While journalist and documentarian Jon Ronson is currently undergoing a metamorphosis into a screenwriter, the first film to bear his name is not from one of his own scripts but has been fictionalized, and rather heavily so, from his non-fiction book The Men Who Stare at Goats by Newcastle scribe Peter Straughan. What Ronson set down on paper as a darkly comic and increasingly scary investigation into the American military’s more fanciful, or eventually insane, experimentation and research has become an oddball comedy with a tinge of the surreal. Many of Ronson’s ideas run between the lines of Straughan’s invented plot, though I don’t think I personally could have found the film to feel any more different to Ronson’s book or in-parallel TV documentary.
It’s a win-win, though, as far as the book is concerned because those who love the film (and as you’ll find out after the break, that’s an awful lot of people) are bound to find the extra information every bit as engrossing and possibly even more surprising, while those who find some of the film’s seemingly contradictory attitudes towards the paranormal and supernatural or it’s unexpectedly upbeat tone to be off putting will find the book more satisfyingly shaded. I do think, though, that adding sweetness for palatability seems like a curious misstep when you already know your recipe appeals to those with a taste for the bitter.
I’m a very big fan of Ronson’s writing and TV work, so I took great pleasure in interviewing him about Goats. We spoke for over an hour in total but almost immediately, I think, he sensed my disappointment in the film. Neither his enthusiasm or candor were curbed by this and, anyway, as Ronson told me I’m definitely in the minority and the film has been going down superemely well so far.
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Grant Heslov‘s war comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats premiered recently in Venice and will soon be playing the Toronto International Film Festival. Positive reviews are coming in, and the underlying impression is that if you were hoping for a kooky, madcap comedy based on the trailer, that’s more or less exactly what you’ll get. To bolster that impression, distributor Overture has released a short clip featuring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor; see it after the break. Read More »
Overture Films has released a trailer for Grant Heslov‘s The Men Who Stare At Goats. Based on Jon Ronson’s 2004 book, Ewan McGregor stars in this so-unbelievable-yet-true story of a reporter who is chasing after a crazy story. U.S. Army First Earth Battalion unit member Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit using ancient Chinese mind techniques to develop paranormal powers for American soldiers. This elite experimental group have developed “unparalleled psychic powers to read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it.”
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Nikki Finke is reporting an interesting bit of news: George Clooney and Grant Heslov are ending their production partnership with Warner Bros. and heading across town to set up shop with Sony. Coming just a week after Sony famously shitcanned Steven Soderbergh‘s Moneyball, this is a surprising move. At Warner Bros. Clooney was able to make the less commercial movies he’s favored over the last few years, while Sony isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of artistic aspiration. Read More »
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If you’re a moviegoer who doesn’t generally dislike George Clooney but reacts to movie news about him like an allergic reaction to salt-and-peppered dander, you’ll want to make an exception here. The actor is set to star in an adaptation of Jon Ronson‘s book, Men Who Stare at Goats, a wily nonfiction account of the U.S. army’s history of dabbling in the supernatural that leads up to the current quagmire in Iraq. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon…
“As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating “Warrior Monks,” soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. …But Ronson soon learns that the Battalion’s bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur’s song, “I Love You,” and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways…”
Cool subject matter almost lending itself to a Coens-esque romp, no? The film will be directed by multitasker Grant Heslov, a partner in Clooney’s Smoke House imprint, with a script by Peter Straughan (the upcoming adaptation of Toby Young’s How to Win Friends and Alienate People). After the prototypically classy Michael Clayton and Leatherheads, it’s time Clooney put on a nappy wig and went a little batshit like Nic Cage in Raising Arizona or Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Between this project, foregoing too much current event storyline, and September’s dark and quirky Burn After Reading, it would seem he’s headed on a similarly looney, and successful, trajectory.
via Variety (oh yeah, and shame, shame)