What I’m Watching: Week of 5/7/10
The Men Who Stare At Goats
This is an example of when a really good idea meets up with poor execution. The most enjoyable parts are the flashbacks to the creation of the New Earth Army, an Army branch dedicated to finding new and preferably non-lethal ways to fight ways. Amazingly, this group actually existed, and they actually experimented with using ‘Jedi’ techniques such as telekinesis and remote viewing. That backstory is fascinating and often humorous and Jeff Bridges is great, as always, as the founder of the unit. But the film features a pointless present-day narrative that does nothing to propel the story forward and ends up just being silly instead of poignant or satirical, like its striving to be. George Clooney tries his best, but he’s limp here, with nothing to do but make odd facial gestures and act weird.
Is this film stupid? Absolutely. But as with other recent offerings from explosion-meistro Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), it’s just tongue-in-cheek enough to milk some genuine enjoyment from the viewer. The special effects are predictable well-done and occasionally awe-inspiring, and though the dialogue is frequently awful, you’ve got some fine actors like Chiwitel Ejiofor trying their damndest to make it convincing. And they pull it off just enough for this to qualify as an adequate junk food that’ll give you some really fun stuff to look at. Woody Harrelson also provides a great cameo. Worth a watch, especially if you’ve got a big screen and surround sound to enjoy the mayhem.
In the Loop
This fast-paced and hyper-witty offering from BBC Films takes us inside the political machines of both Britain and the U.S. as they head toward an ill-advised Middle East war. The performances are great throughout, especially Peter Capaldi as a foul-mouth British press official for the Prime Minister, and it’s more than a little disconcerting to see how foolish political maneuvering and eg0-propelled dealings shape the trajectory of nations rolling towards war. That said, it’s also very funny, if a little too clever for it’s own good at times. This one got a Best Screenwriting Oscar nod, and it’s very deserving.
Term papers could be written about this film. Austrian auteur Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Funny Games) and an excellent French cast craft this subtly disturbing examination of how we interpret and deal with guilt. A wealthy French television personality is receiving strange video tapes which seem to be recording his home from afar, letting him know that he’s being watched. His journey to find out who made these tapes and why is a constantly surprising labyrinth of past secrets and the ghosts of long-ago wrongs. True to form, Haneke refuses to gives his audience easy answers, and some very important doors are left open to viewer interpretation. But this is an expertly crafted film that finds unease and buried horror in the seemingly banal. An American remake is currently underway, which would be alarming if it weren’t headlined by director Martin Scorcese and star Leonardo DiCaprio.