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%