The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)


More of This is True Than You Would Believe.

Today’s movie has been in my Netflix queue for so long that I no longer remember what inspired me to put it there in the first place.  I have a vague recollection of watching part of this movie while in the break room at work and I do so hate to only watch 15 or 30 minutes of a movie and leave without knowing what happened.  Well, however it came to be in my Netflix queue, it arrived recently so I felt I should give it a watch.  That movie is The Men Who Stare at Goats, based on a book by Jon Ronson, written by Peter Straughan, directed by Grant Heslov, and starring Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Stephen Root, Robert Patrick, Rebecca Mader, Nick Offerman, and Glenn Morshower.

Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) has fallen on some hard times after his wife left him for the newspaper’s editor.  Feeling like he needs an escape, and perhaps a chance to prove himself to his ex-wife, he goes to Kuwait to report on the Iraq War.  While waiting to be granted permission to enter, he stumbles across a man named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a name that Wilton recognizes from a man he interviewed a little earlier that told him about a group of American soldiers being trained to use their psychic abilities for combat, teaching them things like invisibility, remote viewing, and phasing.  It was rumored that Cassady had even been able to stop a goat’s heart with his thoughts.  Wilton gets Cassady to agree to let him tag along on his mission and, while doing so, Cassady tells Wilton about his time with the New Earth Army through flashbacks.

I’ve come to realize that I just don’t like reviewing movies that are just “okay”.  If a movie is awful, I’ll have lots of things to say making fun of it.  If it’s good, I’ll be able to sing its praises.  But if it’s okay, all I really want to say is, “meh.”  I’ll try to use more words – and real ones – to describe my feelings about this movie.  It’s an okay and pretty interesting movie, based mainly on a pretty well-written story.  Even though a bulk of the movie felt like just riding around in a car with Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, the subject matter kept it interesting, especially if you consider that this stuff was apparently mostly based on true stories.  So with the story being so interesting, what was the problem?  I would say the problem is that this movie was a comedy but not really all that funny.  I would say that the goofiness that they introduce us to during the course of the movie is amusing, but they were never able to climb over the hill and actually strike me as funny.  But since the comedy was never really a failure, it wasn’t painful to watch.  Just not funny.

The cast of the movie was all pretty spectacular, but they got some pretty big names to participate.  Ewan McGregor was the main character of the movie, and he did a good job displaying the range of emotions his character went through during the movie.  He starts off depressed and mopey because of his wife leaving him, then he went to being pretty skeptical of the New Earth Army stories, and he was totally on board by the end of the movie.  I liked that he kept talking to Clooney about the “Jedi Warriors”, as they called themselves, like it was such a ridiculous notion, even though he’s the only one in the movie that actually has been a Jedi warrior before.  I liked Clooney in the movie as well.  He seemed to take the ridiculousness very seriously, which is always a good choice.  Jeff Bridges was also very good as the hippie leader of the New Earth Army, Bill Django, but it also seems like a character that was written with Jeff Bridges in mind.  Kevin Spacey also plays a dick very well, and he did that here.

The Men Who Stare at Goats was a decent enough movie because of its wacky and interesting story and top notch performances.  The problem with the movie is that it was a comedy but it just wasn’t funny.  I would say, to its credit, that it was amusing for the greater majority of the movie, but it just couldn’t crest that ridge into funniness.  It’s worth watching if it’s on, but I wouldn’t say you need to go out of your way for it.  The Men Who Stare at Goats gets “Now more than ever we need the Jedi” out of “He was dying of a broken heart.  And maybe the cancer as well.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Scorpion King (2002)


Live Free.  Rule Well.

This review request serves two purposes.  The first is that it’s a trilogy and one that, by the end of these reviews, will probably make the Jurassic Park trilogy look so much better.  The second purpose it serves is to knock out another review request from coworker Eric.  Today’s movie is not the movie that was requested, but the first part in the trilogy.  Eric suggested that I review the third movie, which will most likely be awful.  I decided to watch all three, so that I don’t get left out of the highly cerebral storyline.  Well, let’s jump into it.  The first movie in this trilogy is a spinoff of another movie franchise called The Mummy, making this movie The Scorpion King, written by Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, and David Hayter, directed by Chuck Russell, and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Branscombe Richmond, Roger Rees, Ralph Moeller, and Tyler Mane.

The Akkadians are the baddest group of assassin’s in the land.  The last three remaining Akkadians – Mathayus (The Rock), his half-brother Jesup (Branscombe Richmond), and some other random dude – are hired by King Pheron (Roger Rees) to kill the sorcerer that is bringing victory to the Egyptian Emperor Memnon (Steven Brand) with her prophetic powers.  The three Akkadians get into Memnon’s camp and are instantly ambushed, having been betrayed by King Pheron’s son, Takmet (Peter Facinelli).  Mathayus escapes the ambush, but the other two Akkadians fall.  Mathayus gets into the tent of the sorcerer but finds that it is not some old dude as you’d expect.  Instead, it’s super hot Cassandra (Kelly Hu).  Memnon and his troops enter the tent and capture Mathayus, but Cassandra predicts that horrible things will happen to Memnon if he orders Mathayus executed.  Instead, Mathayus is sentenced to be buried in the sand and have ants eat his head, along with horse thief Arpid (Grant Heslov).  Together, they escape, and Mathayus sets his sights on getting revenge on Memnon.

Much like the majority of the movies that this movie spun off from, I found this movie to be a lot of fun.  It’s not particularly smart or well-written, but it’s fun and has some great fight scenes in it.  And, since that should be what you expect when going into a movie like this, you should leave fairly satisfied.  The opening of the movie serves little purpose to the story and is only there to show that The Rock is a badass.  He’s just going in and saving his brother from some small group of people that are going to kill him, and he does with extreme prejudice.  Immediately afterwards, this scene is completely forgotten about because, as I said, it had nothing to do with the story.  But it was a pretty badass fight.  It sets up how badass the Rock is by having him inexplicably climbing up a cliff with a giant boulder attached to his back (the point of which I still don’t know), then he drops in through the chimney, emerges from a cloud of smoke, and whoops ass on everyone in the tent single-handedly.  He even knocks someone out by wrapping his bow around their head, pulling it taught, and letting it snap on their face.  That’s the international sign of a badass.  The movie’s actual story picks up right after this scene.  It’s a decent story without any surprises, but it’s mainly just set up for more fights.  It’s a basic tale of revenge that is then superseded by taking out an evil ruler for the greater good, then you throw a little love story in the middle.  But the action and the fights are fun, some of the dialogue borders on clever, while other parts of the dialogue are just cheesy.  Like at the end of the clash of the titans (The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan) where the Rock says “We are brothers in the same cause”, and should probably be given an award for delivering that line while keeping a straight face.  It’s the kind of movie that you just need to shut your brain off and look at all the pretty colors.  If you don’t, you may get bothered by the fact that they totally ripped off Indiana Jones by having him cut the giant gong thing off and rolling it out the window to escape a hail of arrows.

The performances accomplished what they came to do.  Personally, I like watching the Rock.  I don’t know if everyone feels the same as I do, but that guy’s charismatic.  And, above that, he’s so much better at fake ass-kicking than most action movie stars.  One person I like watching way more than the Rock is Kelly Hu.  Gundamn that’s a good lookin’ bird!  And this movie features her in one of two phases: nearly naked, and completely naked.  Yeah, you don’t see anything because of strategically placed hair, but I’m okay with it.  I know that Michael Clarke Duncan can really bring it in the acting department, but he left it at home for this movie.  He didn’t need his acting chops for this movie.  It seems like he likes to just do a couple of dumb movies that he’ll have fun with, and that’s what he did here.  I never really believed Steven Brand as a badass.  I just can’t see this unimpressive white boy being a threat to the Rock.  It’s kind of the same thing they did in Shanghai Knights, where they decided the bad guy would be this unimpressive white guy so they just said that he was the greatest sword fighter ever so you have to just give it a pass.

An unimpressive story and some corny dialogue does very little to remove this movie from the soft spot in my heart … that I still need to get a doctor to look at.  Good action, fun times, and an appealing cast – including the Rock in his first starring role and super hot Kelly Hu – makes this movie enjoyable.  I actually purchased this twice, but I’m not saying that as cause for you to purchase it at least once.  I just upgraded to BluRay.  I cannot promise that you will have the same kind of fun with this movie as I did, but it’s at least worth watching.  The Scorpion King gets “I’ll kill half, you kill half” out of “No need for concern, Miss.”

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