THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS ***
How much you like The Men Who Stare at Goats probably depends on how much you enjoy George Clooney in high-jinks mode. Personally, I think Mr. Clooney has evolved into the best screen performer of his time; he can do drama (Syriana), dramedy (Up In The Air) and physical comedy (O Brother Where Art Thou?) with equal aplomb. He’s firmly in the latter territory here, with a wonderfully over-the-top perfomance as a loony-tunes American military man who believes he has psychic powers. It turns out he’s the product of a tiny division of the US military that is funding the potential for soldiers to develop such powers – to create “super-soldiers”, also (and officially) known as “Jedi Knights”. All this would be way too ludicrous, except it’s supposedly based on truth – which feels a little impossible until you go back and look at any footage at all of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, and realise that anything was possible under them when it came to matters of the military. Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Ewen McGregor round out a terrific ensemble who, unfortunately, look like they’re having more fun than the audience. One for people who like their films idiosyncratic, The Men Who Stare At Goats is far from perfect, but a lot of fun.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND ***
Tim Burton’s new Alice makes a few bold choices – and I’m not sure why. For starters, it makes Alice herself nineteen, and presents the story as her second trip down the rabbit hole. Combining elements from both Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the film feels a little ponderous at times – like certain scenes just have to be got through to get to the better ones. The whole thing left me pretty cold; however, Helena Bonham Carter is truly funny as The Red Queen, and Johnny Depp turns in yet another intriguing performance as The Mad Hatter. One of the best things about Depp is that he is fearless: he never gives you what you expect – or even what you want. For the first time ever, I saw in the credits that he has his own sound technician – a tribute to his inventive and brave use of his own voice.