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Archive for April, 2021

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Tulpa Investigation, Cubist Crime, and Dirty Energy Deeds

April 13th, 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 Empty Man (Film, US, David Prior, 2020) Following a taut prologue in the mountains of Bhutan, we meet traumatized former cop James Lasombra (James Badge Dale), investigating disappeared high-schooler Amanda (Sasha Frolova) and discovering the urban legend/cult of the Empty Man. Not quite as clever as it thinks it is (especially to anyone who was watching similar films in 1987, he said obliquely to avoid spoilers), but still very effective at deepening atmosphere and spiraling mystery. Prior repeatedly, ably deploys the shocking-but-not-jump-scare techniques of his mentor David Fincher to borderline Lovecraftian ends. Plus vanished Amanda wrote the word “tulpa” on a flyer so you know I recommend it. –KH

Hide My Eyes (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1958) Chief Inspector Luke suspects a killer operates from the London backwater of Garden Green; Campion agrees. After a riveting prologue, Allingham reveals the killer cubist-fashion from multiple perspectives over the course of one day’s investigation. Superbly constructed crime thriller with Allingham’s gifts for character and observation (especially of the grimier parts of London) tuned to perfect pitch.–KH

The Mattei Affair (Film, Italy, Francesco Rosi, 1973) Former partisan (Gian Maria Volontè) becomes a thorn in the side of colonialists and oil multinationals while running Italy’s nationalized energy company with hard-charging disregard for convention or political consequences. Polemical docudrama morphs into full on documentary as it examines Mattei’s aviation crash death, a likely assassination with a long list of suspects. What it doesn’t entirely spell out is that the journalist murdered by the Mafia while investigating the case was doing research for Rosi’s film!—RDL

Mississippi Grind (Film, US, Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden, 2015) Woebegone gambling addict (Ben Mendelson) latches onto a poker road trip with a younger, more confident loser (Ryan Reynolds) as his ticket out of suffocating debt. Mendelson brings heartbreaking depth and sympathy to a character you’d back away from at top speed in real life, in this moody evocation of the American New Wave.—RDL

My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making (Nonfiction, Jay Rayner, 2019) Using as a conceit the thought experiment of planning one’s final dinner, food critic Rayner examines foods from oysters to pork to the elusive Mont Blanc, with digressions autobiographical, musical and medical along the way.—RDL.

Slings & Arrows Season 3 (Television, Canada, The Movie Network, Susan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinney, 2006) Naive CFO Richard (Mark McKinney) turns into a monster when he gets a whiff of creative input; Geoffery (Paul Gross) coaxes a retired, mercurial Shakespearean (William Hutt) out of retirement to play Lear. The show goes out with a touching valedictory showcase for Hutt, a titan of the Canadian classical stage who almost never appeared on screen.—RDL

Good

The Beckoning Lady (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1955) Rusticating in Suffolk with eccentric friends, Campion suspects a recent murder is linked to another friend’s seemingly natural death. Allingham’s reach exceeds even her considerable grasp, as she attempts to cast a detective novel in the shadows of a Shakespearean comedy. Sporadic authorial attention to key emotional and plot beats, and a truly annoying supposedly sympathetic character, bounced me out of tune with the work even as Allingham’s descriptive and inventive gifts kept me eagerly turning pages. A near and beautiful miss from Recommended, but a miss all the same. –KH

Episode 440: All the Van Helsings

April 9th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut the beloved Patreon backer known as Ed, Speaker in Digressions, asks us to envision a game that that arcs from a state of nature to civil society.

The Tradecraft Hut steams open the career of Alexandrine, Countess of Taxis, and Postmistress of the Holy Roman Empire.

The ongoing Cinema Hut Horror Essentials series reaches installment 15, and the mid-oughts.

Finally, estimable Patreon backers Bill Durfy and Gray St. Quintin fall for our sinister plan and ask for the full Eliptony Hut story on the Highgate Vampire.

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.


Human problems are out of hand, so thank goodness, and Atlas Games, for Magical Kitties Save the Day, a fresh, fun roleplaying game for players of all ages, and for GMs from age 6 and up!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Hermetic Neighborhood, A Social Realist Vampire, and Bird Crime

April 6th, 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

Dancers in Mourning (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1937) Called to investigate a poison-prank campaign against revue star Jimmy Sutane, Campion finds himself in love with Sutane’s wife and increasingly convinced of Sutane’s guilt in a string of murders. Only someone as gifted at characterization and observation as Allingham could make a top-shelf mystery work around a detective who refuses to detect. Campion’s agonies refract marvellously in the cracked mirror of stage society. –KH

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird (Nonfiction,  Joshua Hammer, 2020) Eccentric thrill-seeker Jeffrey Lendrum engages in multiple thefts of endangered falcon eggs around the world, allegedly for a high-ranking clients in the Gulf states; wildlife officers including Andy McWilliam of the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit try to shut him down. Acutely chosen digressions augment a tale rife with details too unbelievable to be untrue.—RDL

Hands Over the City (Film, Italy, Francesco Rosi, 1963) Neapolitan city councilor/real estate developer (Rod Steiger) schemes to retain his power base after a fatal accident at one of his building sites. Political procedural shot and staged with documentary realism depicts the famous paralysis of Italian bureaucracy as an enabler of corruption.—RDL

More Work for the Undertaker (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1948) Rather than ascend to the respectable governorship of an island colony, Campion allows himself to be drawn into investigating a poisoning in the weirdly hermetic neighborhood of Apron Street. It would not amaze me to learn that Christopher Fowler is a fan of this novel, given its heaps of urban strangeness and large cast of local oddballs. I hesitate to recommend it as a detective story, but as a weird near-Symbolist tour de force it has few equals in its time. –KH

Slings & Arrows Season 2 (Television, Canada, The Movie Network, Susan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinney, 2005) Geoffrey (Paul Gross) butts heads with a cocksure stage star (Geraint Wyn-Davies) who intends to play Macbeth as he has always played him; CFO Richard (Mark McKinney) falls into the clutches of a bizarro marketing agency. Strong sophomore season revolves around the boil and bubble of an all-too-classic directing roadblock.—RDL

The Transfiguration (Film, US, Michael O’Shea, 2016) Socially isolated high schooler (Eric Ruffin) who periodically leaves his Brooklyn housing project to commit vampire murders gets  close to the new girl (Chloe Levine) who moves in upstairs. Social realist vampire film focuses on moral horror over scares. If you’re wondering if the homage to Martin is intentional, the movie-obsessed protagonist cites it as his number one fave.—RDL

Good

News of the World (Film, US, Paul Greengrass, 2020) Traveling newspaper reciter (Tom Hanks) reluctantly agrees to take a young girl raised as a Kiowa to her German immigrant relatives. Greengrass adjusts his you-are-there immediacy to the classical form of the Hollywood western as Hanks likewise re-embraces the laconic simplicity of movie star acting.—RDL

Episode 439: Untainted By Dockyard Activities

April 2nd, 2021 | Robin

Would we rather fight a turnip-headed wyvern, or an enormous Jenny Haniver? The answer awaits in the T-Shirt Justification Hut.

In Ask Ken and Robin, mighty-thewed Patreon backer Mike Mearls asks for sources to run an F20 game in Ancient Sumer.

The Cinema Hut finally gets with the present century as the horror essential series continues.

Finally we duck into the Conspiracy Corner as a recent spate of snow denialism leads us to the history of weather control conspiracy theory.

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.


Return to your favored doomed manor for Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall, now Kickstarting from your mordant pals at Atlas Games. More Guests! More Stories! Compatible with all Gloom games. Stir yourself from your fainting couch and grab it today!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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