Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: More Dogs, More Stalin, More Haggard

April 10th, 2018 | 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 Death of Stalin (Film, UK, Armando Iannucci, 2017) As they prepare for Stalin’s funeral (spoiler),, frantic members of his inner circle, portrayed with comic relish by Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs and Michael Palin, scheme for survival as the power vacuum closes. Iannucci’s “The Thick of It” / “Veep” style achieves apotheosis by tackling a circumstance where the stakes go all the way up to murder.—RDL

The Hard Sell (Fiction, William Haggard, 1965) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive investigates sabotage and delays of a British jet prototype being built in Italy — where he has no jurisdiction. A judicious blend of political machinations and policier maneuver steadily speeds the pace of this novel into genuine thriller territory, albeit at the discreet remove Haggard prefers. Maybe the ending wraps up a little too neatly, but that’s hardly a deal breaker. –KH

Isle of Dogs (Film, US, Wes Anderson, 2018) Exiled to Trash Island off the coast of Megasaki in retrofuture Japan, a pack of dogs (Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray) help crashed 12-year-old pilot Atari (Kyou Rankin) search for his own exiled dog. Over and above the strong script and metronomically quirky Anderson-company performances, the most impressive thing about this stop-motion animation adventure quest is its sheer crafted beauty. Anderson surpasses Fantastic Mr. Fox and turns his obsessive-compulsive auteurism into a strength instead of a crutch. –KH

A Man and a Woman (Film, France, Claude Lelouch, 1966) Attraction sparks between two single parents whose kids attend the same boarding school, a script supervisor (Anouk Aimée) and a race car driver (Jean-Louis Trintignant.) Beguiling romance in which the obstacles keeping the lovers apart take a back seat to New Wave formal experimentation and early 60s chic.—RDL

The Yacoubian Building (Fiction, Alaa Al Aswany, 2002) As Gulf War I begins elsewhere in the region, Cairo residents of high and low status, united by a connection to the titular building, find their daily struggles worsened by the brushes with dictatorial power. Revisits the social realist tradition of Egyptian fiction within the context of recent politics.—RDL

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (Television, HBO, Judd Apatow, 2018) Documentary miniseries lovingly portrays the rise and ensuing struggle of Shandling, creator of the seminal Larry Sanders Show and previous cult hit It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Hilarious and heartbreaking bio of a wounded guy who sought solace in perfectionism, and found it in Buddhist meditation.—RDL.


The Emperor’s Candlesticks (Film, US, George Fitzmaurice, 1937) Russian spy (Luise Rainer) and Polish agent (William Powell) fall in love while racing to deliver competing messages to the czar. Frothy Continental espionage confection expends much screen time on the complexities of its titular McGuffin. Rainer is always a bit of a dud, especially when contrasted with the infinitely more present Maureen O’Sullivan, who appears in a secondary role.—RDL

I, Vampire (Comics, DC, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino, 2011-2013) Collected in three trade paperbacks, this relaunch of J.M. deMatteis’ emo action vampire hero Andrew Bennett overlaps a literally apocalyptic story of Andrew and his murderous lover Mary with DC’s magical supers and John Constantine and Batman and Stormwatch for some reason. The result is a cascading series of dei ex machina and over-the-top writing that vitiates the characters’ humanity while not selling their epic status. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: More Dogs, More Stalin, More Haggard”

  1. Davis says:

    Just wanted to say that I have found many of Haggard’s spy novels on Kindle Unlimited. If you already have the service, they are free to read. I am starting with the first, “Slow Burner”, and feel that I will be reading them all. Ken or Robin described them as “James Bond novels from Q’s perspective” and that is a good summary. Even if you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, it is a good way to read the books which can otherwise be hard to find.

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