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Grimoire

Episode 344: Moses Does a Heel Turn

May 17th, 2019 | Robin

The Gaming Hut looks at the task of assembling a game’s skill list.

In the Cinema Hut Patreon backer Andrew Miller observes the North American launch of the Criterion Channel by asking for a 101 on its treasures.

Ken and Robin Recycle Audio presents the first part of our Robert W. Chambers panel from Carcosa Con, dealing with the writer and his influences.

At the behest of Patreon backer Rafael Pabst, we open the Book Hut to look at printer Jacob Ilive and his Blibical forgery, the Book of Jasher, as influenced by Astro-Theology.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Atlas Games’ Godsforge lets you get your wizard battle on. Roll, reroll, and combine dice to summon creations and cast spells as you struggle to be the last sorcerer standing…or at least leave a good-looking, conical-hatted corpse.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Grayscale Martial Arts, a Teenage Witch, and the Roots of Cinematic Criminal Profiling

May 14th, 2019 | 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.

Recommended

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2019) Sabrina’s full-time attendance at the Academy puts her on a collision course with High Priest Blackwood and his plans to remake the Church of Night in his misogynistic image. In an age of binge shows that sag in the middle, this provides a model in which discrete episodes with beginnings, middles and ends steadily escalate an overall story arc.—RDL

Shadow (Film, China, Zhang Yimou, 2019) In legendary China (vaguely based on the Three Kingdoms era), a wounded swordsman trains and manipulates his double (both Deng Chao) to reclaim a prize city and defeat an unworthy king (Zheng Kai). Sheerly gorgeous production design and fight choreography more than justify simplistic characters and arbitrary plotting. –KH

The Sniper (Film, US, Edward Dmytryk, 1952) Self-loathing misogynist (Arthur Franz) targets women in a serial shooting spree, stymying San Francisco police. Establishing a pattern that we now consider a staple, this disturbing crime drama focuses on realistic criminal pathology, with results appallingly relevant to the present.—RDL

The Train (Film, US, John Frankenheimer, 1963) As the Allies approach Paris, a railway station manager covertly working for the Resistance (Burt Lancaster) reluctantly spearheads an effort to stop a culture-loving German colonel (Paul Scofield) from shipping a train full of modern art masterpieces to Berlin. High-contrast black and white lends grim weight to this taut wartime procedural thriller.—RDL

Good

The Fate of Lee Khan (Film, HK, King Hu, 1973) Rebels against the Yuan Dynasty set up an inn on the borderlands to steal a military map from a royal official. Mostly intrigue and on a single set, leading to a big final battle, featuring Hu’s classicism if not his sublimity. Recycles the premise of  Hu’s Dragon Inn (1967.) Newly restored.—RDL

The Killer Collective (Fiction, Barry Eisler, 2019) Mostly retired assassin John Rain assembles his allies to help fellow Eisler protagonist and Seattle cop Livia Lone break open a very protected child porn ring. Do too many badasses spoil the soup? The thriller beats are all there with a couple of good ambushes to boot, but the core John Rain pleasure — the expert, detailed hit — is missing. –KH

Okay

Raw (Film, France, Julia Ducournau, 2017) Brilliant student’s first year at a veterinary college is marred by intensive hazing of freshman and her descent from vegetarianism to a hunger for human flesh. Absolutely brilliant in its intense and disturbing imagery—until, like so many European genre exercises, it has no third act, instead concluding with an abrupt twist that invalidates everything that precedes it.—RDL

Sorceress (Film, France, Pamela Berger and Suzanne Schiffman, 1987) Dispatched to a small village to hunt heretics, a 13th century friar (Tchéky Karyo) fixates on the local supplier of healing herbs (Christine Boisson.) Gentle moral fable’s attempts to evoke historical authenticity founder on its misconceptions of medieval witch- and heretic-hunting.—RDL

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Episode 343: I’m a Baron and Classy

May 10th, 2019 | Robin

Patreon backer Jacob Ansari collars us in the Gaming Hut to ask about running alternate history games.

The Tradecraft Hut looks at the February raid on Madrid’s North Korean embassy by the Free Joseon organization.

In Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else we chat with Mark Morrison, stalwart Call of Cthulhu contributor and the mind behind Campaign Coins, wresting from him the secrets of convention GMing. Warning, parents: Includes a few swears.

Then we head to the History Hut for a look at Baron Franz Nopcsa, openly gay aristocrat, spy, geologist, paleontologist and aspiring King of Albania.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Atlas Games’ Godsforge lets you get your wizard battle on. Roll, reroll, and combine dice to summon creations and cast spells as you struggle to be the last sorcerer standing…or at least leave a good-looking, conical-hatted corpse.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Black and White and Red All Over

May 7th, 2019 | 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

Shadow (Film, China, Zhang Yimou, 2019) In defiance of his king (Zheng Kai), a commoner (Deng Chao) trained to pose as a secretly wounded general prepares for deadly and politically destabilizing duel. Stately court intrigue lays the groundwork for stunningly executed, outlandish action. Stunning grayscale production design, with some red showing up at the end for obvious reasons. —RDL Seen at TIFF’18; now in North American theatrical release.

Recommended

Avengers: Endgame (Film, US, Joe and Anthony Russo, 2019) The Avengers, et al. (Robert Downey Jr., et al.) attempt to reverse Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) destruction of half the life in the universe. In a film longer, but less draggy, than Infinity War, the Russos deploy effective character beats to (mostly) successfully (mostly) land character and story arcs from 21 earlier films. With no great fight scenes and an only somewhat-better-than-average CGI battle, the film still works on its own terms. Recommended for fans of the MCU, which let’s face it, we all are. –KH

Avengers: Endgame (Film, US, Joe and Anthony Russo, 2019) Earth’s remaining superheroes, plus a spare alien or two, look for ways to undo Thanos’ elimination of half the universe’s population. Less a film than three very different, ultra-expensive TV shows laid end to end, this delivers valedictory character moments amid a recursive meta-commentary on the uber-franchise it putatively concludes.—RDL

The Founder (Film, US, John Lee Hancock, 2016) Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) discovers the McDonalds (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) and takes their fast food system national. Terrific acting by Keaton, Offerman, and Lynch pull this tale of “greed makes good” up from mere biopic to something closer to the gangster film. Still a little messy, but with the kinds of flaws that wind up adding wrinkles rather than ruining story. –KH

The Human Factor (Fiction, Graham Greene, 1978) A mole hunt closes in on an MI6 Africa analyst compromised by his past as a field agent in Apartheid-era South Africa. Character-driven spy thriller remains firmly in the realm of the plausible .—RDL

Non-Fiction (Film, France, Olivier Assayas, 2019) Shop talk and debate about the digital future of the book industry act as the text for a publisher (Guillaume Canet), his wife (Juliette Binoche) a novelist (Vincent Macaigne), and their circle, with infidelity the subtext. Affectionate satire of the intelligentsia is formally conventional except for one factor—having its people talk about the things they would actually talk about.—RDL Seen at TIFF’18; now in North American theatrical release.

The Sorceress of the Strand (Fiction, L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace, 1903) The brilliant beautifier, Madame Sara, plots murder and theft in six short stories. Conventional Edwardian prose (and dull detectives) can’t obscure the superb femme fatale villain or her ingenious plots. A quick, delightful read. –KH

Supernatural Season 14 (Television, US, CW, Andrew Dabb & Robert Singer, 2018-2019) As Sam Dean battle the sinister alternate-world archangel Michael, something is up with their nephilim ward Jack. The penultimate season of genre TV’s marathon running show summons a fresh, double switcheroo to vary its structural template.—RDL

A Quiet Place (Film, US, John Krasinski, 2018) In the wake of a monsterpocalypse, a man (Krasinski) and his pregnant wife (Emily Blunt) struggle to protect their son and daughter from alien creatures that hunt by sound location. 50s monster invasion tropes updated with slow burn pacing, as a metaphor for the fragility of the contemporary American family.—RDL

Good

Cats on Film (Nonfiction, Anne Billson, 2017) A fun catalogue of 100 cat-centric and cat-jacent films sorted into categories based on their feline content: Catzillas, Cataphors, etc. Billson’s range is wide, covering plenty of non-Anglophone films, occasionally in the form of short fictions (“My Day by Jones”). Cat lovers and film lovers will both get something from it, but should expect only skritches and not meat. –KH

Last Hurrah for Chivalry (Film, Hong Kong, John Woo, 1979) Nobleman wounded in a wedding day massacre enlists a swordsman and a drifter to seek vengeance on his enemy. Initially plays like a standard martial arts flick of the era, then introduces the themes of comradeship and romantic fatalism Woo will fully realize in his later heroic bloodshed films.—RDL

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Episode 342: Traduced By Raisins

May 3rd, 2019 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut Patreon backer Jake asks us how to portray a character modeled on Janet Armstrong in a NASA adventure series.

We dust off the long-disused Politics Hut so that Ken can give us an update on Chicago politics.

The Food Hut looks at Canada’s iconic desserts, as selected for a series of stamps from Canada Post, including a look at the resulting Nanaimo Bar controversy.

The Eliptony Hut provides refuge to Puerto Rico’s latest chupacabra variant, the perhaps humanoid, perhaps animalistic, perhaps winged Gárgola de Barceloneta.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Atlas Games’ Godsforge lets you get your wizard battle on. Roll, reroll, and combine dice to summon creations and cast spells as you struggle to be the last sorcerer standing…or at least leave a good-looking, conical-hatted corpse.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Avengers, Trek, Batman and Beyonce

April 30th, 2019 | 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

Homecoming (Film, US, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, 2019) Beyoncé performs at Coachella 2018, backed up by a drum line, marching band, chorus, orchestra, and dancers all from historically black colleges. The audacity of remixing her catalog for brass-and-drum band aside, this spectacular concert film incorporates everything from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to hip-hop to funk in an extravaganza of African-American culture. Add in snippets of Bey’s insane work ethic and inspirational quotes and it’s hard to imagine what to call the result if not a Pinnacle. –KH

Recommended

The Avengers: Endgame (Film, US, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 2019) The Avengers, et al. (Robert Downey, Jr., et al.) seek to reverse Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) destruction of half the life in the universe. Longer than Infinity War but less draggy, the Russos’ second half lands most of 21 movies surprisingly well, while finding genuine character moments for their stars. We don’t really get a great fight scene, but the Russos edit this CGI battle more effectively. In the end, the whole achievement is Recommended for MCU fans — which, don’t kid yourselves, we all are. –KH

Bugsy Malone (Film, US/UK, Alan Parker, 1976) Suave boxing promoter (Scott Baio) romances an aspiring singer (Florence Garland) as a Prohibition gang war rages around him. Gangster homage with an all-kid case changes its nature depending on the viewer’s age. If you first see it as a kid, it’s a beguiling fantasy of kid empowerment. Coming to it as an adult, I see the weirdest, most disorienting entry in the 70s revisionist nostalgia cycle.—RDL

La Chienne (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1931) Staid clerk (Michel Simon) falls for a grisette (Janie Marèse), whose pimp boyfriend (Georges Flamant) encourages her to bleed him dry and pass his paintings off as hers. Mordant, naturalistic drama depicts love as a relationship between exploiter and mark, finding surprising sympathy for characters who are all objectively terrible in one way or another. Learn everything about the difference between France and America by comparing and contrasting with Fritz Lang’s faithful yet very different 1945 remake Scarlet Street.—RDL

Flexie!: All the Same and All Different (Film, Canada, Gary Burns and Donna Brunsdale, 2015) Documentary taps collectors, friends and family to explore the enigmatic allure of paintings by Saskatchewan’s Levine “Flexie” Flexhaug. His pieces, whipped up before patrons’ eyes at a rural gas station, vary a constrained set of stock elements, occupying a blurry boundary between kitsch and folk art.—RDL

Good

Poison People (Fiction, William Haggard, 1977) A coincidental death involves retired Colonel Russell of the Security Executive in a rich MP’s vendetta against an Indian heroin ring. Russell plays a slightly larger part in the plot, but Haggard has clearly hit diminishing returns. Probably only Okay for people not already fond of the series. –KH

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 (Television, US, CBS, Alex Kurtzman, 2019) Mysterious space signals and a search for Spock plunge Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the Discovery crew, now captained by the charismatic Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) into a timey-wimey battle against a genocidal AI. After an inaugural season that withheld the Trekliness, year two reverses course at warp speed to deliver fan service galore, while breaking the record for most McGuffins in a single plotline. Mount’s breakout take on Pike elevates the energetic but muddled results from Okay status.—RDL

Straight Outta Compton (Film, US, F. Gary Gray, 2015) Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) found N.W.A. in Compton and rise to fame, but the system (Paul Giamatti) forces them apart. Gray’s energetic, stylish direction works hard to overcome the rote biopic plot and increasingly hamfisted script. The music, of course, is a standout, especially the concert scenes. –KH

Okay

Visa to Limbo (Fiction, William Haggard, 1978) Surely Colonel Russell is out of foreign dignitaries by now, but no — his upstairs neighbor the Sheik of Alidra leaves London and his mistress. When Russell pursues the latter to Israel he traverses a plot involving the former. A somewhat clever conspiracy (to which Russell remains entirely incidental) is this book’s only real selling point. –KH

Not Recommended

Gotham Season 5 (Television, US, FOX, Bruno Heller, 2019) With the city cut off from the outside world and descending into chaos, heroes and villains team up when it really counts. The bill for mounting a Batman series without Batman in it comes enervatingly due in this final season. Instead of spending twelve episodes somehow doing Year One with a teenage Batman, the show spins its plates as usual, then tacks on an anticlimactic pilot for a show that will never air.—RDL

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Episode 341: Trouser Leg of the Mythos

April 26th, 2019 | Robin

We lit the fires of the Gaming Hut the old-fashioned way before answering a question from Patreon backer Jason Thompson on interesting players in low-tech settings.

In the Cinema Hut we revisit the subject of the rewatch, looking at films that change or defy expectations on subsequent viewings.

Then Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone else, as we both chat with Chaosium’s Lynne Hardy about line development and the upcoming Call of Cthulhu projects on her docket.

Finally, at the behest of backer Andrea Colletta, we pop into the parlor of the Consulting Occultist to whip up the new sorcerous discipline of etymomancy.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Atlas Games’ Gloom gets chillier and killier as Gloom of Thrones breaches the wall and rampages across Kickstarter until April 29th. Doom! Wilderness travel! More doom! At least in Gloom version you know you’ll get an ending!

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Witch Well Actuallys and the Ip Man Cinematic Universe

April 23rd, 2019 | 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.

Recommended

Amazing Grace (Film, US, Sydney Pollack and Alan Elliott, 2019) Film of Aretha Franklin’s live recording of her best-selling gospel album in an LA Baptist church in 1972. Abandoned by Pollack and re-synched and re-cut by Elliott, the footage comes together now as a tribute to the community of sacred music as much as it does a showcase for Aretha’s phenomenal gift. –KH

The Boxer’s Omen (Film, HK, Kuei Chi-Hung, 1983) Seeking vengeance against the kickboxer who paralyzed his brother in the ring, a Hong Kong gangster goes to Thailand, discovering his true calling as a monk defending the desiccated, talkative remains of a Buddhist abbot from a local sorcerer. Big(gish) budget Shaw Brothers entry into the east Asian black magic horror sub-genre pelts the viewer with a gobsmacking array of uneasily related elements. Kickboxing! Gross-outs galore! Location shoots in Thailand and Nepal! Gratuitous nudity! Disgusting yet adorable creature puppets! Unexpected flashes of spiritual beauty!—RDL

Dance, Girl, Dance (Film, US, Dorothy Arzner, 1940) Earnest aspiring dancer (Maureen O’Hara) is swept along as her calculating sexpot pal (Lucille Ball) rises to burlesque stardom. Light melodrama gets a generation ahead of the feminist curve by taking on the then pervasive good girl/bad girl dichotomy from a woman’s perspective.—RDL

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (Film, HK/China, Yuen Woo-ping, 2019) Despite his renunciation of Wing Chun, a shopkeeper (Max Zhang) is drawn into 1960s gangland turf battles, whose figures include a legitimacy-seeking triad boss (Michelle Yeoh) and a well-connected chef (Dave Bautista.) The Ip Man Cinematic Universe kicks off with a lavishly mounted period melodrama advanced by bravura  fight sequences.—RDL

Murder by Contract (Film, US, Irving Lerner, 1958) Self-actualized hitman (Vince Edwards) comes to L.A. to kill a witness in an upcoming trial, driving his local minders (Philip Pine, Herschel Bernardi) up the wall with his eccentricities. Crime drama with a wry, minimalistic style, including a mordant guitar score, that distinctly prefigures Jarmusch.—RDL

The Scorpion’s Tail (Fiction, William Haggard, 1975) On vacation in Spain and retired from the Security Executive, Colonel Russell happens on mysterious Soviet doings on an island. Haggard leans into the retired Russell as unmoved catalyst-witness to events with a hint of mysticism; the result satisfies more than most of these late Haggards. –KH

The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present (Nonfiction, Ronald Hutton, 2017) Examination of the converging belief systems that led to the European witch hunting spree applies updated historical and anthropological scholarship to the question of why it ran rampant in certain jurisdictions and remained muted in others. Stock up on well actuallys as this comprehensive treatment shows that many traditions, when not outright invented by back-projecting academics, appear later and are more geographically constrained than one might assume.—RDL

Good

The Burglar (Film, US, Paul Wendkos, 1956) Tensions ratchet as a crew of jewelry thieves, led by a gutsy safecracker (Dan Duryea) and including his smoldering quasi-sister (Jayne Mansfield) wait out the aftermath of a big score. Sometimes overwrought acting, and an age gap between Duryea and Mansfield that misses the point of their relationship, mar an otherwise taut and atmospheric noir crime thriller. The pathos of her performance shows how underused she was in her usual roles as a cartoonier Marilyn substitute. Screenplay by David Goodis, based on his novel.—RDL

Happy Death Day (Film, US, Christopher Landon, 2017) Bitchy student Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself repeatedly reliving her birthday when someone in a baby mask murders her on it. This amiable blend of Groundhog Day and Scream doesn’t do anything very original, but it doesn’t do anything very wrong either. Bear McCreary’s score adds fun. –KH

The Last Laugh (Film, US, Fearne Pearlstein, 2016) Can you joke about the Holocaust? Should you? A collection of comedians (mostly Jewish) and Holocaust survivors weigh in on the lines between and around comedy and tragedy. The doc doesn’t pick a side, and even Mel Brooks seems a little scandalized at times. A shrug isn’t a very satisfying answer, but it may be the best one. –KH

The Lineup (Film, US, Don Siegel, 1958) San Francisco cops trace a reckless heroin smuggling ring that has hired psychotic gunman Dancer (Eli Wallach) to recover dope-ridden items from innocent travelers. Enjoying the tense direction, evocative location shooting, and cast of hardboiled mugs requires the viewer to set aside the implausibility of the antagonists’ scheme.—RDL

The Old Masters (Fiction, William Haggard, 1973) An attempted assassination of Tito (called “Milo” in the book) on the literal doorstep of retired head of the Security Executive Colonel Russell throws him into a showdown over a mining concession in Yugoslavia. While the plot and motives remain strong (including one uncharacteristic first-rate gunfight) sadly Russell remains almost an inert spectator. –KH

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Episode 340: Jar Cats

April 19th, 2019 | Robin

In another imperious edition of That Thing I Always Say, Robin says, “Envision this in  play.”

Ask Ken and Robin finds Patreon backer Kevin Roy seeking the scoop on remote control inventor John Hays Hammond Jr.

Backer Martijn Waegemakers meets us in the Mythology Hut to ponder the diminishing returns of Robin Hood adaptations.

Backer Dan O’Hanlon summons Ken’s Time Machine to peer into the reality where ecstasy replaced LSD as the iconic sixties drug.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Atlas Games’ Gloom gets chillier and killier as Gloom of Thrones breaches the wall and rampages across Kickstarter until April 29th. Doom! Wilderness travel! More doom! At least in Gloom version you know you’ll get an ending!

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available in print or PDF or both from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agency hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Martial Arts Murders, Occult Balloonists, and Crucial Supermarket Reforms

April 16th, 2019 | 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.

Recommended

Balloonists, Alchemists, and Astrologers of the Nineteenth Century: The Tale of George and Margaret Graham (Nonfiction, Daniel Harms, 2019) This slim book contains pretty much all that is known about the Grahams, a wild tale of self- and regular delusion. Harms doesn’t really site their weirdness in context, which is kind of more fun. –KH

Her Smell (Film, US, Alex Ross Perry, 2019) Fading rocker (Elizabeth Moss) rides a wave of cocaine and megalomania to an epic flame-out. Rock ‘n’ roll drama amped up by stylized dialogue, roving handheld camera, strong performances from a great cast and a score that bubbles with unease. With Eric Stoltz, Virginia Madsen, Dan Stevens and Cara Delevingne.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘18; now in theatrical release.

Kung Fu Jungle (Film, HK, Benny Chan, 2014) When a self-trained fighter starts killing his way through Hong Kong’s top kung fu practitioners, an imprisoned former police martial arts instructor (Donnie Yen) offers to assist, in exchange for temporary freedom. Mixture of cop procedural and martial arts actioner gives action director Yen the framework to stage a variety of themed fights, ending with a thrilling final duel on a busy freeway. AKA Kung Fu Killer. —RDL

So Dark the Night (Film, US, Joseph H. Lewis, 1946) Avuncular Paris detective (Steven Garay)  stays in the countryside, leading him to a charming local girl (MIcheline Cheirel) and, eventually, murder. Oddball mix of elements with a bifurcated structure: mild Gallophilic comedy-romance, then a plunge into melancholy nightmare.—RDL

Supermarket Woman (Film, Japan, Juzo Itami, 1996) Irrepressible widow (Nobuko Miyamoto) determines to rescue the failing food mart of a hangdog grade school chum (Masahiko Tusugawa.) Peppy comedy returns to the food and underdog entrepreneurialism themes of his classic Tampopo, sprinkling in the reform and anti-corruption concerns of his later work.—RDL

Good

The Antagonists (Fiction, William Haggard, 1964) An ailing Yugoslavian radar scientist draws attacks from all sides, with Colonel Russell of the Security Executive in the middle. Good on the motives for the characters, but a trifle overdrawn in places. –KH

The Flying Sorcerer (Nonfiction, Francis X. King, 1992) Driven by a citation in Harms (q.v.) I sought out this (very) brief inquest into the ballooning career of the obscure author of The Magus, Francis Barrett. Written for the specialist, it makes very little attempt to connect Barrett’s magic to his aeronautics; even briefer examinations of Barrett’s disciple John Parkins and the alchemist J.P. Kellerman round out the booklet. –KH

Girls of the Sun (France, Eva Husson) Traumatized war correspondent (Emanuelle Bercot) covers an all-woman unit of Yazidi partisans as they fight alongside the Peshmerga to liberate a city held by their former ISIS captors. The standout set-piece of this ripped-from-the-headlines feminist war movie is the gripping extended flashback depicting the escape of the protagonist from her captors.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘18; now in theatrical release.

My Name Is Julia Ross (Film, US, Joseph H. Lewis, 1945) Wealthy matron (Mae Whitty) and her knife-obsessed son (George Macready) target a job applicant (Nina Foch), drugging her and whisking her to a cliffside Cornwall manor, hoping to brainwash her into posing as his missing wife. The brisk telling of this contemporary gothic and villainous brio of Macready and Whitty distract from the fundamentally absurd  premise.—RDL

Nightfall (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1956) Pursued by a dogged insurance investigator (James Gregory) and two bank robbers (Brian Keith, Rudy Bond) who think he has their loot, a fugitive illustrator (Aldo Ray) strikes up sparks with a down-on-her-luck model (Anne Bancroft.) Clipped, fifties hardboiled acting juices up this compact noir thriller, based on a David Goodis novel.—RDL

Rainy Dog (Film, Japan, Takashi Miike, 1998) Discarded yakuza (Show Aikawa) in rainy Taipei plies his trade for a local gang leader while half-heartedly looking after a supposed son his mother has abandoned to him. Miike mostly colors inside the lines for this melancholy crime drama, part of the thematically linked Black Society trilogy.—RDL

Too Many Enemies (Fiction, William Haggard, 1971) Retired head of the Security Executive Charles Russell finds himself embroiled in an Arab pressure plot against an MP. Having foolishly retired his main character, Haggard begins stretching his plots to include him, mitigating one of his great strengths. –KH

Okay

You Might Be the Killer (Film, US, Brett Simmons, 2018) On the run from a slasher killer, camp counselor Sam (Fran Kranz) calls up trope-aware pal Chuck (Alyson Hannigan), who helps him understand the significance of the creepy wooden mask he’s been carrying around with him. The joke of the Sam Sykes/Chuck Wendig tweetfest this adapts was inherent to its format; translated to the screen it becomes yet another unfunny horror spoof. Alyson Hannigan is, I gotta say, spot-on casting for Chuck Wendig.—RDL

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