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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Harder They Fall, Wrath of Man, and Tolkien Landscapes

November 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

The Harder They Fall (Film, US, Jeymes Samuel, 2021) Outlaw Nat Love’s (Jonathan Majors) quest for revenge on his father’s killer puts him athwart the scheme of said killer, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba). The attempt to squish a sprawling cast of historical (if often wildly out-of-period) Black heroes and villains into the straightforward story of a Leone-style Western alternately chokes the narrative and spins entertaining diversion, but never quite settles into a hangout rhythm. The same, sadly, could be said for the ambitious final gunfight act. But there are classic Western moments aplenty, a few terrific jokes, many beautiful shots both gun- and cinematic, a reggae-infused score by Samuel (and an even better soundtrack of banger needle drops), and a mega-cool Delroy Lindo as legendary Oklahoma territorial marshal Bass Reeves, more than enough to get Recommended. –KH

The Worlds of JRR Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-Earth (Nonfiction, John Garth, 2021) Tolkien scholar Garth breaks down the types of locations in Middle-Earth (and the larger Tolkien legendarium) and provides plausible (if a wee bit over-certain at times) inspirations from Tolkien’s life and travels: the Swiss Alps birth the Misty Mountains, rural Sarehole the Shire, the Somme’s no-mans-land the Dead Marshes, etc. Beautifully produced and illustrated, and copiously footnoted, it’s not the last word in Tolkien landscapes but it’s an excellent first word on them. –KH

Wrath of Man (Film, US, Guy Ritchie, 2021) Self-possessed crime crew boss (Jason Statham) goes undercover at an armored truck company in search of the inside man who got his son killed. Ritchie pares back his style to a Soderberghian level of formalism in this slow-burn combination of revenge thriller and upended heist flick.—RDL

Good

The Beetle: A Mystery (Fiction, Richard Marsh, 1897) A shape- and species- and gender-shifting Egyptian sorcerer seeks revenge on rising Liberal parliamentarian Paul Lessingham. Told Wilkie Collins-style from four perspectives (terrified, ironic, earnest, and cop), this “mystery” wonderfully manages to explain almost nothing you want to know while providing eventual “solutions” for what you need to know. The result: an unsettling and uncanny novel of the unnatural foreign Other that (for 20 years) outsold Dracula. –KH

Last Night in Soho (Film, UK, Edgar Wright, 2021) Psychically sensitive fashion student (Thomasin McKenzie) rents a Soho bedsit, spiraling her into an initially beguiling, soon horrifying dream journey into the life of a sixties singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) exploited by a ruthless pimp (Matt Smith.) Two acts of vertiginous cinematic mastery at the intersection of style and feeling, followed by a conclusion that violates the cardinal rule of plot twists. (Pinnacle + Pinnacle + Not Recommended/ 3)  = Good.—RDL

Okay

Red Notice (Film, US, Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2021) When Interpol questions his FBI profiler cred, Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is forced to work with chatterbox narcissist thief Booth (Ryan Reynolds) who’s trying to spoil art theft mastermind The Bishop’s (Gal Gadot) plan to steal the three eggs of Cleopatra. Netflix has somehow spent $200 million re-inventing the TV movie: bland “I recognize those people” mush moving peristaltically through set-up cliche sequences, farting supposedly-arch dialogue. In 1978, it would have starred Lou Ferrigno, Robert Conrad, and Jaclyn Smith, everyone wouldn’t have daddy issues, and the location shooting wouldn’t have all been garbage CGI.  –KH

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