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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Gunslingers Old and New

May 28th, 2019 | 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 Flash Season 5 (Television, US, CW, Todd Helbing, 2018-2019) Barry and Iris adjust to having an adult superhero daughter from the future (Jessica Parker Kennedy) as they hunt the metahuman-murdering Cicada. Some early awkward schtick aside, this season locks into the series tone early and stays in it, lobbing in a few twists on the Big Bad trope along the way.—RDL

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (Film, US, Alex Gibney, 2019) Armed with copious behind-the-scenes footage, documentary recounts the story of fraudulent Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos and its heartstring-tugging, oddball CEO, Elizabeth Holmes. The film shines in its character study of Holmes, showing the spell a fragile, self-caricurating personality can cast on hosts of putatively smart, high-status people.—RDL

Mission Impossible: Fallout (Film, US, Christopher McQuarrie, 2018) Ethan and crew hunt plutonium bomb cores stolen by an old nemesis’ apostles. Demonstrates a deep understanding of iconic hero storytelling, drawing its thrills and twists strictly from the franchise’s core elements.—RDL

Our Betters (Film, US, George Cukor, 1933) Wising up fast after a British Lord marries her for her money, an American heiress (Constance Bennett) becomes a dominating force in the social scene. Most filmed stage adaptations date terribly, but Cukor’s legendary ability to modulate actors’ performances finds the humanity behind the characters’ archness. Original by Somerset Maugham.—RDL

The Villainess (Film, Jeong Byeong-Gil, South Korea, 2017) Trained killer for the Yanbian crime syndicate Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin) gets a second life — as a trained killer for the Korean government, but her past (Shin Ha-kyun) comes back hard. The trail of hyperviolent action and reaction (and the themes of agency and its loss) connects an almost-too-fractured narrative. A double La Femme Nikita adds up to another triumph for South Korean action cinema. –KH

Good

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 4 (Television, US, CW, Phil Klemmer, 2018-2019) The crew’s new mission to capture escaped supernatural creatures dovetails with Constantine’s struggle against a vengeful demon. Cheerfully digs into its grab-bag nature, being somehow a show mostly devoted to goofball comedy that somehow also has a credible version of John Constantine in it.—RDL

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (Film, US, Chad Stahelski, 2019) Now “excommunicado” and an open target for New York’s zillion assassins, super-killer John Wick (Keanu Reeves) attempts to escape long enough to atone for his crime. Blessed by another clutch of superb action scenes, honoring everyone from the Shaw Brothers to Sergio Leone, production-designed to a glorious fare-thee-well by Kevin Kavanaugh — it’s still an essentially pointless side quest. –KH

The Left-Handed Gun (Film, US, Arthur Penn, 1958) Young gunfighter William Bonney (Paul Newman) avenges the death of his boss but alienates his friend Pat Garrett (John Dehner). Gore Vidal’s source teleplay attempts to depict Billy the Kid as a holy fool, but as filmed we get more of a manchild sociopath; both Vidal and Penn mix in a hearty dose of sublimated homosexuality to boot. Still worth watching as psychological document, and as early Paul Newman. –KH

Origin Story (Film, US, Kulap Vilaysack, 2019) Decades after learning of his existence in a childhood argument with her mother, comedy producer and podcaster Vilaysack goes to Laos in search of her biological father. Despite a few strained narrative devices, the emotional layers of its journey into familial truth resonate deeply.—RDL

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