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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Cage Hits the Pinnacle, Magic Performance Art, and Tarantino Self-Novelizes

July 27th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Pig (Film, US, Michael Sarnoski, 2021) Grizzled off-the-grid truffle hunter Robin (Nicolas Cage) leaves the woods for the city in search of his abducted truffle pig. This is absolutely not “John Wick but with a pig”. Layered reveals build character and quasi-mythic story (archetypally Myrddin, the Wild Prophet of the Woods) in tandem, punctuated by superb physical acting by Cage, and equally superb performances by Alex Wolff as his reluctant helpmeet and Adam Arkin embodying the corruption and cruelty inherent in the modern food scene. A Pinnacle on a keynote of grief. –KH

Recommended

Forbidden Science 3: On the Trail of Hidden Truths, The Journals of Jacques Vallee 1980-1989 (Nonfiction, Jacques Vallee, 2013) UFOlogy’s existential heretic keeps up with the times by becoming a venture capitalist, as the field is overtaken by abduction mythology and a shadowy cast of disinformation agents. Another essential wellspring of Eliptony, with any slackening of interest being the fault of the 80s and not the author. Also he convinces his wife to let him build a tower for his books, not that I know anyone who would aspire to that.—RDL

In & Of Itself (Filmed Theater, US, Hulu, Frank Oz, 2020) Magician/performance artist Derek Delgaudio repurposes card magic and mentalism to explore fables of identity involving elephants, Russian roulette, and intolerance experienced as the child of a gay woman. Attention-grabbing presentation fuses the aesthetics of Ricky Jay and Spalding Gray, provoking audience epiphany via classic trickery.—RDL

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Fiction,Quentin Tarantino, 2021) Less a straight novelization of Tarantino’s film than a second approach to the main characters — the entire third act becomes a one-paragraph flash-forward on page 110. Tarantino’s choices in fiction as in film are idiosyncratic collages, including ample film-criticism, studio gossip, fourth-wall breaking comments about the novel’s greater opportunity to depict a hero’s immorality, and a whole two chapters of what appear to be the novel that Lancer came from in the film’s continuity. Like Ellroy or Leonard (two clear models), once you get into the author’s rhythm, the pages fly past; just as I did after the movie ended, I wanted a whole lot more time with the characters. –KH

Raining in the Mountain (Film, Taiwan, King Hu, 1979) A fake-pious businessman and corrupt general vie to steal a priceless sutra scroll from a monastery as its abbot searches for a successor. A simple martial arts narrative serves as framework for Hu’s compositional mastery, arranging figures, structures and landscapes with a sublime harmony that echoes the script’s Buddhist message.—RDL

Good

F9 (Film, US, Justin Lin, 2021) When his jealous brother Jake (John Cena) brings down Mr. Nobody’s plane, Dom (Vin Diesel) reluctantly joins his team to stop Jake’s Eurotrash boss (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) from stealing a super-cyberweapon. A bit of a reset that pares the core cast back from F8 bloat (but returns a welcome Han (Sung Kang)), it suffers from lack of villain focus as Cena, Rasmussen, and a returned Charlize Theron all take turns trying to break Dom in various ways. The Jake-and-Dom backstory likewise probably takes up more weight than it needs to, although it’s a refreshing callback to the first, still underrated, film in the franchise. –KH

The Flash Season 7 (Television, US, CW, Eric Wallace, 2021) As longtime team members depart and newer ones step up, Flash confronts an imbalance of cosmic forces and battles the many clones of Godspeed. In another of its returns to form, the show recommits to its core elements of speedster fights and Hallmark moments. Though the series is definitely in its dotage, it did manage eighteen episodes of costumed comfort viewing in the middle of a pandemic, and we all deserve to be graded on a curve right now.—RDL

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