Note: This review originally ran during the Sundance Film Festival in January. It is based on a cut of the film that is slightly different than what opened limited last weekend and expands this week. 

The best way to revitalize a well-worn story concept is often to approach it openly and honestly, but from an unusual angle. That’s what writer/director David Lowery does with the ages-old conflict between an outlaw, a lawman, and the woman between them, in the exceptional modern western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara are the people crossed at a crucial point in time. You’ve heard the story before, or at least seen the setup: one guy pulls a criminal job, and is caught in a fight with sheriff’s deputies as a result. His girlfriend is stalwart and sticks with him, even when the consequences of his criminal actions hit hard. But life is complicated, and plans go right to hell.

Deliberately paced and more interested in aftermath than big action scenes, a shorthand caption for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints could be “Cormac McCarthy by way of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.” Each role is acted with calm precision, and directed with a measured hand. Lowery never falls to the temptation of overplaying a scene. It is one of the best films I’ve seen at Sundance 2013, and a must for fans of the slow burn or directors Andrew Dominik and John Hillcoat. Read More »

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‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Set Visit

The moment where I start to wonder if Cowboys & Aliens might just work isn’t when I’m standing just to the edge of set and Harrison Ford strolls by all dirty, bloody and decked out in period garb. The actor cuts an impressive figure as a beat-down cowboy, but anyone could have predicted that. The convincing moment was a bit later when, during close-up takes for the large scene we saw being filmed, he ad-libbed jokes before and after ‘cut’ was called, coming to life as the impish, smart Harrison Ford we always hope to see on screen. Its a man who enjoys acting and has a lot of life left in him. He might have been acting for us, the visitors, as well as for the camera — I’d bet on it — but to a certain degree it doesn’t matter.

Other moments presented themselves as well. I can’t tell you about the scene we saw being filmed. It’s a big one, and I understand why Universal doesn’t want a description floating around. It’s not from the comics because, well, very little of the film is really from the comics. This is very much an ‘inspired by’ scenario. While early stories about the film pegged it as an adaptation of the comic book version of the story, director Jon Favreau insists that this is a unique take on the idea of a Western territory besieged by aliens, and with new characters to go along with it.

So what can I tell you? Quite a bit, actually. I’ll be posting extensive interview transcripts over the next couple days, but in the meantime hit the jump for a more detailed look at Cowboys & Aliens. Read More »

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