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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Nobody, Another Round, Let Them All Talk

April 20th, 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

12 Hour Shift (Film, US, Brea Grant, 2020) Arkansas night nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) hits an ever-mounting series of complications to her organ-legging sideline during the titular shift. Aiming for screwball neo-noir and achieving black situation comedy, Grant’s film never quite hits the savagely awful momentum it craves. But Bettis’ glowering performance (and the casting in general), along with effective lensing and a lively, jazzy score both by Matt Glass, power it across the Recommended line. –KH

Accident (Film, UK, Joseph Losey, 1967) Doom portends when an Oxford tutor (Dirk Bogarde) sublimates his desire for an aristocratic student (Jacqueline Sassard) by setting her up with an age-appropriate  suitor (MIchael York) and inviting them to spend time with his family. Subtly disturbing, stylized domestic drama written by Harold Pinter, based on a novel by Nicholas Mosley.—RDL

Another Round (Film, Denmark/Netherlands/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg, 2020) High school history teacher Martin (a terrific, underplayed Mads Mikkelsen) and three fellow teachers (and sufferers of male midlife crises) impulsively decide to test the theory of philosopher Finn Skårderud that mankind suffers from a blood alcohol deficit. What the inevitable American remake will inevitably turn into a preachy message movie Vinterberg mixes into a full portrait of drinking: its alchemy, its mystery, its terrors and disasters, and finally its joys. –KH

Bacurau (Film, Brazil/France, Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, 2020) Cut off by governmental indifference, a small Brazilian town discovers even worse things happening. Part social sci-fi, part anti-imperialist Western, a little bit magical realism, this movie exists to confound viewer expectations — among them, who precisely counts as a protagonist here (although that’s part of the explicit political point). The downside of this diffuse focus is very little in the way of character emerging, not counting the villainous Michael (Udo Kier, making his own gravy). –KH

Let Them All Talk (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2020) Aging literary lioness Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) inveigles her agency into paying for her (and her mere mortal friends Susan (Dianne Wiest) and Roberta (Candice Bergen))  to cross the Atlantic in the Queen Mary 2 to receive a UK literary prize. A somewhat improv script shot in two weeks during an actual ocean crossing, it can’t really compare with Soderbergh’s more polished pieces, but man it is such a delight to watch, part hangout film and part actors’ duel. –KH

Madeline’s Madeline (Film, US, Josephine Decker, 2018) Bright teen with serious mental health issues (Helena Howard) escapes from her anxiously protective mom (Miranda July) by joining an intense experimental theater troupe run by a charismatic director (Molly Parker) who may have boundary issues of her own. Jagged cutting and aggressive close-ups infuse this drama of personal discovery with nail-biting emotional peril.—RDL

Nobody (Film, US, Ilya Naishuller, 2021) A hapless home invasion attempt awakens the top-secret, ultraviolent past of a plodding, gray-faced family man (Bob Odenkirk.) Driven by a standout performance from Odenkirk as an unlikely killing machine, this tongue-in-cheek actioner delivers the cleverest, tightest variation on its classic premise since John Wick.—RDL

Tommaso (Film, Italy/US/Greece, Abel Ferrara, 2020) Film director Tommaso (Willem Dafoe), living in Rome with his much-younger wife Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), struggles with his past as an addict and with his present-day frustrations and temptations. Dafoe’s expressive face and movements, and Ferrara’s repeated intercuts of dreams, fantasies, imaginations, and temptations, illuminate the war within every man in this deep, slow dive into a broken soul. There is no closure, because to recovering addict (and Catholic) Ferrara, none exists in life, either. If there’s such a thing as slice-of-life unrealism, this is it. –KH

Good

Synchronic (Film, US, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2020) New Orleans paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) pick up after the detritus wreaked by an experimental designer drug that unmoors the user in time. A strong high concept and winning performances on the one hand, Benson & Moorhead’s least oblique and least multidimensional (excuse the pun) script on the other. The oddly toothless nature of the threat wins the coin toss, dropping this to Good. –KH

Zombi Child (Film, France, Bertrand Bonello, 2020) At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, lovelorn Fanny (Louise Labeque) connects with Haitian girl Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat); their lives eventually intersect with the 1962 Clairvius Narcisse zombie case. Essentially missing a fourth act, it’s thus at heart an uncomplicated story of teen heartbreak and despair, which somewhat diminishes both its ostensible theme and its respectful and riveting exploration of Vodou. –KH

Not Recommended

The Belko Experiment (Film, US, Greg McLean, 2016) Employees in a remote office tower must kill one another to survive. Cruel slaughterfest guised as social commentary. Beware the scripts a writer-director, in this case James Gunn, hands off to someone else.—RDL

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