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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Crampton Comes Alive

October 11th, 2016 | KenH

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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

The Age of Shadows (Film, South Korea, Kim Jee-woon, 2016) During the Japanese occupation of Korea, a collaborating police captain (Song Kang-Ho) plays a double game while hunting the resistance. Assured blend of action, Hitchcockian spy suspense, and drama of conflicted loyalties from the director of The Good, The Bad and the Weird. –RDL (Seen at TIFF; now in limited North American release.)

The Age of Shadows (Film, South Korea, Kim Jee-woon, 2016) In Japanese-occupied Korea, a turncoat Korean police captain (Song Kang-Ho) must choose and discover his true loyalties. Yet another assured Korean thriller layers high action set-pieces, train-bound bottle suspense, and intense emotional beats into an almost too-glossy experience. –KH

Arrow Season 4 (Television, CW, 2015-2016) Oliver Queen runs for mayor, remembers a revisit to the island, and finally battles a Big Bad (Neal McDonough) who has a good time being super-evil. Introduces the supernatural to the show as the fresh element in a skillful rearrangement of the show’s established template. You can taste just how much Executive Producer Greg Berlanti wants The Flash to shift our earth’s timeline so he gets to do a proper Constantine show with Matt Ryan, whose single guest spot informs the tone of the whole season.—RDL

Dead Tongues (Film, US, Roberto Drilea and Brianna Dorn, 2016) Impressively controlled story of the ex-girlfriend (Phoebe Fox) and previously unknown twin brother (Robert Justin Dresner) of a suicidal linguistics student (also Dresner) investigating his fate. If not for some issues with the sound, you’d never guess it was made by two Northwestern film students for $4,000. –KH

The Flash Season 2  (Television, CW, 2015-2016) An increasingly burdened Barry Allen battles a new counterpart speedster as an alternate reality version of the previous one joins the team at Star Labs. Dives deep down into the comics geek well while still keeping the emoting quotient at CW-mandated levels.—RDL

Love Affair, or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (Film, Yugoslavia, Dušan Makavejev, 1967) Scenes of a young woman’s affair with an unworldly sanitation inspector interweave with those from the forensic investigation into her murder. Explores the director’s hallmark theme of the threat posed to Communist rationalism by the primal chaos of sexuality in a fragmented narrative seasoned with ironically chosen propaganda clips and pseudo-documentary devices. A somber dry run for the wilder, better-known WR: Mysteries of the Organism.—RDL

My Beloved Bodyguard (Film, HK, Sammo Hung, 2016) Retired CSB officer in the early stage of dementia (Hung) befriends young girl whose low-life dad (Andy Lau) places her in danger by getting mixed up with a heedless mobster. Tone seems a touch uneven in the early going–but then punks start messing with Sammo Hung, and one remembers that one is not watching this movie for evenness of tone. With cameos by his fellow Seven Little Fortunes alumni Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao.–RDL

Good

The Asphyx (Film, UK, Peter Newbrook, 1972) In 1875, Sir Hugo Cunningham’s (Robert Stephens) experiments in film and psychic phenomena discover the titular asphyx, the spirit that causes death. Of course, he overreaches, with hideous (and not un-hilarious) results. Although it’s from Glendale Films, it’s almost as good as second-tier Hammer, and even more resolutely of its time. –KH

The Creature Below (Film, UK, Stewart Sparke, 2016) A marine biologist (Anna Dawson) on a deep dive experiences missing time and tentacular visions, then returns to the surface and her domestic life with an unknown egg she steals for her own research. With better monster effects this clever, mostly well-acted film would be a solid Recommended. –KH

From Beyond (Film, Hungary, Gabor Erdelyi, 2016) Takes Lovecraft’s story seriously enough to play it terrifyingly straight, with crowded and even lush scenes of the ‘from beyond’ realm that don’t quite gel with the long-haired Expressionist characters. But it’s forced to insert pointless mystifaction (and a fortune-teller) to pad the story out to even 44 minutes. –KH

From Beyond (Director’s Cut) (Film, US, Stuart Gordon, 1986) Dr. Pretorius’ (Ted Sorel) resonator exposes Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) and especially Dr. Katherine McMichael (Barbara Crampton) to the monsters of both the ultraviolet and the libido. The humor and depravity are, if anything, both broader in this 5-minute-longer version, which answers the question: “What’s the opposite of sublimated?” –KH

The Unkindness of Ravens (Film, UK, Lawrie Brewster, 2016) Not as tonally perfect as Brewster’s debut Lord of Tears, this film centers on a Scottish veteran (Jamie Scott Gordon) with severe PTSD whose psychiatrist sends him (foolishly? fatefully?) to confront his fears in an isolated Highland lodge. Said fears focus on ravens, or on super-creepy human-raven hybrid torturers; the first act’s magnificent atmosphere of dread veers sharply into Jacob’s Ladder territory thereafter.  –KH

Okay

Downhill (Film, Chile, Patricio Valladares, 2016) Reluctantly back on the competitive mountain biking circuit, Joe (Bryce Draper) and his girlfriend Stephanie (Natalia Burn) take the wrong road in a Chilean forest and find themselves in the middle of a … murder cult? Alien biology outbreak? Found footage movie? Sports story? Satanic working? Survival horror film? When it works (in spurts) it works well enough, but the movie doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be even after everything starts rushing, well, downhill. –KH

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