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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


The Men Who Stare at Goats [Blu-ray]


(Grant Heslov, 2009)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: BBC Films

Video: Overture Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:33:45.620

Disc Size: 32,799,573,697 bytes

Feature Size: 24,713,859,072 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.75 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 23rd, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3214 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3214 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Embedded: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -3dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -3dB



English (SDH), Spanish, none



• Commentary with director Grant Heslov

Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion (12:29 in HD!)
Project “Hollywood”: A Classified Report from the Set (7:34 in HD!)
Character Bios (4:46 in HD!)
Deleted Scenes (4:05 in HD)

Trailer (2:19 in HD!)





Description: In this comedic look at real life events that are almost too bizarre to believe, reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) discovers an experimental top-secret wing of the U.S. military called The New Earth Army, trained to change the ways wars are fought through New Age psychic power. In search of his next big story, Wilton tracks down Lyn Cassady (Academy AwardŽ winner George Clooney), a shadowy figure who claims to be a member of this legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers who can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it...



The Film:

"The Men Who Stare at Goats" sounds like some ethnographic documentary about the bushmen of the Kalahari or the Bakhtiari herders of old Persia. Anyone expecting anything like that, or even a Disney family film like "Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar," is going to be surprised.

Instead, first-time director Grant Heslov has come up with something wackier and more whimsical, a quirky comedic drama about one of the stranger aspects of the modern American Army, a time when certain high-ranking officers felt that the New Age techniques and beliefs of the counterculture could transform military practice as we know it. As the intertitle that begins the film succinctly puts it, "more of this is true than you would believe."

The Army, no surprise, was never able to make that transformation completely happen. Similarly, Heslov, working from a script by Peter Straughan taken from a nonfiction book by Jon Ronson, has been unable to make "Goats" a completely successful film. But it's still worth watching because it provides a showcase for a group of actors who really appreciate this kind of farcical comedy.

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan at the L.A. Times located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Men Who Stare at Goats appears to have a reasonable, but modest, transfer to Blu-ray. Grain is visible, but it has some softer moments that may be inherent in the final print. Colors and contrast look good - but nothing will overwhelm.  The image quality is a bit gritty and never glossy.  I suspect the dual-layered rendering is accurate to the original source - surprisingly stated, in the commentary, as being on a limited (tight) budget. Daylight scenes are more impressive but nothing is overly dark. This Blu-ray looks like HD - a step or two beyond SD but it won't grab you as some other more lavish productions will. It's a comedy and an improved visual appearance wouldn't make the jokes any funnier. I was satisfied with how this looked in 1080P.
















Audio :

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track at 3214 kbps throws out some healthy bass when called upon. There is some errant gunplay (and rifles) and the lossless rendering seems to adeptly handle everything and, the group, Boston sounds fabulous when "More Than a Feeling" is played (twice). There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.



Extras :

Firstly, as incorrectly stated on Amazon at the writing of this review - I can tell you that there is no Digital Copy. Director Grant Heslov gives a commentary but it doesn't reveal as much as I would have hoped. He seemed a bit stilted, but obviously was privy to more information about production etc. than anyone else - but he lets the film run quite a lot without interrupting and when he does it is incredibly boring ("those are actually Ewan's doodles - he is an incredible doodler...") but he does seem to improve as the film runs on. We also get some featurettes starting with Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion with 12 interesting minutes lending some credence to the basis of the story with Military types giving cool recollections. Project “Hollywood”: A Classified Report from the Set is more the standard with 7 minutes fitting in cast and crew soundbytes. It fills some gaps but is, obviously, not in-depth. The Character Bios are fun - taking the four main characters and building the personas a little more. I found it enjoyable and humorous. The 4-minutes of deleted scenes don't really expand too much beyond the original cut. Lastly, we get a trailer and some previews.



As Kevin Spacey states in the supplements - part of you really wants to believe in the hyperbole of the storyline. In fact, it is so outrageous that it seems to have some probability - only relying on that fact that no one could invent all this military absurdity. I liked most of this film, it veered off in a strange direction for a while, but the humor is golden and I laughed loud and long (one line in particular from Clooney had my stomach aching). It was great to see these performers together and the 'fun' quotient definitely exists. The Men Who Stare at Goats is no masterpiece but it is positively entertaining - and a film I can see myself revisiting in the future. I'll give this a recommendation - it was fun and smart and the Blu-ray gives a worthwhile viewing in my opinion. 

Gary Tooze

March 9th, 2010



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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