Monday, September 07, 2009

Men Who Stare At Goats Venice and Toronto

Here's all the information for the Toronto Goats screening. I can't find a page for the Venice screening, even though it's a big deal. I just don't think the Venice film festival goes in for fancy websites.


Like a twenty-first-century Dr. Strangelove, The Men Who Stare at Goats takes war to its illogical conclusion, with hilarious results. George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges are in top form in this uproarious tale about a top-secret brigade of psychic soldiers trained in New Age warfare. Amazingly, it's based on a true story.

The source is Guardian columnist Jon Ronson's surreal non-fiction account of the U.S. army's attempts to harness psychic and paranormal power in the wake of the Vietnam War. Director Grant Heslov, Clooney's collaborator on Good Night, and Good Luck, finds just the right tone for the absurd goings-on.

Down-and-out journalist Bob Wilton (McGregor) stumbles over what might just be the biggest story of his life when he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney). Cassady claims to be part of a military unit called the First Earth Battalion, a group of super-soldiers trained to don cloaks of invisibility, run through walls and kill goats simply by staring at them. As Bob soon finds out, the battalion has been reactivated for the “war on terror,” and so he sets out across the Iraq desert with Cassady in search of the missing founder of the brigade, Bill Django (Bridges). Once a GI Joe-type commando, Django had a battlefield epiphany that moved him to grow his hair long, join drum circles and dream up the psychic soldiers idea. He encourages his new troops to stop shaving, wear long robes and dance as part of their combat training. One key weapon in their less-than-conventional arsenal: the mysterious “sparkling eyes technique,” of which Cassady is especially proud. Scarcely able to believe what he's seeing, Wilton follows Cassady through dangerous terrain as they cross Iraq on a top-secret mission.

Working from a sharp, witty script by Peter Straughan, Heslov and his cast have a blast with the quick quips and jaw-dropping situations. For Clooney, this is a leap forward from his early satire Three Kings and a perfect companion to Up in the Air, also playing at the Festival. He has an unerring talent for comedy that's both brainy and completely nuts, and he has never been better than he is here.

Grant Heslov was born in Los Angeles and began his career as an actor. He has directed the short film Waiting for Woody (98) and the feature Par 6 (03). He co-wrote the script for Good Night, and Good Luck (06) with George Clooney, and served as co-producer in addition to playing a supporting role. The film received six Academy Award® nominations, including best original screenplay and best picture. The Men Who Stare at Goats (09) is his second feature film.

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