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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Reacher, May December, and Later Silver John

January 23rd, 2024 | 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 Box (Film, Mexico, Lorenzo Vigas, 2021) Stoic seventh-grader falls in with a textile factory recruiter he believes to be his supposedly murdered father, learning the brutal side of the business. Economical, beautifully shot social realist crime drama.—RDL

Jolly (YouTube channel, Josh Carrott & Ollie Kendal, 2017-present) A spinoff from the more focused (and also Recommended if you want to see a lot of Korean BBQ) Korean Englishman YT channel, Jolly features hosts Josh and Ollie usually (but not always) trying food from snacks or army rations to Michelin meals. The proven good-looking-straight-man, goofy-looking-funny-one combo works again, YouTube content at its most charming and addictive.—KH

The Man Who Spoke Snakish (Fiction, Andrus Kivirähk, 2007) In a fantastical medieval Estonia, a holdout from a beleaguered hunting culture, one of the last people who wields magical powers granted by the language of adders, recounts the tragic events of a life lived in the shadow of encroaching Christianity. Whimsy and brutality inventively intertwine in a tale of cultural transformation and the toll it exacts.—RDL

May December (Film, US, Todd Haynes, 2023) Canny actor (Natalie Portman) pays an extended research visit to a woman (Julianne Moore) she has been cast to play in a movie about the statutory rape trial triggered by her relationship with her now-adult, then seventh grade husband (Charles Melton.) An undertow of subtext seethes beneath the brittle surface of this powerfully acted domestic drama.—RDL

PG: Psycho Goreman (Film, Canada, Steve Kostanski, 2021) With her confederate slash whipping boy brother (Owen Myre) at her side, an unhinged grade schooler (Nita-Josee Hanna) gains control over a mighty evil alien overlord from the planet Gigax. Scrappy, blood-drenched indie tokusatsu flick spoofs E.T. and pays homage to the straight-to-VHS oeuvre of Charles Band.—RDL

Tár (Film, US, Todd Field, 2022) Superstar conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) heads for the high point of her career, conducting Mahler’s Fifth with her Berlin Philharmonic, even as her tragic flaw (serial sexual predation) widens and is exposed. A classic tragedy, wonderfully acted (Noémie Merlant as Lydia’s resentful assistant is magnificently restrained) and composed, punctuated by sudden character reveals that rotate the story.—KH

This Happy Breed (Film, UK, David Lean, 1944) An optimistic WWI vet turned travel agent (Robert Newton) shepherds his loving but sometimes sharp-elbowed family through the ups and downs, personal and political, of the interwar period. Adaptation of a 1939 Noel Coward play focuses on character while also using four years of hindsight to bring an air of pointed irony to its morale boosting proceedings.—RDL

The Voice of the Mountain (Fiction, Manly Wade Wellman, 1984) Silver John decides to climb Cry Mountain to find the source of its cry, and discovers a black magician in this place of power. The resolution doesn’t quite match the wonder of the setup, and Wellman’s prose is not quite as well-joined as in his original 1951-1963 Pinnacle Silver John tales of Appalachian magic, but all that says is it’s merely an excellent occult adventure story..—KH


Gangubai Kathiawadi (Film, India, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2022) Brothel-keeper Gangubai (Alia Bhatt) recalls her own rise to political power in the Mumbai red-light district of Kamathipura. Bhatt is always an actress worth watching, but she can’t elevate this relatively rote biopic very far out of its strangely sanitized channel.—KH

The Hanging Stones (Fiction, Manly Wade Wellman, 1982) Silver John investigates a businessman’s plan to build a reproduction of Stonehenge as a tourist attraction. Some superb supernatural ideas appear in this somewhat shapeless novel, and it’s always nice to see (one of Wellman’s other series occult-battlers) Judge Pursuivant as a guest star, but it needed another editing pass to bring it even up to the standard of later Silver John novels.—KH

No Man of Her Own (Film, US, Wesley Ruggles, 1932) Suave card sharp (Clark Gable) conceals his true profession when he goes on the lam to a small town and falls for a bored librarian (Carole Lombard.) Slight pre-Code romcom burns with the palpable heat between the leads, who don’t get together in real life for another four years.—RDL

Reacher Season 2 (Television, US, Amazon Prime, Nick Santora, 2023-4) Someone is killing off enormous former MP Jack Reacher’s (Alan Ritchson) less-enormous former MP team, and he starts looking into it. The fight choreography has really dropped off between seasons (with one exception in the last episode), and the lack of focus (between flashbacks and forgettable team members) badly weakens the brutal drive that Season 1 brought. It’s still Jack Reacher harming bad guys, but that climb to Justified-level purity I hoped for from last season has not even begun.—KH

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