Posts Tagged ‘ewan mcgregor

08
Dec
09

Movie Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Keep staring.

Stars Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey. Directed by Grant Heslov.

It’s more of a “journey of life” movie than a statement on a Top Secret program on remote viewing, but here goes:

Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a reporter for a newspaper in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2002 he interviews a “crackpot” named Gus Lacey (Stephen Root) who does two things: shows him a videotape where he causes a hamster to pass out for a few minutes by staring at it and informs him that he was part of a Top Secret, government-funded program on remote viewing. For the metaphysics-challenged, remote viewing involves a person sitting in a room to be able to see where and what someone in another locale, possibly thousands of miles away, is doing and describe it all in detail. Wilton doesn’t believe in it and shelves the idea in the back of his head.

Some time later Wilton’s world falls apart: his wife leaves him for his editor who happens to have a mechanical arm. Feeling about an inch tall and wanting, nay needing, to prove something to the world he travels to Iraq to get in and cover a story. And he sits. And waits.

Calvinism and destiny intertwine and he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney). Cassady was mentioned by Lacey as the Numbero Uno Psychic of the Top Secret Program called New Earth. “We prefer to call ourselves Jedi warriors,” he tells Wilton. It seems that New Earth was began by another man, Bill Django (Bridges). Django was on tour in VietNam when he took a bullet to his chest. He dies, crosses to the other side, and comes back. Seeing how the soldiers in the field weren’t wanting to kill for Uncle Sam he proposes a study which takes him on a quest of sex, drugs, and enlightenment. Upon return he releases an instruction manual on how peace can be attained without actual fighting but by using the powers of the mind. This is further helped by a Brigadier General Dean Hopgood (Stephen Lang) who wants to see the program created because the Russians supposedly have a program already in place to psychically screw with the minds of our country’s leadership. The program is set in motion and Django begins.

Cassady becomes the star of the group, being able to remote view better than everyone else with the exception of Larry Hooper(Spacey), another “Jedi warrior” that holds dominance over everyone but Cassady. Problems begin when the remote viewers have wrong conclusions (one says that Angela Lansbury knew the location of Manuel Noriega) and one of Hooper’s experiments lead to an officer taking his own life, the project is shut down. Cassady is currently in the Middle East on a secret mission that Wilton is never sure what it is.

Wilton never knows quite what to make or believe from Cassady who seems more Jedi reject than Jedi warrior with the exception that Cassady knows how to fight. The two become well-enough friends and go from situation to situation never sure of what’s coming next. Whatever Cassady is expecting to do or to find, Wilton is along for the ride.

I liked the movie. This is one of those difficult to sell because while it does mention psychic research programs I have heard of, the overall objective for the story is for the main character to achieve something with his life. If the movie were just about the programs it would’ve been one thing but this has the New Earth information in flashbacks while Cassady and Wilton are doing whatever they’re doing and that structure leaves something missing from the movie. I wished it was more straight-forward than the journey it really was, but that’s probably a minor gripe.

McGregor is believable but not as much as Clooney. The again Clooney is the variable and McGregor is the “everyman” constant, so it does work better that way. Bridges doesn’t channel The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” as much as he shows a variant of that personality. Spacey doesn’t do a lot for me to really expound upon.

Did this research really happen? I’m inclined to believe that it did but not entirely in the manner shown in the movie. With truth often being stranger than fiction, I could be completely wrong. With a culture that had 9 seasons hinged on the fact that The Truth Is Out There, why not? Can someone stare at a goat and make its heart stop? Can someone thousands of miles away read my To Do list just by imagining it? Interesting stuff to think about.

There’s a big “inside joke” with the whole “Jedi warrior” thing. Cassady has to explain to Wilton what one is, etc. This is a play on the fact that McGregor was in the “Star Wars” prequels. Also, his newspaper editor had a mechanical arm, which may also have been a “joke” on the series.

Do I recommend this one? I liked it and there were a few really funny parts. I suggest “rental.” Or matinée on a slow weekend afternoon. I did like it but not enough to watch it more than once a year.

If you go, watch for Robert Patrick as an American contractor. Great bit.

My grade: B-

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12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Amelia

1SHT_AW_E_AME.indd

 

On a round-the-world flight, she disappeared.

Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston. Directed by Mira Nair

This is the kind of movie that will eventually be played in history classes while the teacher is busy updating his/her grades and making lesson plans. For better or worse, that’s what it will be relegated to.

Hilary Swank plays the aviatrix who, as common knowledge and every “mysterious disappearance” TV show and movie points out, wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2, 1937 she lost radio contact and the rest has been the stuff of speculation and America’s dark romance with the unexplained.

Gere is George Putnam, a New York publisher known for releasing the book on Charles Lindbergh. Suddenly smitten with the presence of the protagonist, he books her as a passenger on a flight set to cross the Atlantic if it can ever happen. With persistence and can-do spirit Earhart pushes for the flight to happen with her suddenly being thrown into the spotlight.

McGregor is Gene Vidal, a single father even more impressed with Earhart than Putnam. Vidal and Earhart become business partners in the world of aviation and a little more off the scene. Earhart breaks off their romance to stay faithful to her husband.

Eccleston plays Fred Noonan, one of the best navigators in the biz. Equally known is his alcoholism. Earhart, having grown up with an alcoholic father, warns him but he reasserts that he will not let it affect his job performance. He disappeared with Earhart on the day of note.

There ya go.

I didn’t hate the movie as much as I was disappointed, which eventually became ambivalence. I’m a fan of a good mystery and along with Flight 19, Earhart’s disappearance became legend. One of the problems with this movie is that it asks more questions than it answers and in doing so doesn’t bother answering anything. What was Amelia’s background before she showed up at Putnam’s doorstep? Why did she do what she set out to do? Was she a lesbian? Et cetera.

Instead the movie plops you into the point in her life where she meets the publisher and does a straight-forward chronology with minimal interruption of flash-forwards where she is hopelessly looking for Howland Island to land on. While there is some “creative interpretation” of her life’s events a good chunk of the movie seems to play out like plot points or a greatest hits collection of deleted/extended scenes.

And therein lies the frustration of grading or gaging this movie: it’s massively uneven. The director seems to intersperse the disappearance with moments from her life leading up to it but fails to give any mention of previous events. Either I’ve watched the programming from too many movies or this one’s story is really lackluster.

Nair seems to touch upon Earhart’s life as as if she’s afraid to make a statement about anything. It’s like someone asking you “do you think she helped champion the cause of womens’ rights?” Your answer is then followed by “well, what do you think?” I honestly felt like I was in back in school and each question (aviation, alcoholism, commercialism, lesbianism) would be featured at the end of the chapter and I would have to skip to the back of the book and turn it upside down to find the correct one (“There it is: seven”) One of the big themes noted in the film was that Putnam controlled her “image” by having her sponsor ads for luggage, cigarettes, etc. She brings it up to him one time and he explains it off, and she never says anything about it again, not even when more people hound her for that fact.

So much is wasted. I’m not a big fan of Swank but she does seem to carry on as if she doesn’t care that no one else cares, which may be a good thing. Eccleston and Gere have odd accents out-of-place for them. The cinematography had some beautiful moments. The soundtrack seemed to be made for a much better movie.

In my honest opinion this movie would have done right by taking a cue from “Hollywoodland.” No one really knows how George Reeve died, but at least the filmmakers gave the “conspiracy theories” on how it happened. And while George Reeve may have been less extraordinary than Earhart per se, at least the filmmakers gave him his do. Sorry for your loss, Amelia.

In regards to historical dramas, one has to ask themselves, would a History Channel documentary on the same subject be more interesting than this movie? On this one I’m gonna say “yes.”

TRIVIA: This is the first movie since 1994’s “Shallow Grave” to feature both Eccleston and McGregor.

My grade: a straighten-up and fly right C-

P.S. For more information on Amelia Earhart, read a book! Or go look her up on Wiki.