Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Ken and Robin Consume Media: No, the Other Kind of Sea Lion

September 27th, 2016 | 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

Everybody Street (Film, US, Cheryl Dunn, 2013) Documentary profiles top NYC photographers who prowl its streets in search of spontaneous images of people and city life. Each proves in her or his own way as rich a character as the subjects they capture on film. The HD format shows off their iconic images to fine advantage.—RDL

Traveling to Work: Diaries 1988-1998 (Nonfiction, Michael Palin, 2014) Journal entries cover a decade of film acting, writing, travel documentaries and inconclusive Monty Python business meetings, rendered much less boring than that sounds by Palin’s wit and insight. Ideal reading for any concentration-draining circumstance where you’d nonetheless like to have a smart book to devour in discrete snippets—standing in line-ups at a film festival, let’s say. Return to halcyon days when the first Gulf War was the worst thing happening in the Middle East, the bombs going off in London were set by the IRA, and Tony Blair inspired optimism.—RDL

We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion, 1940-1941 (Nonfiction, Robert Forczyk, 2016) Forczyk doesn’t quite manage to overturn the consensus opinion on Hitler’s mooted invasion of England: that it was doomed to fail, if not a bluff. However, his fully researched history does integrate Sea Lion far more fully into the whole story of the UK-Hitler strategic war, emphasizes that it would have been a closer-run thing than we think, and provides one or two roads-not-taken that could have made it the basis of a forced armistice if not a “swastika over the Tower” moment. –KH

Good

The Threat (Film, US, Felix Feist, 1949) Terrifying armed robber (Charles McGraw) escapes from Folsom Prison to kidnap the DA and cop he threatened with reprisals, along with the burlesque performer who let him down. Police procedural notable for its authentic grubbiness and the cast of lived-in faces inhabiting the roles of crooks and law enforcement alike.–RDL

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Episode 209: There is Mooching To Be Done

September 23rd, 2016 | Robin

Take a reality check before you dare to enter the Gaming Hut, as we answer Patreon backer Bryan’s request to devise a campaign based on flawed perceptions.

Time for another intro course in the Cinema Hut as Ken and Robin give your their film noir 101.

Coriander meets pate as the Food Hut investigates the banh mi, a sandwich whose flavors are as complex as its history.

Finally Ken’s Time Machine revs up at the behest of backer Rick Neal, who wants to know just what was up when Jack Parsons met L. Ron Hubbard to attempt the Babylon Working.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Possessed By a Film Of Possession

September 20th, 2016 | 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.

This week was all about film consumption for Robin. Check out his 45 capsule reviews from titles seen at the Toronto International Film Festival. Those reviews will reappear as KRCM entries when the films gain wide release in theaters, disc, or streaming.

Recommended

Alucarda (Film, Mexico, Juan Lopez Moctezuma, 1977) Orphan girls Justine (Susana Kamini) and Alucarda (Tina Romero) become Satan-inspired and perhaps demonically possessed lovers, violently disrupting the life of their convent. This phantasmagoric film (Moctezuma collaborated with Jodorowsky on El Topo) combines LeFanu’s “Carmilla” with Ken Russell’s The Devils, but creates a world of beauty and terror all its own. The production design and many of the static shots are unreally effective, although the histrionic acting and period-synth score take some getting used to. –KH

Alucardos (Film, Mexico, Ulises Guzman, 2011) In 1992, two extreme fans of Alucarda, Lalo and Manolo, kidnapped the director Juan Lopez Moctezuma from a mental hospital, supposedly led to do so by the ghost of an actress killed while shooting that film. And then things got weird. Guzman’s exploration of the terrifying effect of film on fans and creators alike seems jumpy and uneven, which is likely the intent of his collage of archival footage, extensive re-enactments and fictionalizations, and interviews with the kidnappers, Moctezuma’s colleagues and family, and Tina Romero. You’re left uneasy and wanting more. –KH

Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide (Nonfiction, Eric Bogosian, 2015) Between 1920 and 1922, Armenian exiles hunted down and murdered the Turkish architects of the 1915-1916 genocide of the Armenians. With the important caveat that only about 60% of the book is actually about the titular operation, Bogosian tells a vitally interesting story remarkably well, and with ample sourcing. I would have liked to have had more on the American accountant who apparently ran the whole apparat from Syracuse, New York, but the romantic assassin of arch-genocidaire Talat Pasha is irresistibly central-casting ready. Which of course is why the accountant picked him for the hit. –KH

Okay

Black Sabbath (Film, Italy/US, Mario Bava, 1963) Two gothics bookend a proto-giallo in this horror anthology, with Boris Karloff as host and as the final segment’s main vampire. Scripts are weak but give Bava the chance to show off three different creepy Technicolor palettes.—RDL

Mexico Barbaro (Film, Mexico, multiple directors, 2014) Anthology of short horror films derived from Mexican legend, folktales, and urban legends is, like most such compilations, a mixed bag. Ulises Guzman’s brujeria revenge tale “7 Veces 7” and Edgar Nito’s straight-up ghost story “Jaral de Berios” are true standouts, Jorge Michael Grau’s “Munecas” is strikingly shot and does a lot with a minimal story; only two of the eight shorts have nothing to recommend them. –KH

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Episode 208: Live from Gen Con 2016

September 16th, 2016 | Robin

Robin is away at the Toronto International Film festival, and longtime listeners know what that means: it’s time to cover his absence from the podcast mic to drop the live episode we released at Gen Con. Join us for another glorious nerdtrope, a big hand for all our Patreon backers, and all the questions a packed audience (a cramped audience frankly) can pack into one 50-minute time slot!
Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.

Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press.

For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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.

Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.
  

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: School Stories, Hollywood Memories, and One Big Airplane

September 13th, 2016 | KenH

This week Robin is off consuming an incredible flood of films at the Toronto International Film Festival. Catch his capsule reviews daily, or wait for the full round-up of all films in order of preference, over at his blog. Those reviews will reappear here as films get released and become available beyond the festival circuit.

In other news, due to good deeds done in a former life, Ken is back on the Osprey Publishing review copy list. To avoid this feature becoming Osprey Consumes Ken and Robin Consume Media, Ken will only consume the pick of each shipment in this space.

Recommended

Bad Machinery (Webcomic, UK, John Allison, 2009-present) Two teams of students (one set of boys, one set of girls) at Griswalds Grammar School in Tackleford, Yorkshire, solve mysteries with a dash of high weirdness and infectious dialogue. Each year’s story represents a school term; the kids started out 12-ish and are now 15-ish. The sly line art is reminiscent of Kate Beaton, and the plots are many-stranded Wodehousian things, but the real joy is the lovely, mad, human characters. A must-read for Bubblegumshoe fans wanting the occasional selkie or dimensional rift or scooter riot. –KH

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (Film, France, Eva Husson, 2015)  Rift between two high schoolers over a narcissistic boy triggers out of control sex parties. Dreamy drama is subversive in depicting  extreme teenage sexuality as entirely non-apocalyptic—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘15; now on Netflix.

The Barbary Pirates: 15th-17th Centuries (Osprey Elite 213) (Nonfiction, Angus Konstam, 2016) It’s not possible to do justice to 200+ years of North African naval-political history in only 64 lushly illustrated pages, but Osprey’s pirate guru provides a good first-cut overview eerily similar to an RPG book on the subject. GMs looking for settings could do far worse than 1580s Algiers, where a third of the corsair captains were European former Christians; or the pirate island of Djerba south of Tunis, the quondam isle of Odysseus’ lotus-eaters. –KH

Can I Go Now? (Nonfiction, Brian Kellow, 2015) Biography of super-agent Sue Mengers depicts a outrageous, dogged, wounded non-feminist smashing through barriers, throwing A-list parties and leaving a trail of bruising friendships in her wake. Offers an unusual vantage on the rise of existential, freewheeling 70s Hollywood filmmaking and its 80s retrenchment into corporate aspiration—from the point of view of the money, honey.—RDL

Messerschmitt Me-264 Amerika Bomber (Osprey X-Planes 2) (Nonfiction, Robert Forsythe, 2016) In 1941, Willy Messerschmitt sold Hitler on his design for an intercontinental bomber capable of hitting New York (or Chicago!) from the Third Reich. Forsythe covers everything from the engineering challenges to the Luftwaffe infighting that eventually doomed this doomsday weapon. Most of the art is period photos and reproduced blueprints and maps; GMs will thrill to the cutaway diagrams and the weird details. –KH

Okay

The World is Ever Changing (Nonfiction, Nicolas Roeg, 2013) In what clearly started as an autobiography and even more clearly turned into “what the hell, record him talking and publish a lightly edited transcript,” the esteemed director free-associates on his films, showbiz anecdotes, newfangledness, and the paranormal. Best story: Roeg asks eyepatch-wearing director Andre de Toth how he lost his eye and is told, “I often visit the grave of the man who did this to me.”–RDL

Not Recommended

The Thing (Film, US, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, 2011) Sure, a prequel-cum-remake of the John Carpenter 1982 masterpiece is unnecessary, but what if we crossed it with Aliens? And replaced the tension with jump-scares? Dr Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is actually pretty good) is the Ellen Ripley to the eager-to-exploit-this-alien Dr. Sander Halvorsen (Ulrich Thomsen), while Joel Edgerton adds a weak Michael-Biehn-or-is-it-Kurt-Russell vibe. The plot briefly approaches freshness once, then immediately drowns it in overdone, overloud CGI imperfectly replicating the original. –KH

Like to hear more about any of these items on our new Tell Me More segment? Make a note of it as a comment on this post. If someone else has already mentioned the entry you have your eye on, save yourself some typing and simply favorite that comment. Speak up for more than one item if you like, but break them up into separate posts. Remember if you vote for too many you’re cancelling yourself out.And finally before we get to the capsule reviews remember that if you would like us to hit upcoming milestones, including t-shirts, show notes, and transcripts we could use your help. Your social media shout-outs to our main Patreon page will make all the difference: that’s patreon.com/kenandrobin.

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Episode 207: It’s Pronounced “Executive”

September 9th, 2016 | Robin

Our 207th installment starts on a tripartite note as Patreon backer Andrew Young pops his head into the Gaming Hut to ask about the pertinence of three-act structure in roleplaying scenarios.

Speaking of Andrews, the Tradecraft Hut opens the case file on East German spymaster Markus Wolf, at the behest of backer Andrew Collins.

In Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, we invite Jeff Tidball to reveal all about Atlas Games’ upcoming GUMSHOE game set in Ars Magica’s Mythic Europe.

Having left a suitable interval for you all to finish your binge-watching, we then turn on the Television Hut for a much-requested chat about “Stranger Things.”

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.

Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press.

For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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.

Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.

  

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Karloff, Lovecraft, and Vanilla Extract

September 6th, 2016 | 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

Hell or High Water (Film, US, David Mackenzie, 2016) Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) rob banks in West Texas, while Texas Rangers Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Parker (Gil Birmingham) close in on them in this Western driven by (and set in) the post-2008 hollow economy. The acting is universally the high point here, followed by Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography, which unfolds small-town New Mexico (standing in for its neighbor) as a land of desperation equal to any John Ford box canyon. Taylor Sheridan’s excellent script tries just a little bit too hard for my money, but if you put this one on the Pinnacle I won’t say you’re wrong. —KH

The House of Rumour (Fiction, Jake Arnott, 2013) The reader imposes what structure there is on this “novel” assembled as 22 slit-chamber chapters, each using a card of the Tarot Major Arcana as its motif. Some characters — Rudolf Hess, Jack Parsons, Ian Fleming — recur more often, as does the somewhat-central figure of Larry Zagorski, a verisimilitudinous though fictional SF author. The book winds up being a meditation on turning points, hidden interconnectedness, and history, kind of a Hite-forward Bridge of San Luis Rey. —KH

Loving Day (Fiction, Mat Johnson, 2015) Failed comic book artist returns to his childhood home in Philly, where his hunt for a school for his previously unknown teen daughter draws them into a utopian community intent on changing the nature of biracial identity. Funny, trenchant novel of personal crisis, straining at the seams with sharply delineated characters.—RDL

My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own (Nonfiction, Alice Waters, 2015) In her rapturous, guilelessly presumptuous style, the titan of pure ingredients cuisine tells you how she lovingly prepares the things she has in her kitchen to make other things out of, from red wine vinegar to almond paste to vanilla extract. I never make anything straight out of a Waters book but always find inspiration to attempt something more feasible. This one is particularly aspirational, going beyond food porn to also become free time porn and, for this apartment dweller, storage space porn. I might have a go at the brown rice and quinoa porridge.—RDL

Sea Fog (Film, South Korea, Shim Sung-Bo, 2014) Desperate fishing boat captain agrees to take on a load of illegal immigrants. Nautical noir keeps on raising the stakes.—RDL Originally reviewed at TIFF ‘14; now on Netflix in the US & Canada and maybe elsewhere.

Good

Carter & Lovecraft (Fiction, Jonathan L. Howard, 2015) Thanks to mysterious hugger-mugger, ex-cop Dan Carter inherits a bookstore in Providence run by Emily Lovecraft, the last living descendant of you-know-who, and she’s black for some reason. Lest you think that thudding labored irony is all JLH brings to the party, know that he presents a strong detective element convincingly, and his descriptions of the effect on the observer of the Lovecraftian hypergeometric cosmos are both original and authentic, which is a tough note to hit. But oh how the hugger-mugger doth mug. —KH

The Man They Could Not Hang (Film, US, Nick Grinde, 1939) Police interrupt the attempt of a pioneering medical researcher (Boris Karloff) to bring a volunteer back from induced death, leading to the eponymous hanging and then to vengeance from beyond the grave. Despite the suspicion that it achieves its 64-minute running time by ripping entire sections out of a more fully developed screenplay, it does give Karloff the chance to display his full range, which is always a treat. The bit where he traps his victims in his house and announces he’s going to kill them one by one could easily be turned into a con scenario. The Karloff character bears a certain resemblance to early KARTAS subject Dr. Alexis Carrel.—RDL

Okay

British Intelligence (Film, US, Terry Morse, 1940) German agents (Boris Karloff, Margaret Lindsay) attempt to spy on and/or blow up the British war cabinet in 1917. Or are they? Brisk and packed with identity switches, but ultimately interesting mostly as an artifact of the two-year period in which Hollywood prepped American audiences for entry into WWII by injecting anti-Nazi propaganda into their rousing entertainments.—RDL

The Ten Thousand (Fiction, Harold Coyle, 1993) I picked this up because it promised me a modern military technothriller based on Xenophon’s Anabasis, and I suppose it sort of delivers. The geopolitics (an American armored corps invades the Ukraine to recover loose nukes, but the duplicitous Germans keep the nukes and close the border) are ridiculous even by the forgiving standards of the genre, and the characterization makes Tom Clancy look like Thomas Hardy. The writing is unforgivably padded, except during the tank-on-tank action, which is in fact just as thrilling as advertised. —KH

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Episode 206: They Had Hyenas In Inventory

September 2nd, 2016 | Robin

Rules get hybridized in the Gaming Hut, at the behest of Patreon backer Jason Carter, who wants to fuse GUMSHOE’s investigative rules with the combat systems of other games, say for example Feng Shui.

The man who shot Billy the Kid was himself killed in a dispute over goats. Coincidence? The History Hut looks at the killing of Pat Garrett.

Learn the secret of scoring your RPG sessions with music from writer and game designer Will Hindmarch, as Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else.

Finally, erect your anti-wolf defenses as the Eliptony Hut tells the hair-raising tale of the Beast of Gevaudan.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.

 

Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press.

For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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.

Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.

  

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: More Noir, Demon Children, and Liberation on VHS

August 30th, 2016 | 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

Castle of Sand (Film, Japan, Yoshitaro Nomura, 1974) Police detectives doggedly pursue an unpromising set of clues as they investigate the murder of an elderly John Doe. A stoic paean to the quotidian grind of actual homicide case work takes on a sweeping, silent-era emotionalism when the backstory behind the killing stands finally revealed. Imagine an oddly lyrical episode of “Dragnet” that suddenly morphs into Broken Blossoms.–RDL

Cause For Alarm! (Film, US, Tay Garnett, 1951) Stressed housewife (Loretta Young) plunges from suburban normality into a nightmare of paranoia after her hateful invalid husband (Barry Sullivan) pens a letter to the District Attorney accusing her and his best friend-slash-doctor of plotting to kill him. Tense domestic noir reverses the genre’s standard gender setup, making the narrator a woman threatened by an initially alluring homme fatale who spins her in a web of doom.—RDL

Chuck Norris vs. Communism (Film, Romania, Ilinca Călugăreanu, 2015) Documentary shows how black market videotapes of Hollywood’s greatest and cheesiest 80s output brought a love of cinema and a spark of defiance to Romanians suffering the most repressive era of the Ceaușescu regime. Interviews, beautifully shot recreation sequences and clips in aptly crummy VHS resolution tell a tale that is by turns warm, funny, sad, and scary.—RDL

Chuck Norris vs. Communism (Film, Romania, Ilinca Călugăreanu, 2015) A mosaic of talking heads (most of them bystanders) and spy-film-style re-enactments lays out the story of Romania’s 1980s black market in dubbed American movies on VHS. Not quite The Third Man, then, but video impresario Teodor Zamfir and his chief dubbing artist Irina Nistor (“the second-most familiar voice in Romania, after Ceausescu”) become irresistible characters in this aptly lo-fi tale of dissent, capitalism, and yes, Chuck Norris (eventually) triumphant. –KH

The Harder They Fall (Film, US, Mark Robson, 1956) In his final film, Humphrey Bogart plays a broke sportswriter who becomes a press agent promoting an enormous but incompetent boxer, Toro Moreno (Mike Lane), for racketeer Nick Benko (Rod Steiger). Real-life champion Max Baer, one of four actual boxers in the film, plays the champ. Such authenticity holds throughout, down to the source novel by boxing reporter Budd Schulberg, who based his book on Baer’s real-life opponent Primo Carnera. Schulberg’s insider eye for Hollywood artifice adds still meatier depth to the terrific Philip Yourdan screenplay, more than compensating for its tendency to lecture. The core of the movie is the captivating acting duel between the fiery Steiger and the laconic Bogart; even the first-rate fight scenes take the undercard in this heavyweight match. –KH

His Masterpiece (Fiction, Emile Zola, 1886) Impoverished founding genius of the “Open Air” painting school faces a choice between domestic happiness with his adoring, concerned wife, or continued pursuit of his work in the face of an cruelly indifferent art world. Requires an investment of patience before it blackens into a crushing journey into the darkness at the heart of creative ambition. Based in large part on the author’s friendship with Cezanne, who, perhaps unsurprisingly given the fate Zola assigns to his literary doppelganger, never spoke to him again after receiving his copy of the book.–RDL

Shakedown (Film, US, Joseph Pevney, 1950) Unscrupulous San Francisco photojournalist Jack Early (Howard Duff) connives with criminals and romantically exploits his editor Ellen Bennett (Peggy Dow) to gain fame and fortune. Lawrence Tierney gives boffo contained rage as the subject of the titular shakedown, and the midcentury newspapering business feels real and lived-in. With a stronger score and a better performance from Anne Vernon (the object of Early’s ambitious affections) this would be a noir classic; its plot is visible in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler (2014). –KH

Young Man With a Horn (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1950) Jazz trumpet virtuoso Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) is driven by his genius and torn between human feeling (Doris Day) and 20th-century Modernist alienation (Lauren Bacall). Although the film suffers from the usual structural problems of the biopic (it’s based on a novel loosely based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke) and from a studio-added happy ending, the music (played by Harry James) is simply outstanding. Superb character turns by mentor Juano Hernandez and sidekick Hoagy Carmichael (who knew and played with Bix) round out another of Curtiz’ baffling classics. –KH

Good

Alibi Ike (Film, US, Ray Enright, 1935) Mooncalf pitching prodigy (Joe E. Brown) runs afoul of baseball fixers and his lovely fiancee (Olivia de Havilland), thanks to his compulsion to lie his way out of even the most innocuous situations. You may know Brown for his later pivotal role as the none-too-picky suitor in Some Like It Hot; this amiable comedy shows what he was like in his box office prime as a 30s answer to Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell. Gains bonus irascibility points from the presence of William Frawley as his put-upon coach.–RDL

Hellions (Film, Canada, Bruce McDonald, 2015) Demon children posing as trick-or-treaters launch a home invasion to claim a 17 year old’s unborn child. Too arty and deconstructed for the horror crowd, too genre for fans of rock n roll auteur McDonald (Roadkill, Hard Core Logo, Pontypool) this earned a 4.3 on IMDB and a Metacritic score of 34. So evidently I sit dead center in the tiny sliver of an intersection point on that particular Venn diagram. With Robert Patrick.–RDL

Line Walkers (Film, HK, Jazz Boon, 2016) A missing undercover cop’s apparent resurfacing touches off drug gang mayhem from Hong Kong to Rio, with stops for further bloodshed in Macao and Shenzhen. Lavishly mounted, baroquely plotted flick keeps shedding its skin, adopting the gestures of a different cop sub-genre every twenty minutes or so. Stars Louis Koo, Nick Cheung and Francis Ng.–RDL

Meet Danny Wilson (Film, US, Joseph Pevney, 1951) Danny Wilson (Frank Sinatra) is a violent-tempered, impulsive, golden-throated singer from the streets who gets tangled up with the Mob (personified with pained malevolence by Raymond Burr) on his way to stardom, but other than that there’s no resemblance. The film lurches tonally all over the place from melodrama to musical comedy to noir, but it features nine (!!) Sinatra numbers, recorded at the height of his powers. His gender-flipped duet with Shelley Winters on “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is especially jaw-dropping given the strong homoerotic subtext between Wilson and his best friend/piano player Mike Ryan (Alec Nicol). –KH

Okay

Flesh and Fury (Film, US, Joseph Pevney, 1952) Bloodsport-craving gold-digger Sonya Bartow (a great, carnivorous Jan Sterling) drives deaf boxer Paul Callan (Tony Curtis) toward a championship until well-meaning blue-blood Anne Hollis (Mona Freeman) enters the picture. In between boxing sequences the film stops dead, larded by earnest 1950s bathos and condescension. Western stalwart Wallace Ford is squandered in a one-dimensional part, and Curtis’ almost wordless performance belongs in a much better movie. –KH

The Night Manager (TV, UK, BBC, Susanne Bier, 2016) Hotel manager Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) must infiltrate a morass of cliché, and also the inner circle of arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), to further an extrajudicial vendetta run by bureaucrat Angela Burr (Olivia Colman). Colman’s fine performance, a delicious turn by henchman Tom Hollander, and the charisma of the two ostensible stars are wasted on a tepid story that is somehow even more cartoonish than the late Le Carré novel it comes from. Glossy camera work sells the luxe-villainy sizzle, but there’s no steak. –KH

Outside the Wall (Film, US, Crane Wilbur, 1950) After spending his entire adult life in prison, manchild Richard Basehart is pardoned. Finding Philadelphia too cruel and chaotic, he takes a job at a rural sanatorium, only to find crime has coincidentally followed him. Neither Basehart nor Wilbur manage to pull a real through-line across the four or so pieces of this strange drama, but the Philadelphia location shots are great, as are Dorothy Hart (the good nurse) and Henry Morgan (a sadistic criminal). –KH

Not Recommended

Beasts of No Nation (Film, US, Cary Joji Fukunada, 2015) Child soldier is drawn into the horrors of guerrilla warfare in West Africa. If you were to ask me for a fiction film about child soldiers in Africa I wouldn’t point you to this overlong, talky and often surprisingly flat docudrama, but to Kim Nguyen’s 2012 War Witch, which follows a character through essentially the same arc much more economically and with a sense of cinematic geometry that goes much further to put the viewer in the protagonist’s footsteps.–RDL

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Episode 205: The Complaining Hut

August 26th, 2016 | Robin

Get your dice and character sheets together and head on into the Gaming Hut as we field Patreon backer Gnoll Warford’s question about preparing as a first-time convention GM.

In How To Write Good, we slake patron Corey Pierno’s desire to know our writing and researching routines.

When Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, that someone else turns out to be Emily Care Boss, whose classic games of personal interaction have now been collected as the Romance Trilogy. Pre-order it now!

Then Ken’s Time Machine revs up to answer a question from Patreon backer Drew Clowery—can Ken use his time knowledge to finally reveal the identity of the Culper Ring’s Agent 355?

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.    It’s hard to imagine that you listen to this show and have yet to check out The Dracula Dossier. But now that it has taken home Product of the Year and an oodle of other ENnie awards, perhaps you have remembered your blood thirst it. Time to drink deep of Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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