Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Cozy Spies and Underground Bunkers

March 20th, 2018 | 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.


Brigsby Bear (Film, US, Dave McCary, 2017) Man (Kyle Mooney) reunited with his biological family after being raised in an underground bunker by the couple (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams) who kidnapped him as a baby resolves to create a final episode of the weirdo kid’s show they made to mold him into a mathematician. Dark, bizarre comedy premise realized with a surprising sweetness and generosity of characterization.—RDL

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Film, US, Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014) In a desolate Iranian city, a young man with a junkie father crosses paths with a chador-clad, skateboarding vampire girl. Hip and haunting mood piece scores with commanding widescreen compositions, tension-filled stillness, and b&w photography done right.—RDL


Confession (Film, US, Joe May, 1937) Nightclub chanteuse (Kay Francis) refuses to reveal why she shot a caddish composer (Basil Rathbone) as he made a play for a naive music student (Jane Bryan.) Swirling his camera positions like a proto-Scorsese, May lets the melodrama fly, arcing from fizzy Continental confection to expressionistic dread . When Basil Rathbone gets shot dead by a woman at the end of the first act, the question is not whether he deserved it, but how.—RDL

Slow Burner (Fiction, William Haggard, 1958) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must trace the source of a mysterious radiation signal near London despite bureaucratic interference. If there is a spy novel equivalent of the “cozy mystery” this is it, concerned as much with suits, furniture, and good breeding as it is with the almost abstract threat of Russians or nuclear science. Haggard was praised for writing “Bond novels from M’s perspective” — his first novel doesn’t live up to that billing, but the tone shows originality and the plot shows promise. –KH

This is Not What I Expected (Film, Hong Kong/China, Derek Hui, 2017) Control freak hotel tycoon (Takeshi Kaneshiro) doesn’t suspect that the chef whose food obsesses him is also the irrepressible young woman (Dongyu Zhou) who draws him into a chaos and humiliation whenever they meet. Movie stars being charming, mouth-watering food scenes and an adorable pooch—what else do you need from a romantic comedy?—RDL

Venetian Blind (Fiction, William Haggard, 1959) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must find the source of the leak in Britain’s Negative Gravity research, while training his own replacement — the secret rival of the program’s lead engineer. Another cozy spy thriller, with the same abstract air and focus on personalities and bureaucracy over action as his debut. This one has a strong plot with rather a nice ending. –KH


10 Cloverfield Lane (Film, US, Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) Aspiring fashion designer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in an underground bunker, whose tightly-wound prepper owner (John Goodman) claims that civilization has been destroyed above them. Not so much a genre mash-up as three acts of expected confinement thriller beats duct-taped to the end of a kaiju flick. Great to see Goodman given the space to layer one of his ogre characters, though.—RDL

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Cozy Spies and Underground Bunkers”

  1. Peter Hentges says:

    Why do I think I watched A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night a couple of years ago at your recommendation? Maybe it was Ken that saw it at the time. In any case, enjoyed that one quite a bit.

    I think I like 10 Cloverfield Lane more than you did by disassociating it from the previous film. Without that reference, the script did more to keep me guessing as to whether Goodman’s character’s foibles had a rational basis.

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