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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Bond, Dracula, Matt Helm, and a Surprising Master Forger

October 12th, 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.

Recommended

Art and Craft (Film, US, Sam Cullman & Jennifer Grausman, 2014) Documentary profiles Mark Landis, a soft-spoken loner who, using materials purchased from Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart, forged works in styles from old masters to Dr. Seuss and gifted them to dozens of unsuspecting art museums throughout the US. Droll, poignant outsider portrait takes the expectations you might have formed when you read about the case and turns them on their head.—RDL

Cuadecuc, Vampir (Film, Spain, Pere Portabella, 1970) Using footage acquired under the pretence of shooting a behind-the-scenes doc about Jess Franco’s version of Dracula, Portabella assembles an experimental, wordless gloss on the Bram Stoker tale in blown-out black and white. Attests to the power of narrative, and this narrative especially, by showing how it stands up to an array of aural and filmic distancing effects.—RDL

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Film, US, Jim Cummings, 2020) The stress of a serial killing case that some blame on a werewolf drives an tightly wound, alcoholic sheriff’s deputy (Cummings) to the brink and beyond. Horror-tinged crime flick with a streak of black comedy zeroes in on male rage as the animating force behind the wolfman myth.—RDL

Good

The 8th Night (Film, Korea, Kim Tae-hyoung, 2021) An axe-wielding exorcist monk and surly cop, each accompanied by a contrasting sidekick, work at cross purposes as they separately pursue a demonic eyeball that kills by hopping from victim to victim in pursuit of hellish apocalypse. Investigative religious horror conjures a creepy vibe when it isn’t tripping on the exposition required by its overly complicated plotting.—RDL

Every Matt Helm Novel (Fiction, Donald Hamilton, 1960-1993) Ignore the Dean Martin movies. Matt Helm, a counter-espionage assassin for an unnamed US agency, prefers mordancy to humor, and although he does sleep with many women in his novels he usually understands that they have non-lascivious motives for approaching him. The Helm novels remain grounded, if not precisely realistic, but they never bore and often surprise a bit. Book 14 in the series has a cruelly wily edge to it that the better ones share. –KH

No Time to Die (Film, US/UK, Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021) Retired (again) after Spectre (the film), James Bond (Daniel Craig) comes back in when SPECTRE (the group) seems to have stolen a bioweapon. A pretty fun Bond movie (with a bright color palette and everything!) hits a wall of script shrugging about two hours in, the last act having the grinding inanity of re-clearing a video game level. But Fukunaga’s direction and a fantastic 20-minute Cuba sequence in Act 2 featuring CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas) pull an unwilling Bond just barely over Okay. –KH

Not Recommended

Big Brother (Film, HK, Kam Ka-wai, 2018) Ex-US Marine (Donnie Yen) returns to his hard-luck Hong Kong high school to aggressively inspire its most challenged students. Has enough action to cut into a trailer but is otherwise an inspirational teacher flick that tackles the genre’s inherent sentimentality with all the feeling of an Excel worksheet. Yen has hit the point in his career where he has to rely almost entirely on stunt doubles, meaning that the fights have to be created in editing, American style.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Bond, Dracula, Matt Helm, and a Surprising Master Forger”

  1. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Just took a look on Audible, and it seems that the first 19 Matt Helm novels are available for free to subscribers.

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