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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hotel Ghosts and Mi’kMaq vs. Zombies

October 20th, 2020 | 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

Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech’s Race for the Future of Food (Nonfiction, Chase Purdy, 2020) Round-up of the technological, marketing and regulatory hurdles facing the small group of competing firms racing to bring satisfying, economical vat-grown meat to the world’s dinner tables. Concise, journalistic account covers the current state of play in a sector where proprietary secrets obscure the timetable for a revolution that might or might not be imminent.—RDL

Blood Quantum (Film, Canada, Jeff Barnaby, 2019) Immune to the virus that brings people—not to mention dogs and salmon—back from the dead, the Mi’kMaq of the Red Crow reservation, including a rueful police chief (Michael Greyeyes) and his atomized family, hunker against the undead apocalypse. Grim zombie horror finds room for complexity as it engages the genre’s tradition of social commentary.—RDL

The Invisible Man (Film, US, Leigh Whannell, 2020) Architect (Elizabeth Moss) escapes an abusive relationship with an optics genius, only to have him fake his own death and stalk her using his invisibility suit. Upending this classic horror tale to make Griffin the pursuing monster instead of the protagonist is one of those writing moves so brilliant that it seems obvious in retrospect.—RDL

Kubrick by Kubrick (Film, France/Poland, Gregory Monro, 2020) Tape-recorded interviews of Kubrick by film critic Michael Ciment play under footage from most of his films. Monro attempts to gently subvert, or at least provide perspective on, the image of Kubrick as obsessive perfectionist; the result may not be a revelatory film study but it’s a very good Kubrick 102. If you’re ready for Kubrick 202, maybe tick this back down to Good.–KH

Sleep (Film, Germany, Michael Venus, 2020) Nightmare-plagued Marlene (Sandra Huller) collapses in a mountain resort hotel — the one in her dreams — and her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) investigates. A strong, dogged performance by Kohlhof anchors this excellent psychological ghost thriller, which gets nearly everything right from a creepy empty hotel set to vibrantly strange supporting actors.–KH

Good

Alms for Oblivion (Nonfiction, Peter Kemp, 1961) Lt. Col. Kemp, fresh from SOE service in Europe, transfers to the Pacific Theater right after V-J Day. Kemp runs guns to the French in Laos from Siam and serves as interim military governor of Bali and Lombok for two weeks. I had hoped for more action from this memoir, frankly. Interesting local color and details of political-military service in a neglected nook of history somewhat make up for that lack, however. –KH

Await the Dawn (Film, US, Pablo Macho Maysonet IV, 2020) In the grip of heroin withdrawal, Jane (Hannah Leigh) and her family get kidnapped by Miskatonic scientist Howard (Josh Server), fleeing a being from beyond in the form of a little girl. Decent acting, practical FX, and proper pacing make up for the occasional dialogue clinker and low-budget ambiance. In truth, this hovers over the Okay bubble, but the 80s Carpenter film Maysonet wanted to make shines through so clearly that the Lovecraft riff pops it into Good.–KH

Waking Sleeping Beauty (Film, US, Don Hahn, 2009) Documentary traces Disney Animation’s return to cultural omnipresence from its mid 80s doldrums, Surprisingly unvarnished insider look at the stresses and boardroom rivalries behind a blockbuster creative run.—RDL

Okay

I’m Your Woman (Film, US, Julia Hart, 2020) Wife of a professional crook, Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) must go on the lam when he disappears. Attempting to make a film of the female-occupied negative space around a 70s crime thriller, Hart instead produces something by turns inert and facile. With nothing to do, at length, Brosnahan slowly sinks under the thick patina of 70s production design. Her brief, predictable spurt of agency in the last act comes far too late.–KH

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Film, Spain/Belgium/France, Terry Gilliam, 2018) Feckless commercial director (Adam Driver) becomes an unwilling Sancho Panza to a delusional shoemaker (Jonathan Pryce) he once cast as Don Quixote. It turns out that the Fates spent a quarter century thwarting this film’s production because they realized that the script hits Gilliam’s core “the only thing worse than delusion is reality” theme too obviously on the nose. Or they were just waiting for Driver and his unerring knack for interesting choices.—RDL

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