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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Watchmen, Birds of Prey and Barry

February 25th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Watchmen (Television, US, HBO, Damon Lindelof, 2019) In an alternate present where Tulsa cops wear masks, the detective known as Sister Night (Regina King) investigates the death of her superior, leading to a bizarre conspiracy involving past generations of costumed adventurers and vigilantes. Densely layered, inventive, and packed with outre images and narrative surprises, this sequel to the original comic book shows a rare ability to build anew on the mythology of an existing work without just recapitulating it.—RDL

Recommended

Barry Season 2 (Television, US, HBO, Alec Berg & Bill Haider, 2019) As hitman-turned-actor Barry (Haider) tries to put his old career behind him its consequences keep catching up. Two manic episodes punctuate a turn for the interior, as the show attempts to dig deeper into its characters while still honoring the ridiculous situation they find themselves in. Not as fresh as Season 1, but still capable of surprise and shock. –KH

I Walk Alone (Film, US, Byron Haskin, 1947) Hair-trigger ex-bootlegger (Burt Lancaster) returns from a lengthy prison stint to discover that his proudly manipulative partner (Kirk Douglas) has no intention of honoring their fifty-fifty deal on his now successful club. Character-driven noir features Lizabeth Scott’s best performance as the perceptive chanteuse who forms the third point of the Lancaster-Douglas triangle.—RDL

Saint Jack (Film, US, Peter Bogdonavich, 1979) Bluffly charming expat panderer (Ben Gazzara) discovers that his ambitions to set up a bordello in wild early 70s Singapore run through the CIA. Atmospheric study of character, time, and place from the waning days of the American New Wave, co-written from his novel by Paul Theroux. Though even its thriller elements are played for mood, not suspense, the background details would be eminently mineable by Fall of Delta Green Handlers.—RDL

Good

Birds of Prey (Film, US, Cathy Yan, 2020) Dumped by the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) picks up the pieces and finds female friendship during a Gotham gangland takeover by Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Intermittently delightful fights and banter mesh only somewhat with a Gotham City gang story: Looney Tunes and DC have very different cartoon flavors that Yan and the script don’t always bridge or blend. Hong Kong does this stuff so effortlessly that it’s weird to see someone work this hard at it. –KH

John Carter (Film, US, Andrew Stanton, 2012) Former Confederate cavalryman John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) teleports to Mars and rescues Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and her planet from their fate. Remarkably decent adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel even manages to touch on the weird Theosophical flavor that powers it; Recommended for Burroughs fans. I suspect that for others, it’s a little too big and loose despite a Michael Chabon turn on the script. –KH

Two Men in Manhattan (Film, France, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959) The search for a French ambassador missing from his UN post takes two of his countrymen, a hangdog reporter (Melville) and a boozehound photographer (Pierre Grasset) on a journey through the nighttime world of New York. A thin reed of a plot strings together episodes of beguiling crime jazz cool.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Watchmen, Birds of Prey and Barry”

  1. Hank Harwell says:

    I rather liked John Carter. I had hoped that Disney would have done better by it, but as we now know, they were in negotiations to purchase Lucasfilm. They most likely weren’t interested in investing in two space operas.

    But the Burroughs connection, I think could have made it a hit. And I’ve not read Burroughs.

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