Saturday, 30 April 2011

Film: Insidious

Things start to go bump in the night (and during the day for that matter) in the Lambert family home. These events culminate with their son falling into an inexplicable coma.

Now that the Saw movie franchise is apparently over creators Leigh Whannell and James Wan had to come up with something new. Unfortunately if this is the best they can come up with they'll need to head back to the drawing board.

It all starts promisingly enough as Renai (Rose Byrne) begins to hear strange noises coming through the baby monitor and writer Whannell, who also stars, should have kept to a haunted house story.

Instead we soon veer off into Demon and possession territory and although there are some creepy moments the silliness just feels like unintentional comedy that shouldn't have a place in this type of film.

Hopefully Whannell and Wan will return to the serial-killer genre that they revived so spectacularly with the original Saw.

Ric's Rating: 42%

Friday, 29 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: Z

Z is for..............................Zombies.

Love them or loathe them, if you're a horror fan you can't escape them.

From Geroge A Romero's classics to 28 Days Later and Shaun Of The Dead they are a force to be reckoned with at the movies.

I have also recently read a couple of zombie novels by Craig DiLouie, the second of which, The Infection, is absolutely brilliant.

There will be more to come from these demented souls courtesy of Permuted Press so stick around, it's bound to be eventful to say the least.

Book: Winds Of Change by Jason Brannon

In this novella Jason Brannon brings us an apocalyptic vision that is simultaneously terrifying and intriguing.

Shortly after witnessing a falling star a group of strangers find themselves trapped in a hardware store. Stepping outside means instant death as everyone who ventures out disintegrates into a pillar of salt.

The group contemplate the reasons for the nightmarish scenario they find themselves in and as theories come and go personal differences emerge.

This moves at a relentless pace and demands that you keep reading so it’s all over pretty quickly. It feels like a refreshing slap in the face compared to some of the laborious horror novels I have endured.

Brannon is one to look out for, I will definitely be checking out more of his work.

Ric’s Rating: 82%

A - Z Challenge: Y

Y is for......................................Youngblood.

It's video classic time again.

Rob Lowe, Cynthia Gibb and Patrick Swayze star in this story of an ice hockey pro trying to make a name for himself.

I remember thoroughly enjoying this at the time but that was in 1986 so who knows how it'd hold up today.

A- Z Challenge: X

X is for.............................................American History X.

Edward Norton delivers a stunning performance in this powerful drama from 1998.

He plays Derek Vinyard, a young man who believes in White Power and who sympathizes with the Nazi cause.

While serving a prison sentence he sees the error of his ways and decides to help prevent his young brother (Edward Furlong) taking the wrong path.

This is a fantastic film with great performances all round. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Book: Lake Charles by Ed Lynskey

Brendan Fishback is facing a murder charge, so while out on bail awaiting trial, he decides to go on a fishing trip to Lake Charles. Accompanying him are Edna, his sister and Cobb, her husband and Brendan’s best friend.

Their little getaway soon becomes something a whole lot more when Edna vanishes leaving Brendan and Cobb to get to the bottom of it.

Ed Lynskey’s tale of kidnap, murder and drugs is set in the Smokey Mountains of the late 1970s and it quickly draws you into an atmospheric journey through dangerous countryside as the guys encounter some not so friendly locals who will shoot first and ask questions later.

The star of the show, Cobb’s Father Jerry, turns up to lend a hand and things take a strange turn when Brendan begins to dream of the dead girl he is accused of murdering.

This feels like a psychedelic Deliverance so fans of that movie and any similar tale will revel in this.

It’s an absorbing story and although I would have preferred some more action the characters involved make it a compelling tale of revenge and redemption.

Ric’s Rating: 73%

Lake Charles is available now on Kindle and the paperback will hit shelves on 28th June 2011.

A - Z Challenge: W

W is for.................................Willard.

This curious little film from 2003 stars everyone's favourite eccentric Crispin Glover as Willard, a man able to command a colony of rats to do his bidding.

When he is fired by his obnoxious boss, he turns to his "friends" to help in his quest for revenge.

This won't be to everyone's taste but I enjoyed it, it was pretty original and Glover is always worth watching.

A - Z Challenge: V

V is for............................Vin Diesel.

After some small roles Vin Diesel exploded onto the big screen as Riddick in the fantastic Pitch Black.

Then came box office hits The Fast & The Furious and XXX, these were followed by the under-rated revenge drama A Man Apart.

After a couple of flops Diesel has wisely returned to the Fast & Furious franchise, the latest of which, Fast & Furious 5 aka Fast Five is in cinemas now. Hopefully I'll be reviewing that soon.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Film: Thor

The blockbuster season starts with a "mighty" bang as Marvel Studios bring us their latest comic book adaptation, directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Thor is the all conquering God of Thunder who wields his imposing hammer with complete confidence that he can defeat any foe. This confidence borders on arrogance and an act of agression enrages Thor's Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) so much that he casts his Son out of the realm of Asguard to live as a mere mortal on Earth.

Of course Thor's troubles soon follow......

Chris Hemsworth is perfectly cast in the leading role, he looks as Thor should and puts in a charismatic performance. As well as Hopkins there is terrific support from Tom Hiddleston as Thor's brother Loki, Natalie Portman as Jane and Ray Stevenson as old ally Volstagg. Look carefully and you'll also spot Idris Elba as The Gatekeeper.

Anyone familiar with the comics will have an idea of how the story pans out but it's all done very well and it's laced with some nice "fish out of water" type humour.

It's a perfect way to kick off the Summer movie season and the best superhero film in a long time.

Ric's Rating: 90%

A - Z Challenge: U

U is for......................................Uma Thurman.

Ok so she might have had a couple of flop movies lately but who could forget her amazing performance as the assassin out to dispose of her former friends in the Kill Bill films.

Rumour has it Kill Bill vol.3 will be with us in 2014 and Uma is set to reprise her role as The Bride.

Bring it on !!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: T

T is for...........................................Thor.

This isn't the big blonde guy with the blockbuster movie.

This is the supershock novel of Dog v Werewolf !!

It's recently been made available on Kindle.

You can read my full review of this fantastic book elsewhere here, click the Wayne Smith label.

A - Z Challenge: S

S is for ..................................Surveillance.

Check out the trailer for this disturbing drama from Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David.

I won't give too much away but it involves corrupt cops, serial killers and features Michael Ironside alongside Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman.

Highly recommended but not for the squeamish.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: R

R is for.................................Rules Of Prey by John Sandford.

Never have a motive.

Never kill anyone you know.

Never carry a weapon after you've used it.

These are just some of the rules laid down by a serial killer known as Mad Dog in the first installment of the fantastic Prey series, all of which feature maverick cop Lucas Davenport.

I have been enjoying the company of Davenport, his colleagues and his family for approximately 20 years now and they continue to excite and captivate.

John Sandford has created one of the most loved and enduring crime novel series and each time I begin the latest installment it's like sitting down for a drink with an old friend.

I highly recommend beginning with Rules Of Prey, you'll be in it for the duration if you do.

Sandford now has a spin off series featuring another cop from these books, Virgil Flowers and next month sees the release of the 21st Prey novel, Buried Prey.

I for one can't wait.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: Q

Q is for...................................Q - The Winged Serpent.

This 1982 monster movie is pretty pathetic by today's standards but thinking of it takes me back to a lovely period of time when the highlight of my week was going to the local video shop with my Dad to hire some films.

This must have been one of the first creature features that I ever saw and the sight of the beast flying around New York amazed me at the time.

The cast included David Carradine, Michael Moriarty and Richard Roundtree.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: P

P is for………………………Prison Break.

Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) is on death row. He has been convicted of murder and his alleged victim was the President’s brother.

Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is convinced of Linc’s innocence so he devises a meticulous plan to help him escape the notorious Fox River prison. Stage one is to deliberately get himself convicted so that he can set his plan in motion from inside the prison walls.

Sounds more like a movie than a tv show but this brilliant drama lasted four seasons and featured some of the best tv performances of recent years. The pick of the bunch has to be Robert Knepper’s portrayal of the despicable “T-Bag” who unbelievably ends up as everyone’s favourite character.

It consistently delivered high tension, action packed episodes and is a must-see for fans of quality tv.

Monday, 18 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: O

O is for.....................................One False Move.

This character driven drama from 1991 stars an almost unrecognisable Billy Bob Thornton as a killer on the run with his two companions.

Awaiting their arrival in his sleepy little town is local cop Dale "Hurricane" Dixon, a fantastic Bill Paxton, but is he prepared for the mayhem they will bring?

This is a superior drama, it's a slow burner with terrific performances.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Preview: Winds Of Change by Jason Brannon

Permuted Press have sent me a copy of this for review.

Here is a brief synopsis, sounds pretty cool.

A shooting star marks the beginning nightmares for the small town of Crowley’s Point. Those who venture outdoors instantly transform into piles of salt. Is it the result of biological experimentation gone awry? A terrorist’s plot? Or is it the fulfillment of a horrific Biblical prophecy?

For more information visit and check back soon for a full review.

A - Z Challenge: N

N is for................................Near Dark.

This vampire film from 1987 was way ahead of it's time.

It's the age old story of a young man being bitten (infected) and refusing to kill so that he remains an outsider even within the brood.

Word is it's to be re-made so now is the time to catch the original.

It features strong performances from Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) and Lance Henriksen (Millennium) with a show stealing turn from Bill Paxton (Big Love).

Friday, 15 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: M

M is for.......................................Steve Mosby.

Mosby's books have had me captivated from the get go. His debut, The Third Person, was a sci-fi / crime hybrid that wasn't 100% to my taste but I knew that the style of writing was something special.

Since then he has evolved into one of the best crime writers around. His compelling serial killer story The 50/50 Killer is about to be made into a movie in France.

Also check out Cry For Help and Still Bleeding, my review of which (from Amazon UK) is below.

Steve Mosby takes us on a disturbing journey through the murky side of the internet and into the world of murder and suicide memorabilia. Alex Connor left his family and friends behind when a traumatic event changed his life. Upon hearing of another such event he returns and quickly gets caught up in some very sinister goings on. Giving away plot points would spoil the book but in this story we have murder, abuse, suicide, greed, voyeurism and a couple of twists that even a jaded reader like me didn't see coming. The torment of Alex and policeman Paul Kearney add an emotional side to a tale so despicable that it will not be to everyone's taste. Trust me, if your happy in the world of easy reading then Mosby is not for you. On the other hand, if you can handle the nasty side of things what you get is a fantastic piece of crime fiction written so profoundly that it puts many authors who churn out formulaic books year after year to shame. I stress that this is not for the faint of heart but I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone who enjoyed the likes of early Mo Hayder (Birdman, The Treatment) or fancies stepping out from the top ten bestsellers and into a darker world altogether.

Still Bleeding is currently the publisher's (Orion) book of the month and Mosby's new novel Black Flowers is available now.

Check for more info. on this brilliant author.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: L

L is for.............................................Lantana.

This Australian drama no doubt led to Anthony LaPaglia's starring role in Without A Trace. Here he plays a troubled cop investigating the case of a woman gone missing.

With excellent support from Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey this powerful film examines all types of loving relationships while asking the question, is love enough?

Unpredicatable and with powerhouse performances this is a welcome addition to any dvd collection.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Film: Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) plays a soldier who is placed inside the body of a terror attack victim for the last 8 minutes of his life using experimental "Source Code" technology.

This is a mash up of Groundhog Day, The Butterfly Effect, Memento and Avatar as poor old Jake must endure a man's final moments over and over again.

The first 30mins or so are pretty tiresome as I quickly bored of the same scene repeating, albeit with slight differences, each time.

The film starts properly when the true nature of Gyllenhaal's horrible predicament is revealed.

Can he stop the attack despite realising his own dreadful circumstances?

This is ok without ever being anything more but if you want a time bending thriller I'd recommend The Butterfly Effect instead.

Ric's Rating: 59%

DVD: The Warrior's Way

Following the Challenge post re: Kung Fu Hustle, here is a review of a similar film. Jang Dong-Gun plays an assassin who refuses to kill a child and becomes an enemy of his own clan in this martial arts / western hybrid. Finding peace in a small community Yang attempts to put his past behind him but there is a whole army of warrior assassins on his trail. Meanwhile he learns the tragic past of Lynne (Kate Bosworth) and when her old enemy (Danny Huston) turns up he must choose to stay living in peace or unsheath his sword. Any ideas what he'll do?? This is great fun, it's very like Kung Fu Hustle but without the OTT cartoonish moments. The visuals are striking and the fight scenes are tremendous. I feel I've lost out by missing it on the big screen. Highly recommended for action / martial arts fans. Ric's Rating: 80%

A - Z Challenge: K

K is for......................................Kung Fu Hustle.

In 2004 director & star Stephen Chow brought us this crazy martial arts adventure from Hong Kong.

Chow is Sing, a downtrodden wannabe gangster who finds himself caught up in a battle between the unusual residents of a little village and the imposing Axe gang. Which way will Sing go...and who will be revealed as the ultimate kung fu master?

I can only describe this as Big Trouble In Little China on acid, now theres a phrase you never thought you'd hear !

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: J

J is for........................................Jump Tomorrow.

This quirky British film follows a young Nigerian man and his French pal as they go on a road trip to reach the arranged marriage of the former.

The duo discover some of life's joys and have plenty of laughs on the way but will young George go through with the wedding?

The film's title comes from a piece of dialogue in which one of the friends is about to throw himself off a tall building. The other talks him down by saying that they have many things to do and see today, he could always jump tomorrow.

I think it's a great expression and the film isn't too bad either.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: I

I is for..................................Michael Ironside.

Michael Ironside’s performance as Ham Tyler in the original V introduced me to a new type of character, the anti-hero. Here was a good guy with a bad attitude, he didn’t suffer fools gladly and constantly ribbed the hero of the piece Donovan, labelling him “Gooder” because of his Do-gooding. He despatched the bad guys with ease and, on occasion, displayed a softer side, like the time he turned up as Santa Claus at a kids party.

One of the best tv characters of all time without a doubt.

Ironside went on to star in Top Gun, Total Recall and Highlander II but never achieved the status that he deserved. He now pops up in the odd film and appears infrequently in tv dramas.

Heres to the ultimate anti-hero, Michael Ironside.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: H

H is for.........................Hidalgo. This is a good old fashioned family film starring Viggo Mortensen from The Lord Of The Rings as Frank Hopkins who agrees to ride Hidalgo, his Mustang, in a 3000 mile race across the desert. Will the duo's bond be enough to help them survive, or even win? Check out the trailer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: G

G is for..........................Robert Goddard and here is my review of his new novel, Blood Count.

Dr. Edward Hammond, a liver specialist, performed a life saving transplant on one Dragan Gazi in 1996. Gazi went on to command forces who massacred civilians in the Balkans war.

Shortly afterwards Hammond’s estranged wife was murdered and when Gazi’s daughter comes calling she demands Hammond does her bidding or he will be implicated in the murder.

So begins Robert Goddard’s latest novel of intrigue as Hammond’s endeavours take him on a long and winding road through Europe encountering some complex characters along the way. This is the first time I have read one of Robert Goddard’s books and the quality of the writing jumps off the page but the endless just one step further to go type scenarios manage to make what should be a thrilling journey come across as more of a depressing road trip.

Hammond himself is a man of questionable virtue and everyone involved has a hidden agenda that makes it difficult to root for anyone, except maybe the Mother looking for her long lost Son.

All the twists and turns, some more obvious than others, eventually come to a reasonably satisfying conclusion but there is never the huge dramatic moment that the author intends.

This should satisfy Goddard fans, of whom there are many, but there isn’t enough here to attract newcomers.

Ric’s Rating: 56%

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: F

F is for.........................Free Jimmy.

I don't really need to add anything to this fantastic tagline:

"Four stoners, three gangsters, five vegans and a million reasons to free one junkie Elephant"

This madcap animated movie for adults features the voice talent of Woody Harrelson, Simon Pegg and Jim Broadbent.

Highly recommended if you fancy something a bit different.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: E

E is for...........................Every Dead Thing by John Connolly.

It's the first in the Charlie Parker series and the high standard has been maintained.


Tormented and racked with guilt over the brutal slaying of his wife and daughter, Charlie Parker, ex-cop with the NYPD, agrees to track down a missing girl. It is a search that will lead him into an abyss of evil. At the same time, he is warned by an old black woman in Louisiana that 'The Travelling Man' is about to strike again. Multiple strands converge with a horrific confrontation in which hunter and hunted are intimately connected by guilt.

A - Z Challenge: D

D is for.........................Dead Man's Shoes.

This fantastic British revenge film stars Paddy Considine as a man out to bring to justice the gang who constantly torment his disabled brother.

Dark, violent and intelligent this is a must-see for fans of revenge stories.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: C

C is for........................The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth.

The lovely people at Transworld Publishers have sent me a copy of this for review.

I've never read Forsyth but this sounds pretty cool.


The Cocaine industry is worth billions of dollars a year to the drug cartels who spread their evil seed across Western society. Its usage causes incalculable misery, poverty and death. Slowly, gradually, inexorably it is is a blight which must be stopped.One man, Paul Devereaux, intellectual, dedicated, utterly ruthless and ex-CIA special ops, is given what seems like an impossible task. At his disposal, anything he wants - men, resources, money. He will not stop until he has completed his mission.Up to now the drug trade has been used to world governments attempting to prevent them plying their trade. But up to now, those governments have played by the rules. That is about to change. The rules no longer apply... and a dirty war is about to get a whole lot dirtier...

Check back soon for a full review.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: B

B is for.........Bubba Ho-Tep.

This fantastic little known film from 2002 stars Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) as a very much alive (and in a nursing home) Elvis Presley who teams up with JFK (Ossie Davis) to battle an ancient Egyptian ghost.

Bizarre, bonkers and bloody brilliant.

Friday, 1 April 2011

A - Z Challenge: A

A is for…………Apocalypto. Mel Gibson’s stunning film about the attempted enslavement of a Mayan tribesman and his subsequent escape didn’t receive the recognition it deserved. Don’t let the subtitles put you off, the language used actually adds to the authentic atmosphere created. It was my favourite film of 2007 and has earned a place amongst my all time greats. Check it out as soon as you can, you won’t regret it.