Cowboys and Aliens


Viewed – 19 January 2016  Netflix

Cowboys-and-Aliens-I haven’t a clue what’s taken me so long to get around to seeing this quirky-concept action adventure starring Daniel Craig as a mysterious stranger who wakes up in the wilderness with a strange device on his wrist.  Soon he attracts the attention of local shady big shot Harrison Ford who’s trouble-making son gets into a spot of bother with Craig.  Yet the two gunslinger’s problems are only just beginning when a race of aliens invade and begin abducting the locals.

It’s a solid idea and in the hands of Iron Man director John Favrau it’s fast and mostly fun, even if the pairing of the mumbling, serious Craig and the mumbling serious Ford grates a little (where’s the comedy side-kick?).  Thankfully we do get the lovely, if bland Olivia Wild (Tron Legacy) on hand as a mysterious beauty who seems to know Craig’s character even though Craig himself has amnesia.

olivia-wilde-cowboys-aliens

The aliens however are horribly typical fair and not interesting; their big plan to steal gold woefully under-explored.  Yet the effects are decent, and with a great flying space crafts verses cowboys (and Indians) on horseback sequence, the action proved thrilling at times.  We also get some enjoyable supporting characters including a wimpy bar tender played by Sam Rockwell.  Yet for such a cool idea, I’d have liked this to be a bit more tongue in cheek, and could have done with better western-themed atmosphere other than the setting and failed to go anywhere I wasn’t expecting it to.  Probably the reason the movie wasn’t all that talked about after it’s initial release.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

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When casting goes wrong


We’ve all been there, the anticipation, the excitement for a new adaptation of our favourite book or a continuation of a much loved franchise, only to have our hopes dashed when they announce who is playing who.  See below a few such roles I think were badly miscast.  Do you agree?

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns

kate bosworth

There may be many things wrong with this misjudged sequel to the much loved Superman franchise, even if Kevin Spacey is kind of great as Lex Luthor … I’m sure few can forgive the overly moody, personality-free performance of Kate Bosworth as one of comic-book worlds most loved characters.  Thankfully rectified in Man Of Steel’s Amy Adams.

Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

shmi skywalker

This is another movie that has many problems, but none more so than the meant to be earnest and emotional but actually wooden and amateurish performance of Anakin’s slave mother.  Surely this could have added much needed weight to young Anakin’s story instead of just making this viewer cringe.

Val Kilmer as Batman / Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever

bruce wayne

Personally my least favourite Batman movie, Jim Carey aside and yes I actually prefer Batman & Robin!  But Kilmer here had no presence, no charisma and just didn’t suite either the dark knight or the playboy millionaire persona.  Shudder.

Julian McMahon as Dr Doom / Victor Von Doom in The Fantastic Four

Dr Doom

Yes he’s from Nip/Tuck and kind of pulls it off as a charming nutjob – but the Dr Doom of the comic-books was a hulking, muscle-bound overlord that no matter how much he tries, McMahon just can’t pull off.  A poor-mans bad guy in what turned out to be a poor-man’s X-Men movie (that wasn’t an X-Men movie).

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights

james bond

The looks, perhaps, but the wit and charm of either Connery or Moore?  Not a chance.  The follow-up movie Licence To Kill was at least a good story but Dalton was on borrowed time from the start and just didn’t deliver anything resembling the spy many of us grew up loving.

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

dragon tattoo

Hot off the set of Bond, where he was surprisingly good, he steps into the shoes of actor Michael Nyqvist and lacked much of the believable emotion of Nyqvist’s performance in what turned out to be one of the most disappointing remakes in a long time – even in the hands of David Fincher.

Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd

MSDJUDR EC009

As the recent Dredd proved this character demands a no-name star beneath that iconic helmet to truly become judge, jury and executioner.  At the time Stallone was big business and he transformed what should have been a faithful comic-book adaption into another Stallone action-fest.  Not a good one at that.

Skyfall


Viewed – 06 November 2012 Cinema

I make no secret of my love of Casino Royale. Also of the fact I think Daniel Craig is the best Bond we’ve ever had. So sitting down to watch this 50th anniversary entry in the famed franchise, filled me with excitement. Bang! An opening action sequence to blow the audience away, leading to the traditional Bond movie title song … which as in recent years, is instantly forgettable (sorry, Adele).

Make no mistake, unlike the new approach and fresh reboot of Royale, this outing has Bond written through it from beginning to end.  Even that timeless theme is ushered in at almost brain-numbing regularity.  Daniel Craig again is perfect, tough, charismatic and looks cool throughout, even if this time he’s more classic Bond than ruthless assassin, and yes ladies he’s shirtless A LOT.  On fine villainous form is No Country For Old Men’s Jarvier Bardem who is brilliantly slimy and more than your typical egomaniac.  Yet the star of the show, surprisingly is Judy Dench, cementing her reputation as one of the best actors of her generation, totally owning the role of ‘M’, delivering many of the movie’s best lines.

Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) was probably not the best choice, with his approach often resembling one of those satirical commercials, and the script does have a few ‘huh?’ moments (the Shanghai sequence).  Also the reliance on references to classic Bond got a bit much, with the movie often struggling to find it’s identity – was it trying to be new and fresh, or old and nostalgic?  That being said this still delivered some great moments (the final showdown is pure class, and the moment the Aston Martin DB5 is revealed is a total crowd pleaser).  Yet for me, although I had a good time, by almost undoing all the good work of recent years, this ended up feeling a bit outdated.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Viewed – 23 April 2012  Blu-ray

I don’t normally agree with remakes of foreign movies, but in the case of this much-anticipated American adaptation, I have a major reason to make an exception … David Fincher.  Arguably one of the best directors of the moment, who has crafted some of the finest movies of the last ten years of so, namely Seven, Zodiac and Fight Club.  Newcomer Rooney Mara takes on the role of Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker for hire who gets involved with disgraced magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) when he is hired to investigate a 40 year mystery by an ageing business tycoon (Christopher Plummer).  Blomkvist soon discovers he’s been given the job of piecing together the clues revolving around the disappearance and suspected murder of the tycoon’s niece, Harriet, and subsequently uncovers the shady dealings and murky past of a wealthy but complex family.

Fincher’s adaptation of the acclaimed novel by the late Stieg Larsson, and the first part of the famed ‘millennium trilogy’ that also comprises The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest, seems faithful not only to the book but also to the Swedish movie of the same name that made a cult star out of actress Noomi Rapace.  For me having seen both versions, I found this the hardest to follow.  Set like the book and the other movie in Sweden and with the same character names, locations etc, I think the Swedish version actually benefits from being subtitled, and many of the places, names and little details come across clearer when you’re seeing them printed at the bottom of the screen.  This of course doesn’t help Fincher’s movie as the strong accents and foreign names are harder to grasp when hearing them as opposed to reading them.  This version also differs in several key areas, such as how Blomkvist and Salander finally get to work together, how Salander’s mother isn’t even featured, but replaced by a stronger focus on her former ‘guardian’, and the ending is changed significantly, proving much less satisfying.  It puzzled me why Fincher made these changes, but having not read the book, I can’t say which movie is the most faithful.  Performances-wise Rooney Mara is excellent as Lisbeth and every bit as tough and complex as Noomi Rapace was, even if I felt I warmed to Rapace’s performance quicker.  Daniel Craig however, although likable brings nothing that Michael Nyqvist didn’t achieve back in 2009, failing to stamp his own identity on the character.

To conclude this is a fascinating effort from David Fincher who brings plenty of style and his usual attention to detail to proceedings, even if for a film-maker of his calibre, I was left wanting.  Considering the hype of the books or the acclaim of the Swedish movie, this should have been the definitive version … but for me, just felt competent rather than truly blowing me away.  Yet there is still enough here to make me wonder just what we’ll get with the two proposed sequels, which I’m already guessing could turn out superior.

Verdict:  3 /5

Incidentally, a post on the blog ProdigalFilmStudent has compared both movie adaptations, which makes for fascinating reading, but as can be expected, is spoilerifick.

Movie musings 2011


This is the time of year when many of my viewing habits are of movies I missed out on seeing the previous year.  You can expect reviews of some of the summer blockbusters and lesser known releases of 2010, amongst new cinema releases.  This is one reason why an end of year top ten usually comprises of movies older than that year.  Something that has been of much deliberation to me lately considering that originally I had placed 21 Grams as my movie of the year, then thought better of it considering its age.  Yet that means classic movies such as The Sound Of Music will never qualify.  But you must have rules or else such an end of year list will have no comparison to other people’s end of year lists.

Anyway I digress.  In the coming months there are many movies I am looking forward to seeing, be it at the cinema or more than likely on Blu-ray.  Of the movies that have got me most excited, Zack Snyder’s ballistic looking Sucker Punch is much-anticipated.  Scantily clad babes with guns & samurai swords in a fantasy action adventure?  Where do I sign?  Also David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of those movie’s that just can’t fail – especially with Fincher at the helm.  Wes Craven returns with the unexpected but no less appreciated Scream 4, a franchise I recall loving to bits, and hell, aren’t we in need of a clever-ass slasher movie after all the countless remakes we’ve endured?  Consider my seat booked.  It also has to be said, the Harrison Ford / Daniel Craig vehicle Cowboys and Aliens looks heaps of fun, and with Iron Man director John Favreau at the helm, all the ingredients are in place.

Movies I’m less looking forward to but could be worth seeing none the less are Cars 2, which knowing Pixar will be entertaining and look the biz, and this time with a secret agent storyline, may well be more interesting than the fish out of water plot previously.  Having not seen the last Pirates movie, At Worlds End I wont be rushing to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides until I have got myself up to date – but the trailer does look like it will be great entertainment.  Also Kung Fu Panda 2 is fairly assured entertainment even if it’ll be on the back burner compared to a few of the other big hitters.  Oh and the idea of Transformers: Dark of the Moon fills me with dread after the mostly abysmal last movie, but then again the first Transformers in my opinion was superb, so it could go either way.

To conclude though, 2011 looks like being a great year for the movie industry with some great looking stuff coming our way.  Colour me excited!!