Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Werewolf By Night, She-Hulk, and Paris Hangouts

October 25th, 2022 | Robin


Irma Vep (Television, France, HBO Max, Olivier Assayas, 2022) Hollywood star (Alicia Vikander) enters an unfamiliar world when she takes the lead role in a French miniseries by a neurotic auteur (Vincent Macaigne) based on his past experimental adaptation of Feuillade’s classic serial Les Vampires. Beguiling, funny hangout television about the movies, in dialogue with Feuillade, Assayas’ life and work, and less overtly but most especially, Truffaut’s Day for Night.—RDL

The Passengers of the Night (Film, France, Mikhaël Hers, 2022) Newly single mom Elisabeth (Charlotte Gainsbourg) gets a job at a late-night call-in radio show and navigates the 80s in Paris. Lives and moments expand and touch in this warm hangout film anchored by Gainsbourg’s open performance. Incidents that could have been mawkish or forced instead reinforce the felt humanity of her family, while wonderfully intercut archival footage illustrates that the 80s were the best decade in Paris, too. –KH

Ultimates and Ultimates 2 (Comics, Marvel, Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch, 2010) Nick Fury assembles a team of superheroes to protect America in this grittier retelling of the Avengers origin. In its original run (2002-2007), Millar wrote the heroes as reflections of American imperialism and embedded the story in War-on-Terror geopolitics, which has aged more unevenly than Hitch’s lovingly detailed ultra-cinematic spreads. Occasional frustrations with “decompressed storytelling” aside, though, these books built the Marvel Cinematic Universe and remain foundational. –KH

Werewolf by Night (Television, US, Disney+, Michael Giacchino, 2022) A ringer (Gael Garcia Bernal) joins a group of murderous monster-hunters to compete for the right to possess a powerful artifact. Styled in homage to the Universal horror canon, this self-contained weird adventure zippily dispatches a simple narrative, and introduces three characters from the comics with not an iota of unnecessary backstory. I have arguably upgraded this a level just for the reel change marks.—RDL


1920: The Year of Six Presidents (Nonfiction, David Petrusza, 2006) Teddy Roosevelt wanted to run in 1920 but died, Wilson crippled his party with the same delusion, Hoover waited for a sure thing, Harding and Coolidge ran two races on one ticket, and FDR agreed to be the sacrificial VP candidate to build connections for the future. Petrusza tells the story of one of America’s most fascinating elections adequately but without much brio, and with barely any detail on the actual Democratic candidate. –KH

Leonor Will Never Die (Film, Philippines, Martika Ramirez Escobar, 2022) Long-retired Filipina screenwriter Leonor (Sheila Francisco) gets hit on the head by a falling TV while writing a comeback script and falls into the world of her own action film. Wonderfully loopy homage to 80s Philippine action flicks gets meta while sweetly if unsubtly plumbing family trauma, but as so often happens the ending cops out. –KH

Werewolf by Night (Television, US, Disney+, Michael Giacchino, 2022) Werewolf Jack Russell, and yes that’s really his name in the comics (Gael Garcia Bernal) competes with a clan of monster-hunters and stereotypes for the mystical monster-zorching Bloodstone. Delightful 1940s black-and-white production and a fun guest spot help the hour mostly fly by, but at the end it’s just a fine werewolf thing and not a very compelling story. –KH


She-Hulk, Attorney at Law (Television, US, Jessica Gao, 2022) After an accident involving her cousin Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) leaves her with the ability to transform into a more controlled version of the Hulk, perennially single district attorney Jessica Walters (Tatiana Maslany) takes a new job heading a defense team specializing in super-powered cases. Though it does give pause when the finale breaks the fourth wall to make critiques of past MCU content you have also read in this very column, the show never decides whether it wants to be a legal procedural, a dating travails sitcom, or a Marvel serial. If you’re going to do episodic TV, pick a formula and execute it.—RDL

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