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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Monkey King, and Classic Cheng Pei-Pei

March 24th, 2020 | 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol IV: The Tempest (Comics, Top Shelf, Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, 2018-2019) A revived James Bond goes to war against the surviving Leaguers and the Blazing World while Satin Astro attempts to avert a future catastrophe. Moore’s final word on comics* incorporates all his terror and wonder at the heroic medium in a deliberately tangled narrative that when cut apparently argues decisively for drowning his books and breaking his staff. But like Milton, his hymns transcend his argument, and we’re all richer for the ambiguity Moore cannot avoid in his indictment of the unambiguous. –KH

[* At this time]

Recommended

Immortal Demon Slayer (Film, China, Derek Kwok, 2017) Monkey-like demon (Eddie Peng) forges unlikely alliances with a trio of young immortals as he rebels against the sterile authority of the Heavenly Kingdom. Peng reveals a flair for physical comedy in one of the more satisfying of the recent cycle of CGI spectacle movies based on the Monkey King legend. Also known as Tales of Wukong or Wukong, this one downplays the story’s Buddhist elements.—RDL

Ivory Apples (Fiction, Lisa Goldstein, 2019) Adolescent Ivy’s great-aunt Maeve wrote the beloved novel Ivory Apples with the help of the muses — supernatural beings that enter Ivy’s life and bring desperate, dangerous occult seekers there as well. Goldstein veils female bildungsroman with imagination and myth in another assured modern fantasy reminiscent of her excellent 2011 modern fairy tale The Uncertain Places. –KH

Marc Maron: End Times Fun (Television, US, Netflix, Lynn Shelton, 2020) Pulled back from the personal to the political by the tenor of the times, Maron’s latest stand-up special takes an atypical turn for Rabelaisian, with guest appearances from Jesus and Iron Man. Warning: contains strong language and apocalyptic prescience.—RDL

The Shadow Whip (Film, HK, Lo Wei, 1971) Inn proprietor (Cheng Pei Pei) whose whip-handling skills are exceeded only by the reclusive uncle who trained her, learns secrets of her past when security officials and bandits show up for a long-awaited reckoning. Delightfully pulpy star vehicle for Cheng features snow-swept vistas and top-notch large-scale fight choreography, with more wire work than you’d expect for the early 70s.—RDL

Supreme: Blue Rose (Comics, Image, Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay, 2015) Obsessed tycoon Darius Dax hires reporter Diana Dane to investigate the disappearance of Ethan Crane from Littlehaven during a bizarre impact event. Warren Ellis playing a riff on Alan Moore playing a riff on Mort Weisinger may be a little too meta for some, but if you enjoyed Moore’s run on Supreme seeing Ellis cover it (in the key of Planetary) brings magic jazz thrills. Lotay’s art is exactly the right blend of clear and uncertain, washes and chalks establishing unmistakable moods behind Ellis-driven techie details. –KH

Good

Nothing Sacred (Film, US, William A. Wellman, 1937) Small town watch factory worker (Carole Lombard) who has just discovered she is not dying of radium poisoning covers it up in order to become a New York celebrity squired about by a hardbitten reporter (Fredric March). Screenwriter Ben Hecht puts his journalistic cynicism on full blast, pushing a romantic comedy premise into caustic satire.—RDL

Odds On (Fiction, Michael Crichton, 1966) Trio of crooks use a computer to plan their heist of a luxury hotel on the Spanish coast, so nothing can go wrong. Except cops, girls, the weather, and … Crichton’s first novel fulfills a clear promise to the publisher to have a sex scene about every fifty pages, and shows clear promise of the high-concept plotter (and cinema-minded author) he would become. A fast-moving froth in the spirit of the decade’s heist movies. –KH

Okay

Lost Girls (Film, US, Liz Garbus, 2020) When Mari Gilbert’s (Amy Ryan) daughter goes missing on Long Island, the cops (Gabriel Byrne and Dean Winters) fumble (or obstruct) the investigation into what becomes the Craigslist Killer serial murder case. Documentarian Garbus nobly keeps the focus on Mari’s fight for justice, but at the cost of characters who mouth cliches and platitudes between luminous camera shots through the tall grass. The interesting real story, and the potentially interesting drama, both get short shrift although Ryan and Byrne do all they can. –KH

Love For All Seasons (Film, HK, Johnnie To & Wa Ka Fai, 2002) Needing to perfect a sword technique based on shattered love to defend her all-female martial arts temple against its rogue master, a celibate swordslinger (Sammi Cheng) enlists a womanizing millionaire (Louis Koo) to break her heart. Very broad romantic comedy in which one of the leads just happens to have wuxia powers is one of the fluffy flicks that keeps the lights on at To’s production company, enabling him to make the tough crime films he really cares about.—RDL

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