DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Darkmatters Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (15)

Dir. Michael Bay

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review: The Luton News

“You can't put a price on being able to live with yourself.”

September 11, 2012 saw a bloodthirsty attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya which led to many political recriminations as to why the U.S. left their people in harms way with no air support or relief.

"There goes the neighbourhood"

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a meaningfully high-brow, tender piece of big screen investigative journalism – just kidding – this is Michael ‘Transformers’ Bay and he’s here to blow a lot of stuff up and shout ‘God Bless America’ at the audience as loudly as possible!

We get to witness the full ferocity of the night when a six-man American security detail tried to fight off hundreds of Islamic militants —it plays out much like Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, which was also based on real events of U.S. forces outnumbered by impossible odds.. Bay however ups the gung ho, macho factor to ‘maximum’ and peppers the the narrative with the yanks saying things like 'we’re doing the right thing' (which is apparently wiping out hundreds of nasty locals).

"Beards - not optional"

It all looks good, thanks in large part to stylish cinematography of Dion ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Beebe, and is certainly exciting when the battle kicks off – but there is a deeply ingrained feeling that this is a propaganda-em-up rather than a balanced account of a truly desperate situation.

The cast go about their heavy weapon business with aplomb. Back stories for the likes of lead character Jack Da Silva (John ‘Jim from the U.S. Office’ Krasinski) and his fellow Navy SEAL pal Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods (James ‘Iron Man 3’ Badge Dale) are just quick clichéd sketches. More time is devoted to the copious amounts of less memorable Top Gun-lite man banter between the team in the build up to the ‘action’.


Throw into the mix an obstinate outpost commander (David ‘Breaking Bad’ Costabile) who resents having the security team around – but who is also reluctant to let them try to save the visiting U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) when his compound comes under attack.

As the carnage eventually ramps up Bay gets a bit carried away with jump cutting between surveillance drone footage, close up shock and awe mussel flashes and shots of the Americans either panicking (the CIA staff) or being heroically stoic (the security operatives).

In the end 13 Hours feels like the slightly retarded offspring of American Sniper – for gun action enthusiasts only…

"look out for the aliens behind you!?"

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


(2.5 - A slightly retarded offspring of American Sniper)

Awesomeness ööö – Gunfight adrenalin writ large

Laughs ö – Limited mirth

Horror ööö – Nasty battle wounds a go go

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Honour at what cost?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Darkmatters Review: The Big Short

The Big Short (15)

Dir. Adam McKay

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food. Even baseball...”

When the words ‘corruption’ and ‘banking’ became synonymous during the world-wide financial crisis of 2008, millions of people’s lives were completely wrecked, but not everyone’s. Adam ‘Anchorman’ McKay’s The Big Short takes us inside the true story of how a few men foresaw the crash and managed to actually make money from the situation.

And while witnessing the callous, greed driven nightmare that took people’s homes and livelihoods from them will make you potentially want to punch the next banker you meet, this is ‘must see’ filmmaking.

"feel the love"

Meet Michael Burry (Christian ‘The Dark Knight’ Bale), a maverick ex-physician who runs a hedge fund. He is the first to spot that the US housing market’s foundations are built on a volatile bubble that looks like it will burst. So convinced is he about this doomsday scenario that Burry places a huge bet (known as a short) against the housing market with the banks – who are more than happy to take this ‘crazy’ bet against something that just never happens.

Meanwhile market trader Jared Vennett (Ryan ‘Drive’ Gosling) gets wind of what Burry is doing and looks to also cash in. Then a wrong number phone call tips off another small team of fund managers led by Mark Baum (Steve ‘Foxcatcher’ Carell) and the final bunch to the party are young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn WIttrock). Theses two have a secret weapon in the form of retired master banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) who agrees to help them.

"Jedi banking master?"

This rag tag bunch of outsiders are thought to be crying wolf but as the crisis escalates, well, it’s not a spoiler because we know what went down, they actually make serious money when everybody else was losing big time. Burry’s fund sees 489% profits on their gamble!?

OK enough plot, The Big Short does a good job of making the hard to comprehend world of subprime loans, collateralized debt obligations and AAA credit ratings into a darkly comic thrill ride. There are some genius 4th wall breaking moments of handy explanation from the celebrity likes of starlet Margot Robbie (in a bubble bath), top chef Anthony Bourdain (with some fish) and pop star Selena Gomes with business guru Richard Thaler – which really help you keep up with key details.

"listen carefully the lady in the tub as she explains sub prime loans"

The Big Short is a superb film that blows the lid off a very painful real life topic. The cast are fantastic, making what could have been a hard slog of a tale bounce along with energy and believable humanity.

If this had been a fictional account you might have said it was too far fetched to believe but the fact that it happened and we’re still feeling the financial fallout from it is absolutely terrifying.

"Aint that a kicker"

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


(4 - Sky-Fell: attack of the bankers)

Awesomeness öööö – Truth can be as terrifying as any fiction

Laughs öööö – Very funny in places but painful too

Horror ö – Only the swears and the tension to upset here

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Is money the root of all evil?

"Get the batmobile"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Darkmatters Review: The Revenant

The Revenant

Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing.”

Revenant: a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead… which makes the title of this epically brutal ‘survive-em-up’ spot on.

The ‘revenant’ in question here is Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio on surely Oscar winning at last form) – a real life frontiersman and fur trapper in the 1800’s who underwent an incredible wilderness ordeal to try and find revenge.

"it's snow joke out there..."

Strap in then for a seriously perilous thrill ride of survival, where the extraordinary power of the human spirit is writ large in breathtaking cinematic style. Glass’s experiences of the uncharted American wilderness are certainly not for the faint of heart. Brief highlights include a brutal bear attack, beatings, being shot at with arrows and guns, freezing conditions and surviving on no provisions, plus being left for dead by his own friends. Broken limbs, life threatening injuries and a hunting party of bloodthirsty natives tracking him, Glass’ s quest for survival is the very definition of ‘against the odds’.

"where are my marmalade sandwiches?"

The bear who mauls Glass is a work of cinematic genius, terrifying and brilliantly realised – this is the best on screen bear since, erm, Paddington… Although anyone looking for a Paddington sequel here will be severely traumatised!?

Villain of the piece is back-stabbing scumbag John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy also on good form) whose betrayal of Glass sets up the main plot. The sheer force of will that sees Glass battling enemies, the elements and physical ailments in order to exact bloody vengeance is a glimpse into the dark motivations that lie under the civilised surface of man. This is a decent man who chooses a terrible course of action in order to exact a form of justice and find inner redemption. In the process he burns up his soul with the astonishing physical torment he has to endure.

"better times"

Director Iñárritu brings jaw-dropping cinematic spectacle to this snowy tale, the scenery is liable to transfix you with wondrous shots of forests and mountains which wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery.

The Revenant packs a compelling story, aided by a top notch cast. The two leads are ably supported by Domhnall ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Gleeson and Will ‘Maze Runner’ Poulter in particular.

This is a movie that will make you appreciate your nice warm home and safe existence just a little more. Highly recommended!

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


(4.5 - Survive Hard: with a vengeance)

Awesomeness öööö – Like the most brutal ever episode of 'I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here)

Laughs öö – Not a comedy but some black humour

Horror öööö – Very grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - What drives you?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Darkmatters Review: The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight (18)

Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Reviewed by Matt Adcock @Cleric20

“Oh, you believe in Jesus now, huh? Good, 'cause you 'bout to meet him!”

The 8th film by Quentin Tarantino takes us back to post Civil War America where we join a stagecoach cutting through a wintry Wyoming landscape en route to the town of Red Rock – and a date with justice.

"strangers approach"

Legendary bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking his captured fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hang for her crimes. But it won’t be easy. Faced with a blizzard and encounters with a rival bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be Red Rock's new sheriff, the coach party decide to hole up in Minnie’s Haberdashery.

What happens next is a delicious pressure cooker of guilt, suspicion and bluff – which builds up to a horrifically violent climax… Playing out like a western homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – The Hateful Eight is a compulsive mystery delivered with Tarantino’s over-the-top theatrical flair.

"the 'hat-full' eight?"

The ‘hateful’ suspects are a bunch of scoundrels who along with Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix include General Smithers (Bruce Dern), Hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and Seńor Bob (Demian Bichir). At least one of them could be lying and have murderous intent.

Who will survive and will any of them see justice? There is much profanity laden fun to be had finding out, as with all of Tarantino’s work, this is not for the faint of heart, easily offended or for anyone squeamish.

With a running time to rival some TV mini series and all the action taking place in only a couple of locations The Hateful Eight could have been an exercise in tedious, self-referential dialogue heavy boredom. But thanks the who-can-you trust suspicion backed up by some excellent performances, what we have is a riveting thrill ride and a step up from the fun but disjointed Django Unchained (Darkmatters Review).

"It's not just the cold that kills"

Jackson makes for a great flawed hero of sorts but Kurt Russell is the stand out here – packing an incredible moustache and some righteous authority, even if they are only slightly less reprehensible – you could say eight shades of criminal grey - than the vermin who they mix with. I feel obliged to point out the Kurt Russell plus snow = The Thing homage connection too!?

The Hateful Eight will make you laugh, squirm and possibly look away in disgust, these are some ‘reservoir cowboys’ worth hanging out with.

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


(4.5 - No one to trust. Everyone to hate - but it's great fun!)

Awesomeness öööö – Crackling dialogue and crunching violence

Laughs ööö – Really funny in places

Horror öööö – Nasty to the point of horror in places

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - trust is hard to win

"dead by dawn?"

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Darkmatters Review: JOY

Joy (12a)

Dir. David O. Russell

Reviewed by Matt Adcock @Cleric20

Read the newspaper version of this review: The Hemel Gazette

“Listen to me. I’ll tell you what’s gonna come of you. You are going to grow up
and be a strong smart young woman…”

2016 kicks off with the incredible, life-affirming ‘based on true events’ tale of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) – inventor of the first self-wringing mop... You might not think a film that revolves around the creation of the ‘Miracle Mop’ would be the stuff of nail-biting tension, heartbreaking loss, intense emotion and searing against all odds determination, but you’d be wrong.

"Not Silver Linings"

Director David ‘American Hustle’ O. Russell has a real knack of getting some of the very best performances from Lawrence and she is on absolutely jaw-dropping form again here. It wouldn’t surprise me if their combo works for a repeat Oscar nod – as they did with Silver Linings Playbook. Joy’s life is anything but like her name though. Divorced and trying to bring up her two young children whilst also helping her ill grandmother (who lives in one of the downstairs rooms). Joy has money problems and little support from her bitchy half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm) and father Rudy (Robert De Niro) who has anger issues – there is never a dull moment in her miserable life.

"who wants some?"

Despite all the odds being stacked against her, Joy takes life by the scruff of the neck and ventures into the cut throat world of enterprise. Armed only with her creativity, good heart and unrelenting drive to succeed she faces challenge after challenge in trying to make it.

Thanks to her ex-husband setting up a meeting for her, Joy’s path crosses with slick Neil Walker (a highly charismatic turn by Bradley Cooper), who runs the newly establish QVC channel and could provide a real chance for her mop based commercial aspirations. But success does not come easy for Joy and viewers are put through an emotional wringer as trials and tribulations pepper this rollercoaster of a tale.

"Independent woman"

Joy is powerful inspiration for anyone looking to succeed – she’s a bold woman, a heroine for the modern age who battles for herself without relying on a prince charming in an empowering and most non-Disney way. It’s refreshing to see a film that can grip you so hard without having any real physical threat or violence.

This is fine film making which shows just how big a drama life is, be it in business or socially. Joy will leave you stimulated and inspired to face whatever the year might throw at you – and very likely feeling the titular emotion too. Recommended!

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


(4 - Choose Joy!)

Awesomeness öööö – Edge of your seat is a fun place to be

Laughs öö – Some amusement but not a comedy

Horror öö – Very tense but not too grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Never give up!

The CultureSlap Awards for 2015

CultureSlap is the twisted alternative take on the world of entertainment...

Part man (Tom Wade @ThinkWade) Part machine - enjoy!!

Top ten lists are great (READ the Darkmatters Top Ten Films of 2015) - but hard to do. What really qualifies a film being number 3 and not number 4, what if I’ve seen a film more than once - did that mean I liked it more? What happens when someone loves a particular film so much that they just ignore all of its flaws and stick it at in the top 3 anyway (Kingsman…)?

Well with that in mind, I decided that this year it’d be easier just to throw some random awards around to celebrate the Good, the Bad and the Entourage…

Best new potential film franchise:

Who’d have thought that a film called ‘John Wick’ would have ended up being so good? And who would have thought that Keanu Reeves can still kick butt in 2015? Now if only Keanu could make a John Wick sequel where he goes back in time and beats himself up before he agrees to make the Matrix sequels.

Worst new potential film franchise:

Fantastic Four (Darkmatters review)

Poor Fox. They keep trying. They keep failing. Any film that the director publicly denounces on its day of release is going to have problems (and led to Trank loosing his Star Wars job as well). Hopefully one day we’ll find out exactly what happened… But hey - here’s to the next attempt at Fantastic 4 in 2020!

Best new film that isn’t a reboot:

The Martian (Darkmatters Review)

Made from an excellent book - this combined a witty script and a fantastic central performance from Matt Damon to create an engaging and exciting ride.

Worst attempt at a reboot:

Terminator Genisys (Darkmatters Review)

Another Terminator reboot/sequel/prequel/alternative universe… Another failed attempt at giving the franchise new blood. After the first ten minutes everything is pure drivel.

Best new sequel/reboot

Tied between: Mad Max (Darkmatters review)
and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Darkmatters review)

Who actually expected Mad Max to be one of (if not the best) the films of the year? An adrenaline filled chase that is like putting red bull directly into your brain (if red bull didn’t taste like cat piss). Star Wars similarly had so much that could go wrong with it and the crushing expectations of (if box office results are to be believed) 99% of the planet. Thankfully it managed to meet and even exceed most of what fans has demanded of it.

Best Vin Diesel film that will never get to 8 instalments:

The Last Witch Hunter

Cool wig though.

Best Vin Diesel film that will get to an 8th instalment:

Fast and the Furious 7

If you sit and think about the Fast and the Furious, it does become hard to separate each film out into their own instalments. It think the most recent one had cars jumping out of planes and Vin Diesel trying to find a sat nav to help him find the person who is already trying to find him. Or something.

Best 3 films you saw that nobody else probably has:

The Lobster

Funny, odd - but not so odd that it removes you from the central idea of humans being turned into animals if they are single - The Lobster is well worth a watch. Ideally with someone who is currently single and depressed about it.

The Forbidden Room

Any film that has vampire bananas in it deserved more widespread acclaim than this film got.

Hard to be a God.

An astronaut visits a mirror planet to earth that (sadly) doesn’t feature Apes, but instead is stuck in the Dark Ages. It’s brutal. Pretty, pretty brutal.

Best Horror film:

It Follows (Darkmatters review)

The sort of film that as soon as you hear the concept, you go ‘why has no one ever done this before?!’ A film that lives with you long after the credits role, it’s creepy and it may just put you off sex for an hour or too.

Best animated film:

Inside Out (Darkmatters review)

This may also be the best film of the year. Pure, unadulterated brilliance from start to finish.

Most intense film:

You’ll never look at a traffic jam in the same way ever again.

Biggest surprise film

The Gift 

Where did this film come from? A pleasant surprise and a throwback to old skool suspense and twist and turns. Happy face.

Best Sci-Fi film

Ex Machina (Darkmatters review)

I know you could put Star Wars here, but it’s worth mentioning Ex Machina as a tense (essentially a 3 character piece), suspense filled piece that covers the idea of AI Singularity better than any other film that I can remember.

Harshest reviewed film:

Tomorrowland (Darkmatters review)

For some reason everyone wanted to take their turns in pooping on this film. I don’t know why. It’s actually pretty fun - and it features the least annoying child actor this year.

Best Comedy:


Funny, insightful, brutal and honest. It made everyone stand up and take notice of Amy Schumer, and it’s probably the least annoying Judd Apatow film.

Biggest film that made lots of money that isn’t very good on a second watch:

Jurassic World (Darkmatters review)

Seriously - go watch it again. It’s not as good on a smaller screen - plus the characterisation is as detailed as an Ikea instruction sheet.

Biggest Disappointment:

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (Darkmatters review)

Not a bad film by any means. But the fact that this ended up just being ‘another film’ means that Whedon and co. didn’t quite manage to find the same magic as before. It also seemed to suffer under the weight of needing to launch a whole new set of films - the whole thing ended up feeling a bit like a trailer for the next Phase. Here’s hoping that Whedon can go away and do a few more personal projects now.

Biggest hype that everyone immediately forgot about a month later:

50 Shades of Grey (Darkmatters review)

Does anyone even remember everyone getting so excited/shocked/bored by this? At least we have a few more to go.

Best Superhero TV shows

Daredevil - the one to watch with someone who doesn’t normally like ‘superhero’ things.

Jessica Jones - the one to watch with someone who likes brutal slow burners.

The Flash - the one to watch with someone who likes comic books. Great fun.


Read Matt Adcock's top 5 games of 2015 over at the awesome PushSquare