Oct 25, 2021

It's All Gonna Fade...

Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon (1975)
This album was released 46 years ago today.  The title track hits closer to home more with each passing year.  When you come to the realization that more of your life probably lies in the rear view mirror than the windshield, you're prone to reflect a little more often.

I met my old lover on the street last night
She seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled
And we talked about some old times, and we drank ourselves some beers
Still crazy after all these years
Oh, still crazy after all these years

I'm not the kind of man who tends to socialize
I seem to lean on old familiar ways
And I ain't no fool for love songs that whisper in my ears
Still crazy after all these years
Oh, still crazy after all these years

Four in the morning
Crapped out, yawning
Longing my life away
I'll never worry
Why should I?
It's all gonna fade

Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars
I fear I'll do some damage one fine day
But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years
Oh, still crazy after all these years

Oct 24, 2021

The Weird World Of Tim Burton

The Weird World Of Tim Burton
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The second to last weekend of the 2021 season was definitely one to remember, filled with fun surprises, trailers and four incredible full length feature films that showcase the creative brilliance of Tim Burton.

The double feature on Friday evening were made up of a couple of classic films from the 90's.  It began with a movie that kicked off the decade in style - the 1990 surreal love story Edward Scissorhands,  starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.  The second film showcased the end of the decade with Tim Burton's 1999 imagining of Sleepy Hollow, starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.  This movie served as a bit of foreshadowing for next Friday's double feature, which is centered around Ms. Ricci's films from earlier in the decade.

Saturday night's movies began with a movie that is nothing short of a masterpiece; the 1993 Halloween and Christmas stop-motion animated film, The Nightmare Before Christmas.  The second feature was a movie that I had seen parts of throughout my life, but never actually sat down to watch the whole thing - the 1988 horror comedy classic, Beetlejuice, starring Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder.

Before we left for the drive-in, I received some pre-show reading material in the mail with the latest issue of The Joe Bob Briggs Fanzine.  If you're a fan of Joe Bob Briggs and The Last Drive-In, this is something you really should check out.  The most recent issue covers Joe Bob's Jamboree, and there's no better place to read it than on the grounds where it all happened.  Pick up your own copy from Patty Jack Press.

The photo ops were outstanding, as always.  There was a giant sandworm from Beetlejuice to the right of the entrance of the concession building.  Behind it, and in between the concession entrance and the merch table, there was a scene with topiaries from Edward Scissorhands, with a projector showing clips of Tim Burton movies.  On Saturday night, Steve Mills added his incredible Pumpkin King lighted display, which cast a very cool shadow on the building.  I bumped into him when we were both waiting in line for food and he showed me some of the photos of the different stages of this display being put together.  The talent and dedication, and the amount of work that goes into these displays is simply fantastic, and they add so much to the atmosphere of the weekend.

The seating areas inside the concession building were decorated to look like the afterlife waiting room from Beetlejuice, and they absolutely nailed it!  I wish I would have taken more pictures of the decorations and the many cosplays that my fellow moviegoers had put together, including an adorable puppy that was dressed up like Beetlejuice.

If you have popped onto my blog at any point this year, you'll know that I've been a pretty frequent visitor to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  I have never seen the place so busy for a double feature as it was on Saturday.  We're talking VHS Fest and Joe Bob Jamboree sized crowds here.  The line at the concession stand stretched outside of the building, through the parking lot, roughly halfway to the entrance.  Usually, the building starts to empty out when the trailer reel begins because everyone wants to be at their car to watch the movie, but the staff told me that they were serving food nonstop through the first feature.  They couldn't even tell when the intermission began because the line never stopped.  And keep in mind, this was just for food!  The merch tent has an entirely separate line!

It's great to see that so many people are discovering this amazing place.  Much respect to the staff who works the concession stand.  Those folks bust their ass while everyone else is out having fun.

There were some special guests in the concession stand who were selling meat sticks to raise money for the Team 209 Wrestling Club out of Lehighton, Palmerton, and Jim Thorpe.  They were only a dollar each, and they had a pretty big selection of flavors, so I got a bunch of 'em.  I fully intended to do a taste on here, but they were so good that I ate all but one of them during the movies.  However, I can do a review of the Sweet Maple Bacon one.  It's good.  It's very, very good!  The rest of them were good too, but since I scarfed them down in a dark car, I couldn't tell you which flavor is which, but I can say that I enjoyed all of them.

The poster for this weekend was designed by Max Gagnon.  The artwork is very good, but I'm not sure that I understand some of the design choices.  I enjoy Burton's Batman flicks, but they weren't shown during this event and they really don't represent the "weird world of Tim Burton" as much as the world of DC Comics though the eyes of the director.  Tim Burton has a very distinct style, with stripes and polka dots and a wide variety of characters, many of which were shown on the big screen this weekend, but that spirit is nearly absent from the poster.  As much as I appreciate the quality of the work that went into this, I think it's a bit off the mark as a representation of this event.

The first film that was shown on Friday night was Edward Scissorhands.  I think that some of the magic of this movie has been forgotten or overlooked in the decades since it was released, but it truly is one of the most beautiful and engaging films of the 20th century.  It is a story of isolation and rejection, and how someone can never really feel like they belong among other people, despite the occasional burst of acceptance they might experience.

The story is set in a unique universe of a mid-century ticky-tacky community that exists in the shadow of a gothic mansion on the hill.  I've often heard it said that the movie is set in the 1950's or early 60's, but that isn't the case.  The story includes answering machines and references to taping something on VCR, and the vehicles driven in the community are primarily from the 70's and 80's, including the 1977 AMC Gremlin driven by Peg Boggs as she brings Edward home, the 1971 Chevy Van with flames painted on the sides that Kim and her boyfriend Jim ride around in, and a 1985 GMC Vandura that is driven by the news crew who attempts to interview Edward after his arrest.  These aren't the kind of decisions that a director like Tim Burton makes by accident.  They give the film a timeless quality that hints at several decades in the latter half of the 20th century, almost as if the older Kim Boggs is retelling the story in her dreams, where things from various time periods in her life mix together randomly into a surreal world.

Sleepy Hollow is a movie that I first saw when I was 19 years old, but I haven't watched it since and I didn't remember anything about it.  It definitely strays pretty far from the source material, but it's an enjoyable mystery/horror flick with incredible costumes and atmosphere, and it's the perfect thing to see at the drive-in this time of year.  Friday night ended with a fun surprise, but you'll have to come out to the drive-in to see those!

When we go to the drive-in on Friday and Saturday, it sort of feel as if Saturday morning and afternoon are just a very long intermission between films, and the world off of the lot is just an extension of the concession stand.

Speaking of the concession stand, one of the fun surprises that I found on Saturday was a can of Mountain Dew Courageous Sherbet.  I hadn't heard of this before, but it's apparently pretty hard to get.  It was sold online through Game Fuel, which is geared towards gamers who play the type of video games that I could not possibly be less interested in.  This is probably why I never heard of the soda.  Anyway, it was pretty good.  It tastes like rainbow sherbet, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to try it without subjecting myself to any of the ridiculous dudebro gamer marketing that seems to be the focal point of their website.

Bottom photo from The Mahoning Drive-In on Instagram

There's nothing I could possibly say about The Nightmare Before Christmas that hasn't already been said, but I believe that it's about as perfect as an animated film can be.  Like most stunning works of art, it has been marketed to death since its release, and I could definitely understand how the over-marketing and merchandising of its music and its characters could make it difficult to fully appreciate.  It's like looking at the Mona Lisa.  You've seen it so many times that you have to deliberately put yourself in a state of mind that you're going to see it through fresh eyes; to segregate your memory of novelty socks and t-shirts and just be present in the moment to experience this masterpiece for what it has to offer on its own merit.  Let me tell you, there's no better place to do that than a dark night at the Mahoning Drive-In, and there's no better way to see it than a projection from original 35 mm onto a giant screen beneath the stars.  

Bottom two photos from The Mahoning Drive-In on Instagram

Beetlejuice is one of those 80's classics that has always existed in the background for me.  For whatever reason, I wasn't really interested in seeing this when I was a kid.  I guess the trailer just didn't hook me, because to this day, when I think of Beetlejuice, all I can picture is Michael Keaton spreading his arms out and saying "I'm the ghost with the most".  In fact, before last night, I had never sat down and watched the entire film.  I had seen bits and pieces of it over the years from flipping through channels, but that's about it.   Having finally watched the movie last night from start to finish for the first time, I can definitely say that I am a fan!  The creatures and the effects are in Tim Burton's unmistakable style, as is the story, which contains sweetness, darkness and humor in equal measure.

Just like on Friday, there were some fun surprises, both before and after the show, and another incredible weekend at the drive-in came to a close.  Next weekend is the end of the season - three more nights of incredible movies under the stars.

Oct 23, 2021

Peep Show

Peeps: Skulls, Monsters and Ghosts
Just Born (2021)
Look at how adorable these Halloween themed Peeps are.  The Frankenstein Monsters are especially cute.  I mean, just look at that little green face!

You almost wouldn't want to eat it, if it wasn't such a tasty little marshmallow.

Oct 22, 2021

This Phone Is Not In Service

C&P Store
East Chestnut Street - Hazleton, PA
A little convenience store that has been in business for over 50 years has closed up shop.  I'm not sure how recent the closure is because I don't always take East Chestnut Street when I drive to my dad's house, but I'm pretty sure it was still open just before the start of the pandemic.  Today, it stands as an empty time capsule from the days of pay phones and pre-paid cards to load minutes onto your Cingular phone.

This is the view from the window of the front door.  They couldn't have gone out of business too long ago because there are still drinks in the cooler and pipe tobacco on the shelves.  It looks like they're in the process of packing up whatever is left over so that the building can be rented out or sold to somebody else.

Oct 21, 2021

The Cheetah Made Me Do It

Cheetos Flamin' Hot Bag Of Bones
Frito Lay (2021)
I am 41 years old.  This is about as I'm going to get.

Consider it done, Chester.  Consider it done.

Oct 20, 2021

Just One Word... Plastics

My skills, huh?  Well folks, if you love dogs, have a quirky sense of humor, and are good at old arcade games and Phillies trivia, there's a company called Multi-Plastics Extrusions that have a job waiting just for you.  Knowledge of horror movies and the ability to sing 80's songs in the car or shower are a plus.

I'll think about it, Mr. McGuire.

Oct 19, 2021

I Ain't 'Fraid Of No Ghost Pepper

Ghost Pepper Chicken Nuggets
Burger King (2021)
The only fast food chain that seems to get into the Halloween spirit over the past few years is Burger King.  They came out with the Halloween Whopper in 2015, and the Nightmare King in 2018.  Hell, they even have a giant Frankenstein outside of their restaurant on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls on Clifton Hill.

This year, the spooky menu item at Burger King is the Ghost Pepper Chicken Nuggets.  They have a bit of a zing to them, but most of the heat is in the aftertaste.  I ate the first one with no sauce, and while the heat was there, it wasn't so bad that I needed to drink something.  I dipped the rest of them in honey mustard sauce, which pretty much killed the spicy aftertaste.

They were pretty good, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them, but if you're looking for something crazy spicy that you want to dare your friends to eat to see their reaction, this isn't what you're looking for.  I'll probably get 'em again before the month is over, after which I'll go back to dreaming that the old Burger King Chicken Tenders will one day make a comeback.

Oct 18, 2021

Ernest Goes To The Drive-In

Ernest Lives
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Poster artwork by Hayden Hall (Sick Slice Studios)
Virgil put it best on Mahoning Radio last night when he said that Jim Varney is an American treasure.  The dude invented a unique character in Ernest P. Worrell that could get a marble statue to smile.  He's not a very complicated character, but he has the rare talent of actually being fun for the whole family.  Ernest is like a sundae with chocolate sauce and sprinkles - it doesn't matter if you're 5 or 95, it's going to make you happy.  Ernest is comedy ice cream.

The Ernest movies that I know best are Ernest Goes To Jail and Ernest Saves Christmas.  My grandfather took me to see the latter when I was eight years old, and I still watch it every year during the holidays.  Neither of these movies were on the bill last night, but I was kind of glad because this gave me the opportunity to see two of his movies that I'm not as familiar with.

Ernest Goes To Camp is the first feature length film starring the Ernest P. Worrell character, and as such, it's a movie I always thought that I had watched before.  On Friday, I saw A Knight's Tale at the Mahoning, which I thought that I hadn't seen it before.  However, after a few minutes, I remembered that I did watch it once when it first came out and the memory of the plot came flooding back to me.  Ernest Goes To Camp was the opposite experience for me.  I had seen many Ernest films when I was growing up, and I've seen so many family films involving a summer camp that I always figured that I must have watched this one too.  After about five minutes, I realized that I hadn't.  So, not only did I get to see an Ernest double feature at the drive-in, but I unexpectedly got to see the first Ernest film for the very first time in my favorite place in the world to see a movie.  It's a very funny movie that I enjoyed a lot, and although I didn't realize that I hadn't seen it before, I don't think I'll ever forget that I got to see it last night.

The cast includes Richard Speight Jr, who I recognized from his roles in Jericho and as the angel Gabriel in Supernatural.  It also features John Vernon, who is probably best known for his role as the dean in Animal House, but who I know best as Officer Mooney in Killer Klowns From Outer Space, which I saw at the drive-in earlier this year.

Ernest Scared Stupid is a movie that I know I've watched before because it's something I try to watch every October.  It's a great family Halloween flick, and like the first half of this double feature, it has a connection to Killer Klowns From Outer SpaceThe Chiodo Brothers, who wrote and directed Killer Klowns, did the creature effects for Ernest Scared Stupid, and two of the troll masks used in the film began their life as Killer Klowns and were modified to be used in the Ernest film.

Ernest Scared Stupid trolls on the left, with their original Killer Klowns design on the right (source: Bloody Disgusting)

Ernest Lives was a lot of fun, and I hope that it becomes an annual event.  His movie catalog is long 
enough that they could do an annual double feature for the next three years before they'd have to repeat a film, and judging by the size of the crowd on the lot last night, I expect that it would be a big hit.

Oct 17, 2021

A Ship Of Fools Sailing On

Wang Chung (1986)
The album that features the party anthem of the 1980's turned 35 years old on Thursday.  Mosaic is the fourth album by Wang Chung, and it contains two songs that hit the top ten: Everybody Have Fun Tonight and Let's Go, which peaked at #2 and #9 respectively.

Oct 16, 2021

Have Fun Storming The Drive-In

Medieval Mahoning
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Many of the movies that I grew up watching in the 80's were from VHS tapes that my grandfather recorded off of tv.  Some of them were from the HBO, Cinemax and The Disney Channel free preview weekends, while others aired on network television.  I watched the heck out of those tapes when I was a kid, to the point where I had memorized nearly the entire script of movies like Return Of The Jedi, Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom, The Wizard Of Oz, Flight Of The Navigator, The Neverending Story, The Three Caballeros and The Sword In The Stone.  Another of these movies that I watched countless times as a kid from tapes that my grandfather recorded off of tv is my favorite family comedy of all time: The Princess Bride.  I didn't get to see it in theaters when it it was released in the Fall of 1987, but once again, the Mahoning makes dreams come true.

Before the movies started, there was a mini-festival taking place beneath the screen.  A local group from Lehighton called The Sword Tag Society were special guests of the Mahoning for this weekend's Medieval Mahoning event.  They're a non-profit social club that struck me as being inspired by things like the Renaissance Fair or Dungeons & Dragons, while at the same time not being limited by the boundaries of either of those fandom.  They had tents set up where they were selling merchandise, and there were areas that had been roped off for sword fighting and archery.  I talked to a few of the folks from the STS and they told me they had recently purchased a chapel that they were turning into their base of operations, which reminded me a bit of The Sanctuary in Hazleton.  Very cool!

The Princess Bride is a rare shining diamond in the world of motion pictures.  It's an entirely self-contained universe that has no prequels, or sequels, no reboots or remakes, and no television series based on the movie.  It's a brilliant film adaptation of the 1973 William Goldman novel of the same name, and everyone in the movie delivered what I believe to be the best performance of their career.  The dialogue is hysterically funny with dozens of quotable lines, and at no point does the humor ever feel forced.  I believe that this is one of the very few perfect movies that exist in the world, where nothing could possibly be done to make it better.  It's is genuine, sincere, and timeless... a perfect movie.

When they first announced that the second half of this double feature was A Knight's Tale, I was a little underwhelmed.  Robin Hood: Men In Tights seemed like it would have been a perfect fit.  It came out in 1993, just six years after The Princess Bride, and it's also a comedy starring Cary Elwes that takes place in a medieval era.  I thought that I didn't know anything about A Knight's Tale other than the fact that it came out in 2001 and it stars Health Ledger.  About five minutes into the movie, I realized that not only had I seen this movie before, but I absolutely loved it!

One of the reasons I keep a blog and take so many photos is that I have a really terrible memory for some things, and movies are one of those things.  If I watch a movie four or five times, it'll usually stick in my head like glue, but if I see something only once, it gets buried to a filing cabinet in the back of my brain.  If you just showed me the cover of the DVD and asked me what I thought of it, I'd probably tell you that I don't think I've ever seen it before, but if you put the movie in and played a few minutes of it, it would be enough to trigger the memory and I'd remember that I had.  That's what happened with A Knight's Tale.  I don't remember if I rented it or saw it in the movie theater back in 2001, but I know I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it last night.  In fact, I think it's a much better film than Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and I'm very happy that the Mahoning allowed me to rediscover it.

It's mid-October and the season is starting to wind down.  This drive-in has become such a special place in my life over the past five months.  It's a place where I can truly kick back and have a fun, relaxing night and feel completely at peace in the world.  We'll be spending five more nights at the Mahoning before they close up for the winter, and I'm going to enjoy every last moment of it.