Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mystery Elephant Coins and a True Crime Masterpiece

November 28th, 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.

The Pinnacle

The Keepers Season 1 (Television, US, Netflix, Ryan White, 2017) Nearly half a century after their high school teacher, a nun named Cathy Cesnik, was murdered, her former students initiate a sprawling investigation into her death, and the abusive Catholic priest who may have been involved in it. Documentary true crime series becomes all the more compelling as its central mystery grows ever more complicated and contradictory.—RDL


Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions (Nonfiction, Frank L. Holt, 2003) Elephant medallions discovered in 1887 and 1973 have politely roiled numismatic circles for decades; Holt lays out their provenance and controversy, and provides a theory to explain them that passes my Alexandrian sniff test — essentially, they were campaign coins for veterans of the Hydaspes battle. Excellent introduction to a recondite topic, ideal for refurbishing into an RPG seed. –KH

The Ghost Goes West (Film, UK, Rene Clair, 1935) Suave Scottish lord (Robert Donat) who must sell his castle tries to conceal the existence of its ancestral specter (also Donat), little suspecting that the American grocery tycoon with his eye on the place (Eugene Pallette) regards it as a selling point. Tellingly British take on the screwball comedy in which the joke is not that the nouveau riche Americans have gone silly and Europeanized, but that their affection for the old world vulgarizes tradition.—RDL

Invincible (Film, EU/US, Werner Herzog, 2001) In 1932, Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbart (Jouko Ahola) journeys to Berlin to make his fortune in the occult cabaret run by the mentalist Hanussen (Tim Roth). Herzog’s movie hearkens back to silent melodrama in its uncomplicated shots and Ahola’s guileless acting, which plays wonderfully off Roth’s oily Hanussen. Herzog mashes up history (the real Breitbart died in 1925) to create a not-quite-distant fable; buy a ticket and enjoy the show. –KH

Jim & Andy and The Great Beyond (Film, US, Chris Smith, 2017) Interviews with a now-philosophical Jim Carrey frame heretofore unseen backstage footage from the Man on the Moon shoot, where he remained obsessively in character as either Andy Kaufman or the awful Tony Clifton. Documentary only shows Carrey’s perspective, but to hear him tell it, he has finally recovered from the realization that he strove for and got everything he ever wanted—only to find it wasn’t enough.—RDL

The Man in the Iron Mask (Film, US, James Whale, 1939) Evil king Louis XIV (Louis Heyward) carries on hanging rebels and toying with the heart of the Spanish infanta (Joan Bennett), scarcely suspecting that his order to arrest a Gascon rebel raised by the four musketeers will confront him with his previously unknown twin brother. A piece set in the literal baroque period gives Whale full latitude for his baroque, frame-filling sensibility, plus a touch of the old Frankenstein days in the Bastille scenes. Screenwriters never use more than the barest whiff of the Dumas source material, in which the musketeers scheme against and betray one another, and it’s always interesting to see how any given adaptation rearranges the elements.—RDL


Little Big Soldier (Film, Hong Kong, Ding Sheng; action director Jackie Chan, 2010) During the warring states period, a conscripted peasant (Jackie Chan) captures an enemy general (Leehom Wang) and tries to get him back home to collect a reward. Economical script provides a tonally consistent showcase for Jackie’s dramatic chops, but suffers from Ding’s arbitrary compositions and over-caffeinated editing.—RDL

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 11 (Television, US, Netflix, Joel Hodgson, 2017) The revival of the ur-nerd-riff show does everything it needs to do competently: a chunky, amiable comic (Jonah Ray) and two robots (Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn) make fun of bad movies. But it doesn’t capture either the anarchic glee of the early Joel years or the relentless comic pile-on cruelty of the middle Mike years, relying on a labored backstory featuring the two mad scientists (Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt). The core of MST3K has always been the riffs; let’s hope next season doubles down on that. –KH


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (Film, US, Zack Snyder, 2016) Thirty extra minutes and an R rating don’t repair the foundational flaws in this super-Ragnarok, but they do add coherence to the story, humanity to Clark Kent, and a name to poor Jimmy Olsen. At three hours, there’s still plenty to regret here, but Snyder’s visual sense at least has something more to play off of. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mystery Elephant Coins and a True Crime Masterpiece”

  1. Randll Porter says:

    The Elephant Medallions today would be call Challenge Coins. They are all the a rage in the Armed Forces today. The more top secret or black the site the better, I’ve got one from one those end of the world complex’s. Challenge Coins always make a great hook for a game.

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