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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Darkmatters Review: Skyfall

Skyfall (12a)

Dir. Sam Mendes

Reviewed by Matt Adcock


This is the cyber threat at the heart of Skyfall – a doomsday scenario for the undercover spies the world over… Yes 007 is back (played once again by the excellent Daniel Craig) to save the day, it’s hard to believe that the world’s favourite secret agent has now been fighting for Queen and Country for 50 years.

Also back is M (Judi Dench – better than ever) but times are tough – and a new threat has the whole MI6 / British secret service looking like it has lost its relevance in the 21st century…

"sharp dressed agent"

Sam ‘American Beauty’ Mendes directs Skyfall – which has already taken the UK box office by storm with the second biggest opening weekend of all time. It’s easy to see why – this is Bond at his best and Skyfall kicks the doors in with a truly epic entry in the franchise.

M and MI6 are under attack, a global list of all undercover anti-terrorist agents has been stolen – it seems someone has a very personal grudge and it is down to Bond to fight back.

Bad guy this time is mad computer hacker and ex-MI6 Agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), and he’s potentially one of the best Bond villains ever – think The Joker from The Dark Knight and you’ll have some idea what to expect. Silva is out for revenge against M and Bond will be tested to the limit as he strives to protect his boss, even whilst she is being investigated by MPs for her recent actions.

"Defender of the city..."

Skyfall does pretty much everything right, bringing high quality action, stunning locations, gorgeous Bond girls – in the shapely form of Naomie Harris's Eve, and Bérénice Marlohe's Sévérine – and some ‘cheer out loud’ crowd pleasing Bond-isms such as a new ‘Q’ (Ben Whishaw) and another spin for the classic DB5.

Best of all Skyfall make Bond fun again – judging the balance of action and danger just right to make this the family film of the year (we took our sons aged 15 and 11 – who both loved it). The ‘12’ certificate is used well, the fights are brutal enough to prevent the film feeling too ‘tamed’.

This is Craig's moment as Bond, the good work he did in Casino Royale is cemented to icon status here, even making up for the weaker Quantum of Solace. The whole package delivers on all fronts – Skyfall comprehensively trounces Taken 2 and The Bourne Legacy – it is by far the best spy action film of the year and should sure up the Bond franchise for some future adventures. Welcome back Mr Bond!
"nice dress"

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

ööööö – An immediate classic!!

5 – Ah Mr Bond, we've been expecting you

Awesomeness ööööö – This is vintage Bond!

Laughs ööö – Genuinely funny in places

Horror öö – Tense but not grim

Babes ööö – Harris & Marlohe are fine eye candy!

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö – for Queen and Country!

Much better than Quantum of Solace

"That Bond girl look!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Darkmatters Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4 (15)

Dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

“All the activity has led up to this…”

The best possible opening background to this film review has already been written by the awesome Chris Blohm of Little White Lies magazine – he explains: “When William Friedkin's horror classic The Exorcist was released upon an unsuspecting public in 1973, the Reverend Billy Graham declared that the actual celluloid on which the film had been printed was, in fact, possessed by a malignant, infernal force. Graham was nothing if not a great showman, and this provocative announcement only added to the general hullabaloo surrounding the film's release.

Another great showman, Steven Spielberg, did a little myth-making of his own when he saw an early version of Oren Peli's found-footage chiller Paranormal Activity. It was said that upon watching the film, Spielberg noticed a door to an empty bedroom had inexplicably locked. Sufficiently freaked out, he apparently wrapped the screener in a plastic bin bag and sent it back to Paramount quick sharp, convinced his copy was indeed harbouring some kind of spectral presence…”

So if William Friedkin's horror classic The Exorcist (perhaps regarded as the ‘daddy’ of all supernatural horror films), a mighty head-spinning, dread inducing masterpiece, could only muster two lacklustre sequels… What hope is there for PA4?

Ah, well, Paranormal Activity however is a modern day horror phenomenon, one that effectively energised the ‘found footage’ subgenre and is going strong into its fourth movie.

"who's that?"

However, if we’ve learnt anything about horror franchises, it’s that part four is often a weak effort – so can Paranormal Activity buck the trend or is the curse of the fourth movie about to strike again? The first film broke new ground with it’s intimate ‘the horror is right in your home’ gimmick, part two built on the mythos / still delivered on the scares and even part three upped the ante by showing why this Paranormal Activity is all kicking off.

But something has gone badly wrong., This entry feels weak, rushed and lacking in any real scares (other than the occasional ‘jump’ moment). It’s like the directing team of Joost and Shulman have been possessed by the malign spirits of some hackneyed, ‘straight to video’, directors… and unleashed on unwitting cinema goers to wreak supernatural disappointment.

"nothing spooky here..."

If you’re a Paranormal Activity fan, you need to seriously lower your expectations because whilst part four brings back many of the original components and characters, the creeping dread has gone AWOL along with the inventiveness.

The plot takes place five years after the events of the second film – and starts with a brief recap of how demon possessed Katie went on a murderous rampage killing her sister Kristi and disappeared with their baby, Hunter.

"ok so it's getting mildly freaky here..."

The action then switches to 2011 where young teen Alex (promising newcomer Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) start to notice strange things going on after a weird kid and his mum move in across the street. Might they be Katie and Hunter?

The level of ‘Paranormal Activity’, as usual for the series, begins moderately and escalates slowly, up until and crazy rushed last two minutes which raises more questions than it answers.

"flying without wings..."

Laptops and webcams form most of the surveillance footage this time round thanks to the teens video chatting etc. The new family are basically here to do nothing but wonder about the odd kid and then probably die while the plot stumbles along failing to move the brand into anything new or even interesting.

It would be tragic if the series ended on this damp squib after starting so strong, but unless the creators manage to pull off a feat of staggering supernatural resurrection with part 5 – all the activity has not led up to much.

"Paranormal cooking tips anyone?"

Read another version of this review over at Biggleswade Chronicle which I write for weekly...

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

öö1/2 – Budget demons and lots of Zzzzzz

2 .5 – ooops... there goes the franchise if not careful

Awesomeness öö – Not enough 'activity'

Laughs öö – Couple of LOLs

Horror ööö – Some very brief moments

Spiritual Enlightenment – the power of Christ compels you to go 'meh'

Not as good as Paranormal Activity 3

"newton and pals go fairy"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Darkmatters Review: Pusher

Pusher (15)

Dir. Luis Prieto

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Step this way for a ride on an express elevator to hell…

Meet Frank, he’s a small-time drug pusher – played with a wide-eyed, realistic feeling charisma by the excellent Richard Coyle (who incidentally looks a lot like my good pal Mike).

In just one week, Frank’s life completely falls apart, big time… And the film takes viewers along for the nail biting, ill-fated ride.

This is an English language remake of Pusher a Danish crim-em-up tale by ‘Drive’ director Nicolas Winding Refn. If you know the original then, you’ll know exactly what to expect – a big deal is on the offing which goes wrong and leaves Frank in debt by £55,000 to Milo (Zlatko Buric reprising his menacing role form the original).

"Frank backs up his loser mate..."

With just two days to payback the money, Frank begins to desperately call in favours from his friends and family – and when his last chance risky drug import plan from Amsterdam goes belly up, he has to resort to crazed violent measures in order to try and save his knee-caps.

Pusher looks the business, a fantastic blend of drab lesser-seen parts of London mixed with throbbing neon-lit clubs and stark interiors. The visual flair of the film is great, if you look carefully, there are icons such as the face of Jesus, skulls, subliminal messages and the like - hidden (and some not so hidden which mirror Franks increased desperation) on walls, in paintings, on windows etc. This is a brilliant move as it gives a whole additional level of depth to the proceedings.

The soundtrack has been amped up too thanks to dance music legends Orbital who have created a superb album of tracks to go along with the movie.

"Not a good guy to be in debt to..."

As Frank’s life falls apart before his very eyes, his long suffering girlfriend Flo (the gorgeous model turned actress Agyness Deyn) doesn’t know whether to stick with him or cut her losses and run.

So we have a scary escalation of violence that feels disturbingly plausible - crime boss Milo is a walking, talking one-man government anti drugs campaign (if having anything to do with drugs means mixing with such nasty types!)…

Director Luis Prieto delivers a very watchable, gritty and exciting crime odyssey – but even with great performances and cool flashy visuals, this can’t quite match the sheer energy of the original.

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

ööö1/2 – Throbs with a heartfelt 'crime screws you up' message

3.5 – Don’t do drugs, do go see Pusher.

Awesomeness ööö – The iconography is like playing 'Where's Wally of the Soul'

Laughs öö – Darkly funny in places

Horror ööö – more implied than on screen

Babes öööö – Agyness Deyn is scorching hot!

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö – enough to make you evaluate your life...

Second opinion from: Simplistic Reviews

"Agyness Deyn in wig and here 'work' outfit"

"Agyness Deyn in her 'pixie' mode"

Monday, October 08, 2012

Darkmatters Review: Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 (PS3 version tested)

Developed by Gearbox Studios

Reviewed by Matt ‘Siren’ Adcock

"Hey kiddo. Jack here - President of Hyperion. Lemme explain how things work here: Vault Hunter shows up. Vault Hunter looks for the new Vault. Vault Hunter gets killed. By Me. See the problem here? You're still alive. So, if you could just do me a favour and off yourself that'd be great. Thanks, Pumpkin."

This is the up-beat intro given to new players of Borderlands 2 by ‘Handsome Jack’ – a guy so evil that he lists shooting children as one of his lighter recreational hobbies… You play the part of a Vault Hunter – and taking down Jack, bringing freedom to the people of Pandora and finding the legendary ‘Vault’ - that's your mission.

"come visit Pandora - bring a gun!'

Borderlands 2 picks up the plot shortly after the end of the first game. Those who played the original will find everything in place – the mechanics of shooting and getting around are immediately familiar, the choice of character to play nicely balanced across four classes (Commando = soldier with his own auto turret, Gunzerker = tank who can dual wield two weapons at once, Siren (that’s me BTW) = semi magic user who has a power called ‘Phase Lock’ to immobilise enemies and Assassin = stealth with a cloaking power. There are more classes on the way via DLC too but these are a great range to pick from to begin with.

But whilst the game feels familiar, it also feels ‘refined’ – it’s slicker, better and more fun and still packs possibly the best shooting / loot-based game engine ever!? Grinding your way to better levels and buying tastier weaponry is the core and it is just as addictive this time around. Working your way up to the initial level cap of 50 means that you’ll meet and kill an agreeably eclectic mix of foes across Pandora too. What is great here is the Non Player Characters are more compelling – plus you’ll get to meet the four original vault hunters from the first game!?

"you'll meet all sorts!"

As well are the dangerously awesome gun fighting combat, the dialogue is just superb too, you’ll not want to skip the cut scenes as they are always well-written and often laugh out loud wrong. From the fun CL4P-TP steward bot, sidekick ‘Claptrap’ to his friends, through to homicidal teenage cutie ‘Tiny Tina’ and the insidious Handsome Jack (whose best line is probably "Butt stallion says "Hello". “), these are a bunch of characters you’ll have lots of fun hanging out with!

Borderlands 2 claims to pack over a million guns, so it’s going to be take some time to collect em all but this gives the game a killer one more quest, one more level up, one more gun / shield / artefact compulsion – not good for your sleep levels!? Then there’s the excellent online co-op for up to four players (or 2 split screen) – this is just lots of fun, and makes the game even more enjoyable as you swap banter and nicked each other’s loot drops.

"the wildlife is very erm, friendly!?"

As Charlie Brooker once said: “Shooting people in the face never gets old”
If you hated Borderlands, you might not enjoy Borderlands 2 but then I feel sorry for you as you obviously have no taste in games… Borderlands 2 is an epic, addictive and altogether genius game – it looks, plays and feels lovely on the PS3 which was the development machine – so if you are looking for a high quality game to see you through to 2013, this should be top of your list!!

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

ööööö – Gotta shoot em all!

5 – Compulsive, beautiful and very satisfying!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Darkmatters Review: Sinister

Sinister (15)

Dir. Scott Derrickson

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

"You think these are serial murders?”

Welcome to a film that lives up to it’s title!?

Sinister is a superb exercise in big screen horror, a full-blooded ghostly tale with a hard, nasty edge. Think of Sinister as this generation’s The Shining and you’ll have some idea of what you’re getting into if you choose to take this cinematic trip – but be advised this is not for the faint of heart…

Director Scott ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ Derrickson has crafted a quality modern day scary movie that resonates as an immediate (oc)cult classic.

This is the unhappy tale of crime writer Ellison Oswald (an on form Ethan Hawke), who unwisely moves his long suffering family – wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) , son Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and daughter Ashley (Clare Foley) – to a house whose previous occupants were horribly murdered.

"not for the squeamish"

The grisly multiple hanging that happened at the property is to be the topic for Ellison’s book, but it turns out that the deaths (and disappearance of the other daughter in deceased family) are linked to a series of murders. As he begins to uncover the links between the unsolved slayings and abductions – in each case one of the children is taken whilst the rest of the family are killed – forces beyond Ellison’s darkest nightmares begin to close in on him and he realizes that his family may be the next victims.

Sinister uses the fast becoming ‘meh’ found footage device, in this case a box of old Super 8 films of the killings, and thanks to some cool writing, genuinely unnerving plot devices and decent special effects, breathes new and deeply unsettling life into the genre.

This is a very scary film, which builds up a deep sense of dread and taps a primal level of suspense which when combined with some very effective ‘jump’ moments had the audience screaming out loud in places. Hawke is excellent as the writer who becomes haunted by the grim snuff films he finds in the antic, sucking you in to the escalating threat that is closing in on his family.

As a Christian I found the fabricated mythos of Sinister interesting in that it deals with an ancient ‘pagan Babylonian deity’ called Bughuul – and links it to the idea that images and film itself can conduct evil. Start contemplating those sort of things and you’ll find that there’s plenty of hidden depth to ponder behind the slick schlock horror on offer here.

Sinister is the best horror movie of 2012 by a mile.

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

ööööö – Haunting, scary, slick horror - an instant classic

5 – A laser guided shotgun blast of chilling thrills

Awesomeness ööööö – effectively grim stuff that will freak you out

Laughs ö – not a funny film

Horror ööööö – some heavy duty shock chills

Babes ö – not really

Spiritual Enlightenment öö – lots of ponder if you really want to...

Monday, October 01, 2012

Playstation 3 super slim brings amazing value

The iconic PlayStation 3, first brought to us in 2007, has been reinvented for the next wave of innovation and creativity... Yes the world's best gaming machine is back and smaller and funkier than ever before packing a cool 500Gb or a intro level 12Gb.

Sales of Sony's PS3 rocketed 138% over last week following the release of Sony's PS3 'Super Slim' 500GB console - so it seems that there is a real hunger for HD gaming on the slimmer side!?

Basically the trusty PS3 has had a makeover – reduced in size yet again, the contours are slicker, the shape more seductive. But what the console now lacks in size, it makes up for in entertainment offerings across film, catch up TV services, music and of course, video gaming (am currently deep in my Borderlands 2 addiction).

But now more than ever, the PlayStation 3 is more than a games console, it’s a true entertainment hub. Blu-rays in stunning HD,  3D movies and gaming capabilities which go so well with the Sony TVs... especially cool if you have a LoveFilm and Netflix account.

There are a growing number of 'catch-up' TV services on the PS3 now too, allowing you to watch what you want when you want - including the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and the recently launched BBC Sports Application.

"Wonder if it will be any good?"

Launching in November, Wonderbook™,  is a new and innovative PS3 peripheral, will potentially transform the world around you with the next step in reading and augmented reality gaming. The first title available for Wonderbook is ‘Book of Spells’ featuring exclusive new and original writing from J.K. Rowling - which will no doubt please Harry Potter fans.

With further titles set for release from renowned entertainment partners such as BBC Worldwide (Walking with Dinosaurs) and Disney, Wonderbook has serious all age potential.

The brand new 12GB PlayStation 3 will be hitting shelves October 12th, and will be offered separately, or via a host of value added bundles, if you haven't gotten into the fantastic world of opportunities that PS3 provides, this Christmas you really should make the move!