john carpenter live

Welcome to The Water Cooler, a weekly feature where the /Film staff is free to go off-topic and talk about everything except the movies and TV shows they normally write about. In this edition: Chris Evangelista sees John Carpenter in concert, Peter Sciretta attends a David Copperfield show, Jacob Hall plays Hidden Agenda, Hoai-Tran Bui watches Buzzfeed Unsolved, and Ethan Anderton tries to find time to do anything at all.

Chris Evangelista Saw John Carpenter Live

Over the weekend, I had a chance to see John Carpenter perform live. Yes, that John Carpenter – the filmmaker behind horror classics like Halloween, The Fog and In The Mouth of Madness. Not only was Carpenter a prolific filmmaker, he also composed the majority of the soundtracks for his films – usually eerie, simplistic, synth-based numbers that create great atmosphere.

In the last few years, Carpenter released two albums, Lost Themes, which were essentially music done in the style of his classic soundtracks. Think of them as soundtracks to films that never existed. Carpenter and the band he recorded the albums with started touring, and during the live shows, they’d also play music from Carpenter’s films. This lead to the release of Carpenter’s new album, Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998, which is comprised entirely of Carpenter movie themes. I saw the acclaimed filmmaker perform last year, and decided to see him yet again when he swung by my neck of the woods.

Here’s the basic setup: Carpenter and his band play their hearts out while a screen behind them projects clips from scenes of the films they’re playing the music from. If you’re a huge Carpenter fan, as I am, it’s a real treat. It immediately reminds you of how many fantastic films Carpenter has made while also making you want to go back and rewatch them all. Even the ones you don’t like! For instance, I’m not a fan of Carpenter’s Village of the Damned remake, yet the minute he started playing the music from the film as scenes of the glowing-eyed children caused a rampage up on the screen, I immediately felt like rewatching the film.

It wasn’t all a treat though. Look, I’ll be honest: I am what the kids call “an old.” I don’t go to many concerts anymore because I just hate standing up all night. If a concert has seating, I’m in. Otherwise, I skip it. The venue for last year’s show had seating, which was great. This year’s show, however, did not, and I was forced to stand all night, grumbling inwardly. Also not cool: other people. When Carpenter and company began playing the theme from They Live, the screen behind them started projecting the famous, incredibly long alley fight between stars Roddy Piper and Keith David. You may or may not be aware of this, but at one point, South Park recreated the alley fight scene for scene. The minute the screen at the Carpenter show began projecting the alley fight, this very loud, very drunk man next to me began shouting about South Park, apparently assuming he needed to remind everyone of the South Park parody. Listen, dude: shut up. No one wants to hear you.

Beyond that, it was a blast. If Carpenter comes to your town, and you’re a fan of his films and music, check it out.

Peter Sciretta Saw David Copperfield in Las Vegas

Peter Sciretta Saw David Copperfield in Las Vegas

Over the weekend, I took a short trip to Las Vegas with my girlfriend Kitra and several other couples. I lost $200 on blackjack (but had fun doing it), ate a lot of great food (Wicked Spoon is still my favorite buffet) and while the girls went to Backstreet Boys, the guys went to see David Copperfield‘s show at the MGM Grand.

As you know, I love magic. I absolutely idolized Copperfield as a kid and his magic television specials were one of my most anticipated annual events. I would record them on VHS and rewatch them over and over, so much that the tapes would wear out.

I’ve been lucky enough to see his show a bunch of times over the past 7 years, and it’s fascinating to see how much it has changed as he’s overhauled his old show with a ton of new material. It’s like seeing an artist at work, watching the new material evolve and improve over the past few years.

Copperfield’s show is truly unlike any other magic show out there. He has always been one of the few great magicians who used the power of storytelling to elevate his magic from a simple stage illusion to an emotionally driven experience. He is a big cinema nerd, evidenced by his early television specials which were filled with film homages. His new show features a half hour segment which seems clearly inspired by a mixture of Walt Disney and E.T., involving a time-traveling alien creature who must be returned to his family before it’s too late.

I know this may sound strange, but it’s so very enjoyable and unlike anything you’ve ever seen. In fact, there is so much magic packed into the segment, most of which might not even register to people as magic, but helps facilitate the illusion and the story, much in the same way amazing visual effects help in movies and aren’t noticed.

Copperfield performs two shows nightly, and three on Fridays, Saturdays, Sunday’s and holidays. This is a master of his craft with nothing to prove, someone who doesn’t need the money. He owns a set of islands in the Bahamas where I’m sure he could retire and spend the rest of his life, yet instead, he continues to work hard every single night, creatively challenging himself with new material. The show is inspiring, cinematic, emotional – a must see.

Jacob Hall Played Hidden Agenda

Until Dawn is one of the most entertaining video games I’ve played in years and I was one of those who didn’t play it as intended. Supermassive Games’ horror movie-inspired choose-your-own-adventure tale was designed as a single player experience, but I played with with friends and family, handing off the controller and making decisions as a group and shouting at the screen whenever something went wrong. It was a blast (our own Vanessa Bogart wrote about experiencing the game in this way).

Seeing that people loved the communal aspect of Until Dawn, the same developer decided to hone in on that for their follow-up, Hidden Agenda. It’s much cheaper, much shorter, and built to allow up to six players to participate at once using their phones instead of regular controllers. It’s a wonderful set-up and a big step forward for this genre of game. Getting my friends together to participate in a story and vote on outcomes and decisions and pushing the characters in the direction we want is my idea of a good time.

Unfortunately, Hidden Agenda is a bit of a dud. The story isn’t nearly as compelling as Until Dawn, the acting isn’t as good, and the decisions never feel as dramatic or monumental. The skeleton for something special is here, though. If the next game can take the tech advances and smaller footprint of Hidden Agenda and merge them with the pulpy and shocking storytelling of Until Dawn, it’ll be something truly special.

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