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“Cowboys & Aliens” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

July 28, 2011

When I saw the teaser trailer last fall, attached to “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part I”, I was blown away by the potential awesomeness that this movie could provide. Everyone in the theater that November night seemed to laugh at the title, lets face, the title of “Cowboys & Aliens” does sound silly, but you’ve got 2 lead action icons starring in what could be a ridiculous movie, Daniel ‘James Bond’ Craig & Harrison ‘Indy/Han Solo’ Ford! Both as rough riders fighting off intergalatic monsters, it just screams summer movie popcorn fair.

The film starts out with the classic man with no name scenario, Jake Lonergan (Craig), wakes up in the middle of nowhere, not remembering anything, with a mysterious metal braclet latched to his left wrist. He doesn’t take too kindly to rude riders, he brutally kills some by-passers, and makes his way to the nearest town. The small mining town is run with an iron fist by Col. Dolarhyde (Ford), his cattle has been blown to bits by a mysterious light one of his boys explain he witnessed, well, he’s pissed, not mention his jerk of a son (Paul Dano) is under arrest for shooting a deputy. Soon enough crazy things begin to happen, the people of the town are being lassoed away by alien crafts, as if they were cattle. It’s up to Lonergan, with the alien weapon attached to him, to help get the people back, where towns folk who have no common ground must band together, and Native American Apache Indians must also join forces to fight against a greater threat.

The movie in a nutshell, it’s a blast, it really is, the summer is starting to whine down and we need one last hoorah of an action picture. The writing team of Favreau’s first “Iron Man”, returns to put together this mish-mash of genres, and it’s done quite well. Actually, this movie works better as a western rather than an alien pic. Although you can see the influence in the alien portion; “Predator”“Alien”“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, they’re all there. But, the western portion is utilized better. It shares similar themes to movies like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, and “The Magnificent Seven”. I love me a good western. The film is not in the dramatic tone of the 2010 “True Grit”, but it embraces the pure fun & nostalgia of the classic westerns, especially the ones of the late 60’s & 70’s.

There were a few issues I did have with the movie. It tend to fall flat here and there. The action of the climactic battle between the team up of cowyboys/indians vs. vicious alien monsters makes up for the slowness.  In the story, there wasn’t much explanation onto why these aliens need our gold, sure it’s said that they find it as valuable as we do, but what’s their purpose? The film also fell into the clutches of predictable cheese, the foreshadowing of both the little boy (Noah Ringer) earning Dolarhyde’s knife and the Doc (Sam Rockwell) not being able to shoot a gun well throughout the entire film, until when the right moment called for it. Granted even though these were cheesey, they still earned their keep with the audience. I was also bummed out about the aliens, not because they didn’t look cool, they did, it’s just that when we first see the creature it’s done extremely well in animatronic effects. I thought, “Ok, we’re really going old school”, but after that the aliens from then on were all CGI. It was just a real personal disappointment, I thought they would take the “Jurassic Park” route and have the perfect blend of animatronics & CGI.

Now, even with it’s flaws the movie still remains strong in one major way, the cast. Oh my god, this is a cast that people dream of seeing in a movie, mainly it’s 2 leads, Craig & Ford. There was a moment in the film for example, I got this sudden chill when Craig’s character punches Ford, Craig stands there giving him the “fuck you” look and Ford sort of backs off. Craig is not afraid at the slightest bit that he whooped Indy’s ass. It was just so out there and wild, those were the moments of the movie I really liked, over all the action. The actors were all just so damn cool; Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, even the freaking“Last Airbender” kid was good, Noah Ringer! Everyone in this movie was in their A-game.

I’m happy that Jon Favreau is breaking out farther in the directing world, he’s got a real knack of knowing what the audience wants to see and not see, sure he may slump here & there, but the enthusiasm he has in interviews I’ve seen him in really does show in his movies. I hope to see him continue more as a director, he’s made fun movies, and I’m all for him to continue making fun movies. Because all in all with the minor flaws “Cowboys & Aliens” had, it was a fun movie. My friend Julie Klein said this evening, “It was like riding an awesome ride at Universal, I loved it”, couldn’t have said it better myself Julie.

GRADE: B

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