Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Besieged Fortress, a Sinister Snorkel, and Some Ghosts In Need of Busting

November 30th, 2021 | 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 Fortress (Film, South Korea, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017) When Qing forces pin down the Joseon court in a remote, wintry fortress, rival courtiers (Lee Byung-hun, Kim Yoon-seok) pull the frightened king between honorable doom and pragmatic acquiescence. Period war epic interweaves military tactics on the receiving end of a siege with the lethal intrigue of Korean royal politics.—RDL

The Shadow of the Wind (Fiction, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 2001) In 50s Spain, the naive son of a bookseller investigates the origins of a rare novel, stepping into the paths of a psychopathic secret policeman and the mysterious burned man determined to destroy every copy. Thrilling literary page-turner fuses mystery structure with neo-gothic elements.—RDL

The Snorkel (Film, UK, Guy Green, 1958) When her creepy sponger stepfather (Peter Van Eyck) uses the titular breathing apparatus to commit the seemingly perfect murder of her mother, a teen no one will believe (Mandy Miller) vows to expose him. Hammer Studios domestic thriller, set in an Italian resort town, takes a while to rev back up again after a supremely unnerving wordless cold open.—RDL


American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI (Nonfiction, Kate Winkler Dawson, 2020) Tormented obsessive rises from poverty to become a famed freelance criminalist, pioneering key techniques and taking part in notorious cases, including his determined participation in the railroading of Fatty Arbuckle. Biography of a prickly figure provides a detailed source on the state of forensics, and the difficulty of convincing jurors to pay attention to it, in the Call of Cthulhu era.—RDL

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Film, US, Jason Reitman, 2021) Egon Spengler’s unknowing grandkids (Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace) move into the house in rural Oklahoma where he died, and uncover a mystery. “Ghostbusters, but make it The Goonies” is perhaps the only way to properly make a sequel to the 1984 Pinnacle, and as long as the movie does that it remains a happy success. Sadly, grownup stories intervene with less uniform effect (although Carrie Coon is remarkably good in a thankless role as the mom), and even Dan Aykroyd looks a little tired of what he helped spawn. –KH

Tatja Grimm’s World (Fiction, Vernor Vinge, 1987) On a metal-poor ocean planet, a young mutant genius rises to power while searching for aliens like her. A fixup of Vinge’s first (1969) novel, itself a fixup of a 1968 novelette about Tatja manipulating the crew of a SF magazine barge (!!) to seize the throne. As a novel, it’s clunky, but as three shorts it’s pretty grand worldbuilding from probably the 1990s’ best SF author. –KH


Army of Thieves (Film, US/Germany, Matthias Schweighöfer, 2021) As an offscreen zombie plague roils financial markets, heister Gwen (Nathalie Emmanuel) recruits safecracking wannabe Sebastian (Schwieghöfer) to open three legendary safes. While one of the better sidekicks in the Army of the Dead ensemble, Schweighöfer’s Dieter (nee Sebastian) can’t particularly hold a whole movie, especially one that takes about an hour to start, you know, thieving anything. Plus, watching safes not open cannot be made interesting with more CGI of the interior of the safe: audiences need a way to judge the action, not simply wait for it to finish. –KH

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