Ironclad, a film by Jonathan English

by James Gilmore

In my first random pick for review, I selected a film I’d never heard of based on its cast of superb actors.

Ironclad is an exciting action film with a rich, gritty palette and bravely executed combat scenes filled with gore and glory. Well-designed, efficiently made for its modest budget, but I wouldn’t say well-directed. ‘Adequate’ is more appropriate. The film lacks requisite directorial intimacy in pivotal scenes while exposition is handled more like a dialogue-heavy Shakespeare stage play than a filmic story with keen visual moments. However, the director excels in presenting intense battle scenes—the highlight of the film—much to the viewer’s benefit.

Movie poster for Ironclad a film by Jonathan English on Minimalist Reviews.

This Westernized remake of Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai has a rocky 30 minute start, after which it drastically—thankfully—improves with steady progression for the remainder of the film. Ironclad pales in comparison to the stability, complexity or thematic material inherent in Kurasawa’s version.

While it is refreshing to see Paul Giamatti play the villain and, in juxtaposition, Brian Cox as a good guy (their roles are usually reversed), the protagonist (played by James Purefoy) remains inexorably weak. Without any sense of the proactive goal-seeking or depth required to drive the story, the first act feels directionless and unhinged. Unfortunately, the protagonist’s deficiencies never correct themselves. Every character ends up having more depth than and goal-orientation than the protagonist, who presents himself as the classic reactive type, acted upon instead of pro-acting to advance the plot. His only element of character turns out to be an artificial construct which neither enhances nor develops the story. Purefoy portrays his character just as weakly, like a beaten dog who tries to shrink into invisibility in order to avoid further beatings. He is a non-character, and the weakest link at the core of story.

Despite its shortcomings, Ironclad is worth a look if you are in the mood for a superficial action film and aren’t afraid of a little graphic violence.

Rating: 2 / 5

New Photography Albums Coming

My first three photography albums are now available for viewing under “Visual” while two of them have also been in into surreal slideshows with music (called Grit and Beauty, respectively) under “Motion.” Alternatively, you can view them on my YouTube channel.

Also take a look at my first video poem, The Age of Decline.

New photography albums coming before the end of the year. Stay tuned! I’m including samples from an album in progress called Ruminations in Sand.




A Few Updates

WANTED: JOB & ROOF

While apartment & job hunting in Los Angeles, I am lining up creative projects on the side, preferrably paid. In addition to having two short works in upcoming print publications, I have a few short scripts in development, one directing project coming up, and looking for more! (Especially directing gigs.)

As for a day job, if you know anyone seeking a talented, reliable individual with a vast array of skills and adaptability, let me know. I’m looking. I can do administrative, IT, writing/filmmaking, social media, marketing, etc.

NEW PHOTOS

I also whipped up a few self-portraits with an old wide-angle point and click and Adobe Lightroom 3.3. What do you think?

NEW PERSONA

Take a look at my new page for eDirt, a new persona I’m developing for the website Dirt.com, where I am a regular “Dirtributor.”

TRON: Legacy, a film by Joseph Kosinski

by James Gilmore

TRON: Legacy is a delightfully updated remake/sequel of the original Tron (1982), although it’s more of the PG Disney version of The Matrix for tweens, than anything else.  With a strong, robust 15-minute opening sequence, this visually stunning film dazzles the eyes with dark, sleek spectacle without becoming intrusive or overbearing (no surprise, coming from Disney).  The landscapes and color palettes, although reminiscent of the original TRON, seem to be inspired far more by The Matrix and The Dark Knight.  Excellent directing and cinematography are worth noting (Kosinski managed to handle this big blockbuster budget directing debut without drowning).  The film’s visual elegance is complemented by a minimalist, electronica-revival soundtrack.

Movie poster for Tron 2.0 Legacy, a film by Joseph Kosinski, on Minimalist Reviews.As is typical of an action/adventure film, the plot is thin, even though the concept is good enough for a potentially breathtaking story.  The magic of TRON: Legacy begins to fade toward the middle of the film as the weaknesses of its mediocre storyline are revealed, dispelling some, but not all, of the immersive filmic experience.  And although there are a few instances of borderlines senseless technobabble, a few stretches of logic (such as programs acting exactly like humans), and clichéd generic dialogue, this tightly-woven, efficient film is a visual feast and thoroughly enjoyable.

Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn with surprising presence.  Often he appears to be imitating a younger, more restrained version of Christian Bale in voice and countenance.  Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn* brings both dimension and depth to his character, adding that touch of subtlety akin truly great acting—and the same would be more than welcome in Sam Flynn and Quorra (played by Olivia Wilde) as well.  On the other hand, Zuse (played by Michael Sheen) appears curiously out of place and/or over-the-top within the tone of the piece, frequently sticking out like a decorative sore thumb after the parade.

Rating: 3 / 5

 

*It seems apt that I am writing this review on the day of Steve Jobs’ death because, in a sense, TRON: Legacy is about Sam Flynn, a fictional, magical Steve Jobsian visionary and technology emperor.  If you’re wondering about the date, these reviews are usually posted several days after they are initially written.

13 Assassins, a film by Takashi Miike

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for 13 Assassins, a film by Takashi Miike, on Minimalist Reviews.

13 Assassins is nothing less than an old-fashioned samurai movie in color. You might even call it Seven Samurai II (or x2 is almost as appropriate). The slow, character-oriented first half of the film is just like that of class Kurasawa, making the second half all the more dazzling when it slams the viewer into 21st century filmmaking. Takashi Miike uses opposing perspectives of the same samurai ideology to juxtapose violence as a necessity against violence as a luxury. Without a doubt, Miike has created some of the greatest samurai battles ever committed to film. Unfortunately, 13 Assassins appears lacking in deep, profound thematic material.

Rating: 4 / 5

Oldboy, a film by Chan-wook Park

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for Oldboy, a film by Chan-wook Park, on Minimalist Reviews.

Unique, brilliant, the fantastic child of a truly artistic endeavor. A seemless marriage of script, camera and directing. Oldboy combines an intimate examination of human nature’s darkest facets with an entrancing story of revenge, love, and selfishness.

Stay tuned for the 2013 American of Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee and (according to rumors) starring Christian Bale and Rooney Mara.

Rating: 5 / 5

Cloverfield, a film by Matt Reeves

by James Gilmore

Cloverfield (2008) is like reliving a Godzilla movie from the ground and might be more aptly named “Godzilla Takes Manhattan.” Still, it is truly a B-movie concept with A-level execution.  Filmed in the style of minimalist cinéma vérité with the main action taking place over a 24-hour period, this tense adventure is delightfully immersive and filled with excitement at every twist and turn, although a satisfactory epilogue feels unfortunately absent.

Movie poster for Cloverfield, a film by Matt Reeves, on Minimalist Reviews.At times the first-person camera work will make the viewer ill, it eventually settles to the point where one no longer notices. There are annoying eruptions of chaos and some repetitive dialogue, but these are fairly superficial in comparison to the overall emotional and visual strength of the film. The character of Beth (played by Odette Annable) stands out as glaringly weak in comparison to the remainder of the robust cast, with the exception of “Hud” (played by T. J. Miller), whose character may rank among one of the most annoying in history—nearly on par with Jar Jar Binks.

The most blatant issue Cloverfield is that it feels comprised of two separate films intercut together. The opening of film accurately captures 21st century youth in its indigenous environment, complemented by enough relationships and life problems to carry the rest of the film without any monster at all.  While the monster portion of the film certainly connects the two parts of the story, they could have been separated into two equally-satisfying stories.

Cloverfield is also reminiscent of Quarantine (also 2008), only without the quarantine, or Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project (1999). 

Rating:  4 / 5