Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Book: The Apostle by J.A Kerley

Strange religious murders and an ailing Preacher are the focus of the latest Carson Ryder novel which sees the welcome return of his old partner, Harry Nautilis.

Newly retired Nautilis is employed as a driver / bodyguard by an up-and-coming tv preacher who is soon summoned to stand in for the sickly veteran. This takes Harry to Miami where he soon teams up with his old buddy Ryder as they compare notes and attempt to solve the latest series of grisly murders. 

Jack Kerley took a chance when he decided to relocate his novel series from Alabama to Miami. Uprooting the main character and surrounding him with new faces was a test for even the most loyal fan.

For the most part it has worked as the Miami novels have been fresh but the absence of Nautilis has been noticeable and his re-introduction brings a much needed grounding to the Ryder series v.2. The promotion of Carson’s enigmatic brother Jeremy to a regular character is also welcome.

12 books in and these books remain as intriguing and entertaining as ever but I wouldn’t recommend The Apostle as either a starting point or a stand alone novel. Start right back to the beginning with The Hundredth Man or join the Miami series with The Death Box to get the most from The Apostle.

Visit www.jackkerley.com for more information on the author and his books.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended  

Friday, 13 February 2015

Film: Jupiter Ascending

An ordinary girl discovers she is the reincarnation of the Queen Of The Galaxy..or something.

Jupiter Jones is whisked into the middle of a war between siblings of an inter-galactic race vying for control of the Earth in this sci-fi adventure from Matrix directors the Wachowskis.

The nifty special effects and entertaining chase / fight scenes aren’t enough to save this from the incomprehensible story and even Channing Tatum’s flying boots grate after they save the day a few times.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy. 

Film: Mea Culpa

When his young son witnesses a gangland killing a disgraced former cop enlists the help of his old partner to track down those responsible.

This French thriller features a powerhouse performance from Vincent Lindon as Simon, a man troubled by his past who is also struggling to come to terms with his current standing as an estranged Father.

When it all kicks off the action is ferocious and there are a few twists and turns along the way ensuring the story remains gripping throughout.

Mea Culpa is my first World Cinema movie of 2015 and it has served as a timely reminder that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to only Hollywood (or even English speaking) productions.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book: Larry by Adam Millard

Back in the 70s Larry “Pigface” Travers was a prolific serial killer who went on several Friday The 13th type summer camp killing sprees.

Move on 40 or so years and Larry is in his sixties and living with his eighty year old Mum..but the urges have come back.

Larry decides (against his Mother’s advice) to don his Pig mask one more time and pay a visit to this years inhabitants of the camp. Are his creaking old bones up to it?

Adam Millard has produced a serial killer comedy that works pretty well. Larry is hilarious as he huffs and puffs his way around attempting to terrorise some teenagers with names like Freddy, Jason and Myers.

Laughs spliced into horrific murders make for a gory but highly entertaining quick read and in the great tradition of cheesy horror films a sequel will be with us soon. You can’t keep a decrepit killer down!

Ric’s Rating: Good.    

Film: Gone Girl

When a seemingly happily married woman (Rosamund Pike) vanishes without a trace suspicion quickly falls on her husband (Ben Affleck).

The couple’s happy fa├žade is soon exposed as a sham as we learn their troubles through a series of flashbacks. When we return to present day proceedings events take a surprising turn as nothing is what it appears to be.

Saying any more would risk spoilers but rest assured that this is a compelling tale that makes it easy to see why the book of the same name was a bestseller. Affleck and Oscar nominated Pike are excellent and there is decent support from Neil Patrick Harris (Starship Troopers).

Seven director David Fincher delivers a series of twists and turns that should delight anyone who hasn't read the book although the finale did feel like a little over-stretching of the imagination.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.    

Film: Big Hero 6

Young Hiro’s dreams of joining Nerd School (his term for a top level scientific learning facility) literally go up in smoke when a fire destroys the building and leaves him mourning the loss of his brother.

However, his brother’s invention, a robotic health assistant named Baymax, lives on and soon becomes his best friend and ally as he searches for those responsible.

Baymax is excellent as the hapless hero and the duo quickly recruit additional members to their team.

This animated feature manages to explore the complicated issue of grief without becoming too bogged down and always remembers to be child friendly and fun.

Great comic sequences, fantastic action scenes and a touching story make this  a must see for kids of all ages.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.   

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Film: Starred Up

A troubled young man is transferred from juvenile detention to adult prison where he finds himself being shown the ropes by another inmate, who just happens to be his Father.

This UK prison drama was lauded by critics and even scooped a few awards but besides one or two decent performances this is pretty run of the mill stuff.

Attempts at rehabilitation consist of joining some sort of peer group where the members repeatedly vent their anger and then come out high-fiving each other as if to say prison life ain’t that bad.

More background on the main characters may have helped but what we are left with is a series of violent incidents leading to a pretty unsatisfactory conclusion.

Starred Up is available on all the usual formats now.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy.   

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Film: American Sniper

The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper delivers a superb performance as Navy Seal Chris Kyle in this true story from director Clint Eastwood.

The patriotic Kyle decides to enlist and after intensive training is soon deployed to Iraq where he is used as a specialist sniper. His role is to protect ground forces but the highly trained Kyle decides that he must help his less experienced colleagues on the ground. A series of incidents follow, each very intense and harrowing.

These events coincide with Kyle attempting to maintain a healthy relationship with his wife and young family but during periods of time at home he is still consumed by the war.

Can he leave the fighting to others after putting in 4 tours of duty and can he adjust to life back in normal society?

I knew nothing of Chris Kyle prior to seeing this film and there is no doubt that increased my enjoyment of it. It is easy to find out details of this high profile soldier but if you don’t already know then steer clear until after seeing this.

Doubts have emerged regarding the authenticity of events as presented here but regardless of that this is a film that grips from the start and doesn't let go.

American Sniper is in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Hello everyone. Has it really been 3 months since my last post here? Where does the time go these days? Lately I have been posting very brief review tweets on Twitter @ricsreviews so you can keep up to date there but hopefully I'll get back to regular updates here as soon as possible.

I plan to do an end of year post (however light in content) next week so please check back soon.

Have a fantastic Christmas.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Film: A Walk Among The Tombstones

Liam Neeson takes on the role of Private Detective Matt Scudder in this film adaptation of the novel by Lawrence Block.

A fellow addict asks Scudder to speak to his brother regarding a missing person. Turns out that the client isn’t exactly a law abiding citizen and even though he paid the ransom asked for by his wife’s kidnappers, they killed her anyway.

Despite his initial reluctance Scudder takes on the case and follows a trail that eventually leads to a pair of ruthless murderers.

If you aren’t a fan of Neeson then give this a miss as he is in practically every scene and only briefly disappears from view throughout the entire film. Thankfully I enjoy Neeson’s films (Taken and The Gray are recent stand-outs) and he easily carries the film along on it’s atmospheric journey.

I haven’t read the novel but can guess that this film incorporates elements from several books as we get the character’s history and we meet TJ, a local street kid who I’m guessing is a series regular. Maybe someone can confirm or correct my thinking.

Gritty, violent and completely absorbing, A Walk Among The Tombstones only suffers by not providing more of a story for the villains of the piece. Neeson gives a towering performance as Scudder and hopefully this is the beginning of a franchise as I’d be keen to see more of this character.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Book: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel is a tale of murder, revenge, love and erm Hungarian folklore. The Hozzsu Eletek are a rare breed of people. Blessed / cursed with exceptionally long life they also have the ability to replicate the appearance of any other person. One of their kind is a misguided young man who is eventually outcast and hunted by his own. Desperate and alone Jakab decides to dedicate his long life to tracking down and killing the descendants of those responsible for what he sees as a terrible humiliation and betrayal.

The book jumps between present day, the late seventies and the eighteen hundreds as we follow all the relevant participants in the story. We have a young Jakab, a university lecturer and his daughter Hannah, who along with her family provide the most exciting chapters of the book.

This is quite the epic tale and a bit of a challenge for someone used to regular crime fiction. The challenge was almost too much at times but that was down to the slow pace of some passages, not the quality of the writing, which is superior throughout.

The String Diaries is interesting and entertaining but lacks the tension required to compel the reader to continue with the next chapter, especially when it takes you away from the action.

Give it a try if you fancy something a bit different but be prepared to stretch your imagination.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy      

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Book: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Meet eighty year old Edward Shank, former chief of police, highly respected pillar of the community.... and serial killer.
During his police career Shank famously cornered and shot dead a serial killer but unbeknown to anyone it was Shank himself who was the killer known as The Butcher.

Long retired and about to move into an old folks home Shank decides to let his Grandson in on the secret and although his body might not be what it used to be the old man is helpless to prevent the urges which are beginning to return on a frequent basis.

Jennifer Hillier’s first stand-alone thriller delivers an anti-hero unlike any other. Edward “The Chief” Shank is a thoroughly despicable but totally captivating character who completely dominates the book. The supporting cast of grandson Matthew, his girlfriend Sam and detective Sanchez add important elements but when The Chief appears it feels the same as when an acting legend with great screen presence appears in a movie.

In fact, The Butcher is prime movie adaptation material and my ideal choice for the part would be Clint Eastwood. Until that happens make sure you catch this absorbing and unique serial killer story.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.