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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Shang-Chi, The Green Knight, Prisoners of the Ghostland

September 22nd, 2021 | 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 Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood (Nonfiction, Sam Wasson, 2020) Brilliantly written step-by-step of the making of Chinatown, the business conditions that briefly sparked the American New Wave, and the Icarus-like descents that would follow for three of the four principal creators. Elegantly ties together disparate threads, from macro to micro, flowing from the tortuous creation of a haunted masterpiece.—RDL

The Green Knight (Film, UK, David Lowery, 2021) King Arthur’s unproven nephew (Dev Patel) steps up when a supernatural adversary appears at Camelot on Christmas to offer a frightening challenge. Sound design and cinematography provide an immersive sense of medieval spaces as the allegory of the Gawain poem receives a modern political update.—RDL

Prisoners of the Ghostland (Film, US/Japan, Sion Sono, 2021) Corrupt local headman puts a bad-ass convict (Nicolas Cage) in booby-trapped motorcycle leathers and sends him into the dangerous land of outcasts and mutants to rescue his so-called niece (Sofia Boutella.) Post-apocalyptic samurai western is a nutzoid, ultra-stylized ramble through the imagery of the 80s SF canon. But you knew that when I said “Nicolas Cage in a Sion Sono movie.”—RDL

The Yin-Yang Master (Film, China, Weiran Li, 2021) Disgraced imperial demon-fighter who now runs a haven for outcast spirit guardians investigates the theft of a powerful artifact from his former organization. Gorgeous-looking big budget fantasy adventure blends martial arts with fun CGI creature design. And this is Chinese cinema, so even the adorable cartoon characters can get melodramatic death scenes.—RDL

Good

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Film, US, Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021) Heir to the Ten Rings criminal empire of his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must take his proper place as a hero to prevent the end of the world. The first “get the gang together” act is pretty good, with Awkwafina especially engaging as Shang-Chi’s bff, and although the fights are ripped off from better ones, they’re at least mostly visible. But the CGI battle to save a CGI valley from CGI monsters does not compel attention, and it’s mostly shot in a murky mud pit to boot. Michelle Yeoh is of course squandered, winning this installment’s Annette Bening award. –KH

Okay

The Old Ways (Film, US, Christopher Alender, 2020) Local brujos kidnap reporter Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales) and forcibly exorcise the demon she carries. Although Kali Canales is game, and some of the demon effects are cool, this movie falls heavily between the stools of thrilling Mexploitation and intriguing culture clash, in the end presenting a by-the-numbers exorcism flick in brujeria garb with incongruous girl-power notes. –KH

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (Film, Japan, Keishi Ohtomo, 2021) In 19th century Japan, a melancholy killing machine (Takeru Satoh) is torn between service to an anti-Shogunate rebellion and the enigmatic young woman (Kasumi Arimura) who devotes herself to him. Prequel to a manga adaptation series features handsomely mounted action sequences but is weighed down by an obvious, belabored dramatic storyline.—RDL

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