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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spidey, Big Sick and the Cash That Brings Doom

July 18th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

The Big Sick (Film, US, Michael Showalter, 2017) When the girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) who recently broke up with him when she realized he’d been hiding her from his traditionalist parents falls sick and is placed in a coma, comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Kumail Nanjiani) awkwardly bonds with her worried parents (Holly Hunter, Ray Romano). Based on the marriage origin story of Nanjiani and co-writer Emily Gordon, this touching and funny comedy-drama holds fast to its sense of real lives lived.—RDL

Fool’s Gold (Fiction, Dolores Hitchens, 1958) A pair of young crooks in the classic sociopath plus follower pairing decide to steal a cache of money stored in an old spinster’s house, even if it was left there by a tough character from Vegas. Noirish suspenser of strongly characterized and mostly terrible people making terrible decisions, to results that spin out of control in unpredictable ways, Later adapted, all but unrecognizably, into Godard’s most entertaining film, Band of Outsiders.—RDL

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (Nonfiction, Mary Roach, 2016) Survey of US military science projects that aim to protect soldiers delves into such topics as stink bombs, submarine survival, the biomechanics of heat prostration, and why shark repellent isn’t a thing. When a horrible fly creature shows up in “The Wars” segment of the Yellow King RPG, you’ll know to thank Mary Roach, who gives breezy pop-sci a good name.—RDL

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film, US, Jon Watts, 2017) The secret to a good superhero movie is to make a good movie and put a superhero in it: this is a good high-school comedy with Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in it. With the addition of Michael Keaton’s blue-collar, relatable Vulture as the refreshingly not-idiotic villain, it becomes fully Recommended; Watts cheats the Marvel formula by skipping the origin and focusing on the goofy fun of web-slinging. –KH

Good

Two Bottles of Relish: The Little Tales of Smethers and Other Stories (Fiction, Lord Dunsany, 2016) A lovely edition of Dunsany’s 1952 collection of mystery and crime short stories starts off very, very strong with the classic title story. The rest of the tales don’t show off Dunsany’s effortless prose like his fantasies did, but are worth reading for fans of somewhat old-fashioned detective-story formalism and occasional grue. –KH

Okay

Keanu (Film, US, Peter Atencio, 2016) Surburban cousins (Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key) pose as murderous drug dealers in an effort to retrieve the titular adorable kitten. Puts the sensibility of the Key & Peele sketch show through the studio blanderizer, which might not be noticeable with a higher  jokes per minute ratio.—RDL

Stranger on the Third Floor (Film, US, Boris Ingster, 1940) Reporter who testifies against a young man (Elisha Cook Jr.) accused of murder falls into a doubt freak-out after his conviction, beginning to suspect the weird, murdery-seeming man with the scarf (Peter Lorre) he spots hanging around the neighborhood. Slim script both enlivened and somewhat overloaded by a feverish blast of film noir expressionism, including a dream sequence that stops just one step short of the full Caligari.—RDL

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