Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Cinema Purgatorio, Blackbeard, and the Archies

February 6th, 2024 | 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.


Ambulance (Film, US, Michael Bay, 2022) Volatile bank robber (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his reluctantly inveigled Marine vet adopted brother (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) flee a job gone wrong in a hijacked ambulance with a hard nosed paramedic (Eiza González) and wounded cop on board. In a hyper-accelerated thriller that overtly namechecks his pre-Transformers career highlights, Bay shows that a film featuring a 70-minute vehicle chase is the exactly correct assignment for him.—RDL

The Archies (Film, India, Zoya Akhtar, 2023) In the Anglo-Indian town of Riverdale, fickle but beloved 60s teen Archie Andrews toys with the affections of best friends Bettie and Veronica, as the latter’s father schemes to replace their beloved park with a grand hotel. Sustains a sweet nostalgic tone over a 260 minute running time, with choreography and dancing notably better than the Bollywood norm.—RDL

Blackbeard: America’s Most Notorious Pirate (Nonfiction, Angus Konstam, 2006) The closest thing to an academic biography we’re likely to get of a man who left only a legend and a bunch of police reports behind him. Pirate historian Konstam pads out the thin historical record with chapters of Caribbean context; it could perhaps use tighter organization and one more editorial pass but it’s still the best there is on the topic.—KH

Call Me Chihiro (Film, Japan, Rikiya Imaizumi, 2023) An outwardly gregarious, inwardly alienated former massage parlor worker turned bento shop cashier draws a group of lonely people into her orbit. Sympathetic, subtly limned character study of a paradoxical personality.—RDL

Cinema Purgatorio: This Is Sinerama (Comics, Avatar, Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, 2021) Eighteen short (8-page) comics (mostly) recapitulating Hollywood tragedies, from the life of Willis O’Brien or Howard Hughes to the death of Thelma Todd or the Black Dahlia, usually in a style reminiscent of a film. Interspersed media-philosophical comics (and the framing sequence of a damned woman as our audience viewpoint) are clever enough but the real attraction is, e.g., Moore and O’Neill riffing on creative theft in the backstory of Felix the Cat, in the form of an animated cartoon, or telling the story of the Warner Brothers as if they were the Marx Brothers.—KH

The Money (Film, South Korea, So-Dong Kim, 1958) A farmer desperate to raise funds for his daughter’s wedding allows himself to be bullied into reckless gambling by the village loanshark. Rural melodrama uses dramatic irony of knowing better than the protagonist where this is all going to excruciatingly draw out the inevitable hammer blow.—RDL

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Graphic Novel, Bill Griffith, 2019) Loving biographical portrait of the lifelong sideshow performer, best known for his appearance in Freaks, who inspired Griffith’s comics character Zippy.—RDL


Bad Seed (Film, France, Billy Wilder, 1934) Cut off by his wealthy father, a brash spendthrift (Pierre Mingand) throws in with a car theft ring. While fleeing Germany for the US, Wilder stopped in Paris long enough to direct this breezy crime drama, revealing the insouciant cynicism that would come to full flower in his Hollywood classics. Freshly available on Blu Ray in a restored print.—RDL

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