Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Jessica Jones and the Battle of Cannae

March 13th, 2018 | 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 Fire Within (Film, France, Louis Malle, 1963) Finished rehab but still consumed by depression, a raffish writer heads to Paris to look up all the old friends who love, but can’t help, him. Unlike most films about this subject, Malle fills this piece with movement and a sense of life—albeit one the protagonist can see but not take part in. Updated adaptation of a novel by the fascist writer Drieu La Rochelle—or, as the surrealists knew him, the hated Drieu La Rochelle.—RDL

Jessica Jones Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Melissa Rosenberg, 2017) At Trish’s urging, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) reluctantly investigates the accident that gave her powers, sparking a murderous cover-up. The serialized storytelling goes up a notch in structural cohesion while exploring themes of female rage that don’t get addressed much of anywhere, let alone in a superhero show.—RDL

Mosaic (Television, US, Steven Soderbergh, HBO, 2017) The murder of a rich and vulnerable children’s author (Sharon Stone) spurs the sister of the man convicted of the crime to enlist an alternate suspect (Garrett Hedlund) and a local police chief in her search for the real killer. Boasts sterling dramatic scene crafting, Soderberghian elan, and a breakout performance by Devin Ratray as the everyman cop. An anticlimactic ending,, the result of its origin as a multimedia app allowing the viewer to choose which characters to follow, keeps it a notch shy of Pinnacle status.—RDL

The Night Watch (Fiction, Patrick Modiano, 1971) Young burglar who has infiltrated the Resistance for the Carlingue (French Gestapo) spirals toward the inevitable doom of the double agent. WWII spy novel as filtered through the consciousness of a mentally deteriorating narrator. By the winner of the 2014 Nobel for Literature.—RDL


The Ghosts of Cannae (Nonfiction, Robert L. O’Connell, 2010) A solid example of post-Keegan “you were there” military history covering the epochal — but not at all decisive — defeat of the Roman legions in 216 B.C. by Hannibal in a model double envelopment. O’Connell is rather better at reconstructing the battle than at putting it into its strategic context, and his chapter on the pernicious effect of Cannae on ambitious military men in the millennia since promises more than he has space (or support) for. But if you want a book about Cannae, this is the book you want. –KH


The Next Voice You Hear (Film, US, William A. Wellman, 1950) Put-upon factory worker (James Whitmore) and his pregnant wife (Nancy Davis) react with trepidation when God starts briefly interrupting worldwide radio broadcasts. One of those movies about faith that cheats by having God do things. Wellman’s direction stages a rearguard action against the sentimental text by portraying 50s domestic life as a crucible of fury and dread.—RDL

Shambolically Orthogonal to Our Categories

Capone Cries a Lot (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1985) Entangled with the adulterous Kosome (Yuko Tanaka) neophyte naniwa-bushi singer Umeimon (Kenichi Hagiwara) leaves Japan with her for 1920s America where his dream is to perform naniwa-bushi for the President, Al Capone (Chuck Wilson). Suzuki blends his contempt for narrative with his surrealistic eye to create a latter-day samurai gangster Chaplin film full of grotesque racial humor, music, and carousels. (He filmed the San Francisco scenes in an abandoned, American-themed amusement park.) Its wild tone-shifting, terrible white actors, and tiring length make me hesitant to recommend seeing it, but you’ll know you’ve seen something if you do. –KH

Not Recommended

Stanley and Livingstone (Film, US, Henry King, 1939) Hard-charging journalist (Spencer Tracy), accompanied by trusty frontier coot (Walter Brennan), undertakes an arduous multi-year journey into the African interior in search of famous missionary (Cedric Hardwicke.) The decades have not been kind to this earnest hymn to coloniaIism.—RDL

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