Harrison Ford

Cowboys & Aliens

2011

Universal Pictures

Directed by Jon Favreau

Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

Screenplay by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby

Story by Steve Oedekerk

Based on the graphic novel “Cowboys & Aliens” created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley with pencils by Luciana Lima

 I’ll tell you right up front so if you don’t want to be bothered reading the rest of the review, you don’t have to.  I enjoyed COWBOYS & ALIENS a lot.  It’s a very well made movie with performances I enjoyed and an entertaining premise.  However, I have to say this: the parts of the movie with the cowboys are so entertaining that when I got to the parts of the movie with the aliens, I was wishing I was back with the cowboys.

A man with no memory (Daniel Craig) waked up in the desert with no idea of how he got there.  He does have a picture of a beautiful woman and a strange metal bracelet on his arm he can’t remove.  The man makes his way to the boom town of Absolution which has gone bust.  The town is so bust it depends on the cattle baron Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford).  Which means suffering the drunken tantrums of his son Percy (Paul Dano)

The man runs afoul of Percy, attracting the attention of Sheriff John Taggert (Keith Carradine) who identifies the man as Jake Lonergan, notorious outlaw.  Taggert intends to ship Lonergan off to federal prison along with Percy when Dolarhyde shows up.  His intentions are simple: he wants his son back and he wants Lonergan as well.  Seems as if Lonergan has been helping himself to Dolarhyde’s gold.  Dolarhyde means to shoot up the town if his wishes aren’t met.  But he’s beaten to the punch by alien spacecraft that not only blow the town to splinters but kidnap a sizeable number of citizens.

Dolarhyde aims to go after the varmints who took his son and he needs Lonergan because the bracelet on his wrist turns out to be an extraordinarily powerful weapon.  The town doctor/bartender Doc (Sam Rockwell) wants to get his wife back.  Also going along is the grandson of the sheriff (Noah Ringer) Nat Colorado (Adam Beach) Dolarhyde’s right hand man and the town preacher (Clancy Brown) Rounding out this crew is the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde) who packs a mean shootin’ iron of her own and knows way more about the aliens than anybody else.

The road to the alien camp is one that made me wish that Jon Favreau was doing a straight-up western.  If Daniel Craig keeps making westerns I don’t give two hoots if he never makes another James Bond movie again.  Both he and Olivia Wilde look right at home in the genre.  And this is the best performance Harrison Ford has given since I dunno when.  In fact, I don’t think there was a performance in this movie I didn’t enjoy.

And Jon Favreau knows that even in an action movie you need moments where an audience can catch their breath and maybe get to know the characters a little bit better.  He’s good enough to do that and he’s also good enough to know how to rev the action back up to 11 after a slowdown.  My respect for him as a director continues to grow with every movie he makes.

So should you see COWBOYS & ALIENS?  I say yes.  It’s got truth in advertising as if has Cowboys and it has Aliens.  It’s not going to become known as a classic of the genre but it’s good, solid entertainment with a cast that knows what they’re doing and a director working at the top of his game.  Enjoy.

Rated PG-13

118 minutes

 

Blade Runner: The Theatrical Version

1982

Warner Bros.

Directed by Ridley Scott

Produced by Michael Deeley

Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples

Based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick

There’s a good reason why BLADE RUNNER is still hailed as a masterpiece of science fiction/neo-noir/detective pulp filmmaking today.  It’s just that good.  This is the movie; along with “Alien” released two years earlier defined the look and feel of science fiction movies for the next thirty years.  BLADE RUNNER is innovative in a lot of ways but most of all in the way it presented the future.  Of course, for us living in 2011 which isn’t so far away from the 2019 depicted in the movie we can get a chuckle at how far off the movie is in predicting where we would be.

But you look at the movie and what pulls you in is how lived in it looks.  This is no sterile “Logan’s Run” future where everything is clean and shiny.  This is a nasty future with dirt, grim, filth, machines that are made to be functional not pretty.  People wear real clothes with wrinkles that need to be washed.  There are billboards everywhere urging you to buy, buy, buy.  The streets are clogged with pedestrians that walk too fast who cuss at cars that honk at pedestrians who walk too slowly.  All the people don’t look pretty. In fact they look bored, worn down, used up, tired.  Kinda like the people you pass everyday on your way to and home from work, right?

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is enjoying his retirement.  Once an honored member of L.A.’s Blade Runner Squad, he got sick of it and quit.  You see, his job was killing.  Killing Replicants.  Genetically engineered humanoids created by The Tyrell Corporation as slave labor for Earth’s off-world colonies.  The Replicants are stronger, faster and smarter than humans.  In fact, The Tyrell Corporation claims that their new Nexus-6 models are “More Human Than Human”.  And maybe they are.  Six of them prove resourceful enough to make it back to Earth and Los Angeles.  Which is where the Blade Runners comes in.

Deckard is pressed back into service by his old boss Bryant (M. Emmett Walsh) and Bryant’s brown-noser Gaff (Edward James Olmos) to hunt down and retire the Nexus-6 Replicants.  It won’t be easy as they’re the most advanced Replicant models.  And they are determined to get to their creator Tyrell (Joe Turkel) and find a way to extend their four-year life span.  Deckard has to navigate through a minefield of humans and Replicants, all with their own agenda and their own plans to discover the truth of what being human means.  At the end of this tangled road is Rachel (Sean Young) a Replicant who believes is human and puts her trust and love in Deckard.  A man who comes to question his own humanity as the line between Human and Replicant becomes more blurred in his relentless pursuit of his quarry.

I love BLADE RUNNER.  That’s the simplest and best way I can put it.  I saw it during its original theatrical run, loved it then and I still love it now.  Mostly because of the way that it depicts at the future by looking back.

Let me explain: even though BLADE RUNNER is a movie about the future, there are a lot of throwbacks to the past which make the movie look even more futuristic simply because we haven’t seen stuff like this in movies in a long time.  Rachel’s hair styles and clothing, inspired by Joan Crawford’s look of the 1930’s.  Deckard’s clothing and trenchcoat, inspired by private eyes of the 50’s.  The gritty, noir-ish look of the city with its rain-swept streets.   The reto-technology.   The multi-cultural look of the movie which implies that Los Angeles of the future is a Third World culture unto itself.

At the time this movie was made Harrison Ford was #1 at the box office.  And why not?  He was starring in two major movie franchises and he took the BLADE RUNNER job to expand his range.  And I think he pulled it off extremely well.  There’s a real Humphrey Bogart-ish quality to his performance in this one.  The role of Deckard is obviously meant to be a throwback to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and it works.  Again, the whole success of this movie lies in the setting and technology reaching to the future while the clothing, attitudes and style of filmmaking reaches to the past.  It an extraordinary melding of past and future that many films have tried to copy but only BLADE RUNNER captured and captured exceedingly well.

Sean Young quickly got a reputation in Hollywood as being exceeding difficult to work which hampered her from getting more work which is really a shame.  She’s astoundingly good in this movie and I again point to her Joan Crawford-influenced make-up, wardrobe and style of acting as to why.  Rutger Hauer steals the movie in terms of acting.  As Roy Batty his final speech has gone down in movie history.  And rightly so.  Few movie characters have died in such a memorable fashion as Roy Batty.  Daryl Hannah, Brion James and Joanna Cassidy all turn in strong performances as Replicants as well as William Sanderson as a genetic designer who considers Replicants his children.

So should you see BLADE RUNNER?  Chances are you already have.  At least one of the several versions available.  There’s a Director’s Cut.  A Final Director’s Cut.  An Ultimate Final Director’s Cut.  An Ultimate Platinum Final Director’s Cut and who knows how many others.  Last I heard there were seven versions available.  My recommendation?  Start with the Theatrical Version so you can see it the way we saw it back in 1982 and then go from there.  But any way you see BLADE RUNNER, by all means see it and enjoy it.

116 minutes

Rated: R