Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Robots, Zombies, Prince, and Other Supernal Entities

May 3rd, 2016 | 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

Ex Machina (Film, US, Alex Garland, 2015) Like a classic SF short story, this film sets up a conflict around a scientific puzzle — how can we tell if an AI is self-aware — and then closes off options until something explodes. Domnhall Gleason, Alicia Vikander, and especially Oscar Isaac supercharge their deliberately iconic roles in this modernist take on Frankenstein. –KH


Everybody Wants Some!! (Film, US, Richard Linklater, 2016) The fall of 1980 finds a freshman college ball player acclimating to the ultra-competitive household of his teammates and Austin’s many parallel music scenes. Linklater again demonstrates his mastery of experiential cinema, conjuring the ordinary excitement and comedy of life’s passages. As with Dazed and Confused, we’ll look at this in 10 years and marvel at the amazing cast of then-unknowns it assembled.—RDL

Green Room (Film, US, Jeremy Saulnier, 2016) Efficient siege horror pits a punk band against a ruthless white-supremacist gang led by Oregon club-owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart). Pacing a horror film must be harder than it looks, but when it’s done really well (as it is by Saulnier and editor Julia Bloch) it washes out flaws and leaves only adrenaline aftershock — much like a good punk song. –KH

The Human Microbes (Fiction, Louise Michel, 1888) Two arch-criminals, a well-connected pedophile and a doctor with a penchant for human vivisection, separately pursue the dispersed members of the Odream family and their revolutionary comrades. A primal scream of political fury in the ragged form of a science-horror pursuit thriller, bursting with violent imagery that still shocks today. Michel, famed for her barricade-mounting leadership role in the 1871 Communard uprising, wrote this during a later 5-year prison term, served entirely in solitary confinement.  —RDL

The Jungle Book (Film, US, Jon Favreau, 2016) Orphaned man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) incurs the ire of the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba); forced out of his wolf pack, he seeks his own way in the jungle. Favreau’s film is darker and more naturalistic than the animated 1967 Disney comic masterpiece it remakes, and a triumph of CGI and motion-capture. Bill Murray out-slackers even Phil Harris’ Baloo, and Christopher Walken’s gigantopithecus King Louie adds considerable menace. –KH

Purple Rain (Film, US, Albert Magnoli, 1984) If your only memories of this Prince film are from cable TV, like mine, try to see it on the big screen now while theaters have it in funerary revival. Not a terrific piece of filmcraft per se, but a truly mythic battle-of-the-bands movie and a weirdly compelling view of a music scene (and a movie style) gone for decades. Also, Morris Day kills as the designated villain. –KH


Cooties (Film, US, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, 2014) Aspiring horror writer (Elijah Wood)  does not expect his first day substitute teaching back in his Indiana small town to end up with his grade school students going on a zombie kill spree. Horror comedy in the Joe Dante vein could have used a joke punch-up session but is well sold by an ensemble cast including Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Nasim Pedrad and Jack McBrayer. —RDL

Modesty Blaise (Film, Joseph Losey, 1966) Freelance criminal-spy Modesty (Monica Vitti) battles louche villain Gabriel Fothergill (Dirk Bogarde) and her duplicitous MI6 would-be bosses over a diamond shipment. Wonderfully surreal feminist spy adventure almost escapes its dire music (worst of all a painful love duet between Modesty and a still-cockney Terence Stamp as her sidekick Willie) and Losey’s condescension to the comic-strip material. Worth watching for Vitti, Bogarde, cinematographer Jack Hildyard’s weird lensing choices, and the glorious Pop Art production design. –KH


Leviathan (Mack Bolan: Executioner #276) (Fiction, “Don Pendleton,” 2001) Mob-smashing hero Bolan gets inserted into an offshore oil rig to bust up a Mob-CIA meth ring but finds … Cthulhu? The book is a brief excuse for one long fight scene, which sadly follows the Bolan pattern of single-gun heroics rather than taking full advantage of the originality (and horror) of the high concept. It does manage to separate the standard racist tropes of the series from Lovecraft’s, though. –KH

Not Recommended

My Name is Modesty (Film, Scott Spiegel, 2004) Young croupier Modesty (Alexandra Staden, good but miscast) plays Scheherazade with a killer-thief (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), trading her origin story for hostages’ lives during a casino robbery. Shoestring budget and quickie production don’t help a weak script find its legs, though Staden does what she can. –KH

Robert W. Chambers, Maker of Moons: Author of The King in Yellow Unmasked (Non-fiction, Shawn M. Tomlinson, 2014) Enthusiastic fan project contains some facts. These must be sifted from an achronological jumble of possibilities, conjectures, legends, rumors, irrelevant opinions, an admittedly wrong theory, personal anecdotes and an imagined time travel interview. Given the paucity of information on Chambers, that’s more facts than we previously had, I guess. —RDL

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Robots, Zombies, Prince, and Other Supernal Entities”

  1. Phil Masters says:

    I’m glad that I’m apparently not the only one to think that Ex Machina was actually Variations on a Theme by Mary Shelley…

  2. Theron Bretz says:

    I’m reliably told LEVIATHAN is the third part of a loose trilogy. Not that I’ve managed to get through them.

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