Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Black Panther and Casual Body Snatchers

February 20th, 2018 | 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.


Before We Vanish (Film, US, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2018) As a freelance illustrator copes with her husband’s lapse into an odd, affectless mental state, a reporter meets a young man possessed by an alien. Kurosawa riffs on Invasion of the Body Snatchers with his trademark eerie casualness, plus tongue-in-cheek humor and a touch of heart.—RDL

Black Panther (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2018) Superhero king of Wakanda T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) defeats a coup led by radical black liberation warrior Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, electric as always) with the help of CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman). Ohhh-kay. Crypto-reactionary politics aside, production designer Hannah Beachler and cinematographer Rachel Morrison definitively break from the dull Marvel in-house palette with strong oranges and bright light effects, contributing to (mostly) better fights than MCU standard. The acting, story, and direction are strong, too; it’s a shame the score went for sodden cliche instead of reflecting the cool Afrofuturism on screen. –KH

Don’t Think Twice (Film, US, Mike Birbiglia, 2016) Members of an improv troupe face the realization that they’re heading for the end of its expiration date when one of them (Keegan-Michael Key) gets on Saturday Nigh…er, Weekend Live. Funny, melancholy drama about that dangerous line between the determination needed to survive in the arts and the delusion that traps near-achievers inside their dreams.—RDL

The Eagle Huntress (Film, UK/Mongolia, Otto Bell, 2016) Kazakh schoolkid defies the expectations of chauvinist elders to follow in the footsteps of her dad and grandfather, competing and hunting foxes with her trained eagle. Even more than its stunning vistas and girl power message, the heart of this documentary lies in the touching strength of its key daughter-father relationship.—RDL

Lovecraft and Influence: His Predecessors and Successors (Nonfiction, Robert Waugh (ed.), 2013) Discovering a collection of critical essays on Lovecraft without a dud in the batch is almost as shocking as the sticker price for this collection. Highlights include Gavin Callaghan’s essay on Lovecraft and the Munsey pulps, and Michael Cisco on Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs. When Donald Burleson and Robert Price are the backup hitters in a Lovecraft lineup, you know you’re in for a home-run derby. –KH

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks (Nonfiction, Keith Houston, 2013) Historical survey reveals the origins of such typographical pinch-hitters as @, #, —, and, of course, &. Packed with delightful factoids from the days of classical script to email and beyond.—RDL


I Am (Not) A Number: Decoding The Prisoner (Nonfiction, Alex Cox, 2018) Working entirely from the call sheets and scripts (as written and as shot) of the greatest show in television history, filmmaker Cox provides his own step-by-step analysis of the famously twisty program and “decodes” its secrets. Worth it for fans, but like all “real answers” to great art, it isn’t. –KH

Larceny Inc. (Film, US, Lloyd Bacon, 1943) Smooth talking crook (Edward G. Robinson) and his less clever buddies buy a failing leather goods store in order to tunnel from its basement into the bank next door. Classic character actors bite with gusto into a script revolving around a basic comedy premise—there’s people in the shop and our heroes urgently need to get them out.—RDL

Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads (Nonfiction, David Morrell and Hank Wagner, 2010) Running chronologically from the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur through The Da Vinci Code, this collection of essays by thriller writers on thriller (mostly) novels should probably be considered more a study guide to the form than a list of the 100 best examples. (I’ve read 56 of the listed works, and boy do I have some nits to pick.) That said, there are some cracking good thrillers in the list, and a few of the essayists manage to sum up the book in question with a critical swing while discussing its impact on their own writing, which is really all you can ask given the format. –KH


Mudbound (Film, US, Dee Rees, 2017) The brutal social realities of wartime Mississippi put two families, white farm owners and the black sharecroppers who work their land, on a path to shared tragedy. Strong ensemble cast delivers affecting work within a screenplay that shies away from the ruthless cutting and reconfiguring needed to turn a years-spanning, multiple viewpoint novel into something movie-shaped.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Man From Hong Kong (Film, Australia, Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1975) Ruthless Hong Kong police inspector (Jimmy Wang Yu) cuts a swathe of havoc through Sydney and environs in his crusade against a fu-wielding drug lord (George Lazenby.) Ozploitation meets Golden Harvest in this gonzo actioner featuring horribly misfired racial gags and Sammo Hung action choreography. All of the storytelling is in the action, so you can upgrade to Okay by watching it Trump-style and fast-forwarding through the painfully stilted dialogue sequences.—RDL

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