Hear that sound? It’s the sound of critics and bloggers stoking up the fire and getting ready to burn the wicker man. And who’s the latest sacrifice? Well, it sounds like Brian the dog from TV’s popular Family Guy… Oh wait, no, it’s Seth MacFarlane from TV’s popular Family Guy.
Since its release, MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed western has been getting a shoeing from all areas. MacFarlane is shy sheepherder, Albert Stark, who loses his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfreid) to the town’s lothario (Neil Patrick Harris). Though its not all bad as here comes Charlize Theron as Anna, who, unknown to Stark, is the wife of hardened outlaw, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna and Albert’s new relationship is put to the test when Leatherwood comes back to town.
A Million Ways to Die in the West certainly doesn’t stand up to MacFarlane’s previous effort, Ted, but it doesn’t deserve the critical mauling it’s been receiving. The humour is crude and deeply offensive, but it’s also very funny. Sometimes breathtakingly so. Sarah Silverman as a virginal prostitute (yes, you read that right) is a particular standout. However, there’s only so far the shield of irony can protect you and some of the more racial jokes are dubious at best. Just because you’re taking potshots at everyone, doesn’t mean you should.
There’s also the problem with the third act when McFarlane tries to insert some emotion and drama into the proceedings. Slowing down the film to a snail’s pace, it could easily have been jettisoned in favour of some, you know, jokes.
With a stellar performance by Theron and the catchiest song about moustaches you’ll ever hear, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the vanity project its been branded with (Let’s save that kind of thing for After Earth, guys!), but it is by no means his best work.
Good evening and welcome to the EBFS review of the year (in film). Ahhhh…. 2013…. It seems a different, more innocent time. A time when the Academy saw fit to award Argo its highest honour at their annual, low-key shindig, despite their apparent belief that the film just popped into existence from nothing without any help from a director or anything. Cannes dropped to its knees over three hours of emotionally wrought, sapphic love in Blue Is The Warmest Colour, just to prove how stereotypically bloody French they are. Toronto, in a shameless attempt to hold onto it’s spot as “hot Oscar predictor”, hedged its bets and threw The People’s Choice Award at 12 Years a Slave, which is basically cheating. Venice and Berlin foisted their respective golden animal statues at Sacro GRA and Child’s Pose respectively. Two films so art-house and (eurgh) European that they have yet to see a release in either of the countries EBFS wanders around in. However, all of that backpatting, black tie dinnering, gladhanding was just window dressing compared to the (fanfare/family fortunes incorrect answer noise) annual verbal fist fight that has become the Early Bird Film Society’s Collection of Top Five Films And Some Bad Ones Of The Year! The title will be worked on.
Anyway, all four of us here at the global EBFS offices (Melbourne/Manchester Divisions) have picked our top five films that we saw at the cinema in 2013 based on a less than comprehensive release date schedule spanning two countries and poor recollection skills. It’s our list though, so don’t judge us and you’re welcome:
Joss Whedon threw this Shakespeare adaptation together using his house, his wife, his friends and his deft ear for fast, witty dialogue. Delightfully playful, completely faithful and a little breath of fresh air amongst the towering mega franchises.
– DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s best film since Jackie Brown, completely ignoring any political subtext and a more brutal depiction of slavery for that reason. Great performances from Foxx and SLJ but Christophe Waltz’s warmth and DiCaprio’s gleeful evil earned them the plaudits. Extra points for surviving Tarantino’s inexplicable Australian accent which he’ll have to be brought to account for at some point.
Divisive doesn’t even cover it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s desire to “violate” the audience came true with this lurid, neo fable of oedipal urges in Bangkok. Ryan Gosling’s easiest day at the office is a bleak and uncompromising, neon drenched nightmare set within the lowest parts of the human psyche. Maybe.
Despite Spock’s presence, this embarrassingly colon free sequel was almost totally bereft of logic. Insane pacing and set pieces (and lens flare) and the worst kept secret of the year still made for a rip-roaring dash through a thousand tropes of the Star Trek universe all coated with JJ Abrams’ clever script reverses and cinema savvy. Best line delivery of the year too. Altogether now….”KHAAAAANNNNN!!”.
Harmony Korine aims for the mainstream and thankfully misses with his visceral tale of hedonism and excess where the youth of America stop trying to be the best they can be and realise they no longer live in a country where anything is possible. Warning, contains James Franco saying “blue Kool-Aid” over and over and singing a Britney Spears song. Not for everyone.
Will Smith “thinks” up an idea where he doesn’t play Will Smith but seventies Robert Duvall, his son convinces us that emoting is hard and M Night Shawaddywaddy directs? Ooh, it took a round of drawing straws to get one of EBFS into the cinema to begin with to gape open mouthed at a film with as much warmth, wit and charm as someone who bangs on a van at a sex trial. If this ruins Will Smith’s career (which it won’t), karmic film balance would at least creep back into the black….
The award for best rug pull/slap in the fan boys faces goes to Shane Black’s exceptionally funny take on the superhero. RDJ nails it yet again as Tony Stark but the star of the show was Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin/Trevor Slattery. Brilliant fun from start to finish.
Adored by critics and loved by the public. Alfonso Cuaron’s marvelous film may have taken some fantastic scientific leaps in logic (seriously, look into it) but who cares, it was brilliant. Innovative and thoughtful this was on most critics top 5 lists. Ghost Clooney is my hero.
The funniest film I’ve seen in ages. Steve Coogan inhibits a character better than any other actor of his ilk, (take note of how it’s done Mr. Ferrell) and does it to consistently hilarious effect. The lip synch to Roachford’s ‘Cuddly Toy’ and ‘the man fanny’ were two of my highlights. Excellent work from everybody involved.
– CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
Tom Hanks is as good as he’s been since he made me cry over losing a chuffing volleyball. Special mention to debutant Barkhad Abdi who held his own against a hollywood legend, his turn as Somali pirate Muse was almost as good as Hanks’ titular hero. Intense,thrilling, fast paced and superbly directed (well-played Paul Greengrass) this was edge of the seat viewing. Worth it for the heartbreaking final scenes.
I’m a 35 year old man who likes boxing, MMA, rugby, NFL, horror movies and the 80’s back catalogue of ‘The Austrian Oak’ and Sly Stallone and yes….a Disney musical made my top 5. The music in this is as good as anything from the 90’s golden era. I’ll put ‘Let it Go’ up against ‘A Whole New World’ or ‘Be Our Guest’. It’s very funny thanks to a brilliant talking snowman and the message that you don’t need a man to feel loved plays totally against Disney’s apparent ethos.
I thought long and ard about this. I nearly gave it to Anchorman 2but as awful as that was it just didn’t make my blood boil as much as OGF. As beautifully shot and scored as this was it felt deliberately obtuse at times and constantly frustrating. I hate this film with a passion that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.
Top 5 by @noonanjohnc
Elijah Wood is a maniac, maniac on the floor and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before. D’oh! He is NOT a maniac, maniac on the floor, dancing like he’s never danced before. He’s the puppy eyed, mumbling owner of a mannequin store, with an oedipal love for his dead mother. Oh and he likes to scalp women. Franck Khalfoun’s remake of the 1981 greasy cult classic, has the morals of American Psycho and the sheen of Drive. Shot from Wood’s POV, the film makes you an unwilling accomplice in his apologetic rampage (‘I won’t hurt you.’ He cries to one of his victims, before doing exactly that). Haunting, vicious and with a superb soundtrack, Maniac will stay with you for a long time. I suggest showering in Swafeger afterwards.
This tale of three lads building a house in the forest to escape their respective parents took me completely by surprise. Equal parts Stand by Me and The Hangover (Seriously), The Kings of Summer is brilliantly shot and hilarious. I’ve watched this several times now and it never fails to cheer me up. Pretty much every highlight includes either Nick Offerman’s grumpy sonuvabich father who continually fights with the local Chinese restaurant or Moises Arias as the alien-esque Biaggio; a boy who mistakes Cystic Fibrosis for being gay.
Another coming of age film. This time from the writers of The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who also direct. Duncan is a boy forced on a summer break with his mum and her somewhat dominant boyfriend. Whilst trying to find something fun to do, Duncan ends up working at Sam Rockwell’s rundown waterpark. Everyone is on fire in this film. Patriculalty Rockwell who has never been better as the lethargic Lothario with *all together now* a heart of gold.
I’ve got two Aussie films in my top ten. Ivan Sen’s noirish police procedural Mystery Road and this from documentarian Kim Mordaunt. I’ve gone with The Rocket simply because it’s probably the most accessible. A film that is both heartbreaking and joyful, The Rocket tells the story of a young boy just trying to prove his worth to his family when all those around him consider him to be bad look. I’ve told people it’s like a children’s story for grown-ups, and I think it’s the most succinct way I can put it.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said on this page. I’m not going to waste your time. If you’ve seen it and loved it, you know why it’s on my list. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and see if you can find a cinema that’s still showing it. I’ll wait.
– I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
I’ve seen a lot of tosh in 2013. Hell, I saw three Dolph Lundgren films alone. However, absolutely none of them, not even Diana, could be considered the worst of 2013 when you have I Spit on Your Grave 2 vying for your attention. This shitpile of a movie is everything that’s wrong with most horror films today. Replacing subtly and scares with vicious and nasty, the film tries to justify the brutal hour long rape and abuse of its protagonist by letting her have the final third of the film to exact her revenge. No movie has ever made me as angry as this Fanta bottle full of piss.
Top 5 by @noonanhannah
– STOKER (2013)
I must confess to having mixed feelings about Park Chan-wook’s English language debut upon first viewing. But Stoker is one of those films whose utter dedication to atmosphere stays with you months after viewing until you begrudgingly admit that actually, that was rather brilliant. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode all put in stellar performances and Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography is positively lush. But the real star of Stoker is Wentworth Miller’s haunting script, a brilliant love letter to the twisted family shenanigans of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.
Flawed? Yes. Overlong? Absolutely. But Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to Blue Valentine is a brooding character piece that asks for a gamut of emotional responses from its audience, most of which it successfully achieves. Plus, it threatened to melt the internet by giving us a scene where Ryan Gosling dances with a dog to Bruce Springsteen, and if that’s not what you want out of a film, then we could never be friends.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s ode to coming-of-age films is beautifully judged, wonderfully directed and supremely enjoyable. Allison Janney puts in a brilliant performance as a fabulously awful drunk, and Sam Rockwell becomes the best friend any kid could want. There’s really not much else to say about the Descendantspair’s summer outing that I didn’t cover in my original review.
Disney’s wintery delight is a strong step forward for the house of mouse, and a beautifully woven tale of sisterly love, sassy reindeers and singing snowmen. But more to the point, the songs are fabulous and if you’re not singing ‘Let It Go’ by the end then you have a heart of ice.
The second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek outings is a two-hour exercise in fan wankery at its absolute finest and, forgive me, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Benedict Cumberbatch e-nun-ci-aaaates his way into the British bad guy canon of Hollywood, and anyone who says it isn’t entertaining watching just how far those nostrils flare is frankly a liar. Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that fiercely says no to logic, and yes to “LOOK! SHINY THINGS!” so excuse me for being a magpie.
– OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)
Most likely not the ACTUAL worst film of the year (I never got round to that Shyamalan affair with Will Smith and his young clone) but certainly the most souless and tedious film I spent money on. James Franco is sleepy and disengaged in this needless and saccharine A list pantomime. There’s a terrible CGI monkey sidekick, a creepy porcelain girl I swear I met in a nightmare in my youth, and the dullest of Bruce Campbell cameos. I love The Wizard of Oz, I love Sam Raimi, but this was such a disappointment.
So there you have it. Did you think any of us were blisteringly right? Howling wrong? Let us know.
Mystery Road has the potential to be the most brightly lit noir we’ve ever seen.
Set in rural Queensland, Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), a detective of Australian Aboriginal descent, is called up to investigate the murder of young girl. As Swan submerges himself into the investigation, he finds suspects in the townsfolk, the local police force and even his own family.
Mystery Road is a mutli-layered film. As well as the investigation, Swan experiences a community’s apathy towards a dead black girl and its begrudging acceptance of someone of colour having some sort of wealth and authority. There are problems closer to home as Swan struggles to rekindle the relationship with his daughter. There’s also the matter of Swan’s colleague Johnno, played by a highly strung Hugo Weaving, who has a tenacity to piss on Swan’s fire seemingly every chance he gets. All of this simmers together nicely and produces a thoroughly engaging narrative.
Taking on the duties of writer, producer, cinematography, editing and music, it’s a wonder Ivan Sen had time to actually direct Mystery Road, but by Christ he does. This is the kind of backdrop pornography most travel commercials can only dream of. The bold, all-encompassing outback contrasting rather nicely with the intimacy of the performances on display.
Not everything will get resolved in Mystery Road, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the characters’ interaction comes before the mystery. This is all pretty easy to accept in some cases. We never get a full history of everyone Swan meets, but we’re not supposed to. We’re tagging along in his reality. And just like life, no one ever talks in exposition. The brief snatches of conversation are all we’re given to build pictures and it’s all we’re ever going to get.
Sen seems to deliberately drop things into the mix that have no place in the film except to confuse. Maybe Sen was just a little too close to the movie whilst making it, allowing him to see the cohesion that others can’t. Throughout the film there are whispers of wild dogs, who are rarely seen but seemingly seem to serve the purpose of being a clue. Sen also seems to frame a lot of conversations around really audible eating. Really audible. Slurp, smack, slurp, exposition, slurp, smack, burp. It can be distracting and seems to serve no purpose.
Annoying as they may be, and they really are, Mystery Road is still an astonishingly good piece of work. Flitting from noir to western to police procedural, this film deserves more recognition outside of Australia.
Westerns yet not westerns happen to be something of a speciality around the EBFS offices (Ha!), Assault on Precinct Thirteen, History of Violence, First Blood and quite a lot of The Getaway all take themes and tropes from the genre and transpose them to other locations successfully. The Proposition moved the action to colonial Australia and that film was written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat. Now they’ve teamed up again, shifted over to America in the prohibition locked thirties and set the whole thing in a big forest….
Adapted from the novel “The Wettest County in the West” by Cave, Lawless recounts the legend of the Bondurant Boys, three moonshiners in Virginia who fought a bloody and personal war with the law over their right to sell alcohol. That the book has been written by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of Jack Bondurant, lends Lawless an odd air of authenticity.
Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBoeuf) is a fairly unappealing character, his narrative journey (just threw up a little) taking him from cowardly and stupid all the way to brave and stupid. It’s interesting to see LaBoeuf keep his head high with all the heavy-hitters surrounding him, he handles his scenes admirably, shows some lovely sparks of boyish charm with Mia Wasikowska, takes a very savage beating well and gets the girl in the end.
Howard Bondurant is the slightly crazy, really drunk Bondurant brother played by Jason Clarke with a frizzy haired, carelessly manic grin and a quick temper, only happy when drinking more moonshine than he is selling and more than happy to carry out Forrest’s orders to keep his supplies up. Which brings us to Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy, slightly, but only slightly, more intelligible than in his previous film), a hulking, grunting slab of a man and the closest thing this pseudo-western has to a “man with no name” figure. Legendary to the people of Franklin County and beyond, feared and respected about equally and possessed of the desire to do what is necessary to protect his family and it’s business by any means, including genital torture (EBFS’ top 5 films where bad things happen to penises: Mississippi Burning, Sin City, The World According to Garp, Teeth and now this.), he’s brutally pragmatic basically. Hardy plays him with intensity and a lot of knitwear for which he should be applauded. Elsewhere, Gary Oldman is used sparingly as a gang boss, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska are both absolutely fine in roles which, sadly, could have been lifted out and not one jot of difference would’ve been made. Lawless is a man’s film, set in a man’s world and it’s both unfortunate and unwise to shoehorn in such underdeveloped characters for what feels like box ticking by Cave and Hillcoat.
Most interestingly of all, nearly stealing the whole film, is Guy Pearce’s portrayal of Charlie Rakes, a priggishly sadistic, dandy cop from Chicago charged with enforcing Prohibition in Franklin County. With his perfect centre parting, his nose high in the air, his immaculate clothes and reedy, upper class accent, Pearce strays very close to the Jon Voigt in Anaconda line of Hammy theatrics but never quite falls over it. Instead, we are treated to an over the top, scenery chewing show as Pearce uses torture, murder and plenty of intimidation to try and bring the Bondurant boys under his well-shoed heel.
There is so much to enjoy here, lush cinematography, beautiful performances, excellently handled, uncomfortable scenes of violence, Tom Hardy in a cardigan, it’s a shame to report that Lawless is a flawed gem, nearly fatally so. An attempt to paint people willing to castrate to gain revenge as heroes, victimised by John Q Law was always going to be tough and Lawless comes nowhere near to pulling that trick off. Having Tom Hardy grunt lines about honour and family isn’t enough when he’s standing over a bloody, still living man tied to a chair. Showing that hey, cops can be bad too doesn’t count either, only serving to muddy the waters further. In the end we are left with a story with no one to root for desperately trying to hoodwink us into supporting these torturers and murderers over here but not those torturers and murderers over there. Couple that with two of the most pointless female characters imaginable, a dodgy, Dukes of Hazardy montage in the middle and an ending that overstays it’s welcome AND feels unbelievable (no matter if it’s true) and Lawless is hanging by a thread…. Perhaps, rather than borrowing from the western, Cave had instead looked to the noir, a genre containing truth and criminals aplenty, Lawless wouldn’t have felt so disappointingly contrived and not a little forced.
The Western, the Great American Western, like baseball, apple pie, roadside diners and that unwritten novel we’re all waiting for encapsulate America to the rest of the world. Jim Jarmusch’s deconstruction of it, dismantling of it, mocking of it and eventually reverential nature toward it is both sacriligious and revalationary. Jarmusch, that photo fit of American independant cinema, takes on the founding father of genres, kicks it about a bit and then disappears up his own backside for a while before emerging with a fresh take and a bright outlook on that most stereotypical of scenarios. Fashioning a Man With No Name from nothing, Jarmusch takes us on a supernatural journey through American and Native American folklore that, like Altman’s McCabe, has a distinctive voice in that most crowded of arenas.
Depp plays William Blake from Cleveland, travelling to the very edge of the frontier to work as an accountant in a factory in Machine. Finding his position already filled and being chased out by the factory owner (Robert Mitchum, in his last film roll. Jarmusch has EVERYONE’s number it seems.), Blake finds himself stranded, very much at the end of the line, with no money, no job and certainly no skills to help him in this new, harsh world. Somehow, things get worse, Blake is shot by, and then shoots and kills the factory owner’s son. Blake flees, collapses from hs injuries and is rescued by Nobody (Gary Farmer), an outcast Native American who proclaims him a “dead man” and the re-incarnation of the poet, William Blake. Nobody vows to help Blake return to his ancestral home in England. The factory owner, however, lets loose three vicious killers on Blake’s tail.
Blake and Nobody’s journey toward the sea is fraught with danger, from cross dressing trappers (Hi Iggy Pop) to a cannibalistic bounty hunter (Lance Henrikson). Blake dispatches them with varying degrees of luck and skill, gradually filling out the “Dead Man” roll assigned to him By Nobody. These vignettes mirror traditional scenes from countless westerns but forced through Jarmusch’s thick-framed glasses they take on a new, poetic form aided by a suitably eclectic soundtrack.
Neil Young’s grunting, spitting electric guitar score, played directly to the screen in most cases, jarr’s menancingly alongside the action, adding an unusual, lilting darkness to proceedings. The washed out black and white palette conjurs images of silent pictures as does the way many characters move and overly express themselves with grand gestures and wide open faces, none more so than Blake, who, in his funny checked suit and waddling walk certainly resembles Chaplain at the start.
In many ways Jarmusch has created a kind of anti-western, an evolutionary throwback of a western, where myth and folklore are entwined with the violent birth of America. A comedy that turns mysterious, a childlike picture full of extreme violence and imagery. A film full of contradictions, sideshows, wrong turns and ambiguity that adds up to a haunting vision of the transformation of man into murderer and the lasting scars that leaves on America.
Sitting back in the dark and viewing a Coen Brother’s film brings two contrasting thoughts to mind. One makes you give thanks for the two of them, astounding us with original takes on classic genres for over twenty years and the other states categorically that what we are about to watch will definately not be as good as Fargo.
The Coens are no longer an enigma. their mystery has been deshrouded, we are used to fat men screaming, running jokes, Kubrick references (the best is in O Brother by the way), the mis-pronounciations, the great names and Steve Buscemi ending up dead in a smaller and smaller way. They no longer work outside the system, they are financially viable and could probably get any film made if it cost less than $50,000,000 because there are enough of us out here to pay to see ANY film they cared to throw our way. This is an unfair burden but one they have created for themselves (it’s probably one they couldn’t care less about), the price of being one of the best is alway having to be one of the best.
Which brings us to True Grit, made two years after their first (modern) Western (arguably, Blood Simple has many Western themes but we’ll throw that in Noir and move on), No Country for Old Men. No Country was a superlative piece, expertly adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel and showing they knew the genre inside out. True Grit is a more conventional, classically set picture. A remake of a creaky old John Wayne vehicle that is fondly remembered until watched again.
True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross, a precocious and intelligent young girl who pragmatically sets out to avenge her father’s murder by hiring a Marshall to hunt down his Killer. One of the best aspects of the Coen’s work is there almost impeccable casting. Each part tends to be written for very specific actors and they more than often say yes. So, Jeff Daniels is perfect as Rooster Cogburn, all drunken ravings, murderous practicality and gravel voiced conviction and Hailee Steinfeld excells as Matty, amazing us with her sharp tongue, wiseness beyond her years and still juvenile vulnerability. The wild card here is Matt Damon, a newcomer to the Coen’s world and often derided as an serious actor (Bagger Vance, All the Pretty Horses, etc). It’s been fun watching little Matty Damon grow up in front of us, from a trouble math’s genius to an amnesiac secret agent and all the stops inbetween (EBFS has a soft spot for The Informant). He now has the power to be involved with the films he wants to be, and thank god the Coen’s wanted him. Here he is Laboeuf, a texas ranger who was already hunting down the killer for a previous crime. He’s arrogant, vain and not as socially comfortable as he would like. Damon plays him as written (another rule on a Coen’s set) and plays him well.
True Grit’s story is not unusual but it’s charm is. The warmth the characters begin to feel for each other is never stated, it simply happens between the lines and right infront of our faces. It’s a real joy watching them at work. Placing this film outside it’s director’s top five says more about the quality and quantity of the Coen Brothers output than it does about this flm. True Grit is confident, accomplished, measured film making, filled with excellent performances, graced with cinematography that is both haunting and poetic and plays out a story that is dramatically fulfilling and totally suitatble for it’s genre. Still not top five material though.
It falls between Miller’s Crossing and Burn After Reading. You can do the rest.
Cowboys and Aliens follows Daniel Craig, who wakes in the middle of desert, injured, with no memory of who he is and a metal bracelet strapped to his wrist. Immediately attacked by bounty hunters, he kills them, steals their clothes and strolls to the nearest town. It’d all be very James Bond, if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re in the 1800’s. Arriving in town, after 20 minutes of more exposition, everyone is attacked by aliens, who lasso various town members, including Harrison Ford’s son and Sam Rockwell’s wife. Realising that his bracelet is a weapon, Daniel Craig leads a posse to hunt down the hogtying bastards.
Whilst Craig is solid, never having to extend his repertoire beyond smoldering, it’s Harrison Ford who stands. Playing his wealthy and influential cattleman in the way one would imagine Han Solo would have turned out if he hadn’t got involved with those bloody rebels. He acts as the voice of the audience highlighting the absurdity of what’s going on around him. Faced with knowledge from Olivia Wilde that the invaders are here for gold from them tharr hills, Ford cries ‘What are they going to do? Buy something?’.
It all sounds a bit daft and, in other hands, it possibly could have been, but director, Jon Favreau, insures that everything is played deadly serious. Too serious one could argue. Whilst the film is no doubt entertaining, it could have done with maybe a just a few nodding winks to the camera to let the audience know everyone is in on the joke. Favreau has shown from his Iron Man input that he is capable of mixing action and the comedic quite well, so it’s a shame it’s not shown here. With a few more lines from Ford, this wouldn’t seem so po faced.
Direction wise, Favreau is dependable, ensuring that we never see the aliens for longer then a few seconds. Well, until the end when it becomes a massive explosion of CGI and the movie starts to resemble an XBOX game. The fact that Favreau stuck to his guns (ha! a pun) and didn’t shoot the film in 3D is commendable. 3D has a long way to go to prove that it isn’t a flash in the pan. And no, you can’t mention Avatar. It’s not even fun 3D, it’s just Sam Worthington reenacting Who Framed Roger Rabbit with giant blue people. I’m drifting….
In summary, Cowboys and Aliens is a fun film if not entirely memorable. The mash up of genres feels a bit like stunt marketing and I’m sure we’re opening the floodgates to a series of cheap knock offs… Ninjas vs Crocodiles anyone?