Monday 30 December 2013

Film: Sightseers

A socially awkward couple head off on a caravan tour of England in this offbeat British black comedy from 2012.

Still grieving the loss of her pet dog, Tina (Alice Lowe) agrees to let new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram) take her on a meticulously planned caravan holiday. The plans soon change when the duo encounter a number of other travellers with murderous consequences.

There are some moments of humour in this otherwise dreary tale which only springs to life with the odd explosion of violence or totally inappropriate comment. Unfortunately it falls into the trap of not being funny enough to be a good comedy or serious enough to make a decent crime ridden road trip romp.

Lowe and Oram are good enough to hold the viewers attention but even their best efforts can’t elevate this above mediocrity.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy. 

Saturday 21 December 2013

A look back at 2013.

I didn’t see as many films as I would have liked to in 2013 but hopefully I’ll catch up with some of them soon.

Movie highlights included the emotional Les Miserables, best in the series Iron Man 3 and surprisingly, Jack Reacher, starring little Tom Cruise as the man mountain drifter turned vigilante from Lee Child’s novels. Comedy of the year was the hilarious We're The Millers

Les Mis star Hugh Jackman also scored with tense drama Prisoners while The Wolverine was a bit disappointing.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug ensured the year went out on a high.

Straight–to-dvd land was very interesting with world cinema releases Jackpot, Thale and Hidden Face among the best on show. I also caught up with the unexpectedly enjoyable Battleship and was blown away by Disconnect.

Book highlights included 2 Scottish authors. Sinclair Macleod’s The Good Girl was a delight and old favourite Stuart MacBride delivered a brilliant stand alone thriller in Birthdays For The Dead. Rod Glenn brought his fantastic serial-killer trilogy to a conclusion (or did he?) with Sinema 3: The Troy Consortium and a captivating double whammy from JA Kerley saw out the year with Her Last Scream and The Killing Game, featuring Detective Carson Ryder.

Reviews for almost everything mentioned can be found elsewhere in Ric’s Reviews.

Films and books included may not have been released in 2013.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Year and remember you can follow me on Twitter @ricsreviews.


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Film: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his quest to help The Dwarves get their homeland back from the fearsome Dragon Smaug in the second part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

Jackson’s face is the first on camera as he makes a fleeting appearance before we move on with the tale. Two thirds of the film is a chase movie with the evil Orcs on the trail of Bilbo and the gang who are helped this time out by Elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). There are some fantastic fight scenes as the Orcs catch up with their quarry several times prior to the film’s glorious climax in Smaug’s lair.

Voiced brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness) Smaug is a wonderful addiction to this series and more than makes up for the absent Gollum. At no moment do you doubt the validity of a talking Dragon, such is the atmosphere created. The fire-breathing is fantastic too and the battle between Dwarves and Dragon is absolutely terrific.

I had my doubts about this but thankfully The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug exceeds expectations and leaves the viewer crying out for the final instalment.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Film: Disconnect

A tv reporter investigates the webcam sex industry. Two young boys play an on-line prank with tragic results and a grieving couple become victims of identity fraud.

These three interweaving stories all illustrate the influence that on-line activity can have on our lives today.

Released in 2012 Disconnect failed to find much of an audience (I hadn’t heard of it myself) which is a real pity because what we have here is the best connecting-stories drama since the brilliant Amores Perros.

Jason Bateman successfully emulates Robin Williams by growing a beard for a serious part and then managing to carry it off. His is one of the best performances (as a troubled Father) among many on show here.

Max Thieriot (Bates Motel) is also fantastic as the misguided youth who turns to webcam work and then sees a possible way out through Andrea Riseborough’s reporter.

Throw in a desperate man tracking down the person responsible for his financial ruin and you have a totally compelling drama.

There is more going on besides what I have mentioned but you can expect to see some of the characters 
overlap into each others stories at some point in proceedings.

Thoughtful, powerful, absorbing and brilliantly performed Disconnect deserves to be seen and is undoubtedly the best film I have seen so far this year.

Available on all the usual formats now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.

Sunday 17 November 2013

TV DVD: The Escape Artist

David Tennant proves that Broadchurch was no fluke with this three part drama which was recently shown on BBC tv here in the UK.

Tennant is Will Burton, a lawyer who has won every case. Burton sees to it that the eccentric Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell) is not convicted when charged with murder, but Foyle is not best pleased when the lawyer refuses to shake his hand at the end of proceedings.

Turns out that Foyle is one seriously unhinged individual and he soon turns his attention to Burton and his family.

The first episode of this crime drama is absolutely riveting. Toby Kebbell (Dead Man’s Shoes) is outstanding as the intelligent but deranged Foyle and further excellent support comes from Ashley Jensen, as Burton’s wife, and Sophie Okonedo as a rival lawyer.  Things cool down a bit in episode two when the characters concentrate on preceding events but it all comes to a glorious climax in the gripping finale.

With The Escape Artist David Tennant has cemented his status as the UK’s top tv drama star.

Available as a two disc set on dvd from 18th November 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.  


Monday 4 November 2013

Book: Instinct by Ben Kay

When eminent entomologist Dr Laura Trent is approached by a secretive group known as MEROS she is intrigued by their proposal but unable to take the offer of employment.

Things change when her Son goes missing and MEROS reveal themselves as being responsible.

Dr Trent finds herself blackmailed into helping the shady organisation control their most fearsome project, genetically altered wasps.

The giant wasps are held in a remote laboratory in Venezuela but a new, and more aggressive, batch have killed a scientist and are threatening to escape.

Trent and the team, made up of soldiers and scientists, must keep the situation contained but the vicious insects are hungry and they want out.

I was looking forward to the wasps marauding through cities and towns but after the opening scene the flying killers are contained to the MEROS lab, where the entire novel takes place.

While attempting to escape the facility the team must pass through a long forgotten section known as the abdomen which was sealed off when the mutated insects got out of control.

This brings some much needed variety to proceedings as along with the wasps there is a plethora of other giant nasties for the humans to deal with.

The characters all have a full background story which helps the reader become engaged in their plight.

Instinct is an entertaining read and would work well on film but I so wanted the insects to get loose. Maybe we’ll get that in a sequel.

Ric’s Rating: Good.       

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Film: Escape Plan

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) escapes from maximum security prisons for a living. Hired by the government he uses his expertise to test the robustness of the security procedures.

When the CIA come calling with an unusual offer Ray accepts the chance to test a secretive prison known as The Tomb. The Tomb houses the type of individual that has been deemed no longer welcome in society but can’t be dealt with through the normal legal process.

Once in The Tomb, Ray enlists the help of fellow inmate Rottmayer (Arnold Shwarzzeneger) in his attempt to escape and the duo must fend off the attentions of sadistic warden Hobbs (Jim Caveizel) and violent guard Drake (Vinnie Jones) as they put the plan into action.

I didn’t expect too much of this one going in but the draw of Rambo teaming up with The Terminator was too much to ignore and much to my surprise this isn’t the corny one- liner, tongue-in-cheek affair I was expecting.

Escape Plan is a serious, and often brutal, film that keeps the quips to a minimum. Sly and Arnie have great on-screen chemistry and bad guys Jones and Caveizel approach their roles with all the gusto required.

The two main stars may be approaching 70 years of age but this proves that they can still make the type of film that pretenders to their thrones such as Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson often struggle to achieve.

Escape Plan is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Thursday 17 October 2013

Book: The Hardcore Truth by Bob Holly

Professional wrestling was at its most popular in the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s. During that time two rival companies (WCW and WWF) were competing for the biggest audience share.

This rivalry spawned the “attitude” era, a time when the WWF wisely chose to aim their product not at children but at 18-30 year old males. The resulting edgier content was a resounding success, leading to the eventual demise of WCW.

During this era many popular wrestlers emerged, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) became household names while old pros like The Undertaker and Ric Flair enjoyed continued spells in the limelight. Amongst the mid-card wrestlers was Bob Holly, a guy who had toiled for years in the business after being saddled with the gimmick of being a wrestling race car driver. The more adult orientated programming gave Holly an opportunity to showcase his genuine toughness and Hardcore Holly was born. This was a tough guy in the anti-hero mould of Jake “The Snake” Roberts but with the believability that he could legitimately beat-up most other wrestlers. This is his story.

In general I’m not a big fan of (auto) biographies, I usually find that no matter how interesting a person is I quickly tire of their tales of high school woe and childhood. Holly is an exception. I was a fan of his during the attitude era of wrestling and this continued until his departure form the top company in 2008. I even got to see him once when he appeared in Glasgow so I was keen to hear what he had to say.

The man (just like his wrestling persona) pulls no punches. Names are named. Jerry Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett’s Dad), Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall (to name but a few) are exposed here as Holly provides details of their questionable behaviour. He also covers wrestling’s most controversial subjects like the Bret Hart screw job, Owen Hart’s death and the Chris Benoit murder / suicide.

Holly could not have addressed these subjects (and others) in the frank manner that he does if this had been endorsed by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the book is all the better for it. Between these issues is the tale of a man giving his all to the business only to be thwarted every time the chance of real success came along.

At times The Hardcore Truth can be a bit of a wistful lament but Holly’s no-nonsense insight into the most successful and controversial period in the history of professional makes interesting reading for anyone who was a fan at the time.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.             

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Film: Prisoners

A Thanksgiving party turns sour when two young girls vanish in broad daylight.

One of the Fathers (Hugh Jackman) decides that when the Police release the main suspect in the case he will take matters into his own hands.

What follows is a disturbing tale of the lengths a Father will go to to protect his little girl.

Meanwhile cop Jake Gyllenhall (Donnie Darko) is also attempting to find the girls.
The two men clash over the case but they have the same objective. Who will get to the bottom of it and where are the girls?

At a lengthy 2hrs 30mins Prisoners is a slow burner in the mould of the Jack Nicholson child abduction thriller The Pledge and it’s just as intriguing. The clues are there for a keen viewer to spot (I did) but even then there are one or two unexpected twists.

Often uncomfortable but always compelling Prisoners is up there with Gone Baby Gone in this particular genre. Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s rating: Highly Recommended.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Film: Filth

Irvine Welsh’s popular novel finally makes it to the big screen and James McAvoy (Wanted) takes the lead as corrupt Edinburgh cop Bruce Robertson.

Robertson has his sights set on promotion and sets about eliminating the competition while attempting to solve a tricky murder case.

Along the way he uses and abuses pretty much everyone he meets. There’s the hapless millionaire (Eddie Marsan), the colleague’s wife (Kate Dickie) and the rookie detective (Jamie Bell).

Each are treated harshly and the story often veers off in odd directions before we get to the unexpected finale.

Tragic, funny and repulsive in equal parts Filth is a film that won’t appeal to everyone but fans of the book, and Welsh’s previous hit Trainspotting, will love it.

Filth is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Film: No One Lives

A young couple travel across rural America as they move to a new home. Along the way they encounter a violent group of Rednecks but it looks like these guys have picked the wrong person to mess with.

A series of brutal killings and cheesy one-liners ensues with Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6) perfectly cast as the seemingly unassuming traveller who turns the tables on the outlaws.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura’s previous work includes the under-rated The Midnight Meat Train and anyone who enjoyed that film will like this one too. It’s a crazy mash-up of films like Wrong Turn, Friday The 13th and Saw so most horror fans should be satisfied, although after the initial surprise it delivers no more twists.

No One Lives is available on DVD in the UK from 23rd September 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Good 

Saturday 14 September 2013

Book: The Paradise Trees by Linda Huber

Alicia Bryson returns to the village of her childhood when she hears that her Father’s health has deteriorated. Unfortunately she does not have many happy memories of the house or the man himself, as he was often abusive and violent towards his daughter.

This time though her own daughter, Jenny, is with her and hopefully the little girl will create better memories for herself during the summer spent at Granddad’s.
Unbeknown to Alicia is the fact that their arrival has not gone unnoticed. A stranger has seen them and begins to formulate a plan that will send them both to “Paradise”.

The story is told from the perspectives of Alicia and The Stranger and quickly becomes a bit of a guessing game as to who The Stranger is. Could it be the local Doctor, the pet shop owner, the care home manager or even Jenny’s own Father who comes back into her life after a long absence.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Alicia and The Stranger the story moves along swiftly towards the tension filled finale.

Often uncomfortable but totally compelling The Paradise Trees is an excellent debut novel by Linda Huber and I’ll certainly look out for her future work.

Available now from Legend Press.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Film: Citadel

Following a brutal attack on his pregnant partner, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard), is reduced to a nervous wreck who can’t leave his house, but he must overcome these fears if he wants to keep his baby daughter.

This UK horror film opens with a scene so nasty I wasn’t sure I could continue to watch but Aneurin Barnard’s performance as the distraught Tommy is so compelling that I just couldn’t switch off.

Tommy consults guidance councillors and the local Priest (James Cosmo) in a bid to tackle his fears but they are soon realised when his daughter is taken and Tommy is forced to take action.

Like a lot of horrors these days Citadel starts really well and, in this case, the tension continues until the true identity of the hooded villains is revealed. It’s all a bit silly after that but this remains an enjoyable British horror.

Citadel is released on DVD in the UK on 30th September 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Good  

Monday 26 August 2013

Film: We're The Millers

When a small time drug dealer agrees to bring a shipment back from Mexico he thinks the perfect cover is to be a family man, so he recruits oddball friends and neighbours to play his fictitious brood.

Along the way they encounter another travelling family while also trying to evade a rival dealer and deliver the drugs on time.

The entire cast look like they’re having fun and it comes across on screen. Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) is great as the downtrodden pot dealer Dave and Jennifer Aniston delivers another hilarious and sexy  turn as stripper Rose, who has to convince everyone that she’s the perfect Mother. The pretend kids of the family are the hapless Kenny (Will Poulter) and streetwise Casey (Emma Roberts).

There are plenty of laughs here with Poulter especially giving a show-stealing performance, look out for the spider scene!

Without doubt the best comedy of the year so far.

We’re The Millers is in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential    

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Film: Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge) is failed actor turned drama teacher Dana Marschz in this 2008 comedy.

When a group of delinquents join the class Marschz must use his awkward street-smarts to help the troubled youths express some creativity, but following a string of critically savaged plays the school decides to close the drama department leaving the teacher to ponder his (and his students’) future.

Is producing a sequel to one of the world’s best loved plays the answer?

American audiences unfamiliar with Coogan’s brand of humour didn’t take to this film but it isn’t as bad as you might expect. Marschz’s life is in tatters as his job and personal life fall apart and Coogan performs adequately in the role, even delivering some very funny physical comedy moments.

Elisabeth Shue (Cocktail, The Karate kid) pops up as a parody of herself and her inclusion also brings from the star-struck Marschz.

Unfortunately the films climax (the performance of Hamlet 2) detracts from the comedy on offer and contains very few laughs itself, ensuring that Coogan follows in the footsteps of British comedians such as Rik Mayall (Drop Dead Fred) and Lenny Henry (True Identity) who also have a Hollywood flop in their CVs.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy. 

Thursday 8 August 2013

Film: Only God Forgives

A family of criminals come up against a cop with a brutal sense of justice in this thriller from the team behind Drive.

When Billy (Tom Burke) goes looking for cheap thrills it ends in murder and events escalate when the cop on the case gives the victim’s Father a chance for retribution.

Billy’s brother Julian (Ryan Gosling) goes looking for revenge but his own morals prevent him from taking the action his Mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) demands.

Director Nicholas Winding Refn has served up another visual delight that is punctuated by explosions of violence. The film looks fantastic (great use of colours) and feels very atmospheric but too often veers off on a self-indulgent direction that makes the viewer wonder what exactly is going on.

Only God Forgives would have been so much better as a straight-forward revenge thriller but remains enjoyable thanks largely to the screen presence of Vithaya Pansringarm as the sword-wielding  supercool cop Chang.

Catch it in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Book: Stolen Prey by John Sandford

An entire family has been murdered in the most horrific scene Lucas Davenport has ever seen. The level of violence and ruthlessness makes him immediately suspect the involvement of a Mexican drug cartel but he can find no evidence whatsoever to support this theory.

A tale of robbery, greed, drugs and murder follows featuring a whole host of unsavoury characters which includes: Three Mexican hitmen, disgruntled bank employees, a questionable Mexican cop and his assistant, along with Virgil Flowers who now has his own spin-off series of books.

While attempting to get to the bottom of all this Lucas must cope with an arm injury caused when he became the victim of opportunistic muggers. Will he catch up with them?

Being familiar with this series definitely enhances the reading experience as this one on it’s own doesn’t quite have the excitement of previous efforts, but as part of the series it’s another reasonably satisfying outing for Davenport and Co. largely thanks to the gripping finale.

Ric’s Rating: Good.        

Friday 2 August 2013

Film: The Wolverine

News of a dying friend brings Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to Tokyo and he is soon caught up in a tale of kidnap, murder and treachery.

During his pursuit of Yakuza thugs Wolverine is injured and inexplicably his healing powers do not seem to be working. Hurt and confused he must rely on fighting skills alone to get to the bottom of things and rescue the girl.

Based on a popular graphic novel this feels rather hurried to me. There is little time to get to know any of the new characters and the confusing timeline created by the many X Men sequels, prequels and spin-offs doesn’t help either.

Jackman (as always) is excellent as the snarling hero but the other performances and characters on show bring little to the table. The poisonous Viper just isn’t in the same league as Magneto or even Mystique and I’m fast becoming very tired of huge fighting robots.

This one is for Marvel / XMen / Wolverine fanatics only.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.   

Wednesday 24 July 2013


A Mother attempts to keep her wayward Sons out of trouble, an illegal immigrant wants out of the life she has, a former drug addict tries to stay clean and a Polish immigrant discovers that her boyfriend has been murdered. These are the four connected stories that make up this UK tv drama which was recently shown on Channel 4.

Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) delivers another fine performance as the long-suffering Mother but it’s Lennie James’ portrayal of former addict Richie that really steals the show. The episode where he just can’t seem to catch a break while attempting to mend his relationship with his daughter is by far the best of the series.

Run is a well written drama with good performances all round but it does suffer from a severe lack of humour. The makers of these types of shows would do well to remember that real life, even in the most trying circumstances, often makes us laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a comedy but a series like this is crying out for one or two lighter moments.

Run is available on DVD now in the UK.

Ric’s Rating: Good

Monday 22 July 2013

Film: Pacific Rim

Take the best (and some of the worst) elements of Transformers, Godzilla, Armageddon, Real Steel, Top Gun and Starship Troopers and you end up with Guillermo Del Toro’s Robots Vs. Monsters mash-up starring Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) and Idris Elba (Luther).

The Earth is under attack from huge monsters knows as Kaijus so the World unites to combat the common enemy. Their solution is to build robots of similar size to the beasts, these robots are piloted by two humans and fully loaded with all kinds of weapons, they are known as Jaegers. Initially the Jaegers repel the threat but soon the Kaijus develop new ways to attack and the Jaegers (and their pilots) are deemed redundant.

Led by Commander Pentecost (Elba) a small group continue to pilot the remaining Jaegers and come up with a plan to eliminate the threat for good.

Dominated by CGI fights this is very silly at times but in a cheesy sort of way it remains enjoyable, if you can get past the first 30mins or so. Hunnam is fine as the jaded Jaeger pilot brought out of retirement for the final mission and Idris Elba exudes authority as the officer in charge. There is also a cool turn from Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) but the two scientists are very irritating indeed.

If you can see past the dodgy dialogue and often unintentionally funny monsters this is an easy viewing adventure that requires no thinking on the part of the audience.

Pacific Rim is in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.    

Monday 15 July 2013

Film: Dark Skies

Something strange is happening in the Barrett family home. There are noises during the night and wife & Mother Lacy even wakens up to find an elaborate structure made out of household items. Are the children suffering from a sleep disorder or is there something more sinister going on?

Soon young Sam mentions “The Sandman” who comes to his room at night and events spiral out of control when both parents begin to have seizures. All of this does teenager Jesse’s blossoming love life no good at all.

The title probably gives away the cause of these events but I’m not going to do it here as the less you know the better.

The tension mounts gradually and there are some very creepy moments leading to a nerve-shredding climax with a nifty twist.

Dark Skies is available on DVD in the UK from 5th August 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Film: Maniac

From the brutal opening scene this re-make of the 1980 film leaves the viewer in no doubt what this is all about. I suppose the title is a bit of a clue as well.

Elijah Wood (The Lord Of The Rings) is Frank Zito, a loner who lives in the run-down shop previously owned by his Mother. Their business was restoring mannequins but these days Frank spends more time talking to the dolls than repairing them.

When he isn’t interacting with the mannequins Frank goes cruising for victims who are despatched with increasingly graphic and violent methods, ending with Frank’s own peculiar fetish.

A professional photographer asks if she can use the mannequins in her exhibition and an uneasy friendship begins. Of course Frank’s distorted view of reality soon becomes apparent leading to trouble for all involved.

I haven’t seen the original but I imagine that this is a pretty close re-make. There are many scenes saw through Frank’s eyes and the soundtrack has a seventies slasher movie feel to it. Elijah Wood proves that his creepy turn in Sin City was no fluke as he delivers another convincing portrayal of a deranged killer.

The extreme violence here will put people off and despite the explanation of how the main character came to be what he is there is a distinct lack of any redeeming features.

Maniac falls into the category inhabited by films like Irreversible and the I Spit On Your Grave re-make in that it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience but I have to admire the gutsy presentation of horrible events and the exploration of a disturbed mind.

Ric’s Rating: Good.       

Saturday 6 July 2013

Film: Slice & Dice: The Slasher Film Forever

This documentary film explores the history of the slasher movie. Love them or hate them you simply can’t ignore them and everyone has a favourite slasher movie bad guy. Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees have been with us for around 30 years and survived countless rubbish sequels and re-makes of varying quality.

Slice & Dice explores the origins of the genre. Psycho features heavily and the “video nasties” of the late seventies / early eighties are also covered extensively. Contributors include Corey Feldman, Tobe Hooper and Tom Holland along with recent slasher type directors Patrick Lussier and Jeffrey Reddick.

Unfortunately this is a bit too laden down with clips. There are countless showings of beheadings and various other death scenes and these too vary greatly in quality. From grainy straight to video flicks like The Burning to recent re-makes like My Bloody Valentine 3D.

This is more aimed at the slasher movie connoisseur than the casual fan but the feature packed 2 disc set does contain some fantastic footage that helps increase the value of the package on offer.

Slice & Dice: The Slasher Film Forever is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.    

Friday 5 July 2013

Book: Sinema 3: The Troy Consortium by Rod Glenn

Hannibal Whitman returns in the third instalment of Rod Glenn’s serial-killer thriller series.

The world thinks Whitman is dead but he has been secretly rescued, rehabilitated and trained by a secretive organisation known as The Troy Consortium. Their purpose is to eliminate any form of threat to Great Britain that the courts can’t deal with.

Whitman, his appearance altered, is soon set up with a new identity, but it isn’t long until the consortium hand him his first murderous assignment.

Things work well for a while and despite Han’s longing for certain elements of his previous life he begins to settle into his new persona, and excels in his work for the consortium.

Events take a surprising turn when the powers-that-be decide to get rid of all of their “assets” leaving Han and his new-found allies no option but to fight back.

Following some spectacularly violent action scenes, which have become the hallmark of this series, we find ourselves back in the setting for the first Sinema novel, Haydon.

Haydon is now a ghost town of Whitman’s making which is haunted by the spirits of former friends that became victims in the notorious “experiment”.    

The reformation of a diabolical character continues here as this time out we are firmly behind Whitman, especially when a feared adversary threatens his former lover.

Sinema 3 is a continuation of the previous books and won’t work if you haven’t read the others, but if you’re a fan of serial-killer stories that aren't predictable whodunits then do yourself a favour and read this fantastic trilogy.

Click the Rod Glenn label for my reviews of the previous books and more.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.    

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Book: The Good Girl by Sinclair Macleod

Insurance investigator turned private detective Craig Campbell returns in Sinclair Macleod’s sequel to The Reluctant Detective.

This time out Campbell takes on the case of a missing girl in St. Andrews, a Scottish town famous for its University and golf course which attracts visitors from all over.

The girl in question is a farm worker from Poland who came to Scotland so that she could help support the family back home. Her disappearance is reported by a fellow worker who is gravely concerned.

The investigation leads Campbell from the migrant worker community to the student body of the town and then into the world of escorts and prostitution.

Throw in a brilliant sub-plot with Craig’s feisty Mother looking into the discovery of a dead baby and you have all the ingredients of an excellent thriller that manages to retain a light-hearted tone thanks to Campbell’s humorous outlook.

Before picking this up I’d recommend reading the first in the series as there are several references to past events. In any case I always find that any book in a series is more enjoyable if you know the characters history.

The Good Girl is another brilliant example of the current Scottish crime fiction scene.

Ric's Rating: Highly Recommended

Monday 24 June 2013

Film: World War Z

A virus outbreak that turns people into vicious killers quickly traverses the globe and in order to ensure that his family is protected former United Nations representative Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) must return to the field and search for the origin of the virus.

World War Z immediately throws the viewer into the heart of the action as a seemingly ordinary day descends into a fight for survival for the Lane family. 

Following the explosive opening sequence (partly filmed in my home city of Glasgow) we are off on a round-the-world trip with Lane as he looks for clues to explain what the virus is and how it can be combated.

It seems that reports of re-shoots, re-edits, arguments and studio interference may have put people of this unnecessarily. Regardless of how the movie came to be in its finished state there is no doubt that this is the best zombie film since the brilliant 28 Days Later.

The undead featured here are like a pack of hungry wolves and even move like them on occasion. Pitt is as charismatic as ever as the determined investigator and the supporting cast (including The Killing’s Marielle Enos) all perform well, even the zombies!

World War Z is an action-fest with cool zombies and a bona-fide superstar getting right in the middle of it. What more could you ask for? A bit more emotion maybe.

Check it out in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Film: Movie 43

Three teenagers trawl the internet for the elusive Movie 43 and in the process discover a plethora of weird videos.

The film takes place entirely in the boys bedroom with all the videos featured being viewed on-line. The sketches include Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman on a blind date, a young couple attempting to share a “special” moment and Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant playing a game of Truth or Dare that knows no bounds.

Despite boasting a star-studded cast this was universally panned on its release and it’s easy to see why. Most of the jokes are either in bad taste or very offensive but what has to be pointed out is…….some of them are funny.

I won’t spoil what the sketches are about but the word “gross” just doesn't seem to cut it here. There were quite a few times when I was either uncomfortable or about to switch off but then something pretty funny would happen to ease the tension.

Movie 43 is definitely not for everyone but if you can imagine some of the funny but borderline sick videos available on-line then you should be able to handle it.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy       

Saturday 22 June 2013

TV DVD: The Fall

Gillian Anderson (The X Files) plays DSI Gibson, a top cop from London sent to help the Belfast police with an ongoing murder investigation in this 5 part British tv drama.

Gibson soon realises that several unsolved murders are connected and informs the team that they are looking for one man and unlike recent tv hit Broadchurch we are left in no doubt who that man is.

Right from the beginning we see that the murderer is Paul Spector, a family man and grief councillor played brilliantly by Jamie Dornan (Once Upon A Time).

Both points of view are presented as equally important. Gibson struggles with personal issues while working the case and Spector attempts to maintain the facade of all-round nice guy while he slowly unravels.

This is absorbing and often uncomfortable viewing. The scenes involving Spector’s young daughter are 
particularly upsetting as the young girl slowly discovers that something about Dad just isn’t right.

The Fall is an excellent complex and multi-layered drama which continues the recent run of high quality tv being produced in the UK.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended 

Thursday 13 June 2013

Film: Entity

A British tv crew head to remote Russia to explore the place where 32 bodies were discovered.

A renowned psychic (Dervla Kirwan) is part of the crew and she soon begins to see visions of the dead who lead her and the team to an abandoned building.

Needless to say this was the scene of some pretty horrific crimes and some strange forces still linger.

Fans of Paranormal Activity may enjoy Entity but if, like me, you are tired of the whole found footage / shaky camera genre then any interest in this will quickly evaporate.

Entity is available on DVD in the UK from 24th June 2013.

Ric's Rating: Poor

Wednesday 12 June 2013

TV DVD: Wrestlemania 29

The biggest event on the pro-wrestling calendar has been with us for almost 30 years. That in itself is a huge testament to all involved, both past and present.

The presence of wrestler turned movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (see review of Fast & Furious 6) helped ensure that this year’s event took place in front of an astonishing 80,000 fans. On offer for them was a selection of matches which included:

Ryback v Mark Henry
Chris Jericho (who is now a also a tv presenter) v Fandango (an updated Disco Inferno)
The Undertaker (going for his 21st win at ‘mania) v CM Punk
Triple H v Brock Lesnar (former UFC champion)
and the main event of John Cena v The Rock for the heavyweight title.

Disc 2 of this set contains footage from the Hall Of Fame ceremony which honours the contributions of a selected group of individuals to the world of wrestling.

The rest of the Hall Of Fame is on disc 3 but be warned the speeches do tend to go on......and on.

There is more than enough here to entertain fans of all ages but it could never match up to the early events with comic book type characters like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, although the vast crowd in attendance may disagree.

Wrestlemania 29 is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good 

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Film: Fast & Furious 6

Dom (Vin Diesel) and the gang are back in the latest instalment of the fast car series and this time they’re on the right side of the law.

Following their exploits in Rio the guys are living the good life but old adversary Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) soon turns up with a startling proposition.

Hobbs needs their help to track down an elite military group who are using all types of vehicles to commit robberies but they aren’t just stealing money or jewels, their swag is much more dangerous.

The action is mostly set in London (with scenes shot in my own city, Glasgow) but the dull atmosphere doesn’t match up to the location of the previous film. The CCTV monitored streets of London don’t make for as entertaining viewing as the violent favelas of Brazil. There are also lots of poor attempts at humour that the film could’ve done without, especially the pompous English car salesman, it just wasn’t funny.

Luckily the story begins to grip in the second half of the film. The re-appearance of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the perilous situation Dom’s sister (Jordana Brewster) finds herself in adds an edge to the action.

The action scenes themselves are once again wonderfully staged. Throw in Hobbs and Dom fighting together instead of against each other this time and there is more than enough bone-crunching to go round.

To get the most out of this I’d recommend watching the previous films. Tokyo Drift isn’t necessary but we do finally catch up with the distorted timeline of that film in a nice after credits scene.

Fast & Furious 6 comes across as The Expendables on wheels and fans of either franchise will enjoy. Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.  

Friday 31 May 2013

Film: Hidden Face

A successful orchestra conductor is shattered when his girlfriend leaves him for no apparent reason after moving into a new house.

Time moves on and he finds a new lover but she doesn’t like being left in the house alone as she is convinced she can hear strange noises.

This superior Columbian drama tells its story by way of two different time-lines. We begin with the new relationship but soon go back to previous events with the original partner, leading to a brilliant finale that cleverly joins both stories.

Every so often a film comes along that greatly exceeds expectations. Hidden Face is such a film.

I knew little of it prior to watching it but I was expecting a ho-hum ghost story. Little did I know I was about to be treated to the best foreign language film I have seen in a long time, and thankfully there isn’t a ghost in sight.

Original, imaginative and totally compelling with great performances from the three main characters, Hidden Face is the type of film that I implore people to see.

If you have any reservations about subtitled movies try this and you’ll never look back.     

Hidden Face is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s rating: Essential.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Film: Sacrifice

A ruling Chinese dynasty is overthrown and all family members are slain but unbeknown to the new tyrant a newborn baby boy is smuggled to safety.

The young heir is raised by a man who sacrificed his own son to save him and soon begins to learn the ways of a warrior. Eventually he will attempt to reclaim his kingdom.

This Chinese historical epic has some fantastic battle scenes, especially the opening one, but they are too few and far between to maintain the excitement.

The youngster also seems to remain a baby for far too long and there are endless flashbacks to the events leading to his escape.

Sacrifice looks fantastic but it’s aimed so much at the Chinese market that it lacks broad appeal, although fans of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and House Of Flying Daggers may enjoy.

Sacrifice is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.    

Friday 24 May 2013

Film: White Collar Hooligan 2 : England Away

Following the events of the first film we catch up with Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern) and his newly pregnant girlfriend (Rita Ramnani) living the good life in Spain under the supervision of the witness protection program.

Things are going so well at their Bar that Mike decides to take a night off and go to a football match. Unfortunately he is soon spotted by someone from the past and the consequences are swift and brutal.

Mike must raise 2 million pounds to save himself and his family. Along the way he bumps into his old friend Eddie (Simon Philips) and the pair soon hatch a plan that just might work.

There is hardly any football violence here so don't go into it expecting anything akin to Green Street. This a smart crime / revenge thriller that even manages to throw in some touches of humour and an informative recap means you don't have to have seen the first film to enjoy this one.

Writer Director Paul Tanter remains loyal to many actors from his previous films (The Fall Of The Essex Boys, Jack Falls) and this pays off as the on screen chemistry between them all helps elevate this above the standard London geezer type film.

White Collar Hooligan 2 : England Away is another reason why we shouldn't all rush to see the latest Hollywood dross featuring a "big star". Available on DVD now.

For more reviews and an interview with the man himself click the Nick Nevern label.

Ric's Rating : Highly Recommended 

Monday 20 May 2013

Film: Dead Mine

The Descent meets Outpost as a team of explorers are trapped in an abandoned mine.

Unused since World War II the mine reportedly contains a vast amount of lost gold but it also harbours some very strange inhabitants.

 Looking like a cross between Gollum and The Walking Dead the bad guys finally appear after almost 45 minutes. The surprisingly strong and agile underground dwellers are actually prisoners of war who have been experimented on.

Then their captors also appear!

Led by an unintentionally hilarious (and weirdly preserved) Japanese soldier who thinks the war is still going on these guys soon join in the game of hunting down our intrepid team.

Dead Mine does provide a few laughs and turns out to be quite good fun in the end, although I suspect my reaction to it isn’t the intended one.

Available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.   

Friday 17 May 2013

Film: Frozen Silence

An army detective hunts for a serial killer who easily hides during the carnage of World War II.

This Spanish film is set within a team of soldiers who are sent to help Germany fight against the Russian army.

It opens with a beautifully shot scene showing a frozen wasteland littered with the remains of both humans and horses. It is among these bodies that the first victim is found.

This wisely doesn’t get too bogged down in the politics of its setting and I wouldn’t consider this a war film as such. It is a detective drama set amongst war.

Unfortunately the initial promise isn’t built on and the investigation becomes somewhat stale. Maybe a few more war type battle scenes would have livened things up!

Frozen Silence looks fantastic but the story doesn’t match up to the cinematography. It’s available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric's Rating: Dodgy

Tuesday 14 May 2013

TV DVD: Broadchurch

Taking its cue from Scandinavian dramas The Killing and The Bridge (see review elsewhere here) this superior British drama had the whole nation talking during its TV run. Such was the furore that bookmakers were taking bets and national newspapers ran extensive features.

It follows the investigation into the murder of a young boy found dead on the beach of the picturesque town of the title.

Local policewoman Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) expects to be put in charge of the investigation but her superiors decide to bring in an outsider. Enter David Tennant (Dr Who, Fright Night) as the baggage-laden Detective Inspector Alec Hardy.

Hardy and Miller follow the evidence through a town filled with eclectic and multi-layered characters. Everyone seems to have at least one skeleton lurking in their cupboard and the murder enquiry uncovers them all.

There are secret affairs, previous offences and unlikely friendships which soon emerge and help or hinder the hunt for the culprit.

The entire cast are fantastic with Colman and Tennant quite simply stunning in their portrayal of two completely different police officers working towards the same goal. I did manage to guess the killer quite early on but that didn’t detract from the totally compelling story as it unfolds.

This 3 disc set contains all 8 episodes of this captivating police procedural drama which hopefully heralds a new era in British television.

Broadchurch is available on DVD in the UK from 20th May 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.         

Sunday 12 May 2013

TV DVD: Bret "Hitman" Hart: The Dungeon Collection

Throughout the 1990s Bret "Hitman" Hart was one of the biggest names in professional wrestling. This 3 disc set charts his career and highlights a clutch of lesser known matches hand-picked by the man himself.

We kick off with a brief introduction from Hart and quickly settle into a series of matches featuring a veritable who's who of professional wrestling, all thoughtfully described by The Hitman.

Matches in this collection include Bret Vs....Mr Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow, "Stone Cold " Steve Austin and his brother Owen Hart.

This set serves as a fine tribute to one of the biggest stars of the golden era of wrestling but the glaring omission of Hart's acrimonious departure from WWE and the in-ring death of Owen Hart mean that it isn't the frank exploration of his career it could have been.

Bret "Hitman" Hart : The Dungeon Collection is available on DVD in the UK from 13th May 2013.

Ric's Rating : Good 

Thursday 9 May 2013

Film: The Facility

In a remote medical facility in the English countryside a group of volunteers agree to try out the latest innovative drug, the mysterious Pro 9.

One by one they are administered the drug but soon afterwards some of their number experience intense pain which then manifests itself in increasingly bizarre and violent behaviour.

Featuring a largely little known cast, this UK horror/thriller has some wonderfully intense moments but doesn't quite manage to maintain the tense atmosphere throughout.

One big plus is that this isn't a zombie film in disguise, the affected patients retain their humanity while becoming increasingly dangerous and the audience is kept guessing as to who is going to be affected and who has taken a placebo.

The facility is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good. 

Monday 6 May 2013

Film: Under Cover

A cop masquerades as a high school student in order to find those responsible for the death of his friend in this 1987 thriller.

David Neidorf (Platoon, Best Shot aka Hoosiers) is Detective Sheffield Hauser who along with female cop Laroux (Jennifer Jason Leigh) infiltrate the high school drug scene.

Things take a surprising turn when evidence points to a baseball team member that Hauser has befriended. Is he responsible for the other cop’s death?

Following an excellent showing in Best Shot (UK title for Hoosiers) and a brief but noteworthy appearance in Platoon, Neidorf takes the lead in this Golan-Globus production. What he lacks in charisma he makes up for in charm as he easily falls into the role of awkward teenager despite his appearance.

“How many high school students do you know that are bearded and balding?” yells his LT at the initial suggestion of the assignment.

Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female) also puts in a competent turn as Hauser’s undercover partner.

After a string of TV shows and movies Neidorf quit acting altogether in 1995 making this a one-off. I had fond memories of it from back in the day and it still works reasonably well today. Neidorf is very watchable and the dependable Barry Corbin (No Country For Old Men) also turns up as the local Sheriff.

Under Cover is showing on TCM in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.