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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Bad Batch Leads a Bumper Batch of Baby Drivin’ Reviews

July 5th, 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

The Bad Batch (Film, US, Ana Lily Amirpour, 2017) Sentenced as an undesirable to a vast, lawless Texas internment zone, a young woman (Suki Waterhouse) plans vengeance against the cannibal community that cut off and ate her arm and leg. Visually bold, sometimes shocking post-apocalyptic western. With Jason Momoa as the main people-eater, Keanu Reeves as a local potentate who looks like Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton character, and an unrecognizable Jim Carrey in the old coot role.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.

Baby Driver (Film, US, Edgar Wright, 2017) Preternaturally talented wheelman who needs tunes to keep him steady (Ansel Elgort) seeks escape from his role as a getaway driver under the command of criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) and his rotating crew of armed robbers. Leveling up in his mastery of pure cinema, Wright delivers a classic title to both the crime and the car movie canons.—RDL

Recommended

Baby Driver (Film, US, Edgar Wright, 2017) A multi-decadal blend of film style and music surrounds and carburets the propulsive story of a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort), the girl he loves (Lily James), and the One of Many Last Jobs he has to pull. As a deconstructed musical, it works even better than it does as a heist film. Wright’s setting shots vie with the stunt action for sheer beauty, with only a few tonal wobbles glitching the sweet sweet ride. –KH

Barking Dogs Never Bite (Film, South Korea, Bong Joon-ho, 2000) Flailing academic triggers a spiral misfortune when he resolves to dispose of that incessantly yapping dog from a neighboring apartment. Looser, more naturalistic, and of course less fully resourced than the films he makes now, Bong’s debut finds his themes and love of the chase already in place.—RDL

The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trails (Nonfiction, Oscar Martinez, 2013) First person journalistic account depicts the hellish gauntlet Central Americans run in their bid to bypass US border controls. From the high rate of death and dismemberment dealt out by the titular freight train to the horrific predation at the hands of the Los Zetas criminal empire, Martinez shows how the last legs of the journey will always pale in comparison to the trek across Mexico.—RDL

Better Call Saul Season 3 (Television, AMC, Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould, 2017) Jimmy falls into a trap his brother Chuck sets for his law license; Mike meets intimidatingly contained drug dealer Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito.) By fragmenting into two shows, one a gripping family legal drama; the other, a directionless and unnecessary prequel to “Breaking Bad”, season 3 drops from masterpiece to merely solid.—RDL

The Black Room (Fiction, Colin Wilson, 1971) Wilson again tackles his great theme, the achievement of true consciousness, this time as the great secret in a spy novel. Modernist composer Kit Butler (surely the most oddly recondite spy in British fiction) proves extraordinarily capable of withstanding the “black room” of the title, a sensory deprivation chamber, and thus travels to Prague to draw out “Station K,” a third-force conspiracy using it. Weirdly pivots from able espionage plot to frame story to philosophical discourse to peak moment in prime Wilsonian fashion. –KH

English Gothic (Nonfiction, Jonathan Rigby, 2nd ed. 2015) and Euro Gothic (Nonfiction, Jonathan Rigby, 2016) Everything you might want in a textbook approach to horror film, of Britain (since 1953) and Western Europe (mostly France, Germany, Spain, and Italy) respectively, appears herein: reasonably complete coverage, opinionated without being eccentric, and a clear narrative to accept or modify as the reader wishes. It’s a trifle conservative, but that’s no bad thing in horror or indeed in art criticism, and it means the classics get their due respect as well. Each of the 100-odd highlighted films in each book gets a period review and a brief quote from one of its makers, an excellent touch. Finally, the rich selection of stills and the superb book design make both volumes worthy objects in themselves. –KH

The Modern Russian Army 1992-2016 (Osprey Elite 217) (Nonfiction, Mark Galeotti, 2017) Galeotti provides a clear, accessible review of the revival and rise of the post-Soviet Russian Army, with an especially incisive discussion of the 2008 Georgian War as the equivalent of the Grenada invasion for the purposes of forcing much-needed reforms on the military. Syria and the Donbass receive less coverage than a contemporary reader might wish for, but the usual excellent Osprey job of illustration and comprehensiveness make this a solid volume on Europe’s once and future deadliest army. –KH

Okja (Film, US/South Korea, Bong Joon-ho, 2017) Preteen girl raised in the bucolic wilds of Korea must run to Seoul and then NYC to protect her childhood buddy, a genetically-altered, corporate-owned, hippo-like sapient “super-pig.” Satirical fantasy thriller masterfully shifts gears and genres, blending pastoral idyll, kinetic action and over-the-top-of-over-the-top performances from Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.—RDL

Good

Quatermass in Television and Movies (Nonfiction, Mark F. Cain, 2016) After a too-short discussion of the character and influence of Nigel Kneale’s Professor Quatermass, Cain summarizes (or rather, half-summarizes, as he weirdly tries to avoid spoilers) and briefly reviews the ten appearances of the Professor in TV, film, and radio since 1956. Fine (even Good) for its length, but since it’s essentially the only book on Quatermass it should be considerably longer, with more detailed description, iconic analysis, and cultural-studies meat to it. I would have happily paid more than the $0.99 this cost me for that book. –KH

Okay

Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange (Nonfiction, Adam Scovell, 2017) A fairly complete survey of the retroactive genre of “folk horror” film typified by Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man, and Blood on Satan’s Claw. (The only major omission is Bille Eltringham’s stunningly underrated survival horror film This Is Not A Love Song.) Given the asinine failure of the BBC to make their DVDs Region-1 available (many BBC teleplays are crucial genre texts), having a good British guide is more important than in other genres. Scovell knows the territory and even hazards a critical standard for the genre — but the writing is actively abysmal. Every page becomes a bear trap of tangled prose, malapropisms, and sentences that even I think go on way too long. The index is bad, too, and the footnotes risible. –KH

Not Recommended

Powerless Season 1 (Television, US, NBC, 2017) Given that “Vanessa Hudgens office comedy set in the DC Universe” is a pretty soft lob right to me, it pains me to report that despite a great supporting cast (including Alan Tudyk as Van Wayne, Bruce’s spoiled and envious cousin who is canon by the way) the series never recovered from the departure between pilots of its creator and first showrunner. The resulting desperately loud and tone-deaf scripts seldom relaxed into the inanity of their setting: when your comic-book show is less surreal than 30 Rock, you need to rethink. But not any more, because you got cancelled. –KH

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