Tuesday 30 August 2011

Competition: Carver by Tom Cain

Tom Cain's new thriller is available now and courtesy of Transworld Publishers I have a signed copy to give away.

Here is the lowdown:


The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 sent shockwaves around the financial world. Never before had such a large and prestigious organisation been allowed to fail, and to fail so quickly. It began a domino effect, hitting banks and economies around the world. Theories abound as to the cause of the collapse - the sub-prime bubble, bad management, even good old fashioned greed.

But what if it was none of the above. What if Lehman Brothers had been brought to its knees by the deliberate and wilful act of one man bent on a course of financial terrorism? Moreover, what if it was only a dry run for a bigger and even bolder attack on the financial capital of the world, the City of London?

Samuel Carver is about to find himself on the biggest mission of his life.


This is the latest in the Sam Carver series and to be in with a chance of winning just use the comments box to tell me about your favourite series character. Characters from books & movies count so it could be anyone from Jack Reacher to Austin Powers.

Just tell me why you like them and you could be the winner....

Monday 29 August 2011

Book: Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Fatal Attraction meets Misery in the debut thriller form Jennifer Hillier.

Dr. Sheila Tao is about to get married and because of that fact she puts an end to the short fling she’s been having with her teaching assistant. Unfortunately the assistant, Ethan Wolfe, doesn’t handle this very well and embarks on a campaign to ruin Sheila’s life.

What starts out as petty acts of revenge soon take an altogether darker turn as Ethan’s true nature is revealed.

Sheila’s own tumultuous past also comes to the fore and secrets that she has strived to keep hidden soon become common knowledge to all involved. This has a particularly unsettling effect on her fiancĂ©, Morris.

This appears to be a familiar tale of obsession but there are some deliciously dark surprises and the characters all have their own issues adding just the right amount of depth.

It’s a cool, easy read that manages to successfully mix different elements from the broad spectrum of today’s crime fiction. There is murder, kidnap, police procedure, love and betrayal all wrapped up in a sexually charged story that revolves around a slightly off-the-wall main character.

You can visit Jennifer’s blog via the link in the ‘visit these places’ section on this page for information on the sequel and loads more cool stuff.

Creep is available in the USA and on Kindle now and is released in paperback in the UK on 08/12/11.

Ric’s Rating: 78%

Film: Conan The Barbarian

Jason Momoa attempts to emulate Big Arnie in this remake of the fondly remembered 1982 movie.

Young Conan (Leo Howard) witnesses the slaughter of his village and the murder of his Father (Ron Perlman) and vows vengeance against the perpetrators, led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang).

What should be a fun swords & sandals tale quickly becomes dull as Momoa makes for a plodding Conan, he doesn’t have the screen presence or charisma for such a big character. Leo Howard is much more believable as the ferocious younger version.

Also, Stephen Lang (great in Avatar) isn’t a convincing villain. He just looks like an old guy trying to mix it up with brutes half his age and the garb he dons for the finale transforms him into a crazy mash up of Medusa and Big Trouble In Little China’s Lo-Pan.

Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons Of Anarchy) gives the best performance but isn’t in the film long enough to have a major influence.

Just as with the recent Clash Of The Titans remake this one falls short which makes me think that these type of films are probably best suited to early 80s VHS, which some of us may look back on through rose tinted glasses.

Ric’s Rating: 42%

Saturday 27 August 2011

Film: The Smurfs

I had fond memories of The Smurfs cartoon so was happy to go see this one with my daughter.

Now, in the cartoon the evil wizard Gargamel was alway trying to locate The Smurfs village but he never managed it. In this movie Gargamel storms the village within the first five minutes causing panic amongst the little blue guys.

During the escape a band of Smurfs, led by Papa, take a wrong turn and, with Gargamel hot on their heels, they are transported via portal to present day New York City.

On their quest to return home they befriend Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) while always attempting to aviod Gargamel who has followed them.

Instead of spoiling memories, as films like this tend to do, this manages to update fun characters and bring them to a new audience. The Smurfs are wonderfully animated and well voiced by Jonathan Winters (Papa), Alan Cumming (Gutsy) and Katy Perry (Smurfette) to name but a few but it's Hank Azaria's perfect portrayal of Gargamel that steals the show.

There is also plenty of laughs for the grown ups like when Patrick questions the constant use of the word smurf and exclaims "smurf, smurf, smurfity, smurf" "Theres no need for that language" replies a stern looking Papa. Priceless.

Go on, use your own or someone else's kids as an excuse and catch this one.

Ric's Rating: 75%

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Blog Tour: Carver by Tom Cain

I'm very pleased to announce the first ever competition here at Ric's Reviews.

It's all happening on 30th August so make sure you don't miss out on a chance to win a signed copy of Carver by Tom Cain.

Film: Horrible Bosses

After years of dedication and hard work Nick (Jason Bateman) has lost out on the promotion he craved.
Dale (Charlie Day) is being sexually harassed by the dentist he works for and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) can’t stand to see the drug addicted Bobby (Colin Farrell) in charge of the company he loves.

With the help of Jamie Foxx as the fantastically named Mother-Fucker Jones the trio decide to kill each others bosses.

This is a riot from start to finish and all cast members seem to be having a great time. Jennifer Aniston as the sexually charged dentist, Kevin Spacey as the slimy CEO and Colin Farrell as the coke snorting nunchuck wielding Bobby, who sports the best comedy comb-over since Bill Murray’s in Kingpin, all ham it up gloriously while Charlie Day provides the most laughs of the three employees with his impressive turn as the panicky dental assistant.

Full of fantastic one-liners and brilliant set-pieces (breaking into Bobby’s house is a highlight) this is the comedy of the year so far.

Ric’s Rating: 84%

Monday 22 August 2011

DVD: Iron & Blood: The Legend Of Taras Bulba

Join the Russian Braveheart as he wages war with Poland and……his own son.

As the title suggests Taras Bulba is a Russian legend, the authenticity of the story is a little vague but it’s based on a book first published in 1835 that claims to be founded in truth, although it all feels overly romanticized to me. More Beowulf than Braveheart perhaps?

Bulba joins his sons, Ostap and Andriy, as they march on Poland but unbeknown to the old warhorse one of them is in love with a Polish noblewoman. Andriy soon defects and joins the Poles in the fight against his own people.

This isn’t the place to start if you aren’t already used to foreign language films, the idiosyncrasies can be a bit off-putting, but if subtitles don’t deter you then it’s an enjoyable tale of love and war that features a fine performance from Bohdan Stupka as the irrepressible Bulba.

Made in 2008 it’s just arrived on DVD in the UK courtesy of Metrodome.

Ric’s Rating: 64%

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Book: The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall

Ruth Dugdall’s second novel to feature probation officer Cate Austin deals with the thorny issue of assisted suicide.

Alice Mariani has been convicted of helping her lover kill himself but the troubling facts are that he was not unwell and that Alice consumed part of his flesh.

The story is told from Alice’s perspective and seamlessly switches from present to past as we take a journey through her troubled childhood, exploring the events that moulded her into the strong, intelligent and confident woman she has become.

Cate’s role is to examine the case and recommend a sentence to the Judge and her investigations delve into the motives of both Alice and the mysterious “Smith”. These investigations unearth many, often unpredictable and sinister, factors, all of which contribute to the unsavoury event.

Dugdall’s intelligent and articulate prose immediately captivates and the murky past of Alice together with Smith’s hidden agenda make for an unpredictable read that will satisfy fans of crime fiction who don’t require their stories to be unnecessarily bloody or violent. The emphasis here is firmly on the characters, all of whom are multi-layered.

The Sacrificial Man is a thoroughly satisfying read and Ruth Dugdall proves to be a smart new voice in the crime fiction genre.

Ric’s Rating: 81%

Thursday 11 August 2011

DVD: Blood Fighter

A family of Muay Thai fighters make a living by staging exhibitions in their bar but when thugs attempt to put them out of business the fighting becomes all too real.

This Asian film features some decent fight scenes and a nice back story for one of the characters but it takes so long to get going that by the time it all kicked off I had already tired of it.

If you want an excellent Asian martial arts movie check out Ong-Bak instead.

Blood Fighter is available on dvd in the UK from 15th August 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 48%

Saturday 6 August 2011

Book: Hood Rat by Gavin Knight

Author Gavin Knight spent two years with police forces in London, Manchester and Glasgow working on his debut book. It’s a non-fiction tale that almost reads like a thriller. Divided into three parts, one each for the cities mentioned, it takes you on a journey into crime-ridden estates populated by people with either no option or no desire to find a regular job. These are the gangsters, dealers and crooks that operate not too far from you & me.

In Manchester we join cop Anders Svensson as he attempts to bring feared gangsters Merlin and Flow to justice.

London is where we find Pilgrim, an enforcer with a sad past who spends time in jail only to discover that the rules of the street have changed upon his release.

My home city of Glasgow is the setting for the final third where Karyn McClusky begins a crusade against knife crime.

I haven’t read a non-fiction book in a long time and I struggled with the delivery of this to begin with. It felt like I was being bombarded with information given in short sharp sentences. However as I settled into it and my brain finally realised I wasn’t reading a “story” I found that the style completely suited the material and I was totally immersed in the tales from each city that, as in real life, don’t always come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Not quite up there with David Simon’s Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets but very relevant. I even found that I was familiar with some of the cases mentioned.

Put simply, if more non-fiction books were like this I’d be reading more of them but for now I’ll just eagerly await Gavin Knight’s next project.

Ric’s Rating: 75%

Thursday 4 August 2011

DVD: UFC Ultimate Royce Gracie

Back in the early 90’s I saw a vhs tape of The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a no-holds-barred fighting tournament involving eight participants, each a master of their chosen style. The winner was Royce Gracie, a smallish man from Brazil who used his family’s own discipline, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed, it was marketed as a savage tournament with fists flying and blood spraying everywhere. What Royce Gracie did was use his superior skill to take the violence out of the fighting, he would tie these brutes up in knots and have them begging for mercy, and he made it look so easy.

Gracie went on to win 3 out of 4 of the first Ultimate Fighting Championships and was the first inductee into the UFC Hall Of Fame.

This dvd explores the past of the man known as the Father of modern Mixed Martial Arts and delves into the origins of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu which was born in the mind of Royce’s Father, Helio. There is also revealing interviews from Royce himself as well as some of his opponents alongside footage of the fights.

The UFC now has weight divisions and many rules that the fighters must obey and although I’m still a fan this journey back to the days when the only rules were no biting and no eye gouging feels like a breath of fresh air. If only we could go back to a proper no rules event where the winners progress and fight again on the same evening leading to a final involving two battle weary warriors. I’m pretty sure that most of today’s competitors couldn’t hack it.

An absolute must for any fan of mixed martial arts, especially those who appreciate brain triumphing over brawn.

Ric’s Rating: 94%