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Archive for February, 2020

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Watchmen, Birds of Prey and Barry

February 25th, 2020 | 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.

The Pinnacle

Watchmen (Television, US, HBO, Damon Lindelof, 2019) In an alternate present where Tulsa cops wear masks, the detective known as Sister Night (Regina King) investigates the death of her superior, leading to a bizarre conspiracy involving past generations of costumed adventurers and vigilantes. Densely layered, inventive, and packed with outre images and narrative surprises, this sequel to the original comic book shows a rare ability to build anew on the mythology of an existing work without just recapitulating it.—RDL

Recommended

Barry Season 2 (Television, US, HBO, Alec Berg & Bill Haider, 2019) As hitman-turned-actor Barry (Haider) tries to put his old career behind him its consequences keep catching up. Two manic episodes punctuate a turn for the interior, as the show attempts to dig deeper into its characters while still honoring the ridiculous situation they find themselves in. Not as fresh as Season 1, but still capable of surprise and shock. –KH

I Walk Alone (Film, US, Byron Haskin, 1947) Hair-trigger ex-bootlegger (Burt Lancaster) returns from a lengthy prison stint to discover that his proudly manipulative partner (Kirk Douglas) has no intention of honoring their fifty-fifty deal on his now successful club. Character-driven noir features Lizabeth Scott’s best performance as the perceptive chanteuse who forms the third point of the Lancaster-Douglas triangle.—RDL

Saint Jack (Film, US, Peter Bogdonavich, 1979) Bluffly charming expat panderer (Ben Gazzara) discovers that his ambitions to set up a bordello in wild early 70s Singapore run through the CIA. Atmospheric study of character, time, and place from the waning days of the American New Wave, co-written from his novel by Paul Theroux. Though even its thriller elements are played for mood, not suspense, the background details would be eminently mineable by Fall of Delta Green Handlers.—RDL

Good

Birds of Prey (Film, US, Cathy Yan, 2020) Dumped by the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) picks up the pieces and finds female friendship during a Gotham gangland takeover by Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Intermittently delightful fights and banter mesh only somewhat with a Gotham City gang story: Looney Tunes and DC have very different cartoon flavors that Yan and the script don’t always bridge or blend. Hong Kong does this stuff so effortlessly that it’s weird to see someone work this hard at it. –KH

John Carter (Film, US, Andrew Stanton, 2012) Former Confederate cavalryman John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) teleports to Mars and rescues Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and her planet from their fate. Remarkably decent adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel even manages to touch on the weird Theosophical flavor that powers it; Recommended for Burroughs fans. I suspect that for others, it’s a little too big and loose despite a Michael Chabon turn on the script. –KH

Two Men in Manhattan (Film, France, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959) The search for a French ambassador missing from his UN post takes two of his countrymen, a hangdog reporter (Melville) and a boozehound photographer (Pierre Grasset) on a journey through the nighttime world of New York. A thin reed of a plot strings together episodes of beguiling crime jazz cool.—RDL

Episode 383: Not Quite Doctor Cowboy

February 21st, 2020 | Robin

Longtime listeners know that “Start with Earth” is a Thing Ken Always Says. But in the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Nicola Wilson wants to know exactly where.

In the Conspiracy Corner estimable Patreon backer Steven Roman seeks bookshelf recommendations for all things recent and conspiratorial.

The Consulting Occultist continues to wear suspiciously Robin-like facial hair as we enter the penultimate edition of Belle Epoque magicians series, as inspired by The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, with the scene’s fun couple,  Moina and Samuel Liddell Mathers, of Golden Dawn fame.

Placed spoilererrifically at the end, in case your childrearing duties have prevented you from catching the flick yet, the Cinema Hut trains an analytical lens on The Rise of Skywalker.

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.


Your survival depends on separating heisting criminals from undercover cops in Never Bring a Knife, the action-packed new social deduction game from our ever-sneaky friends at Atlas Games. Available from Jan 17th at your friendly local game store or online.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

Episode 382: Health and Safety

February 14th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we come to the rescue of beloved Patreon backer Keelan O’Hea, whose players have conceived the inexplicable desire for a version of GUMSHOE with more die rolling in it.

The Food Hut, of all huts, contains the first of this episode’s two Yellow King Roleplaying Game shout-outs, as we savor the career and influence of chef, restaurant operator and cookbook author Auguste Escoffier.

The History Hut finds Ken prowling the British Museum researching his upcoming Hellenistika D&D project.

Then the Consulting Occultist continues our series on the magicians of the Parisian Belle Epoque, as we drop into the shop of bookseller, composer and occult publisher Edmond Bailly.

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.


Your survival depends on separating heisting criminals from undercover cops in Never Bring a Knife, the action-packed new social deduction game from our ever-sneaky friends at Atlas Games. Available from Jan 17th at your friendly local game store or online.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Heaven, a Hitman, and the Deadly World of Produce Sales

February 11th, 2020 | 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.

The Pinnacle

The Good Place Season 4 (Television, US, NBC, Michael Schur, 2019-20) Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) and her friends find themselves responsible for saving every human on Earth from the malfunctioning points system. In its intentionally final season, the show comes in for a glide path landing by switching its philosophical center from the nature of the good to the nature of the eternal. Schur nails the landing on the greatest narrative aerial act in television history. –KH

Recommended

Barry Season 1 (Television, US, HBO, Alec Berg and Bill Hader, 2018) Increasingly alienated hitman (Bill Hader) navigates an existential crisis by joining an acting class on the spur of the moment. This least likely premise for acidulous, perfect-pitch black comedy nonetheless delivers thanks to a deep bench of gifted actors and writing that tries to slip the jokes by you like curveballs. –KH

The Beach Bum (Film, US, Harmony Korine, 2019) Lovable alcoholic poet and Key West party figure (Matthew McConaughey) stays true to himself as he flees a variety of challenges to his lack of sobriety. Majestically photographed picaresque flips the bird to the redemption arc, and for that matter arcs in general. Isla Fisher, Zac Efron and Martin Lawrence show up to confound their agents with outlandish roles, with Snoop Dogg playing to type in his.—RDL

Blood and Black Lace (Film, Italy, Mario Bava, 1964) A masked figure in a black trenchcoat wages a murder spree against women associated with a modeling agency. With its sumptuous production design, hyper-saturated colors, and twisting, protagonist-free narrative structure, this combination of horror and murder mystery launched the giallo sub-genre into a local movie industry hungry for new templates to copycat.—RDL

Thieves Highway (Film, US, Jules Dassin, 1949) Returning veteran (Richard Conte) enters the cutthroat world of fruit trucking to get to the corrupt produce wholesaler (Lee J. Cobb) responsible for his father’s maiming. Adapted by A.I. Bezzerides from his own autobiographical novel, this presents as scathing a portrait of bare knuckled American business as studio-mandated happy endings will allow. Dassin leavens the proceedings with romanticism, symbolized by Valentina Cortese as the bad girl savior, clad in Hollywood’s most expressive coat.—RDL

Good

Image Makers: The Adventures of America’s Pioneer Cinematographers (Film, US, Daniel Raim, 2019) Documentary illuminates the careers of key early American D.O.P.s, including Billy Bitzer (Griffith), Roland Totheroh (Chaplin), William Daniels (Garbo and glamour photography), Gregg Toland (deep focus) and James Wong Howe (realism.) If there’s one subject matter that cries out for the documentary format, it’s this.—RDL

Judy (Film, US/UK, Rupert Goold, 2019) Out of cash and struggling with the pill addiction MGM gave her as a teenager, Judy Garland (Renée Zellwegger) hopes a long term gig in London will turn her situation around. Stylistically unadventurous biopic exists as a container for the very specific type of bravura performance awards season can’t get enough of.—RDL

Episode 381: Anthropodermic Wallet

February 7th, 2020 | Robin

They tried to suppress it. They tried to contain it. They left it for months on a loading dock in Estonia. But now The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has made its final crack in reality by heading to retail. We celebrate with an all-Yellow King edition of Robin’s ambitious new game.

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Ken Ringwald obligingly asks how it tackles the age-old problem of time as a resource in RPGs.

The History Hut peels back the covers on the Skin Affair, a gruesome scandal that rocked Belle Epoque Paris in the wake of a sensational murder.

In Ask Ken and Robin, esteemed Patreon backer Ruth Tillman demands strange machineries for YKRPG’s Belle Epoque sequence.

Finally the Consulting Occultist resumes our interrupted look at the 1890s Parisian supernatural scene with a profile of the Martinist writer and salon organizer Papus.

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.


Your survival depends on separating heisting criminals from undercover cops in Never Bring a Knife, the action-packed new social deduction game from our ever-sneaky friends at Atlas Games. Available from Jan 17th at your friendly local game store or online.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Good Place, Arrow, and a Feminist UFO Cult

February 4th, 2020 | 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.

Ken is on assignment.

The Pinnacle

The Good Place Season 4 (Television, US, NBC, Mike Schur, 2019-2020) Challenged to improve the afterlife by guiding a fresh quartet of souls, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and Michael (Ted Danson) discover that spotting the flaws in a system is easier than building one that works. The proof of a finale season is in the last episode, and the kicker here, a sweet and melancholy meditation on how happiness might itself be the saddest thing, concludes a remarkable series with understated brilliance.—RDL

Recommended

Arrow Season 7 (Television, US, CW, Beth Schwartz, 2019-2020) Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) says goodbye to old friends as he struggles for and against the Monitor, a cosmic entity guiding his sacrificial fate in an upcoming battle for the multiverse. It’s rare to see any season, let alone a final one, set so many hurdles for itself: welding a cosmic plotline to the show’s crime/spy baseline, putting its climactic moments in a multi-show crossover, weaving in a backdoor pilot for a spinoff, and papering over the absence of the series’ heart, Emily Bett Rickards. Yet if, as someone just said above, the proof is in the payoff, this always shaggy show in the end reaches for and once more captures the spandex-clad high emotion that made its key moments.—RDL

New Eden (Television, Canada, Kayla Lorette, Evany Rosen & Alyesa Young, Crave, 2020) In a bid to keep their 80s feminist commune together, the uptight and needy Katherine (Lorette) and charismatic codependent (Rosen), transform it into a UFO cult, which only accelerates its doom spiral. In keeping with hallowed Canadian tradition, this true crime mockumentary uses a playing style rooted in sketch comedy to plumb the depths of human desperation.—RDL

San Babila-8 P.M. (Film, Italy, Carlo Lizzani, 1976) A twelve hour period of trouble-seeking for a quartet of variously neurotic neofascist youths escalates from vandalism to serious bloodshed. Tense crime docudrama foregrounds the misogyny that unites its grandiose loser protagonists.—RDL

The Two Popes (Film, UK/Italy, Fernando Meirelles, 2019) In a debate bookended by two papal conclaves, conservative Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) rebuffs the attempts of Argentinean reformist cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) to renounce his post. Meirelles pulls out the full playbook of cinematic technique to bring wit, energy and warmth to a two-hander revolving around theological debate.—RDL

Good

The Bounty Hunter (Film, US, Andre de Toth, 1954) Acerbic bounty hunter (Randolph Scott) sets a booming copper mining town on edge with his hunt for stagecoach robbers even the Pinkertons can’t catch. I enjoyed this soothingly routine Western more than I can objectively argue for, chiefly for the pleasure of seeing Scott play a hardboiled private dick in a Stetston. Watch him solve the case using the GUMSHOE abilities Intimidation, Bullshit Detector, Flattery, Reassurance (a spend), Evidence Collection, and Interrogation.—RDL

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