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.