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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Chris Rock, Czech SF, and the Science of Flavor

March 21st, 2023 | 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.


Chris Rock: Selective Outrage (Standup, US, Netflix, Joel Gallen, 2023) The first three-quarters of this show are “merely” classic-style Chris Rock material (race, sex, family), which is to say a top-three standup doing a somewhat familiar sounding set. The last ten minutes or so, however, respond to the infamous Slap, and here Rock really gets angry again, and as fresh and compelling as when I first heard him. –KH

Desperate Journey (Film, US, Raoul Walsh, 1942) Heroic RAF pilot (Errol Flynn) leads downed comrades (Ronald Reagan, Arthur Kennedy, Alan Hale) to swipe Nazi secrets and escape Germany. Treats a then-current crisis as fodder for rip-roaring adventure, demonstrating the wise-ass sangfroid that won the propaganda war for America.—RDL

Flavor:The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense (Nonfiction, Bob Holmes, 2017) Survey of recent science covers the physiology of taste and the chemistry of the compounds that excite it. My favorite factoids concerns the presence of taste receptors in such disparate parts of the body as the gut and lungs.—RDL

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (Film, UK, Sophie Hyde, 2022) Inhibited former schoolteacher (Emma Thompson) hires a hunky, kindly sex worker (Daryl McCormack) for a long overdue introduction to pleasurable intimacy. Dialogue-driven two-hander drama was written for the screen using a playwright’s techniques.—RDL

Smilin’ Through (Film, US, Frank Borzage, 1941) Young woman (Jeanette MacDonald) must choose between the beloved uncle who raised her (Brian Aherne) and her American beau (Gene Raymond), whose father killed the former’s bride on their wedding day. Borzage’s emotional commitment, plus touches of the gothic, elevate the third screen version of a once-popular stage melodrama. This is a MacDonald vehicle, so steel yourself for plenty of her dated operetta-style singing.—RDL

Spinning the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women (Film, South Korea, Lee Doo-yong, 1983) The suffering of a daughter of poor nobles begins when she joins a rich family as wife of their deceased son. Restrained period melodrama of social injustice builds to a hammer blow conclusion.—RDL


Ikarie XB-1 (Film, Czechoslovakia, Jindřich Polák, 1963) In 2163, the first interstellar starship heads for Alpha Centauri. Neither cheap nor clunky despite its Eastbloc origin, it plays out (somewhat languidly and sententiously) as a proto-Star Trek, as various puzzles and dangers await our multinational crew. Its final act aims for pure scientific wonder, which sets it intellectually (if not dramatically) above virtually all SF films before Kubrick’s 2001, which it clearly influenced. –KH

Knock at the Cabin (Film, US, M. Night Shyamalan, 2023) The vacation of eight-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) and her two dads (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) gets interrupted by the arrival of Leonard (Dave Bautista) and his apocalypse-fearing cult. Despite an actually convincing performance from Bautista, Shyamalan doesn’t hit the needed balance between ambiguity and suspense, thus sort of spoiling his own trick. Jarin Blaschke and Lowell Meyer’s beautiful cinematography continue Shyamalan’s commendable record of not making ugly films, whatever their other flaws. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Chris Rock, Czech SF, and the Science of Flavor”

  1. Tom Vallejos says:

    Love “Desperate Journey”. Great banter among the leads. Reagan and Kennedy in their last civilian acting appearances before they spend the rest of the war making training films for the USAAF stand up well against Errol Flynn. Hale, as the overaged aerial gunner, gives a good performance as the comrade in arms and comic relief.

    Canadian-born Raymond Massey chews up scenery as the villain who screwed up by letting our heroes escape.

    One of the first movies to show that not all Germans were Nazis.

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