Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dune, Monarch, Monsieur Spade

March 19th, 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.


Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (Television, US, Apple+, Chris Black, 2023) Kaiju-traumatized teacher (Anna Sawai) and failed artist (Ren Watabe) discover that they are half-siblings and that their supposedly dead father had yet another secret life as a monster hunter, which leads them to the cashiered co-founder of his former organization (Kurt Russell), whose backstory is told in flashback, with Wyatt Russell taking on his role. Though the latter-day sequences over-rely on changes in allegiance to keep the plot gyrating, the flashback half satisfyingly backfills the Monsterverse continuity. Wyatt Russell embraces the stunt casting with a dead-on version of his dad’s mannerisms and then transcends it, bringing human pathos and longing to all the monstering. Godzilla occasionally pops by, like the Cigarette Smoking Man or Newman, to inject a jolt of energy.—RDL


Along with Ghosts (Film, Japan, Kimiyoshi Yasuda & Yoshiyuki Kuroda, 1969) In samurai-era Japan, supernatural beings come to the aid of a little girl on the run from curse-flouting yakuza. According to the essential metric of how many cool yokai are onscreen doing cool yokai things, the last film in the Yokai Monsters trilogy receives the lowest marks.—RDL

Badland Hunters (Film, South Korea, Heo Myeong Haeng, 2024) In post-catastrophic Seoul, an ex-boxer (Ma Dong-Seok) sets out to rescue a young neighbor (No Jeong-ee) from the clutches of a bioengineering cult leader. In this first film from a fight choreographer, the action direction outshines everything else, giving Ma plenty of people to punch but nothing to play.—RDL

Ballerina (Film, South Korea, Chung-Hyun Lee, 2023) Ex-bodyguard (Jeon Jong-seo) arms up for revenge against the traffickers who killed her best friend. Applies a gloss of Ridley Scott style to a straightforward vigilante actioner with an exploitation movie ethos.—RDL


Dune: Part Two (Film, US, Denis Villeneuve, 2024) Genetic messiah Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) goes native on Arrakis, worried that embracing his destiny means galactic war. Like most second halves of movies, this coasts on the intrigue and buy-in created in the first half; only the Harkonnen home planet gives us anything new or interesting. Unlike Rebecca Ferguson, Chalamet isn’t a strong enough actor to hold his half together even against a deliberately nerfed Emperor (Christopher Walken). The inevitable (and invited) comparison to Lean’s Pinnacle Lawrence of Arabia does Villeneuve no favors either; I presume if I watched both halves of Dune together in IMAX it would come out a high Good.—KH

Not Recommended

Monsieur Spade (Television, US/France, Scott Frank & Tom Fontana, 2024) Former private detective Sam Spade (Clive Owen), now retired to a small French town on his late wife’s estate, must pick up the gun again when he is drawn into a case involving a missing Algerian boy, murdered nuns, and the daughter (Cara Bossom) of former flame Brigid O’Shaunessy. The first five episodes establish Owen as a convincing Spade who references Bogart without imitating him and places the character in a refreshing new context. Then the finale sidelines him, parachutes in a deus ex machina who does nothing and solves nothing, and otherwise places the series in the all-time Terrible Endings Hall of Fame right next to Lost and Game of Thrones.—RDL

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