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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dumb Nose, Fake Beard

December 10th, 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.

Recommended

She Died a Lady (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1943) An apparent suicide pact in a small Devonshire village reveals itself as murder — or does it? Sir Henry Merrivale investigates, but the narrator, the elderly town doctor, has his own ideas. Carr’s slow burn and oblique narration prefigures P.D. James’ humane mysteries, while still providing plenty of clues and actually amusing Merrivale hijinks this time out. –KH

The White Priory Murders (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1934) A classic Carr impossible crime — how could movie starlet Marcia Tate have been killed in the pavilion house in the middle of a frozen pond covered with unmarked snow? Henry Merrivale in pre-slapstick mode, a classic Old Dark House cast, and a sheerly terrific solution make this a neglected near-top-tier Carr. –KH

Good

Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (Film, Australia, Serge Ou, 2019) Clips and talking head interviews survey martial arts cinema as an irresistible force for cultural diffusion. This thesis results in a highly selective history, for example spending a segment on Bruce Lee imitators while failing to mention King Hu by name, so treat as a starting point rather than a comprehensive treatment.—RDL

Stars in My Crown (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1950) Affable but tough-minded Civil War vet turned preacher (Joel McCrea) clashes with a rigid young doctor (James Mitchell) and stands up to the Klan. Slice of small town Americana, based on a novel, represents an unusual example of explicitly Christian liberalism in Hollywood, and a stylistic departure from a director better known for noir and his horror collaborations with Val Lewton.—RDL

Unstoppable (Film, South Korea, Kim Min-ho, 2018) Former gangster (Dong-seok Ma) calls on his indomitable punching skills when a maniacal sex trafficker (Seong-oh Kim) kidnaps his wife (Ji-Hyo Song.) Tackles the time-honored tropes of the messed-with-the-wrong-guy sub-genre with energetic brio.—RDL

Okay

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Film, US, Simon Kinberg, 2019) When a strange energy enters mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) on a mission in space, it unleashes her full potential and reveals Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) shenanigans. Splosions ensue. Cue a bunch of adequate mutant fights, hampered by everyone involved being kind of tired and one of those “explain your emotions again” scripts. I’m still angry at Bryan Singer for not making this movie in 2006 when he could have; this classic comics arc deserves much better. –KH

Not Recommended

All is True (Film, UK, Kenneth Branagh, 2018) After the Globe Theatre burns down, Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh in a dumb nose and fake beard) returns home to Stratford and his neglected wife (Judi Dench cashing a check) and daughters. This is the kind of movie where Branagh holds lovingly on a shot of a swan swimming up the Avon. On the (ridiculous, false) nose, in other words. Ben Elton’s “today is trauma discussion day” script insults the very idea of Shakespeare with double, no, triple daddy issues. A scene where the now too old to be sonneted Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen) recites the sonnet Shakespeare wrote for him as a kissoff is the only good thing in the movie. –KH

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