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Archive for January, 2021

Episode 428: Only a Modernist Horse

January 15th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we return to that perennial, not at all distracting topic of the red herring, as beloved Patreon backer Kevin Greenlee asks how to work player-generated herrings into the drama.

Then we take Interstate 71 to the Architecture Hut, where esteemed Patreon backer Tom Abella wants to know what the deal is with the old Public Library of Cincinnati.

Cinema Hut Horror Essentials continues with the early 40s, over which the shadow of Val Lewton looms large.

Finally the Consulting Occultist dons his paisley smoking jacket for an inquiry into the occultism of LSD advocate Timothy Leary.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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: Discovery, WW84, and Korean Time Phone Horror

January 12th, 2021 | 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 Call (Film, South Korea, Lee Chung-hyun, 2020) Returning to her mom’s house while she’s in the hospital, a young woman receives a series of landline calls from inside the house—and from 20 years in the past. Tense timey-wimey horror thriller keeps the twists coming and the tension ratcheting.—RDL

Death Takes a Holiday (Film, US, Mitchell Leisen, 1934) To experience life as a mortal, the grim reaper (Fredric March) takes on mortal form for a long weekend as an aristocrat’s guest, falling for a restless ingenue (Evelyn Venable.) Stagy but atmospheric adaptation of an interwar Italian play that marries Symbolist and Romantic motifs.—RDL

Valdez is Coming (Fiction, Elmore Leonard, 1970) Mild-seeming town constable reveals the killer inside him when a cattle baron maneuvers him into gunning down an innocent man and then refuses to compensate his widow. Laconic western fable of racism and gun-handling expertise.—RDL

The Widow Couderc (Film, France, Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1974) Escaped convict (Alain Delon) hides out as farmhand to a lonely widow (Simone Signoret) whose former in-laws hope to push her out of her home. Naturalistic rural noir set against a background of rising fascim, based on a Simenon novel.—RDL

Good

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 (Television, US, CBS All Access, Alex Kurtzman & Michelle Paradise, 2020-2021) The Discovery crew signs up to fix a gritty far future where an interstellar catastrophe has reduced the Federation to a vestige of its former glory. Every season of Discovery becomes a markedly different show, finding new ways to get Trek right, while also embracing another narrative bête noire—this time, relentless cheerleading for its heroes. Star Sonequa Martin-Green dares to escalate her performance to Shatnerian heights.—RDL

Okay

Vampires vs. the Bronx (Film, US, Oz Rodriguez, 2020) Area tweens (Jaden Michael, Gerald W. Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV) notice vampires behind the gentrification of their Bronx neighborhood and fight back. “What if Lost Boys, but just about the Frog Brothers and in the Bronx” could still have worked, but not with the tiny budget and un-terrifying vampires available. It’s hard to blame the child actors for not doing better with the metronomic script, but they’re no Stranger Things kids. Points given for Method Man as a priest and for actually going there and using the Eucharist wafer as a plot coupon. –KH

Wonder Woman 1984 (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2020) When the Dreamstone resurfaces in 1984 Washington DC, Diana (Gal Gadot) wishing for the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is only the first thing that goes wrong. Random clumps of ill-thought-out scenes (including literally handwaving the invisible plane) capped by whatever the opposite of sticking the landing is may authentically recall Bronze Age comics, but it’s not always good movie making. Although Gadot and Pine remain great, Jenkins whiffs badly on the villains: Kristen Wiig twitches endlessly as proto-Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal (possibly overcompensating for his Mando minimalism) somehow hits every wrong note as Maxwell Lord. Jenkins’ fight and action scenes also suffer by comparison with the first film, regressing to the mean with a vengeance. –KH

Episode 427: Poor Bactrian Saps

January 8th, 2021 | Robin

We’re back for another year, starting in the Gaming Hut, where beloved Patreon backer Nicola Wilson wants to know how to incorporate the relatively high cost of clothes and food in the Middle Ages into an investigative game.

In the Tradecraft Hut we examine the mid-2000s Pentagon-sponsored first-person shooter Iraqi Hero, and the use Dracula made of it.

The second installment of the Cinema Hut’s Horror Essentials series tackles that most fertile of eras for the genre, the early 30s.

Finally Ken’s Time Machine creates a timeline where papermaking surfaced in Europe not long after its invention in China, instead of waiting for around a thousand years.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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: Wonder Woman, Palm Springs, Midnight Sky

January 5th, 2021 | 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 Book of Lamps and Banners (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2020) Increasingly strung-out punk photographer Cass Neary tries to leverage the hunt for a rare occult manuscript into a payout for her and her lover, but of course murderous complications intervene. Hand presents all four books in the series as rapid frames in Neary’s dramatic dissolution rather than episodes in an iconic hero’s career; this one, therefore, has to manage the trick of shifting Neary into her final stage without derailing its momentum. Fortunately, the titular Book (and the weird tech implications Hand gives it) have enough power to drive the novel around the turn. –KH

Joe Gould’s Teeth (Nonfiction, Jill Lepore, 2015) As a demonstration of the biographical researcher’s art, Lepore delves into a great unanswered question of New York literary lore—whether portions of the allegedly massive oral history of everything by literary eccentric Joe Gould, as made famous in two iconic Joseph Mitchell New Yorker articles, survive or ever existed. What she discovers deromanticizes Gould’s madness, revealing him as both a victim of institutional psychiatry and a harasser and stalker.—RDL

The Night Comes For Us (Film, Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto, 2018) Triad enforcer (Joe Taslim) goes rogue to protect a girl he’s orphaned, endangering his friends and setting up a showdown with his former running buddy (Iko Uwais.) Artfully shot grand guignol martial arts action from alumni of The Raid showcases top-notch prop/improvised weapon use.—RDL

Palm Springs (Film, US, Max Barbacow, 2020) Checked-out wedding guest (Adam Sandberg) fails to prevent the sister of the bride (Cristin Miliotti) from entering the infinite time loop he’s trapped in. Charming, funny romcom assumes you’ve seen a time loop movie before and makes clever hay with those expectations.—RDL

Good

The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (Nonfiction, Michael Goss, 1984) This short treatise applies the standards of parapsychology, rather than the usual standards of folklore studies, to three specific incident groups in the UK. An interesting exercise, which would be Recommended had Goss expanded the scope of his treatise to any of the main American incidents or to more complete coverage of the myth-pattern he scants in his last chapter. –KH

The Manifestations of Sherlock Holmes (Fiction, James Lovegrove, 2020) Twelve short stories of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, half of them “normal” pastiches, two told by minor Holmesian figures (Toby the dog and rival detective Clarence Barker), and four nerdtroped in some way: Lovecraft, Stevenson, Doyle again (Prof. Challenger and a murderous pterodactyl), and supers. “The Adventure of the Botanist’s Glove” is by far the best in the collection, and “The Adventure of the Yithian Stone” while too full of exposition does offer a nicely cruel glancing view of the Mythos. None of them are overtly bad (two Recommended, three Okay), but Lovegrove’s Doyle-voice quavers a bit even at the best of times. –KH

Shazam! (Film, US, David F. Sandberg, 2019) Resistant foster kid (Asher Angel) gains the ability to transform into an adult-shaped superhero (Zachary Levi.) Fun, cape-wearing riff on Big bookended by the usual over-elaborated exposition and CGI final fight sequence of superhero origin movies.—RDL

WW84 (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2020) In the era of pastel shades and high-cut leotards, a lonely Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) deals with the fallout when a wishing stone falls into the hands of an awkward pal (Kristen Wiig) and a wannabe tycoon (Pedro Pascal). Jenkins takes DC movies full circle to the lighthearted tone of the Donner/Lester Superman flicks—bringing with it their disjointed storytelling. Over time WW84 may come to be appreciated for its sincere dedication to weirdness, which is two thirds attributable to picking scenes and set pieces and trying to shoehorn them into a narrative, and one third from the freaky ghost of William Moulton Marston manifesting into the material.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Midnight Sky (Film, US, George Clooney, 2020) Terminally ill researcher (Clooney) remains behind on an Antarctic base to warn a returning spaceship crew to turn around, avoiding the devastation that has destroyed the world during their journey. An unrelieved series of down beats substitute dourness for profundity, with the entire proceedings wrapped around a leaden, cheap reveal.—RDL

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