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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Psychic Kid, Undead Cheerleaders, and a Tightening in Westeros

July 5th, 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.

Recommended

Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History (Non-fiction, Matthew White, 2012) Running chronologically from the Second Persian War (480-479 BC, 300,000 dead) to the Second Congo War (1998-2002, 3.8 million dead), White recapitulates his weirdly fascinating and comprehensive website in not particularly handy (688 pages!) book form. All-time worst? The Second World War (including the Holocaust and wartime atrocities by Japan and Stalin) at 66 million dead, but the devil is in this case quite literally in the details. –KH

Game of Thrones Season 6 (TV, HBO, 2016) Secondary antagonists get swept from the board as the series’ key figures position themselves for the coming final war for Westeros. After a slow first few episodes, the showrunners show the advantage of working from GRRM’s rough notes instead of the novels: it allows for streamlined pacing, story beats the audience has been craving, and even low-key scenes in which characters express affection for one another.–RDL

Midnight Special (Film, US, Jeff Nichols, 2016) A desperate father (Michael Shannon) goes on the run to protect his paranormally gifted son from the Feds and a religious cult. To namecheck the classics this methodical, sure-handed SF thriller references would spoil its methodical unspooling of information. With Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.–RDL

Silicon Valley Season 3 (TV, HBO, 2016) Battles for control of the company bedevil our engineer heroes as they try to bring Pied Piper’s compression app to the public. This season’s momentum is mostly sideways, but so are leadership struggles and the cast and writing are as sharp and hilarious as ever. Stephen Tobolowsky nails it as the superficially inspiring but actually jaded new CEO brought in to guide the company in its transition from world-changing idea to immediate cash machine.–RDL

Veep Season 5 (TV, HBO, 2016) After a tied electoral college threatens to throw the election to the House and Senate, Selina Myer and staff connive, threaten and vituperate their way through an effort to hold onto the presidency. With its single narrative over the course of the season, S6 works like a mini-series within a series. Still as scabrously funny as ever and the truest depiction of politics on TV today.–RDL

Good

Raising the Dead: The Men Who Created Frankenstein (Nonfiction, Andy Dougan, 2008) Science history and cultural history intertwine in this examination of the influence of galvanic medical experiments on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and vice versa. Achieves admirable succinctness while still finding room for evocative anecdotal details.–RDL

That Gal… Who Was In That Thing (Film, US, Ian Roumain, 2015) Eight female character actors discuss the challenges of their chosen careers, including lack of roles, aging, appearance, life/work balance and harassment. Interview-driven doc provides telling contrast to its predecessor, featuring male journeymen actors.–RDL

They Look Like People (Film, US, Perry Blackshears, 2015) Young New Yorker with workplace confidence problems invites an old friend to crash at his place, unaware that he’s sees most of humanity as infected by demonic presences. Naturalistic exploration of untrustworthy perceptions walks the line between horror and indie drama.—RDL

Okay

All Cheerleaders Die (Film, US, Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, 2013) After the death of her best friend in a cheerleading accident, Mäddy (Caitlin Stasey) joins the squad in an elaborate revenge plot that rapidly goes astray thanks to lesbian jealousy, witchcraft stones, body-swapping, multiple deaths, revenant-ness, and toxic masculinity. McKee & co. lose control of the ambitious, overcrowded storyline, and what is probably meant to be sly subversion of misogynist horror too often becomes that which it sought to destroy. Individual bits are quite funny or weird, and the spiraling chaos of adolescence comes through, but Jennifer’s Body remains the pinnacle of the high-school cheerleader black-magic ghoul horror subsubsubgenre. –KH

The Scaffold and Other Cruel Tales (Fiction, Jean-Marie-Mathias Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, 1885) Though part of translator Brian Stableford’s French Horror series from Black Coat Press, this collection of stories is really a mixed bag including a few horror-adjacent and proto-fantasy pieces along with fables, 19th century hot takes, and wry vignettes of human foible. Shows the fondness for ironic conclusions found in contemporaries such as Maupassant, Bierce and Chambers, with an emphasis on the erudite, eclectic, and arch.–RDL

The Vampire Countess (Fiction, Paul Feval, 1855) Master fencer turned Parisian morgue operator investigates conspiracy by seductive Hungarian vampire to turn a Royalist rebel over to Napoleon. The sins of serialization weigh heavily on this half brisk, half leaden combo of spy thriller and supernatural adventure. Pluses include a very stealable alternate set of vampire rules and its early blend of real historical figures and gothic horror.–RDL

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