Cowboys & Aliens

Drinking Games

Just in time for the gift-giving season, the studios have dropped a large number of big name DVDs and Blu-rays on the marketplace. Many of these are the would-be blockbusters from this past summer, including the Jon Favreau sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens. It may not have been the biggest hit, but now you can check it out in the comfort of your own home, watching either the theatrical version or the extended one. So pull up a bar stool, as if you’re in your favorite saloon, and knock back a few drinks with James Bond and Indiana Jones in the old West. Though we’d suggest a cup of suds over the harder drinks, or you might not make it through the movie.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week in DVD… the international edition! Well not really, but half of this week’s twelve titles covered are from foreign lands. Not only that, but they’re the best of this week’s releases too. Today’s releases include the extended and very timely cut of the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, the underwhelming Cowboys & Aliens, the final season of Big Love, three Italian films of varying quality, the year’s most disappointing sequel and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Body Puzzle Someone is killing Italians and removing singular parts of their anatomy, and those pieces are winding up in Joanna Pacula’s house. Surprisingly, she’s none too thrilled at this turn of events, and with the help of a determined detective they work to discover the killer’s identity and motive. Lamberto Bava’s early nineties giallo isn’t well known, and having finally seen it I can’t understand why. The kills and set-pieces are stylishly done, the script is fairly sharp, and the movie as a whole is good fun. It’s actually become my favorite of Bava the younger’s films. RaroVideo’s new DVD also features a strong and vibrant transfer and a booklet featuring an essay on the film. [DVD includes no extra features.]

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The Reject Report

30 Reject Reports on the wall. 30 Reject Reports. You take one down, pass it around…I really thought about going through all 30 lines of lyric to that 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, but then I figured you’d probably just skip ahead anyway. So allow me. 30 Minutes or Less. Final Destination 5 IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! The Help. Glee IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! Yeah, they’re all hitting big this weekend, and some of them are sure to have a decent enough opening. But those apes, man. They’ve got the box office on primate lock-down, and they’re not letting anyone take the crown away from them. So before you ask “Why Cookie Rocket?” and start to debate me, think really hard about what that means. Then consider this. Why NOT Cookie Rocket? Why the hell not?

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The Reject Report

Can you even imagine? A world overrun by Reject Reports? It’s like there’d be no movies, but we’d still report the weekend box office. While I stew over the quandary that’s just created, the world outside is still running smoothly. Blockbuster movies are still hitting. Small indie flicks are dividing audiences around certain parts of the country. Transformers are raking in a billion dollars. But this week, like it or not, belongs to the apes. Not Nim. I looked into it, and he’s safe, but the other ones are about to rise up and start fight back. Let’s see just how well those apes can handle themselves against the collective force of Smurfs, Captain America, and Jason Bateman.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we spend some time outside the studio system with Bellflower writer/director/star Evan Glodell who talks about love and flamethrowers. Plus, we have a long-form conversation about film production with Greatest Movie Ever Sold producer Keith Calder and indie horror writer/producer Simon Barrett. Double plus, our very own Jack Giroux goes head to head with The Film Stage’s Jordan Raup in a Movie News Pop Quiz that leaves everything else in the dust. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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The mere concept of Cowboys & Aliens had potential for summer greatness. This could have been crazy, ambitious, and all kinds of weird. Imagine cowboys getting into shootouts with bug-eyed creatures packing high-tech weaponry. Sounds awesome, right? Only a tad of that awesome made it to the screen, and overall, it’s good. One would think director Jon Favreau would use his clout from two hit films to craft a blockbuster with a little audacity, but he didn’t. Like his other works, this is about as safe as most blockbusters come, and that’s fine, mainly because the director is still miles ahead of most journeyman filmmakers. There’s a clear passion for clean fun in his movies, something many blockbusters lack. Iron Man, Zathura, and Elf are all audience-friendly fare that don’t have a lick of divisiveness, and Cowboys & Aliens fits in comfortably with those films. Faverau is, at the end of the day, a solid popcorn filmmaker. Most of his efficiency behind the camera shines through in Cowboys & Aliens, as do a few of his weaknesses. Here’s a little of that awesome and a bit of the weaknesses. Note: This list does include spoilers.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr runs screaming from little blue people invading his life and seeks refuge in the old west, hoping that James Bond and Indiana Jones will protect him. When he returns home, he has a fight with his wife and uses the events of Crazy, Stupid, Love to put his relationship back together. What a godsend Hollywood can be for marriage woes. Finally, Kevin curls up for a long nap after an exhausting summer movie season with many more arrests than he ever thought he’d incur.

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If this has been the summer or the year of the “good, but not great” movie, Cowboys & Aliens stands just a bit taller than most. It wears its spurs a little prouder. It slings its gun a little faster. Whichever metaphor you prefer, Jon Favreau has crafted a loving new vision of the Western genre that delivers far better on character than the average summer blockbuster. At the very least, it works more on making the people on screen matter, even when sci-fi spectacle could have (and maybe should have) taken the reins. Jake (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert having lost his memory but gained an alien weapon strapped to his arm. When he’s arrested in the town of Absolution alongside Percy (Paul Dano), the sniveling son of wealthy landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), the pair are ready for transport when the community is attacked by beings from another world. Their kin are taken, and they round up a posse to get them back.

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It’s the kind of day in Montana that makes postcards jealous. The weather is pristine, the mountains hold everyone in their arms, and I’m sitting across from one of my heroes. When I first met Harrison Ford, it was on another envious postcard day in New Mexico where Cowboys & Aliens had set up shop by renting out God’s soundstage. He was energetic as he told the movie writers there about giving helicopter rides to members of the cast and crew, and just as spirited as he said his goodbyes by powdering sand into the air in a gator speeding toward an alien spacecraft. Today, he’s more subdued. Thoughtful. He takes his seat at the roundtable like an elder statesman, and I half expect him to start telling us about what it was like back in his day, but he smiles in a mix of politeness and standoffishness instead. He’s ready to talk, but even the most professional among us seems to have a lump in his or her throat. The kid having fun on set is gone, and I’m now seeing a man who has seen everything.

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The Reject Report

Some aliens are stupid. Other aliens are crazy. Some aliens are just in love, but we usually don’t see these aliens between May and August. No one wants to see alien love in their Summer blockbusters. They want explosions and people shooting those aliens with well-placed bullets. Which brings us to this weekend, where two films about aliens getting blasted by pesky humans find release. Of course, one is having a much larger opening than the other, and neither of them feature Smurfs. That’s right. I said Smurfs. We’ll talk about them here, too. Enjoy this week’s Reject Report, and if you want loving aliens, come back in November.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, it’s our great honor to have Harrison Ford join Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde to talk about Cowboys & Aliens in a special feature. Plus, The Smurfs director Raja Gosnell learns a lesson from the little blue creatures, and Eric D. Snider goes up against newly-minted Reject Kate Erbland for the Movie News Pop Quiz. Put on your chaps, saddle up and ride. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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We’ve been planning hard for nine months, eating entire sheet cakes by ourselves, and now the fruits of our labor will burst forth onto the internet in just a few weeks. It’s Comic-Con season, and we plan to give birth to some incredible content and coverage. Then, we’ll wipe off the afterbirth and hand it to you with a bow on top. We’ll be tackling interviews aplenty, getting the inside information on movies we won’t see for another 3 years, and covering Hall H like pickle sauce on ice cream, but it’s a big job, and we won’t be doing it alone. Fortunately, Jordan Hoffman (champion Reject Radio Movie News Pop Quizzer and Editor over at UGO) has organized a handful of the best movie sites to share coverage. Here’s what we’re all excited for the most and what you can plan on seeing…

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Culture Warrior

You’d be hard-pressed to find two filmmakers who are more wildly different than Woody Allen and Terrence Malick. One is a notably prolific and economic filmmaker who still releases one movie a year well into his senior years, while the other is a perfectionist who labors over his films and has thus far released, on average, barely more than one movie per decade. One has an unmistakable public persona, while the other is a notorious recluse. One makes films about life in a great city, while the other turns his lens to nature and the experience of the rural. One is as much an atheist as his characters, while the other is a spiritualist who searches for “God,” whatever that may be, through the lens of the camera. Allen and Malick are, in many ways, perfect opposites. But after watching the strong new work by each of these talented filmmakers this past weekend, it became apparent that, at least in the shared thematic preoccupations of Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Malick’s The Tree of Life, these two ostensibly dissimilar filmmakers may have more in common than meets the eye.

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Culture Warrior

Movies have a strange relationship with history, that’s for certain. On the one hand, they have the ability to bring to life, in spectacular detail, the intricate recreation of historical events. On the other hand, films can have a misleading and even potentially dangerous relationship with history, and can change the past for the benefit of storytelling or for political ends. And there’s always the option of using films to challenge traditional notions of history. Finally, many movies play with history through the benefit of cinema’s artifice. Arguably, it’s this last function that you see history function most often in relationship to mainstream Hollywood cinema. In playing with history, Hollywood rarely possesses a calculated political motive or a desire to recreate period detail. In seeking solely to entertain, Hollywood portrays the historical, but rarely history itself. Tom Shone of Slate has written an insightful piece about a unique presence of that historical mode all over the movies seeking to be this summer’s blockbusters. Citing X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys & Aliens as examples, Shone argues that this is an unusual movie summer in terms of the prominence of movies set in the past. However, while such a dense cropping of past-set films is unusual for this season, these movies don’t seem to be all that concerned with “the past” at all – at least, not in the way that we think.

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Jaws didn’t mean to do it, but Summer has become the biggest business in movie-making. This summer, we’re getting a new batch of movies that the studios are hoping to be gigantic, but thankfully for us, they fit into 6 handy categories. Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius have worked tirelessly (except for five or ten naps) in order to break these movies down and present them to you. What will you be watching this summer? What excites you the most? What do you have the highest hopes for? These films all have the potential to bust blocks, but will it be your block they’re busting? Here they are, the six types of films coming out in the following months.

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You know what I love about Cowboys & Aliens? That someone took that silly little comic book and took it seriously enough to make a huge movie out of it. That, instead of going the cheap route, Jon Favreau and company saw the potential in the story, in the Western element and in the Sci-Fi and decided to grab themselves by the saddle bags and just go for it. So far, all of the results have been astonishing. Strong visuals, great Western storytelling, and an extra-terrestrial menace. This new trailer gives a much better look at the alien equipment, the narrative and the action. Check it out for yourself:

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If you’re like me, you watch the Super Bowl for one reason: you can eat as many fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls as you want without so much as a dirty look. If there’s another reason to watch, it’s because Puppy Bowl has gotten repetitive. If there’s a third, it’s the commercials – specifically the movie trailers. Most of the movie trailers this year gave just a bit more insight into trailers we’ve already seen, but a select few (like Transformers 3 and Super 8) gave us our first look into the worlds being created for the big screen. Fortunately, like the PSAs that get to air for free during the big game, these movie trailers also taught us a lot. Especially about the trends of 2011 that are already emerging. Here are just ten things we learned.

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We’ve taken you behind the scenes, into director Jon Favreau’s mind, shared the movies that inspired the sci-fi western, and now we continue our set visit of Cowboys & Aliens with a look at its stars. Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell, Daniel Craig, and Paul Dano all took time out of a busy shoot to talk about the film and get our hands dirty. All professionalism goes out the window when talking to Harrison Ford. He was standing 20 yards away the entire afternoon of the set visit, posted up like a western specter on the top of an outcropping in his cowboy hat against the blazing sun. Now he’s standing toe-to-toe with me, and I’m not embarrassed to admit now that I lose my cool. I find myself shaking hands with a living legend and looking around to make sure that the other journalists lose their composure, too. There’s a one-sided giddiness that suddenly finds its way permeating the steel cool of those used to meeting the famous, and the latent buzz is pretty heavy in the air with Ford standing there. I imagine this is what God must feel like when he’s shaking Harrison Ford’s hand. The man of so many iconic roles doesn’t say much, but he smiles a wry smile when he does speak, leading me to believe that even he can tell that the group is seriously considering losing critical credibility in order to give him a great big hug and ask Indiana Jones to autograph […]

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We’ve taken you behind the scenes of Cowboys & Aliens and into the mind of director Jon Favreau, and today we dig deeper into the films that the filmmakers talked most about during the set visit. Cowboys & Aliens may be the only Steven Spielberg film that Steven Spielberg isn’t directing. From the conversations I shared with Jon Favreau and co-screenwriter Bob Orci on the set of the film, a select group of movies kept returning to the fold as titles that had a lot to do with the shaping of tone and storytelling. A theme quickly emerged. While Executive Producer Steven Spielberg was busy inviting the filmmakers to private screenings of new prints of The Searchers, the filmmakers were drawing on their childhood love of Amblin and the films of Spielberg himself. Still, even though it lacks diversity in the directorial column, this is one seriously formidable list of inspirational films.

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