It looks like a scene from a classic Western: A taciturn gunslinger drifts into town and gets into a bar fight. He’s arrested by the sheriff and is about to be taken away when a cattle baron shows up, accuses him of theft and threatens to take the law into his own hands.
A shootout looms.
But that’s where “Cowboys & Aliens,” set in the New Mexico Territory in 1875, takes a genre-bending turn.
Suddenly bright lights appear and the dusty little town is blasted by insect-shaped flying machines that snatch people into the air with retractable cables. The gunslinger, wearing a shining metal shackle on his wrist, points it skyward and shoots down one of the planes.
This isn’t your father’s John Wayne movie.
Jon Favreau’s film, starring Daniel Craig as the lone-wolf outlaw Jake Lonergan and Harrison Ford as the tyrannical rancher Colonel Dolarhyde, combines the traditional Western with the alien-invasion flick. It’s an interesting experiment that produces mixed results: Along with some rip-roaring action, we get a host of stock characters and a hodgepodge plot that can’t satisfy fans of either genre.
Favreau showed his ability to mix adventure and comedy in the “Iron Man” series, but here he (and five screenwriters) never figure out how to blend the disparate parts.
Craig and Ford are well-matched as macho, vest-wearing characters who are stingy with words and handy with their fists and guns. The capable supporting cast includes Olivia Wilde as a beautiful mystery woman, Paul Dano as Dolarhyde’s bratty son, Keith Carradine as the upright sheriff, Sam Rockwell as a meek saloon keeper and Adam Beach as Dolarhyde’s trusted Indian friend.
The aliens, described in the publicity notes as “part insect, part amphibian and part sea creature,” are mechanical monsters enhanced by computer effects. Their vulnerability varies from scene to scene. Sometimes it takes dozens of bullets and a spear to bring one down. Other times, one shot to the head does the job.
The film was produced by a list of Hollywood heavyweights, including Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. Though Favreau has clearly borrowed some of Spielberg’s tricks, his film lacks the mentor’s magic.
“Cowboys & Aliens,” from Universal Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **
‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’
A bored wife dumps her clueless husband for a co-worker. A no-nonsense law student falls for a slick playboy. A babysitter has a crush on the dad of the house, and one of his kids is besotted with the babysitter.
Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, working from an inventive script by Dan Fogelman, milk laughs and pathos from decent people in sticky situations.
Cal (Carell, in top form) is a boring middle-aged suburban dad whose wife Emily (Moore) stuns him by asking for a divorce. He starts hanging out at a local bar, where he meets a skirt- chaser named Jacob (Gosling, with a new buff physique) who teaches him how to pick up women.
While Emily carries on an affair with colleague David (Kevin Bacon), her 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) tells his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) that he’s madly in love with her.
Jessica yearns for Cal, still reeling from a torrid one- night stand with a bar pickup (a hysterical Tomei). Then there’s Hannah (Stone), a budding, love-averse lawyer who somehow ends up in Jacob’s bedroom.
Confused? Following all the storylines can be head- spinning, but the film pays off with a sweet, old-fashioned lesson about how crazy, stupid and heartbreaking love can be.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.