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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Darkmatters 'Worst Films Of 2014'

"Who's gonna make the list?"

Darkmatters is a blog that loves films, but every year there are some real stinkers released...

2014 was no different

First up here are the infamous Tom Wade's Top 5 'Worst' Films of 2014 which include creaking muscles, washed up action stars and confused narratives... Over to Tom:

As a general rule I avoid badly reviewed films - life is too short to clog it up with Pudsey dog films or bizarre Postman Pat reboots, but every now and then a real stinker of a film sneaks into my viewing list like a silent assassin ready to cause me untold amounts of pain. This list therefore comprises of the films that should really have done better - but also the films that I should really have known better than to have bothered with in the first place - I blame Matt Adcock.

5: A Long Way Down

Surely a film based on a Nick Hornby book, headed up by a former Bond and Aaron Paul hot off Breaking Bad, that focuses on suicide is the stuff of Oscar worthy awesomeness? Well - no. Instead this is a trivial, flaccid affair that looks like most of the actors signed up for once they saw the phrase 'beach' on the script. Speaking of the script - this has some of the worst dialogue in any film that tries to tackle a serious issue for a long, long time. Any film about suicide that makes you wish that all the characters had actually jumped in the first 5 minutes - is a film that has thoroughly missed the mark. This deserves to go a long way down... to hell.

4: The Expendables 3

The first one was novel, the second flipped genres and appeared to spoof itself, the third is as welcome as a floating turd in the kitchen sink. The film genuinely has a solid 25 minutes dedicated to Sly travelling the world in increasingly bizarre cardigans and hats with Kelsey Grammer to perve on young people fighting. Seeing rapidly ageing action stars pop up, desperate utter a catchphrase from when they were still relevant is heartbreaking, although a positive is that the 'action' is so crammed full of stunt doubles and CGI that Stallone's botoxed face is more animated than it has been for years.

3: Sabotage

Poor old Arnie... Ever since he stepped down from pretending to be a politician, his film output has been as welcome as Tony Blair coming out of retirement to form a super government with UKIP. In an ever increasing pile entitled 'bad Schwarzenegger action films' Sabotage would sit proudly at the top. Here we are meant to believe that Arnie is still managing to command an elite unit of impossibly healthy and good looking 'mercs' who have no problem massacring hundreds, but if someone even sneezes on one of them they must retaliate with unflinching force and death. The plot is so convoluted and full of maddening (and bizarre) plot twists and character betrayals that you wouldn't be surprised if Dan Brown is considering making it the next outing in his Da Vinci Code series. On his recent form, there is some serious concerns to be held with the upcoming Terminator.

2: A million ways to die in the West

Oh - has a film title never been so apt - for this is exactly what will happen to your soul as you watch this steaming pile of Seth McFarlane poo. McFarlane has managed to trick most of the world into thinking he was talented for a long time now, but thankfully with AMWTDITW his mask doesn't so much slip as explode to reveal Satan underneath. As a vanity project, writing, directing and now starring as the most punchable lead in years - AMWTDITW is a least admirable in that McFarlane managed to not only trick a studio into financing the equivalent of him staring adoringly as his own reflexion for hours, but that he managed to turn some talented actors and actresses into gurning empty shells along the way.

1: Winters Tale

Stop reading this and watch the trailer...

Seriously this is a film. Someone wrote and made this. People were paid to be in it. The usually reliable Colin Farrell agreed to read the lines and stare vaguely towards camera for this film.

Winters Tale genuinely feels like a committee of 30 writers all turn up with their own ideas for a film, and instead of deciding on one idea they thought 'screw it' and decided to use everyone's ideas all at once. It's a film blender on the big screen. One writer wants an old aged love story - it's in! Another wants Russell Crowe to do a bag accent - it's in! Another wants lots of horses and maybe a flying one - it's in! Another really wants Will Smith as Satan - it's in! Another wants some time travel - it's in! Etc etc.

Winters Tale brilliantly manages to fail at everything. It's like watching an obese person attempt the hurdles and trip over every single one - although that would be much more enjoyable. It's also the worst film I've seen this year.

Here's to another year of bad films!

I can't even comment on 'Winters Tale' as that didn't make my viewing list this year... This next five did though (but you can avoid wasting hours of your life watching them!?) -

Matt Adcock's Top 5 'Worst' Films of 2014 which include dull spies, boring Nazis, stupid technology and more suicidal tendencies...

5. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (read the Darkmatters review here)

In order to enjoy Shadow Recruit you need put your brain into neutral and let the moments of highly improbable coincidence – that are all actually essential to the plot wash over you. This movie is just dull, very ordinary and weakens all the other (much better) Tom Clancy movies...

I don’t envy the marketing team behind this film, as it must be tough to sell such an ordinary flick. Jack Ryan: The Slightly Dull Early Years could well have been an early rejected working title!?

4. The Book Thief (read the Darkmatters review here)

The Book Thief deserved to be a better movie than this – the book was really interesting and heartfelt - Nazis aren't a laughing matter... The message that reading can save you though should be taken to heart and acted upon – read the novel instead!

3. Transcendence (read the Darkmatters review here)

Depp looks bored throughout which is oddly a reflection of how most of the audience I saw this with also looked (I was distracted enough to notice that several people left muttering and when having a look around the cinema I spotted at least 2 more who had nodded off). If this movie was a games console it would be a half assed Xbox running too hot and flashing a red ring of death!?

2.  A Long Way Down (read the Darkmatters review here)

Tom was on the money with this one - suicide isn't a laughing matter - and Director Pascal Chaumeil fumbles this overly twee plot, one minute trying for trite comedy, the next a spot touching drama, and somehow manages to imbue all the characters with hateful / and or annoying traits the make you start to kind of wish that they would just get on with it and top themselves.

1. Sabotage (read the Darkmatters review here)

It's rare that Tom and I agree on films but watching this one with him was a tough ask... Boasting the worst car chase ever committed to screen and one of the limpest of ‘climactic’ showdowns of all time. Sabotage leaves no loose ends but is the cinematic equivalent of being repeated punched in the face by a angry imbecile - very poor however good the company you see it with!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Exodus God and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings (12a)

Dir. Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Isaac Andrews

Reviewed by Matt 'Believer' Adcock

Read newspaper version of this review at: The GAZETTE

“The Hebrews have been slaves to Egypt for over 400 years. They have not forgotten their homeland or their God…

…and He has not forgotten them.”

"are we too late for the Battle of the Five armies?"

First things first. Biblical epics these days just don't come any bigger or more epic than Ridley Scott's full-blooded Exodus-em-up. Bringing the well-worn Old Testament Sunday school favourite of Moses and Pharaoh, the 10 plagues, the infamous crossing of the Red Sea and the creation of the Ten Commandments to the big screen in lavish style and with eye-popping special effects.

Prepared to be challenged, disturbed even, as Moses (Christian Bale) wrestles with the mind of God, shoulders the fate of an entire nation and struggles with the rivalry of his powerful stepbrother Ramses (Joel Edgerton).

Director Scott is no newcomer to the historical epic with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven on his C.V. but with Exodus he gets to go ‘full bible’ for the first time, but this is a heart-pounding massive scale retelling.

"things are going to get very wet..."

So saddle up for violent, intense desert army battles that will make your jaw drop as chariots crash, limbs are severed and lives lost, then feel the grim oppressive slavery of the Hebrews in their bondage to Egypt. This high drama and spectacle is set against the very personal brotherly tale as Moses and Ramses clash.

God is controversially depicted as a young boy referred to as ‘Malak’ (played by 11 year old Isaac Andrews), who only begins to appear to Moses after he suffers a nasty blow to the head – so his state of mind is called into question, much like Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s movie. Sure there is a burning bush on the side too – which might appease some biblical purists but it does seem that Ridley Scott wants to keep a handy ‘it was all in his head’ get out clause in case anyone claim that he’s actually found God for himself.

Malak acts in a petulant and unpredictable manner – which is in keeping with some people’s take on the Lord of the Old Testament’s jealous, vengeful nature. But He is the God who works through miraculous plagues to deliver His people – who are led by a council of elders that includes Nun (Ben Kingsley).

"I'm Batman"

Bale often employs his Batman persona to bring out Moses’ inner freedom fighter – the obligatory training montage of his guerrilla army feels old school, but does help prevent the film lagging too much and the plot cracks along from one stunning set piece to the next.

Moses finds his love interest in shepherdess wife Zipporah (Maria Valverde) who is instrumental in helping him find the God of the Hebrews. Other characters on hand (but under used) include Aaron (Andrew Barclay Tarbet), who is mostly just there to back up whatever Moses says and Joshua (Aaron Paul) who doesn’t get a single memorable moment.

It’s the plagues though that steal the show and for the first few at least the Egyptian advisors manage to explain semi-scientifically: the Nile ‘turns to blood’ when it is stirred up by a host of flesh hungry crocodiles, the water being bad means the frogs leave the river, they die and rot creating thousands of flies who bite leaving boils… The freak weather hailstones is harder to explain and as for the darkness / Passover angel of death – there just aren’t answers. God’s wrath is certainly writ large and the pain caused on the hardhearted Ramses is tangible.

"tell me Moses, do you really not like my eyeliner?"

Overall Exodus: Gods and Kings is a staggering film, full of epic scenes which deserve to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.

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


(4.5 - The power of God hits the big screen - hard)...

Awesomeness öööö – Chariots, plagues, tsunamis and redemption writ large

Laughs öö – Not really funny unless you pretend Bale is still Batman

Horror ööö – Some violence and a disturbing plague (last one in particular)

Babes ööö – Maria Valverde has wonderful eyes

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö – God is there to be wrestled with!?

Hashtag: #OneTrueGod

Extra thinking material...

At one point God challenges Moses saying: “You don’t always agree with me?” and he responds by saying that he wants no part in endorsing the further plagues but God continues to amp up the destruction anyway. It is fascinating to be reminded that God wants to dialogue with man, even if we are conflicted in our responses to Him. Filmmaker Scott, who is a self-professed agnostic, has managed to create a film that will cause many people to think again about God. And potentially challenge us all to look more deeply into the story of Moses and the Exodus.

Check out the Book vs Film comparisons over at: Richard Benson's Blog

Bonus - Exodus resources available:

If you’re of a Christian  interested in getting some free resources about the film – you should check: http://www.damaris.org.uk/exodus where the cool team at Damaris have created various media, notes and tools that you can access.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Darkmatters Top 10 Films of 2014

Top films of 2014

This year has been decent for cinematic viewing - and here are the (in my view) the ten best films to grace the big screen - so from 10 to 1 here they are... (also read on below for the amazing Tom Wade's alternative top 10 with additional 'just outside films too' !?)

10. Exodus: Gods and Kings
Biblical epics don't come any bigger or more epic than Ridley Scott's Exodus-em-up. Big screen plagues will disturb and make you think about the mind of God, heart-pounding massive scale chariot battles will make your jaw drop and Batman Bale as Moses shows you that the Almighty can work through dangerously unhinged individuals... Even out 'bibles' the spectacular Noah by a margin.

9. The Double
"I don't know how to be myself. It's like I'm permanently outside myself. Like, like you could push your hands straight through me if you wanted to. And I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I'm doing it but I'm incapable of what needs to be done..." Richard Ayoade brings a playful edge to Fyodor Dostoevsky's brilliantly brain melting mystery.

8.  The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson unleashes the madcap adventures of Gustave H, legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. So mental, so funny and utterly beguiling, this is a marmite flick but I was in a state of over-excitement throughout!

7. The Wolf of Wall Street
A dirty, frantic and crazed epic from Martin Scorsese, which brings laugh-out-loud black comedy of the darkest kind along with an overdose of seriously dubious morals. This isn’t as nasty as Goodfellas or Casino but it does form the final part of his loosely theme linked trilogy. Highly entertaining and exquisitely made, boasting a AAA cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio on dazzling form as Jordan Belfort.

6. Chef
Reconciliation and redemption expressed through the art of food moved, inspired and motivated me to be a better father to my boys as a direct result of seeing this. Overall Chef is a excellent, feel good comedy that works on many levels, just be sure not to go on an empty stomach as you could well be drooling long before the credits roll.

5. Her
Director Spike ‘Being John Malkovich’ Jonze delivers something truly amazing with ‘Her’ – downloading the top 8 matches for you:
- a unnervingly powerful drama
- a laugh-out-loud comedy
- a make you cry tragedy
- a spiritually charged exploration of humanity
- a techno-future cyber sci-fi
- a haunting exploration of loneliness
- a delve into the inner workings of relationships
- a love letter to love itself…

4. NightCrawler
Nothing can adequately prepare you for the dark heart that throbs throughout this film. Not for the faint of heart, there are disturbing scenes and violence and adult themes throughout but if looking for a powerful thriller that will blow you away, there isn’t anything else out there like this. I can honestly say that the climactic 20 minutes of Nightcrawler are potentially the tensest I’ve experienced, I left the cinema with sweaty palms and a grin on my face.

3. Interstellar 
The real ‘stars’ of the show are the stars themselves, well, stars, planets, space vistas and black hole event horizons. The visuals conjured up here are some of the most impressive ever to hit the big screen – and should be seen at the largest (IMAX if possible) cinema you can find. Plus props to my favourite character – TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) - a marine robot who packs lots of handy functions and a gleefully sarcastic humour setting. It is TARS that comes out with lots of the film’s best lines.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
“I come from Earth, a planet of outlaws. My name is Peter Quill. There's one other name you may know me by. ‘Star-Lord’.” An insanely fun and highly entertaining two-hours which every comic book fan on the planet needs to see. It’s really rare that a film lives up to the hype but Guardians of the Galaxy sets new standards for superhero-em-up adventures – and is destined for immediate cult-classic status.

1. Boyhood
Distilled adolescence in the form of a road trips and family dinners, birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent - there is just so much to BoyHood – laughs, pain, romance and grief which you’ll get to empathize with and probably leave reminiscing over. Boyhood is something unique. A film that takes the everyday experiences of growing up and tracks one young man over 12 years, shooting scenes from each of his years from age 6 to 18. It’s an incredible feat of cinematography that will resonate with every parent on the planet and invoke memories of their childhood for every male.

Now read the eloquent and mostly awesome thoughts of @THINKWADE - who will hopefully be writing a bit more for Darkmatters in 2015! I endorse these 'films just outside both top tens':

The Edge of Tomorrow:
For some reason people pretend not to like Tom Cruise films - which is silly as he rarely makes a bad film. Edge of tomorrow is a great Groundhog Day style action film with some superb set pieces, laugh out loud moments and a terrific performance from Emily Blunt.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:
A sequel better than the original reboot? Amazing CGI with Oscar worthy Ape performances? Sweet.

Big monster stomps on a city and fights monsters. And there's characters you care about. Surprises all around.

X-Men Days of Future Past
An X-Man film that attempts to pretend a whole host of other X-Men films didn't ever happen. It largely succeeds - but what it most admirable is its sheer ambition.

The Raid 2
The Raid was awesome. The Raid 2 is more awesome. Yes some of the lengthy plot isn't welcome - but there's a whole host of fighting like you've never seen before. Like a lot of fighting.

Under The Skin
Scarlett Johansson delivers a creepy, unnerving performance that will leave you questioning what it is to be human for a long time afterwards.

The Guest
Trashy, blunt, formulaic - but those blue eyes are just too captivating to ignore.

May well restore your faith in God, loose your faith in people and then reverse that belief several times.

The Lego Movie
This proved that everything can be awesome.


10: 22 Jump Street
This shouldn't be appearing on a top ten list surely? But when it comes to best films, why ignore one that left you holding your sides due to so much laughter? Plus it has the best end of credits sequence - possibly ever.

9: Next Goal Wins
The only time I've ever shouted out in a cinema was during this film. A superb documentary following the worst football team in the world. I'm not ashamed to admit I shed a tear.

8: What we do in the Shadows
Flight of the Conchords looses the music but gains vampires. Deliriously daft and unbelievably amusing. This is what vampires needed to be cool again.

7: Nightcrawler
A terrific study into the modern ethics of broadcasting. Tense, brutal and unforgettable.

6: Interstellar
No film comes close to match the sheer visual feast that Interstellar creates. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the ending, but when witnessed in iMax it is eye-poppingly stunning. Nolan has ambition like no other. Plus the soundtrack is organ-tastic.

5: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson manages to turn Ralph Fiennes into a comedy genius. The usual Anderson quirk is on full force and continues his near faultless record of celebration worthy films.

4: Gone Girl
A film that you'll enjoy if you've read the book due to the knowledge of what's coming and one that you'll enjoy if you haven't read the book due to more plot and character twists than a double jointed Twister enthusiast. Nearly everyone involved is on a career high - well played Mr Fincher.

3: Guardians of the Galaxy
A film that everyone knows shouldn't work (a largely unknown Marvel comic - a talking raccoon, a walking tree, a WWE wrestler etc) but it's also unashamedly the most fun film of the year.

2: Her
Scarlett Johansson delivers another creepy, unnerving performance that will leave you questioning what it is to be human for a long time afterwards. Her is a breathtaking exploration of human emotion, artificial intelligence and what it means to be lonely and in love. A fantastically beautiful bleak vision of the future.

1: Boyhood
Who on earth would have the mad idea to film a group of people over 12 years, watching a boy grow up - but not make it a documentary - and instead create largely improvised, largely uneventful (in the Hollywood scale of eventful) moments with a group of normal people? Thankfully Richard Linklaker did and his creation is unlike anything that cinema has seen before and probably unlike anything we'll see again. The brilliance lies in drawing us in and making us reflect on our own childhood along the way - a stunning piece of art on what it means to grow up - and by far the best film of the year.

Read Darkmatters Top 10 Films of 2013 (also has Tom's top 15)

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (12a)

Dir. Peter Jackson

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

“You have but one question to answer: How shall this day end?”

The end of the beginning is here… Prepare for fiery death, sumptuous fantasy lore and high drama as Peter ‘Lord of The Rings’ Jackson brings his last Tolkien-em-up to the big screen.

"It's WAR!"

"Yep - the orcs are here to party"

"Elves win 'shinest armour' contest (again)"

It’s been a lavish big budget and reasonably satisfying ride – kicking off with the lightweight ‘An Unexpected Journey’ and following up with last year’s Dragon-tastic ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ – here we have the conclusion which packs a handy plot synopsis in its title as the ‘Battle of the Five Armies’ takes centre stage.

Kicking off straight away from the end of the last film we get to see the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) bring hot destruction to the poor people of Lake Town. But no sooner has the (plot spoiler) big lizard been vanquished by strapping heroic Bard (Luke Evans) – then all kinds of chaos breaks out as the lust for his now ownerless dragon hoard of gold attracts many interested parties. First up the dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the humans with Bard as their main man, the fabulous elves under the command of Thranduil (Lee Pace) and lets not forget to mention the dastardly orcs who have the grievous Azog who comes to wipe out all the rest…

OK that’s four armies right there, so throw in some air support eagles led by wizardy Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) and we’re game on for over an hour of impressive CGI total carnage.

"Hey - we're the stars!"

Also caught up in the violent melee are obviously titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman – who really nails this role here), fan favourite Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) foxy battle elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) – who is in forbidden love with one of the dwarves!? Plus Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) – it’s like a huge LOTR pre-party!

Everything crackles with nerdy Tolkien attention to detail, the orcs are nastier than ever, the fights more violent and the peril ramped up as high as it can be (cos as this is prequel land we know whose definitely gonna make it).

Sadly ‘Battle’ still suffers from the same shallowness that has haunted all the Hobbit films when compared to the masterful ‘actual’ Lord of The Rings trilogy. But there is a ton to love here and if you’ve taken the hobbit journey so far – you’ll need to see it through to the satisfying end!

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


(4 - maybe not 'defining' but certainly 'worth seeing' chapter)...

Awesomeness öööö – Fantasy battles don't come much bigger (or better)

Laughs öö – Less funnies

Horror ööö – Slightly nastier orcs / more violence

Babes ööö – Evangeline Lilly looks great in elf ears

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö – the road goes on forever but has to end...

Hashtag: #FiveArmiesAteMyHobbit

"My what large ears you have..."

Read Darkmatters review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Read Darkmatters review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Monday, December 08, 2014

Darkmatters Review: Get Santa

Get Santa (U)

Dir. Christopher Smith

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (Cleric20)

Read the Newspaper version of this review: The Berkhamsted Gazette

We have breaking news that just days before Christmas there are several reindeer running loose through the streets of London.

Reports are not entirely clear but it seems that Santa Himself (Jim Broadbent) may have crash-landed in the capital city while test-driving his new sleigh – and has potentially been arrested – which could be very bad news for the children of the world getting presents this year…

This is the fun scenario of Get Santa (not in any way a festive sequel to Get Carter) from British director Christopher ‘Severance’ Smith. Get Santa sees young Tom (newcomer Kit Connor) excited to have his father Steve (Rafe Spall) released from prison where he’s been serving time for being a getaway driver. Santa has picked this broken family to help him get back to Lapland and save Christmas but can Steve and Tom break him out of jail, find his reindeer and get the magic sleigh running again?

"not cliched or anything!"

Director Smith has a track record for making genuinely creepy horror films such as Black Death. Severance, and Triangle so it is a bit of a departure for him to be creating a family-friendly ‘feel-good-em-up’. He’s aided by having Ridley Scott on production duties (obviously a Seasonal side project to his new biblical epic Exodus).

Get Santa manages to tick the boxes of being a fun Christmas comedy that is actually funny, and not too slushily sentimental. The biggest laughs for me came from seeing Santa trying to adapt to life on the inside, acting tough with his beard and hair in cornrows. The kids in the showing that I checked this out however were in fits of giggles when the reindeer use loud farts to communicate with the heroes and seeing Santa use a reindeer ‘poo’ gun to disable police cars in a madcap car chase.

There’s a real ‘British’ feel to the whole thing and for once that doesn’t mean ‘cheap’ or ‘not up to Hollywood standards’. The cast which includes Stephen Graham, Warwick Davies and Jodie Whittaker all work hard and keep the action moving nicely – the film keeps a good balance of slapstick throw-away humour and heartfelt life lessons about father / son bonding.

Get Santa is a decent bet for some Christmas cinematic fun, it may not be remembered as a classic but is you channel your Festive Spirit this will keep the whole family amused.

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


(3 - Ho ho ho, Santa fun for all)

Awesomeness ööö – Prison scenes are mirthingly great

Laughs öööö – Laugh you tinkly bells off

Horror ö – very limited nastiness

Babes öö – Jodie Whittaker makes a great wife!

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - engage your Christmas good cheer

Recommended Hashtags: #SantaBanter

"Get Santa Cast"

Make someone happy (me) - check out my novel - click this banner...