Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Everybody’s in L.A., Unfrosted, and Hamburger America

May 14th, 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.


The Blood of Wolves (Film, Japan, Kazuya Shiraishi, 2018) Idealistic rookie detective learns the ropes of anti-yakuza policing from a charismatic, bribe-accepting veteran partner (Koji Yakusho) who makes his own rules. Tough, cynical cops versus gangs policier edges into extreme cinema territory with explicit depictions of torture and degradation.—RDL

Death in the Garden (Film, France/Mexico, Luis Buñuel, 1956) A rebellion of foreign diamond miners against corrupt local officials in a South American nation sends disparate fugitives, including a hard bitten adventurer (George Marchal), a mercenary brothel owner (Simone Signoret) and a meddling priest (Michel Piccoli) into the jungle depths. A big budget action-adventure flick in glorious 50s color makes for an odd entry in Buñuel’s filmography, with his touch seen in its caustic character portrayals.—RDL

Everybody’s in LA (Television, Netflix, John Mulaney, 2024) For six nights, John Mulaney deconstructs the talk show by hosting a careening, overstuffed live version of one, usually reaching eight or nine guests cross-talking and obliterating the alleged topic, something about Los Angeles. The filmed “slice of LA life” segments succeed remarkably, the taped comedy lands sporadically. As much as I want to see a second series (Lotsa People in Chicago?) too much practice would ruin its shambolic vibe.—KH

Hamburger America (Film, US, George Motz, 2004) “Burger scholar” Motz interviews owners and grill cooks (often the same people) at eight historic (multi-decade to century-plus) burger joints across America. The documentary winds up being a paean to small business as much as grilled beef, not least because two of the burgers (Dyer’s in Memphis and Ted’s in Connecticut) don’t grill their burgers. Motz’ YouTube schtick is thankfully absent; we neither see nor hear him, just the burger makers speaking for themselves and for history.—KH

I Could Go On Singing (Film, UK/US, Ronald Neame, 1963) Troubled, charismatic American singer (Judy Garland) bulldozes her way back into the life of a staid ex-lover (Dirk Bogarde) to get close to the son she gave up to him and promised never to try to see. Fiction and autobiography intertwine as Garland plays a version of her damaged, late-career self in a well-crafted melodrama with then-voguish travelog sequences.—RDL

Kill! (Film, Japan, Kihachi Okamoto, 1968) Starving ex-samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai) puts his sword skills back to work as he protects a band of nobles from the corrupt clan superior who used them for his dirty work. Revisionist samurai adventure with notes of subdued humor borrows back from Sergio Leone what he filched from Kurosawa.—RDL


Full Moon in New York (Film, HK, Stanley Kwan, 1989) Three women from the Chinese diaspora, a struggling actress (Sylvia Chang), a driven entrepreneur (Maggie Cheung) and the new wife (Siqin Gaowa) of an insensitive Asian-American businessman, become friends in New York. One of HK cinema’s more oblique responses to Tiananmen Square offers strong scenes that never cohere into a working narrative.—RDL

Unfrosted (Film, US, Jerry Seinfeld, 2024) When Kellogg’s VP Bob Cabana (Jerry Seinfeld) learns that arch-rival Post is developing a rectangular filled-pastry breakfast treat (possibly heatable) he must convince his boss Edsel Kellogg III (Jim Gaffigan) to give him and fired food scientist Stankowski (Melissa McCarthy) a chance to beat Post to the moon, er, pastry. Individual bits work amazingly well: Hugh Grant delights as resentful mascot Thurl Ravenscroft, and Bill Burr as JFK kills it. But then the tone settles back into earnest tryhardism. Seinfeld clearly wanted to make an anarchic free-for-all a la Airplane, or a self-parodic jokefest like 30 Rock, but Seinfeld is neither anarchic nor willing to commit to self-ridicule. If he’d chosen the affectionate irony of Hail Caesar! as his model, he would have had a better shot.—KH

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