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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mind Parasites, Classic Campion, and WandaVision

March 9th, 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.

Recommended

Mosul (Film, US, Matthew Michael Carnahan, 2020) Young Iraqi cop falls in with the Nineveh SWAT Team, the city’s notoriously effective anti-Daesh unit, as they push into Mosul’s lawless half to mop up their enemies before they complete their bug-out. Fly-on-the-wall squadron-level war film brings taut attention to the telling details of a singular conflict.—RDL

This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society (Nonfiction, Kathleen McAuliffe, 2016) When dinner parties and cocktail receptions finally return, no one will have any anecdotes, so stock up in advance with tales of worms that get their original hosts eaten by new hosts, parasitic wasps who perform precision surgery on cockroaches, and the possibility that our most basic personality traits are dictated by the microbiota we are exposed to at birth. McAuliffe carefully notes which gobsmacking results are tentative and subject to revision (spoiler: most of them) without being a fun ruiner about it.—RDL

The Tiger in the Smoke (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1952) Campion investigates whether his cousin’s husband (presumed KIA at Normandy) has come back, while a killer is loose in the London fog. Allingham sidelines Campion a bit in this wider social thriller of postwar London, which literally climaxes with the meeting of Good and Evil. A series of vivid inventions and genuine insights alternate, creating a powerfully impressionist work that just falls short of Pinnacle status. –KH

WandaVision (Television, US , Disney+, Jac Schaeffer, 2021) After the death of her husband Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) resurfaces in a surreal sitcom universe where the two of them live in apparent happily ever afterness. Infuses a familiar TV trope with real pathos, before proving that the movie and TV wings of the MCU have truly fused, with a conclusion that sets up more than it resolves.—RDL

Good

Look to the Lady (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1931) While trying to protect the ancestral chalice of the Gyrth family from a ring of millionaire art thieves, Campion solves the murder of the Gyrth heir’s aunt. Allingham called these early novels her “plum pudding” books, assembled any old which way out of anything tasty, and indeed this ripping yarn (barely a mystery) lives up to that lack of method. With Campion still an annoyingly empty parody of Peter Wimsey, only Allingham’s occasionally startling eye for character detail and emerging prose gift keep the book above the dreaded Okay line. –KH

Okay

Front Page Woman (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1935) Sweetheart reporters (Bette Davis, George Brent) connive and commit a variety of misdemeanors in an effort to out-scoop each other on a murder case. An example of that rare subgenre, the investigative rom com, in which the protagonists show a breezy disregard for ethics any RPG player character will recognize, and Michael Curtiz adds his characteristic zip to a dashed-off script.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (Film, UK, Michael Carreras, 1964) Vengeance from the ancient past threatens the archaeologists who allow their brash American sponsor to export a mummy for showbiz-style display. Few horror films get less interesting when the monster finally shows up, but in this lushly colored, star-free Hammer outing, the main interest lies in a script perpetually on the brink of waking up to its Orientalism.—RDL

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