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Archive for January, 2018

Episode 276: Retinue of Clowns and Goofs

January 19th, 2018 | Robin

 

Yeah verily and anon, the Gaming Hut goes iambic pentameter as Patreon backer Chris Camfield asks us how to add Shakespearean flavor to a roleplaying campaign.

Then your sweet and savory hosts venture into the Food Hut to reveal unbeatable flavor combinations.

Sandhogs and aqueducts turn from research into terror as Ken and Robin Talk To Someone Else summons Ruth Tillman of Cthulhu Confidential fame.

Now it can be told! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Finally recalls a book raid he neglected to tell us about previously, as Ken’s Bookshelf devours goodly portions of that NYC staple, Strand Books.

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.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

In Highway Holocaust you are Cal Phoenix, the Freeway Warrior, champion and protector of Dallas Colony One. Defend this fragile convoy from H.A.V.O.C. bikers with this exclusive hardcover (with dust jacket and book ribbons), the first choose-your-own-adventure-gamebook in Joe Dever’s post apocalyptic series. From the fine folks at FENIX, now available from Modiphius.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Golem and a Gill-Man

January 16th, 2018 | 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

Creed (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2015) Impelled from childhood to prove himself with his fists, Apollo Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan) quits his white collar job and moves to Philadelphia in hopes that a reluctant Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) will train him as a boxer. Coogler invests the dramatic bits with a refreshing honesty and naturalism, then demonstrates a similar mastery when the film climbs into the ring.—RDL

The Good Place Season 1 (Television, US, NBC, Michael Schur, 2016) Through a cosmic oversight, selfish telemarketer Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself in a cheerfully whimsical afterlife, overseen by a kindly, bow-tied immortal entity (Ted Danson.) Hard to think of anyone other than Schur who could pull off a delightful network sitcom that doubles as a 101 course on moral philosophy. William Jackson Harper is a particular revelation, pulling off the always difficult straight man role with precision and aplomb.—RDL

The Limehouse Golem (Film, UK, Juan Carlos Medina, 2017) In 1880, Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) of Scotland Yard investigates the serial killer called the “Limehouse Golem,” and comes to believe that accused poisoner Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) holds the key. Scriptwriter Jane Goodman pulls off a tour de force adapting Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant original novel, which alludes not just to the Ripper but to the Ratcliff Highway murders, the Maybrick poisoning, and the whole “London tapestry.” Douglas Booth superbly plays (historical) transvestite comedian Dan Leno, the unlikely axis around which film and novel both pivot. –KH

The Shape of Water (Film, US, Guillermo del Toro, 2017) Sweet but lonely custodian (Sally Hawkins) develops a covert bond with a gill-man imprisoned at the Cold War scientific installation where she works as a custodian, placing her in danger with its brutal security chief (Michael Shannon.) Dark adult fairy tale reminds us that del Toro’s best ally is a tight script. A couple of years I might have dinged this a notch for obviousness, but what used to be heavy-handed allegory is now social realism.—RDL

Tokyo Drifter (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1966) Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari), a deadly but reformed yakuza, must leave Tokyo to ensure the safety of his substitute father, former yakuza lord Kurata (Ryuji Kita), and the singer who loves him (Chieko Matsubara). Foes hunt Tetsu through increasingly heightened settings until the final insane shootout in a surrealistic white-painted nightclub. Suzuki responded to the constraints of budget and genre not just with the aforementioned surreal collage but by editing a film with a manga sensibility, a scene’s (or shot’s) action abruptly stopping once its “panel” has conveyed the story beat. –KH

Zero K (Fiction, Don DeLillo, 2016) A man who drifts between challenging but uninvolving jobs travels to a transhumanist outpost in Central Asia, where his ultra-rich father and terminally ill stepmother have made plans for her cryogenic preservation. Hypnotically compelling futurist vision, in which DeLillo demonstrates that your protagonist can be a passive observer if what’s being observed is sufficiently compelling. In a genre novel you’d be waiting for the mutants to break out of the secret lab and start eating people but this is a literary novel so you’re not.—RDL

Good

The Anderson Tapes (Film, US, Sidney Lumet, 1971) Just-released ex-con burglar Duke Anderson (Sean Connery) decides to rob the ritzy apartment building his girlfriend (Dyan Cannon) lives in and assembles a crew (including Martin Balsam and Christopher Walken) unaware that his every move is being taped or filmed or both by the FBI, IRS, BNDD, HUAC, and a private detective agency. Lumet doesn’t do much with the surveillance motif (which was admittedly a gimmick even in the original novel) except clog up an otherwise terrific heist movie packed with great character actor turns. –KH

XTC: This is Pop (Film, UK, Roger Penny & Charlie Thomas, 2017) Career survey of the group behind such hits as “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Dear God,” and “Peter Pumpkinhead,” bookended by a hilarious anti-rockumentary rant by bandleader Andy Partridge. I was surprised to discover that they didn’t break in the US until “Dear God,” because they were big here in the tasteful wilds of Torontoland from the first album on.—RDL

Okay

Hostiles (Film, US, Scott Cooper, 2017) In 1892, U.S. Cavalry captain Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) must escort dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) from New Mexico to Montana. Cooper tries and fails to blend the cavalry Western with the nihilist road movie against majestic (albeit familiar) scenery beautifully lensed by Masanobu Takayanaki. Bale’s acting, and that of Rosamund Pike as a widow Blocker rescues along the way, try and fail to wring meaning from a facile story. –KH

I, Tonya (Film, US, Craig Gillespie, 2017) Casting figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) as both harbinger of and scapegoat for America’s descent into folly, Gillespie wants to have his cake and eat it too: mock Harding and her possible co-conspirators as white trash idiots, while exalting her postmodern “truth” as the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and mother (Allison Janney). The result is a moral hash that also suffers from the standard flaws of the Worst Genre (the biopic); occasional stabs at meta-narration don’t add dimension or diversion to the story. Robbie and Janney’s performances carry the film on their backs, but it’s barely worth the effort. –KH

Kong: Skull Island (Film, US, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017) In the wake of the US pullout from Vietnam, a joint scientific/military survey of an uncharted island arouses the ire of its guardian, a titanic ape. Overstuffs its mix of disaster movie ethos and Apocalypse Now references with so many characters it forgets to make any of them its protagonist, coming to life only when John C. Reilly’s grizzled survivor character occupies the screen.—RDL

Not Recommended

7 Sisters (Film, UK/France/Belgium, Tommy Wirkola, 2017) Septuplets who pose as a single person (all played by Noomi Rapace) one day of the week apiece risk exposure in a totalitarian future Europe that ruthlessly enforces a one-child policy. Anti-abortion SF action thriller racks up a kill count not unlike Wirkola’s Dead Snow, but here it’s happening not to cartoonishly drawn dolts but to sympathetic characters played with grounded intensity by a compelling actor, to glumly punishing effect. Alternate title: What Happened To Monday.—RDL

Episode 275: Convenient Anti-Harpy Shield

January 12th, 2018 | Robin

 

In the Gaming Hut we mull the process of scenario writing, specifically the differences between writing first, or playing first.

Backer Fred Kiesche takes advantage of his Patreon priveleges in Ask Ken and Robin, seeking deeper info on Ken’s current 13th Age campaign, Poikila Hellenistika.

We take our seats in the Cinema Hut to reel off a mere smattering of our favorite character actors of the classic Hollywood studio era.

Finally in Ken’s Time Machine Patreon backer Rich Ranallo demands details on our resident chrono-agent’s involvement in Grover Cleveland’s secret nautical surgery.

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.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

In Highway Holocaust you are Cal Phoenix, the Freeway Warrior, champion and protector of Dallas Colony One. Defend this fragile convoy from H.A.V.O.C. bikers with this exclusive hardcover (with dust jacket and book ribbons), the first choose-your-own-adventure-gamebook in Joe Dever’s post apocalyptic series. From the fine folks at FENIX, now available from Modiphius.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Vodka and Other Toxins

January 9th, 2018 | 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

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Film, US, S. Craig Zahler, 2017) Drug runner, badass, and devoted husband Bradley (Vince Vaughn) finds his options steadily closed off for the first three quarters of the film, until the titular brawl explodes bloodily and cathartically on screen. Superbly paced film feels much shorter than its 132-minute run time, while still providing Vaughn with more than enough space to inhabit Bradley’s stoicism. –KH

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic and the First Police Chief of Paris (Nonfiction, Holly Tucker, 2017) Police official Nicolas de La Reynie investigates a conspiracy implicating two of Louis XIV’s mistresses in a poisoning ring. Well-told popular history vividly evokes time and place while finding a clear narrative path through a notoriously twisty scandal. Unlike our Affair of the Poisons coverage, Tucker treats the occultism angle as a side issue, focusing instead on crime and punishment in Paris and sexual intrigue in the Sun King’s court.—RDL

Diabolical Fantasia: The Art of Der Orchideengarten: 1919 (Nonfiction, Thomas Negovan, 2017) The German magazine The Orchid Garden was Weird Tales before Weird Tales, only full of Weimar panache as well as Gothic grue. The art, here reproduced beautifully from the magazine’s first year, runs from the Gluyas Williams-esque cartoons of Paul Neu to moody linework by Rolf von Hoerschelmann and Heinrich Kley to poster weirdness from Otto Muck. It’s a little small for an art book, but it’s worth the price. –KH

Imperial Roman Warships 193-565 AD (Osprey New Vanguard #244) (Nonfiction, Raffaele D’Amato, 2017) With actual naval point defense, rather than pirate-chasing and river support, becoming necessary in late antiquity, Roman ships of the line evolved from classical triremes to the (liburnian-derived) faster, tougher dromon. Bolstered by an astonishing amount of period art and archaeological reconstructions, this should be your first stop for fantasy navies pre-gunpowder. –KH

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey (Nonfiction, Lawrence Osborne, 2013) The author tours the Islamic world to find out how hard it will be to drink there, prompting recollections of his devoted relationship to alcohol. Observes the world, and himself, with the acridity required from an upholder of the literary drinking man tradition.—RDL

Young & Beautiful (Film, France, Francois Ozon, 2013) 17-year-old (Marine Vach) escapes the smothering coziness of her bourgeois family to lead a double life as an escort. Naturalistic, though gorgeously lit, family drama observes its protagonist’s cryptic behavior from a careful remove.—RDL

Good

Bad Penny Blues (Fiction, Cathi Unsworth, 2009) Amid the first glimmerings of swinging London, an honest copper and a fashion designer prone to horrible psychic dreams conduct parallel investigations into a string of serial killings. Uncorrupted heroes and paranormal elements lighten the Ellroy-inspired strain of  British historical/political crime fiction established by The Long Firm and the Red Riding Quartet.—RDL

Luck-Key (Film, South Korea, Lee Gae-byok, 2016) Through a turn of events involving a slippery bathhouse floor and a locker key, a flailing would-be actor trades lives with an amnesiac rich guy, not realizing that he’s a hitman. Charming light comedy hobbled by an over-intrusive comic score. Remake of the Japanese film The Key of Life, which I would rate a notch higher than this.—RDL

Okay

Free Fire (Film, UK, Ben Wheatley, 2017) An outside beef between henchmen sours a gun deal, sparking an extended gunfight in a grotty warehouse. The formal constraints of a film devoted to a single-location shootout call for a bravura use of space that lies outside Wheatley’s interests. Sharper dialogue would have helped, too.—RDL

Lady Bird (Film, US, Greta Gerwig, 2017) Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) struggles for identity and autonomy against the compulsively controlling impulses of her perpetually panicked mom (Laurie Metcalf). The generosity of Gerwig’s character writing and charm of Ronan’s performance go a long way to conceal the extent to which the script’s structure embraces the congenital failings of the Worst Genre, the coming of age tale.—RDL

Episode 274: What Would Thagdar Do?

January 5th, 2018 | Robin

 

It’s 2018 and we’re back, starting as usual in the Gaming Hut. Within its cozy confines we answer a question from a mystery backer on achieving genuine emotional investment in roleplaying.

The History Hut unfolds its secret plans at the behest of Patreon backer Antti Elomaa, who wants to know why military operations have such evocative names.

The Narrative Hut looks at the evolution of the American anti-hero from the 30s to today.

Finally, backer Tim Vert checks in with the Consulting Occultist on the status of a possible eclipse child.

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.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

For decades Tove Gillbring of Askfageln has been a beacon of Swedish gaming. Now her cancer has returned, and she’s determined to focus the rest of her life on an ultimate burst of creative fireworks. Help her husband Anders make that happen by supporting the LOVE TOVE crowdfunding campaign. Please note that the campaign moved to GoFundMe after this episode was recorded.

Delta Green Game Moderators, take heart! Reinforcements have arrived in the form of the Delta Green Handler’s Guide from Arc Dream Publishing, bursting with operational details, threats and eldritch history to keep your players locked, loaded, and terrified.

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