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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Baroque Power Games and a Noir Western

January 8th, 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

The Favourite (Film, UK, Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018) Young, fallen ex-noblewoman (Emma Stone) seeks a restoration in status by serving her cousin, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), domineering confidant to the sickly and querulous Queen Anne (Olivia Colman.) Armed with a scabrously witty script drawing from only the finest historical slanders, Lanthimos’ fisheye lens finds in early 18th century court intrigue the ideal venue for his fascination with perverse power rituals.—RDL

Recommended

The Favourite (Film, UK, Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018) The high-handed Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) finds her long-assured position as lover and favourite to the childish Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) under threat when her scheming cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) enters the fisheye-lensed picture. Lanthimos plays a little too fast and loose with tone (and history) for his tale of corrupt power to fully strike home, but even his near miss refreshes and stuns. All three stars rise to the occasion in an acting feast. –KH

Romancing in Thin Air (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 2012) Jilted movie star (Louis Koo) retreats in a drunken stupor to a remote mountain inn near Kunming, whose no-nonsense proprietor (Sammi Cheng) harbors a deep wound meted out by the surrounding, trackless woods. Romantic drama, more somber than his other commercial romances, gives To a space to limn the relationship between landscape and character.—RDL

Station West (Film, US, Sidney Lanfield, 1948) On the hunt for gold thieves, an army intelligence officer (Dick Powell) shows up at a saloon run by an alluring singer (Jane Greer), posing as  a troublemaking drifter. Transposes hardboiled detective tropes to a western setting, with barbed dialogue, noirish lighting, and Powell recalling his turn as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet.—RDL

Good

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet (Season 12) (Television, Netflix, Joel Hodgson et al., 2018) Jonah and the bots watch six bad films in a row, from Mac and Me to Ator. The “in a row” conceit never goes anywhere, but the mad scientists’ idiocy feels about right this time around. The riffs remain sporadic, but some of them show flashes of the old madness. –KH

The Whites (Fiction, Richard Price, 2015) NYPD Night Watch commander suspects that someone is bumping off the unarrested nemeses—the titular whales—of his ex-comrades from a 90s run-and-gun squad. Price adds a suspense element to the observational cop novel he specializes in, without compressing the pacing as that unforgiving sub-genre demands.—RDL

Okay

Aquaman (Film, US, James Wan, 2018) Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) reluctantly heads to his mother’s Atlantean birthplace to avert a war with the surface world. Lazy scavenger hunt plot construction and a tsunami of exposition drain energy needed to loft its go-for-broke spectacle.—RDL

Doctor Who Season 11 (Television, UK, BBC, Chris Chibnall, 2018) The latest incarnation of the time-traveling problem solver (Jodie Whitaker) gathers a trio of Sheffieldians to meet historical figures, save the residents of imperiled installations and run from monsters. Whitaker’s joyful take on the character’s iconic ethos is the standout element of an often flat series operating under a back-to-basics mandate. Where other post-revival Whos find an emotional core in the relationship between Doctor and companion, this one shifts that to the surrogate granddad/grandson pairing within the trio of sidekicks, leaving her a warm but distant figure.—RDL

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