Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Loki, Gunpowder Milkshake, and Heinlein Dependence

July 20th, 2021 | 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 Big Sick (Film, US, Michael Showalter, 2017) The romance between Chicago standup Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) goes awry when he lies to her and she goes into a medically induced coma. The script (by Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily V. Gordon) reliably and honestly produces laughs and tears, which used to be entry-level success for a rom-com but now rates genuine surprise. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano bat cleanup as Emily’s parents; Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff ace the more difficult position plays as Kumail’s disapproving folks. –KH

Midnight (Film, US, Mitchell Leisen, 1939) Arriving in Paris with nothing to her name but a gold lame dress, a plucky American (Claudette Colbert) agrees to continue posing as a countess in order to help a wily rich husband (John Barrymore) pry a pesky swain from his wife (Mary Astor.) But their plan doesn’t account for the determination of smitten taxi driver Don Ameche. Bubbling, witty screwball comedy adapted from a Hungarian stage play by the ace screenwriting team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.—RDL

Withnail & I (Film, UK, Bruce Robinson, 1987) Unemployed nebbishy actor (Paul McGann) and his unemployed psycho actor flatmate Withnail (Richard E. Grant) take an extremely impromptu holiday in the Lake District. Grant’s justly acclaimed Pinnacle performance hilariously and alchemically combines all the watchable sins — rage, vanity, cruelty, drunkenness, and lies — but the rest of the cast does almost as well down to the very small parts; McGann manages to somehow convey deserving his horrible friend without making us despise him. –KH


Loki Season 1 (Television, US, Disney+, Kate Herron, 2021) Displaced from the timeline, a previous version of the Asgardian trickster god (Tom Hiddleston) gets shanghaied into service as a time cop, partnered with laconic wisecracker Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson.) The first five episodes dish out old-fashioned four-color fun, with zingy relationships and a structure emulating a comic storyline where each issue has its own distinct vibe. But by now we know the drill for Disney+ Marvel shows—the finale is yet another anticlimactic mess more interested in teasing future content than delivering a satisfying conclusion.—RDL


Gunpowder Milkshake (Film, US/Germany/France, Navot Papushado, 2021) A hit gone wrong prompts an assassin (Karen Gillan) to protect a kid from the mob, aided by her estranged killer mom (Lena Headey) and a trio of gun librarians (Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh.) I like stylistic nods to Leone and Bava at least as much as the next guy, but if you have five action leads and four of them aren’t Michelle Yeoh, you have to book the time to train them in the fight choreo instead of leaving it up to stunt doubles.—RDL

Make Happy (Standup, Netflix, Bo Burnham, 2016) Elaborately synchronized musical numbers interspersed with brief observational bits and jump-scare misdirection, all on the general theme of entertaining, and on the meta-theme of “I, Bo Burnham, am entertaining you by being edgy but not so edgy that you have to examine your relationship to the material or to me, Bo Burnham.” The trouble with meta-anything is that for it to be something besides self-congratulatory tailchasing there has to be something you’re actually willing to say, ideally something nobody else can (or will) say. If not, well … you can always claim you were being ironically ironic, I guess? –KH

Strongly Heinlein-Dependent

Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation (Fiction, Travis I.J. Corcoran, 2017 and 2018) Anarcho-capitalist moon colony rebels against a statist Earth in 2064, complete with enigmatic AI and American Revolutionary parallels. This perfectly serviceable (if somewhat bloated) modernization of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress adds uplifted Dogs and breaks up the lectures but loses zero of the didacticism as its characters remain somewhat flatter. Your response will be one grade below your rating of Heinlein’s original. –KH

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