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Cowboys & Aliens(2011)
A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.
For more about Cowboys & Aliens and the Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray release, see Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 22, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown
Director: Jon Favreau
» See full cast & crew
Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray Review
Pew pew pew! Pew pew pew! Bond and Indy team up to battle an army of CG space invaders...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 22, 2011
If you missed President of Universal Studios Ron Meyers' brutally blunt assessment of his studio's performance at the Savannah Film Festival earlier this year, well... he didn't exactly lay the groundwork for Cowboys & Aliens' forthcoming Blu-ray release. "We make a lot of sh***y movies. Every one of them breaks my heart." Whoa. Land of the Lost? "Just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong." Ouch. The Wolfman? "One of the worst movies we ever made. Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the sh***iest movies we put out. We all went wrong. That's one we should have smelled out a long time ago. It was wrong. The script never got right, the director was wrong, Benicio stunk. It all stunk." Wow. That's... refreshingly frank. And Cowboys & Aliens? "Wasn't good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn't good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie. We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we're all guilty of it. I have to take first responsibility because I'm part of it, but we all did a mediocre job and we paid the price for it. It happens. They're talented people. Certainly you couldn't have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens." Let that all sink in for a minute and meet me after the screenshot.
Even if you have a blast watching Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford battling CG beasties in the late 1800s, you have to admire a studio exec willing to address criticism head on and take responsibility for projects that should have taken off but, for one reason or another, crashed and burned. So is Cowboys & Aliens really that bad? "Mediocre" is fair, "disappointing" even more so. It isn't a bad flick -- it's actually kinda fun, if you're willing to abandon high expectations and switch off your brain for two hours -- it just isn't nearly as good as it could have and should have been. The story itself is fairly simple. When a amnesia-stricken drifter (Daniel Craig) with a strange shackle on his wrist wanders into the dusty Old West town of Absolution, the local sheriff (Keith Carradine) realizes the drifter is a dangerous gunslinger named Jake Lonergan. But the sheriff doesn't have much time to bring Lonergan to justice, though, as an alien spaceship attacks Absolution and kidnaps the lawman and other townsfolk. In the chaos that ensues, Jake learns that the shackle on his wrist is a powerful weapon, forges an uneasy alliance with a gruff cattleman (Harrison Ford), and elicits the help of a mysterious woman (Olivia Wilde) who knows more than she's letting on. Cue a 'splodey battle between a technologically inferior band of natives and a ruthless, vastly superior invading force. Yep, it's another round of Ewoks vs. the Empire with Han Solo thrown in for good measure.
I'll try to be as blunt as Meyers: director Jon Favreau, a hot Hollywood property himself, assembles a startling amount of talent, on screen and off. But the pieces never really fall into place, despite Craig, Ford and Wilde's best efforts and the FX team's flashiest spectacles. Favreau was right to skip 3D and focus on framing Cowboys & Aliens as a cinematic Western, but the moment the first spaceship swoops into view to the moment Jake and the Colonel stage an assault on an alien mothership, the action, CG and whiz-bang third act rarely seem at home in the Arizona desert, much less the 19th century. It's a bothersome disconnect, one that Favreau's prickly pacing, one-note plotting and sci-fi gimmickry fails to combat. Don't misunderstand: Craig, Ford and Wilde are perfectly cast and, at least at the time, clearly believed in the movie they were making. But with so little healthy connective tissue, with next to nothing that reinvents or energizes the film's oft-conflicting genres, and with few twists and turns you can't see coming from a high-noon mile away, Cowboys & Aliens isn't going to abduct many cinephiles. Its title -- silly as it is -- drummed up curiosity. Its trailers delivered. The end result? A genre mish-mash that putters when it should rocket ahead, pops when it should explode, and merely entertains when it should utterly enthrall.
But once you get past the overwhelming sense of what could have been, what remains doesn't flop or flail as violently as some icier critics have suggested. Cowboys & Aliens isn't complex, but it isn't fatally flawed either. It isn't a knockout, but it throws a solid punch or two. It isn't a finely tuned actioner, but it does everything it does with confidence and a sense of purpose, unevolved as that purpose may be. And had it come out when I was twelve, I would still be raving about it, guilty pleasure or no. The blame, then, falls... where? Favreau is the easiest target but doesn't deserve the full brunt; seven writers took a stab at the script, most notably Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, and that never bodes well; Meyers is all but waving his hand in the air; and there aren't many elements that indicate the project fell apart. It just didn't ever come together. Cowboys & Aliens has the talent, it has the technology, it has the performances, it has Craig, Ford, Wilde and even Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Walton Goggins and Clancy Brown. If only it had the heart, intelligence and soul of a true genre-fusing summer blockbuster. Now that would be something.
Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cowboys & Aliens might disappoint, but its AV presentation does anything but. Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is outstanding, without any serious issues to report. Between Matthew Libatique's sand-blasted Arizona Territory palette and Favreau's eye for posse dust-ups and blazing explosions, colors are rich and accurately saturated, skintones are gorgeous (or grizzled when called on), contrast is dark but perfectly suited to the genre-mashing action that unfurls, and black levels are dead on. Detail doesn't falter either. Stubble is as refined as desert underbrush, fine textures are well-resolved, Favreau's CG invaders showcase every last shard of metal and scorch mark, and delineation, though not entirely revealing, is excellent, regardless of whether the sun is high or the night threatens to blot out what little light there is. And, aside from some minor crush and altogether negligible ringing, there isn't any artifacting, banding, aliasing or smearing to get worked up about. Cowboys & Aliens looks, in a word, fantastic.
Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray, Audio Quality
And it sounds even better. Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track splits the heavens and shakes the Earth with an aggressive, commanding and welcome assault on the senses (well, two of them at least) that won't soon be forgotten. LFE output is both assertive and nuanced, lending convincing weight and presence to every attack, crashing ship, hurling debris, thundering gallop, gunshot and energy blast that tears across the screen. The rear speakers are a blast too, with ample directional effects, immersive atmospherics, slick pans and believable acoustics to boot. And dialogue never gives up any ground, even when the battles are at their most intense. Voices remain clear and intelligible throughout, lines are never lost in the madness (unless they're meant to be), and the slightest sonic minutia are given the same stellar treatment as the film's most deafening gunslinging and heartiest explosions. When it comes to Universal's lossless mix, Cowboys & Aliens will blow you away.
Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Meyers hit the proverbial nail on the head: despite all the talent involved, Cowboys & Aliens is a mediocre misfire. It isn't a complete waste, but it isn't a complete success either. The same can't be said of Universal's Blu-ray release, though. I doubt even Meyers could find a problem with it. Its video transfer is terrific, its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is packing serious heat, and its supplemental package is generous and thorough. Say what you will about the film, it at least deserves a spot on your Netflix queue or among your Redbox reserves. You may even like Cowboys & Aliens enough to make its Blu-ray release well worth purchasing.
Cowboys & Aliens: Other Editions
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Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: December 6-12 - December 8, 2011
Cowboys & Aliens was to be a massive summer blockbuster, with enough star power and fancy CG graphics to make George Lucas jealous. Unfortunately, audience asked a collective "huh?" and even having broken the century mark in ticket sales, failed to make back the ...
• Cowboys and Aliens Blu-ray - October 5, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Jon Favreau's sci-fi/western mash-up Cowboys and Aliens. The film, which stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, will be available in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack and feature an extended ...
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