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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Avengers, Trek, Batman and Beyonce

April 30th, 2019 | 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

Homecoming (Film, US, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, 2019) Beyoncé performs at Coachella 2018, backed up by a drum line, marching band, chorus, orchestra, and dancers all from historically black colleges. The audacity of remixing her catalog for brass-and-drum band aside, this spectacular concert film incorporates everything from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to hip-hop to funk in an extravaganza of African-American culture. Add in snippets of Bey’s insane work ethic and inspirational quotes and it’s hard to imagine what to call the result if not a Pinnacle. –KH

Recommended

The Avengers: Endgame (Film, US, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 2019) The Avengers, et al. (Robert Downey, Jr., et al.) seek to reverse Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) destruction of half the life in the universe. Longer than Infinity War but less draggy, the Russos’ second half lands most of 21 movies surprisingly well, while finding genuine character moments for their stars. We don’t really get a great fight scene, but the Russos edit this CGI battle more effectively. In the end, the whole achievement is Recommended for MCU fans — which, don’t kid yourselves, we all are. –KH

Bugsy Malone (Film, US/UK, Alan Parker, 1976) Suave boxing promoter (Scott Baio) romances an aspiring singer (Florence Garland) as a Prohibition gang war rages around him. Gangster homage with an all-kid case changes its nature depending on the viewer’s age. If you first see it as a kid, it’s a beguiling fantasy of kid empowerment. Coming to it as an adult, I see the weirdest, most disorienting entry in the 70s revisionist nostalgia cycle.—RDL

La Chienne (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1931) Staid clerk (Michel Simon) falls for a grisette (Janie Marèse), whose pimp boyfriend (Georges Flamant) encourages her to bleed him dry and pass his paintings off as hers. Mordant, naturalistic drama depicts love as a relationship between exploiter and mark, finding surprising sympathy for characters who are all objectively terrible in one way or another. Learn everything about the difference between France and America by comparing and contrasting with Fritz Lang’s faithful yet very different 1945 remake Scarlet Street.—RDL

Flexie!: All the Same and All Different (Film, Canada, Gary Burns and Donna Brunsdale, 2015) Documentary taps collectors, friends and family to explore the enigmatic allure of paintings by Saskatchewan’s Levine “Flexie” Flexhaug. His pieces, whipped up before patrons’ eyes at a rural gas station, vary a constrained set of stock elements, occupying a blurry boundary between kitsch and folk art.—RDL

Good

Poison People (Fiction, William Haggard, 1977) A coincidental death involves retired Colonel Russell of the Security Executive in a rich MP’s vendetta against an Indian heroin ring. Russell plays a slightly larger part in the plot, but Haggard has clearly hit diminishing returns. Probably only Okay for people not already fond of the series. –KH

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 (Television, US, CBS, Alex Kurtzman, 2019) Mysterious space signals and a search for Spock plunge Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the Discovery crew, now captained by the charismatic Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) into a timey-wimey battle against a genocidal AI. After an inaugural season that withheld the Trekliness, year two reverses course at warp speed to deliver fan service galore, while breaking the record for most McGuffins in a single plotline. Mount’s breakout take on Pike elevates the energetic but muddled results from Okay status.—RDL

Straight Outta Compton (Film, US, F. Gary Gray, 2015) Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) found N.W.A. in Compton and rise to fame, but the system (Paul Giamatti) forces them apart. Gray’s energetic, stylish direction works hard to overcome the rote biopic plot and increasingly hamfisted script. The music, of course, is a standout, especially the concert scenes. –KH

Okay

Visa to Limbo (Fiction, William Haggard, 1978) Surely Colonel Russell is out of foreign dignitaries by now, but no — his upstairs neighbor the Sheik of Alidra leaves London and his mistress. When Russell pursues the latter to Israel he traverses a plot involving the former. A somewhat clever conspiracy (to which Russell remains entirely incidental) is this book’s only real selling point. –KH

Not Recommended

Gotham Season 5 (Television, US, FOX, Bruno Heller, 2019) With the city cut off from the outside world and descending into chaos, heroes and villains team up when it really counts. The bill for mounting a Batman series without Batman in it comes enervatingly due in this final season. Instead of spending twelve episodes somehow doing Year One with a teenage Batman, the show spins its plates as usual, then tacks on an anticlimactic pilot for a show that will never air.—RDL

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