Review- Cowboys & Aliens

    Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in Cowboys & Aliens (Universal)

    As humorous as it may have sounded to some, few if any other ideas held as much promise in conception as Cowboys & Aliens did. Albeit a remake it seemed like a no-brainer combination of genres that couldn’t miss and then it did; badly. Whereas many expected the best that each genre has to offer combined in a delicious cinematic stew instead you get the worst.

    The first thing that’s off is the pace of the film, which is first dragged down by the fact that we have a protagonist who is suffering from extra-terrestrial induced amnesia and trying to put the pieces of his life back together and thus the story, while it’s true that Jake (Daniel Craig) does beat a few guys up in the first few minutes it’s of virtually no consequence save to introduce some characters and there’s a long lull thereafter.

    While there is no inter-species standoffs but rather carpet-bomb attacks and a raid where the core of the alien ship needs to be reached and exploded in a rather Death Star-like manner, these are the least of the problems the aliens pose to this film. Firstly, they are absent from the film for far too long and far too often. When they are away there is no real sense of foreboding or imminent attack. This makes their initial attack rather a jolt but underwhelms the remainder of the film.

    I realize there is a desire to create a completely new alien species in every film to stand out but the construction of these creatures is a bit weak and convenient and make for the humans targets that are surprisingly too easy. All the people of the town have to do was get adequate numbers and how to fight them, the aliens themselves did little.

    Another issue this film has is that it tries to have two protagonists to an extent by having both Jake (Craig) and Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) feature so prominently. This is a difficult task, however, it’s made more difficult when you have one who can’t remember who he is and where he came from and another who is a gruff, curmudgeonly, SOB who raised a spoiled brat and has no one to blame but himself and only shows any humanity to his “adopted” son, Nat (Adam Beach). Who is easy to identify with here? Dolarhyde’s softer side is refreshing and gives Ford his first and far-too-late chance to play something other than the same character he’s been playing for the last 30 years but it’s too little too late. So with two dominant figures of the script hard to relate to its easy to see how one can disengage from this story but wait there’s more.

    There’s also a very silly twist which is only made somewhat better by the fact that it’s not thrown in at the end of the film. It also helps to explain the vacuousness of a particular performance but sadly said performance doesn’t improve much after the reveal.

    So to tally it up you have a lack of information followed by a lot of exposition, a small handful of really good performances (Craig, Rockwell, Dano and Ringer) many of which are hampered by being really small parts, an enemy that isn’t as imposing as it should be and a climactic battle that isn’t. There are unfortunately so many wrong turns that this film can’t be saved.

    3/10

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A Recap of Super Bowl Film Commercials

The Super Bowl this year, as it is many years was replete with ads that either advertise films or referenced them. Here’s a quick recap.

Captain America: The First Avenger

This is the first look I’ve really gotten at Captain America. At least in terms of a trailer, this seems like a rather good glimpse at at least some of the highlights of the origin of the character. Playing the tale as a period piece is also likely to work to this film’s benefit.

Fast Five

A continuation of The Fast and the Furious series. This installment takes place in Rio de Janeiro, there will be a Brazilian theme. What is most humorous about this one is that our heroes will drive through favelas and mess up hardened criminals and likely walk out unscathed. Very realistic.

Super 8

This was, hands down, the best trailer of the night. Oddly enough, esteemed publications like The Hollywood Gossip ran a headline which reads “Super 8 Movie Trailer: What the… ?!?” Now granted the article does admit it’s somewhat excited for the release but why complain about being confused. Super 8 first released an even more arcane teaser months ago and now about four months prior to its release we see a little more. This is how trailers used to work. You see just enough of a film to be intrigued into watching it, instead now sometimes you feel like you watched a whole movie. I finish seeing many and say to myself “That movie sucked.” because I feel like I saw the whole thing. This gives us just enough to want more and I’m even more amped for it than I was before. Bring it on Abrams and Spielberg.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Another example of why less is more. The original trailer while it was a little annoying when you found out what it was for was a little more mysterious.Now you see more than before and it gets silly from the get go and that’s just annoying.

Thor

While this ad made me giggle because I randomly thought of re-writing the song “War” and inserting “Thor,” it is decent. Not nearly as effective as the theatrical trailer as this one shows some possible chinks in the armor but not bad.

Rango

This is literally a film that has been overexposed and again reiterates the brilliance of the Super 8 strategy. I have been seeing trailers and commercials for this for so long I am fatigued of it and the worst part is the concept was only borderline in my estimation to begin with.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Nothing could be less appealing to me than another Pirates film considering that they have fallen off precipitously and I literally fell asleep during the last one, which was fine by me save for the fact that I needed to be woken up because I was snoring. This ad actually presents the film in a better light than does the full-length trailer.

Cowboys & Aliens

This is the kind of film most people already have an opinion on based on the concept. You either think the combination of two disparate entities such as these is ridiculous or inspired. The fact that the director of this film is also responsible for Elf, Zathura, and Iron Man won’t sway you. Aside from the much hyped ‘seeing more of the alien craft’ not much to be gleaned here or to change one’s mind.

Limitless

Not much to see here. a condensed version of the trailer. The concept has potential but it seems like it gets pushed to extremes. Interesting to note that it’s one of the few films coming out in fairly short order that shelled out the big bucks for a Super Bowl ad. It will be interesting to see what it does.

Rio

It’s a short 0:15 spot but even here you get to see some of the unfortunate aspects of the film: Hispanic actors subbing in as Brazilian and inaccuracies of beach life in Brazil such as the overly-large bikini cuts. While there is some promise in the concept of a film about the birds of Brazil it seems like it might not quite hit in this rendition.

Now some websites are mentioning The Adjustment Bureau, Just Go With It, Priest and Battle: Los Angeles, the last one I saw pre-kick-off. Others I didn’t see in-game. Maybe I was on a health break but I only count kick-off to final whistle and those were the ones I counted. Did I miss them?

There were also a few ads inspired by or referencing films such as the Bud Light Product Placement ad, Budweiser Cowboy singing “Tiny Dancer” reminiscent of Almost Famous, Volkswagen Mini-Darth Vader and Hyundai Sonata a bit callously referencing silent films.

To see all the ads go here.

What was Your Favorite Film Commercial During the Super Bowl?
(polls)