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MOVIE REVIEWS

Back to fighting Angels

January 21, 2011|Robert Abele and Mark Olsen

The anime feature "Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance" is the continuation of a projected quartet that re-imagines (and condenses) an influential mid-'90s Japanese TV series called "Neon Genesis Evangelion."

To recap the apocalypse as intriguingly conceived by animator Hideaki Anno, the world is beset by catastrophically destructive behemoths called Angels, and only moody teens neurally plugged into giant combat robots called Evas can save humanity.

It was the best of times, it was the end of times, in other words, since this nerd soap delivers plenty of orgiastically designed battle sequences, futuristic fortress-themed visuals (cool retractable buildings, Tokyo!) and a deep empathy with the confusion and alienation in its adolescent heroes, who are led by Shinji -- who seeks praise from his taciturn father -- and silver-haired, quiet-voiced loner hottie Rei.

Trying to comprehend the jargon-rife storylines and high-minded philosophical talk is a demanding task when the pace is so unforgiving, which suggests that this new concentrated "Evangelion" might best be appreciated by those who remember the psychological nuances of the small-screen version.

Amid the eye-popping bursts of spirographic CGI imagery there are dramatically interesting kernels.

But for the most part, this is the kind of immersive fanboy experience that doesn't suffer wandering attention spans.

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Robert Abele

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"Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. Playing at the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

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'Lemmy' doesn't delve far

"It's a great job, I recommend it." So says Lemmy Kilmister on his life as a rock 'n' roller in the film "Lemmy," a documentary portrait of the Motorhead frontman and living symbol of hard rock swagger.

It says much of Kilmister's enduring appeal that the slew of celebrity testimonials, including Dave Grohl, Jarvis Cocker, Billy Bob Thornton and Joan Jett, come from such a wide swath of the musical spectrum. Co-directors Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski cycle through an array of topics with little organization -- they feature Kilmister's custom boot maker early on but save talking about the specifics of his bass sound until fairly late -- creating no overall flow or structure. (Not to mention that the endless shots of Kilmister walking down corridors in one anonymous venue after another begin to take on a distinctly "Spinal Tap" feel after a while.)

A brief section detailing his time pre-Motorhead in the influential space-rock band Hawkwind, from which former bandmates all seem to still harbor specific grudges, makes the merry reminiscences of much of the rest of the film seem all the more flat. Though there are a few moments that feel insightful in getting underneath Kilmister's implacable persona, the filmmakers leave something wanting when it comes to understanding what drives him and his obsessions with slot machines or military paraphernalia.

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Mark Olsen

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" Lemmy." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes. Playing at Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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Too much peace, too little action

Beware bone-crushing action stars bearing messages of peace and enlightenment.

With "Ong Bak 3: The Final Battle," Thai martial arts hero Tony Jaa has taken his muscular and balletic brand of soar-and-stomp fighting to a heavy-handed extreme. Gone is the scrappy, brutal wit of the original -- nothing more than an unfettered showcase for Jaa's talents -- and in its place is more of the overwrought myth making that sunk "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning."

We're back in ancient Thailand, where rebel villager Tien (Jaa) is battered and left for dead by a vicious warlord, who isn't nearly as big a threat as the mystical warrior known as Demon Crow (a hammy Dan Chupong in eyeliner and ghostly makeup).

But before Tien can save his village, he must heal with the Buddha, which is when the spiritually minded Jaa -- who famously retreated to a monastery after co-directing this (with Panna Rittikrai) -- all but turns the movie into a leaden, montage-laden promo for karmic betterment.

It's enough to make an action fan feel guilty for hungrily anticipating the next violent showdown.

Of course, the end does bring plenty of bloody mayhem, slow-mo body blows and Jaa's special brand of elephant-assisted acrobatics, but it's too little too late when the rest of "Ong Bak 3" is such a holistic slog.

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Robert Abele

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"Ong Bak 3: The Final Battle." MPAA rating: R for strong violence and bloody images. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. Playing at Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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'Repo Chick' takes wrong turn

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