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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Zombies and Cocktails (But Not the Zombie Cocktail)

May 25th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Peaky Blinders Season 2 (Television, UK, BBC, Stephen Knight, 2014) As the Shelby Company mounts a violent incursion into the London gang scene, Campbell (Sam Neill) returns to squeeze Tommy into a covert mission against Irish nationalists. Scripts show just how tight serialized ensemble storytelling can be, always jumping forward to the next big plot point, culminating in a bravura suspense episode.—RDL

Recommended

Imbibe! (Nonfiction, David Wondrich, 2007/2015) 19th century America’s invention of the cocktail as we know it kicks off with the advent of the ice industry, flows through San Francisco, and winds up in New York, topped up with showmanship and heaps of muddled sugar. Obsessive research and lively prose mixes food, history, and giddy anecdote.—RDL

Good

The Conjuring (Film, US, James Wan, 2013) After moving into a super-haunted house, the Perrons (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) call in demonologist Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his clairvoyant wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga). Wan puts together an update of the Amityville Horror style haunting movie from a hundred other films, getting nothing particularly wrong but achieving nothing particularly unique either. Wan plays it entirely straight, which feeds into the strong 1970s vibe he establishes — but squelches any brio anyone might have brought to this ghostly hotdish. –KH

Zombieland: Double Tap (Film, US, Ruben Fleischer, 2019) Six years after the first film, domestic frustrations send Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) on the road, and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) ride to the rescue. Achieves the medium bar of “The first film, but not surprising in any way,” while not precisely squandering Zoey Deutsch and Luke Wilson among other guest stars. Stay for the post-credits Bill Murray sequence though! –KH

Okay

Army of the Dead (Film, US, Zack Snyder, 2021) Billionaire hires badass Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to assemble a team to heist his own vault, left behind in zombie-plagued Las Vegas, just before the government nukes the city. After a traditionally superb Snyderian opening credits/exposition sequence, Snyder settles down to chew this terrific high concept to mush with too many cartoonish characters in too many subplots. I can certainly understand Snyder’s desire to make father-daughter reconciliation the emotional hook of the film, but I can’t forgive his willingness to make both of them dumb as rocks. Someone somewhere will unlock the secret of strong performances from Bautista, but not this time. On the other hand, zombie white tiger! –KH

Crazed Fruit (Film, Japan, Kō Nakahira, 1956) A naive teen (Masahiko Tsugawa) who looks to his faster older brother (Yujiro Ishihara) to lead him into the world of girls and parties falls for a self-possessed young woman (Mie Kitahara) who meets questions about her home life with cagy deflection. An obvious, drawn-out conclusion deflates an alluring look at emerging teen culture, bursting with pressure cooker fifties eroticism.—RDL

Tesla (Film, US, Michael Almereyda, 2020) Visionary electrical engineer Nikolai Tesla (Ethan Hawke) spars with self-satisfied rival Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) and is pursued by determined heiress Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson.) Formally unconventional biopic uses anachronism and info slides similar to the ones Spike Lee has taken up lately to overcome the hurdle of an utterly withdrawn central figure. Doesn’t quite work, but in its experimentation is more interesting than less ambitious films that do.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Zombies and Cocktails (But Not the Zombie Cocktail)”

  1. Tim says:

    Imbibe will turn otherwise sane people into huge cocktail nerds. The follow-up book, Punch, is very nearly just as good.

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