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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Black Adam, African Mercs vs. Monsters, and a Telekinetic Body-Puppeteer on the Lam

November 8th, 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) A double-booking with an unreassuring reassuring arts entrepreneur (Bill Skarsgård) proves the lesser worry for an out-of-town job applicant (Georgina Campbell) when weird stuff starts happening in their Detroit AirBNB rental. A lesser-used horror subgenre derives fresh energy from twisting structural jumps without neglecting classically executed scares.—RDL

California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival (Nonfiction, Keith Corbin with Kevin Alexander, 2022) Autobiography traces Corbin’s trajectory from South Central L.A. kid to gangbanger to prisoner to fine dining chef. A remarkable life story told with a jaundiced awareness of the pat fairy tale others will want to reduce it to.—RDL

Loot Season 1 (Television, US, Apple+, Matt Hubbard & Alan Yang, 2022) After her hugely publicized divorce from an insufferable tech titan (Adam Scott) a pampered woman (Maya Rudolph) decides to start showing up for work at her charitable foundation. Workplace comedy hits the ground running with a top-notch ensemble cast and an understanding that the subgenre lives or dies on affection for the characters.—RDL

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Film, US, Lily Ana Amirpour, 2022) Young asylum escapee with telekinetic body puppeting powers (Jeon Jong-seo) takes shelter with a larcenous stripper (Kate Hudson), forming a bond with her young son (Evan Whitten.) Outlaw couple on the lam movie pairs Amirpour’s style-forward edge with a warm generosity toward its characters.—RDL

Saloum (Film, Senegal, Jean Luc Herbulot, 2021) When an exfiltration goes awry, mercenary trio Bangui’s Hyenas (Yann Gael, Roger Sallah, Mentor Ba) seek refuge in a communal island settlement with secrets of its own. Tight spaghetti-Western war film expands into supernatural horror without ever losing pace or the viewer. At 84 minutes there’s not an ounce of fat in it, although the cinematography, sound design, and score deliver ample flavor.. –KH

Suddenly at His Residence (Fiction, Christianna Brand, 1946) [Published as The Crooked Wreath in the US.] Irascible Sir Richard March’s plan to disinherit his grandchildren goes awry when he’s murdered and the new will disappears: Inspector Cockrill turns up to solve the crime. Two impossible-footprint crimes and a suspect who may or may not suffer from amnesia plays this near-perfect country-house murder very close to John Dickson Carr turf; Brand once more combines sharp character portraits and magnificent misdirection to great effect. Only the thing that happens right at the end keeps me from awarding a second Pinnacle here, as it comes literally out of the blue. –KH

Good

Black Adam (Film, US, Jaume Collet-Serra, 2022) Searching for the ancient Crown of Sabbac, archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) awakens Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) and unleashes his murderous power to liberate her country. The wheels come off the busy script during the interminable (but at least actually visible) battle in the last act, but the ride there is full of political juice and superheroic mayhem set in a Middle Eastern city for once not filmed in War on Terror Goldenrod. Better than most recent MCU outings for sure, but for me Pierce Brosnan’s wonderfully distracted Doctor Fate cements its Good bump. –KH

Heads You Lose (Fiction, Christianna Brand, 1941) At Pigeonsford in Kent, three women turn up beheaded, two of them clearly victims of someone in local squire Stephen Pendock’s house party. In his debut novel, Inspector Cockrill investigates. Brand’s second novel unevenly blends her future signature ingredients, slopping a bit into a romantic comedy of manners and sadly cheating us a bit on the puzzle – by her future standards, at least. –KH

The Vampire Doll (Film, Japan, Michio Yamamoto, 1970) The sister and boyfriend of a missing man travel to the spooky manor home of her fiance, who has joined the ranks of the undead. Transposes the mood of latter-day Hammer to Japan, with an unconventional version of bloodsucker lore.—RDL

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