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Archive for April, 2017

Episode 238: The Titular Goat in This Reenactment

April 21st, 2017 | Robin

The Gaming Hut gets foundational as we discuss the meaning and implications of Gygaxian naturalism.

Patreon backer Derrick McMullin meets us in the History Hut to ask for the hidden truth behind the Utah War.

In Ask Ken and Robin, backer Steve K invites us to opine on what might have been lost in a move from gamification to story.

Finally we check in on the Consulting Occultist as backer Wayne Rossi demands the occult truth behind the Elvis-Nixon meeting.

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!

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Sex, Wiindigo Lore and Urban Planning

April 18th, 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

Citizen Jane: Battle For the City (Film, US, Matt Tyrnauer, 2017) Documentary recounts the David and Goliath throwdown between writer Jane Jacobs’ vision of a vibrant, street focused city took on Robert Moses’ modernist urban renewalism and its mania for towering housing projects and downtown expressways. Magisterially presents a web of information and ideas as a gripping conflict with real emotional stakes.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.

Crashing Season 1 (Television, US, Pete Holmes & Judd Apatow, 2017) Without a place to stay after he catches his wife in bed with an extremely annoying other man, a naive Christian (Holmes) heads to New York to pursue his stand-up comedy dream. Observational squirmcom follows the Apatow formula of not following a formula, rooting the laughs in all-too-real autobiography.—RDL

Masters of Sex Season 4 (Television, US, Michelle Ashford, 2016) With his marriage kaput and hers averted, Virginia pursues Bill, and he pulls away. A culminating season for the show’s sex researcher romantic arc, even if conventional TV writing is increasingly creeping in around the edges.—RDL

The Round House (Fiction, Louise Erdrich, 2012) 13 year old living on an Anishinaabe reserve in North Dakota resolves to identify and kill his mother’s rapist. Crime novel framework grants propulsion to a rich community portrait informed by the mythologies of the windigo and Star Trek: the Next Generation.–RDL

Good

China 9, Liberty 37 (Film, Italy/Spain, Monte Hellman, 1978) Handsome gunfighter (Fabio Testi) develops second thoughts about his assignment from the railroad to kill a grizzled dirt farmer (Warren Oates) after meeting his alluring younger wife (Jenny Agutter.) Suffused with aching existential loneliness (not to mention steamy 70s sexuality), this late fusion of American New Wave and spaghetti western aesthetics might qualify as a forgotten masterpiece, if not for its botched dialogue mixing and the flat performance of its hunky but inert leading man.—RDL

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (Film, US, Dash Shaw, 2017) Uncool kids struggle to survive when a quake causes their entire high school to…well you get the idea. Animated feature drawn to look like the doodles in the back of a misanthropic teen’s geometry notebook. Voice talent includes Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Reggie Watts, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.

Okay

The Golden Cane Warrior (Film, Indonesia, Ifa Isfansyah, 2014) Unprepared martial arts student must seek the ultimate golden cane move after vengeful fellow students murder their guilt-wracked guru. Even with solid storytelling and cinematography, a fu film that cheats the fight choreography tops out at “okay.” Cool to see a period martial arts film from Indonesia though.—RDL

Purani Haveli (Film, India, Shyam & Tulsi Ramsay, 1989) Cruel foster parents Kumar and Seema buy the titular creepy mansion with their ward Anita’s money. When her beau Sunil and Seema’s scheming brother Vikram, along with two dozen or so indistinguishable friends, go out to the house, a haunted statue, ghostly forces, and finally a demonic ogre begin attacking them. This jovial Bollygothic (Bollygiallo?) is pretty much derailed by boring leads and an endless comic subplot (Sunil’s assistant is an exact double of the local bandit leader) but eventually turns the scares back on for a final act full of blood, fire, and the power of … Christ? –KH

Not Recommended

Ghost in the Shell (Film, US, Rupert Sanders, 2017) No matter how slavishly beautiful the visuals, the shell of a movie is nothing without an animating spirit. I think I heard something like that about fifty times in this thuddingly obvious script, which impressively manages to never diverge from the anime storyline in an interesting or original direction. Clint Mansell’s score is a great soundtrack, just not for this movie. Poor Scarlett Johansson is as trapped as the Major; she’s the only person the viewer has any sympathy for. –KH

Episode 237: You Can’t Be a Martyr and Have It Coming

April 14th, 2017 | Robin

Get outside your own perspective and inside the Gaming Hut as Ken and Robin envision a gun that triggers out of body experiences.

With espionage everywhere in the news, it’s time for that Tradecraft Hut primer on contemporary Russian intelligence.

In How to Write Good we look enthusiastically at reluctant heroes.

Then thanks to a well-filled requisition form from Dylan Hoover, Ken’s Time Machine heads back to 415 to rescue Hypatia of Alexandria.

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!

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Pinnacle Pulp and Kaiju Subtext

April 11th, 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

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes (Nonfiction, Jess Nevins, 2017) It may be impossible to exceed this book as a reference to the series heroes from 1902 to 1945. It is, apparently, impossible to physically print it — this Kindle ebook contains entries on 6,400+ different characters from fifty countries, from Ethiopian tween-in-peril Yayne Abäba to Dutch detective Dorothea Zwart. That does entail some compression — even Doc Savage’s entry is only five paragraphs long — but for exhaustive and authoritative coverage this encyclopedia is the best by far. –KH

Recommended

The Forbidden Room (Film, Canada, Guy Maddin, 2015) Stream of weird but straight-faced nested narratives shot in Maddin’s characteristic amphigorey of early film styles adds up to a buzzy, comic subversion, or rather implosion, of narrative and film. All of Maddin’s manias are present, from overheated intertitles to epochal Freudianism, with a terrific marbling of genre horror this time out. –KH

Frantz (Film, France, Francois Ozon, 2017) After WWI a French soldier travels to Germany to seek out the family and fiancee of his German best friend, who died in the trenches—or is that the real story? Restrained period melodrama evokes the high style of studio Hollywood, with particular touches of William Wyler and Alfred Hitchcock.—RDL Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.

Midnight Plus One (Fiction, Gavin Lyall, 1965) Former SOE operator Lewis Cane is hired to drive a millionaire across France from Brittany to Liechtenstein: the wrinkles being that the millionaire is wanted by the French police, and someone keeps trying to kill him. Remarkably excellent turns of phrase and much car-love spangle this taut thriller, which is a nigh-ideal type of the genre. Steve McQueen purchased it for a movie, but sadly died before making it. McQueen as Cane is exactly right, though. –KH

The President (Film, Georgia, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2014) With his young grandson in tow, a murderous autocrat toppled by revolution becomes a fugitive inside the borders of his own country. The exiled paterfamilias of Iranian cinema refashions the outlaw-duo-on-the-run movie into a hard-punching political lament.—RDL

Good

20 Million Miles to Earth (Film, US, Nathan Juran, 1957) Reptilian creature kidnapped from Venus by a US military mission wants only to be left to eat sulphur in peace, but as it grows to monstrous size is chased, burned, experimented upon, leading to a rampage through Rome. In  this Kong derivative the military industrial complex in particular and also every other human we see cause all the destruction, a fact none of the characters notice or comment on. Whether this is a brilliant act of po-faced satire that never reveals itself, or perfunctory writing, remains ambiguous all the way to the abrupt conclusion. Creature animation by Ray Harryhausen.—RDL

Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 (Television, US, CW, 2016-2017) A somewhat reconfigured assemblage of third-string superheroes continues its time-traveling mission, discovering that the best villains from all the other Arrowverse shows have teamed up to reassemble the Spear of Destiny and rewrite reality. After a rocky start recapitulating most of the problems of the first season, the elusive tone of loopy super-romp finally locks in and fun is had.—RDL

Episode 236: Not on the Front Page of the Literature

April 7th, 2017 | Robin

Get ready to argue logistics as the Gaming Hut considers player planning. When is it prelude to play, and when is it play?

The Crime Blotter opens one of the most famous cold cases of all: the Black Dahlia murder.

Ask Ken and Robin features a query from Patreon backer Padriag Griffin about the plausibility of hidden societies of vampires or wizards in a world of pervasive surveillance.

Finally the Eliptony Hut catches up on some recent news as we ask why a member of the Moorish sovereign citizen movement might be messing with Yig’s digs in Moundville.

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!

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mutants, Propaganda, and a Stage Play

April 4th, 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

Army (Film, Japan, Keisuke Kinoshita, 1944) Three generations of a Japanese family hew to a militaristic ethos that brings them nothing but frustration and pain. A movingly anti-war film, made during the war, and paid for by the Japanese army, who thought they were funding rousing propaganda. They must have only read the dialogue, in which the characters speak in heartless slogans, without envisioning acting and direction that would reveal them as tragically misguided.—RDL

Colossal (Film, Canada, Nacho Vigalondo, 2017) After returning to her hometown to regroup, a hard-drinking ex-journalist (Anne Hathaway) discovers a link between her actions and the kaiju attacking Seoul, half a world away. Vigalondo delivers another delightful genre smush-up with this character-driven comedy/drama/monster piece. With Tim Blake Nelson and Jason Sudeikis, who gets to do a turn we haven’t seen from him before.–RDL Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in theatrical release.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks (Nonfiction, Amy Stewart, 2013) Comprehensive survey of the plants we turn into booze, and the herbs, fruits, nuts flowers, spices and trees we use to flavor them. Will have you hankering for impossible-to-source liqueurs, which you might sip while regaling your companions with alcoholic fun facts. Includes cocktail recipes and gardening tips.—RDL

Five Came Back (Television, US, Netflix, Laurent Bouzereau, 2017) Documentary miniseries follows the work of Hollywood directors John Ford, William Wyler, Frank Capra, George Stevens and John Huston for the armed forces in WWII. Bouzereau, the go-to director for historical moviemaking docs, captures both the emotion and the aesthetic paradox behind a quest to create propaganda without sacrificing artistry or truth.—RDL

Legion Season 1 (Television, US, FX, 2017)  When he falls for a fellow mental patient who doesn’t like to be touched (Rachel Keller), a diagnosed schizophrenic (Dan Stevens) journeys through his mind to discover that his delusions might just be real–making him a mutant of unprecedented power. Injects Marvel’s X-universe with surreal humor and a giddy sense of style, while still delivering the straight-up superhero stuff when it needs to.–RDL

The Woman in Black (Play, Stephen Mallatratt, 1987) Based on the novella of the same name by Susan Hill, the play presents that book’s protagonist Arthur Kipps as he attempts to exorcise his decades-earlier sighting of the Woman in Black by … performing it as a stage play. Remarkable story economy and tension create legitimate horror on stage, drawing the audience in through the narrative layers to the tragic heart of the ghostly tale. (Seen in a terrific production by Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre, playing through April 23.) –KH

Good

Ghost Mountaineer (Film, Estonia, Urmas Eero Liiv, 2015) In 1989 a mixed group of Estonian students goes mountain climbing in the Siberian mountains of Buryatia, and bad doings transpire. Shot as a mix of documentary, thriller, and nature film, this flick ambitiously combines the two keys to a great ghost story (setting and psychology) with political horror, social horror, and enough other elements to unbalance things nigh completely. But for four acts out of five, it’s gripping, icy, and unpredictable. –KH

Lone Survivor (Film, US, Peter Berg, 2013) Navy SEAL strike force hunting a Taliban leader finds itself outgunned and out of contact with air support. Establishes an interesting but never quite resolved tension between its desire to pay tribute to the men who died in the real incident it portrays, and its depiction of warfare as an arbitrary hell no amount of self-mastery can tame. Stars Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Taylor Kitsch.—RDL

The Sunshine Makers (Film, UK, Cosmo Feilding-Mellen, 2015) Documentary tells the story of the brash front man and spectrumy scientist who teamed up to produce and distribute the sixties’ most famous LSD tablet. Portrait of the nerdiest drug underground finds its poignancy in the contrast between youthful heedlessness and the protagonists’ present dotage.—RDL

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