Friday 30 December 2011

Preview: Blood Tears by Michael J Malone

Blood Tears, the debut crime novel from award winning poet, book reviewer, brilliant blogger and fellow Scotsman Michael Malone is published in June 2012 by Five Leaves Publications.

Here is the lowdown on what’s in store for crime fiction fans:

A body is discovered: the terrible mutilations spell out the wounds of the Stigmata.

For Glasgow Detective Inspector Ray McBain the killings are strangely familiar......and then the dreams begin.

Blood Tears is the first in a series of books featuring Ray McBain, a detective who has too many friends in the underworld for his own good, but enough to support him when he is forced to go on the run.

June 2012 seems a long way off but Michael has kindly provided me with an advance copy so check back soon for a full review.

Please visit the author’s blog, May Contain Nuts for more information on the book and loads of other cool stuff.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Top Films Of 2011

These are the films that I’ve enjoyed most over the past 12 months. All of them were “on target” in 2011.

The Next Three Days
Russell Crowe hatches a plan to help his wife escape from prison in this excellent re-make of the French film Anything For Her. Going into this one I didn’t know anything about it or that it was a re-make. This worked greatly in the film’s favour as I didn’t know how things were going to turn out.

Full review here

Let me In
Another re-make and again I haven’t seen the original. This tale of a child-like urban vampire manages to be the rarest of films, a great horror.

Full review here

Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist
Also known as Fast Five this sequel really delivers. Big on action and excitement it also features a brilliant fight scene involving Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Full review here

Cell 211
A rookie prison guard finds himself locked in with the inmates during a riot in this brilliant Spanish drama. Can he keep his true identity hidden? Ferocious film with cool performances.

Full review here

This British mock-documentary from director / star Nick Nevern follows a London wide boy as his life spirals out of control. It’s powerful stuff and very realistic.

Full review here

Mother’s Day
Rebecca DeMornay is amazing as the Matriarch of a violent family in this excellent home invasion film from director of Saw sequels Darren Lynn Boussman.

Full review here

Horrible Bosses
What do you do when your boss is a tyrant? Three hapless friends conspire to bump theirs off in this surprisingly good comedy featuring fine performances from Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston.

Full review here

The God Of Thunder finally arrived on the big screen and director Kenneth Branagh delivered a film packed with action, effects and …….laughs! Excellent precursor to the upcoming Avengers film.

Full review here

Rio Breaks
This emotional documentary follows two young boys as they attempt to escape a life in the slums of Brazil through professional surfing.

Full review here

At last, a decent MMA (mixed martial arts) film. An estranged family bring all their problems into the octagon in this modern day Rocky with great performances from Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy.

Full review here

Near misses
Biutiful, Red State, Outcast, Stake Land, Collapse, Faster and The Troll Hunter.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Film: Territories

When a group of travellers are pulled over by cops for a seemingly routine check they soon discover that these guys aren’t cops and this is anything but ordinary.

They are taken deep into the woods and subjected to a series of tortures typical of those employed against various terrorist suspects in recent years

It soon emerges that one of the captors is a veteran soldier who spent time working with detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay.

A tense opening half hour soon becomes a plodding unpleasant affair with few redeeming features. A cool P.I turning up to get to the bottom of the group’s disappearance provides little relief from the gloom.

Rather pointless really.

Ric’s Rating: 40%

Monday 19 December 2011

Film: Faces In The Crowd

Anna Marchant (Milla Jovovich) survives an encounter with the notorious serial killer Tearjerk Jack but the incident leaves her suffering from Prosopagnosia aka “face blindness”.

Unable to recognise her attacker Anna makes for a bad witness, much to the chagrin of cop Sam Kerrest (Julian McMahon) but even more troubling is the fact that she cannot recognise her friends, her partner or even her own reflection.

This begins very promisingly with Jovovich performing admirably as the nervy victim. Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break, The Walking Dead) also puts in an appearance but it’s all too brief as the actress playing her part frequently changes in order to illustrate the face blindness. This happens with all the characters, the notable exception being McMahon and the reason for this is explained, rather shoddily, towards the films finale.

What could have been an excellent serial killer film turns out to be a cheesy and predictable effort that’s mediocre at best, although it’s nice to see Jovovich in something other than a Resident Evil film.

Faces In The Crowd is released on DVD in the UK on January 9th 2012.

Ric’s Rating: 58%

Monday 12 December 2011

Book: Committed by John W Mefford

The discovery of a corpse leads Michael Doyle into the murky world of corporate takeover in the debut thriller from John.W.Mefford.

It emerges that the victim was known to Doyle and he is compelled to bolster a flagging police investigation, unaware that he is upsetting some very powerful people.

Whilst caught up in this personal crusade Doyle’s professional life is also thrown into turmoil as his company is swallowed up by an Indian firm known for their ruthless drive for profits.

Are these two seemingly unrelated events connected?

Starting off like a romance novel this takes some time to get going and often gets caught up in the details of corporate shenanigans. Only when the true nature of events is revealed does it become a compelling tale.

It has murder, revenge, corruption, bribery and scandal although I can’t help feeling that Doyle’s girlfriend should have had a past so much more complicated than the one delivered. Their relationship would have been much more interesting if tested more severely.

This is the first in a planned series for Mefford’s recurring character and it’ll be interesting to see what’s next for the budding investigative journalist but hopefully the next instalment will tone down the sickly sweet romance and crank up the action.

Ric’s Rating: 62%

Sunday 4 December 2011

Film: Bridesmaids

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is overjoyed when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be maid of honour at her upcoming wedding. What Annie doesn't know is that Lillian has made a new friend Helen (Rose Byrne) and the two soon compete to organise the best wedding ever.

There are some fine comedy performances here. Wiig is perfect as the ditzy Annie and Melissa McCarthy is hilarious as the crass Megan.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many comedy films these days, all the funniest moments were shown in the trailer. There are laughs to be had but this is no female version of The Hangover, it's more of a romantic comedy.

It soon becomes a tiresome tale of a lonely woman looking for love and it's all as predictable as they come.

Mildly amusing but not what it appears to be, this is a chick flick masquerading as a middle aged American Pie.

Ric's Rating: 54%

Saturday 3 December 2011

Film: The Flight Before Christmas

When impetuous young reindeer Niko unwittingly leads wolves to his herd he decides they would be better off without him so he sets off on a quest to find his Father, one of Santa’s famous flying reindeer.

Along the way he is joined by Julius the flying squirrel and Wilma the weasel, together they embark on the seemingly impossible journey to Santa’s Fell, but the wolves are close behind.

This beautifully animated film is a festive treat for both kids and adults. It has charming characters and nice moments of humour but the trio’s journey isn’t without peril.

The Flight Before Christmas is an ideal movie to enjoy with the kids as we approach the festivities, it’s available on DVD in the UK now courtesy of Metrodome.

Ric's Rating: 71%

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.

Friday 28 October 2011

DVD: The Woman

On a hunting outing not too far from his home, outwardly respectable family man Chris (Sean Bridgers) discovers a woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) living in the wild.

He decides to capture her and keep her hostage in his cellar under the pretence of helping her adjust to civilized society.

What follows is an abhorrent spectacle of torture and rape which even involves the rest of Chris' family, especially his young son. Eventually she escapes and goes looking for revenge, showing an amazing aptitude for the use of bladed weapons, maybe the wolves taught her.

Ordinarily I would have turned this off but I wanted to be able to post a review so I persevered. Bear in mind that I am a fan of both Hostel and Saw but unlike those films this has no redeeming features. The acting is way below par and I'm struggling to see how this managed to get an, albeit limited, UK cinema release.

Apparently it gained some notoriety because some people walked out at a film festival. I can see why they did, it's a thoroughly unpleasant experience that lacks the essential element for this type of film, a compelling story.

Not clever and certainly not funny.

Ric's Rating: 11%

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Book: Murder In Silence by Gary Kassay

Take the comfortable and familiar feeling of watching your favourite cop show (mine is NYPD Blue) and mix it with the readability of your favourite police procedural novel series (mine is John Sandford’s Prey series) and you’ll come up with something not far removed from Gary Kassay’s stunning debut thriller, Murder In Silence.

When two police officers are found dead, their throats having been ripped out, it’s up to Inspector Duke Becker and his team to track down the killer. Becker heads up the NYPD Special Investigations Unit – Homicide and unusually for the genre he’s no depressed recovering alcoholic, he’s just a regular guy who happens to be good at his job.

The book doesn’t rely on Becker alone, there is an eclectic supporting cast. Jimmy Nova, Becker’s garish partner, Marielle Wilson the tenacious reporter and veterinarian Elizabeth Cunningham all lend their own unique qualities to the tale.

Drawing from personal experience (Kassey is a real-life cop) the author brings a level of authenticity rarely found in crime fiction. From the details of the case to the cop-speak and practical jokes, all areas are covered in a realistic manner that brings the characters to life.

The case itself takes a number of alarming turns. The first of which is when it’s discovered how the murders are committed and the most harrowing of all is when the connection between the victims is revealed. It’s shocking stuff and has significant impact, making the reader question their own views on the killings.

This is the best self-published book I’ve read since Chris Kuzneski’s The Plantation. Kuzneski now frequents best-seller lists, Kassay deserves the same.

For more information on the author and upcoming Duke Becker novels visit

Ric’s Rating: 94%

Monday 24 October 2011

DVD: This Boy's Life

Recently released on DVD here in the UK by Second Sight this 1993 film serves as a stark reminder of just how good Robert DeNiro can be.

This is the true tale of the childhood of author Tobias Wolff who moves town to live with his Mother’s new husband, the seemingly affable Dwight (DeNiro).

Dwight’s true obnoxious personality soon emerges and Tobias is subjected to mental and physical abuse while his Mother (Ellen Barkin) looks on.

This is an acting masterclass from DeNiro, he absolutely nails his portrayal of the deluded Dwight, who is convinced that he has the boy’s best interests at heart. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic too as Tobias, a young man still trying to find his way while dealing with a horrendous family life.

Never having seen this before I was completely captivated from the beginning and even if you’ve already seen it it’s worth another look. The 1950s setting ensures that there is no dated feel and the snippets of information at the end provide suitable closure on all the characters involved.

Ric’s Rating: 89%

Monday 17 October 2011

Film: Real Steel

It’s Rocky with robots as former boxer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) trains a machine rescued from the junkyard to go for the title.

Charlie lives a hand to mouth lifestyle so when his estranged son needs looking after he sees this as a big inconvenience.

Inevitably the pair bond through the rescue and training of their robot, Atom. They decide to use real life boxing techniques and a flamboyant style to make Atom stand out from the crowd. It works, as Atom is soon propelled to the big league of robot boxing. But can the re-engineered pile of scrap metal mix with the sophisticated top level fighting machines?

This has echoes of another Stallone flick, the largely forgotten arm-wrestling tale Over The Top. The Father & Son relationship here is very similar, as is the road trip type environment. Jackman is his usual watchable self and Dakota Goyo provides adequate support as the boy desperate for his Father’s affection. Atom too is very likable, the junkyard scene where he is discovered provides one of the films highlights and it left me keen to find out about his origins. Sequel perhaps?

It’s cheesy, predictable and sentimental……..but bloody good fun.

Ric’s Rating: 76%

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Film: Blood In The Mobile

When Danish film-maker Frank Piasecki Poulsen becomes concerned about the source of minerals used in the manufacture of mobile phones he decides to approach his own phone company, Nokia, for some answers.

Met with a muted response he then decides to travel to the Democratic Republic Of Congo to see the mineral mines for himself.

What follows is a shocking journey through a country ruled by armed gangs and warlords leading to the mine itself. Aided by a 15 year old boy who escaped the mine, Poulsen is able to gain access and film the men working underground. What he sees is like a vision of Hell on Earth.

This powerful documentary movie shows the real life version of events portrayed in the film Blood Diamond and is very disconcerting indeed. It forces us to ask ourselves how comfortable we are with the practices Nokia and the other mobile phone companies indulge in to keep prices down.

Curiously this is the second film I’ve reviewed recently regarding Congo and it’s interesting to see the city of Kinshasa, which was the setting for Viva Riva (see review elsewhere here), as it really is.

Blood In The Mobile opens in UK cinemas on 21st October 2011.

Many thanks to Aim Publicity and Dogwoof for the preview disc.

Ric’s Rating: 81%

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Film: Red State

Writer / Director Kevin Smith proves that there’s more to him than offbeat comedy with this violent and unpredictable road trip / kidnap / siege thriller.

Three teenage boys head out on a trip that promises sexual adventure but they end up fighting for their lives. They have been lured into a trap by a group of religious fanatics led by Albin Cooper (Michael Parks).

The film then veers off in a surprising direction when a team of ATF agents descend on the church.

Michael Parks is mesmerizing as the cult leader, he possesses a melodic and captivating voice, perfect for the role of an extreme preacher.
Melissa Leo, fresh from her Oscar success in The Fighter, again turns in a decent performance as the temptress turned torturer. It’s also nice to see John Goodman back on the big screen as the grizzled government agent who questions his orders.

It all gets a bit silly towards the end but it’s exciting stuff from Kevin Smith. I’ve never been a fan but if he continues in this vein I will be converted….hallelujah !!

Ric’s Rating: 79%

Book: Flashes Of Revenge by Darren Sant

Darren Sant steps outside the grim setting of his ongoing short story series, the Longcroft Estate, to bring us six tales of revenge.

Kicking of with the startling Revenge Is A Warm .45 this collection delivers thrills, laughs and food for thought.

As with Sant’s other stories (see reviews elsewhere here) my only complaint is that they are too short. I could have spent loads more time with the two aged gangsters in Unforgiven. The seemingly strange band members in The Ungrateful Dead were also very intriguing.

I’m new to short stories in general but I’m quickly discovering that a short sharp dose of crime fiction can be very refreshing. I’m also keen to see if the author will tackle a full length novel.

Ric’s Rating: 72%

Sunday 9 October 2011

DVD: Just Do It

‘A tale of modern day outlaws’ proclaims the tagline to this documentary film that follows a group of activists during a year filled with protests and marches.

Coming across more like a disgruntled branch of the Student’s Union these individuals seem to care more about the act of protesting than the causes they claim to be fighting for but they do manage to achieve surprising results, and by the end of the film one or two of them had actually won me over.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m on board with most of the issues but I found it difficult to be preached to about what happens to taxpayer’s money by people who are lucky enough not to have to hold down jobs where they would actually be paying income tax.

The biggest issue concerning the group is climate change and the turning point (for me) in the film is when the attempted protest at a UN summit in Copenhagen is heavy-handedly thwarted by the Danish police. The extreme action by the Danish police force was cleverly filmed eventually leading to the arrests themselves being deemed illegal by the Danish courts.

Other campaigns include helping workers faced with redundancy occupy their factory and standing against a proposed airport runway which would mean the demolition of an entire community.

This film manages to both engage and infuriate on many different levels. Perhaps that’s the point.

Just Do It is available on DVD in the UK from 17th October 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 70%

Friday 7 October 2011

DVD: The Dead List

This French thriller stars Jean Reno (Leon) as the head of a notorious crime clan but unbeknown to him his son wants out.

It all starts out promisingly enough as the family pull of a daring robbery and discover that they have a determined cop on their tails. A lucrative airport heist is then planned which will provide all participants with enough money to walk away.

Unfortunately all momentum is lost when what could have been an enjoyable cops & robbers drama becomes a tale of Father and Son rivalry.

The characters are dull, lack chemistry and there isn’t really anyone to root for.

For hardcore Reno fans only.

The Dead List is available on DVD in the UK from 10th October 2011

Ric’s Rating: 41%

Sunday 2 October 2011

DVD: Viva Riva

Fuel is short in the African country of Congo and when charismatic thief Riva (Patsha Bay) finds himself in possession of a large quantity he quickly cashes in and begins to party.

Looking for the missing fuel is Cesar (Hoji Fortuna) and he will stop at nothing to get it back.

This film was made entirely in the Congo and won 6 awards at the African Movie Academy Awards.

It's a violent and sexy thriller that has a similar feel to that of City Of God but it does fall short in the entertainment department. The bad guys aren't particularly scary, Cesar looks a bit like a comedy pimp and the violence, while brutal, is also unintentionally funny.

More interesting than entertaining it shows great potential for the future of African films and anyone with an interest in world cinema will get something from it.

Viva Riva is released on DVD in the UK on 17th October 2011.

Ric's Rating: 58%

Ric Recommends: Rio Breaks

This powerful documentary movie arrives on DVD in the Uk on 3rd October 2011.

You can find a full review elsewhere here but in the menantime check out this brief trailer which sets it up nicely.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Short Story: Community Spirit by Darren Sant

Tracy and her young son Tom have escaped an abusive household and plan a fresh start in a new location. Unfortunately they are placed in the notorious Longcroft Estate.

The second in Darren Sant’s short story series sees the single mother struggle to repay a loan shark while protecting her son from the local bullies. If she can’t raise the cash needed the thug has made it clear what he’s after instead.

Will she keep him at bay?

Like the previous instalment A Good Day (see review elsewhere here), this really is a very brief short story, but it does manage to convey everything required to have an impact.

Reminiscent of the tv show Shameless but without the comedy element this also manages to be surprisingly uplifting.

I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the Longcroft Estate.

Ric’s Rating: 78%

Book: Now You See Me by SJ Bolton

When police officer Lacey Flint witnesses a murder she becomes involved in the case, against the wishes of certain senior detectives. It soon becomes clear that the killer has an interest in Lacey herself as well as the most notorious serial killer of all time, Jack The Ripper.

Lacey shows her value to the investigation when she reveals her own fascination with The Ripper and provides insight that just may help catch Jack’s modern day equivalent.

As the story progresses it takes a cool twist showing that there is more going on here than a straightforward copycat. Flint’s own murky past becomes relevant and she has to decide if she can help catch the killer and remain on the force.

This is an entertaining serial killer novel that moves along nicely thanks to short snappy chapters. There are also some fine characters on show. Lacey herself manages to surprise while her colleagues Joesbury and Tulloch provide interesting support.

The final reveal is a bit too much of a stretch of the imagination for me but it’s a compelling tale that cleverly combines facts from the original Ripper murders with smart contemporary fiction.

Ric’s Rating: 71%

Sunday 25 September 2011

Film: Warrior

When troubled Iraq war veteran Tommy (Tom Hardy) decides to enter a mixed martial arts fighting tournament he can think of no-one better than his former alcoholic Dad (Nick Nolte) who he hasn’t seen for over ten years to train him. So begins an uneasy alliance as the duo prepare for battle, but unbeknown to them another family member has also decided to enter.

Joel Edgerton is Brendan, Tommy’s brother. Brendan makes a living as a high school physics teacher but runs into financial difficulties that force him to return to the fight game.

The $5million prize money has attracted the world’s top fighters including the legendary Russian athlete Koba, played by real life pro-wrestler Kurt Angle.

Can either of the brother’s beat their formidable opponents and prevail? You’ll have to see it to find out but make sure you avoid the trailer at all costs as it reveals the finale.

This could easily have turned into one long training montage movie but thankfully it concentrates on the background of the three main characters so that when the tournament begins the fights carry a lot of emotional weight.

Hardy and Nolte are excellent as the estranged Father & Son but Joel Edgerton’s performance as the family man turned fighter steals the show. This is Rocky for the MMA generation and it’s the best sports film I have seen in a long time.

Ric’s rating: 84%

Saturday 24 September 2011

DVD: Stake Land

Following the horrific demise of his family in a pulsating opening scene, Martin (Connor Paolo) is befriended by the mysterious stranger known only as Mister (Nick Damici).

The duo then head off into a world familiar to fans of zombie movies as they traverse ruined towns & cities meeting various characters along the way. Only this time it isn’t zombies that have caused the problem, it’s an epidemic of vampires.

Nick Damici is cool as the emotionless vampire killer and Connor Paolo is perfect as the vulnerable boy trying to survive. They meet up with a Nun (an unrecognisable Kelly McGillis) and a pregnant singer (horror movie regular Danielle Harris) but as is the case with many of these movies it isn’t always the vampires that are the most frightening thing they encounter.

The Brotherhood is a religious cult led by Jebediah (Michael Cerveris) and they believe God has infested the Earth with vampires to eliminate sinners from the world. Unfortunately Cerveris is the weak link in the cast, he too closely resembles comedy bald guy Evan Handler from Sex & The City and Californication to be taken seriously as a villain.

That aside I just wasn’t expecting this to be as good as it is. Can you believe it? It’s actually an original take on the vampire movie. Ok, it borrows heavily from films like 28 Days Later but throwing vampires into the mix is a clever and fresh move.

It’s a visceral and violent road trip that also provides moments of melancholy as the survivors long for a world they may never see again.

Metrodome release Stake Land on DVD in the UK on 17th October 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 77%

Wednesday 21 September 2011

DVD: Everywhere & Nowhere

Being a young Muslim in London isn’t easy these days and Ash (James Floyd) is torn between the traditional family values pressed upon him by his older brother Ahmed (Alyy Khan) and his desire to become a successful nightclub DJ.

Ash and his friends are regulars at the local club and his sister (Shivani Ghai) is seeing the resident DJ, Ronnie (Simon Webbe from boyband Blue). Ronnie agrees to give Ash a chance at the club but just as things are looking up, many personal issues threaten to ruin the opportunity.

The cast, especially James Floyd, are all fantastic in their portrayal of conflicted individuals. Adam Deacon (Anuvahood) delivers another fine performance as Zaf and Art Malik (Ghosted, True Lies) pops up as Ash’s Uncle.

Emotionally charged and very relevant it’ll appeal to fans of films like Shifty (see review elsewhere here) but will also please anyone who enjoyed the comedy film East Is East as it has similar family dynamics.

It’s another slick presentation of contemporary urban life from Kidulthood director Menhaj Huda and it also boasts a cool soundtrack.

Everywhere & Nowhere is released on DVD in the UK on 3rd October 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 80%

Saturday 17 September 2011

DVD: Double Impact

This 1991 action movie gets a DVD release in the UK on 19th September 2011 courtesy of Second Sight.

Following the murder of their parents, six month old twins Chad and Alex are separated. Chad moves to California with Uncle Frank (Geoffrey Lewis) and Alex is left at a Hong Kong orphanage.
Twenty five years later the brothers (both played by Jean – Claude Van Damme) reunite for revenge. The twins must overcome their personal differences and take on the villains, including female body-builder Cory Everson and perennial martial-arts movie bad guy Bolo Yeung.

This has stood the test of time surprisingly well. Following the recent reality show Jean – Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors (see review elsewhere here) and his upcoming turn in The Expendables 2 it’s a timely reminder of how much fun a JCVD movie can be.

Ok, the effects are outdated and the acting is cheesy but this is still a very enjoyable action movie that showcases Van Damme’s considerable skills which, hopefully, will be gracing the big screen again next year.

Ric’s Rating: 68%

Friday 16 September 2011

Film: The Troll Hunter

Bears are being blamed for attacks on cattle in Norway but when a mysterious tracker shows up a group of students ask him if they can tag along and film what happens. They get a lot more than they expect.

It transpires that Hans is a professional Troll Hunter and the government have been keeping their existence hidden from the public.

This Norwegian film breathes new life into the "found footage" genre and also works as a monster movie. The Trolls themselves come in all shapes and sizes and while they reminded me of The Flumps (UK kids tv show) the film remains captivating and has some great moments of tension, like when the group find themselves trapped in a Troll's cave.

It's not up there with Rare Exports (see review elsewhere here) but fans of that film are sure to enjoy it.

Ric's Rating: 74%

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Short Story: A Good Day by Darren Sant

The first in Darren Sant’s series of short stories sees a junkie more adept at robbing and conning face a moral dilemma which could put him on the path to redemption.

Flash cars driven by wealthy looking men are beginning to show up on a regular basis so what does one grimy flat contain that could interest them so much?

I’m new to short stories and while I enjoyed this it’s almost too short to merit a review. Saying more would give the entire thing away but if you enjoy quick-fire fiction that feels like a blast of cold fresh air first thing in the morning then this could be right up your street.

Looking forward to the next volume but maybe I’ll save a few of them before reading in order to prolong the enjoyment.

Ric’s Rating: 68%

Monday 12 September 2011

Book: Quarantined by Joe McKinney

Detective Lily Harris must solve a murder amidst the chaos of the city of San Antonio, which has been quarantined due to a deadly flu epidemic, in this thriller from Joe McKinney.

The corpses pile up day after day but amongst them is the body of an eminent Doctor who shows no signs of the virus.

Harris and her partner Chunk must work the case while avoiding all the hazards the infected city has to throw at them.
As her frustration mounts Harris then takes the mighty gamble of deciding to go along with her husband’s plan to escape the city.

There is great set up work here as the reader is immediately thrown into a horrific environment in which the cops struggle to continue to do their job. As well as looters and angry residents, they face corruption at every turn.

The family side of the story is very emotional as ordinary parents attempt to do their best while civilization breaks down around them. Unfortunately the murder case lacks impact, it doesn’t introduce any interesting characters and the whole thing comes to a rather anti-climactic end.

Ric’s rating: 59%

Sunday 11 September 2011

Film: Fright Night

As a massive fan of the original 1985 movie this one was always going to have to work very hard to impress me but much to my surprise this isn't half bad.

For anyone who doesn't know here are the basics. Former nerd Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has turned a corner in his life, he's dating a cool girl and making new friends, but when old buddy Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) tells him that his new neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire Brewster must decide to either back-up his former friend or dismiss his theory as that of a deluded teen.

This manages to strike a perfect balance of paying homage to the original and throwing in some new twists and turns. The best of which is David Tennant's turn as the updated Peter Vincent. No longer a washed up actor, Vincent is more of a David Blaine / Chris Angel type character, but throw in some hard drinking and foul language and you have a gloriously over the top creation played to perfection by the former Dr. Who.

Colin Farrell also manages to smoulder his way through the part of Jerry without ever matching Chris Sarandon's fantastic original performance.

This is a rare treat, a remake that should appease fans of the original while bringing the story to a whole new audience.

Look out for Chris Sarandon's neat cameo appearance, although it's a pity they didn't also find room for William Ragsdale, the original Charlie Brewster.

Ric's Rating: 73%

Thursday 8 September 2011

DVD: My Best Enemy

As Nazi Germany attempts to annex Austria two childhood friends, one a Jew and one a German, find themselves on opposite sides.

Rudi (Georg Friedrich) has grown up as a close friend of the Kauffman family, who own an art gallery in Vienna , but he has always secretly envied Victor (Moritz Bleibtreu). Privy to the Kauffman’s secrets Rudi soon makes the encroaching Nazis aware of a valuable artefact in their possession and the family is soon captured.

What follows is a powerful and clever drama that should have merited a UK cinema release, just when you think you know what’s going to happen it veers off in another direction whilst always maintaining its credibility.

It’s a Count Of Monte Cristo type tale of betrayal and revenge set in one of history’s darkest times but it’s told in a fresh style with fantastic performances from the two leading characters, it even manages one or two moments of humour.

The film is in German with English subtitles but please don’t let that put you off, it’s a cracker. I’ve included the German poster as it better reflects the film, the UK DVD cover would make you think that this is all about airplane battles, which isn’t the case at all.

My Best Enemy is released on DVD in the UK on 12th September 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 89%

Monday 5 September 2011

Book: The Misunderstood and other Misfit Horrors by Jason Brannon

This short story collection from the author of Winds Of Change (see review elsewhere here) consists of nine eerie tales featuring an eclectic cast of characters.

There is an Angel after offerings of blood, an eccentric collector of clocks, babies that can predict the future and creepy scarecrows that may not be what they seem.

We start of with the nightmarish Beware The Death Angel in which town newcomers prepare for a sinister local tradition. The stories then vary in content and length ending with the fantastic The Misunderstood in which a farmer attempts to protect his land from a supernatural beast.

This is the first time I’ve read a short story collection but it’s something I’ve been meaning to try for a while and this is the right place to start for anyone partial to some short sharp doses of horror. Each one is highly entertaining and the whole collection creates a cool otherworldly feeling that I’d have been happy to wallow in for a bit longer as a couple of the tales felt a little too short. Many could have been expanded and perhaps that’s something the author will consider. Failing that I’d be more than happy with another volume to add to this collection of wonderfully dark misfits.

Ric’s Rating: 74%

Saturday 3 September 2011

The winner is........

The winner of a signed copy of Carver by Tom Cain is.........................


for the inspired choice of Sid James.

Mark, drop me a line with your address to the blog email and the prize will be on its way to you soon.

Well done !!

Friday 2 September 2011

DVD: As Blood Runs Deep

Eddie and Shane are two small town boys who spend most of their time on the road trying to earn a few bucks, morals don't come into it. They decide to rob a house in the affluent area of Hilliard but this results in the tragic death of a young boy. Homicide Detective Noah Cordin (Nick Stahl from Terminator 3) is assigned to the case and the investigation leads him back to his home town where a mixed reception awaits.

This feels like a tv movie, but a decent tv movie. Stahl is as dependable as ever and Jonathan Tucker (Hostage) delivers another intense performance. Small town politics involving the victim's mother also add an extra dimension to proceedings.

While this lacks the quality of bigger productions it's still a competent crime thriller that's based on true events.

As Blood Runs Deep (originally known as Meskada) is available on DVD in the UK from 5th September 2011.

Ric's Rating: 57%