Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

Howdy folks! Glad I can check in again so soon...maybe it's the manly man in me, not wanting the Winnie the Pooh post to sit on the home page for too long...or maybe it's the old softy in me, bringing it up again so soon. That was a damn fine flick and whether for the entertainment of your kiddies or your own trip down memory lane...check it out!

What's opening this weekend? It's a doozy of a wide-release weekend, with three biggies...

Cowboys and Aliens; The Smurfs; and Crazy, Stupid, Love. I plan on hitting another post in the next day or so with a review of Crazy, Stupid, Love and Friends With Benefits. Stay tuned for that…

…for now, for the sake of the Reel Rhino loyal, I braved an early departure from work to catch the latest from Jon Favreau, Cowboys and Aliens.

I know that as of this moment, C&A is sitting at a sub-par 44% at Rotten Tomatoes. Let me tell you, that 44% is bunk.

This movie, bringing together Indiana Jones and James Bond, delivers on every level! It is a unique adventure that successfully mixes the western and sci-fi genres in a way that perhaps only Favreau could pull off. This is the man who humanized Iron Man...a property that in its first run, was adored by the masses, regardless of one's preference for comic book fare.

Cowboys and Aliens tells the tale of a washed up gold mining town in the New Mexico Territory, whose sole successful businessman is the life blood of the town, but also a ruthless son-of-a-B. That meanie is played by iconic Harrison Ford and goes by the name of Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde. While he is seemingly ruthless, his son is a flat out ass, Percy Dolarhyde, played masterfully by the very talented Paul Dano. PS…Harrison Ford is pure gold. I’d watch him read the classifieds. He channels a bit of Indy’s flair for adventure and a bit of Hans mean bastard with a heart of gold. It is a memorable character for his resume, without question.

Enter our hero...we meet him left for dead in the desert, some bizarre bracelet on his wrist, his memory gone. While he sits there and ponders his fate, three men on horseback approach. We learn quite quickly how dangerous this memory-striped stranger may be. The three men, as a sidenote, are portrayed by Buck, Matthew, and Taylor Cooper playing Wes, Luke, and Mose Claiborne...the Coopers, with patriarch Buck who is an old old school western character actor and his sons, two of the most talented stuntmen in Hollywood. Favreau set out to authenticate this film as a Western first by including this trio, and it worked.

The stranger, Jake Lonergan, is an Americanized Daniel Craig who sports an accent that successfully sheds his British roots, but who keeps all the best aspects of his badass James Bond.

Lonergan makes waves quickly putting Percy, the town bully, square in his place. Percy ends up in the clink for accidentally shooting a Deputy, and Lonergan ends up in there with him, once the Sheriff recognizes him from a wanted poster hanging at his office. The problem for Lonergan, he has no idea what he is wanted for, as his memory of anything except the ability to kick ass, is gone.

Papa Dolarhyde comes to town to free his son and to take possession of Lonergan, who apparently among his past indiscretions, has wronged Dolarhyde in the form of robbing his stage coach of a load of gold.

All of this unfolds in the first 10 minutes, so worry not about this ruining your experience. It is about at this point, that things take a turn for the weird. A battery of alien aircraft approach the town and attack, killing some, taking others as prisoners. It is also about this time that we learn more about that bracelet that old Lonergan is wearing (see also, the trailer for this flick).

Many citizens go missing and we are faced with the first challenge of the film. Can Col. Dolarhyde work with Lonergan, putting their differences aside to save the townsfolk, and maybe find out something about what happened to him to cause his memory loss?

I will end my plot synopsis here, other than mentioning that the romantic interest in this film is wonderfully portrayed by Olivia Wilde...she is very much making a name for herself...Tron: Legacy, this, and the upcoming In Time, a sharp looking sci-fi flick that has a great premise. And she is in talks to portray Linda Lovelace, in a biopic on the woman who would star in Deep Throat. Wilde has piercing eyes, and so does Craig, for that matter. When these two talk, its hard not to fall in love with the pair. On the extreme close-ups, it almost feels like they are peering into your soul.

Favreau successfully sets this up as a Westerm, then integrates aspects of an alien invasion flick in a manner that seems believable and seemless. We would be far more understanding of a real alien invasion these days, but in Western times, it is foreign beyond all understanding.

This film integrates Civil War time battle techniques, the tough life that existed in a true era of Cowboys and Indians, and the struggles that existed in frontier mining towns. Supplement all of this with a great supporting cast with Keith Carradine, Sam Rockwell, and Clancy Brown and you have a real winner.

Favreau has honed his chops in CGI fare in the best set of films of the moment, laying a great foundation for The Avengers. His work on Iron Man put him in a great place to film these daylight action scenes and let me tell you, these sequences are excellent.

I have heard the argument that the tone of this film shifts to wildly. Yes, there are ups and downs, but that is what you get in a well-told story. Ups and downs. Maybe the problem is that we aren't accustomed to successful high-concept, genre delivery. Favreau delivers.

And much like I applauded the originality of Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch, I think that the originality of this high concept film is worthy of note. The film is an adaptation of a graphic novel created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley and was very much championed by Favreau from the get-go.

The screenplay was written by a casserole of talent in Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby. Lindehof has some lineage in fantasy fair, having worked as a showrunner on Lost for sometime, and Kurtzman and Orci have given us a healthy dose of fantasy in the last few years, having created Fringe, whittled their teeth on Lost, and given us work in both the Transformers and Star Trek worlds. With this kind of crew behind this film, I am not surprised I liked it so much.

For a fun day at the cinema, this may be the film for you…4 of 5 Horns from The Reel Rhino.

So what does Catfish, newly minted guest of The Reel Rhino, say about C&A? Let's see...

Admittedly I had genuine reservations about seeing Cowboys & Aliens. This was truly a gamble. This movie seemed to have the potential to entertain, but it had at least an equal opportunity of getting the Catfish “Chuck Barris gong”. The intrigue, however, was enough to get me to the theater.

Daniel Craig was the main attraction in this movie. I really like this guy in character. He first caught my attention as the 007 of little words in Casino Royale. Some say it's blasphemy, but he quickly became my favorite James Bond. He was cast perfectly for this role as alien fighting cowboy, Jake Lonergan. He has an aura that does most of his speaking as his lines were just as scarce in this film as they were in his role as 007. To his credit, I thought he pulled off an American accent quite well. Then again, he didn't have that many opportunities to butcher it.

The movie begins with Jake Lonergan waking up in the desert with basically no memory, a wound on his side, and an odd piece of metal on his wrist. As things progress we see Jake piecing the puzzle together with the aid of the comely Ella Swenson played by real life hottie, Olivia Wilde. We find that aliens have invaded Earth. They plunder a valuable natural resource and steal humans for their devious studies. Human enemies unite to fight a common foe - the aliens hell bent on conquering Earth.

For the most part I enjoyed this movie. I liked Daniel Craig's screen presence. Colonel Dolarhyde (don't call him Colonel) played by Harrison Ford was a good addition to the story. The aliens were believable. Noah Ringer's role as of young Emmett Taggart wasn't God-awful like his role as the Last Airbender last year. Maybe with age and experience one's acting skills improve. There were, however, too many hackneyed scenes and story lines for my liking. It was a bit convenient that multiple deaths were preceded by those final words of wisdom just before expiring in another's supportive arms. The tough S.O.B. is really a man with a heart of gold. If this were a spoof I would have found those things amusing, but unless I missed something I don't believe this was meant as a comedic piece. Ella's true nature didn't sit well with me either, but then again, this was a movie about cowboys and aliens.

This film does have action and a storyline that should keep you interested. The novelty alone is reason enough to roll the dice for a couple of hours of fun entertainment.

3 out of 5 Catfish Whiskers

Two comments, Catfish…

1) Do you really need to prove you’re a super duper hetero male by talking about how hot each of the lead chickies are in these flicks we enjoy, and

2) Do you really blame Noah Ringer for the God awful performance in The Last Airbender? As a noted M. Night Shyamalan apologist, I put the blame for that trainwreck solely on his shoulders.

Oh, by the way, Olivia Wilde is smokin’ hot! But Danial Craig is also one handsome chap…see Catfish, I can write for the ladies and the fellas!

Until later, happy movie going to all, and to all a good night…

Reel Rhino

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