Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, June 15, 2009

They Live (1988)

...aka: Invasion Los Angeles
...aka: John Carpenter's The Thing

Directed by:
John Carpenter

Nada (played by former professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper) is a drifter swept under the rug by our system, who travels to Los Angeles to find construction work, and ends up homeless and struggling to get by. He stumbles upon a shipment of special sunglasses that reveal black and white visions of Earth being taken over by aliens, who are silently integrating themselves within the upper echelon of our society. Through the glasses, many "established" and "respectable" citizens moving up the business and political food chain are seen as skull-faced extraterrestrials, money says "This Is Your God" and billboards/signs have subliminal messages like, "Obey," "No Independent Thought" and "Marry and Reproduce". Carpenter's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS for the yuppie era is a clever, politically relevant attack on greed, high-level corruption and rampant 80s conservatism subtlely taking place under the surface of an oblivious society. It's smart, entertaining, intelligent and effectively satiric at times, though toward the end it resorts to formula action and sci-fi movie cliches. Piper, as it turns out, is a surprisingly appealing and competent actor, unlike most other wrestlers, singers and athletes who have attempted to have a film career. Carpenter also scripted (using the name "Frank Armitage" and basing it on the short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Faraday Nelson) and did the score (with help from Alan Howarth).
The cast includes Keith David as another construction worker who gets involved, Meg Foster in an underwritten role, George "Buck" Flower as a homeless man who gets a taste of power for the first time in his life, Peter Jason, Raymond St. Jacques as a preacher, Jason Robards III, John Lawrence, Susan Barnes, Sy Richardson, Susan Blanchard (from Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS), John F. Goff and Larry J. Franco (who produced the film). Though not perfect (with a ridiculously overlong fight scene thrown in), it's very ambitious and one of Carpenter's best films.


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