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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Coogan and Brydon Eat Again

June 2nd, 2020 | 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

Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures (Nonfiction, Adina Hoffman, 2019) Biography applies bracing concision to the many-hatted life of Ben Hecht, whose classic screenplays, and script-doctoring established a barrelful of Hollywood tropes and the entire gangster genre as we know it. Hecht devalued his film work and spoke and wrote of it in scant detail; much of the book concerns his political stances as a firebrand anti-Nazi and enthused supporter of the hardline Irgun group’s terror tactics in pursuit of Israeli statehood. Players and GMs of Cthulhu Confidential’s “The Fathomless Sleep” will raise eyebrows at his friendship and abortive book project with Mickey Cohen. For Dreamhounds of Paris readers there’s the story of how Salvador Dali’s orgasm story got Hecht’s late career TV talk show canceled.—RDL

Dr. Bloodmoney (Fiction, Philip K. Dick, 1965) Survivors of an early 80s nuclear armageddon, including a powerful psychic mutant or three, gravitate toward a small California town that harbors the disaster’s mentally deteriorating engineer. Precisely imagined quotidian detail and a literary fiction structure lend weight to an ultimately trippy post-apocalypse, populated by people united by desperate, guilty selfishness.—RDL

A Shilling for Candles (Fiction, Josephine Tey, 1936) Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant takes the case when a film star is found drowned. Excellent characterization and sly writing make up for a mystery that ends a bit abruptly, after a tour de force by one of Tey’s signature self-possessed adolescent-girl side characters so good that Hitchcock made a movie of that subplot. Probably the best of Tey’s pure police procedurals, as her Pinnacle novel The Daughter of Time is sui generis. –KH

The Trip to Greece (Film, UK, Michael Winterbottom, 2020) “Steve Coogan” (Steve Coogan) and “Rob Brydon” (Rob Brydon) embark on a fourth mission of high-end eating, scenery admiration, dueling impressions and verbal one-upmanship, this time retracing the route of the Odyssey. As the ritual pleasures of the series start to flag, the film shifts into a melancholy meditation on the incongruity of beauty in a time of loss.—RDL

Young and Innocent (Film, UK, Alfred Hitchcock, 1937) Wrongfully accused Robert Tisdall (Derrick de Marney) inveigles the Chief Constable’s daughter Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam) into helping him escape and prove his innocence. Based on a side quest in a Josephine Tey novel (q.v.) it evades strict plausibility on its way to a comic series of increasingly masterful set pieces. [cw: blackface] –KH

Good

Never Have I Ever (Television, US, Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Netflix, 2020) After recovering from psychosomatic paralysis in the wake of her father’s death, brainy high schooler Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) yearns for normalcy—which leads her to ditch her friends in pursuit of her class’ reigning hot dude (Darren Barnet.) An appealing young cast can’t quite sell Kaling’s witty dialogue, pushing the tone into uplifting teen soap territory.—RDL

Okay

Vault (Film, US, Tom DeNucci, 2019) Two lowlife heisters (Theo Rossi and Clive Standen) get tapped by Patriarca mob soldier Gerry Ouimette (Don Johnson) to rob the bonded vault in Providence where the New England Mafia keeps its loot. Based on the real-life 1975 Bonded Vault heist, DeNucci’s film aims for ‘70s grit but achieves only ‘70s inertia. Chazz Palminteri sleepwalks through his part as Patriarca, and the production design likewise gives up halfway through. –KH

Not Recommended

The Last Dance (Film, Japan, Juzo Itami, 1993) A roguish film director (Rentarô Mikuni) reluctantly interrupts filming for medical treatment, the true seriousness of which in keeping with standard Japanese practise, his doctor and long-suffering soon-to-be-ex wife (Nobuko Miyamoto) conceal from him. Every great director has to have a worst film, and for Itami this entry, rendered in a jarring mishmash of tones and featuring a lead character who never earns the sympathy the script extends to him, would be it.—RDL

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