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Cowboys & Aliens shows what a summer movie should be

There’s something about European actors doing American accents, good or bad, that always pulls me in.  Hugh Laurie on "House M.D." was first, Dominic West surprised me with his terrible-at-first Baltimore accent in "The Wire" and now Daniel Craig pulls it off without doing too much of a John Wayne impression in "Cowboys & Aliens." 

I rode a roller coaster of thoughts leading up to "Cowboys & Aliens." At first I was excited by the concept and the knowledge that Jon Favreau was directing it.

The trailer made me less excited since it looked hokey and a little silly.  Seeing some of the supporting cast I started to feel better thanks to the involvement of Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Olivia Wilde, and Keith Carradine.

"Cowboys & Aliens" opens as a straight western with Craig as the stereotypical bandit with amnesia.  In the best scene of the movie, Craig knocks the spoiled rancher’s son down a peg.  The rancher’s son, played by Dano, is a perfect role for Dano and he plays it to a tee.  His father, played by co-star Harrison Ford, is a wealthy rancher, and at first his character reminded me of Mr. Potter from "It’s a Wonderful Life."

Craig’s chemistry with Ford was surprising, as their pairing was one of the biggest questions I had going into the movie.  The character’s already strained relationship and lack of trust in do-or-die situations pulled the movie together in some of its otherwise less intense confrontations.

The plot is obviously pretty thin, the title really says it all.  Set in the post-Civil War 1800s, a group of aliens is on earth looking for, of all things, gold.  In the meantime, they figure they’ll study up on humans to exploit their weaknesses.

When the sleepy ranching town of Absolution is targeted and a number of citizens are relieved of their loved ones, the unlikely heroes rally together behind Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde. Dolarhyde apparently has a lengthy past as a Colonel in the Civil War, but kills anyone who calls him "C…

The Harley-Davidson Museum is a Milwaukee gem that shouldn't be taken for granted.
The Harley-Davidson Museum is a Milwaukee gem that shouldn't be taken for granted. (Photo: Harley-Davidson)
The Engine Room at the Harley-Davidson Museum can teach a novice more about engines in 15 minutes than they've learned in their entire life.
The Engine Room at the Harley-Davidson Museum can teach a novice more about engines in 15 minutes than they've learned in their entire life. (Photo: Harley-Davidson)

Harley-Davidson Museum a can't miss attraction

Earlier this summer, I wrote a blog in anticipation of the Harley-Davidson Museum’s summer exhibit, "Collection X: Weird Wild Wonders of the Harley-Davidson Museum."

The exhibit is doing great, attendance numbers haven’t been released yet, but "Collection X" has been visited by 90 percent of the visitors to the museum, according to curator Kristen Jones.

I recently took a tour of the entire museum with Jones and discovered what a gem Milwaukee has. The museum isn’t only dedicated to motorcycles, but it allows a glimpse into the history of Milwaukee, too.

I had never been through the entire museum before, admittedly, I had taken its existence for granted, as I feel so many of us do with the great attractions our city offers.  It’s a tour that every Milwaukeean should take, rider or not, and follow the history of one of Milwaukee’s most important and identifiable companies.

Of course there are rotating attractions like the motorcycle from the new "Captain America" movie, and those are fun to see.  I found it even more fun, however, to see the permanent fixture, a 1942 WLA Army motorcycle that was the basis for the modified, modern-day motorcycle.

Right from the beginning of the museum, you feel the history of our city.  Standing in front of "Serial Number One," the oldest known Harley-Davidson, while surrounded by an outline showing the 10x15 dimensions of the original shed the company was formed in, provided the beginning of what would be a great tour in which I learned more about Harley-Davidson and motorcycles in two hours than I had previously known in my 22 years.

A stop in the Engine Room displays the evolution of the Harley-Davidson engine and includes an interactive portion in which visitors can compare the sound of the engines from the 1910s to those of today.  With blowout computer graphics of how the engines are put together to a number of interactive stations to learn how the engines work, the Engine Room is one the museums most integr…

The Harry Potter saga has finally reached its conclusion.  Should you go see the final chapter?
The Harry Potter saga has finally reached its conclusion. Should you go see the final chapter? (Photo: Warner Brothers)

Should you see Harry Potter 7(.5)?

It’s been well documented that the summer movie lineup for 2011 is one of the weakest in recent memory, but one film has stood out as a bastion of hope.

The Harry Potter series wrapped up its book-to-movie adaptations when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" was released this weekend.  Unsurprisingly, it was a smash success, raking in $168.6 million in its opening weekend, toppling "The Dark Knight," at least in revenue.  The question remains, however, if you weren’t part of the craze, is it worth seeing the movie?

The answer, as always, is complicated.

"Harry Potter 7.5" isn’t made for people to catch up to the story.  It’s made for those who have either watched or read their way to this point and are looking for the payoff.  If you don’t know about the characters, or the story itself, you will doubtlessly be lost for the duration of the movie.  The surprises won’t surprise you, and the force behind the maturation of these characters will prove meaningless.

That being said, you don’t need much to be able to stay afloat in the Harry Potter universe.  I haven’t read the books and I’ve been a casual viewer of the movies, but I knew the story enough to be fully engrossed in the action packed finale.

You really don’t need to watch every movie in the series to be well versed enough to enjoy it, I would recommend at least watching the two previous films, however, starting with "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."  In truth, though, it really is worth seeing the entire series.

So, if you haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies, the answer has to be, "not yet, but soon."

Assuming you’re relatively caught up to the series, then the answer for whether you should see "Harry Potter 7.5" is a resounding "YES."  The film picks up exactly where "Part One" left us, except it finds another two or three gears and picks up the pace after the slow-moving "Part One."

"Harry Potter 7.5" clocks in at 130 minutes, but …

Now that we've finally got warm weather, it's time to cross some books off the summer reading list.
Now that we've finally got warm weather, it's time to cross some books off the summer reading list.

What's on your Summer reading list?

There isn’t much better than sitting outside and reading a good book, but that really isn’t an option come January in Milwaukee.  Now that we’ve finally got warm weather, it’s time to dust off that list of books you’ve been dying to read. 

For me, the summer means it’s time to read for fun, for once, since textbooks have a tendency to take over the fall, winter and most of the spring months. 

To start my summer off, I read "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live," by Tom Shales and James Miller. While I can’t wait to read Shales' and Miller’s new ESPN tell-all book, "Those Guys Have All the Fun," I prefer to support used bookstores (apologies if that sounded as pretentious to you as it did to me), so I’ll wait it out until people finish reading it and it gets to a used bookstore.  What I did do, however, was find a great deal on "Live from New York" from a bookstore in Washington thanks to Amazon. 

I recommended "Live from New York" in a previous OMC Recommends, but it’s worth noting again that the book spends a lot of time on the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, including a history of that name.  This is easily the best portion of the book and only the stories about Chris Farley's stint and Norm MacDonald's firing were as entertaining.

After finishing "Live From New York," I’ve started George R.R. Martin’s, "A Game of Thrones."  The book is the first in what will eventually be a seven-book series, the fifth of which, "A Dance with Dragons," was just released on Tuesday.  I’ve become a huge fan of the HBO show based on the books, and I can’t wait for whenever the next season begins.

There’s no way I’ll get through all of those books this summer, so my list for next year is already building up.  I’ll have to catch up on Martin’s series, and then I plan on reading "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1."

Also coming out next May is John Green's next book, "The Fault in Our Stars." That might g…