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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Northman, a 100 Year Old Celebrity Autobiography, and Every Roderick Alleyn Novel

April 26th, 2022 | 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

The Moralist (Film, Italy, Giorgio Bianchi, 1959) The ambitious new executive of a moral pressure group (Alberto Sordi) and his patrician boss (Vittorio De  Sica) separately engage in covert shenanigans. Sly comedy centered on the eternal truth that it’s the crusaders against vice who are the pervs and grifters,—RDL

My Life (Nonfiction, Emma Calvé, 1923) Celebrity autobiography of the late 19th century French opera star, whose performances of Carmen in America earned her enough money to buy a castle in her hometown, aims to delight with well-polished anecdotes in a suitably high-flown voice. Unfortunately for those of us researching her for an upcoming Yellow King RPG project, her personal life, including her long relationship with occult author Jules Bois, goes entirely unmentioned.—RDL

The Northman (Film, US, Robert Eggers, 2022) 10th-century Danish Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) seeks revenge on his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) for killing his father King Aurvendil (Ethan Hawke). Under the wolfskin of a Viking Conan, Eggers illuminates a world of pagan wyrd, alternating deliberate alienation with familiar Shakespearean beats and savage action. Willem Dafoe stands out as the proto-Yorick shaman Heimir, and Bang shows menace and just a hint of pathetic pride to great effect. –KH

Good

Every Roderick Alleyn Novel (Fiction, Ngaio Marsh, 1934-1982) Roderick Alleyn, the Shakespeare-quoting, handsome, aristocratic Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, spans the gap between Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and P.D. James’ Adam Dalgleish. Not as inventive (in plot or dialogue) as Sayers, and not as deep (in character and psychology) as James, Marsh still easily beats Christie for human stories, and her puzzles are reliably honest legerdemain, the best kind. The early novels have a Sayers-Wodehouse sort of air, and she never approaches the psychological starkness of late Allingham, but at her best (Surfeit of Lampreys, Scales of Justice, and the near folk-horror of Off With His Head, all Recommended) she combines knowing lightness, humanity, and cruelty better than most mystery writers. Many Alleyn novels have a theatrical setting, combining two hothouse genres with general success. –KH

Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill (Film, Japan, Kan Eguchi, 2021) Ultra-competent assassin turned errand runner must again deploy his skills in a non-lethal manner when he discovers a figure from his old life in the clutches of murderous scammers. Second installment of the series repeats its mix of oddball humor, melodrama and mayhem, placing its bravura action sequences at the top and at the end of the second act, with a dramatic standoff climax the characters aren’t rich enough to support.—RDL

Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction (Nonfiction, Chris D. Thomas, 2017) Surprising survey of the ways in which human-wrought environmental change has increased species diversity—admittedly in a manner offering scant consolation to fans of large mammals and flightless island birds. Clear but somewhat repetitive, as the author understandably has to keep reassuring us that even if he wants us to reconsider attitudes toward species migration, he isn’t suggesting a wholesale abandonment of conservation measures.—RDL

Okay

The Batman (Film, US, Matthew Reeves, 2022) With loyal police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) by his side, an early-career Batman (Robert Pattinson) detects his way through a Riddler murder spree and romances Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz.) An overlong, overcomplicated, overpopulated storyline immures a creditable take on the Gotham mythos.—RDL

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