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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Barbarian, Three Thousand Years of Longing, and Bollywood’s MCU

September 21st, 2022 | 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.

Recommended

Barbarian (Film, US, Zach Cregger, 2022) Tess’ (Georgina Marshall) problems just begin when she arrives at her AirBnB in a desolate Detroit neighborhood to find Keith (Bill Skarsgård) already in possession. Bracingly confident horror film changes tones repeatedly while building tension and providing ever-creepier insight into the story. Marshall’s impressively naturalistic acting reinforces Cregger’s script at every turn. –KH

The Decline of Western Civilization III (Film, US, Penelope Spheeris, 1998) The final leg of Spheeris’ rock outlawry documentary trilogy focuses on the lives of homeless L.A. kids, most of them abuse survivors with substance problems, bonded together by mutual desperation and the cathartic release of punk music.—RDL

Death of Jezebel (Fiction, Christianna Brand, 1948) When Isabel Drew falls from a tower during a London pageant at a trade show, Inspector Cockrill must solve a seemingly impossible crime from a steadily dwindling suspect list. Another of Brand’s nigh-caustic character portraits mixes with a gleeful game of three-card, or rather eleven-knight, monte that almost concludes too abruptly to let the reader catch their breath at the solution. –KH

Mariner of the Mountains (Film, Brazil, Karim Aïnouz, 2021) After the death of his mother, Brazilian filmmaker Aïnouz journeys to Algeria for the first time to discover the Kabylian village where his absent father grew up. Art cinema’s abstraction and distance collide with the vibrant embrace offered by a community of actual humans in this memoir/travelog documentary.—RDL

Three Thousand Years of Longing (Film, US/Australia, George Miller, 2022) While at a conference in Istanbul, narratologist Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) frees a djinn (Idris Elba) from his bottle, but recognizes that the mandatory three wishes always backfire. Gorgeous Arabian-Nights-style flashbacks in the middle of the film leave the too-elongated fourth act (tacked on to the original A.S. Byatt story) seeming even thinner, but Swinton and Elba remain entirely fascinating throughout. –KH

Trivisa (Film, Hong Kong, Frank Hui, Jevons Au & Vicky Wong, 2016) In the run-up to the 1997 Hong Kong handover, an extroverted armed robber turned kidnapper (Jordan Chan) attempts to recruit two equally notorious counterparts for a vaguely defined master crime spree. Unusual variant on the anthology structure in which the contributions of three writer-director teams are intercut with one another, suffused with the entropic fatalism of producer Johnnie To.—RDL

Good

Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva (Film, India, Ayan Mukerji, 2022) Orphaned Mumbai DJ Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) meets his true love Isha (Alia Bhatt) and awakens his destiny as wielder of the Agnyastra, the divine fire weapon. A star-studded cast kicks off what the producers doubtless hope will be Bollywood’s own MCU, inspired by Hindu mythology. This must be what watching an MCU film without any background knowledge feels like, except the CGI fight at the end doesn’t look like garbage and the opening set piece is a superlatively filmed and choreographed musical number. –KH

Okay

Stamboul Quest (Film, US, Sam Wood, 1934) The persistent attentions of a charming American (George Brent) spell trouble for a glamorous, heroic German spy (Myrna Loy) and her mission to test the loyalty of a Turkish commander. A weak third act turns this mix of espionage and romance into a curiosity piece.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Barbarian, Three Thousand Years of Longing, and Bollywood’s MCU”

  1. bobamk says:

    I’m surprised to see 3000 Years of Longing get Recommended. I was dumbstruck in the theater as the film unfolded, and by the fourth act I wanted off the ride despite the story finally developing. Pretty visuals and production, bizarre pacing and choice of focus.

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