Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Halloween Kills, The Story of Film, and a Mindblowing Hidden Gem From Japan

October 19th, 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.


Annette (Film, France, Leo Carax, 2021) A provocative comedian (Adam Driver) and sylph-like opera singer (Marion Cotillard) fall in love and marry, but his self-loathing foretells a dark fate for them and their daughter. The accent is on the opera in this original surrealist pop opera written by the Mael brothers and directed by Carax to play with the relationship between emotion and high artifice.—RDL

Being Natural (Film, Japan, Tadashi Nagayama, 2019) The placid existence of a kindly loner who works as a fish pond attendant is threatened by the arrival of big city health food zealots who want his the old house he lives in as the site of their macrobiotic cafe. Ideally I would describe this as an offbeat observational comedy tuned to the rhythm of rural life and leave it at that, but to get you to watch it I have to inform you that it takes a final veer into utter whatthefuckery.—RDL

Buddha Mountain (Film, China, Li Yu, 2010) Trio of rough-edged early twentysomethings rent rooms from a crabby former Peking Opera performer (Sylvia Chang.) Multiple melodramatic plotlines stacked upon each other and interwoven, but presented in an immediate, naturalistic style.—RDL

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (Television, UK, More4, Mark Cousins, 2011) Covering 115 years of film history on six continents in 915 minutes, even these 1000+ film clips and talking filmmaker heads could never truly map the country of film. The route Cousins chooses relentlessly charts conventional film-school wisdom, with a few idiosyncratic choices getting (slightly) loopier as presentism sets in. Beware of a few factual bloopers, and shout angrily at your own pet omissions, but you probably won’t find a better global film 101 course … unless Robin and I assemble one. –KH

Unstoppable (Film, US, Tony Scott, 2010) Hard-ass veteran railroad engineer (Denzel Washington) and distracted new guy conductor (Chris Pine) improvise a solution when a pilotless train packed with explosive chemicals barrels toward a mid-size Pennsylvania town. Hyper-paced docu-thriller that harkens back to the labor hazards genre of the 30s is underappreciated in Scott’s ouvre. Part of me wants to ding it a notch for the over-the-top cheerleading for the heroes, but then I don’t downgrade Leone or Fuller for lack of subtlety and it seems inconsistent to do it for Scott.—RDL


Broadcast Signal Intrusion (Film, US, Jacob Gentry, 2021) In 1999 Chicago, video archivist James (Harry Shum, Jr.) follows his increasing obsession with a masked figure that hijacked TV signals years ago. Gentry’s palpable love for 70s conspiracy thrillers, excellent location work, and a superbly crumpled neo-noir score by Ben Lovett almost conceal the linear script; Shum can’t quite pull off the depth of performance needed to compensate. –KH

Free Guy (Film, US, Shawn Levy, 2021) Unreflectively optimistic bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) realizes he’s an NPC in a video game and self-actualizes with the aid of a disgruntled game designer (Jodie Comer.) Lighthearted entry in the existential mystery/virtual headtrip subgenre eschews the muddy, interchangeable look of current CGI spectacles for crisp cinematography and gorgeous, evocative production design.—RDL

Not Recommended

Halloween Kills (Film, US, David Gordon Green, 2021) Picking up immediately after Green’s 2018 Halloween, firemen unwisely rescue Michael Myers from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) burning deathtrap and we’re off again. Literally, off — Michael suddenly kills like Jason, characters shout subtext to each other, and Green squanders everything good about his previous venture as the story collapses. Anthony Michael Hall’s superbly fierce but entirely pointless turn as 1978 survivor-kid Tommy turned modern vigilante makes you weep for what could have been. –KH

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