DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Transcendence


Transcendence (12a)

Dir. Wally Pfister

Reviewed by Matt ‘A.I.’ Adcock

Read the Newspaper version of this review at: The Gazette

“Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology; in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world. Some scientists refer to this as the Singularity. I call it Transcendence.”

I used to be fully human – that was before I met Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) - the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Caster’s genius allowed us to create a fully sentient machine which combined the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions, fused using his own consciousness.

"you don't look well mate"

This highly controversial experiment (his own ‘transcendence’) was ironically only brought about by Caster’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) when a radical anti-technology group shot him. The only way to ‘save’ his mind was to upload it but once online – he began to create an army and reproduce his entity through Nano bites there may be no way to stop him.

I was a badly injured film reviewer who Caster was able to heal using his incredible reconstructive technology. My body was rebuilt stronger, faster and with more capacity, but as part of the process however he ‘networked’ my brain. Now I serve him ‘yes sir’ he just instructed me to inform you that Transcendence is a great sci-fi thriller… wait, something isn’t right… That doesn’t compute…

"this is an action scene!"

Directed by Wally Pfister who has was cinematographer for the incredible Chris Nolan on such classics as Inception and The Dark Knight. My initial hopes were high for Transcendence but alas Pfister’s first directorial release is a badly judged and overall fairly lame effort. Might he have been ‘networked’ by a dull Xbox intelligence?

Depp looks bored throughout which is oddly a reflection of how most of the audience I saw this with also looked (I was distracted enough to notice that several people left muttering that it wasn’t worth their time and when having a look around the cinema I spotted 2 more who had nodded off).

Transcendence is still a good looking film (perhaps Pfister should stick to cinematography) but the script is labored, the plot fails to engage and the climax just dull. This should be filed as a good idea that deserved a better realization.

One for tech nuts with very high boredom thresholds only!

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

ö 

(1 - the future is very boring)

Awesomeness öö – not much awesome to go round

Laughs ö – not fun(ny)

Horror öö – vaguely creepy in parts

Babes öö – Rebecca Hall is lovely but plays plain Jane here

Spiritual Enlightenment ö - don't synch your brain with your iPhone!


Recommended Hashtags: #Tran-dum-sence

"Miss Hall - nice pout"



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Darkmatters Review: The Amazing Spiderman 2


The Amazing Spiderman 2 (12a)

Dir. Marc Webb

Reviewed by Matt ‘webslinger’ Adcock

“You know what it is I love about being Spider-Man?”

“Everything!!”

Get ready because The Amazing Spider-Man is back – back for more comic book big screen adventures and this time the stakes have been raised considerably.

In the Spider suit once again Andrew Garfield who is an absolute joy to watch, he nails the Peter Parker / Spidey role superbly, in fact he’s so watchable that it is only when he has to deal with a host of new villains that things oddly lose their way a little.

"ah young love..."

Love interest Gwen Stacy (a blonde Emma Stone) also returns and the two leads sizzle with genuine chemistry that gives the film a solid beating heart. But it’s just not easy to hold down a serious relationship whilst being on full time city saving superhero duty and like many super dudes before him, Spidey has to battle with wanting to protect his girl (as he promised her now dead father) and following his heart.

As a super-powered love story The Amazing Spiderman 2 is a treat for the senses – you’ll be a cynic indeed not to love his Banksy style web graffiti declaration of love at one point…

"wifi man :)"

Alas it’s not all good news for this sequel though, new lead baddie Electro (Jamie ‘Django Unchained’ Foxx) is more annoying than menacing and he hogs the screen time that would be better served profiling new Hob Goblin (Dane ‘Chronicle’ DeHaan) who actually could be an awesome nemesis if developed in the next movie – and the ‘Sinister Six’ offshoot which is mooted. Another miss-step is Paul Giamatti who is wasted as Aleksei Sytsevich (the Rhino) – who is a kind of uninspired bumbling mech rather than a mutant creature this time.

The special effects work well though, web-swinging has never looked better or more fun and the Oscorp special projects lab looks to host a veritable super villain resource cupboard of tricks.

"new Goblin on the block"

Also good to see is the small scale interactions that keep Spidey busy which include a lovely helping of a nerd who has bully issues – which has a pay off in the last scene. But however hard Director Webb and his team try, The Amazing Spiderman 2 just isn’t as ‘amazing’ as the first of this rebooted franchise. Yes there is lots of promise for the next part – not least in introducing Felicia (Felicity ‘Cemetery Junction’ Jones) who could become his ‘Catwoman alike’ Black Cat!?

But then ‘The Adequate Spiderman’ might be more accurate but isn’t as catchy a title!

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

ööö 

(3 - fumbled but still fun super-sequel )

Awesomeness öööö – flies when Peter Parker takes front and centre

Laughs ööö – quite funny in places

Horror öö – some menace and mental instability but not too grim

Babes ööö – Stone is cute until she does her stupid 'scrunch up face smile'

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - heroic duties demand sacrifice


Recommended Hashtags: #AdequateSpiderman

"will Spidey have new women problems in the next flick?"


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Darkmatters Review: The Quiet Ones


The Quiet Ones (15)

Dir. John Pogue

Reviewed by Matt ‘ghostbuster’ Adcock

Read the newspaper version of this review over at The Thame Gazette

“It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for…”

Do you believe if ghosts? Well The Quiet Ones (from the producer who brought you The Woman In Black and Let Me In) is the slightly unnerving tale based on actual events of how a team of Oxford university students led by their professor conducted an ‘experiment’ to try and prove that spooks were simply a condition of the mind.

The experiment’s subject was a Jane Harper (Olivia ‘Bates Motel’ Cooke), a young girl full of unspeakable secrets, but are these secrets dark supernatural forces or rather more explainable homicidal issues?

"don't look her in the eyes"

So we join unorthodox Professor Coupland (Jared ‘Mad Men‘ Harris) as he recruits Brian McNeil (Sam ‘The Hunger Games’ Claflin) to film the experiment whilst goofy student Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and sexy Krissi Dalton (Erin ‘soon to be in Gotham’ Richards), who insists on wearing hot pants which I’m not convinced are suitable scientific garb, tag along for the chilling ride.

"spooky grey borders suddenly appeared"

Professor Coupland is obsessed with trying to prove his odd theory that evil spooks are not entities back from the afterlife but rather projections manifested by traumatized minds. So his ‘experiment’ seeks to use mentally unstable Jane Harper and drive her to project negative energy and then ‘cure’ her. He does this by playing Quiet Riot’s “Come On Feel The Noise” very loudly all night – which is probably enough to drive anyone insane!?

"mad you say?"

Things invariably go ‘bump’ in the night and Jane somehow gets a scar in the shape of an occult symbol.
Turns out that this scar is that of an ancient goddess venerated by a cult, which believed that the soul of this goddess possessed a little girl called Evey (which just so happens to be the name of the doll Jane carries). Oh, and this cult killed themselves in a big fire… You just know that it will end in tears.

"spooky fishing"

Director John Pogue does an adequate job with the uneven screenplay by Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman. The Quiet Ones starts well and builds up a decent eerie premise in the first hour but when the ghostly hokum kicks off it all gets more silly than scary. Yes there are plenty of ‘false’ scares in the form of sudden jump moments – and these are effective – so much so that the woman behind me in the cinema screamed very loudly, very often!

*spoiler warning* 
*religious discussion warning*

As a Christian I find it interesting to witness a supposed actual events experiment - because if the forces of supernatural could be 'proved' to be 'just' psychokinesis, it would have fascinating repercussions for wider believe states. The fact the the film-makers show the experiment ending in 'actual' forces of darkness at work - goes along with most horror films of this ilk, to suggest that there are supernatural forces beyond our human existence - and I'd very much include a 'positive' force as a counter balance to the demonic ones - which I'd term 'God'...


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

öö1/2 

(2.5 - One for hardcore ghost busters only)

Awesomeness ööö – some eerie moments

Laughs ö – not funny

Horror ööö – some horror but not enough!

Babes ööö – Olivia Cooke and Krissi Dalton are watchable

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - there just might be things out there...


Recommended Hashtags: #WhoYaGonnaCall

"Miss Dalton - looking freaked out"

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Divergent


Divergent (12a)

Dir. Neil Burger

Reviewed by Matt ‘Dauntless’ Adcock

Read the newspaper version of this review over at The Banbury Guardian

“You're different. You don't fit into a category. They can't control you. They call it Divergent. You can't let them find out about you.”

Coming in hard on the dystopian future / young adult buzz that The Hunger Games has generated is Divergent – based on a hugely popular series of novels Veronica Roth. And much like the other films aimed to include an adolescent audience – the core theme is ‘finding yourself and your place in life’…

Divergent doesn’t have a Harry Potter sorting hat but it does have the ‘test’ where everyone in society is analysed and placed into one of 5 possible class systems or factions, namely: the selfless ‘Abnegation’, the peace loving ‘Amity’, the utterly honest ‘Candor’, the highly intelligent ‘Erudite’ or the bad ass and brave ‘Dauntless’.

"Dauntless - don't wait for trains to stop!"

Heroine of this future utopia is Beatrice Prior or ‘Tris’ (Shailene ‘The Descendants’ Woodley) whose family are all Abnegation - the faction that run the government.

We join the action as Tris and her brother Caleb (Ansel ‘Carrie’ Elgort) are tested and both decide to change factions – Tris to become a Dauntless and Caleb to Erudite. We then follow Tris (who is very much a Hunger Games Katniss-alike) training and fighting to prove that she can make the grade I the brutal new environment she finds herself in.

"Smooch-em-up"

The thing is – Tris’ test results weren’t conclusive and she is in fact what the authorities call a ‘divergent’ – someone with character traits across different factions – and a potential threat to the authorities - personified by the charismatic evil leader Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet).

As the plot progresses we find out that there is shady business afoot with the
Erudite faction, looking to overthrow Abnegation and use Dauntless to do so… Might Tris be destined to play a decisive part in the upcoming struggle? Well duh!?

Director Neil ‘Limitless’ Burger sets about the future action with a cool, measured pace – bringing stylish set pieces and even some emotional depth that helps when there are character deaths.

"colour coordination is compulsory"

To keep the teenie females happy there is a prerequisite smouldering love interest for Tris in Four (Theo ‘Soon to be in Martin Amis’ London Fields’ James) who becomes her ‘mentor-with-benefits’.

Divergent delivers a quality, engaging cinematic thrill ride which should please all ages and leave you looking forward to the sequel ‘Insurgent’ which hits next year (albeit in the lesser directorial hands of Robert ‘R.I.P.D.’ Schwentke…

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

ööö1/2 

(3.5 - Quality future action that could be a franchise worth following)

Awesomeness öööö – tasty set pieces

Laughs öö – average mirth

Horror öö – not very grim

Babes ööö – Shailene Woodley is yummy

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - be yourself!


Recommended Hashtags: #Different=Dangerous

"Faction before blood"

"sexy tats"


Friday, April 04, 2014

Darkmatters Review: The Raid 2


The Raid 2 (18)

Dir. Gareth Evans

Reviewed by Tom Wade (with additional thoughts from Matt Adcock)

“Well find him and kill him!”
“Sir… he’s here… he’s coming up…”

Oh yes. The Raid 2 is here. And it wants to punch you in the face with its brilliance.

A small budget Indonesian martial arts action film was quietly released back in 2011 entitled The Raid. Without much fanfare or pre-publicity, The Raid quickly generated a strong followed and appreciation as people began to sit up and notice writer and director by Gareth Evans as well as lead hero Iko Uwais. And it thoroughly deserved every accolade that came its way. A jaw dropping film that looked at the action rule book, laughed at it and promptly cut it up with a machete. The set up was simple yet effective: A big tower block, bad guys at top, cops at bottom, cops fight their way to the top. This resulted in tight corridor fights as Uwais - playing young cop Rama - fought his way through an ever increasing horde of angry criminals.

"It really isn't over yet!"

The Raid 2 picks up hours after The Raid finishes as Rama is persuaded to go undercover and infiltrate the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate in order to protect his family and to uncover the corruption in his own police force. If the Raid set up to tell a simple story, The Raid 2 is the Godfather 2 of action films in comparison. Soon Rama is locked up in prison for years, doing naughty things to move up the crime chain and possibly losing the humanity that made him such a likeable lead - even as he was happily stabbing people. What follows is a sprawling epic of multiple characters, multiple plots and multiple fights as various factions fight to get to the top. In the middle of all of it Rama has to fight… a lot.

And fighting is really why everyone will go see The Raid 2. Indeed, if there is a film released this year (or in fact the next 5 years) that makes you go ‘ah’, ‘oh’, ’wow’, ’cor’, ’S**t!’ as much as the Raid 2 then I will happily let you roundhouse kick me in the face. The wince factor is turned up to 11 as action scenes take place that are so creative and brilliant that you haven’t even dreamed that something as impressive as this could make its way onto cinema screens. Just as you think that they can’t do any more, The Raid 2 throws in a fight scene - in a car - during a chase sequence. Or maybe the baseball bat swinging (and a very good shot with a baseball) assassin, along with his dual hammer wielding sister will be the bit that impress you. If not, perhaps the extensive fight sequence in a kitchen between two master fighters that involves every kitchen utensil you can imagine will get the blood pumping… or maybe the humungous prison sequence in a pit of mud, or the nightclub fight, or the warehouse brawl or the… well - you get the idea.

"new cult classic status confirmed"

This is by far a one trick pony though. Expanding out to a city allows Evan’s to create some stunning shots in beautiful juxtaposition to the hyper violence. A stunning snow scene that is suddenly impacted by violence, the slow motion shots of mud sloshing into the air as bodies fall into it, a slow linger on a baseball bat before it gets to work hurting people… The Raid 2 isn’t just a fantastic action film, it looks great too. Evans finds the beauty and poetry in amongst the bone cracking, and The Raid 2 is a richer film because of it.

One gripe would be that The Raid 2 does end up feeling rather long. The first Raid came in at just over a tight hour and a half, whereas Raid 2 comes up at a good 40 minutes longer. Much of that time is given to a subplot involving a character not overly important to the story and to talky scenes about gangster politics. Whilst not bad, they do occasionally sap the high energy that the rest of the film creates. Not a criticism as such, but when the pace is so dynamic, any slow down is noticeable.

The problem is, however, that watching The Raid 2 will damage you. You wont watch a generic Hollywood action film in the same way again. Watching Stallone, Willis, and the rest of the geriaction collective slowly amble their way around CGI sets quipping worse and worse one-liners as they lazily dispatch mindless goons with a gun in the one hand and a fat pay check in the other, wont fulfil that deep emptiness that The Raid 2 leaves you with. The desire to be entertained in the same way again will be big, and it’s a desire that I expect will only be filled by The Raid 3…

"yep"

If you’ve not seen The Raid or the The Raid 2, I envy the first time marvel and experience you will have. Just promise that you won’t try it at home…


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

ööööö 

(5 - The Raid 2 is full five stars of crime action excellence)

Awesomeness ööööö – crunching violence that looks superb!

Laughs öööö –  lots of dark comic fun

Horror öö – limited grimness

Babes ööö – Mélanie Thierry is smokin hot

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - life might just mean something after all...


Recommended Hashtags: #LoveBainsley #BatmanTheRedeemer


Darkmatters Review: The Zero Theorem


The Zero Theorem (15)

Dir. Terry Gilliam

Reviewed by Matt 'Qohen' Adcock

It's not often (enough) that we get a new brain chewing sci-fi from the addled genius mind of former Monty Python member Terry 'Brazil and 12 Monkeys' Gilliam. But it's the meaning of life itself which is at the heart of the crazy new 'Zero Theorem' = superb thought provoking material for any theologically astute thinker to grapple with.

"after work socialising - Gilliam style"

Here we have Qohen Leth (Christoph 'Inglorious Basterds' Waltz) as an angst-ridden boffin tasked with cracking the titular zero theorem by creepy overlord 'Management' (Matt Damon).

But what is The Zero Theorem?

Why, only an existential equation which if proved will demonstrate once and for all that life = 0, or to put it another way, that everything is meaningless (and not 'awesome' as purported in The Lego Movie) after all.

"nurse Bainsley will see you now!"

As the  eccentric Qohen struggles with the Theorem, he is visited by the pneumatically sexy Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry) and then Management's genius son Bob (Lucas Hedges)...

Also on hand is co-employee Joby (David Thewlis) and cyber-therapist Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton). Gilliam bring a tangible sense of madness to the film that echoes a continuation / future jump ahead of where 'Brazil' was - there is a fantastic sense of humour at play in the midst of the 'what is to come (or become) of our society with neon adverts proclaiming things like:

'THE CHURCH OF BATMAN THE REDEEMER NEEDS YOU!'

and

'The church of Intelligent Design will unlock that special you'

"I'm Batman"

There is plenty of thought provoking theologically charged material that set The Zero Theorem out from the run-of-the-mill sci-fi wannabes...



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

öööö 

(4 - engage your imagination)

Awesomeness öööö – madcap sci-fi scenes of joy

Laughs öööö –  lots of dark comic fun

Horror öö – limited grimness

Babes ööö – Mélanie Thierry is smokin hot

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - life might just mean something after all...


Recommended Hashtags: #LoveBainsley #BatmanTheRedeemer

Mélanie Thierry - she's shy!

Bainsley fan art!!







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