Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Locked Rooms and Perverse Incentives

May 5th, 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.


Bad Education (Film, US, Cory Finley, 2020) An acclaimed school superintendent (Hugh Jackman) sees his comfy secret life melt away when a student journalist’s investigation exposes the massive embezzlement scheme he has been running with other top administrators. True crime character study turns an unblinking lens on the perverse incentives of the US education system.—RDL

Killing Them Softly (Film, US, Andrew Dominik, 2012) After two lowlifes (Scoot McNairy and Mendo) hit a mob-protected card game, hit man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) gets called in to resolve matters. Pitt channels lordly cool as the one competent man in the Boston underworld, and Dominik’s lively script crackles to a near-perfect summation. Spiky and unsatisfying in all the best ways, the film’s castigation of venality and immunity from consequences deserves renewed attention. –KH

The Mad Hatter Mystery (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1933) The second Dr. Fell novel pits the detective against a prankish hat thief, rival collectors of Poe manuscripts, and a murderer at the Tower of London. Without the impossible crime that Carr made his specialty, it nevertheless provides a fine clockwork plot well shrouded in atmospheric (and narrative) fog. –KH


John Dickson Carr: A Critical Study (Nonfiction, S.T. Joshi, 1990) A useful overview and primer of Carr’s fiction, superseded in places by Carr scholar Douglas Greene’s biography. Joshi’s clear internal war between praising Carr’s mesmeric genius for narrative and despising Carr’s philosophy leaves the critical material somewhat hamstrung. –KH

Zombieland: Double Tap (Film, US, Ruben Fleischer, 2019) The attempt of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg)  and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) to create a surrogate family unit in their White House HQ hits a rough patch when Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) ditch them for the independence of the road. If you’re looking for a zombie flick that won’t resonate at all with the current crisis, this horror action comedy has nothing on its mind other than amiably tapping the camaraderie established in the original.—RDL


The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (Film, HK, Herman Yau, 2019) When the son he never knew dies in a drug bust, an ex-gangster turned tycoon (Andy Lau) funds a vigilante war against top-level dealers, most notably an embittered former pal (Louis Koo) whose fingers he was once obliged to chop off. Sequel in name only to the vastly superior heroic bloodshed flick The White Storm, this mostly leaden gangland melodrama escapes “Not Recommended” status by dint of its bonkers climactic vehicle duel.—RDL

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