Tags: Abigail Spencer, Adam Beach, Alex Kurtzman, Ana De La Reguera, BD-Live, Bonus View, Brian Grazer, Buck Taylor, Clancy Brown, D-BOX, Damon Lindelof, Daniel Craig, Digital Copy, Harrison Ford, Jon Favreau, Keith Carradine, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Pocket Blu, Roberto Orci, Ron Howard, Sam Rockwell, Steven Spielberg, U-Control, UltraViolet, Universal
has an average rating of 6.2 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are very impressive & 2 HOURS long
– 119 minutes (theatrical) & 136 minutes (extended)
This uses 46.1GB total.
Street Date: December 6th, 2011
Overall Verdict – A Good Film & Demo Disc
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself is based on the 2006 graphic novel (of the same title) created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The film was directed by Jon Favreau (best known for previously directing the first two “Iron Man” films). The film was also produced by the always amazing Ron Howard & Brian Grazer and last but not least was even executive produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg. The screenplay here was adapted from the graphic novel by a majority of the guys actually responsible for the 2009 movie reboot of “Star Trek” as well as co-creating the “Fringe” TV series and co-writing the script to “Transformers” from 2007. Those guys I’m referring to are Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof — who also served as producers on the film as well. Needless to say, a lot of very talented filmmakers were involved with the making of this big budget (estimated to have been $163 million) film. Now for what the story actually is about; which should — guessing you haven’t read the graphic novel — leave you a bit skeptical perhaps. No worries, I was skeptical at first myself but let me try to explain the setting, characters, plot, aliens and whatnot here. Before I do that though, for the purists out there, let me say that some things have been changed — like the name of the lead character — from how they were originally in the graphic novel. That’s Hollywood for you. That being said, I shall continue.
The setting is 1873 (in “the old west” specifically”) and we see a man (played by Daniel Craig) wake up in the middle of the Arizona desert suffering from amnesia. He doesn’t know his name but we the audience soon will. This man’s name is “Jake Lonergan” and he has a troubled past and a picture of a woman (Abigail Spencer) beside him where he’s awoke. We assume this woman is or was his wife. He also sees that he has a metal shackle (or bracelet) around his arm and that he has an injury to his lower torso. Our confused friend manages to make his way to a town nearby called “Absolution” where he makes a straight run for the bar. A drunk young gentleman “Percy Dolarhyde” (played by Paul Dano) who is shooting at the bar is in his way so our leading man waits it out. Percy’s father is an important man around town and he’s insulted that the barkeep “Doc” (played by Sam Rockwell) wants him to pay for his drinks on his tab. Things end up going bad for Percy here, no spoilers involved, let’s just say he manages to goto jail.
After this incident our protagonist walks up to the bar and has himself a drink. Up walks this beautiful young lady (played by Olivia Wilde) asking him about the metal band around his arm. At first Jake thinks she’s a prostitute propositioning him for sex but then he realizes she may know more than she’s leading on; namely about what happened to him. She seems strange; let’s leave it at that. Before she can really talk too much to him though the Sheriff (played by Keith Carradine) walks in and wants to arrest Jake for a bounty. I won’t go into any spoilers here. Meanwhile, the father of the drunken young man who was arrested earlier receives word of what has happened. The father is a former general “Woodrow Dolarhyde” (played by Harrison Ford). He and his gang make a ride back to Absolution to recover his son. They get there and make their attempt to free him but as this all is happening they manage to get a huge surprise from creatures from another planet in the form of a flyby of UFO’s firing weapons that cause some major explosions and whatnot. This is the first real major attack of the aliens. You’ve met the cowboys and you’ll soon meet a little bit of the aliens, but don’t expect to get to know them too well.
“Cowboys & Aliens” may have received “mixed reactions” from critics and moviegoers but at the same time I think now that it’s about to debut on home video that it will be able to find its target audience perhaps that it didn’t really receive in a theatrical run. Another thing, the film wasn’t considered a financial success as it had a budget of $163 million and only ended up grossing like $140 million. Still, just as I said earlier, it’s likely to make up for that now on home video. The film has a weird unique style to it, just as did the graphic novel, but it’s not an absurd idea like folks tried to make it out to be. If aliens exist, they could have existed longer than we have for all we know, why is it absurd to imagine they would have made abductions and attacks during the “wild west” era of the late 1800s? The name of the movie isn’t as absurd as people make it out to be, it’s like something impossible historically or whatnot. Take this title for example, something like “Cavemen & Angels” would be effin’ stupid and deserve that type of reception from folks. Just go into this movie knowing it’s, YES, a UNIQUE genre blend of Western & Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) but this is not something unheard of. Take for example another film Steven Spielberg produced, “Back to the Future Part III” — it was also this same blend of genres.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This was shot traditionally on 35MM film using the following three cameras: Panavision Panaflex Millennium X, Panavision Panaflex Millennium and Panavision Panaflex Platinum.
This transfer has a very solid black level. The color palette has been obviously subdued a tad bit and such to fit the visual style of the old western setting; however it does contain its bit of somewhat vibrant color at times. Fleshtones appear to be accurate. The flashback sequences come with a high saturation and contrast level which translates nicely here in Hi-Def. Those flashbacks definitely stand out, apart from the rest of the film in terms of visual style; as well as in terms of cinematography. Speaking of the cinematography here, the DP (director of photography) Matthew Libatique has done an excellent job with some really beautiful scenes throughout the film; especially the opening. This all is done complete and utter justice in the Hi-Def presentation found on this Blu-ray Disc. This looks gorgeous and sharp, with lots of detail in every single shot; even the darker or nighttime shots. CG effects blend perfectly here and come across pretty damn realistic; similar to “Iron Man” obviously. No complaints at all here visually. I don’t see that DNR or EE filters were applied too much, if even possibly at all. This just has a pristine Hi-Def visual quality, with zero signs of compression or anything. A Hi-Def presentation in fact worthy of a perfect “5 Star Rating” for overall video quality.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Dialogue is delivered very distinctly throughout primarily the front center channel — unless otherwise noted below, in a few occasions such as flashbacks. Also, regarding dialogue, it never once is overpowered (“drowned out”) by the sound effects, score or such and will require no volume adjustments. Now let’s talk about some action. During the two action sequences at both 4 minutes and 18 minutes into the film the mix will really just give you a taste of that to come. Lots of dynamic range, realistic sound effects as well as effects panning across speakers, be it front or rear channels. A really good amount of LFE (bass) too can be found those sequences; as well those to come throughout the film.
Some bigger audio highlights come in the form of the action sequence at 32 minutes roughly in when a posse is approaching the town. It starts out with good sound effects here and excellent surround use to make you actually feel like the group of men on horses are approaching. The real peak though does come in the form of some intense action when the aliens show up for their first attack. The aliens, be it via air or on foot, have their own unique and pretty intense sounds. The sound effects are excellent, especially the aliens’ weapons. The first attack sequence alone is pretty epic and one worthy of being deemed “demo material” to show off your home theater setup. It may only last 4 minutes or so but don’t worry though, because more intense action scenes will follow and you will be quite impressed. Trust me on that. The aliens may sound pretty intense when they attack via air but when they attack on foot it gets even more brutal; as you’d expect. However those air attacks can get intense as well, in fact at around 74 minutes in you’ll hear an alien ship do a full 360 degree circle pan around the 5 channels. Amazing stuff.
One of the other real highlights though actually is the amazing original music scored by Harry Gregson-Williams. Great stuff that will leave one in “awe” so-to-speak of how fitting it is to the weirdly unique visuals this film has. This excellent score is mixed perfectly here with prominently the front left and rights getting the most of the music but also some very nice rear channel presence as well amazingly intense bass during the strings and percussion.
A last thing worth mentioning that stands out in this mix. During the flashback sequences they have used this reverb style effect on the vocals (dialogue) and it has this echo of sorts throughout all 5 channels (speakers). All and all, this DTS-HD 5.1 MA (lossless) mix aims to impress and totally succeeds in my honest opinion. This is definitely worthy of deeming a “demo disc” — for this audio presentation especially. Having said that, it should come as little surprise is earns a perfect “5 Star Rating” for audio quality.
Bonus Materials are presented in both full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) and Standard Definition (SD) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @192kbps sound.
- BD-Live is included on this Universal Blu-ray Disc release. It not only allows you to access online content from the studio but also allows you to use some really neat features like Universal’s Second Screen for tablets and laptops via the pocket BLU app. This does require the user to be on a “Profile 2.0” capable Blu-ray Disc Player with Internet connectivity.
- “Universal’s Second Screen” is available as mentioned above via the pocket BLU app for those on tablets and also works with laptops as well. This lets you watch the film with using your tablet or laptop as the second screen instead of the usual PIP (picture-in-picture) experience. It also offers some very cool features that go beyond the film and show the making of or give you 3D models, storyboards, behind-the-scenes footage and pre-visualizations.
- “U-Control” is included on this Universal Blu-ray Disc release and allows the viewer (if on a “Profile 1.1” capable Blu-ray Disc Player) to experience a PIP (picture-in-picture) presentation that plays along with the film; offering behind the scenes footage, interviews and whatnot. This proves to be very enjoyable and includes interviews with almost (if not) the entire cast & crew.
- Digital Copy of the film compatible with both iTunes and Windows Media portable devices and Mac and PC is included on a DVD which also includes a SD (Standard Definition) version of the film with compressed 5.1 surround sound.
- UltraViolet Digital Copy is included in addition to the traditional “digital copy” mentioned above. This new format allows you to stream the film to your tablet or download to you PC or Mac; all of which via the cloud.
- “Conversations with Jon Favreau” has the director hosting these very insightful and entertaining interviews with cast & crew members. These conversations include the following folks:
- - Daniel Craig (14:50 – SD)
- - Harrison Ford (19:01 – SD)
- - Olivia Wilde (10:48 – SD)
- - Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard & Brian Grazer (14:19 – SD)
- - Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (6:44 – SD)
- - Damon Lindelof (14:20 – SD)
- - “Finding the Story” (5:29 – HD) first table read.
- - “A Call to Action” (8:50 – HD) first day of filming.
- - “Absolution” (8:55 – HD) the town and the characters.
- - “Outer-Space Icon” (10:21 – HD)
- - “The Scope of the Spectacle” (6:35 – HD)
Overall the bonus materials here are just downright excellent. My favorite part of the bonus has to definitely be those conversations with Jon Favreau. For example: He and Daniel Craig don’t totally spend the entire interview even really discussing this film; they actually start to discuss his work in the “James Bond” films, work on the next one and even his work in the upcoming “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” American adaptation. It’s not that they didn’t want to discuss this film, they already had both in the other bonus material. So there’s no reason going back over all that again as much as just spend time having a real conversation. In another “conversation” Steven Spielberg explains how the shark wouldn’t work when he was making his film “Jaws“. These interviews come across more truthful, intimate if you will, than the average “featurette” does and are very insightful (as I said in the description). Personally, I think Jon Favreau should definitely do these from now on for the bonus materials on all of his future films. Other directors also should even actually learn from this and attempt it as well on THEIR bonus materials. This type of supplemental material is just perfect for fans. Hell, these conversations alone total up to roughly 80 minutes — no joke!
I love the fact that they’ve included “Universal’s Second Screen” feature here, as an iPad 2 owner. The normal digital copy is great to see included but that new UltraViolet streaming (via the cloud) digital copy is pretty breakthrough to see included AS WELL. Kudos to everyone involved here on putting together one well-rounded set of bonus material. “Cowboys & Aliens” earns an impressive “4.5 Star Rating” overall for bonus materials. Just as strong as the film itself, if not maybe even a little stronger, in my opinion. Not including the audio commentary, U-Control and/or Second Screen, this clocks in at roughly around TWO HOURS of just featurettes. Impressive; as I’ve said.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.