Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: True Detective, BlackBerry, and Psychedelic-Era Crowley Cultists

February 27th, 2024 | 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.


BlackBerry (Film, Canada, Matt Johnson, 2023) Hardass corporate executive Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) muscles into gormless techie Mike Lazaridis’ (Jay Baruchel) company, saving its new product, the Blackberry smartphone. Darkly funny Canadian ode to capitalism transcends the produpic mostly on the strength of Howerton’s performance as a somewhat sympathetic (and entirely necessary) sociopath, but a tight script that knows what to leave out gets a dose of the credit as well.—KH

Impetigore (Film, Indonesia, Joko Anwar, 2019) Thinking that the parents she never knew might have left her a house, a broke clothing stall owner (Tara Basro) and her skeptical friend (Marissa Anita) travel to a remote village, whose residents have a murderous solution to a terrible curse. Shadow puppets and gamelans localize the classic contours of folk horror.—RDL

It’s a Summer Film! (Film, Japan, Sôshi Masumoto, 2020) Unenthused by the sappy romance her high school film club has chosen to make, determined auteur Barefoot (Marika Itô) assembles a scrappy team to make a samurai film, little suspecting that her handsome lead (Daichi Kaneko) is a cineaste from the future who fears his participation will alter the timestream. Delightful comic paean to friendship and moviemaking.—RDL

Office Royale (Film, Japan, Kazuaki Seki, 2021) Demure office worker (Mei Nagano) becomes besties with a hard-punching colleague (Alice Hirose) on the rise in the underground world of inter-departmental combat. Spoof of teen gang manga scores laughs from the gulf between the outrageousness of Japan’s pop culture and the introversion of its daily life. Also known under the much worse title Hell’s Garden.—RDL

Satan Wants Me (Fiction, Robert Irwin, 1999) In psychedelic-era London, a callow sociology student pledges allegiance to a lodge of fussy, arch-conservative Thelemite sorcerers. Sly literary fiction cover version of The Devil Rides Out blurs the line between unreliable and unaware narrator.—RDL

True Detective: Night Country (Television, US, HBO, Issa Lopez) Abrasive Alaska police chief (Jodie Foster) reluctantly reteams with haunted state trooper (Kali Reis) to investigate the horrific deaths of a research station’s team of scientists and their ties to the unsolved slaying of an Iñupiat eco-activist. Police procedural with subjective supernatural elements (and a Hildred Castaigne namecheck) makes claustrophobic use of its icy Arctic environment.—RDL


The Holdovers (Film, US, Alexander Payne, 2023) Surly prep-school teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) must babysit surly teen Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) over the 1970-71 holidays while bereaved cafeteria head Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) wisely observes. Trite, warmed-over 70s uplift story with virtually no surprises, genuine conflict, or real interest (all of which literally leave on a helicopter at the second-act turn) must perforce become an acting study, and indeed everyone involved acquits themselves well enough to carry this stale Christmas cookie over the line from Okay.—KH

Inside (Film, US/Belgium/Germany/Greece, Vasilis Katsoupis, 2023) After a failed alarm hack traps him inside an art-collecting oligarch’s soulless penthouse apartment, burglar Nemo (Willem Dafoe) must survive and try to escape. What could have been a brilliant combination castaway-heist film finishes doing that about halfway through its overlong run, but fortunately watching Willem Dafoe run the gamut of prisoner emotion remains fascinating.—KH


Skinamarink (Film, Canada, Kyle Edward Ball, 2023) Two kids wake up to find their dad missing, along with all the doors and windows of their house. This aggressively experimental horror film began as a 28-minute short, and works vastly better at that length. At 100 minutes long, the uncanny and eerie wear off as the movie continues with no shifting of stakes and (with no shots of the kids’ faces) little character to follow. Instead, Ball’s powerful evocation of a real childhood nightmare just dribbles out (at least if you watch it at home with no theater audience to recharge you), which is a crying shame.—KH

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