Feb 102012
 
 February 10, 2012

Book review 

One DVD in our review this week.  As we wanted something current historical but bucking the trend and being that most old fashioned of concepts – futuristic, Bibliographic Data Services gave us Jon Favreau’s blockbuster Cowboys and Aliens.

Now if you are thinking “Aww Naw, Ave had enough of Will Smith beating up intergalactic bad guys…just haud yer horses.

This certificate 12A sees Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Keith Carradine, Noah Ringer, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano and Sam Rockwell

 

Based on a graphic novel, the picture stars Daniel Craig, a stranger both to the west and to sci-fi, and Harrison Ford, minus his wookie.

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They play a couple of gun-toting hardmen in post-civil war New Mexico, the stamping ground of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, who have somewhat alarmingly close encounters of the third kind with extraterrestrials. The western is the set and backdrop to what unfolds, but the movie might well have linked several familiar franchises by calling itself James Bond and Indiana Jones vs the Alien Predators.

 

Science fiction usually marries the western and produces offspring sporting familiar plots such as in the reworking of High Noon as Outland, with Sean Connery as an isolated sheriff on a grim planet, and The Magnificent Seven exchanging their horses for spacecraft in Battle Beyond the Stars, where Robert Vaughn reprises his earlier role. Some, of course, think that in their purest forms the western and science fiction are at once complementary and antithetical.

The best part of Cowboys & Aliens is the first half, and the best of those is the pre-credit sequence. An amnesiac, later identified as Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig), recovers consciousness in the wilderness, horseless, a photo of a woman half-buried in the sand before him and a curious manacle or bracelet on his left arm, which, given the movie’s title, suggests extraterrestrial origins.

Suddenly three bearded hombresd turn up on horseback, asking the way to the resonantly named town of Absolution. They’re bounty hunters and they’ve picked the wrong strong, silent man. Within seconds they’re dead and their would-be victim, who has yet to utter a word, has a gun, a hat, a horse, but no identity.

Jake comes to a nearby town where he encounters a philosophical preacher, a naive saloon owner, an intrepid sheriff and the spoilt, wilful son of a rich rancher. They’re familiar characters with a surprising amount of mileage left in them.

But they’re soon to be confronted by an equally familiar but altogether less varied collection of hideous, malevolent, HR Giger-inspired aliens, dripping goo from every orifice, jumping around like monkeys and flying small spacecraft from which they use lines and hooks to scoop up their victims like aerial fishermen. And sorry guys Sigourney Weaver does not make an appearance.

There is a hint of Swiss author Erich von Däniken has been telling us for decades that aliens have been visiting our planet for several thousand years.   While it would be big news for us.

The odd thing is that nobody in Cowboys & Aliens seems particularly surprised by their appearance, or by that of the mother ship half-buried in mountains.

 

It all concludes in the dramatic final scene when a coalition of settlers, outlaws and Apaches take on the extraterrestrials.

Some will really lap up the mix of Aliens V The man with no name. If you do not like either westerns or Sci Fi it may not be your thing, but if you like either, it is likely to be a fab 118 minutes and at a 12A certificate suitable for most of the family.

 

That’s it from the DVD review this week.  Next week, a big treat.  Celebrated local author Margaret Elphinstone joins Fiona Blackwood in the studio when we look at “The Gathering Night” set in Mesolithic Scotland.  A read stunning read that grips you from the start.  If you read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear novels, this will simply blow you away.

That’s next week at 1.30 here on the Friday Magazine Show.

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