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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mank Writes Kane and H. G. Wells is Full of Himself

December 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.

Recommended

Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (Film, US, Scott Crawford, 2019) Documentary chronicles the scrappy, dysfunctional crew behind the scenes of the scrappy, proudly unrespectable rock magazine that published Lester Bangs and Dave Marsh. Another reminder that the story of any outsider culture institution includes volatile personalities and a hand-to-mouth balance sheet .—RDL

Die, Vol. 3: The Great Game (Comics, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, 2020) Balletic precession into the third act of this story of gamers returning (with their adult baggage) to the fantasy world that trapped them 30 years ago. Gillen’s story slows down just enough to let you feel the blows; Hans’ art if anything intensifies, with seemingly small decisions paying off like depth charges. Bonus points for H.G. Wells being full of himself. –KH [Full disclosure/gratuitous plug: An interview with Ken and Robin appears in the back matter of this volume.]

Night Editor (Film, US, Henry Levin, 1946) To cover up his affair with a rich psychopath (Janis Carter), a spiraling homicide detective (William Gargan) fails to report a murder they witness together. Carter turns in a performance for the villain hall of fame in a B-movie noir so perverse and brutal you wonder how the heck it got past the Hays Office. The title refers not to the main action but to an intrusive framing device set in a newspaper office, meant to launch an anthology series.—RDL

Good

Blackhat (Film, US, Michael Mann, 2015) The FBI releases self-made hacker/ubermensch Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) from prison to help the Chinese MSS (Wang Leehom) track down a malevolent hacker. Mann cannot frame a bad shot, and in the moment the set pieces work amazingly well; but the story needed at least one more dimension to truly ensnare, and Hemsworth needed at least two more dimensions to portray his character. –KH

The Long Dumb Road (Film, US, Hannah Fidel, 2018) Uptight art student (Tony Revolori) receives unwanted life lessons from the extroverted oddball mechanic (Jason Mantzoukas) who fixes his car on his way to his school in L.A. Mantzoukas gets to play a grounded version of his chaotic comic persona in this winning road buddy flick, though its commitment to realism rules out a climactic finish.—RDL

Mank (Film, US, David Fincher, 2020) Convalescing from a car accident, charmingly caustic screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) holes up on an isolated ranch to write the screenplay for Citizen Kane. Dreamlike Hollywood fantasia focuses less on the credit tussle with Orson Welles than the question of why Mank decided to stick it to erstwhile host William Randolph Hearst and, by way of collateral damage, Marion Davies. Points for including periodic cigarette burns to signal the changes of nonexistent reels.—RDL

Okay

21 Bridges (Film, US, Brian Kirk, 2019) Brilliant homicide detective with a strangely long list of kills on his record (Chadwick Boseman) races against the time to catch the coke heisters who gunned down eight of his colleagues. The script sets up the sealing off of New York’s titular bridges as a central premise and then does absolutely nothing with it. Boseman gives it more star power than it deserves as it oscillates between an action-movie reality level and serious drama.—RDL

EMMA. (Film, UK, Autumn de Wilde, 2020) Charismatic landowner’s daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy) meddles in the love life of her socially precarious friend (Mia Goth), to the tart dismay of hunky neighbor Mr, Knightley (Johnny Flynn.) Even the camera moves are broad in this fondant-colored Austen adaptation, which immediately telegraphs character traits that are meant to slowly reveal themselves over the course of the narrative .—RDL

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell (Comics, Warren Ellis and Butch Guice, 2006) A sentient ancient alien weapon lands on Earth, and confronts the Justice League with its greatest fears. The set-up of this comic is by far the best part, as Ellis’ technophile imagination sets up a great hook; the payoff is more than correspondingly weak, however, a repetitive, simple story beat unworthy of Ellis. Grant Morrison did basically the same story vastly better in 1997.

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