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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Half of Jedi Ken Likes, Sriracha and Other Hot Takes

December 27th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Lady Bird (Film, US, Greta Gerwig, 2017) Would-be free spirit Christine “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) and her hard-headed, hard-working mother (Laurie Metcalf) clash in this beautifully grounded teen coming-of-age film packed with genuinely human characters. Gerwig’s script and Ronan’s acting outdo each other to illuminate Lady Bird’s sometimes desperate random walk out of high school and out of Sacramento. As great as Ronan is, though, Metcalf is somehow even better. Gerwig’s relatively conventional two-shot setups are a bit static (Nick Houy’s staccato editing improves them mightily) but they capture the superb performances throughout, which is in fairness exactly what they should be doing. –KH

Recommended

The Breaking Point (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1950) Stubbornly independent war vet (John Garfield) struggles harder to hold onto his fishing tour boat than his marriage as he gets mixed up with criminals and a sultry party gal (Patricia Neal). Unlike Howard Hawks’ puckishly unfaithful adaptation of To Have and Have Not, Curtiz’s masterfully directed, strongly felt noirish drama evokes the themes and incident of the Hemingway novel.—RDL

Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers (Fiction, Tim Powers, 2017) Powers’ novels tend to outshine his sporadic short fiction, for all that the latter share the standard Powers obsessions with ghosts, Southern California, time travel, and hollow men. Baen has collected them in one volume, which is a bit of a muchness to read all at once (his collaborations here with James Blaylock include some welcome lightness of tone), but individual gems such as “Salvage and Demolition,” “Pat Moore,” “A Journey of Only Two Paces,” and “A Soul in a Bottle” are well worth savoring on their own. –KH

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine (Nonfiction, Sarah Lohman, 2016) Historical gastronomist reveals the introduction and spread of US cooking staples black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, garlic, soy sauce, MSG and sriracha. Chatty, reportorial account finds America caught in a cyclic internal struggle between its hunger for new tastes and its recurrent nativism.–RDL

Get Out (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2017) Nothing in Peele’s assured horror update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? matches his cold opening scene: the direction, music cue, black comedy, and weird tone are all perfect. But it gets close a few times, especially in the second act when Betty Gabriel is on screen as the oddly-behaving maid at Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) parents’ (Bradley Whitford and the great Catherine Keener) secluded mansion. White Rose has brought her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her parents, and, well, you read the title. –KH

Peaky Blinders Season 1 (Television, UK, Stephen Knight, 2013) Confident, calculating and haunted WWI vet (Cillian Murphy) guides his Irish crime family to bigger and better things in Birmingham, defying a brutal and Belfast police inspector (Sam Neill) sent by Churchill to find a cache of stolen guns. Executes classic tropes of the family crime saga with a brisk disregard for usual TV writing stalling tactics.–RDL

Good

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Film, US, Werner Herzog, 2016) The master of the quirky, discursive essay-style documentary explores the impact of the Internet on society, covering angles ranging from game addicts to robotics pioneers.  Due to over-broad subject matter and reliance on polished speakers happy to serve up the Things They Always Say, Herzog’s trademark mix of doom, whimsy and materialistic mysticism floats around in search of a throughline.—RDL

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Film, US, Rian Johnson, 2017) The second film in the (first) Disney trilogy is actually two films. The Recommended one is interesting, exciting, and brave, featuring Rey (Daisy Ridley), her opposite number in the Force Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and their common master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The Not Recommended one follows the self-immolating Resistance through a series of bad decisions and a completely wasted half hour on a casino planet straight from the prequels, with occasional sparks from Carrie Fisher’s Leia. Kylo Ren continues to own this franchise, and it’s a tribute to Driver’s performance and the strength of his story that I bump the movie as a whole up to Good. –KH

The Trip to Spain (Film, UK, Michael Winterbottom, 2017) The third installment of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s faux-documentary series serves up the familiar tasting menu of food porn, self-doubt, lush scenery, needling one-upmanship, and dueling celebrity impressions (Roger Moore and David Bowie are the standouts this time). This one doesn’t hit the downbeat as much as the previous films, perhaps because as our heroes age into their fifties, they’d prefer to joke and eat rather than introspect. (And who can blame them?) But it does leave the meal feeling a little light. –KH

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