Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Blonde, Some Apes, and Boccaccio

August 8th, 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.


Atomic Blonde (Film, US, David Leitch, 2017) Taking the neon gloss from Drive, the brutalist violence from Oldboy, the action tracking shot from Children of Men, the soundtrack from my mixtape circa 1988, and the plot from a random jar of jellybeans, Leitch’s first solo film makes a virtue of its amphigorous nature. Without Charlize Theron’s literally long-suffering performance, this would be shiny but forgettable; with her anchoring it, it leaves a deeper bruise. –KH

Detroit (Film, US, Kathryn Bigelow, 2017) A dozen characters’ lives cross at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit riots. The first three acts, filmed in verite Steadicam, build toward an intensely horrifying scenario that the more impressionistic finale doesn’t really pay off, but not every true story ends in catharsis … which is kind of the point. –KH

Letters to Arkham: The Letters of Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth 1961 to 1971 (Nonfiction, S.T. Joshi, ed., 2014) Painfully adolescent horror nerd Campbell writes to his hero’s publisher, and a strange friendship develops, ended only by Derleth’s death. You can almost taste Derleth’s seemingly instant decision to pay Lovecraft’s kindness to him forward, and his reward for his decency was the blossoming of the true successor to HPL that Derleth could never become. Poignant and revealing, with an affecting afterword by Campbell. –KH

The Little Hours (Film, US, Jeff Baena, 2017) In medieval Italy, a fugitive from his cuckolded master’s justice (Dave Franco) poses as a convent’s new deaf mute handyman, arousing the ardor of a trio of less than dedicated young nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci). Boccaccio adaptation uses contemporary dialogue and cadence to keep period fustiness at bay. John C. Reilly stands out among a strong comedy cast as a lax, befuddled priest.—RDL

War For the Planet of the Apes (Film, US, Matt Reeves, 2017) Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) forsakes his people for a quest of personal vengeance against megalomaniacal human military commander (Woody Harrelson.) Although John Ford leads the pack as a reference point here, you could structure an entire undergrad course around this fantasy action thriller’s densely layered selection of historical, cinematic and biblical allusions.—RDL


The Graveyard Apartment (Fiction, Mariko Koike, 1993) Supernatural manifestations slowly escalate after a Tokyo couple with a young daughter moves into an apartment in an oddly under-occupied new building overlooking a cemetery and crematorium. Follows the current fashion of undergirding the haunted house tale with real estate anxiety and the J-horror technique of mixing the horrifying with the mundane. Finds an array of novel ways for ghosts to torment the living.—RDL

The Trip to Spain (Film, UK, Michael Winterbottom, 2017) Somewhat fictionalized versions of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon again use a restaurant tour, this time of Spain, as an opportunity to riff, needle one another, and one-up each other’s impressions. The badinage never quite explodes into a comic set piece this time, leaving room for a heightened dose of the melancholy strain found in the series’ previous installments.—RDL

Quiet Please, Murder! (Film, US, John Larkin, 1942) While trying to tie off loose ends from a sale of a forged Shakespeare folio to a Nazi agent, a fence (Gail Patrick) gets trapped in a public library between her lover the forger (a super-oily George Sanders), the Nazis, and a private eye (Richard Denning). Weirdly zippy proto-noir rockets along on bottle drama and book-stack chases with the occasional languorous pause to discuss Freud and masochism. –KH


The Alexander Inheritance (Fiction, Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett, 2017) A top-of-the-line cruise ship is somehow teleported back in time to the Mediterranean in 321 BC and gets involved in the wranglings of Alexander the Great’s successors. Flint’s collaborators haven’t got his bravura ability to bang out prose that keeps the pulse and pages racing, so the lack of real characters (aside perhaps from Queen Roxane) or dramatic payoff is much more noticeable here; the too-numerous points of view and the abrupt ending imply this is intended as the first in an endless 1632-style series. –KH

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