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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Stranger Things, Ms. Marvel, Thor and Kingdom

July 19th, 2022 | Robin

Recommended

Kingdom Seasons 1 & 2 (Television, South Korea, Netflix, Kim Eun-hee, 2020-2021) Endangered, idealistic Crown Prince in a fictionalized 17th century discovers a link between the ambitious clan that controls the country and an outbreak of a plague that turns people into flesh-eating monsters. Smart blend of the horror and Joseon court intrigue genres cleverly writes its zombie rules to balance the two elements of its mash-up. The script is especially good at making us think we are one step ahead of it when actually we are right where it wants us.—RDL

Ms. Marvel Season 1 (Television, US, Disney+, Bisha K. Ali, 2022) Irrepressible, superhero-besotted New Jersey teen (Iman Vellani) discovers she has forcefield powers, granted her by a bangle connected to a family secret and the Partition of India. Vellani’s preternatural charm, and the focus on the family story over a worldshaking villain arc, make for the most consistent and satisfying MCU+ show to date.—RDL

Stranger Things Season 4 (Television, US, Netflix, The Duffer Brothers, 2022) As the gang back home in Hawkins encounters a murderous inhuman wizard they nickname Vecna, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) uneasily reunites with Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) to recover the powers she’ll need to stop him. Yes, the C-plot that sidelines the adults so they can’t solve the kids’ problem is almost purely dead weight, but the main action successfully recaptures the Carpenter-esque tone of the first two seasons, with plenty of GUMSHOE-esque horror investigation along the wayt.—RDL

Triple Agent (Film, France/Greece/Italy/Russia/Spain, Éric Rohmer, 2004) Exiled White Russian intelligence chief Fyodor Voronin (Serge Renko) keeps his artist wife Arsinoé (Katerina Didaskalou), and thus the audience, in the dark about his activities and allegiance in late-1930s Paris. Rohmer adapts the Miller-Skoblin case to his perennial theme of words not matching actions – and since the only thing we see Voronin do is talk, it becomes quite a gripping ride for something that barely leaves a domestic interior set. –KH

Good

The Gold Watch (Fiction, Paul Halter, 2019) Three mysterious killings (in 1901, 1911, and the 1960s) overlap with each other, and with a blocked French playwright in 1991, linked by a gold watch, a half-recalled film noir, an invisible color, and The King in Yellow. The 1911 case, solved by Halter’s series detective Owen Burns, is a classic (and terrific) Carr-style impossible crime; the others are more impressionistic or existential. I was hoping for a fully rational connection between the threads, but didn’t get it — if I reread this knowing it’s not there, I’ll probably like it better. –KH

Okay

Thor: Love and Thunder (Film, US, Taika Waititi, 2022) Drawn back to Earth by the depredations of the God Butcher (Christian Bale), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) catches up with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is also Thor. Decent bits (Bale and Portman, mostly) float in a sea of gags left way too long and crafted far too little. Even the jokes that work merely undercut any real stakes or meaning. The less said about the CGI the better, but it’s telling that Waititi’s mock-Snyder battle in the Shadow Realm is the only fight that doesn’t look like murky garbage. –KH

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