Thursday, August 24, 2017

Reserved Seating: Movie Time in Philly

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
Monster-Mania convention, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Wind River and more!

Adam: Welcome to this special edition of Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: I went out to the city of brotherly love to visit my brother in Reserved Seating, Rob, this past weekend. Besides cheesesteaks and square pizza, there were a lot of film shenanigans worth discussing. I arrived early Saturday morning and Rob met me at my hotel. I had a few minutes to spare, so I went into the hotel gift shop and bought a Rocky t-shirt -- a large, men’s Rocky t-shirt...or so I thought. More on that later. Our first stop was to the Monster-Mania horror convention in nearby Cherry Hill, NJ. What did you think of the convention, Rob, and what were a couple of highlights for you?

Rob: Two words: Alison Lohman. For reasons I’m sure you’ll get into, she became the centerpiece of our day. Overall, I had a lot of fun. We spent most of our time at the bootleg tables, where I picked up copies of Zulawki’s Possession, Romero’s Martin, and Corman’s The Fantastic Four, none of which I’d seen before. Turns out Possession was the censored version, which was a bummer, but it was incentive enough to get me interested in checking out the longer cut. That movie is straight-up bonkers nightmare fuel. We saw some cool artwork and ended up outside for the Warner Bros. Pictures Presents: Stephen King’s It: The VR Experience™, which essentially consisted of sitting on a creepy bus and holding a Samsung Galaxy against your forehead for four and a half minutes. By far the best part, though, was your gradual invention of Connor, the overeager convention-going savant. We spent our time in lines riffing scenarios for a YouTube series in which he visits various celebrities and educates his audience on proper convention etiquette. You had me laughing my ass off the whole day.
Adam: Thanks, bud! I was in a very silly mood all weekend, in large part on Saturday because my flight was so early and I was up most of the night before. Connor eventually became Concino, which is just Connor morphing into Al Pacino and I must say all the practice this weekend has improved my Al Pacino impression. For those of you reading, Connor would be a guy with a thick Chicago accent who said a lot of puns (surprise, surprise). When he turned into Concino it was stuff like “Oh my, oh my, my my...a convention t-shirt…. now I’ve seen it all!” Concino would also interact with celebrities like Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things (“Noah there an actor that needs Strasberg more?...that...I do not know”). The Pacino impressions lasted for the rest of the trip.

The VR experience for It was neat. I’ve been sold on the movie ever since that four-minute trailer before Annabelle: Creation and this VR experience only got me more excited. I love VR experiences (this was my second one) and am amazed at how immersive they are with the level of detail and 360 POV. The It experience was you (basically as Georgie) on a street in Derry, being coaxed into the sewer by Pennywise and then trying to escape. It was cool. A little blurry, but cool all the same. Outside of one autograph (which I’ll get to in a sec), I bought a bunch of bootlegs. If anything, this con was a great resource for bootlegs. I got an Elvira mega disk with a bunch of appearances and interviews, a Freddy Krueger music video hour, a documentary JB has told me about for years called Fear in the Dark, a TV horror movie called I Saw What You Did with Wishmaster’s Tammy Lauren and Shawnee Smith of the Saw series; Paperhouse; Rock ‘N’ Roll High School Forever (which features a performance by Mary Woronov that scarred me as a kid); Stay Tuned with John Ritter, which I haven’t seen in years; Fright Night Part II, which I’ve never seen; and the universally loathed John Belushi biopic Wired, which I’ve always wanted to see regardless of its toxic reputation.

Rob: You described that Belushi movie to me, and it sounds absolutely incredible.

Adam: The convention was crowded (it had a real muggy, swamp ass feel to it) and the lines were LONG for just about every autograph except one: Alison Lohman. So I went to meet the woman we would later nickname “Short Line” (in honor of her short line and the fact that she was near Jonathan Ke Quan, aka Data from The Goonies and Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Also, “Short Line” sounds funny when said in Pacino voice. In real life, Alison Lohman looks exactly like Alison Lohman and acts exactly like you would expect Alison Lohman to act. It was pleasant but not super memorable, although you and I elevated her to icon status throughout the weekend. I will never associate the lead of Drag Me to Hell with anything other than Monster-Mania from now on. A few other observations about the con celebs:

• Daphne Zuniga is stunning
• Chris Kattan had a longer line than I would have expected
• Noah Schnapp made my blood boil because Stranger Things
• Ethan Embry was where the party was at
• Zach Galligan was talking to a little kid who probably called him Zach Galliganfanakis
• Sid Haig and Bill Mosely walked past us once to rapturous applause
• Rob asked me at the Troma booth if I liked Troma and I said “I’ll tell you in a minute,” which is code for “No.”

Anything else I’m missing or should we pivot to diner fires and the trash fire that was The Hitman’s Bodyguard?

Rob: I’m sorry to report that we didn’t hang around for Kate Beckinsale or Val Kilmer (or their $90+ autograph prices), but other than that, I couldn’t have summed it up any better. We left the con and headed to the Llanerch Diner, better known to most as the diner from Silver Linings Playbook. I was born a few miles from this spot, and I pass it almost every day on the way home from work during the school year. I was super excited to bring my SLP-loving friend in for a bowl of Raisin Bran. Guess what we learned when we got there? Adam, tell them.

Adam: It was closed due to a fire. I peeked in, but that was about the best we could do.

Rob: Apparently, it was just a small fire and the diner will be reopening in the next few weeks. Still, it was terrible timing. Let’s move on to the #1 film in America, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Ryan Reynolds stars as Danny Ocean, a quick-witted private security contractor assigned to protect Samuel L. Jackson as Chev Chelios, a wise-talking, unkillable assassin whose testimony against Gary Oldman’s Generic Soviet Oligarch could put the terrorist in prison forever. It’s a movie that tries to be everything at once, shifting tones on a dime and careening headfirst into incoherence by minute five. It’s like if Shane Black and Steven Soderbergh made a stupid asshole movie starring screaming babies. Save for some great stunt work and Salma Hayek cursing at people, it’s a nightmare. Adam, I forced you to stay for all of The Hitman’s Bodyguard (#NoWalkouts). What did you think?
Adam: The best way to summarize my reaction to The Hitman’s Bodyguard is to say that it made me into a big baby. I fell asleep twice and got up for two five-minute (maybe more) stretches during the movie to walk around in the lobby because I was so bored. The movie is like a .220 hitter who refuses to take extra batting practice. It’s absurdly content in its mediocrity. There were a couple of decent car chases towards the end, but the movie was trying my patience with its “I bet you didn’t expect that from her” potty mouth Salma Hayek performance, Samuel L. Jackson saying “Mother Fucker” arbitrarily because Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds doing his tightly wound thing when you want him to be anything but the straight man to Jackson’s off-kilter hitman. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is by no means the worst movie I’ve seen this summer, but it might be the most annoying because it could have been twice as good if the people involved just cared a tiny bit more.

Rob: We were talking afterward about how Ryan Reynolds’ charm has a limit and really needs context if it’s going to work. I feel like this movie betrayed the strongest aspects of both its lead stars by kind of forcing them to work next to each other rather than developing a real dynamic. It’s a movie that people will probably enjoy in that “turn off your brain” way that I hate, but we couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Adam: The best part of the experience was my Coca Cola ICEE. Mark Off! On Sunday, I tried on that Rocky shirt I bought only to discover I had to return it. It went down to about my belly button and was kind of see through. Not my look. Oh well. Later that day we saw Wind River, which is a much better movie. It’s the directorial debut from Sicario and Hell or High Water screenwriter Taylor Sheridan and stars Jeremy Renner as a hunter living on a Native American reservation who stumbles upon a dead body and helps an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) solve the case. Wind River extends Sheridan’s winning streak. I love how his films have deeper meaning but never at the cost of just being good stories, told well. The performances by the leads (Renner, Olsen) and a welcome supporting performance by ‘90s character actor Graham Greene are strong and the mystery is involving and refreshingly pretty straightforward. I had a few minor gripes (e.g. the screenplay is a little showy, but that’s ok because Sheridan is just demonstrating his chops) but other than that I think Wind River is a Mark Ahn and definitely worth seeing. What did you think, Rob?
Rob: I thought it was great. It’s a very natural extension of the themes and characters from Sicario and Hell or High Water and a strong directorial debut from Sheridan. I love the way he consistently highlights some very unique American issues (rural decay, loneliness in the great frontier) in a way that isn't preachy or myopic. He has incredible sympathy for even his most cold-hearted characters. Any movie with his name on it is a must-see from now on. It even made me appreciate Jeremy Renner! My only gripes were the slightly underwritten Elizabeth Olsen character and an awkward closing title card that made it feel like more of an “issue” movie than just a genuinely good story. Neither of those is a deal-breaker, though. Mark Ahn, for sure.

Adam: We wrapped up by having dinner at the Victor Cafe, which is the setting for “Adrian’s” in Rocky Balboa and Creed. It was cool. There was a Rocky Balboa-Apollo Creed painting in the main dining room that I wanted to steal and the draw of this restaurant (Rob and I learned) was that it was not only the setting for scenes in both of the aforementioned Rocky movies, but also a restaurant where all of the wait staff are professionally trained opera singers. It was neat, although I felt guilty eating while our waitress was singing. I just pictured how nervous it would have made Patrick when the first waitress did her “walking into the crowd” thing while she was singing. If you’re in the area, I recommend it highly. The food was good too!
Rob: And, again, I must mention that literally every moment in between these events (and most of the moments during) was spent doing Al Pacino impressions and trying not to crack up. You skipped over CineMug, the super hipster South Philly cafe we stopped in that combined the pretension of a Starbucks with the pretension of a film student’s DVD collection. Why are boutique rental stores suddenly popping up all over the place?

Adam: I couldn’t tell ya. CineMug wasn’t real. I think a higher power created it so we had something to do for the ten minutes before Victor Cafe opened. Like, how does it make any money whatsoever? I sure hope the guy who runs CineMug isn’t reading this.

Rob: Sorry, Coffee Guy with Glasses. That root beer you sold me was mighty fine. So overall, would you recommend a trip to Philly to see me? *Crosses fingers*

Adam: I’ll be back! I got a…. PUNCH CARD! (one of the running jokes was that Al Pacino has a wallet full of punch cards for coffee shops etc.)

Rob: And that they’re constantly falling out of his jacket every time he reaches in. I’ll never look at Beverly D’Angelo the same way again. Thanks so much for coming out!
Adam: I haven’t looked at Bev the same since The Sentinel. Then she became the New Bev. Terminator 2: 3D next week?

Rob: Affirmative. Until next time…

Adam: These seats are reserved.


  1. I had the same minor issue as Rob on the closing title card in Wind River. It never felt like an issues movie to me up until that moment, so it was a bit odd and out of place, but every other element of the movie was fantastic. Loved it.

  2. I just saw Wind River last night and really loved it; really looking forward to more stuff from Sheridan. I agree that the screenplay is a bit showy in places, which pulled me out of the film in a couple of places early on, but it wasn't an unforgivable sin. Elizabeth Olsen's part was definitely underwritten.

    Re: the closing title card, I was expecting something like it. Perhaps based on my own background context as a Canadian, since this has been an ongoing cultural discussion culminating in our government's National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The card we got was less "issue"-y than I thought it would be, to be honest.

    I think it might be time to toss out my irrational hatred of Jeremy Renner.

  3. This is Renner's best performance and best job at being a leading man imo. Olsen was fantastic also. Tough. I thought her ability to portray an inexperienced agent over their head but never shying away from a challenge was top notch. I love the way dude ends his films - reflection and future. Conversations about what has happened and where they're headed now. They're intense and intimate. It's like they're letting all their demons out except one. Sicario it was Del Toro/Blount. HoHW it was Pine/Bridges and now Renner/Birmingham (who is great again).

  4. Great read! I've been to this exact con as it is close to my neck of the woods. My roommate got a picture with Gary Busey to use as his credit card photo and I just tried to sneak a peek of Danny Glover. It's essentially a great flea market though.

  5. I've been on the fence about wind river theatrically just because of Renner, but I really can't say why I dislike him. It's true that his head looks like it was crammed into a too small invisible jar, but so does Stallone's and I'll watch a movie I know will be bad with him in it.

    I do really want to see how Sheridan directs his own writing. Sicario was kind of ruined for me because I felt the hand of the director and cinematographer constantly, it felt too showboaty for the ground level dirty story.

  6. Just watched Assassin's Bodyguard. I haven't done any research, but I would bet this script was written during the Tarantino boom of the mid to late 90's and finally got made. Who the fuck says "I'm gonna pop a cap in your ass" anymore?! I almost turned it off at that point had it not been fun enough to see a decent amount of head shots. That is really the only reason I stayed with it. (See John Wick 2 for the definitive win on that one, though.) Also, the way it was edited, from the opening sequence on, to the music used "ironically" (Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" and Foreigner's "I want to know what love is" during violent scenes) felt so old and forced that I couldn't help think of the mid to late 90's. None of the jokes are funny, the chemistry isn't there at all, and it's "mother fuckin'" 2 hours long. My favorite parts were seeing Selma Hayek cause it's Selma Hayek and I would have even watched "Lord of the Rings" if she was in it. Garbage movie.

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