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Archive for August, 2018

Ken and Robin Consume Media Takes a Turn For the Noir

August 21st, 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Conflict (Film, US, Curtis Bernhardt, 1945) In love with her sister, Richard Mason (Humphrey Bogart) murders his wife — or does he? Sydney Greenstreet is the suspicious psychiatrist in this unique role-switch that screws tension and interest to a fever pitch for 98 percent of its length. Bogart plays Mason’s disintegrating self so well that the noir script holes just flit past unremarked. –KH

Devil in a Blue Dress (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1995) Unemployed black veteran “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) stumbles into detective work, and into murders, when white fixer Albright (Tom Sizemore) hires him to find the missing Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). Excellent transposition of Walter Mosley’s novel to film relies equally on Washington’s intelligence, Tak Fujimoto’s expertly sun-faded camera work, and a manic turn by Don Cheadle as Rawlins’ psycho ace in the hole, “Mouse.” –KH

I Walk Alone (Film, US, Byron Haskin, 1948) Released from prison after fourteen years, gangster Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) seeks a reckoning with his old partner Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), but finds that times have changed. Come for the Lancaster-Douglas showdown, but stay for the jaw-dropping set piece in which Frankie discovers the real crime of business accounting. –KH

Love Education (Film, Taiwan, Sylvia Chang, 2017) After her mother’s death, a stubborn schoolteacher (Sylvia Chang) launches a campaign to relocate her father’s grave, over the objections of his equally indomitable first wife, the ear-grabbing honorary granny of a close-knit rural community. Moving and funny drama with a wry eye for character observation.—RDL

Love Season 2 (Television, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust & Judd Apatow, 2017) Despite her resolve to keep her distance, and his inability to navigate her boundaries, love addict Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and awkward Gus circle ever closer to official relationship status. In an era of sophomore slumps, it’s exciting to see a series, especially one so dependent on a keen balance between sharp comedy and real behavior, understand and deliver on what made it great in the first place.—RDL

One False Move (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1992) Three crooks (Michael Beach, Cynda Williams, and Billy Bob Thornton) fleeing a multiple murder in LA bring big-city cops and gritty violence to the cornpone flyspeck of Star City, Arkansas, and its exuberant police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton). Franklin blends the crime film and the Western better than most directors handle either genre. Williams’ character anchors the movie, allowing Paxton and Thornton to blow up their parts gloriously. –KH

Understudy For Death (Fiction, Charles Willeford, 1961) When a well-to-do housewife in a small Florida town kills herself and her children, the cynical local reporter assigned to pry into the case stumbles into infidelity. Revived after half a century and still mis-marketed as a crime novel, this features Willeford’s unsparing hardboiled voice but is really an exercise in mid-century American alienation. As if a typical noir cast decided to set aside mystery and murder and stick to the behavior of Cheever or Yates characters. If you don’t know Willeford, start with Cockfighter.—RDL

The Unsuspected (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1947) A seeming suicide, a return from the dead, and a mysterious marriage throw the household of radio true-crime host Victor Grandison (Claude Rains) into dramatic disarray. Although Rains oils and conspires beautifully, if Curtiz had gotten his first casting choices (Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine) this would have been another of his Pinnacles. The dialogue crackles, the cameras zoom and float, and shadows loom and stab in this not-quite-flawless thriller. –KH

Good

Blind Spot (Film, US, Robert Gordon, 1947) A drunk writer (Chester Morris) may have murdered his publisher in a locked room right after coming up with a locked-room mystery plot. Strong viewer identification and the beautiful Constance Dowling (as the publisher’s pawed-at secretary) push this light work up to Good for me, but Morris’ ridiculous “drunk” performance in the first act and the lack of true mystery may drop it to Okay for others. –KH

Bodyguard (Film, US, Richard Fleischer, 1948) Dismissed from the LAPD, maverick cop Mike Carter (Lawrence Tierney) finds bodyguard work, and skullduggery afoot, in the Dyson meat-packing clan. Either you want to see Lawrence Tierney bully, slink, and growl his way through plenty of vital, interesting Los Angeles location shots or you don’t. –KH

Strange Impersonation (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1946) Biochemist Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) experiments on herself with a new anesthetic, sending the viewer on a thrill ride of blackmail, identity theft, alembics, and post-surgery cigarettes, with a terrific Anthony Mann shot every so often to goose the emotional stakes. Even William Gargan as the inexplicable bone of romantic contention can’t stop things dead. –KH

Okay

Escape in the Fog (Film, US, Budd Boetticher, 1945) Recuperating nurse Eilene (Nina Foch) has a nightmare of seeing a man stabbed on the Golden Gate Bridge — and then meets him when her waking screams bring him running. Budget limits and a hack script waste the appealing Foch and a great premise on a rote spy-smashing B-picture. Boetticher doesn’t really bother trying here. –KH

Episode 306: Gen Con 2018

August 17th, 2018 | Robin

 

We’re scratchy voiced and mushy headed from our journey to Gen Con 18. The Best Four Days in Gaming got bigger than ever this year, and we’re here to sort through the awards, the announcements, and perhaps a spot of food.

Also at Gen Con we talked to Emily Reinhart, whose magical girl RPG Domina Magica is Kickstarting now. We tuck that interview in among our loop-brained observations.

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.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

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

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Aquatic Humanoids and the New Tim Powers

August 14th, 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Alternate Routes (Fiction, Tim Powers, 2018) A former Secret Service agent who now works for a ghost-proof courier service in LA collides with an ongoing government program that’s weakening the walls between worlds. This is a very Powers-y novel, albeit one more rooted in the present than his usual. The ghost cosmology bubbles inventively, a blend of Expiration Date and “Down and Out in Purgatory,” with a few new wrinkles. Although the action seldom lets up, it’s not quite the barn-burner that the Powers Pinnacles are, with only one truly vertiginous revelation. –KH

Black is the Color (Graphic Novel, Julia Gfrörer, 2013) Sailor set adrift by his desperate shipmates attracts the attentions of an affectionate but sinister mermaid. Deadpan, haunting weird tale told in spare, almost monoplanar line art.—RDL

Cold Skin (Film, France/Spain, Xavier Jens, 2017) Weather station operator (David Oakes) newly arrived on a remote, barren island joins with its only other human inhabitant, a truculent lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson) to fend off nightly attacks from aquatic humanoids. Stark, beautifully shot period horror reminiscent of William Hope Hodgson.—RDL

Good

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (Film, US, Lou Adler, 1982) After minor celebrity makes Corinne “Third Degree” Burns (Diane Lane) unemployable in her small town, she talks her (awful) band The Stains (Lane, Marin Kanter, and Laura Dern) onto the tour of the Metal Corpses (various Tubes) and the Looters (Ray Winstone fronting various Clash and Sex Pistols). What ensues, murkily directed and recorded, is the origin myth of the Riot Grrrl movement via All About Eve. Nancy Dowd took her name off the script, which as shot and cut can’t figure out if it’s indicting the Spectacle or Burns or both. Lane and Winstone are great, though. –KH

Episode 305: I Put My Whole Head In and I am Fine

August 10th, 2018 | Robin

 

Once more we’re in the same room together with an episode recorded in our hotel the day before Gen Con. Hmm, what easy topics shall we tackle?

Does the game system you’re playing expect you to generate a plot hook for your character? We’re waiting in the Gaming Hut with tips and advice.

The Tradecraft Hut keeps insisting we keep it topical, so what choice do we have but to cover the Maria Butila story?

In the Food Hut, we journey to Food Valhalla, where dwell the favorite meals we will never again eat in the mortal realm.

Speaking of topics we can’t not address, we close in the gridded-off confines of the Archaeology Hut, where we ponder that giant sarcophagus everyone has been talking about.

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.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

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

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Episode 304: We’re Not Running a Party of Death Here

August 3rd, 2018 | Robin

 

Mystery scenario construction is once again on our minds in the Gaming Hut, as we discuss ways to run a mystery in which the investigators respond to an ongoing spree of murders, monster attacks, or the like.

We make sure the roof of the History Hut is well-patched as we consider the cosmic terror that was the passenger pigeon.

At the request of Patreon backer Timothy Coram, we pop into the Cinema Hut to chat about the giallo, and its application to The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Finally the Consulting Occultist profiles Alexander Dugin, a Russian philosopher who combines fascism, synarchy, nationalism and chaos magick under the banner of an oddly familiar eight-pointed arrow star.

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.


The island of Al Amarja may have moved from its classic 1990s location, but don’t be fooled. Over the Edge is indeed back, with Jonathan Tweet updating his classic and influential game design. Get ready to duck New Age cultists, baboon-wielding gangsters, twisted assassins when the roleplaying game of weird modern danger is Kickstarting now!

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

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

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