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Archive for September, 2018

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Golden-Eyed Vampire and a Predator

September 18th, 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.

Robin’s media consumption this week took place at the Toronto International Film Festival. Check out his capsule reviews here. Those reviews will reappear here when titles are released theatrically or on home video.

Recommended

Predator (Film, US, John McTiernan, 1987) Tasked by CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers) to enter Nicaragua on an ostensible rescue mission, Special Forces major Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his squad also enter the killing ground of an alien trophy hunter. Somehow I never saw this second film of McTiernan’s mind-bogglingly good first four. This one succeeds almost entirely on the back of McTiernan’s assured direction, although both Arnold’s control of his swaggering machismo and of its transformation into animal cunning are underrated. And man, nothing blows up like an 80s Commie base. –KH

Good

Lake of Dracula (Film, Japan, Michio Yamamoto, 1971) Years after suffering a nightmarish vision of a golden-eyed vampire (Mori Kishida), Akiko (Midori Fujita) tries to paint her trauma by the side of a peaceful lake. Combining a Hitchcock-style psychoanalytic thriller with would-be Hammer Films action on a Toho Studios budget, the result comes off slightly disjointed but never boring. Watching it on the splendid, crisp Blu-Ray transfer by Arrow Films is Recommended. –KH

Operation Finale (Film, US, Chris Weitz, 2018) In 1960, Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) suffers from survivor’s guilt as he leads a team to kidnap Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) in Argentina for trial in Israel. The script, based on the memoirs of the real Israeli agents, wisely compresses historical time and offers some tasty dialogue, but doesn’t manage to fully cohere around either a heroic spycraft story a la Argo or a psychological exploration a la Munich. The implicitly promised actors’ duel between Isaac and Kingsley doesn’t quite come off, either. –KH

Not Recommended

In the Quarter (Fiction, Robert W. Chambers, 1894) As his fellow art students roister in Paris, Reginald Gethryn falls for a grisette despite the warnings of his older friend Braith. Lively and true to life in parts, this novel’s mild melodramatic joys do not make it past the two (two!!) stereotyped Jews who serve as the odious cardboard villains. At least Trilby has hypnotism to go with its anti-Semitism; Chambers just has local color, and it’s not even yellow. Some characters from this novel appear in the later stories in The King in Yellow, however. –KH

Episode 310: The Social Media Impact of Ulthar

September 14th, 2018 | Robin

 

The Gaming Hut makes room for our collection of crystal balls as Patreon backer Rob Towell asks for hints on GMing prophecies and divinations.

The Crime Blotter looks at a rash of highly professional heists targeting relics looted from the Old Summer Palace and held in European museums.

Patreon backer Polydamas asks us to have Fun With Science and the 1920s invasion of sea lampreys into the Great Lakes.

Finally backer Derek Upham visits the Consulting Occultist for a look at artist James Bridle, who has constructed a magic circle to trap self-driving cars.

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 agency 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: Arch Playlets and an Investigating Organist

September 11th, 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

Holy Disorders (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1945) Organist and composer Geoffrey Vintner faces thugs, infatuation, witches, Nazis, and murder in the cathedral town of Tolnbridge, so it’s a good thing that Gervase Fen is there to eventually solve the case. Notable for Crispin’s echoing (and name-checking) John Dickson Carr, who provides the Gothic bass to Fen’s eccentric treble. Not fully satisfying as a mystery novel, but brilliant and dark like a lightning storm at night. –KH

Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier (Play, Edward Rutherford, 2018) Louche and haunted narrator (Kevin Webb) introduces six stories by the sly master, including my favorite of Collier’s, “Thus I Refute Beelzy.” Archly played, aiming for sometimes-incompatible creepiness and irony, the playlets can get broad at times privileging denouement over character depth. But the ensemble carries the moment, ably anchored by Webb. –KH [Playing through September 15 at the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago.]

Good

Frequent Hearses (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1950) Gervase Fen investigates a murder spree touched off by the suicide of up-and-coming starlet Gloria Scott. Crispin’s own career writing movie scores provides ample and interesting color to this darkish mystery. When Fen disappears from the novel leaving Inspector Humbleby center stage, the narrative slows down and marks time. –KH

Jack Ryan Season 1 (Television, US, Amazon, Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, 2018) CIA analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) and his boss Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce) uncover a terrorist plot and find themselves thrust into the field to stop it. A solid throughline and confident directing — while nothing spectacular — undergird this fast-moving, basic modern-day thriller that closely replicates the experience of reading Tom Clancy novels. The season’s sole B-plot feels as pointless as it is, but at least it doesn’t take up much of your time. –KH

Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines (Nonfiction, Nick Nolte, 2018) The star of 48 HRS and Affliction details his storied acting career and anxiety-driven battle with various addictions. Sections of ghost writerly research alternate with others that feel like Nolte’s voice.—RDL

Sharp Objects (Television, HBO, Jean-Marc Vallée, 2018) Tailspinning reporter (Amy Adams) returns to her small Missouri town to cover a serial murder case, prompting a dark reckoning with her control-obsessed mother (Patricia Clarkson.) Ethereal imagery, impressionistic editing and committed performances lend realism to a crime novel plot driven by behavior engaged in by no humans ever.—RDL

Okay

Great Directors (Film, UK/France/Italy, Angela Ismailos) Documentarian interviews a roster of directors including Agnes Varda, David Lynch, Stephen Frears, Todd Lynch, Ken Loach and Liliana Cavani, with reverent but unfocused results. Bump up to Good if watched as an unchallenging appetizer to an upcoming 45-movie jaunt to one’s local international film festival.—RDL

Never So Few (Film, US, John Sturges, 1959) When not leading a liaison unit embedded with local Kachin forces in Burma, hardbitten army captain (Frank Sinatra) woos a shadowy profiteer’s worldly girlfriend (Gina Lollobrigida.) Two films with largely unrelated throughlines, a glossy romance and a fatalistic war epic, keep interrupting each other, leaving as the piece’s main virtue Sturges’ mastery of the Cinemascope frame and vivid 50s color palette. Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson appear in early supporting roles.—RDL

Episode 309: Snort the Pringles

September 7th, 2018 | Robin

On the alert for treacherous banana peels, we gather in the Gaming Hut to wonder if GUMSHOE can handle incompetent PCs.

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Frank Rafaelson wants Ken to pitch a new edition of Nephilim.

How to Write Good posits that idiot plotting is not just an issue in procedure-heavy narratives. We look at ways to avoid it in dramatic scenes.

Finally, Patreon backer Adam Grotjohn wonders what fell reality Ken’s Time Machine was preventing at the cemetery now known as Lincoln Park in Chicago.

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 agency 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: Neo-Poliziotteschi and Devonshire Rustication

September 4th, 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

The Glimpses of the Moon (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1977) Rusticating and procrastinating among eccentric neighbors in Devonshire, detective don Gervase Fen pokes into a local case of decapitation and mutilation. Crispin’s last novel was published posthumously, and given that Crispin himself had been rusticating in Devonshire for 20 years and retained his somewhat acidic irony throughout, it’s probably for the best that he escaped his neighbors’ discovery of his opinion of them. Like Crispin’s other works, it’s a classic mystery complete with locked room (or tent) and the occasional Wodehousian detour into minor characters’ manias. –KH

Let the Corpses Tan (Film, France, Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani) Armored car robbers shoot it out with a motorcycle cop in the ruined seaside villa of an eccentric artist (Elina Lowensohn.) Tribute to 70s Italian poliziotteschi in which every shot is an ostentatiously perfect image further amped by slamming sound design.—RDL, Seen at TIFF ‘17, Now in US theatrical release.

Sami Blood (Film, Sweden, Amanda Kernell, 2016) Sent to a residential school to become Swedish—but not too Swedish—a Sami teenager (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) runs off to the city, hellbent on full assimilation. Social realist drama draws its power from the performance of its young lead, who plays a swirling mix of rage, shame, vulnerability and determination while always ringing true.—RDL

Good

Desperate (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1947) Young newlyweds go into hiding to escape the vengeance of a grudge-holding warehouse heister (Raymond Burr.) In his first in a classic cycle of crime dramas, Mann applies a heady layer of noir style to a straightforward tale of good pursued by evil.—RDL

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War (Fiction, P.W. Singer and August Cole, 2015) In around 2026, China and Russia team up to decapitate America’s tech advantage, and (non-nuclear) war ensues. Technothrillers must contain tech and thrills, and Ghost Fleet contains heaps of both in spades. Cyberwar expert Singer and defense journalist Cole stick to their fields of expertise (and grind a few axes) to good effect, wisely sticking to bold, uncomplicated characters to carry the plentiful action. –KH

The Prime Ministers Who Never Were (Nonfiction, Francis Beckett, ed., 2011) Collection of alternate histories of alternate Prime Ministers running from Austen Chamberlain (leads the Tories out of coalition in 1922) to David Miliband (edges out Gordon Brown for Labour Party leadership in 2007). Although the two WWII-era guys we all want to read about show up (Oswald Mosley comes off, of all things, as more relatable and successful than Lord Halifax), many of the essays repeatedly if understandably alter the Thatcher and Blair eras, reinforcing a rather samey repertory theatre effect. (Nobody likes Peter Mandelson, apparently.) British readers with an ironic political appetite might even Recommend the collection; they will surely get more of the in-jokes than I did. –KH

Psychokinesis (Film, South Korea, Yeon Sang-ho, 2018) Loser security guard tries to use his new telekinetic abilities to reestablish a relationship with the daughter he abandoned, as she battles crooked developers intent on destroying her restaurant and neighboring businesses. Jab at endemic corruption in South Korea disarmingly wrapped as a broad, crowd-pleasing mix of comedy, sentiment and super powered action.—RDL

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