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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Peter Cannon & The Sparks Brothers

June 22nd, 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

The Big Gundown (Film, Italy, Sergio Sollima, 1968) Implacable gunslinger (Lee van Cleef) tracks a an weaselly but ingenious criminal (Tomas Milian) accused of child murder. Quest-structured, Morricone-scored spaghetti western with emphatic staging, a wry eye for human perversity, and a classic frenemy dynamic between the leads.—RDL

The Clockmaker of St. Paul (Film, France, Bertrand Tavernier, 1976) Mournful watch store proprietor (Philippe Noiret) struggles to understand how his son could have murdered his girlfriend’s supervisor and gone on the lam. Restrained character piece with a political undertone, based on a Simenon novel. Aka The Watchmaker of St. Paul or The Clockmaker.—RDL

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt (Comics, Dynamite, Kieron Gillen & Caspar Wijngaard, 2020) Peter Cannon, heir to the Ancient Scrolls of a lost civilization, reluctantly defends his Earth against a faked alien invasion. I could write an essay about this intelligent, honest response/homage to Watchmen, but suffice it to say that Gillen’s engagement with the form and the content of comics’ eternal, nigh-fatal masterpiece provides the best possible argument for broad reading in the classics as a basis for creative effort. Its biggest flaw is that unlike its model it doesn’t quite encompass a superhero story — but Gillen intends that lacuna, as well. Wijngaard’s art counterpoints both Gillen and Gibbons’ genius (two difficult tasks!) with remarkable fluidity and strength, and Mary Safro’s coloring quietly amazes. –KH

The Sparks Brothers (Film, US/UK, Edgar Wright, 2021) Rockumentary tracks the origin and evolution of the seminal, vastly influential glam-synth-comic-pop-art duo Sparks (Russell and Ron Mael) over five decades and 25 albums. Wright has as much fun as he can (which isn’t a whole lot) with the standard talking-heads-plus-footage format but fortunately the Maels’ dry seen-it-all vibe lets his puppyish auteurism bounce off and the music shine through. Nearly two and a half hours fly by with the only cavil being “oh I wish he’d dived deeper into [your favorite Sparks era] and also let Jane Wiedlin talk way more instead of Fred Armisen.” –KH

Okay

Dark City (Film, US, William Dieterle, 1950) Remote gambler (Charlton Heston) realizes that he and his confederates have been targeted for death by someone connected to a garrulous out-of-towner who killed himself after they fleeced him. Hardboiled noir falters until late in the game, when the protagonist finally gets far enough into his redemption arc for the viewer to stop rooting for his demise. Jack Webb appears in an uncharacteristic role as a contemptible heel.—RDL

Sword of Sherwood Forest (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1960) The Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing) pursues a fugitive into Sherwood, prompting Robin Hood (Richard Greene) to investigate a wider conspiracy. Hammer Films extends its policy of weaving new storylines around public domain characters into swashbuckler territory, resulting in an affable time-waster.—RDL

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