Mini-Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

If you’ve seen the title of this movie, you know it involves two very different things – Cowboys and Aliens. Not hard to comprehend, right? So when we went to see the film, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, I pretty much knew everything I needed to know.

In the wild west, a cowboy (Craig) wakes up in the middle of nowhere with a metal bracelet on one arm and no idea who he is, why he’s there, or where he came from. Amnesia is a wonderful thing. When he’s discovered by a small group of riders who think he may be an escaped fugitive and try to take him into custody, the cowboy takes them out handily, takes some clothes, a hat, a six-shooter, and a horse, and heads in the direction of a nearby town one of the men mentioned.

Craig was great in this opening scene, staying silent for most of the first 5 minutes of the film. And it’s the little things like the opening scene that made this movie much more enjoyable for me than the big battle scenes between aliens and humans. There’s a scene later when Ford’s character is sitting near a fire, cutting pieces off an apple, and gives one to the kid in the party – again, no words are spoken, but there’s a bond formed there that transcends the spoken word.

Is it a fun movie? Absolutely. Is it one of the best of the summer? I think it’s definitely in the middle of the pack somewhere. I’d like to have seen more of the quieter scenes interspersed among the bigger set pieces, but it was fun.

I’d give it a solid B and may consider picking it up on Blu-ray when it’s released in a few months.

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Movie Review: Priest

Hi there!

The Summer 2011 movie season has started even though Spring in Colorado has been one of mixed wind, snow, rain, and sun so far. Thor was fun, and I was hoping Priest with Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, and Maggie Q might continue the trend. Let’s just say I almost walked out after 25 minutes and wish I had so I could have used that time more wisely.

Let’s set the stage before I rip this film up however.

Priest is set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world where vampires and humankind have always battled for supremacy. People moved to cities with high walls to protect them, but we were losing badly. That is until the Church started finding people with extraordinary abilities who were fast enough to actually battle vampires effectively. This small band of brothers and sisters eventually got them under control. Rather than destroying the vampires however, they decided to put them on reservations and keep them locked up for eternity.

The Priest referred to in the title of the film (Bettany) gets a message from the outpost where his brother is living with his wife and daughter saying that his niece had been kidnapped by the vampires, her mother killed, and Priest’s brother slowly dying. Could he help? Sure, but it would mean turning his back on the Church and going against orders. Sometimes a little disobedience is required, and Priest goes off to save his niece. The Church isn’t happy and sends out four more priests after him, including the Priestess (Maggie Q, TV’s Nikita). And Priest discovers that it’s an old friend who’s taken his niece (Urban, Red, Lord of the Rings trilogy)…

I’ll stop there because I wouldn’t want to spoil the story. Not that you don’t already know all of that from the trailers, but hey.

So what went wrong with this film?

It starts off with an animated sequence that tells a bit of the backstory of the war, the priests, and so on. It has to be the bloodiest animation I’ve seen in quite a while, but it was fine. Suitably dark with a bit of narration to tell us what we need to know. But it quickly became evident that the soundtrack by Christopher Young was going to be a loud, less well written homage to the Conan soundtrack by Basil Poleadoris. That annoyed me throughout the film.

Once we actually meet Priest, it becomes readily apparent that Bettany decided this character wasn’t going to have any emotions at all. Even Urban’s “Black Hat” character only really has one good scene and it appears in the trailers where he’s directing mayhem Joker-style. Christopher Plummer puts in an appearance as Monsignor Orelas, a humorless control freak with little redeeming value.

Honestly the only character remotely likable was Maggie Q’s Priestess. She had the most emotional range of any of the characters and hardly received much screen time for her trouble.

And the vampires themselves were kind of interesting. Eyeless with four legs and big fangs ready to rip a person to shreds. They looked a bit slimy, but hey – they live underground and in the dark. You’d probably be slimy too.

Let me tick off the other things that bugged me. The story is transparent and railroaded. The cinematography has two modes – washed out and white in the desert or salt flats or dark, whether dark outside or underground. When it’s washed out, it’s really washed out. And when it’s dark, it’s dark. The wirework was uninteresting, even as Priest and Black Hat duel on the top of a speeding train. The 3D effects were largely uninteresting and did nothing to advance the plot (such as it was)…

Ultimately I really think the vampires should have won. I highly recommend you avoid Priest and skip it even when it comes out on DVD unless you’re really bored. Let’s hope that the rest of the movie season improves.

I just wish I’d walked out when the first inclination hit. [sigh]

–Fitz

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Trailer Time: Conan (2011) (New Trailer!)

Ok, the last trailer we saw didn’t impress me much. This one shows much more of the world of Hyboria and what we will see in the film due out August 19th…

What do you think?

Synopsis

“I live.  I love.  I slay…I am content.”
– Conan The Barbarian

The most legendary Barbarian of all time is back this Summer. Having thrived and evolved for eight consecutive decades in the public imagination- in prose and graphics, on the big screen and small, in games and properties of all kinds- Conan’s exploits in the Hyborian Age now come alive like never before in a colossal 3D action-adventure film.

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

Deftly adapted from the original works of Robert E. Howard and faithful to the mythology and psychology of his iconic character, CONAN THE BARBARIAN stars Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui and Ron Perlman. The film is directed by Marcus Nispel, and written by Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood.

–Fitz

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