Friday 31 December 2010

Top Films Of 2010

1. Mine – Captivating from the very first minute, this heart wrenching documentary follows Hurricane Katrina survivors in their harrowing attempts to be re-united with their beloved dogs which they were forced to leave behind.

2. The Town – Ben Affleck’s tale of Charleston bank robbers would have been no.1 in any other year. It’s even better than Gone Baby Gone, cementing Affleck’s status as a top quality director.

3. Tony – Peter Ferdinando deserves nothing short of an Oscar nod for his amazing portrayal of a socially challenged loner who resorts to murder as a way of making friends. Outstanding.

4. The Expendables – Sylvester Stallone delivers the kind of film that action fans have been longing for as his crack team of mercenaries attempt to take down an oppressive regime.

5. Rare Exports – A movie from Finland about Santa? This dark take on the Santa legend is a welcome change to the usual Christmas movie drivel.

6. It’s Complicated – Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin excel in this excellent American Pie for the over 40’s brand of comedy.

7. Spiral – A geek with mental issues finds purpose when he begins a relationship with a work colleague. How long will the tranquillity last?

8. Hot Tub Time Machine – Four friends find themselves back in the 80’s after taking a dip in a magical hot tub. Far better than expected.

9. Rampage – Tense journey into the mind of a disillusioned young man with horrific results. Controversial director Uwe Boll is at the helm of this surprisingly well-acted and tense drama with an inspired ending.

10. The Fourth Kind – “Real” footage is mixed with the fictional account of this creepy story of alien abduction.

Notable mentions also go to The Losers, Machete and The Crazies.

All of the above (except Mine and The Fourth Kind) are reviewed elsewhere here.

Films included were not all necessarily released in 2010.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Book: Ashes by Matthew Crow

Nestling somewhere between TV shows Shameless and This Is England, Matthew Crow’s debut novel takes us into the heart of the Meadow Well estate, a grim inner-city jungle dominated by thugs, drunks and drug addicts.

Following his release from prison Jack vows to stay out of trouble but his long suffering Mum Shirley fears the worst and when two locals are involved in a fatal car accident her intuition is proved to be correct.

Also helping Jack stay on the right side of the law is his Probation Officer, a former Meadow Well resident who has proven that with work and ambition you can make it out.

The first half of the book is fantastic as we join a community of rogues and scallywags struggling to make ends meat, all told in a fluid style peppered with fine moments of gallows humour. Unfortunately the humour quickly fades as the mood changes, along with the story, to one of disgruntled youths on a path of destruction. The riots themselves become quickly repetitive as innocent bystanders fear for their lives and property while the only way the gangs can show outrage is by setting fire to buildings within their own estate.

A fine debut showing bags of potential from the 23 year old Matthew Crow and while this isn’t perfect it signals the arrival of a future main player in the genre.

Ric's Rating: 72%

Tuesday 28 December 2010

DVD: The Horde

When you watch a film like this French Zombie splatter-fest it's easy to see why European cinema often scoffs at Hollywood horror. This is wall to wall hardcore violence with little or no let up in the pace.

A team of cops enter a run down apartment block and find themselves forced to team up with the criminals they are there to arrest in order to make it out alive.

This is instantly enjoyable and features some fantastic Human v Zombie fight scenes but ultimately it has no likeable characters giving you nobody to root for.

Fast furious fun but no depth.

Ric's rating: 62%

Thursday 23 December 2010

Film: Skyline

A group of twenty-something friends awake from a night of partying to a blinding light from outside. When you look at the light you fall under it's spell and are soon on your way to a gruesome demise.
Yes, it's Alien invasion time again as the source of the light is revealed as either the creatures themselves or their Mother Ship.
This film plays kinda like a slasher movie as the cast are bumped off one by one with the Aliens taking the place of Jason/Freddie/Michael.
It starts off good fun and kicks up a gear when David Zayas (Dexter, The Expendables) appears but it's all downhill from there as it becomes rather silly with it's attempts to take a leaf out of District 9's book.
The cool effects and nifty Aliens can't make up for a shoddy story but if you switch off your brain it's just about passable.
Ric's Rating: 52%

Sunday 19 December 2010

Film: Cyrus

John C Reilly (Step Brothers) plays a divorcee struggling to come
to terms with life as a singleton when he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), the two quickly begin a relationship before Molly's 21 year old still-at-home Son (Jonah Hill) becomes a serious problem.

This starts off mildly amusing but quickly becomes a creepy Oedipus complex drama that is neither dramatic or funny.

The character of Cyrus is a loathsome man-child that no one in their right mind would tolerate for five minutes let alone attempt to work around while forming a new relationship.

I get that it's supposed to be funny and touches on a subject that is true to life in a lot of families but they should have went for all out comedy (which would have worked) instead of this weird mix that just doesn't work.

Ric's Rating: 37%

Friday 17 December 2010

DVD: Unthinkable

When Michael Sheen (Frost / Nixon) transforms himself from Stephen Arthur Younger to Yusuf Atta Mohamed in the chilling opening scene of this topical drama you are immediately absorbed into the world of terrorism and those trying to protect against it.
What follows is not the typical Hollywood, race against time to stop bombs exploding action film, it's a character driven ensemble drama that has fine perfomances from Sheen, Samuel L Jackson and The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss.
Jackson's character goes by the name of H and he is a specialist
interrogator known for getting results. The methods he uses to attempt to extract information make for very uncomfortable viewing, especially in such a mainstream Hollywood movie.
The script has you questioning your own beliefs as Mohamed's motives are revealed and Director Gregor Jordan has done an excellent job in creating an edgy hard hitting drama the likes of which is a rarity from the Hollywood movie factory. Hopefully others will follow suit.
Ric's Rating: 86%

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Music: Dolph Lundgren singing !!

I don't normally do this but this video is so good I couldn't resist. I mean where else can you see Ivan Drago, Freddie Kruger, The Hulk, Ricardo Tubbs, Norm from Cheers and Mahoney from Police Academy (to name but a few) sing a ballad.

Apparently it's a promo for a chatshow from Norway and some of the celebrities involved aren't too happy about it as they reckon they've been duped in some way.

I think they should lighten up as it's really funny........and kinda cool. If it doesn't brighten your day nothing will.

Check it out, you'll be surprised at who you see.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Ric Recommends: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Trailer for the fantastic Rare Exports. Full review in previous post.

Film: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

When young Pietari and his friend stumble upon an excavation site near their farming community in Finland, the boy immediately suspects that it's none other than Santa Claus himself that's being dug up.
This isn't the "Ho Ho Ho" Santa that we all know and love, the Santa in this fantastic horror/thriller from Finland is the undiluted original, the one who tears naughty children to pieces.
Very rarely does a Christmas film aimed at adults come along and this is an absolute delight. Onni Tommila puts in a fine performance as the young boy who knows whats really going on and Jorma Tommila (no idea if they're related) as his Father manages to show vulnerability beneath the surface of a world weary, hard working man.
The entire cast are top notch and special mention also goes to Peeter Jakobi as the creepy Santa.
I'm glad this film got a cinema release here in the UK but wherever you are and on whatever format it is available this is a must-see movie for anyone wanting something a bit different this festive season.
Ric's Rating: 91%

Friday 3 December 2010

Magazine: DVD & Blu-ray Review

The latest edition of DVD & Blu-ray Review magazine is in the UK shops now.
In it you'll find my brief reviews of:
Release - A convicted priest tries to keep his affair with one of the guards hidden in this UK drama.
Running In Traffic - Scottish tale of love, loss and inner city crime.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Film: Machete

This was originally just a spoof trailer that played with the Grindhouse films but Robert Rodriguez liked the idea so much that he decided to actually make the movie.
The result is a glorious homage to the type of straight to video action film that I grew up on.
Machete (Danny Trejo) is an ex-federale working as a labourer in Texas. When he is hired by a slimy political aide (a show stealing Jeff Fahey) to assassinate local bigwig McLaughlin (a wonderfully hammy Robert DeNiro) he becomes a target as the whole thing was a set up. The man behind it all is Machete's old enemy Torrez (Steven Seagal) and our hero must evade cops, criminals and hitmen to clear his name and get revenge.
Rodriguez has managed to make this work. I didn't see the Grindhouse films but they didn't do too well, this deserves to do better. It's a deliciously over the top violent escapade, the likes of which we haven't seen much of recently (although The Expendables springs to mind). Even the cheesy 70's style effects work as they add some humour to the gore. Also the fact that no woman can resist Machete evokes memories of films starring the likes of Wings Hauser and Mark Gregory.
All the cast seem to be having a good time and that comes through on screen and it was especially cool to see action warhorses Trejo and Seagal tear up the screen in the finale which also contains some nice comedy moments.
Highly recommended to anyone who likes a good old fashioned action film and can appreciate the style in which it was made.
Ric's Rating: 82%

Sunday 28 November 2010

Ric Recommends:The King of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters

A documentary movie about two guys competing for the world record on an 80's video game just shouldn't be this good but you will be captivated as Steve Wiebe challenges 20 year record holder Billy Mitchell and begins an intense rivalry that continues to this day.

The game in question is Donkey Kong, one of the most difficult games to master from the golden era of the arcades.

Any child of the 1980's (especially any that spent time in arcades playing the likes of Space Invaders and Galaga) will love it but it comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a real life drama, albeit one that features some very eccentric individuals.

Check it out:

Thursday 18 November 2010

Preview: Ashes by Matthew Crow

Legend Press have provided me with a copy of Ashes by Matthew Crow for review.
It sounds like it'll be up my street:
A lawless land of violence and deprivation, The Meadow Well Estate is a no-go area for police and non-residents alike and a hotbed of ritual violence. No-one dares enter of their own accord, and few make it out alive. But Jack was one of the good ones. Recently released from prison, he is determined to turn his life completely around: by getting out.
When, however, rumours spark of the police's involvement in the death of two young joy riders,the anxieties of the estate flare into a week-long riot, causing burnt out wrecks at every turn and capturing the attention of the local and national media. Can Jack resist the call of the indiscriminate fury, or will the desperation of Meadow Well claim him once more?
Check back soon for a full review but in the meantime check the Legend Press website for more info.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Film: Saw 3D

The Saw series comes to an end (supposedly) in this, the 7th installment.

First things first, they should have called the film Saw 7 even if they did insist on the pointless 3D which adds nothing, the novelty value is minimal as the 3D it'self is pretty poor.

Cary Elwes makes a welcome return as Dr Gordon from the fantastic first movie but his presence just made me wish for a much better film than the one we have here.

It follows Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as he continues his now distorted mission to fulfill Jigsaw's legacy.

There is enough on show to keep fans reasonably happy. Tobin Bell makes his customary appearances via flashback and there are plenty of gory and inventive traps, including one in a very public place.

On the whole though this installment sees the series go out in a rather predictable whimper not the unexpected bang I was hoping for.

Ric's Rating: 55%

Wednesday 10 November 2010

TV Show: The Walking Dead

The hook here is that this is a tv series based around the typical horror film premise of a handful of survivors battling against huge numbers of shuffling zombies.

Sceptical? Me too but I was sufficiently impressed to make a point of catching episode 2.

There was nothing new here (is there ever?) and most of the pilot episode felt like the opening scenes of 28 Days Later with Andrew Lincoln replacing Cillian Murphy as the man who wakes up in hospital to an entirely new world.

Lincoln himself is pretty impressive and his American accent is spot-on. The rest of the cast (including Prison Break's Sarah Wayne Callies) didn't have much to do but are sure to feature more as Lincoln's character searches for his family while fighting off the brain-munching masses.

The effects here are as good as and even better than some zombie movies but with Frank "The Shawshank Redemption" Darabont on board I expected a bit more. Hopefully it'll pick up.

Ric's Rating: 58%

Book: Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Twelve year old Steven Lamb has grown up in the shadow of his Uncle Billy
who was murdered at age 11 by notorious child killer Arnold Avery.

Billy's body was never found so Steven concludes that if he manages to bring Billy home his depressing and tense family will be happy again so he decides to ask for Arnold Avery's help.

Bauer breathes fresh air into the crime genre with this remarkable tale. Steven's relationship with his family and his adolescent perspective take you on a dark journey that you cannot predict.

This fine novel has excellent characters interacting in a very atmospheric setting and makes for a stunning debut.

I can't wait to see what Belinda Bauer does next, it's easy to see why this book won the CWA Gold Dagger, fantastic.

Ric's Rating: 93%

Saturday 6 November 2010

Ric Recommends: District 13

This French action film stars Cyril Rafaelli (Die Hard 4) and David Belle as cop and criminal who team up to track down a nuclear bomb. Featuring some amazing free running and action scenes this film has been imitated many times, notably by Casino Royale's opening scene but nothing comes close. The theme is pretty close to the John Carpenter classic Escape From New York but that kind of imitation I can live with.

Highly recommended for action fans.

Friday 29 October 2010

Book: The Way Home by George Pelecanos

Chris Flynn has always chosen his own path so despite a good family life he ends up in juvenile detention.

Much of the book takes place in Pine Ridge, the detention centre where Chris meets friends and enemies, all from different backgrounds.

Upon his release his father Thomas employs him and his friend Ben in his flooring business but the duo face a moral dilemma when they find a bag of cash....

There is a real depth to the characters here, Chris and his fellow reformed delinquents all have a real feeling to them but it's the relationship between Father & Son that's the axis of the story.

The pace slows terribly in the middle of the book but the heat gets turned up when the bad guys appear leading to the emergence of an unlikely hero in the fantastic finale.

It's easy to see why so much praise is heaped on Pelecanos because the quality of the writing is at the top end of the crime fiction genre and although I did find myself losing interest about half way through, the whole feel of the book compelled me to continue and I'm very glad I did.

Ric's Rating: 73%

Sunday 24 October 2010

Preview: Memory Leak by Trevor Schmidt

Trevor Schmidt has been kind (and brave) enough to send me a copy of his novel Memory Leak which is due for release early 2011.

Check back soon for a full review but in the meantime here is the synopsis:

Every night, Jonathan Hart dreams of a cracked wasteland in the setting sun. By morning the image retreats to his subconscious mind. Again, he finds himself in a city of symmetrical people, where he is anonymous in his perfection. A voice in his head tells him there is more to life than following the will of his supreme leader, Liam Mail, and that there is more to his own life than he can remember. That there are things he can’t remember about the city of symmetricals that could tear down the fabric of his world. Now, Jonathan must fight against the forces that suppress his memories before his mind is damaged beyond repair. Can Jonathan expose the twisted truth about the symmetrical elite, and in doing so restore society to its flawed asymmetrical origins? Or will his efforts explode and create a MEMORY LEAK?

Saturday 23 October 2010

Ric Recommends: Made

Prior to this film Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau had enjoyed success in Swingers but this time out Favreau takes the helm and the result is this fantastic crime caper comedy.

Ricky (Vaughn) and Bobby (Favreau) are struggling to make ends meat when they get an offer of work from local mobster Max (Peter Falk). The duo head to New York and trouble ensues.

Constant quickfire dialogue that contains so many gags make this one worthy of multiple viewings.

All the cast are on top form with the two leads well supported by Famke Janssen, Sean Coombs and David O'Hara who manages to play a Scotsman (from my own city of Glasgow) that thankfully isn't portrayed as a kilt wearing idiot.

Check out the trailer.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Book: Thor by Wayne Smith

Forget the Norse God of Thunder with the upcoming blockbuster movie, this is……

The supershock novel of Dog versus …….Werewolf !

This book is much more than the above tagline suggests. It’s more of a study of the relationship between Dog and Man than a horror, told entirely from the Dog’s perspective.

Some years ago I saw a so – so horror film called Bad Moon and I was so intrigued by the concept of a family Dog protecting his “pack” from a supernatural Beast that I made a point of seeking out the book it was based on, it is quite rare. I wasn’t disappointed.

Thor is a German Shepherd, a natural guard dog, but he is usually a gentle giant who takes great pleasure from the love and fun that his family provide.

However, when Uncle Ted comes to stay all of Thor’s natural instincts tell him that something is amiss and he must use all of his guile to protect the family from the threat that only he knows is coming.

Thor is a fantastic leading character, a true Hero who acts through love, loyalty and devotion, even in the most trying of circumstances.

Being a dog owner myself I recognise many of the characteristics displayed and Wayne Smith explains these and the Dog’s thought processes in a charming eloquent way that will appeal to anyone who has ever owned or had a close relationship with Man’s Best Friend.

The human characters are great too. The parents who struggle to rationalize their beloved dog’s behaviour. The kids, especially Brett, who is the only one that realises what is going on are excellent too and we have the conflicted Uncle Ted who is well aware of what he has become.

This is riveting stuff and if only it had one or two more action scenes it might have achieved a perfect score but that’s a trifling complaint because this is a remarkable and moving book that will live long in the memory of anyone lucky enough to read it.

Unfortunately Wayne Smith seems to have dropped off the radar, a pity.
Ric's Rating: 95%

Monday 18 October 2010

Preview: CassaStar by Alex J Cavanaugh

Congratulations to my Blogging friend Alex J Cavanaugh as his book CassaStar is launched on Tuesday 19th October.

It promises to be a wild ride for sci-fi fans. You can visit Alex's blog via the link in "Visit These Places", in the meantime here are the details and cool trailer for CassaStar.


To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Saturday 16 October 2010

Ric Recommends: The Bear

For my latest recommendation we go all the way back to 1988 for this amazing adventure story.

Don't be fooled into thinking it's for kids (although some might like it), this is a unique movie about an orphan Bear cub's struggle for survival.

Told entirely from the young Bear's perspective it mixes high drama and wonderful footage with cute moments all wrapped up in what is ultimately a tale of redemption.

The quality of the trailer isn't great but the film is available everywhere in it's full glory on DVD. Check it out.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Book: Buried Alive by J.A Kerley

The latest in Jack (J.A) Kerley's Carson Ryder series is another cracker.

Carson heads off, with his dog Mr Mix-Up, to a cabin in the mountains for a well deserved holiday and finds himself drawn into a murder investigation. The victims have been horribly tortured and Carson has to use his expertise to help the locals as the FBI threaten to take over.

This installment marks a welcome return for Carson's criminal genius brother Jeremy who has been living in the sanctuary of the mountains, he adds his unique perspective to the mix.

This series boasts a fine array of recurring and guest characters, many of which (especially Jeremy and Sandhill) could have their own spin off books. The cast here includes a cool Forest Ranger, a pro fighter, a cute local cop and a sneering FBI Agent, all of whom add great depth and colour to the story.

I highly recommend the entire series, starting with The Hundredth Man, but this is great on it's own too.

Ric's Rating: 85%

Saturday 9 October 2010

Ric Recommends: Exit Wounds

To celebrate the return of the Steven Seagal: Lawman tv show (see review elsewhere here) this week's recommendation is a film regarded as Seagal's last decent movie.

It involves Seagal investigating police corruption and also stars DMX, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Isaiah Washington, Jill Hennessey and Michael Jai White. There are nice comedy moments with Seagal and Arnold and the action scenes are pretty good too.

As for Seagal escaping the direct -to-dvd market, one can always hope. He does have a part in Machete so you never know......

In the meantime, check out Exit Wounds, it's a decent cop action thriller.

Book: I, Alex Cross by James Patterson

Alex Cross is back and this time he's investigating the grisly murder of his estranged Niece.

Cross discovers that she was working as a high class call girl and her last appointment was with a man known only as Zeus. Being a whodunnit of sorts we miss out on Zeus' thoughts and motives as the book concentrates on the investigation and on the seriously ill Nana Mama (Cross' Grandmother who has raised him and his own kids too).

The strength of this series is the pace, helped quickfire short chapters, it moves along briskly as Cross uncovers layer after layer of cover ups leading to very powerful figures.

As good as it is I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for the series (go to Kiss The Girls for that) but there is plenty on offer to keep fans happy.

Ric's Rating: 72%

Sunday 3 October 2010

Film: Takers

Another Bank robbers movie, this time it's all about the action.

Idris Elba (The Losers) and Paul Walker (The Fast & The Furious) lead a cocky team of robbers who always leave a full year between jobs. When a former team member is released from prison he persuades them to take on a $30million job, problem is it's in 5 days time.

Matt Dillon (Crash) and Jay Hernandez (Hostel) are the cops trying to track them down.

It's a well above average ensemble piece as all the main players have their own issues to deal with and there are some nice fight, chase (free running style) and shoot out scenes. Although the dramatic music and slow-mo can be a bit irritating at times.

Not up to the high standard of Ben Affleck's The Town but an enjoyable ride nonetheless.

Ric's Rating: 77%

Saturday 2 October 2010

Ric Recommends: Tony

More commonly known as Tony: London Serial Killer this is one of the best British films of recent years.

Peter Ferdinando gives an award-worthy performance as the unassuming loner with a dark secret.

It's very well written with nice slices of everyday life thrown in and you never know what is going to set Tony off next.

I gave this a full review a while back so click the serial killer label for that. In the meantime check out the trailer.

Friday 1 October 2010

Magazine: DVD & Blu-ray Review

The latest edition of DVD& Blu-ray Review is in UK shops now.

Pick it up to read my reviews of French hostage drama RAPT, British horror yarn SPLINTERED, tense cop thriller CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE and coming of age tale LYMELIFE.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Book: Rogue Nation

In the near future Scotland is about to declare independence and the ramifications could be disasterous.

With the Scottish economy about to rapidly decline and a lack of military and natural resources an unlikely ally emerges in the form of Russia. Unlimited credit, resources and defence are offered in exchange for a Russian military base in Scotland and the USA isn't about to let that happen.

This is the first political thriller I have read and on this showing it won't be the last. Alan Clements has created a dynamite work of fiction that's all uncomfortably close to the political climate today.

The main character is George Wallace, special advisor to the First Minister. George wrestles with his loyalties as his country attempts to secure it's future, but at what price.

All the countries involved are represented by fine characters. From American President MacFarlane to Russian Col. Karimov and English Prime Minister Jones. Each has a vital part in the greatest political show on Earth.

So fast paced it should appeal to any thriller fan with the slightest interest in Scotland, which being my own country made it all the more enjoyable for me as I absorbed the wonderful descriptions of Edinburgh and my own city, Glasgow.

Ric's Rating: 88%

Sunday 26 September 2010

Film: The Town

Following the impressive Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck brings us this tale of Boston bank robbers.

Affleck's crew plan meticulously ensuring that everything goes without a hitch but on their latest job they take the assistant bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage.

What follows is a top quality drama following the lives of the robbers and the FBI Agent (Jon Hamm) attempting to track them down.

Affleck creates a perfectly paced atmospheric piece that exceeds expectations as all involved give excellent performances thanks in no small part to a fantastic script.

Affleck himself turns in a perfectly balanced performance as Doug MacRay, a failed Ice Hockey pro with a troubled childhood who just wants one last score.

I won't give away any more plot details but I will say that this is up there with Mystic River and even evokes memories of The Shawshank Redemption, I just hope it gets the appropriate recognition come Oscar time.

One of the best dramas of recent years, it's flawless, has everything and is not to be missed.

Ric's Rating: 97%

Saturday 25 September 2010

Ric Recommends: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

This film was so unfairly treated on it's release, it fell into being thought of as a cartoon that wasn't for kids and because of that it had poor box office.

It was, in fact, a fantastic sci-fi adventure way ahead of it's time. Just think how amazing it would look using today's 3D technology. In saying that, it still looks pretty fantastic.

Don't let the Final Fantasy name put you off either, it has nothing to do with the video games, it's an original story and features the voices of Alec Baldwin and James Woods among others.

Check out this cool trailer.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Blogfest: Top Ten TV footnote

If you read my Top Ten Tv list you'll notice I did say that there could be glaring omissions.

Well, I found my original notes and guess what? There were.

So, deserving some praise beacuse of their omission are:

Salem's Lot - How could I have forgotten the vampire mini-series that lived long in my memory after first seeing it (inappropriately) as a kid. My Brother used to terrorize me by saying "The Floater" was at our bedroom window ! Of course it all looks a bit cheesy and dated today, but at the time it was bloody brilliant and it still wipes the floor with the likes of True Blood.

Carnivale - Fantastic HBO series about the battle between good and evil set in a 1930's travelling carnival. Authentic settings and powerhouse tv acting, especially from Clancy Brown as Brother Justin. This was cancelled after 2 seasons and although it did provide some sort of closure there could have been so much more.

DVD: Repo Men

In the future any organ in your body can be replaced, by a manufactured one, for a hefty price. The Union is the company that you go to but if you can't keep up the payments they will send their Repo Men to reclaim their property.

Whitaker and Law are the best in the business, they live by the motto "A job's a job" leaving emotion out of it when they know that after the organ is extracted it means death for the unfortunate late-paying customers.

When one of their own defaults on payments for his artificial heart they must decide where their loyalties truly lie.

Jude Law in his best role since Closer makes a case for a call from Sly Stallone for The Expendables sequel by giving a very credible action performance. Whitaker too is believable and Liev Schreiber is fine as the slimy organ sales manager.

It dips into cheesy sentimentality at times with an unlikely and very quick relationship forming but it's fast paced with plenty of decent action scenes and a top quality cast.

You could do worse on a Friday night with the beers in.

Ric's Rating: 76%

Wednesday 22 September 2010

DVD: 13:Game Of Death

How far would you go to be rich beyond your dreams?

Well in this fantastic Thai film we find out just how far Chit (the excellent Krissada Sukosol) will go.

Chit has mounting debts and loses his job only to recieve an unusual offer by telephone of a chance to make millions. All he has to do is succeed in 13 increasingly dangerous and gruesome challenges that touch on events from his past. They include eating some revolting stuff for dinner and fighting his way off a moving bus.

The film is energetic and fast paced, it's also peppered with black humour that works surprisingly well.

It was known as 13 Beloved in it's native country and a sequel 14 Beyond has already been made. I can't wait.

Highly recommended for fans of stomach churners laced with inappropriate comedy moments.

Ric's Rating: 84%

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Film: Devil

M. Night Shyamalan (the Sixth Sense, Lady In The Water) wisely leaves directorial duties to someone else in this first installment of "The Night Chronicles".

Five people trapped in a lift (elevator) and one of them is The Devil in human form. Simple premise and pretty easy to guess who The Devil is too but this isn't half as bad as Night's other recent films, Lady In The Water and The Happening, both of which were awful.

The five strangers all have sinister secrets which are gradually revealed, The Devil hasn't chosen his victims at random. Watching the action on cctv is Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) and he too is there for a reason.

It all comes together nicely without ever cranking up the frights or tension, it's a film more suited to tv than cinema but hopefully it signals the beginning of a return to form for Shyamalan who really seemed to have lost his way.

Ric's Rating: 54%

Sunday 19 September 2010

Blogfest: Top 10 TV Shows

Here is my post for Alex J Cavanaugh's top 10 tv blogfest.
I seem to have misplaced the little list I had jotted down for this so there are bound to be glaring omissions but it's a testament to current US drama that the majority of shows here are fairly recent or current. Remember to check Alex's own list and Dezmond's at Hollywood Spy via the links listed in Visit These Places.

1. PRISON BREAK - Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) decides that the only way to get his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) out of Death Row is to become a prisoner himself and use his engineering skills to escape Fox River prison, which he helped design.

A premise more suited to a movie you might think but this fantastic drama lasted 4 seasons (series to us in the UK) and had me rooting for an amazing cast of characters as they attempt to make their escape and clear their names. Special mention must go to Robert Knepper who managed to make the despicable Theodore "T Bag" Bagwell everyone's favourite character.

2. NYPD BLUE - David Caruso made a big mistake leaving this show after a year but if he hadn't I suspect it wouldn't have become the show it did thanks to Dennis Franz's Andy Sipowicz. In a multi-award winning performance Franz takes the alcoholic cop and makes him one of the most loved tv characters in history. Jimmy Smits played Bobby Simone for 5 years and he was Andy's favourite partner, he even returned for a couple of cameo appearances towards the end of the final series.

3. V - Forget the current re-make, the original show is by far the best and despite the dated look it still stands up today. Marc Singer and Michael Ironside head the resistance against the alien invasion.

4. Dexter - He's a serial killer but you'll love him. Michael C Hall plays the blood spatter specialist with the dark secret that he struggles to maintain while leading an ordinary life. Series 5 starts soon and I can't wait.

5. Dream On - Recently divorced Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) re-enters the dating game. Martin's thoughts are illustrated by cuts of old black & white movies that he grew up watching and it works surprisingly well. A fantastic comedy for grown ups, it lasted 6 seasons in the 90's.

6. Sons of Anarchy - This hard hitting drama follows the Sons Of Anarchy motorcycle club (biker gang) and has just started a 3rd series on US tv. Starring Britain's own Charlie Hunnam and Tommy Flanagan it's a refreshing change from cop based drama.

7. Only Fools And Horses - The only British show to make my top ten is one of the best loved comedies in UK tv history and it's easy to see why. London market traders try to make it big with hilarious results.

8. Monkey - This madcap Japanese show might not stand up today but I remember it so fondly it deserves a place. Join Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy as they help Tripitaka on his Holy quest. It got me hooked on martial-arts movies and some of the fight scenes were great.

9. Californication - Clearly inspred by Dream On this show follows the misadventures of struggling writer Hank Moody (David Duchovny) who just wants to get back with his Ex.

10. Life - Undeservedly cancelled after 2 series this cop drama starred Damien Lewis as Charlie Crews who upon his release from prison for a wrongful conviction returns to his job as a detective and attempts to find the people who framed him.

All of these shows are available on DVD and are highly recommended.

Ric Recommends: Brotherhood Of The Wolf

In a new blog feature I will post trailers for films and tv that I highly recommend.

Starting at the top here is my all time favourite film, the fantastic Brotherhood Of The Wolf.

It's a truly unique French action horror that doesn't easily fit any genre.

I urge you to see it.

Saturday 18 September 2010

DVD: Trick r Treat

As we fast approach October this little gem of a Halloween movie from 2007 is worth seeking out before the event itself.

It tells four interlinking stories all featuring the mysterious little character of Sam (see poster) who doesn't really do much until he decides to torment the mean Mr.Kregg (Brian Cox).

There is also a serial killing schoolteacher (Dylan Baker), a virgin (Anna Paquin) looking for the perfect guy, an argumentative couple and prank loving kids. All of whom create a fantastic mix as we jump in and out of each story before reaching a satisfying conclusion.

It's the eerie Brothers Grimm fairytale type atmosphere created by Director Michael Dougherty that lifts this above the usual Halloween slasher story as it combines legends and folklore and weaves them into today's society.

Ric's Rating: 74%

Monday 13 September 2010

DVD: The Joneses

The phrase "keeping up with The Joneses" takes an interesting turn here as the family in question is entirely fake. They are actually a "stealth marketing" sales team determined to make their friends and neighbours buy all the stuff that they have.
Of course it all slowly crumbles as decent people drown in debt and youngsters consume alcohol in an attempt to look cool.
It's hard to categorize as the comedy isn't very funny and the drama isn't dramatic enough. It all shuffles along relying heavily on Moore and Duchovny who aren't able to elevate it from mediocrity.
If you want David Duchovny doing comedy, watch Californication instead.
Ric's Rating: 42%

Sunday 12 September 2010

Film: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Having not seen any of the previous movies I went into this with an open mind despite recent drubbings in the press. For the first 15mins or so I was treated to a fantastic action sequence (the 3D is wonderful) but puzzled by the story except for the basic virus outbreak leading to zombies by the bucketload.

It picks up when Alice (Milla Jovovich) and Claire (Ali Larter from Heroes) meet up with fellow survivors in an abandoned prison.

Plenty of blood and bullets fly as the newfound allies attempt to reach safety in "Arcadia" while avoiding the rather wierdly mutated zombie masses.

Prison Break's Wentworth Miller plays a mysterious prisoner and Sons Of Anarchy's Kim Coates is a slimy movie producer.

No depth to this, it's all about the 3D action scenes but if you enjoy explosions, bullets and body parts flying and some nifty sumersaults then it's a passable action flick.

Ric's Rating: 55%

Friday 3 September 2010

Film: Piranha 3D

An underwater tremor opens up a passage which connects to an ancient lake containing pre-historic Piranha.

What you see is what you get from this as countless teens arrive at the lake for spring break only to become dinner for the hungry predator fish.

Gratuitous nudity, blood and flying body parts ensue. The film doesn't take it'self seriously and there are surprisingly decent turns from Kelly Brook as a Wild Wild Girl and the still sexy Elisabeth Shue as a fiesty local sheriff who tries to save her own kids as well as everyone else.

Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss pop up too.

Undemanding fun and the 3D element adds to it.

Ric's Rating: 68%

Saturday 28 August 2010

Book: Storm Prey by John Sandford

Twenty books in and John Sandford's Prey series featuring cop Lucas Davenport still delivers the goods. Every time a new one comes along it gives me a familiar comfortable feeling akin to the one generated by my favourite tv cop show, NYPD Blue.
A botched robbery results in the death of a hospital pharmacy clerk and on their exit the culprits are spotted by Lucas' wife Weather.
The mastermind behind the robbery is the shady Dr Barakat (a show stealing character) and he decides the best way to ensure his own safety is to eliminate ALL witnesses, including his accomplices. Lucas and the guys aren't about to let that extend to Weather who is assigned lovable rogue Virgil Flowers (who has his own spin off series) as her bodyguard while she performs an operation to separate conjoined twins.
The strength in Sandford's writing is the character development, everyone is well rounded and usually (as is the case here) there is no doubt who the villains are, giving you access to their thoughts, circumstances and motives.
An excellent outing and it gets by as a stand alone but the main players have been developed over so many years that if your a fan of crime thrillers I highly recommend starting at the beginning with the fantastic Rules Of Prey. You'll be hooked.
Ric's Rating: 84%

Sunday 22 August 2010

Film: The Expendables

Sylvester Stallone proves he's still the action movie King in this star studded explosion of a film.

The Expendables are a group of mercenaries lead by Stallone and when they are offered a mission by the shady Mr Church (Bruce Willis) it looks like a fool's errand but Sly can't get the images of a small island being ruled by an iron fist out of his head so he decides to go back. You don't think his buddies would let him go alone do you?

The evil General is played admirably by Dexter's David Zayas and Eric Roberts is a typically slimy businessman who pulls his strings and with Steve Austin and Gary Daniels as henchmen it's a formidable set of opponents for Stallone and his men.

The action scenes are tremendous and it all moves along at a blistering pace. The entire cast are teriffic, each adding his own unique presence to proceedings. Special mention goes to Dolph Lundgren who steals almost every scene he is in and to Jason Statham who dominates a lot of the fighting.

The story itself is a simple one but, like Avatar, it's a simple story very well told with excellent characters that you are happy to root for.

It's old school good guys v bad guys with some great one on one confrontations including a nice fight between man mountain Lundgren and small but deadly Li.

There are some dodgy CGI moments but that aside credit goes to Stallone for putting together an amazing cast and, as director, getting the best from each of them to end up with a modern feel good action movie classic.

Don't miss it.

Ric's rating: 92%

Thursday 19 August 2010

Preview: The Expendables

The Expendables hits UK cinemas today.
Head over to to see my rundown of the muscle-bound cast which includes some of their previous efforts that you might have missed.
Check back soon for a full review.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

DVD: Rampage

Controversial Director Uwe Boll has a reputation for making really bad films. I haven't seen any others so can't comment but this one isn't half bad.

Bill (Brendan Fletcher) feels put upon by his parents and the world in general. He just can't seem to catch a break. His boss is on his case and his parents think it's time he got a place of his own, the waiter can't even get his coffee right !

With his friend Evan (Shaun Sipos) he tunes into conspiracy theory newscasts and visits angry websites that preach the perils of the world today and predict a bleak future.

This slowly builds until Bill (after a lot of planning) decides to unburden the planet of as many human beings as he can possibly get rid of.

The Rampage itself is ultra violent and hard to watch at times but there are one or two magical comedy moments thrown in, check out the bingo hall scene.

People will say that this glorifies violence but it doesn't. It's a similar story to the one told in Michael Douglas' Falling Down, except this is on Acid.

Fletcher delivers a fantastic measured performance as his frustration and nerves build and old Max Headroom himself (Matt Frewer) turns up as Bill's Dad.

If you can stomach the violence it's well worth a look.

I'm off to see what other "rubbish" films Uwe Boll has directed.

Ric's Rating: 76%

Friday 13 August 2010

Film: Splice

Interesting creature feature from the Director of cult movie Cube.
Two scientists create a creature from the DNA of numerous different animals and use it for medical research. When they are told they cannot use human DNA in their latest creation they decide to go ahead and do it anyway.
When the creature, Dren, is born she is spirited away and kept in hiding as she rapidly matures.
I then expected some sort of monster on the rampage film but this is not the case. What we have is a study of Dren's strange relationship with her "parents" played by The Pianist himself, Adrien Brody, and Sarah Polley.
It's a fine entry into the genre but it does take it's time to get to the point.
Thought provoking but not suitable accompaniment for a six pack.
Ric's Rating: 67%

Friday 6 August 2010

Book: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

First things first, Richard Castle is not a real person. He is a fictional character from abc's Castle (shown on Alibi in the UK, see review elsewhere here) and the book has been ghost written entirely in character based around Castle's involvement with the NYPD.

The novel has Jameson Rook (Castle, get it?), a journalist, shadowing Detective Nikki Heat as she attempts to solve the murder of a Real Estate millionaire.

This is just like reading an episode of the show and it's good fun for fans but isn't likely to appeal to anyone else.

The writing is cheesy and shallow, just like the Castle character would write and there is some nice humour thrown in.

An undemanding read recommended to fans of the show.

Ric's Rating: 60%

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Magazine: DVD& Blu-ray Review

The latest edition of DVD & Blu-ray Review magazine hits UK shops today.

Pick up a copy to read my reviews of:

The 7th Dimension - British techno thriller.

The Blackout - Monsters attack when the lights go out !!

Decoding Dan Brown: The Documentaries - Box set covering the author's work.

Of course there are plenty of other reviews, DVD and movie news, interviews. All you'd expect from an excellent magazine.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Film: Inception

The man who brought us the classic mindbender Memento (Christopher Nolan) covers somewhat similar ground here.

I also noticed elements from Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Flatliners and Total Recall as Leonardo Di Caprio and his team delve into the world of dreams to extract secrets and plant ideas. This is by no means an original story.

Di Caprio agrees to penetrate the mind of Cillian Murphy (in his best Hollywood showing yet) who is about to inherit a global energy company but Leo's own guilt issues creep dangerously into the dreams jeopardising the mission and his fellow team members.

Great idea, reasonably well excecuted but two big problems. There is a severe lack of character development, other than DiCaprio we get zero background on the team and, it's a bit boring at times.

As the film drifted into dreams within dreams I often found my own mind wandering to subjects like what I should have for tea, or if I really should have had that hot dog. Others obviously felt the same, two people left after about 40 minutes and at that stage I couldn't blame them.

Fortunately it all kicks off in the final third when we eventually get some action, including the neat gravity twists and it does come to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.

Funnily enough I do have a nagging feeling that it might be better second time around.
Maybe that's just a dream.

Ric's Rating: 56%

Thursday 29 July 2010

Film: The A Team

This movie version of the much loved tv show lacks the charm and charisma of the original.

Swap Vietnam for Iraq and you pretty much know the background to this group of soldiers becoming a team of vigilantes for hire rendering this entire movie pointless if you have seen the tv show.

The film is an introduction to the characters, much like Russell Crowe's Robin Hood was but in this case a 10 minute montage would have done the job.

Liam Neeson (Taken), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Quinton "Rampage" Jackson of Ultimate Fighting Championship fame and Sharlto Copley (District 9) all try their best but don't quite manage to pull it off.

Also, the special effects are of a standard acceptable maybe 10 years ago.

The plot centres around counterfeiting US currency plates falling into the wrong hands and the lads must obtain them and clear their names.

All this is purely to pave the way for a sequel which has GOT to be an improvement, if it happens.

Ric's Rating: 39%

Wednesday 28 July 2010

DVD: The Chaser

Korean serial killer movie inspired by true events.

Joong-ho is a pimp who was formerly a police detective and some of his girls are missing.

The entire film is based aroung Joong-ho's search for the latest missing girl who has unfortunately been hired by a homicidal maniac.

Good performances all round and some pretty nasty scenes but I expected more from The Chaser. There are no twists here and no grand plan to the killings, once our man is revealed the chase is on and that's it.

Does it end happily? Well, by the time it got there I didn't care much.

Hopefully the upcoming Hollywood remake will (unusually) be an improvement.

Ric's Rating: 48%

Saturday 24 July 2010

DVD: The New Daughter

Kevin Costner plays John James a newly single Dad in this thriller based on the short story by the excellent John Connolly.
Upon moving into their new house James notices his daughter Louisa (Ivana Baquero) begin to behave strangely. Thinking it's just hormones he leaves her alone and concentrates on his younger son who is struggling to come to terms with his Mother's departure.
Being a John Connolly story all is not as it seems as Louisa is drawn to a strange mound in a nearby field and James begins to suspect that this is more than just teen angst.
The first two thirds of the film are excellent, Costner is fantastic as the Dad struggling to get things right but it all gets a bit silly when the Mound Walkers appear.
Costner fans will love it and Connolly fans, I suspect, will be slightly disappointed.
Ric's Rating: 64%

DVD: Defendor

Woody Harrelson playing a hapless super-hero, great comedy right?
Wrong. There are some laughs in this movie but there is much more to it.

Harrelson plays Arthur Poppington, a man with a troubled past who transforms himself into Defendor to avenge a wrongdoing that he doesn't fully understand.

More a morality play and social commentary than a drama or comedy Harrelson captivates as the fearless Arthur who sets out to get the bad guys but refuses to use guns.

Excellent support comes in the form of Elias Koteas as a dodgy cop, Kat Dennings as a hooker who befriends Arthur and Homicide: Life On The Street's Clark Johnson as the police captain.

Ric's Rating: 76%

Saturday 17 July 2010

DVD: Wolf Hound

Wolf Hound: From The Family Of Grey Dogs is the full title of this Russian
fantasy epic which ticks all the right boxes.
After the slaughter of his tribe Wolf Hound vows revenge and we join him and Torn Wing (his pet Bat) on their quest.
This harks back to films like Conan The Barbarian and The Beastmaster and if you can see past the dodgy beards and over the top acting you are left with a satisfying old fashioned story of honour and revenge.
Wolf Hound makes friends and enemies along the way and they are all colourful characters but I can't help thinking some of the names (like Greedy) have been a little bit lost in translation although that's just a small complaint for a film that's big fun.
Ric's Rating: 74%

Sunday 11 July 2010

Film: Predators

This latest attempt to kickstart the franchise sees the unlikely choice of
Adrien Brody stepping into Arnie's shoes.

It's pretty much a sequel to the original and kicks off with a group of (mostly military) people finding themselves in an unknown place.

The Predators then start hunting them down.

No need to go on about the story as that's about it, the film is about the action and I really don't think there was enough of it, actually I reckon A v P had more.

Brody shows his versatility as a believable action star and the rest of the cast are adequate without being outstanding although Walton Goggins from TV's The Shield steals a few scenes.

No new twists here and not a patch on the original, this just about gets by as a straight forward action movie but I wouldn't recommend a cinema visit, wait for the DVD.

Ric's Rating: 53%

Friday 9 July 2010

Book: Tooth And Nail by Craig Dilouie

The Hong Kong Lyssa virus could end the world as we know it as the
severely infected become "Mad Dogs", Zombies basically.

An atmosphere of dread is quickly created as stark images of a virus ravaged New York City emerge. Streets littered with unmoving cars, the infected roaming the streets among famous landmarks and civilians trying to survive.

The book boils down to a series of battles between a Platoon of soldiers (who question orders to shoot American citizens) and the Mad Dogs with a mission to rescue a scientist on the brink of a cure thrown in.

The action scenes are fantastic as the Grunts fight off the infected masses but there are so many soldiers in the story it's hard to become attached to any of them, except in the end when honour is paramount.

Dr Petrova steals the show as she fights her own battles while awaiting rescue, there is a depth to her character missing from the guys and you really want her to make it. But will she?

Recommended for Zombie and action horror fans.

Ric's Rating: 61%

Sunday 4 July 2010

DVD: Feed

This DVD had been collecting dust on my shelf for quite a while
as I'd never seemed to be in the right frame of mind to give it a try. I shouldn't have waited so long as it's a decent little film.

Internet Detective Phil Jackson (Patrick Thompson) discovers a website that shows grossly obese women literally being fed to death by a tattooed man.

The quest to track down this man turns into a creepy game of cat & mouse as the two exploit each other's weaknesses.

Far better filmed (nice use of colours) and acted (Patrick Thompson and Alex O'Loughlin are excellent) than I expected but this won't be to everyone's taste as there are some pretty nasty themes going on.

If that doesn't put you off then give it a try.

Recommended if you liked Hostel and Seven.

Ric's Rating: 73%

DVD: Valhalla Rising

We join One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) as he is being held captive (for an
unknown reason) and forced to compete in vicious fights to the death.

He soon escapes and joins a team of wandering fighters as they prepare to travel to Jerusalem.

Well that's it as far as the story goes I'm afraid because from that point onwards the film becomes an aimlessly wandering mess as the gang shore up on an unknown land and face an unknown foe while struggling to know who to trust. Wait a minute, I just made that sound good.

That's the trouble here, it should be good but the story goes nowhere through achingly long periods of complete silence. Mikkelsen himself does not utter a word throughout although the performance is still decent.

This movie was filmed in Scotland and has a mostly Scottish cast so maybe I just couldn't take a bunch of guys I'm more used to seeing in the likes of Taggart and River City (Scottish tv shows) seriously as mysterious warriors. A pity as I so wanted to like it.

It is beautifully shot, all the scenery looks great but being lucky enough to live in Scotland I have scenery every bit as striking five minutes walk from my house.

Ric's Rating: 39%

Wednesday 30 June 2010

DVD: Spiral

Every once in a while a little film comes along that makes me glad I still
have faith in the straight to DVD market.

Avatar's Joel David Moore is dazzling in his portrayal of Mason, a shy, troubled man who's only friend happens to be his call centre boss Chuck (Zachary Levi).

Chuck constantly tries to bring Mason out of his shell but he prefers to paint and listen to jazz over truly interacting with other people until a chance encounter with a co-worker (Amber Tamblyn) brightens up his life.

The two become friends as Mason sketches Amber and persuades her to pose for him. She doesn't know the troubles that lurk in his mind.

All violence is implied here, there is none on screen, this helps crank up the tension as the cracks in Mason's psyche begin to show.

Excellent performances all round and a few unpredictable twists make this an excellent little known film. Seek it out, you won't regret it.

Ric's Rating: 84%