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, January 25, 2015

Darkmatters Review: EX_MACHINA


Dir. Alex Garland

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“One day the A.I.s will look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa - ‘upright apes’, all set for extinction…”

EX_MACHINA or as I’d call it ‘Do Girl Androids Dream of Human Boyfriends?’ is a superb cyber-thriller from the mind of Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd.

"danger signs?"

Here Garland makes his directorial debut with an extremely stylish and slightly cerebral tale of young Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at the world’s biggest internet-search engine Blue Book (think ‘Google’ on steroids) who wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company's brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

Caleb though is asked to take part in a real time ‘Turing Test’ (as in Alan Turing from The Intimidation Game) – his task is to meet Ava (Alicia Vikander), a new form of A.I. – shaped like a beautiful woman, who just might be the first ever robot to have real emotional intelligence…

Things might not however be all they seem and a sense of vague menace grows the more you witness of EX_MACHINA. The film demands that you pay attention, although Ava is hard not to be completely entranced by – Vikander is excellent even if much of her is state of the art visual effects. Ava gives nuanced looks and subtle hints that make her the most captivating A.I. ever to hit the big screen and it’s no wonder that Caleb begins to develop real feelings for her.

"under observation"

I was fairly smitten by Ava, but do we biological beings ever really stand a hope of understanding the pure clinical mind of a machine? Or as the excellent film ‘Her’ examined – can we humans hope to actually have relationships with virtual beings whose intellectual capacity far exceeds our own?

What really makes EX_MACHINA stand out though is that it is very clever, and it’s darkness will mess with you psychologically as the interactions of the three main characters lead to a startling climax.

The tech on display here may be wish fulfillment at the moment, but as anyone who’s played Halo and ‘met’ Cortana will attest, having a companion A.I. on hand can be extremely useful.

"nice bodywork"

EX_MACHINA feels like an extended sci-fi movie version of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – which is a high compliment. A must see film for those who like their thrillers high tech and packing a brain (or an A.I.)!?

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


(5 - To erase the line between man & machine is to obscure the line between men & gods)...

Awesomeness ööööö – mesmerising otherworldly feel, compulsive viewing

Laughs ööö – incredibly fun dance cameo scene!?

Horror ööö – unnerving violence in places

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö – will an A.I. ever worship?

Hashtag: #LoveAVA

Official Site: www.exmachinamovie.co.uk

"bad day at the office"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Darkmatters Review - Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service (15)

Dir. Matthew Vaughn

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review over at The Gazette

Do you know what that means? Then let me teach you a lesson…”

I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Millar’s ‘The Secret Service’ since it came out in the classic CLiNT magazine back in 2012 as a comic series. So it was with nervous anticipation that I went to witness Matthew ‘Kick Ass’ Vaughn’s big screen take on this tale of world saving superspies…

"Ah Mr Bond, sorry, "Eggsy", I've been expecting you"

Kingsman: The Secret Service is however a total endorphin rush, cheeky, classy & action packed, both a reverent homage to and a street-smart update of the ‘old-school’ James Bond movies. Co-writers Jane Goldman and Vaughn are on top form adapting Millar’s hyper-violent, rousing story of young Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton) – known as ‘Eggsy’ to his pals - who transforms from teenage council estate petty crim to smooth Kingsman agent with the help of the erstwhile Harry Hart (Colin Firth).

"spot of potential bother"

The Kingsmen you see are an elite group of agents who operate at the highest levels but with complete discretion. Headed by Arthur (Michael Caine) and taking their names from the Arthurian Legend, including Merlin (Mark Strong) and Lancelot (Jack Davenport), they are the new ‘knights.’ Stylish tailored suits are their armour, guns, gadgets and technology their weapons.

"Kingsmen old and new"

Whilst young tearaway Eggsy is undergoing ‘the most dangerous job interview ever’ – up against rival candidates like the gorgeous Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and others who all herald from privilege backgrounds – a dastardly global threat comes to light in the shape of Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson).

"smooth and deadly even inverted"

Can the Kingsmen rise to this challenge that threatens all mankind? Will Eggsy make it to become an agent? It’s delirious fun finding out… Millar’s story is gripping and amusingly self-aware, Jackson’s baddie gets many of the best lines – delivered with an outrageous lisp. In fact all the cast go about the action like their lives depend on it and the manic energy translates to a rip-roaring blast of decidedly non-PC fun.

Valentines’ sidekick bodyguard Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), whose character was originally a guy in the comic, is superb too – adding to the ‘Bond’ feel by slicing enemies to pieces with the blades she has for legs. But Kingsman is made most by the standout performance of Firth who takes to dealing out violent action as if he’s been doing it all his life. It’s hard to explain just how great it is to see him beating thugs, mowing down enemies and generally out ‘Bonding’ 007 himself – all the while personifying the perfect gentleman spy.

"The original Secret Service comic - translates well to the screen!"

Sure Kingsman is liable to offend some - there is a massacre in a redneck Baptist church which those whose religion is of the bigoted kind might not enjoy and if you like your spy thrills sedate and high brow, or are adverse to sweary dialogue you might not go for Kingsman as much, but for anyone who’s ever enjoyed an action film, you should make seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service an absolute must – as this just might be film of the year!

"Who wants some?"

Repeated viewings recommended!!

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


(5 - Not just for your eyes only)...

Awesomeness ööööö – jaw dropping set pieces a go go

Laughs öööö – lots of laugh out loud funnies

Horror ööö – some graphic violence in places

Spiritual Enlightenment öö –  fight for what's right!

Hashtag: #AssembleKingsmen

"umbrellas are the new sword / gun combo"

"Kingsman training is tough" 

"Best of Nemesis'"

Monday, January 19, 2015

Darkmatters Review: Whiplash

Whiplash (15)

Dir. Damien Chazelle

Reviewed by Tom Wade (@thinkwade)

In amongst all of the Oscar-hype and Oscar-worthy films this year, one film has managed to creep under the radar before suddenly exploding onto the scene and earning plaudits from pretty much every corner possible. Whiplash is a film about Jazz music, and if that doesn’t fill you with excitement – then you’re probably… most of the population.

How on earth therefore has Whiplash managed to end up so good? It’s a simple story of a young student who wants to be the best drummer around, and his interactions/altercations with the teacher who might just get him there/destroy him. It’s a film without any plot twists, explosions or other Oscar-bait moments. It remains however, a 5 star film that everyone should immediately see.

"drumming one out"

Whiplash really succeeds due to its simplicity. Yes on paper it may not seem the most appealing (indeed our very own Matt Adcock remarked after seeing the trailer ‘I’ll catch it on DVD’) with a young student being taught Jazz drumming – but that’s really where its genius lies. Once we know that Andrew will do anything to get to the top, it starts a chain of events that play out like action scenes. Drumming has never appeared so intense, an audition never felt so awkward, and teaching never felt so brutal. Miles Teller is fantastic as Andrew, nailing the drama as well as the awkward comedy of his character attempting to have relationships and grow up. Whiplash frequently requires Teller to be sweet and innocent but also to have a driven and nasty side that will do anything – and screw anyone over – to progress.

"You'll never make the Marine Core!"

J K Simmonds on the other hand makes other drill sergeants of cinema look positively ridiculous in comparison. One dramatic air grab with his right hand is enough to make you feel physically sick with fear as Simmonds stalks the screen like a tiger circling its wounded prey. Simmonds constantly crackles with an unnerving energy that feels ready to bubble to the surface. Every line he utters feels immediately quotable and memorable (‘Hmmm – not quite my temp’) and his wisecracks literally crackle across the screen. It’s a credit to the film therefore that you’re never quite sure whether his methods are indeed genius or madness. Sure he throws cymbals at his students heads, makes them furiously audition till 2am, ruins their relationships, and sends them towards early breakdowns – but if he turns them into better musicians, surely he’s done a good job as a teacher?

The rest of the cast are excellent, although they really are just side attractions compared to the duelling central pairing of student versus teacher. It’s a bit like Star Wars but with more tension and less lightsabers. The final 15 minutes in particular are a master class of filmmaking, and you’ll feel every cymbal smashed and drum… er… drummed to point that you’ll discover you’re literally on the edge of your seat.

Added into the mix is the ridiculous fact that director Damien Chazelle has only just turned 30. Who on earth does he think he is directing work that this this polished, this enthralling, this confident and this layered at such a young age? If this is the sort of work that he can produce at 30 (and on a subject matter that must have been a hard sell in the first place) then we can only imagine as to what he’ll go on to achieve in cinema. The older generation of directors must be casting a nervous eye at the energy coming from Whiplash and quietly panicking about how on earth they can match it.

"Whiplash battles Iron Man - oh wait, wrong film"

Whiplash really is a film for everyone, regardless of your position on Jazz music. It has drama in abundance, a screen villain for the ages in Simmonds, and a running tempo that increases to a pulsating climax. Whiplash races along like a war film with our characters preparing for battle, manically training and frequently pushing beyond their boundaries both physical and mental. And if that doesn’t excite you – then perhaps you should just reconsider watching films full stop.

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


(5 - don't stop the music)...

Awesomeness öööö – intensity taken off the scale

Laughs öö – some fun

Horror öö – do you hate music?

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö –  let your soul make a joyful noise

Hashtag: #whipyourhairbackandforth

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Darkmatters Review: American Sniper

American Sniper (15)

Dir. Clint Eastwood

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review over at: The Bucks Herald

“There are 3 types of people in this world. Sheep, wolf and sheepdogs.
If hatred appeared at the door of a sheep they would not know how to protect themselves.
The predators use violence to prey on the weak. They are wolves.
Then there are those blessed with talent and aggression to protect the flock.
They are a rare breed, they are sheepdogs…

We do not raise sheep in this family.”

Oorah for American Sniper – a powerful autobiographical big screen account of Chris Kyle who became a legend during his four Navy SEAL tours in Iraq where he was credited with over 160 kills. Director Eastwood certainly knows a thing or two about depicting (and playing) alpha males and here he gives admirable time not just to the intense battle situations but also to the formative experiences and the costs on Kyle and his family in the aftermath.

"Sheepdogs on patrol"

From the very first moment American Sniper grips and induces a state of shock and awe as the bullets fly but more than that, it skillfully makes you care about the lives of those whose experiences we are sharing. By ‘humanizing’ the soldiers on the front line and showing their lives outside of the war where they have families and day-to-day issues to deal with, the filmmakers manage to really put the viewers into the patriotic sandy boots of the US soldiers.

This is impressive cinematic warfare writ large, the plot looks beyond the politics, much like last year’s frenetic Lone Survivor mixed with The Hurt Locker. Sure the lives and experiences of men of war has been done many times but American Sniper is a class act, thanks in no small part to the incredible performance of Bradley Cooper in the lead role. Nominated for ‘Best Film’ and Cooper for ‘Best Actor’ at this year’s Oscars - this is a film that demands to be seen – whatever your thoughts and feelings about the Iraq war.

"everything is illuminated"

The climax sees Kyle going head to head with a fearful Syrian enemy sniper who is worthy nemesis as he crosses paths with the US sniper at several points and leaves dead marines in his wake - the showdown is almost unbearably tense.

American Sniper was made in consultation with Kyle’s wife and she is portrayed with real heart by Sienna Miller who is a beating heart behind the unstoppable killing machine of her husband.

If you see one war film this year, American Sniper should be your choice, this is a vivid, hard hitting cinematic experience that deserves a wide audience.

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


(4 - One man can make the difference)...

Awesomeness öööö – Incredible battle scenes and hard hitting drama

Laughs öö – limited funnies

Horror ööö – tense and violent in places

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö – God, Country, Corps


"tough family duty"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Darkmatters Review: Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher (15)

Dir. Bennett Miller

Reviewed by Tom Wade (@ThinkWade)

If Jaws isn’t really about a shark, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn’t really about spying, then Foxcatcher is definitely not about wrestling. Indeed, if the glittery lights and excess of America’s favourite ‘sports entertainment’ WWE is what you’re expecting, then you might want to take a deep breath and readjust your expectations. But that isn’t a negative, for Foxcatcher is one of the bleakest, most downtrodden films you’ll have seen for a long time. And it’s glorious.

After previously tackling other real life ‘true stories’ in the excellent Capote and Moneyball (rarely seen in the UK due to the Baseball content – but well worth a watch), director Bennet Miller has now turned his attention to a little known story (outside of the USA) of obsession, desire, family, wealth, and wrestling. It’s much darker than his previous efforts with unnerving events unfolding on screen with characters that it isn’t particularly easy to like. It’s testament to Miller therefore that it’s so expertly shot and edited, with startlingly full-on performances from the entire cast, that it can't help but get under the skin and stay with you long after the credits end.

"Tatum photobombs like a pro"

Foxcatcher begins in subdued form, after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his big brother David (Mark Ruffalo – who let’s be honest, is great in everything) both won gold medals for wrestling. It’s a bleak opening with Tatum barely uttering a word in the first half an hour. Instead we are introduced to our main players as they silently warm up before a wrestling session. In a remarkable sequence, we learn more about the characters and their relationships from their physical battle than we would in hours of dialogue and exposition. It becomes clear quickly that Tatum is desperate to elude the large shadow of his successful brother Ruffalo. In a superb understated performance, Ruffalo manages to be everything that you’d want from a leading man – but in a supporting role. He’s kind, he’s relatable, he loves his wife and children and he is desperate for his brother to succeed. Tatum on the other hand is sullen, brooding and introverted. It’s a great pairing with fantastic award-worthy performances from both – in particular, have a look at how they’ve transformed their walks with great physicality.

In order to achieve his next goal, Tatum needs help with funding to train for Seoul 1988, and this turns up via a remarkable offer from billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) to start a wrestling team at his vast Foxcatcher estate in New England, which is known for the championship horses managed by du Pont’s imperious mother (Vanessa Redgrave). At the beginning, David decides to stay with his family, and Mark heads off by himself to train with du Pont. What begins next is a slow evolving story of Mark initially being seduced by du Pont’s wealth and ambition, only to later be repulsed by it.
"anyone want to try the 'bullet jumping' method?"

In his career defining ‘serious’ role, Carell is breath-taking as du Pont, it may be quite some time before you even realise it’s him behind the prosthetic nose and teeth. Carell cleverly plays the role with an insinuating glint that makes us wonder what he's up to, and his wrestlers see it too, yet go along with his bizarre nature simply because the money is so good. Carell is genuinely terrifying because his performance burns so slowly. But du Pont is not simply a pantomime villain; the strength of Foxcatcher is that it makes du Pont desperately sad at times. One sequence where du Pont horribly leads a wrestling training session in order to impress his vacant mother is heart breaking and terrifying all at once.

Throughout its (long) running time, Miller and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman cleverly subvert every scene with suggestions that something is deeply wrong here. Du Pont’s ‘rousing’ speeches are filled with foreboding, hinting that the film could erupt into a horror at any moment, and the sense of unease steadily grows. By refusing to simplistically explain anything that happens, Miller points out to us that this is one tragedy that it isn't easy to wrap up and move on from. Go and see it for its fantastic performances, and leave ready to find out more about the remarkable story of du Pont and the Schultz brothers.

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


(5 - a powerful and compulsive reality check)...

Awesomeness öööö – powerhouse performances across the board

Laughs öö – not massively fun

Horror öö – foreboding overall and one shocking act of violence

Spiritual Enlightenment öö – the love of money is the root of all evil

Hashtag: #TakedownReality

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Darkmatters Review: Starlight


By Mark Millar (writer) and Goran Parlov (Art)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

“It means A LOT when people have a little faith in you. Especially when you’re OLD and all WASHED-UP...”

No – that’s not a middle aged Darkmatt cry for help – this is dialogue from Mark ‘Kick Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service’ Millar’s Starlight – a reverent homage to the classic sci-fi-em-ups of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Dan Dare.

"Space Boy is a decent sidekick"

Millar is a master of taking well-worn plots and injecting new life into them – and here he delivers a rip roaring 6 part comic book series, now collected into a handy graphic novel format. The plot sees aging earthman Duke McQueen (who saved Tantalus - an alien world - from terrible destruction) called out of retirement to return and try to save his space pals once more. You see dastardly Lord Kingfisher and his army has enslaved Tantalus and is busy conducting marshal law and slavery (kinda like the Egyptians in Exodus).

So can McQueen rise to the challenge, defeat an entire army and liberate his adopted people? It won’t be easy because back on earth, nobody except his wife even believed that he had ever been to space, let alone been a world saving hero.

"The Force is strong in this one..."

What elevates Starlight above being a routine ‘me too’ sci-fi adventure are a multitude of nicely judged scenes – I was moved by McQueen grappling to try and be relevant to his own grown up kids.

Starlight rocks an emotive and accessible art style by Parlov which perfectly captures the violent action and the emotions around it. This collected edition also includes the excellent 'alternate covers' which effectively showcase the characters and artwork.

There is much to love in Starlight, which is obviously a view shared by Fox Movies who are in production of a film version!

Highly recommended!

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


(5 - Genre redefining stuff)...

Pre-order your copy of Starlight at: Amazon

Get excited for Mark Millar's KINGSMAN - check the trailer here:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Darkmatters Review: Into The Woods

Into The Woods (PG)

Dir. Rob Marshall

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review: The Observer

“You've changed. You're daring. You're different in the woods.”

Once Upon A Time… There was a poor Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) who wished for a child but find out that they have been cursed by a wicked Witch (Meryl Streep) and will never have children.

The Witch however offers to lift the curse, but only if the Baker and his Wife obtain four critical items for her: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold…

"Into The Woods Mortal Kombat tie in - choose your fighter"

Now it gets fun because to find these items the Baker’s plot interweaves with Jack - from ‘and the Beanstalk’ fame (young Daniel Huttlestone), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawdford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). Cue a mash up of the various tales.

Into The Woods makes the leap from musical theatre to big screen thanks to the magical bankroll of Disney, singing and prancing all the way to the happy ending and beyond. Yes the selling point of this show is that it riffs the familiar fairy tales and goes a bit further to where the ‘happy ever afters’ aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be.

"ah you're in weight-watchers too?"

Special effects and slightly forgettable songs are the order of the day – with extra ‘off-putting sing the dialogue in between sings too’… Corden brings his likeable presence to the fore and can at least sing but it is Streep who unsurprisingly steals the show with her star power blowing everyone else off the screen.

Subverting fairy tales can definitely make for good movie fun as the excellent Stardust proved – but Into The Woods suffers from a wildly inconsistent tone, one-minute slapstick and the next awkward, dark or just poorly judged.

I saw this with my wife (yes, it was her choice), she’s a big fan of sing-em-up musicals and generally enjoyed Into The Woods but even she had problems with it in places especially Johnny Depp’s Wolf who pervs up the screen singing lines like “Mmmh... Unhh... Look at that flesh, Pink and plump. Hello, little girl... Tender and fresh…” which was creepily over the top.

"High maintenance Cinders"

Overall if you’re a Disney fan and / or love a bit of singing, then Into The Woods is probably worth a look – personally if I want some musical Cinderella action I’m going to stick with the classic ‘The Slipper and The Rose’ from 1976 (fingers crossed for a remake)!?

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


(2.5 - fairly fairytale-tastic)...

Awesomeness ööö – "The 'prince off' was quite epic"

Laughs öö – some of the funnies work

Horror öö – not very grimm(!?)

Spiritual Enlightenment öö – be careful what you wish for!

Hashtag: #WishfulSinging

"prince off = my fav scene"

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Darkmatters Films Picks For 2015

Darkmatters Film Picks For 2015...

Each year we pick the films that we're most looking forward to seeing (and that we know about) - quite often it leads to pain, disappointment and heartbreak but also to grins and salutations when a 'pick' really delivers.

It's rare that at least some of these picks don't make the Darkmatters Films of the year list too - so what's in store for 2015 that Matt Adcock (Cleric20) is most looking forward to?

KINGSMAN: The Secret Service

Mark Millar is consistently putting out the best comic books of recent years - and The Secret Service was one of the highlights. The film which is collaboration with the excellent Kick Ass team is probably my 'most want to see' film (and yes that includes Star Wars which is only a tiny fraction behind!)...

Mad Max: Fury Road

Am a huge fan of the original Mad Max films (especially 2 The Road Warrior) and also of Tom Hardy so this really should be a rip roaring ride to take on the big screen this year!

Big Hero 6

This is my animation pick for 2015 (there are plenty of other cool looking ones but I'm a sucker for heroic robot types)...


Michael Mann is a genius action film maker and I'm hoping that Blackhat channels some of the awesomeness of HEAT!

Far From The Madding Crowd

My pick for 'classic' film of the year, Carey Mulligan can do no wrong in my book - was superb to see her live on stage in London last year in Skylight - and her role in DRIVE is one of my all time favourites. This is a great book so definitely one to check!


Following the excellent District 9 and Elysium comes the tale of a robot kidnapped by two criminals becoming the adopted son in a strange and dysfunctional family. Chappie's gifts being used for mischief? The military are keen to get him back!

Fantastic Four

Chronicle was my film of the year in 2012 and I've always liked The Fantastic Four comics so will eagerly anticipating this reboot by Josh Trank!

High Rise

Ben 'Kill List' Wheatley is a superb film maker so it will be fascinating to see what he can do with a sort of sci-fi concept!

Inherent Vice

Mad cap caper set in drug-fueled '70s Los Angeles where detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend... Bring it!!

The Martian

From the novel that nobody wanted to publish to the film from the excellent Ridley 'Exodus' Scott - this could be a seriously exciting sci-fi-em-up!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the big one - and the first trailer delivered on all counts so expectations are unreasonably high... Please Lord make this the Star Wars film we've been longing for (and that the prequels weren't)!

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Fun book that mixes up the genres in fine style, this should be the ultimate date movie!


Mr Bond, we've been expecting you! Great to have Mendes back in the Directors chair following the awesome Skyfall!

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

This is the 'other' big one! Loved the first Avengers and am absolutely excited about this huge scale follow up!

Ant Man

Another Marvel film hits the big screen and the mixture of fun and action should make this one to see - especially as it is rumoured to form a key part of this phase of Marvel's film universe.

There are of course many others but this blog posting would stretch on for screens and screens if I talked about them all e.g. Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7, Inside, Top Five etc etc!?

What are you looking forward to this year!