Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Lee, Jenkins, Mulaney, and Joaquin Phoenix with a Ball-Peen Hammer

February 5th, 2019 | 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.


BlacKkKlansman (Film, US, Spike Lee, 2018) While still a rookie, the first black police officer in Colorado Springs (John David Washington)  picks up the phone to initiate an investigation into a local KKK chapter, enlisting a colleague (Adam Driver) to adopt his persona for face-to-face encounters. Lee harnesses the pleasures and forward-moving structure of the undercover cop film to the essay style he previously explored in the underrated Bamboozled.—RDL

If Beale Street Could Talk (Film, US, Barry Jenkins, 2018) Young woman in 70s Harlem (Kiki Layne) discovers she is pregnant as she tries to get her man (Stephan James) exonerated on a false rape charge. Measured, reverent adaptation of a James Baldwin novel focuses on the suffocating pressure of lives lived under omnipresent oppression.—RDL

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (Stand-up, John Mulaney, 2018) The man who made self-effacing Midwestern-ness funny again, John Mulaney kills in a series of beautifully constructed, dizzyingly cantilevered metaphors and sketches from a horse in a hospital to the uselessness of college (“a hundred … and twenty … thousand … dollars”) to the immortal “Street Smarts” stranger-danger lectures of the Chicago PD’s own J.J. Bittenbinder. Architecturally laughing at crime, that’s the Chicago way. –KH

You Were Never Really Here (Film, US/UK, Lynne Ramsay, 2018) Suicidal skullcracker (Joaquin Phoenix) faces deadly blowback when he accepts an assignment to rescue a politician’s underage daughter from a brothel. Arthouse take on the urban avenger genre featuring an intense performance from Phoenix and subjective visuals from an unreliable point of view.—RDL


Glass (Film, US, M. Night Shyamalan, 2019) Mastermind Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) orchestrates the showdown between David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and the Horde (James McAvoy). Unifying the casts and storylines of his two most recent successes, Unbreakable and Split, Shyamalan turns his gift for gorgeous lensing and piebald scripting to lo-fi superheroics. We were never going to get a Marvel super-fight on a Blumhouse budget, but so much of the buildup works that — as usual for MNS — it would have been nice if someone had thought all the way through the ending. –KH

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (Film, India, Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut, 2019) Hagiographic biopic of Rani Laxmibai (a fierce Kangana Ranaut) and her heroic fight against the hated British delivers as patriotism and spectacle, although the whole CGI budget got blown on a tiger leaving very little for artillery barrages. But with little complexity in characterization, script, or direction, it stops there. –KH


City of the Dead (Film, UK, John Llewellyn Moxey, 1960) Prompted by her professor (Christopher Lee), an inquisitive history major (Venetia Stevenson) investigates witch lore in an isolated Massachusetts town. This offbeat British production set in gothic America offers dynamic direction but blows its protagonist switch by subbing in a way less engaging second lead. AKA Horror Hotel. —RDL

Ocean’s 8 (Film, US, Gary Ross, 2018) Paroled convict Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) assembles a team of charming criminal specialists to execute a jewel heist at the Met Gala. The casting is the best part of this flat franchise extension, showing how much of the Clooney/Pitt trilogy’s buoyancy depended on Steven Soderbergh’s ineffable stylistic verve.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Lee, Jenkins, Mulaney, and Joaquin Phoenix with a Ball-Peen Hammer”

  1. Roland says:

    Oceans 8 – what made the film better than OK for me was the strong feeling of the cast not only perfroming in a heist movie, but also playing a prank on the audience the whole time.

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