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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Zombies, Mutants and a Post-Con Nap

August 22nd, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

GenCon (Convention, US, Peter Adkison, Adrian Swartout, et al., 2017) shhh … don’t wake the podcasters … they’re very very tired … shhh –KH & RDL

The Girl With All the Gifts (Film, UK, Colm McCarthy, 2016) The titular girl is Melanie (Sennia Nanua) and among her gifts are politeness, eidetic memory, and symbiosis with the zombie plague. What could have gone wrong or remained routine with a lazier treatment becomes a mythic journey worthy of Matheson and Romero. Gorgeously lensed by Simon Dennis, and surgically scripted by M.R. Carey, this is easily the best zombie film since 28 Days Later. –KH

Recommended

Logan (Film, US, James Mangold, 2017) An aging Wolverine intent on protecting an ailing Professor X becomes grudging protector to a young girl whose healing powers, and claws, echo his own. To make an elegiac super-hero movie, Mangold looks to the elegiac western for a story dense with parental bonds, few of them literal.—RDL

Orphan Black Season 5 (Television, Canada, Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, BBC America) As the supposedly immortal founder of Neolution (Stephen McHattie) steps from the shadows, the clones (Tatiana Maslany) make a final bid for freedom. In a great example of a concluding season done right, the show narrows the focus of its conspiracy plotline and saves plenty of room for character beats.–RDL

Good

By the Gun (Fiction, Richard Matheson, 1993) Reprinting four of Matheson’s Western tales from the 1950s magazines with two more recent stories, this collection shows off a sure hand with plot and character, but without the startling originality of Matheson’s horror and SF. Even in the 1950s, the prose Western was descending into kabuki, though, and these still perform well. –KH

Folktales of Brittany (Nonfiction, Elsie Masson, 1929) Quest and faerie motifs predominate in this selection of folk stories from France’s most distinctively haunted region. Packed with bizarre imagery, told in an accessible if sometimes twee fairy tale voice. If Gary had read this in 1977 we’d all own miniatures of snake-maned lions.—RDL

The Republic of Cthulhu (Nonfiction, Eric Wilson, 2016) Wilson applies somewhat jargon-y theory to Lovecraft, seeing in HPL’s anti-Kantian marriage of the sublime and the grotesque a model or precursor poetics of parapolitics; the recognition that humanism is as dead in political theory as it is in science and art. One doesn’t have to follow Wilson all the way to any of his conclusions (and his gibbering about 9/11 is particularly unproductive) to find valuable insights into Lovecraft’s aesthetics and its commonalities with both clandestine politics and conspiracist poetics. –KH

Engagingly Terrible

The Return of Dr. X (Film, US, Vincent Sherman, 1939) Maverick reporter stumbles onto the trail of a death-reversing doctor and his monstrous first subject (Humphrey Bogart), who happens to be the madder of the two scientists. Wisecracking journalist mystery that takes a swerve into sci-horror is infamous for the worst miscasting in cinema history, saddling Bogey with a role that should have gone to Lorre or Lugosi. It also shows how much assured direction, here from undersung stylist Sherman, can do to turn a nonsense pile of script pages into something watchable.—RDL

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