Harrison Ford

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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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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Coming off of one Western that adds in some seriously fictional elements into the Old West, Harrison Ford is set to play Wyatt Earp in a Western set in 1920s New York City. There’s something truly genius about that, and it continues a new trend in Hollywood where genres are blended and classic icons are thrown into other notable environments. Call it the Gallery 1988 Effect. That mash-up effect is being used for Black Hats, an adaptation of the Max Collins historical fiction novel which sees an aging Wyatt Earp working as a detective in Los Angeles who heads to New York City to help out Doc Holliday’s son get out of some messy business with Al Capone. This just sounds cool as hell. Especially considering that it was a fictional biography of Earp written by Stuart Lake that made him famous in the first place, he’s this great icon that stands with one foot in reality and one foot in fantasy to begin with. Taking him to a hard-boiled New York City is a great idea, and Harrison Ford bringing him to life is an even better one. [THR]

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As the summer of 2011 creeps to a close, there are now just a handful of stand-outs waiting to earn your almighty dollars. And as the old saying goes, sometimes the best things are saved for last. Such is the possible case with Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens. It’s a concept that has been on our radar for a long time, complete with a cast assembled perfectly for maximum awesome. Our hopes are high and our hats are 12-gallon, and we’d like to bring you along for the ride. If you live in Austin, Texas, that is. We’re co-hosting an advance screening on the evening of July 26th, and we’ve got your chance to win yourself a pair of tickets. Just click on through, pardners…

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news and commentary column that is a little disoriented at the moment. But don’t worry, it will find its way. Oh, there’s a few Michael Bay-related stories to talk about. That’s so much better… With the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon happening this evening at 9pm or midnight or whatever, there’s been a lot of talk about Michael Bay, the most divisive man in cinema (at the moment). Today brought several must-reads, including GQ’s Oral history of Michael Bay exposé, which chronicles the life and times of the man who demands it all to be awesome. I also enjoyed this defense of Michael Bay piece by Jacob Hall at Movies.com. It’s a delightful look at the internal struggle movie-lovers face when confronted with pure, unfiltered awesome.

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“I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance and you’re talking about the Boogieman! Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am.” Anybody who has watched any amount of the History Channel knows that Hitler was obsessed with the occult. What this movie presupposes is that he probably lost the war because he diverted too many of his resources towards the doomed goal of acquiring the Ark of the Covenant, which in case you didn’t know, is the chest that contains the original stone tablets on which the ten commandments were written. According to religious hocus-pocus, any army that marches while carrying the Ark would be unstoppable on the battlefield, as they would have the endorsement of the good Lord Himself. So what does the U.S. government do when faced with the task of racing the Third Reich to unstoppable power and endless influence? They hire an archeology professor from Marshall College, one of the most rough and tumble adventurers in the world, to go out and find it first. They get Indiana Jones. The only problem with the plan is that the key to finding the Ark is in the possession of one of his ex-girlfriends, and she’s kind of a crazy drunk.

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Remember how much everybody loved Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and how fandom has been clamoring for further father/son bonding adventures between Indy and Sia Labeouf’s Mutt ever since it left theaters? Me either, so why are all the cast members of that film going around talking to MTV cameras about another sequel? Probably because George Lucas and company know that no matter how bad it looks, we’ll all go and see it anyways. We can’t help ourselves; it’s a sickness. And because of that, Ford seems to be busy preparing his creaking old body for a fifth go around in the iconic Indy togs. According to Shia LaBeouf, “I talked to Harrison Ford. He said he’s staying in the gym, he said he’s heard no word, but he does know that George Lucas is out there looking for a MacGuffin. He said he’s staying in the gym, so it means the movie is not so far off.” If the amount of time it took Lucas to find a MacGuffin for Crystal Skull is any indication, then Ford may be in that gym for quite some time.

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We named the dog Indiana. The highest grossing film of 1981 has since become a modern legend after launching a series of films that are beloved by millions. The hat, the whip, the swagger, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford introduced the world to a man who was smart enough for the classroom and rough enough to fistfight pirates. This trailer is an epic look at that man’s adventure, trying to recover a radio for speaking to God.

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“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” On a desert planet on the far edges of the galaxy, a young farm-boy named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) dreams of leaving his meager existence behind to join the Rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire.  When his uncle, a humble moisture farmer, purchases two unassuming droids that carry coveted secret Imperial data for a titanic space station, Luke finds himself thrust into the war much sooner than expected. Together with the reclusive Jedi, Obi-wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), an elderly warrior who used to be one of many guardians of peace in the galaxy, Luke sets out on a quest to deliver the plans to the Rebellion, learning more about the father he never knew, his inherent ability to control the Force, the mystical energy that gives all Jedi their supernatural abilities, and encountering a motley crew of characters along the way including the displaced Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher),  self-serving smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), his 7-foot tall furry co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and master of the Dark Side of the Force, Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones).

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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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Apparently a retirement home is just not good enough for the treasure hunter who wants everything in museums. “Sources” are telling ShowbizSpy that Harrison Ford wants Indiana Jones to die in the next installment of the franchise. There was never much doubt that this would be the last round up for Ford, especially with Shia Labeouf waiting in the wings to take over as his son, but death seems a bit extreme. After all, there must be an adjunct professor position out there waiting for him. It may seem fatalistic, but it’s also important to look at why killing him off might be a good thing. Or why it might be completely moronic.

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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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Yesterday we took you out into the middle of New Mexico and behind the scenes of Cowboys & Aliens. Today, we continue our week-long set visit report by talking with director Jon Favreau. I’m standing in the middle of the desert, and Jon Favreau is holding an alien arm up toward my face. There’s this look in his eyes that reads as a mix of sheer excitement and a hopefulness that the group surrounding him approves of his alien arm. From the amount of questions buzzing him like airplanes taking a pass at a giant ape on the top of a tall building, it seems like they do. Favreau has navigated a jungle-like career (which started in earnest when he met Vince Vaughn on the set of Rudy) in order to stand in front of some sun-stroked journalists with a piece of painted plastic in his hand. That career has taken him from the college of PCU to the fighting style of Friends and through indie acclaim, Comic Con domination, and into the metal suit of Iron Man which, of course, led him to New Mexico in more ways than one.

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“So anything you’re seeing is really spoiler stuff here, right?” That’s how Jon Favreau greets us as he takes refuge inside a pop up tent that is struggling to keep the New Mexican heat and dust out. He’s a force as he enters, a commanding man whose voice is a mix of sarcasm and sweet. Still, he’s about as unimposing as a man over six feet tall can be, and with his breathable pants and bandana he seems more likely to be taking a group of scouts camping than directing a science fiction western starring Daniel Craig. Plus, he’s right about the spoilers. Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t hit theaters until July of 2011, but FSR was invited to the set in the middle of August to watch the crew film a scene and to see who could avoid heat exhaustion the longest (it was Harrison Ford). We won’t be revealing any spoilers from the film, but we will be spending the entire week exploring what the set was like, discovering the movies that inspired the shoot, and talking with Favreau, co-writer Bob Orci, and the cast. Plus, hot off the old dusty trail, we’ve got two behind-the-scenes pictures to share with you after we take you into the canyon where the film was made.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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