Last night most of you missed They Live at The Orpheum. xmerrie1039x and I had met a little beforehand and were roaming around State Street when we ran into inle_the_rabbit. We went down to the lake and tried to hang out with the ducks, but they weren't being too friendly.
Oh, hey. John Cleese just showed up in this episode of Doctor Who.
evil_jim and matt_william were waiting for us at the theater. There was a good-sized crowd assembled outside, and I don't think I've ever seen the theater so packed, except for Rocky Horror Halloween shows. They started us out with a few previews -- Teen Wolf, 1990 Bronx Warriors, Vice Squad, John Carpenter's The Thing, Videodrome, uh... something else that didn't look good, and Monster Squad. Remember Monster Squad? That's okay, neither does anybody else. Monster Squad came out when I was seven and was exactly the sort of movie that seven-year-old me wanted to watch: a Goonies knockoff crammed full of imitative behavior, catchphrases, and classic movie monsters (or equivalent knockoffs, anyway -- I'm not sure what Count Dracula was doing in Anytown USA). I'd probably find Monster Squad incredibly embarrassing if I were to watch it right now, but I loved it when I was seven, and we were all diggin' it last night.
Point is, we're all craving Monster Squad.
Anyway, the audience was good 'n' riled up by the time They Live started, and it was well liked. It's a far cry from John Carpenter's best film, but it functions beautifully as a sci-fi action film. Sub-thespian "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (referred to hereafter as Piper) plays a nameless drifter who's been moving across the country in search of work. One day he meets Frank (Keith David) who helps him find a construction job and directs him to the local homeless shelter, where entertainment mostly consists of watching the local TV station get interrupted by pirate broadcasts of conspiracy theories: "The rich are getting richer, the middle class is disappearing..."
Soon the church across the street (the source of the pirate broadcasts) is bombed and the homeless shelter is bulldozed. Piper moves on, but manages first to salvage a pair of sunglasses which reveal a startling truth: the world is populated by aliens who have disguised themselves as humans, and have concealed subliminal messages in all of our printed materials: "OBEY." "CONSUME." "HONOR APATHY." The mercenary aliens have lived among us for some time, are raising us as consumer cattle. Piper first becomes a fugitive, then a he becomes a warrior... That last sentence would sound great read aloud by that deep-voiced gentleman who does all the movie trailers.
John Carpenter got lucky in that his career peaked at just the right time: The late, mid-'80s were a great time to be a director of fun, crappy sci-fi and horror movies. That particular variety of cinematic cheese was more or less "in," and cheap, practical special effects were still status quo in mainstream Hollywood. They Live is a good specimen of this. Carpenter's direction is pretty average -- there's nothing special in the presentation, but the story doesn't demand spectacular special effects so the movie remains perfectly watchable and not inordinately dated. The social commentary is a little heavy-handed, but I'm guessing that Carpenter's target demographic were fourteen-year-old boys. More than anything, They Live is so damned much fun -- it's mindless entertainment, chock full of one-liners, brain-rottingly entertaining violence, and (most of all) a five minute long (almost to the second) improvised fight between Piper and David over the sunglasses.
Jim had brought some 3D glasses and I considered getting into a fight with him over them, but it didn't happen.
They Live -- no matter what I've just said -- is one of those movies that everybody should see, and I wish I could put into words the reaction of last night's audience because they liked it as much as I think you would. You oughta rent it, maybe get some booze (if you're into that sort of thing) and some sunglasses, and invite everybody you know.
If you're quick you can catch tonight's 9:00 showing, but knowing your luck you won't be reading this until tomorrow morning.