Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Menacing Crystals and Fluffy Mascots

October 18th, 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

Paterson (Film, US/EU, Jim Jarmusch, 2016) Paterson, NJ bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) writes poetry during his daily routine while his free-spirited wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) follows her variegated bliss in another perfectly crafted Jarmuschian celebration of the quotidian and the past. (“It’s like we’re living in the 20th century!” says Laura in delight at one point.) Can a film in which nothing big happens, or even changes, be a celebration? Jarmusch says “yes!” … but he says it quietly. –KH


The Glass Cage (Fiction, Colin Wilson, 1966) Blake scholar Damon Reade resolves to track down a London serial killer who leaves Blake quotations where he dumps the bodies. A typical Wilson novel, combining the author’s decided views on psychology, occultism, crime, art, and mysticism (hint: all the same thing) while remaining oddly realist and thoroughly readable. –KH

Mascots (Film, US, Christopher Guest, 2016) Amateur sports mascots prepare for starry-eyed glory as they vie for the coveted Golden Fluffy Award. For his first feature in a decade, Guest creates a familiar framework in which to feature the sublimely subtle improvised verbal comedy of his genius stock company.—RDL

The Monolith Monsters (Film, US, John Sherwood, 1957) A meteorite hits the desert outside the small town of San Angelo, and its fragments grow into silica-draining monoliths that topple and shatter into more fragments … This eerily Lovecraftian film presents an utterly implacable, inexorable, truly alien threat against a low-budget (but high-performing) 1950s monster-movie backdrop. An uncredited Henry Mancini wrote the effective score. –KH

Monsters From the Vault: Classic Horror Films Revisited (Nonfiction, Orrin Grey, 2016) A collection of quick columns by a true fan of the genre, reviewing 81 lesser-known titles from Doctor X (1932) to Food of the Gods (1976). Not to be mistaken for an in-depth resource, but worth reading before hitting the Netflix queue. –KH

Mr. Six (Film, China, Hu Guan, 2015) Retired gangster turned neighborhood problem-solver draws on his dying honor code when rich drag-racing criminals kidnap his son. Elegiac drama moodily draws on motifs of the western and vigilante genres.–RDL

Neruda (Film, Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, Pablo Larraín, 2016) Dogged secret policeman Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) pursues fugitive Communist poet-senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) across 1948 Chile and into postmodern fabulism. Like the work of its subject, staggeringly ambitious, keenly beautiful, and politically charged, although it refreshingly depicts Neruda as (in Borges’ words) a “mean man.” –KH

Un + Une (Film, France, Claude Lelouch, 2015) In India to score an Indian art-house film, Lothario and composer Antoine (Jean Dujardin) falls for Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), the wife of the French ambassador (Christopher Lambert). Lelouch plays with his own formulas, sprinkling just a touch of postmodern meta-commentary (and a ladle of exoticism) over the oldest story in the world; but still every shot is perfection, and in love with the lovers. –KH


The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Film, US, Andre Øvredal, 2016) Father-and-son morticians Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden uncover ever more eerie mysteries — and suffer ever more horrifying phenomena — while autopsying a near-immaculate corpse (Olwen Kelly) found half-buried at a crime scene. Listen, fourth acts in horror movies are hard, I get it, but the monstrous tension and rigorous puzzle built up in the first three acts deserve a better payoff than they get here. –KH

The Confessions (Film, France/Italy, Roberto Ando, 2016) A Carthusian monk (Toni Servillo) at a secret G8 financial summit hears the last confession of Daniel Roche (Daniel Auteuil), the head of the IMF, before Roche is found dead with his head in the plastic bag the monk’s digital recorder came in. All the powers of the earth pressure the monk to break silence, while he unsettles their arrangements. Beautifully shot and delightfully reactionary, but too low-tempo for a proper thriller and too grounded for a metaphysical fable. –KH

Kills on Wheels (Film, Hungary, Attila Till, 2016) Wheelchair-bound kids Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba (Ádám Fekete) find a way to escape their assisted lives when crippled fireman Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy) recruits them as assistant hit men. The last act needlessly hits the brakes on this heretofore manic, liberatory joy ride of a film. –KH

The Teacher (Film, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Jan Hrebejk, 2016) In 1983, unscrupulous Bratislava middle-school teacher Comrade Drazdechova (Zuzana Maurery) milks her pupils and their parents for chores and favors. Excellent acting and a braided narrative (flashing between a Kafkaesque parent-teacher meeting and Drazdechova’s depredations) elevate this relatively standard “Communism sucks and power corrupts” movie. –KH

A Violent Prosecutor (Film, South Korea, Lee Il-Hyeong, 2016) Imprisoned prosecutor uses his legal acumen to spring a cocky con-man to investigate the corrupt superiors who framed him for murder. Clever combo of legal drama and caper flick, delivered in crowd-pleaser style, with a showcase performance from Jung-Min Hwang as the title character.–RDL


The Dreamer (Film, Peru/France, Adrian Saba, 2016) Lockpicker Chaplin (Gustavo Borjas) flickers between dream and reality as he plans to escape with Eleni (Elisa Tunaud) but has to pull one last job to do it. Half-spin on Romeo and Juliet and a half-look at petty crime in Lima don’t quite gel, and the dream sequences are pretty tepid brew for the land of Vargas Llosa. –KH

The Eyes of My Mother (Film, US, Nicolas Pesce, 2016) This fable of a young girl who grows up to be a monster (Kika Magalhaes) is so wonderfully lensed by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein and scored by Ariel Loh that you forget how little there is in the way of story, contrast, or payoff. –KH

Not Recommended

The Darkness (Film, Mexico, Daniel Castro Zimbron, 2016) In a mysterious post-apocalypse of eternal twilight, patriarch Gustavo (Brontis Jodorowsky) tries to keep his two children in line after their older brother vanishes. This empty, circular allegory brings nothing new to the game, and does so with uninteresting visuals and flat direction. Also, I may have to stop describing this growing subset of art-house pictures as “oddly” reactionary. –KH

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