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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Actors, Superheroes and the Most Famous Submarine

June 29th, 2021 | 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.


Burn! (Film, Italy, Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969) To drive the Portuguese from a Caribbean island, a cynical strategist (Marlon Brando) turns a porter (Evaristo Márquez) into an inspirational rebel, who he must later destroy at the behest of his sugar company bosses. Polemical tone poem of colonialism and counterinsurgency draws more than a bit of its operatic scope from the era’s spaghetti westerns.—RDL

The Design and Construction of the Nautilus (Nonfiction, Demetri Capetanopolous, 2018) Reconstruction of Nemo’s submarine based on Verne’s data that attempts to answer: is it a good submarine design? (Yes) Could it have been built in 1865? (Except for the handwaved engines, surprisingly mostly yes) Really Recommended mostly for Nemo completists, but a striking example of one of my favorite exercises: real-world data (Capetanopolous is a former sub captain and engineer) retrofitted into hallmark genre fiction. –KH

The Neighbor Season 2 (Television, Spain, Miguel Esteban & Raúl Navarro, Netflix, 2021) Romantic discord ensues when stumblebum hero Javier (Quim Gutiérrez) discovers that ex-girlfriend Lola (Clara Lago)  can also use his super pills. Looming alien menace nudges the charming comedy shambolism a few inches further into genre territory.—RDL

Nothing Like a Dame (Film, UK, Roger Michell, 2018) Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Eileen Atkins drop by Joan Plowright’s house to tease each other, discuss aging and fame, trade acting shop talk, and roll out the anecdotes. Cozy hangout documentaries like this usually feature male actors, and I was little surprised to realize how little I’ve seen any of these legends interviewed at any length. Smith of course gets off the best line, zinging Plowright’s husband, Larry Olivier.—RDL

Staged Season 1 (Television, UK, Simon Evans, 2020) When the pandemic shuts down a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author, a gormless director (Simon Evans) persuades his leads, the petulant David Tennant (David Tennant) and tetchy Michael Sheen (Michael Sheen) to rehearse remotely. Considerable wit, a couple of superstar cameos, and of course the charm of the stars gleefully sending themselves up, overcomes one’s natural reluctance to sit through Zoom meetings or relive the early months of COVID.—RDL


Project Superpowers Vols 1-3 (Comics, Dynamite, Jim Krueger & Alex Ross & divers hands, 2018-2019) The public-domain superheroes of the 1940s emerge from Pandora’s Urn into a modern dystopia and set about setting things to rights in the overarching frame story of Vol. 1. Vol. 2 focuses on the Black Terror, Vol. 3 on several different heroes and villains, the stories interacting with the frame crossover-style. (The X-Mas Carol and Owl stories in Vol. 3 are Recommended.) Ross’ covers are amazing, as are his art notes in the back, but he primarily acts as co-plotter and art director, so the actual art is kind of all over the place. The story mostly remains Big Reveals About Characters You Barely Remember, to necessarily limited effect, but the second half of Vol. 1 gets close to giddy Bronze Age event comics thrills, and Edgar Salazar’s art lives up to Ross’ potential there too. –KH

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