Monday, November 9, 2009

Nog Stares at Goats With George Clooney / Also: The Box! (Is It Full of Shit?)

The major narrative of The Men Who Stare At Goats never develops any momentum whatsoever. It's uninteresting and primarily serves as a framework to introduce a number of flashbacks involving various secret military experiments, many of which are very funny in their absurdity (I love Stephen Root's pre-credits monologue in which he explains he's been using his powers of psychic projection to keep tabs on the Loch Ness Monster, which is actually "the ghost of a dinosaur"). Clooney is strong in his role: he's good at playing characters who are absolutely assured that their preposterous convictions are 100% correct. The rest of the cast is hit-and-miss: Jeff Bridges is basically playing "The Dude" again, in this case a man who attempts to establish a "New Earth Army" influenced by 60's peace-and-love, and Kevin Spacey is his usual smarmy self as a man who wants to corrupt those ideas into something dangerous. Ewan McGregor, as our narrator, is dull. As virtually every critic has already noted, the film has little sense of whether it wants to be a slapstick comedy or a serious satire and spends its time vacillating between the two, awkwardly. Probably, in order for the film to successfully say something, it would have to take some clear position on our current wars, but audiences have proved time and again that they don't want that. So instead we just get Clooney horsing around. It's relatively entertaining, I suppose.


It's fun to imagine Richard Kelly negotiating about his new film, The Box. I like to think that he agreed to do a studio film with a real star (Cameron Diaz) in exchange for promises that he could still: (a) introduce some weird plot element involving strange liquid tubes that allow time-travel, (b) give another job to the dude who played Donnie Darko's dad, (c) basically just reproduce several shots from Donnie Darko at the end of this film, and (d) set it all for no particular reason in 1976, perhaps as some reflection of that decade's paranoid-conspiracy thrillers or perhaps just to show a lot of old TV clips of What's Happening and Alice.

It all results in a creepy little tale of ethical dilemmas (based on a Richard Matheson story) that's been tricked out into an unecessarily complicated story involving alien societies and severed toes.

Recommended as an exercise in goofiness (but not nearly as much fun as Shymalan's completely insane Lady in the Water!).


  1. Okay, I read you review of GOATS because I will absolutely not see this film. It never looked good to me, and then the critics said it was lousy, and now you say it's kinda lousy, so. . .

    But I am SO down for THE BOX (despite what's been suggested on Facebook). I gotta go. I did not understand, nor did I enjoy that movie with the Rock and like. . .fuck, I don't know. But DONNIE DARKO is the shit. I'll come back here after I've seen THE BOX, read your review, and offer a cent or two. "Entertainment Weekly" made fun of the poster for being generic and lame. < nods >

  2. I saw where Entertainment Weekly gave Goats an F. Wow. It's certainly not THAT lousy. It's just sort of lazy! (like most films).

    Bring on the Oscar bait, I say. It's Fall!

  3. THE BOX: OMG, worst movie ever. And Kelly borrows generously from Cronenberg (I mean, that music, HELLO -- Howard Shore much?!) -- which is both fun and upsetting. Really the whole movie is like that: how can something so interesting and funny and strange be so fucking TERRIBLE and poorly executed? People were laughing and teasing in the theatre -- and frankly this movie deserved it. I don't know. It's like Kelly's too much in his own head or something. Ugh. No no no no no. Oh, come on -- he was trying to be Cronenberg, but it didn't work, because he was too much like Cronenberg and not enough like Cronenberg.

  4. Yep, Kelly's gone bonkers (just like Shymalan). And I'm not sure they can ever recover. Where IS Cronenberg when we need him?

  5. And is it just me (it probably is), or does AVATAR look. . .kinda lame? I feel bad for even thinking it, but -- ugh -- when the Disney-princess-eyed creature-lady does some weird hand motion and says, "You should not be here," I kinda wanted to hurt myself.

  6. It's not just you. I think it's potentially the next Waterworld!

    Maybe Cameron has waited too long between films, and went stark raving mad!

  7. But we'll still see it (or at least I will!). Matthew too, I'll bet.

    (I will probably also watch shit blow up in 2012, just so I can bitch about it...almost certainly it will be better than Transformers II!).