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Archive for February, 2021

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Dig, Barb & Star, and The Killing House

February 23rd, 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

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Film, US, Josh Greenbaum, 2021) After the store they work in closes, lifelong besties Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) head to a Florida tourist town, where they dally with the lovelorn henchman (Jamie Dornan) of a pallid supervillain (Wiig) intent on super-mosquito mass murder. Joyfully kooky comedy features musical numbers, eye-popping colors, a wisdom-dispensing crab, at least one tulpa, and culottes galore.—RDL

The Dig (Film, UK, Simon Stone, 2021) Hired by widowed landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), who has a feeling about the mounds on her property, self-trained archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) excavates the find of the century, the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Overlapping editing and a down-to-business script cut through period drama affectations for a story of buried relics, longing, and the suffocating weight of the class system. Pretty’s spiritualism gets the barest of hints.—RDL

Judex (Film, France, Georges Franju, 1963) Mysterious avenger (Channing Pollack) strikes against a corrupt banker, prompting a change of plans from a sinister governess with a penchant for catsuits (Francine Bergé.) Deadpan remake of the 1916 serial drapes its adventure hijinks in existential solitude. Yellow King GMs will want to scope its Art Nouveau production design.—RDL

The Killing House (Fiction, Gomery Kimber, 2020) Rickardo “The Big Shilling” Hanratty, a trickster-assassin whose motto “Believing is seeing” comes straight out of Gurdjieff, and his apprentice American Troy plan a hit on a Russian oligarch in Cyprus. This spy-and-crime novel of philosophy in the Colin Wilson tradition evokes the initiatory reality-horror aspects of Fowles’ The Magus to boot, always a scene or a paragraph away from spinning out of control but never quite crashing. –KH

King John and the Road to Magna Carta (Nonfiction, Stephen Church, 2015) Lucid biography of the Angevin king whose overreach led to to the signing of the Magna Carta brings clarity to a tangled sequence of alliances and betrayals, hewing to what is known without succumbing to pet theories or psychological projection.—RDL

The Outpost (Film, US, Rod Lurie, 2020) The U.S. 3-71 Cavalry Squadron (Scott Eastwood, et al.) of the 10th Mountain Division defends an ill-sited outpost in Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2009. A grunt’s-eye-view war film on the pattern of the “cavalry” Western, Lurie saves most of his cinematic ammunition for the hour-long, very effective recreation of the Battle of Kamdesh in the second act. –KH

Good

Terminator: Dark Fate (Film, US, Tim Miller, 2019) Human resistance sends bionic supersoldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis) back in time to stop a morphing killbot from erasing its future leader (Natalia Reyes). Essentially an adequate (if entirely unnecessary) remake of T2, this film also deploys Linda Hamilton (effective as an old, bitter Sarah) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (dialed down, mostly) without entirely wasting them. By far the most interesting thing about it is the way its Rev-9 Terminator literally embodies the U.S. military-surveillance state. –KH

Okay

Revenger (Film, South Korea, Lee Seung-won, 2018) Taciturn cop gets himself sentenced to a lawless prison island to kill the man who murdered his wife and daughter. Harsh martial arts flick whose premise is less about theme or social commentary than it is about inexpensive production values.—RDL

Episode 433: Leave Out a Syllable For Elijah

February 19th, 2021 | Robin

The Gaming Hut nestles next to an apothecary and a retailer of used armor pieces as we suggest techniques to populate buildings for a city sourcebook.

Fright film enters the psychic hangover of the Watergate era in the latest installment of the Cinema Hut’s horror essentials series.

You wouldn’t think that familiarity with paranormal lore would provide insight into the charlatanry of speed reading, but that’s because you haven’t yet thought about it in the Eliptony Hut. For full details, see Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked by Marcia Biederman.

Finally, in the Culture Hut, we open the drawer on the works of eldritch photographer William Mortensen, whose supernatural pictorialism might inspire scenarios from Trail of Cthulhu to Cthulhu Confidential to THE FALL OF DELTA GREEN.

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: Lupin, King John, Son of a Trickster

February 16th, 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

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll  (Film, US, John Pirozzi, 2014) Documentary chronicles Cambodia’s vibrant, cross-pollinated pop music scene of the 60s, and its abrupt ending with the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime, which murders all of its leading lights. Ably handles musicological exploration and the inexorable descent into political hell.—RDL [Haven’t seen the doc, but the soundtrack is a banger that I listened to on heavy shuffle while writing The Fall of DELTA GREEN. –KH]

King John (Filmed Stage Play, Canada, Tim Carroll & Barry Avrich, 2015) Scheming King John (Tom McCamus) fights off French efforts to reclaim his continental territory and replace him with their preferred heir, a sweet-natured child. Stratford Festival production keeps the pace rattling in Shakespeare’s ultra-telescoped chronicle of 13th century betrayal and counter-betrayal, juiced with touches of absurdist humor. McCamus plays John as a ruthless twit, a combination observers of current politics may find resonant.. Chances to see this live crop up rarely, and the televised play format works surprisingly well here.—RDL

Lupin Season 1 (Television, France, Netflix, George Kay, 2021) Master thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) “in the shadow of Arsène” unravels the frame around his dead father, unjustly imprisoned 25 years ago for a theft he didn’t commit. Structurally more Count of Monte Cristo than Lupin, this show’s larcenous procedurals (and Sy’s effortless charisma) shine brightly enough to obscure the occasional idiot plot hook. Looking forward to the actual end of the season, which Netflix for some reason won’t air until summer. –KH

Lupin Season I (Television, France, Netflix, George Kay, 2021) Inspired by the fictional adventures of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, a master heister and disguise artist (Omar Sy) attempts to clear his late father of the jewel theft that sent him to prison 25 years ago. Glamourous crime procedural cleverly updates an iconic character. If I’d known that the storyline does not resolve in the current batch of episodes, I’d have waited until the next drop, later this year, to start binging.—RDL

Son of a Trickster (Fiction, Eden Robinson, 2017) A snarky high schooler from the Haisla First Nation of northern B.C. already has enough on his hands with his volatile mom, broke dad, troubled woke girlfriend and weed cookie side hustle, when he begins to attract the interest of powerful entities from the spirit world. Sets the stage for supernatural doings with kicky social observation. Part one of a trilogy.—RDL

Good

Cast a Dark Shadow (Film, UK, Lewis Gilbert, 1955) Suave, albeit working class, seducer (Dirk Bogarde) successfully bumps off his rich matronly wife (Mona Washbourne), but finds her replacement, an unsentimental former pub owner (Margaret Lockwood), a tougher nut to crack. Bogarde takes full advantage of a role he is perfectly cast in, from a British mystery stage play with better-drawn characters than that genre generally attempts.—RDL

The Revenge of Frankenstein (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1958) Skipping his appointment with the guillotine, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) sets up shop in a new town, where he resolves to fix his past reanimation mistakes by putting the living brain of his half-paralyzed assistant (Oscar Quitak) into a perfect body (Michael Gwynn.) Underdeveloped ending aside, this is one of the better Hammer sequels, a caustic parable of the elite’s propensity for upward failure.—RDL

Episode 432: Smart Shark Money

February 12th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut beloved Patreon backer Jacob Ansari seeks tips on introducing complex settings to the players.

Part 8 of our Cinema Hut horror essentials series sees the genre take an apocalyptic turn amid the turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes arise from following bad instructions. In the Food Hut we look at wrong cooking tips we learned about through bitter experience.

When it comes to an Eliptony Hut story, the Tsarichina Hole has it all: prophetic dreams, ancient treasure, revolutionary heroes, UFOs, a yellow monkey, a crypt you shouldn’t open, and vast expenditures of the Bulgarian military budget. Let us explain.

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: Haunted Housing, Tom Cruise Reaches, and the Gunslinger John Brown

February 9th, 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.

The Pinnacle

The Good Lord Bird (Television, US, Showtime, Ethan Hawke & Mark Richard, 2020) When John Brown (Ethan Hawke) precipitates a gunfight that kills his father, a boy (Joshua Caleb Johnson) flees slavery, dressed as a girl, for life on the run with the gun-slinging, hard-praying abolitionist. Adaptation of the James McBride novel stands as a miracle of tone, using comedic characterizations as a pathway into a troubling historical subject matter. Hawke modulates his performance from caricature of Kubrickian proportions to frailty and humanity. Daveed Diggs’ rock star take on Frederick Douglass offers another highlight.—RDL

Recommended

His House (Film, UK, Remi Weekes, 2020) Refugee applicants from South Sudan (Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu) discover something terrible inhabits the government-assigned housing they are not permitted to leave.  Brilliantly plays with the key theme of the contemporary ghost movie, assigning its underlying housing anxiety to characters who feel it with life-or-death urgency.—RDL

How About Never—Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons (Nonfiction, Bob Mankoff, 2014) The New Yorker’s longtime cartoon editor describes his upbringing, his break into that most notoriously difficult of markets, the new generation of cartoonists he brought along, and the statistical secrets of winning that damnable caption contest. Heavily illustrated with Mankoff’s work, along with that of  cartoonists from the classic era to the mid-teens.—RDL

Straight Up (Film, US, James Sweeney, 2020) Neurotic coder Todd (James Sweeney) questions his gayness by dating a hyperverbal actress with intimacy issues, Rory (Katie Findlay). Sweeney’s dialogue plays like a screwball Whit Stillman (with touches of Tarantino) while his script compassionately addresses self, sexuality, and the social requirements of both. A remarkable first film by actor-director-writer Sweeney, with a dizzying performance by Findlay to boot. –KH

Good

Belle of the Nineties (Film, US, Leo McCarey, 1934) Sultry singer (Mae West) maintains her independence while a sleazy vaudeville impresario and a naive boxer vie for her affections. West, in one number appearing as a spider, a bat, and the Statue of Liberty, is an explosion in a semiotics factory in this occasionally lurid musical melodrama. An appearance by Duke Ellington and his band strikes a suitably anachronistic note.—RDL

Jack Reacher (Film, US, Christopher McQuarrie, 2012) Drifter Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former MP, arrives in Pittsburgh where the lawyer (Rosamund Pike) for an accused sniper hires him to investigate. McQuarrie does a pretty fair job adapting the novel One Shot (one of the better, more mystery-ish, Reacher novels) and his economical directing (and a strong cast including retired sniper Robert Duvall and villain Werner Herzog) carries the film over the bumps. Cruise is completely wrong for the role, but gives it his all (except the smile) as only he can. –KH

Space Sweepers (Film, South Korea, Jo Sung-hee, 2021) The loose cannon crew of a space debris-clearing ship protects an adorable little girl from a eugenics-obsessed terraformer. Blockbuster-scaled sci-fi action epic clutches a bit delivering its extensive exposition.—RDL

Okay

Olympus Has Fallen (Film, US, Antoine Fuqua, 2013) Banished from the Presidential detail, Secret Service badass Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must save the President (Aaron Eckhart) when North Korean terrorist Kang (Rick Yune) takes over the White House. Fuqua reliably drains any tension out of the “Die Hard in the White House” premise, leaving a result best described as “high-budget Golan-Globus” — but only the terrorist attack sequence conveys any of the energy that would normally imply. –KH

Episode 431: Working for Bigfoot

February 5th, 2021 | Robin

Keep that Abingdon Island giant tortoise under a blanket as beloved Patreon backer Kevin L. Nault beckons us into the Gaming Hut to work animal trafficking into RPG scenarios.

Part 6 of our Cinema Hut horror essentials series continues the 60s gothic resurgence, and we assure you this segment wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Plangent notes ring through the Culture Hut as esteemed Patreon backer Ethan “Mr. E” Schoonover seeks the terrifying reality behind composer Erik Satie’s Vexations.

Finally the Holy Roman Empire once again rears its head as perceptive Patreon backer Paul Douglas visits the Consulting Occultist to learn about Michael Scot, court magician to Frederick II.

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: Phoebe-Waller Bridge, The Night Stalker, and the Great American Speed-Reading Hoax

February 2nd, 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

Crashing Season 1 (Television, UK, Netflix, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2016) Twee trainwreck (Waller-Bridge) goes to London to visit the longtime friend (Jonathan Bailey) she absolutely, definitely, 100% isn’t in love with, staying at the condemned hospital where his fiancee and other charming neurotics live as short-term tenants. Fits PWB’s sensibility, later seen to its fullest in Fleabag, into an accessible sitcom format.—RDL

The Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (Television, US, Netflix, Tiller Russell, 2021) Four-part docuseries follows the two LA County Sheriff’s detectives who hunted serial killer Richard Ramirez in the summer of 1985. The focus on the detectives makes a refreshing change from the more usual killer-centric framing of true crime, and the length of the series actually accommodates the victims’ perspective as well. Russell even approaches the city itself as a frame, albeit sketchily. Not immune from the occasional misplaced glam effect (especially the fetishistic recreation of elements of crime scene photos) but pretty much a best-of-breed example of the genre. –KH

Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked (Nonfiction, Marcia Biederman, 2019) LDS go-getter with a flair for showmanship builds a business empire, mostly to the benefit of others, from the bogus practice of speed-reading. Parallels to eliptony abound as this keenly observed biography places Reading Dynamics in the storied tradition of all-American hucksterism.—RDL

The Visitor (Film, Italy, Antonio Pietrangeli, 1963) Lonely agricultural agent (Sandra Milo) invites a pinched, insecure big-city suitor (François Périer) to spend a day with her in her bumpkin-plagued small town. Milo brings touching depth to her character in this bittersweet comedy/drama.—RDL

Good

Havana Motor Club (Film, Cuba/US, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, 2015) Cuban gearheads battle Party bureaucracy, and the fact that they only have a handful of vintage, heavily customized vehicles, in their bid to legalize car racing. Documentary covers a unique subculture at a point of transition with sympathy and humor.—RDL

Long Shot (Film, US, Jonathan Levine, 2019) Rabble-rousing journalist (Seth Rogen) signs on as speechwriter for his childhood crush (Charlize Theron), now the Secretary of State, as she lays the groundwork for a presidential campaign. Smart romcom offers a credible impediment to the leads’ coupledom. Gotta ding it a level for its stock climax, though.—RDL

Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film (Film, US, William Conlin, 2019) Documentary tells the history of the Planet of the Apes franchise from the point of view of its innovative prosthetic makeup artists. Like a feature-length special feature, except that it’s produced by one of the principal subjects rather than the studio, and thus leaves the dirt in.—RDL

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