DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Darkmatters Review: The Greatest Showman


The Greatest Showman (PG)

Dir. Michael Gracey

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“I can't just run off and join the circus.…can I?”

Roll up, roll up, The Greatest Showman - Phineas Taylor Barnum (portrayed with absolute gusto by Hugh ‘Logan’ Jackman) is here to astound you with his sights, sounds and general feel-good charisma!

This is very much an ‘inspired by’ rather than factual story of a fool how dreams big as young poor Barnum vows to be a make success so he can give his beloved Charity (Michelle Williams) the life she deserves. With nothing but a dream and a selection of very catchy songs in his heart it might be a tall order.

gangs all here...

But you don’t get the moniker ‘The Greatest Showman’ without being able to pull together an eye-popping circus which delights the masses, unnerves the rich and provides a home for those society has deemed freaks. The show is a hit but whilst bringing in the money, the bawdy low brow spectacle doesn’t bring the social status Barnum craves so he gambles big on the gorgeous ‘Swedish Nightingale’, opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca ‘The Girl on the Train’ Ferguson).

What you get is an uplifting, joyous, sing-along experience that effectively utilises the winning song writing talent from La La Land and adds plenty of razzle-dazzle razzmatazz. The musical numbers are actually glorious and whilst the plot does white wash a lot of Barnum’s dodginess – it serves to make this a family-friendly romp as oppose to a treatise on the oppression and exploitation of those born different to everybody else.

feel the chemistry

The troupe of ‘unique individuals’ are great, stand out stars being bearded lady (Keala Settle), little General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey) and the incredible trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) – who steals the heart of Zac Efron’s assistant Ringmaster.

Everyone goes about the show business like their lives depend on it, and the energy is infectious. Sure those most cold-hearted out there might scoff at the surface level plot which bounces along mostly as a structure for the films song and dance numbers to hang on. But if even those who would never darken the door of a musical theatre production will find plenty to enjoy as Jackman gives Barnum real heart.

beware the beautiful nightingale

"Do their smiles look fake?" he retorts when one snarky critic confronts him saying everything about his show is fake, and by the end of the film your smile won’t be fake either…


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

öööö

(4 - Sing-em-up that brings the good feels)

Awesomeness ööö  – Packed with great song n dance numbers

Laughs ööö  – Great fun if you can stomach the cheese

Horror öö – Some bigotry and hatred (isn't there always!?)

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Life is better with a song in your heart

Monday, December 25, 2017

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (12a)

Dir. Jake Kasden

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“It’s a video game, which means we all have three lives, but if we lose them and die in the game, we die for real…”

Back in 1995 the Robin Williams starring Jumanji, about a board game that came to life, grossed a quarter of a billion dollars. So, it’s not a massive surprise to see we’ve gotten a belated sequel – this time updated so that that Jumanji has become the ultimate interactive video game…

Players ready...

When four stereotypical high-school kids discover the Jumanji console they are immediately sucked into the game's jungle, literally becoming the avatars they chose: nerdy gamer Spencer becomes a brawny adventurer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson); football jock ‘Fridge’ loses - in his words - "the top two feet of his body" and becomes a zoologist named Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart); the hot popular girl Bethany becomes overweight middle-aged male Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black); and shy, gawky Martha becomes badass warrior Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

Director Jake ‘Bad Teacher’ Kasden at least seems to ‘get’ video games – I guess having Sony finance the flick might help too (there are some not so subtle PS4 game posters in Spencer’s bedroom such as the classic action adventure Uncharted etc). But you don't so much ‘play’ Jumanji as try to survive it…

Open up and say 'arghhhh'

There is much easy going fun to be had watching the kids trying out their avatar’s powers and coming to terms with getting eaten by hippos, pushed off mountains and shot by baddies only to return (at least the first time)… The body swap jokes about Bethany getting used to having male bits – e.g. peeing standing up and finding that it’s not a gun in her pocket when getting feels for someone are handled well too.

Gillan has fun playing up her having been given such a skimpy outfit “Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts in a jungle?” and making into a girl power statement by kicking lots of ass. Johnson and Hart have good banter chemistry and Jack Black has is just great acting up as spoilt pretty princess trapped in his body.

game time

The plot is predictable but the action-packed video game ‘levels’ are enjoyable bringing the required thrills and peril. The special effects deliver the suitable spectacle, especially when the unfriendly jungle critters get to cause serious mayhem.

For a funny, undemanding and mostly family-friendly romp, this is one video game adaptation that is worth seeing on the big screen.


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

ööö

(3 - Play to win...)

Awesomeness ööö  – Spectacular in places

Laughs ööö  – Some nice funnies

Horror öö – Peril and one seriously angry hippo!

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Team is the key 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Darkmatters Top Ten Films of 2017



Top 10 films 2017

This year has been an absolute cracker for cinema goers – with something for everyone… From high profile sequels, to masterfully created new experiences and a host of fresh ideas. Here are Matt Adcock's picks of the bunch:


10 Get Out

A hair-raising human horror. Possibly the most startlingly vibrant and shocking cinematic opus to racial divides to date, this manages to be darkly funny without skimping on delivering a pure terror rush.

In this age of Trump when the threat of white supremacist mindsets is suddenly a horribly relevant again, Get Out sneakily tears down racist ideals and has lots of fun in the process.



9 Moonlight

The story of young black guy’s quest to find himself and what it means to be a man growing up in a tough and unaccepting world. With a heartfelt depiction of the struggles of identity, masculinity and the conditioning of bigoted society – the acting is outstanding and the cinematography just stunning.

Moonlight is beautifully shot and engagingly paced with a cool soundtrack and is directed with a quiet grace that makes this essential viewing.


8 Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear is a wildly unconventional breakthrough film that feels bit like last year’s excellent Hunt For The Wilderpeople in that it mainlines joy directly delivering into your mind’s pleasure cortex.

First-time Director Dave McCary has created a contagious feel-good comedy that transcends the darkness of its plot with a lust for life narrative driven by an incredible performance by Mooney.


7 The Last Jedi

Director Rian Johnson who made the excellent alternative gangster thriller Brick and the time jumping Looper feels right at home building the mythos around the Force and the Jedi, crafting a take on the Star Wars universe which is unlike any that has gone before.

This a bold and brilliant addition to the intergalactic franchise which should be witnessed on the biggest screen you can find. There is life in the Force yet…


6 Thor: Ragnarok

 A new kind of superhero buddy movie and it’s a grin inducing riot of quality laugh out loud humour, crunching super smack downs and brilliant sci-fi, feel good heroics.

Director Taika Waititi takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe and gives it a endorphin boost. Not since Deadpool has a super hero film been such fun and Thor: Ragnarok manages to pack in jaw dropping action, laugh out loud gags (both visual and dialogue) and even keeps it all almost family friendly with a 12a certificate.


5 Baby Driver

Baby Driver is a true romance tale, violent, funny and very cool, imagine Drive mixed with La La Land – so buckle up for super charged (non CGI) car chases, bank heist action and criminal capers all wrapped around a sweet boy meets girl core.

Director Edgar ‘Hot Fuzz’ Wright makes all the right moves and delivers an exciting, full throttle modern classic.


4 La La Land

A cinematic piece of musical wonder and smouldering romance which will leave you dazed and amused in the best possible way…

The cinema equivalent of a sugar rush mixed with a roller coaster which delivers quite a high and yet might also put a tear (of joy) in your eye.

Here's to the fools everywhere who dream.


3 Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is everything that fans of the original could want in a sequel. Ryan Gosling is superb in the lead role and he’s ably backed up by the rest of the cast including Harrison Ford who delivers his best performance for many years.

Packed with retina burningly cool scenes and a stunning storyline that adds pathos to the events that follow on from thirty years before. This is incredible near future neo-noir stuff. Sci-fi on the cutting edge which makes you ponder life and meaning whilst engaging your cinematic pleasure receptors.


2 Logan

Logan is a poignant glimpse into what happens when heroic mutants are aged and jaded. With their powers waning and their world view tainted – these final X-remnants come across a young new mutant Laura, also known as ‘X23’ (a star-making turn from upcoming young Dafne Keen) who brings a world of trouble to their lives.

Not your average super-movie. With Jackman on top form, Logan is a fantastic conclusion to the Wolverine trilogy which makes every other X-Men movie look weak in comparison.


1 The Florida Project

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.

Brutal and bleak but also engaging and wonderful in equal measure, this is a film that will enrich your life and make you thankful for everything you have.


Runners up (you really should check these out too!):

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

A Ghost Story

Logan Lucky

Hacksaw Ridge

Dunkirk

Wonder Woman

Atomic Blonde

Spiderman: Homecoming

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

Kong: Skull Island

War for the Planet of the Apes

Free Fire

T2: Trainspotting

A Cure for Wellness

IT

The Lego Batman Movie

Lady Macbeth

Raw

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Darkmatters Review: The Last Jedi


The Last Jedi (12a)

Dir. Rian Johnson

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“We are the spark, that will light the fire that'll burn the First Order down…”

The cinematic galaxy far, far away is calling you once again. Young wannabe Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) is trying to convince the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to come out of self-imposed retirement. It’s a desperate time for what’s left of the Resistance led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher) who are being ruthlessly exterminated by the evil First Order under the command of Supreme Leader Snoke aided by the twisted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Can one old Jedi make the difference? Does Luke even care anymore? Can Rey resist the compulsive lure of the Dark Side of the Force? And will there be any redemption for Kylo after committing awful crimes? So many questions…

"space battles r us again - in fine style"

The Last Jedi picks up the story shortly after where The Force Awakens finished and sees Rey and Kylo take centre stage – they are somehow psychically linked and they tussle to try and get the other to join their side, plus we get to see them both kicking ass with lightsabers, although it’s certainly not a rerun of the last film’s duel.

Also instrumental in the plot is the long-serving fan favourite Millennium Falcon along with Chewbacca who makes some new cute Porg friends, hotshot - and hot-headed – X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) still isn’t good at taking orders and one time Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) still burns with vengeance against his former employers. Rolling droid BB8 is also back and manages to steal many scenes proving to be a real crowd pleaser and both Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill bring excellent gravitas to their roles.

"Rey of light? or on a darker path?"

Speaking of the baddies, the First Order, has bumbling ‘how does he even have a job?’ General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the shiny-suited enforcer Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) plus some new additions.

The good news is that The Last Jedi is jammed packed both with incredible cinematic spectacle and personal drama. This is a new sort of Star Wars that mixes some very funny comic lines with many powerful dark desperate situations.

"boom'

Director Rian Johnson who made the excellent alternative gangster thriller Brick and the time jumping Looper feels right at home building the mythos around the Force and the Jedi, crafting a take on the Star Wars universe which is unlike any that has gone before.

This a bold and brilliant addition to the intergalactic franchise which should be witnessed on the biggest screen you can find. There is life in the Force yet…

"light weapon clash"

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

öööö1/2

(4.5 - The Force is with The Last Jedi)

Awesomeness öööö  – Stunning scenes abound

Laughs ööö  – The funniest Star Wars yet

Horror öö – There is death and sacrifice plus menace

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - In space nobody can hear you emote

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Darkmatters Review: Brigsby Bear


Brigsby Bear (15)

Dir. Dave McCary

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Remember, curiosity is an unnatural emotion!”

Get ready to grin, have your heart broken and yet have your wellbeing boosted by the star of an old-school, lo-fi, educational children’s TV show which can only be accessed on VHS tapes… Yes, Brigsby Bear is here - an evil-battling, universe-saving hero who makes up with heart and bravery what his show lacks in special effects budget…

"love at first sight"

You see the Brigsby Bear show was created for an audience of just one person - James Pope (Kyle ‘Bad Neighbours 2’ Mooney) – I won’t spoil why this is the case but just be aware that his ‘parents’ Ted (Mark ‘The Last Jedi’ Hamill) and April (Jane ‘Twin Peaks’ Adams), aren’t all they seem.

With the TV show cancelled it falls to James make the film – a quest he embarks on with the help of his friends and family who include the all-around good guy Spencer (Jorge ‘Spiderman Homecoming’ Lendeborg Jr.), and wannabe actor Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear).

"The Force will be with you"

Brigsby Bear is a wildly unconventional breakthrough film that feels bit like last year’s excellent Hunt For The Wilderpeople in that it mainlines joy directly delivering into your central cinematic pleasure cortex.

First-time Director Dave McCary has created a contagious feel-good comedy that transcends the darkness of its plot with a lust for life narrative driven by an incredible performance by Mooney.

"Group selfie"

Kyle Mooney who is known for being a funny man on Saturday Night Live, is just exceptional in bringing a winning sweet, wide-eyed performance which could become a cinematic cult icon. James is an honest innocent whose belief that things can be ok if he just makes the Brigsby Bear movie is driven by an undeniable optimistic zeal. The filmmaking journey he goes on depicts how teamwork, faith in others and self-belief.

With near-perfect casting, great direction and an attention to detail that screams of this being a project made with passion, everything from the score through to the masses of unique Brigsby merchandise made as props adds to the enjoyment.


This is a rare treat of a film which sits happily alongside the output of Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze or maybe even David Lynch (if he went for a comedy)… Brigsby Bear is a modern day parable of how life needs reference points and meaning, which will make you think as much as it will make you smile – clue: a lot!!

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

öööö1/2

(4.5 - Life affirming oddballness is full of win...)

Awesomeness öööö  – Excellent and heartfelt entertainment

Laughs öööö  – Very funny, but dark too

Horror öö – Adult themes but nothing too grim

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Life has a way

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Darkmatters Review: Wonder


Wonder (PG)

Dir. Stephen Chbosky

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“When given the choice between being right or being kind choose kind!”

Anyone for a seasonal big budget Hollywood weep-em-up? Well here’s Wonder – the wannabe inspiring and heart-warming story of August Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay). Born with many medical complications he had undergone more than 20 operations and his face is disfigured to the point that he spends most of his time hiding behind a toy space helmet.

"pretend we're a normal family..."

When his parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) decide it’s time for him to stop being home schooled and go to his first ‘real’ school, Auggie faces his biggest challenge yet – trying to fit in with a group of judgemental fifth graders.

Will he battle through the inevitable bullying, misunderstanding and ignorance, make some friends and find his place in society? You don’t need to ‘wonder’ too hard as this is entirely predictable and horribly sentimental stuff.

"school can be cruel"

Tremblay does well in the lead role– he plays his difficult role with heart and spirit – a bright and funny kid he proves he can be a great friend to have if anyone could get past his looks.

Also suffering is Auggie's older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) who carries her own burden – that of being mostly ignored as her parents’ lives revolve around Auggie, like he is the sun, and the rest of the family are orbiting planets.

Other key players in Auggie’s life include his new School Principal Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), the token decent hearted kid Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the spoilt bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and the wannabe actress blonde girl Charlotte (Elle McKinnon).

"young love"

It’s very hard to take Julia Roberts seriously alas as she does her perfect smile thing throughout, Wilson too phones in his generic funny dad performance. More believable is the excellent Daveed Diggs who brings heart to his role of Aggie’s class teacher but something rings hollow here and as it all seems a little too predictable and schmaltzy. The only cool bits are the welcome surprise Star Wars imaginary friend moments...

If you’re looking for a slick family moral movie, then Wonder delivers a surface level hit of sporadically entertaining drama but as I overheard the two people who walked out of the screening I was in say “I don’t like being so obviously being told what to think”.

Wonder means well but never grabs the heart in the way that similar themed films like Gifted managed to.

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

öö

(2 - Makes you wonder why they bothered...)

Awesomeness öö – Slick but overly glib

Laughs öö – Some mildly amusing moments

Horror ö – A bit of bullying drama

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Smile though the world fears and judges you...

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