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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hollywood’s Greatest Suave Weasel

June 26th, 2018 | 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

Danger Signal (Film, US, Robert Florey, 1945) Pulp writer who makes his real living swindling and murdering women (Zachary Scott) sets his sights on a staid stenographer (Faye Emerson)—until her prettier, vivacious younger sister, who receives an inheritance when she marries, shows up. Scott, Hollywood’s quintessential suave weasel, gets plenty of room to do his thing as an homme fatale who tempts the female protagonist to moral ruin.—RDL

Kedi (Film, Turkey, Ceyda Torun, 2017) I love a good sense-of-place movie that meanders down or pinwheels above the streets and byways of a great city, and Istanbul ably holds the screen alongside dozens of its feral and semi-domesticated cats. This documentary follows seven cats on their patrols and takes time to talk to the humans who feed, care for, and love them. Kira Fontana’s nimble score perfectly captures the grace and lightness of the subjects, weaving together the perfect chill-out film for cat lovers. –KH

The King is Dead: Studies in the Near Eastern Resistance to Hellenism 334-31 B.C. (Nonfiction, S.K. Eddy, 1961) Even given the paucity of source material and the philhellenic tendencies of the academy, you’d think there would be a more recent postcolonialist study of Alexander’s Successors in the East, but this remains the state of the field. Eddy does a remarkable job weaving the evidence into narrative, using the structure of religious resistance (best typified by the Maccabean Revolt) as his weft. –KH

Little Sister (Fiction, Barbara Gowdy, 2017) Rep cinema owner reacts with alarm when thunderstorms cause her consciousness to project itself, as a passive spectator, into the body of an editor engaged in an affair with a colleague. Contemporary litfic uses its magic realist premise as an entry point into the lives and histories of its characters.—RDL

Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing (Nonfiction, Ben Blatt, 2017) Statistical analysis delves into the texts of English literature’s canonical classics and today’s litfic and best-sellers. In addition to showing how algorithms can identify authorship based on the placement of simple words alone, breaks down favored words by gender, the trend toward simpler reading levels, and post-fame word count bloat.—RDL

They Remain (Film, US, Philip Gelatt, 2018) At the behest of a shadowy corporation, field scientists (William Jackson Harper, Rebecca Henderson) investigate animal behavior anomalies in the forested site of a notorious cult massacre. Slow burn reality horror anchored by the groundedness of Harper’s performance. Based on a Laird Barron novella.—RDL

Veep Season 6 (Television, HBO, David Mandel, 2017) Defeated, with half her team scattered, and facing the horrible prospect of grandmotherhood, Selina struggles to fund her presidential library. With lowered stakes comes ever more vicious satire—yet oddly, a nostalgia for an era when high velocity profanity and backstabbing careerism seemed as bad as DC could get.—RDL

Good

Operation Mekong (Film, China, Dante Lam, 2016) Hard-charging cop (Zhang Hanyu) his new undercover partner (Eddie Peng) lead an expert team to capture the Golden Triangle drug smugglers who massacred Chinese citizens. It’s not just the wild action that’s head-spinning here, but also the demonstration of how seamlessly Hollywood tropes and drug war imagery export themselves to a putatively different propaganda context.—RDL

The Void (Film, Canada, Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, 2016) Cultists trap two cops, a smattering of civilians, and the skeleton staff inside a nearly defunct hospital as Lovecraftian/Barkeresque horrors brew up. Practical effects and a commitment to full-throttle fright acceleration hearken back to 80s horror in this effective film; sketchily drawn characters and a somewhat muddled ending likewise. –KH

Okay

Now You See Me (Film, US, Louis Leterrier, 2013) Four down-and-out magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, and Isla Fisher) follow mysterious instructions to rob from the rich and give to the poor-ish as unshaven FBI agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) fumes impotently in their wake. Brian Tyler’s score and a terrific mano-a-magic fight scene aside, this movie has little to recommend it: Leterrier directs like a Michael Bay wannabe, not the Luc Besson disciple he was, and if a script promises in so many words to outsmart you it shouldn’t be nearly this dumb. That said, a great high concept wasted remains a great high concept. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hollywood’s Greatest Suave Weasel”

  1. Daniel Dover says:

    I was curious to see what you thought of the Void. Glad you liked it!

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