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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs movie review: dino crock

Cowboys vs Dinosaurs red light

If you guessed that this is a cheap pre-Jurassic World cash-in, congratulations: you are smarter than this padded-out pile of cut-rate cinematic junk.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If you imagined that a new direct-to-DVD movie entitled Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs was a cheap pre-Jurassic World cash-in, congratulations: you have mental powers beyond those demonstrated by anyone onscreen or behind the scenes of this padded-out pile of cut-rate cinematic junk. The title is about as fact-based as the movie’s grasp of science, human relationships, digital effects, or storytelling. There’s only one cowboy, and he’s not much of a cowboy since that traumatic rodeo incident, and though he will get back up on that horse — literally — in order to battle some dinosaurs, this would more appropriately be called Girls in Tiny Tank Tops and Short-Shorts (Even Though the Sidewalk Thermometer Says It’s 57 Degrees and the Guys Are All Dressed in Jeans and Leather Jackets) vs. Dinosaurs. The cowboy is played by an actor whose name is Rib Hillis (of Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda and Dinocroc vs. Supergator fame), and his old girlfriend is called Sky (Casey Fitzgerald), and this is set (and shot) in Montana, which mostly makes the whole thing sound like it could be an ad for a terrible theme steakhouse out by the mall. When they aren’t battling cartoonishly cheesy FX dinosaurs — which is most of the movie’s running time — they are engaging in such witty romantic banter as “Whaddaya havin’?” / “A cup of coffee, and the lunch special. You look good.” Please also enjoy the extended sequence in which Eric Roberts (The Expendables) shows up inexplicably to vomit, spit, and burp noisily. Occasionally, someone from the world’s most unprofessional mining operation ever will say something like “The board advised me not to hire a girl out of college” and “The geological formation is without precedent” and “I have safety concerns about that” after an explosion in their mine unleashes dinosaurs that have been living underground for millions of years — because of course they have — and they go on a rampage of menacing young women in their underwear. Someone thought all this prehistoric nonsense was clever, when really it just needs to go extinct now.


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Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs (2015)
US/Can release: direct to VOD

MPAA: not rated

viewed on my iPad

IMDb
more reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    You mean it’s not a sequel to Cowboys and Aliens? Oh, I can just taste my disappointment. Wait, that’s beer.

    Seems like pretty much the perfect screencap to sum up the film, though. Lousy CGI and all.

  • Beowulf

    A recent CRACKED piece commented on the overuse of CGI in place of imagination, real sets, and talented stunt coordinators in recent films, noting that its “old-timey” use of real vehicles and stuntmen and women was what had so many directors rethinking the current trend. That dinosaur looks so phony; the preview of SAN ANDREAS reveals that no actual death and destruction is implied for anyone or anything in the film. The unreal is inherently unscary and uninvolving.

  • Beowulf

    By “its” I mean the MAD MAX movie. Duh….

  • LaSargenta

    I’d like it for the Mad Max non-CGI paradigm to take hold, if for no other reason than to get to read interviews like this: http://www.vulture.com/2015/05/how-mad-max-made-all-those-badass-cars.html More thought and planning went into those vehicles than into many of the projects I work on.

  • RogerBW

    And yet the space battles in THE LAST STARFIGHTER still manage to be exciting.

  • LaSargenta

    I’d posit that was a result of the planning and the story-telling in the movie. The current trend to me is that there’s loads of CGI filling in spaces between the story instead of in service to the story. In the Mad Max: Fury Road case, we’ve got great visual story-tellers in Miller and Seale (the DP) and the mechanical designer Colin Gibson who imagines all the machines as characters. But, if we get a rash of real machines and stunt actors with crap story-telling around them, then, yeah, those films are going to be just as bad as what so many have gotten tired of.

  • Danielm80

    I’m always annoying people by ranting about how much I hate CGI. When Jurassic Park ended, I was so relieved to see a flock of birds on the screen, because they were the only thing in the movie that didn’t look like a video game. But every once in a while, someone really imaginative gets a hold of the computer technology, and we end up with something like this:

    http://www.mrhublot.com/homepage.htm

  • RogerBW

    That’s why I don’t see this as specifically a too much CGI problem – it’s a too much filling the screen with whatever’s easiest and cheapest to put up there problem. When Jess Franco did it, it was a scene set in a strip club or someone walking across a windswept beach.

  • CB

    Mmm, delicious, frothy, disappointment.

  • CB

    Really, Jurassic Park is your go-to example of CGI done wrong? I think it’s the absolute perfect example of CGI done right, that even today still looks great and engaging — in large part because CGI was actually used sparingly, with most things done with practical effects like guys in a raptor suit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAzQr3Ml0UI) and a full-size animatronic T-Rex (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4J9TBlFxAg).

    Might as well complain about the fake-looking CGI spinning hallway fight scene in Inception or the semi-truck flipping in The Dark Knight. :P

  • Danielm80

    My go-to example of CGI done wrong is pretty much any CGI movie. Jurassic Park was just the first movie where the effects were that pervasive. On the other hand, I loved the effects in AI, because the characters were supposed to look artificial.

  • Bluejay

    Are you including all the times CGI just looks so real you don’t notice it, like all the background sets and scenery for Game of Thrones that aren’t really there, or pretty much any time you see the Iron Man suit?

    The best use of CGI was in Tron: Legacy. They managed to make that young Bridges guy look DECADES older, with pudge and gray hair and wrinkles and everything. It looked so real! ;-)

  • RogerBW

    For good examples of “subtle” CGI on TV, search youtube for stargate studios virtual backlot.

  • Danielm80

    I’m being 100% subjective. I generally don’t mind when CGI is used to create mechanical objects or backgrounds (see the examples above). Anything that creates an Uncanny Valley effect tends to annoy me. I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me. I just tell them to get off my lawn.

  • CB

    Except they weren’t as pervasive as you think. Yet everything but the birds at the end looked “like a video game”. So… it can’t have been the CGI that is the problem in every case. I’m suggesting that your expectation and preconception is affecting your perception. You thought it was CGI, and CGI is bad, so it looks bad to you.

  • Danielm80

    I thought the special effects in the commercials were very impressive and, because I like Spielberg, I expected to be impressed by the movie. The joy of seeing dinosaurs wore off very quickly for me. Many other people loved them, and I’m happy that they don’t share my personal crotchetiness. But you may be correct that I’m crotchety about practical effects as well as CGI.

  • CB

    What’d you think of the alien queen in Aliens?

  • Danielm80

    I honestly don’t remember, but I did like the movie. I was just reading an article about the new documentary on H.R. Giger. His original designs for the alien were rejected because, according to the filmmakers, they looked too much like female genitals. The person who wrote the article was very amused by that, because the final design was extremely phallic.

  • CB

    Well yeah, because you only get 3 options with Giger: Vaginal, Phallic, or Vagi-phallic. Option 2 is for various (silly) reasons considered more acceptable. There’s plenty of options 1 and 3 in the movies anyway.

    But this is kinda off topic. The idea was to see if practical effects by the same effects studio done with suits, puppets, and animatronics are perceived differently in a movie which you know has no CGI, versus a movie that was heralded as a new age of CGI. If you don’t remember, no matter. Just a point of curiosity.

  • LaSargenta

    More o.t.: Geiger also has the insectoid-carapace setting.

  • CB

    Sure, but it’s going to be a vagina and/or penis insectoid.

  • LaSargenta

    Everyone needs one or the other. Unless ur an amoeba.

  • CB

    Unless it’s a Giger amoeba, then it does too. :)

  • I watched 80% or so of this movie last night (before falling asleep.)

    It was predictable, but I kinda liked it.

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