Critics Consensus: Flee From Ninja Assassin
Plus, Old Dogs is in need of new tricks, and The Road is a trip worth taking.
This week at the movies, we've got martial arts mayhem (Ninja Assassin, starring Rain and Naomie Harris); family-friendly hi jinks (Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams); and a post-apocalyptic trek (The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron). What do the critics have to say?
What we want from a movie called Ninja Assassin is simple: amazing stunts and killer fight scenes. That isn't too much to ask, is it? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, say critics, who feel that Ninja Assassin's thrills aren't just cheap - they're low-grade. South Korean pop star Rain is Raizo, an efficient assassin who's betrayed by his clan, and teams up with an international cop named Mika (Naomie Harris) to bring them down. The pundits say the plot and characters are forgettable, but the big problem is that director James McTeigue edits the fight scenes down to the bone, so it's often difficult to tell what's happening.
Slapstick is one of the hardest of comedic techniques to pull off, and when it fails, it can be brutal. Such is the issue with Old Dogs, critics say; the talented cast is game, but everyone's trying so hard to generate laughs where there are none to be found that things go south in a hurry. John Travolta and Robin Williams star as a pair of old buddies who find themselves doing the unthinkable - caring for a set of twins just as a big business deal is about to happen. Life lessons and pratfalls ensue. The pundits say Old Dogs is predictable, overly broad, and tonally inconsistent to the point of tedium. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we run down Travolta's best-reviewed films.)
Once No Country for Old Men won Best Picture, it was only a matter of time before Cormac McCarthy's other works would be adapted for the screen. And critics say that The Road, though unrelentingly grim and literal-minded, is still a very good movie version of McCarthy's prose. Viggo Mortensen stars as a man who's struggling for survival as he and his son trek across a post-apocalyptic American wasteland, populated only with cannibals and the desperate. The pundits say this is by no means a good time at the movies, but it's beautifully shot, often moving, and features a fine performance from Mortensen.
Also opening this week in limited release:
- The Swiss import Home, starring Isabelle Huppert in a drama about a family that's profoundly disturbed when a highway is built near its property, is at 94 percent.
- The Princess and the Frog, based on the fairy tale and marking Disney's return to hand-drawn animation, is at 83 percent.
- The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, starring Robin Wright Penn and Alan Arkin in a drama about a woman whose outward perfection contains hidden struggles, is at 78 percent.
- Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron and Claire Danes in a backstage drama about the great director's staging of Julius Caesar, is at 74 percent.