Saturday 29 December 2012

Top Films of 2012

Over the past year I haven’t caught as many movies as I would have liked but there were still some gems amongst the ones I did get round to.

Instead of a traditional top ten list I’ll use this end of year post to point out some of the highlights of the past 12 months.

These are in no particular order and weren’t necessarily released in 2012.

Avengers Assemble – The first film to feature Marvel heroes Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man and Thor turned out even better than anyone dared to hope. Bring on the sequel!

The Grey – Liam Neeson leads a group of plane crash survivors through the wilderness but they encounter a pack of hungry wolves. Manages to be exciting and thought-provoking with great turns from Neeson and Frank Grillo.

The Angels Share – A Scottish comedy drama about a group of offenders attempting to steal a very rare and valuable whisky. After a bleak start this becomes a hilarious tale of misadventure.

Stay Cool – A successful author returns to his own high school to give a speech to students. Marketed as a romantic comedy this funny and often poignant film is much more than it appears to be as the thirtysomething finds himself back in situations he first experienced as a teenager.

Dredd – Karl Urban delivers a true representation of the comic book judge / jury / executioner as Dredd must take on a feared drug dealer while training a rookie Judge. Mega-violent and fast paced this will please fans of hardcore action films.

End Of Watch – Two cops find themselves with a price on their heads in this top notch action thriller.

American Pie: Reunion – Jim, Stifler and the gang are as funny as ever in this cast get-together that must spawn further films. Far better than expected.

Rise Of The Guardians – A brilliantly animated film that breathes life into the legends of Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and the unlikely hero Jack Frost as they take on the evil Pitch Black.

You can use the search facility to find my full reviews of all of the above.

Monday 24 December 2012

Ric Recommends: Rise of the Guardians

Check out the trailer for the fantastic Rise Of The Guardians and see my full review below.

Film: Rise Of The Guardians

When The Boogeyman (aka Pitch Black) threatens to turn the dreams of children into nightmares it’s up to The Guardians to stop him.

The Guardians are a sword-wielding tattooed Santa Claus, a six-foot Easter Bunny, a silent Sandman and a spirited Tooth Fairy but for this task they need an addition to their group. Enter the mischievous Jack Frost.

Surprisingly the main character here is Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a troubled figure who has no idea of his purpose and no memory of the life he had before being selected by the Moon to become the folklore he now is. Pitch Black sees that Jack has more in common with him than the others and attempts to recruit him in his quest to dominate the minds of children.

Will Jack turn to the dark side or find his purpose and become a hero?

This is without doubt the best animated film I have seen since Toy Story. It looks absolutely beautiful and the characters are fantastic. It also contains the right amount of menace to keep the adults entertained without scaring off the youngsters.

Rise Of The Guardians is a wonderful, magical film that presents much-loved characters in a cool new way. 

An absolute must-see for the festive season.

Ric’s Rating: Essential  

Sunday 23 December 2012

Film: Kill List

After a slow start this 2011 tale of two hitmen really kicks off and there is more going on than meets the eye.

Jay (Neil Maskell) is troubled by past events and the current “kill list” that him and Gal (Michael Smiley) are working on only makes his mental state all the more fragile.

As the duo encounter and eliminate some despicable individuals it leads them to encounter a strange cult who may have been watching them for some time.

This could have been fantastic, Maskell and Smiley are brilliant as the violent assassins who also display their human side.

Unfortunately it all descends into a Wicker Man rip-off which was totally unnecessary spoiling what has gone before.

Writer / Director Ben Wheatley has a film in UK cinemas at the moment (Sightseers) which looks interesting. 

Lets hope he doesn’t go down a similar road.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.   

Film: Code Name: Geronimo

This is the story of the operation leading to the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Told from the point of view of the soldiers involved it boasts a cool cast including TV stalwarts Robert Knepper (Prison Break, Heroes), Anson Mount (Hell On Wheels) and William Fichtner (Prison Break, Invasion).

The story moves along quickly enough and covers the political side of things too but the video game view often used when the soldiers are training or on assignment is quickly headache inducing.

The films strength is the use of the soldier’s family lives to present a more rounded picture of the people involved. This helps elevate the whole thing from standard direct to DVD fare to something which justifies its limited UK cinema release.

Code Name: Geronimo is available on DVD & Blu-ray in the UK from 24th December 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Good.   

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Short Story: Replica by Trevor Schmidt

Trevor Schmidt, author of the cool sci-fi thriller Memory Leak, returns to the genre with this short story which follows a team of futuristic soldiers in their pursuit of a notorious terrorist.

The year is 2054 and Sgt Logan Martel and his team are closing in on their man. The team must use all of the advanced technology available to them, including robotic birds, to survive the onslaught of machine-gun fire coming from insurgents.

This quick easy read is a cautionary tale regarding the development of future technology and is ideal lunch-break or commute reading that will appeal to fans of the Terminator movies.

Click on the Trevor Schmidt tab below for my review of Memory Leak.

Ric’s Rating: Good.      

Monday 17 December 2012

Book: Nikki's Secret by William Malmborg

The latest offering from William Malmborg (Jimmy, Text Message) tells the tale of Kimberly, a young woman who is subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment by the mysterious Nikki.

Help may be at hand in the form of Kimberly’s new neighbour, the reclusive and idiosyncratic Bill. Bill is a writer who has recently found some success but his past money-making ventures may have some part to play in the increasingly worrying situation which Kimberly finds herself in.

This story takes the reader on a journey into the mind of a delusional and sexually misguided individual who attempts to exact revenge on those believed responsible for their own depressing situation.

Nikki’s Secret isn’t up there with the brilliant Jimmy (see review elsewhere here) but it’s another entertaining read from a very promising author. The little pieces of black humour are perfectly placed amongst the tension and one particularly gory scene is lightened hugely by the skin-crawlingly funny description of the impractical nature of disposing of a body.

For more information visit and you can click on the tab below for my reviews of the author’s other books.

Ric’s Rating: Good.  

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Film: Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger

With Martin Freeman away being Bilbo Baggins it’s up to new teacher David Tennant (Fright Night) to take over the unruly schoolchildren of St Bernadette’s and lead them to Wales, where they will compete in the TV competition A Song For Christmas.

Marc Wootton returns as the zany Mr Poppy, as does the majority of the original cast, including most of the children. Tennant, while adequate in his dual roles, is never as likable as Freeman was and his dysfunctional family storyline fails to engage.

This is ok for kids but lacks the charm of the original making it a rather mundane affair.

Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy           

Sunday 25 November 2012

Film: End Of Watch

This hand-held camera style thriller follows the misadventures of two brash young L.A. cops as they go about their daily routines.

Although some nasty and dangerous situations arise the pair handle it all with good humour until they unwittingly cross a powerful drug cartel and find themselves worth a lot of money to anyone willing to eliminate them.

At last Jake Gyllenhaal appears in a film as good as Donnie Darko, I really had convinced myself that he’d never recreate that moment and his career had already peaked. On this evidence he has plenty more to offer. Gyllenhaal is brilliant as marine-turned-cop Brian Taylor who films his daily activities for his own personal project but secretly longs for a meaningful relationship. Taylor’s partner is happily married Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), a soon-to-be Father who is still willing to take risks in the line of duty.

The film immediately absorbs the viewer. Taylor and Zavala are a cool pairing and they happily make fun of the other cops while facing calls that include “missing” babies, a dangerous house fire and a huge violent man who challenges them to take off their badges.

With some shocking moments and tense, brutal action this is undoubtedly the best cop drama since Training Day.

End Of Watch is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Saturday 17 November 2012

Film: Nativity

With a sequel to this 2009 Christmas film due soon I decided to take my daughter to a special screening  at our local cinema, and I’m very glad I did.

Schoolteacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) hates Christmas. This is because his girlfriend (Ashley Jensen) left him on Christmas Day some years ago.

Much to his dismay Maddens is chosen to direct the annual school Nativity and soon finds himself running into an old rival and making promises he will struggle to keep.

Freeman (soon to be seen as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) is great as the downtrodden teacher and all the kids involved are utterly charming. Marc Wootton also turns in a fine performance as the fun-loving classroom assistant Mr Poppy.

Can Maddens and Poppy beat their local rivals to a 5 star review and will the elusive Hollywood producer turn up to see the performance?

Nativity is a heart-warming and funny film that’s great fun at Christmastime.

Make it a must-see this festive season.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended  

Monday 12 November 2012

Book: Buried Prey by John Sandford

The discovery of the bodies of two young girls at a construction site takes top cop Lucas Davenport back to his very first homicide case.

We travel back to the mid-eighties and join a much younger Lucas and rookie Detective Sloane (another recurring character from the Prey series) as they attempt to get to the bottom of the abduction of the Jones sisters.

When a suspect emerges Lucas can’t help thinking that something just isn’t right and despite force veterans being satisfied he continues his attempts to track down another elusive person of interest.

In this gripping police procedural the author shows how a flashback story should be done. A large chunk of the action takes place in the eighties but Sandford doesn’t dwell there too long and returns the tale to the present day at exactly the right point in the story.

The Prey series always takes the reader right into the heart of the investigation as leads are pursued and suspects eliminated and in this, the 21st novel, there are even a few surprises as well as a shocking farewell to a well liked character.

Forget Cross and Reacher, for the best long-running series you have to check out Lucas Davenport in John Sandford’s brilliant Prey novels.

Click the John Sandford tab for more reviews.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.     

Thursday 1 November 2012

TV Show: Last Resort

An American nuclear submarine receives an order to bomb Pakistan but when the Captain (Andre Braugher, Homicide: Life On The Street) and crew question the order they are met with a hostile response from their own government.

Finding themselves faced with inevitable destruction they decide to fight back and threaten to unleash the warheads contained on the sub…directly at Washington DC.

I didn’t expect too much from this drama, partly due to the 8pm UK tv timeslot, but the opening episode was filled with tension from beginning to end.

Braugher and the rest of the cast which includes Scott Speedman, Robert Patrick and Bruce Davison, turn in terrific performances and the plot will appeal to fans of conspiracy thrillers like Homeland and 24.

Hard to see how this will span an entire series but the brilliant start means I’m keen to find out.

Last Resort is currently being shown on Sky1 in the UK.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.    

Saturday 27 October 2012

Film: Baghead

Four struggling actors decide to take a trip to an isolated cabin in an attempt to get their creative juices flowing.

Eventually they come up with the idea to make a movie about a killer roaming the woods with, you guessed it, a bag over his head but the fictional character soon appears leaving the group terrified and fighting for their lives.

This low budget effort from 2008 does manage to crank up the tension but it takes too long to get there and ultimately delivers an ending that was easy to figure out.

Undemanding fun that will appeal to fans of The Blair Witch Project.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy

Saturday 20 October 2012

Film: Lovely Molly

Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis) decide to move into the long-time vacant house where Molly grew up, unaware that this would bring back forgotten memories of traumatic events.

Former drug user Molly begins to experience some strange feelings in the house and she is particularly vulnerable while Tim is away working. As her behaviour becomes more and more erratic she finds herself in trouble at work and begins to seek solace in the drugs she battled to quit.

Gretchen Lodge delivers a fantastic performance as the woman attempting to forget past demons but struggling to stay on an even keel. If only they hadn’t bothered with the “spooky” element this would have been so much better.

Lovely Molly is available on DVD in the UK from 22nd October 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Film: Sinister

A struggling true crime writer moves his family into the house that previously belonged to the family that he is writing about. They were found hanged in the back garden...and their young daughter is missing.

Billed as a “terrifying horror” this actually begins an interesting murder investigation story. Ethan Hawke (Training Day) is fine as the desperate author striving for success and much of the film relies heavily on his portrayal of a man absorbed into something darker than he imagined.

Unfortunately what could have been a fantastic serial-killer movie becomes a silly story of Ghouls and the occult which goes on to present the most hackneyed character in horror films of recent years, the scary kid.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy   

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Book: Origin by J.T. Brannan

A scientific research team finds a body buried deep in the Antarctic ice and it dates back an incredible 40,000 years.

When Dr Lynn Edwards reports the find to the authorities she is stunned by the rapid reaction and then narrowly escapes death as secretive figures attempt to silence her. In her hour of need she turns to her ex-husband Matt “Free Bear” Adams, himself a former soldier, and soon the duo are off on an adventure that spans the globe and leads to an amazing discovery.

Dispatched by the power-hungry Stephen Jacobs, the feared Alpha Brigade soon pursue Edwards and Adams through fascinating locations such as Area 51 and the Nazca lines leading to the final confrontation at CERN in Geneva.

As a straight forward tale of pursuit this works very well and the information and theories regarding the Nazca lines and Area 51 seem entirely plausible. The main characters are likeable and you almost want to boo and hiss when the villains appear.

Unfortunately the theories regarding Atlantis are a stretch of the imagination too far and the whole thing begins to feel like a game of “spot the legend” as we move towards a groan inducing ending.

Origin is JT Brannan’s debut and although it has faults it remains a fast-paced fun read that will appeal to fans of Dan Brown, Matthew Reilly and Andy McDermott.

Origin is published by Headline and will be available in the UK from 25th October 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Good. 

Sunday 30 September 2012

Film: G.B.H.

A troubled London policeman attempts to sort out his complicated life in the weeks prior to all hell breaking loose in the London riots of 2011.

Nick Nevern (Terry, The Rise & Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan) is Damien, a cop who has more in common with the average criminal than he does with most of his colleagues. As tensions rise Damien must decide which side he is on while also looking out for his rookie partner Louise (Kellie Shirley).

Director Simon Phillips (who also appeared with Nevern in White Collar Hooligan) manages to effectively present a unique viewpoint of London in the latest example of excellent British filmmaking. Real life footage is used well and Damien’s perspective crosses the boundaries brilliantly while the characters actions present a man struggling with his attempts to do the right thing.

Nevern delivers another powerhouse performance and firmly cements his status as the UK’s brightest rising star of urban drama.

GBH is available on DVD in the UK from 1st October 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Click the Nick Nevern tab for reviews of the other films mentioned.

Friday 28 September 2012

Film: Bereavement

Following the death of her parents a teenage girl moves in with her uncle and his family and while out running she spots a young boy who went missing years earlier.

It turns out that the remaining occupant of a dilapidated family abattoir has been abducting young women (and the one boy) for years and subjecting them to procedures formerly carried out on the animals.

Bereavement is far better than many in this genre, particularly at the straight-to-dvd end. The production is reasonably good and there are some decent performances on display. Michael Biehn (The Terminator) is the most famous cast member and he is perfect as the estranged Uncle but Alexandra Daddario is excellent as the misguided and still grieving Allison.

Be warned though, there are some very uncomfortable moments involving the young boy, Martin. He has a rare condition which makes his brain unable to process pain, meaning that he is subjected to some vicious actions to which the character does not react. This makes for extremely unpleasant viewing but does make the film a pretty intense experience.

This is a superior horror / serial-killer film but many may find the scenes mentioned just too unpleasant to bear.

Bereavement is available on DVD in the UK from 1st October 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Good. 

Sunday 16 September 2012

Music: Marlon Roudette - New Age

Its been a while since I posted some music so when I heard this brilliant track I just had to share it.

New Age by Marlon Roudette has been a number 1 hit across Europe but hasn't hit the top here in the UK.

Most music here is bought by teenagers obsessed with celebrity culture which explains a lot when you look at the UK charts.

Anyway, check out the video and let me know what you think.

Friday 14 September 2012

Film: Redbelt

A principled martial-arts instructor is drawn into the world of competition fighting and fight promotion in this 2008 drama from writer / director David Mamet.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Four Brothers, Salt) is Mike Terry, a former soldier turned jiu-jitsu instructor who has fallen on hard times. As he struggles to pay the rent an accidental shooting at his dojo involving a lawyer (Emily Mortimer) and a policeman sparks a series of events that leads to Terry mixing with movie stars (Tim Allen) and unscrupulous managers.

Against his better judgment and personal beliefs Terry agrees to take part in a mixed martial-arts fighting tournament. Will he triumph while keeping his principles intact?

The growing popularity of MMA has inevitably spawned numerous films. Most of them are straight to DVD efforts that concentrate on action and the biggest success of the genre has undoubtedly been Warrior starring Tom Hardy & Nick Nolte.

While Warrior was a Rocky type story with an MMA backdrop David Mamet (who is himself a jiu-jitsu practitioner) has concentrated on the style of fighting that inspired MMA and the ethics of a man firmly embedded in its teachings.

Ejiofor is superb as the morally conflicted martial artist and brilliant support comes from Mortimer, Allen and Alice Braga as Terry’s wife. Many real-life fighters also appear, including Randy Couture of The Expendables.

This is the thinking man’s MMA movie and is an absolute must-see for fans of jiu-jitsu and MMA. This will also appeal to anyone who enjoys high quality drama and good old-fashioned underdog films.  

Ric’s Rating: Essential.      

Sunday 9 September 2012

Film: Dredd

Karl Urban attempts to do what Sly Stallone couldn’t, successfully adapt the famous comic book character Judge Dredd to film.

This is a much darker effort than Stallone’s 1995 version. Urban’s Dredd is faced with making his way up 200 levels of a tower block ruled by the ruthless drug-dealer Ma Ma (Lena Headey) while also assessing rookie Judge Anderson.

Having recently seen the Indonesian film The Raid, this struck me as very similar, the big difference being gun battles instead of martial arts in the action scenes.

Urban is competent as the tough-talking Dredd and he even remains true to the character by never removing the helmet. An almost unrecognisable Lena Headey (300) is brilliant as the despicable Ma Ma and Olivia Thirlby is fine support for the main character as the psychic Judge Anderson.

This is ultra-violent and will appeal to fans of hardcore action movies. Dredd’s commands to citizens also reminded me of Robocop, another film which is about to be re-made.

Dredd is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.      

Saturday 8 September 2012

Book: Blood Diamonds by Ed Lynskey

Some years ago Jonas Blades was involved in a diamond heist. His accomplice, a femme –fatale by the name of Jacquie Mantooth, was arrested and then imprisoned for her role in the robbery. Jonas got away with the diamonds but instead of cashing them in he has kept them hidden away....and now Jacquie is out.

Blades soon regrets his decision to keep the diamonds as Jacquie is not alone in her pursuit of them. Jonas’ current lover and an old flame of Jacquie’s soon enter the fray and none of them can trust each other as a boys versus girls treasure hunt begins.  

Ed Lynskey’s latest slice of crime-noir feels a lot like a crime-caper. As more characters joined the hunt for the stolen gems I kept waiting for a gag or comedy moment but none were forthcoming.
The author maintains a serious tone throughout and perhaps his eloquent and articulate prose may not lend well towards laughs, but this tale would have benefited from one or two.

Coming it at approximately 156 pages Blood Diamonds is a quick read that contains plenty of twists & turns and despite the rather short format each character’s motive is fully explored.

The climax leaves some unanswered questions but in this case that works, it leaves the reader to ponder events and wonder what happens next.

Blood Diamonds is available as an e-book now and you can click the Ed Lynskey tab to read my reviews of Lake Charles and Ask The Dice.

Ric’s Rating: Good.    

Thursday 6 September 2012

TV Show: Dallas

The Ewings are back!

Following an amazing gap of 21 years, Patrick Duffy, Linda Grey and Larry Hagman return to their roles as Bobby, Sue –Ellen and J.R respectively.

The world is a different place since Dallas’ previous 13 year stint ended and this is reflected in the show. Bobby is happy breeding cattle on Southfolk and J.R languishes in a nursing home suffering with clinical depression. Meanwhile J.R’s long-suffering ex-wife Sue- Ellen is running for political office.

The oil business wheeling and dealing is now done between the younger generation of Ewings. Bobby’s son Christopher is investing in alternative energy while J.R Jr.  follows in his Father’s footsteps by attempting to locate a new source of oil.

In a TV & movie market saturated with re-makes and re-boots it’s very refreshing to see original characters, played by the same actors, brought into a current setting.

Dallas has enduring appeal, thanks largely to the lack of choice available when it first aired, and the team behind this version have shown guts and guile by employing a strategy aimed at attracting both old and new fans. The series also promises cameo appearances by other original cast members.

This is a must-see for anyone who saw the original show and an interesting alternative US drama for those bored with formulaic detective type series.

Look out for show-stealing 80 year-old Larry Hagman’s name when it’s TV awards time.

Dallas is currently showing on Channel 5 in the UK.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.           

Tuesday 4 September 2012

TV DVD: Inspector Montalbano Collection 2

Following the recent success of Scandinavian TV dramas such as The Killing and The Bridge, we now have the Italian entry to the genre.

Based on the books by Andrea Camilleri, Inspector Montalbano is an abrupt, no-nonsense type of Policeman who routinely shouts at his colleagues and often manipulates them to his own end.

This collection contains six feature-length episodes of the first series, two of which were available for review.

The Mediterranean setting is a world away from the gritty feeling created in the other dramas mentioned. Five minutes in and it felt like an episode of Bergerac in a slightly sunnier clime, but don’t be fooled, underneath the Miss Marple type tone there is a serious drama to be found.

Montalbano’s charm also eventually emerges making the character somewhat endearing and often very funny indeed.

The investigations contain the usual mix of murder, deceit, politics and intrigue and despite my initial reaction (and the often ear-bashing Italian dialect) this is actually a compelling and fun series, think Hercule Poirot meets The Shield and your on the right track.

Inspector Montalbano Collection Two is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.  

Saturday 25 August 2012

Film: The Monk

An abandoned baby is left on the steps of a monastery in this French gothic horror.

The boy soon grows up to be the most charismatic Monk within the order and people flock from far & wide to hear him preach, but when a strange newcomer arrives things begin to spiral out of control quickly for the revered Ambrosio  (Vincent Cassell)

The new arrival is a boy called Valerio who wears a mask to hide burns sustained in a house fire. The mask makes Valerio a very creepy character indeed and the whispering voice that accompanies the chilling look adds to his unnerving presence.

Sadly the mask soon comes off and the entire film takes a turn for the worse when Valerio’s true identity is revealed.

Even a few murders and a great performance from Cassell can’t get this back on track. When the tension is gone, it’s gone.

The Monk is a potentially genuinely scary horror that suffers by turning into a tale of forbidden love.

It’s available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Poor.   

Book: Through The Eyes Of Strays by Glen Krisch

This latest collection of short stories from Glen R Krisch contains blasts of horror and sci-fi that will entertain fans of the newly revitalised format.

Highlights include:

Sudden Sanctuary – A young woman seeks out her internet boyfriend during a virus outbreak.

Filtheater – A vagrant with special powers makes a horrible discovery.

Gram Knows – The stand-out story finds young Bobby in receipt of a letter that asks for his help. He soon uncovers a tale of violence and abuse but the story isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

Winterlochen Academy – Trapped in an old Church a group of students & teachers attempt to fend off hungry wolves but little do they know that the wolves are not the most dangerous creatures trying to get in.

These are all great fun but there are one or two stories that don’t live up to the standard achieved by those mentioned above.

Overall this is a very interesting and entertaining collection which should be used as an introduction to an author with bags of potential.

Ric’s Rating: Good.     

Monday 20 August 2012

Film: The Expendables 2

Sylvester Stallone and the gang return and this time their mission is personal.

While carrying out an assignment for Mr Church (Bruce Willis) the team encounter Vilain (Jean Claude van Damme) with fatal consequences for one of them. Barney (Stallone) immediately vows vengeance and so begins the pursuit of Vilain and his feared militia.

The Expendables 2 opens with a mega-violent rescue and then goes directly into the next mission which results in the revenge scenario. No time is spent on character development and the film suffers greatly for that.

Little is seen of Statham and the first movie’s show-stealer Dolph Lundgren. In fact, with the notable exception of Van Damme (who proves he can still deliver on the big screen), there was hardly any need for the supporting cast. This felt very much like a Stallone film, which in itself is no bad thing, but the original was such a good ensemble piece that I expected more of the same.

It is pretty cool to see Bruce Willis, Big Arnie and Chuck Norris get involved in the action but all three spend most of their screen time sending themselves up, which is ok the first time, but after four or five “I’ll be back” type quotes it begins to grate.

This sequel does deliver on a strictly action level. The fight between Stallone and Van Damme is fantastic and every 80’s action film fan’s dream come true. Let’s just hope that if there is an Expendables 3 a bit more effort goes into building on the good work done in the original.

The Expendables 2 is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.         

Sunday 19 August 2012

Film: The Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner (The Town, Avengers) takes over from Matt Damon in this mediocre continuation of the franchise.

Renner is Aaron Cross, an agent trained in the same programme as Bourne but when the powers-that-be decide to shut down the programme Cross finds himself being hunted by the very agency that trained him.

The sporadic bursts of action save this film from being completely boring. The plot is made several layers more complex than necessary and the constant “incident room in state of emergency” scenes soon become tiresome.

Even Edward Norton (American History X, The 25th Hour) as the shadowy authority figure adds little to this and if it wasn’t for a reasonably exciting final half hour this would be getting an even lower rating.

The Bourne Legacy is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.     

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Book: Dark Room by Steve Mosby

Evil does not exist. That is the opinion of Detective Andrew Hicks, a man who has encountered many murders but firmly believes all such crime has a relatively mundane reason behind it.

The brutal murder of a woman recently separated from her partner is quickly categorized as a domestic case by Hicks but when the estranged Ex produces a solid alibi and more victims turn up he begins to realise that there is something going that isn’t easily explained.

As Hicks pursues the culprit there are also intermittent chapters in which a young boy recounts gruesome events he has witnessed. What relevance, if any, does this have to the case?

This is an immediately absorbing tale that explores strained family relationships and the consequences of them. Hicks is an intriguing and somewhat complex character who struggles with his own issues as the case envelopes him. There is also an old candle-maker, Hicks’ pregnant wife and the mysterious General, each of whom add depth to the story.

Dark Room can be labelled a traditional police procedural / whodunit novel but the surreal feeling and multi-layers created by the author elevate this high above standard fare.

See elsewhere on this page for my interview with Steve Mosby.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.             

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Film: Brave

A young Princess defies her Mother’s wishes with disastrous results in the latest beautifully animated tale from Pixar.

The Queen has invited young men from across the land (an atmospheric medieval Scotland) to compete for her daughter’s hand but Princess Merida is having none of it. Determined to avoid the marriage she sets out on a journey that will not only change her own fate but that of her family and country.

The voice cast features Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly and Kevin McKidd with Connolly as the stand-out in his portrayal of the passionate but clumsy King.

This isn’t anywhere near the genius of Toy Story and it does get a bit too silly but the wonderful setting and colourful characters make this a nice easy viewing experience for parents and kids although some darker scenes may not be appropriate for younger children.

Brave is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.      

Sunday 5 August 2012

Book: Mad Mannequins From Hell by August V Fahren

A down-on-his-luck special effects guy unwittingly summons the forces of Hell in this bizarre horror comedy adventure from August V Fahren.

Aided by a trio of fighting Nuns our hero must fight his way through outlandish characters such as a kung-fu baby Jesus, a midget wrestler and of course, the mannequins.

This book is like a wild episode of Creepshow, The Twilight Zone and tales from The Crypt. Throw in a bit of Fright Night with Peter Vincent and you get the idea.

I almost abandoned this one after a particularly vile opening chapter which described an appalling act of animal cruelty. This is quickly explained away as a hoax but a bitter taste did remain.

The rest of the book is a bizarre but occasionally compelling read that requires much imagination on the part of the reader.

Unusual and at times inspired but ultimately just too off-the-wall for me.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Book: The Wrong Man by Jason Dean

Former soldier and bodyguard James Bishop finds himself framed for murder and sent to prison in the exciting debut thriller from Jason Dean.

Determined to clear his name Bishop plans a daring prison break and once he’s outside the walls he begins to track down those responsible for setting him up.

Aided by a group of unlikely allies which includes computer hackers, a helicopter pilot and a safecracker, Bishop’s quest takes him back to his old team and uncovers a secret that reaches right to the heart of the US government.

This novel reminded me a lot of the brilliant tv show Prison Break and successfully recreated the frantic pace which that possessed. Bishop is a likeable character and as this is the first in a series I expect that he will be developed accordingly.

Anyone who enjoys or has become indifferent to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books should check out The Wrong Man as this series definitely has the potential to be every bit as popular.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.     

Sunday 29 July 2012

Film: License To Drive

The late Corey Haim and his on & off screen friend Corey Feldman star in this 1988 comedy which gets a UK DVD release courtesy of Second Sight.

Les (Haim) sees his driving licence as a ticket to freedom so he is devastated when he fails the test. Such is his shame that he can’t admit the failure and soon decides to go a night out driving to impress his friends and the gorgeous Mercedes (Heather Graham).

What could possibly go wrong?

I had fond memories of this one as I was a fan of the two Coreys and despite a shaky start it manages to retain much of its charm.

Haim is great as the underachieving Les and Feldman provides good support along with Richard Masur and Carol Kane as Les’ parents.

For good nostalgic fun and a few laugh out loud moments check it out.

License To Drive is available on DVD in the UK from 30th July 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Good  

Thursday 26 July 2012

Film: The Lorax

Thneedville is a town with no nature. There are no trees, grass, or soil and fresh air is sold by the bottle.

Living in the town is young Ted (Zac Efron) who admires Audrey (Taylor Swift) from afar until he discovers her love for trees. Ted vows to get a tree for Audrey and so begins a journey in which he will encounter The Lorax (Danny DeVito), The Once-ler (Ed Helms) and many other weird & wonderful characters.

This charming animated film is an absolute delight for young kids but there aren’t any “smart” jokes aimed at bored adults. The joy to be had here is to see your children enthralled by an environmentally motivated tale which features some fine voice performances.

DeVito is excellent as The Lorax but Betty White (The Golden Girls) steals the show as Ted’s snowboarding Gran.

The Lorax is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended (for kids of under 8 and their parents/carers)

Thursday 19 July 2012

Film: Revenge Of The Electric Car

Who Killed The Electric Car was a 2006 documentary film that explored the fact that thousands of electric cars were recalled and destroyed by the companies that made them. This sequel charts the re-emergence of an idea once thought dead.

It follows the endeavours of four very different individuals as they attempt to bring new electric cars to market. There’s Bob Lutz, the larger than life GM executive, multi-millionaire Elon Musk who starts his own company, Carlos Ghosn the head of Nissan and Gadget Abbott, an independent backyard car designer.

It all starts off interestingly enough with footage of the previous film and contributions from the likes of Danny DeVito and Jon Favreau but this fast becomes a rather depressing story of corporate deals and the global economy.

Gadget Abbot does provide an interesting perspective as he struggles against unforeseen circumstances but despite the engaging premise this one is for car enthusiasts only.

Revenge Of The Electric Car is in selected UK cinemas from 20th July 2012.  

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Reviews Interviews: Steve Mosby

Steve Mosby is the author of six previous novels including The 50/50 Killer, Still Bleeding and Black Flowers, which has been short-listed for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel Of The Year, after already picking up a CWA Dagger.

Prior to the release of his latest title, Dark Room, he took some time for a chat.

Tell us a bit about Dark Room.

It’s about a detective called Hicks, who has a somewhat matter-of-fact attitude to crime. He doesn’t believe in evil, and relies heavily on logic and statistics to solve murders. To him, they always happen for banal, ordinary reasons: lust and jealousy; anger; greed; etc – so he categorises them as bedroom crimes, or bar room crimes, or boardroom crimes, and so on. But then he has to deal with a murderer who flies against all that, who appears to be killing a lot of people entirely at random, and Hicks has to try to break the pattern.

It’s my attempt at a fairly straightforward police procedural. After Black Flowers, which has a really elaborate structure, I wanted to do something that moved forward in a more traditional way.

All of your previous novels have been stand-alone tales. Is this the case with Dark Room?

Yes, it is. The original plan was to take Hicks into the next book as well, but it didn’t work out that way. The world laughs at my plans.

Black Flowers has been up for (and won) awards recently. How do you enjoy receiving recognition like this and what’s it like competing against other authors?

Well, it’s lovely to be nominated for stuff, and it’s lovely to win too, but I don’t think you can take that kind of stuff too seriously. It’s really good to get a nod, and cool to see my name appearing on shortlists that have such amazing authors on them. Flattering company, to say the least.

I don’t really see myself or my books in competition, exactly. I’m a fan as well as an author, and it’s good to see someone rewarded and getting recognition for writing a brilliant book, even if that someone isn’t me.

Your early novels had a sci-fi element. What made you move away from that into more traditional crime writing?

To be honest, it was an accident. It just turned out that the third book I had in mind – The 50/50 Killer – had no SF elements in it at all. And that’s the way it’s continued since. The thing about crime is that it’s a really broad genre, and I find that whatever idea I start to get interested in, I can work it into a crime narrative. I’ve kept some horror elements, though, and I do like to experiment with structure, which I suppose is a vaguely SF-ish trait. And when I do short stories (which isn’t often), they don’t tend to be straightforward crime either, so there are still outlets if I get an urge to weird things out a bit.

Still Bleeding is a very dark tale of murder and suicide and it’s just about my personal favourite of yours. Do you have a favourite yourself?

I’m pretty fond of Still Bleeding, in terms of what the book does. I was pleased with the ways the separate stories resolved: the endings I could give the characters. So I do like that one too.

Hard to pick an overall favourite though. The 50/50 Killer opened doors for me, and feels like a book where I began to figure out what I was doing, so I’ll always have affection for it. And Black Flowers turned out well, I think, given how inaccessible it could potentially have been. Least favourite is easy: The Cutting Crew. That’s probably the only one I’d go back and change. There are a couple of scenes I’d tone down, and a few themes I’d try to tie together better. But you do the best you can. That’s all you can do.

I remember reading about a possible film version of The 50/50 Killer. Any news on that or any other potential film adaptations?

All still up in the air a bit. There have been a few options, but the way it works is that you just sign things off and only believe it’ll ever happen when you’re watching it with your own eyes. Cry For Help came to nothing. 50/50 is still ongoing in France, and the last I heard they were hoping to start filming this winter. I really hope that happens; I’d be really intrigued to see how they handle it. Black Flowers is in development too, but it’s early doors on that. So essentially, nothing concrete to report.

Good luck with the awards and with Dark Room.

Dark Room by Steve Mosby is published by Orion and will be available from 19th July 2012. For more information visit the author’s website at

Sunday 15 July 2012

Film: Rampart

When cop Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is filmed beating up a suspect his tightly controlled world begins to crumble.

Brown soon finds himself under investigation and past events may re-surface bringing more trouble to his already fragile state of mind.

Desperate to keep his fragmented family together Brown then decides to rob a high stakes poker game but the way it pans out has him questioning who he can trust.   

I was really looking forward to this one but despite a great performance from Harrelson and a stellar cast which includes Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Ned Beatty and Ben Foster, this quickly goes from being an interesting drama to a dull plodding trudge through the life of a morally questionable individual.

The weird combination of great acting but boring story does not make for an entertaining experience.

Ric’s Rating: Poor      

Monday 9 July 2012

Reviews Interviews: Nick Nevern

New British drama ‘The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan’ arrives on DVD this week and in a first for Ric’s Reviews the star of the film Nick Nevern stopped by for a quick chat.

Despite the title, ‘The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan’ isn’t a tale of football hooliganism. What’s your take on your character, Mike Jacobs?

You’re right it’s not. I guess it’s much bigger than a simple tale of football hooliganism. Mike is a humble guy who just gets caught up in the scandalous web of money and deceit. When such opportunities of getting large amounts of money at quick speeds are given to you, it sure as hell takes a strong will to turn a blind eye and not give in to temptation.

The film is based on a true story. Do you know anything about the real-life events?

Working on these sorts of films you do get to meet some, let’s just say, shady people. I actually met the real ‘Mike’ on the set of a different movie. He seemed nice enough you know, but I wouldn’t want to see the dark side of him if you know what I mean!

You directed and starred in ‘Terry’. How comfortable are you taking direction?

Very easy bro as it’s my job you know. It absolutely helps that Paul [Tanter] and I have a great working relationship and so taking direction from Paul is always very trouble-free. I understand that there are challenges many actors face when working with some directors but hopefully I never experience the lows you know.

What’s next for you?

There’s a whole host of new projects in the pipeline but I’m hoping to get back in the Director’s chair very soon. Keep your eyes peeled!

As you know I’m a massive fan of ‘Terry’. Any plans to return to that character?

That’s so kind of you to say so thank you! I love that character so much. He will always have a special place in my heart you know so perhaps we’ll see him again one day. You never know!

Good luck with ‘The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan’ and your upcoming projects.

 You can follow Nick on twitter @NickNevern and take a look at him in action by clicking the trailer below.

Friday 6 July 2012

Film: Endurance

Second Sight films have decided to whet everyone’s appetite for this year’s Olympic games with a timely release of this 1999 film.

It tells the story of Haile Gebreselassie, an unassuming boy from an impoverished background in Ethiopia, who went on to become one of the greatest long distance runners in history.

The man himself participates in the film by playing the grown-up Gebreselassie as the story shifts between past and “present”. The twelve mile round trip to school every day provided the opportunity to run and young Haile took it in his stride, the lad seemed to run everywhere but his traditional Father soon encouraged him to find a “proper” job.

Culminating at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta this beautifully shot film manages to capture the spirit shown by a determined man as he pursues his dream and attempts to make his family and his country proud.

Captivating and stirring this docu-drama perfectly illustrates that no matter what your background, if you want to be the best, and you want to beat the rest….dedication’s what you need!

Endurance is available on DVD in the UK from 9th July 2012.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended. 

Monday 2 July 2012

Film: The Rise And Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan

Nick Nevern, star of the brilliant Terry , is Mike Jacobs, an unemployed football fan who is determined to earn some money in order to keep his relationship on even ground.

Following a hilarious series of botched job interviews Mike bumps into his old mate Eddie (Simon Phillips) who offers him the opportunity to make a lot of money.

The film’s title, DVD cover and poster had me expecting something along the lines of Green Street and Cass but this isn’t the story of someone getting caught up in football violence. There are brief scenes of hooliganism but this is a true tale of an ordinary guy getting in way over his head.

The crime involved is credit card fraud and Jacobs soon finds himself in some very dangerous situations. Can he escape his predicament and mend the relationship with his partner?

Nick Nevern delivers another charismatic performance and there is excellent support all round, especially from Simon Phillips and Rita Ramnani as the long-suffering Katie.

By concentrating on the characters involved rather than the violence writer / director Paul Tanter has delivered an unexpected gem of a film that’s a must-see for anyone who enjoyed other recent good quality British films like Tony, Shifty and Terry.

The Rise And Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended

For reviews of other films mentioned click the British film tab below.