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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hollywood Kaiju and Genre-Shifting Reality Horror

June 4th, 2019 | 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.

The Pinnacle

The Perfection (Film, US, Richard Shepherd, 2019) Former cellist (Allison Williams) hooks up with the superstar graduate (Logan Browning) of the music academy she once attended, triggering a spiral of hallucination, betrayal, and revenge. Chameleonic piece of neo-midnight cinema finds and as quickly discards assured takes on multiple sub-genres, from erotic thriller to body horror to reality horror and beyond.—RDL

Recommended

The Arabian Nights Murder (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1936) Three policemen describe their investigations of a murder in a museum to Dr. Fell, each man’s story simultaneously explaining and further mystifying the previous version. Something of a tour de force of nested narratives and variant viewpoints (especially for 1936) sees Carr playing with tone from Machen to Wilde to Sayers until Dr. Fell disproves them all, of course. –KH

Asako I & II (Japan, Ryusuke Hamaguchi) Reserved coffee shop clerk avoids telling her new boyfriend that he’s a dead ringer for her swoon-worthy first love, who up and vanished on her two and a half years ago. Truffautesque comedy-drama manages something even rarer than a successful tone shift—a subtle successful tone shift.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘18; now in theatrical release.

Fosse/Verdon (Television, US, FX, Steven Levinson and Thomas Kail, 2019) Bio-miniseries dramatizes the creative collaborations and tumultuous personal relationship of dancer/actress Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) and choreographer/director Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell). Expository needs give this a rocky start, and it fades whenever it falls under the shadow of All That Jazz, but Williams’ stunning embodiment of Verdon compensates for any imperfections.—RDL

A Quiet Life (Film, Japan, Juzo Itami, 1995) High schooler left to care for her mentally disabled brother while her parents stay abroad befriends a man whose volunteer swim coaching conceals a sinister motive. Episodic, deceptively simple confrontation between innocence and darkness, based on autobiographical short stories of Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Literature Prize and the director’s brother-in-law.—RDL

Good

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Film, US, Michael Dougherty, 2019) Eco-terrorists unleash King Ghidorah and a pack of kaiju to cleanse the Earth of humanity, and only Godzilla stands in their way. Remarkably true to the fantastic Toho spirit, despite inducting Godzilla (basically) into the Natty Bumppo-Rambo tradition of wild American warriors and (mostly) wasting Millie Bobby Brown and Zhang Ziyi. The monster fights are Recommended. –KH

To Wake the Dead (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1937) Gideon Fell solves a pair of murders linked by a killer in a hotel uniform — but only one of the murders happened in a hotel. Carr rockets the plot along in this one, keeping plenty of surprises in stock despite explaining the “impossible” part halfway through. Unfortunately, one of the surprises is that unusually for Carr, the motive doesn’t make sense and the method involves a bit of a cheat. Still enjoyable but not his usual triumph. –KH

Okay

Upgrade (Film, US, Leigh Whannell, 2018) An illicit chip implant restores a paralyzed auto mechanic’s ability to move, investing him with the computer power and killing reflexes needed to track down the men who murdered his wife. The best visual and kinetic portrayal of cyberpunk implants committed to film so far. Too bad about the stock characters and situations.—RDL

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