Thursday 20 April 2017

Book: The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

After a wait of around 7 years Matthew Reilly returns to the Jack West Jr. series and the adventurer finds himself in a whole lot of trouble from the get go.

West awakens with a shaven head and shoeless in a prison cell and is quickly attacked by a Minotaur! How’s that for an opening?

From there its all familiar Matthew Reilly territory as we are treated to a series of challenges (complete with descriptive maps and graphs) that West must complete in order to save the planet from impending destruction. There are hazards and lethal opponents galore but Jack finds an ally amongst all the dangers in the form of a character that fans of Matthew Reilly will be very familiar with. It’s a guest appearance that contributes greatly without ever stealing the show.

Reilly acknowledges the time gap since the last novel as the characters have all aged accordingly. Jack’s daughter Lily, a little girl in the previous books, is now 20 years of age. Thankfully Horus the Falcon, a hero in the first book of the series Seven Ancient Wonders, is still around even if not quite so heroic.

Fans of adventure stories and conspiracy theories will have a blast but I wouldn't recommend jumping in without having read the previous novels.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly is available now in Hardback and e-book.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.      

Friday 9 October 2015

Short Story: The Chosen by Trevor Schmidt

In the near future the world's population is drastically reduced by a mutated form of the AIDS virus. A billionaire claims to have found the cure but journalist Marty McDaniel doesn't quite believe it.

Trevor Schmidt, author of the fantastic Memory Leak, delivers a quick tale of a bleak future where all is not as it seems and Marty himself is immune to the virus, he is one of The Chosen.

At only 43 pages long this is all over pretty quickly but makes for fantastic lunchtime or commute reading.

Ric's Rating: Highly Recommended.  

Sunday 16 August 2015

Film: Pixels

Aliens are invading and this time they are in the form of classic 80s arcade games.

At this time of desperate need it's lucky that the US President (Kevin James) just happens to be best friends with 80s video game ace Brenner (Adam Sandler).

Brenner recruits his old friend "The Wonderkid" and even reaches out to old adversary Eddie "Fireblaster" (Peter Dinklage) when the soldiers provided fail to have the necessary gaming skill.

For anyone who grew up visiting arcades then this is an absolute treat. Seeing old favourites like Galaga, Centipede and Pac-Man marauding around the big screen is great fun.

Pixels has had lots of bad reviews but I suspect that those delivering them never experienced the sheer joy of achieving the high score on a proper arcade game in a real arcade. Too bad for them.

Ric's Rating: Highly Recommended

Monday 6 July 2015

Film: Charlie's Farm

Four friends head off on a road trip but when they mention their intended destination to the locals they are met with strong advice to turn around and go home. Do they listen? Of course not.

American Pie's Tara Reid heads the cast of this Australian slasher flick which also features former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones and Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder.

This is standard slasher movie fare but there are some nice touches of humour and performances from all involved that elevate it above the usual straight to DVD efforts.

Horror fans will also be pleased at Hodder's mask free turn and the fight between him and Charlie (Jones) is a highlight.

Available on DVD now.

Ric's Rating: Good.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Film: Greyhawk

Mal is a blind war veteran who meanders through life on a daily dose of alcohol, tobacco and the services of local sex workers. The only positive he has is his relationship with Quince, his guide dog.

When Mal’s army compensation comes through he decides that it’s time for a fresh start for him & Quince and he immediately makes plans to leave the dour Greyhawk estate where they live.

Unfortunately the pair are separated during a routine game of fetch and Mal finds himself alone and vulnerable, but determined to find his loyal companion.

After an excellent start this intriguing tale of one man and his dog becomes just another trawl through the type of tough council estate that we are all pretty used to seeing in urban thrillers nowadays. On his travels Mal encounters a variety of characters, some good and some downright nasty.

Alec Newman (A Lonely Place To Die) is excellent as the former soldier who refuses to give up on his only friend but the procession of surly tracksuit wearing street thugs does become slightly tedious. Some relief does come in the form of Zoe Telford as Paula, a long suffering Mother who does her best to help.

Greyhawk is available on DVD in the UK from 25th May 2015.

Ric’s Rating: Good 

Sunday 26 April 2015

Film: Avengers: Age Of Ultron

The Marvel movie juggernaut rolls on with the latest adventure for their team of superheroes.

Tony “Iron Man” Stark persuades Bruce “The Hulk” Banner to help him develop a new form of artificial intelligence but things go awry when the machine decides that it doesn't want to be constrained.

Ultron is born and he proceeds to take control of the planet’s computers causing all manner of mayhem. Supported by an army of robots he takes control of a city and threatens to wipe out the human race.

Cue many scenes of heroes vs robots and also some scenes where the good guys fight each other. The introduction of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver freshen things up but it’s Paul Bettany’s show stealing turn as the android avenger Vision that really livens things up.

Age Of Ultron is very entertaining and marvel fans will love it but the movie lacks the charm and wow factor of Avengers Assemble and doesn't quite match the epic action of Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Film: Fast & Furious 7

Following a slight dip in form with number 6 the Furious gang return in Paul Walker’s final film and they are up against Jason Statham who plays the brother of a previous adversary who is out for revenge.

The action kicks off from the start as we are treated to an excellent battle between Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s FBI Agent. From there the fists keep flying along with extravagant car chases and big gun battles culminating in a city wide trail of destruction.

If you are a fan of the series you will love this, it even manages to close the silly time loop that excluded the Tokyo Drift movie so Lucas Black gets an appearance, albeit a cameo.

Martial-arts star Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak) also appears and adds much to the already top-notch action. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker deliver their standard but always terrific turns and there is hardly time to take a breath until this instalment comes to a moving conclusion.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential 

Monday 20 April 2015

Film: Road To Paloma

Jason Momoa (Conan The Barbarian) makes his directorial debut in this off-beat road movie.

Momoa is Wolf, a native American on the run from the law after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his Mother.

Unfortunately we don’t see these events and the film concentrates on the relationship between Wolf and fellow traveller Cash as they embark on their journey. The casting of Momoa’s wife, eighties sex symbol Lisa Bonet, only seems to confirm this as somewhat self-indulgent as her character adds little to proceedings.

Watching this film I have learned that there may be nice scenery on The Road To Paloma but you’ll spend the entire journey waiting for something to happen.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.

Sunday 22 March 2015

TV DVD: Hostages

Dr. Yael Danon is about to perform routine surgery on the Prime Minister of Israel when her family are taken prisoner by a gang of masked men. The hostage takers have one demand; Yael must ensure that the Prime Minister does not survive the operation.

This Israeli series was recently shown on BBC tv here in the UK following a previously screened American version. Not having seen the US version I won’t make any comment or comparison.

In this version, as expected, the plan doesn't go smoothly.  Dr. Danon has a whole host of family issues to deal with during the most testing of circumstances and internal rivalry amongst the hostage takers threatens the whole mission.

This leads to various different scenarios which play out over the course of the 10 episodes. The bad guys are all slowly revealed as human, with their own problems, which adds depth to an otherwise simple storyline. 

The Israeli cast will be pretty much unknown to most viewers but there are some fine performances, none better than that of Ayelet Zurer in the leading role.

Hostages is another example of great foreign tv and easily rivals the recent successful Scandinavian dramas when it comes to cranking up the tension. However, the storyline may have been more suited to a 2 hour movie than a 10 part show as it does feel slightly drawn out.     

Available as a 3 disc DVD box set in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good. 

Saturday 21 March 2015

Film: Chappie

In the near future South Africa has robot police officers. The engineer behind them takes their development further when he manages to install full artificial intelligence into a damaged droid meant for destruction.

This has already been described as Robocop meets Short Circuit and I have to agree. We have the robot cops running around arresting and shooting the bad guys, complete with Peter Weller-esque voices and then we get Chappie, who enters the fray as a child in a robotic body.

Chappie is “born” surrounded by criminals determined to use him for their own ends but his maker Deon (Dev Patel) manages to give him a sense of right and wrong from the outset.

District 9 director Neil Blomkamp has again called upon the services of the star of that film Sharlto Copley, who does a fine Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong, Ceasar from the Apes movies) job as Chappie. Copley’s performance gives the robot a much needed human quality that the idea of artificial intelligence alone could not.

Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver also add their considerable presence as a rival engineer and head of the electronics corporation respectively. Jackman is excellent as the sneaky, sneering Vincent who has always been upset that his own design was not used for law enforcement.

Funny, exciting and sad, Chappie delivers everything you would expect but does stretch the imagination a little too far with its ideas about human consciousness towards the end.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.      

Sunday 15 March 2015

Film: Enemy

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) is Adam, a mildly depressed college lecturer who happens to spot that a little known actor looks just like him.

When Adam decides to get in touch with his lookalike it sets of a series of events that don't look likely to have a positive outcome for anyone involved.

Even though Gyllenhaal delivers a compelling performance this film moves at an incredibly slow pace and the interaction between his 2 characters is all a bit lacklustre until the last 15 minutes.

Unfortunately if you stick around that long you'll witness an incredibly silly ending.

Enemy is available on DVD and pay per view tv services now.

Ric's Rating: Poor.

Reviews News: Hostages

Following its recent screening on BBC 4 here in the UK this Israeli drama arrives on DVD on Monday 16th March 2015.

Described as far superior to the US version this has also been compared to the thrills provided by Homeland.

Noble PR have kindly provided a copy and as I haven't seen the Hollywood take on this I have no idea what to expect.

Check back soon for a full review.