Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Poor Things, Ferrari, Silent Night

January 9th, 2024 | 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

Poor Things (Film, UK, Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023) Over the misgivings of the weird scientist (Willem Dafoe) who reanimated her, a sheltered woman (Emma Stone) whose brain has yet to catch up with her body elects to see the world with a vain cad (Mark Ruffalo) as her guide. Frankenstein motifs come out to play in a satirical art nouveau steampunk fable of innocence and experience wrapped around Stone’s astounding performance.—RDL


Blood & Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (Nonfiction, Ronald Hutton, 2009) After demonstrating with his customary gentle, systematic authority that next to nothing can be conclusively proven about druids, Hutton lays out the various British projections, suppositions and outright fabrications about them that started with a revival of interest in the subject that began in the early modern period. An indispensable politico-aesthetic history of Britain as seen through the lens of a constantly reimagined, bloodthirsty and/or benevolent caste of priests and/or magicians and/or scientists.—RDL

Ferrari (Film, US, Michael Mann, 2023) In 1957, Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) may lose his company to deeper-pocketed competitors, and wreck his marriage to Laura (Penélope Cruz) over his infidelity with Lina (Shailene Woodley). Mann unreels the story of what happens when two crises collide in one man, in an unusually internal film for him—even the racing scenes deliberately seem stepped down. Driver and Cruz (of course) play metal and fire off each other wonderfully.—KH

Incredible But True (Film, France, Quentin Dupieux, 2022) Bourgeois couple (Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker) who have a duct in their house that allows one to travel ahead twelve hours in time while also de-ageing by three days are nonplussed to learn that their friend, his boss, has had an electronic penis installed. Droll cautionary tale pays homage to Buñuel.—RDL

Silent Night (Film, US, John Woo, 2023) Rendered mute by the gangsters whose shootout claimed his young son’s life, an ordinary family man transforms himself into a traumatized instrument of vengeance. Contrary to the action romp promised by its marketing, this dialogue-free pure cinema subversion of the Death Wish formula is Woo’s darkest film since Bullet in the Head.—RDL

Trapeze (Film, US, Carol Reed, 1956) Injured trapeze artist (Burt Lancaster) returns to the rigging to train a promising protege (Tony Curtis), but a fame-starved performer (Gina Lollobrigida) comes between them. Briskly staged Technicolor circus melodrama with noirish undertones. DramaSystem players might take note of how economically it resolves its many dramatic petitions, stacking them on top of each other in quick succession.—RDL

The Unknown Man of Shandigor (Film, Switzerland, Jean-Louis Roy, 1967) Teams of spies violently vie for possession of a nuke-neutralizing device designed by a misanthropic scientist (Daniel Emilfork.) Bold compositions resonate with semiotic fatalism in this deconstructed spy spoof. Serge Gainsbourg appears as a chic French spymaster and sings his composition “Bye Bye Mister Spy.”—RDL


Merry Little Batman (Film, US, Mike Roth, 2023) When Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson) gets called out of Gotham, his son Damian (Yonas Kibreab) is left home alone—and prey to the Joker’s (David Hornsby) plan! What could have been a simple “Home Alone in Wayne Manor” cartoon leaves that setup behind by Act Three for an ambitious if not fully successful “meaning of Christmas” story. Art designer Guillaume Fesquet’s combo of Tim Burton and Ronald Searle works wonders at keeping cliche material fresh.—KH


Candy Cane Lane (Film, US, Reginald Hudlin, 2023) Noel-loving neighborhood dad Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) unwisely makes a deal with a rogue elf (Jillian Bell) to win a Christmas-decorating contest, and madcap hijinks ensue. A baseline acceptable, even wacky, “Christmas is family” movie downright angered me when a Murphy ad lib in the end-credits blooper reel was orders of magnitude funnier and more real than anything I had just watched.—KH

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