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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Double Pinnacle Week

March 7th, 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

Ghettoside (Nonfiction, Jill Leovy, 2015) Amid a murder epidemic, LAPD detectives fight through widespread institutional neglect to find and convict the killers of a fellow cop’s son. Powerfully observed fly-on-the-wall journalism argues that failure to prioritize murder investigation in high-crime, segregated neighborhoods ensures the continuance of a vendetta culture that keeps the bodies dropping. Belongs on your true crime shelf right next to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.—RDL

Zodiac (Director’s Cut) (Film, US, David Fincher, 2007) One of the three best movies in a stellar film year reached almost Lovecraftian depths, showing how even glancing encounters with merely human evil deranged or destroyed almost everyone involved in the investigation of the Zodiac killer. Fortunately, the real case history allowed a somewhat more upbeat ending. The Director’s Cut expands the running time by 5 minutes (to 2hrs 43mins) and adds one good character scene and one magnificent procedural scene, as SFPD detectives try to convince an unseen DA over a speakerphone to seek a search warrant. –KH

Recommended

The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Film, West Germany, Fritz Lang, 1960) Commissioner Kras (Gert Fröbe) is out of his depth when a new series of crimes committed by Dr. Mabuse — the long-dead mastermind from Lang’s earlier films — roils Berlin, centered around the weird Hotel Luxor. Lang’s last film trusts a dizzying overlay of eye imagery, antiphonal dialogue, and dissembling characters to exalt a B-movie plot and scanty postwar budget. Its themes of surveillance paranoia and manipulation remain current even though its style can seem flat and outmoded. –KH

Korengal (Film, US, Sebastian Junger, 2014) Three years after their deployment to Afghanistan’s Korengal valley, current and former members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade reflect on their war experiences. Revisits the events of the director’s 2010 doc Restrepo by shifting the focus to the personalities and responses of the people inside the uniforms.—RDL

The Lego Batman Movie (Film, US, Chris McKay, 2017) As more super-villains than you can fit in a single toybox attack Gotham City, a solipsistic Batman (Will Arnett) discovers that the only butt he can’t kick is that of his own loneliness. A hilarious examination of the Batman mythos for deep-dive comic fans in the guise of a frenetic, color-saturated kiddie extravaganza. Most recondite insider reference, narrowly beating out the shark repellent gag: casting Doug Benson as Bane. The kids in the audience really wanted to help Batman when he had trouble saying the word “sorry.”—RDL

Good

The Final Girls (Film, US, Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends find themselves trapped in the 1986 slasher film her mom (Malin Akerman) starred in. Strong performances by Farmiga and Akerman power an engaging meta roller coaster, but the story and production design aren’t as tight as they might be. Gregory James Jenkins does right by the “ode to ‘80s soundtracks” score, though. –KH

Room (Film, Canada/Ireland, Lenny Abrahamson, 2015) When her son (Jacob Tremblay) turns five, a desperate mother (Brie Larson) imprisoned in a shed for seven years by a sexual predator plots their escape. Intense performances an acute directorial sense for spaces large and small stand out, even if its handling of the final story escalation lacks the care and credibility that characterizes the rest of the script.—RDL

Okay

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons (Nonfiction, Jeffro Johnson, 2017) Compilation of game-advice, critical, and ludohistorical blog entries inspired by or reacting to titles and authors in Gary Gygax’ ‘Appendix N’ to the AD&D DMG. I’m broadly sympathetic to Johnson’s grumpy conservatism, and likely guilty of the same structural sins in my own lit-crit-book-from-blog, so I won’t address those. It does need a stronger edit for misprints and malapropisms, but its real value depends on where you are in your own reading. If, like they were for Johnson, Fritz Leiber and Tarzan are unexplored country for you, this is Recommended; for me, it was Okay. –KH

Ire-Inspiring

Sherlock Season 4 (TV, BBC, Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss, 2017) Overlong, overwritten, overclever, and just generally over. Moffat & Gatiss split this season between trying to undo the damage they inflicted on the iconic characters in previous seasons and opening new wounds. Even more than in earlier seasons, the mysteries take a distant back seat to cheap character tricks, ever-lazier scripting, showy SFX, and pointless reveals; only Benedict Cumberbatch’s mulish dedication to the Holmes part keeps the show watchable at all. –KH

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