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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Pandemic Panic and a Regenerating Ronin

July 24th, 2018 | 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

The Bar (Film, Spain, Álex de la Iglesia, 2017) Fear reveals who people really are when the government’s lethal suppression of a potential pandemic traps patrons and staff in a downtown cafe. De la Iglesia attacks the confined space thriller with his hallmark black humor and mastery of escalation.—RDL

Blade of the Immortal (Film, Japan, Takashi Miike, 2017) Weary ronin (Takuya Kimura), rendered unkillable by magic bloodworms that grant him regeneration powers, reluctantly agrees to assist a girl (Hana Sugisaki) in her quest for vengeance against the murderous dojo responsible for the deaths of her parents. Miike treats the original manga’s string of martial arts duels as a formal exercise in varying each fight and investing it with its own distinct emotional hook. Which is to say, many people in this movie need killing and and/or do not know who they are fucking with.—RDL

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (Film, US, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, 2015) Newly rediscovered interview audio tapes form the nucleus of this bio-documentary of the legendary art collector and patron pivotal to the reception of both the surrealists and the American abstract expressionists. Having researched the indomitable, canny Guggenheim of the 30s and 40s, I found the portrait of her reserved, melancholy later self particularly moving.—RDL

Resurrection Science: : Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things (Nonfiction, M. R. O’Connor, 2015) Examines the ever-expanding technical, economic and philosophical obstacles arising from efforts to preserve, protect and perhaps revive extinct and dwindling species, from fast-evolving pupfish to war-depleted rhinos to the passenger pigeon.—RDL

Sorry to Bother You (Film, US, Boots Riley, 2018) Broke and searching for meaning, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) hits the fast track to capitalist telemarketing success when he unleashes his “white voice” (David Cross), but discovers a conspiracy. Funny and unsettling in equal measure, this surrealist (or perhaps magic-realist) comedy holds its own with John Dies at the End or even Gremlins 2, combining the former’s studied weirdness with the latter’s political bite. –KH

Talking from 9 to 5: Men and Women at Work (Nonfiction, Deborah Tannen, 1994) Linguist examines the contrasting conversational styles of men and women and the pitfalls they introduce in the workplace, from who gets credit for ideas to participation in meetings. Way better written than most business/pop science books, providing insights usable by anyone employed at any occupation more social than woodland hermit.—RDL

Good

Neal Brennan 3 MICS (Stand-up, Netflix, 2017) Most famous for being Dave Chappelle’s writing partner (“like being on a basketball team with Michael Jordan. You just win more.”), Brennan tries out stand-up, or rather a combination of stand-up, one-liners, and deeper “emotional stuff,” each delivered at one of the titular three mics. Brennan’s attempted deconstruction of comedy succeeds on its merits (although only the stand-up bit about testosterone being like having a prison inmate in your head really killed for me) but doesn’t get inventive or playful enough to break out of what’s essentially three one-third-length comedy shows. –KH

Okay

War Plan Red (Non-fiction, Kevin Lippert, 2015) The subtitle says it all: “The United States’ Secret Plan to Invade Canada and Canada’s Secret Plan to Invade the United States.” Unfortunately, a slapdash treatment of the War of 1812 and various cross-border ructions since in the first two chapters only highlights the superficiality of Lippert’s research when he gets to his main topic. Both the initial brief for U.S. “War Plan RED” and Canada’s “Defence Scheme No. 1” (what’s left of it after the Canadian General Staff ordered it destroyed) appear in an Appendix in the back, at least. –KH

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