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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fixers, Palookas, Gaslighters and Star Warriors

December 27th, 2016 | 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

Creed (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2015) Illegitimate son of Apollo, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him as a boxer, and in a reprise of the original, takes his shot when the world champion (real-life boxer Tony Bellew) picks him for a bum-of-the-month publicity payday. The Rocky series has always been, appropriately, A-treatments of B-movies, and this seventh installment is no exception. (Unlike Rocky V.) Cliche becomes legend, and the cycle finally gets a mythically appropriate conclusion. –KH

The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany (Nonfiction, Donald E. Westlake, 2014) Levi Stahl of the University of Chicago Press has assembled this too-short collection of Westlake (and briefly, Richard Stark) writing about crime fiction, writing, and Donald Westlake. If you appreciate any of those three you appreciate all of those three, and so too this book. –KH

Julieta (Film, Spain, Pedro Almodovar, 2016) Woman recalls the tragic events that led her daughter to mysteriously break off all contact with her. Fuses three Alice Munro stories into a melodrama drenched in passion, menace, and color–qualities that no one but Almodovar would find in her material.–RDL. Seen at TIFF16; now in North American theatrical release.

Murder Me For Nickels (Fiction, Peter Rabe, 1960) Slightly loopy yet completely straight hard-boiled crime novel features the fixer for a juke-box racket getting caught in his ambitions — romantic and professional — when the Chicago Outfit starts muscling in. The dialogue and prose are weirdly and beautifully clipped, like drunken telegraphy. –KH

Total Balalaika Show (TV Special, Finland, MTV3, 1993) Following the recent tragic death of 64 members of  the Alexandrov Ensemble, someone has uploaded all 107 minutes of Finnish TV footage of their wonderful, giddy 1993 Helsinki Senate Square performance with the Finnish rock’n’roll art project Leningrad Cowboys. Indifferent sound mixing mars some of the music, but nonetheless the special captures that glorious, larger-than-history moment. Watch it with joy before it vanishes again into night and fog. –KH

Good

Aleister & Adolf (Comics, Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming, 2016) Media theorist Rushkoff’s take on the hoary fable of Crowley working (and Working) against Hitler in WWII catches Oeming in an inventive mood that feeds the theme of warring Signs and Sigils. Too many of the details are wrong or elided in the name of pacing to make this a classic of the genre, but its signal still beats its noise. –KH

Asylum (Nonfiction, William Seabrook, 1935) Seabrook turns his patented jazzy, ethnographic eye upon the doctors and inmates at Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, where he had himself committed in 1933 to cure his own alcoholism. Useful but not mandatory for Trail of Cthulhu Keepers. –KH

Rogue One (Film, US, Gareth Edwards, 2016) Criminal vagabond (Felicity Jones) embittered by the kidnapping of her scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) gets a chance to rescue him from the Empire’s Death Star project. Too overstuffed with characters to give the hero’s transformational arc the screen time it needs to register emotionally. It is bracing though to see a Star Wars film that isn’t trying to evoke the feel and style of the original, going so far as to place itself in an entirely different moral universe.—RDL

Okay

The Saint (Film, US, Philip Noyce, 1997) Buried somewhere in this $70 million misfire is a charming spy film starring Val Kilmer as an updated version of Leslie Charteris’ suave mercenary thief. Despite some great Moscow locations and one or two good caper bits, the sputtering action and vague characterization combine to display the limitations of the script. –KH

Not Recommended

Chase a Crooked Shadow (Film, UK, Michael Anderson, 1958) Heiress (Anne Baxter) struggles to maintain her grip when a man (Richard Todd) shows up at her Spanish villa claiming to be her dead brother. Dialogue-driven suspense film with one of those misconceived twist endings that punishes the viewer for identifying with its protagonist.—RDL

3 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fixers, Palookas, Gaslighters and Star Warriors”

  1. Chris Camfield says:

    If you want the original Saint at his most daring. I recommend The Saint in New York, starring Louis Hayward (1938). It’s a B movie but fun.

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