Ken and Robin Consume Media: Pinnacle Pulp and Kaiju Subtext
April 11th, 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 Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes (Nonfiction, Jess Nevins, 2017) It may be impossible to exceed this book as a reference to the series heroes from 1902 to 1945. It is, apparently, impossible to physically print it — this Kindle ebook contains entries on 6,400+ different characters from fifty countries, from Ethiopian tween-in-peril Yayne Abäba to Dutch detective Dorothea Zwart. That does entail some compression — even Doc Savage’s entry is only five paragraphs long — but for exhaustive and authoritative coverage this encyclopedia is the best by far. –KH
The Forbidden Room (Film, Canada, Guy Maddin, 2015) Stream of weird but straight-faced nested narratives shot in Maddin’s characteristic amphigorey of early film styles adds up to a buzzy, comic subversion, or rather implosion, of narrative and film. All of Maddin’s manias are present, from overheated intertitles to epochal Freudianism, with a terrific marbling of genre horror this time out. –KH
Frantz (Film, France, Francois Ozon, 2017) After WWI a French soldier travels to Germany to seek out the family and fiancee of his German best friend, who died in the trenches—or is that the real story? Restrained period melodrama evokes the high style of studio Hollywood, with particular touches of William Wyler and Alfred Hitchcock.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.
Midnight Plus One (Fiction, Gavin Lyall, 1965) Former SOE operator Lewis Cane is hired to drive a millionaire across France from Brittany to Liechtenstein: the wrinkles being that the millionaire is wanted by the French police, and someone keeps trying to kill him. Remarkably excellent turns of phrase and much car-love spangle this taut thriller, which is a nigh-ideal type of the genre. Steve McQueen purchased it for a movie, but sadly died before making it. McQueen as Cane is exactly right, though. –KH
The President (Film, Georgia, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2014) With his young grandson in tow, a murderous autocrat toppled by revolution becomes a fugitive inside the borders of his own country. The exiled paterfamilias of Iranian cinema refashions the outlaw-duo-on-the-run movie into a hard-punching political lament.—RDL
20 Million Miles to Earth (Film, US, Nathan Juran, 1957) Reptilian creature kidnapped from Venus by a US military mission wants only to be left to eat sulphur in peace, but as it grows to monstrous size is chased, burned, experimented upon, leading to a rampage through Rome. In this Kong derivative the military industrial complex in particular and also every other human we see cause all the destruction, a fact none of the characters notice or comment on. Whether this is a brilliant act of po-faced satire that never reveals itself, or perfunctory writing, remains ambiguous all the way to the abrupt conclusion. Creature animation by Ray Harryhausen.—RDL
Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 (Television, US, CW, 2016-2017) A somewhat reconfigured assemblage of third-string superheroes continues its time-traveling mission, discovering that the best villains from all the other Arrowverse shows have teamed up to reassemble the Spear of Destiny and rewrite reality. After a rocky start recapitulating most of the problems of the first season, the elusive tone of loopy super-romp finally locks in and fun is had.—RDL