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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Soderbergh Crime, Winslet Crime, and Boardgame Metaphysics

July 6th, 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

Mare of Easttown (Television, UK, HBO, Brad Inglesby, 2021) Jaded, grief-burying small town detective (Kate Winslet) investigates a murder involving a local teen, where nearly all the witnesses and suspects are friends or relatives. Obsessively wielded hardscrabble social observation lends docudrama credibility to an operatic, twist-filled crime story.—RDL

No Sudden Move (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2021) In 1954 Detroit, ex-con Curtis Goynes (Don Cheadle) and lunkhead Ronny Russo (Benicio del Toro) get paid too much to hold a schlub’s (David Harbour) family hostage and have to keep moving to avoid the setup and get out ahead. Elliptical script by Ed Solomon almost always reveals just enough (it does get a little expository at moments) and Soderbergh keeps the action and actors moving fast enough to keep all the crime-flick plates spinning. Stylish performances by the best-of-breed supporting cast (especially an Orson Welles-channeling Brendan Fraser playing a middle-management hood) and plenty of cool light remind you of what Soderbergh always has in the tank. –KH

No Sudden Move (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2021) In 50s Detroit, a gunman with powerful enemies and land to buy (Don Cheadle) agrees to a lucrative few-hour gig holding a family hostage with a luckless counterpart (Benicio del Toro) and a mouthy punk (Kieran Culkin), and awry it goes. Snappy dialogue, a deceptively matter-of-fact emotional temperature and a oneupping attitude to anamorphic lens distortion distinguish Soderbergh’s latest return to the crime genre.—RDL

Good

Avidly Reads Board Games (Nonfiction, Eric Thurm, 2019) Thurm uses personal memoir and play experience as a gateway to briefly discussing board game evolution and metaphysics. To the extent this slim volume is about anything (besides justifying its subject to a NYU Press editor), it’s about the implications of the “magic circle” of board game play for players and designers: complicity in various theoretical or political constructions, and potential to redefine experience through play and larger mechanical possibilities such as legacy games or coopetitive designs. Pleasant, clever, but too short to really bite: the Coup of board game books. –KH

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt Omnibus (Comics, Dynamite, Alex Ross & Steve Darnall and Jonathan Lau, 2015) Peter Cannon’s impulsive creation of a dragon tulpa to discourage nuclear testing blows back on every part of his life as old foes and new gather to destroy him. If Gillen & Wijngaard’s take on the same material was near-Pinnacle Recommended, this is near-Recommended Good: the comic never bored me and once or twice genuinely surprised me, but didn’t leave a whole lot behind. It’s funny how Moore’s deconstruction of Cannon has somehow become the template for every major treatment of the character since — in that respect Ross & Darnall break new (if less inviting) ground by depicting a genuinely confused Thunderbolt rather than an arch Ozymandias. –KH

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