Friday Night Fights: Nada Vs. Frank In They Live (1988)

*Friday Night Fights does presents crazy fight and battle scenes from movies with little-to-no context. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably want to skip the clip. *

This one’s pretty self explanatory. If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s They Live you know how rad the fight scene between Roddy Piper’s Nada and Keith David’s Frank is. If you haven’t, get your hands on the Shout Factory release. It’s fantastic.

They Live Is Awesome

they live scream factory Guys, I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’m fairly certain last night was the very first time I watched all of John Carpenter’s 1988 classic They Live in one sitting. I can’t imagine never renting it back in my heavy VHS rental days at Family Video, but I was notorious for putting a movie on in the living room and then getting on the computer and AIMing with folks for hours only turning around and checking out what was going on in the film every once in a while (when sitting at the computer, your back was to the TV as the room was set up). I’ve seen huge chunks of the movie, though, but that whole first bit where Roddy Piper’s unnamed-in-the-film hero is walking around Rambo style, looking for a job and digging with his shirt off seemed brand new to me. I have no real excuse, so I’m just going to embrace whatever ridicule you might feel the need to foist upon me.

Okay, we all good? After spending a week in Disney World and really enjoying myself, I figured I’d watch something kind of action-y and horror-y to get back into my usual mindset. I was perusing my DVD rack which is piled with unwatched discs and was shocked to discover that I had a copy of Scream Factory’s recently released They Live DVD (I requested it from the fabulous folks at Shout Factory mere weeks before finally getting a Blu-ray player). So not only was I excited to give the film a full watch, but also to dig into the special features which, as you might expect, are fantastic.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, They Live follows Piper’s character — who’s only referred to as Nada in the closing credits — as he strolls into town looking for work. At first it seems like you’re just looking at a crummy part of town, but soon enough you begin to understand that something’s going on with this world. The middle and lower classes are being kept down by what appears to be television brainwashing, though a few people seem wise to the plot and are trying to do their best to enlighten the disinterested populace. Nada stumbles upon their main way of showing people what’s going on: sunglasses. These shades allow the wearer to see what’s really going on and it’s not pretty. The world is actually packed with subliminal messages bestowing the virtues of all things 80s (worship money, settle down and breed, etc.) AND zombie-looking aliens. As it turns out the aliens have teamed up with the rich to sell out the lower classes so the aliens can abuse the Earth’s resources while the main populace is none the wiser. Nada teams up with Frank (Keith David) to try and take care of the problem.

they live posterWhile the most iconic and well-remembered part of the movie, is probably the epic five minute fist fight between Piper and David (which I wrote about in a fun Topless Robot list called The 10 Longest And Awesomest Movie Fight Scenes of All Time), I’ve got to say that the themes of the movie really hit me and actually got under my skin a bit. That whole idea of evil living among us and not having any idea has always been a very effective one on me. Plus, you’ve got the general idea of brainwashing the lower masses while the rich take over and do whatever they want with the world. It’s an obvious metaphor for the 80s, but you can also see how those themes still carry over to this day. There’s a “How can we fight such a massive foe?” quality to it that can lead to either hopelessness or a unique trust in change and goodness. So, even while some of the effects or shots might look a little corny, there’s still a message going on here that’s the clear mark of quality in science fiction.

If you get the Scream Factory version of this movie, you can actually see and hear John Carpenter talk about his intentions going into the film, which basically revolve around rebelling against the establishment. It’s a really neat interview, especially if you’re like me and don’t know a ton about the genesis of this flick. I didn’t get through all the special features — there’s a commentary with Piper and Carpenter that I’m really excited to listen — but I did watch the featurette about the sights, sounds and special effects of of the film as well as an interview with Keith David about the film. As with just about every Shout Factory disc where they go the special features route, this one has all kinds of extra rad stuff to absorb for fans. The disc actually came out last November (where does the time go?) so if you’re a They Live fan, you probably already have it, but if you’re like me and increasingly out of touch with what’s going on, do yourself a favor and pick this one up!

Stathamathon: Transporter 2 (2005), The One (2001) & Blitz (2011)

I believe my Jason Statham fandom is well documented. I first saw him in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, though I don’t specifically remember him from them. I think the first movie I really noticed him in was the first Transporter flick, which is awesome. Frankly, all three of those movies are huge jolts of awesomeness, worth every moment of viewing. After being primed for a dose of Statham after watching Ghosts Of Mars, I was excited to see Transporter 2 on FX yesterday, so excited that I decided to have myself a little Stahamathon that also included The One and Blitz, which I had never seen before.

In grand Transporter fashion, Frank (Statham) gets wrapped up in someone else’s drama, this time while driving a diplomat’s kid to school. The bad guys’ plot is actually pretty brilliant. They kidnapped the kid and injected him with a virus that needs time to incubate, but once it does can be transmitted through the air. They return the kid to his parents who breathes on his dad who is scheduled to appear at the UN or some such, meaning they’re trying to kill all those people. Or at least get them sick and then charge for the antidote.

Anyway, Statham kicks ass in all kinds of fantastic scenes, my personal favorite is the one with the guy in the boat garage. I think I like Crank and Crank 2 better because they’re just so gonzo, but the Transporter flicks showcase what’s great about Statham: his badass attitude and his no hold’s barred fighting style. Great, fun stuff. Neither of the other movies I watched yesterday topped it, but it was a good way to spend a day.

I figured The One wouldn’t be too heavy on Statham, but the fact that it pre-dated his Expendables team-up with Jet Li by a decade or so, I was definitely curious to see how they interacted. Also, I could have sworn I’d seen this movie, but there’s no way, I must have been thinking of something else. Jet Li plays a guy hopping from alternate reality to alternate reality in an attempt to kill all of his variant selves. With each death, he becomes more and more powerful and his intent is to kill them all so he can become a god. In our world, Li is actually a good guy, so, of course the two fight a lot. Statham winds up teaming up with the good Jet Li which means they only got to fight a tiny bit. But, like I said, this is Li’s movie.

I’m waffling back and forth as to whether or not to call this one silly. I mean, it’s an interesting concept, but it’s not really handled in the most serious or awesome way possible. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Time Cop, but this one has a lot more superpower-based fights which actually look surprisingly cool for a movie that’s 10 years old. Give it a whirl if you haven’t seen it and want something to just have fun with.

Oh, on one last Statham note, I think he was trying to do an American accent. He sounded like himself, but then a little different, dropping a bit of his Britishness, which is weird because he’s playing an interdimensional cop. Are we not supposed to be able to handle the fact that he might be British? Oh, 2001, you so crazy.

Ending the Stathamathon with Blitz was kind of a downer. It’s not an action movie at all, but more of a gritty crime drama in the vein of something like Mel Gibson’s Payback (such a rad movie, by the way). Statham’s the start and gets to do a little more legit acting this time around as a cop coming unhinged as a serial killer calling himself Blitz (as in Blitzkrieg) goes around murdering cops.

It’s actually a really solid movie, comparable to my memories of Guy Ritchie’s early movies (it’s been a long time since I even tried to watch Lock, Stock and Snatch again). It’s very set in the real world with Statham not playing a kind of superman who can take all kinds of punishment and come out on top. A few parts of it felt like they were thrown in there just to be shocking or dramatic, but overall, I enjoyed watching it, even if it was kind of depressing.

The worst thing about the flick–aside from no one getting a flying kick to the face–was the guy who played Blitz. I mean, he played it great, but he was such an asshole, you really wanted Statham to bust out some of those well-known moves and kick this kids face in. What winds up happening to him is pretty cathartic, but sometimes watching Statham’s more dramatic roles is like watching a re-programed Nuke at a museum. You know how dangerous it was (and still can be), so you’re kind of always waiting for it to go off. I’m also not sure how realistic some of the shit Blitz got away with was, but I can suspend my disbelief.

If I had done a little more research of actually planned this out in any way, I probably would have watched Blitz first, then The One and ended with Transporter 2. I was actually hoping that FX would play another Statham movie themselves, but instead they went into back-to-back John Cena movies and no one needs to sit through that. Still, I like knowing that the guy who can so thoroughly kick ass with his feet can also kick ass with his acting. Statham’s the real deal, you guys.

Halloween Scene: The Thing (1982)

For the longest time I thought the man on this poster was either an astronaut or a deep sea diver. Just figured I’d throw that out there. I don’t remember when I first watched The Thing. Unlike a lot of other classic horror flicks, I don’t have a specific memory of watching this one. I kind of think it might have been relatively recently, like in the last six years since I moved out to New York, but I could be wrong. It doesn’t really matter, but I try to put a personal spin on these things because otherwise, I’m just another guy writing about how great John Carpenter’s The Thing is.

And it really is awesome. I’m still more partial to Halloween, but The Thing easily makes its way into my top 10 favorite horror flicks. It just does such a great job of building tension, making the audience question what’s going on and ultimately leaving us with an awesomely ambiguous ending. Plus, the special effects just can’t be beat. A few things like the space ship in the very beginning and the shot of the men around the crater look not-so-great, but you forget all that as soon as the dog explodes or the head sprouts legs.

I’m actually glad that I haven’t seen this movie a ton of times like some of my other favorites because I had forgotten enough of the beats and details to keep things interesting. But, that’s another great thing about this movie, you might think that having it fresh in your brain would mean you wouldn’t be surprised, but much like The Usual Suspects, I would imagine knowing all the details would mean you can watch for signs of who’s not themselves.

Layers upon layers. That’s what makes for a great movie in my book. The Thing was actually the third horror movie I watched today after House Of Fears and The Stay Awake. I didn’t have high expectations for either, but was surprised by a pair of interesting openings, one surprisingly good looking and the other awesomely weird. But, they both kind of devolved into average, run of the mill horror. I’ll admit, I missed chunks of both towards the end, which is why I didn’t review them in greater detail. But, I did wind up being unexpectedly interested only to be eventually disappointed. To be fair, though, Stay Awake not only had a fun title, but also was weird enough to probably warrant a viewing. However, it’s nowhere near as good as something like The Thing, which is nearly perfect all around.