Monday 29 April 2013

Film: Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr returns as Tony Stark for the latest superhero adventure from Marvel.

We last saw Stark’s Iron Man in the brilliant Avengers (I’ll ignore the silly UK title) and at the beginning of this film he is still suffering mentally from those events. Iron Man was briefly sucked through a wormhole to a galaxy far far away!

This time he is without his superhero friends as he battles a vindictive terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsly).

Meanwhile we have the shifty scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) attempting to convince Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to fund his DNA altering research via Stark’s corporation.

The previous Iron Man films were a bit run-of-the-mill but the character (and Downey Jr) had a brilliant outing in the Avengers. That screen presence continues here and the other heroes are not missed. Robert Downey Jr is magnetic as Stark, both in and out of the Iron Man suit, and the rest of the cast look like they are having the time of their lives. Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) is excellent as Col. Rhodes aka War Machine and special mention has to go to Ben Kingsly for his brilliant and surprising portrayal of The Mandarin (steer clear of any spoilers regarding this character).

Iron Man 3 builds on the success of The Avengers and with new Thor and Captain America films coming soon Marvel’s current crop of hits looks set to continue.

Iron Man 3 is in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.       

TV DVD: Journeyman

Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting) stars in this 13 part time travelling tv drama from 2007.

McKidd is Dan Vassar, a journalist who suddenly finds himself transported to different periods of time. His purpose for being there soon reveals itself and he faces a series of problems to solve ranging from preventing a murder to re-uniting estranged family members.

Along with these situations Dan also runs into his dead ex-girlfriend. She too has the ability to time travel and things get complicated when he encounters earlier events from his own life.

This show fell victim to the cut-throat world of US tv ratings but it’s great fun and Scottish actor McKidd even manages a pretty convincing American accent.

Fans of Quantum Leap and Back To The Future will love it.

Journeyman: The Complete Series is available as a 4 disc DVD box set in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.    

Saturday 27 April 2013

Short Film: Unarmed Robbery

First up from IndieFlix is a short film which presents the scenario of a one-armed man robbing a late-night store.

At only six minutes long this is basically a comedy sketch and it would work well in a suitable tv show.

The clerk and robber are both excellent as the former can’t take his eyes off the latter’s stump. This distracts the robber from his purpose and he then proceeds to show how he can commit a robbery just as well as any two-armed bandit.

Unarmed Robbery is very funny and it may have helped open my eyes to the whole short-film genre.

Find it at

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Reviews News: IndieFlix

The good folks at IndieFlix have been in touch and kindly allowed me access to their cool website for the next three months.

Here is a bit about them:

For far too long, filmmakers have been forced to either sell out or starve. Thousands of brilliant, creative minds submit their works to festivals, hoping to find meaningful distribution yet fewer than 1% actually do. We’re here to level the playing field. Founded by filmmakers, IndieFlix is part champion, part curator; our mission is to democratize distribution and provide significant revenue for filmmakers.

IndieFlix is a community of independent filmmakers and fans. Through its membership-based streaming service, IndieFlix helps filmmakers translate artistic vision into commercial success, and gives film lovers access to high quality independent films not otherwise available. IndieFlix’s mission is to champion filmmakers, rethink traditional approaches to distribution, and celebrate the artistry and impact of independent film.

Please visit IndieFlix at

This means I'll be posting reviews of some cool independent films so please check back soon and follow me on Twitter @Ricsreviews for updates. There may even be some free subscriptions on offer!

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Book: Murder By Prophecy by Gary Kassay

Detective Inspector Duke Becker and the Special Investigations Unit (Homicide) of New York City return in this sequel to the brilliant Murder In Silence, from cop-turned-author Gary Kassay.

This time Becker and the team are in pursuit of a serial-killer known as The Prophet, a killer who sends taunting letters to the Chief Of Police, who may know more than he is admitting to.

This novel is no whodunit, we are immediately introduced to Samuel Maxwell, a man hell-bent on avenging the brutal murder of his family by becoming The Prophet and eliminating those he holds responsible.

All the winning elements from the first book are back. Duke and the gang are on fine form and the reader again finds themselves able to relate to the character that would traditionally be presented as the bad guy.

Before picking this up I’d advise reading Murder In Silence as there are lots of recurring characters, even some peripheral characters are back. Wheelchair-bound Fred Haynes and reporter Marielle Wilson both return and it’s a nice touch, as all too often authors quickly ditch good characters for no apparent reason.

Maxwell’s meticulous planning leaves the cops struggling to keep up but will he succeed in his mission or will the lure of a possible new life knock him off course?

Exciting, fast-paced and loads of fun Murder By Prophecy is a cool follow-up to a fantastic series opener and I can’t wait to see what Becker and the team encounter next.

Click the Gary Kassay label for my review of Murder In Silence and more.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended. 

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Film: The Lords of Salem

Musician turned director Rob Zombie casts his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as a late night radio host who unwittingly summons a coven of witches in this shocker.

A parcel arrives at the radio station containing a vinyl record by a band called The Lords. This strange recording has a weird effect on the host and many female members of the audience resulting in countless acts of violence and murder.

The heavy metal soundtrack and the grating resonance of the strange record immediately made me reach for the volume control, I get that this was meant to be unsettling but the feeling created was just one of annoyance.

There is also a constant stream of devil-worshipping type images that includes goats, big hairy monsters, silly guys with masks and naked old ladies. This is often unintentionally hilarious and miserably fails to provoke the intended reaction.

A brilliant straight-to-video cast is largely wasted here. Bruce Davison (V, The X Men), Dee Wallace (E.T), Meg Foster (They Live) and Ken Foree (Dawn Of The Dead) all appear, as does Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) but unfortunately he is hidden behind a mask.

With The Lords Of Salem Rob Zombie has attempted to move (albeit sideways) away from his previous efforts which include the Halloween remake and the brilliant The Devil’s Rejects. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work.

The Lords Of Salem is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Poor.      

Film: Oblivion

Earth has been devastated. An alien invasion provoked a nuclear response and what’s left of the human race has left to inhabit a far off Moon.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his wife (Andrea Riseborough) are stationed on Earth to maintain the drones which constantly patrol and eliminate any remnants of the alien army.

As their mission is due for completion Harper begins to realise that there may be more going on than meets the eye.

Oblivion looks fantastic, the scenes of once great cities and structures now ruined and covered in grass and new flowing rivers create an atmosphere which quickly draws the viewer in.

Unfortunately the story is all too predictable and the promised action scenes fail to materialize.

Cruise looks like he’d rather be anywhere else and the feeling soon rubs off onto the audience with the belated introduction of Morgan Freeman adding little to proceedings.

With the imminent release of the new Star Trek film the studio have wisely decided not to compete as this most definitely isn’t the action-fest it’s marketed as. It’s a mish-mash of films like Armageddon, The Matrix and They Live that doesn’t capture the best parts of any of those movies.

Oblivion is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.       

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Film: I Didn't Come Here To Die

A group of volunteers head off into the American wilderness to build a camp for future organised tours but it isn’t long until things begin to go awry.

The camp comes with the story of a murdered girl who still wanders the woods seeking revenge.

Thankfully the film concentrates on a series of fatal mishaps and the diminishing sanity of the volunteers instead of the gruesome legend.

Each member of the group has their own reasons for being there and these are nicely explored around the campfire, endearing some of the characters and alienating others. 

If you can get past the silly grindhouse type opening scene and the continually grainy presentation you’ll find a little movie that isn’t half bad. Well timed moments of humour remind the viewer that this isn’t taking itself too seriously while the tension and gore will keep horror fans happy.

I Didn’t Come Here To Die is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Sunday 14 April 2013

TV DVD: Royal Rumble 2013

The Royal Rumble is an annual event presented by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Amazingly now in its 26th year the event features the “Royal Rumble Match” which begins with two participants who are joined by another wrestler every 90 seconds. There are a total of 30 participants and the only way to eliminate an opponent is by throwing him over the top rope and onto the floor. The winner guarantees themselves a shot at the title at another prestigious event, Wrestlemania.

This release includes:

Big Show v Alberto Del Rio in a last man standing match.
A tag-team title match.
A championship match between reigning champion CM Punk and wrestler turned movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

With The Rock topping the bill the Rumble match is relegated to second top spot and it seems to come around rather quickly. The match itself is very entertaining and even features a few old-timers and novelty acts to keep old fans happy although the time reduction between entrants from 2 minutes to 90 seconds shortens the match too much.

Arguably the best annual WWE event, this will keep fans old and new entertained.

Royal Rumble 2013 is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from 15th April 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Good.         

Thursday 11 April 2013

Film: Battleship

A signal is sent to deep space from a research centre in Hawaii which provokes a very hostile reply from an Alien race.

The aliens arrive (with devastating effect) during a worldwide naval exercise which happens to be taking place in Hawaii, the focal point of the invasion. Soon a motley crew of sailors, led by a former delinquent, find themselves cut-off and alone against an overwhelming enemy force.

This film was much maligned on its release but isn’t half as bad as I was expecting, in fact it’s bloody good fun. The aliens obvious technological superiority threaten mankind with extinction and in true Independence Day style a group of unlikely heroes attempt to save the day.

Based on the family game this even manages to include a grid reference and the words “miss” and “hit”.

Battleship is cheesy, predictable and way over-acted but it’s an entertaining special-effects laden war film which is far superior to the likes of Battle: Los Angeles and Cloverfield.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Film: The Echo

An ex-convict attempts to get his life back on track but when he moves into his deceased Mother’s apartment strange events begin to occur.

Bobby Reynolds (Jesse Bradford) starts to hear weird noises in the old apartment and then there’s the neighbours to worry about. A Mother and her young daughter seem to be at the mercy of the abusive man of the house, but Bobby daren’t confront him as he just happens to be a cop.

While all this is happening he also attempts to hold down a job and rekindle an old romance.

Bradford gives a decent performance in this compact chiller but the good work done in the first 45 minutes unfortunately makes way for yet another scary kid story. Am I the only one who’s had enough of them?

That being said there are plenty of worse horrors out there and this works well as a late night popcorn ghost story.

The Echo is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.  

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Film: Zaytoun

An Israeli pilot (Stephen Dorff) is shot down over Beirut in 1982 and forms an unlikely alliance with one of his young captors.

12 year old Fahed is grieving for his Father and sees the captured pilot as a way of getting to visit his former homeland.

The duo must overcome their differences and face many hostile situations in order to achieve their goals.

Dorff is his usual dependable self but young Abdallah El Akal steals the show as the unsettled Palestinian boy.

Zaytoun isn’t for action fans but it’s a competent film set during a somewhat forgotten conflict.

Available on DVD in the UK from 15th April 2013.

Ric’s Rating: Good

Saturday 6 April 2013

Film: The Baytown Outlaws

The Oodie Brothers have a reputation for handing out some old fashioned justice, so when Celeste (Eva Longoria) asks them to rescue her Godson from her abusive ex (Billy Bob Thornton), they soon discover that she has 25,000 reasons for them to say yes.

The trio head off on a violent road trip that sees them encounter lethal hookers, a road gang straight out of Mad Max and very intriguing young man.

The Oodies are fantastic. There is Brick the leader, McQueen the brash youngster and Lincoln, the silent former professional wrestler. Throw in Andre Braugher (Last Resort, Homicide: Life On The Street) and you have a really cool cast that all seem to be enjoying themselves.

This kinda feels like a TV pilot and would’ve worked as such. I for one would tune in every week to see what the crazy brothers were up to. As it is we have to settle for this one off (so far) adventure.

The Baytown Outlaws is available on DVD now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Film: Room 237

This documentary feature examines the apparent multi-layered complexity of Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror The Shining.

Room 237 consists of countless clips of The Shining with commentary from various fanatics regarding their theories on any potential hidden messages.

With theories ranging from the massacre of the American Indians to the holocaust this is very strange stuff indeed. Throw in a few silly pieces of sexual innuendo and consistency errors and this amounts to the equivalent of a room full of Star Wars fans nitpicking those movies.

It really is nerds day out as we are supposed to see significance in the fact that an empty chair disappears from view when we return to the same shot.

This sort of stuff could apply to any film and the fact that this has been made into a film in it’s own right almost beggars belief.

Unless The Shining is one of your all time favourites and you’d enjoy examining every piece of minute information that it’s possible to interpret from what’s on screen then steer well clear.

Room 237 is available on DVD in the UK now.

Ric’s Rating: Poor.