Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Vodka and Other Toxins

January 9th, 2018 | 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.


Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Film, US, S. Craig Zahler, 2017) Drug runner, badass, and devoted husband Bradley (Vince Vaughn) finds his options steadily closed off for the first three quarters of the film, until the titular brawl explodes bloodily and cathartically on screen. Superbly paced film feels much shorter than its 132-minute run time, while still providing Vaughn with more than enough space to inhabit Bradley’s stoicism. –KH

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic and the First Police Chief of Paris (Nonfiction, Holly Tucker, 2017) Police official Nicolas de La Reynie investigates a conspiracy implicating two of Louis XIV’s mistresses in a poisoning ring. Well-told popular history vividly evokes time and place while finding a clear narrative path through a notoriously twisty scandal. Unlike our Affair of the Poisons coverage, Tucker treats the occultism angle as a side issue, focusing instead on crime and punishment in Paris and sexual intrigue in the Sun King’s court.—RDL

Diabolical Fantasia: The Art of Der Orchideengarten: 1919 (Nonfiction, Thomas Negovan, 2017) The German magazine The Orchid Garden was Weird Tales before Weird Tales, only full of Weimar panache as well as Gothic grue. The art, here reproduced beautifully from the magazine’s first year, runs from the Gluyas Williams-esque cartoons of Paul Neu to moody linework by Rolf von Hoerschelmann and Heinrich Kley to poster weirdness from Otto Muck. It’s a little small for an art book, but it’s worth the price. –KH

Imperial Roman Warships 193-565 AD (Osprey New Vanguard #244) (Nonfiction, Raffaele D’Amato, 2017) With actual naval point defense, rather than pirate-chasing and river support, becoming necessary in late antiquity, Roman ships of the line evolved from classical triremes to the (liburnian-derived) faster, tougher dromon. Bolstered by an astonishing amount of period art and archaeological reconstructions, this should be your first stop for fantasy navies pre-gunpowder. –KH

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey (Nonfiction, Lawrence Osborne, 2013) The author tours the Islamic world to find out how hard it will be to drink there, prompting recollections of his devoted relationship to alcohol. Observes the world, and himself, with the acridity required from an upholder of the literary drinking man tradition.—RDL

Young & Beautiful (Film, France, Francois Ozon, 2013) 17-year-old (Marine Vach) escapes the smothering coziness of her bourgeois family to lead a double life as an escort. Naturalistic, though gorgeously lit, family drama observes its protagonist’s cryptic behavior from a careful remove.—RDL


Bad Penny Blues (Fiction, Cathi Unsworth, 2009) Amid the first glimmerings of swinging London, an honest copper and a fashion designer prone to horrible psychic dreams conduct parallel investigations into a string of serial killings. Uncorrupted heroes and paranormal elements lighten the Ellroy-inspired strain of  British historical/political crime fiction established by The Long Firm and the Red Riding Quartet.—RDL

Luck-Key (Film, South Korea, Lee Gae-byok, 2016) Through a turn of events involving a slippery bathhouse floor and a locker key, a flailing would-be actor trades lives with an amnesiac rich guy, not realizing that he’s a hitman. Charming light comedy hobbled by an over-intrusive comic score. Remake of the Japanese film The Key of Life, which I would rate a notch higher than this.—RDL


Free Fire (Film, UK, Ben Wheatley, 2017) An outside beef between henchmen sours a gun deal, sparking an extended gunfight in a grotty warehouse. The formal constraints of a film devoted to a single-location shootout call for a bravura use of space that lies outside Wheatley’s interests. Sharper dialogue would have helped, too.—RDL

Lady Bird (Film, US, Greta Gerwig, 2017) Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) struggles for identity and autonomy against the compulsively controlling impulses of her perpetually panicked mom (Laurie Metcalf). The generosity of Gerwig’s character writing and charm of Ronan’s performance go a long way to conceal the extent to which the script’s structure embraces the congenital failings of the Worst Genre, the coming of age tale.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Vodka and Other Toxins”

  1. Steve Dempsey says:

    You can also get a facsimile of the first issue of Orchideengarten here: or all three volume digitised here:

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