Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Stone Cold Jane Austen

May 31st, 2016 | 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.


Love & Friendship (Film, US/EU, Whit Stillman, 2016) Adventuress and manipulator Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) dodges scandal while seeking suitable marriages for herself and, if she must, her daughter. Comedian of manners Stillman adapts and expands on an early Jane Austen novella (q.v.), with just the joy and elan one would expect from the pairing. Beckinsale delightfully recalls her performance as the similarly egoistic Charlotte in Stillman’s Last Days of Disco; Sophie Corra’s editing adds still more sharpness. –KH

Love & Friendship (Film, US/EU, Whit Stillman, 2016) Scandalous widow Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) doesn’t let her desire to marry off her daughter get in the way of her yen for two separate handsome gentlemen. Stillman’s eye for the inner workings of insular social milieus and ear for sparkling dialogue make him the perfect director to showcase the side of Austen most screen adaptations downplay–the wit. Tom Bennett enters the all-time cinematic upper class twit hall of fame with his hilarious portrayal of hapless suitor Sir James Martin.–RDL

The Mind Reader (Film, US, Roy del Ruth, 1933) Carnival fortune teller (Warren William) falls for a decent girl who believes his powers are real. Satirical drama crackling with pre-Code cynicism and the usual delightful performance from pencil-mustached William, who was George Sanders before George Sanders was George Sanders. Steal all the characters and locales, add tentacles, shake in a bag till you have a new plotline, and you’ve got yourself a Trail of Cthulhu scenario. —RDL

Nice Guys (Film, US, Shane Black, 2016) Wannabe do-gooder thug Healy (Russell Crowe) and feckless drunk P.I. March (Ryan Gosling) stumble into a tangled web of murder in an aggressively production-designed 1977 Los Angeles; a riotous Shane Black movie ensues. Solid character writing and performances keep the film on an even keel throughout the hard-boiled near-farce. –KH

Supernatural Season 11 (TV, CW, 2015-2016) Sam and Dean keep on hunting monsters in between attempts to deal with God’s sister, the darkness, and her plans to destroy his creation. It’s quite an achievement to keep ringing the changes on the show’s tight parameters after over a decade on the air; this season keeps the plates spinning by tipping the balance toward the show’s lighter side. —RDL


Lady Susan (Fiction, Jane Austen, 1794?) Epistolary novella archly describes the manipulations of Lady Susan Vernon, less moral and more intelligent than everyone around her. Its truncated conclusion (Austen apparently couldn’t figure out how to continue it in epistolary format) is its great flaw, but the letters crackle with Austen zingers. In a better world, Lady Susan Vernon eclipses even the wonderful Becky Sharp in the pantheon of English adventuresses. –KH

Mirage Men (Film, UK, John Lundberg, 2013) Documentary based on writer Mark Pilkington’s book of the same name enters the world of U.S. government UFO disinformation via the amiable, slightly defensive, irrationally plausible Richard Doty, an outed and self-confessed disinfo/counter-intelligence officer in the USAF Office of Special Investigation. As one might expect, it loses its narrative thread a few times, but the production is much better than made-for-cable bumf. If you know the field already, bump it up to Recommended. –KH


Altman (Film, Canada, Ron Mann, 2014) Affectionate look back at the career and family life of director Robert Altman. Altman left such a vast filmography that the documentary feature format allows only time for a zip through the basics. Bump up to “Recommended” if that’s what you’re looking for.—RDL

The Glory Guys (Film, US, Arnold Laven, 1965) Brooding cavalry captain (future horror writer Tom Tryon) and bullheaded scout (Harve Presnell) vie for the affections of a hot-blooded widow (Senta Berger) while awaiting an attack on the Sioux under a general with a rep for callously sacrificing his men. Stab at colorful widescreen entertainment with the black tar of screenwriter Sam Peckinpah’s doom-laden cynicism bubbling into it from below. Might be more than a curio if any of the three leads had a lick of star charisma.—RDL

Gotham Season 2 (TV, Fox, 2015-2016) While Jim Gordon has his hands full with various multi-villain assaults on the city, young Bruce Wayne continues to investigate the murders of his parents. Drops the case of the week structure in favor of straight-up serialized storytelling but still puts the characters through changes too fast for most of them to land.—RDL

Trail Street (Film, US, Ray Enright, 1947) Legendary marshal Bat Masterson (Randolph Scott) teams up with stand-up land agent (Robert Ryan) to protect farmers from a murderous cattle man. Comfortably formulaic entry made watchable by its stars and coot-specialist character actor George ‘Gabby’ Hayes. Up with wheat! Down with beef! —RDL

4 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Stone Cold Jane Austen”

  1. Hank Harwell says:

    Wow. I think you are very generous in your recommendation of “good” for Gotham. I watch it every week, but it is teetering on the edge of rejection. Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot keeps me coming back, but I’m not digging the torturous path that Gordon is being forced to take due to some very poor decision-making on his part.

  2. Lisa Padol says:

    I love Gotham, but that’s fair.

  3. Terry O'Carroll says:

    Once again, the real world gives Ken Hite a gift: King Tut’s meteorite dagger!

    I love the quote at the top: “Researchers who analyzed metal composition of dagger within wrapping of mummified teenage king say it ‘strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin’”

    The dagger has an “extraterrestrial origin”!! I’m not saying it was aliens…

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