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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Trader Joe’s, Gene Editing, and an Unlikely Vampire Hunter

June 23rd, 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

Da 5 Bloods (Film, US, Spike Lee, 2020) With a tagalong son (Jonathan Majors) in tow, a tight knit group of Vietnam veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr,, Norm Lewis) reunites there today to hunt for a chest of CIA gold. It’s always rewarding to see Lee get to paint on a big canvas, and here he seizes on an expansive Netflix running time to present strongly acted drama while also building a new cinematic language that provides a distinctively Spikean take on the agitprop tradition.—RDL

Gary Gulman: It’s About Time (Stand-up, Gary Gulman, 2016) Although Gulman’s later talk-show polish improves classic bits like alphabetizing the states and the panegyric to Trader Joe’s, in this touring context they take on an infectious rambling energy. Gulman revels in the sheer joy of word shaping as much as he does his epic constructed bits. –KH

What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 (Television, US, Paul Simms, FX, 2020) Oblivious to the assassins sent by the undead authorities, and resultant increasing vampire-skilling progress of their  put-upon human servant Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), the bloodsucking housemates deal with witches, email curses, and their various petty concerns. The show fully hits its stride, dumping the sometimes hacky jokes of season 1 and finding a balance between story arc and individual sitcom premises.—RDL

Okay

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (Nonfiction, Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg, 2015) Prime movers behind the CRISPR gene editing technology lay out its science and the institutional and ethical challenges it introduces. The first half, covering the gob-smackingly weird bacterial origins of the technique, is fascinating, but the second is written with the full tactical blandness of seasoned administrators with political interests to protect.—RDL

Just Mercy (Film, US, Destin Daniel Cretton, 2019) Crusading black lawyer Bryan Stephenson (Michael B. Jordan) investigates the railroading of black ne’er-do-well Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) for the murder of a girl in Alabama. Paint-by-numbers script botches the compression of real events, removing crucial grounding from its attempt at a latter-day To Kill a Mockingbird (endlessly and clangingly name-dropped). Jordan plays the whole film locked into a narrow indignant range, but the movie does no better by Foxx (who gives a fine, layered performance) and Rob Morgan (excellent as a guilty condemned murderer with PTSD). Brie Larson’s ludicrous Alabama accent is the icing on the  cornpone. –KH

Tight Spot (Film, US, Phil Karlson, 1955) Unrelenting prosecutor (Edward G. Robinson) and hardbitten cop (Brian Keith) whisk sassy convict (Ginger Rogers) to a hotel room to pressure her into testifying against a mob boss. Crime drama stage plays used to be a thing, as the existence of this talky adaptation, held together by star power, attests.—RDL

Not Recommended

5 Against the House (Film, US, Phil Karlson, 1955) Four college students including a pair of Korean war vets at law school on the G.I. Bill (Al Mercer, Brian Keith) are drawn step by step into turning a thought experiment about robbing a casino into an actual heist. (The fifth character against the house is Kim Novak as fiance to the level-headed veteran.) The heist takes a few minutes, with the rest of the film devoted to overwritten personal drama. Based on a short story by Jack Finney (Invasion of the Body Snatchers.).—RDL

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