has a hell of a lot of awesome concert stories.  Last night, I picked up a pile of movie, science fiction and comedy magazines from the 70's through the early 90's.  This Wrapped In Plastic issue #2 from December 1992 caught my eye for two reasons.  First, it's a magazine about Twin Peaks, which is one of my favorite shows.  Second, it includes the following interview with Joe Bob Briggs.



Sep 15, 2021

The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction



Rabid
New World Pictures (1977)
David Cronenberg is one of my favorite writer/directors of all time, and with all due respect to Shivers, 28 Days Later and the 1994 adaptation of The Stand, I think that Rabid is the greatest plague story ever put on film.  I first saw this film as a teenager not long after reading The Stand for the first time, and I loved it.  Then, I forgot about it for about 20 years until it was shown during the original Last Drive-In 24 hour marathon hosted by Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder.  Watching it again through the eyes of a guy in his late 30's (at the time) gave me a whole new level of appreciation for the film.  Watching it again last night at the Mahoning Drive-In while the world is ravaged by a global pandemic for the second straight year has once again led to a deeper understanding of this movie and the brilliant way that holds a mirror up to society.




We've only got a month and a half before the end of the 2021 season at the drive-in.  This place has become like a second home to me.  We've got tickets to a lot of other shows this year, but I'm already thinking about what it's going to be like over the winter when I won't be able to go to the drive-in for six months.  I can tell you this - I'll be first in line to buy tickets on Opening Night for Spring 2022.
 



If you love horror movies and you haven't seen Rabid, I highly recommend it.  The story takes place in Montreal.  A man and a woman crash their motorcycle, and the woman (Rose, played by Marilyn Chambers) undergoes an experimental skin graft surgery while in recovery.  This results in a mutation in the form of a retractable stinger just below the armpit that she uses to feed off of human blood.  This doesn't kill her victims outright, but it infects them with a fact-acting virus that is similar to rabies.  The infected first exhibit cold sweats, then become violently aggressive and attack others, and finally they fall into a coma and die.  The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through saliva, so anyone who is infected can pass the infection to others by biting them.  However, Rose does not exhibit any of the rabies-like symptoms, which implies that she is immune to the virus despite her need to feed off of human blood.

The Canadian government has developed a vaccine against contracting the virus, but there is no cure for those who are already infected.  Citizens of Montreal are told on the news that if they leave the house, they must bring their vaccination card and must present it when asked before they will be permitted to enter certain locations.  Sound familiar?  Unlike the world we live in, the fictional world in the movie does not take into account that there would be a sizable percentage of jackasses who refuse to take the vaccine.  I suppose that even a creative genius like David Cronenberg couldn't imagine a scenario where people would make such a foolish decision.

Watching this movie while an actual pandemic rages on has helped me to understand one thing very clearly.  If there ever is a virus that is contagious enough to become a pandemic and deadly enough to kill just about everyone that it infects, like the one in Rabid or Captain Trips from The Stand, the human race is doomed.  We have no chance in hell.  In the world we live in today, there are too many people who refuse to come together for the common good, and they would rather mindlessly cling to "freedom" or asinine conspiracy theories from the internet than to simply do what they're told by experts who know more than they do.  I think it's only a matter of time before our species does itself in, and I only hope that our fragile world holds together long enough so that I don't have to witness it.

Sep 14, 2021

I Wish This Was Fake News



Norm Macdonald
1959 - 2021
One of the most brilliant and creative comedians of our time, and my favorite cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live has passed away at the age of 61.  Thank you for all of the ways you helped us take a look at this ridiculous world and laugh instead of cry.  We're going to miss you.

Sep 13, 2021

Comic Book and Giallo Inspired Flicks With Dr. X-Plore




Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings / Malignant
Regal Cinemas - Hazleton, PA
This blog was never intended to have movies as its main focus, but they've played such a huge role in my life since the pandemic began that I find myself writing about them a lot more than I ever used to.  I've always loved movies (who doesn't), but I wouldn't call myself a cinephile, and I'm about the furthest thing from an expert as you can get.  I'm sure that if the folks who I met at the Mahoning Drive-In were to read what I have to say, it would come across like a caveman giving a restaurant review (chicken good!), but it is what it is.

Although the drive-in tends to be the main thing I write about, we still go to see new theatrical releases at Regal with their Unlimited Pass.  We signed up for it in 2019 before the pandemic, and the terms and conditions are set up in such a way that you can't cancel your plan until you've been signed up for one year.  Because the theaters have opened and closed several times throughout the pandemic, we just fulfilled our one-year requirement this month, but I have no intention of cancelling.  It's a fantastic service, and it has given me the opportunity to see a lot of movies that I wouldn't ordinarily have gone to see.  More often than not, I've been pleasantly surprised, but even the movies that weren't so great aren't a big deal  You don't feel like you've wasted your money on a ticket when you can go see as many movies as you want for one price.

Because we've been back to Regal so many times over the past two years, I've become very familiar with the Dr. X-Plore commercial that they show at the end of the trailers.  I love this guy!  I'd totally go see a movie starring this character.



"I see them all, and I even enjoy animated musicals"
- Dr. X-Plore



Before seeing the trailer for this film, I had never heard of Shang-Chi.  I mean no disrespect to the comic or its creators with this statement.  Frankly, if it weren't for the Black Sabbath song, I would have said the same thing about Iron Man before seeing the first movie in that franchise.  Comic books have never been my thing.  I tried to get into them when I was a kid, but it just didn't take.  I found myself more interested in the artwork used in the advertisements for candy and video games than I did the superheroes and their adventures.  I'm weird like that.

Despite lacking an interest in the source material, I've found that I enjoy a lot of the comic book movies that I've seen.  I don't get all hyped up for it like a lot of others seem to get, and I definitely don't pick up on any of the easter eggs or elements of foreshadowing that the directors like to include, but I'm also not disappointed if they stay from the source material because I'm going in with a blank slate.  It's all new to me.

With this in mind, I enjoyed Shang-Chi a lot, but it felt to me more like a kung fu comedy flick than a comic book.  The end felt a bit like I was watching someone's live stream of a boss battle from a Playstation game, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the film.  The acting was good, the story was solid, and it had a lot of funny moments.
  


My memory is pretty lousy, and judging by how often my father and grandfather would repeat the same story multiple times as they got older, I'm expecting it's going to get worse from here.  That's one of the major motivators I've had in keeping up with this blog all these years; I don't want to forget all of the people I've met and things I've seen.  I sort of have it in my head that I'm going to be in a nursing home or a hospital bed one day, hopefully in the distant future, and scroll through the blog while shouting "oh hell, I remember that!" to an empty room.  Anyway, there's been more than a few occasions this year when I'd see a trailer, turn to my wife and say "that looks good", and then forget about it entirely.  This is one of those times.  I have no doubt in my mind that my wife is right - I saw the trailer for Malignant and I said that we should go see it when it comes out.  Maybe it would spark a memory if I saw the same trailer again, but even after seeing the full movie, I have no memory at all of seeing the preview -   zero.

Malignant is the very definition of a movie that is so terrible that it's awesome.  Some of the acting and lines of dialogue we so cheesy that I burst out laughing in the theater, but that's what made it such an enjoyable flick.  I don't want to spoil the plot any more than the title of the film does, but if I were going to describe it in a single sentence, I'd say that it is Basket Case with a bigger budget and better music.  I could definitely see this being featured by Joe Bob and Darcy on The Last Drive-In because it's exactly the kind of movie that they show - a blood-soaked fever dream that you will love, as long as you don't try to take it too seriously.

I'm kind of like Linus in the pumpkin patch when it comes to movies such as this - I appreciate sincerity.  I enjoy the occasional Troma film, but I wouldn't call myself a super fan of the studio because it's obvious that they're going out of their way to make a bad movie, and it makes me feel like the kid in Liar Liar when his mom's boyfriend tries to do The Claw.  The difference between Troma and movies like Malignant is that the people who made the latter tried to make a good movie, or at least they're did a better job of hiding the fact that they're tried to make a bad one.  The debate that's currently raging on Twitter is whether or not it's a Giallo film.  I've heard Joe Bob use that term before, but I'm still not super clear on what that means.  Thankfully, my friend Tyler was there to help me out:



Well, people definitely get slashed, and I guess you could call it a mystery, but the closest thing this gets to Italian is if they served stromboli on the set.  I won't weight in on whether it's a Giallo, or inspired by Giallo, or something altogether different, but I will say that it's a very enjoyable film with excellent writing and a terrible script that makes it that much better.  I highly recommend it.

Sep 12, 2021

A Glitch On Canvas



VHS Glitch
Chris Severn (2019)
The folks from Spiral Rewind have a table set up at the Mahoning Drive-In during some of their weekend events.  I bought some pretty awesome prism stickers from their table at VHS Fest, but I found something that I liked even more this past weekend at the Back To The Future triple feature.



This is the artist, Chris Severn.  He had some other paintings available, but this is the one that I liked the best.



They've got a lot of things available for sale, including artwork, stickers, movie posters, VHS-themed notebooks, journals and more.  Check em out at SpiralRewind.com.

Sep 11, 2021

Tell Me Doctor, Where Are We Going This Time



Back To The Future Trilogy
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
This awesome poster was created by Max Gagnon to help promote one of the most awesome nights at the Mahoning Drive-In that I've been lucky enough to experience.  There are few things in life that are as much fun to me as the Back To The Future movies, and few places in this world where I feel more at home and at peace than the Mahoning Drive-In.  The combination of the two is mind blowing.




The sun's starting to set a lot earlier as we get closer to fall, so the show started at 8:00.
 


The folks from Troy City Time Machine were there with a DeLorean that was fully tricked out to look like Doc Brown's time machine.  They had a table set up with merchandise available for sale, and for $15, you could sit behind the wheel and take as many photos as you wanted.  That's more than a fair price for such an awesome photo op, so my little buddy and I made the most of it.





If I had known that the DeLorean Time Machine at the drive-in would be this incredible, I would have shaved.  When they first announced that they were going to have one on the lot, I wasn't sure if I was going to get a picture with it.  It's not that I didn't think it was cool, but I already had a photo taken inside a replica Back To The Future DeLorean.  We saw it at the Louis Tussaud Wax Museum in Ontario back in 2013, but that car wasn't half as cool as this one from Troy City Time Machine.  Also, it's easy to support folks who are this cool and dedicated to what they do.  They let me bring Little Harvey into the car so that he could be Einstein in my photos.  They even took a few pics of Harvey in the car for themselves!

Seriously, you have to see this thing in person.  This is one of the most thorough and well made replicas I have ever seen.  Check this out:
 







I looked back at the photos from the one that we saw eight years ago and it's not even close.  No disrespect intended to the folks who set up the wax museum, but this one blows it completely out of the water!



It even lights up at night!








There were also a lot of other movie props on the lot.  The top three photos here are from Troy City Time Machine, but the bottle of Pepsi Perfect, the USA Today from 2015 and Gray's Sports Almanac were brought by other folks.  I wanted to bring my copy of Wild Gunman on the NES and set up a little shooting game next to a picture of Frodo Baggins, but I couldn't find the cartridge.



Little Harvey had a great time at the drive-in.  He had his picture taken in the DeLorean.  He got lots of love and attention from everyone who he met.  He got to meet some other puppies, and he even got to play an impromptu soccer game with a little boy who turned out to be Virgil's son.
 



The special food at the concession stand this weekend are the Great Scott Tater Tots, which are made with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.  We also had some fries and chicken nuggets, which Harvey got to share.



Showtime was just a few minutes after 8:00 pm when the sun went down.





As always, seeing these classics on their original 35mm prints projected onto a big screen under the stars at the drive-in is an experience that is second to none.  I can't begin to explain how much this place means to me.

Sep 10, 2021

Back To The 90's At The Steel Stacks




Tonic / Better Than Ezra / Collective Soul
Just Looking Around: 2020 2021 Tour
Levitt Pavilion Steel Stacks - Bethlehem, PA
This was my first time seeing Collective Soul perform in over fourteen years.  The two concerts had a few things in common.  Both shows featured three bands who are best known for albums that were released in the 90's.  However, on August 22nd, 2007, Collective Soul was the opening act for Live and Counting Crows.  Last night in Bethlehem, they were the headliner, with Tonic and Better Than Ezra opening for them.


Last night's show was the Bethlehem stop on the trio's Just Looking Around tour.  This was originally their 2020 with the Steel Stacks show scheduled to take place on June 15th of last year.  It was postponed to July 13th of this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then it was postponed a second time to September 9th, 2021.  I'm not sure if the second postponement was due to the pandemic or something else altogether, but I'm very happy to say that




The Steel Stacks in Bethlehem is one of the coolest venues that I've ever been to.  It's built around the industrial ruins of the Bethlehem Steel company with a stage at the base of the old blast furnace.  During their annual Musikfest festival, there are multiple stages and performances for ten days.  We saw Duran Duran there six years ago on the Sands Stage, and after the show, we walked around to what is now the Levitt Pavilion to see Rubix Kube's set.  This is the stage where last night's show had taken place.

There are more than just concert stages at the Steel Stacks.  There's a movie theater, bars, restaurants, museums, a convention center, and a public walkway where you can go through some of the structures that remain from the days of Bethlehem Steel.  It's truly incredible, and it shows what a city can accomplish for the public good if they work together to achieve it.




Tonic started their set with the first track off of their 1996 debut album, Lemon ParadeOpen Up Your Eyes is the first of the band's that I became familiar with when I was a teenager, and it's still my favorite song of theirs.  It's become an anthem to me against anxiety, over-thinking and the opinions and criticisms of others.  Don't let all of those voices, whether they be from others or the voices of self-doubt, tell the story.  Open your eyes and see the story for yourself.

This was followed up with Take Me As I Am and Liar, both off of their third album: Head On Straight.  I'm not familiar with this record, but it was nominated for a Grammy in 2003.  I especially enjoyed Take Me As I Am, which was also Grammy nominated.  Next, they played You Wanted More, which is a song that has taken on a much deeper meaning to me since I heard it for the first time while watching American Pie when I was 18 years old.  The next song, Queen, was also off of the band's 1999 sophomore album, Sugar.  This one wasn't also on the soundtrack of a hit comedy, so I wasn't as familiar with it, but it's a good song.

The sixth song of Tonic's set was unquestionably their biggest hit: If You Could Only See.  Before they played it, singer/songwriter Emerson Hart explained that he wrote this song after a conversation with his mother.  He was 21 years old and in love with a girl whom he had just proposed to.  His mother told him that he was too young for this and it was the wrong move, so he tried to explain to her that "if you could only see the way she loves me, maybe you would understand".  He then told us that, as it turned out, his mother was right and that his relationship with that girl was a total disaster.

The second to last song was Casual Affair, which is the second track off of Lemon Parade, and they closed with an awesome cover of Led Zeppelin's 1973 hit Dancing Days.  I'm embarrassed to say that I had completely forgotten that this was a Led Zeppelin song.  When I was a teenager, the version that I was the most familiar with was the Stone Temple Pilots cover from the 1995 tribute compilation, Encomium.  I've listened to that cover so many times that I've come to associate it as an STP song.  I couldn't find it on any of Tonic's albums, but it's a cover that they must do pretty often because there's a YouTube video from 2011 that shows the band performing it.  They definitely do the song proud, and it was a great way to close out their set.
 




Better Than Ezra took the stage next, and I mean no disrespect to the other two bands, but they totally stole the show.  Kevin Griffin is an incredible talent and has a stage presence and an ability to interact with the crowd that few can match.  Almost every rock band has that schtick where they invite the crowd to sing parts of their songs.  I've seen it work well, and I've seen it overdone to the point where it became annoying, but I've never seen it perfected to the degree that Better Than Ezra did last night.  It truly brought the crowd into the show and turned it into a celebration of live music.

They opened the show with Good, which is the band's biggest hit and the one that I remember best from when I was a teenager.  It's a great song that doesn't get as much appreciation as it deserves.  Most breakup songs are angry or depressing, but very few are upbeat in a way that isn't mocking.  The singer isn't glad that his ex is gone, nor is he pining for her to come back to him.  He's at peace with the fact that it's over and reflecting on the good that came from the time they spent together.  It's a refreshing and healthy perspective on a feeling that pretty much everyone in the world has had at some point in their lives, and it's a damn good song.

Next up was Rosealia, which is a great song that I had completely forgotten about.  Like Good, it is off of their 1993 album, Deluxe.  I listened to it a lot back in high school, but the subject of the song is a little difficult to process.  In 2009, Kevin Griffin explained that he wrote the song about a woman who owned a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he once waited tables.  The lyrics make it pretty obvious that she was in an abusive relationship, so it can be a challenging song to sing along with and feel good unless you either don't know what it's about or can find a way to process that and still have fun singing it.  After the song, Kevin mentioned that they don't often perform Rosealia, but the internet demanded it, so they broke it out tonight.

I had never heard the next song before last night, but it was very awesome.  It's called Grateful, and it was released as a digital single in 2018 and sent to fans who pre-ordered the 30th anniversary vinyl re-release of Deluxe.  It's a beautiful song.  Upon its release, Mr. Griffin said that this song is "about taking a pause and seeing all things in your life that are amazing, despite all the madness in the world."  If that was an important sentiment in the pre-pandemic world, it is definitely one that is much needed in 2021.  The song's available in all the usual places to find digital music, including YouTube, so please give it a listen.

Next, they played A Lifetime, which is another song that I hadn't heard before the show last night.  It was originally released on their 2001 album, Closer, and it was also included on their 2005 release, Before The Robots.  It's a sweet song that has a slight country feel to it.

Throughout the show, Kevin talked to the audience and wished us a happy "Friday Junior" (his name for Thursday), and he went on to explain that he's invented a new day called "Frunday" which combines the joy of Friday with the ominous feeling of Sunday, or something like that.  I can't remember everything that he said, but overall, he's just a really fun dude.  Not an ounce of phoniness or pandering - just a guy who really enjoys what he does.

The fifth song of the night was a very pleasant surprise.  Before they started playing it, Kevin said that this song by James was so often misattributed to Better Than Ezra that they covered it for their Greatest Hits album.  I had no idea that they covered it or that anyone had mistakenly believed it was a Better Than Ezra song, but as soon as he said that it was a James song, I knew they were going to play Laid.  They absolutely knocked it out of the park!  I've been a big fan of James since I saw them in Philadelphia two years ago, but for as incredible as James was that night, I think Better Than Ezra did the song even better.  Laid was also the second song that was performed last night that has a connection to American Pie.  Although it didn't appear in the films or the soundtrack, Laid played during the trailer for both American Pie and American Pie 2.  A cover of Laid by Matt Nathanson finally appeared in the third movie, American Wedding, and it has gone on to become the theme song for the franchise.

Next up was Desperately Wanting, which I think is one of the greatest songs of the 90's.  It was the biggest single off of the band's 1996 album: Friction, Baby.  I don't know what else to say other than this was freaking incredible.  This was the moment during the concert when I took a moment, looked around and tried to soak it all in.  I can never express how truly appreciative I am of the fact that I'm able to experience all of these things.  In a world where so many people are suffering from poverty, health concerns, violence, natural disasters and countless other tragedies, I am fortunate enough to have my health, a full-time job, a home with a warm bed and a refrigerator filled with good things to eat, and enough money left over after the bills are paid to go to concerts, ballgames and movies.  I don't take a single second of this for granted.

In the middle of Desperately Wanting, Kevin Griffin did an imitation of Dave MatthewsSetlist.fm has this documented as a cover of Don't Drink The Water, but that's not really accurate.  It was more of a comedic impersonation that just happened to include the line "don't drink the water".

The next song was a new one that isn't on any album.  Kevin said that they've been calling it Fuzzy, but I got the impression that this may not end up being the title by the time it's released.  Definitely a good song.  In The Blood came next.  This was the opening track on Deluxe, and it a song that embodies the mid 90's and my high school years.  It's a song that has drifted away from my memory over the years, but the song and the memories of that time in my life washed over me from the opening chords.

After In The Blood, Kevin mentioned that we're in the early days of Halloween season, so he's going to play a song with a spooky edge every night over the next few months.  The band then went into a cover of Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, or at least as much of it as they knew.  Finally, the band closed their set with a beautiful cover of Elton John's Tiny Dancer, and Kevin led the audience in a sing-along at they headed off stage.  It was an incredible end to one of the best sets I have seen in a very long time.  I wish they had played King Of New Orleans, but aside from that, it was perfect!





The headliner of the night was a band that I've been a fan of for over a quarter century since their first album was released.  In fact, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid was the first album I ever bought on CD.  I bought it in December 1994 from Boscov's in the Laurel Mall in Hazleton with money I was given in Christmas cards after receiving a CD boombox as a Christmas present.  Don't ask me why I still remember all of that because I have no clue.  Some things just stick in your head and that's one of them.



I still have that same album that I bought 25 years ago.  That thing got a lot of play, especially in the first month or so when it was the only CD in my collection.  I came to find out many years later that this was actually the band's raw basement demo that the record label rushed into production, and the band considers their 1995 self-titled album to be their first record.  Even still, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid went on to go gold and to produce a single that VH-1 ranked at #42 in their 100 Greatest Songs Of The 90's countdown.  Pretty good for a demo tape, dont'cha think!

This is my second time seeing them in concert, but it's the first time I've seen them perform a full set.  They were the opening act for Collective Soul back in 2007 when I saw them for the first time.  Looking back on my life, that concert was kind of the kickoff to college.  It was on a Wednesday, August 22nd and my first day of class was the following Monday the 27th.  It began a four year period that I think may have saved my life.  It gave me an opportunity not only to broaden my mind, but to believe for the first time in my life that I am good enough.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my grandparents in what would be the final years of their life. It was an important chapter in my life that began with this concert and ended with my bachelors degree, so the opportunity to see Collective Soul again has a few layers of warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings for me.

The show was every bit as fantastic as I was hoping it would be.  They opened the show with a song I had never heard before called Who Loves.  It was really good, and although he didn't say so, I'm guessing this track will be on an upcoming album.  During the show, someone from the audience shouted for the band to come back to Bethlehem again, and lead singer/songwriter Ed Roland said "We will, brother.  We've got two new albums in the can!", so we know that we've got a lot of awesome stuff to look forward to.

The setlist included Shine from their first album, four songs from their second album (December, The World I KnowGel and Where The River Flows), Precious Declaration from their third album, and two songs from their fourth album (Heavy and Run).  That last track is another connection that my mind has made that links Collective Soul and college.  I had a mix CD in my car that I would sometimes play when I was stressed out from classes to kind of help calm and motivate me, and the first track on that disc was Run.

They mixed in a few songs from their post-2000 albums that I'm not as familiar with, but each of them were pretty awesome songs, including Why Pt.2 from their 2000 album, Blender, Better Now from their 2004 album, Youth, and two songs from their 2019 album, Blood called Right As Rain and Over Me.  I didn't realize they had put out so much material in the 2000's, so I have quite a lot of listening to catch up on.  They also performed a tribute to fellow Georgia icons R.E.M. with an amazing cover of The One I Love.



I'm glad to have gotten to see live music again.  Between the anti-vaxers, the spread of the Delta variant, and the emergence of the new Mu variant, I'm beginning to think we're going to be back on lockdown by Christmas, so I've been trying to get out and do as much as I can while we still can.  They've already cancelled Funfest in Hazleton, which was supposed to be this weekend, and my Dad seems to think that the Bloomsburg Fair is going to end up being cancelled too.  It wouldn't surprise me too much.  All I can do is enjoy as much of the world as I can while it's still here to enjoy, and hope that we don't destroy ourselves any more than we already have.  Hope for everything.  Expect nothing.