on July 30, 2011
I know it sounds a little bizarre, but this is a Sci-Fi movie where the Aliens attack Cowboys. Set amidst the desert, magnificent rock formations and canyons of New Mexico, this 2011 release was a hoot! There is plenty of CGI and action, with Daniel Craig (James Bond 007, etc.) and Harrison Ford (Star Wars, etc.). This is a good one to see on the big screen with full sound.
The 2 hour and 13 minute movie opens with Jake Lonegan/Daniel Craig coming to in the desert. He does not know who he is or what happened to him. He is wearing a wide metal armband that he cannot remove, has no boots, and he has a significant wound in his side. Three men and a dog ride up to him and the men are not very hospitable. But, not to worry--Jake kicks their collective backsides and rides off with a horse, boots, a change of clothes, and the dog. In a nearby small town, he finds help with his wound, meets some folks, and renews some acquaintances. We realize quickly that Jake can take care of himself, too.
Also in town, Jake finds out his name, and that he is wanted for murder, mayhem, and a bunch of other stuff. We find out the town is practically owned by Harrison Ford, the cattleman whose money puts meat on everyone's table. We also meet Ford's arrogant son, Percy. Daddy's power and money have obviously gone to Percy's head. And, we also meet the Aliens, as they begin a seek and destroy mission that grabs a good number of the town's people and takes them away. Ford and Lonegan and other town folk head out on horseback to see if they can find out what is going on. Oh yeah, there is a pesky woman following Lonegan, too.
I actually saw this movie Friday night. I loved it so much that when my little boy (age 38) wanted to see it today, back I went! It was enjoyable and high-action.
Note to parents--there is plenty of violence. Scenes of Aliens grabbing folks and taking them away, Aliens ripping into people with their long ugly fingers, opening folks up, biting through them, and taking out their organs may be sufficient to scare your young children. So, unless you want them sleeping in your bed until they are 35, you might want to re-think taking them to the movie. If you plan to see this in the theater, you may want to reconsider bringing an infant, too. This movie has a lot of loud noise with the shooting and fighting scenes--a little excessive for a baby. (Yes, there was one in the theater tonight, and it kept crying.)
COWBOYS & ALIENS  [Extended Director's Cut] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] First Contact, Last Stand!
From the Director of 'Iron Man' and 'CHEF' comes an action-packed, sci-fi adventure starring Daniel Craig `Quantum of Solace' and `The Golden Compass.' Harrison Ford 'Morning Glory' and `Indian Jones and the Crystal Skull' and Olivia Wilde [`Tron Legacy'] as the only posse who can save the world from an alien invasion. With cutting edge special effects and one-of-a-kind story. 'Cowboys & Aliens' is a showdown you won't want to miss.
FILM FACT: 'Cowboys & Aliens' received five nominations. At the 39th Annie Awards, the film was nominated in Animated Effects in a Live Action Production for both Gary Wu and Lee Uren. The film received nominations from the Art Directors Guild for Fantasy Film, honouring production designer Scott Chambliss, and for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture at the 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards. Harrison Ford received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Cast: Daniel Craig, Abigail Spencer, Buck Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Ana de la Reguera, Noah Ringer, Brian Duffy, Olivia Wilde, Keith Carradine, Brendan Wayne, Gavin Grazer, Toby Huss, Wyatt Russell, Jimmy Jatho, Harrison Ford, Kenny Call, Walton Goggins, Julio Cedillo, Garret Noël, David O'Hara, Troy Gilbert, Chad Randall, Scout Schoenfeld Hendrickson, Raoul Trujillo, Hoyle Osborne, Rex Rideout, Robert Lee Bell (uncredited), Maria Bethke (uncredited), Todd Bethke (uncredited), Amanda Fresquez (uncredited), Richard Allan Jones (uncredited), Alexandria Morrow (uncredited), Kelly Ruble (uncredited), Charlene Adams Upton (uncredited) and Adrian Kali Turner (voice) (uncredited)
Director: Jon Favreau
Producers: Alex Kurtzman, Bobby Cohen, Brian Grazer, Chris Wade, Denis L. Stewart, Jon Favreau, K.C. Hodenfield, Karen Gilchrist, Roberto Orci, Ron Howard, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Hawk Ostby, Mark Fergus and Roberto Orci
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 [Anamorphic]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description, German: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 Dolby Digital and Italian: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Suomi and Swedish
Running Time: 135 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures / DreamWorks Pictures
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: The intermingling of genres like science-fiction and the western is really nothing new in film, but the CGI-laden 'Cowboys & Aliens' aims to feel like something audiences haven't seen before. While not exactly as intelligently topical as Michael Crichton's 'Westworld' or amusingly subtle as Joss Whedon's 'Serenity,' Jon Favreau's action flick brings a good deal of engaging entertainment and exciting spectacle to the proceedings. It might not please every viewer out there, but it satisfies the wide-eyed fantasies of long-time devoted followers of both genres or at least, of this particular viewer.
1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of 'Absolution' don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde [Harrison Ford]. It's a town that lives in fear. But 'Absolution' is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breath-taking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he's been, he realises he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveller Ella, he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents-townsfolk, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors-all in danger of annihilation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.
The films genre-mashup is quite overt and in your face, which could be seen as a bit of a drawback because it definitely shows a lack of finesse. It commences with a western theme and setting, suddenly switching to an alien invasion storyline that runs through the usual obstacle course. The change is surprisingly not as jarring as one would reasonably expect, although it takes some time to find its proper footing afterwards. The glue holding the marriage together is Jon Favreau's direction infused with several stylish nods to the archetypes and thematic of both styles, ranging again from explicit to sly.
Jake Lonergan [Daniel Craig] stars as our 'Man with No Name' hero in the literal sense, waking up in the middle of a scorching desert without any recollection of who he is or why he carries a mysterious iron bracelet on his wrist. After a quickly determined fight with three bounty hunters, a clue into his past is revealed which nicely sets off that whole morally-ambiguous protagonist feel we love in a good 'ole shoot 'em up horse opera. Wearing Indiana Jones' fedora, the mystery man rides into a town conveniently named 'Absolution.' This, too, pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film that is a little of the wittily clever mixed with the obvious.
It's not a complete loss, however, since it turns out 007 also makes a great anti-hero gunslinger. This is probably the best performance for Ganile Craig of a tough as nails and ill-tempered loner since Clint Eastwood's own iconic outlaw graced the screen, but to be perfectly honest, I wish it were seen in something far better than this, not that Jon Favreau's film isn't any fun though it is somewhat weighed down at the beginning of the second act. When the aliens finally attack the town, allowing Daniel Craig to discover his charm bracelet is actually a futuristic handgun, the thrill of sci-fi elements mixes well with the western ideal, but afterwards, things quickly slow down.
The outsider is set on his quest to free those kidnapped, as well as to obviously absolve past sins, in typical frontier justice style. His ragtag posse consists of local folk, each playing to the strengths of their cliché. Harrison Ford is the most formidable as wealthy cattle rancher Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde. Beautiful Ella Swenson [Olivia Wilde] is the knows-more-than-she-lets-on Ella. Doc [Sam Rockwell] plays his part in his typical quiet fashion as a saloon owner with a medical background, while Percy Dolarhyde [Paul Dano] does the opposite as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde's troubling-making son. Best surprise is Nat Colorado [Adam Beach] as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde's Native American hired hand, bringing a welcome emotional subplot to an otherwise straightforward tale.
Sadly, that aspect to the script can only be seen fully on the extended cut of the film, which you will see on this Blu-ray disc, which adds 16 minutes of dialogue and scenes that explore it a bit more, also making it the superior version. What was seen theatrically surprisingly eliminates more sequences with the Native Americans doing a war dance and Nat Colorado [Adam Beach] is feeling disconnected from his people, like he doesn't belong in either world. It's a necessary component that makes a later heartfelt scene more powerful. In either case, 'Cowboys & Aliens' is a very enjoyable, action-packed thrill ride, serving the perfect popcorn-entertainment blend of two very beloved genres, but the extended cut of the film is definitely the preferred version.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' 'Cowboys & Aliens' debuts on Blu-ray with an excellent, near-reference 1080p encoded image, filling the entire screen with tons of beautiful panoramic shots of New Mexico. Framed in an awesome 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Matthew Libatique's cinematography simply looks stunning, displaying incredible vistas of the desert plains and natural rock formations. The freshly-minted transfer shows remarkable clarity and definition, exposing the small, fine lines in the various wood buildings, the stitching on costumes and every pebble scattered about the ground. Facial complexions are beautifully detailed with lifelike textures, revealing the tiniest blemish, wrinkle and smudge of dirt on the faces of actors. Part of this rich, distinct clarity comes from a pitch-perfect contrast balance, extending visibility into the far distance. The picture carries an attractive cinematic appeal that's vibrant, crisp and glossy all around without feeling artificial or ruining highlights. The color palette is equally flashy with terrific, bold saturation, providing the image with lots of energy and pop. Being a western, of course, saturation hues pull their weight with a good deal of warmth and giving facial complexions a healthy tone that's accurate to the region. Blacks, on the other hand, are where we run into a bit of trouble, appearing inky and intense for a good chunk of the movie, but once indoors with natural, dim lighting, they look rather drab and murky. Since shadow delineation doesn't falter greatly during these sequences, it's possible it could all be the result of the photography and not a fault in the transfer. Taken as a whole, Jon Favreau's sci-fi western is spectacular on Blu-ray.
Blu-ray Audio Quality ' The genre-bending actioner audio track also serves as the perfect partner in crime, furnishing the excellent video with an equally exceptional 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Being a cross with the science-fiction genre, the original design features a great deal of activity in the rears, especially during scenes with the alien spacecraft's. What appear like scout drones whiz by overheard convincingly and pan between the speakers with persuasive ease, extending the sound field with exciting effect. Imaging is widespread as other small atmospherics fill the back area, most notably when the posse spends the night inside an upside down steamboat. Even in the many segments of supposed silence, the track brings a satisfyingly immersive experience. Things remain first-rate in the front soundstage, feeling quite expansive with lots of detailed clarity. Off-screen effects and channel separation provide spacious warmth that's highly engaging thanks to a brilliant, room-penetrating mid-range. The upper frequencies are sharp and crisp, maintaining the loud noise amid the many moments of action clear and discernible. The low-end, also, comes with a heaping helping of powerful, very responsive bass, giving each gunshot and explosion a compelling force and weight. Dialogue and a few whispered conversations are delivered with great intelligibility and nicely focused in the centre of the screen, never drowned out by the rest of the action. Ignoring a very small numbers of inactive scenes, this sound mix of 'Cowboys & Aliens' sounds absolutely amazing and is exceedingly satisfying.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director John Favreau: John Favreau is very laid-back and relaxed; director Jon Favreau talks viewers through various aspects of the movie, primarily on cast, crew and characterization. It's a welcoming and easy-going conversation which clearly shows his love of filmmaking, the final outcome of this project and movies in general. It's also great hearing his thought process as auteur, the decisions he made while on set and what he was striving for in many scenes. Of real interest is finding the commentary track available on both versions of the movie and John Favreau acknowledges that by stating the one for the theatrical cut is edited. He also admits he prefers and believes the extended version is better, which I agree. It's good and pleasant track fans can get into.
Special Feature: Conversation with John Favreau  [1080p] [80:00] A great collection of interview-like conversations of the director. Each can only be watched separately and shows Favreau chatting with his cast and crew on a variety of topics. It features Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof. What was interesting about this extra, is that Jon Favreau was originally going to film in 3D, but after test shooting, decided that the perspective would of be very off putting and would not enhance the final outlook of the film.
Special Feature: Igniting the Sky: The Making of `Cowboys & Aliens'  [1080p] [18:00] The making-of documentary is a much better look at the production and pretty comprehensive in its approach. Broken into five separate sections that can be watched seoerately or in all one go, and each one touches on various aspects such as the casting & characters. Each documentary is broken up as the following 'Absolution;' 'A Call to Action' here you have a closer discussion on John Favreau the director. The other three are 'Finding the Story;' 'Outer-Space Icon' and `The Scope of the Spectacle.' Some of the contributors to these separate documentaries are as follows: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Jon Favreau, Olivia Wilde, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell and Ana de la Reguera.
Finally, Jon Favreau's 'Cowboys & Aliens' is an entertaining blend of two much loved film genres: the western and sci-fi. With strong performances of western archetypes, the mash-up of frontier-justice gunslingers and alien invasion disaster is far from perfect, but the story sticks to what it promises and delivers without completely going overboard. Daniel Craig stands out as our morally ambiguous anti-hero and it would be great to see him again in the same genre with stronger material. The Blu-ray invades homes with an excellent near-reference audio and video presentation, and features a wealth of exclusive supplements, making it a recommended package for fans and the curious alike. What I really love about this film, is its very different look on the Cowboy type genre film and is so different from anything I have seen before and is a very adventurous in its outlook and that is why every time I view this film, I get to see different things that I missed before, because there is so much action going on and it definitely keeps up the pace and the ending is a very satisfying experience and I am so happy to add this to my Blu-ray Collection and is also a brilliant reference Blu-ray disc for your Home Cinema set up, as with the surround sound, you will think you are in the thick of the action. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller ' Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom