Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spider-Mans, Spider-Mans (and Midsommar Too)

July 9th, 2019 | 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.


Andy Warhol and the Can That Sold the World (Nonfiction, Gary Indiana, 2010) Critical, biographical and political examination of Warhol’s Soup Cans series as a pivot point in American culture, woven together with a novelist’s knack for narrative. Particularly strong on the cultural contrasts between the Abstract Expressionist claque and the pop artists who displaced them.—RDL

Frankenstein in Baghdad (Fiction, Ahmed Saadawi, 2013) During the American occupation of Baghdad, an antiques merchant, in an act of obscure protest, sews together a corpse from the parts of many car bomb victims, only to see it animate into a superhuman avenger. Magic realist ensemble novel uses horror imagery to map the bloody chaos spiral of the post-invasion period.—RDL

Midsommar (Film, US/Sweden, Ari Aster, 2019) Reeling from personal tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) accompanies her weaksauce boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a once-a-lifetime midsummer festival in remotest Sweden. Aster’s bag of camera tricks doesn’t quite compensate for a third act that mistakes inevitability for momentum, but Pugh’s committed, powerful acting and Bobby Krlic’s score carry this Sweaboo Wicker Man home. –KH

Shrill Season 1 (Television, US, Alexandra Rushfield, 2019) Novice reporter at a Portland alt weekly (Aidy Bryant) learns to stick up for herself while dealing with an emotionally maladroit almost-boyfriend (Luka Jones) and fat-shaming editor (John Cameron Mitchell, playing a fictionalized Dan Savage.) Dramedy gives Bryant a chance to shine in a sustained performance as a fully realized character; Jones achieves new dimensions in comic gormlessness.—RDL

The Souvenir (Film, UK, Joanna Hogg, 2019) Privileged film student (Honor Swinton Byrne), lacking the radar to sense that something is amiss, becomes embroiled with a languorous, sophisticated older man (Tom Burke.) Elliptical autobiographical drama observed with a quiet lushness, centred by Swinton Byrne’s breakout performance.—RDL

Spider-Man: Far from Home (Film, US, Jon Watts, 2019) A new threat brings Tony Stark’s reluctant successor Peter Parker (Tom Holland) back into action with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). The movie has so much lumber to clear from previous films that it’s a small miracle it succeeds as well as it does, despite mostly abandoning the frothy teen movie-superhero flick blend of its precursor. Holland’s charm and an extremely cool fight scene keep it up there and swinging. –KH

Spider-Man: Far from Home (Film, US, Jon Watts, 2019) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) hijacks Peter Parker (Tom Holland) from the European class trip where he hopes to woo MJ (Zendaya), enlisting him in a battle against elementals waged by bubble-helmeted warrior Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal.) Light-hearted super-romp plays as the cinematic version of a regular comic book yanking itself back on track after the disruptions of a massive crossover event.—RDL

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Film, US, Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, 2018) Reluctant magnet school student Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) succeeds the deceased Peter Parker as Spider-Man and teams with extra-dimensional counterparts to save the multiverse from Kingpin’s reality-shattering machine. A companion piece in deep-dive nerdery and bullet-train pacing to the Lord & MIller producing team’s Lego Batman, but with heart instead of gags.—RDL


A Legacy of Spies (Fiction, John LeCarré, 2017) The Circus drags an aged Peter Guillam out of retirement to hang the 1962 deaths of Alec Leamas and Liz Gold on him, in this prequel-sequel to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Although LeCarré remains effortless reading, this is not his strongest plot by any stretch, and at the end the book just deflates. I should ding it another rank for putting a piece of arrant sloganeering into the mouth of George Smiley of all people. –KH

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