Movie Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

March 12, 2010 in Movie Reviews

The Men Who Stare at Goats is one of those light, quirky, darkly amusing comedies very loosely based on real events.  It features an all-star cast including George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  It’s enjoyable, fascinating, and in no way meant to be taken seriously.  It’s not memorable, and is unlikely to win any awards, but it’ll give you a laugh and a good time for 94 minutes.

The film is told through the eyes of Ewan McGregor’s Bob Wilton, a journalist who ends up stumbling across the story of a lifetime – the US army’s attempts to develop psychic spies with super powers.  Yes, the US military actually tried to do this (and who knows, may still be trying to do this)!

You could be forgiven for thinking that The Men Who Stare at Goats is a Coen brothers movie in the vein of The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading.  It has that quirky feel from start to finish; you wonder what the heck is happening and what might happen next.  Every character Bob Wilton comes across is fascinating and hilarious, especially Lyn Cassady, perfectly played by the “so serious it’s funny” George Clooney.

But actually, The Men Who Stare at Goats is written by Peter Straughan (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People), loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson.  It’s directed by Grant Helsov, who hasn’t done much directing and is more of an actor.  Hopefully Helsov will have more opportunities to direct after this film.

Anyway, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the film.  It’s constantly amusing, but the big laughs are less frequent.  That said, it is clever, and somehow manages to stand on the fence when it comes to psychics.  The movie doesn’t endorse them as genuine, but it doesn’t exactly ridicule them as frauds either.  It does, however, suggest they may all be crazy!  My favourite thing about the whole film is that it makes constant references to Star Wars, especially because it stars young Obi-Wan Kenobi himself!

3.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: and yes, goats are stared at in this movie]

My Obi-Wan Encounter in Berlin

March 31, 2009 in Best Of, Entertainment, Travel


I was tempted to challenge Master Kenobi to a duel

I’m way behind in my Travel Diary entries, but I thought I’d post this little bit of celebrity news.  We spent the day travelling around Berlin today, and the last person I expected to see was Mr Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Ewan McGregor!

We had just started off our city walk, and the first attraction was the brilliant Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  For those who have not been there before, it’s highly unusual.  Designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, it comprises 2,711 grey concrete slabs of varying heights and sizes.  Here’s a bunch of pictures and more info from its Wikipedia entry.

So I started walking through the concrete slabs, and it’s kinda fun because the blocks get so high that you become completely submerged inside the monument, and you can only see the long, narrow path in front of you, never knowing what might be coming from the sides.

For some reason, I turned to my left to take a look, and was shocked to see Obi-Wan staring right back at me about 5 slabs away.  I was stunned and didn’t move for several seconds, until my wife tapped me on the back and asked what the heck I was doing standing there like an idiot.  I told her I just saw Ewan McGregor, and we set out through the blocks to see him again, which we did, several times.

Somehow, we ended up in front of him, and all of a sudden he was right behind me!  My wife urged me to go ask for a photo or something, but I recalled that he is a very private person, and he was on vacation, and more importantly, he was with his wife and kids, so I decided against bothering him.

While we waited to go to the underground museum, Obi-Wan and his family avoided the line and left quietly.  I’m sure others may have recognised him too but it was good to see that no one harrassed him when he was having a quiet time sightseeing with his kids.

By the way, he looked quite normal and relaxed, like any other tourist with his family.  He did have very thin legs.

[Update: turns out it was Mr McGregor’s 38th birthday yesterday (0n the 31st of March).  Should have said Happy Birthday to him!  Happy Birthday Ewan!]