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Review: Cowboys And Aliens

Apart from Snakes On A Plane, no film has sold itself as much on its title than Cowboys And Aliens. All you need is the title and you can already kind of picture what the film will be like, and if you have any kind of soul makes you want to see it.

Cowboys and Aliens, does what it says on the tin.

Cowboys, good. Aliens, good. Combining the two should be gold. I thought, ignoring the whole Alien Vs Predator thing.

Luckily, this time it delivered on the promise.

The film follows a fella (Daniel Craig) who wakes up in the desert with no memory and a weird bracelet on his wrist. All he seems to remember is how to talk and kick ass. And mainly the kicking ass part.

He rides into the small mining town of Absolution where he beats up the son of the local BSD, and meets Ella (Olivia Wilde) mysterious girl (just added the “ohh” part from the Andre classic then) who seems to know something about him. The sheriff recognises him from a wanted poster as Lonergan, an outlaw, and nabs him.

The local BSD, Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) arrives in town to get his son out of trouble and realises that Lonergan is the man who robbed his gold. He demands they be handed over, which the Sheriff opposes. Before the matter can be resolved some aliens show up and start blowing stuff up and snatching people, including Dolarhyde’s son, the Sheriff and the wife of the timid barkeeper, Doc (Sam Rockwell).

During the attack, Lonergan’s bracelet switches on and is revealed to be a powerful weapon.

The next day, Lonergan and Dolarhyde’s posse set out, followed by Ella, the local preacher, Doc and the Sheriff’s young grandson.

After a close encounter Dolarhyde’s men scarper, apart from his right-hand man, the Indian Nat (Adam Beach), who idolises Dolarhyde. Dolarhyde continues to be a gruff, tough talking badass, clearly haunted by his time as a Colnel fighting the Indians, which he dislikes talking about.

The group continue, along the way meeting Lonergan’s former gang and Indians. Ella reveals why she knows so much about the aliens and the motley crew attack the ship to rescue their kidnapped family members and friends.

The film is a slice of blockbuster genius, keeping the thrills and spills coming while also giving the characters decent story arcs. After the Iron Man films, we already know that Favreau is a gifted filmmaker at this level, able to balance action, humour and characters in a way that puts him in a league above the likes of Michael Bay.

I was a bit concerned that there might be a dip in quality as with the Iron Man films, Favreau has Robert Downey Jr’s charisma to pick up a lot of the slack, and Daniel Craig is no RDJ. But Craig is a revelation, managing to create a likable character from a minimally written part and utterly convincing as a tough guy.

The rest of the cast does well, in particular Ford, who in Dolarhyde gives his best performance in years, a character with dark edges, but Ford’s inate likability means that you stick with the character and his development over the course of the film.

Wilde is well cast as Ella, seeming comfortable with the gun in her belt and her attractive, if unconventional features, make her stand out and lend her an otherworldly quality that suits the part.

Olivia Wilde, oddly beautiful

The world is realised well and the design of the aliens is interesting.

All in all a fun, well executed summer blockbuster. 4/5.

Trailerwatch

Kicking off the list of forthcoming attractions is the new version of Conan The Barbarian. It looks like it could be quite good fun, although it reamains to be seen whether Jason Momoa can fill Arnie’s shoes. Should be good, daft, sword and sorcery fun.

Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.

A bit of an odd proposition is Real Steel, which I’m sure lazy critics will describe as “Rocky meets Rock ’em, sock ’em robots”. Looks like it’ll be a heartwarming tale of a father and son relationship as washed up ex-boxer Hugh Jackman and his son train a robot to fight. I worry that if I go see this film and the robot gets annihalated at the end I may wind up crying.

I can already feel myself welling up

I was going to say that the new Three Musketeers film could go either way, but scratch that, its gonna lick balls. They say in the trailer its “based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel” but they should really add “extremely loosely” in there. Milady is now a kung fu assassin (played by Milla Jovovich) and Buckingham is now a villain who commands flying warships, yes, you read that right. And he’s played by Orlando Bloom, so one of the few appealing factors is seeing how Bloom manages as a bad guy. The other plus point is the presence of Ray Stevenson as Porthos.

The bad signs just keep coming. Aramis, my favourite musketeer is largely absent from the trailer and Mathew Macfayden has never impressed and looks unlikely to do so as Athos.

But worst of all is D’artagnan, played by Logan Lerman (me neither) who in every single appearance in the trailer is immensely slappable. But the major warning sign I discovered on checking the film out on IMDb, as its direted by serial cinema criminal Paul W.S. Anderson, who’s made 2 films that are actually watchable (Death Race and Event Horizon) amongst a sea of dross (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, AVP, Soldier). I’ll wait for DVD.

Ethan Hunt returns! I have to say I’m really excited about Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol because I’m a massive fan of the franchise, I think the previous 3 installments have all worked because they’ve been different from each other and I look forward to seeing this one. It also helps that it looks like there’ll be more Simon Pegg in this one and it features man of the moment, Jeremy Renner.

If The Three Musketeers looked bad it looks positively genius compared to Johnny English Reborn, which looks terminally unfunny and which I refuse to see on the basis that I can’t be witness to Gillian Anderson sinking this low.

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