Saturday 30 July 2011

Ric Recommends: Terry

Check out the trailer for this fantastic British documentary style film featuring a brilliant performance from Nick Nevern (who also wrote & directed) in the leading role.

The film is so realistic it often makes for uncomfortable viewing but this just adds to the overall experience.

Highly recommended for fans of gritty drama. You can find my full review elsewhere here.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

DVD: Big Fan

In this drama from 2009 an obsessed fan's encounter with his sporting hero doesn't turn out as planned.

I expected more from this. Instead of the dark drama I was hoping for I got a tale of a 30something nerd living with his Mum who's life revolves around American Football and radio talk shows pertaining to it.

It's a decent performance from Patton Oswalt in the leading role but every time I thought it was about to get interesting it didn't.

Maybe I just don't understand sports obsessives but on this evidence I wouldn't even want to try.

Ric's Rating: 34%

Sunday 24 July 2011

DVD: Anuvahood

When wanabee gangsta Kenneth "call me K" (Adam Deacon) and his friends are bullied and robbed by local thug Tyrone (Richie Campbell) it's up to K to prove his street cred and take on Tyrone.

This British comedy follows in the footsteps of Ali G and provides some hilarious moments, there just aren't enough of them to make is as good as it could be.

Adam Deacon writes, directs and stars, maybe he has taken on too many roles in this production because he is great on screen as the deluded K. In particular, the scene where he gets high rapping along to his favourite tracks in his bedroom is hilarious.

Campbell is also fantastic as the manic muscle-bound Tyrone who has a penchant for baby oil.

It's a decent little comedy that shines in places but fails to deliver in others.

Ric's Rating: 62%

DVD: Lake Mungo

Soon after the accidental death of teenager Alice Palmer her family begin to experience eerie feelings and visions. Their suspicions appear confirmed when the ghostly figure of Alice appears in photographs taken by her brother.

This Australian ghost story, filmed in a documentary style, manages to do what most of today's horrors can't, it scares.

Debut director Joel Anderson creates a very atmospheric film that consists mostly of interviews with Alice's family and friends. This works surprisingly well and creates the type of "real" feeling that the likes of the shambolic Paranormal Activity (1 &2) aim for.

Just when you think you know where this film is headed it veers off in another direction becoming a kind of dysfunctional family drama that the ghost story just happens to be part of.

Interesting, creepy and pretty unique, this will please anyone yearning for a decent understated and gore-free horror film.

Lake Mungo is available on DVD in the UK from 25th July 2011.

Ric's Rating: 74%

Thursday 21 July 2011

DVD: The Devil's Rock

The Channel Islands during WWII and two Allied Forces soldiers on a covert mission investigate what sounds like torture taking place, only to discover a Nazi hideout with a terrifying secret. The Germans have been attempting to summon a demon to aid their war effort and unfortunately for all but one of them they have succeeded.

The film mostly features three cast members. Craig Hall as the soldier from New Zealand, Matthew Sunderland as the German Colonel and Gina Varela as one damn sexy shape-shifting demon.

The sworn enemies must work together to survive while always doubting each other’s word and keeping the evil she-demon at bay.

Debut director Paul Campion creates a fantastic creepy atmosphere and all three actors mentioned deliver good performances.

Films like this prove that you don’t need a big budget to make a decent movie and the special (non-cgi) effects are reasonably good too. They even manage to make Gina Varela remind me of Tim Curry’s Prince Of Darkness from Legend.

Better than most straight to dvd horrors this is great gory fun.

The Devil's Rock is available on dvd in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: 71%

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Book: Sinema 2: Sympathy For The Devil by Rod Glenn

Preceded by a very insightful foreword from the author this sequel catches up with Han Whitman a year after the events of the first book. Feeling more like a continuation than a new novel I’d say that reading Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre (see review elsewhere here) is essential before you pick this one up.

Haunted by his actions Whitman decides that in order to restore balance he must eliminate one “guilty” person for every innocent that was slain. So in the biggest role-reversal since Arnold Schwarzenegger became the good guy in T2, Whitman begins to identify and eliminate various types of criminals.

Meanwhile, the son of a victim and the lone survivor of the massacre team up to track Whitman down.

These and other elements, such as a blossoming relationship with a police officer and dreams of the past give this book a completely different feeling to the first. Gone is the revulsion, this time you can understand the mission (or experiment as the character calls it) and there are even some moments of dark humour. It’s wild ride that takes you into the past of the main character and explains how he became an outwardly ordinary but deeply scarred individual.

Rod Glenn’s original Sinema novel will live with me for some time and here he has managed to expand and enrich the story while delivering another thrilling tale. This instalment is a more conventional serial killer novel and fans of the hit tv show Dexter will love it.

Ric’s Rating: 80%

Sunday 17 July 2011

Film: Cell 211

This brutal Spanish prison drama was made in 2009 but only hit UK cinema screens this week.

It tells the story of Juan (Alberto Ammann), who while taking a tour of the prison prior to starting his job as a guard gets caught up in a riot. He manages to convince the inmates that he is a new arrival and is accepted by the leader of the group, Malamadre (Luis Tosar). Hearing of the riot Juan's pregnant wife Elena heads to the prison to find out just what is going on.

This is a ferocious film, the violence starts within the first five minutes and the pace rarely lets up. There are excellent scenes of high tension too as Juan's true identity could be exposed. As the riot escalates events take various twists and turns which make you question who the real villains are.

Luis Tosar (featured in the poster) delivers a stunning performance as the menacing Malamadre who often shows that he knows right from wrong while always living up to his fearsome reputation.

The film won many awards in Spain's 20009 Goya Awards (Spanish Oscars) including Best Actor for Tosar and Best Breakthrough Actor for Ammann as the conflicted Juan.

This is an explosive and edgy film full of fine performances and it has already been lined up for a Hollywood remake.

If you only see one subtitled film this year, make it this one.

Ric's Rating: 93%

Saturday 16 July 2011

DVD: The Round Up

This French drama set in July 1942 in occupied Paris depicts several Jewish families that are attempting to peacefully go about their business during a difficult time. Slowly their rights are eroded leaving them with few places to go and little chance of employment. They continue to live as best they can until, inevitably, the German forces come for them.

This true story of one of the darkest times in France’s history makes for difficult viewing. It focuses on the children and how, in spite of everything, they continue to want to be typical children, running around playing games even while under armed guard.

Jean Reno (Leon) features as a Doctor struggling to cope in the huge stadium that serves as a temporary detention centre and Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) is Annette, the nurse helping him.

As the detainees are shipped from place to place the film wisely avoids the death camps that are the group’s final destination. Instead concentrating on events leading to the final journey taken by over 13,000 people, including over 4,000 children. The disgraceful actions of the French police in these events are also covered.

Not since The Pianist has a World War II film moved me as much. This is a film that anyone with even a passing interest in the war will find utterly compelling.

The round Up is available on DVD in the UK from 18th July 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 77%

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Book: Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings

When an L.A strip club waitress calls her friend, club bouncer and all-round badass Moses McGuire, asking for help, he figures it’s nothing important and gets distracted by other females at the club. Turning up at her place hours later he discovers her mutilated body and vows to track down the killers.

Riding a wave of guilt and bound by his word to a dead girl Moses sets off on a path that will lead through brothels, mobsters, corrupt cops and sexual deviants as he seeks retribution.

This has explosive scenes of violence, there are shoot-outs and fist fights galore but there are also some lighter moments. When McGuire discovers an abandoned puppy he decides to keep her and becomes a regular down at the dog park where his considerable presence doesn’t go un-noticed amongst the respectable regulars.

Josh Stallings’ self published debut is a breath of fresh air in the series character genre. Here we have a hard drinking, pill popping, womanizing main character with suicidal tendencies who is, very importantly, not a cop. This provides a different perspective to that of the majority of series novels.

A fine introduction to a cool character and a sign of great things to come this is highly recommended for fans of action thrillers.

Ric’s Rating: 76%

Monday 11 July 2011

DVD: No Surrender

New Year’s Eve at The Charleston club in Liverpool descends into chaos as rival religious groups are booked to celebrate the evening in the same venue. It also happens to be manager Mike’s first night on the job and along with the religious bigots he has local gangsters, a fugitive terrorist, terrible acts and a smitten waitress to deal with.

The cast all do a decent job especially Michael Angelis as the affable Mike who finds himself caught up in chaos and attempts to do the right thing. Bernard Hill (Titanic) and Joanne Whalley (Scandal) show the potential that led to further success and plenty of familiar UK tv faces create a feeling akin to creator Alan Bleasdale’s hit show Boys From The Blackstuff in which Angelis and Hill also featured.

There are some comedy gems here, the blind boxer who constantly goads his old rival and the warring inappropriate band are highlights but on the whole the film is light on laughs and may have worked better as a drama. There is palpable tension that gets lost in the pursuit of jokes.

Made in 1985 it's refreshingly not politically correct and will appeal to fans of classic British tv show Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

No Surrender is released on DVD in the UK on 25th July 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 57%

Thursday 7 July 2011

DVD: Unknown

Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin and leaves some luggage behind at the airport. During his journey to retrieve it he is involved in a car accident and awakens days later in hospital desperate to assure his wife (January Jones) that he is ok. Amazingly when he reaches her she claims not to recognise him and then introduces him to her husband…..Dr Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn).

What follows is Neeson’s quest to prove his identity. It’s all run-of-the-mill stuff involving hidden agendas and terrorist plots with only fleeting moments of tension. It’s light on action too so anyone expecting another Taken will be disappointed, the similarities end at the poster.

Neeson is as reliable as ever and Diane Kruger delivers a scene stealing performance as the taxi driver from the accident who gets caught up in the chaos. Unfortunately they don’t manage to make this particularly interesting and if you’ve seen the trailer it pretty much gives the ending away.

One for avid Neeson fans only.

Ric’s Rating: 48%

Tuesday 5 July 2011

DVD: Assassin Rising

A small village attempts to fend off a marauding army in this martial arts adventure from Thailand.

Tales of the village survive to modern times and a group of students visit the ancient site only to be magically transported back in time into the middle of the legendary conflict.

There are some cool battle scenes and kills reminiscent of the video game Mortal Kombat but it hurtles along so quickly that it forgets about character development.

There are many warriors, pantomime villains, mysterious profits and sage-like village elders. It has great potential but never manages to rise above the over-acting and dodgy CGI.
However, it is good fun and delivers a surprisingly emotional (albeit with a little slice of Eastern propaganda) ending.

If you’re more of a Monkey than a Crouching Tiger then it might just be up your street.

Assassin Rising is available on dvd in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: 60%

Friday 1 July 2011

Book: Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre by Rod Glenn

A video store owner decides to test himself. His mission is to exceed the numbers of victims of Britain’s most notorious mass murderers. In order to accomplish this he adopts a new identity, aspiring author Han Whitman, and ingratiates himself with the locals of a village called Haydon, then sets about systematically eliminating them.

Whitman is gradually accepted by most of the villagers and soon begins a relationship with the barmaid at the Inn where he is staying. A feeling of contentment ensues but he is determined to proceed with his plan of annihilation, whatever the cost.

This reminds me a lot of the recent Uwe Boll film Rampage (see review elsewhere here) but in that film the main character’s life was going to shit before he went off on one. In this case there is a severe lack of motivation, which may be closer to the real life horror of these types of incidents, but it makes for a less entertaining story as you cannot understand or root for this guy. Whitman’s cruelty knows no bounds and no one is safe. Man, woman, child and animal are all victims here and it can be a harrowing read.

That being said, this type of writing takes guts and Rod Glenn pulls no punches as he takes the reader on an often alarming and uncomfortable ride. When the killing starts the ferocious pace does not let up and you are compelled to see it through to the pulsating final confrontation.

This is a hardcore serial killer thriller that won’t appeal to those used to cosy whodunits. But if you can handle it you will be treated to a book that delivers a level of excitement often absent in current crime novels.

Ric’s Rating: 89%