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Archive for September, 2021

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Shang-Chi, The Green Knight, Prisoners of the Ghostland

September 22nd, 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 Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood (Nonfiction, Sam Wasson, 2020) Brilliantly written step-by-step of the making of Chinatown, the business conditions that briefly sparked the American New Wave, and the Icarus-like descents that would follow for three of the four principal creators. Elegantly ties together disparate threads, from macro to micro, flowing from the tortuous creation of a haunted masterpiece.—RDL

The Green Knight (Film, UK, David Lowery, 2021) King Arthur’s unproven nephew (Dev Patel) steps up when a supernatural adversary appears at Camelot on Christmas to offer a frightening challenge. Sound design and cinematography provide an immersive sense of medieval spaces as the allegory of the Gawain poem receives a modern political update.—RDL

Prisoners of the Ghostland (Film, US/Japan, Sion Sono, 2021) Corrupt local headman puts a bad-ass convict (Nicolas Cage) in booby-trapped motorcycle leathers and sends him into the dangerous land of outcasts and mutants to rescue his so-called niece (Sofia Boutella.) Post-apocalyptic samurai western is a nutzoid, ultra-stylized ramble through the imagery of the 80s SF canon. But you knew that when I said “Nicolas Cage in a Sion Sono movie.”—RDL

The Yin-Yang Master (Film, China, Weiran Li, 2021) Disgraced imperial demon-fighter who now runs a haven for outcast spirit guardians investigates the theft of a powerful artifact from his former organization. Gorgeous-looking big budget fantasy adventure blends martial arts with fun CGI creature design. And this is Chinese cinema, so even the adorable cartoon characters can get melodramatic death scenes.—RDL

Good

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Film, US, Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021) Heir to the Ten Rings criminal empire of his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must take his proper place as a hero to prevent the end of the world. The first “get the gang together” act is pretty good, with Awkwafina especially engaging as Shang-Chi’s bff, and although the fights are ripped off from better ones, they’re at least mostly visible. But the CGI battle to save a CGI valley from CGI monsters does not compel attention, and it’s mostly shot in a murky mud pit to boot. Michelle Yeoh is of course squandered, winning this installment’s Annette Bening award. –KH

Okay

The Old Ways (Film, US, Christopher Alender, 2020) Local brujos kidnap reporter Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales) and forcibly exorcise the demon she carries. Although Kali Canales is game, and some of the demon effects are cool, this movie falls heavily between the stools of thrilling Mexploitation and intriguing culture clash, in the end presenting a by-the-numbers exorcism flick in brujeria garb with incongruous girl-power notes. –KH

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (Film, Japan, Keishi Ohtomo, 2021) In 19th century Japan, a melancholy killing machine (Takeru Satoh) is torn between service to an anti-Shogunate rebellion and the enigmatic young woman (Kasumi Arimura) who devotes herself to him. Prequel to a manga adaptation series features handsomely mounted action sequences but is weighed down by an obvious, belabored dramatic storyline.—RDL

Episode 463: The Bubble Wrap of Roleplaying Games

September 17th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we continue our series on axes of tabletop RPG design with an examination of Resilience and Robustness.

At the behest of beloved Patreon backer Allen Wilkins, Ripped from the Headlines finds the real truth behind the November incident in which a crashing commuter train was saved by polyester whale tails.

In the Horror Hut we ask ourselves how to write folk horror scenarios without once again repeating the ending of Wicker Man.

Finally the Consulting Occultist profiles the mystical psychologist Claudio Naranjo.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Our Patreon-backed Letterboxd list of all films mentioned on the show is now up and running.

Also check out the Goodreads list of books mentioned on the show.

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Dig out your plastic T-Rexes and get them ready to stomp and chomp on your players’ character miniatures as our pals at Atlas Games Kickstart Planegea, their dino-filled 5E setting of prehistoric fantasy adventure.

Pitting Salvador Dali against the Mythos just got cheaper! Get an otherworldly 25% off Dreamhounds of Paris in print or PDF from now until September at the Pelgrane Press web shop with the voucher code #ANTDREAM. Add its companion fiction volume The Book of Ants and get 25% off that too.

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!”

Episode 462: I Can Turn Him Into a Skink

September 10th, 2021 | Robin

The Gaming Hut kicks off a series looking at the axes of RPG design, so appropriately enough we start with elegance.

In the Architecture Hut beloved Patreon backer Nicola Wilson seeks the truth scoop on the Trylon and Perisphere, noted features of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Fun With Science fields a question from stargazing backer Peter McAveney, who needs to know why Betelgeuse was getting dimmer and what Aldebaran might have had to do with that.

And finally we rev up Ken’s Time Machine to see how our intrepid hero stops the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Our Patreon-backed Letterboxd list of all films mentioned on the show is now up and running.

Also check out the Goodreads list of books mentioned on the show.

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Dig out your plastic T-Rexes and get them ready to stomp and chomp on your players’ character miniatures as our pals at Atlas Games announce the upcoming Kickstarter for Planegea, their dino-filled 5E setting of prehistoric fantasy adventure.

You’ve got the Pelgrane greatest hits, but from now, until Monday September 6th, you can gather up the Deep Cuts.

Pitting Salvador Dali against the Mythos just got cheaper! Get an otherworldly 25% off Dreamhounds of Paris in print or PDF from now until September at the Pelgrane Press web shop with the voucher code #ANTDREAM. Add its companion fiction volume The Book of Ants and get 25% off that too.

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: Vintage Deconstructed Vampirism, 30s Mexican Horror, and Hardboiled Mississippi Litfic

September 7th, 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 Last Taxi Driver (Fiction, Lee Durkee, 2020) UFO-obsessed ex-novelist has a particularly bad day at work as a cabbie in an equally down-and-out Mississippi town. Hardboiled southern litfic paints a convincingly, not to mention hilariously, jaundiced portrait of life shuttling between rehabs, hospitals, motels and liquor stores.—RDL

The Phantom of the Monastery (Film, Mexico, Fernando de Fuentes, 1934) Three lost hikers, a couple and the best friend who loves the wife, encounter the supernatural in a supposedly ruined and uninhabited monastery. It’s no surprise that Mexico was finding the gothic in Catholicism long before it hit Hollywood in ‘73, as this expressionistic journey into measured eeriness attests. Sometimes translated as The Phantom of the Convent.—RDL

Vampir Cuadecuc (Film, Spain, Pere Portabella, 1970) Dissident avant-garde filmmaker Portabella somehow talked the Franco regime into giving him permission to shoot a “behind-the-scenes” documentary of schlockmaestro Jess Franco’s production of Count Dracula as its own version of Dracula. The deconstruction of the coincidentally-named Franco’s art as artifice is only part of this polysemic experience: high-contrast black-and-white shifting tones, constant fourth-wall breakage, and the charged musique-concrète score by Carles Santos all create a reality-sliding metafilm experience more Dreyer’s Vampyr than Stoker’s vampire. –KH

A Very Curious Girl (Film, France, Nelly Kaplan, 1969) Put-upon servant (Bernadette Lafont) gets revenge on the creeps and prigs of her crummy rural village by connecting with her inner witch and selling sex. Wry Bunuelian satire with a feminist vantage point on comeuppance and the restoration of order.—RDL

A Walk Among the Tombstones (Film, US, Scott Frank, 2014) Haunted ex-cop (Liam Neeson) hunts a pair of psychos who specialize in kidnapping women to squeeze their drug trafficker loved ones for ransom money. Well-crafted, grounded detective noir based on a novel from Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder series.—RDL

Good

The Menacers (Fiction, Donald Hamilton, 1968) Clandestine government assassin Matt Helm gets seconded to bring a UFO witness back to Los Alamos from Mexico — or kill her if he can’t do that. The eleventh in the Matt Helm series plays with the military-intelligence side of the UFO question, while also being a cracking good thriller leavened with tough-guy pragmatic philosophizing. Helm partisans emphasize his “realism” over the Bond novels, but Fleming’s flair is what elevates his books to Recommended. Hamilton’s books mostly hit the higher reaches of Good, however, so if you don’t mind a little period grit you can absolutely do worse. –KH

Not Recommended

Bridesmaids (Film, US, Paul Feig, 2011) Brittle, self-pitying failure Annie (Kristen Wiig) feels her only meaningful relationship slipping away when her best friend (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, and responds with selfish panic. The comedy of unease depends on actually ever sympathizing with anyone in the story, a low bar that this over-explained sluice never clears. Melissa McCarthy’s anarchic honesty and feral comic joy provide the sole bright spot, so of course she’s always the butt (literally in one case) of the joke. –KH

Episode 461: Armed for the Wedding

September 3rd, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut beloved Patreon backer JP Moral asks for steps to take when homebrew adventures don’t feel right in play.

Estimable backer Bryan takes the History Hut to 1970 for a look at Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes and the Kent State shootings, with an eye toward portraying them in Fall of DELTA GREEN.

Incroyable backer Jake B invokes his Ask Ken and Robin powers to inquire into the choices behind the four sequences of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Finally enigmatic backer Mysterious Musings summons us into the Eliptony Hut for the weird truth on Raimondo di Sangro’s anatomical machines.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Our Patreon-backed Letterboxd list of all films mentioned on the show is now up and running.

Also check out the Goodreads list of books mentioned on the show.

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Dig out your plastic T-Rexes and get them ready to stomp and chomp on your players’ character miniatures as our pals at Atlas Games announce the upcoming Kickstarter for Planegea, their dino-filled 5E setting of prehistoric fantasy adventure.

Pitting Salvador Dali against the Mythos just got cheaper! Get an otherworldly 25% off Dreamhounds of Paris in print or PDF from now until September at the Pelgrane Press web shop with the voucher code #ANTDREAM. Add its companion fiction volume The Book of Ants and get 25% off that too.

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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