Sunday, 27 November 2011

Film: Assassin: City Under Siege

A group of circus performers are infected by a toxic gas in this madcap martial arts movie from Hong Kong.

Sunny (Aaron Kwok) is the clown of the bunch and he becomes separated from the others. While he recovers from the effects of the gas, the gang have been using their new found strength and speed (which enhances their already considerable abilities) to terrorize the city.

Will the laughing stock be able to save the day?

This crazy high kicking film evokes memories of the fantastic Kung Fu Hustle. While it doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of that film it does entertain. There are many brilliant fight scenes where Sunny and his newfound allies (two “specialist” cops) face off against the ever-mutating bad guys.
The action is peppered with nice moments of humour too.

This is a must for fans of Hong Kong action movies.

Assassin: City Under Siege is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: 70%

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Film: An African Election

This documentary film follows the 2008 presidential election in Ghana.

In a continent where many dictators and warlords rule, Ghana prides itself on its democratic society.

As the film progresses we follow the vying parties and their candidates on the campaign trail.

Up to this point this is a reasonably interesting documentary but it showed nothing that couldn’t be covered by a news bulletin. Then, somewhat fortunately for director Jarreth Merz, it all kicks off when there is no clear winner.

Unlike places like the UK there can be no coalition and a second round of votes is required.
With one party accusing the other of manipulating results tensions spill out into the streets and war looks likely. Will diplomacy prevail?

Now this becomes an edge- of- your- seat thriller where anything can happen.

Credit is due to all involved who allow Merz access to their political beliefs, systems and even home lives. The star of the show is undoubtedly the charismatic former president of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings. Despite an ambiguous rise to power he is still much loved by a sizable chunk of the population and he uses his considerable political might to support his party’s new candidate, Atta Mills.

Don’t let the slow start put you off, this captivating documentary becomes a tense and emotional ride.

An African Election is in selected UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: 74%

Friday, 25 November 2011

Book: Ask The Dice by Ed Lynskey

Since the age of 18 Tommy Mack Zane has worked as a hitman for Mr Ogg. Now in his fifties and framed by his boss Zane turns to his old buddies D Noble and Esquire to help him clear his name and take down Ogg.

Ed Lynskey’s latest slice of noir evokes memories of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and feels like it should be set in the days of Al Capone and Elliot Ness. Infused with melodious jazz tones it transports the reader into a smoky world populated by shady characters but don’t be fooled, this is a modern-day tale.

Zane refuses to use a mobile (cell) phone but he does make the occasional foray into the world of emails and internet although his penchant for poetry makes him an unlikely Reaper.

Lynskey’s prose almost takes the violence out of this tale but there are murders aplenty as Zane frequently looks back on a life spent rubbing out those who have crossed his conniving paymaster.

Surprisingly the story comes across as rather poignant, the main character is very engaging and the explosive finale provides a final round knockout.

Ric’s Rating: 80%

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Short Story: Inside by Victoria Watson

While watching the demolition of a building, a young woman ponders past events which took place within.

This short story is similar to Victoria Watson’s previous tale Keeping Quiet but where that was an elderly lady looking back this is a much younger woman contemplating her past.

As events gradually unfold and we learn the building’s purpose various typical teenage events are remembered, like misguided sexual adventures, but when the final tragedy is revealed it puts all these things into perspective.

Emotional and thought provoking, this is another fine example of the power of the increasingly popular short story format which has seen a dramatic re-birth since the rise of the e-reader.

Ric’s Rating: 68%

Monday, 21 November 2011

Book: Holiday Of The Dead

Wild Wolf Publishing assembles some of the most exciting horror authors around to bring us this zombie anthology containing thirty eight tales featuring our favourite flesh eating foes.

The stories vary in length and content but all feature the basic premise of the dead returning to life with the inevitable catastrophic results.

Stand outs include:

Jennifer by Iain McKinnon in which the hero of the piece may not be what he seems.

Apocalypse Noo by Vallon Jackson which takes us on a scenic trip to Loch Tay in Scotland where the locals are anything but friendly. Vallon Jackson is a pseudonym for Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter thriller series.

Thanksgiving Feast by A.M Boyle which is a surreal tale of an old turkey farmer and a special knife.

Seahouses Slaughterhouse by Rod Glenn which sees the return of Han Whitman, the brilliant anti-hero from Rod’s Sinema novels, see reviews elsewhere here.

My recommendation for tackling this book would be to dip in and out of it reading just one or two stories per sitting. Reading it like a novel can ruin the effect as some of the tales tend to merge.

Check elsewhere here for info. on a recent multi-author Holiday Of The Dead event in Glasgow which I attended.

Ric’s Rating: 72%

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Short Film: Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw

When his hardworking flatmate goes on holiday a slacker must fend for himself but while out on a shopping trip he encounters a strange magician.

Granted three wishes and without the guidance of his sensible friend he makes selfish choices, with troublesome results.

Chris Regan's short film works well when it sticks to the basic idea of "be careful what you wish for" and he also gets good performances from the cast.

Unfortunately it all gets a bit silly when the wished for "friends" begin showing alien type characteristics and the aforementioned magician bursts into song.

All involved show bags of potential and you can find out more about Chris and his other projects at

Ric's Rating: 50%

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Film: Mother's Day

The Koffin brothers have just robbed a bank and during the escape the youngest of the trio was shot. The fugitives head to the family home home so that their Mother can tend his wounds.
Unbeknown to them their Mother has lost the house and they turn up all guns blazing during the new owner’s housewarming party.

So begins the best home invasion film since Panic Room. Rebecca DeMornay (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) puts in a scintillating performance as the feared Matriarch who goes about the business of violence and intimidation using an outwardly friendly manner which makes her all the more unnerving.

Another plus is the gradual revealing of secrets between the party-going friends. This creates great tension between them while they also attempt to survive the increasingly violent incident they are caught up in.

Saw II, III & IV director Darren Lynn Bousman has delivered a nail biting thriller that surprisingly flew pretty much under the radar.

Highly recommended.

Ric's Rating: 86%

Monday, 14 November 2011

Film: In Time

Singer turned actor Justin Timberlake takes the lead in this futuristic thriller in which humans have been genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. Unfortunately they only get to live for another year and the implanted countdown clock on their arms is a permanent reminder of how much time they have left.

In this society the currency is time with everyone having to bargain their days, minutes and hours on everything from phone calls to food. Timberlake’s character suddenly finds himself in possession of an abundance of time and sets about investigating the people who ration it.

This promised much but delivered little. When we reach the fourth or fifth time JT manages to save himself with seconds to spare it all becomes a bit boring. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) does finally manage to play a menacing character after his previous failed attempts in films like Red Eye and The Dark Knight but that isn’t enough to recommend this one.

Ric’s Rating: 47%

Blogfest: I Love The Noughties

Almost forgot about this blogfest. Visit for full details.

Here are some recommendations of films throughout the noughties.

2000 - O'Brother Where Art Thou. It's the hilarious jailbreak comedy that proves George Clooney can act.

2001 - Brotherhood Of The Wolf. My all time favourite, you can find the trailer elsewhere here.

2002 - The Count Of Monte Cristo. The classic gets a cool update.

2003 - Bad Santa - Billy Bob Thornton playing the type of Santa you wouldn't take your kid to see.

2004 - Hidalgo - Great underdog tale of a Mustang competing in a long distance race. Trailer is elsewhere here.

2005 - Ong Bak. Brilliant martial arts film.

2006 - Running Scared - Paul Walker tries to track down a missing gun in this cool thriller.

2007 - Mr Brooks. Kevin Costner in the unlikely role of serial killer. Brilliant.

2008 - Rambo - Sly Stallone proves he's still got it.

2009 - Avatar - It's Dances With Wolves all over again but an amazing spectacle.

A decade of cool films, try to check them out if you haven't already seen them.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Book: Jimmy by William Malmborg

As High School Prom approaches an entire community is perplexed by the disappearance of two teenage girls, but Jimmy knows where they are.

Jimmy Hawthorn appears to be a regular teenager with regular teenage problems and just as things are looking up for him he begins to wonder if acting out his kidnap and bondage fantasy was such a good idea after all.

All of the main characters in this book are teenagers making me wonder if they are the intended audience. If so it’s very risky as there are some graphic scenes of rape, torture and bondage.

That being said the author has managed to include these in a tale woven around a fascinatingly complex main character. Jimmy’s best friend is his brother Alan, the pair have a great relationship and Alan is happy when Jimmy finds a girlfriend. Unfortunately Alan has no idea that Jimmy already has two girls locked up in an abandoned underground shelter.

This can be compared to the recently reviewed film The Woman, but where that was awful due to the lack of a compelling story, this excels in that department. It’s a captivating journey through the mind of a young man who crosses the line and brings his darkest fantasies to life, with terrible consequences for all involved.

Ric’s Rating: 80%

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

TV Show: American Horror Story

The first episode of this horror tv show from the USA hit UK screens this week and I managed to catch it.

When psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) is caught having an affair he decides his family needs a fresh start. This comes in the form of a new house, it's a fantastic property at a knock down price but the house has a tainted past.

I almost switched this off at the end of the opening scene due to the appearance of my least favourite horror character, the scary kid. Hollywood listen up, the little girl in The Ring was scary but now every time I see a little kid running around killing people (especially if it's a girl with long black hair, which isn't the case here...yet) I burst out laughing.

Anyway, I continued watching and was pleasantly surprised. There is allsorts going on here. From deviant sexual practices to a seriously deranged teenager and creepy neighbours.

The performances too are pretty good, McDermott and Connie Britton are engaging as the couple trying to work things out but Jessica Lange steals the show as the unhinged neighbour Constance.

I will be tuning in again so hopefully it continues to surprise instead of going down the unintentional comedy route.

Ric's Rating: 70%

Short Story: I Should have Seen It Coming by Victoria Watson

An ordinary office worker loses her job and stumbles across an old pack of tarot cards in another short sharp dose of fiction from Victoria Watson.

Gradually she learns the tarot and becomes Jacqueline Stargazer, a sought after party guest, but when psychic night bookings begin she delivers some advice that has tragic consequences.

This is really all about how someone’s life can change after losing their job and its thought provoking stuff that remains entertaining throughout.

These Trestle Press short stories make ideal lunch break reading, it’s nice to be able to complete a tale in a short period of time and anyone lacking the discipline or attention span required for novels should give them a try.

Ric’s Rating: 67%

Short Story: Rowan's Folly by Darren Sant

The third instalment of the Longcroft series brings us a violent tale of lust and revenge as electrician Andy Rowan succumbs to temptation in the shapely form of thug Shane Cullen’s daughter, but her Dad isn’t Rowan’s biggest worry.

Meanwhile a pair of gormless burglars pick the wrong house to rob.

This is the longest of the short story series so far and it pays off bigtime. Darren Sant has introduced a fine blend of characters, many of which I suspect we haven’t heard the last of.

Each story leaves me hungry for more and I can’t wait to visit the Longcroft estate again.

Interestingly the author has invited submissions for the fourth instalment. Head over to for more information.

Ric’s Rating: 74%

Friday, 4 November 2011

DVD: Saint

Just released on DVD in the UK by Metrodome this Dutch horror comes across as a mash up of Halloween and Bad Santa.

In 1968 young Goert witnesses the slaughter of his entire family by a mysterious group led by the red robed, white bearded St Nicholas.

Fast forward 42 years and Goert is a police officer who attempts to warn his bosses of the coming atrocities. He has learned that St Nicholas strikes when there is a full Moon on December 5th.

Meanwhile a group of teens prepare to celebrate and unwittingly encounter the evil Santa and his helpers.

Not being familiar with the tradition of St Nicholas and Black Peter I struggled to comprehend what was going on (apart from the obvious killing spree) but there are enjoyable scenes in this movie. While dressed as St Nicholas the gormless Frank happens across the man himself and a brilliant fight / escape scene ensues where Frank, fuelled by panic, manages to fend off the ghouls.

It's all very silly but good fun in parts and works well as an alternative Christmas movie.

Ric's Rating: 63%

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Short Story: Keeping Quiet by Victoria Watson

An elderly lady contemplates the twists and turns of a life that has mostly passed her by in this moving short story from Victoria Watson.

From her childhood before the war to her current predicament she takes us on a melancholy journey. A domineering Mother put paid to most fun in her childhood and even as an adult she bows to her Mother’s will, although things begin to change when her own daughter arrives.

The short story format (currently championed on ebook by Trestle Press) is perfect for this sad tale. It contains everything required to paint a full picture of a life filled with regret.

Powerful and affecting, this is a perfect introduction to short stories for anyone hesitant to try.

Ric’s Rating: 78%

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Book Event: Holiday Of The Dead

Waterstone's in the heart of Glasgow was the venue for this multi-author event and in attendence were Rod Glenn, Tony Wright, Matt Hilton, Iain McKinnon, Iain Paton and John McCuaig.

Holiday Of The Dead is a collection of stories featuring the undead.

Here is the blurb:

The zombie apocalypse can really put a downer on your holiday... 38 holiday-themed zombie stories from new and established authors including Night of the Living Dead co-writer, John Russo, Tony Burgess, Shaun Jeffrey, Rod Glenn, Ian McKinnon, Matt Hilton, David Dunwoody, Wayne Simmons, Bowie V Ibarra, Joe McKinney, Remy Porter, A P Fuchs and Eric S Brown. Over 500 pages crammed full of flesh-eating horror and dark humour from the cream of UK, US and Canadian talent. Theme parks, serial killers, seaside resorts, Christmas, Thanksgiving and fishing trips. You'll scream, you'll laugh and you might even shed a tear... Holiday zombie horror has never been so entertaining.

Each author read from their contribution to the collection. It was a heady mix of destruction and carnage and as you might expect there were quite a few twists. Lets just say that the zombies aren't always the most dangerous characters in these tales.

After the event all authors spent time signing books and chatting to fans.

Heres me with Rod Glenn, author of the fantastic Sinema books (see reviews elsewhere here).

Matt Hilton, author of the cool Joe Hunter thriller series (you'll find a review of the very first one elsewhere here) also took time out for a chat. Matt goes by the pen name of Vallon Jackson in this book.

It was my very first book event and I'm sure it won't be the last. Check back soon for a full review of Holiday Of The Dead.