Capsule movie reviews

Rain stars in the new thriller “Ninja Assassin.’’ Rain stars in the new thriller “Ninja Assassin.’’ (Juliana Malucelli/Warner Bros.)
December 2, 2009

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New releases
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Nicolas Cage is back in his high lunatic mode as a New Orleans police detective investigating a murder while high and corrupt. He’s working with the hellion, Werner Herzog. Their pairing is about as perfect a meeting between a director’s sense of mischief and an actor’s license to misbehave as a moviegoer could hope for. With a never-better Eva Mendes as Cage’s hooker girlfriend. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Fantastic Mr. Fox A dry stop-motion delight. Director Wes Anderson adapts Roald Dahl’s 1970 kids’ book to his usual obsessions (irresponsible dads, confused children). George Clooney voices the hero, raiding henhouses in a mid-life crisis. A fairy tale for adults that’s gracious enough to let everyone play along. With the voices of Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. (87 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Ninja Assassin Cobbled together from the instructions of assorted Hong Kong gangster bloodbaths and whatever the French super-producer Luc Besson did last, this long, thanklessly repetitive slice-kick-and-shoot-’em-up has nothing to offer but the aggravating awareness that Jet Li and Jason Statham have done it better. This time our star is a moderately charismatic young martial artist named Rain. (99 min., R) (Wesley Morris) Oh My God Peter Rodger took a movie camera on a tour of the world and its religions. He came back with a documentary that succinctly captures the experience of enduring this ponderous, repetitive, and exasperating attempt at moral, philosophical, and spiritual discourse. The problem isn’t with the questions. It’s the manner in which they’re asked. When the movie isn’t harassing Muslims and worshipping Buddhists, it’s condescending to almost everyone else. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Old Dogs A painfully stupid family comedy about two aging buddies forced to play daddy, this looks exactly like what you’d get if Robin Williams and John Travolta went out, got hammered, scrawled scenes on a bar napkin in random order, gave the napkin to “Wild Hogs’’ director Walt Becker, and filmed it. Trust me, you could do it at home and save yourself the $9.50. (88 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Red Cliff The very epicness of John Woo’s historical war picture is an entertainment. It’s set near the end of the Han Dynasty, in the second century, and focused on the territorial battle among warlords (Tony Leung, Chang Chen, and Zhang Fengyi). But truth be told, the movie feels laborious. It’s almost 2 1/2 hours, pared down from a 4-hour-plus Asian version, and what’s not admirably comical or thrillingly staged is corny, cramped, and impressionistically vague. (148 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Road Writer Cormac McCarthy’s postapocalyptic fable has been brought to the screen by Australia’s John Hillcoat (“The Proposition’’) with bleakness and caution. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee play the father and son crossing the barren wasteland of what used to be America. The movie’s darker than a happy-face sleigh ride like “2012’’ but arguably not dark enough. (119 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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