(Above: Another amazing piece of "Cort and Fatboy" fan-art by the Glazed MacGuffin. Have I mentioned that our Aug. 5 "Midnight Movie" is a 35 mm print of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?)
Catching up on over a month's worth of "Cort & Fatboy" appearances by yrs. truly...
Friday, July 29 -- We review "Cowboys & Aliens." Also: I'm asked why I would ever want to run Hood to Coast. The trailer for "Drive" is praised. The trailer for "Battleship" is mocked. Various body parts are referenced.
Friday, July 22 -- We discuss "Captain America" and the resetting of housecats. Also: Horror characters in "Mortal Kombat." Young-adult fiction. "Dark of the Sun" on DVD. "Duncan the Wonder Dog." The "Wonder Woman" TV pilot. The surprisingly emo "Spider-Man" trailer. And our favorite John Williams theme from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Friday, July 15 -- I review "Harry Potter 7.5" and come out of the movie with a totally apocryphal theory about Severus Snape. Also: A televisual history of homophobia. "Freaks and Geeks." Adam Sandler. Reptoids. The new "Thing" trailer.
Friday, July 8 -- We're joined by special guest Adam Rosko of "Trek in the Park" fame. Also: "Horrible Bosses." The Space Shuttle. The Mars Curiosity Rover landing plan. My feud with Courtenay Hameister. Jerry Lewis' "The Bellboy."
Friday, July 1 -- "Transformers 3." "The Trip." "Midnight in Paris." "Star Trek" on Netflix Instant. "Game of Thrones." The trailers for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Mission Impossible 4" and "War Horse." My ridulous cat Hellboy.
If "Cowboys & Aliens" is what it takes to get Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig to star in a Western these days, well, I guess that's fine.
The good news: The movie's plainly entertaining, with a terrific cast and a fast-moving story helping you overlook the dialogue's frequent failure to crackle. And, joke title aside, director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") made a film that never stops looking and feeling like an old-school Western -- even when that Western ends up being about a group of outlaws, townsfolk, ranchers and Native Americans forced to band together to fight a pack of overgrown turtles from space. This is a straightforward, action-packed monster flick that happens to be set in the Old West, not some winking thing hiding behind a cheap plastic irony mask.
"Cowboys" is very loosely adapted from a Platinum Studios comic book, and starts with a nice slow pan across the desert, settling on Daniel Craig as a terse man who comes to in the middle of nowhere, lacking both his memory and his boots. Oh, and he has a big metal "Flash Gordon" bracelet on his arm. He causes some trouble, wanders into a failing mining town and causes some more trouble -- much of it heaped comically on the town bully, the drunken idiot son (Paul Dano) of a cruel rancher (Harrison Ford).
It threatens to get ugly. Alien flying machines show up and lasso away half the townsfolk. It gets uglier.
I'm a fan of Favreau's uncomplicated filmmaking style. He shoots his action straight and plain, keeps the CGI to a seeming minimum, and gives his cast plenty of room to breathe, finding character-driven humor where the writers maybe didn't. The biggest beef I had with the movie is that the dialogue and monster-movie/Western tropes are too generic to be deeply memorable. It's a testament to Favreau that this somehow isn't a dealbreaker.
Nearly every character in "Cowboys & Aliens" is more a classic oater archetype than a human being, really (and the aliens aren't much more than an angry, faceless horde), but Favreau keeps it interesting by assembling one of the deeper acting benches I've seen in a popcorn flick in a long while -- the supporting cast is packed with genre faves and solid utility players including Dano, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine, Walton Goggins, Adam Beach and David O'Hara.
Meanwhile, the stars play into the iconography by letting their looks and physicality do the heavy lifting. The rail-thin Craig is nearly monosyllabic as The Man (Briefly) With No Name. Olivia Wilde works a wide-eyed stare as the ethereal stranger following him around. And Ford actually seems to be enjoying himself as a nasty old bigot who softens up thanks to forced cooperation and bonding moments on the trail with a couple of surrogate sons (Beach, Noah Ringer). He's fully engaged, having enough fun here that I'm not surprised to hear he just signed up to play Wyatt Earp, albeit a late-career Earp hanging out in Hollywood. I hope this kicks off a late-career reinvention that finds Ford spending his remaining years playing cowboys sans aliens. _____
As its lead characters remark at one point, the murder plot in "Horrible Bosses" is a comically complicated version of the scheme from "Strangers on a Train," or maybe more accurately "Throw Momma from the Train." Three low-key schmucks (Jasons Bateman and Sudeikis, Charlie Day) are driven to contemplate homicide by their sadistic supervisors (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston). The schmucks' "murder consultant" (Jamie Foxx) advises them to kill each other's employers while making the deaths look like accidents.
The complications that follow provide much of the pleasure of "Horrible Bosses" -- a disheveled R-rated comedy that generates a steady stream of mid-key laughs, but could probably stand to sharpen up several of its characters.
On paper, those characters are pretty great. Bateman's white-collar workaholic is tormented for fun by an obsessive, gleefully dark-hearted VP played by Spacey, a man prone to such nonsensical pronouncements as "You can't expect to win a marathon by putting Band-Aids on your nipples!" Sudeikis is a horndog account manager at an ethically run chemical company that becomes wildly unethical once it falls under the control of an idiot cokehead (Farrell, under tons of makeup). And Day (the Bruno Kirby-soundalike costar of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") plays a dental assistant whose engagement is endangered by the sexually-harassing blackmail of his nymphomanical dentist boss, Aniston.
The problem (and it's one of those problems you can choose to ignore, because the movie's pretty funny) is that director Seth Gordon ("The King of Kong,""Four Christmases") and his team only really have a handle on one-third of those characters. The movie's strongest when it stays with Bateman and Spacey, who play greatest-hits remixes of their best-loved performances -- Bateman riffing on the effortlessly deadpan everyman he's perfected in "Arrested Development" and everything since, Spacey riffing on the dead-eyed sarcastic underminer scumbag we've adored since his calmer moments as Mel Profitt on "Wiseguy." The rest of the cast fares less well: I didn't buy Sudeikis in a Bradley Cooper womanizer role and couldn't reconcile his pro-environment, pro-murder code of ethics, and Day alternates between meek and idiotically hyper. And their respective bosses, Farrell and Aniston, get a lot less screen time than Spacey, as if Gordon and crew didn't quite know what to do with their more cartoonish villains.
But, again, the movie's amusing enough, and its plot twisty enough, that you can gloss over the half-baked elements. The Bateman/Spacey scenes play like an evil "Office Space," Ferrell and Aniston are clearly having a ball playing unleashed sexaholics under prosthetics and bad wigs, Foxx is extremely funny as an ex-con with questionable haggling skills who lets the trio project any level of menace they want onto him, and there are inspired set pieces throughout (especially an extended break-in at Ferrell's horrifyingly decorated, cocaine- and gadget-filled home). Stay for the end-credits outtakes, which may contain the movie's funniest moments. _____