DID YOU READ

“Cowboys & Aliens,” reviewed

“Cowboys & Aliens,” reviewed (photo)

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With a title like “Cowboys & Aliens,” you expect something with multiple personalities, but nothing like this movie’s full-blown schizophrenia. No one involved with the making of this picture ever settled on exactly what they were making. A lighthearted summer action film? No way: too violent and grim. A serious Western revenge film? Nope: too soft and bloodless. A mystery? Nah: too many questions are left unanswered at the end. A character study of life on the frontier? Surely you jest. “Cowboys & Aliens” is just this vague, undefined blob of a movie: all of the above, and none of them convincingly.

Befitting the film’s lack of specificity, it’s set not in any particular time or place but in a generic stereotype-laden mining town called Absolution; this is “The Old West,” not the old west. There we meet a man played by Daniel Craig, who wakes in the middle of the desert with no memory of how he got there or who he is, an oozing bloody bruise on his torso, and a mysterious metal cylinder clamped on his wrist. After easily dispatching a trio of thugs and taking their boots, horse, and hat, he makes his way to town where he discovers he is Jake Lonergan, “The Scourge of the Territories” wanted for arson, kidnapping, hijacking, and murder. Lonergan doesn’t remember any of it or any of himself, and he doesn’t much care. He just wants to uncover the identity the woman in the photograph he keeps under his hat.

This is a promising set-up. Unfortunately, Lonergan, played with lots of intensity and no personality by Craig, has little curiosity about where he’s been and what he’s done (or, for that matter, why he seems so much nicer and more heroic now that he’s lost his memory). Before he can dig much deeper into his past, Absolution falls under attack from aliens, who lay waste to the town with their spaceships and steal all the other main characters’ loved ones including Sam Rockwell‘s wife and Harrison Ford‘s obnoxious son. The survivors round up a posse, bring along a young, defenseless child (Noah Ringer) for no reason whatsoever, and set off in search of their kin. And since that thing on Lonergan’s wrist turns out to be an incredibly powerful weapon, he’s brought along as well.

There are a few interesting inversions of classic Western tropes here. The gunslinger figure Craig is playing is usually a guy trying to forget his past, wrestling with the pain he’s caused and the lives he’s taken. The beautiful damsel, played here with exactly one expression (that’s it in the picture above) by Olivia Wilde, usually needs rescuing, but her Ella is just as capable a cowboy as any of the men. And Westerns that have an old man/young boy dynamic like the one here between Ford’s grumpy cattle rancher and Ringer’s innocent kid typically warn that the glorious violence of the West is not as glorious as it’s cracked up to be. Without spoiling much about the ending of this movie, that’s not exactly its moral. All of this is interesting to observe, but of very little consequence to the film, which is far too busy chasing aliens and fetishizing their futuristic technology to fully explore these upended archetypes.

There are so many characters fighting for screentime — sheriffs and bandits, cattle ranchers and rustlers, grandfathers and grandchildren, Native American healers and advanced alien races — that no one gets a chance to develop a full and consistent character. Good luck trying to figure out just what sort of man Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde is. He’s introduced brutally torturing a man for information, then intimidates the local Sheriff for arresting his son. A few scenes later, he’s counseling Ringer on how to be a man and later still his adopted son (Adam Beech, a better actor than his part deserves) gives an impassioned speech explaining how he’s a great warrior who avoids battle but never runs from it. He wisely leaves out the part about him also enjoying a little torture from time to time.

There are some extremely impressive special effects on display in the execution of the aliens and their tech (Craig’s wrist-gun is one badass movie doodad). But these creatures exist purely at the screenwriters’ convenience: remarkably smart or hilariously stupid depending on the demands of any given scene. Here is a species that has mastered the secrets of interstellar travel, and on two separate occasions they are incapable of strapping Daniel Craig down to an operating table. These morons screw this up twice! Their characterization is just as inconsistent as Ford’s. We’re told they don’t move during the day because they don’t see well in sunlight. But when the movie threatens to lag and an action scene is demanded, there they are, flying around in their ships in broad daylight.

These goofs would be a lot less distracting if the movie was any fun, or ever got you caught up in this grand and glorious adventure. It doesn’t. “Cowboys & Aliens” is dour, dirty, and dry, a major disappointment and as bland as as plate of frontier beans. Everyone involved — from director Jon Favreau to the impressive but wasted cast — are capable of much better. No wonder Craig’s character suffers from amnesia. In a few weeks, I’ll have completely forgotten all of this too.

“Cowboys & Aliens” is now playing. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Leave us a comment below or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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