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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Attica, Spencer, Power of the Dog, Cyrano

March 29th, 2022 | 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

Attica (Film, US, Stanley Nelson Jr. & Traci A. Curry, 2021) Archival footage and participant interviews, including many with survivors who have not previously spoken of the incident, retells the step-by-step of the 1971 prison takeover and ensuing massacre of prisoners and hostages. Unflinching in its graphic depiction of the event’s aftermath, particularly the guards’ sadistic degradation of inmates when they retook control.—RDL

Spencer (Film, UK/US/Germany/Chile, Pablo Larraín, 2021) Ten years into her marriage to philandering cold fish Charles (Jack Farthing), Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) shows up at Sandringham to submit to the many humiliations of Christmas weekend with the family. Crack-up drama veers at times into Polanskian psychological horror, powered by Stewart’s live-wire energy and Larraín’s knack for keeping the problems of the biopic out of his historical character studies.—RDL

Good

The Power of the Dog (Film, NZ/Greece/UK/US/Australia, Jane Campion, 2021) In 1925 Montana, artsy misfit Pete (Kodi Smit-McPhee) finds his mother’s (Kirsten Dunst) new cattle-ranch household nigh-intolerable, especially her sadistic brother-in-law Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch). This Western Gothic relies on increasing the intensity of fundamentally one-note characters rather than adding layers or dimensionality. Cinematographer Ari Wegner and composer Jonny Greenwood go all-out on that intensity, though, producing an exceptional sensorium. –KH

Okay

Cyrano (Film, US, Joe Wright, 2021) In 1640 Paris, an eloquent but disregarded guard commander (Peter Dinklage) helps a handsome subordinate (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) woo the woman (Haley Bennett) he loves. Casting Dinklage as Cyrano is a brilliant move; expecting him to carry a musical, not so much. Exactly one number, with Glen Hansard, Sam Amidon, and Scott Folan, features great singing.—RDL

Not Recommended

Nightmare Alley (Film, US, Guillermo del Toro, 2021) Man on the run Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) goes from carny to mentalist, and into a hell of his own making. Shifting from the moral and psychological spiral of the ‘47 version to a fairy tale about ignoring warnings, del Toro stands back in judgment of his protagonist and bids the audience to do the same. When a remake is more obvious than its predecessor, it shouldn’t also be longer. The production design does provide a beguiling environment for the viewer to prowl around in, though.—RDL

Incomplete

Dune (Film, US, Denis Villenueve, 2021) Scion of an interstellar warrior trading clan (Timothée  Chalamet) discovers his budding messiah status when his family is assigned a dangerous commodities monopoly on an even more dangerous desert planet. If you like the feeling that your wifi has cut out in the middle of streaming a five-hour mini-series, this visually absorbing effort is for you.—RDL

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