Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Apatow/Davidson, Olivia de Havilland and a Book Ken is Surprised He Hadn’t Read

August 4th, 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 Key to Rebecca (Fiction, Ken Follett, 1980) British Major Vandam hunts German spy Alex Wolff, infiltrated into Egypt and transmitting British troop positions to Rommel. Superb cat-and-also-cat thriller well told against a lively, real-seeming 1942 Cairo, based (very loosely) on the (completely unsuccessful) Abwehr Operation CONDOR. No, I don’t know how I never read this earlier, either. –KH

The King of Staten Island (Film, US, Judd Apatow, 2020) Self-acknowledged screwup (Pete Davidson) faces a threat to his directionless routine when his mom (Marisa Tomei) finds romance with a gruff fireman (Bill Burr.) Tighter, more cinematically burnished take on Apatow’s recurring theme of arrested maturity, this time with mental illness and unprocessed grief offering more somber and naturalistic causes for the protagonist’s dilemma.—RDL

Meditation Park (Film, Canada, Mina Shum, 2018) Vancouver grandmother (Cheng Pei Pei) questions her lifelong deference to her stubborn husband (Tzi Ma) after finding a pair of panties in his jacket. Sweetly affirming drama of sexagenerian feminist awakening offers a chance to see Shaw Brothers legend Cheng touchingly take on a naturalistic leading role.—RDL


Four’s a Crowd (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1938) PR man (Errol Flynn) schemes to force philanthropy on a cantankerous industrialist, spurring a romantic quadrangle between himself, a bubbly heiress (Olivia de Havilland), a scoop-hungry reporter (Rosalind Russell) and a callow publisher (Patrick Knowles.) Affable screwball comedy doesn’t quite escalate the way it should but finds some laughs along the way, with charming stars and a charming dog.—RDL

The Great Garrick (Film, US, James Whale, 1937) Egotistical acting great David Garrick (Brian Aherne) goes to a French inn knowing that members of the Comedie Francaise are posing as its staff in an elaborate plot to humiliate him, mistaking a real fugitive noblewoman (Olivia de Havilland) for one of the hoaxsters. Historical farce gives its cast a stage to delightedly lean into tongue-in-cheek ham performances. The script does handwave away the resolution of its conflict though.—RDL


The Business of Drugs (Television, Netflix, 2020) Former CIA analyst Amaryllis Fox hosts this documentary series, traveling to various narcotrafficking hotspots and interviewing drug dealers and interdictors alike. Fox notes developments with alarm but presents only isolated nuggets of data; the first episode (on the cocaine trade) is the most rigorous but still offers little more than platitudes. Incoherent (over-regulation hampers legal cannabis, but under-regulation caused the opioid epidemic) and superficial, worth watching for Night’s Black Agents Directors for the location shots and interviews only. –KH

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