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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Sherlock’s Sister and Cagney’s Mustache

September 29th, 2020 | 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 Public Image (Fiction, Muriel Spark, 1968) As a young English actress heads for stardom, abetted by the Italian gossip press, the playwright husband who condescends to her commits a terrible act of career sabotage. Spiky, incisive novella of betrayal and survival set against Rome’s film industry heyday.—RDL

He Was Her Man (Film, US, Lloyd Bacon, 1932) On the lam from betrayed associates, a cocky safecracker (James Cagney) agrees to escort a gal with a past (Joan Blondell) to the tiny coastal town where she intends to wed a good-hearted immigrant fisherman (Victory Jory.) Romantic melodrama offers an unexpectedly affecting blend of two staple 30s Warners genres, the crime flick and the working class saga. A rare chance to see Cagney sport a pencil-thin mustache.—RDL

Good

Enola Holmes (Film, US, Harry Bradbeer, 2020) When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) disappears, Enola (Millie Bobbie Brown) goes in search of her in London, while remaining a step ahead of her older brothers Mycroft and Sherlock (Sam Claflin and Henry Cavill). Repeat to yourself “It’s a kids’ movie” and enjoy Brown’s whole-hearted embrace of her character, and the zingy virtues of this trifle outweigh the occasional clunkiness of the script and routine directorial choices. Cavill, surprisingly, does not embarrass himself, possibly because Sherlock also seldom shows human emotion. –KH

False Faces (Film, US, Lowell Sherman, 1932) Crooked doctor (Sherman) moves up in the world by passing himself off as a plastic surgeon. Snappy ripped-from-the-headlines crime docudrama belongs to a cycle of films from the period tracing the rise and fall of scoundrels. Based on the case of Henry Schireson, who had no medical license whatsoever and continued to mangle patients for more than a decade after this film’s release.—RDL

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Film, US, Charlie Kaufman, 2020) A painter—or medical researcher, or poet, or waitress—(Jessie Buckley) considers breaking up with her neurotic boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) as he introduces her to his eccentric parents. The Pinteresque second act, with Toni Colette and David Thewlis as the parents, stands out in Kaufman’s adaptation of a Kaufmanesque novel by Iain Reid.—RDL

Senso (Film, Italy, Luchino Visconti, 1954) During the Risorgimento, a married Venetian countess (Alida Valli) loves a dashing but callow officer (Farley Granger) of the occupying Austrians. A beautiful object that bends the standard Technicolor palette to match 19th century Italian painting, in which the director detaches himself from his protagonists when they morally disappoint him.—RDL

Not Recommended

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Film, US, Michael Dougherty, 2019) Emma (Vera Farmiga) goes rogue, endangering her plucky daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) as she helps eco-terrorists to free Ghidrah and the other black-hat titans. Latches hard onto the assumption that what we want from a movie where the marquee Toho kaiju kick each other’s asses is a grim and dispiriting tone. Points for hewing to the classic creature designs to the newly reintroduced monsters, and to Bradley Whitford for adding unauthorized levity to his expository role.—RDL

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