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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spies, Zombies and Financial Criminals

June 25th, 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.

Recommended

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (Nonfiction, Sheelah Kolhatkar, 2017) FBI and SEC investigators pursue an insider trading case against obsessive hedge fund mogul, whose company structure seems engineered for endemic hanky-panky. Riveting legal/financial procedural where the crime scenes are email servers.—RDL

Craig’s Wife (Film, US, Dorothy Arzner, 1936) Compulsively controlling woman (Rosalind Russell) tips her besotted husband (John Boles) to her subtly abusive behavior after he becomes a tangential witness in a criminal case. Arzner’s flair for incisive observation of unconventional characters animates this family melodrama, which if remade today would psychologize the heroine’s tragic flaw.—RDL

The Dead Don’t Die (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2019) When the dead rise in Pennsylvania, the Centerville Police Department (Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny) cannot hold. Jarmusch takes a rare turn into nihilism with this deliberately down-beat, beautiful comedy; to see him produce rhythm and signifiers without meaning is scarier than anything in the film itself. –KH

Killing Eve Season 2 (Television, UK, Emerald Fennell, 2019) Villanelle’s new freelance gig leads her to an espionage-op team up with crush object Eve, but you can’t take the murder out of the murdergirl. The series premise clarifies itself from cat-and-mouse to Silence of the Lambs minus horror plus spies, romance and fashion. Though cheerfully upfront about its idiot plotting, sticklers on that front may downgrade it a notch or two.—RDL

The Little Drummer Girl (Television, UK, BBC, Park Chan-Wook, 2018) Recruited by Mossad in the person of handler Gadi (Alexander Skarsgård), English actress Charlie (Florence Pugh) rewrites her past and infiltrates a Palestinian terrorist cell in 1979 Europe. Weird core story about the fluidity of personhood peeks out of this Le Carré spy policier (espionier?) but the real stars are Michael Shannon’s blustery spymaster Kurtz and Park’s Seventies-adoring location scout. –KH

The Problem of the Green Capsule (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1939) Dr. Fell and Inspector Elliott grapple with a poisoning, one deliberately filmed by the victim. All Carr’s gifts for plot, puzzle, and creepy atmosphere connect here; the only thing missing is a locked room.–KH

Good

Through the Stars By Hard Ways (Film, Russia, Richard and Nikolay Viktorov, 1981) After an experimental sojourn on Earth with a host family of scientists, an orphaned alien artificial human (Yelena Metyolkina) accompanies an interstellar rescue mission. Often eerie, occasionally goofy adaptation of a Kir Bulychev story affords the chance to see stock space opera elements filtered through the distinct and now-vanished aesthetic of Soviet SF. AKA Through the Thorns to the Stars, Per Aspera Ad Astra, or Humanoid Woman.—RDL

WTF

The Apple (Film, US/West Germany, Menahem Golan, 1980) In the dystopic future of 1994, where Canadians enter the Eurovision Song Contest, a Mephistophelean empresario lures the female half of a romantic singing duo into decadent stardom. Rock musical passion project from the producer of Cobra, Cyborg and The Delta Force takes as its seeming thesis that Rocky Horror should have been three times gayer yet also a painfully sincere Biblical allegory. Legendary cult film, staged with the utter confidence in gobsmackingly awful material that comes only from owning a mini-studio.—RDL

Not Recommended

Jessica Jones Season 3 (Television, US, Melissa Rosenberg, 2019) As Jessica (Kristen Ritter) runs afoul of a serial killer (Jeremy Bobb), Patsy (Rachael Taylor) completes her transformation into a violent masked vigilante. Rife with skewed emotional logic, the show’s final season–at Netflix, anyway–curdles into sourness and cruelty.—RDL

Wine Country (Film, US, Amy Poehler, 2019) A troupe of longtime pals (Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell & Emily Spivey) descends on Napa Valley to celebrate a 50th birthday and renew old bonds. Cast of killer SNL alums struggle to energize a script without a compelling comic premise or much in the way of jokes.—RDL

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