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August 01, 2011 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-01

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Monday, August 1, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Crazy mediocre love

COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL

"Can't touch this."

Broncos clash with aliens

By ANKUR SOHONI
Daily Arts Writer
The marketers at Universal
seemed to know exactly where to
hit the target audience for "Cow-
boys & Aliens"
- simplistic
but impressive
posters, action- COA"
packed and flashy
trailers. But most & AhiS
important of all AtQuality 16
was a small title and Rave
card advertising
that this film was Universal
from the director
of "Iron Man."
Enough has been mentioned
about said director Jon Favreau.
But his style - or at least the style
Universal banked on getting peo-
ple to the multiplex - was humor-
twinged action with a proficient
hand in special effects and an abil-
ity to handle powerhouse actors
like Robert Downey Jr.
The director plays "Cowboys &
Aliens" with a somewhat different
hand - one that not many expect-
ed and few prefer. He plays it
straight and serious, as if the film's
jumbled script could somehow rest
on its own storytelling laurels. The
simplicity of Universal's posters
comes full circle into a bland and
poorly planned action-adventure
that feels a lot smaller than it's
meant to.
The narrative is messy. We
find Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig,
"Defiance") alone in the 19th-cen-
tury desert, amnesic and affixed
with a strange, thick metal bracelet
on his wrist. He finds his wayto the
town of Absolution, which is ruled
by moneyman Woodrow Dolar-

hyde (Harrison Ford, "Morning
Glory") and tormented by his little
shithead of a kid Percy (Paul Dano,
"There Will Be Blood"). The other
characters we encounter include
a kindly priest (Clancy Brown), a
helpless saloon owner (Sam Rock-
well, "Conviction"), a stoic sheriff
(Keith Carradine, "Peacock") and
a mysterious beauty (Olivia Wilde,
"TRON: Legacy").
Lonergan turns out to be a want-
ed man with a big bounty on his
head. Not remembering his crimes,
he discovers his story's exposition
just as slowly as it's delivered to
us. He gets locked up, ponders his
troubled past and wonders what to
do next.
And then aliens attack.
There's not much need to say
anything more, and before see-
ing the film, most people probably
didn't know anything beyond the
genre-blending concept implied
by the title anyway. Lonergan is a
badass of action, not words. When
people of the town are kidnapped
by the alien ships, though, he leads
an outing to retrieve them, and
thoroughly saves the town from
their foreign visitors.
Lonergan's story is the story of
"Cowboys & Aliens," and the film
rightly focuses on him. That said,
the script doesn't leave everyone
else alone, giving us so much plot
and so many split ends to recon-
nect by the end of the story that the
film has nary a chance of succeed-
ing.
The film is slightly redeemed
by Craig, who has his character-
istic serious look and James Bond
physicality. He is utterly likeable
and plays each scene with a subtle-
ty the entire cast and production

around him seems to severely lack.
The visuals are also occasion-
ally sumptuous. The collision of
fluorescent blue alien light and the
wide brown expanse of the desert
create moments of gooey special
effects goodness, but the Wild
West town footage has the unshak-
able feeling of the archetypal
soundstage setup.
And if you're wondering about
the aliens - they're CGI disgust-
ing, scary and ruthless. Movie
aliens are becoming more and
more physically complex, it seems,
if the two blockbuster alien films
this summer are any indication.
Can't quite rope
in sci-fi too,
podner.
Tryingto provide a counterpoint
of sorts to the cowboys and Indians
concept, "Cowboys & Aliens" tries
hard to bring in an outside force
and create a situation in which all
earthlings can unite. In the end, it
has few real statements to make,
and is derailed into a muddled
series of pointless moments with
over-developed and boring sup-
porting characters.
It seemed like a great concept
- ripe for the 21st century, a rein-
vigorating combination of things
we've seen before - but Favreau
ends up finding the worst of each
of its genres, resulting in two half-
films whose sum is less than its
parts.

By EMILY BOUDREAU
Daily Arts Writer
"Crazy" and "stupid" are two
adjectives that can be used to
describe not only love, but this
movie. Ulti-
mately, it's
people doing
crazy, stupid Crazy
things in the
name of love ... Stupid Love
for two hours. At Quality16
Cal (Steve and Rave
Carell, "Date
Night) has Warner Bros.
been married
to Emily (Juli-
anne Moore, "The Kids Are All
Right") for a very long time. In
fact, she's the only woman he's
ever been with, but she cheats on
him. Luckily, Cal runs into Jacob
(Ryan Gosling, "Blue Valentine"),
who gives him a makeover. Cal is
told that he should never wear
New Balance sneakers (unless
he is in a fraternity or Steve
Jobs), and is taught how to pick
up women. Incidentally, there
are many beautiful women in his
town who are just waiting to be
hit on by 40-and-up gentlemen.
In a "Love Actually" fashion,
there are several side plots that
are forced, with bizarre twists
and the might of the scriptwrit-
ers, to connect at the end.
The movie doesn't sound all
that terrible - in fact, it sounds
like the perfect carefree summer
movie. It's fluff, a kind of make-
over movie for guys. Except, the
movie has no charm and is really
just cringe-inducingly embar-
rassing at times, like when Cal's
17-year-old babysitter takes sexy
nude photos of herself to send to
an older man. There's nothing
cute about that. In fact, that's a
serious issue that doesn't make

for lighthearted fun.
Despite this oversight, the vast
majority of the movie's humor
doesn't depend on outrageous
jokes or big explosions. It's sub-
tle, restrained, and much more
situational. At the same time,
though, the movie is not astute.
There are no biting insights and
it doesn't really explore the rela-
tionships and the love between
the characters
Even Steve Carell himself, the
master of dramatic awkward situ-
ations as demonstrated by his stint
as Michael on TV's "The Office,"
just can't pull off that kind of com-
edy in this movie. The problem
is that Carell is trying to play the
nice guy, the perfect dad who gets
stuck in bad situations instead
of causing them. And that's not
funny. At rare moments, he does
manage to come through as his
comical self, but only briefly, and
when his character is drunkenly
and bitterly berating a cocktail
waitress, or, as he calls her a "cock-
tail servant."
The rest of the cast, while
talented, also struggles a bit.
Gosling just acts as a womaniz-
ing guru with perfectly chiseled
abs and impeccable dress sense.
But he's a shallow character and
when he does undergo a change
and falls in love, it's hard to
understand why. His revealing
that he likes to buy things off of
infomercials doesn't lay bare to
the audience the depths of the
character's soul.
And that's a consistent prob-
lem with the movie, not just with
Gosling's character - though
there's an earnest attempt to
reveal the inner workings of the
characters and their relation-
ships, any insight is lost in the
chaotic plotline and awkward
situational comedy.

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