Friday 28 October 2011

DVD: The Woman

On a hunting outing not too far from his home, outwardly respectable family man Chris (Sean Bridgers) discovers a woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) living in the wild.

He decides to capture her and keep her hostage in his cellar under the pretence of helping her adjust to civilized society.

What follows is an abhorrent spectacle of torture and rape which even involves the rest of Chris' family, especially his young son. Eventually she escapes and goes looking for revenge, showing an amazing aptitude for the use of bladed weapons, maybe the wolves taught her.

Ordinarily I would have turned this off but I wanted to be able to post a review so I persevered. Bear in mind that I am a fan of both Hostel and Saw but unlike those films this has no redeeming features. The acting is way below par and I'm struggling to see how this managed to get an, albeit limited, UK cinema release.

Apparently it gained some notoriety because some people walked out at a film festival. I can see why they did, it's a thoroughly unpleasant experience that lacks the essential element for this type of film, a compelling story.

Not clever and certainly not funny.

Ric's Rating: 11%

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Book: Murder In Silence by Gary Kassay

Take the comfortable and familiar feeling of watching your favourite cop show (mine is NYPD Blue) and mix it with the readability of your favourite police procedural novel series (mine is John Sandford’s Prey series) and you’ll come up with something not far removed from Gary Kassay’s stunning debut thriller, Murder In Silence.

When two police officers are found dead, their throats having been ripped out, it’s up to Inspector Duke Becker and his team to track down the killer. Becker heads up the NYPD Special Investigations Unit – Homicide and unusually for the genre he’s no depressed recovering alcoholic, he’s just a regular guy who happens to be good at his job.

The book doesn’t rely on Becker alone, there is an eclectic supporting cast. Jimmy Nova, Becker’s garish partner, Marielle Wilson the tenacious reporter and veterinarian Elizabeth Cunningham all lend their own unique qualities to the tale.

Drawing from personal experience (Kassey is a real-life cop) the author brings a level of authenticity rarely found in crime fiction. From the details of the case to the cop-speak and practical jokes, all areas are covered in a realistic manner that brings the characters to life.

The case itself takes a number of alarming turns. The first of which is when it’s discovered how the murders are committed and the most harrowing of all is when the connection between the victims is revealed. It’s shocking stuff and has significant impact, making the reader question their own views on the killings.

This is the best self-published book I’ve read since Chris Kuzneski’s The Plantation. Kuzneski now frequents best-seller lists, Kassay deserves the same.

For more information on the author and upcoming Duke Becker novels visit

Ric’s Rating: 94%

Monday 24 October 2011

DVD: This Boy's Life

Recently released on DVD here in the UK by Second Sight this 1993 film serves as a stark reminder of just how good Robert DeNiro can be.

This is the true tale of the childhood of author Tobias Wolff who moves town to live with his Mother’s new husband, the seemingly affable Dwight (DeNiro).

Dwight’s true obnoxious personality soon emerges and Tobias is subjected to mental and physical abuse while his Mother (Ellen Barkin) looks on.

This is an acting masterclass from DeNiro, he absolutely nails his portrayal of the deluded Dwight, who is convinced that he has the boy’s best interests at heart. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic too as Tobias, a young man still trying to find his way while dealing with a horrendous family life.

Never having seen this before I was completely captivated from the beginning and even if you’ve already seen it it’s worth another look. The 1950s setting ensures that there is no dated feel and the snippets of information at the end provide suitable closure on all the characters involved.

Ric’s Rating: 89%

Monday 17 October 2011

Film: Real Steel

It’s Rocky with robots as former boxer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) trains a machine rescued from the junkyard to go for the title.

Charlie lives a hand to mouth lifestyle so when his estranged son needs looking after he sees this as a big inconvenience.

Inevitably the pair bond through the rescue and training of their robot, Atom. They decide to use real life boxing techniques and a flamboyant style to make Atom stand out from the crowd. It works, as Atom is soon propelled to the big league of robot boxing. But can the re-engineered pile of scrap metal mix with the sophisticated top level fighting machines?

This has echoes of another Stallone flick, the largely forgotten arm-wrestling tale Over The Top. The Father & Son relationship here is very similar, as is the road trip type environment. Jackman is his usual watchable self and Dakota Goyo provides adequate support as the boy desperate for his Father’s affection. Atom too is very likable, the junkyard scene where he is discovered provides one of the films highlights and it left me keen to find out about his origins. Sequel perhaps?

It’s cheesy, predictable and sentimental……..but bloody good fun.

Ric’s Rating: 76%

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Film: Blood In The Mobile

When Danish film-maker Frank Piasecki Poulsen becomes concerned about the source of minerals used in the manufacture of mobile phones he decides to approach his own phone company, Nokia, for some answers.

Met with a muted response he then decides to travel to the Democratic Republic Of Congo to see the mineral mines for himself.

What follows is a shocking journey through a country ruled by armed gangs and warlords leading to the mine itself. Aided by a 15 year old boy who escaped the mine, Poulsen is able to gain access and film the men working underground. What he sees is like a vision of Hell on Earth.

This powerful documentary movie shows the real life version of events portrayed in the film Blood Diamond and is very disconcerting indeed. It forces us to ask ourselves how comfortable we are with the practices Nokia and the other mobile phone companies indulge in to keep prices down.

Curiously this is the second film I’ve reviewed recently regarding Congo and it’s interesting to see the city of Kinshasa, which was the setting for Viva Riva (see review elsewhere here), as it really is.

Blood In The Mobile opens in UK cinemas on 21st October 2011.

Many thanks to Aim Publicity and Dogwoof for the preview disc.

Ric’s Rating: 81%

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Film: Red State

Writer / Director Kevin Smith proves that there’s more to him than offbeat comedy with this violent and unpredictable road trip / kidnap / siege thriller.

Three teenage boys head out on a trip that promises sexual adventure but they end up fighting for their lives. They have been lured into a trap by a group of religious fanatics led by Albin Cooper (Michael Parks).

The film then veers off in a surprising direction when a team of ATF agents descend on the church.

Michael Parks is mesmerizing as the cult leader, he possesses a melodic and captivating voice, perfect for the role of an extreme preacher.
Melissa Leo, fresh from her Oscar success in The Fighter, again turns in a decent performance as the temptress turned torturer. It’s also nice to see John Goodman back on the big screen as the grizzled government agent who questions his orders.

It all gets a bit silly towards the end but it’s exciting stuff from Kevin Smith. I’ve never been a fan but if he continues in this vein I will be converted….hallelujah !!

Ric’s Rating: 79%

Book: Flashes Of Revenge by Darren Sant

Darren Sant steps outside the grim setting of his ongoing short story series, the Longcroft Estate, to bring us six tales of revenge.

Kicking of with the startling Revenge Is A Warm .45 this collection delivers thrills, laughs and food for thought.

As with Sant’s other stories (see reviews elsewhere here) my only complaint is that they are too short. I could have spent loads more time with the two aged gangsters in Unforgiven. The seemingly strange band members in The Ungrateful Dead were also very intriguing.

I’m new to short stories in general but I’m quickly discovering that a short sharp dose of crime fiction can be very refreshing. I’m also keen to see if the author will tackle a full length novel.

Ric’s Rating: 72%

Sunday 9 October 2011

DVD: Just Do It

‘A tale of modern day outlaws’ proclaims the tagline to this documentary film that follows a group of activists during a year filled with protests and marches.

Coming across more like a disgruntled branch of the Student’s Union these individuals seem to care more about the act of protesting than the causes they claim to be fighting for but they do manage to achieve surprising results, and by the end of the film one or two of them had actually won me over.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m on board with most of the issues but I found it difficult to be preached to about what happens to taxpayer’s money by people who are lucky enough not to have to hold down jobs where they would actually be paying income tax.

The biggest issue concerning the group is climate change and the turning point (for me) in the film is when the attempted protest at a UN summit in Copenhagen is heavy-handedly thwarted by the Danish police. The extreme action by the Danish police force was cleverly filmed eventually leading to the arrests themselves being deemed illegal by the Danish courts.

Other campaigns include helping workers faced with redundancy occupy their factory and standing against a proposed airport runway which would mean the demolition of an entire community.

This film manages to both engage and infuriate on many different levels. Perhaps that’s the point.

Just Do It is available on DVD in the UK from 17th October 2011.

Ric’s Rating: 70%

Friday 7 October 2011

DVD: The Dead List

This French thriller stars Jean Reno (Leon) as the head of a notorious crime clan but unbeknown to him his son wants out.

It all starts out promisingly enough as the family pull of a daring robbery and discover that they have a determined cop on their tails. A lucrative airport heist is then planned which will provide all participants with enough money to walk away.

Unfortunately all momentum is lost when what could have been an enjoyable cops & robbers drama becomes a tale of Father and Son rivalry.

The characters are dull, lack chemistry and there isn’t really anyone to root for.

For hardcore Reno fans only.

The Dead List is available on DVD in the UK from 10th October 2011

Ric’s Rating: 41%

Sunday 2 October 2011

DVD: Viva Riva

Fuel is short in the African country of Congo and when charismatic thief Riva (Patsha Bay) finds himself in possession of a large quantity he quickly cashes in and begins to party.

Looking for the missing fuel is Cesar (Hoji Fortuna) and he will stop at nothing to get it back.

This film was made entirely in the Congo and won 6 awards at the African Movie Academy Awards.

It's a violent and sexy thriller that has a similar feel to that of City Of God but it does fall short in the entertainment department. The bad guys aren't particularly scary, Cesar looks a bit like a comedy pimp and the violence, while brutal, is also unintentionally funny.

More interesting than entertaining it shows great potential for the future of African films and anyone with an interest in world cinema will get something from it.

Viva Riva is released on DVD in the UK on 17th October 2011.

Ric's Rating: 58%

Ric Recommends: Rio Breaks

This powerful documentary movie arrives on DVD in the Uk on 3rd October 2011.

You can find a full review elsewhere here but in the menantime check out this brief trailer which sets it up nicely.