Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ancient Capes and the Sunken Place

March 28th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Get Out (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2017) The misgivings of a young black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) over meeting his new white girlfriend’s parents take a turn toward terror. Rod Serling-style satirical social horror isn’t built to sustain itself at feature length, but don’t tell that to Jordan Peele, who picks up that neglected mantle and, with brilliant, multi-layered execution, does exactly that and so much more.—RDL


Black Amazon of Mars (Fiction, Leigh Brackett, 1951) On barbaric Mars, rugged hero John Eric Stark’s effort to fulfill a comrade’s dying wish leads him to a warrior queen and an ancient civilization of ice beings. Efficiently forward-moving sword & planet novella provides an object lesson in genre prose that goes big without losing control. Later reconfigured as the novel People of the Talisman.—RDL

The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger: The 4,000-Year History of the Superhero (Nonfiction, Jess Nevins, 2017) Nevins picks his standard scholarly way through the potential candidates for proto-superheroism from Enkidu to Domino Lady in a triumph of research that manfully resists the alluring side-eddies such a project stirs up. A final two chapters on the post-1938 superhero are less assured, but fortunately also less essential. –KH

The Shadow People (Fiction, Margaret St. Clair, 1969) Dick Aldridge’s girl Carol is kidnapped from her basement flat in Berkeley — by elves. This weird blend of the Shaver hollow earth and Robert Kirk’s “Commonwealth of Fairies” contributes to the off-kilter nature of the novel, as does St. Clair’s repeated refusal to follow her own leads, and her decision to set the last half of it in a nascent fascist state. The story remains compelling, however, and the stark originality (and clammy horror) of her mashup makes me wish more urban fantasy had followed her instead of Emma Bull. –KH


Clio and Me: An Intellectual Autobiography (Nonfiction, Martin Van Creveld, 2016) Possibly the world’s premier military historian provides a quick tour of his mental upbringing, formation, and evolution. It doesn’t have either enough juice or enough venom to be truly Recommended, but it’s always worth exploring the life of a great mind. –KH

Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film (Nonfiction, Arnold T. Blumberg & Scott Alan Woodward, 2016) Hefty tome provides detailed discussion of fifty “classics” of sword-and-sorcery film from the 1940 Thief of Bagdad to the first Hobbit film in 2015. Each writeup provides notes on the score, cast, production, deeper meaning, magical rules, (mostly forced) connections with other films, a gameable bit, and a brief (usually sympathetic) review. A brief “concordance” (sic) of 400+ other sword-and-sorcery movies completes the book. –KH

Veerana (Film, India, Tulsi & Shyam Ramsay, 1988) Surprisingly sexy-for-1988-Bollywood vampire Nakita preys on lustful men, first in her own body (Kamal Roy) and eventually in that of area nymphet Jasmin (Jasmin) after a wicked sorcerer enables the Exorcist-style possession. The thick Bava-Hammer blend of the horror almost drowns the Indian elements; the lengthy comic relief subplots are pure Hindi kitsch by contrast. Relatively few songs for the 175-minute running time mean lots of emoting and googly eyes and screaming until the final exciting act. –KH


The Hollow (Film, US, Kyle Newman, 2004) Amiable but toothless attempt to update the Headless Horseman as a pumpkin-headed slasher stalls on its own soft edges, and on that whole giving the Horseman a head thing. Neither of the villains, bully Nick Carter or football-obsessed dad Judge Reinhold, truly threaten our hero; Stacy Keach chews the scenery as a drunken graveyard attendant, also to no effect. –KH

Not Recommended

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Film, US, Chad Stahelski, 2017) Super-assassin who wants only to re-retire finds himself forced back into the game. Baroque sequel can’t repeat the waggish simplicity of the original’s premise, so instead thoroughly mishandles the reluctant protagonist trope on its way to a contrived non-ending. But don’t worry, that sets up the dispiriting premise to a franchise as unnecessary as it is inevitable!—RDL

Youth (Film, Italy, Paolo Sorrentino, 2015) During his stay at a luxury resort in the Swiss mountains, a retired composer (Michael Caine) mulls accusations of apathy while hanging out with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) his film director pal (Harvey Keitel) and a pensive movie star (Paul Dano.) A delicately melancholy, visually dazzling idyll abruptly sunk by that classic art film self-destruct button, the final veer into BS melodrama. Especially ironic here, as a major subplot concerns the director’s inability to find a ending for the script he’s about to shoot.—RDL

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