BLU-RAY REVIEW: Cowboys & Aliens
Extra terrestrials enter the wild west in this hi-def home video release...
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I'm a big fan of guilty pleasure movies and in 2011 it didn't get much guiltier than Cowboys & Aliens. Let's be real - Cowboys & Aliens is little more than a special effects-laden adventure movie set in the old west and starring Indiana Jones and James Bond fighting extra terrestrials. Yeah, it's the type of movie a studio only makes when big names are attached and this movie had plenty, including Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and director Jon Favreau, hot off of his successful Iron Man movies.
Of course, something like Cowboys & Aliens is only ever seen in comics and, of course, this too was a comic first. Created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and originally published in 2006 by Platinum Studios, the graphic novel was written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley and illustrated by Dennis Calero and Luciano Lima. The graphic novel story and movie's story differ greatly, but understandably considering the comic had Native Americans riding flying horses and an armada of alien ships rebelling and heading into the universe to take the fight home. The film at least stays a little more grounded.
The film finds amnesic gunman Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wondering the desert wilderness of 1873 Arizona Territory, clueless as to who he is, how he got there, or what's happened to him. He soon finds himself in the ranch town of Absolution, where the sheriff (Keith Carradine) recognizes him as an outlaw and takes him into custody. Of course, he's penned up with Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the town troublemaker and son of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a war hero and wealthy cattleman. When Colonel Dolarhyde comes to take his son back from the law, Lonergan and the Colonel - though enemies - are forced to fight an unknown aerial threat (hint: aliens!) which devastates the town and kidnaps townsfolk, including Percy and the sheriff. The rest of the film follows Lonergan, Colonel Dolarhyde and their posse of townsfolk fighting the extra terrestrial threat in order to rescue their friends and family from the mothership.
While there's really little character development and what little there is seems cliche, Cowboys & Aliens has a story that's simply made for the big screen. It's a fun, mindless 2 hour escape from reality that'll have some fans smiling and laughing...and others cringing and exhausted. Personally, I thought Cowboys & Aliens topped the list of this year's films when it came down to not stimulating a single brain cell and yet still retaining my attention. I didn't have to think for a single minute of the movie and I still loved it. While no doubt the film could have been better (and Universal surely wished it had done better at the box office), it almost seems like Cowboys & Aliens was purposely made to ensure as little thought as possible would be experienced by the viewer. And that's saying a lot in a year when a good majority of the movies had either a political or financial message, social commentary, or emotional and spiritual sermons to deliver.
As for the video transfer, the film is gorgeous to watch. The 1080p hi-def blu-ray video brings to life the desert landscapes and alien space crafts with perfect coloration, beautiful detail and texture, and sharp contrast. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track will put viewers right in the middle of the action. Everything from crashing space crafts, electrifying laser blasts, smoldering gold, and hissing fire to brutal rain, harsh winds, and shocking gunshots are delivered over the full speaker range. Dialogue too is easy to hear, a benefit considering how much other audio the film includes.
This 2-disc set includes the theatrical version of the film on DVD and two versions of the film on blu-ray; the theatrical version and an extended version which includes 16 minutes of unseen footage. Special features include U-Control Picture In Picture, which will impress fans who like to watch interviews, extra footage, and more imbedded in the film. The blu-ray also includes audio Commentary with director Jon Favreau, who delves into everything from the film's budget and pre-production to the set, the storyline, the special effects, and more. A 40-minute "Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens" is a basic featurette made up of six-parts which cover the story, the cast, the setting, the aliens, and more. Specific parts titles include "Finding the Story," "A Call to Action," "Absolution," "Outer-Space Icon" and "The Scope of the Spectacle." The somewhat long (80+ minute) "Conversations with Jon Favreau" features interviews and discussions with cast members, writers, and other film creators. This should impress and excite a few film fans who want to watch Favreau chat with the likes of Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Steven Spielberg among others. Final special features include Second Screen, which provides viewers with wi-fi blu-ray players and a tablet or computer access unique content, BD-Live Functionality, and bookmarking.
So what if Cowboys & Aliens wasn't the blockbuster summer extravaganza so many though it'd be? So what if it could have been so much more? It's still one of the most entertaining, mindless movies in years and I for one am thankful Cowboys & Aliens finds itself among my favorite guilty pleasure movies of all time. It's actors are well cast, it's story is entertaining, the film is action-packed, beautiful to watch and listen to, and - overall - a fun experience the likes of which you'll find no where else.
Cowboys & Aliens is available now on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley