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Ken and Robin Consume Media: American Pickle, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and Iconic Michael Caine

August 11th, 2020 | 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

An American Pickle (Film, US, Brandon Trost, 2020) After an entirely scientifically plausible freak pickling accident in 1920, a pugnacious Jewish immigrant (Seth Rogen) wakes up today and decides to shake his great-grandson (Seth Rogen), a water-treading app developer, from his stasis. Battle of the generations comedy dishes out satire with a heart. Structurally remarkable for its tight focus on just the two Rogen characters. If this had gone through a theatrical development process instead of made-for-streaming, it surely would have had a girlfriend and several confidant characters shoehorned in.—RDL

Damascus Gate (Fiction, Robert Stone, 1998) An American journalist in Jerusalem’s research into a newly forming cult of apocalyptic mystics stumbles onto a murky scheme to blow up the Temple Mount. Literary thriller methodically establishes a naturalistic vantage on its setting and characters before escalating the suspenseful final act.—RDL

Funeral in Berlin (Film, UK, Guy Hamilton, 1966) British spy Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) arranges the defection of KGB Colonel Stock (Oscar Homolka) from East Berlin despite his misgivings. Helmed by former British naval intelligence agent Hamilton and filmed very much on location in Berlin, this borderline noir is by far the most realistic of the three Harry Palmer movies. Caine’s suspicious yet cool, ironic performance delightfully bounces off his supercilious boss, an Israeli honey trap, and various weaselly Germans. Kudos to Hamilton and producer Harry Saltzman for straightforwardly adapting Len Deighton’s byzantine, excellent novel. –KH

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark (Television, US, HBO, Liz Garbus, 2020) Docu-series studies the cold case hunt, energized by true crime writer Michelle McNamara, for a shockingly prolific rapist and serial killer who stalked 70s Northern California. Masterfully weaves together multiple narratives: the procedural elements of the investigation; the experiences of surviving victims; the grief of McNamara’s husband Patton Oswalt after her sudden death; and most of all, an inquiry into the contradictory appeal of the true crime genre itself.—RDL

Ministry of Fear (Film, US, Fritz Lang, 1944) Released from an insane asylum, Stephen Neale (Ray Milland in top form) impulsively visits the village fete and steps into a web of Nazi conspiracy. Lang punctuates his visual paranoia with wartime blackouts and sudden death from Blitz and betrayal alike. Based on my favorite of Graham Greene’s novels, the film doesn’t live up either to its source or its director’s potential, but enough remains of their twin nightmares to captivate and surprise. –KH

Good

The Old Guard (Film, US, Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2020) Immortal, fast-regenerating good-guy mercs led by Andromache herself (Charlize Theron) fight their way out of a trap sprung by a megalomaniacal pharma exec. Presents an appealing character ensemble but keeps stopping the action-thriller in its tracks to deliver extended and mostly irrelevant exposition from the originating comic book.—RDL

The Wild Geese (Fiction, Daniel Carney, 1977) After failing to protect his client, former Congolese leader Limbani, mercenary colonel Faulkner gets one last chance to rescue him from a firing squad. Based on a rumored escape attempt by actual Congolese leader Moise Tshombe, this novel’s strengths are realistic portraits of psychologically broken mercs, mission planning, and jungle combat. The prose, sadly, turns flat and mawkish when it’s not describing violence. Worth a read for Fall of DELTA GREEN background. –KH

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: American Pickle, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and Iconic Michael Caine”

  1. Julian says:

    Glad to see Ken has finally seen Funeral In Berlin. It’s my favorite spy film ever.

  2. Sophia says:

    Thank you for this great information! “American Pickle”
    Immortality & Science forum: https://bilimyurt.com
    please accept thanks

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