Too Much, Too Little:  Taking Woodstock , Ninja Assassin
 
 
            Both “Taking Woodstock” and “Ninja Assassin” are too much, too little in their own ways.
            “Taking Woodstock ” is too much leading up to the big 1969 concert event, and too little actually enjoying it.  In fact, we see none of it at all, either real, imagined, or reconstructed.  What this film is really about is a small Jewish family---Mom, Dad, and grown son---who own a run-down motel in the Catskills.  They bicker with each other, but are somehow bonded by all the scrimping and scraping a bare subsistence living in their run-down, flea-bag motel.  Elliott (Demetri Martin) tries to be entrepreneurial, but it just isn’t happening, until, that is, the big concert event of the century just happens to land in his backyard.  He’s absolutely overwhelmed, as everyone else is, by the mass of humanity that begins to flood their tiny hamlet, in the classic “peace and love” get-together of the height of hippiedom.  Of course, the euphoria would be short-lived, but it was a unique moment in time, and that part of it, at least, we viewers catch a glimpse of, but only through the wooden fence, as it were.  The concert is playing just beyond, and though we can tell that there’s music going on, we can’t really hear it, much less marvel at the once-in-a-lifetime gathering of musicians there.  It would be like making a movie of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, but from the point of view of German command headquarters in Calais----close enough to sense that something momentous is happening, but too far away to actually be an eyewitness to it.  As in the Woodstock event, we have gratuitous nudity and drug usage, but some concert footage would have been nice……
            “Ninja Assassin” is too much kung-fu action and too little character development.  It had a chance, too, in the buildup:  orphan boy gets raised as a ninja, and recruited to be a cold-blooded assassin, but after his first “assignment,” realizes that he has a conscience.  That’s inconvenient, because now the whole “brotherhood” is after him because of his “betrayal.”  Yes, the kung-fu fighting is spectacular, but it would help more if the main character really was trying to re-form himself, rather than just being “badder” than everyone else.  There’s a promising couple of moments, when he takes an interest in a woman, but, alas, she’s either helpless or hopeless in his world, so there’s no chance for a real relationship here.  “Ninja Assassin” is a guilty-pleasure movie for the hand-combat aficionado, but too little letup in the blood-spurting, limb-chopping violence for anyone else.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas