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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dr. Strange, Men, and a Demon-Possessed Skull

May 24th, 2022 | 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

Feels Good Man (Film, US, Arthur Jones, 2020) Sweet-natured cartoonist Matt Furie reacts with confusion, dismay and finally resolve when his creation, Pepe the Frog, long a staple of Internet meme culture, metastasizes into a symbol of far-right hate. Documentary of our Esoterror times fills in the many intermediate stages of Pepe’s disjunctive semiotic journey.—RDL

Good Time (Film, US, Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, 2017) After dragging his developmentally challenged brother (Benny Safdie) into a bank robbery that gets him locked up, a manipulative screw-up (Robert Pattinson) initiates a cascade of terrible decisions in his bid to free him. Crackling entry in the nightlong doom spiral sub-genre informed by Abel Ferrara and the Dardennes Brothers.—RDL

A Hero of Our Time (Fiction, Mikhail Lermontov, 1840) An observer’s reminiscences and the protagonist’s diary entries recount the romantic havoc wrought by a fickle young Russian officer stationed in the Caucasus. Ironic character study steadily chips away at the outward charms of its inwardly empty subject.—RDL

The Skull (Film, UK, Freddie Francis, 1965) Occult expert Maitland (Peter Cushing) obtains the demon-possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade from sweaty fixer Marco (Patrick Wymark) and badness happens. Acting tour de force by Cushing makes the most from the delicious high concept (originally a Robert Bloch story). A Modernist score by Elisabeth Luytens, fetish-laden set design, and a fine supporting turn by Christopher Lee as a rival occultist top off one of Hammer/Amicus stalwart Francis’ best films. –KH

Good

The Blue Panther (Film, France, Claude Chabrol, 1965) Rich young woman (Marie Laforêt) on vacation at a Swiss ski resort relies on her wits and her judo training when she becomes the caretaker of a jewel sought by assorted international assassins. Chabrol’s tribute to the espionage side of the Hitchcock filmography is pretty and charming but a touch too insouciant about fulfilling genre requirements.—RDL

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Film, US, Sam Raimi, 2022) Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) tries to protect universe-jumper America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Think of this as MCU vanilla swirled with Raimi ripple; while the story lurches along we at least get plenty of spooky stuff and wild camera flips to entertain us. Olsen is the real standout acting-wise, mostly thanks to a clunky script that offers little for Cumberbatch or Gomez to do except handwave CGI nonsense. –KH

Men (Film, UK, Alex Garland, 2022) Widowed Harper (Jessie Buckley) rents a manor in a remote English countryside from Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) to seek closure but gets toxic masculinity with a side of folk horror. A feast of sound and lushly filmed nature, a Green Man, and weird repeating Rory Kinnear only take you so far: a Cronenbergian spectacle at the end doesn’t stick the landing at all, although it certainly squicks it. Harper’s empty passivity wastes Buckley and vitiates what point remains.  –KH

Okay

Three Resurrected Drunkards (Film, Japan, Nagisa Oshima, 1968) A trio of students lose their IDs to Korean infiltrators and must resort to metafictional awareness to save their skins. Oshima’s answer to Help! plunks the pop group Folk Crusaders into an eccentric mix of formal experimentation, gross-out humor, and Vietnam War protest.—RDL

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