DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Darkmatters Review: NOAH


NOAH (12a)

Dir. Darren Aronofsky

Reviewed by Matt ‘Biblically sound’ Adcock

Read the newspaper version of my review at Bedfordshire Times & Citizen

“Fire consumes all, water cleanses…”

Stand by to have your Sunday School recollections of Noah blown apart as Russell Crowe brings the man of unswerving, world-saving faith to the big screen in a life changing epic biblical drama.

Based on the imaginative graphic novel rather than the original bible passage, Noah is ‘Gladiator’ for the Church - an inspirational story of courage, sacrifice and hope that delivers huge spectacle with a beating heart of love and hard won redemption.

Dark and dangerous, violent and powerful, visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky retells the Old Testament tale with incredible visuals, a triple A list cast and a wider dimension of the entire fall and salvation greater narrative that is core to the Bible itself.

"Stunning visuals set this movie apart"

If you’re coming to Noah without much clue about the plot – it’s that God or ‘The Creator’ is angry and intends to wipe us all out because we’ve corrupted the world and turned to against Him. So a great flood is to be sent that will remove all life from the planet – and only Noah (Crowe) is tipped off in a dream that he’s been picked with his family to build an ark, gather two of every living animal species and start anew after the waters have receded.

Into this ark-pocalypse Aronofsky introduces his wild card extrapolation of angels (fallen ones) who have been condemned to walk the earth covered in rocks so they look like 12 foot rock golems whose heavenly fire can only be glimpsed through their eyes. These creatures – called ‘Watchers’ here are superb creations – half transformer, half giant – very handy to have around if you can befriend them when you need to build a huge ark / defend it against an angry army of sinners – led with vigour by Tubal-Cain (Ray ‘Bet 365’ Winstone).

"Raiders of the lost ark?"

Crowe is excellent in the tricky lead role - portraying Noah as a driven man, who harbours darkness in his heart despite being chosen by The Creator to save mankind. There are moments where Noah's sanity is questioned, yet he finds that God can work through flawed people - and that is a key message you can't help by take away from the film.

Jennifer Connelly is good as his wife, Anthony Hopkins is quality as Noah's grandfather Methuselah and there's Emma 'Harry Potter' Watson on hand as adopted daughter Ila.

The plot is broken up in to movements - the scene setting, the unexpected climatic battle in the middle (which will please Lord of the Rings fans as the Watchers fight hundreds of warriors) and then the intense dark drama of life on the ark itself before the finale.

"ready for the English summertime!"

The film making team have created a stunning piece of cinema - which is accessible to all and thought provoking enough to make people want to check the original text in Genesis. Those wanting to go deeper with the material can access some excellent community resources produced by Damaris Media - which are well worth a look as Noah - whilst angering some fundamental Christians who object to the artistic interpretation - is rich source of thinking about the Bible.

Noah is a gritty adaptation and a fascinating ‘what if’ wrath-of-God-em-up that shows how the Bible can inspire cinematic creativity and art that whilst not a literal ‘by the book’ retelling, becomes something challenging and wonderful in its own right.



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

öööö 

(4 - Biblical event movie delivers... more than you can imagine)

Awesomeness öööö – streams runneth over with biblical awesomeness

Laughs öö –  darkly humourous in places

Horror ööö – gets a bit nasty, due to darker tone

Babes ööö – Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson!?

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - B E L I E V E?


Recommended Hashtag: #NeedABiggerBoat #Don'tLikeTheMovie-TryTheBook!

See me speaking about the film alongside various Christian Leaders...

 

More biblical thinking? Try the Twitter Gospels


"Emma Watson gets wet with Douglas Booth" 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Darkmatters Review: A Long Way Down


A Long Way Down (15)

Dir. Pascal Chaumeil

Reviewed by Matt ‘What’s the point anyway’ Adcock

“A man who wants to die feels angry and full of life and desperate and bored and exhausted, all at the same time; he wants to fight everyone, and he wants to curl up in a ball and hide in a cupboard somewhere. He wants to say sorry to everyone, and he wants everyone to know just how badly they've all let him down.”
― Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

What do you get when you take a best selling book by Nick ‘High Fidelity’ Hornby – inject a AAA cast mixed of hot upcoming actors like Aaron ‘Breaking Bad’ Paul and Imogen ‘Need For Speed’ Poots mixed with safe hands including Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette and Rosamund Pike? Well I’d hoped that you might get a film that delivers a superb cinematic treat, sadly, I was wrong. Very very wrong.

"ladies first!?"

Nothing can quite prepare you for just how much A Long Way Down sucks.

Films charting the lives for four would be suicide victims who inadvertently meet one fateful New Year's Eve on the rooftop where they each plan to end it all – needs to tread carefully as this isn’t a topic that lends itself to belly laughs or even mildly amusing comic situations.

But Director Pascal Chaumeil fumbles overly twee plot, one minute trying for trite comedy, the next a spot touching drama, and somehow manages to imbue all the characters with hateful / and or annoying traits the make you start to kind of wish that they would just get on with it and top themselves.

Then there’s the stodgy limp climax where the four ‘sucidees’ reach the end of their pact to stay alive until Valentine's Day… Will they? Won’t they? If you’re still awake by the end you will have done well but there’s nothing at all satisfying even about the ending.

"oddballs anonymous"

Much of the blame must fall on the delightfully sexy shoulders of young Imogen ‘Keira Knightley 2.0’ Poots who plays Jess Crichton, a nuclear blast of over-acting as a horribly affected pretend tortured posh girl. She sure looks the part but every time she opens her mouth you just want to shout ‘please shut up!’

Brosnan is obviously only here for the pay cheque – phoning in what looks like his b-roll lowlights from Mamma Mia, Collette somehow manages to leak all sympathy you might have for her characters’ tough life by mugging her trademark helpless grin to camera in every scene she’s in too.

The only person who comes out with any credit is Aaron Paul but even his non descript cute boy only really comes across well in comparison to the freakshow happening all around him.

It makes me sad to report that this film should come with a serious risk of nausea warning. Proceed at your own peril.

"please just don't speak!"

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

ö 

(1 - you've let us all down!!)

Awesomeness ö – not awesome at all

Laughs öö –  vaguely comic in places

Horror ö – possible brain damage due to tweeness force feed...

Babes öööö – Poots is lovely (until she opens her mouth)

Spiritual Enlightenment ö - dispiriting


Recommended Hashtag: #KillMeNow


"Ah Miss Poots - she was better in Need For Speed"



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition PS4


Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition PS4 

Developed by Housemarque (who made the excellent ‘RESOGUN’)

Review by Matt Adcock

When there is no more room in hell – the dead will grab a PS4…

That time has come!!

Dead Nation is without doubt one of the best zombie-em-ups yet (and let’s face it, there are quite a few to choose from out there) – slick, brutal and very very fun to play. Downloading this game (which is lovely and free thanks to PS+) I was immediately impressed with the cool menus, the innovative features (e.g. a real time world-wide leader board which shows how each nation is getting on clearing the zombie hoards etc. so you can see if we in the UK are staying ahead of our cheese eating French friends!?).

"are you ready?"

Offering players a seriously satisfying variety of weapons with which to blow the shuffling / creeping / running menace of brain hungry scum back to hell, Dead Nation – with a superb ‘RPG lite’ mechanic that lets you upgrade and buy various guns (and extend their rate of fire, impact power or clip size etc.), grenades and mines from weapon shops. Your base weapon is an assault rifle which has unlimited ammo, a good amount of power / accuracy (the laser sight helps). It won’t be long however before you’ll want to add a submachine gun for crowd control and a heavy duty punch packing shotgun too – perfect for those ‘close encounters’. There is also a rather tasty flamethrower which is highly satisfying for bar-b-q ing some undead – who light up the night sky like hundreds of walking fireworks.

"The rush for the new Churches album got out of hand!"

Control wise players use the two dualshock sticks – one to move one to aim in a similar manner to Super Stardust HD - yep another tasty HouseMarque game - these guys are talented developers!

The feeling of being alone in a dark, devastated and highly dangerous city is highly adrenalin pumping, lit only from with the crackling neon glow from the few shops left, the sporadic pools of light from the occasional working streetlamps, the smoking fires and of course your trusty flashlight.

Abandoned cars hide hidden cash and possibly health packs, which can also be found in vending machines and treasure crates – and occasionally dropped by fallen foes. Cars can also be used as weapons because shooting some vehicles activates their alarms, which attracts nearby zombies who attack it – which is good time to shoot the fuel tank and torch the whole lot!

"one man and his high powered weapon can make a difference"

As you ramp up the difficulty levels the AI noticeably improves, and you’ll be hard pressed to make it through, fortunately the checkpoints are well positioned and if you die you can restart that section from a weapon shop – so possibly upgrading your weapons before retrying might make the difference.

Strategists are well served too – luring the nastier heavy mutants who can absorb your gunfire to a care or vending machine which you’ve rigged with a mine is satisfying strategy! There is also a great co-op mode (including online) so you can shred hundreds of zombies together – providing cover and jostling for rank yourself with online leader board.

Then there's also the lovely PS4 share button enables 'Broadcast+ mode' where as you stream your game to a viewing public, they in turn can actually influence your playthrough. Kind of like Need For Speed Rivals did via tablet app - viewers can hit you with additional zombie spawns or reward you with extra ammo drops etc - it's compelling because you don't want to suck at a game where you know people are watching!!

All in all Dead Nation is shaping up to be a fantastic addition for shoot-em-up loving PS4 gamers – it even comes with a Platinum trophy which is rare for a download game. Too bad for Xbox One owners that this won’t come their way as it really feels like ‘AAA’ title, even if it's a downloadable treat.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to get back to dispatching the undead!!
 
Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - saving the world is fun on PS4)...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Need For Speed


Need For Speed (12a)

Dir. Scott Waugh

Reviewed by Matt ‘Maverick’ Adcock

“I do not fear, for you are with me. All those who defied me, shall be ashamed and disgraced. Those who wage war against me, shall perish. I will find strength, find guidance, and I will triumph.”

Yep – that’s a paraphrase of Isaiah from the Good Book – and I have to admit that I really wasn't expecting it to feature as the ‘driving’ motivation in this movie inspired by the best selling Electronic Arts (EA) video game – the latest of which on the PS4 looks almost as good as this movie visually!?

"this is what happened when the director shouted 'act normal'"

So here we have the tale of young hotshot car mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron ‘Breaking Bad’ Paul) who likes to indulge in a spot of illegal street racing. But when he gets in over his head – and one of his friends is killed - Tobey is framed and jailed by his love rival Dino Brewster (a swaggeringly perma-angry looking Dominic ‘Captain America’ Cooper). Burning for revenge upon release – Tobes teams up with sexy British car enthusiast Julia Maddon (Imogen ’28 Weeks Later’ Poots) and enters a high-risk 'winner takes all' supercar cross country race with a view to bring down Brewster.

What follows is a mixture of utterly insane adrenalin fuelled car action – made so much better by the lack of CGI silliness which mars films like the Fast & Furious franchise.

"not everyone will make it to the finishing line"

Need for Speed is a nitrous boosted, full speed race-em-up that only stalls when the cast stop driving and try to act.

For sheers balls-to-the-wall auto-thrills, director and former stunt man Scott ‘Act of Valor’ Waugh brings his ‘A’ game – alas for credible characterisation, believable dialogue and / or any semblance of a thought provoking plot… Erm not so much.

"it all goes a bit A-Team at points!"

The cars are the real stars here, and if you’re a Top Gear fan or have played and enjoyed any of the Need For Speed games, then there is much to make you shout ‘OOOhhhh that’s cool’ here. In fact for maximum enjoyment you should try to zone out during the non driving bits and reengage when the pedal hits the metal.

The car chases are some of the best ever committed to film – and boast the kind of stunts that the Ryan Gosling’s Driver performs when not doing getaways. Old school, high danger crashes, jumps and a kinetic sense of speed that is actually for once enhanced by the 3D.

"the real star of the movie"

Faster and more furious than certain other automobile action flicks – if you feel the need, the need for speed should be priority viewing!


"Aaron Paul prepares to drive very very fast..."

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

öööö (take away 2 if you don't like cars)

(4 - love the car action, snooze through the 'acting')

Awesomeness ööööö – sets a new benchmark for car based thrills

Laughs ööö –  not a comedy but funny in places

Horror ö – very little grimness

Babes öööö – Poots is smokin hot

Spiritual Enlightenment ö - revenge isn't the answer (except it is here)


Recommended Hashtag: #TalkToMeGoose #NFS

"Miss Poots - doing her 'Keira' impression"


Monday, March 10, 2014

Darkmatters Review: 300 Rise of an Empire




300: Rise of an Empire (15)

Dir. Noam Murro

Reviewed by Matt ‘Themistokles‘ Adcock

Read the newspaper version of this review here: Thame Gazette

“It begins as a whisper... a promise... the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom... a wind of justice... a wind of vengeance.”

The memory of the brave 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas who stood against the might of the entire Persian Empire at the Battle of Thermopylae is one of epic legend. In 2007 Zack ‘Man of Steel’ Synder brought the tale to the big screen in stylish over the top blood shedding glory.

"battle valour"

Now we have 300: Rise of an Empire which fills in the wider story that was taking place before, during, and after the events of the first film – and climaxes with a retelling of another famous point in the Ancient Greek war - the incredible sea based Battle of Salamis.

Both 300 and ‘Rise of an Empire’ are based on ground-breaking graphic novels by Frank Miller (although ‘Xerxes’ which delivers the plot for the new movie isn’t actually released yet!?) Each brings a super saturated look and feel that highlights particular colour and whereas 300 focused on the red Spartan cloaks, ‘Empire’ brings the blue cloaks of Athenian naval warriors to the fore – embodied by the heroic General Themistocles (Sullivan 'Gangster Squad’ Stapleton).

"and you thought the nipples on the bat-suit were distracting?"

The plot here see self-proclaimed ‘god king’ Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), wanting to wipe Greece off the map and whilst the original 300‘s land battle was raging, his navy commander Artemisia (a stunning turn by Eva Green) is tasked with destroying the Greek fleet.

300: Rise of an Empire is a more complex story than its predecessor, as it extends outwards in contrast to 300, which was more singularly focussed on man-to-man combat. That’s not to say that there is less fighting – but as well as the super slo-mo shots of swords dismembering enemies there is the wider spectacle of warships colliding and even sea monsters feasting on the dead.

Also of note are the female characters who get just as much screen time – Green stealing every scene she’s in – especially possibly the most confrontational seduction ever, whilst Leonidas’ widow Queen Gorgo (Lena ‘Game of Thrones’ Headey) is a voice of stoic wisdom and a worthy leader of the Spartan people.

"suiting up for another sequel?"

Heed the oracle - 300: Rise of an Empire delivers glorious, seriously violent big screen recreational carnage that will inspire your inner Spartan.

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

öööö

(4 - The 300 were just the beginning)

Awesomeness ööööö – for glory's sake... WAR!!

Laughs ö –  limited - not really a comedy

Horror ööö – gore n battle horror aplenty

Babes öööö – Green is a gorgeous villian

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - love each other better!!


Recommended Hashtag: #ThisIsSpartaToo

Read the Darkmatters review of 300: HERE

"Eva will be teaming up with Frank Miller again this year for Sin City 2"


Monday, March 03, 2014

Darkmatters Review: The Book Thief


The Book Thief (12a)

Dir. Brian Percival

Reviewed by Matt 'haunted by humans' Adcock

Newspaper version of this review: Hemel Gazette


“One small fact: you are going to die. Despite every effort, no one lives forever. Sorry to be such a spoiler. My advice is when the time comes, don't panic. It doesn't seem to help.”


Those are the opening words of Death (yes as in The Grim Reaper) as it is he that narrates the unhappy tale of The Book Thief in this big screen adaptation of the heartbreaking and much loved novel by Markus Zusak.

Meet poor young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), she is being taken by her mother to be handed over to adoptive parents due to the crackdown on communists by Hitler’s rising regime, but tragedy strikes when her younger brother dies on the way. It is at his pauper’s burial that Liesel finds a book that has been dropped by his graveside called ‘The Gravediggers Handbook’. This cheery tome is the book that she learns to read with when her foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann find out that she is illiterate.

"Those Nazis love a good bonfire..."

Yes this is a story of death, fear and loss at one of humanity’s darkest hours – seen through the lens of one girl’s experiences. The novel is a gripping exposition of the hopeless situation that somehow stirs the emotions and resonates in a timeless fashion. Alas the movie is a hollow shell that lacks the heart of the book, and leaves you wondering why a film so long and slowly paced still feels rushed and lacking in any lasting emotional impact.

Of Liesel’s small German town inhabitants, her only friends are schoolmate / neighbour Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch) who wants to be Jesse Owens the runner and Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) a Jew who the Hubermanns shelter (Max is the son of the man who saved Hans' life in the First World War).

"your books are mine!"

Much of the film is the ‘will he / won’t he survive’ dilemma of Max who puts the Hubermanns in danger and then gets ill from having to stay in the damp cellar below the house. I wanted to care more than I did – I really loved the book – but somehow the scenes of Liesel trying to help Max recover by reading to him just didn’t capture any of the poignancy that Zusak rustled up.

The Book Thief deserved to be a better movie than this – the message that reading can save you though should be taken to heart and acted upon – read the novel instead!

Original Book Thief concept


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

öö1/2

(2.5 - Courage beyond words but not beyond mild boredom)

Awesomeness öö – Nélisse is likeable, everybody else goes through the motions

Laughs ö – Nazis are not for ze funnies

Horror öö – slightly grim

Babes ö – not that kind of film and Emily Watson has a face like perma-thunder

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - is there redemption in words?


Recommended Hashtag: #ReadTheBook

"Nélisse - could be a star in the making"


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