Reviews in Short

By Cole Smithey

The Men Who Stare at Goats. "The Men Who Stare at Goats" falls into the politically impotent sub-genre of lightweight satire, of which "Charlie Wilson’s War" and "The Informant" are recent touchstones. Based on Jon Ronson’s book about the American military’s most arcane practices, the movie focuses on an elite unit of special-ops soldiers trained to use psychic powers. George Clooney plays mind-over-matter spy Lyn "Skip" Cassady. Skip allows an adventurous young journalist named Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) to tag along with him on a mission into Iraq. Foamy flashback comic set pieces run parallel to a meandering plot in which Skip and Bob get lost and kidnapped, then lost again. Particularly unfulfilling is a dead-end subplot about the military’s New Earth Army, led by new age hippie Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). A Viet Nam vet, Django dropped lots of LSD in order to develop the skills of a "warrior monk." Here is satire with all of the edges rounded off, a movie in love with the idea that the U.S. military spends buckets of money on things like generating 12-inch houseflies to ruin the morale of our "enemies." The filmmakers might imagine that they’re dancing on the same floor as "Catch 22," but they’re much closer to a Steve Martin "Pink Panther" remake. Rated R. 95 mins. (D )

Saw VI. Headache-inducing and featuring one of the worst D-movie performances of the aughts from Costas Mandylor, as Detective Hoffman, the latest "Saw" installment is more of the same torture-punishment-rehab-porn audiences have come to expect. Rated R. 91 mins. (D)

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. Scattershot and comically unbalanced, "Cirque du Freak" is a wannabe horror movie that feels like it was filmed underwater. Teenage best friends Steve (Josh Hutcherson) and Darren (Chris Massoglia) buy their way into a troop of freaks performing at their local small-town theater. Miscast as the show’s vampire-about-town is John C. Reilly, as Larten Crepsley. Steve recognizes Crepsley as an immortal bloodsucker from a book Steve values, because he aspires to undead status. A visit from the nefarious Mr. Tiny and one misplaced psychedelic-colored, giant tarantula later, and the boys choose mutually-exclusive paths into evil. Darren suffers the ultimate insult in order to become a vampire, death, to save Steve from a coma induced by the spider’s bite. Steve teams up with Mr. Tiny, whose close ties to a less sophisticated tribe of vampires known as the "Vampaneze" play into his plot to provoke a longsimmering war between the Vampires and the Vampaneze. A pot-shot subplot romance between Rebecca (Jessica Carlson) and Darren turns out to be the most redeeming aspect of this woefully misguided film based on a series of books by Darren Shan.%u2028 Rated PG-13. 108 mins. (C-)

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