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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Martial Arts Murders, Occult Balloonists, and Crucial Supermarket Reforms

April 16th, 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.

Recommended

Balloonists, Alchemists, and Astrologers of the Nineteenth Century: The Tale of George and Margaret Graham (Nonfiction, Daniel Harms, 2019) This slim book contains pretty much all that is known about the Grahams, a wild tale of self- and regular delusion. Harms doesn’t really site their weirdness in context, which is kind of more fun. –KH

Her Smell (Film, US, Alex Ross Perry, 2019) Fading rocker (Elizabeth Moss) rides a wave of cocaine and megalomania to an epic flame-out. Rock ‘n’ roll drama amped up by stylized dialogue, roving handheld camera, strong performances from a great cast and a score that bubbles with unease. With Eric Stoltz, Virginia Madsen, Dan Stevens and Cara Delevingne.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘18; now in theatrical release.

Kung Fu Jungle (Film, HK, Benny Chan, 2014) When a self-trained fighter starts killing his way through Hong Kong’s top kung fu practitioners, an imprisoned former police martial arts instructor (Donnie Yen) offers to assist, in exchange for temporary freedom. Mixture of cop procedural and martial arts actioner gives action director Yen the framework to stage a variety of themed fights, ending with a thrilling final duel on a busy freeway. AKA Kung Fu Killer. —RDL

So Dark the Night (Film, US, Joseph H. Lewis, 1946) Avuncular Paris detective (Steven Garay)  stays in the countryside, leading him to a charming local girl (MIcheline Cheirel) and, eventually, murder. Oddball mix of elements with a bifurcated structure: mild Gallophilic comedy-romance, then a plunge into melancholy nightmare.—RDL

Supermarket Woman (Film, Japan, Juzo Itami, 1996) Irrepressible widow (Nobuko Miyamoto) determines to rescue the failing food mart of a hangdog grade school chum (Masahiko Tusugawa.) Peppy comedy returns to the food and underdog entrepreneurialism themes of his classic Tampopo, sprinkling in the reform and anti-corruption concerns of his later work.—RDL

Good

The Antagonists (Fiction, William Haggard, 1964) An ailing Yugoslavian radar scientist draws attacks from all sides, with Colonel Russell of the Security Executive in the middle. Good on the motives for the characters, but a trifle overdrawn in places. –KH

The Flying Sorcerer (Nonfiction, Francis X. King, 1992) Driven by a citation in Harms (q.v.) I sought out this (very) brief inquest into the ballooning career of the obscure author of The Magus, Francis Barrett. Written for the specialist, it makes very little attempt to connect Barrett’s magic to his aeronautics; even briefer examinations of Barrett’s disciple John Parkins and the alchemist J.P. Kellerman round out the booklet. –KH

Girls of the Sun (France, Eva Husson) Traumatized war correspondent (Emanuelle Bercot) covers an all-woman unit of Yazidi partisans as they fight alongside the Peshmerga to liberate a city held by their former ISIS captors. The standout set-piece of this ripped-from-the-headlines feminist war movie is the gripping extended flashback depicting the escape of the protagonist from her captors.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘18; now in theatrical release.

My Name Is Julia Ross (Film, US, Joseph H. Lewis, 1945) Wealthy matron (Mae Whitty) and her knife-obsessed son (George Macready) target a job applicant (Nina Foch), drugging her and whisking her to a cliffside Cornwall manor, hoping to brainwash her into posing as his missing wife. The brisk telling of this contemporary gothic and villainous brio of Macready and Whitty distract from the fundamentally absurd  premise.—RDL

Nightfall (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1956) Pursued by a dogged insurance investigator (James Gregory) and two bank robbers (Brian Keith, Rudy Bond) who think he has their loot, a fugitive illustrator (Aldo Ray) strikes up sparks with a down-on-her-luck model (Anne Bancroft.) Clipped, fifties hardboiled acting juices up this compact noir thriller, based on a David Goodis novel.—RDL

Rainy Dog (Film, Japan, Takashi Miike, 1998) Discarded yakuza (Show Aikawa) in rainy Taipei plies his trade for a local gang leader while half-heartedly looking after a supposed son his mother has abandoned to him. Miike mostly colors inside the lines for this melancholy crime drama, part of the thematically linked Black Society trilogy.—RDL

Too Many Enemies (Fiction, William Haggard, 1971) Retired head of the Security Executive Charles Russell finds himself embroiled in an Arab pressure plot against an MP. Having foolishly retired his main character, Haggard begins stretching his plots to include him, mitigating one of his great strengths. –KH

Okay

You Might Be the Killer (Film, US, Brett Simmons, 2018) On the run from a slasher killer, camp counselor Sam (Fran Kranz) calls up trope-aware pal Chuck (Alyson Hannigan), who helps him understand the significance of the creepy wooden mask he’s been carrying around with him. The joke of the Sam Sykes/Chuck Wendig tweetfest this adapts was inherent to its format; translated to the screen it becomes yet another unfunny horror spoof. Alyson Hannigan is, I gotta say, spot-on casting for Chuck Wendig.—RDL

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