Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Your Vances, Your Gygaxes, Your Peckinpahs

July 12th, 2016 | 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.


The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Film, US, Sam Peckinpah, 1970) Crusty prospector (Jason Robards)  left to die in the desert finds water and opens a stagecoach stop while falling for a kindly prostitute (Stella Stevens.) Oddball mix of sentimentality, theatricality and existentialism, plus a musical number, wins out over some wildly misjudged lurches into Benny Hill-style comedy. Very much of its time, and by time I mean a very specific 3-4 year period in filmmaking when the rule book went out the window.–RDL

The Dirdir (Fiction, Jack Vance, 1969) In part 3 of the Planet of Adventure series, stranded Earthman and his unlikely local boon companions face a rapacious species that hunts humans for sport. Along with the archetypal Vancian haggling and betrayal the accent in this instalment is on action, suspense, and stoic comradeship.–RDL

Little America: The War Within the War For Afghanistan (Nonfiction, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 2012) Acutely limned account traces the big hopes and thwarted rewards of the Obama administration’s attempt to surge its way to victory in, withdrawal from, Afghanistan. Lays out in too-true-to-believe detail the manifold ways in which wishful thinking and competing agendas between US institutions doomed an already dauntingly complex objective.–RDL

Occupied Season 1 (TV, TV2 Norway, 2015) Top-notch political thriller depicts a “velvet glove” Russian occupation of a near-future Norway betrayed by the EU and abandoned by the US. Its laudable narrative economy (only four major characters) leads to some unlikely plotting and a slightly sparse feel, but the driving momentum, expertly ratcheted tension, and intelligent issues-driven story more than make up for that. –KH


The Ghosts of Belfast (Fiction, Stuart Neville, 2009) Apparitions of his victims impel alcoholic ex-IRA killer to avenge them against his accomplices. Contemporary noir with supernatural touches uses the kill list structure to paint a blood-spattered portrait of post-accord Northern Ireland.–RDL

Headhunters (Film, Norway, Morten Tyldum, 2011) Corporate headhunter Peter (Aksel Hennie) has a second career as an art thief, which lands him in trouble when he crosses paths with a surveillance-tech exec (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who just happens to be a veteran of a special-forces manhunting unit. A strong crime thriller in the moment, but the plotting is too facile to put it in the top rank of “twisty game of cat and also cat” movies. –KH

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Film, US, Christopher McQuarrie, 2015) When the IMF gets shut down Ethan Hunt goes rogue to take down a rogue counterpart of the IMF. Recognizes that people mostly want a Tom Cruise/Simon Pegg buddy action flick and delivers that, while also being the film in the franchise to most resemble an episode of the TV series. Briskly executed, avoids bending itself out of shape in pursuit of unwelcome memorability.–RDL


Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons (Nonfiction, Michael Witwer, 2015) If Witwer’s book included more actual information about Gary’s art or business, it might be easier to forgive its fictionalized scene-setting and irritating time jumps. Major events — drugs, sex, Tim Kask — get brushed in passing while Witwer clumsily and repetitively tries to enter Gary’s head as a character in his own ongoing adventure. Still, it’s the only biography of Gary we’ve got, which is something. –KH

Ragnarok (Film, Norway, Mikkel Braenne Sandemose, 2013) Terrible father and archaeologist Sigurd (Pål Sverre Hagen) follows clues on a runestone to “Odin’s Eye,” an isolated lake in the no-man’s-land between Norway and Russia, and discovers a giant snake, eventually. Stupid, shallow characters and ending dampen most of the tension and much of the monster-movie joy, although the use of the actual Oseberg Ship as the hook points toward how to do it better in games. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Your Vances, Your Gygaxes, Your Peckinpahs”

  1. Dylan Craig says:

    So, the Dirdir is nonfiction, eh? I will adjust my summer travel plans post haste 😉

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