Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ancient Capes and the Sunken Place

March 28th, 2017 | 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 Pinnacle

Get Out (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2017) The misgivings of a young black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) over meeting his new white girlfriend’s parents take a turn toward terror. Rod Serling-style satirical social horror isn’t built to sustain itself at feature length, but don’t tell that to Jordan Peele, who picks up that neglected mantle and, with brilliant, multi-layered execution, does exactly that and so much more.—RDL

Recommended

Black Amazon of Mars (Fiction, Leigh Brackett, 1951) On barbaric Mars, rugged hero John Eric Stark’s effort to fulfill a comrade’s dying wish leads him to a warrior queen and an ancient civilization of ice beings. Efficiently forward-moving sword & planet novella provides an object lesson in genre prose that goes big without losing control. Later reconfigured as the novel People of the Talisman.—RDL

The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger: The 4,000-Year History of the Superhero (Nonfiction, Jess Nevins, 2017) Nevins picks his standard scholarly way through the potential candidates for proto-superheroism from Enkidu to Domino Lady in a triumph of research that manfully resists the alluring side-eddies such a project stirs up. A final two chapters on the post-1938 superhero are less assured, but fortunately also less essential. –KH

The Shadow People (Fiction, Margaret St. Clair, 1969) Dick Aldridge’s girl Carol is kidnapped from her basement flat in Berkeley — by elves. This weird blend of the Shaver hollow earth and Robert Kirk’s “Commonwealth of Fairies” contributes to the off-kilter nature of the novel, as does St. Clair’s repeated refusal to follow her own leads, and her decision to set the last half of it in a nascent fascist state. The story remains compelling, however, and the stark originality (and clammy horror) of her mashup makes me wish more urban fantasy had followed her instead of Emma Bull. –KH

Good

Clio and Me: An Intellectual Autobiography (Nonfiction, Martin Van Creveld, 2016) Possibly the world’s premier military historian provides a quick tour of his mental upbringing, formation, and evolution. It doesn’t have either enough juice or enough venom to be truly Recommended, but it’s always worth exploring the life of a great mind. –KH

Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film (Nonfiction, Arnold T. Blumberg & Scott Alan Woodward, 2016) Hefty tome provides detailed discussion of fifty “classics” of sword-and-sorcery film from the 1940 Thief of Bagdad to the first Hobbit film in 2015. Each writeup provides notes on the score, cast, production, deeper meaning, magical rules, (mostly forced) connections with other films, a gameable bit, and a brief (usually sympathetic) review. A brief “concordance” (sic) of 400+ other sword-and-sorcery movies completes the book. –KH

Veerana (Film, India, Tulsi & Shyam Ramsay, 1988) Surprisingly sexy-for-1988-Bollywood vampire Nakita preys on lustful men, first in her own body (Kamal Roy) and eventually in that of area nymphet Jasmin (Jasmin) after a wicked sorcerer enables the Exorcist-style possession. The thick Bava-Hammer blend of the horror almost drowns the Indian elements; the lengthy comic relief subplots are pure Hindi kitsch by contrast. Relatively few songs for the 175-minute running time mean lots of emoting and googly eyes and screaming until the final exciting act. –KH

Okay

The Hollow (Film, US, Kyle Newman, 2004) Amiable but toothless attempt to update the Headless Horseman as a pumpkin-headed slasher stalls on its own soft edges, and on that whole giving the Horseman a head thing. Neither of the villains, bully Nick Carter or football-obsessed dad Judge Reinhold, truly threaten our hero; Stacy Keach chews the scenery as a drunken graveyard attendant, also to no effect. –KH

Not Recommended

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Film, US, Chad Stahelski, 2017) Super-assassin who wants only to re-retire finds himself forced back into the game. Baroque sequel can’t repeat the waggish simplicity of the original’s premise, so instead thoroughly mishandles the reluctant protagonist trope on its way to a contrived non-ending. But don’t worry, that sets up the dispiriting premise to a franchise as unnecessary as it is inevitable!—RDL

Youth (Film, Italy, Paolo Sorrentino, 2015) During his stay at a luxury resort in the Swiss mountains, a retired composer (Michael Caine) mulls accusations of apathy while hanging out with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) his film director pal (Harvey Keitel) and a pensive movie star (Paul Dano.) A delicately melancholy, visually dazzling idyll abruptly sunk by that classic art film self-destruct button, the final veer into BS melodrama. Especially ironic here, as a major subplot concerns the director’s inability to find a ending for the script he’s about to shoot.—RDL

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Episode 234: I Barely Killed Anybody

March 24th, 2017 | Robin

We creep into the Gaming Hut at the command of Patreon backer Alexander Permann, who assigns us the mission of envisioning a Night’s Black Agents spinoff featuring the Kingdom of Asturias.

In a joint session of the Horror Hut and our Tell Me More feature, we look at that crowdsourced urban legend, Slenderman.

Robin vents in the Narrative Hut about one of his least favorite terms: plot immunity.

Then Ken’s Time Machine takes to the chrono-skies as Patreon backer Bruce Miller (no relation) asks about the fatal final flight of bandleader and WWII pilot Glenn Miller.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Wish to introduce innocent children to the horror of the Mythos, while remaining on budget? Atlas Games is here to affordably twist young minds with a buy two, get one free deal on Ken’s Mini Mythos line of childrens’ book parodies: Where the Deep Ones Are, Goodnight Azathoth, Cliffourd the Big Red God, and Antarctic Express.

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Mind Paradox

March 21st, 2017 | 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.

Guess which of us was in Vegas this week and which of us wasn’t.

Recommended

After the Storm (Film, Japan, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, 2016) Perpetually broke failing novelist sidelines as a private investigator and tries to be a better son and father and ex-husband. Well, kinda tries. Wry, beautifully portrayed family drama.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in US theatrical release.

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind (Nonfiction, Robert A. Burton, 2013) Exploration of the many daunting obstacles standing in the way of an accurate understanding of how the brain creates the mind. Engagingly argues that many exciting theories in the field are rife with unverifiable circular reasoning and magical thinking, as you have to use the mind to study the mind, and that’s how minds roll.—RDL

Good

Mystery Team (Film, US, Dan Eckman, 2009) Former child detectives who refuse to grow up (Donald Glover, DC Pierson, DominIc Dierkes) get a taste of hard-R rated reality when they agree to investigate a double murder. Although a less than tight edit leaves some of the jokes gasping for air, there are a lot of them, and Glover has charm to spare and the backing of able comedy pinch-hitters including Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Matt Walsh and Jon Daly.—RDL

Okay

Time Without Pity (Film, UK, Joseph Losey, 1957) Fresh from sequestration in an overseas alcohol clinic, a writer (Michael Redgrave) arrives back in London to discover that his son is about to hang for murder, triggering a frantic last ditch investigation to exonerate him. Feverish juggernaut of 50s hysteria in which the expat US director drives his British cast to out-emote his Method-acting countrymen.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Lure (Film, Poland, Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015) Mermaid sisters, one more aggressive in pursuit of human flesh than the other, cross the boundary into the human world as stripper-singers at a sleazy nightclub. If you understand me at all, you know that I go to a Polish killer mermaid sexploitation musical wanting to like it, but the basic building blocks needed to establish and develop an engaging story are just plain absent.—RDL

The Silenced (Film, South Korea, Lee Hae-young, 2015) Consumptive girl sent to a Japanese-run sanatorium school during the Occupation faces bullying and a rash of mysterious departures. Gorgeously photographed mix of horror and superhero tropes packs together so many elementary storytelling errors that it’s hard to single out just one. Oh, let’s say: if you’re going to have a central mystery, don’t make it also your premise, and especially don’t telegraph it so heavily that the audience remains way ahead of the characters.—RDL

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Episode 233: It’s Peter Framptons All the Way Down

March 17th, 2017 | Robin

The Gaming Hut goes abstract as we discuss metagaming.

At the behest of Patreon backer Vana Stillwater, the Food Hut hosts a look at culinary crimes and scams.

Then we paw through the contents of Ken’s Bookshelf, as acquired during his annual raid on the Bay Area.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Wish to introduce innocent children to the horror of the Mythos, while remaining on budget? Atlas Games is here to affordably twist young minds with a buy two, get one free deal on Ken’s Mini Mythos line of childrens’ book parodies: Where the Deep Ones Are, Goodnight Azathoth, Cliffourd the Big Red God, and Antarctic Express.

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Long in the Tooth (and/or Claw)

March 14th, 2017 | 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.

Recommended

The Body in the Library (Fiction, Agatha Christie, 1942) Not flawless by any means, but a nicely paradigmatic Miss Marple mystery. The best thing about the Marple stories is that they force Christie to at least pretend to consider real human personalities, as opposed to moving cutouts around on a railway timetable. Miss Marple’s bleak view of humanity is refreshing, too. –KH

Logan (Film, US, James Mangold, 2017) In a welcome franchise turn away from endless world-saving, Mangold helms a dusty, character-driven Western set in a darkening, mutant-free future. The hyperviolence is just as wrenching as the emotional torsion of the dying Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Xavier (Patrick Stewart); this is a grown-up movie in more senses than its R rating. –KH

Mr. Nobody (Film, Belgium, Jaco Van Dormael, 2009) In a glossy near-future, the last man who will die of old age (Jared Leto) recounts the story of his life—or rather the stories of his many possible yet contradictory lives. Arrestingly designed existential mystery maintains emotional engagement with its many-versioned protagonist even as it constantly questions the reality of what we’re seeing.—RDL

Good

The Dam Busters (Film, UK, Michael Anderson, 1954) Self-effacing engineer (Michael Redgrave) and jut-jawed bomber commander (Richard Todd) lead the effort to destroy key German dams in 1943. Chiefly remembered as a key visual reference for Star Wars, this paean to technical expertise and heroically contained emotion pushed the limits of miniatures effects but creaks just a touch today. If you’re planning to show this to kids, brace yourself to deliver the How It Used To Be Normal To Name Beloved Pets After Vicious Racial Epithets talk.—RDL

Generation Loss (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2008) Photographer who experienced a flicker of notoriety during the punk era takes a reluctant trip to a remote Maine island to interview an older counterpart. Crime novel with horror motifs boasts enviable prose and a rich sense of place, but suffers the momentum issues that come when the protagonist doesn’t actively investigate the mystery until the upshift to the climax.—RDL

Tickled (Film, NZ, David Farrier & Dylan Reeve, 2016) TV reporter’s attempt to do a story on an ostensibly comical competitive men’s tickling league leads to an international web of gobsmacking harassment, with a shadowy, Wall Street-fattened kinkster at its center. Investigative documentary in the Nick Broomfield mode unravels a surprisingly relevant tale of our ever-weirdening times, but goes overboard in hyping a standard ambush interview as a sequence of white-knuckle suspense.—RDL

The White Mandarin (Fiction, Dan Sherman, 1982) In 1948 Shanghai, CIA officer John Polly kills a gangster and flees north to join the Communists — but as a mole at Mao’s side. The tradecraft and setting are great, but the distanced tone and lack of tension keep it from full success as a thriller. A deniable undercurrent of the supernatural remains symbolic, adding to the tone but not to the mystery. –KH

Okay

The Magnificent Seven (Film, US, Antoine Fuqua, 2016) In a world with the 1960 John Sturges original, this film is completely unnecessary, and Fuqua brings very little except pointless backstory to this racially balanced but gassily bloated remake. (Vincent D’Onofrio’s mountain man is pretty great, though.) The moral, the story, and the dialogue are all watered down; Fuqua has gotten better at filming action but no better at explaining it cinematically. –KH

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Episode 232: Cat Hamlet Half-Elf Robot

March 10th, 2017 | Robin


The Gaming Hut may seem friendly and bucolic, but this time it’s full of danger, as we riff a cast of conspiratorial small town NPCs.

Take your seat and suppress your coughing as the Culture Hut gets classical. Patreon backer Noel Warford asks us for the scoop on such theosophically influenced composers as Henry Cowell, Dane Rudhyar and Leo Ornstein.

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Ronan Kennedy seeks advice on running an NPC as a member of the party.

Then we enter the Eliptony Hut, which has been outfitted with an orgone accumulator for our discussion of Wilhelm Reich.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Wish to introduce innocent children to the horror of the Mythos, while remaining on budget? Atlas Games is here to affordably twist young minds with a buy two, get one free deal on Ken’s Mini Mythos line of childrens’ book parodies: Where the Deep Ones Are, Goodnight Azathoth, Cliffourd the Big Red God, and Antarctic Express. Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Double Pinnacle Week

March 7th, 2017 | 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 Pinnacle

Ghettoside (Nonfiction, Jill Leovy, 2015) Amid a murder epidemic, LAPD detectives fight through widespread institutional neglect to find and convict the killers of a fellow cop’s son. Powerfully observed fly-on-the-wall journalism argues that failure to prioritize murder investigation in high-crime, segregated neighborhoods ensures the continuance of a vendetta culture that keeps the bodies dropping. Belongs on your true crime shelf right next to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.—RDL

Zodiac (Director’s Cut) (Film, US, David Fincher, 2007) One of the three best movies in a stellar film year reached almost Lovecraftian depths, showing how even glancing encounters with merely human evil deranged or destroyed almost everyone involved in the investigation of the Zodiac killer. Fortunately, the real case history allowed a somewhat more upbeat ending. The Director’s Cut expands the running time by 5 minutes (to 2hrs 43mins) and adds one good character scene and one magnificent procedural scene, as SFPD detectives try to convince an unseen DA over a speakerphone to seek a search warrant. –KH

Recommended

The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Film, West Germany, Fritz Lang, 1960) Commissioner Kras (Gert Fröbe) is out of his depth when a new series of crimes committed by Dr. Mabuse — the long-dead mastermind from Lang’s earlier films — roils Berlin, centered around the weird Hotel Luxor. Lang’s last film trusts a dizzying overlay of eye imagery, antiphonal dialogue, and dissembling characters to exalt a B-movie plot and scanty postwar budget. Its themes of surveillance paranoia and manipulation remain current even though its style can seem flat and outmoded. –KH

Korengal (Film, US, Sebastian Junger, 2014) Three years after their deployment to Afghanistan’s Korengal valley, current and former members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade reflect on their war experiences. Revisits the events of the director’s 2010 doc Restrepo by shifting the focus to the personalities and responses of the people inside the uniforms.—RDL

The Lego Batman Movie (Film, US, Chris McKay, 2017) As more super-villains than you can fit in a single toybox attack Gotham City, a solipsistic Batman (Will Arnett) discovers that the only butt he can’t kick is that of his own loneliness. A hilarious examination of the Batman mythos for deep-dive comic fans in the guise of a frenetic, color-saturated kiddie extravaganza. Most recondite insider reference, narrowly beating out the shark repellent gag: casting Doug Benson as Bane. The kids in the audience really wanted to help Batman when he had trouble saying the word “sorry.”—RDL

Good

The Final Girls (Film, US, Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends find themselves trapped in the 1986 slasher film her mom (Malin Akerman) starred in. Strong performances by Farmiga and Akerman power an engaging meta roller coaster, but the story and production design aren’t as tight as they might be. Gregory James Jenkins does right by the “ode to ‘80s soundtracks” score, though. –KH

Room (Film, Canada/Ireland, Lenny Abrahamson, 2015) When her son (Jacob Tremblay) turns five, a desperate mother (Brie Larson) imprisoned in a shed for seven years by a sexual predator plots their escape. Intense performances an acute directorial sense for spaces large and small stand out, even if its handling of the final story escalation lacks the care and credibility that characterizes the rest of the script.—RDL

Okay

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons (Nonfiction, Jeffro Johnson, 2017) Compilation of game-advice, critical, and ludohistorical blog entries inspired by or reacting to titles and authors in Gary Gygax’ ‘Appendix N’ to the AD&D DMG. I’m broadly sympathetic to Johnson’s grumpy conservatism, and likely guilty of the same structural sins in my own lit-crit-book-from-blog, so I won’t address those. It does need a stronger edit for misprints and malapropisms, but its real value depends on where you are in your own reading. If, like they were for Johnson, Fritz Leiber and Tarzan are unexplored country for you, this is Recommended; for me, it was Okay. –KH

Ire-Inspiring

Sherlock Season 4 (TV, BBC, Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss, 2017) Overlong, overwritten, overclever, and just generally over. Moffat & Gatiss split this season between trying to undo the damage they inflicted on the iconic characters in previous seasons and opening new wounds. Even more than in earlier seasons, the mysteries take a distant back seat to cheap character tricks, ever-lazier scripting, showy SFX, and pointless reveals; only Benedict Cumberbatch’s mulish dedication to the Holmes part keeps the show watchable at all. –KH

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Episode 231: Please Compensate For Our Brutal Incompetence

March 3rd, 2017 | Robin

The Hoary Hosts of Patreon backer Elias Helfer command the opening of the Gaming Hut! Therein we shall describe ways to portray weird and magnficent landscapes like those seen in the Doctor Strange movie in roleplaying sessions!

Backer Alex Johnston penetrates the vaunted infosec of the Tradecraft Hut to demand our dossier on Nikolai Vavilov and the Nazi bio-pirates.

You’d think this would be the last segment, but nonetheless How To Write Good looks at crafting climactic sequences.

Then backer Jacob Ansari meets the Consulting Occultist at the baggage carousel to ask about the sorcerous significance of the Denver International Airport.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Wish to introduce innocent children to the horror of the Mythos, while remaining on budget? Atlas Games is here to affordably twist young minds with a buy two, get one free deal on Ken’s Mini Mythos line of childrens’ book parodies: Where the Deep Ones Are, Cliffourd the Big Red God, Goodnight Azathoth and Antarctic Express.

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Insane Wainscot Murderverse

February 28th, 2017 | 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.

Recommended

John Wick: Chapter Two (Film, US, Chad Stahelski, 2017) The latest in the operatic-action franchise pits decreasingly reluctant hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) against the Camorra and every other hitman in New York. Expands the original’s insane wainscot murderverse without breaking it, and adds the two best set-piece gunfights in the series. –KH

Kilo Two Bravo (Film, UK, Paul Katis, 2014) British soldiers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province face an escalating horror show after one of them steps on a landmine in a dried-up river bed. Utterly naturalistic treatment heightens the situation’s harrowing suspense and physical suffering. Based on a real incident. Also known as Kajaki.—RDL

The Queen Pedauque (Fiction, Anatole France, 1893) Unworldly cook’s son follows his tutor, a bibulous, womanizing priest, into the service of an aristocratic alchemist who wants him to mate with a fire elemental. Saucy satire skewers occultists, atheists and Catholics. —RDL

Good

I Live in Fear (Film, Japan, Akira Kurosawa, 1955) Blustering foundry owner terrified by the H-Bomb (Toshiro Mifune) informs his family he’s moving them to Brazil, prompting them to go to court to have him declared mentally incompetent. Social drama about irreconcilably stalemated characters lets Mifune, then 35, act a big old-age transformation and gives Kurosawa a reason to explore the compositional possibilities of cramped, over-populated spaces.—RDL

The Sand-Reckoner (Fiction, Gillian Bradshaw, 2000) Engaging novel centers on Archimedes’ return to a thinly sketched Syracuse from an offstage Alexandria, and the beginnings of his career as engineer (and would-be in-law) to King Hieron II. For a novel of the First Punic War there’s a lot of flute-playing and precious little conflict, save within the breast of Archimedes’ Roman slave Marcus. –KH

Okay

The Atlas of Cursed Places (Nonfiction, Oliver Le Carrer, 2015) Ranging from the archaeological (the tophet of Carthage) to the supernatural (the door to Hell in Stull, Kansas) to the environmental (the subterranean coal fires in Jharia, India) to the political (Gaza) to the natural (Sable Island) this compendium of 40 “bad places” should be much better than it is. The maps are reprinted 19th-century work and usually at far too small a scale; the scanty text is slightly woo-woo Wikipediac prose. –KH

Not Recommended

Captain Fantastic (Film, US, Matt Ross, 2016) When his wife dies, a driven idealist (Viggo Mortensen) who has been home-schooling their large brood as forest-dwelling, adorably radical ubermenschen must take them into the fallen world of strip malls and smartphones. Spends two acts developing a thorny dramatic conflict, and the third act wheeling out an array of writing cheats to avoid having to really reckon with it.—RDL

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Episode 230: Not the Helsinki Mojitos

February 24th, 2017 | Robin

Know us by our funny voices and exaggerated mannerisms as we meet in the Gaming Hut to discuss what makes a Game Master character easy to play.

Grab a mojito and light a fine cigar as Ken supplies a Travel Advisory on his recent jaunt to Cuba.

It’s Oscar time, and you know what that means. Months after the rest of the critical world, we take our seats in the Cinema Hut to reveal our Top Ten Movie lists for 2016.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Wish to introduce innocent children to the horror of the Mythos, while remaining on budget? Atlas Games is here to affordably twist young minds with a buy two, get one free deal on Ken’s Mini Mythos line of childrens’ book parodies: Where the Deep Ones Are, Cliffourd the Big Red God, and Antarctic Express.

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister