DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

The Men Who Stare at Goats - Blu-ray Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}The Men Who Stare at Goats has two things going for it right from the get-go. First, its title is so deliciously irresistible it grabs immediate attention. Not quite as boiled-down and succinct as Snakes on a Plane, but definitely more clever. Secondly, we're captivated by an opening title-card graphic that declares; "More of this is true than you would believe." In other words, the truth is about to get stranger than fiction.

But despite the film's interesting subject matter and attention-grabbing title, there's little left beyond its star-studded cast and a few bits of hilarious situational comedy. The cast, for the most part, does a respectable job of guiding us through this tonally uneven war-comedy, but when it's all said and done, we can't shake the feeling that somewhere along the line, the filmmakers lost all control of their focus and discipline.

The MEn Who  Stare at GoatsThe film is based on Jon Ronson's 2004 nonfiction book of the same name that uncovered an experimental branch of the U.S. Military that tried to develop a legion of psychic soldiers or "Warrior Monks," with unparalleled supernatural powers, that can read the enemy's thoughts, walk through walls, and can even kill a goat simply by staring at it. As bizarre as it sounds, this is the true part.

Leading us through this outlandish world of psy-op circumstances is small town news reporter, Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), who is young and gung-ho about imbedding with a combat unit in Iraq. But while waiting to be deployed, Wilton meets Lynn Cassady (George Clooney) who claims to be one of these psychic warriors on a special mission. Seeing his angle for an interesting story, Wilton accompanies the wild-eyed Cassady into Iraq.

Peter Straughan's screenplay unfolds via a twisty-turny melange of flashbacks where we see Cassady and his psychic cohorts training with their black-ops mentor, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) who spent years researching such New Age techniques as Reichian rebirthing, primal arm wrestling and naked hot tub encounters in order to the revolutionize the military. These flashback segments, though sometimes a bit too silly, ironically feel less phony than the current day thread (This must be the â"truer than we would believe" part) where we follow Cassady and Wilton as they chase Django to a clandestine camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey).

Director Grant Heslov and screenwriter Peter Straughan are clearly over their heads with The Men Who Stare at Goats, as they're never quite able to pull all of Ronson's original comedic farce into a cohesive marching unit. The entire experience feels like a big box of pretty, shiny parts scattered on the table waiting to be put together. Heslov and Straughan's shots at brilliant political satire are wasted at the expense of letting the performers perform in a loopy script that thinks it's smarter than it really is. As a result, this comedy sometimes hits big with genuine laugh-out loud moments, but more often, it leaves us scratching our heads, wondering exactly where it all went so wrong.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
2 stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
2 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

While the blu-ray includes the digital copy of the film (which is always nice), the special features some exclusive to the blu-ray format - are a little short in length... especially Goats Declassified, easily the best on the disc.

Screen Formats: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; behind-the-scenes featurette; director's commentary; character bios; deleted scenes; theatrical trailer; The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion; additional audio commentary.

Supplements:

Commentary

  • There are two feature-length commentaries on this feature: one is from Director Grant Heslov and the other is from the book's author, Jon Ronson, but neither one really adds much to the comedic side of the story besides random anecdotes from the making of the movie and book.

Featurettes

  • Goats Declassified The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion: A twelve-minute featurette detailing, as it says, "the real men of the First Earth Battalion". It's a pretty entertaining feature because some of the men are pissed at the film for revealing their secrets (as if the book didn't), but listening to them talk about their training is pretty damn interesting.
  • Project Hollywood: About eight-minutes of behind-the-scenes mash-up of cinematic mumbo jumbo. Its saving grace is its humor; in one moment Spacey compares Clooney to Cleese and so on. Fun for fans of the actors and the movie.
  • Character Bios: Not sure what the thought was behind this one; it's basically the film's trailers recut to focus on specific characters. A complete waste of time.

Deleted Scenes - Another waste. These are basically extended scenes from the movie that just got trimmed for editing purposes. Nothing gained from watching these; there are no hidden gems.

Theatrical Trailer - 'Nuff said.

Other Overture Trailers: Overture Films really want to pitch to you the following films: The Crazies, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, The Slammin' Salmon, Law Abiding Citizen, and Party Down

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