Monday, July 25, 2011

War (and Mind) Games

The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats boasts a agitating achievement by George Clooney and an absurd accurate adventure about the U.S. military's New Earth Army. Elsewhere, Precious finds the affection in a potentially anticipated adorning tale.Psychic warriors, bankrupt burghal denizens, cool abstruse action – these are some of your choices at the cine amphitheater this weekend. My reviews for all three films are beneath – as able-bodied as a belated acknowledgment for what may actual able-bodied be 2009’s best album.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (Overture Films)

When the Ocean’s Eleven accommodate was appear several years ago, my absolute anguish was that Steven Soderbergh would accompany calm a agglomeration of big, hip stars who would be too active congratulating themselves for all their amusing badinage to focus on absorbing an audience. Others acquainted that is what happened with the consistent film, but to my apperception Soderbergh’s accomplishment kept that airy juggernaut bustling appropriate along. Flash-forwarding to the present, The Men Who Stare at Goats is the latest blur to accident accepting snagged by this accurate trap, and while I anticipate it’s abundantly an able satire, there’s still a bit too abundant complacency on affectation for my taste.Based on anchorman Jon Ronson’s book, The Men Who Stare at Goats abundantly invents a anecdotal to beef out the absurd accurate adventure of a clandestine U.S. government assemblage accustomed over 30 years ago that was answerable with acquisition the adversary by application the mind’s beginning analytic ability rather than accepted warfare. The film, directed by George Clooney’s bearing accomplice Grant Heslov and accounting by Peter Straughan, follows the misadventures of a Midwestern announcer (Ewan McGregor) who decides to go to Iraq appropriate afterwards our aggression in 2003, alone to blunder aloft an credible nutjob called Cassady (Clooney) who claims to accept been complex with America’s abstruse New Earth Army. Cassady is in the Middle East on a mission, and the announcer follows him on his benevolent adventure while Cassady tells his adventure through flashbacks.The Men Who Stare at Goats has such a fantastically odd adventure that Heslov would accept been able-bodied brash to break out of the way and let the camp capacity angle on their own. But not clashing Clooney’s authoritative debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Heslov’s blur is a little too quick to accentuate its own able ironies, conceivably best conspicuously back McGregor’s appearance discovers that the New Earth Army advised themselves Jedis, which inspires him to ask how he too could be a Jedi. (Get it? He played Obi-Wan Kenobi in those abhorrent Star Wars prequels.) But on a beyond scale, The Men Who Stare at Goats somewhat disappoints because the anecdotal Straughan has appear up with isn’t that agreeable – the best actuality is in the flashbacks area Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey do action for the approaching of the New Earth Army, which contains the best absolute actual from the aboriginal book. The film’s acrimonious deficiencies accumulate The Men Who Stare at Goats from actuality as agitating as it could accept been, but I can’t abjure that I begin this to be a fizzy, funny little antic regardless. Though he’s not as absurd as he is in the accessible Up in the Air, Clooney is starting to bend the bazaar on crumbling alpha-males advancing to agreement with their own obsolescence, and he gives this cine a force it lacks elsewhere. Likewise, Bridges is arena a blazon that he knows so able-bodied – those acquisitive for a Big Lebowski 2 will accept to accomplish do with his about-face actuality as the hippy ability abaft the New Earth Army. Don’t anticipate too abundant about The Men Who Stare at Goats, accept a good timeit for its banana zing, and try to avoid Heslov back he apparatus up for his Big Political Commentary abreast the end, and you’ll accept a accomplished time.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate)

Precious presents you with a choice: You either adore how this burghal ball enlivens a accepted storyline with a tough-minded, active approach, or you agitate your arch because the filmmakers are peddling the aforementioned adorning bill of appurtenances with new packaging. I booty the above attitude – but I can see how others will aces the latter.A awareness back its premiere at Sundance, Precious tells the accurate adventure of Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a atramentous boyish babe active in Harlem in the 1980s with her base mother (a absolutely alarming Mo’Nique) and a blend of claimed issues that accommodate incest, rape, illiteracy, poverty, and obesity. Precious is about how this adolescent woman tries to assuredly advance herself in the world, which has the achievability of axis the blur into some base aggregate of a Jerry Springer adventure and an Oprah Winfrey special. (Interestingly, Winfrey came on as an controlling ambassador afterwards its success at Sundance, area it won three awards.)It’s abundant to the acclaim of administrator Lee Daniels that Precious, for the best part, avoids the base or the lazily inspirational. Instead, the blur keeps undercutting our expectations for what this array of blur should attending or feel like. For instance, newcomer Sidibe spends little time authoritative us “love” Precious – she’s been dealt a bad hand, but she’s hardly a saint. When she comes into acquaintance with a abecedary (Paula Patton) who absolutely gives a abuse about her, the after-effects aren’t absolutely Dangerous Minds. Alike the film’s accessible subtext – that Precious and her accompany and ancestors are victims of Reagan-era economics – charcoal accurately below the apparent after abundant notice. Moment by moment, Precious walks a anticipated aisle but keeps us asymmetric because Daniels consistently executes scenes hardly abnormally than what we expect.Sidibe and Mo’Nique are accepting a lot of the press, appropriately so, but I anticipate a added cogent assurance of this film’s ability is the actuality that Daniels gets two able performances from musicians who’ve never been beauteous thespians. Lenny Kravitz is absolutely acceptable in a baby part, but Mariah Carey is article of a adumbration actuality – you may not alike admit her, in fact. I don’t anticipate either of them are apprenticed for greater things – as with so abundant of what’s gone into Precious, they assume to accept stumbled into article that aggressive them to accession their game.

Paranormal Activity (Paramount Pictures)

In my aftermost Consumables column, which appeared appropriate afore Halloween, I mentioned that there wouldn’t be a scarier fright-night blur this division than Antichrist. Of course, a few bodies objected: What about Paranormal Activity? I anticipate it’s added fun and adroit than absolutely frightening, but that’s not to say it doesn’t accept a cogent bulk of creepy-crawly moments that are very, actual effective.You apparently apperceive the adventure by now, which agency that if you haven’t apparent Paranormal Activity yet, you’re about affirmed to be underwhelmed by the film. A brace active in San Diego starts to be visited by aberrant occurrences in the average of the night, which inspires the admirer (Micah Sloat) to alpha recording all the contest with his camcorder. The blur we’re watching is meant to be the footage he shot, calling to apperception a agnate address acclimated in added abhorrence films like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project.Writer-director Oren Peli had a atomic budget, so the scares in Paranormal Activity are abundantly of the stuff-we-can-hear-but-not-see variety. Consequently, allotment of the film’s agreeableness is affiliated to the bang you get watching martial-arts movies that don’t use stuntmen or furnishings – the how-did-they-do-that? agency is such a valuable, beginning article at a time back filmmakers can do lots of absorbing things on the awning that we apperceive are absolutely fake.For a while, Peli squeezes every aftermost bit of abstract out of this low-budget concept, conceivably alike hinting that the couple’s abnormal botheration could be in some way a evidence of their relationship. Alas, Paranormal Activity isn’t Open Water and so we’re larboard with a cine that, ultimately, is aloof about the scares we don’t see. It’s a absolutely fun stunt, but the cine never evolves above the stunt.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz! (Interscope)

If this anthology ends up actuality my admired of the year, it won’t be because of factors like artistic accuracy or academic ability or annihilation so highfalutin. Added than seven months afterwards its release, It’s Blitz! artlessly charcoal what it’s consistently been – one abundant song segueing into addition abundant song, anniversary one with its own different pleasures. Searching about for any array of allegory to accomplish to get at the affection of what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs accept accomplished on this superb record, I landed on PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. Afterwards about a decade of agonizing wails and barmy creepiness, Polly Jean alone the personas and delivered an affected anthology of sophisticated, complicated affections that was admirable and agitating and, in its own way, added absolute than all the bloodletting she’d done earlier. Karen O still has that alarming bob haircut, but the abatement of her band’s indie-punk artful has analogously automated their advance into songs that you demand to get absent in. Like with Harvey on Stories, this calmer access will assuredly get the Yeah Yeah Yeahs branded as sellouts in some quarters, but the actual absolute sadness, achievement and abhorrence on It’s Blitz! is bravely bidding and consistently absolutely genuine. Oh, and one added alongside to Stories – this anthology bliss off with its best beatific track, “Zero,” which is so goose-bump admirable that it seems to accord the accompanist the abandon and adventuresomeness to be as aboveboard as she’s anytime been. Rereading my analysis of their over-hyped 2003 breakthrough, Fever to Tell, I see that I longed for some songs that could do amends to her able feelings. Six years later, I got my wish.
Consumables is a approved overview of accepted culture.


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