The big news in Berlin at the moment is the daylight robbery that took place at the Grand Hotel Hyatt this weekend – and no, I’m not referring to their room prices.
Armed gunmen stormed into the hotel in Potsdamer Platz on Saturday afternoon and plundered the PokerStars European Poker Tour. There ensued much confusion over how much money they actually got away with; on Saturday evening it was €800,000, on Sunday morning it was €100,000 and by Sunday evening it was €200,000. (I think the final figure is €242,000 – the BBC News website still has the wrong figure.)
Police Chief Rainer Wendt claimed that the gunmen were amateurs anyway, and would soon be caught…yet more confusion, as another police spokesman said that they didn’t really have any leads. And was it four gunmen or six gunmen? Ah, bless the Berlin Police Force, who don’t come across much crime in this city. Here, even the Punks queue up nicely at ATM machines, and in most cafes, kebab places and bagel joints, you pay for your food or coffee after you’re done. Sometimes, they even ask you what you had. So much trust…it would never work in London.
At the same time as all this was going on in Potsdamer Platz, I was round the corner in the cinema (I have the ticket stub to prove it), getting robbed of €8 to see Men Who Stare at Goats. The film is based on the book of the same title by Jon Ronson, about his investigation into the US Military’s attempts to incorporate New Age concepts. Ewan McGregor plays journalist Bob, who reacts to his wife leaving him by going off to cover the war in Iraq where he meets George Clooney’s character Lynn, who claims to be part of a secret paranormal unit of the army.
As sometimes happens when adapting a non-fiction book into a fiction film, the story suffers. And in this film, the story didn’t really go anywhere; it felt like a series of expositional flashbacks showing one quirky bit of history after another. Sure it had all the obligatory character arcs and so on, but these felt contrived and made the film soulless.
Another big problem was the lack of humour. Okay, there were some funny bits, but these were ALL in the trailer (which is below to save you from watching the entire film). I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t laughing at this so-called comedy. In a packed cinema, few giggles could be heard. As luck would have it, the only idiot laughing loudly all the way through was sitting next to me (yes, Row K, seat 9 – you know who you are). He also had the annoying habit of repeating the last line of dialogue in every conversation OUT LOUD. That’s the kind of person who would enjoy this film.
I have no idea how such big stars were drawn to this project. It’s a shame for Clooney, who’s done a run of good films lately such as Up in the Air. Spacey, who is involved in the Old Vic and TriggerStreet should know a thing or two about good drama. McGregor gives a particularly bad performance; the biggest question about his character was What kind of accent is that? See if you can figure it out…