The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 119/135 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Noah Ringer, Keith Carradine
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: December 6, 2011
"A different kind of close encounter"
A stranger stumbles into the desert town of Absolution with no memory of his past and a futuristic shackle around his wrist. With the help of the mysterious Ella and the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde, he finds himself leading an unlikely posse against a common enemy from beyond this world in an epic showdown for survival.
It's 1873 when gunslinger Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the Arizona desert with no memory of his past and a mysterious metal shackle encircling his wrist. Stumbling into the nearby hardscrabble town of Absolution, Lonergan discovers a tightly closed community that takes its orders from the iron-fisted Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). But the colonel's influence wanes when the desolate city is attacked by monsters that drop from the sky with blinding force and abduct the helpless townsfolk one by one. As Lonergan's memory slowly returns, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of mysterious beauty Ella (Olivia Wilde), he assembles a posse comprised of townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors. United against a common enemy, they prepare for an epic showdown for survival.
Being a fan of both the western and sci-fi genres I was very curious to see how Cowboys and aliens with implement combining the two. There is a fair level of western action to go along with the requisite archetypes. There are elements of drama that simply don't work and wind up coming off as a corny additive. I felt that the storyline introduced too many narrative offshoots which ultimately left it lacking focus. I liked the opening, the stranger coming into town with no memory of whom he was or how he came to possess the strange object attached to his wrist. It was obvious that he was going to be the key to saving this town not only from what currently troubled it but from what was to come. Once the aliens roll into town and their reason for being there is revealed things get silly. The background on Jake's story (meaning how he came to possess the alien weapon etc.) doesn't hold water nor does what ensues after the formation of the posse. It gets worse when Ella's connection to the proceedings comes to light. I think that this film would have benefited from a sprinkling of romance and a helping of levity. I mean we are talking about cowboys fighting aliens.
The film has a decidedly serious overtone that infuses bloody alien action and stereotypical western hokum but skimps on some tension lifting humor and good guy gets the girl moments. The aliens aren't especially original but prove menacing enough. Likewise the action doesn't break new ground but is effectively engaging. Daniel Craig is pretty one dimensional but this character plays to his strengths. Harrison Ford didn't work for me as a cowboy but I like him just the same. Olivia Wilde seems to be very busy and has appeared in a number of films I have seen of late. She does a respectable job playing opposite the film's two big stars and of course looks great doing so. The remainder of cast consists of a cache of well known character actors in Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine,Raoul Trujillo, and Adam Beach. From a conceptual standpoint I think that Cowboys and aliens had promise. The problem is that it eschews much of the fun in favor of an overworked and overly serious narrative that fails to truly reward in either genre. It's not devoid of merit and has enough action to make for a mildly entertaining popcorn flick when the mood strikes. Both the 119 minute theatrical version and 135 minute extended cut are included. I watched the extended cut during my evaluation. Having not seen the theatrical version I couldn't say what, if anything, the additional 16 minutes adds or takes away from it but I suspect it has little effect on the outcome.
The rating is for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Cowboys and aliens comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.1 Mbps.
This is a superb looking Blu-ray presentation from Universal that delivers high level detail, razor sharpness and resolute definition that brings out the lifelike textures captured by the camera lens. Close ups and mid level shots are incredibly detailed and revealing of even the subtlest nuance visible within facial features, clothing, and objects/backgrounds within the frame. Fidelity is never in question regardless of the camera's perspective. Colors are kept within the scope of the time frame which means lots of browns, grays, and blacks. The stylized color palate deemphasizes primaries but the dusty earth tones have a rewarding quality nonetheless. Skin tones are texturally revealing and lifelike. Blacks are rich, gradationally strong and dynamic which helps them pop during sequences that contained both light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal discerning shapes and structure in backgrounds/objects. I found this to be an impressive and pristine high definition video offering that looked terrific on my big screen.
Like the video presentation, the 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't disappoint. This is an entertaining audio presentation that utilizes the entire system to create a theater like experience. Sound staging is excellent as both the front and rear channels are seamlessly integrated. Sound effects traverse the room during the large fight sequences. Dynamics are energy filled and impact felt with discerning articulation and resolute clarity. This is an active mix that makes regular use of the subwoofer to accentuate its dynamic range. The result is that all points of contact seem to resonate with tactile low bass impact that energizes the room with clean, hard hitting, low frequency extension. Dialogue had excellent soundstage presence with clear, defining vocal character and excellent room penetration. This is a top notch audio/video presentation that offers demonstration worthy material for those who like to show of their home theater systems.
- Theatrical and Extended versions of the film
- Conversations with Jon Favreau (79 minutes) - Features the director in sit down discussions with Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, and members of the production which includes Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
- (HD) Igniting the sky: The making of Cowboys and aliens (5 segments)
- Finding the story - 5 minutes
- A call to action - 9 minutes
- Absolution - 9 minutes
- Outer space icon - 10 minutes
- The scope of the spectacle - 6 minutes
- Feature commentary with director Jon Favreau
- Second Screen - Interactive (via pocket BLU) that allows viewers to simultaneously control and interact with the film and bonus material on a WiFi-connected tablet or computer as the movie plays on the television screen. The new Flick View Feature will allow fans to interact even more with the movie and be able to move content from their tablet to their TV screen
- U-CONTROL: Universal's exclusive PiP in movie feature that lets the viewer access bonus materials without leaving the movie
- My scenes bookmark feature
- D-Box Motion Code enabled
- BD-Live access
- Bonus DVD of Cowboys and aliens
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy of Cowboys and aliens
Based on Platinum Studios comic of the same name Cowboys and aliens is a genre blending adventure with a conceptually interesting spin that fails to pan out. It eschews much of the fun in favor of an overworked and overly serious narrative that fails to truly reward on either genre front. It makes its way onto Blu-ray featuring excellent high definition video, reference quality lossless surround sound and an enriching supplemental package that provides fans with an interactive way to look behind the scenes at the production. Cowboys and aliens misses the mark however it has enough substance to make for a palatable popcorn flick when the mood strikes. Give it a rent.
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Oppo BDP-93 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
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