Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Mexican Machen Adaptation, French JFK Paranoia, and Dean Martin in a Flying Saucer

April 2nd, 2024 | 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.


American Fiction (Film, US, Cord Jefferson, 2023) As a scathing joke, a dyspeptic literary author (Jeffrey Wright) whose mom needs expensive care writes a novel packed with demeaning cliches of Black life, only to find an enthusiastic market for it in the white publishing world. Family drama lends emotional weight to a pointed takedown of representation’s cringey side. Witty dialogue is on a downswing in film at the moment so it’s nice to see it revived here.—RDL

I… for Icarus (Film, France, Henri Verneuil, 1979) In an alternate France, a patrician attorney general (Yves Montand) dissents from the whitewashing conclusions of a commission into a Presidential assassination, granting him the right to launch his own investigation. The medium is the conspiracy in this odd, oddly compelling McLuhanesque reconfiguration of the JFK assassination, complete with a detailed recreation of the Milgram Experiment.—RDL

The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales (Film, Mexico, Rogelio A. González, 1960) The neurotic browbeating of his pious, conniving wife (Amparo Rivelles) drives a bibulous taxidermist (Arturo de Córdova) to a desperate act. Satirical, expressionistic Grand Guignol based on Arthur Machen’s The Islington Mystery.—RDL

The Worst Ones (Film, France, Lise Akoka & Romane Gueret, 2022)  Teens from a tough working class neighborhood win roles in a social issue film helmed by a middle-aged first time auteur (Johan Heldenbergh) whose grasp of boundaries isn’t as secure as he wants to think. Neorealist drama featuring intense performances from its young cast questions the ethics of its genre tradition.—RDL


The Ambushers (Film, US, Henry Levin, 1967) Counter-spy Matt Helm (Dean Martin) escorts US saucer pilot Sheila Sommers (Janice Rule) into Mexico to recover her hijacked saucer and ID the hijacker. The Matt Helm movies are best enjoyed as period pieces by those who consider the Roger Moore Bond to be too grim and gritty, but Sheila has genuine agency and competence, a standout amongst the beer fights and brassiere guns. The UFO adds another nicely surreal touch to the sight of Dean Martin lounging through alleged action scenes.—KH

The Big Shot (Film, US, Lewis Seiler, 1942) Betrayed by the fancy lawyer who married his girl (Irene Manning), an ex-con with a secret conscience (Humphrey Bogart) returns to prison for an armored car heist he decided not to go through with. Bogie and Seiler give their best to a routine script.—RDL


Risen (Film, US/Spain, Kevin Reynolds, 2016) In occupied Judea, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) orders Roman tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) to recover the body of a crucified Nazarene radical, which has vanished from its tomb. The first half of the movie is a taut, intriguing “Zero (A.D.) Dark Thirty” War on Terror parable with a touch of X-Files; the second half is Clavius’ internalizing his new faith in the (spoiler) risen Christ (Cliff Curtis), basically bringing the narrative to a dead halt. This could have been great if it were all the first half, though at the cost of many fewer copies of the Blu-Ray sold to church media rooms.—KH

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