The Muppet Movie (1979)

When I was a kid, I would watch The Muppet Movie quite often, it was a favorite of mine. I haven’t watched it in quite awhile, though. So, when Fathom Events announced a fortieth anniversary screening, and I saw that it would be showing at the Lufkin Cinemark, I knew I would have to go watch it.

And, since it was a Fathom Events release, matinee prices didn’t apply, but I went to the matinee, anyway.

For the first twenty minutes of preshow, there were trivia questions on the screen, the last ten minutes before the show, commercials for touring Broadway productions & other Fathom Events coming up. No special introduction or closing from Turner Classic Movies, which threw me off, since they’ve been done at previous films I’ve gone to see the last few years.

If you haven’t seen the movie, its a road trip comedy with Muppets. Kermit the Frog is singing the Oscar-nominated ‘Rainbow Connection’ in his swamp when he’s discovered by a Hollywood agent that tells him he could be rich & famous and make millions of people happy if auditioned in California. Kermit leaves the swamp behind, and meets Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo & Camilla, Sweet ‘Ums, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Rolph the Dog, Electric Mayhem, Dr. Honeydew & Beeker. And he’s pursued by Doc Hopper, a Colonel Sanders-type fast food owner that wants Kermit as a spokesman for his fried frog leg restaurants.

And there is a slew of celebrity cameos that went completely over my head when I was a kid. Dom DeLuise. Mel Brooks. Richard Pryor. Steve Martin. Madeline Khan. Telly Savalas. Paul Williams. Milton Berle. Orson Welles. Bob Hope. And more!

It’s still a fun movie, and there are still parts that I enjoyed watching. But I also noticed a lot more fourth wall breaking than I remember, the most obvious being the Electric Mayhem getting a copy of the script, reading it to get caught up on the plot, and then using it to rescue Kermit & Company when they are stranded in the desert.

Still, I’m glad I went. And I had the theater to myself, which is always nice. Makes it feel like a private show just for me.

Added bonus, there was a commercial before the movie, that if I take my ticket from The Muppet Movie to the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I’ll get a discount off the eight dollar admission fee.

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Hearts Beat Loud has been on my Hulu list for awhile now. I like Nick Offerman, he has been good in other movies & I watched his comedy special awhile back, so it was an easy add. But I hadn’t watched the movie until this morning.

A single father in Red Hook has a daughter about to leave for med school, and the summer before she goes to UCLA, they form a band as he is forced to close his record store. It doesn’t sound like much, but I thought it was a sweet story. And it has some nice music, which is important when music & the love of making it is a central part of the movie.

And, unlike That Thing You Do! it isn’t just the same song over & over again – there’s actually three or four pieces they play, together & solo.

Toni Collette and Ted Danson have supporting roles as the landlady putting the store out of business and the neighborhood pot smoking bartender.

Cheers, the second season finale of The Good Place, Hearts Beat Loud…I think Ted Danson has been typecast.

And I think that the major misstep in the story is submitting a song to Spotify and then being surprised when it is played by Spotify. Isn’t that how Spotify works?

1922 (2017)

I picked up the short story collection Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King last week at Half Price Books, along with Fight Club and the novelization for Suicide Squad. Of course, I read Fight Club first, and started Full Dark, No Stars the other night. The first story in the collection is ‘1922’, which I finished this morning. Having read the story, I decided to watch the film starring Thomas Jane, my second favorite Punisher actor, via Netflix.

1922 is the story of Wilf, a family man & farmer in Nebraska. When his wife inherits 100 acres of land after her father passes away, she wants to sell it & her husband’s farm to a slaughterhouse and move to Omaha, or maybe even St. Louis. Wilf wants to stay on his farm, and tries to convince his wife to let him buy the 100 acres from her. This disagreement causes a rift between the couple, and Wilf convinces his teenage son to take his side against his mother. Concerned about losing the quality of the land, and what the slaughterhouse would do to his farm, Wilf decides the best way to deal with things is to murder his wife, and get his son to help.

After doing the deed, Wilf is haunted by rats and his son Hank starts acting out, gets his girlfriend pregnant, and they have a run as Bonnie & Clyde-type criminals. As Wilf’s life falls apart, visions of his dead wife torture him past the point of no return.

The movie picks up years after the murder, and is narrated by Wilf as he writes his confession in an Omaha hotel room that slowly fills with rats.

The movie, with a screenplay & direction from Zak Hilditch, follows the Stephen King story pretty closely, a few minor changes here & there, up until the ending. King’s short story has a more defined fate for Wilf, while the movie goes for a more supernatural conclusion.

Not sure I’d recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read the story, definitely not to anyone with a phobia about rats, vermin, dead bodies, reanimated corpses, or cows. The trailer creeped me out when I first watched it, which is why I waited ’til after reading the story to get to the movie.

Thomas Jane does alright as Wilf, sounding like he has chewing tobacco in his mouth the whole time. House of Cards’ Molly Parker is Arletta, the wife with the 100 acres. And Neal McDonough, from Star Trek: First Contact and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, is the Harlan, the pregnant girl’s father & Wilf’s neighbor.

Dunkirk (2017)

A couple of years ago, I was talking about movies with a co-worker, and he suggested, since I like Christopher Nolan movies so much, I should watch Dunkirk. I’d seen the trailer, and I was curious about it, but I hadn’t watched it. I didn’t get to the theater. I didn’t rent it from Redbox when it came out on DVD. And I didn’t watch it through HBO via Hulu. But now, for the past week, with a free trial for Cinemax, I finally watched Dunkirk.

First off, I don’t necessarily like war movies. I’ve watched ’em for most of my life, because my dad was a big fan of ’em, his favorite being To Hell and Back, which stars Audie Murphy in his own based on a true story movie.

Second, even for a war movie, Dunkirk was fucking bleak.

Third, I quite like the cast. Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy are great actors, all around. I can’t think of a movie of Cillian Murphy that I haven’t liked until this one, which is a bit of a bummer. Mark Rylance was good, too.

And, finally, I had to look up why there are onscreen designations of “One Week,” “One Day,” and “One Hour” after watching the movie. The army had been there at Dunkirk for a week. It took a day for the civilian and military navy to get there. And an hour for the pilots to fly across the channel.

I’ve seen nine of Nolan’s directed films, and The Prestige is still my favorite. I will watch that movie any day, any time, even if I’m flipping channels and its halfway through. There is nothing about that movie that I do not love for forever. And I recommend it to my friends, though I had to stop loaning my DVDs out, because I kept having to buy a new copy. My friends would just keep it. Dunkirk will never be that kind of movie for me, though I’m sure there is someone out there who feels the same way about it as I do The Prestige.

And The Dark Knight is a close second for me, when it comes to favorites.

Fun fact! Looking at IMDB, and I watched Dunkirk two years to the day that it was released in theaters!

East Texas Movie Theaters

Before getting too deep into this, I want to talk about the movie theater options I have to choose from around here.

When I first moved to Nacogdoches County, my sister told me the movie theater was the Carmike in Nacogdoches. And that was it. Until I complained about them not showing something I wanted to see, and she says, “Well, there’s a Cinemark in Lufkin.” There was a Carmike in Lufkin, too. She tells me that if the Cinemark doesn’t have it, the Carmike would, because they are almost across the highway from each other.

It took a couple more years for me to find out there was a Carmike in Tyler, too.

And not too long after that, the Studio Movie Grill opened in Tyler.

Since coming out here, AMC bought out the Carmike, and all three Carmikes are now a part of the AMC chain. Which is good for me, I need theater options. Unlike the poor bastards living in Abilene. They had a Carmike, I saw it once, drove by, and the AMC buy out happened, and the next time I drove through Abilene, the theater was shut down. But, they have since gotten a really nice Cinemark right off of I-20.

My favorite place to go lately is the AMC Lufkin, in the Lufkin Mall. Nine screens, with “luxury” reclining seats (a new feature) that have a two-setting heater, and, my favorite, self serve kiosks for both tickets & drinks. There’s also a MacGuffins bar, which Tyler is getting soon, but I don’t worry so much about that. Three years sober, go me.

AMC Lufkin. I can order my tickets online, no fees with the AMC Stubs, go to the mall, use the self serve kiosk, get my tickets, get a survey code every now & again for a free popcorn later. I still have to go to the counter to get my cup for a soft drink & popcorn. I say “soft drink,” but its Cherry Coke. Every AMC, I get Cherry Coke. That’s my drink in that setting.

Theaters One to Four are the small screens. Five to Nine are the big ones. Of the nine, Four is the worst. It doesn’t show anything when you go in, dark screen until about six minutes after the posted showtime, and then the truck commercial and trailers start. And its the coldest of the four, too. I think it may be haunted.

AMC Tyler. I wish they had a self service ticket kiosk. There’s a ticket counter near the entrance, but on slow shifts, there’s a VIP line at the concession stand to use, instead. The theater has wifi, which is good. I can pull up my email confirmation, and they scan the phone screen & I get my ticket. With the IMAX and BigD screens, you can pick your seat, its reserved. Every other theater, though, is regular seating, first come, first serve. So I have to get there early to get my preferred seat.

The theater lobby will have larger than normal movie posters on display, and will occasionally have the cardboard promo that you can sit on, or stand with for photo ops. The last one I remember was the one for Finding Dory, when I took my youngest nephew to see X-Men: Apocalypse.

AMC Nacogdoches. The first East Texas movie theater I went to, back when it was still a Carmike. You can still get cheap hot dogs there, and there’s a self serve for sodas. Six screens, all regular seating. No reserves, no stadium. If there’s a tall guy with a cowboy hat sitting in the row in front of you, you’re gonna have to say something, or miss the bottom third of the screen.

I don’t go to Nacogdoches too often, anymore. Last movie I went to see there was Mortal Engines. Its the same drive from my place to Nacogdoches or Lufkin, and Lufkin has better seats & more often than not, the same movies.

Cinemark Lufkin. Cinemark was the theater chain I grew up with, its the chain that is still in Stephenville, and they still have super low prices out there, its crazy. Cleburne is the same way. Lufkin is not. Their prices have kept up with the times. They have the glass box office booth out front, but its been forever since I saw someone in it. You go in, get a ticket at the counter, and can often get your popcorn, drink, nachos, whatever from the same person at the same register. They just recently finished their seating upgrade to have reclining, heated seats, but they do not recline as high or far as the seats at AMC Lufkin.

The Cinemark is good for Fathom Events. This year, I’ve gone to see The Opposite of Sex, Ben-Hur, and Field of Dreams there. Last year, when they were showing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Director’s Cut, I wore one of my Star Trek: Deep Space Nine uniforms with a tribble velcroed to my shoulder, and the guy at the counter only charged me a senior price because he liked my “ensemble.”

Studio Movie Grill Tyler. This fucking place. There’s a ticket counter as you walk in, and then the entire lobby is a restaurant bar that has almost always been empty, or close to it. Been going to SMG for about a year, the first time I went was for Tag last summer. I don’t like it that much, but when I go, its usually for a Wednesday night show of something I haven’t seen. The most recent trip was back in March, two weeks in a row, for The Death of Superman and the Reign of the Supermen. Sure, I could have watched them on DVD, but if I can, I’ll prefer a theater experience.

I love – LOVE – the Alamo Drafthouse. They have perfected the in-theater dining experience. SMG has not. The last time I was there, I hit the button on the table top, the server comes up, standing about six feet, gets between me & the screen, and says, out loud in a normal tone, “What did you want?” A refill on my drink, please. “Strawberry lemonade, right?” Yeah, yeah.

I do like their strawberry lemonade.

Jackson Cinema Jacksonville. I used to go to this place all the time. Its a small three screen place with regular seating, but the selling point was that on Tuesdays, they would have $4 shows. And since I never have Tuesdays off with my job, I could go there, see a movie, maybe two, and then go to work.

I haven’t been there in months, though. Maybe a year? I think the last movie I went to see there was Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Other theaters…there’s the one in downtown Lufkin, its a one screen place, but I’ve never been. I think about going, they have had movies I want to see, I just don’t get to it. There’s also a Hollywood Theater in Tyler, but you have to go down Broadway, past the SMG & AMC, and then hang a left & go a few more miles…ugh. I just can’t do it after getting all the way to Tyler already. I’ve been to the theater in Henderson once, for Black Panther. I don’t know what I didn’t like about the place, but I didn’t go back. I’ve heard there’s a theater in Palestine, never seen it.

Child’s Play (1988), Child’s Play 2 (1990) & Child’s Play 3 (1991)

So, I went to see the Child’s Play reboot when it opened last month. I hadn’t seen any of the original Child’s Play or Chucky movies before, but figured, what the hell, Mark Hamill was doing voicework and Aubrey Plaza was playing the mom, why not see it the same day I was watching The Secret Life of Pets 2, which had Harrison Ford providing a dog’s voice. And the poster campaign was mildly amusing, the series with Chucky killing Toy Story characters and Annabelle.

When I got in from AMC Lufkin last night, I don’t know why, but I figured, what the hell, I’ll stream the Chucky movies. Hulu had the first one available, and Cinemax has the second & third.

Basic set up – a serial killer uses a voodoo-type curse as he’s dying to transfer his soul into a talking, life-size doll. A desperate mother buys the doll from a homeless guy, and gives it to her son. The doll then proceeds to terrorize the son, killing and maiming folks left & right. The serial killer also learns that if he stays in the doll for too long, its permanent and to escape, he has to switch souls with the first person he told about the transfer, which is the son he was given to by the desperate mother.

The second movie picks up almost immediately afterward, with the toy company cleaning the remains of the doll from the first movie so that they can resell it. When the doll kills a toy company employee in front of the company owner, that plan is scrapped, and the manager in charge winds up taking the doll with him at the end of the day. Why? Who knows? Of course the doll is still alive, and goes to the foster home where the son from the first movie has been placed, and terrorizes that family until he is stopped again.

The third movie is set years later, the son is now a teenager in a military school, and the doll has a whole new body but still possessed by the serial killer. New body, new kid to tell his secret to in the hopes of getting out of the doll. And then the doll terrorizes & maims students and staff at the military school, with the now teenage son trying to save the new little boy in peril.

At least with the reboot, its an angry employee reprogramming the doll to be killer, instead of supernatural forces.

And all three movies are a game of “Where do I know them from?” The most common answer will be, “Star Trek.”

The Lion King 3D & 2D (2019)

Thanks to my AMC Stubs membership, I was able to spend Friday night at the movies, or at least the same movie twice. I decided to use two of my three tickets this week to watch The Lion King in both 3D and 2D.

The new “live action” release is the same story as the animated classic from 1994. Simba is a newly born cub, the son of Mufasa. Mufasa’s brother Scar makes two attempts to kill Simba and maintain his claim to Pride Rock. The second attempt leads to Mufasa’s death, and Scar terrorizes Simba to get him to run away.

While away from Pride Rock, Simba befriends Timon & Pumba before lioness Nala arrives and Simba is convinced to return to his home, challenging Scar & his army of hyenas for control of the Pride lands.

There are changes from the animated original. The animals are less anthropomorphic in this version. For example, Scar does not lock Zazu in a cage, or play with skulls & bones. Timon does not put on a skirt & do the hula to distract the hyenas. And Rafiki only uses a staff once.

There are changes to dialogue & one song in particular that I noticed. I’m not sure if its a good thing or a bad one that Disney will now allow explicit fart jokes in their films. I think this sets the precedent.

Of the original cast, only James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa. The man is a presence as the king of the Pride lands.

Of the new cast, I’d say Seth Rogan as Pumba and John Oliver as Zazu provided the best performances. Too bad Pumba doesn’t get to call out, “They call me ‘Mr. Pig’!” as he did in the original, thanks to another change in the dialogue.

Between the two formats, I preferred the 3D release. The animals and effects looked less detailed in the 2D screening.

As for the music, Hans Zimmer and Tim Rice & Elton John are still credited, and most of their music remains intact from the original release. Two girls sitting next to me in the nearly sold out 2D show sang along with a couple of the songs, and knew almost all the words to ‘Hakuna Matata’. Beyonce Knowles-Carter performs the new song, ‘Spirit’, when Simba & Nala are returning to the Pride land.

No doubt the animated film is a classic, and was a favorite of mine when I was younger, but this one was enjoyable, as well. And I think Jon Favreau has given us a better update than his previous release for Disney, The Jungle Book.

I may even go to see it in the IMAX format at another local AMC in a couple of weeks. For now, though, seeing it twice in one day was enough.

Fight Club (1999)

Back in the fall of 2000, I was working for a rent-a-cop company in Austin, Texas, and wound up getting assigned to work overnight security at the Radisson Hotel by accident, thanks to a late call-in from a co-worker. They liked me there, so it wound up being a semi-permanent assignment. One of the front desk agents was a big fan of Fight Club to the point that he kept a copy of the DVD at work, and would watch it on his laptop. Every. Single. Shift. During my rounds, I would pass through the lobby, and saw a bit of the movie at a time. Never in order, never all the way through. I felt like I had seen enough, and already knew the twist to it, that I didn’t bother to actually watch it until just this morning.

The other day, while in Tyler, Texas, I picked up a copy of the book by Chuck Palahniuk. Started reading it Monday night, finished it this morning.

I’ll be honest, I liked the story of Tyler Durden.

And I’ve been a fan of Edward Norton for quite awhile, can’t remember if I watched American History X or Primal Fear first. And I’m still pissed that his Hulk was recast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So, the book was good, but the movie was better.

Edward Norton is the unnamed Narrator, and there are times both he & Brad Pitt’s Tyler talk directly to the audience. In this case, me, on my couch. The Narrator is lost in life, working at a job he hates for a boss that sucks, trapped in the consumer world and trying to make sense through support groups he doesn’t need.

Tyler is an outspoken round peg that doesn’t fit in the square holes of society, impolite & uncaring of what anyone would think of him or his life. Brad Pitt was ripped for this role, too.

Polar opposites that turn the film into a bit of a buddy drama, unless ya know the twist of it. But, twenty years since it came out, I still wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Helena Bonham Carter is Marla, the off beat love interest that the Narrator meets in the support groups, and Tyler winds up having the fuck buddy relationship with.

Meat Loaf is Robert Paulson. And thanks to that one scene, that is a name that can haunt you.

Within the movie, Fight Club starts with the Narrator and Tyler in a bar parking lot. It evolves when others want to fight, too. And as it grows, it becomes Project Mayhem, a plot to tear down the consumer society and start fresh.

The movie is definitely more focused and goal oriented than the book managed to be.

There are differences – the Space Monkeys aren’t shaved bald, there is no confrontation on a bus full of them, Tyler isn’t introduced on a nude beach, the Narrator isn’t as mutilated in the film thanks to the fights, and there’s no mention of Marla wanting to have Tyler’s abortion. I think the line they use in the movie is even better.

Overall, I think that the Narrator’s desire to fight William Shatner was the best line in the movie.

This is not one I would watch over and over, as my former co-worker would do twenty years ago. And it won’t ever be a favorite. But its well worth watching, and even if it took twenty years, I’m glad I finally got to it.

And, if you can, read the book, too.

East Texas Pan-Geek, An Introduction

Alright, so, let’s begin. My name is Tom, and I’m a pan-geek.

Over a decade ago, a dear friend came up with the idea of pan-geeks – scifi fans that also liked regular science, fantasy, sports, board games, videogames, cosplay & conventions – basically a cross-section of nerdiness that wasn’t confined to just being a Trekkie, or a Browncoat, or a Whovian, but any & every one who got excited about being a geek and would bring what excited them to the figurative or literal table to share with others.

It was a fun group of folks, and I have since considered myself as not just a geek because of it.

When I lived in Austin, Texas, I would attend free screenings & write reviews for Fun times with that website, too. It’s still a going concern for Jason and his crew, check it out, if you like.

I’ve been living here in the eastern part of Texas for the last six years. Since there is next to nothing to do here (or, put another way, I don’t hear about events until after the fact), I watch a lot of movies, using streaming services like Hulu & Netflix, the Redbox rental service, and by simply going to the movie theater. But, since there isn’t a major market near here, the free screenings have ended.

Back in December, I joined AMC Stubs, and have not missed a week’s worth of three movies since then, sometimes just going to all three in a day. Friends & co-workers have suggested I start a blog to share my thoughts about what I’m watching, since I’m going to some of the same movies multiple times, and have hardly missed a new release unless I just had absolute zero interest in it.

This isn’t a personal blog, it won’t be a life story. It will be public, and it will be open for discussion if anyone wants to comment on what I’ve watched, what they’re watching, or what they are excited about seeing in the future, or an old favorite to share.

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