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Archive for October, 2020

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hotel Ghosts and Mi’kMaq vs. Zombies

October 20th, 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.

Recommended

Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech’s Race for the Future of Food (Nonfiction, Chase Purdy, 2020) Round-up of the technological, marketing and regulatory hurdles facing the small group of competing firms racing to bring satisfying, economical vat-grown meat to the world’s dinner tables. Concise, journalistic account covers the current state of play in a sector where proprietary secrets obscure the timetable for a revolution that might or might not be imminent.—RDL

Blood Quantum (Film, Canada, Jeff Barnaby, 2019) Immune to the virus that brings people—not to mention dogs and salmon—back from the dead, the Mi’kMaq of the Red Crow reservation, including a rueful police chief (Michael Greyeyes) and his atomized family, hunker against the undead apocalypse. Grim zombie horror finds room for complexity as it engages the genre’s tradition of social commentary.—RDL

The Invisible Man (Film, US, Leigh Whannell, 2020) Architect (Elizabeth Moss) escapes an abusive relationship with an optics genius, only to have him fake his own death and stalk her using his invisibility suit. Upending this classic horror tale to make Griffin the pursuing monster instead of the protagonist is one of those writing moves so brilliant that it seems obvious in retrospect.—RDL

Kubrick by Kubrick (Film, France/Poland, Gregory Monro, 2020) Tape-recorded interviews of Kubrick by film critic Michael Ciment play under footage from most of his films. Monro attempts to gently subvert, or at least provide perspective on, the image of Kubrick as obsessive perfectionist; the result may not be a revelatory film study but it’s a very good Kubrick 102. If you’re ready for Kubrick 202, maybe tick this back down to Good.–KH

Sleep (Film, Germany, Michael Venus, 2020) Nightmare-plagued Marlene (Sandra Huller) collapses in a mountain resort hotel — the one in her dreams — and her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) investigates. A strong, dogged performance by Kohlhof anchors this excellent psychological ghost thriller, which gets nearly everything right from a creepy empty hotel set to vibrantly strange supporting actors.–KH

Good

Alms for Oblivion (Nonfiction, Peter Kemp, 1961) Lt. Col. Kemp, fresh from SOE service in Europe, transfers to the Pacific Theater right after V-J Day. Kemp runs guns to the French in Laos from Siam and serves as interim military governor of Bali and Lombok for two weeks. I had hoped for more action from this memoir, frankly. Interesting local color and details of political-military service in a neglected nook of history somewhat make up for that lack, however. –KH

Await the Dawn (Film, US, Pablo Macho Maysonet IV, 2020) In the grip of heroin withdrawal, Jane (Hannah Leigh) and her family get kidnapped by Miskatonic scientist Howard (Josh Server), fleeing a being from beyond in the form of a little girl. Decent acting, practical FX, and proper pacing make up for the occasional dialogue clinker and low-budget ambiance. In truth, this hovers over the Okay bubble, but the 80s Carpenter film Maysonet wanted to make shines through so clearly that the Lovecraft riff pops it into Good.–KH

Waking Sleeping Beauty (Film, US, Don Hahn, 2009) Documentary traces Disney Animation’s return to cultural omnipresence from its mid 80s doldrums, Surprisingly unvarnished insider look at the stresses and boardroom rivalries behind a blockbuster creative run.—RDL

Okay

I’m Your Woman (Film, US, Julia Hart, 2020) Wife of a professional crook, Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) must go on the lam when he disappears. Attempting to make a film of the female-occupied negative space around a 70s crime thriller, Hart instead produces something by turns inert and facile. With nothing to do, at length, Brosnahan slowly sinks under the thick patina of 70s production design. Her brief, predictable spurt of agency in the last act comes far too late.–KH

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Film, Spain/Belgium/France, Terry Gilliam, 2018) Feckless commercial director (Adam Driver) becomes an unwilling Sancho Panza to a delusional shoemaker (Jonathan Pryce) he once cast as Don Quixote. It turns out that the Fates spent a quarter century thwarting this film’s production because they realized that the script hits Gilliam’s core “the only thing worse than delusion is reality” theme too obviously on the nose. Or they were just waiting for Driver and his unerring knack for interesting choices.—RDL

Episode 417: Double Devil

October 16th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Ross Ireland asks about the possibility of victory in an ongoing game. Is it essential, or can certain doom become its own kind of win?

Regal backer Mikey Hamm beckons us into an especially resplendent version of the History Hut to hear about the Amber Room and the curses associated with it.

In How to Write Good, we show you how to spot the ominous signs of an unmotivated protagonist.

Finally the Eliptony Hut reveals the secrets of the Vatican’s time viewer.

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.


You know your dance crew is the hottest around… but now it’s time to prove it. Breakdancing Meeples is a real-time dexterity game of, you guessed it, breakdancing meeples, designed by Ben Moy and published by Atlas Games. Two to four people, ages six and up, compete for dancefloor glory, in five exciting minutes.

Send your 13th Age characters deep below the Dragon Empire, and even deeper into danger, with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of the Underworld. Get all the subterranean exploration and menace your adventurers can handle at the Pelgrane Press store. For a limited time only, get 10% off print or PDF with the voucher code STUFFWORLD.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Classic 70s Horror, Agricultural Revisionism, and Nice Gal Vampires

October 13th, 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

Don’t Look Now (Film, UK/Italy, Nicholas Roeg, 1973) After the drowning of their daughter, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) remain haunted by their grief in Venice. Roeg’s time-shifted edits and deeply layered shots build a hyper-impressionistic experience of emotional trauma, while also evoking the eerie as only the very best horror films can. –KH

Recommended

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (Nonfiction, James C. Scott, 2017) An attempt to re-tell and subvert the heroic archaeological narrative of the rise to civilization from early Neolithic hunter-gathering. Scott somewhat palms a card when dealing with the invention of agriculture, but in his defense nobody on the other side can really explain it either. A fast read that should ideally lead to more detailed arguments. –KH

Gimme Danger (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2016) Iggy Pop recounts the history of his seminal band The Stooges, including not only the expected self-destructive excess but also the deep musicology behind the deceptively simple sound. Jarmusch elevates an otherwise straightforward rockumentary with savvy choices for his opening and closing sequences.—RDL

Vamps (Film, US, Amy Heckerling, 2012) Non-predatory vampire roommates (Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter) face a threat to their life of fun in NYC when one of them dates a van Helsing (Dan Stevens.) Because she projects an affirming vision and draws on girl culture, not boy culture, Heckerling’s auteurism is underrated, and that goes double for this female-driven hangout movie. A deep cast includes Wallace Shawn as the elder van Helsing, Sigourney Weaver as the villainous sire, and Malcolm MacDowell as Vlad Tepes, who has given up impaling for knitting.—RDL

Good

CBGB (Film, US, Randall Miller, 2013) Hygiene- and bookkeeping-eschewing club owner Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) turns a shabby Bowery bar into the nexus of American punk and new wave. Reverent evocation of an irreverent movement lets you feel what CBGBs was like without smelling it. To rivetingly hold the screen as a checked-out, inexpressive dude you couldn’t ask for better casting than Rickman.—RDL

Faithless (Film, US, Harry Beaumont, 1932) An heiress (Tallulah Bankhead) and her ad executive beau (Robert Montgomery) hit the skids hard as the Depression worsens. Nearly every film from this era deals with the Depression to one extent or another, but this hard-hitting melodrama tackles it with unusual directness.—RDL

God Told Me To (Film, US, Larry Cohen, 1976) NYPD detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) follows up on a series of spree killings after which the killers claim “God told me to.” One too many fascinating side plots somewhat unbalances this very weird movie, leaving it just below the Recommended bubble, but if your idea of joy is a grotty 70s New York Unknown Armies game this is part of that. –KH

Millie (Film, US, John Francis Dillon, 1931) After being rushed into marriage by an energetic heel, a charming young woman (Helen Twelvetrees) resolves to keep man problems at bay. Melodrama shows the price of all the fun characters in Pre-Code movies get up to, without betraying its feminist allegiances. Joan Blondell appears as one-half of a pair of lesbian gold-diggers.—RDL

Okay

The Beast Must Die (Film, UK, Paul Annett, 1974) Big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) gathers five guests at his surveillance-surrounded mansion to discover which of them is a werewolf and hunt him or her. This superlative high concept (even better than the excellent James Blish story it comes from) cannot overcome Lockhart’s histrionics, muddy Amicus lensing, and a talky script. But Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, and Peter Cushing push it as close to Good as they can. –KH

Episode 416: They’re Gonna Have Their Lifeforms Fight

October 9th, 2020 | Robin

An all-request episode kicks off in the Gaming Hut as Dicegeeks asks us how to incorporate the Fossil Showman Albert Koch and his Missouri Leviathan into a game.

We jump some bulls on our way into the Archaeology Hut, where Jake B wants to know about a maker of Minoan seals from the town of Zakros around 1500 BCE.

Brian Malcolm impels us to dust off the Politics Hut for tips on getting along across partisan boundaries.

Finally Elias Helfer trudges with us up the cobwebbed stairs to the parlor of the Consulting Occultist for a look at iconic Tarot deck illustrator Pamela Colman Smith.


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-person Renaissance Faires are off the table for the moment, but what can be on your table, at a limited-time steal price is Ren Faire, Atlas Games’ hilarious card game of competitive historical costuming. Grab it for a stunning 40% off with the voucher code PANTALOONS.

Send your 13th Age characters deep below the Dragon Empire, and even deeper into danger, with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of the Underworld. Get all the subterranean exploration and menace your adventurers can handle at the Pelgrane Press store. For a limited time only, get 10% off print or PDF with the voucher code STUFFWORLD.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: H. P. Lovecraft Film Fest Highlights (and more)

October 6th, 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.

Recommended

10 Rillington Place (Film, UK, Richard Fleischer, 1970) Mousy, diabolical serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough) murders the young mother (Judy Geeson) living in the upstairs flat, maneuvering her husband (John Hurt) into prime suspect status. Authentically grim true crime docudrama touches on the notoriously botched investigation that led to the execution of an innocent man and allowed Christie to kill four more victims, but primarily focuses on his criminal profile.—RDL

In Fabric (Film, UK, Peter Strickland, 2018) Seeking a boost of confidence as she re-enters the dating world, a shy bank clerk (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) buys a red dress from a boutique run by pervy capitalist witches. Absurdist satire with a diptych structure reverently conjures the stylistic flourishes of 70s giallo.—RDL

Nina of the Woods (Film, US, Charlie Griak, 2020) Failing actress Nina (Megan Hensley) takes the role of “local witness” in a reality-TV Bigfoot-hunting show, only to re-enter the haunted woods she explored with her father as a child. Thank the Great Spirit, this is not a found-footage film, but instead a plangent folk-horror piece; Stalker with a rural American accent. For trying something new, and for taking the time to paint its supporting characters with life and care, the film gets Recommended despite a somewhat mixed result. –KH

Rabid (Film, Canada, David Cronenberg, 1977) Experimental surgery recipient (Marilyn Chambers) grows a feeding tube under her arm and a thirst for blood, becoming patient zero in an epidemic that spreads via violent bite attacks. Homely seventies Canadian decor grounds the horror in this weird science update of the vampire as pandemic vector motif. And yes it’s super weird that I hadn’t seen this till now.—RDL

Good

Eerie Fairy Tales (Film, Estonia, Mart Sander, 2019) Anthology film comprising four stories: a tavern-told horror (Good but the ending lacks punch); a UFO puzzle in the fine tradition of old, cruel SF (Recommended but somewhat cheap-looking); a beautifully shot proper fairy tale (Recommended); and a shaggy-dog murder mystery joke (Okay for terrible accents and telegraphing its ending almost immediately). –KH

Intersect (Film, US, Gus Holwerda, 2020) Physics prodigy Ryan (Jason Spisak) and two colleagues build a time machine at Miskatonic University. This film needed at least one rewrite (to provide payoff for the time spent in Ryan’s past) and another edit to provide a bigger hit of Primer-style metaphysics and to handle the tonal shifts as the story moves backwards. TV’s James Morrison is sadly wasted in a conventional supporting role; lead Spisak can’t convey enough meaning to invest us; the villain is a cartoon. But, Lovecraftian time machine! [Currently available for rent on Amazon streaming.]

Loving You (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 1995) Brusque, philandering cop (Lau Ching Wan) tries to become a better man and husband after being shot in the head. A couple of years before the epic run that starts with A Hero Never Dies, To’s signature style is pretty much in place, with the weak link a script that fails to connect the emotional dots between its action thriller and romantic drama components.—RDL

The Return (Film, Canada, BJ Verot, 2020) After his father’s death, physics prodigy Roger (Richard Harmon) returns to his family home to find it possibly haunted by his dead sister’s imaginary friend. A nice, tight sfnal twist on the haunted house with a script just a bit too talky to keep suspense up where it needs to be. The actors are fine, but Verot doesn’t trust them to sell the material. –KH

Okay

The Deep Ones (Film, US, Chad Ferrin, 2020) Alex (Gina La Piana) and her husband Petri (Johann Urb) rent a beach house in a gated community and discover … well, you know what they discover. As the leader of the cult, Robert Miano gives a bravura Columbo-villain performance but the rest of the film doesn’t deliver enough juice to lubricate its completely obvious plot. Too-visible creatures and tentacles don’t help. –KH

The Hill and the Hole (Film, US, William Darmon & Christopher Ernst, 2020) A surveyor (Liam Kelly) discovers something weird about a mound in a strange small town. I so wanted to like this film, based on a bluntly creepy Fritz Leiber story, but the script careens entirely arbitrarily from point to point, the comedy fails at both camp and cult, and the effects would have done AIP proud circa 1970. –KH [Currently streaming on Amazon.]

Episode 415: Psychedelic Tupperware Party

October 2nd, 2020 | Robin

The pandemic didn’t stop Robin from attending the Toronto International Film Festival, because it took place in his living room this year. In the Cinema Hut he reviews the best of a cut-down slate and discusses the future of film festivals here in the Covidverse.

Speaking of stuff you’d only do during a plague, Ken has finished reading the entirety of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. In the Gaming Hut we wonder how you might adapt this famously sessile classic detective to GUMSHOE One-2-One.

Finally, Ken’s Time Machine changes the aesthetic timeline by winning greater fame for Thomas Wilfrid’s Clavilux. Just don’t call it a color organ!


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-person Renaissance Faires are off the table for the moment, but what can be on your table, at a limited-time steal price is Ren Faire, Atlas Games’ hilarious card game of competitive historical costuming. Grab it for a stunning 40% off with the voucher code PANTALOONS.

Send your 13th Age characters deep below the Dragon Empire, and even deeper into danger, with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of the Underworld. Get all the subterranean exploration and menace your adventurers can handle at the Pelgrane Press store. For a limited time only, get 10% off print or PDF with the voucher code STUFFWORLD.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister