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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spike, Orson, and the Eameses

June 16th, 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

Cogan’s Trade (Fiction, George V. Higgins, 1974) Boston parolees plan to knock over a high-stakes card game; a hit man and his bosses then plan to rub them out. An extended exploration of the verbal tics, petty complaints and circumlocutions that flow from the mouths of career criminals as they talk their way into acts of stupidity and violence, from a writer who knew its banal rhythms well. Filmed by Andrew Dominik as 2012’s Killing Them Softly, faithful in plot detail yet to markedly different emotional effect.—RDL

Da 5 Bloods (Film, US, Spike Lee, 2020) Four aging black Vietnam vets (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) return to where their platoon sergeant (Chadwick Boseman) was killed — and where they left a CIA gold shipment buried. Lee joins his own increasing didacticism with the near-melodrama inherent to war movies to produce a satisfying emotional spectacle, anchored by  strong performances (especially from Lindo, Peters, and Whitlock), effective battle scenes, and a fine Terence Blanchard score interspersed with Marvin Gaye. –KH

Eames: The Architect and the Painter (Film, US, Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey, 2011) Documentary profile of married designers and filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames, who from their iconic chairs to museum shows and industrial films instilled modernism with a jazzy beauty.—RDL

The Eyes of Orson Welles (Film, UK, Mark Cousins, 2018) Critic/documentarian Cousins uses Orson Welles’ lifelong sketching habit as an entry point into a passionate account of his life and work, framed as a letter to the towering yet snakebit director. No one thinks, analyzes, or narrates like Cousins, who lets his idiosyncrasies gloriously fly, bouncing from formalist observation to fanciful dialogue with its subject.—RDL

Killing Eve Season 3 (Television, UK, BBC America, Suzanne Heathcote, 2020) Eve (Sandra Oh) attempts to remain incognito in a restaurant kitchen until the urge to track down Villanelle (Jodie Comer), now trying to rise to command level in the Twelve, inevitably overcomes her. Successfully hides the wiring of the investigatIve thriller while also keeping the leads mostly apart.—RDL

Good

The Tall Target (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1951) New York police sergeant John Kennedy (Dick Powell) hunts assassination plotters on the crowded overnight train from New York to Baltimore in February 1861. Mann’s tightly controlled shots, lighting, and pacing build tension and atmosphere, but Powell’s inward-focused surliness works against the film. Ruby Dee as the enslaved Rachel is superb, though. –KH

Okay

Murder in Mesopotamia (Fiction, Agatha Christie, 1936) Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of an archaeologist’s wife in Iraq. Unlike Josephine Tey, Christie’s novels stand or fall on their plots — her characters, by and large, are cardboard cutouts inhabiting alibis and dialogue shorthand. Unlike John Dickson Carr (also better at plotting), she describes rather than depicts atmosphere. Strangely, although she surely had the skills to produce a tautly plotted mystery set in a convincing archaeological dig, she didn’t do that here. –KH

Peace Breaker (Film, HK, Lien Yi-chi, 2017) Corrupt Kuala Lumpur cop (Aaron Kwok) kills a man in a hit-and-run and frantically proceeds to cover it up. Remakes Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day without the black humor that made it work. See the original instead.—RDL

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