Feb 28, 2022

Get Your Golden Tickets Today

Opening Weekend 2022
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
I'm counting down the days to the last weekend of April.  Two months to go!

Feb 27, 2022

Filipino Tortellini

Here's something you don't see in Northeast PA every day.

There's a little grocery store in the main building at the Hometown Farmers Market that stock a lot of products that aren't typically found in stores in our area.  One such item that I never expected to see and didn't know existed is a bag of Del Monte Filipino Style Spaghetti Sauce.  What the hell... for a buck, I had to find out what this tastes like, and for another buck, I get to scrub the pot with the Mona Lisa when I'm done.  Can't beat that deal!

We decided to try it out on cheese tortellini and meatballs, and it wasn't too bad.  The texture was more like A-1 Steak Sauce than the spaghetti sauces that I'm used to, and the flavor tasted like a combination of pasta sauce and a sweet barbecue sauce.  It's not going to to replace Ragu in my cupboard any time soon, but I'm glad we got to give it a shot.

Feb 26, 2022

Phoenix Rise

Wishbone Ash
50th Anniversary Year Tour
Mauch Chunk Opera House - Jim Thorpe, PA
My dad has a lot more time on his hands these days since his retirement.  He has somehow gone the past 30 years without ever seeing a Quentin Tarantino movie, so I've been sharing his catalog of films with him.  Dad's not at all shy about telling you when he doesn't like something, so I was glad to hear that he really enjoyed most of them - especially The Hateful Eight, which was his favorite.  The only one that he didn't like was Death Proof.  That's probably a bit of an understatement.  He called me last Sunday to spend 20 solid minutes explaining to me, in great detail, how much he hated it.

While I've been introducing him to movies, he's been playing a lot of 70's rock when I go over to visit that I'm not very familiar with.  A lot of the songs are from bands that he listened to in college, like Caravan, Tucky Buzzard, Crabby Appleton and Wishbone Ash, all of which I've enjoyed.  Wishbone Ash toured in the UK last year, and they just started an American tour this week in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their biggest album, Argus.  The third stop on that tour was at the Mauch Chunk Opera House last night, so my dad and I took a ride down to Jim Thorpe to meet up with one of his friends, drink some beer, and enjoy a couple hours of excellent live music. 

I spent most of my work day before the show listening to Argus and a few other albums to become more familiar with the music of the band that I was about to see.  After each song, I found that I had the same question: How have I never heard this before?  This is fantastic music!  Wishbone Ash is every bit as deserving of attention as any classic rock band I've ever listened to.  They've recorded a total of 26 studio albums from 1971 to 2020, along with a number of additional live recording and compilation albums.  I've barely scratched the surface of their catalog so far, but I've loved everything that I've heard so far.

The Mauch Chunk Opera House is a great place for live music.  I've seen a few bands perform here over the years, and I've enjoyed it every time.  It's a small venue with good acoustics that sits at the end of an especially beautiful part of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Wishbone Ash played a set that included music from throughout the half-century history of the band, including music from their first album from 1970, their most recent album from 2020, and four of the seven songs from one of their most loved albums, Argus, which was recorded fifty years ago and released on May 8th, 1972.

They opened the show with two tracks from their 2002 album, Bone Fide, which was followed up with Eyes Wide Open from their 2006 album, Clan Destiny.  They then played three songs from the second side of Argus record, beginning with The King Will Come, which was dedicated to our friends in the Ukraine.

After a brief intermission, the band took the stage again to play Way Down South from their 2014 album Blue Horizon, followed by We Stand As One, which is the opening track from Coat Of Arms, which was released in February 2020 just as the pandemic was beginning in many parts of the world.  Next was Standing In The Rain from the 1991 album Strange Affair before a phenomenal 15+ minute jam of Phoenix from their debut album.  After taking their bows, they returned to the stage for an encore and closed out the night with another excellent song off of Argus called Blowin' Free.

There's so much instability in the world today, with the pandemic, global climate change, food and fuel insecurities, domestic terrorism and violence, and the largest European land war since World War II.  From a personal perspective, a lot has changed in my own life over the past decade in addition to the changes and challenges in the world that affect us all.  I will fully admit to being overly sentimental, but I really treasure nights like this.  There's no way of knowing what the future might hold, but the big picture doesn't look too good at the moment.

Despite all of this, everything in my world is good at this moment because I got to out and enjoy good beer and excellent live music with my dad, and I have a safe and warm home to come back to with a family that I love.  I knew as it was happening that it is a time that I will look back on one day and wish that I could go back to it.  It's like Adam Duritz sang in A Long December: "I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself to hold on to these moments as they pass."  It's important to remember when times aren't so good that I am truly fortunate to have lived so many moments that I wanted to hold onto.  If only life had save points like a video game.

8-Bit Brew

Level Up Tropical IPA
Yards Brewing Company (2021)
Dad and I stopped at the Marion Hose Bar for drinks before the Wishbone Ash concert.  They had a retro gaming themed IPA called Level Up which was very good.  Breweries In Pennsylvania wrote that it combines Citra, Azacca and Mosaic hops to create a golden, tropically infused, IPA with 6.5% ABV and an IBU score of 50.

Level Up also has its own retro style game that you can play to win a prize.

It's a fun little game where you play a little dude in a green shirt and cap who runs around Donkey Kong platforms collecting fruit while avoiding scorpions, snakes, barrels and other assorted enemies.  The peaches give you points (at least I think they're peaches) while the pineapples make you invincible for a short period of time.  The goal is to collect the mug of beer at the end of each level.

When you're finished, you can click the button on the right to claim a prize, which for me was one free pint at the Yards Brewing Company taproom in Philly.  Unfortunately, it expired on December 31st of last year.  I'm guessing that means this game won't be around for too much longer.  Click here if you would like to give it a try.

Feb 25, 2022

No More Oatmeal Beer Bongs For Davey

Studio 666
Open Road Films (2022)
This Foo Fighters horror flick is what would happen if Evil Dead had a baby with This Is Spinal Tap, and that baby was hosed down in toxic waste by Troma Team.  It would be perfect for an episode of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob and Darcy, and I'm sure it will be lovingly embraced by the MutantFam.

Studio 666 was written by Dave Grohl, who also stars in the film alongside the rest of the bandPat SmearNate MendelTaylor HawkinsChris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee.  It tells the story of the Foo Fighters coming together to record at an old 1940's house in Encino where a murder had taken place in the 90's.  The band really did record their tenth album at the house that was used in this film, but this story has nothing to do with that album.

In the movie, the band are being pressured by their manager to record, but Grohl is out of ideas for new songs and suffering from a case of "musical constipation".  The band soon learns that dark forces are at work at this house which lead to new music in the key of "L Sharp", but at a steep price.

This reminded me a lot of the campy direct-to-video horror flicks that I grew up with in the 80's and 90's.  I don't mean that as a dig on it at all.  This movie is very self-aware of what it is, and it's absolute gold.  The kills and the use of blood is straight out of a Shaw Brothers kung fu film, and will have you wincing and laughing in equal measure.

If you love Foo Fighters music and/or cheesy horror flicks, you're going to have a great time watching Studio 666.  If you love both, as I do, this is a little slice of heaven.

Feb 24, 2022

Of All The Pyramids In All The World, You Had To Walk Into Mine

Regal Cinemas 10
Hazleton, PA
We recently got to see Death On The Nile and Uncharted on the big screen.  While I don't recall any nudity taking place in either of these movies, there was a little bit to be found in the parking lot.  It was on the little white rectangle at the bottom center of the photo above.  Here is a closer look:

Mother nature did a pretty good job of censoring this picture, but better safe than having to be sorry to your content host.  With the exception of the Vegas Strip, I can't think of a time that I randomly stumbled across something like this laying in the streets.  I did some research on Thee Dollhouse of America and learned that this is from a series of trading cards that were released in 1993.  I'm not sure if this card has been randomly blowing across the surface of the earth for the past 29 years, or if some random person kept it in their pocket only to lose it outside of the Regal Cinema.  In either case, I would estimate that Valerie Master is in her early 50's today.  Not sure if her goal was to make it into the movies, but in the case of her trading card, she came up about 50 feet short of the front door.
There has been a trend in recent years of witty, sarcastic murder mystery films with an ensemble cast, and it's a trend that I am fully on board with.  The preview of Death On The Nile reminded me a little bit of Knives Out, but it plays things more seriously.  This is understandable for a movie that's based on an Agatnha Christie novel that was published 85 years ago.

This is a sequel to the 2017 film Murder On The Orient Express, which also stars Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot and Tom Bateman as Bouc.  Mr. Branagh also directed both films, which is pretty damn impressive if you ask me.  What I know about directing a major motion picture could fit on a matchbook cover, but I do know that it's a hell of a lot of work.

I haven't read any of Ms. Christie's books.  I've also not seen any of the film adaptations of her work before this, including Murder On The Orient Express.  The closest I've come to any of her stories is line of dialogue from Chasing Amy when Joey Lauren Adams yells "you didn't have to go playing Hercule fucking Poirot" at Ben Affleck, so the only expectations I had going into this was from the trailer that we saw at Regal earlier this year.  Having said all that, this was a damn good murder mystery.  It had a lot of humor and heart while still taking the subject matter seriously.  It was beautifully filmed, and everyone delivered a great performance.  I was especially impressed by Russell Brand as the ex-fiance, Linus Windlesham.  He melted into the character so well that I honestly didn't even recognize him.

It looks like Death Of The Nile hasn't made back its budget yet, but I can't imagine why.  Maybe I'm just an easy guy to please when it comes to movies, but I thought it was really good and I'd recommend to it just about anyone of any age.
My days of being an active gamer who kept current with the industry ended with the Sega Dreamcast.  Everything that came after that has pretty much been a glorified retro machine for me.  I generally pick up all of the retro compilations and the virtual console games that I'm interested in, and once in a while I'll stumble across something current that I enjoy, but those tend to be a Metroidvania, platform, JRPG or puzzle game, and the vast majority of those are on a Nintendo console.  Breath Of The Wild is about as modern as I get.

Eventually, I picked up a used Playstation 2 and 3 console and a pile of pre-owned games, but this was many years after they first came out.  I haven't owned an XBox since the first one, and I didn't even really want that one.  My ex surprised me with it back in 2001 and I played it because I didn't want her to think I didn't appreciate it, but I would guess that I played it maybe a dozen times in the 20 years since she and I broke up (give or take a few months).  I have no interest in owning any of the Microsoft consoles or a Playstation 4 or 5.  Maybe that will change one day, but I doubt it.  So, now that I've rambled out all of that, you'll understand that until the Sony Interactive Entertainment clip played at the start of this movie, I had no idea that this movie was based on a video game.  

I'm not sure how good the Uncharted games are, so I can't speak to how accurate the plot of the film is to the story that's told in the games.  However, as an entity completely separate from the games, the Uncharted movie is a hell of a lot of fun.  This is an expression that I tend to overuse, especially with action movies, but it's the best way I can think of to describe something like this.  If you're expecting realism or an unforgettable classic, you're probably going to nitpick all of the fun out of it.  However, if you can suspend your disbelief and silence your inner Roger Ebert long enough to get to the end credits, you're going to have a good time.  You might have a more critical perspective if it doesn't match your expectations from playing the video games, but that wasn't a problem for me.  Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg play off of each other well and deliver good performances, and Antonio BanderasSophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle each do a great job with their badass characters.  If you enjoy movies like National Treasure, you'll have a good time watching this too.

It would be a massive understatement to say that Uncharted has a post-credits teaser.  It's practically a trailer for a sequel, so if this movie is financially successful, I think it's a safe bet that it's going to get turned into a franchise.

Feb 23, 2022

Did You Hear The Distant Cry Calling Me Back To My Sin

Mark Lanegan
1964 - 2022
One of the last true greats of grunge rock, and one of my favorite singers who ever lived, passed away yesterday at his home in Killarney.  He was 57 years old.

I first heard Mark Lanegan when I was 12 years old.  My stepsister had gotten me interested in the Seattle music scene, so I was listening to a lot of Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.  I used to make VHS mixtapes that I recorded off of MTV.  The first tape I made was six hours long, but it only had about 40 songs on it (give or take) because they would keep playing the same music videos over and over.  This was back in 1992 - long before anyone could stream or download songs.  I hadn't even heard of the internet back then, and even if I did, there was no music on it.  Hell, there were barely any pictures online in the early to mid 90's.  For a middle school kid, discovering new music that wasn't in heavy rotation on the radio or MTV was damn near impossible.  There was only one place that I knew I'd be able to find something new.  It aired once a week on MTV at 1:00 am on Sunday night into Monday morning, and it was called 120 Minutes.

I used to set my VCR timer to record 120 Minutes, and I spent much of the next week borrowing my dad's VCR from the living room and hooking it up to mine so that I could record the music videos onto a new tape without the talking and commercial segments.  It was on this show that I heard Nearly Lost You and fell in love with a band called Screaming Trees who had a lead singer with a voice that was other-worldly.  That singer's name was Mark Lanegan.  I've listened to a lot of music in my life, and with the exception of Chris Cornell, he is my favorite rock singer who ever lived.

Sweet Oblivion was one of the first albums that I bought after getting my first CD player, and I listened to it constantly; especially Nearly Lost You, Shadow Of The Season, Dollar Bill, and More Or Less.  It was around that time that I learned that Screaming Trees was not a new band.  They've been around since 1984, and this was their sixth album.  Mark Lanegan had also recorded his first solo album in 1990; a brilliant record called The Winding Sheet in which he collaborated with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic over a year before Nirvana recorded Nevermind.  Lanegan would go on to record a dozen solo albums, the most recent of which was released in 2020, in addition another dozen Screaming Trees albums and EPs, five albums as a member of Queens Of The Stone Age, and many other collaboration projects.

My favorite of his songs is called More Or Less.  It's the fourth track from Sweet Oblivion.  If you don't have the time to listen to a wonderful singer's incredible body of work that spans over 35 years, please take three minutes and seventeen seconds to listen to this one beautiful song.  Press play, close your eyes, and just listen.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lanegan, and thank you for being a voice that gave a troubled boy some peace.

Now that we've run this road so many times
Tonight it will not take us home
Gonna go to that deep river
Where the water's moving slow  

Feels like there's nothing to explain
(Nothing left to hear)
One more or less it's all the same
Now that it's feeling so much colder
(Coming back again)
Just be glad that it's all over

Now that we've closed our eyes so many times
Tonight I cannot see a thing
Gonna go to that deep river
Where the water's moving slow

Feels like there's nothing to explain
(Nothing left to hear)
And now you know just who to blame
For why you're feeling so much colder
(Coming back again)
Just be glad that it's all over

Gonna go to that deep river

Feb 22, 2022

Happy Twosday

Today is Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.  Here in the States, this is written as 2/22/22.  In much of the rest of the world, it's written as 22/2/22.  In either case, whether you write it with the month first or the day first, it's a numerologists dream come true.  Even Google has gotten in on the celebration.  Do a search for "twosday" today and you'll be greeted with confetti and Happy Twosday wishes.

Feb 21, 2022

Starlight, Starbright, First Cola I Drank Tonight

Starlight Space Cola
Coca-Cola (2022)
I'm accustomed to hyperbole in the marketing of a new product, but Cola-Cola is really laying it on thick with their new Starlight "space flavored" cola.  Here's what the website has to say about it:

You hold the celestial power of the universe in your hand. Discover what it is like to drink Starlight, on Earth for a brief encounter. Infinite possibilities are yours when the ever-cool, indulgent flavor of space hits the #RealMagic of our great Coca‑Cola taste.

Starlight’s red hue sparkles with a cooling sensation that has been transformed by the magic of space. Transport yourself to a new galaxy with each sip. Discover the sensation before it’s gone.

The celestial power of the universe?  Red hue sparkles with a cooling sensation?  The magic of space?  Transport yourself to a new galaxy?  What the hell are they talking about?  Well, I guess there's only one way to find out.

Thankfully, Coca-Cola have produced a Zero Sugar version of their Starlight Space Flavored cola, so I'm able to try it without breaking the promise I made to myself to not break my diet just to try a limited edition product.  I'm not sure if it's sold in any other sizes, but I found both the regular and Zero Sugar versions in a 10 pack of mini 7.5 oz cans.  It was just under five dollars at Wal-Mart, which isn't a terrible price.

When I read "red hue sparkles", I was almost expecting the soda to have chunks of crystal or little red balls like the old Orbitz drinks used to have.  There was nothing like that, but the soda itself is definitely red.  The photos came out a little dark, but there's no way you would get this mixed up with a regular Coca Cola if you had a glass of each sitting next to each other.

The soda itself is absolutely delicious!  I don't know if I feel like I've been magically transported through the celestial power of the galaxy, but I'm glad that I bought it.  The flavor reminded me of cotton candy mixed with Coke.  In fact, it reminds me of those Cotton Candy Grapes that come out in the summer.  It's so similar that I wouldn't be surprised if they used them as an ingredient.  Also, it does leave you with a cooling sensation after you drink it - almost like a mild menthol aftertaste.

I'm sure that the sugar version is probably even better than this, and if I wasn't on a diet, I'd be curious to know what a Starlight Coke Float would taste like.  But even if you're watching your sugar like me and have to opt for the Zero Sugar version, Starlight Coca-Cola is a winner.

Feb 20, 2022

Hey Mattingly, Get Rid Of Those Sideburns

Homer At The Bat
The Simpsons (1992)
One of the most memorable episodes of The Simpsons aired for the first time thirty years ago tonight.  This was the first time that The Simpsons to beat The Cosby Show in the ratings, and it's been one of my favorite cartoons since I saw the premier when I was 11 years old. 

In this third season episode, the Springfield Power Plant softball team has a game against Shelbyville for the championship, and Mr. Burns makes a million dollar bet that his team will win.  To ensure victory, he recruits nine MLB All-Stars, including Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, José Canseco, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Scioscia to play for the his team.  Eight of the nine players have "misfortunes" that prevent them from playing in the big game.  The only Major Leaguer to is able to play is right fielder Darryl Strawberry, who bumps Homer from his starting position to the bench.

Every time I think about it, I get the closing credits song stuck in my head.  It's a catchy parody of Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" that was sung by Mr. Cashman himself.  They released a recording of it seven years later on the Go Simpsonic With The Simpsons album.  Click on the cover below to listen to it.
Well, Mr. Burns had done it
The Power Plant had won it
With Roger Clemens clucking all the while
Mike Scioscia's tragic illness made us smile
While Wade Boggs lay unconscious on the bar-room tile

We're talkin' softball
From Maine to San Diego
Talkin' softball
Mattingly and Canseco
Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw
Steve Sax and his run-in with the law
We're talkin' Homer
Ozzie and the Straw

Feb 19, 2022

Look At How The Time Goes Past

Neil Young (1972)
The great Neil Young has been in the news a lot this month after he decided to pull his music off of Spotify in protest of the misinformation that Joe Rogan has been spreading on his podcast about vaccines and the pandemic.  It's an understandable position for him to take.  Mr. Young is a polio survivor who has first hand experience about the importance of vaccines, and I applaud him for taking a stand to put a stop to the spread of conspiracy theories and other nonsense spread by ignorant people such as Joe Rogan and his guests.  But enough about that...

Neil Young's fourth album, Harvest, turned 50 years old this month.  It's best known song is probably Heart Of Gold, which hit #1 on Billboard, but my favorites from this record are Old Man and The Needle And The Damage Done, the latter of which was recorded live at a UCLA concert that took place at Royce Hall on January 30th, 1971Mr. Young wrote it after seeing the effect that heroin addiction had on his friend and Crazy Horse guitarist, Danny Whitten.  This addiction ultimately cost him his life.  Mr. Whitten died of an overdose on November 18th, 1972, less than ten months after Harvest was released.

Neil Young (1971) 

I caught you knockin' at my cellar door 
I love you, baby, can I have some more 
Ooh, ooh, the damage done

I hit the city and I lost my band 
I watched the needle take another man 
Gone, gone, the damage done

I sing the song because I love the man 
I know that some of you don't understand 
Milk blood to keep from running out

I've seen the needle and the damage done 
A little part of it in everyone 
But every junkie's like a settin' sun

Feb 18, 2022

The Haunted Mansion Of Zachary Graves

Haunted House
Atari (1982)
The grandfather of the survival-horror genre of console gaming hit store shelves for the first time 40 years ago this month.

The Sacramento Bee - February 19, 1982

The Atari 2600 classic was programmed by James Andreasen, who would go on to create the Atari 5200 port of Pac Man before leaving the company in 1984 to join Advantage Software, where he worked on educational software for the Commodore 64.

It probably wouldn't scare modern gamers too much, but there was definitely an element of horror to playing Haunted House in the 80's.  I remember sitting in my parents living room with the lights off while I guided two little eyes through the dark mansion to find the chalice.  There's a lot of fun to be had with this game.  If you've never played it, give it a shot.  It's available on just about every Flashback console or Atari game compilation on any console since its initial release.

Feb 17, 2022

Excuse Me Russel, But I Believe I Requested The Hand Job

Wayne's World
Paramount Pictures (1992)
The highest grossing film that was based on a Saturday Night Live sketch has turned 30 years old this week.  Wayne's World was released on Valentine's Day 1992

I had just moved to South Florida to live with my dad, stepmom and stepsister a little over a month before this film was released.  The four of us went to see it at a theater called the Cinema N' Drafthouse in Palm Beach County.  That morning, Liz (my stepmom) explained to me that this was a combination of a movie theater and a restaurant, and that you ordered your popcorn from a waiter or waitress who brought it to your table.  I was 11 years old at the time, and this concept absolutely blew my mind.  South Florida was going to be awesome!

The movie was hysterically funny, and it became a frequent source of jokes in our family for the rest of the summer.  Liz in particular quoted the lines from it every chance she could - especially shouting "not" at the end of something, and saying "I was not aware of that" in the astonished tone and cadence that Wayne Campbell used when he said it to Alice Cooper, although I think she would misquote it as "I was unaware of that".  It also became the catalyst of the mixtapes that Stephanie (my stepsister) would make for me.  Wayne's World made me fall in love with Bohemian Rhapsody, and the idea of jamming to it in the car with three friends seemed like the coolest thing in the world to my sixth grade brain.  One of the tapes she made for me started off with Bohemian Rhapsody.  If you listen to this song with headphones, you'll hear different vocals come out of the left and right speaker, but because my sister's tape deck didn't copy tapes in stereo, my copy only had one channel, so about half of the vocals were omitted.  I got so accustomed to listening to this version of the song from my tape that I would sing along to add the lyrics that were dropped.

Feb 16, 2022

Do You Like Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Licorice Pizza
MGM (2021)
I had resigned myself to the fact that my local Regal Cinema wasn't going to show Licorice Pizza.  It was originally released in November of last year, so I thought it had already made the rounds and that it's next stop would be the various streaming services.  As it turns out, the film was given a wider theatrical distribution on February 11th, so I got to see it on the big screen after all.

I'm glad that I got to see it, but I think this is going to be a one-and-done for me.

Licorice Pizza feels like it's trying to be Napoleon Dynamite, but without the heart or humor.  The story begins in 1973 in the San Fernando Valley with a plot that revolves around a precocious 15 year old boy who has a crush on an older woman.  This character requires almost as much suspension of disbelief as the plot of Moonfall.  He's a smug child actor with a modest career.  We're not talking early 90's Macaulay Culkin.  He's a kid who gets the occasional commercial gig, and whose big moment was to appear in the background of a musical alongside two dozen other kids.  Somehow, he has the time, money and business acumen to open a waterbed store and a pinball arcade on a whim, both of which are staffed almost exclusively by children.  The only adults in sight are his mother and a 25 year old woman named Alana who is the object of his affection.

Alana seems to be suffering from bipolar disorder and stunted emotional development.  She comes across as more of a child than Gary, with a flighty and unstable personality that borders on being self-destructive.  She's a far more sympathetic character than the boy who trying to win her over, but the same could be said for the lawyer who gets eaten by the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.  The end of the film has Gary running down the street, and I was kind of hoping that he would get hit by a car.

The dialogue is ludicrous, as if the script began its life as 600 pages worth of Mad Libs, with moment after moment that seems to exist solely for the purpose of making the audience say "what the fuck".  The best example I can think of is the white restaurateur who communicates with his Japanese wives by speaking in a racist mock-Asian accent.  It doesn't play a role in the story.  It's not funny.  It's a cringy moment that tries too hard to be quirky for a laugh.  It's the comedy equivalent of a jump scare.

There are other scenes that seem like they're going to lead to something interesting, but they go nowhere.  The scene that comes to mind takes place about a quarter of the way through the movie.  Gary is selling waterbeds at a convention of some sort.  There's no explanation of how or why he's doing this... he just is.  Suddenly, the police arrive to arrest him and drag him back to the station on a murder charge.  Turns out they have the wrong guy, so he leaves.  This all happens in a span of less than five minutes, and it's never referenced again.  Once again, the scene is jammed in there for the sake of being quirky.  It's meant to make you say "what the fuck", and then you forget about it while we all move to the next random "what the fuck" moment.  If you removed any of them from the film, it wouldn't change the movie at all.

Despite all of this, it's an enjoyable ride.  It looks like a million bucks, the music is fantastic, and the individual performances are very good.  I wouldn't call it a good movie, but it's original and that's something of an outlier in an era that has produced a seemingly endless parade of remakes, reboots, sequels, requels and comic book adaptations.  It's exactly the type of film that ends up being catnip to the red carpet sniffers out there who will invent their own deep meaning to the randomness.  For the rest of us, it's worth watching once and saying "what the fuck" a few dozen times before moving on to something else.

Feb 15, 2022

Tops In Hazleton

Top Of The 80's
Hazleton, PA
We had a dinner-and-a-movie date for Valentine's Day.  I'll talk more about the movie later this week when I've had a little time to roll it over in my mind and maybe figure out what the hell it was about.  For right now, I want to show some love to a very nice restaurant that I've enjoyed throughout my life. 

Top Of The 80's has been in business in Hazleton for over 45 years.  It's a bit more expensive than the restaurants that my family would go to on a regular basis, but we did have dinner here several times; particularly when more of the extended family was in town.  It's still the first place in Hazleton that I think of to celebrate a special occasion.  It's a warm atmosphere with friendly people, delicious food, and an absolutely breathtaking view of the Sugarloaf valley.

I had a delicious 14 oz grilled ribeye with a big baked potato and rice pilaf for dinner.  My grandparents would pick up Delmonico steaks at Insalaco's just about every week when I was growing up.  Grandma had an electric frying pan that she'd plug in next to the kitchen table where she'd fry them up with butter.  I used to eat them right out of the pan, and the meat would almost melt in your mouth.

It's a very different world from the days when a regular working family could afford to get steak on a regular basis.  Prices are nowhere near as low as they were back in the 80's and they've skyrocketed even higher since the start of the pandemic, so a nice cut of meat like this is a special treat.  When I am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy one, it reminds me of those days in my grandmother's kitchen when the only price I ever had to worry about was the cost of a pack of baseball cards at Pantry Quik, or whether the hot new game at Aladdin's Castle was worth two tokens to play.

For dessert, I had a tiramisu that looked almost as good as it tasted.  I've been doing well on my diet, but it's Valentine's Day and I wasn't about to let my wife have dessert by herself or to skip something she wanted just because I wasn't getting one.  Besides, there aren't that many holidays where we go out to eat, so I can make an exception for those without sabotaging my weight loss goals.

Feb 14, 2022

One Of The True Kings Of Comedy

Ivan Reitman
1946 - 2022
The incredibly talented filmmaker whose directorial credits include Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters (1 and 2), Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Junior and Six Days Seven Nights, and who produced many other iconic comedy films in a career that spanned over five decades, has died.  Mr. Ivan Reitman passed away in his sleep on Saturday.  He was 75 years old.