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Of goats and murderers and movies

Movies are not life. Any fool knows that. But sometimes the horrors on front pages and the 24-hour news stations are so brutal that it's almost as if we needed to be reminded.

Sometimes movies get lucky when they're caught in history's wake. Usually they're not.

The current case in point of a phenomenally unlucky movie is Grant Heslov's "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a wild, black comic satire on New Age military shenanigans in Iraq. It is being nationally released today, just as the nation is mourning the shocking and horrific deaths of 12 people Thursday afternoon in a massacre attributed to a soldier --an M.D. and a psychiatrist yet--unhinged by prejudice and imminent deployment to the Middle East.

In other words, an absurdist comedy about military nut jobs is going into theaters at the exact moment that banner headlines are reminding us just how much horror that derangement can cause in the world, even on military bases full of those charged with the nation's defense.

A movie can hardly suffer worse luck on its opening weekend. Unfortunately, it's a pretty good movie too --by no means a great absurdist film comedy but a good way to employ George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Ewan McGregor.

The same ongoing history that can grind up a movie in reality's terrors, of course, can work to a movie's benefit. No movie in American history ever seemed more prescient than "The China Syndrome" whose opening almost perfectly coincided with the threat of nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island.

Not this time, though. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was probably not aiming at Hollywood, much less a specific American movie, but he might as well have been.

-- Jeff Simon

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