Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reserved Seating: Movie Time in Philly Part II: Time for Floor Smiles!

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
Monster-Mania con, Slender Man, Eighth Grade, Billy Zane smiling at Rob, and more!

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

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: For the second year in a row, I made a trip to Philadelphia to visit my brother in Reserved Seating (it’s Rob!) and we got into loads of film and film-adjacent shenanigans. Our first stop was a make-good from last year: visiting the Silver Linings Playbook diner! In 2017, we tried to go there for lunch, but the restaurant had come down with a case of the fires and was closed. This time we had lunch one booth away from the one where Jennifer Lawrence ordered tea and Bradley Cooper had Raisin Bran on their SLP date (there’s a plaque...I took a picture that came out blurry!). The food was bad. Rob didn’t tell me he knew the food was bad at this restaurant until hours after we ate there. It was all good, though; the bad cuisine of the Llanerch Diner gave us a weekend’s worth of jokes at its expense, is where I debuted my killer Ron Eldard impression, and when we began the short-lived Edward Norton Game (August 17, 2018 - August 17, 2018). Do you want to tell our readers about the Edward Norton Game? Also, tell them about all the movies we watched at your place over the weekend. In hindsight, it’s impressive we made it through that many.

Rob: The Edward Norton Game was born from a discussion about a possible Reserved Seating theme (#Nortvember), and the only rule was that one of us had to say “Edward Norton” once per hour. The game lasted about three hours. In hindsight, there have been better games, and there have been worse games. The lesson here is that Edward Norton isn’t that interesting.

Adam: I had a theory back in high school that Edward Norton was the next “great American actor”, but this time - for “us”. I still like the guy on film, but…. yeah, that didn’t really happen, did it?

Rob: And I’m sorry about the food! I was so focused on getting you there after last year’s debacle that I wasn’t even thinking about what we’d eat or how it would taste. Shit’s nasty, though.
Adam: No need to apologize. During the meal, we talked a lot about the Bruce Willis Comedy Central Roast and it all felt of a piece with the quality of food we were eating.

Rob: We then had some time to kill before our Friday evening entertainment, so you treated me to my first viewing of Piranha 3D, which was exactly the right way to start things off. I think you described it as “tore up from the floor up,” which is an understatement. I love genre movies like that, movies that not only “know what they are,” but truly embrace what they are and have a ton of fun with it while still being creative. The propeller bit is the first gore effect I’ve seen in a good long while that legitimately made me jump out of my seat. That movie rules.

We then made our way to South Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, where we saw the Phillies beat the Mets, 4-2. What did you think of the park?

Adam: I really liked it. I know this comes from a nonsense place, but I always get a different vibe from a National League park than I do from an American League one (because it’s not real baseball…jk). I think it’s because I’m used to Sox Park (I refuse to call it Guaranteed Rate Field), which is an older design (i.e. pre-Camden Yards) and has less to distract you in the concourse area. Citizen’s Bank Park was nice, the food was good (I had crab fries!), and the Phillies fans were into their team, which is great. Of ones I’ve visited, the closest park I can compare it to is the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Also, I’m now more familiar with the Phillies current roster, which is key since I’ll be rooting for them down the stretch during their pennant run.

Rob: I just realized that I’ve never actually been to another National League park (aside from Veterans Stadium as a kid), so I have nothing to compare CBP to aside from other American League parks. Still, I totally understand what you’re saying. I thought it was a pretty exciting game, overall. There were no home runs, but we saw some stellar pitching from our ace, Aaron Nola, something like four stolen bases, and a pretty dramatic missed diving catch that resulted in a stand-up triple for the Phils. The only other thing that might be relevant to our readers, though, is the running gag we had about Al Pacino as a groundskeeper named Jimmy Fields. Jimmy was the best groundskeeper in the business until a tragic tarp-related accident results in the death of his wife. He retires until years later, when the team’s manager asks him to return to the crew for the most important game of his career.

Adam: Mrs. Fields may or may not still be under that tarp! What if she was a femme fatale and faked her own death? #GroundskeeperNoir

After the game, we watched Tales from the Hood and about half of Slamma Jamma before I fell asleep. That was just the tip of the iceberg. On Saturday, we started the day with a matinee screening of Slender Man. What did you think of the movie(s), Rob?
Rob: It had been years since I last saw Tales from the Hood, so revisiting it gave me such a better appreciation of the social commentary that went over my head back then. I wish we’d had more energy for Slamma Jamma, though. Neither of us did that one any justice. However, we did come up with an idea for Slamma Con, a convention devoted entirely to the film and its wide world of characters. Who did we decide would charge the most for an autograph, again?

Adam: I think it was Craig Jackson, the film’s villain. Or Jose Canseco.

Rob: I just want my poster signed by Old Lady in Gun Shop. I have so many questions for her. Anyway, I thought Slender Man was a slog that not even the great Joey King could save. There were a few funny bits of Bad Teen Dialogue, some interesting visual design, and a classic library research scene (I think we both let out a quiet “Yes!” when we saw it), but it’s certainly no Wish Upon or Happy Death Day. What did you think?

Adam: I’m fully aware that the movie is not good, but I really liked it because it reminds me of the early 2000s horror I used to go see when I was in college. It’s comfort food for me. As a film, Slender Man doesn’t work (it feels edited with a chainsaw), but the cumulative delights of Joey King showing her less experienced co-stars how this type of movie is done, the make-out shaky cam/mid-'90s Smashing Pumpkins “1979” video camera tricks and the anger at the lead character because she runs track are what I’ll remember. I will buy this movie.

Rob: I just want to emphasize Joey King’s random anger. There’s an exchange like this:

King: Let’s investigate Slender Man.
Friend: Not tonight, I have a date with Tom.
King: Tom?
Friend: Yeah, what’s wrong with Tom?
King: TOM!? Who cares about TOM!?

You do! You just asked! She had the same outburst about track practice. Joey was all over that girl’s shit. That and Tom’s exploding demon o-face were my favorite bits.

Adam: After that we went to Monster Mania con in Cherry Hill, NJ. What did you pick up at the show?

Rob: I had a ton of fun at the con, even though it felt a little more crowded than last year and there was no It VR experience.

Adam: I thought for sure there would be one for The Nun. I would have even settled for A.X.L.
Rob: We did our lap around where we checked out all the vendors before regrouping and deciding how best to allocate our financial resources. I ended up getting a “Buffalo Bill’s Custom Leather” t-shirt from The Silence of the Lambs and the Drafthouse Films Blu-ray of Ms. 45. I was a little bummed that a few of the boutique labels were actually charging more for their discs at the con than on their websites. Maybe I’m cheap, but I thought there should at least be a con discount or, if nothing else, the price should be the same. Am I crazy? Anyway, I decided not to go for any autographs, but you did! Let’s talk about those celebrity encounters and how they stack up against last year’s Alison Lohman experience.

Adam: I was intending to get autographs from Robert Englund and Kane Hodder on a new Wishmaster 11x17 poster, but I didn’t. Englund’s line was super long (we saw him at the hotel restaurant, though, marking the second time in my life that has happened to me), so I decided not to go for that one and Kane Hodder’s $50 asking price didn’t feel good in the moment (mainly because I had just spent $50 meeting two other celebs already). Those two people were Justin Long and Billy Zane. Before I jump into my experiences meeting them, tell our readers about the floor smile!
Rob: You and I were prepping your posters to be signed, and I looked up to see Billy Zane pass by us and shoot me a grin on his way back to his table. I was in the middle of trying to come up with a joke or something, but I remember that I got so flustered I just bailed on it and had to tell you about the smile. I know he was just being polite to someone he’d accidentally made eye contact with (we’ve all been there), but it was something else. We hadn’t even paid him yet! Of course, the best part was that it led to another running joke about Al Pacino doing a con and randomly getting out from behind is table to give out free “floor smiles.”

Adam: I feel like it’s our destiny to meet Al Pacino at a con, and by that I mean attending one. Anyways, Billy Zane. He was so nice when we formally met him! I got him to sign my Demon Knight poster and we had a really nice discussion about his part in the movie. I told him how much I loved it and how I wasn’t allowed entry to see it in theaters on opening night. He laughed when I called it “forbidden fruit.” I asked Billy Zane if the part of The Collector was written as comedic or if he brought most of that to the table. He said he was given a lot of leeway to create the character and it was his acting choice to go that big. He cited Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin as the inspiration. It was a cool conversation and probably one of my favorite autograph experiences because it felt like I found a question the celebrity seemed interested diving into with their answer.

Rob: I really liked that conversation because Zane was at a separate table from his handlers, so it felt a little more private and relaxed. We didn’t have to keep egging him on or asking questions; as you said, he seemed genuinely interested in talking about the movie. It was cool.

Adam: Before that, we met Justin Long and Lisa Wilcox. I was nervous when I met Lisa Wilcox and probably sounded a little dumb. I told her about the 2017 Flashback Weekend NOES 5 con bump (where you like a movie more because the people from it are so nice in-person), which she seemed both flattered and confused about, and I got her to sign a NOES 4 mini-poster. She was very nice. At one point she asked me if I was going to get more Nightmare 4 signatures and I said “Yeah, eventually,” which was awkward because right next to her table was Tuesday Knight and I didn’t get her autograph after I got Lisa Wilcox’s. She’s not my Kristen, sorry. In addition to Robert Englund, Rob and I also saw Lisa Wilcox and Tuesday Knight at the hotel restaurant buffet shortly afterwards. They were getting salad and we were both like “They eat salad???!!! Like normal people????” It’s weird seeing celebrities doing normal things. Almost unsettling. I get that celebrities eat salad, but I can’t wrap my head around them getting it from the same place as me and you.

We also met Justin Long and I definitely put my foot in my mouth meeting him, but he was really cool about it. I was trying to tell him that he’s often my favorite part of the movies he’s in, but it came out by me saying that even if I don’t love all the movies he does, I like him. I dug myself into a deeper hole of shame when I told him I wished he had taken over the Die Hard franchise. He looked surprised and said, “Literally you and no one else.” He was nice and exactly like how you would expect Justin Long to be based on his on-screen persona. I got him to sign my Drag Me to Hell poster that’s already signed by Monster Mania con legend Alison Lohman. He seemed happy to add his autograph next to hers.

Rob: You don’t give yourself enough credit for your skills in those situations. You were totally articulate and kind, and I think everyone we met enjoyed talking to you.
Adam: You’re a good friend. Before I actually got his signature, I got conblocked by Rob Schneider (whose table was next to Justin Long’s) and I had to stand there and wait for a minute while Deuce Bigelow asked Justin Long about his Alvin & The Chipmunks voicework or something. There was also one point where Justin Long took out his phone and we were like “HE HAS A CELL PHONE????!!! Like a normal person????” I wanted to pay him extra if it meant I could scroll through his contacts.

Rob: I think it was because the kid in front of us was named Damien, and Long got confused because that’s his brother’s name and he spells it “Damian.” He argued back and forth with the kid’s mom for a second before whipping out his phone JUST LIKE A REGULAR PERSON WOULD and looking something up. It was a wild ride.

Adam: Other high/low lights of the celebs: the sight of seeing Carl Weathers/Doug Bradley/Barbara Hershey all simultaneously fanning themselves because the outdoor tent we were all in had no air conditioning (it was surreal), Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie from the 2017 It) shouting “YOU’LL FLOAT TOO!” over and over to attendees applause and getting Rob’s attention to witness a Pauly Shore selfie happening in the distance.

Outside of the autographs, I picked up a bootleg DVD of the Freddy’s Nightmares series (Why do all bootlegs have that sin smell?) and the new Blu-rays of In the Mouth of Madness and Wild at Heart.

Rob: I just want to add how sad I was that Carl Weathers didn’t even have a sign above his table. They did the champ wrong. The “You’ll Float Too” thing made us both a little uncomfortable (the celebrity zoo aspect of conventions always makes me feel weird, especially when it’s a child), but I think we decided that Jackson Robert Scott being so young and probably so excited to have fans asking him to run lines made it okay. We left the con and headed back to my place, where we ate pizza and marathoned Sleepwalkers, In the Mouth of Madness, Wish Upon, and Wishmaster.

Adam: That marathon wasn’t exactly planned, but ended up being the greatest four movie run anyone has ever put together.

Rob: Sleepwalkers was new to me, and I really enjoyed it. I loved Clovis the Cat. I loved Madchen Amick. I did not love the incest. Should we talk about your Wishmaster quote dilemma?

Adam: I think “Everlasting,” “What if I were to tell you…” and “What if I were to say…” might be of my own invention and are not actually lines of dialogue in the film. I’ll need to really study the dialogue the next time I watch it.

Rob: I looked it up, and I believe he offers a character “life everlasting” in Wishmaster 2. For what it’s worth, though, it almost doesn’t matter. Those quotes and your impression add so much to my appreciation of that movie that I’m happy to ignore any inconsistencies. It’s all hot dogs and a ballgame to me.

The next morning, we grabbed breakfast and went into the city for a screening of Eighth Grade, a movie I think I liked quite a bit more than you. What did you think?

Adam: Eighth Grade is this year’s A Ghost Story for me, where I don’t want to talk about it much because I didn’t like it, but it’s in a way that I feel is unfair to the movie and reveals my stupidity. I just...I mean...the movie made me very uncomfortable. I feel like I’m not built to meet it at its level. I thought the lead character was mean (I get that’s the point), the dad was weird (the whole going to his daughter’s room shirtless in more than one scene...which I get is not that big of a deal, but I consider scuzzy) and the whole “Truth or Dare” scene that felt like something from a Larry Clark movie. I get that Eighth Grade is a good movie, but it didn’t resonate with me at all and I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to engage with it more. The movie made me sad that modern eighth graders have lives like these (e.g. the technology addiction, the shooter drills, etc.). I think I was supposed to be more inspired by Elsie Fisher’s journey than I was. I liked Slender Man, so what do I know?
Rob: It’s absolutely a cringe fest, but in a way that really works for me. It’s rare to see a movie about teachers, parents, and teenagers of varying ages that actually captures each of their perspectives in an honest way without stereotyping or diminishing one of the other groups for dramatic effect. I thought Elsie Fisher’s performance was pretty damn incredible for what it didn’t do as much as what it did. Teen vulnerability is a hard thing to crack in movies (most just make them cruel or angry or dismissive without trying to tap into what they’re covering up, and most of them sound like 45 year-old screenwriters condescending to their younger selves), but I think Bo Burnham hit something special. The way she gets mad at her dad, the way she avoids eye contact with bullies, the way her delivery of “Gucci” changes over the course of her journey. I thought it was great.

And, look, there’s no way to say this without sounding like a douchebag, but being a parent and a teacher gave me permission to be emotional and engaged during scenes I definitely would have found cheesy or manipulative otherwise. The fireside chat with her dad, for example. It’s such saccharine nonsense, but it’s real. Other than that, I was impressed with the restraint Burnham’s script showed when it came to the Truth or Dare scene and Fisher’s relationship with the high school girl she shadows. There’s a cheap and easy way to dramatize those elements that lesser filmmakers might have gone for, but not this one. Anyway, I really enjoyed it.

Adam: I’m glad you did. This is a rare Reserved Seating disagreement. Feels kinda good.

We wrapped up the trip with a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe house, which made me immediately remember how much I loved the Masters of Horror episode (“The Black Cat”) with Jeffrey Combs as Poe. The highlight was the cellar where we found an old, scary black cat stuffed animal that I nervously poked like I was the old man in The Blob (1958), dropped and picked up only to see it’s scary scream face. I also asked you to face the corner to recreate the end of The Blair Witch Project. The cellar had that kind of vibe. I really dug the Poe house as a tourist attraction.

Rob: I just want to point out that I walked into a creepy basement with you and immediately followed your order to stand in the corner facing the wall without any hesitation whatsoever. That’s friendship.
Adam: Of course it’s friendship. If I was playing the long game of luring you into Edgar Allan Poe’s cellar, I would have done that during my trip last year. Lastly, on the way back to your place we stopped once again at CineMug (a coffee shop/video rental store) and I bought L.A. Vice, starring Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Det. Jon Chance for $3. On that DVD was a 40-minute block of trailers for other PM Entertainment Group titles, most of which starred Wings Hauser, Jeff Conaway, or women in bikinis. I needed a shower after that trailer block. It’s the type of studio where even the STDs have gout. Did you finish L.A. Vice?

Rob: Not yet, but you let me keep it on the condition that I write an “I’ll Watch Anything” column on it, so I’m going to have to eventually. I’d encourage our readers to type “PM Entertainment” into YouTube and watch any of the movies, clips, and trailers that come up. And then shower.

Adam: I wonder how much Patrick knows about PM Entertainment Group.

Rob: I’ll bet he’s familiar. His Editor’s Note should go right here: (Ed. note: I am not.)

Adam: I asked him and he surprisingly was not familiar with PM Entertainment Group, but on board once I mentioned Kathleen Kinmont was in a couple of the trailers.

Rob: Did we mention that L.A. Vice is actually a sequel? Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs plays Det. Jon Chance in 1989’s L.A. Heat, 1989’s L.A. Vice, 1989’s Angels of the City, and 1990’s Chance. Four movies in less than two years! We joked that he had a four picture deal that he completed over two weeks of shooting.

Anyway, thanks so much again for coming out! Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m bringing Llanerch take-out.

Adam: Haha. Thanks for everything. It was a great trip once again! Next week, our Pacino series returns with Dick Tracy. I hope you like subtle performances! Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. This article was a journey and I loved it.

  2. I'm really jealous of all the MLB games you get to watch. I went to a Blue Jays game a few weeks ago and i loved every minutes of it. I love baseball

  3. Man I could do a whole podcast on PM Entertainment Group, aka the house that Lamas built. PM was one of my go to companies for shlock DTV action when I worked at Blockbuster. They were like a poor man's Imperial Entertainment. If you wanted Lorenzo Lamas, Don "the Dragon" Wilson, or Gary Daniels movies PM had you covered. Just hearing you talk about it brings a smile to my face. Great article fellas!

    1. Big fan too. "Recoil" has one of the greatest opening 20 minutes of any action film. Most of PM's films are like this. It's almost on purpose, like in reverse; they start with a massive, climatic set piece that the actual climax can't even come close to matching.

    2. Oh they totally did! I wonder if the idea was blow the budget on the first 20 minutes and then use that to sell the film to distributors and finish it up with the $2.50 that's left over.

      And, yeah Recoil was bomb. Love, love, love me some Gary Daniels

    3. I’m now on a mission to see everything Wings Hauser has ever directed.

    4. You can literally end your mission in one day
      1994 Skins
      1994 High Tide (TV Series)
      1991 The Art of Dying
      1990 Living to Die
      1990 Coldfire

    5. The mission should be Art Camacho and Joseph Merhi ;)

    6. "You can literally end your mission in one day" is the funniest thing I've heard all week.

    7. This is actually a really great oral history on PM. They talk to all the key players, including Creighton Duke himself Steven Williams. He starred in the TV series based on LA Heat, which is a thing that actually did exist.

  4. This article is really rather beautiful! :)

    Ohh and Adam liking Slender Man, and of course Joey King* in the cast, is a "sold" for me!

    * Just read the Empire review and it got two stars BUT they did praise Ms. King's professionalism, though I do wonder how you feel Adam about them referring to her as the Chloƫ Grace Moretz of B movies?

    1. Joey King is the Meryl Streep of teen horror movies.

    2. Now that is a pull-quote if ever I saw one!