jamesashleysmith-884-910475

IMDb member since December 2013
    Lifetime Total
    10+
    IMDb Member
    7 years

Reviews

Beware the Slenderman
(2016)

Fascinating, heartbreaking but a must watch...
Beware the Slenderman is a fascinating documentary exploring the tragic stabbing of a young girl by two of her friends. The young girls became infatuated with a fictional online character (Slenderman) and believe they must kill their friend Bella or the Slenderman will kill their families. Crazy right? Well yes, but lets get to know why... and that is exactly what Irene Brodsky (director) does.

The documentary gives an insight into the act of killing, the repercussions, the crazy US justice system, the effects on family and friends and the ​issues of mental illness in children. I imagine the victims family did not want to be interview for the film but I would of been interested to contrast the families pain after this awful event.

The film is careful ​about how it challenges the​se​ subjects​,​ however does so by showing the very real and heartbreaking story of this particular case. The film is well made, brilliantly directed and challenges how we view and 'treat' mental illness. A lot of people might of been excepting a rubbish horror movie when they saw the title of this film but I can assure you this film is far more scary, distressing​ but an important watch.

Stranger Things
(2016)

Best TV show if it's genre...
Netflix has commissioned some great shows of late, Making a Murderer, Better Call Saul, Narcos, Bloodline and now Stranger Things.

When you see the trailer you think, OK a homage to the 80's but so what... Well I've not seen a series of it's genre that not only shocks, scares and thrills but actually builds likable yet flawed characters through great writing, directing and acting (and very well edited of course).

The main stars of the show are the children who are natural, funny and utterly believable. Think Pans Labyrinth meets a Spielberg film but darker and better! Give it a go.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
(2015)

Not out of this world, but worth the journey
I have never been a huge Star Wars fan, however I am a huge film fan, So I went into Star Wars with no expectations despite the massive publicity. It's probably not needed to put much of a synopsis in this review as actually it may well spoil the film and confuse the reader (and reviewer).

When Disney first paid 5 billion for the rights to the franchise, I was a little worried that the film would be even more 'kiddy' than the older versions and contain huge amounts of CG sets and more animated characters than real ones. However what's evident in The Force Awakens is the amount of real sets and decent actors who help make you fully immerse yourself into the writers (and partly Lucas') world.

It's great having the original cast back in the film but actually what the writers and director does so well is make you fully relate to, and care about the new characters, particularly "Rey' played by Daisy Ridley and 'Finn' played by John Boyega.

The action is as fun as ever and despite a few cringe moments, overall Star Wars definitely feels like Star Wars again. I imagine plenty of Star Wars fans will disagree with this but to be honest just go in and watch the film for what it is; A fun film to be enjoyed with the family. None of the old films were amazing and neither is this, however it's a good watch and worth the overpriced popcorn.

The Summit
(2012)

Compelling Story, awful narrative
This film is certainly worth a watch, basically to mainly observe how not to put together a documentary. The Story is extremely compelling but the director chooses to jump the narrative all over the place and even confuse the audience with a story about the first ever climb up K2. Simply it doesn't work. I am quite surprised it got released like this, all the pieces are there - but unfortunately in the wrong order which ultimately makes you care less. Maybe the director/editor producer were trying to be clever but it's just a bit naff. Also there are too many captions and the interviews look a bit ugly. Shame as the story is brilliant.

Ex Machina
(2014)

Plug in, download - you won't shut down.
So it's January 2015, and a whole host of good films come out just in time for the Oscars​,​ ​h​ow convenient​!​ So in amongst the gushing reviews of Whiplash and The Theory of Everything​, Ex Mahcina sneaked​ in under the radar. Domhnall Gleeson​ plays a geeky programmer Caleb, who wins the chance to spend a week with his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac​) to meet and interact with an AI he has built called Ava. The film is set in the middle of a remote woodland complex that Nathan has had built for his scientific experiments. We enter the world with our geek friend Caleb who has obviously been selected by Nathan despite the fact he thinks he's just part of a random selection process.

So the premise sounds great but after being bitterly disappointed with Spielberg's AI and turning off Bicentennial man this sub-genre has always been seen as a bit of a naff subject matter. Ex Machina however is truly brilliant. Rather than being a purely Sc-Fi film, it's an in-depth character study of our three main characters which leaves the viewer picking up their jaws from your popcorn filled cinema flaw.

The acting performances are excellent but in particular Oscar Isaac is wonderful playing, well how do I put it nicely - a bit of a dick. He is exactly the opposite of what you think a genius to be. You embark on the deep psychological journey that is heart warming, scary and hugely enjoyable.

Move over i-Robot, ​​m​aybe this sub genre is back?

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(2014)

Fly into the brilliantly original world of Birdman.
It's not very often I leave the cinema with a huge smile on my face. On one of my no drinking days - I simply had to go for a beer with my friend to chat through one of most original films I have seen in years. Birdman see's Michael Keaton star as a washed up actor who once played the world famous Birdman - a super hero, that in the 90's was a huge box office hit. Sound familiar?

Keaton's character Riggan​ is in the process of writing and starring in a new play to try and establish himself as a credible actor. Riggan though is plagued with personal issues, His wife has left him, his daughter is full of resentment for him after never being there for her and worst of all he is convinced that he actually has super powers.

​The film opens with a long tracking shot that sweeps around each character, after 5 minutes you realise that this is going to be the style for the whole film and cuts are disguised by tracking down a dark corridor or bright light. It works beautifully, you feel like you are right in amongst the action and connect with each character as the camera roams around the three or four locations the film is set in. ​ Overall the film is definitely one of the most intriguing, original and wonderfully acted films I have seen for a long while. Keaton is at his best as this self obsessed, depressed yet still likable character and is complimented by a fine comedic performance from Ed Norton.

The film is accompanied by a rather strange yet perfect soundtrack which is mainly percussion based. There are even moments when a random drummer is playing part of the soundtrack in the street! Original films are hard to find and this is possibly the most original and intriguing film I have seen since Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless mind. It's funny, a little sad, yet totally compelling and a must watch.

Gone Girl
(2014)

Fincher is back to his best!
Iv'e not read the book or even seen the trailer so went into watch Gone Girl with a totally open mind. The film centres around Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) who are a married couple going through a tough time. One morning Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the centre of a huge media witch hunt.

The film is a dark, gripping thriller which leaves you guessing from the outset. In true Fincher style you are totally engrossed in the lead characters lives. You find yourself siding with Affleck's character Nick but you dislike his selfish, self obsessed manor which does make you question if Nick was involved in the disappearance of Amy.

Overall it is a wonderfully sophisticated film and is exactly what you want from a crime thriller. All of the characters have huge flaws and although they are made obvious, you cannot help but really care for them. Both Affleck and Pike totally steal the show, they are truly brilliant in the lead roles and without them acting so finely the film would of been distinctively weaker. An excellent film that leaves you mulling over for days. Go watch!

Her
(2013)

Log on, install and enjoy Her...
Her see's Spike Jonze return to writing and directing his first feature since Where the Wild Things Are. Her is about a lonely man called Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who is battling the final stages of a divorce. In a world where computers do pretty much everything for you Theodore installs an intuitive new OS.

Theodore starts to interact with his OS who is called Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson and begins to have a personal and intimate relationship.

One things for sure when you sit down to watch any Spike Jonze film, you know you are about to watch something original. Her very much lives up to my high expectations, Jonze thrusts you into a futuristic world but rather than making the sets slick and glossy they have an almost 1970's retro feel. Phoenix is mesmerizing in the lead role and plays the role as a lovable, funny but sweet character. Jonze stays away from making him too awkward and although he is falling in love with his computer the viewer feels like it's fairly normal.

Johansson's as the voice is convincing and seductive and her chemistry with Phoenix is unbelievable considering she is essentially just a voice over. This film is not only highly original, it is also a charming and watchable look into relationships, loneliness and ultimately... love.

I loved the look and feel, and it is complemented by the brilliant sound track and excellent pacing. Her is a original, sweet film that keeps you smiling throughout.

The Wolf of Wall Street
(2013)

Outrageous film, Genius acting, but is it too long?
The Wolf of Wall Street sees Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio reunite for the first time since Shutter Island.

After seeing the trailer I was thoroughly looking forward to what looked like a hugely entertaining film about greed, greed and erm, more greed. So what's the premise, well it's pretty simple. Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), and Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), set up a business together selling anything and everything to rich people with too much money. The film charts their success and shows the ridiculous things that happen behind the​ ​closed doors on Wall Street.

The film starts at a furious pace and the viewer is thrust straight into the crazy mix that is Belfort's world. You see dwarfs being thrown at targets, naked women walking around the office and a monkey handing out payslips. ​Just like my Monday morning. ;)​

So is this film what you expect, well I would say yes​,​ it is. It is stupid, outrageous but most importantly entertaining. You laugh out loud in most scenes but then remember that this guy is a real person. It makes you a little sick but I guess that's the idea.

DiCaprio is perfect as the lead role and is totally believable as this arrogant, money grabbing​ Lothario​ . Hill is the surprise of the film and is brilliant as his goofy sidekick​.​

So this film could of been a 9 out of 10 but why isn't it? Well firstly the film is three hours long and to be honest it really doesn't need to be. Some scenes are over-indulgent ​with Scorsese​ deciding to let them run for fifteen minutes even when they don't develop the story. T​he 2nd hour is not much different than the first. Yes it is still entertaining but when the story is not necessarily moving forwards you question why Scorsese kept the film as long as it is.

​The ending (without giving it away) is just okay and the whole story is a little underwhelming. In the end you don't really like any of the characters but the superb acting and funny script keeps you enjoying it until the end. Very good but could of been great?

12 Years a Slave
(2013)

Up there with Shawshank.
Solomon Northup is a free black man from New York until he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film follows Solomon's shocking story and what he and other slaves actually went through in the 1800's.

When walking into a noisy packed cinema I was a little concerned about people munching popcorn and intermittent chatter, however for 134 minutes 352 people observed in fascination, shock and terror.

After being disappointed with both American Hustle and Gravity I was really hoping for a film that could live up to the expectation. 12 Years a Slave did not fail in any way. I always new that the acting was going to be great but I can honestly say that I was not expecting every other aspect to be so good. From the beautiful cinematography, to the menacing soundtrack, excellent editing and script, to the stunning yet frightening mise en scene.

Yes the film is shocking but this is a real depiction of a true and harrowing story. Chiwetel Ejiofor is simply brilliant as Solomon but what Steve McQueen does so well, is to get the supporting cast to not only be so convincing yet never upstage or appear to fight for screen time.

In particular Michael Fassbender who plays Edwin Epps is terrifying as Solomons slave master and so convincing that you despise him every time he acts out a scene. Also Lupita Nyong'o who plays a fellow slave is absolutely brilliant in the supporting role.

Overall this film is set to become a classic. It's how films of this genre should be made and must be seen.

American Hustle
(2013)

Maybe I was conned?
When you see the trailers and posters the first thing you notice about American Hustle is how many nominations it has including best picture at the Golden Globes! So it's quite hard to go in with low expectations.

The film starts with a slow almost boring pace and the only thing that holds your attention is the superb acting performances particularly from Christian Bale and ​Bradley Cooper. Yes it is funny and rather slick but it seems the set up of the story is just rather dull and for some lazy reason the scriptwriter chooses the characters to narrate for nearly half an hour. I found myself wondering if I was watching a nature programme rather than a film.

However, the writer then let's the characters come to life and the film finally gets going, the pace picks up and the acting becomes even better. As Bale's character Irving and Amy Adam's character Sydney go deeper and deeper into the world of 'conning' you begin to join them in this unpredictable, dangerous world. Cooper who plays Richie DiMaso is a cop blackmailing them into framing some very dangerous people!

Overall it's a good film but definitely not worthy of the best picture nomination. The acting however is. Bale is superb but to be honest Cooper totally steals the show, and we shouldn't forget Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence who are both exceptional.

A fun and enthralling film but maybe needs a re-cut on the first 30 minutes!

Gravity
(2013)

Spellbinding effects, Average story.
After all the hype and expectation it's time to bring Gravity back down to earth. Yes it is a spectacular film and a crime not to watch it in 3D on a big screen but even though I did, Gravity was still missing something.

At the start you are in awe of the wonderful visual effects and feeling of space, once you dive into the story though you find yourself wondering why you don't care more about Sandra Bullock's character Ryan Stone, and Matt Kowalski played by George Clooney. Don't get me wrong, Gravity does stay away from another silly Hollywood space film but in the end the script is just not strong enough.

Everyone raved about the performances in this film but really Clooney re-plays his cocky, smug character and Bullock spends most of the film panicking. Both in my opinion a bit annoying!

You should watch this film but it's not the end of the world if you miss it.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
(2013)

Fun, Charming and worth a watch!
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty see's Ben Stiller not only star in the lead role as Walter but direct and produce an enjoyable fantasy family film. When watching this film dubbed 'the next Forest Gump' I have to be honest my expectations were not huge. I was however pleasantly surprised. If you are looking to escape for two hours then this film is for you. It takes you on a huge adventure and blurs the line between fantasy and reality.

The film is funny, sweet and charming and the fine acting performances complement the excellent special effects. Ben Stiller plays a relatively straight role and does it very well, although he still has a few moments involving long hair and silly runs so don't worry Stiller fans! This film is quite predicable and you can figure out the end before you even see the opening title sequence, however there are some twists and turns that engage you further than the average family film.

A decent film that will not change your life but maybe question it. Zone out and enjoy!

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