Film Reviews


By • Nov 3rd, 2009 •

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Full Disclosure: My husband, John B. Alexander, Ph.D., is figured prominently in the book The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. In fact, many of our friends are “satirized” in the book. Jim Channon (creator of the First Earth Battalion warrior monks concept), hilariously portrayed by Jeff Bridges (as Bill Django) in the movie, was the film’s technical advisor. Jim told me that George Clooney is playing a character based on several people including John.

Yes, John does alter weather by cloud bursting. It certainly helped during our cruise to Antarctica! However, he never has killed a goat intentionally or unintentionally.

John was formerly with the U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) under Major General Albert Stubblebine. Bert is featured in Ronson’s book where he is described as attempting to walk through walls. Ronson wrote about Bert: “General Stubblebine passionately believes the First Earth Battalion doctrine that every human being alive was capable of performing supernatural miracles…”. (The Men Who Stare at Goats p. 93).

In 1991, I traveled to the Soviet Union with Bert Stubblebine* and Rima Laibow, MD.

We were in Russia on a private mission touring parapsychology labs (staying at a 4-star KGB hotel and squired around by KGB personnel).

In GOATS, the character based on Bert, General Hopgood (Stephen Lang, pictured), keeps running into walls without successfully going through them.

In Russia with Bert and RimaIn

While not exactly a true story but based on true elements, GOATS begins with Midwest reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) interviewing a squirrelly man who claims to be a U.S. military trained remote viewer. He tells Wilton about the super-secret psychic spy program.

Ever wonder what happened to Barton Keyes’s “little man” from DOUBLE INDEMNITY? Wilton inherited him!

Stephen Lang

So, following the directive of his “Little Man”, Wilton gets a passport and goes off to Saudi Arabia searching for intel about psychic espionage. He “meets cute” the whispered-about psychic spy Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Cassady confesses all the secrets about Bill Django’s (Jeff Bridges) New Earth Army and his “Warrior Monks”. Django trained his hand-picked men to develop and use their psychic powers. And there, at the U.S. Department of Silly Walks, is where all the remote viewing, sparkly-eye technique, invisibility, running through solid walls, and goat killing were taught.

Clooney praised his goat co-star: Clooney has called his animal co-star in THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS “a great actor”. At the movie’s London Film Festival press conference Clooney said that the goat he acted with was a more reliable castmate than Ewan McGregor. “This goat was a particularly nice goat, we spent a lot of time together. He wanted to go over dying around me so we worked on that for a while. The funny thing is the goat was a great actor. He walked in and you went, ‘Stare at the camera’, and he did it. If you could get Ewan to do that it would help!”

Cassady is a zealot following the spiritual path laid out by New Age devotee Django. It’s his life’s code of conduct. Taking Wilton with him into Iraq on a mission, they are quickly captured.

Every movie needs a villain. Soldier-psychic spy Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) is jealous of Cassady’s paranormal success in the program. After Django’s fall from grace and “encouraged” retirement, Hooper gets funding for his very own psychic-spy training program. Wilton and Cassady find Django, broken and aged, working for Hooper.

Clooney understands the character of Cassady. He is committed and completely invested in his beliefs. There is no other way. These are the kind of mesmerizing individuals that people follow without asking the tough questions. Except for the sparkly-eye technique, GOATS will be a boon to alternative ideologies it mocks.

Grant Heslov shows a gift for directing and a subtle hand juggling the material. According to, Heslov and Clooney founded a production company together. Screenwriter Peter Straughan had an interesting cast of real life characters and he has served them well. Except, we cannot identify Kevin Spacey’s underdeveloped Hooper.

In Russia with one of our 'hosts' and at a TREAT Conference banquet.

What does Jim Channon think about GOATS? He told me:

“If I were writing a comedy I would have taken many of the same liberties with the truth that screenwriter Peter Straughan did. It’s a comedy. Of course, I never wore a ponytail with my uniform; what I did was never secret. But the movie’s hype certainly has a lot of people headed for the movie theatres.”

*Major General Albert “Bert” N. Stubblebine III was the commanding general of INSCOM from 1981 to 1984, when he retired from the army. Bert and Rima, a psychiatrist, founded the Natural Solutions Foundation (NSF), “a non-profit corporation devoted to protecting and promoting health freedom”. They claim to expose dangerous prescription drugs and vaccines promoted by large pharmaceutical companies, along with food contaminated by drugs.

Jim Channon’s final words: “The military folk who call themselves warrior monks are only too happy to be roasted by Hollywood’s Jedi warriors…nothing could be more honoring. Notice that by the end of the film the sacred cows lie dormant on the battlefield. The righteous, the New Agers, the Fundamentalists all were down and the human beings stood up and saved the day. We need a very creative army to find a better game plan than Shock and Awe. Good GOD, it’s the twenty-first century!!!!”

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at

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