Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ken Leaves the House For Tenet

September 8th, 2020 | 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 Pinnacle

Tenet (Film, US, Christopher Nolan, 2020) A CIA agent (John David Washington) enters an even shadowier war between a covert agency in the present and a future that weaponizes reverse-entropy. Nolan’s Mannerist blend of grounding (“realism” isn’t the word) and myth gorgeously alloys spy-fi to philosophy, by way of half a dozen precisely realized set pieces. Plus all the BWOOOMMMM you could ever hope for; see it in its native IMAX where and if you can for the full experience. –KH


Get on Up (Film, US, Tate Taylor, 2014) Achronological biopic dramatizes the life of R & B and funk superstar James Brown (Chadwick Boseman), tracing his notorious hard edges to childhood abandonment and poverty. The authority of Boseman’s performance unifies a difficult narrative line.—RDL

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (Film, US, Alex Gibney, 2014) For a deeper look at Brown’s music, check out the companion piece documentary, featuring extensive performance clips and interviews with the genius sidemen he frequently bullied and exploited. Includes his Nixon endorsement, which the biopic somehow doesn’t get around to. Archival interviews with Brown show that his speaking voice wasn’t nearly as affected as the Boseman version.—RDL

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Film, France, Céline Sciamma, 2019) Impossible love kindles when a woman (Noémie Merlant) is hired to covertly paint a portrait of a young noble (Adèle Haenel), to be sent to her prospective husband. Allusions to the Gothic lap at the corners of this romantic drama, acted with intense restraint and photographed with a beauty simultaneously lush and stark.—RDL


Phantom Raiders (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1940) Suave detective Nick Carter (Walter Pidgeon) interrupts his Panama vacation to investigate a series of ship bombings. In the second of three Carter flicks, MGM applies the comedy-mystery tone of The Thin Man to another series character, with Tourneur giving shape and snap to a script that mixes kookiness with mass murder.—RDL

Warren William: Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood (Nonfiction, John Stangeland, 2011) Solid if often overly detailed biography of the suave, pencil-moustached actor who hit it big playing sophisticated anti-heroes in the early 30s and later played such series characters as Perry Mason, Philo Vance and the Lone Wolf. Off-screen, William turns out to have been a lovely man who adored terriers, was faithful to his wife, and invented, among other things, a motorized picnic table.—RDL


Project Power (Film, US, Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2020) A Special Forces ex-Major (Jamie Foxx), a New Orleans cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and a plucky drug dealer (Dominique Fishback) come together hunting the source of a drug that gives users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes. Foxx’s charisma and one or three original touches give this over-long, under-plotted, straight-to-cable grind slightly more than five minutes of power. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ken Leaves the House For Tenet”

  1. Hank Harwell says:

    As you are no doubt aware, TENET, itself is a palindrome, based on the famous “Sator Square.” According to that bastion of unassailable information, Wikipedia, the name “Sator,” in addition to being the antagonist of the film, is also evocative of Saturn, “the Roman God of time-cycles, agriculture, and magic.” (

    It might be fun to feature the more esoteric aspects of the film in a future segment of the podcast.

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