Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Insane Wainscot Murderverse

February 28th, 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.


John Wick: Chapter Two (Film, US, Chad Stahelski, 2017) The latest in the operatic-action franchise pits decreasingly reluctant hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) against the Camorra and every other hitman in New York. Expands the original’s insane wainscot murderverse without breaking it, and adds the two best set-piece gunfights in the series. –KH

Kilo Two Bravo (Film, UK, Paul Katis, 2014) British soldiers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province face an escalating horror show after one of them steps on a landmine in a dried-up river bed. Utterly naturalistic treatment heightens the situation’s harrowing suspense and physical suffering. Based on a real incident. Also known as Kajaki.—RDL

The Queen Pedauque (Fiction, Anatole France, 1893) Unworldly cook’s son follows his tutor, a bibulous, womanizing priest, into the service of an aristocratic alchemist who wants him to mate with a fire elemental. Saucy satire skewers occultists, atheists and Catholics. —RDL


I Live in Fear (Film, Japan, Akira Kurosawa, 1955) Blustering foundry owner terrified by the H-Bomb (Toshiro Mifune) informs his family he’s moving them to Brazil, prompting them to go to court to have him declared mentally incompetent. Social drama about irreconcilably stalemated characters lets Mifune, then 35, act a big old-age transformation and gives Kurosawa a reason to explore the compositional possibilities of cramped, over-populated spaces.—RDL

The Sand-Reckoner (Fiction, Gillian Bradshaw, 2000) Engaging novel centers on Archimedes’ return to a thinly sketched Syracuse from an offstage Alexandria, and the beginnings of his career as engineer (and would-be in-law) to King Hieron II. For a novel of the First Punic War there’s a lot of flute-playing and precious little conflict, save within the breast of Archimedes’ Roman slave Marcus. –KH


The Atlas of Cursed Places (Nonfiction, Oliver Le Carrer, 2015) Ranging from the archaeological (the tophet of Carthage) to the supernatural (the door to Hell in Stull, Kansas) to the environmental (the subterranean coal fires in Jharia, India) to the political (Gaza) to the natural (Sable Island) this compendium of 40 “bad places” should be much better than it is. The maps are reprinted 19th-century work and usually at far too small a scale; the scanty text is slightly woo-woo Wikipediac prose. –KH

Not Recommended

Captain Fantastic (Film, US, Matt Ross, 2016) When his wife dies, a driven idealist (Viggo Mortensen) who has been home-schooling their large brood as forest-dwelling, adorably radical ubermenschen must take them into the fallen world of strip malls and smartphones. Spends two acts developing a thorny dramatic conflict, and the third act wheeling out an array of writing cheats to avoid having to really reckon with it.—RDL

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