Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Evening spent with “Cowboys and Aliens”

I have an especially close friend named Hameed whom I only get to see about once a month. He lives about 30 miles away and to get to my place he has to travel trough a section of freeways known here as “the Orange Crush” which happens to be one of the most congested freeway interchanges in the world. It can easily take 2 or 3 hours to make the commute. As a result we have tried to make each visit something special and usually plan something fun to do. This last time he came we decided to go see a movie that had just premiered and it had the intriguing title “Cowboys and Aliens”.

Normally that kind of a title would not interest me very much because it frankly sounds like some low budget effort to attract kids, make a quick buck and disappear forever. I realized something was different this time when I watched a trailer for the movie and saw that it stared Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig and was produced by Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. These are definitely not people you’d expect to make a low budget, second rate film. That combined with the fact that Hameed likes Science Fiction movies, I like Westerns and we both enjoy action films, made up our choice easy.

The evening got off to a somewhat rocky start making me a little apprehensive and lowering my expectations a little. First, in an effort to avoid unusually heavy traffic, Hameed got off the freeway while traveling to my house and promptly got lost in unfamiliar territory. It did not help when he resorted to using his GPS device in the car and entered the wrong numbers in my street address which took him to the wrong place forcing him to call me for directions and further delaying his arrival.

Already having a late start, we then went for dinner and drinks at TGI Fridays (good food and fun atmosphere, although a little loud). We then got lost in a good chat which made us miss the 10 pm showing and we wound up having to kill an extra couple of hours waiting for the midnight show.

The next thing was buying the tickets. I’m sorry but $14.00 to see a movie just gripes my *ss. You have to realize that I am old enough to remember my mother giving me 75 cents to go spend an entire day at the movies –and in those days that was enough to cover a double feature complete with a cartoon and intermission, and the cost of a soda and candy. I know, that’s a tiresome “I remember when” cliché but inflation just does not cover it and $14.00 (plus $4.95 for a soda) is just too damned high.

By the time we finally got into the theater (a huge multi-theater complex with no less than 30 screens reminding me more of an airport then a movie theater), my mood was changing and I was fully expecting the film to turn out to be a 'stinker'.

I was pleasantly surprised when “Cowboys and Aliens” turned out to be a very entertaining, well made and well acted movie. Somehow they managed to make the whole idea of Aliens attacking cowboys and indians in the old west work –and work well.

Daniel Craig plays the lone stranger who wakes up in the desert and can’t remember anything but has a mysterious bracelet on his arm that he can not remove. He finds his way into a town where the townsfolk are bullied by a powerful and mean rancher (played very well by Harrison Ford) and his drunken spoiled brat of a son. The story sets up to be a fairly good standard western when the appearance of hostile (and surprisingly believable) aliens takes it into a whole new direction. Here is part of one review I agreed with, by Ken Hanke:
"The committee-created screenplay is at least straightforward, appropriately cliched and agreeably kind of dumb—just like the sort of films that inspired it. The basic idea of an alien invasion in the Wild West is amusing, and the idea of an alien gold-rush mentality somewhat more so. Considering that the aliens have no trouble at all knocking off humans, it’s certainly a stretch that there’s any reason for them to be abducting folks to “study their weaknesses.” But, hey, that’s the kind of plot these movies usually had, and it fits. The Western tropes—the drifter who’s lost his memory (Daniel Craig), the ruthless rancher who’ll turn out OK (Harrison Ford), the clueless boob who becomes a hero (Sam Rockwell), the worthless son of the rancher who gets snatched by aliens (Paul Dano) etc.—all work. And they work, in part, because they’ve always worked. It helps to no end, of course, that the film is so well cast. That’s one of the good things about a big production: It can afford the best cast money can buy. And in this case, it bought a perfectly chosen one... it’s a good time at the movies—something all these summer releases aim for, but very often don’t achieve."

I won’t give way any more of the plot but I would certainly recommend this as an entertaining escape for any of us wanting to get away from the world economic crisis, terrorism and natural disasters for a coupe of hours.

Live Long and Prosper....

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