Monday, August 30, 2010

The Round-Up#36

Book Review: Angel by Nicholas Guild: Part romantic thriller, part Gothic mystery, part livre noir, and part crime drama, Nicholas Guild's Angel is a wonderful read. The story - which revolves around Angela Wyman a.k.a Angel, an evil sociopath who is out to slaughter a group of men involved in a tragedy that occurred in her teens, and Jim Kinkaid, the only man who truly loved her and who plans to stop her - is complex and sprawling, filled with layers upon layers of mystery and intrigue, and involves numerous interesting and interestingly bizarre characters.

But what makes it stand out are Guild's impressive storytelling appetite and his creation of Angel, the ultimate femme fatale. Guild, who previously was known for his historical and spy thrillers, goes for broke here, layering his novel with elements from numerous genres, including Gothic thrillers, murder mysteries, gangster dramas, and vintage noir, which results in a novel that is rich with thrills and suspense. Also, Guild paces the novel almost flawlessly, never letting the story lag. He also manages to create a memorable villain and a classic femme fatale in Angel, a cold, calculating, homicidal maniac who loathes men.

But Guild's ambitiousness gets the better of him near the end, when he somewhat loses control of the narrative during a climax that, though exciting, is hectic and rife with implausibilities. But he redeems himself with the novel's final sentence, which introduces one final twist that's sure to leave you smiling.

In the end, this is the kind of long, rich novel that you can lose yourself in, and which, despite its flaws, is rewarding and a hell of an entertaining ride. A modern classic.

*This novel is out-of-print, but copies are still available from numerous online booksellers.

Film Review: Predators: You've got to give producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal credit where credit is due: This is indeed the ultimate Predator movie, for better or for worse. This is a film that is so full of action, twists, explosions, suspense and sequences that fans of the franchise have been fantasizing about for years, that you can't help but give in to its ebullience.

The story: A group of soldiers and thugs wake up to find themselves in a mysterious jungle, location unknown, and, slowly, discover that they are being hunted by . . . wait for it . . . predators. So they have to band together to defeat creatures that are faster, possess more advanced weapons and knowledge of the terrain. Mayhem ensues.

The plot isn't very original. The action sequences, although effective, don't come off as very fresh. But the combination of tough characters, an exotic location, and the predator creatures we all know and love, somehow works. This is obviously a labor of love for Rodriguez (who co-wrote and produced the film) and it shows. Rodriguez - along with director Antal - charges the film with many ideas and sequences that are sure to please fans of the franchise (including a ludicrous, yet exciting, sequence involving a face-off between a sword-wielding Yakuza and a predator), a cameo by a demented Laurence Fishburne, and predator on predator action! What more could you ask for, really? The film's downfall lies with two things: The last third of the film, which buckles under the weight of its ideas, with one climax too many, and the film's admirably retro feel. The whole enterprise comes off as something made in the 80's: an action film starring Stallone or Schwarzeneger, which is exactly the point. Rodriguez and Antal have made a film out of time, which boldly sticks to the aesthetics of the era its pays tribute to. If you like 80's action films, you'll love Predators. Otherwise, beware!

Extra! Prince's Sign 'o' The Times: This edition's Extra! selection is the Prince concert film Sign 'o' The Times, directed by Prince. Full of energy and featuring brilliant musicianship by Prince and his cohorts, this is an 80's masterpiece, and proof that the 80's was the last decade of good music. Unmissable.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves!

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