DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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

Read my novel: Complete Darkness

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Film Review - Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (PG)

Dir. Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

It’s a jungle down in your local cinema this week as a crazy bunch of New York City's Central Park Zoo escapees are back on the lose. It’s been three years since a funny series misadventures saw Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) washed up on the isle of Madagascar. Also back is the loopy Julien XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen), self proclaimed king of the lemurs, who decides to accompany the heroes on an ill fated attempted flight back to the Big Apple. The first moral of this sequel story is to never fly ‘Penguin Air’ because although they manage to get airborne, it isn’t long before the plane crash-lands in an African animal reserve. And would you believe it, this happens to be the exact reserve from where Alex grew up… so it’s not long before he’s reunited with his dad Zuba (Bernie Mac) and his mum (Sherri Shepherd). But the happy reunion is cut short thanks to devious Makunga (Alec Baldwin) – Zuba’s brother who has obviously been watching the Lion King because he engineers a pitfall which could see Alex immediately banished from the pride.
There’s more trouble coming from hard as nails Grandma (Elisa Gabrielli), the elderly lady who beat the living daylights out of Alex when they met in the first film, who by coincidence is on an African safari and not happy to see the ‘naughty kitty’ again.
Other unresolved issues left from the first movie such as Melman’s slightly creepy infatuation with Gloria are also explored when she becomes the attention of affection from Moto Moto the male hippo stud of the watering hole.
The scene stealing penguins are the pick of the wild bunch again, led as before by Skipper (co-director Tom McGrath), they take to robbing the local tourists in order to secure parts with which to try to rebuild the plane – and employ a team of funny monkeys to do the labour (thanks to their having opposable thumbs).
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a fun if forgettable addition to the series, the quality cast, witty writing and occasionally impressive CGI artwork certainly make this a watchable all age treat. It’s no Shrek and won’t give Pixar animations any sleepless nights but there was enough here to keep my 8 year old son happy and I must confess to being pleasantly entertained too.

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

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööö (7)
+ Animal magic -ish

Tasty Action: öööööö (6)
+ slap that stick

Gratuitous Babeness: öööö (4)
+ Gloria is chunky

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööööö (6)
+ Even eight year olds sat through it

Comedic Value: ööööööö (7)
+ No wildlife joke left unused

Arbitrary final rating: öööööö (6)
Nice enough but won't be remembered

Liable to make you:
"book a safari"

DM Poster Quote:
"wildlife can be funny"

Film Review - Body Of Lies

Body of Lies (15)

Dir. Ridley Scott

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Cinemagoers prepare to sign up and to do your part for the War on Terror,you’ll be working alongside crack CIA field agent Roger Ferris (LeonardoDiCaprio) in various hostile Middle Eastern locations.Your dangerous covert operations will be directed by smooth US basedoperative Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), who juggles your missions but mightnot be telling you everything you need to know.Ferris runs around Jordan, Iraq and Turkey hunting down nasty a BinLaden-ish Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul) and blowing terrorist fanatics awaywith extreme prejudice whilst Hoffman talks to him via a satellite linkheadset. There is an effective juxtaposition of Hoffman ordering the killsof suspects whilst ferrying his kids to football games or kissing them goodnight and tucking them into bed.There’s not a lot new here though – we’ve seen the ‘America andEurope are easy targets’ rhetoric many times before in films like last year’s The Kingdom (which packed less brain cells but ramped up theaction) and the older / younger spy formula has been even been effectivelyworked through by Scott’s younger brother Tony in Spy Game. So Body ofLies walks a fairly well trodden if horribly relevant path but Ridley‘Blade Runner’ Scott is a director who always delivers good looking movies even if they don’t completely captivate.There are several wham bam action scenes including a desert based carchase that would have fitted well into Quantum of Solace but even with the occasional shootout there are not enough set pieces to warrant callingthis an action thriller. Somehow ‘socio-political-analysis thriller’doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though.

Both the leads are effective especially Crowe who has plumped up for hisslimy role, even if DiCaprio still looks too boyishly young to be ahardened CIA veteran operative. Able support is on hand in the form ofMark Strong who plays Hani Salaam, the formidable and suave JordanianDirector of Intelligence along with an effective love interest for Ferrisin the form of sultry nurse Aisha (the lovely Golshifteh Farahani).Body of Lies probably isn’t going to change anyone’s world view but itis stylish and despite its simplistic depiction of the shades of greyamongst both friends and allies it makes for a mildly thought provokingevening out.

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

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööö (7)

+ Engaging if simplistic

Tasty Action: öööööööö (8)

+ Some very exciting action scenes

Gratuitous Babeness: ööööööö (7)

+ Golshifteh Farahani is cute

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööööö (6)

+ Not dull

Comedic Value: öööö (4)

+ Not a comedy whatever you think of American foreign policy

Arbitrary final rating: öööööö (7)

Does a stylish job of entertaining but no classic

Liable to make you:

"sign up for some covert ops"

DM Poster Quote:

“target identified - lock on to audience boredom..."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review - Anonymous by Jason Tanamor


by Jason Tanamor

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

"Stories are what make the world go round.
Stories entice people.
Stories influence..."

This story is called 'Anonymous' and its a hip freakfest nightmare ripped straight from the beating heart of suburban USA... If you're looking for some new powerful postmodern hard hitting fiction - like say Chuck Palahniuk or Douglas Copeland (note for reference that I am a fan of both) then Jason Tanamor is a funky new name to conjure with.

First things first - when I mention Palahniuk, I mean it. Tanamor writes fiction which if blind tested many would swear that Anonymous was the work of the Fight Club / Choke / Diary master author of the Zeitgeist...

Here's taster:

"The voices in the drainpipes, shooting out of
the toilet bowls, they’re talking about their lives when
they get out. When I get outta here, a voice says, I’m
going to change my life.

Another voice, it says, Me too.

I’m serious, the first ghost says, no more
bullsh*t for me.

Thanks for the stories, one voice says. And
then a flush.
These stories, the facts and the fictions often
get misconstrued.

Unknown, he is laying on his bed about to fall
asleep. Listening to the stories, telling his own, in
some way he’s united the guys.

He yells out loud, so that all the inmates can hear his voice traveling through
the drainpipes, “When you finally leave this dump, just
remember that you’re anonymous.”"

And that's the rub - do you know anything about that person you're sitting next to on the train, on the bus. That nice looking chap who serves you a coffee, who fixes your car, who sells you a newspaper?

As the cover blurb says...

"People are never what they appear to be. Thats why getting to know a person is so important. A persons hair, the way he dresses, his composure, thats what people notice. Its not like you can pick a pedophile or a sex addict out of a crowd. You never meet a person and think, That guy is a pedophile. Or That guy is a sex addict. You say, That man had a nice smile. Or, What a great guy. For a group of prisoners, however, thats all they think. Murderer? Child molester? Scam artist? Better yet, What did you do to get here?"

And so Anonymous is nifty series of tales, told by faceless prisoners blowing thier secrets and shame down the drain pipes... You'll get to hear from a generally unsavoury bunch spanning crimes great and small. There - that's Unknown, he's inside for pretending to be the manager of Brad Pitt, or Tom Cruise, that guy - he's Unknown, he's a sex addict, preying on women, scamming their affection from them. Or that guy... he's got anger issues, the next guy - bitter recriminations...

Reading Anonymous is like taking a audio tour of a high security jail, the tales told will shock, challenge and amuse in equal measure. Tanamor has a gift for skimming the scum from the top of a boiling pot of rancid emotion and making you taste it.

Not for the faint of heart, Anonymous isn't quite as hardcore as Palahniuk in full flow, but it'll freak out those who live in their own safe little worlds and never look outside.

Darkmatt Rating out of 5: öööö (grim but good)

Get yourself a copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Tanamor/dp/1434838285

Read Tanamor's blog here: http://jasontanamor.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kirill - the mystery deepens... tune in!!

The adventure is building... Catch the first six episodes by clicking below:

Max Payne Competition - take the payne home!!

Darkmatters Max Payne Competition

Pay attention - here's the lovely swag that the cool people at FOX have made available:

Be the envy of your mates with a bullet hole ridden t-shirt, a cool Max Payne wallet and erm, a cap too... Here's how:

If you live in the UK and can finish this sentence you'll be in with a chance...

"I don't believe in heaven, I believe in ____________"

Email your answer to: darkmatters@another.com

Good luck!!

Read the Darkmatters review of Max Payne here: http://darkmatt.blogspot.com/2008/11/film-review-max-payne.html

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (18)

Dir. Kevin Smith

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

In these credit crunch times people it seems are being driven to ever more desperate lengths to make ends meet… And so it is for life-long friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), who are housemates struggling under a growing mountain of unpaid bills. Whilst changing for a school reunion Miri becomes an unwitting YouTube ‘star’ thanks to flashing her granny pants – underwear so enormous that even Bridget Jones would balk at them – to some mobile phone carrying teens. This gives Zack the inspiration for them to take an ill advised dive into the murky world of adult film production in order to raise some cash. But can the two platonic pals overcome their reticence, ditch their morals and get intimate on camera?
Writer-director Kevin ‘Clerks’ Smith isn’t shy about wallowing in the filth associated with the porno industry and Zack and Miri is certainly not a film for anyone easily offended. The incredibly bawdy and bodily function heavy humour, coupled with non-stop explicit language throughout makes this film offensive enough to traumatise any causal observer but Smith is on a mission here and the result is not what you might be expecting.
If you’re still reading and think that this might be your dirty cup of tea, there is certainly some very funny material here. Smith throws in everything from adult flavour Star Wars parody, marital disharmony / bliss observation and even a poignant sweet tale of true love…
Yes by the end of the movie you may well have been convinced that faithful relationships are definitely the best option in life and that true love is something worth holding out for. It seems that for all his gutter minded ingenuity, Smith has a romantic heart beating which he can’t help wearing on his sleeve. Zack and Miri despite it’s subject matter feels like his attempt to please more people than just his hardcore smut comedy usual fanbase – in a similar vein to Jersey Girl, only this time he hasn’t ditched all the filth.
Seth ‘Superbad’ Rogen is the comedy ‘go-to-guy’ of the moment and he sparkles here creating superb chemistry with the lovely Banks. These are two people you’ll really want to see end up together despite the murky business they get themselves caught up in.
You’ll laugh, you’ll wince and you’ll go home having been roundly disgusted but also amused.

"this isn't strictly come dancing!?"

"low quality acting from talented actors... only in an 'adult' film"

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

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööö (6)
+ A no brainer in every sense of the word

Tasty Action: ööööö (5)
+ Dodgy is the only sort of 'action' on offer here

Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Banks is sexy and she has some cute friends too

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööööö (6)
+ Zips along to an unlikely but positive ending

Comedic Value: öööööööö (8)
+ Very funny, but very offensive too

Arbitrary final rating: öööööö (7)
'Hard' to recommend to anyone decent

Liable to make you:
"stay true to the one you love"

DM Poster Quote:
“is that a 'final demand bill' in your pocket?"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Film Review - Max Payne

Max Payne (15)

Dir. John Moore

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Max Payne says: “I don’t believe in Heaven, I believe in Pain…”

Video game to big screen adaptations are invariably hit or miss affairs, critics tend to hate them, fans of the game get upset if plot details are changed and even the actors rarely seem to ‘get’ the character they are playing… Having been an avid gamer since the days of Pong and ZX Spectrum, and having played and enjoyed both Max Payne (on PS2) and the follow up (on PC) I was really hoping that the filmmakers and Mark Wahlberg would do Max justice.

The Max Payne games were multiformat cult classic run and gun mysteries that implemented an impressive ‘bullet-time’ slow down (as opposed to frame rate drop) which was completely borrowed from The Matrix but worked so well that it never failed to put a massive grin on my face when I’d kick open a door, and shotgun blast each of the adversaries before they’d even had time to draw their weapons. Oh and there was a dose of Norse mythology fused into the noir detective storyline that made it much more interesting than a simple shoot-em-up.

Twentieth Century Fox picked John Moore (who already has a debt to Satan for making The Omen ’06 so average) to direct the film; he’s a guy who adheres to the ‘style over substance’ school of film making and that is how he tackles Max Payne. The hard-boiled noir look of the film is a stunning achievement – hypnotic hyper-stylised snow swirls in a constant poetic backdrop, the city is a wonderful bleak metropolis a la Sin City and Wahlberg’s constipated frown is a dead ringer for the videogame Payne. Production values are high across the board and even the slightly wacky hallucinogenic visions of Norse Valkyrie demons are rendered effectively. Then there are the babes, sultry but bad ass assassin Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), and a sizzling cameo by new Bond girl Olga Kurylenko who wears a mean red dress (and seems to have a thing for videogame movies as she was in Hitman last year). So far, so good…

But there’s always a downside and here it’s the plot which brings the payne (sorry). The movie is a mish mash mostly ripped straigh from the game and then padded out, remixed and jubbled togther without much care for consistency or dramatic endeavor. We find Max struggling with his guilt and rage over the death of his wife and child at the hands of drug addicted scumbags. Three years he’s been hunting the killer and now an outbreak of grissly murders looks to be linked to his family’s deaths. The join the dots linkages between scenes are liable to insult even the most retarded of teen gamers but at least there’s the tasty gun action right? Sure, there is some and when it eventually kicks off it looks very good – even working in some effective bullet-time moments, but it feels slightly muted and overly sanitised which goes against everything the original games stood for. I can see that the studio wants to make this available to as wider audience as possible (in the US it got a PG13 rating) but when trying to stand alongside similar ‘feel’ movies such as Sin City or The Crow, Payne wimps out. Maybe if the audience had been dosed up with the film’s experimental performance enhancing drug called Valkyr – they might have gotten into it more?

The cast are average at best, Beau Bridges hams up his role of Payne’s former partner like his family will be killed if he in any way manages to look convincing, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges shows that he should stick to rapping as he sleepwalks around looking confused and Chris O’Donnell, Donal Logue, and even Nelly Furtado round off the oddball assmebled ‘talent’.
You know you’re in trouble when two nameless junkies get some of the best lines e.g.:

Junkie 1: Hey man, see that dude with the watch? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Junkie 2: He could tell us what time it is?

Junkie 1: No you idiot! We could steal the watch, sell it, and get more drugs!

Junkie 2: That's a brilliant plan! I have a gun!

Junkie 3: Man, what if he has a gun too?

Junkie 1: You idiot, law-abiding citizens aren't allowed to have guns here! How do you think we'd survive if they did?

Junkie 2: Let's go f**k this guy up!

Screenwriter Beau Thorne doesn’t seem to know quite how to bring all elements together effectively, so he sacrifices coherence *cough side kick just happens to turn up and save Payne’s ass twenty stories up in a secure corporate tower? Huh? *cough and hopes that nobody is paying enough attention to notice.

Yes the Max Payne movie is slick and good looking, and is so nearly a great blast of crime mystery peppered with some decent fights but it trips itself up and in the end probably won’t please enough people to warrant a sequel. If you do find yourself buying into this, there’s a tease for a possible follow up after the end credits (but even this is in not in the same league as Iron Man’s Nick Fury post credit introduction).

My biggest problem with the fim version when compared to the game though is that for a climactic showdown, the ‘end boss’ is simply no challenge, whereas anyone who has played the game will attest otherwise!? The usual action movie double standards are writ large when Payne can take a point blank clip of semi-automatic machine gun to the chest whereas the enemy falls to an unsatisfying single round.

If you’re prepared to let a fairly dull plot wash over you whilst you enjoy the visual stylings and occasional flash of action then step right up, otherwise Payne is simply going to be another ‘failed’ videogame adaptation. Perhaps a PS3 Max Payne 3 might redress the balance because it would be a shame for the film to have taken Max to a watery grave…

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

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööö (6)
+ Norse mythos helps a bit

Tasty Action: öööööö (6)
+ The action is cool but very sparse!
Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Mona Sax and Olga Kurylenko are suitably hot
Mind Blight / Boredom: öööööö (6)
- Why so slow and ponderous?? WHY???

Comedic Value: ööööö (5)
- limited wise cracking
Arbitrary final rating: öööööö (6)
I'm a sucker for cool stylish noir films but Payne only just passes muster

Liable to make you:
"get a Norse tattoo or go back and play the games again"
DM Poster Quote:
“Bring the Payne!?"

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Film Review - SCAR 3D

Scar 3D (18)

Dir. Jed Weintrob

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

So you’re a hot perky young blonde actress with a winning charismatic smile and no small amount of good looks, what challenge would you want to take on? And more importantly, how do you follow up appearing in the preteen sanitised Hannah Montana TV nerfdom? Try starring in an orgy of 3D torture horror which comes on like a Saw / Hostel / Friday the 13th fusion… That’s exactly the career route that talented young starlet Kirby Bliss Blanton has taken, appearing as all round USA sweet teen girlfriend Olympia in Scar 3D.
Scar also stars horror veteran Angela ‘freaked me out in May’ Bettis, as Joan Burrows, an emotionally and physically scarred wreck who suffered at the hands of a psycho nutjob back in the day (his MO is that he abducts two friends and tortures each in turn until one breaks and tells him to kill their friend)… The villain back then was freaky funeral home director Bishop, but when Joan returns to the town for Olympia’s prom it seems that Bishop is back too and the teen population start to have a very bad time of it.
It’s all very standard slasher guff, even if it is filmed in the fancy new 3D (which does divert attention from how ropey the script and plot is) by giving the audience such sights as topless 3D boobies and ‘quick duck or that spray of blood will splatter all over you’ moments.

"Kirby Bliss Blanton - a hottie to watch (don't hold Scar 3D against her!)"

Is Scar the sickest, most utterly hardcore 3D horror torture on the block? Well, it is but, only because it’s the only one in 3D, otherwise it’s just another wannabe to throw on the ‘don’t bother’ pile…
Scar is certainly unpleasant – I mean who wants to see tongues being chopped out and the soles of feet razor bladed after countless ‘me too’ torture porn flicks have recently gone there? Scar doesn’t do anything much worse or even vaguely ingenious in its macabre machinations, almost as if the screen writers’ only aim was to copy rather than innovate.
So belly button rings get yanked, staple guns get put where they really shouldn’t and scalpels are applied liberally, it really isn’t nice and worse still, it really isn’t very well done…
Sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious razzle dazzle – in this case nubile teens frolicking and then dying in 3D – because it’s a smokescreen to distract from the mediocre offering overall.
"What do you mean I'm not a scary bad guy!?"
DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10 but '-' is bad whereas '+' is good):

Endorphin Stimulation: öööö (4)
- Low brow thinking
Tasty Action: öööööö (6)
+ Depends what you're definition of 'tasty' is...
Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Kirby Bliss Blanton is seriously cute
Mind Blight / Boredom: ööööö (5)
+ Stupidity of plot and weakness on the fear factor...
Comedic Value: öööö (4)
- Slow and unfunny, torture just isn't fun
Arbitrary final rating: ööööö (5)
For serious gore hounds and novelty horror seekers only…

Liable to make you:
"make a short list of which friends you'd be prepared to get tortured to save"
DM Poster Quote:
“If you're film sucks ass, just add 3D and hope for the best!"

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Film Review - Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (12a)

Dir. Marc Forster

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Ah Mr Bond… I’ve been expecting you.

If you’ve come looking for a small degree of comfort, which is what ‘Quantum of Solace’ means, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

Heavy duty action is the name of the game this time as Bond blasts back onto the big screen. Licensed to kill the global box office, the smooth British Agent has already set a UK opening day all time record by taking almost £5million (nearly double what Casino Royale opened with in case you were wondering). But is Daniel Craig’s second tour of duty in the swath tuxedo twice as good as his first?

Unfortunately not, new Bond director Marc ‘Finding Neverland’ Forster sticks with the ‘Bourne’ again gritty gadget-less vibe from Casino Royale but seems to have surgically removed any trace of human emotion. Craig does a good grumpy vengeful force of nature Bond who shoots first and asks questions later – when the minimalist script lets him. Still immensely ticked off at the untimely death of his girlfriend Vesper (Eva Green), Bond gets up M’s (Judi Dench) nose but stumbling across a secret powerful criminal organisation and then killing as many of them as he can.

My Bond girl wife wasn’t impressed, stating that it was all just one action scene strung to another and that the overall experience was dull. As a Bond fan, I wouldn’t go that far, but I have to admit that Quantum of Solace does feel soulless. It’s all very action packed, stylish and looks jolly good but the villain of the piece Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is a bit duff and just not menacing enough.

Quantum of Solace scores point for its cool cars, jet set globe trotting and foxy females (Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton) but a boys own adventure like this shouldn’t leave an audience feeling mostly underwhelmed.

As M says at one point: “I think you're so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don't care who you hurt. When you can't tell your friends from your enemies, it's time to go…” She could well have been talking to the film makers!?

I imagine that Bond will be back to finish off what could make a decent if not classic Bond trilogy story arc but let’s just hope 007 raises his game in the next one.

"Bond - licensed to tickle your back with his nose..."

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

Endorphin Stimulation: ööööööö (7)
+ You might not be shaken or stirred, but it's good enough
Tasty Action: öööööööö (8)
+ Cars, planes, boats, big baddie solar powered bases? yep!
Gratuitous Babeness: öööööööö (8)
+ Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are babelicious
Mind Blight / Boredom: ööööö (5)
+ The shortest Bond film yet, zips along nicely
Comedic Value: ööööö (5)
+ Very few smirks raised

Arbitrary final rating: öööööö (6)

I'm a fan so willing to lap up Bond action and not worry too much about the plot - you might not be so forgiving!?

Liable to make you:
"Want to shoot the script writers and launch a covert mission to get Bond's gadgets back..."

DM Poster Quote:
“Shoot them all and let God sort them out..."

"Olga Kurylenko - mmmmmmmmm"