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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Every Travis McGee Novel

August 10th, 2021 | 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

Every Travis McGee Novel (Fiction, John D. MacDonald, 1964-1984) Houseboat-dwelling South Florida “salvage contractor” Travis McGee contracts to get something stolen from his client by fair means or foul, in exchange for half the take. Meanwhile, we enjoy the South Florida scenery, the (usually doomed) lady guest star (all MacDonald’s characters really live and breathe), McGee’s witty (even mordant) observations, and the con-artistry and fisticuffs along the way. Not entirely hard-boiled, not pure crime fiction, certainly not “mysteries,” the 21 Travis McGee novels carved out their own niche and then spawned the “Florida crime” subgenre and emblematized the transition of the American knight-errant hero (McGee regularly compares himself to Don Quixote) from the cowboy to the P.I. to the thriller badass. Start with the first one, or the two I’ve already reviewed, or The Long Lavender Look (featuring one of my favorite McGee structures, man vs. town). –KH

Small Axe: Lovers Rock (Film, UK, Steve McQueen, 2020) Young members of London’s Anglo-Carribean community attend a house party in search of romance and/or catharsis. Experiential drama told with beguiling formal control that puts other slice-of-life flicks in the corner.—RDL

The Suicide Squad (Film, US, James Gunn, 2021) Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team of supervillains (Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, et al.) to wipe out a black project on foreign soil that turns out to be Starro the Conqueror. I give this “splatter war comedy” the bump over the Recommended bubble for the same reason I did Gunn’s first Guardians movie — it looks like the product of an actual directorial vision, with bright visuals, a strong script tone, and deliberate throwback 70s-style editing. (Dialogue a little less good than Guardians, ending rather better.) Going in, remember that Gunn cut his teeth at Troma. –KH

Good

Godzilla vs. Kong (Film, US, Adam Wingard, 2021) An ancestral grudge sets two enormous monsters at each other’s throats, when the real menace lurks in the high-tech facility of a sinister science businessman (Demián Bichir.) In a surprise move for this latest Godzilla series, Wingard asks the question, “Hey what if these tried to be fun?”—RDL

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (Film, US, Zack Snyder, 2021) Following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) assembles a team of superheroes to defend the Earth from apocalyptic invasion. Everything about this film — the editing, the shot composition and lighting, the fights, the character development, the absence of ass jokes — vastly improves on the “Whedon cut” released to theaters in 2017, most especially the all-new neo-Wagnerian score by Tom Holkenborg. That said, it’s still four hours long and feels longer — especially with the entirely gratuitous alternate-history “Knightmare” dream ending (meant as a lead-in to the abandoned JL2) seemingly tacked on for no reason except to spend AT&T’s money. –KH

Okay

The House That Dripped Blood (Film, UK, Peter Duffell, 1971) Another Amicus portmanteau film, this one based on four Robert Bloch stories. Despite the title (and the presence of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Ingrid Pitt) the house never even so much as sprinkles blood — and this toothless approach also defangs half the horrors. Denholm Elliott as a writer haunted by his homicidal creation, and Christopher Lee as a man terrified of his young daughter, at least bring the horror via their performances but half-Good is just Okay. –KH

Private Detective 62 (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1933) Burned secret service agent (William Powell) turns private eye and falls for a socialite his crooked partner wants him to discredit. Powell’s charm and Curtiz’ sure direction lend watchability to a tossed-off script.—RDL

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