The American military has always been at the forefront of technological innovation often working on the fringes of scientific credibility in its constant search for new ways to locate and eliminate enemies. At times the military's eagerness to gain an edge over its adversaries has led it to some strange dark places many of which are chronicled in The Men Who Stare at Goats British author Jon Ronson’s real-life account of the U.S. government’s efforts to create an army of “psychic supersoldiers."
If you’re not familiar with the world of psychic warfare (and really why would you be?) the book’s title refers to an experiment conducted during the 1980s at Fort Bragg North Carolina in which specially trained soldiers using methods culled from the top-secret First Earth Battalion Operations Manual attempted to stop the heart of a goat using nothing but the power of the mind. The ultimate goal obviously was to develop the skill for eventual use on enemy combatants.
Chock full of similarly wild yet credible stories The Men Who Stare at Goats’ strange-but-true subject matter lends itself perfectly to film adaptation. Its structure — a disparate collection of loosely related vignettes covering over a 30-year timespan — does not. Nevertheless director Grant Heslov and screenwriter Peter Straughan gave it a shot refashioning the material to such an extent that the movie is no longer “based upon” Ronson’s book but instead merely “inspired by” it.
Thankfully Heslov kept intact two of the book’s greatest strengths: its lively irreverent tone and its fascinating array of colorful characters. The latter is no doubt what attracted the film’s star-studded cast led by George Clooney as Lyn Cassady a fidgety veteran of the “psychic spy” brigade whose chance meeting with journalist Bob Wilton Ronson’s onscreen counterpart (played as an American ironically by U.K. actor Ewan McGregor) provides the catalyst for the storyline.
As Cassady squires Wilton through the Iraqi desert en route he claims to a contracting gig he regales the awe-struck reporter with stories of the New Earth Army and its founder a Vietnam vet-turned-New Age acolyte named Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). In the early '80s Django now a ponytailed flower child managed to obtain Army approval to spearhead a pilot program that would to train a legion of “warrior monks” to read minds pass through walls and disable enemies through a wide variety of non-lethal methods.
Any program like the New Earth Army is bound to attract its share of bad apples amoral folk who aim to use its teachings to enrich themselves and cause harm to others. In The Men Who Stare at Goats the entire rotten orchard is represented by Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) a sleazy manipulative charlatan whose devious machinations ultimately serve to bring down the entire operation.
Goats is at its loopy best as Cassady cycles through various off-the-wall anecdotes of Django and his increasingly bizarre training methods. But it falls apart when Heslov attempts to weave it all into a coherent storyline complete with a climax centered on a hairbrained scheme to spike the water supply at an American fort with LSD. It's understandable that Heslov felt compelled to invent something that could bring some resolution to the story but getting everyone high on acid? It sounds like a gimmick stolen from one of the lesser Revenge of the Nerds sequels.
Needless to say that last part wasn’t in Ronson’s book.
January 31, 2002 11:56am EST
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Richard Linklater, who directed the original cult classic Slacker in 1991, believes the new film Slackers directed by Dewey Nicks, will damage the long-term value of his first movie. He told PageSix.com, "No one ever asked for my permission...because they know I would have said, 'Go to hell!'"
A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that while the media did a terrific job of covering the events of Sept. 11 in a factual way, TV news got worst once the bombing in Afghanistan was underway. "Analysis and opinion swelled--so much so that the level of factualness declined...journalists often seemed to luxuriate in sounding not like knowledgeable experts on TV stages, but like anybody else standing in a barroom," the reports states.
Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger will star in the comedy Down With Love helmed by Bring It On director Peyton Reed. The film is set in New York during the 1960s and pays homage to the Doris Day-Rock Hudson capers Pillow Talk and Love Come Back, Variety reports.
Wearing biker clothes, Ray-Bans and a longshoreman's hat, Bruce Willis fronted a band of bluesmen at B.B. King's Tuesday night. According to PageSix.com, Willis, 46, sang his heart out for 2 ½ hours and covered hits such as "Kokomo Blues" and "Who Do You Love."
NBC has ordered up a full season (22 hour-long episodes) of Fear Factor, Variety reports. The reality show, hosted by Joe Rogan, proved a surprise summer success and drew big ratings on Monday nights. The network is airing a special Playboy Playmates episode of Fear Factor opposite Fox's Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 3.
U2, Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony are just some of the acts lined up for this year's Super Bowl. In fact, the lineup is so long it makes the football game look like a sideshow. The celebrity overflow is due in part to the events of Sept. 11 and the game's patriotic theme.
Michael Jackson, who in 1994 paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to resolve a child molestation case, thinks there should be a global holiday for children. The idea was one of the cornerstones of Jackson's Heal the Kids charity, which he launched in 2000, but it never gained momentum with U.S. lawmakers Reuters reports. The charity is now on hiatus.
U2 has backed down from its fight to save its Dublin recording studios from being demolished. While the Irish rockers had initially opposed the idea of the redevelopment of the Honover Quay site, the band said Thursday they would join in talks with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, the AP reports.
Alan Jackson, Creed and Linkin Park held on to the top three spots in the album sales chart, Variety reports. According to SoundScan figures, country crooner Jackson's Drive sold 23,000 units for the week that ended Sunday.
Former pro wrestler and current Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is providing input for the script and songs of a Broadway musical about his life, Reuters reports. The musical will explore Ventura's upbringing and his relationship with his wife Terry. No one has been cast in the role of Ventura yet.
Eddie Murphy's wife Nicole gave birth Tuesday to the couple's fifth child. Bella Zahra, who weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces, was born at an undisclosed Los Angeles hospital. Both mother and child are doing fine, the couple's publicist said in a statement.
Andy Garcia and his wife Marivi Lorido Garcia welcomed their fourth child, a boy, at a Los Angeles area hospital on Monday. Andres Antonio Garcia joins three sisters and weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces at birth.