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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Deadites and Samurai

April 17th, 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.

Recommended

Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 2 (Television, US, STARZ, Craig DiGregorio, 2017) Ash (Bruce Campbell), now allied with Ruby, returns to his hometown and a certain cabin in the woods to battle a new, more human-like threat, the demon Baal. Season 2 moves closer to the spirit of the original, including more sympathetic portrayal of Ash, while gleefully topping itself in the gore department. The ending, apparently a last minute creative shift, leaves a headscratcher for Season 3 to redeem . —RDL

Commandos Strike at Dawn (Film, US, John Farrow, 1942) After the Nazi takeover of Norway, a mild-mannered fisheries scientist (Paul Muni) forms a resistance cell. Gripping drama pulls no propaganda punches, as was typical of the films Hollywood made about the war, during the war. With story by C. S. Forester.—RDL

Eleven Samurai (Film, Japan, Eiichi Kudo, 1967) Retainers of a falsely punished clan realize that the man responsible for their fate, the heedless and violent son of the shogun, needs killing. Tense and moody mix of Edo politics and samurai action.—RDL

In Order of Disappearance (Film, Norway, Hans Petter Moland, 2016) When drug dealers kill his son, a taciturn snow plow operator (Stellan Skarsgard) starts killing his way up the local gangster food chain, sparking an ever-widening cycle of violence. Wintry, mordant take on the vigilante revenge genre.—RDL

The Power House (Fiction, William Haggard, 1967) A left-wing MP’s failed defection leads to a war between London gambling houses, and Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must keep the lid on all of it. Crime and party politics burst in on Haggard’s cozy world, to the benefit of pacing. Haggard also changes up his standard class signifiers somewhat in the interest of properly blackguarding a thinly-disguised Harold Wilson. The resulting discord makes Haggard’s plotting even more satisfying. –KH

Good

A Cool Day For Killing (Fiction, William Haggard, 1968) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must protect the English heirs to the ruling family of the Sultanate of Shahaddin from Chinese agents in this genuinely thrilling yarn. Although the two sympathetic heirs are female and half-Malay, respectively, 21st-century audiences may jib at Haggard’s gender and ethnic essentialism; spy-fi fans may cavil at the relative lack of challenge posed by Russell’s Chinese opposite number. –KH

Okay

Baadshaho (Film, India, Milan Luthria, 2017) During the Emergency in 1975, Princess Gitanjali (Ileana d’Cruz) depends on her loyal bodyguard Bhawani (Ajay Devgan) to heist her fortune in gold when crooked government officials seize it. Relatively competent, if leisurely paced, period heist thriller literally goes up in a cloud of dust in the abrupt and opaque final act. –KH

Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground (Nonfiction, Ian Purkayastha with Kevin West, 2016) Truffle supplier to the NYC restaurant elite recounts his quest for high-end fungus in an industry rife with risk and deception. Requires the reader to sniff out salient nuggets of food biz info from a field of anodyne autobiography.—RDL

Two Evil Eyes (Film, Italy/US, George Romero and Dario Argento, 1990) Two hour-long films based on Poe stories: in Romero’s “Facts in the Case of Mr Valdemar,” he ties Poe’s grotesque to an EC Horror-style crime-comeuppance story, while Argento’s “The Black Cat” nestles the title story amidst ample other Poe callouts. Romero’s half is competent enough, even Good, albeit mostly marking time to the weird end; Argento neither provides Poe’s portrait of a madman (Harvey Keitel) nor digs into the notion of a Poe universe unspooling around him. Especially for Argento fans, this is Not Recommended. –KH

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