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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Long in the Tooth (and/or Claw)

March 14th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

The Body in the Library (Fiction, Agatha Christie, 1942) Not flawless by any means, but a nicely paradigmatic Miss Marple mystery. The best thing about the Marple stories is that they force Christie to at least pretend to consider real human personalities, as opposed to moving cutouts around on a railway timetable. Miss Marple’s bleak view of humanity is refreshing, too. –KH

Logan (Film, US, James Mangold, 2017) In a welcome franchise turn away from endless world-saving, Mangold helms a dusty, character-driven Western set in a darkening, mutant-free future. The hyperviolence is just as wrenching as the emotional torsion of the dying Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Xavier (Patrick Stewart); this is a grown-up movie in more senses than its R rating. –KH

Mr. Nobody (Film, Belgium, Jaco Van Dormael, 2009) In a glossy near-future, the last man who will die of old age (Jared Leto) recounts the story of his life—or rather the stories of his many possible yet contradictory lives. Arrestingly designed existential mystery maintains emotional engagement with its many-versioned protagonist even as it constantly questions the reality of what we’re seeing.—RDL

Good

The Dam Busters (Film, UK, Michael Anderson, 1954) Self-effacing engineer (Michael Redgrave) and jut-jawed bomber commander (Richard Todd) lead the effort to destroy key German dams in 1943. Chiefly remembered as a key visual reference for Star Wars, this paean to technical expertise and heroically contained emotion pushed the limits of miniatures effects but creaks just a touch today. If you’re planning to show this to kids, brace yourself to deliver the How It Used To Be Normal To Name Beloved Pets After Vicious Racial Epithets talk.—RDL

Generation Loss (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2008) Photographer who experienced a flicker of notoriety during the punk era takes a reluctant trip to a remote Maine island to interview an older counterpart. Crime novel with horror motifs boasts enviable prose and a rich sense of place, but suffers the momentum issues that come when the protagonist doesn’t actively investigate the mystery until the upshift to the climax.—RDL

Tickled (Film, NZ, David Farrier & Dylan Reeve, 2016) TV reporter’s attempt to do a story on an ostensibly comical competitive men’s tickling league leads to an international web of gobsmacking harassment, with a shadowy, Wall Street-fattened kinkster at its center. Investigative documentary in the Nick Broomfield mode unravels a surprisingly relevant tale of our ever-weirdening times, but goes overboard in hyping a standard ambush interview as a sequence of white-knuckle suspense.—RDL

The White Mandarin (Fiction, Dan Sherman, 1982) In 1948 Shanghai, CIA officer John Polly kills a gangster and flees north to join the Communists — but as a mole at Mao’s side. The tradecraft and setting are great, but the distanced tone and lack of tension keep it from full success as a thriller. A deniable undercurrent of the supernatural remains symbolic, adding to the tone but not to the mystery. –KH

Okay

The Magnificent Seven (Film, US, Antoine Fuqua, 2016) In a world with the 1960 John Sturges original, this film is completely unnecessary, and Fuqua brings very little except pointless backstory to this racially balanced but gassily bloated remake. (Vincent D’Onofrio’s mountain man is pretty great, though.) The moral, the story, and the dialogue are all watered down; Fuqua has gotten better at filming action but no better at explaining it cinematically. –KH

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