Jun 21, 2024

A Midsummer Night's Screening

2024 Patreon Screening #2
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The second 35mm Patreon screening this year took place last night on the summer solstice.  The movie was a revisionist western from 1972 that I had never seen or heard of before.  I haven't watched a whole lot of cowboy movies, but this one had the strangest and most abrupt ending that I've ever seen.

Jun 20, 2024

Burger Jawn

Philly Melt and Philly Royal Crispy Wrap
Burger King (2024)
The City of Brotherly Love has taken over the specialty menu at Burger King with two of the better limited edition fast food products that I've had in recent memory.

The Philly Melt is a double cheeseburger topped with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and green peppers, and Royal Sauce, which The Daily Meal has described as "ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and some spices with a backdrop of tangy onion and garlic".  This all comes together to create one of the tastiest fast food burgers I've ever eaten.  My only critique is that they're still going to this weird toasted bread thing instead of their regular sesame seed bun.  I'm not sure what focus groups they're talking to, but no one, but I don't think I've met anyone who would make a cheeseburger at home for themselves and put it on white bread unless they were out of hamburger buns and didn't feel like running to the store.

The Philly Royal Crispy Wrap is a piece of white meat chicken breast topped with melted Swiss cheese, grilled onions and green peppers, and Royal Sauce served in a warm tortilla.  These are also delicious, but they're not really big enough to be filling.  One Philly Melt burger is enough to satisfy my appetite, but I think I'd need about three or four of these to feel full.

Jun 19, 2024

The Say Hey Kid

Willie Mays
Willie Mays was a true legend in every sense of the word.  He started his career in the big leagues by winning the NL Rookie Of The Year in 1951.  Following his rookie season, he served in the US Army during the Korean War and returned full-time to professional baseball in 1954.  He won his first of his two NL MVP awards and a World Series Championship that season.  The 24 time All-Star was incredible at the plate and in the field, winning 12 Gold Glove awards and finished with a lifetime .301 batting average with 3,293 hits and 660 home runs, which is the fourth highest legitimate home run total in the history of MLB.  He passed away yesterday at 93 years old.

Mr. Mays retired from baseball after the end of the 1973 season.  This was seven years before I was born, so most of my exposure to his incredible career has come in the form of highlight reels, stories from older fans, and from his autobiography, which my dad bought for me when I was 11 years old.  I've read it several times over the years, and I think it's a good time to crack it open again.

Jun 18, 2024

The Home Of Register Roulette

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

Jun 17, 2024

There's Shadows In Life, Baby

Boogie Nights
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
I've started using Letterboxd more frequently over the past year.  One of the features it offers is the ability to rate movies on a scale of zero to five stars.  Most of the movies I see end up getting between 2.5 and 3.5 stars, with the ones that I really love getting 4 or 4.5 stars, but I'm pretty stingy when it comes to a five star rating.  For me, five stars means that a movie is absolutely perfect... a movie that I can't imagine ever getting tired of seeing and would enjoy no matter what kind of a mood I'm in... a movie that I would go out of my way to see on the big screen when the opportunity presented itself.  Boogie Nights is one of my five star movies.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The Mahoning Sunday Essentials series has been incredible up to this point, and there's a lot of great films scheduled for the rest of the summer.  If you've never been out to the lot before and you're not sure if you want to dive in with a double or triple feature, I highly recommend coming out on a Sunday night.

The Diggler Dog.  If you wanna see me eat it, it's ten. But if you just wanna look at it, it's only five.

Beth ordered jumbo hot dogs for last night's screening, which were sold at the concession stand as "Diggler Dogs".  If you've seen the movie, you know.  They were actually pretty darn tasty hot dogs, and I hope that John Brenan would have been proud that I didn't put ketchup on it.

This is a beautiful movie, and I don't mean that as a joke or as a half-assed perverted comment.  The setting is the porn industry of the late 70's and early 80's, and it has a lot of sex scenes and nudity, but that's not at all what I'm talking about.

I've tried writing this out a few times and I'm having a difficult time finding a way to say it that won't be misinterpreted, but I'll do my best.  This is a movie about a bunch of flawed people who live life on their own terms, and who have all found each other to form an unconventional family.  Despite the fact that Dirk Diggler has sex with Amber Waves and Rollergirl both on and off camera, their relationships are more familial than anything else.  This is especially true of Dirk and Amber, whose bond is closer to a mother/son than anything sexual.  Sex just happens to be a part of that relationship because it's how they earn their living.  It may be the most genuine feeling family dynamic that I've ever seen brought to film.

This movie has a lot of drama and a lot of laughs, but there are three scenes that stick out in my mind.  The first is the scene where Dirk's mother (his real mother, not Amber) kicks him out of the house towards the start of the film.  The character of Dirk's mom reminds me so much of my grandmother that it's scary.  The second is the scene where Amber and Rollergirl are doing coke in the bedroom and Rollergirl asks Amber if she can call her mom.  This scene is so powerful and real that it damn near brings me to tears.  The third is when Dirk comes back to Jack Horner and asks him for help.  They hug and when Dirk apologizes, Jack whispers "I'm sorry too, kid".  It's perfect.

I'm going to quit while I'm ahead here, because I'm much too tired to properly explain why I love this movie as much as I do.  Maybe I'll edit this later and try to do a better job when I'm more awake and thinking more clearly.  Suffice to say that the story, the performances, the cinematography, the use of music, and the ending are absolutely flawless.  Paul Thomas Anderson is a genius.

Jun 16, 2024

We All Eat After Midnight Here

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This weekend at the Mahoning is dedicated to some of the most prolific pint-sized terrors of horror cinema from the 80's and 90's, with Gremlins and Gremlins 2 on Friday night, and a double feature of Dolls and Child's Play 2 on Saturday night.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Show poster designed by Tom Bifulco and Mars Howard
T-shirt designed by Tom Bifulco

As always, the show banner was designed by Andrew Kern, who is our frequent neighbor in the front row-right section of the lot.  The shirt was designed by Tom Bifulco, and the poster was a joint project by he and Mars Howard.

Actor Zach Galligan recorded a nice introduction to his movies that played before the movies began.  He starred in both films as Billy Peltzer, the young man who is given Gizmo as a Christmas present in the first film and who rescues him from a genetics laboratory in the sequel.

The first movie of Friday night was a horror comedy classic: Gremlins.  It premiered in theaters three weeks before my fourth birthday and has been a part of the Christmas season for weirdos like me ever since.  I saw it for the first time when I was in elementary school.  I'm not sure exactly when, but I was very familiar with it before the sequel came out six years later.

This was followed up by Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  It premiered in theaters on June 15th, 1990, and unlike its predecessor, I did see this in theaters during it's original run.  I remember that my grandfather took me to see it at the Church Hill Cinema on Route 309 in Hazleton, and I laughed my ass off throughout the entire thing; particularly when all of the Gremlins are singing New York, New York in the lobby.

There was an incredible collection of 35mm trailers that were shown on the big screen after the films on both nights, including the Woodstock movie from 1970, Kill Bill, Terminator 2, Back To The Future, ET, and the original 1976 trailer for Star Wars.  It's so damn cool to see these on the big screen at the drive-in.  I remember seeing some of the more recent ones when they were new, but for the older trailers, I sometimes try to put myself in the mindset of an audience who saw them for the first time.  What must the fans in attendance have thought the first time they saw the trailer for the first Star Wars film in 1976?

Dolls / Child's Play 2

Before I get into the movies from Saturday night, I've got to mention this cup.  The last thing that I expected to find at a vendor table at a horror movie double feature was a souvenir cup commemorating the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, but there it was in all of its glory, and it only cost a dollar.  This was originally sold at Veterans Stadium during the strike-shortened 1994 season.

The 1987 film Dolls is the only movie from Little Devils Weekend that I hadn't seen before, but I had seen the cover of the VHS tape countless times over the years.  It was in the horror section of just about every video rental store that I ever visited in the 80's, 90's, and into the 2000's, but for some reason I never rented it or managed to catch it on television.  I think that I always kind of dismissed it as a knock-off of Puppet Master, which is not at all the case.  Not only was Dolls released two years before the first Puppet Master film, but it doesn't really share too much in common with it.

I'm far from being a movie expert, but I have watched a heck of a lot of movies in my life, and if there's one genre and time period that I am especially familiar with, it is horror films from the 1980's.  With the exception of seeing the VHS cover, I went into Dolls completely cold.  I'm pretty sure that I never even read the synopsis on the back of the box.  I had never seen the trailer.  I didn't see any portions of the movie on a YouTube review or through channel surfing.  I had the opportunity to see an original 35mm print of an 80's horror flick at a drive-in theater, and it was as fresh and original of a screening for me as it was for audiences who saw it 37 years ago, possibly even in the same exact spot that I was sitting in on the Mahoning lot.  Experiences like this are an absolute treasure to me.

The final movie of Little Devils Weekend was Child's Play 2.  This movie isn't directly responsible for my lifelong love of horror films, but it definitely played a role at a pivotal moment in my childhood.

The Horror Hall Of Fame is something that I look back on as the moment that I became a horror fan.  It was a television special that aired sometime in 1990.  I watched it when it aired for the first time when I was ten years old, and while I had seen horror movies before, seeing this opened my eyes to the history of the genre, the stories, the special effects, and the magic that unfolds on the screen.  There's a segment in which Chucky is introduced by Robert Englund to talk about horror films from around the world.  The killer Good Guy doll closes his time on stage by telling fans to go see Child's Play 2, which was either in theaters at the time or about to be soon afterward, so seeing this movie at the drive-in reminded me of this special.

I didn't have the chance to see Child's Play 2 on the big screen when I was a kid because my grandfather would not take me to a film that was Rated R, but I either rented it or saw it during a free preview weekend on one of the pay channels when it became available.  It's not a movie that I've gone back to watch too often in the years since.  In fact, last night might have been only the second or third time that I ever sat down and watched it from beginning to end, but it's a solid horror flick.  I'm not sure if I'd say that it's better than the first film, but it's definitely as good as the original, and I'm glad to have had the chance to see it on 35mm at the drive-in.

Next up will be a Sunday Essentials screening of Boogie Nights.  I can't wait!

Jun 15, 2024

Johnny Polo Shirt

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

Jun 14, 2024

Meet Me In Montauk

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The second Thursday Thread-Up of 2024 was a film that turned twenty years old this March.  It favorite romantic drama of all time: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Thursday nights when it's not raining are the perfect times to bring little Harvey out to the drive-in.  He loves the place!  He gets loved on by pretty much everyone who sees him, and he gets to meet lots of other dogs in a wide open space where they can play.  Another perk is the fact that Donnie, our friend on the lot crew, has started a dog raffle on Thursday and Sunday nights.  Every dog who comes onto the lot gets a ticket at the front gate, and a ticket is drawn before the start of the film.  The winning pooch receives either a nice dog toy or a bag of treats.

There are few movies that connect with me as strongly as this does.  I saw it for the first time when I was 24 and it was still on the new release wall at Blockbuster Video.  On first viewing, I was fascinated by Lacuna's memory erasing service and thinking about how this would effect the world if it existed.  The second time I saw it, I was mesmerized by the way that it was shot and edited.  The scenes of Joel reliving his memories and trying to hide Clementine in the dark corners of his mind to prevent her from being erased entirely are absolutely brilliant.  However, the thing that has stuck with me is the relationship between the two lead characters.

I'm not opposed to romantic dramas as a genre, but they're not the kind of films that I usually gravitate towards.  It's not that they're bad films, but I can't relate to them at all.  More often than not, the characters in these films are rich, successful, and obscenely attractive, and the scenes and the dialogue that take place between them are so over-the-top that I spend a good portion of the movie rolling my eyes.  None of that is true in this movie.  I've known people like Joel and Clementine.  I've been in both of their shoes at various points in my life.  I've had relationships that felt like what I'm seeing on the screen.  Despite the sci-fi nature of the memory erasing service and the other-worldly nature of the story as it takes you through Joel's memory being erased as he's remembering it, this is by far the most relatable love story that I've ever seen on the big screen, and it's one of the greatest movies of the 21st century.

Jun 13, 2024

Father and Son Strikeout Kings

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

Jun 12, 2024

Follow The Birds

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

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

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

Jun 11, 2024

Grab Your Wieners

New York, NY  (1985)
Hot dogs... I'm talking about the hot dogs... Pay no attention to the theater marquee.  (photo source: Matt Weber)

Jun 10, 2024

Communism Is Just A Red Herring!

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

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 9, 2024

Double Remake Double Take

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

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Poster designed by Tom Bifulco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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