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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wanted - the 'are you a wolf or a sheep' review

Wanted (18)

Dir. Timur Bekmambetov

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

It's a choice, that each of us must face:

…remain ordinary, pathetic, beat-down, coasting through a miserable existence, like sheep herded by fate…

…or take control of your own destiny and join us, releasing the caged wolf you have inside…

As a massive fan of the Mark Millar and J. G. Jones graphic novel (which really put the ‘graphic’ into the novel) upon which this is loosely based, I’ve been anticipating Wanted ever since it was announced. It’s the story of chronic loser Wesley Gibson (the excellent James McAvoy), a downtrodden hypochondriac whose girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend and whose lardy boss at his dead-end job lives to make his life hell every single day. Could this Wesley actually be the son of the world’s greatest ever assassin? Might he have an intrinsic killer instinct and be blessed with unnatural ability to curve bullets in mid flight? Yes it’s another one of those geeky heroes who get their wildest wishes fulfilled plotlines but here it is played out as the ultimate balls-to-the-wall action overload.

Wanted should be your first choice this summer for violent high octane, seriously over the top adventure. Timur ‘Daywatch’ Bekmambetov directs the insane pulse pounding action channelling the spirit of Fight Club, Die Hard and The Matrix all at the same time!

From the second that the scales fall from Wesley’s eyes and he enters a world of fast cars, big guns and a badass new girlfriend / mentor named ‘Fox’ (a stunning Angelina Jolie), you can do nothing but buckle up and enjoy the ride. The superhero / villain plot of the graphic novel has been ejected and replaced with a real world secret society of assassins who ‘kill for Fate’ back story. This actually works really well but might disappoint some fans of the Millar original. Anyway, Wesley undergoes a brutal training regime in order to hone his killing skills - his eventual target a rogue assassin named Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) who murdered his father.
Morgan Freeman is on hand as Sloan – leader of the Fraternity who employ this roster of killers and the crunching action builds up to a supremely satisfying climax.

"Jolie as 'Fox'... by name and nature!"

Scenes where the hero has two guns and takes on a host of enemies can be awesome such as in The Crow or Equilibrium but Wanted sets a new benchmark with a truly jaw dropping gunfight. And this comes hot on the heels of the spectacular fights, car chases, assassinations and general devastation delivered throughout; basically this is stupid set-piece action heaven.

Wanted puts McAvoy in the big league for leading man roles and blows the competition away in terms of hardcore action entertainment… bring on the sequel ASAP!!

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööö (8)
+ Top draw wish fulfilment on many levels

Tasty Action: öööööööööö (10)
+ You won’t see better gun action all summer!

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Jolie has never looked better or been cooler

Mind Blight / Boredom: ööö (3)
+ Cracks along at a great pace

Comedic Value: öööööööö (8)
+ There are some decent funnies

Arbitrary final rating: öööööööööö (10)
Essential viewing for graphic gunplay action fans!!

Liable to make you:
"quit your job, become an assassin, live by your own rules…"

DM Poster Quote:
“the answer to that big fat void in your life… is WANTED"

"did I prefer the graphic novel? sure - but both are great (and different)..."

sample dialogue:

Fox: I knew your father.
Wesley: My father died, [pause]
Wesley: the week I was born.
Fox: Your father died yesterday in the rooftop of the Metropolitan Building. He was one of the greatest assassins who ever lived.

And the other one is behind you...

Wow, just seen The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw's review - talk about a sheep, sorry, a guy with a different and obviously valid opinion...
Guardian gets the wrong end of the comic book stick_review

Adulthood - the 'Hoodies strike back' review

Adulthood (15)

Dir. Noel Clarke

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

As Carter USM once sang: “The kids playing gangster wars, they don’t believe in Santa Claus, the baseball bats are soft of course, the blood is just tomato sauce…”

Would have been a decent track to include on the soundtrack to this hip and street sequel which plays like a ‘Episode III: The Revenge of the Kids’ to the original ‘Episode I : The Hoodie Menace’ (Kidulthood – DM review here: Hoodies ate my childhood ).

So six years have past since bad boy Sam (Noel Clarke) killed a young kid and we get to join him as he gets released from jail after doing his hard time. The film tracks him over his first day of freedom but all is not well in the hood and it’s going to be a miracle if he survives even 24hrs thanks to the revenge plans of the kids on the streets.

Director and star Clarke manages to effectively keep the feel of the first film but also to inject a deeper harshness which works in delivering the message that the world isn’t a nice place for you whether you’re a kid or an adult… or somewhere in between… Sam has undergone a kind of metamorphosis in jail, he’s still a bit of a wrong un but now he’s the closest thing we’ve got to a hero as the lovable scallywags whose mate he killed have degenerated into criminal scum partly due to losing their pal. Adam Deacon should get special mention because his character Jay, often the comic relief of both films, manages to bring real presence this time as he fights to make sense of his feelings.

The cast are mostly strong overall – as in decent for ex-EastEnders at least - even Danny ‘did you call me a ****’ Dyer chips in with his patented hard lad cameo. Those looking for a contemporary Brit thriller should find what they’re after, youth and social workers looking for case studies and learning reference points might be less delighted as this is fiction ripped from the Daily Mail view of lower classes ‘street life’ but it probably does reflect the lives of some. Sure Adulthood has a maturity missing from the original and explores the hard to vocalise feelings of young adults who just don’t feel ready for their role… Have they ‘grown up’ or are they still kids just reacting to their circumstances? The original was described as ‘a brutal assessment of inner city impoverished teens’ – whereas Adulthood is basically ‘hoodie porn’ for middle class viewers at heart.

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööö (8)
+ Pick this to immerse yourself in an amoral world where the normal rules of society don't apply

Tasty Action: öööööööö (8)
+ There’s hoodie fuelled panic on the streets of London

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (7)
+ Scarlett Alice Johnson is hot but I missed Jamie Winston

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööö (4)
+ might be too ‘yoof’ for some…

Comedic Value: öööööö (5)
+ Couple of amusing scenes but mostly grim

Arbitrary final rating: öööööööö (8)
A tasty follow up which makes for a superb double bill!

Liable to make you:
"carry a baseball bat with you at all times"

DM Poster Quote:
“violence really isn’t big or clever – it just looks big and clever here"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Teeth - the 'that's got to hurt!' review

Teeth (18)

Dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Here’s a freaky little oddity / horror to get your teeth into which is liable to enjoy ‘cult classic’ status before long. Written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein (whose dad is a famed pop-art purveyor) Teeth takes the bizarre legend of ‘vagina dentata’ – or for those whose Latin is rusty ‘teeth in the female nether regions’ and plays for equal parts body horror and black comedy.

It’s the unhappy tale of repressed teenage virgin Dawn (Jess Weixler doing a great job with very tricky material), who finds that she can bite at both ends. Cue a suspenseful build up to her first time via a heavy handed ‘chastity is the answer’ religious abstinence group at which she speaks. Of course it’s only a matter of time however before members and digits are in jeopardy so boyfriends, evil stepbrothers and gynaecologists beware because they may be feeling a lot less of a man after meeting Dawn.

If you’re at all squeamish Teeth is certainly not for you, there are things here that will haunt you such as the sight of a detached male organ getting munched by a Rottweiler!? In fact there were more audible cries of distress in Teeth from the hardy males in the audience than I witnessed in Sex and the City… which is saying something. Leg crossing whilst watching this is pretty much involuntary as my mate Simon and I found out, the females in the cinema however seemed to be finding it all a whole lot funnier…

Apparently the legend of the toothed vagina appears in the mythology of many and diverse cultures all over the world. In these myths, the story is mostly the same - a hero must do battle with the woman and overcome her toothed creature… Yep it’s seriously alternative viewing that’s on offer here.

But despite the weirdness of the plot, the cinematography is excellent if a little purposefully 'matter of fact' – from cool Simpsons like opening shot that takes in the sinister backdrop of twin nuclear power plant cooling towers just behind the family home, you can see that this is a director with a vision. And whilst there is on screen gore and nudity, it takes a backseat to the character interaction and genuinely funny moments of dark humour such as when returning home after emasculating her befriend she is asked by her dad if she’s hungry? “No I’ve had a bite” she quips…”

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööö (7)
+ Lots to ponder and discuss

Tasty Action: öööö (4)
- Not really an ‘action’ flick

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Jess Weixler is pretty darn hot

Mind Blight / Boredom: ööööö (5)
- So ridiculous that it can be hard to take seriously

Comedic Value: ööööööö (7)
+ Very dark comedy moments throughout

Arbitrary final rating: ööööööö (7)
Approach with caution but it works for what it is…

Liable to make you:
"keep it in your pants forever!"

DM Poster Quote:
“When Dawn says ‘no’ you better listen… "

"cult classic oddity status assured"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Prince Caspian - the 'Philip Pullman is weeping' review

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG)

Dir. Andrew Adamson

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

The time has come for you to consider a return trip to the magical world of Narnia. Over a thousand years have past in the kingdom on the other side of the wardrobe and things are looking bleak. A desperate power struggle is taking place as ruthless tyrant King Mirazh seeks to secure his position by wiping out every last trace of the enchanted flora and ‘fawna’ that populate the land. A dashing young prince named Caspian – the true heir to the throne is on the run from the evil Mirazh and in his hour of need he blows the magical horn that is rumoured to summon the high kings and queens of Narnia.

The kings and queens however are busy in our world were only a year has past. So High King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just and Queen Lucy the Valiant are struggling with schoolwork, teenage angst and a new threat – romantic affections from the opposite sex. But when Caspian uses Susan's magic horn the Pevensie kids are pulled back to Narnia in a barrage of impressive special effects – no wardrobe required this time. Upon arrival they find that hundreds of years have passed, and all is not well in their beloved land. Aslan the majestic and all-powerful lion is nowhere to be seen, the mighty castle of Cair Paravel lies in ruins and the magical citizens are now endangered species.

This new darker, edgier Narnia works a treat, the living, breathing fantasy elements of the land are rendered in some of the best special effects yet created. Returning director Adamson ups the ante for this sequel, which improves on the first film in just about every way. The children are better (even Georgie Henley as Lucy thankfully managing to be less annoying than in The Lion, The Witch…).

"the kids get ready to hop dimensions back to Narnia"

As the bloodthirsty Mirazh – hammed up nicely by Sergio Castellitto, gets down to some medieval genocide with his vicious armies, Caspian – played by hunky Ben Barnes and the Pevensie kids have to rustle up a ragtag army of magical types in order to fight for truth, justice and the Narnian way. As in the first film / book there are still some good moral messages for Lewis fans to savour such as the folly of acting impulsively for personal glory but its less cloying and as the stakes are higher, the plot is very much designed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Forget pretenders such as The Golden Compass - this is the real deal!!

An incredible new age has begun in Narnia… and you’re invited!

"check out my move to Real Madrid..."

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööööö (9)
+ A fantastic fantasy overload of feelgood excitement!

Tasty Action: öööööööö (8)
+ Wicked battle scenes that push the PG limit

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Susan (Anna Popplewell) has a magic horn... say no more...

Mind Blight / Boredom: ööö (3)
+ Not a dull moment, jam packed with joyous entertainment

Comedic Value: ööööööö (7)
+ Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep is comic genius

Arbitrary final rating: ööööööööö (10)
C.S. Lewis, would be proud, this is quality fantasy fare…

Liable to make you:
"get addicted to hard core 'Fawnogaraphy'"

DM Poster Quote:
“Everything you know is about to change... for the better!"

"these baddies don't show much facial expression"
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Incredible Hulk - the 'you won't like me when I'm angry' review

The Incredible Hulk (12a)

Dir. Louis Leterrier

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Ever since my Gamma radiation overdose there are aspects of my personality that I just can't control.
And when I lose control, it's very dangerous to be around me…
Fortunately I find that going to see stupid action films at the cinema helps keep my destructive impulses in check (unless they’re rubbish in which case it just makes me angry). Anyway, it just so happens that The Incredible Hulk is the very definition of ‘stupid action film’ and it’s not rubbish either.
‘Incredible’ might be pushing it a bit though as my two superhero fan sons both declared it to be: ‘good but not as good as Iron Man’ – who makes a guest appearance at the end to set up an Avengers movie sequel…

In many ways Louis ‘The Transporter’ Leterrier delivers a decent follow up to Ang Lee’s misunderstood and generally unloved ‘Hulk’ from 2003. There’s certainly more action on offer here which builds to a crunching climactic showdown so audacious that sets a new standard for sheer over the top one-on-one fights. There’s a superb cast featuring Edward Norton, Tim Roth and Liv Tyler backed up by some fun cameos like Lou ‘I was doing this Hulk stuff back in the ‘70s’ Ferrigno. The special effects have also improved considerably – it’s hard not to break into a grin when witnessing impossible feats made to look so ‘real’ - such as when Hulk effortlessly rips a police car in half in order to fashion himself a pair of metallic boxing gloves.

The main problem here is that because the action is so great when Hulk is doing his big green angry stuff, all the human interplay that makes up the rest of the plot seems a bit dull in comparison. This roller coaster of impossibly high ‘highs’ mixed with ho hum ‘lows’ leaves the film feeling uneven and the audience counting down the minutes to the next green explosion.
The plot has lots of fun with the source material, throwing in comic moments such as when Norton has to back out of a steamy clinch with Tyler because she’s raising his pulse to the point where he might ‘Hulk out’.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Hulk from comics, TV or his other film outings – The Incredible Hulk should be seen and enjoyed on the biggest screen you can find. If you’re not a fan though you’ll probably re-title this ‘The Quite Good Hulk’ – doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööö (7)
Smashing action - but paint by numbers emotions

Tasty Action: öööööööö (8)
Highly satisfying when it happens

Gratuitous Babeness: ööööööö (7)
Liv Tyler is all kinds of sexy

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööööö (6)
Bit too much plodding between smackdowns

Comedic Value: ööööööö (7)
'You won't like me when I'm "hungry" line was a classic!

Arbitrary final rating: ööööööö (8)
- Strong comic book action which fans will love and others will like…

Liable to make you:
"sign up to military drug trials - just in case"

DM Poster Quote:
“No does 'smash' like Hulk..."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Gone Baby Gone - the 'he's so much better behind the camera' review

Gone Baby Gone (15)

Dir. Ben ‘where did my acting career go?’ Affleck

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

When I heard the words ‘gone baby gone’ and ‘Ben Affleck’ together I could only think that it was some kind of question and answer session like: ‘so Ben where did your acting career go?’ To which he replies ‘it’s gone baby, gone’.
But it is actually the title of Affleck’s highly impressive directorial debut and it seems that the former ‘Bennifer’ tabloid case study can actually deliver the goods from the other side of the camera!

Gone Baby Gone is a truly excellent crime thriller from Dennis Lehane – who also wrote Clint Eastwood’s hit Mystic River. Set on the mean streets of Boston this is a heart wrenching, edge of your seat tale of the kidnap of a young girl and the grisly moral fallout that transpires. It might not be a feel good movie but this is one which will have you comtemplating the darkest elements of human nature and the rights and wrongs of following the letter of the law for some time after the lights come up.

Starring the talented younger Affleck brother Cassey who delivers another incredible lead performance (hot on the heels of his impressive turn in The Assassination of Jesse James). Ably supported by the gritty Morgan Freeman, the mean Ed Harris and the hot Michelle Monaghan, there are simply no weak links here, and the characters are so well written that you’ll be sucked right in.

It is easy to see why the UK release of Gone Baby Gone was delayed in the light of the Madeleine McCann tragedy as the subject matter is too close for comfort and just as deeply traumatic. But nothing is quite what it seems here and a creeping sense of unease and gut level dread is well sustained.

The script sparkles with quoteable lines such as my favourite from the Det. Remy Bressant: “You gotta take a side. You molest a child, you beat a child, you're not on my side. If you see me coming, you better run, because I am gonna lay you out!” There is real wit mixed in with the macho posturing and painful recriminations.

After some killer twists and turns, in the end the plight of Helene (Amy Ryan), the mother of the missing girl, is one which will make you think and stay with you.

It seems that everyone wants the truth... Until they find it… Highly recommended.

"do we look like we believe you?"

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööööö (9)

+ Well written plot that grips and thrills...

Tasty Action: ööööööö (7)
+ Some crunching but necessary violence

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööö (6)
+ Michelle Monaghan is cute and so was the babe at cineworld we met afterwards...

Mind Blight / Boredom: ööö (3)
+ This will keep you squirming and guessing

Comedic Value: ööööööö (7)
+ Some very funny stuff and great banter

Arbitrary final rating: ööööööööö (9)
+Very strong contender for a 'top 10 of the year' place

Liable to make you:
"beat the crap out of the first nonce you meet"

DM Poster Quote:
“what's the worst that could happen?"
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sex and the City - the 'please God make it stop' review

Sex and the City (15)

Dir. Michael Patrick King

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Females of a certain age rejoice… Sex and the City has hit the big screen and it has brought enough shoes, couture outfits and relationship problems to last you a lifetime… In the oestrogen drenched Luton Cineworld, there was a tangible sense of anticipation; either that or it was the chemical reaction of hundreds of different perfumes intermingling.
My friend Tom and I sheepishly made our way to the front of the packed screening trying to nonchalantly ignore the cat-calls and wolf whistles from the gathered females.
Two and half hours later (which felt like at least five) we stumbled for the exit having had the masculinity drained from us, our minds turned to pulp and our wills to live crushed.
Sex and the City has a massive following, is loved by many and watched by millions on TV – providing a regular dose of posh frocks, expensive shoes and ‘look we can still act like teenagers even though we’re middle aged’ girl power. And on TV it kind of worked, but unfortunately as a movie it just doesn’t have the legs to stand up against smarter, funnier and better written alternatives. Sex and the City is a bloated, extravagant overload of excess – with a bum numbing running time padded out by coma inducing simplistic plotting and generally less than agreeable characters.
Picking up about four years after the show's series finale, here we have spoilt writer Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) looking to possibly tie the knot with ‘Big’ (Chris Noth), whilst her girl pals such as the aging nympho Samantha (Kim Cattrall) fret that she’s losing her independence. Then there’s Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) who each get a pet issue to neatly overcome in the extended running time. Apparently they all "still feel like single girls" whether attached or not and there’s a well framed utterly over the top montage of dresses / shoes / Louis Vuitton handbags every ten minutes or so to keep the product placement team happy.
Basically your enjoyment of Sex and the City will depend on whether you’re a fan of the show – if so then you’ll probably go home satisfied, if not then you’ll vow to avoid any re-runs on TV as it might engender flashbacks of the time you wasted watching this movie. I actually found myself loving the bit where Carries goes on a terrifying gun rampage through NYC, only wake up and find that I’d imagined it and there was still over an hour of her whining on about the size of her closet to endure… Be afraid.

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: ööö (3)
- I saw Tom punching himself in the face to stay awake...

Tasty Action: öööö (4)
- one okay sex scene doesn't make up for a plot which induces deep vein thrombosis of the brain

Gratuitous Babeness: ööööö (5)
+ Not really into 'older women' but they look good (for their age)

Mind Blight / Boredom: ööööööö (7)
- If you don't like shoes to the point of fetish, you really might want to give this a miss

Comedic Value: öööööö (6)
+ 'it' girl pooing her pants might put a smile on your face

Arbitrary final rating: ööö (3)
- only see this if you loved the TV Series

Liable to make you:
"vomit on your fake Louis Vuitton"

DM Poster Quote:
“no real emotions were hurt in the making of this movie"
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