Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Cowboys & Aliens (Extended Edition) (Blu-ray)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8.5 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13 and Not Rated

Starring:
Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan
Harrison Ford as Woodrow Dolarhyde
Clancy Brown as Meacham
Paul Dano as Percy Dolarhyde
Chris Browning as Jed Parker
Adam Beach as Nat Colorado
Sam Rockwell as Doc
Ana de la Reguera as Maria
Noah Ringer as Emmett Taggart
Brian Duffy as Deputy
Olivia Wilde as Ella Swenson
Keith Carradine as Sheriff John Taggart
Abigail Spencer as Alice
Buck Taylor as Wes Claiborne
Matthew Taylor as Luke Claiborne
Cooper Taylor as Mose Claiborne
Kenny Call as Greavey
Walton Goggins as Hunt
Julio Cedillo as Bronc
David O'Hara as Pat Dolan

Directed by Jon Favreau

Special Features:
Digital Copy of Cowboys & Aliens - Theatrical Version (expires 05/27/2012)
Second Screen
Conversations with Jon Favreau
Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens
Feature Commentary with Director Jon Favreau
My Scenes
D-BOX
BD-Live
U-Control Picture In Picture
pocket BLU App

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Sound
French and Spanish Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 59 Minutes (Theatrical), 2 Hours 15 Minutes (Extended)

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

"A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It's a town that lives in fear. But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he's been, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveler Ella (Olivia Wilde), he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents-townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors-all in danger of annihilation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival."

"Cowboys & Aliens" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.

The Movie:
"Cowboys & Aliens" certainly wears its intentions on its sleeve. It intends to be a fun genre mash-up and that's exactly what it is. If there was any question whether you could blend a Western with a sci-fi premise, consider the question answered. They can go together like chocolate and peanut butter. That's thanks in large part to director Jon Favreau hitting the tone just right. They play it completely straight, yet amid the reality based premise Favreau and company still manage to inject the right amount of humor to let you know they're not taking everything too seriously. It's an incredibly fine line between becoming parody and being overly serious, yet Favreau does it seemingly effortlessly.

While I came for the aliens, I have to admit that I stayed for the cowboys. This movie belongs to Daniel Craig. He exudes cool in every frame of the film and perfectly nails the 'stranger with no name' from classic Westerns. Not only does he have the look of Steve McQueen or Paul Newman, but he brings the grittiness to "Cowboys & Aliens" that he brought to James Bond. His fights are brutal, bloody, and they will make you cringe. You start to think Craig might actually be getting beaten up.

Craig is well-teamed with Harrison Ford. While seeing Indiana Jones teamed with James Bond on the big screen is enough to make a geek swoon, the two make you forget their iconic characters and you start seeing just Dolarhyde and Lonergan. Ford fans might be disappointed that he doesn't get as much screen time as Craig, but Ford makes up for quantity with quality. He has some great scenes with Noah Ringer as Emmett Taggart and Adam Beach as Nat Colorado. One scene where he tells a story from his youth to Emmett is arguably one of the more memorable scenes in Ford's recent career. It's surprising to see Harrison Ford willing to share the spotlight with Daniel Craig, but in the end they both come out looking better for it.

I have to give credit to Favreau and writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof they handled this large ensemble cast well. Every character on the screen gets some moment to shine and win audiences over. Sam Rockwell gets to provide a lot of comic relief as Doc and he brings much needed laughs whenever the story gets too serious. I was also really impressed by Paul Dano as Percy Dolarhyde. He's great at playing the spoiled son of Woodrow and he and Craig are hilarious in every single scene they have together. Dano wasn't on my radar screen before this movie, but he is now. Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Olivia Wilde, Noah Ringer, and Walton Goggins are all memorable, too.

As far as the aliens go, we actually don't see a lot of them in the movie. When we do see them, their design is pretty good, but you won't see people dressed as them at next year's San Diego Comic-Con. They don't have a landmark design like a Giger Alien or a Winston Predator. That being said, they do the job of providing a few scares here and there and they are lethal and powerful without being invincible. And their motivations for being on Earth are interesting, too. One of my first questions about this movie was how the creators were going to make it believable that a bunch of primitive cowboys could go toe to claw with space-faring aliens, and they do manage to succeed.

On a final note, the score by Harry Gregson-Williams is pitch perfect and hits the right notes as far as a Western feel mixed with epic orchestral sounds. It's one of the better scores of the summer.

If I had to nitpick about anything, it's that the plot is somewhat predictable. If you were to guess how the movie would play out before seeing it, you would probably be pretty close if not spot on. The story is very linear in moving the characters from point A to point B. There are no real surprises here. It may be because the movie is playing out all of the Western tropes, you expect them to come well before they arrive. That being said, it's still entertaining. It's fun to see how the characters interact, how the fight scenes unfold, and the spectacle of the visual effects. A roller coaster is predictable, too, but it's still fun.

There's also one minor, nitpicky plot point that bugged me well after the movie was over. The heroes discover something in the New Mexico desert that simply shouldn't be there. I don't want to spoil it here, but it's obvious that the aliens put it there. How and why is never really explained. It seemed to be there simply to make an interesting visual.

"Cowboys & Aliens" is a great popcorn flick. It has cool effects, cool stars, and a fun plot. It's well worth checking out.

The Extras:
The main feature of the Blu-ray is the Extended Edition of the film. This is 16 minutes longer than the theatrical version. Most of the new scenes feature Clancy Brown as Meacham and Sam Rockwell as Doc. You see the aftermath of the first alien attack on the town and Meacham trying to calm everyone down with a sermon. You also see Meacham teaching Doc how to shoot in the riverboat. Another scene shows why a number of the posse disappeared after the riverboat scene - they're attacked by their alien. Funny how you don't really notice they're gone in the theatrical version. The other major new scene is right before the big finale when the Apaches are dancing around a campfire and preparing for battle. Overall, I think these cuts were good to remove as they broke up the pacing of the film and were kind of redundant.

But the highlight of the bonus features are a series of interviews conducted by Jon Favreau. You may have seen these online before the movie hit theaters. Favreau interviews Ford, Craig, Spielberg, Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelhof, Howard, Grazer, and Wilde. Favreau is a fantastic interviewer. He puts the people he's talking to at ease and you really feel like you're listening to a natural conversation instead of a formal interview. I'm a major "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" fan and I have to say that Favreau conducts the best interview with Harrison Ford that I've ever seen... and I've seen a lot. Ford is relaxed, funny, and open and more enthusiastic than I've ever seen him before. I think this is the first time you get a sense of Ford being himself in any interview.

After the excellent interviews, the 'making of' featurettes are kind of anti-climactic. You see how they developed the script, recruited the cast, designed the aliens, and did the stunt work. Rounding things out are a commentary by Favreau and the Second Screen feature which you use on your portable device.

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