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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Discovery, WW84, and Korean Time Phone Horror

January 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

The Call (Film, South Korea, Lee Chung-hyun, 2020) Returning to her mom’s house while she’s in the hospital, a young woman receives a series of landline calls from inside the house—and from 20 years in the past. Tense timey-wimey horror thriller keeps the twists coming and the tension ratcheting.—RDL

Death Takes a Holiday (Film, US, Mitchell Leisen, 1934) To experience life as a mortal, the grim reaper (Fredric March) takes on mortal form for a long weekend as an aristocrat’s guest, falling for a restless ingenue (Evelyn Venable.) Stagy but atmospheric adaptation of an interwar Italian play that marries Symbolist and Romantic motifs.—RDL

Valdez is Coming (Fiction, Elmore Leonard, 1970) Mild-seeming town constable reveals the killer inside him when a cattle baron maneuvers him into gunning down an innocent man and then refuses to compensate his widow. Laconic western fable of racism and gun-handling expertise.—RDL

The Widow Couderc (Film, France, Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1974) Escaped convict (Alain Delon) hides out as farmhand to a lonely widow (Simone Signoret) whose former in-laws hope to push her out of her home. Naturalistic rural noir set against a background of rising fascim, based on a Simenon novel.—RDL

Good

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 (Television, US, CBS All Access, Alex Kurtzman & Michelle Paradise, 2020-2021) The Discovery crew signs up to fix a gritty far future where an interstellar catastrophe has reduced the Federation to a vestige of its former glory. Every season of Discovery becomes a markedly different show, finding new ways to get Trek right, while also embracing another narrative bête noire—this time, relentless cheerleading for its heroes. Star Sonequa Martin-Green dares to escalate her performance to Shatnerian heights.—RDL

Okay

Vampires vs. the Bronx (Film, US, Oz Rodriguez, 2020) Area tweens (Jaden Michael, Gerald W. Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV) notice vampires behind the gentrification of their Bronx neighborhood and fight back. “What if Lost Boys, but just about the Frog Brothers and in the Bronx” could still have worked, but not with the tiny budget and un-terrifying vampires available. It’s hard to blame the child actors for not doing better with the metronomic script, but they’re no Stranger Things kids. Points given for Method Man as a priest and for actually going there and using the Eucharist wafer as a plot coupon. –KH

Wonder Woman 1984 (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2020) When the Dreamstone resurfaces in 1984 Washington DC, Diana (Gal Gadot) wishing for the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is only the first thing that goes wrong. Random clumps of ill-thought-out scenes (including literally handwaving the invisible plane) capped by whatever the opposite of sticking the landing is may authentically recall Bronze Age comics, but it’s not always good movie making. Although Gadot and Pine remain great, Jenkins whiffs badly on the villains: Kristen Wiig twitches endlessly as proto-Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal (possibly overcompensating for his Mando minimalism) somehow hits every wrong note as Maxwell Lord. Jenkins’ fight and action scenes also suffer by comparison with the first film, regressing to the mean with a vengeance. –KH

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