Sound On Sight Radio #262: Alien Invasion Movies

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On episode 262 of Sound On Sight Radio, host Al Kratina makes his long awaited return to the show. Along with newbie/regular co-host Michael Waldman and Ricky D, the three hosts take a look at three Alien Invasion flicks, starting with Tobe Hooper’s 1985 sci-fi epic Lifeforce. Afterward they’ll be taking a look at the new sci-fi blockbuster Battle: Los Angeles and with John Carpeneter’s 1988 anti-Reagan cult hit They Live.

[powerpress]

Playlist:

Simply Saucer – Like

Simply Saucer – Nazi Apocalypse

Johann Johannsson – Suns Gone Dim

David Bowie – Starman

14 Comments
  1. Tim says

    I listened to your review of They Live today and was laughing my ass off. I’m going to check it out this week. Cant wait to see the scene where he wont put on the sunglasses and gets into the 10 minute wrestling match!

  2. walkerp says

    I’d like to apologize for my strong words. They were definitely coming from a place of emotion rather than reason and I can see how they set the entire discussion off on a confrontational footing. I am sorry. I come from much more aggressive corners of the internet and I forget that coming in with both barrels blazing is not expected in more civilized parts.

    I do stand by my impression, though, that the discourse in this show at some points did sound, to me, that it demonstrated a lack of knowledge and emphasised simplistic humour over actual meaningful discussion.

    1. Ricky says

      No worries. don’t forget to look out for our Hobo with a Shotgun review coming up

  3. Ricky says

    @walkerp

    I am open to criticism … I mean that is what we do on the show. I listened to the show again and I opened the show by clearly stating I loved all three movies. During the discussion of They Live, I mentioned four times how much I loved the film.

    I think 95% of your feedback was constructive minus a few lines which seemed insulting at least to me.

    1- “lack of both respect and knowledge about Carpenter’s early work…”

    I think we are all very familiar with the director and I think you know that. I spent four hours one night getting drunk with Mr. Carpenter with he himself talking about everything that was wrong in some of his films including They Live.

    2- “probably because we don’t know what Reganism means”

    I am not nearly as smart nor do I know as much about politics as my co-hosts… I think this was just a choice on everyone’s part to not discuss the topic so heavily when even the filmmaker abandoned the issues in his own film.

    3- Finally … “I encourage criticism, but you need to know what you are talking about.”

    If you felt that we didnt’ know enough about movies, I doubt you would listen to our show.

    I believe we met in real life at Fantasia. You seemed like a super cool guy. However if you are going to attack us, we will respond naturally.

    I can’t speak for my co hosts and I also don’t want to censor my hosts. They are responsible for what they say. However I try to not personally attack anyone on the show. I judge the movies and simply that… again I am speaking for myself.

    If I were to personally insult Mr. Carpenter than I would expect him to reply and he is more than welcome to come on out show and school me on the art of filmmaking.

    I was just simply giving my feedback on a movie.

    I think we three were much tougher on the review of Battle: LA and Mike and Al were pretty hard on Lifeforce, but that didn’t seem to bother you. Therefore I can only conclude that you just weren’t happy with the fact that we gave a movie you love a negative review.

    Simon and I always argue on and off the show. We hardly agree but I never take offense to it.

  4. walkerp says

    And let’s talk about the movie. I’ll grant you that it’s really goofy and falls apart in the second half. What makes it work for me is the way he paints the setting in the first half, a world of vacant lots, bands of hobos, where a wanderer can go from camp to camp with only a pack on his back and his tools. I agree that it is blatant, but it is also daring. I really can’t think of any genre or commercially distributed movies that are as aggressive in attacking the status quo. Hollywood really does not like the “do not buy things” message. Yes, it ultimately undermines its message with its goofiness and descent into standard action movie, but it still does scream that message out there the way most directors are just too scared to do. I guess that’s my soft spot for Carpenter, he is (or was) one of the louder voices of the last vestiges of the counter-culture in America. All his boomer peers sold out.

    Interestingly, my evolution with the movie (and Carpenter’s movies in general) was opposite of yours. I enjoyed them when I was a teenager, but was always disdainful of the jocular side and lame action. I rewatched several of his movies this year because my wife hadn’t seen any of them (and which, I believe, was spurred partly by your very positive discussion of Big Trouble in Little China, which is partly why I found the dismissiveness of Carpenter so surprising in this last episode) and I found myself enjoying them much more than I expected. Part of it was nostalgia, but part was that I was over myself about being critical of the broad, simplistic action and dull, macho humour (like MacReady pouring the booze into the computer and calling it a bitch in The Thing) and was just able to go along for the ride. And Carpenter, when he was focused, could really deliver an entertaining ride.

  5. walkerp says

    I’ve been a fan of your show for about a year now, though I don’t listen to every episode. I do listen to all your Sordid Cinemas. I don’t get this idea that I am not enjoying the podcast. I simply was critical of this one segment.

    My issue with this segment was not that you were critical of the film, but that you did it in a belittling, superior way that, I felt, fell too far into fratboy like guffawing, a path you usually avoid. I call you out on it, because I think it brings the whole show down. I don’t demand dry, profound analysis. I think you guys usually walk a really nice line between being serious and being funny and in this segment you went way too far into the funny side. I’m not outraged. I’m critiquing your performance, just as you critique the movies.

    And Ricky, of the three, I got the feeling that you probably liked the movie the best. You did make an effort to defend its merits, but it got drowned out.

    I appreciate that this is a labour of love for you guys and you do an excellent job. I come from a world where when you put something out there, you hope for feedback, be it positive or negative. If that’s not the case, please let me know and I’ll try to restrain myself. My goal here is not to upset people, but discuss ideas and techniques.

  6. A+ says

    Your all wrong. First Battle: LA was the best film I’ve seen in years. I thought it was so action. Second I have never seen the other two films but I watched the trailers and they look very old. I am not interested. But it was fun again.

  7. Mike Waldman says

    Gotta agree with Fulgur here. I’m 400 pages into a novel about a guy who fights in some sort of army along-side the Norse gods for control of England (I think) and I’m beginning to suspect it might be really bad.

    WalkerP: Go in peace. Thank you for listening to hours and hours of Sound on Sight (and not enjoying it, or at least not this episode) and I hope you’ll continue to tune in and not enjoy future episodes. If you want to discuss anything Reagan related, PLEASE feel free to contact me. Dishing Ronny is one of my favorite things. In Fact, if Rick’s into it maybe we’ll have a “Films From the Gipper” show one day. Fair warning though, they are terrible, like most of John Carpenters films. In fact, I’d watch Knute Rockne All American again before re-watching Escape From LA or Ghosts Of Mars.

    Anyway, as Al said best (as he often does) the film was clearly reviewed on it’s merits. It is a fun, bad movie with subtext and commentary so shallow you’d break you neck if you dived in.

    Anyway, tune in this Sunday when we will be saying other things. Things about movies we watched that maybe you watched and liked/didn’t like more/less then we did/didn’t.

  8. Ricky says

    @everyone … I think my biggest frustration is that on numerous occasions, despite proclaiming my love for a movie (such as They Live), I somehow get targeted with insulting feedback. Strangely when I actually give a really negative review of a film (see my review of Inception or Catfish) no one says a word. I just don’t get it.

    @Al … nicely put

    @Elyssa I am glad you found the review entertaining but I would urge everyone to stay away from insulting others, as I don’t like it when someone insults us.

    @everyone … I never claimed I was educated. I never had the privilege of going to film school, much less University. I try my best to review movies on the show. If I disappoint I am sorry. However this is my show, and I ain’t going anywhere.

    With that said, insulting us won’t get anywhere. Send us constructive criticism.

  9. Eylssa Jenkins says

    I hadn’t had a chance to listen to the show yet but I noticed the comment and couldn’t resist. I actually loved the review of THEY LIVE. It was incredibly entertaining , and personally if the hosts sounded like walker, I would have probably tuned out. Pretentious and annoying is the last thing I want to hear on a film podcast. I figure he is a huge Carpenter fan and maybe THEY LIVE was a childhood favorite of his, but it’s time to grow up. THEY LIVE is not a good film. It’s a movie that revolves around an 8 minute long wrestling match and stars a WWE wrester. Whatever Carpenter was trying to say was put second to the bad acting, terrible effects and incredibly juvenile storyline. The movie features plastic dollar store sunglasses that can see aliens posing as humans. REALLY?

    The comment only makes me hate fan boys even more.

  10. Ricky says

    First I don’t understand why people become so outraged listening to podcast film reviews. These are simply our thoughts and views on film.

    This is just a podcast and I would like to think we can have some fun doing it.

    Second, I brought up the political subtext of the film but Mike and Al didn’t really seem to want to discuss it because it was so blatant, so we simply mentioned it and moved on.

    Also I don’t think we have to explain what the term Reaganism means to our listeners, who are clearly very intelligent. What would be the point?

    Also as I mentioned in the review, the movie sways away from it’s political points halfway through when it turns into a straight up action thriller … and I am sorry but that disappointed me. That is my personal opinion.

    I didn’t mention Starman nor Big Trouble, simply because we have already reviewed them on the show and mentioned them many times before.

    Finally I don’t recall making fun of this film. I actually remember clearly stating how I loved it, despite the score which I still to this day hate.

    no need to insult us

  11. walkerp says

    Wow did you guys really drop the ball on your discussion of They Live. You usually keep a balance between joking and real analysis, but here the lack of both respect and knowledge about Carpenter’s early work made this segment fall badly into the side of smug superiority. Carpenter is not without flaws, but his early works today stand head and shoulders above anything else in the genre in their criticism of the status quo. You limit your political analysis of They Live to a simplistic and pithy “critique of Reaganism” without ever even explaining what that means (probably because you don’t know what it means). The portrayal of the homeless camps, the protagonist as a skilled working man who can’t find work, the stark distinction between the humanity of the poor and the literal other-ness of the rich are all critiques of what was then the burgeoning movement to kill the middle class in America, a movement that is stronger than ever today. I do agree that the movie gives up in the end and becomes a basic action movie, but up until that point, it delivers one of the most effective, chilling realizations of deep paranoia in cinema. The scene when he puts on the glasses and finally sees what’s going on is stunning. Is there another mainstream movie that has dared to criticize consumer culture and capitalism so baldly?

    Many consider his scores to be minimalist masterpieces, Escape from New York in particular.

    Finally, I’ll forgive you for overlooking Starman when discussing his oeuvre, but no mention of Big Trouble in Little China (what’s the one-line pitch for that?)? Don’t drop pretentious crap like The Thing is “the only movie where he brings a lot of film craft to bear” until you’ve done your research.

    An important thing to understand about Carpenter is that after the financial failure of Big Trouble, he broke off from the studios and went independently. Since then, pretty much all of his work has been mediocre at best. Ironically, he thrived artistically working with the studios and seemed to suffer without them.

    I encourage criticism, but you need to know what you are talking about. The jokey superiority demonstrated in this segment made you sound no better than the dudes who were snapping and saying bwap behind you in Battlefield: Earth. I except better from you guys.

    1. Al says

      Thanks for your feedback, walkerp. It’s always great to get the opinions of our listeners.

      However–and I’m not necessarily speaking for my co-hosts here–I’m not entirely sure that my problem with They Live is that the subtlety of its social commentary escaped me. What I was trying to get at, albeit somewhat dismissively, was that as powerful as the critique of capitalism and consumerism may be, it’s delivered by Rowdy Roddy Piper via a great deal of grunting. In that context, the scene where he puts on the magic glasses and sees aliens becomes less chilling and a bit silly. The message behind a film is a critical part of the package, but it has to be delivered well. A lot of people loved the message behind Expelled or Religulous, but that doesn’t make them good films. I’m pretty sure Birdemic has an pretty strong environmentalist thrust, as well.

      And while I could point out that I think all three of us on the show have seen all of Carpenter’s films many times, I’m not sure that’s entirely relevant. This was not a Carpenter special, and I think it’s important that we be able to separate a film from their particular affection for a director. I’m comfortable that we based our review of They Live on its own merits, as opposed to how good we think Big Trouble in Little China may be.

      In any case, I’m sorry you were disappointed by the show. Perhaps you might enjoy the review we did of Big Trouble in Little China in our Hot Tub Time Machine-inspired 80s special, or our review of Starman, in our Jeff Bridges special. Thanks for writing.

    2. Fulgur Reynard says

      Good thing you listened to the whole 1-hour show just to realize that you were having a bad time. Ever since the accident, whenever I’m not enjoying something it usually takes about an hour before my brain tells me to stop doing it too.

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