Cowboys And Aliens — Review

Cowboys And Aliens (2011) — Cool concept, a fun adventure, 7/10.

This western / sci-fi mash-up directed by Jon Favreau was released nationwide on July 29th, and ending up grossing just slightly more than it’s $163 million dollar budget. Daniel Craig stars as an outlaw who wanders into the 1873 town of Absolution with substantial amnesia, and a weird alien device strapped to his wrist. When the owners of his alien-wrist gun show up to the small western town and start abducting the townsfolk for experimentation, the outlaw teams up with Harrison Ford, who plays the local wealthy rancher to track down the mysterious “demons” from the sky, and find their missing friends and family. -CLIP- The first half of this film is a breath of fresh air: an exciting and captivating blend of western elements mixed seamlessly with the sci-fi genre. Witnessing an alien attack from the perspective of characters who barely understand the concept of outer-space is a novel concept, and one I wish was examined further – instead these ideas and themes are pushed aside to make room for loud and explosive action scenes later in the film. Visually speaking, Cowboy’s And Aliens is a true delight – the visual effects are imaginative, detailed, and thrilling. Cinematically, Favreau films nearly every scene with beautiful landscape shots of the old west, so beautiful you could stick them right on a post-card. Although the plot descends into a typical Hollywood-action film in the 3rd act, the plot is an original one, not a reboot, remake, or sequel – and given that it’s able to quite aptly hold your attention, such a feat is very commendable, especially so considering the film had five separate screenwriters. There are familiar elements of course – to the lone outlaw who has to put his differences aside and befriend his enemies so they may achieve a common goal… and scenes inside the alien spaceship feel like a many episodes of Star Trek that have come before. Rounding out the cast is up-and-comer Oliva Wilde, who, despite being incredibly easy on the eyes mostly just recites her with little personality, as if trying to get the project over with. Craig and Ford’s individual personas are almost too big to share the screen together, and it was great to see them both wearing cowboy hats, riding hats, and shooting revolvers… but neither one gives a particularly impressive performance, but given the genre, Academy nominations aren’t expected either. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harrison Ford fan… but I can’t help but notice that with his increasing age, he just seems to be getting angrier and angrier – reduced to a type-cast that does nothing more than ask him to constantly scream at his co-stars. Being a silver-screen legend though, he pulls off the screen very well, even if it caused me to crack an unintended smile or two. If you’re in the mood for a classic summer blockbuster with chase-scenes, pretty ladies, cool special effects, and some awesome locations – Cowboys And Aliens doesn’t disappoint – it’s the definition of a classic “popcorn movie”, and when taken with a grain of salt, it’s an immensely enjoyable motion picture, “Cool concept, a fun adventure”.

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The Godfather Part II — Review

The Godfather Part II (1974) — Astonishingly captivating, a groundbreaking achievement, 10/10.

Being both a prequel and sequel to the iconic 1972 Best Picture winner, it had an incredibly tough act to follow – but Francis Ford Coppola once again hit the ball out of the park scoring another 11 Oscar nominations including a second Best Picture award. Memorably presented in two parallel storylines, one of Al Pacino’s in the late 1950’s as the new Don of the Corelone family – and the other in the early 20th century following his young father Vito – played brilliantly by Robert DeNiro in an Oscar-winning role. Since these two incredibly polished narratives never intersect in any capacity, this film almost plays out like two separate movies altogether – each one marvelously amazing in it’s own right. Continuing the precedent set forth in the original, Mario Puzo’s adapted screenplay bursts onto the screen in ever scene… each one as startlingly original and exciting as the last. Everything here from the beautiful cinematography and the impeccable acting to the haunting soundtrack and moral ambiguity of the characters is handled with perfection. Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire, and John Cazale round-out an extraordinary cast that truly carry this film from the incredible to the unbelievable. Godfather Part I redefined cinema, and created a whole new sub-genre of crime films… but Godfather Part II absolutely perfected that genre, “Astonishingly captivating, a groundbreaking achievement”.

 

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) — Definitively epic. An incredibly adventure, 10/10.

At over four hours in length, this monumental third chapter to the incredibly massive fantasy trilogy based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, is a true sight to behold… bringing together every single element that makes movies great for one magical film. Matching a record only held by Ben-Hur And Titanic, Return Of The King handily won all 11 academy awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture in 2003. The visual effects are subtle, yet amazingly well executed – they represent the awe-inspiring display of Peter Jackson’s attention to detail, and cinema prowess… as he faithfully and believable brings the fictitious land of Middle-earth completely to life. All of the characters and stories from the previous two films, which were equally as impressive, are neatly resolved here, even if the 45-minute epilogue tends to drag towards the end… but when you’re dealing with a story of this magnitude, brevity isn’t always the best solution. Elijiah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and dozens of others make up the remarkable cast that by the end of this trilogy, absolutely became their characters. The entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy is as entertaining as it is gigantic… but this third and final movie is easily the best of the bunch. For fans of fantasy and adventure, this film more than delivered the goods… going above and beyond any normal film, a true example of getting your money’s worth. “Return Of The King”, “Definitively epic. An incredibly adventure.”

The Prestige — Review

The Prestige (2006) — Challengingly rewarding film that impresses, 10/10.

This 2006 magician-themed mystery thriller is just one of the many masterpieces Christopher Nolan is responsible for. This film stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as competing magicians at the turn of the 20th century who are constantly trying to one-up each other with rival magic shows. Michael Caine, David Bowie, and the always gorgeous Scarlett Johansson round out the incredible cast… all of whom do a magnificent job in the period setting. The battling magician’s story quickly turns to that of revenge, trickier, and seemingly, murder. Nolan’s script is tight, and engaging, really requiring a taut-attention span to follow the brilliantly written dialogue and sequences. Not a film that can easily be explained, nor one that should be spoiled for those who haven’t seen it – “The Prestige” is ultimately about the human condition to be better than your fellow man… and at what incredible lengths you’ll go to get there. The surprise twists in the final scenes left me absolutely astounded… staggeringly surprising, yet completely concrete in their development. A film that is truly best explored and experienced first-hand, Nolan certainly doesn’t disappoint… “The Prestige”, a “Challengingly rewarding film that impresses.”

The Matrix — Review

The Matrix (1999) — Visually revolutionary, and mind-blowing, 10/10.

Written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, this classic sci-fi action film stars Keanu Reeves as a lowly computer programmer who discovers his entire existence, and that of all mankind, is nothing but a simulation in a computer. The reality within a reality is a concept that’s done before… but never like this – The Matrix requires absolute attention from his audience, least you’ll be completely lost in a few minutes. With the help of supporting cast members Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne-Moss, Reeves discovers that inside this simulation environment known as The Matrix, he can control, bend, and manipulate space-time… resulting in some of the most incredibly iconic images to ever grace the silver screen. The slow-motion “bullet-time” effects as they’re known today were groundbreaking and revolutionary when we first saw them 12 years ago. Although Reeves is notorious for his inability to really convey much emotional range, his character here lends itself well to him as an actor. This is a movie that makes you think, makes you gasp, and makes totally forget where the 136-minutes went after finishing it. It’s no wonder this film spawned two very successful sequels, and dozens of copy-cats. The Matrix, “Visually revolutionary, and mind-blowing.”

Independence Day — Review

Independence Day (1996) — Popcorn entertainment at its finest, 10/10.

This 1996 film from director Roland Emmerich not only reinvigorated the dying disaster genre, it’s also a childhood favorite of mine. Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Randy Quaid star as survivors on Earth after a massively devastating attack by a group of hostile aliens destroys dozens of populated cities. These band of survivors come together from around the country to stop the aliens from annihilating the human race completely. These days, it’s not an overly original premise – but I promise you, Independence Day is the one that executed it best. The 153 minute film introduces us to a slew of characters both before and after these terrible attacks… as we’re witness to the changing landscape of a future in their world. A true embodiment of the term blockbuster – this film is an over-the-top thrill ride that never releases the throttle… iconic imagery of the White House, and Empire State building being destroyed have been engrained into the social consciousness of our society ever since – which for better or worse, started a trend of movies obliterating famous landmarks. The visual effects, to this day, are breathtaking, the soundtrack chilling and memorable, the pacing and mood fast and light enough to please all audiences. It may not be intellectually stimulating, but it’s damn enjoyable. Independence Day, “Popcorn entertainment at its finest.”

The Departed — Review

The Departed (2006) — Epic drama. Gritty and thrilling, 10/10.

This 2006 American crime thriller is a bit of a remake of the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” – which tells two opposing narratives – one of an undercover cop within a crime family, and a of a mole from that same family inside the Boston police department. The incredibly talented all-star cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin. The Boston accents are thick, the locations real, and the violence bloody, and vengeful – just as you’d expect from any self-respecting Scorsese crime drama. Despite the mammoth a-list cast, every character gets a chance to shine – most of which being fully fleshed out individuals. With dialogue that is witty and funny, the script is also fast-paced, engaging, and completely engrossing… delicately balancing the line of complexity and confusion… resulting in smart movie that never loses it’s audience. The pinnacle of Scorsese’s career – and a true icon of the modern-day crime film, “The Departed” is easily a movie I’ll find myself watching again and again – An “Epic drama. Gritty and thrilling.”