Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: In Which Ken Declares Chicago a Sovereign Nation

October 25th, 2016 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Soul on a String (Film, China, Zhang Yang, 2016) Brought back from the bardo by a lama for the purpose, killer and ne’er-do-well Tabei (Mongol actor Kimba) must return a sacred Dzi stone to the mystical Palm Print Land. Of course, there are mysterious companions and persecutors along the path, which leads through the supersaturated scenery of the Kunlun Mountains. The Buddhist tenets of return and recursion anchor this panoramic Leone-esque epic Western that might well be called Once Upon A Time in Tibet. –KH


Amok (Film, Macedonia, Vardan Tozija, 2016) Abuse both official and unofficial turns introverted orphan Filip (amateur actor Martin Gjorgoski in a powerfully internalized performance) into the violent leader of a nihilist gang of fellow orphans. The first act takes almost half the movie, so the ending is a bit uneven. The slow build (along with the location shots in Skopje’s most brutalist and crumbling districts) adds naturalism to a low-smoldering Balkan blend of 400 Blows and City of God. –KH

Creepy (Film, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016) Cop turned criminology prof begins to notice parallels between a family disappearance cold case and the oddball behavior of his next door neighbor. Psychological crime drama explores the contingent nature of free will with Kurosawa’s typical mix of outward calm and inner disorientation.—RDL

The Handmaiden (Film, South Korea, Park Chan-wook, 2016) In 1932, a Korean forger impersonating “Count Fujiwara” (Ha Jung-woo) plants thief’s daughter Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) in the employ of Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), the Japanese niece of a bibliophile Korean collaborator with the occupiers. And then lust takes over and things go sideways in this erotic gothic revenge bodice-ripping con-man thriller. A little long for its plot, not least thanks to the sex scenes, but Park’s sheer brio and craftsmanship nonetheless demand close attention. –KH

Imperfections (Film, Chicago, David Singer, 2016) Struggling actress and new-fledged diamond courier Cassidy Harper (Virginia Kull) enters a world of crime, duplicity, and tangled romantic lines. Charming acting (including a great turn by Ed Begley, Jr. as a scrabbling diamond merchant) and Singer’s solid script buttress this breezy caper-con-romcom. Other highlights include Singer’s jazzy, David Holmes-ish score and (of course) great Chicago locations. –KH

Karl Marx City (Film, US/Germany, Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, 2016) Documentary follows East German-born Epperlein as she investigates her father’s suicide and accusations that he was a Stasi informer. Shot in black and white to mimic the Stasi surveillance footage (and recordings) Epperlein and Tucker intercut consummately throughout, this very personal exploration of the weight of tyranny is in the final analysis more dumfounding than paranoid. –KH

Kati Kati (Film, Kenya/Germany, Mbithi Masya, 2016) Bereft of her memory and (as it tuns out) dead, Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) arrives in Kati Kati, a resort lodge in the empty savanna that plays a bit like the Village from The Prisoner and (weirdly) a bit like the constrained white social world of Isak Dinesen-era Kenya. The film uses 75 efficient minutes of oblique narrative and character depth to feel rich, not sparse: like a fairy tale or a parable. –KH

Ritual in the Dark (Fiction, Colin Wilson, 1960) In 1955 London, Wilson’s alter ego Gerard Sorme befriends the enigmatic outsider Austin Nunne, as a new Whitechapel killer strikes all around them. Over the course of writing it, Wilson rebelled against his own novel — he originally intended it as a nihilist cri de cour (patterned after the Egyptian Book of the Dead of all things) and Sorme follows Wilson’s own philosophical odyssey in this gripping (if talky) künstlerroman. –KH

Shin Godzilla (Film, Japan, Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, 2016) Awakened by nuclear waste dumping, a mutant prehistoric monster emerges from Tokyo Bay, devastating the city and paralyzing the government. Where the original responded to Hiroshima, this reboot responds to the feckless response to Fukushima. Imagine a Wes Anderson boardroom disaster film with awesome radioactive dinosaur battle scenes in it, and you’ll be close to Shin Godzilla, the best movie in the franchise since Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). –KH

Women Who Kill (Film, US, Ingrid Jungermann, 2016) Morgan (Jungermann) seeks distance from her cohost of the titular podcast and ex-girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr) in the arms of Simone (Sheila Vand), who may be a murderer. The blackly humorous blend of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For and Fritz Lang’s The Secret Beyond the Door works as noir, as metaphor for relationships, and as delicious dialogue-driven comedy. Jungermann (who also wrote the script as well as starring and directing) is the Brooklyn lesbian Whit Stillman you didn’t know you needed. –KH


F to 7th Seasons 1 and 2 (Web series, Ingrid Jungermann, 2016) Neurotic lesbian Jungermann interacts with family and fellow Brooklynites in short, broad, comic character vignettes. Season 2 has a story arc of sorts: her mother (Annette O’Toole) guilts her into pretending to herself and others that she’s straight. The comedy is a mixed bag, sometimes rapid-fire or ridiculous (my favorites), sometimes situational, sometimes pretty dark. –KH

9 Rides (Film, US, Matthew A. Cherry, 2016) In this worthy entrant into the smallish “taxi driver” subgenre, we follow a nameless Uber driver (Dorian Missick) on New Year’s Eve. Worth watching for Missick’s acting (he has to do a lot while doing basically the same nothing over and over) and for technical reasons (a feature film shot entirely on an iPhone 6 that doesn’t look awful) but ultimately one or two rides short of a destination. –KH

Prevenge (Film, UK, Alice Lowe, 2016) Eight months pregnant after the death of her lover in a climbing accident, Ruth (Alice Lowe) hears her unborn daughter urge her on to revenge killings. Lowe doesn’t really commit to the premise in any of her three roles (actor, writer, or director), making it a much harder sell than it should be for the viewer. –KH

Not Recommended

As the Gods Will (Film, Japan, Takashi Miike, 2014) Inexplicable worldwide force traps high schoolers in a series of lethal games as gory as they are cutesy. Delivers peak Miike craziness, but literally has no third act. It puts all the pieces in place for one, and then rolls the credits, because the manga it’s based on wasn’t finished when the film came out.—RDL

Call Me Savage (Film, US, John Francis Dillon, 1932) Hot-tempered Texan (Clara Bow) bounces around America and up and down the class ladder, remaining defiant in the face of all the mistreatment men can dish out. Pre-Code melodrama rattles through a potboiler novel’s steamy plot points at a breakneck clip. —RDL

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