Cowboys & Aliens Blu-ray Review
‘Cowboys & Aliens’ blasts its way on to American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
The image benefits from well saturated, strong colours resulting in solid earth tones for the Western soil as well as deep blue skies. Skin tones are convincingly warm for that sun baked look. Contrast is impressive, contributing to the inky blacks in the exterior night shots. Interiors make use of subdued lighting, so contrast is resultantly lowered. The picture is pin sharp and fine detail such as skin imperfections are picked up by the critical eye of the High Def transfer.
As you’d expect from such as recent source, the image is spotlessly clean with no print damage to offend the eye.
The footage of the desert landscapes has great depth to it, and the work of cinematographer Matthew Libatique is a real pleasure to behold. It’s a joy to report not only such a first rate transfer, but of a movie that looks so good in the first place – and nothing has been done to ruin it.
The audio in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ comes in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround flavour – and what a stunner it is too!
Maybe I’ve been watching a lot of older movies recently, but this one made me feel that I’d found new ears. The full 360 degree sound field was so immersive and everything was so clear. From the delicate, detailed sounds of the desert to the droning as Alien spacecraft flew overhead causing involuntary ducking. This is one of the best examples of surround sound I’ve heard in quite a while – and it’s what you’d really expect of a modern day blockbuster. There’s a tightly controlled use of the subwoofer in the action sequences. I think they’re getting the message that we don’t all enjoy getting our brains damaged by too much bass.
Even amid the biggest action scene, dialogue is completely intelligible – being mostly locked to the front centre channel.
I’ve no doubt that this movie will be appearing soon at demo rooms across the land.
The version reviewed was the American 2 disc package which includes the Extended Cut as well as the Theatrical Cut of the movie. I much preferred the Extended cut as it seems to flow better and includes around 16 minutes of footage not included in the Cinema release. The package also includes a DVD and Digital copy of the movie.
Audio Commentary - Director Jon Favreau flies solo here and provides us with a very ‘easy listening’ style of commentary. He lets us into his world by telling us what was in his mind while he was making various creative decisions during the film making process. We hear about the casting and the development of the characters over the production period. He also gives us some insight on how he got on with the crew during shooting. It’s clear that he has a great love of movies and this reflects in his preference for the Extended version of the movie rather than the Theatrical Cut. A commentary track from which those interested in production can learn.
Finding the Story (HD, 5 mins) - The short looks at the roots of the story and how the Western & Sc-Fi elements were mixed in the right quantities to produce the end result.
Outer Space Icon (HD, 10 mins) - We get a nice look behind the scenes here at the work involved in creating the Alien creatures, from design to manufacture of the animatronics. We also see the compositing required to blend the Live Action material with CGI.
The Scope of the Spectacle (HD, 7 mins) - We’re allowed to see the actors in training for their parts that involve on-set stunt work as well as some of the floor effects, courtesy of some behind the scenes footage.
U-control - This picture in picture track includes cast and crew interviews as well as a lot of on set footage. There’s a lot of back slapping goes on here as we see the development of the aliens, getting the right feel for a Western and a look at Native American history and lifestyle.
Igniting the Sky (HD, 18 mins) - Quite a nice ‘Making of’ featurette broken into five sections which includes three already covered above as well as ‘Absolution’ and ‘A Call to Action’.
Conversations with Jon Favreau (HD, 80 mins) - Here we have Mr Favreau chatting to his cast and crew on a whole range of topics. They’re like mini interviews with Dan Craig, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg to name but a few.
Second Screen - By using the PocketBlu App, users with a Tablet device and internet connected Blu-ray player can download special features such as CAD designs of Alien creatures, then look at storyboards and animatics using Flick View.
The 2011 Summer blockbuster ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ explodes on to American Region free Blu-ray with a truly excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
The blemish free image benefits from a pin sharp, well saturated look that boasts healthy contrast levels which provide real ‘pop’ to the picture.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is a real sonic treat too as alien spacecraft fly overhead, causing you to duck – yet in other scenes fine detail such as the sounds of the desert are there to impress. Dialogue is convincingly clear throughout.
A whole posse of featurettes and a ‘Lone Ranger’ commentary from director Jon Favreau make up the extras.
As a movie, it was surprisingly enjoyable with plenty of action and some exercise for the brain as the Western & Sci-Fi genres met. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford manage to stay above the CGI work as they attempt to save the town of Absolution from an Alien invasion and free the townsfolk. Well worth a look.
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