Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Reserved Seating: Movie Time in Philly, Part III: Retro Weekend

by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
A drive-in, Last Action Hero, Demolition Man, Fathom Events and more!

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

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: For the third year in a row, I made a trip to Philadelphia to visit my east coast bestie (it’s Rob!) and get into a plethora of film-related shenanigans. My first movie moment was on the plane to Philadelphia. There’s an indie movie out in theaters (by that I mean one location, for one show a day, in a theater 45 minutes away because “the current state of independent film”) called Little Woods that I really want to see since it stars Tessa Thompson (who I like) and Lily James (swoon). As I alluded to before, the movie is pretty hard to see right now due to its barely release(d) strategy. But guess what? It’s playing on American Airlines flights! Good thing I was on a plane with no screens on the back of the seats. Sigh. One day, Little Woods, one day I will see you.

Anyways, after I arrived we went to a Philadelphia Phillies game (which was a blast) followed by watching the 1989 baseball serial killer thriller Night Game starring Roy Scheider. I made it about an hour before I tapped out, but you finished the movie, Rob. Give our readers the rundown on Night Game and its fascinating Jaws franchise reunion.
Rob: You tapped out because Night Game is a slog and a half. It was so disappointing. Roy Scheider? Baseball? A hook-handed serial killer? How can something so right go so wrong? Anyway, the one and only interesting thing about the film is that it stars Karen Young as Scheider’s love interest, Roxy. Why do you know Karen Young, you ask? Because she played Michael Brody’s wife in Jaws: The Revenge. Yes, the Roy Scheider of Night Game is sleeping with his Jaws-universe daughter-in-law. We all knew Scheider could get it, but damn.

Adam: Aside from Scheider’s night game (and also day game), my biggest takeaway from the movie was learning that co-star Richard Bradford (The Untouchables, Hoodlum) is from Texas and not Ireland. I think in every previous movie I saw him he spoke in an Irish accent. Acting’s a funny thing.

Rob: What’s funny is that you bought Night Game for us to watch together and then — just like LA Vice last year — you donated it to my collection when we realized it sucks. I think that might be a new tradition.

Adam: On Saturday, we hit up what’s become Reserved Seating HQ: CineMug! For those of you who have never been to CineMug, it’s half-coffee shop and half-video store, but in a way where it’s more someone showing off their DVD collection and you can borrow one of their movies if you want. They usually have a few DVDs for sale. too. You can’t buy books there though, as Rob learned the hard way.

Rob: They put the for-sale DVDs and the “for store use only” books on the same shelf! What was I supposed to think?

Adam: You’re supposed to know their backwards logic by now! Normally I buy one movie from CineMug more as a keepsake souvenir than something I want to add to my collection. But this time, I got four! I bought the underseen and very good Two Lovers, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow; Jumper. starring Little Italy’s own Hayden Christensen, which is one of my secret shame movies of the 2000s, True Lies, because it will never come out on Blu-ray, and Cruel Intentions. I was excited to pick up Cruel Intentions because it was the original DVD from 1999 and I covet old 1999 DVDs like most film aficionados covet 70mm film prints. You can feel the history on a late-'90s DVD. They’re the new vinyl.
As we were browsing the rental area, I texted myself a few titles they had that I want to catch up on soon:  The Grifters, Velvet Goldmine, Homicide, and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.

Rob: Many of those are on my list, too, so let me know how they are. I’m glad you made out so well at CineMug! From there, we headed up to the King of Prussia Mall United Artists for a Fathom Events screening of Batman (1989).

Adam: That mall is huge. And before Batman, we went to Best Buy and I bought Backdraft: The Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, which I shockingly did not own.

Rob: I’m glad you were able to right that wrong. This was my first time seeing Batman on the big screen, and I think it was the best the movie has worked for me since I was a kid. A bigger screen means bigger seams (I never noticed the obvious action figures in the miniature Joker-copter before!), but I was able to get lost in the world enough to appreciate the more absurd quirks. Adam, we were accosted by a fan after the screening who was praising Jack Nicholson’s performance. You were having none of it. You want to talk about that? What did you think of Batman this time?

Adam: I feel bad about my post-screening Batman fan interaction. While we were leaving, I said to you that the movie works for me as long as Jack Nicholson is off-screen, and a stranger jumped into our conversation to say he’s the best Joker after Heath Ledger. I tend to not like when people interject into conversations they aren’t a part of, so I dismissively said something like “He’s really not very good” back at the guy. I’m a dick. Like I said, I felt bad about it immediately afterwards.
I saw Batman in theaters a couple of times in ‘89 and I loved the movie back then. Over the years, it’s gotten worse for me watching it at home. This Fathom Events screening was make-or-break. If I saw it again in a theater and didn’t like it, I probably wouldn’t come back to it anymore and just let the movie live in my head as a nostalgia piece. Luckily, this screening worked for me. Between the Danny Elfman score and Anton Furst’s art direction, Batman (1989) is built for the theatrical experience. It feels like a completely different movie in a theater. I still think it has a lot of elements that don’t work, but the below-the-line credits are so superlative that it doesn’t really matter. They drag the movie across the goal line.

Rob: After Batman came the main event: A ‘90s Action Party double feature of Last Action Hero and Demolition Man at the Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA. We arrived early enough to have a catch, get some snacks, and check out all the ‘90s movie ephemera that the drive-in had to offer. What did you think of the Mahoning, overall? Were you nervous to interact with the stars of At the Drive-In?
Adam: It’s wonderful. I mentioned to you over the weekend that this was my first drive-in movie experience since 1994 and our trip to the Mahoning makes me want to keep going back to the drive-in (at least, locally...Lehighton, PA is far). The only part of the experience that wasn’t 100% positive was that I didn’t know how to act around the employees because I was starstruck from seeing them in the documentary. It was like when Danny Madigan climbed into the screen to meet Jack Slater in Last Action Hero. We opted not to say anything to them (about the doc or our review) and I think that was the right call, because it allowed for a natural experience and not a fan experience (if that makes sense). How cool was that concession stand, btw? It had everything.

Rob: It was really cool to see how much care they put into their work and how much the theater’s patrons appreciate it. It definitely has that summer camp vibe that we saw in At the Drive-In and talked about in our review. Old VHS and records for sale, engaging conversation with newcomers — it was a very friendly atmosphere. The SEGA Genesis station was a nice touch. One thing I really appreciated was that the staff designs a mini poster for each weekend event. They even had some of the older posters on sale for half price. You bought a few of those, I think. Which one did you like the best?
Adam: I did. I picked some posters up (Kevin Smith, Martin Scorsese, Exploitation) to give as gifts back home. My favorite is the one from the '90s Action double feature we saw. I like the design and it’s special because it’s a keepsake from the experience of going to that particular double feature with you. The only poster that was better was the one they had framed at the concession stand for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. I was in awe. It was next to a poster for The Craft. The entire night I kept wondering if it was a coincidence they had those posters displayed since both movies were released on May 3-4 (one in 1990 and one in 1996) and that was the weekend of our drive-in. If they did that on purpose, then I love The Mahoning even more. OCD sees OCD.

Waiting for the movies was just as much fun as seeing the movies. Besides going to the concession stand and looking at merch (p.s. I jotted down that I need to watch Fair Game (1995), Final Analysis, The Getaway (1994), and The Taking of Beverly Hills based on the VHS collection they had on display), you and I threw a baseball around, ate some snacks, drank beer and watched a trailer reel on my phone that I made for Demolition Man. The drive-in had their own pre-show, but honestly (I feel egotistical saying this) mine was a little bit better. I’ve got that shit down to a science. But still, they played trailers for Rumble in the Bronx, Little Nicky, and The Quest, which was awesome. I think my favorite part of The Mahoning pre-show was the radio primer they had of ‘90s music intercut with announcements and movie-related musings. I wish the pre-shows were their own podcasts.

Rob: I agree that your trailer reel is better. I think I might have you make some personalized reels for my home viewing from now on. The only bummer of the night was that the weather didn’t hold out. We had some rain around showtime that only got worse as the night went on. Still, it was a great experience and the drive-in can definitely serve as the centerpiece for any of your future summer visits. What did you think of Last Action Hero and Demolition Man?

Adam: Both were great. The rain added to the third act of Last Action Hero since it’s raining in the movie, too. I’m starting to really like Last Action Hero now (I was more mixed on it over the years). I think my favorite part is that Arnold waves bye to the audience at the end. Why can’t all movies end with the cast waving goodbye? Demolition Man was Demolition Man, which isn’t a slight. That movie’s amazing. The two together were a great pairing. Inside the bathroom, the staff of The Mahoning had up instructions on how to use The Three Seashells just like in Demolition Man. It was a nice touch and gave us one of our best running jokes of the night, which is Stallone having poop-ass the entire movie.

Rob: I’m on record as a die-hard Last Action Hero fan and seeing that one on the big screen was really special. Demolition Man is great, as you said, and my exhausted delirium (it didn’t wrap up until after 1 AM) made it even better. Thanks so much for coming out again! It was such a great time, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Adam: You bet. Thanks for hosting. Next week we’ll be back with a baseball movie review TBD. Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. I need to make going to a drive-in a summer priority.

  2. I'm ready for that road trip we talked about... ;)