Wednesday 30 March 2011

Blogfest: A-Z Challenge

Head over to Alex J Cavanaugh's fantastic blog via the link in the "visit these places" section for details of this rather daunting event that I've decided to participate in.

In a nutshell it's a post every day in April except Sundays.

All my posts will be brief and relevant to the blog and most will be an offshoot of the regular Ric Recommends posts.

It kicks off on Friday so be sure to check back and visit some of the others taking part.

Monday 28 March 2011

Book: The Infection by Craig Dilouie

Craig Dilouie, author of Tooth And Nail (see review elsewhere here) returns to the Zombie genre with his latest novel.

The infection itself begins on a day just like any other and we see it from the viewpoint of schoolteacher Ethan, as his pupils randomly drop down screaming when the mysterious virus strikes. Three days later everyone felled by the initial wave wakes up and all hell breaks loose.

The book follows a motley crew of survivors in their attempts to find sanctuary while fending off attacks from the infected. While finding some respite in a derelict hospital they make an alarming discovery, hideous alien-like creatures born of the infection.

There are huge similarities between this and the author’s first book but the characters on show here are much more developed making the reader sympathetic to their plight. Each characters individual experiences are told in a series of well placed flashbacks that provide much needed emotion amongst the battles for survival. There is also an interesting turn of events when the group eventually reach the camp they have been searching for. Is it the safe haven they crave?

Fans of the genre will love this, it’s everything the recent tv show The Walking Dead (see review elsewhere here) aspires to be. Throw in a couple of Resident Evil type monsters and the heart of 28 Days Later and you have all the best elements of a Zombie story in one place.

It has bags of movie and sequel potential so hopefully it’s not the last we’ve heard from the excellent characters that are brought vividly to life amongst the most trying of circumstances.

Ric’s Rating: 92%

Sunday 27 March 2011

Film: Faster

Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock stars as an ex-con out to avenge the murder of his brother in this high octane action movie with the versatile Billy Bob Thornton as the washed-up cop trying to track him down as he leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

Also trailing Johnson is an enigmatic hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) out to prove he is the best in the business.

This film takes me back to Arnie and Seagal at the peak of their powers as Johnson portrays a no-nonsense tough guy on a good old fashioned mission of revenge. It's reassuring to see that Johnson is actually a credible action star instead of a silly joke figure as he was in the terrible Tooth Fairy.

The edginess of the film dilutes somewhat as we get to the final third and the ending is very predictable but otherwise this is a fine action film and another contributor to the resurgence of the genre.

On this performance I'm now looking forward to seeing Johnson up against Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in the upcoming Fast Five.

Ric's Rating: 79%

Tuesday 22 March 2011

DVD: Brotherhood

A college fraternity initiation prank goes wrong in this thriller that follows in the tradition of "boys night out goes bad" films like Stag (Kevin Dillon, Mario van Peebles) and Very Bad Things (Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater).
As events spiral out of control Adam (Trevor Morgan) urges the group leader Frank (Jon Foster) to get their injured friend to hospital but Frank wants to keep a lid on things because prank or no prank, authorities could mean jail time for them all.
This is an exciting, fast paced film that has you hooked from the get-go and contains some cool unpredictable twists that raise the tension levels every few minutes.
It's a straight to DVD gem that is totally gripping with Morgan and Foster perfectly cast in their opposing roles.
Fans of boys night out movies such as those previously mentioned will enjoy this and if you happened to see and enjoy the 1993 film Judgement Night with Emilio Estevez and Denis Leary then you'll love it.
Ric's Rating: 78%

Monday 21 March 2011

DVD: Let Me In

Twelve year old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leads a troubled life. School bullies pick on him and he struggles to cope with the separation of his parents. When Abbey (Chloe Moretz) moves in next door the two seem to hit it off, as she too is an outsider, but for some reason she makes it clear they can't be friends. What's her secret and why does Owen only ever see her after dark?

This is a remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In but as I haven't saw that I can judge this on it's own merits and despite already knowing most of the plot due to word of mouth this film is not to be missed.

Marketed as an all out horror it's actually about the relationship between the two ill-at-ease youngsters as they attempt to cope with their respective situations and help each other where they can. Both Smit-McPee and Moretz are excellent and fine support is provided by the ever reliable Elias Koteas (Fallen, Zodiac).

This is a horror/thriller about twelve year olds but it's aimed at adults sick of the usual crop of silly, supposedly scary, films more suited to adolescents. It rises far above any of it's peers, in fact I can't really think of a film to compare it to, except maybe Fright Night but without the campy comedy.

For once the critics have got it right, this is a true gem of a film and it only loses points for some needless dodgy CGI, otherwise I can't fault it.

Ric's Rating: 96%

Monday 14 March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

War Of The Worlds meets Independence Day in this alien invasion movie.

From the very beginning we are thrust into the action as we join Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and his platoon in their attempt to rescue civilians from an abandoned police station while fighting off the enemy hordes.

The whole film feels a bit like the Saving Private Ryan opening scene but it strangely becomes boring as the endless shoot-outs with the mechanical aliens and their “ray guns” gets dull after 30 or 40 minutes. At least we then get a slice of human drama with past and present tragedies explored providing moments of emotion amongst the chaos.

Plenty of sequel potential but if it happens I won’t be rushing out to see it.

In a nutshell it’s better than Skyline but not a patch on Independence Day.
Ric's Rating: 60%

Saturday 12 March 2011

Preview: Lake Charles by Ed Lynskey

Author Ed Lynskey has kindly sent me an advance copy of his new book, Lake Charles, for review.
If the striking cover art is anything to go by I'm sure it'll be an interesting read.
Product Description:

Ed Lynskey, one of the most acclaimed modern crime noir authors, returns to the Smoky Mountains with a new hardboiled tale of murder, passion, and intense action.
Check back soon for a full review.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

DVD: Collapse

While researching a project on apparent CIA involvement in drug smuggling Chris Smith decided to interview Michael Ruppert, a former policeman who had lifted the lid on the subject.

Ruppert touches on the drug issue here but this is a man with an array of more alarming subjects on his mind and he is willing to divulge many of them in this startling documentary.

A full length movie consisting of one man sitting in a chair speaking his mind might not be everyone’s idea of entertainment but the explosive content of Ruppert’s words are illustrated using relevant footage making this a captivating viewing experience.

In depth analysis of matters such as declining oil reserves, war, the global financial crisis, politics and the future of civilization itself are explained in a down to earth manner that makes you stop and think.

Highly recommended to anyone interested in looking under the veil of mainstream media coverage of any of the issues mentioned.

Further exploration of these subjects can be found in The Shell Game by Steve Alten (see review elsewhere here) and documentaries The Corporation, The Fog Of War and Crude.

Ric’s Rating: 78%

Monday 7 March 2011

Film: True Grit

Young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down her Father’s killer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) in this Coen Brothers remake of the original John Wayne movie.

Accompanying them on their quest is LeBouf (Matt Damon) who also has issues with Tom Chaney.

This is a beautifully shot, well acted Western but it rarely comes to life. It merely shuffles along all the way to an anti-climactic ending with a completely pointless epilogue scene tagged on.

The awards nominations for Steinfeld and Bridges were well earned but this proves that great acting alone does not make a great film.

This is a poor man’s Unforgiven, so just watch that instead.
Ric's Rating: 55%

Saturday 5 March 2011

Music: One Way Out - Heading For Summer

Check out this fantastic track from new Glasgow band One Way Out featuring my good friend Kevin Wood on vocals and lead guitar.

Visit the band's website at for more info.