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I just got back from seeing "The Men Who Stare at Goats" at the
Woodstock Film Festival. I walked in knowing the main plot, and I
expected it to be pretty good because of the great actors it has, the
premise of the story and the music used in the soundtrack. My
expectations weren't only met, but they were greatly exceeded.
The story follows a broken-hearted journalist (McGregor) who goes on the job to Iraq to prove to his ex-wife he isn't weak or frail. There, he meets Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) who is a "psychic" soldier for the US government, trained by his hippie instructor Billy (Bridges) to use his mind, peace and love to overcome hairy military situations. The story is the two mens' adventure together.
The movie is essentially broken down into I'd say 3 parts. The first part is the main story of the journalist and Lyn as they travel in Iraq on a special mission Lyn is on. The second is the very humorous back-story of the history of the creation and existence of the "psychic soldiers" of the military. When I say "back-story" and "history" I mean the main background to Lyn and Billy's character, as well as the main antagonist of the story, played by Kevin Spacey. The third part is the first person narration provided by Ewen McGregor about the things that are going on. He offers insight into his mind and opinions on the things he says and of himself and Lyn as the story progresses.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a very hilarious movie, with many quotable lines and excellent acting by the entire cast. The story is very unique and the film uses that as a great advantage to itself in setting up the humor. The characters are very real and are taken to heart right away. The film is funny, intriguing, smart, witty, fast-paced, emotional, enjoyable and inspirational. I highly recommend it to any Ewen McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey or Jeff Bridges fan, for fans of those men will not be disappointed with the acting and mannerisms of the characters those actors portrayed.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a very fun movie to see in theaters and everyone in my audience were cracking up laughing many, many times. It is a movie for casual movie goers and film aficionados alike. Go see it.
Watching Grant Heslov's "The Men Who Stare at Goats" was tantamount to
staring at a stick of dynamite - for 93 minutes - that never exploded.
All the critical mass of a quirky, eccentric comedy (i.e., an able
cast, a political pseudo-relevance) seemed to be undercut by clunky
writing, tacky 'Watch people fall down, get run over, and laugh'
stunts, and a painfully disjointed plot which can barely be deemed a
plot at all. Rather, the movie featured more of a direction: an
ill-defined, ill-conceived mission toward which two characters
(Clooney's Lyn Cassady and McGregor's Bob Wilton) floated. The problem
with the loose plot development, in this case, is that Clooney's
chemistry with McGregor feels forced and their connection in the film
equally contrived. The film was peppered with flashback (to which
Bridges and Spacey owe the majority of their on-screen time) which
jettisoned any chance the viewer had with feeling an investment toward
the central story or its characters. In fact, the film stumbles from
character to character so often that the viewer is caught juggling them
under the central story arc -- and we never really care about most of
them in the first place.
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" allows for some laughs and some admirable situational ironies. But don't expect the brilliance and subtlety of "The Big Lebowski" or "American Beauty."
Well, I must say that I was looking forward to this movie - after
reading the cast list and hearing a brief overview of the plot I felt
that it had good potential. And whoever made the trailer did a very
good job of making me want to see it.
Unfortunately, there seemed to me to be a certain amount of confusion about the film - were the directors entirely sure what type of film they were making? There are elements of comedy, satire, drama, action... but without having enough of each of these things to really give the movie a proper feel or direction. It veers close to being funny... and then veers off. It comes close to satirising American military tactics... and then goes off in another direction. I felt that a little more focus was needed overall to bring the film together.
In terms of acting, I think that generally the actors can be pleased with their work - I don't remember any specific cases of over or underacting, and the characters were about as believable as they could be in a film like this. As far as the comedy goes - this film was primarily marketed as a comedy - there are some genuinely funny moments! Overall, however, I felt that some bits needed to be trimmed down - the constant Jedi references were funny the first time but quickly wear thin.
The plot also needed a little bit of work: it started off with a promising storyline, and good editing I might add, but seemed to lose its way towards the end. It seemed as if the film-makers didn't really know where to go next. There were a few scenes that really didn't need to be included either - Robert Patrick's contribution to the film really added nothing, and could easily be removed. It was entirely forgettable and was simply a device to get the characters to the next place that they needed to be.
Overall I'd say this this is a fairly good film, certainly worth seeing. As for buying the DVD, that I'm not so sure about. If you're looking for a way to spend and hour and a half of your evening, while there are better films to see than this there are also considerably worse ones.
After reading some of the reviews here, I came to this film expecting to be disappointed. How wrong I was! It turned out to be one of the funniest, most powerful films that I have seen in years. It reminded me of some of the great movies of the sixties and seventies. Times have changed and it seems that people no longer get the kind of satire that grabbed us back then. I was constantly reminded of films like "Catch 22,"" M.A.S.H." "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," and "Steelyard Blues." In those days, we got it. Now, people see that "Hippy Philosophy" thing as a cliché. They cannot see the relevance to today's world, which is a pity. "The Men Who Stare At Goats' is a genre film, in the tradition of those great comic satires that challenged the status quo so effectively, 40 years back. I truly believe its reputation will grow, over the years.
I'm going to say its definitely up there in the top few films I've seen
at the cinema this year. It has been criticised for lacking more biting
criticism of the US government, but I think people who are saying that
are missing the point. It does have a fair bit to say about how stupid
the US Military can be and how they like to blow money on obviously
pointless ventures, but there is a whole other side to it.
I thought that the film was more about the human spirit and how that if you want to make a difference and want to do something you've got to really go for it no matter how stupid the aim. Obviously the idea of trying to be a psychic spy is unattainable and may sound ludicrous, but so may be the notion of trying to create world peace and help bring different people together over a united cause. The film was more about how these drifters and lost souls managed to find something that they found worthy of pursuing and really devoted themselves to it, and I think this message is more admirable than any side-criticism of the USA.
The film plays out mainly as a buddy movie with Geogre Clooney, who is doing his usual comic act very well, and Ewan McGregor as they head around Iraq not really knowing what they are looking for and getting into loads of hilarious antics along the way. I don't think I've laughed so much in the cinema this year, and the whole audience was laughing along as well.
I thought the structure was hardly groundbreaking, but done really well. Flashbacks involving Jeff Bridges and Clooney help add comic relief during some of the straighter scenes in the film and also at times are used to rack up the tension and reveal interesting insights. It is of course up to your interpretation if the flashbacks are 100% real, because they are told from the point of view of Ewan McGregor, recounting stories that were told to him by Clooney. This sorts out another common criticism that the film is extremely unrealistic, but there are some key scenes saying that Clooney might not be telling the whole truth that I feel have been overlooked.
It isn't going to be Oscar-fare or the greatest thing you'll ever see but with a good cast and a lot of laughs there isn't really going to be a much better way of spending a lazy Saturday afternoon with some popcorn and a buddy or two.
I laughed so much I ended coughing! Even more so when I imagined how
hard it had to be for the actors to remain that serious trough the
hilariously stupidities of almost every scene.
I found it brilliant because it had not an ounce of sanity, and it is difficult now a days to catch a good, funny script that says so much in saying nothing. It's all in the eyes!
Do not expect coherence, it cannot have it and that's the geniality of the whole movie. All the characters are as absurd as they can be, ambivalent, retarded, inspired and generous... No need to look for more ingredients to make a perfect funny concoction, worthy of your time and money.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even from the title, a person can guess that this movie will be
different. Men staring at goats doesn't seem like the most interesting
plot line; maybe then does the movie aim to be original rather than
just having commercial appeal? The answer is a resounding yes. Men Who
Stare at Goats is absurd, odd, hilarious, amusing, definitely original,
possibly good and not at all what you would expect.
The plot, well the plot is complicated and involves a present-time storyline that is broken up between flashbacks. In short, George Clooney and Ewan McGregor are on one hell of a road trip in Iraq while Clooney tells McGregor about his time in a secret army training program, bent on creating Jedi warriors. So it's your typical movie. What it really is is one of those smart-and-dumb-at-the-same-time -comedies-that-involves- George-Clooney; films such as Burn After Reading and The Informant (which he produced) also fall into this category. Whether you like this movie or not, will depend on how accepting you are of the ridiculous. The movie deals with developing Jedi warriors in a comedically serious way that will be just too much for some people. The sixties counter culture is popular target for jokes in films, but an army program run by a long-haired hippy, working on world peace by dancing, that's pushing it. My personal feeling for the movie was overall positive; it was original and some segments were genuinely funny. Also on the plus side was the acting. The two leads were good, though McGregor had some accent slips, but the supporting cast was also impressive. Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Stephen Lang all embraced the absurdity of their roles and played them with relish.
As for the comedy, the movie is funny. Some parts drag on a little long with no laughs but patience is always rewarded. Jokes in this movie are both smart and dumb, mixing slapstick with intellectual comedy. Clooney running over someone he's trying to rescue falls in the slapstick category; a guy explaining why the US has to finance the Jedi training because the USSR thinks there already financing it is smart funny. Kevin Spacey's "psychic voice" is just plain funny.
To finish off, I can only think to repeat that the movie is absurd and just plain odd, but then again so is real life. If the US can torture people with Barney why can't they train people with Star Wars?
I did like "The Men Who Stare at Goats", however, it was not as good as
I set my hopes for. This is one of those movies where the trailers and
adds on television showed the funniest parts of the movie.
The story was neither here or there and I spent a majority of the time hoping they would really go somewhere, yet it never did.
I felt that the idea of the movie was very splendid, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Clooney and Spacey were great as always. Bridges (who I am not quite as familiar with) was enjoyable as well. McGregor was not bad, yet nothing special.
Overall, not bad acting, not bad ideas, but the story could have been better. Check it out if you have a chance but don't worry if it passes you by.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story borrows liberally from the exploits of Joe McMoneagle and Ingo Swann and the cadré of Remote Viewers stationed at Fort Meade, MD, under the operational detachment Project Stargate. Yes, as the film states upfront: "More of this is true than you would believe". There are instances in the film that incorporate actual Stargate operations: tracking submarines, finding a kidnapped American General in Italy and the search for Noriega following the US invasion of Panama. The comedy comes from the disconnect that the professional military hierarchy has from the rest of us. The Pentagon has too much money at its disposal and its internal political dynamics encourage a bizarre mixture of risk-averse yet forward-thinking innovators. This was particularly rampant after our loss in Vietnam. Vietnam and the Cold War combined to pull the Pentagon Brass in a thousand different directions and created a schism in the strategic planning sectors that is ripe for comedic exploration. Grant Heslov deftly captured this cultural watershed through his direction of the film. He ably guided the actors in performances that while sometimes brief, captured the totality of the real absurdity that the military can sometimes give us, while keeping the characters real and grounded and not drifting into farce. Heslov has captured an elusive tone, entirely his own, that I've only previously seen in Coen Brother's films. This is a story I've longed to see told on the big screen and it was worth the wait. You could say its a story about the Military-Insanity Complex, but that's too broad a brush for this slice of American military history. Clooney is brilliantly understated as always, he's a master of subtlety and an actor that understands how powerful the camera can be. Kevin Spacey is throughly despicable as the film's only real villain. If the film has any flaws at all its that Spacey is not in it enough. But the most poignant character is beautifully drawn by Jeff Bridges, who in just a few scenes depicts the inevitable trajectory of the innovative free-thinker in a rigid, uncaring system. Bridges shows us the cost of being that individual and Heslov gives the film room to explore this aspect of the story without sacrificing the reason we're all there to watch: and that is to have a laugh at something that maybe should never have happened but did.
While doing his boring job as a reporter-journalist, one man stumbles
upon the existence of an old military secret: a branch of soldiers
trained in harnessing their mental superpowers. Coincidentally, after
heading off to Iraq for an inside scoop on the 2003 war, he meets
another member of this secret group and his misadventures begin.
There's some weird obsession with "Star Wars" in this film. Besides the obvious talk of Jedi Warriors, there's a scene early on where the main character makes a reference to blonde farm boy, which is clearly meant to be Luke Skywalker. (What's interesting is that later the guy claims to have not seen the movies, so it's odd that he would make cryptic references.)
I cannot say enough about the amazing cast. Ewan MacGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and George Clooney, among others. The most disappointing thing about this film is that with such an amazing cast that you would think this would be the year's blockbuster, but actually will more than likely be no more than a blip on the cinematic radar.
I don't know what's up with Roger Ebert and his Lebowski obsession. In his review, he repeatedly says that Lebowski fans will like this one and that Jeff Bridges plays his role as Lebowski playing a military man. Well, I could see some Lebowski in there, and like that other film, they both involve Iraq. But, really, I see Lebowski when I see Jeff Bridges, so that's not really a stretch. Ebert really took it beyond the necessarily bounds.
Ultimately, the film comes up short. With this cast, as I said, I expect something more. There is humor, but it's here and there. And even the plot, which is interesting, doesn't really seem to be as strong as it should be. A good film, and one I recommend to George Clooney fans, but not a hidden treasure.
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