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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Obi-Wan, Doctor Strange, Rothaniel, and the First Shin Honkaku Novel

June 28th, 2022 | 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 Pinnacle

Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (Stand-Up, US, HBO, Bo Burnham, 2022) At the Blue Note in New York, Carmichael reveals a tangle of family secrets and his gay identity. Astoundingly gutsy set cedes partial control to an increasingly participatory audience, landing in the intersection of comedy and high-wire confessional performance art.—RDL

Recommended

Den of Thieves (Film, US, Christian Gudegast, 2018) Sleazy major crimes cop (Gerard Butler) zeroes in on an ex-military robbery crew leader (Pablo Schreiber) as he cases L.A.’s branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. Crackling crime drama throws in clever heist twists as it genuflects before the altar of Heat,—RDL

Fire Island (Film, US, Andrew Ahn, 2022) Commitment-shy New Yorker (Joel Kim Booster) ducks his own intimacy issues during his gang’s annual group vacation in a gay resort time with an unsolicited promise to wingman his less confident bestie (Bowen Yang.) Borrows Judd Apatow’s mix of relaxed pacing, arrested maturity sincerity and raunch as a framework for the gay rom-com.—RDL

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (Fiction, Japan, Soji Shimada, 1981) Forty years after the fact, astrologer Kitoshi Mitarai and his faithful (and self-described) Watson investigate a storied 1936 serial murder apparently planned by a mad alchemical artist – who was killed in a locked room before the murders began. Shimada’s first novel kicked off the shin honkaku subgenre with its verve, ironic joy, and critical success. The bizarre setup keeps the immense up-front exposition dump interesting, and the ensuing detection delightfully combines the eccentric and the humane. –KH

Good

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (Film, US, Sam Raimi, 2022) Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) protects a young woman who can jump between alternate realities (Xochitl Gomez) from the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), now corrupted by an evil tome. Raimi livens up the thankless assignment of paying off story debts incurred in previous MCU entries by deploying as many of his signature flourishes as they’ll let him sneak in.—RDL

The Helm of Hades (Fiction, Paul Halter, 2019) French mystery author Halter has been called the “true heir of John Dickson Carr,” which on the evidence of this collection remains a bit of a stretch. This short story collection comprises nine “impossible” crimes and one Christie-esque timetable mystery, of uneven quality, the best being “The Ladder of Jacob” (a man is found dead from a fall with no heights around). One of the better ones, “The Yellow Book,” incorporates The King in Yellow for extra points. –KH

Okay

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Television, US, Disney+, Deborah Chow, 2022) Middle-aged Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) comes out of hiding when 10-year old Leia is kidnapped by Sith lackeys trying to lure him into the clutches of Darth Vader (Hayden Christiansen/James Earl Jones.) A competently executed continuation of the prequel project shows how misconceived it has always been, as the Jedi mythology and events briefly alluded to in the original films does not withstand the scrutiny that occurs when a former backstory becomes main narrative.—RDL

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