Monday, June 23, 2008
1984’s “Streets of Fire” is billed as a “rock and roll fable,” and that seemingly pretentious label is actually quite appropriate. The film has an unusual look: a stylish hodgepodge of images that evoke American culture: rock and roll, vintage cars, Capitalism and class struggle. Walter Hill directs a cast of deliberately stereotypical characters: the loner tough-guy hero (Michael Paré of “Eddie and the Cruisers”), the damsel-in-distress (Diane Lane of “Unfaithful,” and “The Perfect Storm,”), and the villain (Willem Dafoe of “Platoon,” and “Spiderman”). Contrasts abound: the music is 80’s pop, the clothing and automobiles are from the 50’s and 60’s, and the entire movie plays out against a backdrop that looks like a movie set. This is one of those genre defying films that requires you to believe in the world it presents to you. Films such as “Legend,” “Dark City,” “Phantom of the Paradise,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Moulin Rouge” share this surreal quality. The plot is simple: bad guy steals girl, good guy (ex-boyfriend), goes to rescue her. One performance in particular that makes the movie memorable is Amy Madigan (“Pollock” and “Field of Dreams) as a spunky, philosophy-spouting, spoiling-for-a-fight drifter who offers (for a price) to help the hero rescue his ex-girlfriend from the motorcycle gang that kidnapped her. The soundtrack boasts a Top 40 hit by the late Dan Hartman (“I Can Dream About You”) as well as the talents of Ry Cooder, Jim Steinman, Stevie Nicks, and Maria McKee, among others. This is a largely undiscovered gem of a movie that is well worth taking the time to view.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Having grown up cutting my reader-teeth on romantic suspense novels by Mary Stewart, I immediately know when I begin reading what will be, for me, a keeper. "Run Among Thorns" opens with grim government agent types reviewing footage of Jenny Waring expertly dispatching her captors during a tense hostage situation. The reader senses the appalling skills exhibited by the young woman have tossed her from the frying pan into the fire when we're introduced to Kier McAllister, a master of interrogation and psychological games of terror. McAllister spirits Jenny out of the country and takes her to a secluded cottage in Scotland, where he plans to use every technique available to him to force Jenny to abandon her cover story. The problem is, Jenny isn't an agent, secret or otherwise. She's a young woman with outstanding survival instincts who learned marksmanship at an early age, but when faced with the hard core McAllister, she's hard-pressed to convince him she isn't a product of special training being primed for military action. When McAllister squares off against his captive in a test of wit and will, he gradually concludes Jenny might be no more than the innocent she claims to be. He begins to suspect the agency who hired him has ulterior motives that have nothing to do with scoring Jenny as a new operative . McAllister, who has always taken pride in his work, must now use every survival trick he knows to keep Jenny alive. Fans of romantic suspense will find this novel satisfying because the story focuses on the building relationship between Jenny and Kier; the special operative/secret government agency theme forms a backdrop, but the story is really about the developing rapport between the two main characters. On the strength of this debut novel, I'm looking forward to the author's next release, "Dangerous Lies."