This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs.”
The Movie: “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs” (2015)
Starring: Casey Fitzgerald, Eric Roberts, Rib Hillis
Director: Ari Novak
Plot Summary: (From Netflix) When an accidental mine explosion releases dinosaurs, the citizens of an Old West frontier town must defend themselves against the prehistoric menace.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A
But today, today is a special day. Because we’re tackling “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs.”
I mean, this… we got a lot to cover here, folks.
Before I let Froemming take it away with his initial thoughts, I need to give a shout out to Roxie Rhone, who works in the ad department of the Republican Eagle for making this suggestion. Because what self-respecting movie critics (such as Froemming and I) would avoid something as grandiose as “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs?”
So, Froemming, initial thoughts?
Froemming: I think Roxie deserves an award for finding this film for us. Because it is a movie that had it been made 20-30 years ago, it would have been on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Brown: OK, so right away we are whisked off to Montana and we have some non-descript mining going on. And when we zoom in, something seems afoul because there are men armed to the teeth with shotguns and assault rifles. And, my favorite part, big wooden boxes that say “EXPLOSIVES.”
Then we meet Sinclair, who you know is important because she’s got a clipboard. And she’s probably evil because sunglasses.
Froemming: And dark hair. People with dark hair are usually bad folks in films.
Also, I have never seen “Jurassic World,” but I have a feeling it is exactly like this film, right down to the amazing CGI.
So, they blow a hole into some random part of the mine that is apparently flowing with some mysterious chemical. But, instead of being greeted with that, our miners are attacked by raptors! And I admit right here, I bursted out laughing at this scene. It was just so ridiculous.
Brown: Even before the raptors show up, I was laughing at the unnecessary CGI that was being used before that. Like the CGI drill bits digging into the earth. Or, what appeared to me to be CGI headlamps on the miners’ hard hats. Yes. CGI headlamps. Clearly, this movie spared no expense. Except to pay for actual hard hats with headlamps.
Anyhow, the dinosaurs start attacking and they look straight out of a Playstation 1 cutscene. The effects in the first “Terminator” movie hold up better than this.
Froemming: I think both you and I know they blew the majority of the budget for the acting talents of Eric Roberts, who appears later on.
Now, after the fiasco at the mine, we transition right into one of the most generic Ford truck commercials I have ever seen — right down to the most generic country song I have ever heard that is replayed throughout the film — and are introduced to Val Walker, who is suffering some sort of PTSD from being thrown from a bull, which resulted in his fear of horses for some reason.
Brown: And he’s reminiscing about his old flame, Sky. And you know Val and Sky used to be lovers because of the somber piano music that plays whenever they’re around one another. But enough of that sappy stuff, we got girls in bikinis!
Never mind seeing stripped-down girls jumping into a mountain pond that’s sure to be freezing, the country song that plays is LITERALLY what is happening on screen. It is honky-tonk Randy Newman-style music. And I loved it.
Froemming: And of the four girls, we know one is more important than the rest of them, because while three of them wear the same black bikini, Jenny wears a white one. That is the kind of subtlety that wins awards, folks.
Brown: We get a brief (and I mean brief) jolt when we hear some ominous music playing before some cowboy with frosted tips comes out from behind one of the trucks. I want to know what hair salon/barber in Montana he has. Also, I really want to know who still does frosted tips in 2015!
But we don’t have long to think about that because as he’s making out with one of our black bikini girls, here comes the raptors to kill everyone who’s left. I’ve always wondered if raptors can swim and the answer is yes. I think it’s yes because “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs” clearly follows the laws of nature.
And something that bugs me in this scene and several others in this film: The raptors never devour their victims. They always take a bite or two and then just leave it. We now know raptors only hunt for sport.
Froemming: I was left speechless by the great acting in this movie. I hope the Academy will honor it for its accomplishments, right down to the flawless script with swimming raptors.
We soon learn though that vaguely Russian businessmen do not wait for the law to re-open a mine filled with blood-thirsty killing machines. We know this because Dr. Sinclair is being pressured to, you know, just re-open the damn thing despite all the dead bodies lying around by her boss, a man known only as Marcus (and listed as that on IMDB).
Brown: We know Marcus is evil because he has a European accent of unknown origin. Also, we have Quaid, one of the only survivors of the mine disaster, livid that they’re re-opening the mine.
Something I just realized while browsing the IMDB page (people, we are rehashing the plot from our notes because no website has a plot summary, apparently) that the actor who played Quaid (Kelcey Watson) was credited as Kelcivious Jones. He wanted to stay hidden from this. I feel like “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs” will not be on Mr. Watson’s resume.
Froemming: Yup, there is no Wikipedia entry for this film. Also, for someone who is a main character in this film, I find it pretty messed up his character has a different name listed: It literally says “Quaid (as Kelcivious Jones).” Were they just writing the script as they filmed, or was there some sort of subplot that was deleted? The world may never know.
Brown: Hey, but why focus on Kelcey Watson’s injustice when we can watch the world’s least interested cowboy, Val, sit in a diner and stare blankly at the kitchen until Sky comes out? There is something extremely awkward about Val.
But Val’s stone-faced staring for a girlfriend he left because reasons has to wait as he’s confronted by Henry, the town’s sheriff and Sky’s new boyfriend.
Froemming: Sky calls him because Val showed up and ordered a meal. Henry shows up, and literally threatens to shoot him if he doesn’t walk away from his ribeye and potatoes, because….Um, well, anyway Val does get up to leave, but sucker punches the sheriff of this town (which I briefly thought was the town from “Footloose”). Because Val isn’t really bright, he seems a little surprised he gets arrested for this action.
I was just upset because I sat through this and NOT ONE DINOSAUR showed up.
Brown: At least you didn’t have to wait long for our next raptor attack. We get whisked away to a trailer where the mine’s foreman and his girlfriend (who’s at least 25 years younger than him) are about to fool around before a raptor attacks. And because it’s a B-movie, of course the woman is in her underwear when the raptor attacks.
Which brings me to something I thought while watching this movie: Every man seems to be in his 50s, and their girlfriends happen to be in their early 20s. This movie had to be written by some sexually-frustrated middle-aged man who wanted to pick up women who dress like Jessica Simpson in the “Dukes of Hazzard” movies.
Froemming: Well, Quaid does find the victims, and he goes off dinosaur hunting with a machine gun. Which was one of my favorite things of this movie. Quaid hunts them with a machine gun and a methane tank, because the dinosaurs are attracted to the scent. So Quaid does find one (and lost his horse in the process, which I swear was the only thing these raptors actually ate) and just goes hog wild with his machine gun. Just, full-on “Rambo” there.
Brown: OK, the scene Quaid starts looking for the raptors… first, what fancy device was he using to track the raptors? It looks like a speed gun or a security camera, and he’s getting all these readings. Then we see the back of the thing and there’s NOTHING. Did he just make up some device like a broke-ass Ghostbuster? At this point, couldn’t they have just CGI’d some bogus screen on the back? No, it’s a science machine with no rhyme or reason.
Later, I will get to my frustrating with how dinosaurs are killed in this film. But before we do that, let’s get to Val in jail with the lone guard who looks like young Princess Leia and a drunkard who turns out to be…
Froemming: His father. We finally get Eric Roberts in the mix. It was refreshing to have some acting that didn’t feel like I was watching cardboard trying to emote. Roberts is actually pretty decent as the town drunk, and I think it was probably more him being actually drunk than actual acting. Because this film is far from the time he was in “The Dark Knight.”
Brown: Either Eric Roberts is a fine method actor… or he was legitimately drunk and puking everywhere in that tiny jail cell. I’m guessing the latter.
Froemming: I just want to bring this up: The only time Roberts is in this movie is in the jail. They probably had him around to shoot for one day, because there are scenes that look like they spliced footage of him into other scenes. It was really, really awkward.
Brown: We go back to the mine where Marcus is informing his mining crew that they are going to blow the entire deposit of … whatever mineral they were seeking, up from the top, regardless of the dino threat. And in the most subtle way possible, we know that the company, Lando Mining, is evil because the logo looks like Darth Vader. They are an orchestral theme and some Nazi symbolism away from being the Empire.
Froemming: It is also here that we are told there are missing miners from the first accident, which OK, I guess, spring that on us right now. But Marcus has no interest in saving the lives of these miners (again, he is evil and his accent feels like it switches between British and Russian for some reason, but both sound menacing).
Brown: Marcus is ALL about money. Which is funny, because he looks like an older Ted Dibiase, the Million Dollar Man from the WWF.
They’re about to blow open the mine, carrying canisters that say “EXPLOSIVE” on them. I swear, Marcus should just have “EVIL” tattooed on his forehead and Sky can have “BLONDE” tattooed on her forehead to really play into this movie’s subtle-as-a-sledgehammer motif.
Froemming: Before they go and blow up a mine, Quaid shows up with his kill. But Henry tells everyone it is a mountain lion. Henry knows about the dinosaurs, I think, because he found a raptor talon earlier embedded in some poor girl’s abdomen.
Also, they make a point to tell us that Quaid is some anti-government libertarian, despite the fact giving us this knowledge is pretty pointless. I assume cowboys out west are armed, I didn’t need his political philosophy to justify why he has guns and bombs.
Brown: OK, I have to bring this up: How many people in this movie are actually cowboys? OK, Val is, he used to be a professional bull rider. I’ll accept that. But Quaid? He works in a mine and harbors guns like a domestic terrorist. Henry? He’s a cop. Just because you wear a cowboy hat does not mean you’re a cowboy. It’s like the old Dave Chappelle joke that on Halloween: Just because you’re dressed like a cop doesn’t mean you’re a cop.
Froemming: Eh, having visited friends out west, I heard some of the folks call themselves cowboys. It is just a slang term at this point. But yeah, in the traditional sense, only Val is an actual cowboy in this film.
So, Marcus manages to blow up the top of the mine. And instead of seeing this mysterious element Marcus wants, the miners are greeted by a T-Rex that is out for blood. And more raptors. And, randomly, there is a triceratops in the mix. And they overtake the town, just like in “Tremors.”
Brown: They also have venom-spitting dinosaurs because of course they had to rip off “Jurassic Park.” Read a science book: Venom-spitting dinos never existed.
With the lid taken off the mine, the quaint mountain town is under attack by prehistoric beasts. But you would never know because the town folks are pretty calm about this whole thing. When someone talks about breathing in the crisp mountain air, I think in this town, the air is filled with Xanax. They are way too calm while being attacked by DINOSAURS! Then we get another person in the mix to fight the dinosaurs when Quaid saves Jenny in a laundromat dryer. And because west and all, she knows how to use an AK-47 immediately.
Froemming: I loved how they used CGI for the blasts from the gun barrels. Also, Quaid comes into the laundromat shooting randomly with a machinegun, but he manages to only shoot the dinosaurs and not people fleeing for their lives by accident. He is an excellent marksman.
Brown: Raptors then attack the jail, killing Princess Leia. So Val gets loose and starts going after the dinosaurs. But while this goes on, his dad gets killed by one of the spitters. And I would say that Val is upset by this, but he seems awfully stoic over this. I lost count of how many times I wrote in my notes: Will someone emote in this movie?!
Froemming: Yup, Val is killing the beasts while Sinclair, Sky, Henry, Marcus and probably some background characters are holed up in a bar. Why there is not one person just getting loaded because the end times look to be near was odd, but I chalked it up to that Xanax-filled air you brought up.
Brown: No one’s getting loaded because Eric Roberts drank all the alcohol on set.
In the bar, Marcus tries to bargain anyone to get him to the airport so he can get out of Montana. But the bar is a ticking time bomb because they are keeping the dinos out of the front door with plywood that is not nailed down…
Eventually Henry and Marcus do leave the bar, and something that blows me away: There are dinosaurs on the prowl and they are driving the speed limit! There’s even a scene later where Quaid stops at a stop sign. For what?!
Froemming: Marcus convinces the town sheriff to let his citizens die so they can make an escape to an airport or something. Poor Sinclair follows them, and I finally saw Liu Kang’s Fatality from “Mortal Kombat 2” on screen when a T-Rex chomps her right in half. RIP Sinclair.
Brown: While attacking the dinosaurs, we found out that the creatures are attracted to the smell of propane because while living in the mine, their blood became methane. So we have, and let this sink in for a moment, folks… … EXPLODING DINOSAURS.
Froemming: YES! YES! A million times YES! Just when I thought this film couldn’t get any nuttier, they throw that at us. So, with a flaming arrow, Jenny makes a few explode at the bar. I had to pause the movie there, because tears were flowing down my face from laughing so hard.
Brown: Meanwhile, my jaw was agape at how guns work in this movie. OK, we’ve seen Quaid and Jenny fire away at dinosaurs with assault rifles and have to empty clips to take these things out. We’ve seen flaming bows and arrows. We see an automatic shotgun near the climax. But Val is the most proficient at killing exploding dinosaurs by using… a handgun? Wait, what? A single bullet from a Glock takes down a raptor but an AK requires 30 bullets? Was this the Golden Gun from “Goldeneye” on N64?
Froemming: Since it is established that Quaid is a libertarian who loves guns (again, why? You don’t need to sell me on his justification for owning these weapons), he has Val get to what he called his ORANGE truck. So Val finds Quaid’s RED truck, and with Sky, they travel to Quaid’s compound where he has explosives, weapons and whatever. But Quaid’s ORANGE truck, that is obviously RED, stalls.
Val has only one option. He overcomes his fear of horses from that time he was thrown from a bull, and hops right back in the saddle.
Brown: We have a last stand with the dinosaurs, with Quaid using a rocket launcher and a mini-gun while doing his best “GET SOME” impression from “Full Metal Jacket” before meeting his end. And while they are shooting round after round at these beasts, I put this in my notes: Good to know they put the unlimited ammo code in before starting the final level of this game… I mean movie.
And we get our most awe-inspiring scene: Val rides a triceratops.
Froemming: Yup, because he needs to stop the T-Rex from killing everything in sight. Good thing that bull riding trauma didn’t make him afraid of riding a dinosaur. Only horses.
And he takes the thing out in a blaze of glory. And, somehow, survives! He should be dead, but since nothing really makes sense in this movie, that’s what happens.
Brown: I will note this: Val kills the T-Rex with TWO shots from his handguns. I don’t know much about guns or hunting. But, I know this is NOT remotely accurate.
Froemming: Since the filmmaker knew this was an instant classic up there with “Citizen Kane” and “Platoon,” they make the wise choice of ending it on a cliffhanger, because a flying dinosaur rises from the ashes of the mine and the film ends. I am already giddy about the sequel.
Brown: Now, was it a pterodactyl that flew out of the hole or was it some demon flying dinosaur? You know what? No. I’m not devoting any more brain power to this absurdity.
So with that said, let’s hop on our triceratops and ride out of here.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes! This is so absurd that I want to share this with the world. I wish I had one of those inflatable movie screens that I could force the neighborhood kids to watch this. Even Kyle Stevens, the guy who recommended we watch “Fuller House” sat down and watched “Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs” and surprise, he hated it. His pain brought me great joy. Ten out of ten!
Froemming: I am a sucker for bad movies like this. I grew up with “MST3K,” so I can plop down and snark away on these kinds of films. Even better now I have Brown to snark along with me. I would recommend this movie to everyone. It is so absurd, it is hilarious.