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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fincher Kings

December 12th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Icarus (Film, US, Bryan Fogel, 2017) Cyclist/filmmaker Fogel embarks on a Morgan Spurlock-esque documentary in which he subjects himself to a doping routine, only to find his Russian medical advisor in the center of an international scandal that might have placed him on the FSB hit list. Fogel hits the documentarian’s jackpot of a story that explodes into something bigger during the shoot, and makes the most of it.—RDL

Mindhunter Season 1 (Television, US,  Netflix, Joe Penhall, 2017) If you liked David Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac you will groove on this series (produced by Fincher, who directed four episodes) about the creation of the FBI’s serial killer profiling system in the 1970s. Although only Holt McCallany (as the gruff veteran agent, Bill Tench) and Cameron Britten (as serial killer Ed Kemper) rise above the prosaic characterization, the real star is (as so often with Fincher) the procedure. –KH

The Punisher Season 1 (Television, US, Netflix, Steve Lightfoot, 2017) Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) discovers that he isn’t finished wiping out the people who killed his family, and forms a reluctant alliance with a computer hacker (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to flush out the remaining conspirators. Ultra-violence and empathy go hand in glove, with Bernthal continuing to score as a humanized Punisher, and an unusually coherent structure for a Marvel/Netflix show, in which all the subplots pay off into the main narrative.—RDL

Wild Seed (Film, US, Brian G. Hutton, 1965) 17-year old (Celia Kaye) runs away from her New York home to find her biological father in L.A., learning the ropes of hitch-hiking and rail-riding from a handsome young drifter (a fresh-faced and tenor-toned Michael Parks.) Existential road romance shot about twelve seconds before the advent of the counterculture features sympathetic characterization, a lush jazz score and gorgeous black and white location photography by Conrad Hall. The only element holding this back from unheralded masterpiece status is Kaye’s valiant struggle to meet the demands of the material.—RDL

Good

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Film, US, David Fincher, 2008) As her mother (Cate Blanchett)  lies dying, her daughter reads the life story of her ex-lover, a man who aged in reverse. Oddball entry in Fincher’s filmography, rich in incident but light on drama, in which he keeps the trademark queasy greens and oranges but otherwise wears Steven Spielberg’s style like a jacket he’s trying on.—RDL

Pitfall (Film, US, Andre de Toth, 1948) Restless claims adjuster (Dick Powell) risks his career and family when he has a fling with a crook’s good-hearted girlfriend (Lizabeth Scott), entering the crosshairs of her sleazy ex-cop stalker (Raymond Burr.) Snappy dialogue and direction, as well as top performances from the lead distinguish this entry in the spiral-from-domesticity noir sub-genre. The script’s desire to steer clear of melodrama injects a fresh note of emotional realism, at the cost of an anticlimactic conclusion.—RDL

Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping (Film, US, Jorma Taccone & Akiva Schaffer, 2016) Fame-addled pop star (Andy Samberg) sees his tour documentary go sour when his sophomore album lays an egg. Update of Spinal Tap to today’s stadium pop and slick promotional documentaries, densely packed with jokes and cameos.—RDL

Okay

Justice League (Film, US, Zack Snyder, 2017) Batman (Ben Affleck) must assemble Earth’s mightiest heroes to fight … a CGI third-tier Kirby villain. While better than the previous theatrical DCEU efforts, and even reasonably true to the comic book origin of the team, the end result remains a big missed opportunity. For a movie ten years in the making, far too much was rushed, especially including the vapid CGI — the Snyderverse works best when, like Nolan always did, he grounds it in the real. Joss Whedon’s much-bruited fixups only add dissonance and weaken Snyder’s mythic vision without building human connection. Even Danny Elfman’s score seemed bland and committee-driven. –KH

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