"The Men Who Stare at Goats" [some open spoilers]

Caught a preview screening last night at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Very entertaining. I went with two male friends, both of whom were rather surprised that I wanted to see such a “guy” film – geez freakin’ louise, guys, George Clooney and Ewan McGregor? Onscreen together for huge sections of the film? I’m trying to figure out why they wanted to see something so obviously targeted at heterosexual women of a certain age.

Funny film – though, alas, a couple of the funniest moments have already been broadcast extensively in the ads. Not the only funny moments, of course.

Particularly funny for those of us who remember the '60s and '70s. (At one point there’s a quick shot of a paperback book, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, and my friend and I turned to each other simultaneously and said “I remember that book!” I’d be very curious to hear the reactions of some of the young 'uns who don’t remember the era.

Good cast – Jeff Bridges is also really good, as is Kevin Spacey. The story could have had a bit more of a story to it, but all in all, it was an entertaining film.

You had me at Ewan McGregor.

And George Clooney. blissful sigh

I have been waiting for this movie!! Glad to hear it was good.

Does the film switch gears about two-thirds of the way through and become a biography about a guy whose father was testing LSD for the CIA and fell through the window to his death, which was covered up by the government?

I read the book this movie was based on, and thought it was strange when it made a sudden change from “crazy hippie tactics of the U.S. military” to “this guy’s dad’s death was covered up by the government. Let me tell you more about this guy. No, not the dad, the son.”

If you’re planning to see this movie, you should probably skip this spoiler, which is an answer to mobo’s spoilered question.

There is a guy who dies after having LSD administered to him without his knowledge – he shoots himself, and it’s a pretty disorienting moment in the movie, because the entire audience is laughing up to about 15 seconds before his death. This was, in fact, the point in the movie I had serious problems with, the abrupt change in tone. The movie goes back to being a comedy right after this scene. Bad transitions there.

Oh, yes indeed. If Ewan were making only used car commercials, he’d still be an absolute dreamboat :slight_smile:

I really want to see The Men Who Stare at Goats. I’ve read the book, but I don’t really remember a whole lot of it…I just remember liking it.

Also, Ewan McGregor is a very, very good incentive. :smiley:

I cannot decide. At first it looked stupid. Then I thought maybe. Now I see some good reviews. I suspect that I’ll miss it, mostly because this time of year starts to get busy for me.

The scene played in the previews where George Clooney says he’s a Jedi Warrior to Ewan MacGregor is what clinched it for me. Movie looks hilarious and I’m looking forward to seeing it when it’s released!

George Clooney does batshit insane really entertainingly, and Ewan McGregor is perfect as his foil.

I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on yet (I plan to), but I’m under the impression that it’s a skeptical and factual look at the actual efforts by the US army to study the paranormal and create soldiers with superpowers.

The movie doesn’t seem like it understands what it is to me. Is it a skeptical story that scoffs at the people who’ve managed to convince themselves that their powers are real, or is it attempting to imply that there’s actually something to it? At different times it seems to play both sides.

The scene where they’ve been kidnapped and are being held in the basement, and Clooney’s character tells the reporter to attack him, and that he’s going to deflect the attack with psychic powers. Then when the reporter attacks, Clooney flips him over with his arms while claiming that his body barely moved and it was really his psychic power that did it. This is plausible in a way - people who think they have some sort of super power will often do an actual physical thing to get the results they claim to be able to get, but then claim the actual physical effect was barely relevant and that the real work behind the feat was psychic.

But then there are other scenes where, for example, it’s implied that Clooney’s character is able to guess the flip of a coin accurately. They only show 3 flips, but they imply that he has accurately guessed many times.

And the final scene - I don’t know what it is they were going for thematically or narratively there.

It had some funny moments, but it had me wondering throughout the movie what the theme was. Had they stuck to a skeptical, realistic perspective of the whacky characters involved with this (real) army unit, it would’ve been more consistent and enjoyable.

SenorBeef – I merged your OP into the existing thread.

I’m not sure what your point is – they should have gone for serious expose rather than comedy? I can’t see a serious version of the movie getting made – the people involved were seriously mockable.

As to what actually happened in any given event – since it was a comedy, and not a serious recounting of actual events, I’m not sure it matters. In comedies, real-life plausibility or alternative explanations of events are pretty much beside the point.

No, I’m saying it should’ve played it one way or another. Whether or not there actually are psychic powers in this film’s universe is pretty relevant to the plot, and yet they gave conflicting ideas with this one. If they actually do have some sort of paranormal powers, it certainly changes the tone entirely from the book it’s derived from.

The example I gave that they handled well was the psychic attack interruption that involved physically using his arms to flip the guy over. That’s the sort of thing that can plausibly be used to demonstrate why Clooney’s character has deluded himself into thinking he’s a mystic badass but clearly shows no actual paranormal powers are at work. Another example is how Clooney claims a remote vision brought him to that point in Iraq, but the Kevin Spacey character reveals he heard it from one of the former members of his unit. It’s plausible that he could’ve turned an offhanded mention of something into a memory of a remote viewing - memory tends to do what you want it to do.

So the movie would’ve been thematically consistent if it had stuck to stuff like that. I don’t see why a clear conflict in the basic theme and setup of the movie can be dismissed simply because it’s a comedy.

If I may ask for a spoiler (in a spoiler box of course), in the commercials there’s a scene where Clooney and…whoever…are driving and Clooney is “dispersing clouds” with his mind.

Does the movie say whether he’s actually doing that, or if it’s all in his mind?

There’s also the scene in the trailers were he kills a goat by staring at it. I thought it was pretty clear, at least from the trailer, that Clooney did have powers.

Kills, or makes it faint…although it could be a fainting goat.

Anyway, the reason I ask is because trailers only give away small parts of the movie, and it may turn out that the scenes not shown in the trailers might reveal that he has no powers at all, although SenorBeef’s post makes me wonder if Clooney can, at the very least, disperse clouds and make make goats faint or die.

I’m curious because the movie says “based on a true story,” but in reality, although the military and other US government organizations tested the possibilities of psychic powers, they gave up after finding no evidence that they exist.

If a movie can sell crowds who want to believe in woo and also sell crowds who think woo is BS, then they make more money.

Or…it just makes it a mess of a film and they make less money.

Personally, I would generally vote that the latter scenario is the more likely, but Hollywood rarely thinks in those terms.

You see the incident pretty much in its entirety – leaving it up to you to decide whether Clooney’s character caused the cloud to disperse or if it was a coincidence.

The tone of the movie, overall, is that most of this stuff is bullshit, BTW. Or that was my take on it, anyway.

I think the movie is very open ended about whether or not it’s all real. You have to remember that this whole thing is being told by the narrator, who becomes more and more believing the whole time and is really trying to sell the story. And all the things in the past (including the goat killing) were told to him, so it’s a secondhand account. The only thing that is a definite “this is a psychic power” is the final scene, which could just be all in the narrator’s head.