Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Wildest, Wildest West!

Cowboys & Aliens  (Universal Pictures, 2011)

Before the Camera:

Daniel Craig  (Casino Royale)
Harrison Ford  (The Frisco Kid)
Olivia Wilde  (Turistas)
Sam Rockwell  (Galaxy Quest)
Clancy Brown  (Highlander)
Abigail Spencer  (TV's Angela's Eyes)
Paul Dano  (The Girl Next Door)
Walton Goggins  (TV's Justified)
Chris Browning  (Terminator Salvation)
Adam Beach (Joe Dirt)
Noah Ringer  (The Last Airbender)
Toby Huss  (TV's King of the Hill)
Kenny Call  (Near Dark)
Julio Cedillo  (Hexed!)
Chad Randall  (Kuffs)
Raoul Trujillo  (Frankenfish)
David Midthunder  (Hidalgo)
Keith Carradine  (The Long Riders)
Sheriff John Taggart

Also, look fast for:

Buck Taylor  (TV's Gunsmoke and Dub Taylor's son!)
Matthew Taylor  (Famed stuntman and Buck Taylor's son!)
Cooper Taylor  (The Postman and Buck Taylor's son!)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Jon Favreau

Produced by Jon Favreau, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg and 12 other assorted producers, co-producers, associate producers, and executive producers

Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

Story by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Steve Oedekerk

Based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Fred Van Lente & Andrew Foley and Dennis Calero & Luciano Lima

Cowboys and Aliens does indeed bring those two disparate teams together, which is something like cross-league play, normally. The movie also features a big mystery element, so this review is going to tread lightly to avoid any yardage penalties for spoilers. And let's just keep this sports-y, football-y thing going for a bit longer too. This Summer Movie Bowl playoff is kind of an All-Star game, as that cast list up there ably demonstrates. As far as the playlist goes - in 1873 Arizona Daniel Craig is a cowboy looking guy who wakes up in the middle of the scrubby desert, lost in an amnesiac fugue and wearing something on his wrist that definitely Does Not Belong. While he gets his bearings we travel over to Absolution, a small town under the iron fisted rule of rancher Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) with all of the benefits - money, food - that brings matched by the frustrations - Dolarhyde's son Percy (Dano) - he's a scrawny and rancid bully with too much time to drink and too many bullets in his six shooter. Of course, that stranger we met previously wanders into town and pretty quickly finds himself in the middle of things. But even as tempers flare, voices are raised, and guns are drawn, the town of Absolution Arizona discovers there's a bigger problem lying in wait outside the city limits. A much bigger problem, and from much further away than any of the town's citizens could even conceive of in 1873.

"You bring your whip?"
"No. I see you got something from Q Branch."
"Damn straight."
 After first hearing about this movie, I started marking it as "meh" in my head, assuming it would be some cool actors doing too little in front of too many expensive but mind numbing special effects. But then, I also thought an Iron Man movie starring Robert Downey Jr and directed by that guy who ate and talked on Dinner for Five on IFC wasn't going to shape up to be much of a movie either. I really have to learn to trust director Jon Favreau more! It turned out that for me, C&A is a terrific summer movie - with some big name stars playing roles that seemed carved directly out of their own personas; some big time Western action; and yes, some dazzling special effects. It's awesome seeing Craig and Ford together on screen. Our sitting 007 is a given as a positive; however I will here admit that I've grown less fond of Harrison Ford in recent years as he lets his cranky old man come out to play in almost every interview (and yes, I know he's tired of answering the same twelve questions! But that doesn't excuse some of the verbal nips he's taken at people who helped him get where he is and even at his fans at times.) Happily, I can report that he's really good in this movie - well cast, fully committed and seemingly having a bit of fun for the first time in ages. And in addition to the stars - there are bonuses you don't always get in movies like this - stuff like a real story, some character growth, and a terrific supporting cast. It's always great to see Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine, and good ol' Sam Rockwell is shaping up to be the same kind of actor - the kind of guy who adds immeasureably to everything he's in and makes the thing more worth watching. The ladies this time out don't have as much to do, except for Olivia Wilde, but they're all just fine in their roles. I do have to say, that the opening minutes of the movie - when it is entirely Western and almost no science fiction - was hitting on all cylinders and actually had me wishing briefly that the movie would just skip the aliens and remain a solid old fashioned horse opera that my father would enjoy. (My pop's not much on the science fiction, by the by). But those crazy aliens are there, and when they appear they are equally well handled, blending together with the cowboys into a marvelous popcorn movie that I heartily recommend to any and all seeking a little entertainment out of the summer heat.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

I'm almost sure I heard "Vaminos!" in there somewhere in the last third - and I would count that - but as always further research will reveal the answer.

Eye Candy ?

"No ma'am. I ain't never seen a woman with a
calico print tattoo like that." 
Ah, yes. Olivia Wilde. I'm afraid this movie reviewer gives the newly crowned movie star a couple of demerits for her strangely super-form-fitting frontier wear - you know, the usually thick and figure hiding dress seen on most women in movies set in the 1870's? Well, here, the incredibly slender Wilde's costume seems to be made from spandex the way it hugs every curve on her undeniably boyish figure. I wouldn't normally quibble about this - but it is so obvious they're trying to show off the young lady's body - despite the fact that she doesn't have one! No Eye Candy for you, ma'am. I'd tell you to pin your demerit on and wear it with pride - but it would look like a sandwich board on you!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Cowboys and Aliens is without a doubt
the best science fiction western starring James Bond and
Indiana Jones released this year!"

Thank you much, BM! There's not much more to say, except, until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Excellent review sir! All I needed was Harrison and Daniel and I was sold. I love this whole idea of cowboys and aliens. It's out there and cool.

    And kudos for not giving the always vapid Olivia a no eye candy demerit. She's in every other movie for some reason and it's not like she's all that attractive or talented.

  2. I think Olivia Wilde does a great job at playing Olivia Wilde. She hits her marks and delivers her lines just fine. :)

    In all seriousness, I thought the remote quality that she has about her worked well in this role, so I liked her better than y'all did (just working in a little Western lingo there).

    Curiously, though, despite loving the grimy Spaghetti Western vibe of the film, I had an opposite reaction to it than Craig did. The first bit felt like it was dragging to be, probably because I WANTED the aliens to show up and start blowing crap up.

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie. I love Westerns and Alien flicks, so it's a perfect match for me. I totally agree about Harrison Ford...he's a Grumpy Old Man. Such a far cry from the very cool Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Sigh. I also agree with your take on Sam Rockwell...He is amazing in everything he puts his hand to. Loved him in Frost/Nixon, Moon, Green Mile, etc. Looking forward to seeing Craig in a Western...he's so debonaire as James Bond...time to get his "cowboy" on.

  4. Melissa - I absolutely agree about the concept for the movie being cool - and it worked well. And you are exactly right about the Wilde Childe.

    Steve! Great to see you! Yes, she is very good at that one chosen role. ;) Interesting that you had the opposite reaction - I had held off reading your review until I got mine written - let me pop over there and check it out this evening!

    Luana - I'll be interested to hear what you think when you've seen it! Thanks for the kind words on my actor thoughts - it's nice to be agreed with!

    Thanks for coming by, all!