Robin Williams

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures, John Travolta and Robin Williams star in "Old Dogs."

Associated Press

'Old Dogs'

Rated PG for some mild rude humor. 89 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

In case anyone in the audience isn't sure when to cackle, coo, snicker or sigh, the makers of this dead stray of a family comedy have provided a handy on-screen prompt.

It's an old dog, reacting with grunts of canine confusion or curiosity over the antics of Robin Williams and John Travolta.

Director Walt Becker cuts away to the pooch, the aging pet of Travolta's character, so often that maybe the dog should have shared top billing in this rubbish about middle-aged buddies caring for young twins one of them never knew he fathered.

After ham-fisted flashbacks chronicling Williams' whirlwind romance with a woman played by Kelly Preston, Travolta's real-life wife, the movie stumbles from one clumsy anecdotal sketch to the next as she dumps the surprise 7-year-olds (one played by Travolta and Preston's daughter) on the guys. A real family affair for Travolta, but not for the rest of us.

'Ninja Assassin'

Rated R for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. 99 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

When considering the meager merits of this blood-splattered bone-snapper, it's best to remember the words of John Goodman's PC-challenged character in "The Big Lebowski”: "The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy … adversary.”

The makers of "Ninja Assassin” want to make those words real and rescue the ninja from the province of turtles. They have a funny way of paying respect to the sword-wielding saboteurs, though.

Director James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta”) is clearly more interested in spraying geysers of digital blood than in establishing the ninja as a foe to be taken seriously.

Another problem: Since the movie's ninjas only come out in the dark, the fight scenes are murky and almost impossible to follow.

No worthy adversaries here. Korean pop star Rain and Naomie Harris lead the cast of the movie, which centers on a rogue hit man who betrays his clan of assassins.

'The Road'

Rated Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. 113 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Director John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel strives to stay close to the book, but it fails to translate its essence and somehow feels more dreary than it should — which is saying something for a story about the apocalypse.

Despite its end-of-the-world setting — an ashen wasteland dotted by marauding cannibals — McCarthy's book is, at heart, a father-son parable.

We know them only as The Man (Viggo Mortenson) and The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Hillcoat's film feels altogether uncertain, unable to find the scene-to-scene drama of their tenuous survival.

Our dominant impression of the Man is his morbidity; Mortensen, a fine actor, doesn't evoke the weighty, terse steadfastness of the Man. Adapting a masterpiece such as "The Road” is a thankless task, but the film doesn't work on its own merits. "The Road” should reverberate with the most central questions of life and death, hope and despair.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.