Men Who Stare at Goats, The (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Satire Audio Commentary-Director Grant Heslov
Audio Commentary-Book author Jon Ronson
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Codename: Project Hollywood
Featurette-Goats Declassified
Trailer
More…-BD Live
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 93:37
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Grant Heslov
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring George Clooney
Ewan McGregor
Jeff Bridges
Kevin Spacey
Stephen Lang
Robert Patrick
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Rolfe Kent


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Portuguese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Portuguese
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Portuguese Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“More of this is true than you would believe”

     Thus starts The Men Who Stare at Goats a terrific film from director Grant Heslov based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson. The film tells two stories juxtaposed; the first concerns reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who flees a marriage breakup to cover the war in Iraq where he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who is on an unspecified secret mission to an unspecified secret location. Gradually Wilton uncovers the second story, of which he is the narrator: in the 1970s and 1980s Cassady had been the star recruit of a US Army experimental unit led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) delving into paranormal and psychic powers, a project called Project Jedi. The unit, which came to be called The New Earth Army, used mind over matter “flower power” techniques in an attempt to create soldiers with psychic powers, such as the power to stop the heart of a goat by staring at it or to see inside a secret Russian military base. The unit achieved some success until it was undermined and Django discredited by one of his own, Sergeant Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey).

     As the two men travel deeper into Iraq, they experience capture by Iraqi criminals, fire fights by US private security guards, IEDs, and being lost in the desert. Wilton is confused, not knowing what to believe, and Cassady disillusioned, admitting that he had embarked upon his “secret mission” as a result of a vision he had of his old commander Bill Django. When all seems lost they miraculously encounter a camp in the desert run by Larry Hooper, now a contractor to the US military who is “rebuilding the New Earth Army without the hippy crap” with Bill Django in his employ. This encounter becomes a chance for Cassady to address a wrong he had committed years before during Project Jedi and a chance for escape from their past for Wilton, Cassady, Django . . . and a herd of goats!!

     The Men Who Stare at Goats has been sold as a comic satire, with fact being stranger than fiction. The film is indeed very funny in places; it has both slapstick and tongue in cheek moments and the scene in which Clooney explains to McGregor the essence of Jedi powers is priceless (McGregor was of course a Jedi in the Star Wars prequels). The absurdity of the entire concept of a US Army unit researching paranormal and psychic powers is also exploited to the full – this is a case where truth (whatever that may be) is certainly stranger than fiction. As Cassady George Clooney is sublime: older, unshaven, weather beaten, grizzled, dying of cancer and disillusioned, he carries the film along its entire path. Jeff Bridges is also good but although Ewan McGregor tries hard he does not really convince. And, at its heart, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a story about failed hopes and the lost ideals of a time when it was believed that love and flower power could stop wars. Even more so, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a terrific story about redemption for past errors of judgment that ends, in its own way, with as satisfying a climax as The Full Monty.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Men Who Stare at Goats is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, in 1080p.

     This is a good print, but not one that fully shows off the advantages of Blu-ray. There is some grain and much of the colour is quite dull, perhaps a deliberate choice. However, sharpness is excellent – every line and whisker on George Clooney’s face is crystal clear and blacks and shadow detail are exceptional.

     I did not notice any other film or film to video artefacts.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that is very good without being exceptional. Dialogue was always clear and easy to hear. The surrounds were frequently used for music, ambience and panning effects, such as helicopters and gunshots providing a satisfactory enveloping experience. The sub woofer supported music and some effects.

     The original score by Rolfe Kent works nicely and is augmented by a range of popular songs by the likes of The Small Faces, Dusty Springfield, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Generation X and Boston, whose More Than a Feeling is used a couple of times, including the end credits.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Commentary – Director Grant Heslov

     Heslov is not the most engaging speaker: there are pauses, ums, some description of what is on screen and too many “I love this scene/location/music/actor”. However, in between he does provide some good information on the locations, the actors and the difficulties of the shoot so it is well worth a listen.

Commentary – Book author Jon Ronson

     Ronson speaks almost non-stop pointing out which parts of the story are true and which fictional, where conversations happened (all the Iraq stuff is not true, for example, although conversations were lifted word for word from conversations Ronson did have) and the differences between the book and the film. He does not fall into the trap of describing the film action and includes such gems as the fact that the US Army psychic “remote viewing” unit were so top secret they did not have a budget and so could not get a coffee machine for 20 years!! He confesses that he himself, unlike the character of the journalist in the film, remained a sceptic. This is an interesting, informative commentary.

Deleted Scenes (4:14)

     Four extended or deleted scenes. Nothing special.

Codename: Project Hollywood (7:34)

     Basically a press kit “Making Of” with sound bites from most of the cast, the director and producer. Superficial, although the suggestion that Clooney is playing John Cleese is interesting!.

Goats Declassified (12:30)

     More interesting, this is a look at the real First Earth Battalion in the 1970s US Army with some of the military participants, plus writer Jon Ronson. A fascinating insight into the development of “evolutionary tactics” and “remote viewing”, something so way out there it is almost beyond belief; so it has to be true.

Trailers

     Included is Blu-ray trailer (2:05), Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (1:44), Nine (2:26), Extraordinary Measures (2:02), and Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy (1:58).

BD live

     Access trivia, chat to others, etc., if your Blu-ray is connected to he internet.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Other than different trailers and some character biographies, this Blu-ray is similar to other releases in the US and UK Region B release. No reason to go past the local release.

Summary

Those expecting a riotous comedy may be disappointed; while The Men Who Stare at Goats is a comic satire, it is much more: it is a terrific film about attaining redemption, with funny moments, some great performances, goats and a satisfying ending.

     The video and audio are very good and the Blu-ray contains a good set of genuine extras. Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
I actually enjoyed this - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)