DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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

Read my novel: Complete Darkness

Listen to the PODCAST I co-host: Hosts in the Shell

Friday, December 31, 2004

NewsNow Headlines

Date : 20050516 Current Story Count : 3

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Spoiler Free Review

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Extended Film Review

Kingdom Of Heaven Film Review

Constantine - Heavenly or Hell on Earth?

Keanu Reeves has recently talked about some of his favourite scenes in the upcoming Constantine film:
"There's a showdown scene where Constanine meets the forces of darkness who are planning to make Hell on Earth, and he battles using the 'Holy Shotgun'.
There's also quite an interesting scene between John and Satan, which is good fun."
I've got to admit that this looks very interesting...
Especially as a Christian and the fact that my novel 'Darkmatters' deals with some similar themes / elements...
Here's hoping that Keanu can do it justice!!

Not Alone In Hating Polar Express

The guys at CHUD.com are right on the money when it comes to Polar Express...

(CHUD Review)
My therapist says it would be a good idea for me to write about this movie, especially since I still start crying every time I hear a train go by. That makes commuting on the subway tough.

It takes a special man to make an animated film about the corpses of people getting on a train to take a disjointed and creepy ride to the North Pole, only to discover that Santa's Workshop is really a giant industrial complex airlifted in from the Eastern Bloc and the elves are enslaved Hebrews.
That man is Satan.

Dave's Take: Even as a kid I always kinda thought those Rankin-Bass Christmas specials had mildly disturbing animation (the Winter Warlock always freaked me out), but I sincerely doubt this film will become nearly as endearing over the ages.

Nick's Take: I get all the poorly rendered Tom Hanks I need in my nightmares, thank you.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

PWEI Strike Back

The rumours are true...

YES... The poppies will tour again and I'll be there!!
Thank you God

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

IMDb's Top 25 Film Stars of 2004

IMDb.com, Earth's biggest movie database, has released their top 25 stars for 2004. These STARmeter™ rankings were not based upon critical assessments or box-office performance, but the actual search behaviour of over 20 million users of IMDb.com.

And the winner is...
Johnny Depp!

The rest of the top 5 include -

Lindsay Lohan (see Mean Girls photo below)
Orlando Bloom
Keira Knightley
and Angelina Jolie

Read the article at:

Lindsay Lohan - with her mean but cute friends...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

darkmatt banner


Fantastic Four - Will It Suck?


Not sure how this one will play... certainly has potential but I'm filing it as a 'wait and see'...
Nice outfits though...

Monday, December 27, 2004

Matt Adcock's Top Games 2004

"in the zone"

Yes - another 'best of' list - this time it's my top 5 games I've wasted countless hours of my life playing this year... "It's part of being a good parent would be my only excuse" - apart from the fact that I don't let my kids anywhere near games like GTA: San Andreas...

5. Burnout 3: Takedown
The words "oh just one more go" were often heard in our household this year - crash mode rocks!!

4.Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005
A life eating addiction to smacking a little ball very hard... But beating my father in law 19-0 at skins (we halved the last hole) was a highlight!!

3. Killzone
"Ask only that you survive the day" - but what a adrenaline packed day it will be 'in the zone' - screenshot above!!

2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
This 'kill em up' is a thing of beauty, being a gangsta is just so much fun - criminal!!

1. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
A strategic battle game that looks cute but is more addictive than crack!!

My console of choice is the trusty PS2, yes I've got an Xbox as well but the only game I've been tempted by for it this year was Halo 2...

My computer game habit has began the day I won a ZX Spectrum at my school fair back in the '80s...
At various times since then I have played TI99, C64, Amiga, Snes, Megadrive, Jaguar, Saturn, PS1, PS2 and then I won an Xbox from an online survey... And of course I've been a long term conscript to Command & Conquer plus other strategic PC games.

Tragic I know - but roll on Playstation 3 all the same!!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Miracle Drug

I want to trip inside your head
Spend the day there...

To hear the things you haven't said And see what you might see

God I need your help tonight
Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
It's whispering

... Miracle drug

Lyrics: Bono

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
- one of my favourite Christmas presents this year!!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Bruce Willis Will Own It... 2005

You could say that I'm excited about Sin City getting made into a film,
you would be right...
John Hartigan is the role Bruce Willis was born to play...
(other than the hero - CLERIC - in the film adaptation of my as yet unpublished novel 'Darkmatters' where he's a washed up special forces agent that has to save the world from the forces of hell - whilst dealing with the fact that absolutely everyone wants to kill him and that he's developed super powers he knew nothing about!?)
Hey publishers, give me a call!!

Most Wanted 2005... Sin CIty

This is going to be very, very cool...
As a big fan of Frank Miller's comic books, this is my tip for 'most fun you'll have in the cinema in 2005' and that is saying something as there are lots of potentially awesome films on the radar for the coming year!!

Matt goes ape about Bruce Willis in SIN CITY: Bruce Willis Will Own It 2005

Friday, December 24, 2004

Matt Adcock's Worst Films of 2004

As wise turkey say... "there can be no true pleasure without pain!" and as I tuck into second helpings of her suculent breast meat - I have to say that I agree (hope she didn't suffer too much but I deem the pleasure she's bringing is worth it)...

And so it was that even in 2004 - which has been a great year for films, some film efforts just did not ring my bells and the top 5 for me were:

5. Paycheck (John Woo)
Ben Affleck even joked about how he wanted to get his ticket money back when he saw it - and he's the star...

4. Along Came Polly (John Hamburg)
Extra marks deducted because I liked his last films - Zoolander and Meet the Parents

3. Connie and Carla (Michael Lembeck)
Nia Vardalos must be stopped before she perpetrates any further crimes against cinema - her first being My Big Fat Greek Wedding

2. Exocist: The Beginning (Renny Harlin)
This guy is a hackmeister and this film sucks satan's ass

And yet - least favourite by a steaming mile is:

1. The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis)
This just made me physically ill despite its cutting edge animation and impressive imagery...

If a strange man asks you to get on a train with him in the middle of the night,
just say "no"...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Matt Adcock's Films of 2004...

Matt Adcock's Top 10 Films of 2004

1. The Incredibles
Awesome - just pure pleasure on the big screen

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Freaky, funny and romantic - all at the same time

3. Man On Fire
My pal Denzel delivers the goods - Tony Scott rocks

4. Spiderman 2
A rare sequel that improves on original - heartracing action

5. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Turbo charged and spewing dark fumes - gothic family fun!!

6. Collateral
Cruise makes a mean baddie - Mann directs with style

7. The Cooler
Cool and heartbreaking - a real joy to watch

8. Big Fish
Fantastic fantasy and imagination in visual overdrive

9. Lost In Translation
Impressive culture shock love story

10. Shaun of the Dead
Proud to be British - funniest horror film ever

All in all a very strong year for films – if you want to see my 'Worst 5' of the year then click here: Worst Films of 2004

or my pick for potential best film of 2005 click here: Most Wanted 2005

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

All I want for Christmas (but won't get) PSP!!

The PSP - a portable Playstation - surely a thing of supreme beauty.
Am trying not to freak out contemplating just how much more fun my commute is going to be each day...

Wipeout Pure,
Ridger Racers,
Metal Gear Acid - yes please!!

/ Huge grin on Matt's face...

And for those who want to know just how much it rocks - check out this latest report on the quality and all round loveliness of the PSP...
Then place you pre-order!!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events Film Review

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (PG)

Reviewed by Matt ‘Lemony’ Adcock

I’m sorry to tell you that this film is extremely unpleasant, an expression that here means, “it involves three ingenious orphans, a sinister homicidal villain and a hair-raising gothic misadventure.”
Alarmingly, it is also pure entertainment dynamite – darker and cooler than Harry Potter will ever be - this ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ really lives up to its morose title. Things do indeed get grim, there’s no happy ending, actually there’s no happy beginning and I have to say that very few happy things happen in between but that is the very point. You know, it’s not too late to stop reading and consider going to see something altogether more light hearted…
Based on the subtly subversive books of Lemony Snicket, director Brad Silberling and a distressingly talented cast that includes Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep and the gorgeous Emily Browning have brought something truly unique to the screen. ‘Unfortunate Events’ capitalises on that well-trodden path from the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm through to the twisted works of Roald Dahl – of dastardly awful things happening to perfectly nice children through no fault of their own. The result is a dreadful spectacle, a phrase that here means, “it jump starts the imagination of the entire family and evokes the magic of truly classic entertainment.”
The woeful tale is of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet (Browning) a whiz inventor, Klaus (Liam Aiken) a brainy bookworm and Sunny (played by tag team of twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman) a two year old who really likes to bite things. Undisputed star of the film however is the villainous Count Olaf (Carrey), he sizzles with ultra manic energy, he really is despicable, a word which here means, “really, really, unbelievably evil.” The wicked Count pursues the orphans throughout the film, appearing in a number of guises – all the while trying to get his hands on the children’s huge estate.
The Lemony Snicket books knocked Harry Potter from top of the children’s bestseller list when they came out and on the strength of this lavish adaptation, Potter has good cause to be looking over his shoulder.
As Snicket says “at times the world may seem like an unfriendly and sinister place, but what may seem like a series of unfortunate events might, in fact, be the first steps of a journey...” Let’s just hope that this wonderful journey continues with a sequel!

Lemony Snicket Orphans

I was kidding Bruce!!

Jim spots Bruce Willis reading his interview...
See below.

Residual Mind Noise - Interview with Jim Carrey

Matt Adcock meets Jim Carrey

I caught up with Jim Carrey whilst he was in London promoting Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Having just had to escape a fire at Claridges in Mayfair, he’s full of manic energy and looking far less sinister than he does in the film as the dastardly Count Olaf…

Count Olaf is possibly your best role to date is an iconic villain – up there with Vader or the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – what did you think about playing him?

“Olaf was just so much fun to play because there were so many possibilities. I loved playing this role and always kept in my mind ‘I’m Count Olaf’ so there are no rules – he’s a really dangerous guy but he doesn’t think of himself as evil. As a baddie however, I wanna be the thing under the bed. I want kids to go into their parents’ room in the middle of the night, and say ‘Mum, Jim Carrey’s under my bed, can I sleep in yours?’”

Olaf is a terrible actor by trade – was there any particular inspiration for that aspect of the role?

“Bruce Willis!! I’m kidding Bruce (if you’re reading) please don’t hunt me down – you’re an action guy I understand… No but Olaf is actor who is losing his hair and that does add a danger element to him.“

Children’s fiction – especially the darker stories like Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter are doing very well at the moment, why do you think that is?

“Because they’re bad, children are bad – literally. No, but I think it connects with the feeling of ‘being orphaned’ – even if you’ve got parents, people have that feeling. This film is really different though, really inventive and I’ll be fascinated to see what children make of it because they are crazy passionate about the books. It’s a dark tale but the intent is bright – focussing on how they can rely on and support each other which is positive.”

Were the children scared of you on set?

“Absolutely, especially the two year olds they were terrified of me – it was so tough to get them to smile. In fact we had to get a tiny TV showing Shrek and hold it over my shoulder, so lots of the time when you see Sunny you’ll be seeing her reacting to Shrek.“

So how about bringing Count Olaf back for a sequel?”Hey, if they back up a truck full of dollars…I don't have a deal, but it's one that I wouldn't mind doing again because there are so many characters. I mean, we created 30 extra characters that never made it in the movie – you might see some of that on DVD. Olaf though is a child at heart, he just wants everyone to love him and see him as a genius, so I guess he’s quite like me in that respect!”

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is the hot ticket to see this Christmas and it has just opened at number one in the U.S. box office so it’s a fair bet that we can ‘count’ on seeing more Jim Carrey as the ultimate baddie Olaf again at some point.

Click here to read: Matt Adcock's Film Reviews


Friday, December 17, 2004

Jim Carrey at the Lemony Snicket Premier London

What a guy... Had the chance to meet and interview him
before the premier of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events...
See RMN Jim Carrey.

Emily Browning and co-stars

cool kids - but Emily Browning is a complete beauty...
In the flesh (at the London press conference) she was even cuter!
I predict big things for her - starting with
A Series of Unfortunate Events!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Iconic Villian pose #1 Olaf Style

Bite Me ... for the last time Blade Trinity Film Review

Blade: Trinity (15)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Blade, the daywalker - half man, half vampire – all hero, with the strengths of both species and the weaknesses of neither. How we marvelled at his stylish action packed first film in ‘98. Then we thrilled at the darker, bloodier follow up Blade 2 just a couple of years ago. Now the final majestic climax of the trilogy is here and it’s not all that unfortunately. Yes, Wesley Snipes is back doing his ‘look mean and don’t say much’ routine but gone is any of the tension or horror… What we get instead is a heavy dose of action comedy. Admittedly it wasn’t what I was expecting but I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it, just that I feel that Blade deserved a better send off than Trinity which even when not playing for laughs is the weakest of the 3 films.
The toilet humour and averagely cool action will undoubtedly play well with teenage boys (hence the 15 not 18 certificate) – the other attraction being the introduction of Jessica Biel who manages to look good whilst kicking much vampire butt. My feelings for Biel are similar to those I have for Blade: Trinity – passing admiration but no real respect. She always looks a little sad on screen and I think I know why… I think it’s because she’ll never be quite as cool or sexy as Jennifer Garner (Alias, Elektra) and that’s why she gets to exhibit embarrassing Apple ipod product placement rather than do anything more memorable.
So Trinity tells the tale of Blade being set up for murder, having to deal with new sidekicks the ‘Nightstalkers’ (Biel and Ryan Reynolds who does most of the funny stuff) and of course having a one on one fight with Dracula himself. Dracula here by the way looks very cool and menacing in his battle armour / CGI monster guise but about as scary or sinister as Wane Rooney in human form. There’s only one person to blame and that’s David S. Goyer who wrote all three films and was allowed to direct this one. If you’re just looking for some undemanding man vs monster violence Blade: Trinity will suffice, just try not to think of how much cooler it could have been.

She's a hot one...

SMG - OMG 'what big feet you have?'

See interview below!!

Residual Mind Noise - Interview With Sarah Michelle Gellar

Matt Adcock meets Sarah Michelle Gellar

I meet Sarah Michelle ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Gellar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London, on her whistle stop European tour promoting her new film ‘The Grudge’. She is one hot female… literally – she walks in and immediately says “wait a minute, it’s too warm in here” – after a couple of seconds fiddling with the air conditioning she’s ready to begin.

So, I ask her if The Grudge is the scariest film she’s made?

“Absolutely, one of the reasons that I signed on is because I wouldn't sort of categorise it as your typical horror film. Everyone loves to go to a movie and be scared. And the scariest things are the ones that could actually happen, like some of the things in The grudge. Those are the moments that frighten you to the core and resonate long after you’ve left the theatre.”

Did she get to scream a lot?

”No. And you know, and that's what was really cool. American horror films, we automatically think of large-breasted girls running in the woods in the wrong direction. Think of me and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” But Japanese films in that genre are based in such reality. They're more psychologically scary to me, and so because of that you base things so differently. And so it isn't so much screaming as being frozen in absolute fear and not being able to find your voice.”

So did anything freaky happen while filming?

“Well nothing like my cat from childhood coming back to life and haunting me, but then I didn’t have a cat when I was a child… But we did have to go through this ‘purification ritual’ on the set which the Japanese crew took very seriously – the set was ‘blessed’ so that evil spirits were banished. It was quite jovial on set though, but I’ll tell you, that scene where they drowned that kid in the bathtub, when I saw that the first time, I was like, ‘Oh my God, they drowned him’. In America, they would use a dummy, but that was a kid in the bathtub being half drowned.”

How was it working with the Japanese cast, like the little boy who has already starred in the Japanese version of the film?

He’s an interesting little boy, but an odd child, I think it was hard on him because there are no child labour laws and when the American actors were turning in for the night, he was being made to do more scenes. Someone should go out an unionise Japan!

Like all classic horror movies, The Grudge it has an obligatory shower scene, how was filming that?

"Everyone loves doing stuff in the shower don’t they?
Not when you're in a shower for seven hours with 17 Japanese men and ice-cold water - you don't love doing a shower scene. It was cold."

Finally, having made both, which are scarier American or Japanese style horror films?

"Well I think Japanese films leave a lot more to the imagination. It's a lot more about setting it up and letting you take it to that place where it makes it scariest for you. It's not gory, it's not bloody, and I think because of that, it's much more chilling."
The Grudge is certainly chilling stuff, and it has scared almost $100million out of moviegoers worldwide. Sarah Michelle Gellar is every bit as cool, calm and gorgeous as I suspected she might be and so it’s hard to be-’grudge’ her the success!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I'll get my coat... the adcock one

Apparently the English surname Adcock is of patronymic origin, being one of those names derived from the first name of a father. It literally denotes "The son of Adam". The personal name of Adam is Hebrew in origin and signifies red earth...
Not entirely sure why there's a fox sticking out of the crest though?
If anyone out there knows... That's what the comment option below is for I guess!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The real Dark Knight - strikes back

The new Batman Begins poster...
THAT'S a bit more like it!!

The Dark Knight Falls

I'm Batman... at least I was for my son Jame's 4th Birthday party...
was hoping for a kind of dark knight look...
but it turned out more 'Del Boy a la Only Fools and Horses'
still I got to wear my black underware over my trousers...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Family photo from The Guardian this year

Fame at last?

Another image that I wanted to record for prosperity...


DARKMATTERS - The Mind Of Matt: CARTER USM - Hitting the UK How much do I love Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine? ... www.darkmatt.blogspot.com/2007/04/carter-usm-hitting-uk-one-more-time.html

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Tiny bit of fiction from the Novel "Darkmatters"...

Darkmatters Chronicle One:
Standing on the brink of Complete DARKNESS

By Matt Adcock

“We’re all living on borrowed time”

Elemental Prologue – death from the past

The image ‘echoes’ from deep space were being streamed in real time across the systems of the L2 Galactic Infestations Research and Early Warning Group (GIREWG) [1]. What was being recorded were basically starlight ‘projections’, those whose light had once ‘bounced’ off earth and then rebounded again from nearer planets, dust fields or gas clusters. Once in possession of these echoed waves of light, the mammoth analytical A.I. brains were able to fragment, magnify and display such reflections so that actual events on our little planet from various times past could be watched in much the same way that cc uplinked satellite footage had been tracking our every move for at least the last couple of hundred years.

In the half light of the huge GIREWG main viewing hall an image of somewhere on Earth, from some time ago stabilises on the high definition banks of multi-angle plasma screens showing a mass of armoured warriors marching through sparse sandy desert terrain. It is dark, maybe just before dawn and a harsh sandstorm appears to be obscuring much of the detail but even from this high overhead vantage point it is obvious that this army is prepared for battle. From within the dust cloud savagely fashioned swords glint in the last of the moonlight, the armour is black and barbarically impressive – a lot to do with the twisted sharp edges of dark metal. The full extent of the army is difficult to gage but it must run into tens of thousands, there are cavalry forming a wide column of mounted riders running along one edge of a steep sided valley. The main bulk is made up of foot soldiers, some with banners that have various emblems on them – the feed computer is cross-referencing the ancient symbols and languages against the inter-global directory of knowledge and displaying footnotes about the images presented which includes translations of some of banners, one apparently reads ‘the bringers of death’.

“Can we pan out or track ahead of them? I want to see what force this army is moving to meet…” asks one of the watchers. The screens blink as the picture expands to take in a wider view of the landscape, the army showing as a mass of darkness creeping across the surface from left to right.

L2’s Ministry for Information is the best funded on the planet and it should come as little surprise that it is they who have set up the technology to view our human distant past from the aging reflection of light bounced from the stars themselves. It appears that Grand Information Controller Manu Doyyle has taken a keen interest in the footage coming in through the GIREWG. He is a man of average height and little hair but a hugely compelling presence. His Social Rating[2] is blinking “****overexcited” and it is mirrored on his face – a schoolboy in a toyshop staring at the latest plaything which his parents have just promised him for Christmas… 

“My God, this stuff is fantastic, have we channelled this anywhere else? Maybe we should get some GOV tactical military adviser A.I.s to have a look at this?” drools Doyyle.
“Do we have a confirmed date for this feed?”
“Negative on both of those sir I’m afraid, but our A.I.s should have a date in a few moments… this is fresh footage that has not been analysed or even archived yet, I just thought you’d like to see the quality of this new feed – it really is far superior to anything we’ve managed to track to date.”

Grand Information Controller Doyyle and Senior Research Technician M’diitch are standing in front of the main dark-plasma screen which stands 50 meters in height and some 80 across, it dwarves the watchers and awes those not accustomed to its monstrous dimensions. The image is sectioned into the main feed in a large central window with subsidiary information windows around the edges. This main viewing hall is also referred to as the ‘High Tech Lab’, it is a converted ancient Cathedral[3] – moved brick by brick from the abandoned Westminster area of the Underworld beneath L2 and rebuilt into the foot of a new GOV research laboratory. The massive pillars now support billions of global dollars worth of the latest tech – this place may no longer be a shrine of worship to a ‘God’, but for the many who have come to bow before technology as their divinity it is the antechamber to heaven itself.

“So, how old did you say this footage is?” asks Doyyle, staring transfixed at the thousands of long dead warriors up on the screen. He has a reputation for his energetic enthusiasm for progress and movement on anything that L2 leads the world in and this new generation of Starlight Historical Records (SHR) are just one of his current pet projects.

“Sir, best estimates are that this feed is from hundreds of years BC – the location is being predicted to be the Middle East, possibly near to the ancient land of known at that time as ‘Canaan’.”
Doyyle laughs, “Canaan, right, so we’ll be seeing young Joseph and his dream coat making an appearance in a minute then? Damn, my wife loves that ancient musical – is it still running?”

“If we do, I don’t fancy his chances against this lot. Unless his coat of many colours is actually heavy duty armour… look at those hardcore looking soldiers…”

On screen the space relay camera has tracked ahead of the massive army now and in what must be the first light of dawn there is a temporary looking encampment clearly ahead, directly in the path of the massive black suited military advance.

“Zoom in on that camp please.”

The screen blinks and then the people in the camp can be seen. It appears as if they are collecting some kind of foodstuff from the sand around their tents. Suddenly what could be a warning shout goes out (SHR’s don’t come with soundtracks) and a scout can be see running into the camp, within minutes there is much activity, some of the campers are obviously soldiers and they can be seen suiting up in lightweight silver armour. Women, children and elders however can be seen gathering their possessions and breaking camp as fast as they can. Bizarrely a small group leaves the camp and head towards a large dune that is in the path of the oncoming army, which are not yet visible to the main body of the camp but cannot be more than a few miles away now. It appears to be two elderly men with six silver armoured guards, who between them are carrying a huge chest that has poles running along its length and some kind of ornate figures carved onto it. In the first rays of sunlight it reflects as if made of gold or some other burnished metal. The very air around them shimmers with energy as if the chest is giving off some kind of power, as the group with the chest make their way to a large dune and take up positions with the guards in a spear formation in front of the elders. The approaching enemy seem to sense their position and a battalion of seven[4] swift riders break off from the main body of the forces and gallop towards them. It might be just a degradation of the image but there appear to be massive shadows circling the black armoured riders. The shadows are not moving in relation to the way they should be in the sunrise, in fact they are lining up as if preparing to smash into the guards on the dune.

Doyyle is transfixed, “K, please clear my immediate diary, I am in an important meeting and it looks like running on – no calls at all, thank you,” he turns to a quizzical looking M’diitch, “I want to see what happens next!” he grins. “Do you suppose that those guys are going to try and plead terms of surrender, or buy off the army?”

M’diitch brings up a window showing the advancing wave of black suited soldiers, and shakes his head. “I don’t think they look like they could be talked to, let alone bargained with… I think we’re about to witness an absolute massacre.”
As the riders gather speed, kicking up masses of sand behind them, the two elders with the chest raise their hands and the energy waves from the chest focus in the air around them as if forming some kind of shield.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, are they maGes[5]?” asks Doyyle but his voice breaks off as the shadows around the riders suddenly shoot ahead of them – directly into the guards in front of the energy field tearing them apart in massive explosions of gore…
The elderly men look on in horror as a red rain of what used to be their bodyguards sweeps over them. One of them drops his arms and the shield blinks out of the existence.  

The first of the riders is upon them, he swings his massive sword in a tight arc, slicing the head from the elder who dropped his guard. The other seems to accept the fate of his companion stoically and then prostrates himself over the golden chest as the sand covered head of his compatriot rolls past.
The other riders pull up and form a circle around the chest, their weapons drawn but none actually attack the elder directly, it is as if something is holding them back.
Suddenly the screen blanks out, Doyyle can’t hold back, “What the hell? Tell me that isn’t all we’ve got? That was just amazing… Make me a personal copy of it and have it beamed to my apartment A.I.”

M’diitch barely has time to acknowledge the instruction before Doyyle has summoned a STREAM[6] and has gone.

Outside the massive city is a glowing sheen of reflected arc lights, an evil wind howls through the streets as an insane rain soaked maelstrom rips across the high tech capital of the still functioning world. The Tech Lab A.I. Council are variously engaged in heated debate about the SHR footage, none of them tracking the last vapours of Doyyle’s STREAM as it dissipates into the sterile processed and highly filtered evening air.

L2’s overall weather has been wrecked ever since the Accursed sons of Delusion[7] hijacked and crashed one of the climate stabilising nuclear cloud platforms in 2102. M’diitch stares at the main monitor as it comes back to life – there on the screen in an incredible close up is one of the Seven riders, he has a red ribbon tied around one of the two horns on his helmet. It is impossible but it is almost as if he is gazing into the camera lens, his malevolent stare beaming across time and space directly into the observation lab.

M’diitch shivers and peers closer to the screen, ‘What are you staring at pal?’ he quips… The ribboned rider raises his sword in an unmistakable gesture of hostility and for a second M’diitch thinks he hears the voice of the long dead warrior saying ‘I will look for you when the day of carnage comes’…

[1] Starlight bounced phenomena were a major breakthrough for the Galactic Infestations Research and Early Warning Group seeing as up until the massively funded unit released tangible results – which an unnamed insider claimed to be a ‘lucky accident’ – there had been a growing dissatisfaction with the programme at the highest levels of Government.

[2] Social Rating™’s are the established population monitoring measures enforced by law in all civilised areas of the planet. A Social Rating cannot be turned off or cloaked without irreversible damage to the wearer. Readouts are flashed up to casually inform other citizens of a person’s mood, but more detailed data is readable to all who pull up the personal profile schematics on any person fitted with a global standard GOV sanctioned paramator ‘head’-chips. Head or paramator-chips replaced passports, bank accounts and criminal records – nobody except the very highest security level A.I.s can alter the details on them as they record in real time and are linked to the host’s brain. The chips are also fitted with biofunctioning batteries that charge themselves from either the blood pulsing around them in humans or directly hard wired into the energy core of the droid they are fitted to. 

[3] Quite what John Francis Bentley (the architect of the original Westminster Cathedral) would have made of the GIREWG viewing gallery we can only speculate at? The semi Byzantine style of the architecture had been noted in its day as a reflection of eastern Roman Empire rather than the more familiar Gothic style of many other native English cathedrals. The massive pillars once stood in the main body of the church, the Nave taken from the Latin ‘Navis’ - meaning ‘ship’. The giant Sony2 super dark-plasma ultra high definition screens now filling the gaps between the pillars were unlikely however to be seen as the walls of a vessel designed for upholding the souls of the populace above the stormy waters of life – especially after the ‘Powel Porno Fiasco’ that came to light when an A.I. broadcaster witnessed some unspeakable acts of depravity screened on them at the after hours VIP opening party in 2042. The footage that was simulcast across the main news networks is still talked of today and the ministers involved were immediately removed from office. Most of them found employment in the entertainment or adult film industry shortly afterwards though due to their worldwide notoriety.

[4]One of the ‘odder’ L2 A.I.s – identified as ‘TWADE’ – a dual identity bi-bot which has both an anchored A.I. mega- analytical supermind which forms a module of the Overworld and TWADE2 a fully functioning class 1 ‘hunt, exterminate and leave nothing alive’ bio-unit on active duty as one of the metallic lieutenants in the mech corps. Though the two elements of TWADE are linked – it is the ‘mind’ until that is monitoring this starlight-bounced signal with more than just professional interest. TWADE is a seeker and documentor of legendary creatures his arcane archive database has calculated that there is a possibility that these riders might be the legendary ‘The Seven’ also known as ‘The Sebitti.’ The Seven were supposed to be illustrious Babylonian warrior demons led by Errai (the Hunter, also known as ‘Shietan’ and prophesied to one-day answer to another name… ‘that of Ra-zour’) – their blood soaked path through history has been traced by tracking the vilest carnage hotspots, the legends of the darkest barbaric acts and the places where human blood has flowed like rivers… Their very names are the omens of death to those who hear them and none have ever crossed them and lived. These ‘sons of heaven and earth’ — referred to in many literatures across many cultures as the "champions without peer" were named by the Babylonians as: Errai “to be feared above all others”, Adrastus "he who stands his ground", Amphiaraus "doubly-cursed", Capaneus "violent against God", Hippomedon “whose parts are very large and powerful”, Polynices "too many victories to count" and Tydeus “banished from heaven.”
‘How I  love my Assyro-Babylonian Mythology’ beams TWADE whose Social Rating is blinking Ecstatic ***** which is noted with machine tooled distaste by the Tech Lab’s  A.I. Council.

[5] MaGe – mostly referred to as ‘BattlemaGes’ these are persons skilled in the mysterious and hidden art of dark magic. Developed for military purposes the BattlemaGe corps of L2 were legendary in their ability to decimate enemies using weaponry in the form of magical energy. In single combat also there were few who could face a The terminology ‘maGe’ came about due to the warlike nature of these supernaturally enhanced individuals – the capitalisation of the ‘G’ standing for Grimoire or in this case ‘Grim-war’ – an ever expanding record of the unnatural abilities that the maGes utilise.
[6] STREAM – a mostly effective teleportation system developed by the L2 GOV Scientists that links all places fitted with entrance / exit terminals. The actual matter transfer is through a fast path network of light acceleration, which loops back on itself ensuring (according to the patented theory) that the exit version of the traveller is identical to the entrant. The latest development of the STREAM has enabled moveable portals, which can be summoned to any location within a certain range and used to access the main central STREAM FLOW SYSTEM. The travel from STREAM entrance to exit is instantaneous and the safety record in terms of successful ‘reassembling of the traveller’ has after a high mortality rate version 1.0 been locked at 99.9% with the new firmware version 1.55.
[7] The Accursed sons of Delusion (AsD) were a short-lived atheist terrorist group who were prone to creating incidents that would cause massive loss of life while simultaneously broadcasting a challenge to any religious believers to ‘pray that God would stop them’. The weather control, nuclear cloud platform incident, didn’t work out very well for the AsD as the megaton blast radius of the nuclear explosion caused when the cloud platform veered off course and crashed on the outskirts of L2 actually managed to vaporise the entirety of the ‘L2 Richard Dawkins University of Non Belief’, which was the AsD’s base of operations. In an exceptional twist of fate it transpired that at most of the world’s prominent leading atheist thinkers were gathered in the University at the time of the catastrophic explosion – they had gathered there for a victory conference entitled ‘God can’t kiss my Ass – because he doesn’t exist’, none survived. It was widely covered on the news channels as a definitive ‘act of God’…   

Read more Darkmatters: FILM SCENE

Travel Sickness - Polar Express Film Review

The Polar Express (U)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Be afraid, be very afraid… The Polar Express is coming. If you’re a boy or girl who’s not sure they believe in Father Christmas – He (Tom Hanks) will send his magical train run by the scary and strict Conductor (Tom Hanks), to whisk you out of your bed and off to the North Pole. On the way you’ll meet at least four other really annoying characters (all played by… yes, Tom Hanks) and you’ll be force-fed more Seasonal propaganda than you ever thought possible until you break and admit that there IS a Santa. Kids, if a strange man asks you to get on a train with him in the middle of the night – just say “no” – even if it is going to the North Pole.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Christmas fan and of course I believe in Father Christmas (in case my kids read this) – it’s just that there are only so many sugared clichés dipped in finest American kitsch treacle you can take before you start to feel very very ill…

Is there anything good about The Polar Express? Well the visuals are pretty cool – at least of the train itself, based on the Pere Marquette 1225 restored steam locomotive, this iron behemoth is a majestic beast that looks great as it crosses the wintry snowscape en route to Santaland.

Unfortunately, just about everything else here feels ‘wrong’ - the film uses a 3D motion capture technique to digitally record the physical performances of the actors before transferring them to an animated form. This is very clever but for some freaky reason, all the children's roles were acted by
adults using over-sized props and they look embarrassingly like exactly that. And don’t get me started on the ‘dead eyes’ / shiver / the characters might move like real adults pretending to be kids but their eyes are pure zombie through and through. Hey, and another thing, the elves – since when
did Santa’s merry little helpers look like shrunken creepy dead eyed football yobs wearing jackboots? I wish I were making this up because I really wanted to like The Polar Express, I still love Back To The Future (also directed by Robert Zemeckis) but nothing could make me want to watch
this film again. Ever.

One can only hope that there are no plans for sequel unless it’s called Polar Express 2: Pass The Sickbags.

These guys had similar thoughts: Polar Express Sucks

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Film Reviews... Sep - Dec 04

Click here to see my favourite films of the year: Matt's Films of 2004

Recent reviews - click to read:

House of Flying Daggers

Without a Paddle

Lemony Snickets a Series of Unfortunate Events

Blade Trinity

Below are reviews from earlier in 2004... Keep scrolling!!

These originally ran in a number of regional newspapers including the award winning Herald & Post. (combined circulations approx 200,000 copies a week)

The Forgotten (12a)

What if everything you've experienced, everything you've known, never actually happened? And to make matters worse, everyone is trying to convince you that you just ‘made it all up’ so you should forget about it and move on. After all, there are worse things than forgetting… One of them is err, remembering I guess – remembering a duff film like this can be particularly nasty, especially because it starts out very promisingly.
In The Forgotten, Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is a still-grieving mother who lost her young son to a plane crash over a year ago. Or did she? Before you can say, “no she’s just a nut who’s made up the existence of this ‘son’”, the people around her – husband (Anthony Edwards), psychiatrist (Gary Sinise), and even next door neighbour (Dominic West) – are telling her that “she’s just a nut who made up the whole ‘having a son’ thing.” Or to put it another way - she has a bizarre psychological disorder in which she has developed a secret life where little Sam was her son even though he never really existed.
But she’s convinced that Sam was real and sets out to prove it on a quest that sees her crossing paths with a shady but extremely incompetent government agency, another grieving parent who lost a child on the same flight and of course a bunch of intergalactic space creatures who are studying our planet in some kind of cosmic experiment – no, really!!!
As the plot disappears down the toilet, you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘perhaps I’m not really watching this dull psuedo X-File wannabe – maybe I’m making it all up?’ You wish…
Julianne Moore is a talented actress and struggles to keep her dignity whilst the rest of the cast look only too happy to take their pay cheques and run. And running is something that Moore has to do tons of here – marvel as she out runs from her husband, her psychiatrist, the cops, the National Security service, some aliens etc. What lets the film down most for me though is that when she gets caught – the baddies don’t really know what to do with her, sort of like when you used to play kiss chase in the playground but then didn’t really want to / know how to kiss the girl if you caught her.
Anyway, there are a couple of effective ‘jump’ moments on offer but overall this is highly forgettable stuff.

The Incredibles (u)

It happens to lots of blokes I’m told… Without warning you hit a midlife crisis, before you know it you’re selfishly embracing an illicit form of entertainment – something that makes you feel good – something that makes you feel like a man… Your family are put to one side, your wife maybe left to try and keep it all going… And it appears that even Superheroes aren’t immune from this. Step up Bob Parr, also known as Mr Incredible, tempted back into world saving duty by a mysterious blonde, after 15 years of government enforced ‘pretending to be normal’. Bob knows in his heart that it is his destiny to be taking down super villains and death ray robots – the thing is, Bob’s family are equally blessed with super powers and if they could just work as a team… They’d be Incredible!!
Yes, Pixar have delivered a film of super fun, super action and super domestic problems – it is the film every superhero fan has dreamt would one day be made. Nothing is impossible in this CG animation and the creators throw scenes at the screen that would bankrupt any live action super film. Super strength (Mr Incredible), elastic power (Elastigirl), super speed (Dash), force fields and invisibility (Violet) are the order of the day – this is 120 minutes of superhero gorgeousness (and I don’t just mean Elastigirl who is disturbingly attractive for a cartoon character!).
Fans of Brian Michael Bendis’s amazing and award-winning comic ‘Powers’ or any comic book actually will be right at home here. Brad ‘Iron Giant’ Bird directs and he delivers in the last act a megaton thrill endorphin explosion that I’m still grinning thinking about. It may start slow and it is the longest animated film to date, but once The Incredibles comes alive, it does so with an invigorating compelling vengeance that you’ll never forget!
I wasn’t alone in watching in disbelief as my 3 year son James ran a full lap of the cinema auditorium shouting “Look at me, I’m Dash, I’m Dash, I’m Dash!!!” immediately after the film (but I was probably the only one with a proud tear in my eye)…
So, if you’ve ever even briefly wondered how cool it would be wear a costume, perform unimaginable feats of daring ‘do’ and save the world into the bargain, prepare to completely ‘geek out’ because this is the ultimate superhero film Barr none… It’s absolutely Incredible(s)!!

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason (15)

Reviewed by Matt (and indeed this time mostly by Gail)
GAIL: Dear Diary, ecstatically happy… My lovely husband Matt (whose still ‘does it’ for me after 10 years, 4 months and several days of faithful marriedness) took me to see the new Bridget Jones film. Yes, yes it is his job to go and review the new films but I just couldn’t entrust this whole review to him as Bridget is a film made for and mostly loved by women the world over.
Ah where to begin, Bridget it seems has found her Mr Right – Mark ‘nice but dull’ Darcy (the still admirably yummy Colin Firth) but things aren’t turning out to be ‘happy ever after’ and it’s only been 8 weeks! Just when she least needs it, who should saunter back into her life but the lovable rogue Daniel ‘dashing but naughty’ Cleaver (Hugh Grant in sexy cad mode – as opposed to his other acting style of archetypal English fop). Gone this time is Sharon Maguire who directed the first Bridget Jones film, replaced by TV movie specialist Beeban Kidron and maybe this coupled with a script that is happy to replay many of the same jokes from the first film takes a little of the shine off the Edge Of Reason? Not a major problem – because Renee Zellweger is excellent and has truly made the part of Bridget her own (no one else is ever going to be able to fill those big knickers with such conviction).
MATT: Um, Gail, Sweetheart, don’t want to be a bore but, could I possibly squeeze a couple of thoughts into this review? Thanks. Right, for a start, Bridget Jones has put on far too much weight for this sequel… I know she got paid $16million for the part but it looks like Zellweger has spent most of it on cakes!! And whist it might be accurate to a point, Bridget still swings between being blissfully emotionally and sexually content one minute, to acting like an insanely jealous sociopath the next, in other words, she’s every man’s worst nightmare… Yes, OK, I enjoyed the film, especially the repeat fight between the two male leads, but if you’re not taking your wife / partner to see this; men you might want to think long and hard before going for another spin with Bridget.
GAIL: Men eh? They obviously just don’t get it! Bridget Jones is essential lightweight fun ‘female friendly’ viewing – take your bloke, or don’t bother and just go and enjoy it yourself!

The Grudge (15)

When a person dies in the midst of a powerful rage, that force lingers within a place and, if you’re the next person to enter… it will get you too!! It never forgives, it never forgets, just in case you were wondering…
This is the thinking behind the spooky new, ‘jump out your seat a-thon’ starring my lovely pal - Sarah Michelle Gellar (see interview).
But is The Grudge scary? Absolutely!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience yelp quite so much as when the spooks on offer here ramp up their freaky revenges – and the fact that this is a remake of an originally Japanese film (bit like The Ring but scarier) really adds to the oddness.
The Grudge doesn’t hold back on the scares either, this really is a sustained beating of your nerves and certainly the best horror film I’ve seen this year. What’s it all about though?
Well, exchange student Karen Walker (Gellar) is an aspiring social worker in Japan who agrees to cover for a fellow student when she doesn’t arrive for work. It’s the home of fellow American Emma (Grace Zabriskie of ‘Twin Peaks’ fame), and you’ve probably guessed it but she lives in the haunted house where the Grudge abides… Cue all manner of freaky things that go bump in the night – this is the sort of film that makes you think twice before going up into your attic alone (just in case there’s a psychotic dark haired female ghost up there)…
Under the deft handling and care of original creator Takashi Shimizu, this is one of the least-American horror thrillers to come out of a major studio in quite some time. Production values are no doubt boosted by Sam ‘Spiderman’ Raimi who produces here – actually this is the first release from his new Ghost House pictures, next up is called ‘Boogeyman’ so watch out for that too if you’re a horror fan. OK, so the acting is weak, and as sexy as she is, Sarah Michelle Gellar spends far too much time doing her ‘confused and constipated toddler’s face’ – which you’ll recognise if you’ve seen either of the 2 Scooby Doo movies. That doesn’t ruin the film however because it is significantly scary and clever too - bending time and looping in on itself like a giant puzzle box so be sure to pay attention.

Exorcist: The Beginning (15)

Here’s a sorry tale of 3 directors (one died, one was fired and the last got hospitalised whilst filming), one horrifically cheesy idea to do a ‘Phantom Menace’ style prequel and some of the weakest special effects ever witnessed. Yes, Exorcist: The Beginning suffers from an unholy amount of bad luck, crippling studio interference and generally complicit shortcomings. In a word it’s ‘scary’, and not in a roller coaster, thrill ride way either.
One of my favourite books is C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, at one point, the junior demon is advised that humans should not be made aware of the existence of the devil. Thinking like this (echoed in The Usual Suspects as the immortal line “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist,”) makes you wonder how the powers of darkness will have viewed Exorcist: The Beginning. I’d imagine that there’d be hell to pay in Hades because this film is basically one long, nasty, shoddy bio-pic that could have been titled “Satan Does Africa”…
I can almost see the devil now, torturing his agent for getting him such a bad acting gig.
Anyway, the original Exorcist released back in 1973, based on William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel, had real power and effectiveness. It was truly creepy and horrific, and that came from its central innovation of presenting the material as ‘real’. Exorcist: The Beginning however is nothing more than a cheap attempt to cash in on the franchise, it replaces the original’s genuine psychological dread with lame ‘jump’ moments such as bats flying out of a dark corner… The version showing in cinemas is the second time the film has been filmed (original one was binned for not being gory or scary enough). What we are left with is more like a demented adult version of Scooby Doo, than anything resembling a well-written study in the clash of good versus evil. The plot is basically that Father Merrin (played with weary conviction by Stellan Skarsgård) had actually met and fought the devil once before, when an ancient church is uncovered in Africa (funny how he showed absolutely no recollection of this in the original which is set years after this one). Assorted unpleasant images are wheeled out to ‘scare’ the viewer, unfortunately they work only to disgust rather than chill.
In the end, I really don’t know what ‘possessed’ them to make this sorry effort!!

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (15)

Ladies and Gentlemen: Here we have possibly the greatest and most accomplished sci fi film ever made.
There is nothing on the planet to touch AVP for its sheer inventiveness, Oscar award winning acting or pure cinematic excellence…
Alien Vs. Predator has surely rewritten the benchmark by which all future sci fi films will be judged… Now I can die happy after witnessing such pure film perfection for my 200th film review.
Err, none of the above is actually true (except this is my 200th review), but what exactly did you expect from a film entitled Alien Vs. Predator? This film delivers exactly what the title promises – Aliens (those vicious but lovable shiny headed, chest bursting, jaw extending xenomorphs) step into the ring with the Predators (dreadlocked space hunters with a nifty line in infra-red vision and shoulder mounted laser cannons). “Whoever wins… we lose”, goes the strap line, but maybe it should have continued “unless you just want to put your brain in neutral and lap up some mindless intergalactic smack-down”. Anyway, come on in, this is pure dumb fun of the highest order.AVP doesn’t score any points for plot – humans get caught in between the angry extraterrestrials and soon end up as lunch / prey in an ancient predator training pyramid under the Antarctic. The acting is defiantly ropey, new heroine Sanaa Lathan is no Sigourney Weaver and Lance Henriksen looks a bit old and frail to convince as the human embodiment of the Bishop / Bishop II androids from Alien and Alien3. In fact there’s not much on offer that we haven’t already seen – aliens dripping acid blood, predators still keen on marking ‘honourable warriors’ but that’s also part of the attraction.
What writer-director Paul WS Anderson has made here is a dim witted but beautiful half cousin to both movie franchises. The camera makes love to the beasties on display; the aliens in particular have never looked quite so good, whilst the predators are still very ugly mothers under their helmets.
As a big fan of both series of films I found the moment that an adult alien warrior goes ‘one on one’ with a young predator made me just grin with joy. I have read nothing but negative reviews of this film up until now but I’m happy to buck the ‘critic crowd’ and suggest if you just want to be entertained – go AVP!

Shark Tale (u)

This little fishy went to market, this little fishy stayed at home, this little fishy had roast beef?, this little fishy had none, but THIS little fishy went wee wee wee all the way to the top of the box office because it was a really fun film.
Sorry about that, but Shark Tale is for my money just much more fun that the over rated Finding Nemo – cue mobs of angry Nemo lovers marching on my secret film reviewing lair baying for blood...
Anyway, I took my children to this and got their feedback – James who’s 3 still thought Nemo was the best “because he’s cuter”, Luke aged 7 however went for Shark Tale “it was cooler and funnier” were his words… I say that they’re both worth seeing but only one has Lola – the fish version of Angelina Jolie (basically a swimming sexy pout)!
Actually they are very different films – Shark Tale is the story of a jive talking ‘bad boy’ little fish named Oscar (spot on voicing from Will Smith). He gains fame and fortune as a ‘Shark Slayer’ by accidentally being in the right place at the right time (Sharkslayer was the original title but it was deemed to be not ‘family friendly’ enough). So, Oscar’s new status brings him into the path of Godfather king pin shark Don Lino (Robert De Niro) and his cohorts. Other notable characters include a superb turn by Martin Scorsese as a puffer fish, Jack Black as sensitive vegetarian shark Lenny and Renée ‘Bridget Jones’ Zellweger as Oscar’s true love.
Shrek Tale, sorry, Shark Tale (both made by DreamWorks) is blessed with a multitude of film references, clever visual jokes and over the top moral storylines. What it does well though is put a smile on the faces of adults as well as kids, for example: Oscar has just prised his way out of a shark's jaw and is striking a macho pose for the crowds… He says in a passable Russell Crowe impression “Are you not entertained?” the crowd cheers, then “You Can't Handle The Truth!” the crowd cheers again and finally “You had me at hello!” the crowd and those in the audience who’ve seen Jerry Maguire cheer…
Animation fans, Shark Tale will definitely ‘tide’ you over until Pixar’s mighty ‘The Incredibles’ burst into cinemas next month – and if Nemo vs Shark Tale doesn’t float your boat, next week I’ll be reviewing Alien vs Predator!!

Layer Cake (15)

I live my life by some very strict rules… The most important is Rule one: Have a plan and stick to it. And Layer Cake is a film I’d urge you to and see. Don’t give me any of that ‘I saw Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and didn’t like it rubbish’ – this is a whole lot better. If you saw the amusing and original ‘cake ingredients’ trailer for Layer Cake and like me thought ‘that looks good’… I’m here to tell you that you’d be right; Layer Cake fully deserves a viewing if you haven’t already had the pleasure.
Guy ‘Lock, Stock and Snatch’ Ritchie's producer Matthew Vaughn takes his chance at directing another vicious-but-witty British crime thriller, but in a real turn up for the books he blows his old boss away with this stunning little slice of Brit gangster fun and games. From the very classy opening sequence, I could tell this was going to be a bit special and then ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by The Cult struck up on the soundtrack, I was hooked.
Throw in Sienna Miller's brief appearance which is one that will burn itself into the memories of red blooded males the world over, and add the always good Michael Gambon (the new Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter 3) as the cherry on the layer cake. This might be Vaughn's first film as director but once you’ve seen the chase in the warehouse scene – you’ll know for sure that a hot new talent has been unleashed.
Yeah, yeah, Brit gangster films can be very hit and miss affairs and I’ll grant that until now there have been few to challenge the classics like Get Carter or The Long Good Friday. So it is all the more pleasant to be able to recommend Layer Cake as an all round excellent slice of entertainment. It’s got possibly the best movie website I’ve seen this year too at:
http://www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/layercake/ - read the first chapter of the novel the film is based upon, play an amusing driving game where you have to escape from the cops and access lots of quality clips, photos and sounds including potentially the best ever conversation with a hit man you’ll ever hear. Of course for those of a more disturbed disposition you could check out the very freaky SAW or if happy dancing Bollywood style Jane Austen takes your fancy there is Bride & Prejudice. I’ll stick to the Layer Cake for now.

Man On Fire (18)

“A man, can be an artist in anything. In food, whatever... it depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death... and he's about to paint his masterpiece...” So says Christopher Walken about Denzel Washington’s character ‘Creasy’ in Man On Fire and it pretty much sums up the plot.
Man On Fire is a pulse pounding, nitro injected, ultra violent revenge thriller directed by an ‘on fire’ Tony Scott. It is a story of two halves; in the first you get a wonderful relationship study as the broken and dispirited Creasy is slowly won over and taught how to feel again by the little girl named ’Pita’ who he is paid to protect. Needless to say that things do not go to plan and this sets up the second half, which is where Creasy dishes out some seriously heavy-duty retribution on the scumbags who abduct his new friend.
Pita (played by superstar in the making Dakota Fanning) is a cute pixie who would melt any washed up ex marine’s heart and when she is abducted you are right there with Creasy urging him on as he makes those who hurt her suffer. And it does get very grim at points – it’s not an 18 certificate for nothing – Creasy cuts off the fingers, shoots, stabs and blows up most of the criminal underworld of Mexico in his one man quest for revenge. But he does it with style and although much of it is undeniably gratuitous – it also feels ‘right’ thanks to Denzel’s authority and unswerving commitment to his task.
Both Washington and Fanning really sparkle here – you feel that she is the daughter he never had and that chemistry is an absolute joy to watch. Denzel delivers possibly his best ever performance and could well bag another Oscar to go with his one from Training Day. Fanning also deserves serious praise (she’s already an accomplished actress and she’s only 10) – I predict big things for her so look out for her next year in Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds!
Man On Fire is a very classy film, I’d say it’s a ‘must see’ (providing you have a strong stomach) – but even if the thought of violent retribution leaves you cold I recommend going to watch the first half!!
As Creasy says of his enemies: “Forgiveness is between them and God. It's just my job to arrange the meeting.”
Amen brother…

Hero (12a)

This is officially the most expensive Chinese ‘takeaway’ ever – costing over $30million to make. But rather than a blowout on crispy aromatic duck and chilli-shredded beef – here we have a story of assassins told against some of the most wonderful scenery ever to grace the big screen.
Hero, or ‘Ying xiong’ to give it it’s original title, takes us back to ancient times when China was divided into seven kingdoms. Qin, the king of the northern province, is under permanent threat of assassination and will not allow anyone within 100 paces of him. The assassins the king fears most are the warriors "Broken Sword", "Flying Snow" and "Sky". One day however, a lowly magistrate enters the palace, claiming that he has defeated all three of the emperor's adversaries single-handed… His name is, err, “nameless”… Obviously his parents didn’t like him much.
Anyway if you’ve seen the trailer and thought ‘Oh yes, tasty non-stop samurai action here I come!” you will be disappointed. Hero is a beautiful, heartbreaking and thoughtful film which happens to have some high flying swordplay but it is in no way an ‘action’ film. The screen is filled with breath-taking images and it’s subtitled so you get to soak up the original culture of the language (rather like in The Passion of the Christ) instead of your dubbed ‘lip not synch’ kung fu efforts.
The plot is told almost entirely through flashbacks and each are distinguished by the predominant colour in the scene and the characters' costumes. They go through a sequence: red (passion), blue (love), green (youth), white (truth), and black (death) and I guarantee that you’ll have never witnessed such a visual assault on the senses. For me the standout colour specific scene is where two female warriors (dressed in red) fight in an orchard where millions of golden leaves fill the entire screen with a glorious glow. I might not have loved the film overall but that scene I will never forget.
Hero is a difficult film to get into, maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I found however amazing the visuals and clever the fight techniques, I felt that it passed me by without making me care about the characters.
If you loved ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ then Hero is certainly worth a look, otherwise you might just find Hero is more ‘vegetable chow mein’ than ‘kung po king prawn’.

Collateral (15)

“Guns don’t kill people, rappers do,” actually I’m more inclined to agree with Tom Cruise in Collateral when he states that it’s “the bullets and the fall” that actually kills people, - he just shoots them…
And when you’re shot by Vincent the hit man, you go down hard with 2 in the chest and one in the head… He’s a stone cold professional killer and this is the tale of one night when he has 5 people around LA to ‘take out’. What makes it compelling is that he hijacks a cab driven by average guy Max (James Foxx) and the interplay between these two is absolutely mesmerising. When Max realises what Vincent’s plan for the night is he says, “I can't drive you around while you're killing folks. It ain't my job!” Vincent looks him in the eye and replies “Tonight it is.”
We get ringside seats thanks to director Michael ‘Heat’ Mann – and if you’re looking for some tense, beautifully shot action you’ve come to the right place. Collateral is a good looking film, no, I don’t just mean Cruise with ‘silver fox’ hairdo, a lot of the scenes were shot on digital video to better capture the night aspects of the film, and it works a treat. LA shimmers with menace as the hours tick by and the bodies pile up. Mann even manages to make watching a cab driving down a street a thing of beauty by often shooting from high up above, it’s almost like the city itself is a character here.
Collateral is potentially the coolest film this year – the battle of wits between the two main characters is excellently written and the ruthless killer role brings out an impressive ‘dark’ side in Cruise. Foxx also shines as the decent man forced into an impossible situation and the action scenes – especially a breathless shootout in a packed nightclub – will satisfy action lovers everywhere.
I found Cruise worked really well playing a baddie for the first time in his career, it does mean though that you might find yourself empathising with him a little too much. Some people in the screening I saw this at were clapping and cheering as he blew people away, which I don’t think was meant to happen. Anyway, Collateral is first class entertainment and I strongly recommend it.

Open Water (15)

This week there’s a dream holiday for couples available at your local Cinema.
Features include:
A truly amazing ocean view.
Plenty of time to talk with your partner, with nothing to do but ‘chill out’.
And a remarkable opportunity to get really up close and personal with a variety of exotic sea creatures.
Yes Open water is the happy tale of Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis), an almost happily married couple, hoping to have a memorable vacation somewhere exotic. Unfortunately for them, their relaxing holiday soon ends when they are left in the middle of the ocean by their careless diving boat crew. As the reality of total isolation sets in, they turn to one another for support but – as I venture might happen to many couples, they begin to panic and are soon bickering over who’s fault it is that the seem to got themselves onto the potential menu of the circling sharks…
Frighteningly, Open Water was inspired by the 1998 real life disappearance of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were left behind by their diving boat off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I tell you, if you’re the sort of person who worries about bad things happening to them – this film will kill off any thoughts you might have had about ever going diving!!
Made for just over $130,000 – Open Water has already grossed over $30million worldwide which makes it a nice little earner for director Chris Kentis. He’s obviously got a sense of humour – little details like the surnames of Daniel and Susan, which you get to read from their ID cards, are both characters from the ‘daddy’ of all shark films – Jaws. I particularly liked the dialogue that cleverly mixes the anguish with amusing snatches such as when Susan (after seeing a large shark swim right in front of her) says: “What kind of sharks are those?” Daniel (without missing a beat) replies: “Big ones.”
Apparently the sharks used in this film were real grey reef and bull sharks. The cast had to wear chain mesh under their diving suits for protection and though none of them were reported to have been bitten by the sharks, a barracuda did nibble Ryan (can’t say I blame it though – she does look tasty).
So OK, I lied about Open Water being a happy tale – it’s more of a merciless nerve-snapping nightmare – but it is certainly a film you won’t forget in a hurry. Just not for the faint of heart.