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Ken and Robin Consume Media: French Murder, American Bunco

August 1st, 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

Deadlier Than the Male (aka A Time for Murder) (Film, France, Jean Duvivier, 1956) Beloved chef (Jean Gabin) fails to suspect a grift when he welcomes his ex-wife’s daughter (Danièle Delorme) into his home. Gallic noir builds to some sharply lurid sequences while giving its femme fatale greater complexity than the archetype generally affords.—RDL

Denial (Film, UK, Mick Jackson, 2016) When holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) sues her for libel in a British court, American academic Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) finds it hard to trust her legal team’s buttoned-down strategy. David Hare’s script finds the throughline for this real-life legal procedural in the clash between passionate truth-telling and dispassionate pursuit of victory.—RDL

The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con (Nonfiction, Amy Reading, 2012) In the late teens and early 20s, Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet, swindled by a team of confidence men in a classic big con, fills his holsters with guns and embarks on an epic quest to find them and put them all away. Reading separates truth from embellishment in this engaging historical account, which widens out as needed to tell the story of American swindling from Ben Franklin’s day to the opening decades of the 20th century.—RDL

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film, US, Jon Watts, 2017) Peter Parker’s efforts to prove himself to newfound father figure Tony Stark get him in over his head with a crew of super-tech hijackers led by a disgruntled small businessman (Michael Keaton.) Have to admire a take on a mega-tentpole franchise that says, “You know what this property really needs? A smaller scale and lower stakes,” and then delivers on precisely that.—RDL

Things Fall Apart (Fiction, Chinua Achebe, 1958) Bullying Igbo patriarch’s determination to prove himself unlike his feckless father faces the ultimate obstacle when white men arrive to introduce their religion and impose their law. Complicates its narrative of cultural dissolution under colonialism by presenting it through the perspective of a profoundly flawed protagonist.—RDL

Good

Told After Supper (Fiction, Jerome K. Jerome, 1891) Short linked collection of comic ghost stories that mostly exist to subvert the stereotypical Victorian “Christmas ghost story” narrative. Jerome’s prose bounces along and it’s a rapid, short read, but I suspect most people haven’t read enough bad Victorian ghost tales to get much charge from his gentle parody. –KH

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Film, France, Luc Besson, 2017) Based on a comic I haven’t read, Besson’s bright, optimistic SFstravaganza stars Cara Delevingne (surprisingly good in the role) and Dane DeHaan (thickly unappealing) as agents of the Human Federation drawn into a nefarious, and somewhat over-exposited, plot. Very much the successor of Besson’s zany and underrated Fifth Element, Valerian has much the same energy and momentum, though slightly less anarchic freedom. If you love Besson’s vision like I do, call it Recommended, but Dane DeHaan is sadly no Bruce Willis. –KH

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