DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Avengers Infinity War



Avengers: Infinity War (12a)

Dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

“ Fun isn't something one considers when balancing the universe. But this...
... does put a smile on my face.”                                                                        THANOS

Nothing can fully prepare you for this most epic of superhero showdowns. Over ten years Marvel have brought the Avengers and their allies from their comic books to impressive big screen life. Infinity War though, is the first time pretty much all of them have been together and even throws the Guardians of the Galaxy into the action too.

"I'm bringing the party to you"

We’ve seen the heroic Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and friends protecting the world before but they’ve never faced a threat as huge as this. You see there’s an unstoppable mad titan named Thanos who is collecting six ‘Infinity Stones’ - artefacts of unimaginable power – with the plan to kill half of all beings in the universe.

Plot wise you don’t need to know much more, except that everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment - the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.

"Avengers and pals assemble"

Thanos (Josh Brolin) is potentially the first all CGI baddie to really have a soul, he’s an incredible creation evoking fear and grudging admiration for his sheer iron will. Our heroes are in disarray after the costly their civil war, so with the Avengers scattered it falls to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to convince Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to join the fight. It is a lot of fun to see the various alpha males bantering with each other – a highlight is watching Star Lord (Chris Pratt) get all defensive when his ship is gate-crashed by Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

As the various groups divide to take on various perilous quests in a bid to try and stop Thanos and his minions – the huge arcing narrative holds together by the scale of the common threat. From the first scene, there are no guarantees as to who will survive – so be prepared to swallow hard as it does get emotional.

"It's war"

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo craft the huge action scenes with a deft touch, each fight has resonance and cost – this is by far the most satisfying super hero film for years. The special effects are simply jaw-dropping (which you’d expect from the massive budget and resources Disney can throw at such a huge project) but this sets the bar very high for anything following.

For once you can believe the hype, Avengers: Infinity War is an epic cinematic event not to be missed!!

"even dastardly baddies do some parenting"


Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö

(5 - Infinite fun and quality next level super action)

Awesomeness ööööö  – The awesome is strong in this one

Laughs öööö  – Lots of quality funnies

Horror öö – Death and destruction but not gratuitous

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - We don't trade lives

"Thanos Smash"



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Ready Player One


Ready Player One (12a)

Dir. Steven Spielberg

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“In 2045 there’s nowhere left to go, nowhere, except The Oasis…”

In the year 2045, the real world has become such a harsh place that most of humanity choose to spend their time in a virtual reality called ‘Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation’ or OASIS.

"Wade is online"

Socially awkward teenage Wade Watts (Tye ‘Cyclops from X-Men’ Sheridan) only truly feels alive is when he jacks into the OASIS – where he is known as his avatar ‘Parzival’.

When eccentric tech whizz James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who created the OASIS dies, he leaves a legacy challenge – all his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS will pass to the winner of a three-part video game contest designed to find a truly worthy heir. Cue a battle royale between the gamers of the world and the sinister IOI corporation for control.
"see that A-Team van, and Christine from Steven King?"

Based on the geek-tastic novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One see Steven Spielberg set a high score for video game / film crossover movies. It’s a total joy watching such a wealth of references collide in one film. From the moment Parzival jumps into the Back To The Future DeLorean in order to race against Lara Croft driving the A-Team van, Batman in his classic series Batmobile and the enigmatically cool Art3mis (Olivia ‘Bates Motel’ Cooke) riding Kaneda's motorbike from Akria, anyone with even a passing love of films will break into a smile...

There are just too many to list, with blink and you’ll miss them visual ‘Easter Eggs’ in virtually every scene. I loved the extended The Shining sequence from the book too (which might scare / go over the head of younger viewers) as Parzival and his ‘High Five’ crew must battle through the horrors of The Overlook Hotel to win one of the contest levels.

"Gamers unite - and fight!"

I don’t think there have ever been so many 80's pop culture references packed into a movie – from the soundtrack that uses classics like Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, through to quoting dialogue from John Hughes films and more… This is a film that demands repeat watching in order to appreciate everything going on.

The nerd-em-up story moves at breakneck speed and the climactic showdown is the stuff of legend, liable to discussed for years to come. The scene stealing star of the film is a superb cameo by the Iron Giant which should make people want to revisit the excellent Brad Bird film from 1999.



With unmatched use of CGI to create something truly incredible, Ready Player One will scorch your endorphin sensors as pop-culture eats itself in a most delicious way. Essential viewing.

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö

(5 - Reality isn't what it used to be!)

Awesomeness ööööö  – Will potentially blow minds

Laughs öööö  – Some good laughs

Horror ööö –  Liable to scare in places

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Who are you online?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Tomb Raider


Tomb Raider (12a)

Dir. Roar Uthaug

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“If you’re listening to this then I must be dead. I found something, a tomb called the Mother of Death…”

Ready Viewer One for an origin story of how the iconic video games character Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) develops a taste for saving the world. We join her as a fiercely independent young woman who refuses to believe her eccentric adventurer father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) is dead, even though he’s been missing for seven years.

When the Croft company’s Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), persuades Lara to come in and sign her right to her massive inheritance – she is gifted a Japanese puzzle box from her father. And before you can say ‘this might be some kind of clue that will lead to a sub-Indiana Jones adventure tomb raiding’, that’s exactly what transpires.

"driftwood challenge"

Having a series of video games to crib from gives the filmmakers a blueprint to make a stunning, pulse pounding cinematic experience. Alas Director Roar Uthaug makes this new version of this videogame-em-up adventure as safe and by-the-numbers as possible which makes for a strangely dull viewing experience. Vikander looks the part but she’s never fully believable when the ass kicking begins. The plot is horrifically predictable and everyone else in the movie suffers from ‘expendable extra’ syndrome.

Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins) is the villain of the piece – a megalomaniac mercenary archaeologist - leading an expedition to find the ominous Mother of Death tomb for the sinister Trinity organization.

"rent a baddie"

In the blink of a pixelated eye, Lara embraces her role as killer of bad guys like she’d been doing it all her life, taking down tooled up, highly-trained mercs with a handily found bow n arrows. Nothing can stop this woman on a mission – handily picking up an immediately loyal sidekick Lu Ren ( Daniel Wu) whose boat and services she hires to get her to the deeply generic jungle adventure that awaits.

Everything ticks along in a fairly inoffensive manner – daring escape / mystery reunion / raiding of tomb complete with all manner of deadly traps… It’s hard to put your finger on quite why it all isn’t more exciting but as one film goer I overheard on the way out said: “I think I’d rather had stayed at home and played the game on my PS4” – I think I have to agree.

"hot shot"

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öö1/2

(2.5 - No high scores here…)

Awesomeness ööö  – Some video game levels work

Laughs öö  – Limited humour (best laugh is after the credits)

Horror ööö –  Some violent deaths n stuff

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Saving the world shouldn't be dull


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Mary Magdalene (with bonus theological input)


Mary Magdalene (12a)

Dir. Garth Davis

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“The world will only change as we change. I will not be silent. I will be heard.”

The enduring image of Mary Magdalene has had a tough reputation both in the Church and popular culture – thanks in no small part to Pope Gregory the Great who in the 6th Century proclaimed that she was a prostitute and a sinner. This is despite none of the four gospels saying as much. The name Magdalene is thought to come from the Aramaic word "Magdala" which means "tower" or "elevated” and now, thanks to this new screen adaptation of Christ’s life through her eyes she may finally get some wider redemption.

"Don't mess with the Messiah"

The writing team of Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett along with director Garth ‘Lion’ Davis present Mary Magdalene as an intelligent, resourceful woman, misunderstood because she refused to conform to the strict male orders in matters like who she was to be married off to. When she decides to leave her family, and follow Jesus, a huge societal ‘no-no’ at the time, some claim that she is possessed by demons. But in a key personal scene with Jesus (which she gets several of), she questions whether there is something truly amiss within her, telling him that if there is it “must have always been in me”, he simply looks at her and assures that “there are no demons here.”

Rooney ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Mara brings Mary to life with an intensity and respect that shows her as an intimate witness to many of the biblically recorded events. Jesus (Joaquin ‘You Were Never Really Here’ Phoenix) is presented as thoughtful, just-charismatic-enough and fully human in a restrained performance, a million miles away from the Jesus Christ Superstar persona.

"Baptism ready"

The plot of this Apostle-em-up certainly ticks off many of the well-worn Biblical narrative beats including Christ’s interaction with Lazarus, the money lenders in the temple and his teaching the crowds. Phoenix depicts Jesus as having moments of very human exhaustion after his miracles which shows how his disciples had practical roles in supporting him.

Speaking of disciples there are strong turns from Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter who often bumps heads with Mary and Tahar Rahim brings a fascinating motivation to his Judas who is painted in a less damning – more misguided light.

Some may baulk at the film’s somewhat sombre tone, find the leisurely pace too slow or the plot overly introspective but this Mary’s tale makes for a thought-provoking experience which is worth soaking up on the big screen.

"The original fishnet look"

Mary Magdalene is a film that empowers its female lead character and at the screening I attended some of the theologians from Kings College were there to explain the authenticity. I got the chance to ask New Testament expert Michelle Fletcher for her thoughts and she explained:

“We know women were disciples, on the road, in crowds, following Jesus. But seldom do we see this. As a New Testament scholar, I spend my time re-inscribing these women and their experiences back into the biblical text. Finally, here is a film that does the same. And refreshingly, this Mary Magdalene is not a post-feminist product for us to consume, but rather a window into another world. She allows us to experience what it would have been like to be a female follower of Jesus in a way that previous bro-fest productions have not. Stunning cinematography and subtle scripting go a long way to facilitate this. Indeed, it is such a visceral production, during which I could almost feel the water on my skin and the damp mist on the ground. And on top of this, it presents a figure who somehow manages to hold in tension the complications of feminist dialogues. That’s a rare thing in cinema, and for a Bible film? Well, it’s definitely something to see, and to celebrate.”

This is certainly Mary’s film and it is her piercing gaze that will stay with you long after the credits roll. I fully enjoyed seeing Mary restored to a position of authority as a key apostle of Jesus and an important element of the early church in her own standing.

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Her story has been re-told …)

Awesomeness ööö  – Biblically interesting stuff

Laughs öö  – Not very fun

Horror öö –  Some grim bits but not too strong

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Gnostic thinking can still warm the soul



Alternative View - from Phil Macaulay (LST Theological Student)

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene has been a character of mystery and intrigue throughout the history of the Christian church. One of the group of Jesus’ women followers, she often takes precedent because of John’s Gospel and its beautiful framing of her confused yet touching discovery of Jesus’ Resurrection.

The new film brings her into the forefront of the gospel story, showing her background, perspective and involvement to Jesus’ ministry and passion. The excellence of the film comes early, where the Jewish community of Magdala is given exposure rich in detail and relationships. Within this culture that focuses on faith and family, Mary is throttled by the expectations enforced on her life because of her womanhood. At one point the question is asked what God made her to be, is she limited to the roles of wife and mother? In Mary we see the challenge and persecution that women have suffered because of religious expectation, and the pain of seeking to genuinely seek to follow a God in whose name their identity is limited to utility. The script and direction give great patience and opportunity for the audience to believe Rooney Mara’s abilities, often conveying depth with the slightest of movements and the intensity of her gaze.

However, the portrayal is not happy enough to bring Mary into a place of acceptance and equality amongst Jesus’ followers after his embrace of her faith and personhood. It goes further, with Mary becoming Jesus’ closest confidant, encourager and intended heir. The militant disciples appear cartoonishly foolish and insecure next to Mary’s natural wisdom and self-assurance, growing jealously hostile to the primacy given to her by the Lord. Only she really understands Jesus’ message and role, only she really cares for the feelings of the Messiah, only she displays the inner forgiveness that will become so fundamental to their beliefs. She is the only female follower portrayed to us, and making her character an archetype for all women in this supremacy. Why not bring her into a place of mutual respect with the disciples, why not have her alongside different women following Jesus together with diverse personalities, why feel the next to exalt her at the detriment of every other character?

Which leads to the portrayal of Jesus by Joaquin Phoenix, who seems to be inspired by his infamous interview with David Letterman just as much as the gospels. Jesus dresses poor, speaks humbly, and uses physical embrace in the healings all brings commendable authenticity and power to his performance. Yet to have Jesus repeatedly coming across as a bit of a madman not only jars, why does this seemingly all-wise Mary continue to have faith in him? There is no avoiding the biggest spoiler of the film, Jesus’ resurrection, and it does spoil so much of the good in the film just before the end. Instead of using any of one the most treasured passages in Scripture (John 20), the film gives a Bultmann-esqe re-imagining of the risen Christ. Not only is Mary the only one to witness him in risen form, the reality of his physicality is in no way assured. The disciples, upon hearing Mary’s news do not show any interest in investigating, but predictably hijack the belief into a malleable myth for their own means. This stinks of ignoring contemporary biblical scholarship, and re-enforces a believable fiction for those looking to excuse the likely historical events.

What this film does do right is the wonderful locations used, giving great character to the locations of the story and helping to believe the world that is being reflected. The first glimpse of 1st Century Jerusalem was breath-taking and perhaps worth the ticket price alone. Commendation too must be given to Tahar Rahim, who brings a unique Judas to the screen. He manages to show a complexity to the character’s faith, expectation and inner turmoil that is relatable to present day religious fundamentalists; so full of hope and passion it brings them away from the basic grounding of faith in trust.

In summary, much as the disciples hijack the gospel in the final scene, this film feels like a great message taken too far. A powerful narrative of equality, respect and love could have been shown in the new humanity Jesus is trying to bring through the amazing character of Mary. Yet we are left with a message of men’s inadequacy contrasted by Mary’s angelic infallibility. In the history of the church, leaders have been repeatedly guilty of suppressing and even abusing women in a perversion of the original fellowship women shared following Jesus. Sadly, this decent film will not help as much as it could to address these crimes by answering them with fiction and reverse sexism.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Red Sparrow




Red Sparrow (15)

Dir. Francis Lawrence

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Every human being is a puzzle of need. You must become the missing piece and they will tell you anything.”

Sex is a weapon in this brutal espionage-em-up which sees Jennifer Lawrence star as Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina, who becomes coerced into a dangerous high-level intelligence operation.

Forced into an abrupt career change, Dominika becomes a ‘Sparrow’ a secret branch of the Russian intelligence network where the recruits were trained in a depersonalized type of manipulative sexual training to seduce targets and extract information.

Training

What follows is a kind of slow burn cat-and-mouse game of intrigue as she stalks her prey - CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) - with a view to winning his trust and finding the name of the high level Russian mole he is in contact with.

As the two collide, things get muddled as Dominika employs her ‘special skills’ on Nate and in the charged atmosphere of trade-craft, deception, and forbidden passion the only question is who is playing who?

Sink or swim...

Director Francis Lawrence (no relation), reunites with Jennifer Lawrence after working together on several Hunger Games films and the reward is one of J-L’s bravest performances to date. Red Sparrow isn’t really an action film even though it covers similar ground to last year’s Atomic Blonde or the classic La Femme Nikita but it does feature some crunching violence and much sexualised nudity.

Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons are on hand to offer some classy support on the Russian side and Douglas Hodge gives good sleaze as Dominika’s Budapest Bureau chief. Speaking of sleaze, Red Sparrow is not a feminist friendly film – whilst based on an actual and disturbing use of women to wield their bodies as tool for the Motherland, it does feel exploitative at times.

Bar work

The plot is engaging in a nasty way but the film reaches for wannabe ‘epic’ status with an unnecessarily bloated running time of well over two hours. Red Sparrow pushes the limits for a 15 rating with very strong violence and torture as well as the sexual content. It certainly makes for uncomfortable watching at points and isn’t a feel good popcorn flick by any means.

So this Sparrow isn’t for everyone and won’t be remembered as a classic but it does effectively capture the paranoid feel of not being able to trust anyone and atmosphere of just how depressed life in Russia was.

Specialist skills

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö1/2

(3.5 - Be careful who you fall for…)

Awesomeness ööö  – Some very strong scenes

Laughs öö  – Some dark humour

Horror öööö –  Gets very nasty in places

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Seduction should be for love 



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Darkmatters Review: I Tonya


I, Tonya (15)

Dir. Craig Gillespie

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“America. They want someone to love, they want someone to hate.”

Get your skates on for a winning ice-skate-em-up which delves behinds the scenes of one of the most notorious incidents in sporting history. Olympic U.S. ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) became infamous for supposedly having her rival Nancy Kerrigan attacked back in 1994. I Tonya gives a fascinating, darkly amusing and engaging insight into the lives of Harding and those around her in the lead up to the attack and details the fallout afterwards too.

You really don’t need to be an ice skating fan to enjoy the mockumentary style director Craig ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ Gillespie has employed. The story crackles with memorable dialogue and winning scenes that satires the media hungry response and the personal implosion that wrecked Harding’s career.

Driven from an early age...

The Kerrigan-Harding affair is presented with much speculation and many possibly inaccurate recollections. Kicking off with a young Tonya (played by Mckenna Grace) who yearns to be an ice skater – if only as a distraction from her painful broken home life. Her mother is the abusive, totally driven LaVona Goldman (Allison Janney – who just won a Bafta for her role), she might not like Tonya skating but also doesn’t want her to be anything but the best.

By the time Margot Robbie takes over as Harding, her talent is getting her into competitions but because of her poor redneck background which means she must make her own costumes the snobby judges won’t acknowledge her skills.

Janney channelling the wicked witch of the west

Everything changes when Harding becomes the first American woman to land a triple axel and her star finally begins to rise. But at the same time things begin to fall apart as her stupid, controlling boyfriend / husband and his even more idiotic friend make plans to intimidate her competition.

The film makes Harding out to have a heart and shows her as actually a sort of a victim of her circumstances. I came away with much more respect and it will certainly make you consider the situation she found herself in, her terrible life and the ongoing repercussions from the Kerrigan attack.

You'll believe woman can fly...

Robbie is superb as Harding, making what could have been a boo hiss villain into a flawed human worth taking time to understand. Her mother however is portrayed as just evil and as for the men in her life, they are entirely bad news.

In the end I Tonya shows that you may not need to have class when you have talent but escaping your environment is another story.


The law closes in

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö1/2

(4.5 - This isn't Disney on ice...)

Awesomeness öööö  – Engaging and challenging

Laughs öööö  – Very funny and quite wrong

Horror ööö –  Some nasty domestic violence

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Talent can liberate the soul


Friday, February 16, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Black Panther


Black Panther (12a)

Dir. Ryan Coogler

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“I have seen gods fly. I have seen men build weapons that I couldn't even imagine. I have seen aliens drop from the sky. But I have never seen anything like this.”


Here we go then with another Marvel super-em-up which follows on from Captain America: Civil War, and it’s a rip-roaring challenge to those who think they might be getting a bit bored of these comic book movies.

The plot sees Black Panther / King T'Challa (Chadwick ‘Gods of Egypt’ Boseman) returning to his homeland Wakanda to be their new leader after his father’s assassination. Things are a little tense though as there are some who would challenge his right to rule and question his stance on the country’s advanced technology and weaponry.

"blending in"

What follows is a dazzling cinematic romp packed with action, humour and strong messaging about racism, injustice and the hunger for revenge. Much has been made of the fact that most of the cast is black but the truth is that the film is so strong it never feels forced.

When the outcast mercenary Erik Killmonger (Michael B ‘Creed’ Jordan) challenges T’Challa’s throne with a view to take and use Wakanda’s technological might to liberate and arm racially oppressed African Americans around the globe – it takes the film into areas of questioning not just revolutionary rhetoric and the responsibilities of leadership.

"challenger"

T’Challa can sure kick ass in a fight but he is a well-rounded character who behind the mask is a sensitive guy wanting to do what’s right not just for his people but for the wider world too.

Director Ryan Coogler gives the film a real beating heart, doesn’t allow the strong racial elements to overwhelm the plotting and manages to inject vital new lifeblood into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"don't mess with her"

This is a film that empowers its female characters – to the point that they often take centre stage and outshine the men. T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the Wakandan tech scientist who designs Black Panther’s awesome weaponry and gadgets. Angela Bassett brings maternal wisdom as T’Challa’s mother Ramonda and Nakia (Lupita ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Nyong’o) is every bit a match for the Black Panther as a strong-willed agent and potential love interest.

"does whatever a panther can, erm"

Black Panther is a triumph, a great addition to the ongoing cinematic antics of the Avengers and an all-round crowd pleaser – a new King has been crowned.

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Move over Lion King)

Awesomeness öööö  – Super stuff all round

Laughs öööö  – Plenty of nice laughs

Horror öö –  Not too nasty, comic book violence

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - A true heart is worthy of a King

Friday, February 09, 2018

Darkmatters Review: The Shape of Water



The Shape of Water (15)

Dir. Guillermo del Toro

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“If I told you about her, what would I say? That they lived happily ever after?”

Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have? Ever felt that special spark arc between you and someone completely unexpected or from so left field that it doesn’t even feel real until you’re in the moment and head-over-heels? But have you ever developed feelings for, erm, a fish person?

"don't tap the glass"

Meet Elisa Esposito (Sally ‘Mary Brown in Paddington’ Hawkins), a mute janitor working at a top-secret government research institution. Her life is one of simple pleasures such as watching TV with her older neighbour Giles (Richard ‘Bone Tomahawk’ Jenkins), boiling eggs or taking baths.

Her days are monotonous but Elisa keeps her spirits up, helped by her one friend at work Zelda Fuller (Octavia ‘The Shack’ Spencer). Everything changes when a strange cross between man and fish creature from South-America is captured and brought to the laboratory to be studied. This Amphibian Man (Doug ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ Jones) seems to be sad so Elisa begins to secretly feed eggs, play him music and the two begin an unlikely friendship…

Of course, the path of interspecies love never does run straight (this isn’t a Beauty & The Beast scenario) but there is certainly a ‘boo-hiss’ baddie. Sadistic security guard Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) takes pleasure in torturing the creature who bites off two fingers of his fingers in return… Thus making Strickland vow to destroy it.

"boo, hiss"

So the scene is set for a dark otherworldly romance, a tale short through with strangeness and joy, heartbreak, violence and danger. The performances are excellent, the writing, directing and visuals all work together to make a really unique cinematic experience.

Director Guillermo del Toro is great at creating weird and wonderful stories and The Shape of Water certainly deserves all the awards buzz it is getting.

"Not your average movie date"

It seems that kindred relationships can come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, genders and even include fish people… The Shape of Water will make you want to fall in love whatever the barriers, costs or danger – and for that reason it’s a great film of choice for Valentine’s Day and beyond.

Falling for someone (anyone) can be an unnerving and difficult experience – most of us fortunately won’t have a blood thirsty sadist chasing you and trying to kill the one you love like happens in the film. But it is always a balancing act of making yourself vulnerable and not wanting to get hurt – especially if the one you’ve lost your heart to doesn’t necessarily return the feelings or moves on to someone else.

The Shape of Water is a great film to discuss because of it raises the issues of love being more than skin deep, of loving someone who society says you really shouldn’t and of asking what is worth risking to find your soul mate.

There’s definitely something fishy about this romantic dark fantasy – it’s that it doesn’t hold back on any level so there is nudity, violence and peril to go along with the warm and fuzzy stuff. A lot like life then!?

"it started with a boiled egg"

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö

(5 - Love 'scales' any height)

Awesomeness öööö  – Superb, heart in mouth moments for all sorts of reasons

Laughs ööö  – Some darkly humorous bits

Horror ööö –  A bit gruesome in places but not too grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Might make you look at your fish n chips in a new light...

"dream a little"

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Phantom Thread


Phantom Thread

Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)


“It's comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don't find that spooky at all...”

When does a relationship become obsession? Welcome to the glamourous 1950s where in post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) run a successful fashion house.

The distinct style of ‘The House of Woodcock’ attracts women from royalty and movie stars, to socialites and dames. Woodcock himself is a dashing, charming and charismatic confirmed bachelor, until that is he crosses paths with a young, strong-willed woman named Alma (Vicky Krieps), who he simply cannot resist.

High style

As Woodcock falls more and more under Alma’s spell, she becomes his muse and lover but he is not ready for the disruption to his carefully tailored life that this all-consuming love brings.

Phantom Thread is an intimate, delicate, and a beautifully crafted film, which is very much in the thought-provoking, unnerving vein of director Paul Thomas ‘The Master’ Anderson’s work.

Day-Lewis in what is possibly his final performance delivers a magnificent embodiment of the tortured Woodcock who simply does not know how to deal with the strength of emotion he feels for Alma. As she proves herself to be his match, her manipulation of him even takes on a sinister element that ups the fascination of their interplay.

Check me out...

Krieps and Manville are both great in their supporting roles too, bringing sharp female contrast to Day-Lewis’ obsessive and overbearing central character. Krieps, in particular, revels in the glamorous dressing up, being loved and using her own beguiling attraction to get what she longs for.

The central affair between the dressmaker and his muse is a truly intense romance to behold, but that doesn’t necessarily make Phantom Thread a good date movie. There are some disturbing elements along with breathless moments of pure expression.

Faux royal

This is very much a film to let wash over you as the lavish cinematography and style evokes cinematic master-works like that of Stanley Kubrick. The plot takes a leisurely pace, letting the twisting knots of the characters’ lives weave together in a way that feels almost like a beautiful dress being created in front of you.

In the end, Anderson has made yet another transcendental and sublime work of art. Not one for action fans but a must-see for those who savour a deeper cinematic engagement. Go and get entwined in the threads of this phantom movie.

NYE

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Sumptuous romance and darkness)

Awesomeness öööö  – Staggering interplay and style

Laughs öö  – Limited dark mirth

Horror öö –  Some icky

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Passion can disrupt the heart

Monday, January 29, 2018

Darkmatters Review: Downsizing


Downsizing (15)

Dir. Alexander Payne

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Get up and open your eyes. This small world is filled with things to see...”

Downsizing or ‘Honey I shrunk the fun concept into a campaigning “dramedy”’ as it’s more accurate title would be, is an odd film and hard to put in a genre. The trailer makes it looks like comedic social satire with dark edges but the actual film is a preachy meditation on the dangers of we humans not being nice to each other or our planet.

small but centre of attention!?

The inventive plot revolves around the potentially world saving scientific gimmic that allows humans to be shrunk in size to about 4” and live their lives in tiny communities which massively reduce the drain on the planetary resources. The selling point for ‘going small’ is that you get way more for your money as huge mansions, jewellery and other luxuries are relatively cheap on a micro level so even those on moderate incomes can live like little millionaires.

Paul Safranek (Matt ‘The Martian’ Damon) is your average guy, unsatisfied with life and struggling to pay for a new home so he and his wife agree to the take the downsizing plunge. We get to follow Paul’s odyssey as he comes to terms with humanitarian issues along with personal ones.

no hair allowed

By chance, he meets political dissident Ngoc (Hong ‘Inherent Vice’ Chau) and through her learns some big life lessons. The two actors certainly share some great chemistry throughout which drives the film, even when the moralising message threatens to bog down the plot.

Director Alexander ‘Sideways’ Payne) has created a film that if you can give it a chance will provoke you to think hard about the world we live in, society in general and your part in it all. It doesn’t always work and the climax feels slapped on unnecessarily but it is always welcome to see filmmakers taking risks with ‘out there’ ideas.

tiny first class...

One less subplot features Paul’s dodgy neighbour Dusan (Christoph Waltz), and his slimy pal Konrad (Udo Kier) who live like kings thanks to their illicit import business, it feels like padding and sits uneasily with the wider story arc.

Overall though Downsizing is an emotionally charged sci-fi satire which starts with a crowd-pleasing half hour that would have been a great Black Mirror episode but then morphs into a much more solemn tragedy cum romance.

There are some small pleasures to had but it requires investment!

Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - It's not the size that matters)

Awesomeness ööö  – Some creative scenes

Laughs öö  – The funnies dry up after a while

Horror öö –  Slightly icky but nothing too grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - LET'S SAVE EACH OTHER!

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