Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Oppenheimer, Barbie, Secret Invasion

August 8th, 2023 | 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

Oppenheimer (Film, US, Christopher Nolan, 2023) Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) runs the atomic bomb program and makes enemies, including rising politico Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.). A double murderers’ row of actors superbly convey Nolan’s theme that human beings are their own chain reaction, as we follow two storylines focused on Oppenheimer and Strauss, intercut like a cooled-down version of JFK. Jennifer Lame’s precision edits and Ludwig Göransson’s modernist score are the absolute standouts in a nearly flawless film. —KH


Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud (Nonfiction, Ben McKenzie with Jacob Silverman, 2023) His acting career sidelined by the pandemic, TV’s Lt. Jim Gordon teams up with a seasoned journalist to investigate their strong hunch that something that walks like a Ponzi and quacks like a Ponzi is in fact history’s biggest Ponzi. McKenzie deploys his storytelling chops to wrap deliberately opaque financial details in a procedural investigation structure. For the first time I understand blockchain, up until the point where it’s not supposed to make sense.—RDL

Mixed by Erry (Film, Italy, Sydney Sibilia, 2023) Aided by his business-minded brother and his violence-ready brother, a meek would-be DJ builds his mixtape fandom into a music piracy empire that eclipses Italy’s legit record business. Layers sprightly light observational comedy onto the Scorsesean rise-and-fall crime docudrama structure.—RDL


Barbie (Film, US, Greta Gerwig, 2023) Mysterious angst grips Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), sending her out of Barbieland and into the real world. Alternately didactic and too on-the-nose, the dialogue kneecaps this ostensible comedy, stopping it dead more than once. Madly brilliant design, generally excellent cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, and flashes of serene absurdism show what could have gone right, and Ryan Gosling once again shows his great comedic strengths, making more than the best of his role as Beach Ken. —KH

The Black Phone (Film, US, Scott Derrickson, 2022) Kidnapped middle schooler (Mason Thames) receives aid from his psychic sister and the ghosts of previous victims in his attempt to escape the basement of a masked serial killer (Ethan Hawke.) Muted 70s colors, creepy mask design and Hawke’s layered freak characterization stand out in a piece pitched to a scare level your non-horror fan friends and family can withstand.—RDL

Not Recommended

Flaxy Martin (Film, US, Richard L. Bare, 1949) When his double-crossing singer girlfriend (Virginia Mayo) is suspected of murder, a self-righteous mob attorney (Zachary Scott) confesses, thinking he can beat the rap. Great noir cast brings intensity to a thoroughly ridiculous script.—RDL

Secret Invasion (Television, US, Disney+, Ali Selim, 2023) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) returns to Earth to battle a terrorist insurrection led by a skrull ex-protege (Kingsley Ben-Adir.) Dour, dispiriting slog through a long-foreshadowed plotline devalues our sympathy for Fury and emphasizes the jarring disjunctions that spring from attempts to overlay MCU continuity onto real world geopolitics.—RDL

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