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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Resistance Thriller Mastery & Formative Korean Exploitation

May 30th, 2017 | 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

Devil! Take the Train to Hell (Film, South Korea, No-Shik Park, 1977) Blind man whose weapons include his spear-like cane and highly effective throwing walnuts teams up with woman who commands snakes and spits needles like a human blowdart; together they hunt the Japanese crooks who killed their fathers in a Korean Manchurian village at the end of the occupation. Crazy exploitation revenger features crime jazz, groovy dance sequences, eye-popping colors, a lead actor twice the age of his character, an array of mod fashions, and monumental melodrama. Do not expect the pacing and technical polish of a contemporary Korean flick. This title, available on the official Korean Film Archive YouTube channel, could easily play in the influences sidebar of a Chan-wook Park retrospective.—RDL

A Hero of France (Fiction, Alan Furst, 2016) Furst’s latest spy novel about decent Europeans defending civilization against Naziism follows Mathieu, the leader of an early Resistance network in 1941 Paris. Furst is so good at this by now that he almost seems lazy, relaxed as he paints in the scenery and the quotidian heroism of rescuing pilots and dodging surveillance. In the last act, Furst pays it all off in a riveting 70 pages of cat-and-mouse that reminds you why he’s simply unbeatable on his chosen ground. –KH

Good

The Flash Season 3 (Television, US, CW, 2016-2017) Barry faces repercussions for time meddling in the form of Savitar, an armored speedster who in the future will kill Iris. Three-peat on the motif of the big bad who is the perverse reflection of the hero builds to a climax that doesn’t pay off the season’s investment in it.—RDL

Hell to Eternity (Film, US, Phil Karlson, 1960) Orphaned Angeleno raised by a Japanese-American family finds an unexpected use for his language skills when, as an adult (Jeffrey Hunter), he fights as a marine in the Battle of Saipan. Compelling if sometimes heavy-handed film starts as earnest social drama and takes a side quest into overheated 50s sexuality before getting down to the question of whether one can fight a war while recognizing your enemy’s humanity. George Takei briefly appears as Hunter’s adopted brother.—RDL

Narcos Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, 2016) A season that relies correctly, if too heavily, on Wagner Moura’s mesmerizing performance as Pablo Escobar (and Paulina Gaitán, increasingly compelling as his wife Tata) lets itself drift narratively, padded and meandering through the end of Escobar’s career. When you can’t make a death squad interesting, it’s time for a rethink. –KH

Okay

Arrow Season 5 (Television, US, CW, 2016-2017) Oliver assembles a new team of vigilantes as a mysterious enemy who is, guess what, his perverse reflection, wages a murderous vendetta against him. Relentlessly chumps its heroes in a get-back-to-basics season that forgets the basics weren’t that great in the first place, with a dreary dud of a Big Bad and an ultra-lame cliffhanger. Now if Dolph Lundgren, as recurring flashback villain, had been the current day villain…—RDL

Get Me Roger Stone (Film, US, Morgan Pehme, Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, 2017) Documentary profile of pioneering chaos agent Stone traces his career in talking heads and archival footage format. Though this will serve as a useful backgrounder when the congressional testimony starts, the filmmakers bring a marshmallow to a gunfight and get thoroughly outfoxed by their subject, who never lets the mask of his cartoon persona slip. It’s safe to say that your critique of a political figure has failed when he relentlessly promotes it on Twitter.—RDL

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