The Men Who Stare at Goats Blu-ray Review
'The Men Who Stare at Goats' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Right off the bat it's clear that this is going to be a very well defined and detailed presentation. Some of long shots provide wonderful depth, stretching far back into the deserts of California (which is where the Iraqi based scenes were shot). In the background, many items are visible, such as the clearly legible label on the Glenfiddich bottle on Lynn's room or the easy to read name (and other) badges which adorn army officials' uniforms. The brightly lit scenes in Iraq detail individual grains of sand to the backdrop of horrendously shelled buildings. Flesh tones are spot on, perfectly representing the sunburned visage of Bob and the deeply tanned face of Lynn.
Facial close ups expose a lot of fine detail, such as the sweaty brow and bulging eyes of General Hopgood. Close-up shots of the goats also provide an exemplary display of detail, with hundreds of hairs on display. Colouring is for the most part solid (check out Robert Patrick's piercing blue eyes), with strong military greens and browns dominating. The contrast ratio is strong, with some deep blacks on show. Shadow detail is high, with many of the darker portions of the movie exposing plenty of detail.
The image, however, never really leaps from the screen and remains stubbornly flat, with only a few scant instances of that sought after “3D Pop” factor. That being said, overall this is a very strong presentation and gets a well deserved eight.
'The Men Who Stare at Goats' comes with a dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
The opening scenes expose the impressive stereo reproduction of the track, which continues to form a solid grounding for the remainder of the presentation. There are plenty of nuances which the uncompressed track exposes, such as the subtle munching of de-bleated goats or the rumble of a chopper overhead. The piece is narrative driven and so is vocal heavy. This aspect of the mix is locked to the centre channel for the duration and is never difficult to follow.
Surround activity adds a lot of ambience during the busy scenes, with cars audible whizzing around in the background. During the battle scenes in Vietnam gunshots can be heard ricocheting around the listening position, dropping the viewer in the midst of a shootout. Overall though, the surround channels were a little too quiet for my liking. The subwoofer is somewhat dormant for the majority, coming to life during some of the impact scenes. There are a couple of scenes that offer meatier bass, such as the distant thump of shelling, but these are few and far between.
The score makes its presence felt immediately providing psychedelic effects, which echo nicely around the soundstage. There are also a couple of classic “feel good” tracks thrown in for good measure, such as Supergrass' “Allright”, Small Faces' “Itchycoo Park” and Boston's “More Than a Feeling”. All the aforementioned tracks really suit and are perfect choices to accompany the on screen happenings. The score is bolstered by the fantastic original compositions of Rolfe Kent, which really adds to the feature presentation.
Overall this is a very solid track. There's not as much activity from the surrounds or sub as I would have liked but this is a limitation of the source material.
Although this release is missing the bonus DVD of the movie which was included with the Region A release, the extras portion is none the less packed with additional supplements. The presence of two commentary tracks (one from Heslov and the other from Ron Jonson) also earns bonus points, as does the inclusion of all HD features.
Said commentary from Heslov is a little droll but informative nonetheless, with in depth explanation of all the scenes featured. He discusses some of the aforementioned funky tracks and also expands on the locations featured (New Mexico, Puerto Rico and California to name a few) and the many alternate takes that could have been included. Heslov gives his impressive cast due props and elucidates on his directorial techniques. To be honest, this commentary is interesting and worth a listen, but Helsov's boring attitude and the inclusion of minimal anecdotes from the set, makes it less engrossing than it could have been.
The commentary from Jon Ronson (the author of the book) is a lot more interesting and he provides great explanation on the real people behind the characters featured and also expands on the “special powers” which are depicted. Ronson draws comparison between the movie, his book and also on his own experiences as he embarked on his fantastical journey to uncover origins of the New Earth Army. It is stunning how much of the content actually happened (and goats are still being used at Fort Bragg!) and this commentary really adds to the feature presentation.
“Goats Declassified" (12mins HD) - This “making of” takes an in depth look into the research which took place prior to making the movie. Retired colonels and majors speak about the real life New Earth Army, who practised the techniques which are depicted in the movie. Interviews with the people on whom the characters are based are also included. Well worth a watch with some fascinating content.
“Project Hollywood: A Classified Report” (7mins HD) - Featuring interviews with the cast , director and writers, this featurette takes a look and how the movie was made; from conception to production. Footage from the movie itself is included, as well as plenty of backstage footage. Again, well worth a watch.
Deleted Scenes - Featured here are four deleted/alternate scenes which were omitted from the finished product. Most are no major loss but I did really like the Krom scene!
Character Profiles (HD 4mins) - This featurette is more like a lot of trailers strung together rather than a character profile - I would not recommend watching this as is contains a lot of spoilers.
Trailer - Included here, for your viewing pleasure, is one high definition for the movie (it does have an uncompressed audio track though).
'The Men Who Stare at Goats' was released in 2009 and was directed by Grant Heslov. Based on the novel of the same name by Jon Ronson, the movie follows the exploits of a naive journalist who attempts to unravel the mysteries of the New Earth Army Batallion; a secret branch of the US Army which specialised in pscy-warfare. The ensemble cast features Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and acting powerhouse Jeff Bridges. All play out their parts to perfection and do the very witty script justice. The plot is a little fantastical, even though it's based on real events, but this is simply a feel-good, fun movie that should be enjoyed for what it is.
The transfer is spotless and for the majority is well defined and contains lots of detail. The audio presentation is somewhat limited by the source material but it does have a couple of moments to shine and the score is well worth a listen. The extras package is well fleshed out and contains some worthwhile features as well as two commentary tracks. All in all this is an impressive Blu-ray release and comes recommended for all fans of the movie.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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