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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - December, 2011

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"Cowboys & Aliens" (Blu-ray) Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2011-cowboys-and-aliens

Synopsis

A cowboy (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the American west with no idea of who he is or how he got there.  Even more strange is the bracelet attached to his wrist.  The cowboy finds his way to the remote border town of Absolution, where he quickly finds himself at odds with the town's alpha male – Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford).   However, these differences are quickly put aside when the town is attacked by mysterious flying ships that kidnap many of the townspeople.  With the assistance of the mysterious Elle Swenson (Olivia Wilde), the cowboy (now known to be the wanted bandit Jake Lonergan), Dolarhyde, and a host of other townsfolk head off in search of the aliens and their captured family and friends.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, and Noah Ringer
  • Directed by Jon Favreau
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Despite starring two of my favorite actors (Craig and Ford), I was concerned that the mix of aliens with a western theme would prove to be a bit too far-fetched.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The plot was simple and to the point.  There were some good scenes of character development but they were kept to a minimum, which served the action-driven storyline well.  Acting was above average across the board with both Craig and Ford playing their roles very well.  The action scenes were well-done and the alien CGI, particularly the spacecraft, was fairly seamless.  I particularly enjoyed the settings and cinematography, which beautifully captured the expansive landscape of the American west.  I watched both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film and found that I preferred the shorter theatrical release.  The few extended/additional scenes in the extended cut didn't really add much to the movie and just slowed the pacing down a tad.

Technical

To get right to the point, this is a fantastic audio/video experience.  The picture quality was near reference throughout, with sharp imagery and vibrant colors.  Black levels were rich and deep, and fleshtones were accurate.  Bucking the trend for films with desert scenes there was no odd yellowish cast to the outdoor shots – just nice realistic tones.  I didn't notice any visible edge enhancement nor did I spot a soft shot throughout the entire movie.  Overall, this is just shy of reference quality video, simply lacking the "pop" of some of the more recent computer-animated or bigger budget blockbusters.  While the video was great on this disc, the audio was just a bit better.  This disc can easily be used to show off your system, with incredible dynamic range and a huge, immersive soundfield.  LFE use is top-notch and will challenge even the best subwoofer with tremendously deep bass effects.  The surrounds are used judiciously, but also convey subtle effects in some of the less bombastic scenes.  Dialogue intelligibility is excellent throughout, particularly given how loud some of the actions scenes get.  The score was beautiful as well.  Just listen to the opening credits and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Extras

Included on this disc are a few commentaries with director Jon Favreau and a pretty good making-of featurette.