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%