Sunday 29 May 2011

DVD: The Warrior And The Wolf

An epic war rages on the ancient Chinese border but every year the armies cease the fighting when winter’s snow makes the land too hostile, even for battle.
Lu is training to be a warrior and during this time he befriends an orphan Wolf but soon the winter comes and the platoon must find refuge. The young animal struggles with the journey, this features an alarming scene where the pup used seems to be in genuine distress.
They hole-up in a village of mythical tribesmen and Lu commandeers one of the huts, little does he know there is already a resident, the widow of one of the tribesman. The film then becomes a bizarre Stockholm Syndrome type love affair as, after many prolonged rapes, the widow falls for Lu.

When battle re-commences I had completely lost interest in this one, it’s visually striking but there is a complete lack of character and story development. So much so that there is often on-screen explanations of what is going on.

This is for Asian cinema aficionados only.

The Warrior and the Wolf arrives on DVD & Blu-ray here in the UK on 30th May.

Ric’s Rating: 38%

Saturday 28 May 2011

Reviews News !

You will have noticed that my latest review for the film Ghosted was an advance review so I thought I'd better do a quick post by way of an explanation.

Here at Ric's Reviews it's not all sitting back watching the latest movies or enjoying the latest books (well I suppose it is, mostly).

I have been busy ensuring that I can bring you cool reviews on the latest movies, books and dvds.

So a big thanks goes to the following people who have agreed to supply review copies of dvds and books.

Ben and the team at Transworld Publishers.

Debbie at Aim Publicity.

Jacob at Permuted Press.

Paul at Wild Wolf Publishing.

and Chris at Metrodome.I have added a new links list to the blog which you can use to visit all their websites.

Another new feature is the Upcoming Reviews list, although it won't be in order it will give you an idea of what's around the corner and will prevent the need for as many preview posts, although I may still do that on occassion.

So there you have it, I hope you guys continue to enjoy the blog and remember to comment on the reviews.

Have a great weekend !


Friday 27 May 2011

Film / DVD: Ghosted

At 21 years of age, Paul (Martin Compston) finds himself transferred to an adult prison after some time in a young offenders institute.

Jack (John Lynch) has three months left of his sentence and decides to help Paul escape the clutches of the vile Clay, played by Craig Parkinson, who you may remember as both Kray twins in the excellent UK tv series Whitechapel.

Prison is the perfect setting for good drama, full of tension and potential violent flashpoints, some of which erupt with nasty results as the rivalry between Jack and Clay builds to an inevitable confrontation. But is young Paul really as naive as he seems?

There are lots of familiar faces from UK tv, including Art Malik (True Lies), most of whom must relish the chance of a meaty role. It pays off as the entire cast are very believable and it all adds up to a cool crime drama that signals big things for debut director / writer Craig Viveiros.

Ghosted receives a limited release in UK cinemas on 24th June with the DVD release following on 27th June.

Ric's Rating: 78%

Wednesday 25 May 2011

DVD: Praise

This quirky Australian drama from 1998 finally makes its way onto DVD in the UK.
Gordon (Peter Fenton) resigns from his dead end job and begins a relationship with former co-worker Cynthia (Sacha Horler). Each has their problems, he is a chain-smoking asthmatic and she suffers from terrible eczema and emotional insecurity.
Their relationship relies heavily on sex so when the passion fades the pair find themselves wondering if they can deal with the realities of everyday life. This leads to heavy drinking and drug use.
Fenton and Horler are fantastic in their portrayals of troubled individuals who find solace together, however long it lasts.
It’s a captivating film that marked an impressive debut for director John Curran who went on to helm Stone which starred Hollywood heavyweights Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton.
The ending is rather inconclusive and it frequently lacks the emotional spark required to make it fantastic but this is a poignant piece that will remain with you long after the end credits roll.

Ric’s rating: 72%

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Book: 11.59 by David Williams

11:59pm on Valentine’s night and radio talk show host Marc Niven receives a call from a man named Hassan who wishes to send love to his widow, Amina.
Is it a message from beyond the grave?

Niven misses the significance of the call and is soon brought to task by his employers. Finding himself suspended and alone following a recent break-up he sets about solving the mystery of the call.

This triggers a series of events that sees Niven involved with pimps, prostitutes, murder and terrorists. Aided only by his loyal superfan, the eccentric Ollie, Niven attempts to beat the bad guys and reclaim his status as a local celebrity.

The main character is a fantastic hapless hero type who navigates all manner of dangerous situations with more luck than guile. I often found myself laughing out loud, even during some particularly dodgy scenarios.

There is a fine cast of colourful characters including Niven himself, the surprisingly clued-up Ollie who is often dismissed as a dim-wit, the snide radio station boss, the young hooker, the terrifying pimp and the influential estranged partner Sam.

Despite the finale involving a terrorist plot being a little too much of a stretch of the imagination I absolutely loved this one. Full of seedy goings-on and laced with dark humour it had me looking forward to resuming the story every time.

Can’t wait to see what Williams comes up with next.

Ric’s Rating: 86%

Monday 23 May 2011

Guest Reviewer: Book: Between Summer's Longing And Winter's End by Lief G W Persson

My good friend Colin has kindly agreed to review a book for the blog. He is a man with wide & varied tastes in both books and movies and I value his opinion highly. He doesn’t have his own blog yet but I’m working on that. Now over to the man himself…..

Following the huge success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy it seems the world can’t get enough gritty, Swedish crime literature. So, here we have the first instalment in a new trilogy by renowned criminologist Leif G.W. Persson. With it’s suitably Bergmanesque title, assurances that it is “one of the greatest ever Swedish crime novels” and the jacket passing reference to James Ellroy, I was itching to get it cracked open.

It begins with an apparent suicide and we are soon introduced to the main protagonist – savvy, misogynist (is there any other kind of cop?) Supt. Lars Martin Johansson. I took an instant dislike to this character, which was maybe the point, but that coupled with the unconvincing translation make the first 150 – 200 pages an almighty slog. We are not in the hands of a master storyteller here.

However, if you can work through the many convolutions and questionable characters, this doorstop of a novel does have its rewards. The plot is haunted by the (real-life) assassination of Sweden’s Prime Minister Olaf Palme and it’s when Persson focuses on this while developing the idea of layers upon layers of corruption that the novel is most successful. There are some more deaths before the end of the book but it’s pretty difficult to care by the time you reach the sleep inducing 551st page.


Col Calls It: 40%

Thursday 19 May 2011

DVD: Biutiful

Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) delivers a stunning performance as a man with many troubles in this powerful Spanish drama from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros).

Uxbal (Bardem) is struggling to raise two children alone and although he still loves his estranged wife he’s not sure he can allow her back into their lives due to her alcohol problems and emotional instability.
Meanwhile he makes a living finding work for illegal immigrants which involves deals with unsavoury businessmen and corrupt cops. All this is done while he keeps an alarming secret, his rapidly failing health.

The entire film rests on Bardem’s performance, for which he was deservedly Oscar nominated, and he manages to portray this complex individual with a dignity that enables you to root for the character despite some moral ambiguity.

Uxbal also happens to be able to communicate with the recently deceased, an area of the film that is touched upon so rarely that I wonder at it’s inclusion.

Some much needed joy is provided by the relationship between Uxbal and his children, he is totally devoted to them and there is great rapport between Bardem and the young actors, in fact all the supporting cast help bolster the lead performance.

This is a fine drama and although some more lighter moments would have enriched the overall experience it’s another example of the top quality film making that exists outside Hollywood.

Biutiful is available on DVD in the UK now and in the USA on 31st May 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 81%

Wednesday 18 May 2011

DVD: Blooded

A high profile pro fox hunting campaigner and his friends attempt to escape the furore surrounding the issue by visiting a remote part of Scotland. Unbeknown to them animal rights activists are watching their every move and have their own plans for the group.

One by one they awaken in nothing but their underwear, exposed to the elements and miles from home. Can they make it back and uncover the identity of their attackers?

This British drama uses recent history and mixes real news footage along with well acted “interviews” to create a docu-drama style that helps the film move along nicely without ever managing to create the tension intended.

Whatever your views on the issue this is a decent bit of film making that sadly doesn’t live up to it’s potential due to a lack of likeable leading characters and unintentionally funny bad guys.

This is an interesting film, just not a very entertaining one.

Ric’s Rating: 57%

Sunday 15 May 2011

Film: Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist

Fast & Furious 5 aka Fast Five finds Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) in Rio with their old friend Vince (Matt Schulze).

During an audacious train robbery the group falls foul of local mobster Reyes and swiftly form a daring plan to take him down.

Meanwhile Dom and Vince are being hunted down by elite Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).While eluding Hobbs the guys assemble a team capable of the job they have planned. This comprises of characters from the previous movies (except Lucas Black from "episode" 3 because apparently that one doesn't count) ensuring that what follows is kind of The Expendables On Wheels.

There isn't a dull moment here as we are treated to a full-on action and car chase extravaganza featuring charismatic performances from Diesel and Johnson, the fight between the two is one of the films many highlights.

The ever dependable Paul Walker is on top form too and the tension between him and Schulze continues from where it left off, way back in the first movie.

There are laughs too as the team has good banter while they attempt to orchestrate their heist and to say the finale is spectacular would be quite an understatement.

This is the action film of the year so far and it's the best in the series by a long way, don't miss it.

Ric's Rating: 95%

Saturday 14 May 2011

DVD: Unstoppable

Denzel Washington (Glory) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) attempt to stop a runaway train in this thriller from director Tony Scott (True Romance).

Washington and Pine have good chemistry as the veteran and rookie train drivers and they get good support from Rosario Dawson as the controller.

No depth to the story here, they have to stop the train before it crashes and potentially causes major damage to a town, that's it. What elevates the film is the characters, you actually care about these guys as their personal troubles are revealed while they put their lives on the line.

Very entertaining.

Ric's Rating: 80%

Friday 13 May 2011

Book: Smokeheads by Doug Johnstone

“Four friends. One weekend. Gallons of whisky. What could go wrong?”

Well, after a promising start almost everything goes wrong for both the characters involved and the reader in this tale of misadventure in the Highlands.

Four thirty-something friends head off on a lads weekend away to the Scottish island of Islay (pronounced Eye-La). Their itinerary includes trips to the island’s famous whisky distilleries and one of them even has plans to start up a whisky business but he needs the help of his wealthy friend to get it off the ground.

Johnstone creates a fantastic atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the gang as they meet various locals with mixed results but when an aggressive bully suddenly becomes a cold blooded killer it’s a step too far.

The trip goes from bad to worse and what was a feel good story becomes a far-fetched fight for survival that might have worked had the first half of the book not been so jovial.
Just like the characters involved I was loving it to begin with (this book made me want to: 1. Drink whisky 2. Visit Islay 3. Go on a lads weekend away) but towards the end I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.

The book has a wonderful setting (although I am biased) and good characters but the whole thing would have worked better as a kind of...The Hangover In The Highlands instead of the Dreary Deliverance it became.

Ric’s Rating: 58%

Monday 9 May 2011

Preview: Black Flowers by Steve Mosby

Steve Mosby has kindly sent me his latest novel and if it's anything like his previous books it'll be a gripping read.

I'm wary of even the slightest spoiler so just a very brief teaser for this preview post:

This is not a story about a girl who disappears. This is the story of a little girl who comes back.
As if from nowhere, she appears one day on a seaside promenade, with a black flower and a horrifying story about where she’s been. But telling that story will start a chain reaction of dangerous lies and deadly illusions that will claim many more victims in the years to come.

Check back soon for a full review.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Preview: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J Watson

I've read a couple of sample chapters for this one that were supplied by Transworld Publishers.

It sounds very interesting and has already been optioned for film.

Here is a brief synopsis:

'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...'

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight.And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.

Friday 6 May 2011

Book: Blitz by Ken Bruen

First published in 2002 this hard-hitting cop killer story has been re-vamped to coincide with the release of the film adaptation.

The main character is Brant, a tough cop who thinks nothing of beating up suspects and leaning on witnesses or anyone else he can make use of.

When cops begin to get bludgeoned to death across the city Brant and the team must use all their expertise to nail the clever killer.

While Brant is top of the bill this is really an ensemble piece with cool sub-plots. Brant himself becomes a bit part player and it’s rookie cop McDonald (out to impress his superiors) and female officer Falls (a recovering addict) who steal the show.

There are a couple of Brant novels prior to this one but it has the feel of a tv pilot episode, albeit for a superior series. The action moves along swiftly, helped by short snappy chapters. The one irk is that Bruen often uses phrases like……Brant was confused. “I’m confused” said Brant……this spoils the flow but thankfully it seems to disappear about half way through the book. Otherwise this is a tremendous piece of crime fiction and I now consider myself a Ken Bruen fan. I fully intend to check out more of his work.

Following the disappointing London Boulevard (the last film adaptation of a Bruen novel) it will be interesting to see how the on-screen version turns out. Especially with action star Jason Statham in the lead role. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised but it will have to be a pretty good film to live up to this brilliant book.

Highly recommended for fans of violent, fast-paced, crime stories.

Ric’s Rating: 91%

Thursday 5 May 2011

TV: Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors

This compulsive reality show follows the hectic life of the action movie star as he attempts to regain his former Hollywood status.

In each episode he travels far and wide, often for small roles in foreign films, but inevitably ends up partying the night away. All while he should be training for an upcoming kick-boxing bout with a former Olympic champion.

Van Damme comes across well for the most part, showing himself as someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and who would rather spend time with his beloved dogs than jetting off to appear in low budget movies.

Highlights include: Accidentally kicking an extra full in the face while filming. His reaction to hearing that he won’t be a part of the upcoming Bloodsport remake. Striving to make up for past misgivings to his long-suffering wife and realising that, at 50 years of age, the proposed fight might not be such a good idea.

The finale is due to be broadcast here in the UK next week and the dvd box set will be available soon.

Highly recommended for past and current fans of the Muscles From Brussels.

Ric’s Rating: 80%

Monday 2 May 2011

DVD: Terry

"Whatever happens just keep filming" proclaims the tagline for this British documentary-style film.

For a little while nothing much does happen as we join a film student who decides to follow a London "wide boy" and film his activities. The film accurately portrays a section of society that lives to get high and seems to always be able to spend lots of time in pubs despite none of them having any legitimate source of income.

Thankfully it all gets interesting as things begin to spiral out of control for Terry following an accidental shooting.

This is fiction but writer / director / star Nick Nevern has created a tense and gritty atmosphere giving this film a very real feel.

It isn't pleasant viewing at times as there are no likeable characters but Nevern's fantastic performance in the leading role makes it totally captivating.

I hope this leads to more for Nick Nevern as I can't wait to see what he does next.

Ric's Rating: 79%

Sunday 1 May 2011

DVD: London Boulevard

Colin Farrell plays Mitchell, a man who is determined to go straight after a spell in prison in this adaptation of the novel by Ken Bruen.

Mitchell agrees to help his friend Billy (Ben Chaplin) collect money for a local gangster but quickly realises that it's something he doesn't want involved in. Unfortunately the boss (Ray Winstone) has plans for Mitchell, leading to an inevitable confrontation between the two.

With the exception of Farrell due to his wandering accent (it goes from Irish to posh boy to cockney geezer, sometimes within the same sentence) the performances are good. Winstone is as reliable as ever and both Kiera Knightley and Anna Friel are fine as Mitchell's love interest and sister respectively. David Thewlis is also surprisingly good.

The trouble here is that director William Monahan unsuccessfully attempts to copy the style of Quinten Tarantino. The loud soundtrack quickly irritates and even the credits have a Tarantino feel about them. Farrell's character also seems to dither about too much, often choosing to be violent or passive at the wrong times.

The kinda poetic justice ending also falls flat.

It kept me watching but I was disappointed.

Ric's Rating: 42%

A - Z Challenge: A Look Back and an award.

Thanks to Elizabeth Mueller ( for this fantastic award.

Tomorrow has been set aside for this but I'll just go ahead and do my "look back" today.

The A - Z Challenge was good fun and although it was tough to make it all the way to the end it wouldn't be called a challenge if it was easy. It gave me a chance to mention some stuff that wouldn't ordinarily see the light of day. Highlights include:

B for Bubba Ho-Tep
M for Steve Mosby
R for Rules of Prey
...and S for Surveillance.

Check them out if you get the chance.

I have found some great new blogs throughout the challenge and I'd like to thank those of you who have visited this blog because of it, especially the folks who have become followers. I'm fast approaching 100 and can't quite believe it. All of your comments are very much appreciated. I plan to update the "Visit These Places" section soon so there will be some new additions.

Also a quick thanks to the people who have been here since the beginning (more or less), especially Michael ( and Alex (, I value your input, wit and friendship.

Now on with the show. Next up is a review of London Boulevard on dvd.