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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Dig, Barb & Star, and The Killing House

February 23rd, 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

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Film, US, Josh Greenbaum, 2021) After the store they work in closes, lifelong besties Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) head to a Florida tourist town, where they dally with the lovelorn henchman (Jamie Dornan) of a pallid supervillain (Wiig) intent on super-mosquito mass murder. Joyfully kooky comedy features musical numbers, eye-popping colors, a wisdom-dispensing crab, at least one tulpa, and culottes galore.—RDL

The Dig (Film, UK, Simon Stone, 2021) Hired by widowed landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), who has a feeling about the mounds on her property, self-trained archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) excavates the find of the century, the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Overlapping editing and a down-to-business script cut through period drama affectations for a story of buried relics, longing, and the suffocating weight of the class system. Pretty’s spiritualism gets the barest of hints.—RDL

Judex (Film, France, Georges Franju, 1963) Mysterious avenger (Channing Pollack) strikes against a corrupt banker, prompting a change of plans from a sinister governess with a penchant for catsuits (Francine Bergé.) Deadpan remake of the 1916 serial drapes its adventure hijinks in existential solitude. Yellow King GMs will want to scope its Art Nouveau production design.—RDL

The Killing House (Fiction, Gomery Kimber, 2020) Rickardo “The Big Shilling” Hanratty, a trickster-assassin whose motto “Believing is seeing” comes straight out of Gurdjieff, and his apprentice American Troy plan a hit on a Russian oligarch in Cyprus. This spy-and-crime novel of philosophy in the Colin Wilson tradition evokes the initiatory reality-horror aspects of Fowles’ The Magus to boot, always a scene or a paragraph away from spinning out of control but never quite crashing. –KH

King John and the Road to Magna Carta (Nonfiction, Stephen Church, 2015) Lucid biography of the Angevin king whose overreach led to to the signing of the Magna Carta brings clarity to a tangled sequence of alliances and betrayals, hewing to what is known without succumbing to pet theories or psychological projection.—RDL

The Outpost (Film, US, Rod Lurie, 2020) The U.S. 3-71 Cavalry Squadron (Scott Eastwood, et al.) of the 10th Mountain Division defends an ill-sited outpost in Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2009. A grunt’s-eye-view war film on the pattern of the “cavalry” Western, Lurie saves most of his cinematic ammunition for the hour-long, very effective recreation of the Battle of Kamdesh in the second act. –KH

Good

Terminator: Dark Fate (Film, US, Tim Miller, 2019) Human resistance sends bionic supersoldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis) back in time to stop a morphing killbot from erasing its future leader (Natalia Reyes). Essentially an adequate (if entirely unnecessary) remake of T2, this film also deploys Linda Hamilton (effective as an old, bitter Sarah) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (dialed down, mostly) without entirely wasting them. By far the most interesting thing about it is the way its Rev-9 Terminator literally embodies the U.S. military-surveillance state. –KH

Okay

Revenger (Film, South Korea, Lee Seung-won, 2018) Taciturn cop gets himself sentenced to a lawless prison island to kill the man who murdered his wife and daughter. Harsh martial arts flick whose premise is less about theme or social commentary than it is about inexpensive production values.—RDL

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