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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Godzilla Minus One, Poker Face, The Bear

December 12th, 2023 | 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 Bear Season 1 (Television, US, FX, Christopher Storer & Joanna Calo, 2022) Acclaimed young chef (Jeremy Allen White) attempts to salvage the chaotic local joint willed to him by his addict brother, clashing with a bumptious long term employee slash honorary cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and acting as uneasy mentor to an up and coming new hire (Ayo Edibiri.) With the constantly clock ticking and random culinary disasters raining down, this intense, Chicago-besotted drama establishes a new sub-genre of suspense: the food thriller.—RDL

Chavela (Film, Mexico/Spain, Catherine Gund, & Daresha Kyi, 2017) Biographical arts documentary profiles Chavela Vargas, the hard-living singer who brought operatic passion to the ranchera genre and became a ladykilling icon to Mexico’s lesbian community. If you don’t know the name you may have heard her music in the films of Pedro Almodovar, who championed her late career comeback and appears here in both archival and interview sequences.—RDL

Godzilla Minus One (Film, Japan, Takashi Yamazaki, 2023) Failed kamikaze pilot Koichi (Rynosuke Kamiki) seeks to expiate his cowardice when Godzilla attacks Japan in 1947. Yamazaki grounds the human action in social integration and stifled emotion, producing a film ironically much more like a mainstream 1954 American (or Japanese) film than the nihilist cosmic-horror Pinnacle he’s homaging. The kaiju action, meanwhile, is unimpeachably excellent. —KH

The Horror Tarot (Tarot deck, Todd Alcott, 2023) Rather than the bricolage treatment of his Pulp Tarot, Alcott homages specific traditions of horror art in the suits and trumps of this full 78-card tarot. Horror film posters (Major Arcana), Famous Monsters of Filmland (Wands), EC Comics (Swords), horror paperback covers (Cups), and pulp magazine covers (Pentacles) provide the inspiration for Alcott’s lovingly uncanny designs. —KH

Moss Rose (Film, US, Gregory Ratoff, 1947) Seeing a brooding heir (Victor Mature) leaving a murder scene, a social climbing chorus girl (Peggy Cummins) offers her silence in exchange for an extended invitation to his family’s country estate. Victorian gothic suffused with a proto-Lynchian sensibility, which regards the bizarre decisions of its characters as sympathetic and normal.—RDL

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 (Television, US, Hulu, Steve Martin & John Hoffman, 2023) When the asshole star (Paul Rudd) of Oliver’s (Martin Stone) Broadway comeback gets murdered, Mabel (Selena Gomez) investigates as Oliver re-imagines the show as a musical and Charles’ (Steve Martin) life falls back apart.. Normally a season of mostly premise rejection and backsliding would annoy me, but watching Martin Short center a “backstage panic” show is almost as good as a murder mystery any day. This mystery, by the way, improves considerably on Season 2. —KH

The Perfect Game (Film, Japan, Toshio Masuda, 1958) College ne’er do wells take a darker than anticipated turn when they take advantage of a communications delay between cycling track and bookie parlor to place a fraudulent bet. Sharp-cornered noir about characters on a greased chute to moral bankruptcy.—RDL

Poker Face Season 1 (Television, US, Peacock, Rian Johnson, 2023) Casino employee with an unfailing ear for lies Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) flees a vengeful pursuer but solves murders along the way. Good-natured combination of The Fugitive and Columbo leans into its old-school TV virtues such as good lighting and concise character portraits, occasionally playing up cheap humor but at its best devising tight but meaty micro-dramas with a murderous hook. All this and a master class in “why Bullshit Detector doesn’t ruin mysteries in GUMSHOE,” too.—KH

Resurrection (Film, US, Andrew Semans, 2022) Tightly wound biotech manager (Rebecca Hall) whose stifled daughter (Grace Kaufman) is about to leave for college fears the return of a menacing figure (Tim Roth) from her past. Hall turns in a harrowing tour de force performance in a profoundly unsettling work of psychological reality horror.—RDL

Stronger Than Love (Film, Cuba/Mexico, Tuli Demicheli, 1955) Haughty young woman (Miroslava) returns from Europe, where she falls into torrid love-hate with the blunt self-made man (Jorge Mistral) who, unbeknownst to her, has saved her upper crust family from ruin. Racy, sardonic melodrama is glossy, commercial entertainment from pre-revolutionary Cuba. Check out the hot and heavy santeria-inspired nightclub dance routine.—RDL


High Tension (Film, US, Allan Dwan, 1936) The brashness that makes deep sea diver Steve Reardon the best man for any telegraph cable laying job causes him to wrongfoot his relationship with the fiery pulp writer (Glenda Farrell) who fictionalizes his adventures. Eccentric blend of romcom and 30s dangerous labor movie kept aloft by charm and zippy pacing.—RDL

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