Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Grim, Gritty Crime and the Cat in the Hat

June 12th, 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.


13 Tzameti (Film, France, Géla Babluani, 2005) Young roofer stiffed by the death of a junkie client takes over the man’s mysterious mission, leading him to a deadly game. B&W photography, loosely paced first act, and motifs of alienation and solitary danger hearken back to the indie aesthetic of the mid-80s.—RDL

American Animals (Film, US, Bart Layton, 2018) Based on the true story of a 2004 rare book theft from Transylvania University in Kentucky, Layton interweaves talking-head commentary by the real thieves into his engaging — then riveting — heist film. (Anne Nikitin’s score drives the rivets home.) The resulting deliberate metafictions point up all manner of contrasts: between art and life, memory and truth, and yes wrong and right. Kudos to Layton for risking ruining a good movie to make a pretty great one. –KH

The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats (Nonfiction, Philip Nel, 2007) Thoroughly annotated edition of The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Came Back provides deeper insight into Dr. Seuss’ process, children’s publishing in the 1950s, and the nature of Voom. –KH

Atomic Blonde (Film, US, David Leitch, 2017) M16 badass Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) sent to courier a list of enemy agents from late 80s Berlin fights her way through a tangle of betrayals centered around rogue agent David Percival (James McAvoy.) Combines hard fight choreography with neon-saturated grit and paranoia. Kudos for staging its defining action set piece in mid-film.—RDL


Borrowed Time (Fiction, Jack Campbell, 2016) A collection of competent to fine time-travel stories, some of them sharing a linked “T.I.” universe and some merely serving as excuses to talk history to SF readers. (NTTAWTT) I liked “Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones in the Mystery of the Missing Teenage Anachronisms” beyond its merits, I suspect, but the high camp adventure of “These Are the Times” and “Working on Borrowed Time” is nigh irresistible. –KH

Dark of the Moon (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1967) In his last appearance, Dr. Gideon Fell must unravel the impossible murder of a mathematician amidst the emotionally charged atmosphere of his South Carolina house. Carr occasionally disguises a murder mystery as a door-slamming farce, and he returns to those rhythms here in Dr. Fell’s familiar Gothic register. Carr’s dialogue, always somewhat theatrical, seems borderline ridiculous here, but plot and tension do their work well. –KH


Papa Là-Bas (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1968) Future Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin solves a Voodoo-soaked impossible murder in 1858 New Orleans. Generally considered Carr’s worst book, its sole strength is period research; even his reliable plot propeller scrapes bottom in this one. The characters solely exist to shout at each other, burst through doors suddenly, and interrupt the detective-ing when they’re not soft-pedaling slavery. –KH

What Price Hollywood? (Film, US, George Cukor, 1932) Actress (Constance Bennett) rises to movie stardom as the director who discovered her (Lowell Sherman) spirals into alcoholism. Full of great early Hollywood atmosphere, though the extremely charming Bennett is stronger in the lighter early acts than when the melodrama kicks in. The ‘37, ‘54, ‘76 and upcoming ‘18 versions of A Star is Born are all uncredited remakes of this—the fifties Garland one also directed by Cukor. See Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon from the 60s Batman show, in his dashing leading man phase as Bennett’s husband.—RDL

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