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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five if you are former CIA or SOF, rest of world will not get it
An extraordinarily talented and experienced international law enforcement officer watched this on loan from me before I saw it, and hated it. Now that I have watched it myself, I understand--if you have not been deeply engaged with CIA and all of its idiocyncrasies including remote viewing, acoustic-kitty, the pigeons that came before Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and...
Published on May 7, 2010 by Robert David STEELE Vivas

versus
77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smart and enjoyable, but not as lasting as it should be.
George Clooney, Ewen McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang...THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS has an one of the best cast lineups of any 2009 film (a year in which a lot of good actors made a lot of good movies). The film is based around a supposedly true plot: "psychic warriors" trained to fight terrorists, led by a hippie soldier,...
Published on March 22, 2010 by DanD


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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smart and enjoyable, but not as lasting as it should be., March 22, 2010
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
George Clooney, Ewen McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang...THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS has an one of the best cast lineups of any 2009 film (a year in which a lot of good actors made a lot of good movies). The film is based around a supposedly true plot: "psychic warriors" trained to fight terrorists, led by a hippie soldier, attacked by an arrogant Army officer, and infiltrated by a bored investigative reporter and a former psychic soldier. It makes for a great story, and overall, GOATS succeeds brilliantly; it is a delightful, at times dark film (the last 20 minutes or so get so dark, you'll wish the whole film had been this gutsy) that proposes a lot of questions, and doesn't bother answering them (like any good satire should).

However, something's lacking. Peter Straughan's script isn't up to par; and Grant Heslov's directing seems at times undecided. The acting is fine--Clooney is understated; Bridges is himself; Spacey is delightfully off-kilter; and watching McGregor deadpan the question "What's a Jedi?" is just good geeky fun--but the film itself doesn't live up to the cast's combined talents. The end result is a film that's certainly an enjoyable watch, even laugh-out-loud funny in spots (though it's overall a subtle comedy; this isn't slapstick, it's satire), but doesn't have the lasting effect something with this weight should. The ending is ultimately a let-down; a lot of build up for very little. That's not to say the movie isn't worth your time; if you enjoy intellectual comedies, you'll definitely want to check it out. However, unlike others of the genre--DR. STRANGELOVE comes to mind, though it's probably unfair to compare any war satire to Kubrick's masterpiece--THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS doesn't stay with you once you're done watching. And that is a damn shame, because a film with this great a cast, and this interesting a premise, deserves--almost necessitates--a lasting presence. As is, we have an enjoyable intelligent comedy that is slightly less than the sum of its parts.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five if you are former CIA or SOF, rest of world will not get it, May 7, 2010
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
An extraordinarily talented and experienced international law enforcement officer watched this on loan from me before I saw it, and hated it. Now that I have watched it myself, I understand--if you have not been deeply engaged with CIA and all of its idiocyncrasies including remote viewing, acoustic-kitty, the pigeons that came before Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and then over to SOF (Special Operations Forces) where "unconventional" had to go covert to survive the straight-leg generals with no clue, you will simply not appreciate this movie.

DanD nails it--this is satire and also a brilliant documentary of what can only be decribed as a well-intentioned long-running Goat F..k. The movie is a collage of several different real initiatives including the First Earth Battalion (I knew a couple of the principals, decades ahead of their time); the Peace Warrior initiative, and of course Remote Viewing, the CIA's notorious MKULTRA and LSD for unwitting victims, and so on.

At one point in the movie the two principal actors are discussing the remorse--the angst--over having used his power to actually kill a goat with his mind, and the other guy pops in with "Silence of the Goats." That just about sums it up--this is, for someone steeped in the well-intentioned lunacy of the past--a perfect five, and I have to believe that the world-class actors that decided to do this did it knowing that it would be misunderstood by many, but a real hoot among the veterans of the seventies and eighties.

The only thing not in here, certainly worthy of a sequel to this movie, is extra-terrestial encounters, leveraging extra-terrestial technologies, warnings from extraterrestials [humans now being in a state of quarentine for being stupid squared], and the exotic, wasteful, and generally hilarious methods used to keep Area 51 and related projects "secret."

See also:
Peaceful Warrior (Widescreen)
First Earth Battalion Operations Manual: Reprint of Original Manual from the 70's
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence
Psychic Warrior
Psychic Warrior: The True Story of America's Foremost Psychic Spy and the Cover-Up of the CIA's Top-Secret Stargate Program
Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Government Remote Viewer 001
Hidden Secrets: The Complete History of Espionage and the Technology Used to Support ItHidden Truth: Forbidden Knowledge
Disclosure : Military and Government Witnesses Reveal the Greatest Secrets in Modern History
Hidden Truth: Forbidden Knowledge
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated War Satire Delivers on DVD, March 22, 2010
By 
Cubist (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
After making serious political films like Syriana (Widescreen Edition) and Good Night, and Good Luck (Widescreen Edition), it's nice to see George Clooney starring in a political satire that is funny but still has something to say as it shows the absurdity of the war in Iraq. The Men Who Stare at Goats falls under the truth is stranger than fiction category as it presents a story populated by eccentric characters and tall tales, some of which might be true. Regardless, it is an entertaining film with a wonderfully oddball sense of humor. Don't be put off by the setting. Although it takes place in Iraq, The Men Who Stare at Goats is not weighed down by the baggage of this war.

There is an audio commentary by the film's director Grant Heslov. He points out certain characters that are composites but is quick to explain that what they say comes from Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats. He sometimes spends too much time telling us where certain scenes were shot which gets tiresome pretty fast. Heslov's focus is mostly on the nuts and bolts of filmmaking but done in a fairly dry and uninteresting way.

Also included is a commentary by the book's author Jon Ronson. He points out the scenes that are based on real incidents and talks about meeting the actual people that the characters are based on. He also explains who the composite characters are and tells all sorts of fascinating anecdotes. If you want to learn more the people and events behind the ones depicted in the film, this is worth a listen if only to find out how much is taken from his book and experiences.

"Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion" features some of the actual military personnel depicted The Men Who Stare at Goats. They talk about some of their intentions. We also learn about how this top secret unit's techniques were brought to light. It's great to hear from the actual people as they tell their fascinating stories.

"Project `Hollywood': A Classified Report from the Set" takes a brief look at the origins of the film and how it got made. Several of the lead actors talk about their characters and there's footage of them having fun on location.

"Character Bios" is a collection of trailer for the film emphasizing several key characters.

Also included is four minutes of deleted scenes. There is more flashback footage some of which should've stayed in as it's quite funny.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
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60 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The American Jedi Who Stare at Goats, November 6, 2009
A man's wife leaves him. The man happens to be Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a small town newspaper journalist. To impress his wife and make her see him in a different light, Bob enlists to Iraq as a war correspondent. Sipping a drink in a plush Kuwaiti hotel, resignedly waiting for the green light to cross to Iraq, he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a garbage can company representative in search of a contract (or so he says). Bob is immediately intrigued. Not so long ago, he heard of Lyn in the course of an interview with a retired army soldier. Lyn's supposed psychic powers prove to be too much for Bob the Journalist to resist and he joins Lyn on his sojourn into Iraq. In the process, he discovers the (brief) story of the American Jedi, the soldiers of the U.S. Army's New Earth Battalion; the psychic warriors...

As I am one of the few adult women in the US who consider Clooney's sex appeal only a click above Mr. Rogers', there was a single compelling reason for me to see this film: its title. Unfortunately, the film does not live up to it. Yes, there are goats, men, and plenty of staring, but... the zany comedy/satire one is expecting never actually materializes. For a comedy, there are not enough laughs. For a satire, the pun is too diluted and lacking of a consistent object. The story frequently changes direction, until you feel it is the director's wish to keep the main plot hidden from you. When the film's conclusion finally arrives with a whimper, it forces you to ask: was the hour and a half leading up to this ending worth my time? The answer, in my case, was NO.

Still, the acting is excellent. Bridges as the stoner and Spacey as the villain are satisfying (if not predictable). There are a few good lines that may elicit a chuckle here and there. As long as you do not expect a fast action comedy, or a wise, stay-with-you-long-after-the-viewing satire, you may be able to enjoy some parts of the film...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it, March 27, 2010
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
It's been cited by various people that this among this movie's weaknesses is the fact that it falls in between a drama, a comedy, a satire, and who knows what else. I agree with those people, this movie has aspects of all those things. I, unlike many others, do not believe this to be a weakness at all. The strange fusion of all the different genres combined in this movies creates a brand of humor and storytelling akin to a that of Terry Pratchet. Unlike many comedies, which recycle the same gag and situational comedy over and over, this movie has fresh plot driven versatile humor, which continues to entertain, rather than getting old once you realize that you are seeing the same joke over and over again in different contexts, as happens with many comedies. The satire is not particularly biting, but it's not mean spirited as much military satire is, so again, I for one, approve of the decisions they made in that area. If this film has a weakness, it is character development, which relies a great deal on the narrator to progress. This movie is entertaining, I came away from the experience feeling I was glad I'd seen it, rather that wishing I could get two hours of my life back. I certainly recommend this movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Men Who Stare at Goats Review, April 11, 2010
By 
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS

STARRING: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Waleed Zuaiter, Stephen Root, Glenn Morshower, Tim Griffin, Jacob Browne and Rebecca Mader

WRITTEN BY: Peter Straughan; based on the book by Jon Ronson

DIRECTED BY: Grant Heslov

Rated: R
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: 06 November 2009

Although I enjoyed it a great deal, the initial feeling I was left with after seeing The Men Who Stare at Goats was a negative one. As did I, one could very easily mistake the point of the film to be anti-American or anti-Military. DON'T. After a joyous second viewing, I was pleased to discover that I was wrong. The film is a ridiculous satire. If anything, it's poking fun at the book on which it's based.

George Clooney has delivered yet another outstanding performance in one of three of 2009's best films. I like the man more and more with everything I see him do. All three of his films from `09 (Up in the Air, Fantastic Mr. Fox and of course this one) were hilarious comedies; but they differ from one another in vast proportions. If you haven't, make an effort to see them all!

Here Clooney plays my favorite character in the film, Lyn Cassady. Lyn honestly believes with all his heart that he has psychic powers and capabilities to do the unthinkable on numerous levels. This is all explained to us and to Ewan McGregor's character, Bob Wilton, early on in a hotel room in Kuwait back in 2003.

Bob is a reporter who has just been left by his wife for his one-armed editor. He flees to Kuwait with high hopes of crossing the border into Iraq after the war has just kicked off, for a chance at a big story. Lyn is his golden ticket. After hearing about Lyn via an even nuttier source, (if that's even possible), Bob is ecstatic when he runs into Lyn. Bob's fruit-loop of a source explained that he and Lyn had been trained to kill animals via staring at them for prolonged periods of time. The United States Army had trained them to do so, and Lyn Cassady was the best there ever was at performing this preposterous endeavor.

In addition to killing animals with hours on end of staring, Lyn explains that he was a member of `The New Earth Army.' According to the book and the audio commentaries on the DVD, there is some truth to this group existing, although it was in fact titled something slightly less interesting. Mainly other than this, and a few of the conversations that take place between Bob and Lyn being portrayed word for word; most of the film is strictly Hollywood's innovative twist on the truth.

Lyn further explains to Bob, that while enrolled in The New Earth Army, he was also trained how to interrupt someone's thought pattern; telekinetically of course.

The film takes Bob, and cleverly makes that character us as audience members. More than anything else, it's out of sheer bewildered curiosity that Bob wants to tag along with Lyn, into Iraq. Lyn allows him to do so, after he sees some of the `Jedi' in Bob. The Jedi is what those of The New Earth Army would often refer to themselves as. The term Jedi as you may recall, stems from the Star Wars franchise, which evidently Bob has never seen, as Ewan McGregor appeared in the first three episodes. Contrary to popular belief, this was coincidental according to the filmmakers. But it provides us with a warm laugh when we see the scene, nonetheless.

There is a segment in the film that will cause you to uncontrollably fill your shoes with urine, due to a fit of insane laughter. Clooney's facial expressions are a riot, as he attempts to `cloud burst' some clouds while driving. Bob stares at him wide eyed, as he explains that by using his mind, he can cause clouds to burst into bits of clouds. One such cloud just so happens to do so and `there you have it', says Clooney's expression. The purpose of this technique is never revealed by Lyn.

One of the things that makes the film so gut-wrenchingly funny, is that Lyn is often so satisfied that he has proven his powers to Bob, when he has in fact done no such thing. For instance, there is a scene where he attempts to show Bob that he can get inside his head and mentally disarm Bob from causing harm to him. He physically knocks Bob down and then triumphantly says, "See? I barely moved. Physics wise not much going on here. It's the psychic energy that's important." If you have ever met someone like Lyn, the film will be an entertaining reminder of such an exhilaratingly bizarre encounter.

The third act has our adventures with Bob and Lyn, eventually lead to interactions with two more appreciated characters that we hear much about and see in a few flashbacks throughout the film. Jeff Bridges plays the hippie-ish originator of The New Earth Army, Bill Django; and Kevin Spacey is the envy-fuelled villain, as Larry Hooper. Somehow, things get even more hysterical and out of control when these two outlandish beings are thrown into the mix. Hallucinogenic drugs, tanks, childish revenge, semi-automatic rifles, an act of heroic courage, and helicopters are involved, and it couldn't have been any more amusing.

Bob's character is based on the writer of the book, Jon Ronson. Having listened to this man on one of the commentary tracks, I can tell you that much like his characters; he's a little out there to say the least. The filmmakers obviously didn't take him too seriously either, as they miss-spelled his name on the end credits, which he points out at the end of the commentary track. Another appealing element to the film is the fact that Jon Ronson doesn't seem to be aware that the film is basically a mockery of his book. At least it was in my eyes.

There are several more Jedi `powers' that I didn't mention; a major one in particular that I'll leave for you to find. Just don't take the ending to mean that Bob literally performs it.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Best, March 31, 2010
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
Realizing that I am not a typical viewer, I don't expect everyone to fall madly in love with this movie. But I did. The first time I saw it I loved it. The next day I watched it again and fell even more deeply in love. I had tears in my eyes at the end. It is smart, well made, light and deep at the same time. If you are one of the people who fall in love with this movie, you will know that, like the Jedi warriors in the film, you are part of a self selected group, a group with a certain mission in life, however vague that may seem to you. Just by loving the movie you are doing your part. The last movie I loved this much was "Groundhog Day."

I am already making plans to watch the movie over and over until I have memorized all the dialog. It's that kind of movie, and I'm that kind of psychic nerd.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Goats, No Glory, June 13, 2010
By 
Karen Shaub "Nickname: Queen B" (the inner reaches of the outer limits) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is a film about the New Earth Army, a special forces outfit that was formed in the late 70s to become essentially "Jedi Warriors." They were to use the power of Mother Earth and their own innate psychic powers against the enemy in a new and non-traditional type of warfare and in essence change the world forever. Now this might sound a little unbelievable to all you fans of Sargent Slaughter out there but that part of it is all true. There was in fact a New Earth Army formed in the very late seventies to do exactly that, and if you don't believe me you can either read the non-fiction book of the same title upon which this movie was based or watch the interviews with two of the men involved with the unit in the special features section of the DVD. They even had some mild success killing goats with their minds. Well, one goat. it was standing next to the one they were aiming at but it still counts. Hmmm. Anyhow I guess even Uncle Sam was tripping out back then. Groovy, huh?

It seems that this is the kind of movie that you either hate or you love. I'm in the love camp. I love the silliness, and I love it even more because of the reality of that silliness-- and the fact that it just breaks me up thinking about all these macho army types sitting around talking seriously about bending spoons. Those who hate the movie have one thing in common and that seems to be that the film lacks direction, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Everyone seems to like the back-story of how the unit was formed and how they trained well enough--no problems there. But after that most people claim that it comes off the tracks. And it does. The true story of the New Earth Army lacks a satisfying dramatic arc so what's a writer to do? In this case he seems to have decided to tell the story of how a reporter became a Jedi Warrior. But he told it in such a loose manner that some of his audience was unaware of it and others didn't get it at all.

I've thought about this for a while and I think I've figured out where the movie went wrong and unfortunately what ruined it for these many is also one of the most brilliant things about the film. How's that for a dichotomy?You see somewhere along the line (probably quite early) someone said " We should get Ewan McGregor! Who would make a better Jedi Warrior?" Perfect casting, a brilliant idea. The audience would love it, and they did love it. Except for the ones who hated it.

Maybe the Coen Brothers should have made this film.

HYPE FACTOR: Very High...second viewing necessary
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of Men and Goats, May 6, 2010
By 
Galina (Virginia, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
Some consider this darkly comical fantastically realistic comedy about a top secret special unit in the 1980's U.S. Army, a brilliant satire on war and paranoia. The others dismiss it is a failure on the level of the infamous high-budget desert comedy of the Cold War era, Ishtar (1987). I personally think "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is a curious, cerebral, funny and poignant parody/spoof of and at the same time the dedication to many outstanding films, as different as Dr. Strangelove.., Star Wars epics, The Big Lebowski, and even the Silence of the Lambs. The famous and talented actors simply bring their characters from the earlier movies to The Men Who Stare at Goats. The film is notable for the funny, surreal narrative style with numerous leaps from present day to the not so distant past, when the two superpowers tried to create super powerful weapon against each other, using the supernatural and paranormal phenomena. This is the movie where Jeff Bridges in the full Dude Lebowski mode joins the Army and forms the Special Unit, First Earth Battalion that trains the soldiers to become the "warrior monks" who'd possess the supernatural power and be able to use their minds as the deadly weapon. The mandatory part of the training involves LSD experimentation and daily worship of Mother Earth as a source of supernatural abilities. This is the movie, where Obi-Wan-Konobi (Ewan McGregor) has no idea who the Jedi are, and the character played by Kevin Spacey is taken by the dark side of the force because of his supernatural stubbornness and meanness. As for George Clooney's Gus, the Master, the best in the unit in the past but lost and confused now, he can't forget the death of one goat that he caused by just staring at it during the experiments. Gus believes that if he saves one goat, just one from the cruel experiments now, the dead animal would stop staring at him in his memory with the unbearable silence of the goats.

In short, if you like absurdist, off-beat, cerebral films -I highly recommend this. If not - don't stare at the goats.

3.5 - 4 of 5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really entertaining movie!, March 27, 2010
By 
Kindle Customer "Pimmy" (LINDENHURST, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD)
A reporter (Ewan McGregor) goes to Iraq to learn about a secret U.S Army that train to fight with their minds. There wasn't a lot of critics that liked the movie, but I found it to be fun and interesting. George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are great together for instance. Bridges basically playing "the Dude" in the military, I found to be hilarious.

While Clooney's performance here is under-rated since he's not being cocky, nor does he stroll around like he's all that. When he's not just playing someone who thinks they're the hottest and coolest guy in the world, that's when he shows he can act. He's fun here as a soldier who really believes that he has special powers. Kevin Spacey also gets one of his better roles in awhile as a soldier who wants to take over the paranormal military. He has evil ideas, like training by seeing if you can kill a goat just by staring at it. I can also say that Stephen Lang (Avatar,Public Enemies) didn't have one bad role in 2009 and that he had a break out year. He's pretty funny as a Colonel who runs into walls to see if he can go through them.

The movie probably could have been just a little better. Everyone is in good form, but the movie is missing something. It could have been longer and we could have learned a little bit more about this nutty army. Either way, I loved the movie. I didn't expect anything special from it though. So if you don't have high expectations for it, you might it enjoy it more.
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The Men Who Stare At Goats
The Men Who Stare At Goats by Grant Heslov (DVD - 2010)
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