Jun 30, 2021

Judgment Day Under The Stars

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
If I had to pick my favorite movie of all-time, it would have to be the original Rocky, but Terminator 2 is a pretty close second.  I was lucky enough to get to see Rocky last year on the big screen when Regal briefly opened during the pandemic, and I couldn't have wished for a better end to my 40th year on this planet than to get to hang out at the drive-in on a hot summer night and enjoy watching Sara and John Connor team up with Arnold to take down the T-1000.

When we checked in, they gave us two packs of vintage 1991 Topps stickers from their T2: Judgment Day set.  This is exactly what I'm talking about when I'm trying to explain how amazing the Mahoning Drive-In is.  They didn't have to do this - it wasn't advertised ahead of the show.  It's just a fun surprise that makes an already great experience even better.  The folks who run this place love what they do and it shows.

They also had a staging area set up for folks to take photos, so of course I had to take one.  I didn't notice until after we got back to the car that the Terminator 2 banner above my head was autographed by the movie's stars and members of the cast, including Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick, among others.  Very cool!

At the merch booth, I picked up this cool Cyberdine Systems visitors pass.  These were actually made up for the Drive-In Apocalypse weekend because they showed the original 1984 Terminator film this past Friday.  The back of the visitors pass has a list of movies shown over the Apocalypse weekend, including the ones we saw on Saturday night.  It's a nice souvenir, and it was only two bucks.

They were serving mac and cheese.  It was over 90 degrees, even after the sun went down, but since my little buddy Harvey was joining us on movie night, it was a nice little treat that I could share with him.  The little schnoodle loves cheese!

There was also a special reusable popcorn bucket for ten bucks that you could get refilled for a dollar as many times as you wanted for the rest of the year, so I picked one of those up too.  I know I'm straying pretty far off of my diet, but popcorn isn't too bad of a snack, and I don't get the melted butter.

As always, they showed vintage trailers before the movie.  This Tuesday's trailers included Big Trouble In Little China and Last House On The Left, both of which got a pretty big pop from the audience.

And, of course, there was the feature presentation - an original 35mm print of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  This movie premiered in Los Angeles on my 11th birthday and went nationwide on July 3, 1991.  Now, almost 30 years exactly from the date of it's premier, I got to enjoy it on the big screen under the stars on a hot summer night with a bucket of popcorn and a cold drink.  Seriously, how awesome is that?

This photo of the screen was shared by John Brennan on Twitter.  He's the dude in charge of music at The Last Drive-In, and he was in town with Joe Bob and Darcy to set some things up at the Drive-In for the Jamboree, which is only a couple of weeks away.  Even though there wasn't a drop of rain all night, we had a heck of a lot of heat lightning all night.  There was also a pretty low flying helicopter that flew overhead toward the climax of the film, both of which only added to the atmosphere.  It's really incredible... with all the chaos and craziness in the world, there are still little moments of magic to experience and enjoy.  All you have to do is look around, and take a moment to truly appreciate them.

Jun 29, 2021

Rest Your Head On The Nicholas Cage Banana

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Every morning before I sign in for work, I spend about a half hour watching random YouTube videos while I have breakfast.  One of these videos was an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which the host introduced this frightening pillow of a presumably naked Nicholas Cage lounging inside of a banana peel while he is being stared at by two giant fox heads floating among purple bubbles.

I thought that this must have been something they made for the show.  This couldn't possibly exist... could it?

I stand corrected.  It's $14.98 on Amazon.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pillow to order.

Jun 28, 2021

Movies From PQ Video

When I was in third grade, I lived in an apartment on First Street in Hazleton with my mother.  There was a Pantry Quik practically in our back yard, and I used to stop in pretty much every day for Senape's Pitza, a Farmer's Tea, a pack of baseball cards, a Slim Jim, a box of Nerds, a hoagie or a salad.  The salads there actually were pretty awesome.

All of the Pantry Quik's in town had a few shelves of movies on tape that you could rent.  The selection wasn't huge, but they had a lot of horror movies and comedies.  They kept renting out movies through the 80's, 90's and into the early 2000's, but they didn't really update their stock too much after the mid 90's.  The final years of PQ Video were like a movie time capsule with shelves of sunbleached VHS tape boxes for the Police Academy and Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

Jun 27, 2021

Drive-In Apocalypse

Exhumed FilmsDrive-In Apocalypse
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
In a matter of seven weeks, I went from barely knowing about the Mahoning Drive-In to it becoming one of my favorite places in the world.  Last night was Night Two of the Drive-In Apocalypse weekend, hosted by a group of very cool folks out of Philly called Exhumed Films.  They were showing three classic apocalypse-themed horror flicks on the original 35mm film.

As always, they had something fun at the concession stand that was themed after one of the movies.  This time, it was the Death Float 2000 - a root beer float made with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream served inside a Mahoning Drive-In plastic mug.  Very refreshing for a hot summer night at the drive-in.

While I was picking up my root beer float, I stopped into the projection room.  The folks who run this place are super cool and let people stop in for a look at the film and the equipment.  I don't want to get in the way, so I only stayed for a minute or two, but they were kind enough to let me take a few pictures.  This is part of the film reel for Death Race 2000.  They showed a print that had Swedish subtitles because it had a lot better color than the one without the subs.

Before each movie, they showed vintage trailers from other dystopian apocalyptic movies, including Rollerball, Deathsport, The Warrior And The Sorceress, Twilight Of The Cockroaches, The Dungeonmaster, Heavy Metal and Parasite, among others.  They also had vintage intermission countdown reels from the 50's and 60's between the movies.  It was incredible.  The effort and care that they put into creating the perfect drive-in atmosphere really is amazing.

The first movie of the night was the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger dystopian action classic - The Running Man.  I've read the Stephen King novel before, but this was my first time seeing the movie.  To say that it's based on the book is a bit of a stretch.  The movie has almost nothing to do with the book at all, but this is one of those times where it works perfectly.  I like the book, but I think the movie is even better.  It's over-the-top in all the right ways and chock full of horribly awesome puns at the end of every death scene.  It has Richard Dawson from Family Feud dropping f-bombs.  It has Professor Toru Tanaka and Jesse "The Body" Ventura from the WWF, both of whom have facial expressions that are pure gold for every second that they're on the screen.  It also includes characters played by Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa.  I'm not sure how this slipped under my radar for all these years, but getting to see it for the very first time at the drive-in was amazing!

My friend Liz introduced me to Death Race 2000 in the late 90's.  It was one of her all-time favorites, so we rented it one night and I was immediately hooked.  I know I keep saying this, but I never in a million years imagined that I'd get to see it at the drive-in, but I'm so glad that I did.  If you've never seen it before, do yourself a favor - skip the remakes and go for the original.  It's a surreal, almost comic book style world featuring a young, pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone as "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo and David Carradine as the two-time Death Race winner, Frankenstein.

The last movie of the night is a movie I bought on VHS many years ago purely by accident - 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

I'm pretty sure I found my copy of 1990: The Bronx Warriors at the Hometown Farmers Market.  I was a big fan of Escape From New York, and there was a movie with a similar premise that I rented and enjoyed sometime in the late 90's called Escape From The Bronx.  When I saw 1990: The Bronx Warriors, I mistook it for the movie that I had once seen and was surprised when I popped it in the VCR and learned Escape From The Bronx is actually the sequel to this film.

1990: The Bronx Warriors is a great Italian dystopian sci-fi/action flick from 1982.  It's kind of a hybrid of the concepts behind Escape From New York and The Warriors, and includes a role played by former Oakland Raiders defensive back Fred Williamson, who I know best as Frost in From Dusk Till Dawn.

It was another incredible night in an incredible place.  I'll be back on Tuesday to see one of my top five favorite movies of all time - Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Jun 26, 2021

We Will Boogie 'Til We Puke

The Mutant Fam received some pretty great news over the past couple of days.  First, we learned that The Last Drive-In has been renewed for a fourth season on Shudder!  If that isn't awesome enough, we also got this video announcement from Joe Bob and Darcy with the lineup of musical acts who will be performing at the Mahoning Drive-In for Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree, which is less than a month away.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of them, but the one that's got me especially intrigued is The Kilted Creature.  How could anyone not want to see The Creature From The Black Lagoon get down with an electric guitar and bagpipes!

If you're interested in learning more about the musical guests at the Jamboree, here are some links:

This is going to be one hell of a good time!  If anyone else who's reading this is going to the Jamboree, hit me up on Twitter and say hello.

Jun 25, 2021

A Terrific Performance By Nola

Earlier today, in the first game of a double header between the Mets and Phillies, Aaron Nola tied the all-time record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game.  Nola struck out the first ten batters he faced, and in so doing, he matched the record set by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver on April 22, 1970.

Congratulations, Mr. Nola!

Jun 24, 2021

A Space For Spaceballs

Spaceballs billboard
997 Eglinton Avenue West - Toronto, ON
A few years ago, several layers of vinyl advertisements were peeled off of the side of the Shu Yue Health Center building in Toronto.  This revealed a billboard that hasn't been seen since 1987 for the Mel Brooks classic Spaceballs, which debuted in theaters 34 years ago today.

May the Schwartz be with you!

Jun 23, 2021

And If A Double Decker Bus Crashes Into Us...

The Queen Is Dead
The Smiths (1986)
Few records have had the impact of the third studio album from The SmithsThe Queen Is Dead was released in the UK on June 16th, 1986 and made its way to the US one week later, which was 35 years ago today.  In 2013, it was named by NME as the greatest album of all time, with the magazine remarking that it's better than anything The Beatles ever did.

Every song on this album is a work of art, but my favorite is There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.  It was co-written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, and it's one of the most beautifully dark and honest love songs I've ever heard.  It wasn't released as a single until five years after The Smiths broke up, and it stands today as an anthem of the genre and for a generation that grew up in the 80's and 90's that may be understood a little better in 2021, but who weren't understood at all when it really mattered.

Jun 22, 2021

The Dawn Of The 16-Bit Era

Sonic The Hedgehog
Sega Genesis (1991)
Although I'm sure some might disagree with this opinion, I feel that Sonic The Hedgehog is the game that launched the 16-bit era of gaming in the United States.  The Sega Genesis was available in stores for nearly two years before Sonic was introduced on June 23, 1991.  However, prior to Sonic, I didn't know a single kid who owned a Genesis.  We had all heard about it from game magazines and from their "Genesis Does What Ninten-don't" commercials, but it wasn't a topic of conversation on the playground.  The Super Famicom had been available in Japan for about half a year at this point, but for kids in America, the only exposure we had to Super NES at the time was pictures in Nintendo PowerNintendo's 16-bit console didn't make it to the United States until two months after Sonic debuted.  The era of 16-bit gaming just wasn't on our radar too much in 1990 and the first half of 1991.  We were all still obsessed with Super Mario Bros 3 and rediscovering our NES library with all of the new features we could unlock using the Game GenieSonic The Hedgehog single-handedly changed all of that.

In the summer of 1991, Sega made the bold decision to replace Altered Beast with Sonic The Hedgehog as the pack-in title with new Genesis consoles.  When I learned about this, I decided that baseball cards were going to be put on hold for a little while.  I began saving every penny I could get my hands on to buy a Genesis.  Whether it was a few bucks in a birthday card, or the loose change that I was allowed to keep if I ran to the store to pick something up for my family, or even if I found a quarter on the ground, it went into a white envelope that sat on a bookshelf in my bedroom.  Christmas cards from aunts and uncles with a few bucks tucked inside got me pretty close, and the following Spring, I had finally reached my goal and was able to buy a Sega Genesis.  I was eleven years old and it was the first time I ever used my own money to buy a video game console.  It may have been the most satisfying experience in my life up to that point.

My dad, stepmom, stepsister and I had just moved to our new house in Boynton Beach a couple of months earlier.  Dad bought me a white and black shelving unit for my bedroom.  It had two pieces, and they fit together like two L-shaped Tetris blocks.  I remember spending forever trying to rearrange things to make room for the Genesis in the days before Dad and I went to the store to pick it up.  I couldn't find a photo of this setup after I had the Genesis, but I remember I decided to stick it on top of the VCR so that the controller wire could stretch out and reach the bed. 

From the second I turned it on and heard the game sing out the word "Seee-gaaaaa", my mind was absolutely blown.  No game I had ever played before was this bright, this colorful and this fast.  I suppose it's hard to appreciate the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit graphics unless you grew up with one and transitioned to the other, but to the sixth grade me, it was a massive change.

In the years that followed, my library of Genesis games grew.  Some of my best memories of living in Florida are of my dad and I playing Sportstalk Baseball and NBA Jam on the weekend, but I always came back to play the original Sonic The Hedgehog time and time again.  I still play it to this day, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.

Jun 21, 2021

Falling Into Van Gogh's Bedroom

Welcome Home
Seward Johnson (2003)
In 1888 and 1889, Vincent Van Gogh finished a series of three paintings that he called The Bedroom.  It shows the artists room at 2 Place Lamartine in Arles, France, which is better known as The Yellow House.

This is the second of the three paintings.  It was completed in September 1889 and was the inspiration for a three dimensional, full room sculpture created by Seward Johnson.  It's called Welcome Home.  It's made out of painted wood and plaster, and it makes you feel like you've fallen into the canvas and into the world created in the painting.

This is so freakin' awesome!

Were You Invited?

Were You Invited?
Seward Johnson (2001)
This is one of the most impressive art displays I have ever seen.  The sculptor has brought to life elements of the 1881 Renoir painting Luncheon Of The Boating Party and displayed it beside a lake.  The use of color on everything, from the characters to the furniture to the food and drinks on the tables is amazing.  It really feels like you're walking through a painting.

I'm lousy at taking panoramic photos, but I did my best to try to capture the full display from several different angles.

This work isn't an exact replica of the painting.  For example, the sculptor who created this piece (Seward Johnson) added himself to one of the tables.  Here he is, holding one hand up and clenching his fist.

The detail is extraordinary, isn't it?  It's as if the painting and its characters came to life and froze in position.  Each of the people represented in both the painting and the sculpture are based on real people.  Here is a guide to who each of them were.

I know that I say this a lot, but the photos really don't do this place justice.  An adult ticket to enter Grounds For Sculpture is only $18 bucks, and it is more than worth both your time and money to experience such a beautiful place.