November 26, 2009, - 7:43 pm
Sorry I didn’t post my movie reviews yesterday, as I’d planned, but my site crashed, etc. “The best laid plans . . . .” That’s just as well because the holiday movies opening yesterday or at Midnight aren’t anything to skip turkey or pumpkin pie for. I did not see “Old Dogs,” as the screening was on a Saturday morning, when I am observing the Jewish Sabbath.
* “Ninja Assassin“: This is one of those movies where I say, it is what it is. It’s a ninja movie, so if you don’t like those, don’t go to this. It’s one of my guilty pleasures that, believe it or not, I like a good ninja movie (and other martial arts movies–yup, I like ‘em). So, I was excited to see this. But I found this one to be excessively bloody, graphic, and gruesome. Scene after scene of rivers of blood spurting out from grossly dismembered bodies, plus lots of extreme beatings–that’s what this movie is. And I was a little taken aback.
It’s on the level of the violence, gore, and graphic bloodiness of a “Saw” or “Hostel” movie. Disgusting. And not recommended for anyone under 18 . . . even WITH a parent. Plus, some of the blood is so clearly computer-generated or obvious red paint that it was simultaneously unbelievable and barf-inducing.
Still, it had that campy ninja thing going for it, though the campy factor would have increased had the movie been dubbed with American voices to unmatching Japanese-speaking video. Instead, it’s mostly Asian guys speaking broken and/or perfect English (some, like Korean-American actor Rick Yune, lefty Lisa Ling’s ex-boyfriend, were raised here). And like most ninja movies, it’s short on credible story, long on heart-pounding action.
Korean pop star Rain plays Raizo, a good ninja who has a falling out with his ninja clan because he sees they put evil, violence, and killing above doing what is right. A female researcher for Interpol is investigating mysterious deaths of KGB agents, world leaders, etc.–all apparently at the hand of mysterious unseen ninjas. Because she investigates it, Homeland Security, Interpol, and everyone else is after her, like they have never been when it comes to terrorists. Intertwined with her story, we see Raizo in his brutal, violent training as a ninja, somewhere in the Japanese countryside.
No-one looks to ninja flicks for believability, but I laughed when people somewhere in Western Europe were–in twenty seconds–breaking into a Japanese countryside compound, once a GPS mechanism was activated.
The movie had a message of good versus evil, but it was faint in comparison to the graphic bloodiness that dominates the screen and not enough to redeem the movie from that. Like I said, it is what it is, and if you want a ninja movie updated with our era of violence and gore to the max, this is for you. For everyone else, skip it and rent a ninja flick from the ’70s. Not worth ten bucks. At least, not for me.
HALF A REAGAN
* “Fantastic Mr. Fox“: This animated feature about a family of foxes underground who constantly steal food and goods from farmers was very cute and great for kids and adults alike . . . if you can get past the fact that smug lefty George Clooney voices the title character. I enjoyed it thoroughly, as it’s a light distraction from real life. Very cute for kids, too. If there was one thing that annoyed me–and I’m kinda nit-picking here–was Clooney’s constant use of the word “cuss,” as in “he’s a dumb-cuss.” Sounds weird, wasn’t necessary, and it’s like they want you to imagine the f-word for which this is clearly the writers’ euphemism. But kids won’t notice that the way I did. Incidentally, this movie is based on a book by Roald Dahl, who was well known not only for writing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” but also for his pointed Jew-hatred:
Dahl was entirely capable of unredeemed nastiness; he was, quite famously, an outspoken and unapologetic anti-Semite.
Dahl attacked Israel, Israelis, and Jews specifically, saying he understood why Hitler sent them to death camps because they aren’t likable. It makes it that much more interesting that Dahl’s biggest source of funds were those he made from the early ’70s movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factor,” made by . . . Jews. Dahl is six feet under now, so I don’t know who gets the money from his estate’s portion of the movie, and whether his heirs are as anti-Semitic as he was.
* “The Road“: This really bleak movie is hardly Thanksgiving material. Or new material–what with the plethora of apocalypse movies we’ve already seen in the past couple of years and on the horizon for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it really makes you thankful for what you have. And this is one of the better apocalypse movies in my view. It’s at the same time an adventure and a moral tale.
An earthquake or some other disaster has happened that has somehow knocked out sunlight from the earth. Everything is cloudy, and most humans are dead or dying. The few humans that remain are mostly evil and cannibals.
But Viggo Mortensen is one of the good people, and the movie raises the dilemma: how do you remain good in a world gone bad? A bleak world where the constant struggle to survive is dominant and you have a young son to whom to teach good values and the will to survive? As they struggle to survive and forage in the woods, the cold, snow, and homes of strangers and the dead, Mortensen does his best to teach his son to be a good person and a survivor. I liked it for that reason, and for the message of hope and survival amidst the bleakness, as well as the subtle religious messages.
Still, there were two part of this movie that turned me off. One was a very disturbing scene in which naked humans were stored alive as food in a basement by cannibals. There was blood everywhere, too. The other was Charlize Theron as Mortensen’s hopeless wife, who abandons her husband and young son because she says it’s pointless to try to survive. I’d bet this is how the real-life Cuba-apologist Theron would be, so there wasn’t much acting involved. Yup, she’s a bitch.
* “The Messenger“: At first, I had mixed emotions about this movie, which focuses on two soldiers who deliver notice to soldiers’ families that their loved one has been killed in action. It could have been a great movie, but it degrades into the usual gratuitous sex and drama wastes of time. I liked that it shows the difficulty one soldier has telling people their loved one was KIA, and the rigidity and coldness with which his commanding officer, Woody Harrelson, deals with it.
But I had no use for stupid, irrelevant sex scenes and a soldier crashing his lover’s wedding and screaming. Yes, it’s a tough job to notify families of soldiers that they’ve died in action. But our men who perform this high-stress job handle it with class and dignity and conduct their lives in similar due course. They are not unstable idiots and crybabies. Sad that this movie makes them look that way. Depressing, a waste of time, and of no value whatsoever.
Tags: Charlize Theron, Fantastic Mr. Fox, George Clooney, Lisa Ling, messenger, Movie Reviews, Ninja, Ninja Assassin, ninjas, Rain, Raizo, Rick Yune, Rickey Yune, Ricky Yune, Thanksgiving, The Road, Viigo Mortensen, Woody Harrelson