DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Darkmatters Review: The Battle of the Sexes


Battle of the Sexes (12a)

Dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to put the ‘show’ back into chauvinist…”


As the list of horribly abusive men in positions of power being outed seems to grow daily, The Battle of the Sexes takes us back to a time when the sexual revolution was only just gaining momentum.

"this time it's war"

Opening with a discussion about why the women professional tennis players were being offered eight times less prize money for the same competition by the Lawn Tennis Association and the formation of the rival Women’s Tour. The fight equality is embodied in is women's world champion Billie Jean King (Emma ‘La La Land’ Stone who is just excellent).

We get court-side seats and behind the scenes access to hang out with Billie and the women as they bust guts to raise the visibility and standing of the women’s game. Midway through the tour, in 1973, the ex-men's-champ, hustler and self-confessed ‘chauvinist pig’ Bobby Riggs (Steve ‘The Big Short’ Carell) challenged any woman to try and beat him, offering $100,000 if they could. So the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ took place on a tennis court in front of the world’s media and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world.

"great chemistry"

The cool directing team behind ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ bring the story of this sensational point proving match to the big screen in captivating style. The intense rivalry between King and Riggs is set against the backdrop of each of them battling off-court personal situations, his marriage on the rocks due to his gambling and the fiercely private King struggling to come to terms with the impact of her own sexuality.

King’s growing relationship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) is a heartfelt and touching core element of the film and stands to highlight the misogynistic attitudes of Riggs and the male-dominated sports world of the time. The leads are both superb but there is also great supporting work by Bill Pullman as the slimy LTA boss and Elisabeth Shue as Rigg’s conflicted wife.

"battle lines"

The prejudices and gender discrimination were then more ingrained into the institution which is why this cultural spectacle resonated far beyond the tennis court. The resulting discussions about equality, not just in sport but across all areas of life, have to continue though as the ‘battle’ is far from over.

Fun, engaging, and thought-provoking, this Battle of the Sexes is a highly recommended cinematic experience.

"is he taking it seriously?"

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

öööö

(4 - Some battles have to be fought...)

Awesomeness öööö – Heartfelt and exciting

Laughs öö – Some fun

Horror ö – Nothing too grim

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - All created equal...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Darkmatters Review: Justice League


Justice League (12a)

Dir. Zac Snyder

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review: The Courier

“There are heroes among us. Not to make us feel smaller, but to remind us of what makes us great…”

Buckle up for another super smack-down as the heavyweight characters of the DC Comics Extended Universe – Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) assemble to form the ‘Justice League’.

"no, we're not the Avengers"

With earth deemed to be unprotected after Superman (Henry Cavill) “died” in Batman vs Superman, world killer CGI alien Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of flying insect men decide to come and forcibly take over. Obviously all that’s required to turn our planet into a murky computer generated hell are 3 ‘mother boxes’ which are hidden and protected by the Amazonians, Atlantians and erm, Humans.

Cue two hours of fast forward team building and bonding, pondering about and then trying to resurrect Superman himself in order to give us a fighting chance and some actually decent and fun banter between the various heroes.

"He's an Aqua-fan of Wonder Woman"

Director Zack Snyder crams in a lot after his BvS was accused of being overly leisurely paced – but this time just as we’re getting into an exciting action situation or an interesting conversation, things cut and rush on to something else (often some plot exposition to help viewers keep up).

Justice League is very much the DC version of Avengers – and if that sounds like your super powered cup of tea then you’ll have a blast watching this band of iconic heroes doing their thing. Wonder Woman keeps up her scene stealing form after her great solo film earlier this year but all the team have some good moments.

"evil eyes"

If you’ve had enough comic book superhero action then this won’t likely change your mind. But for long term fans (full disclosure I LOVE both Superman and Batman, ok and Wonder Woman) then there is plenty to make you grin with glee.

As a film, it is a bit of a mess – and weak points include a seriously forgettable villain who looks like he’s escaped from an Xbox rather than outer space and the jump cuts that hamper coherent plot development.

"Atlantis is real"

Somewhere in this jumble is an epic adventure that rivals anything Marvel have put on screen – as it stands though, Justice League is a great fun movie but not one that will have the Avengers losing sleep as they plan their Infinity War next year.

Be sure to check the after credit scenes too for both clues of what might come next and a super stand off that made some of the audience I saw this with cheer!

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

ööö1/2

(3.5 - All In - the directors cut?)

Awesomeness öööö – Some great scenes

Laughs ööö – Super banter

Horror öö – Limited grimness unless you hate CGI

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Salvation in teamwork?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Darkmatters Review: The Florida Project


The Florida Project (15)

Dir. Sean Baker

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“The doctor says we have asthma and we gotta eat ice-cream right away!”

Welcome to the flip side of comfortable life, where poverty stalks every character and surviving is no mean feat – even when you live in the very shadow of Disneyland itself…

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a heavy duty treatise on the durability and joy of childhood, a soul-destroying expose of living on the edge and heart-breaking almost-romance that never could be.

I was blown away by this film which tells the tale of six-year-old Moonee (an epic and totally winning performance from Brooklynn Prince) who lives with her young mother Hailey (an incredible breakthrough performance from Bria Vinai who was approached to play her part after the Director spotted her on Instagram).

"life is not always explainable"

We get to hang out with this small family unit over the course of a few weeks of summer as they struggle to live their lives holed up in a seedy hotel called The Magic Castle. Fortunately for the two girls the hotel is managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe whose probably never been better than he is here). Bobby is a genuinely good soul, a compassionate white knight who makes everyone’s lives better even though his consistent and selfless acts of kindness for Hailey are largely unappreciated and rebuffed.

Moonee has a ruthlessly mischievous streak, effortlessly courting trouble and generally having a good time even in a hopeless situation. Scamming tourists for ice cream money, spitting on cars and accidentally torching a local condo with her pals – this is a childhood of hard knocks but infused with an inescapable joy and freedom which is easy to get lost in.

As the kids play, danger lurks only a heartbeat away – be it the naivety of not understanding consequences or actual predatory adult intervention. Seeing the youngsters grappling with situations they cannot fully comprehend is emotionally draining such as when Hailey must sell their iPad to pay the rent and can’t really explain why.

"motherhood isn't easy"

The relationship between the world-weary Bobby and the hot-headed Hailey is shot through with a growing tension. Caught between wanting to protect Hailey like a father and yet still potentially be the man in her life, he’s a rare good guy in a bad world. But can he save her from herself as she slips down the poverty spiral into making heart breaking, self-destructive decisions.

The Florida Project is a powerful and vibrant film that will haunt you for days after seeing it. Wise beyond her years Moonee says things like: “I can always tell when adults are about to cry” when she observes some honeymooners who have inadvertently booked into the crappy Magic Kingdom thinking it was an actual part of the Disney resort.
But when life gets too much for our young heroine, all she can do is stand a cry in a scene which will just destroy you. The ending too is one of the bravest ever committed to film – just a superb few moments of unforgettable and mesmerising cinema.

"You're only young once"

I can’t recommend The Florida Project enough – it’s brutal and bleak but also engaging and wonderful in equal measure. Can’t wait to see not just what this director does next but all of the talent involved here.

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

ööööö

(5 - Save the Hailey, Save the world...)

Awesomeness ööööö – Joyful and poignant from start to end

Laughs ööö – Lots of fun but not a comedy

Horror ööö – Real life can break you

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Where is God when you need Him?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Darkmatters Review: Paddington 2


Paddington 2 (PG)

Dir. Paul King

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Aunt Lucy says to look for the goodness in everyone you meet…”

Michael Bond's furry fun loving, marmalade endorsing, orphaned little bear is back. Since his first excellent big-screen adventure, Paddington (once again voiced by Ben Whishaw) has happily settled in with the Brown family and become a popular and useful member of the local community.

"multi-purpose brushes" 

Now his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday approaches and he must find a perfect gift for her, as luck would have it, a unique pop up book of London has been found in Mr. Gruber's antique shop. The only drawback is that it costs a grand and so Paddington enters the world of work in order to save up and buy it. But when the book is stolen, it's up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief and see justice done.

The good news is that this sequel is simply superb on all levels, packed with genuine wit and winning performances from the human contingent, and blessed with a fun lite-weight plot which bounds along without ever being tiresome…

"showman and show-bear"

Baddie of the piece is the villainous Phoenix Buchanan (a wonderfully OTT performance from Hugh Grant sending himself up) - a bitter faded actor looking to launch is own one-man show on the West End. The detective subplot leads to a hair-raising finale that sees a steam-powered chase, hand-to-hand combat and an anxious life-or-death moment that had the children in the screening I caught this at squealing in delight.

Due to some miscarriage of justice, Paddington finds himself behind bars but being a cheerful young bear he has in no time befriended the dangerous criminals he’s locked up with who include Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), T-Bone (Tom Davis) and Jimmy the Snitch (Robert Stevenson).

"High ho!"

The CGI animation is exceptional, Paddington himself is a walking, talking, wonder and other nice touches abound such as a moving scene of 2D paper cut-outs which mimic the classic ‘70s TV show).

Everything works so well, director Paul King has served up a winning treat, refreshingly free of cynical cash grab merchandising (unless you count the numerous plugs for marmalade) – effectively capturing a joyful innocence. This is a must-see for anyone who with children or those who are just young at heart.

"The Browns"

Paddington 2 really is the Empire Strikes Back of furry animated comedies – it’s un’bear’ably good family friendly fun…

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

öööö1/2

(4.5 - Very tasty marmalade sandwiches all round)

Awesomeness ööö – Joyfully furry fun

Laughs öööö – Lots of good laughs to be had

Horror ö – A little tense but nothing very grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Looking for the good is good way to live...

Monday, November 06, 2017

Darkmatters Review: Murder on the Orient Express


Murder on the Orient Express (12a)

Dir. Kenneth Branagh

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review at: The Observer

“I see evil on this train...”

Foul deeds are afoot on the most famous train in the world (other than perhaps The Hogworts Express). Here we have an all star update of Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit which sees the ridiculously moustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) pondering the killing of a Mr Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) which happens en route to Paris from Istanbul.

"sorry for the delay, Branagh on the tracks"

Murder on the Orient Express is blessed with an impressive cast which should in theory make this an incredible watch. The 12 suspects include young Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), flirty American Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), outspoken Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz) and haughty Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) as well as Hilgarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman) and Countess Elena Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton) as the potential killer women. Also aboard are the potentially murderous male suspects such as Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe), Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Edwards Masterman (Derek Jacobi) and more.

"who's the killer?"

Alas, even with so many A-grade talents vying for screen time, the end result is a thrill-free snooze fest (I clocked several people gently snoring their way through this in the screening I was in). It’s a shame because it all looks lovely and has occasional bursts of stunning cinematography but nothing here rivals the classic and much more sinister 1974 version in terms of anything other than production values.

It seems to take forever to get going, and lacks a consistent style which means that rather than an edge-of–your-seat mystery, Branagh delivers a ponderous mystery culminating in a weirdly underwhelming finale which sees Poirot and his crazy 'tache explaining the killer’s motivation whilst the suspects are gathered at long table framed to look like the last supper.

"the queue for the toilet wasn't too bad"

Director Branagh is also guilty of giving himself the lion's share of screen time which feels a little self indulgent when there is so much other acting talent on hand. Oh and if his prosthetic moustache isn’t up for a ‘best supporting actor’ award it will also be a crime.

There is surprisingly little nastiness, violence, cussing or gore – so you can take your granny with you without fear. But a horrendous murder in a claustrophobic setting like a train should really be more unnerving and involving.

In the end, this is a murderous cinematic train-ride that manages to not be a complete train-wreck but never feels like it hits full steam.

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

öö1/2

(2.5 - Chuff chuff Zzzzzz)

Awesomeness ööö – Occasionally delivers quality.

Laughs öö – Limited unless you can't stop sniggering about that tache.

Horror öö – Very little for a murder tale.

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Revenge n stuff.

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