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Grimoire

Episode 263: All Seven Spleens

October 13th, 2017 | Robin

 

Some monsters we want to kill. But others we want to figure out, then kill. The Gaming Hut looks at designing creatures that make for good mysteries.

Then at the behest of Patreon backer Fridrik Bjarnason we journey across route revealed by codes and numbers to the Eliptony Hut, where we consider the theory that Dante and da Vinci snitched out the location of Templar treasure, looted from the Holy Land, in that most obvious of places, Iceland.

Patreon backer Sean McCauliff pops a question over the Ask Ken and Robin transom: how do you transform your home town into a Trail of Cthulhu setting?

Then, following a prophecy laid down to us by Patreon backer Rafael Pabst, the Consulting Occultist looks at the career of poet and illustrator William Blake, with a special focus on the visionary, angel-seeing part.

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 Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you!

The book has been written.The book has been read. Now it rewrites you. Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Deckard, Cronenberg, Owlman

October 10th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Blade Runner 2049 (Film, US, Denis Villeneuve, 2017) Replicant cop (Ryan Gosling) who pursues older androids capable of rebellion works a case that puts him on the trail of long-missing predecessor Deckard (Harrison Ford.) Visually stunning in a way that evokes Kubrick chill more than Ridley Scott flash, set in  an ultra-dystopia where evidence of basic human connection has been shipped off-world.—RDL

Fighter Squadron (Film, US, Raoul Walsh, 1947) As the burgeoning US Air Force’s latest assignments take it ever closer to Berlin, a maverick pilot who wins by his own rules (Edmond O’Brien) must shoulder the straight-laced responsibilities of higher command. Walsh’s eye for the rituals of masculinity and typical focus on doomed individuality infuse this rousing, overtly jocular Technicolor war flick with a darker undercurrent.—RDL

Maps to the Stars (Film, Canada, David Cronenberg, 2014) Young burn victim (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in L.A., becoming a personal assistant to a distraught actress (Julianne Moore) and triggering a series of Sophoclean events involving the family of a cruel, freshly-rehabbed child star. Never has Cronenberg’s camera been this icy and clinical, or his characters more universally monstrous—and that’s saying a bunch.—RDL

They Remain (Film, US, Philip Gelatt, 2017) Two scientists (William Jackson Harper, Rebecca Henderson) investigating anomalous animal behavior on the wilderness site of an infamous cult killing slowly degenerate in this moody, slightly surreal adaptation of a Laird Barron novella. If Polanski made Repulsion in a forest in upstate New York, it might look like this. –KH

They Return at Evening (Fiction, H.R. Wakefield, 1928) Nine supernatural stories including at least four small masterpieces: the shuddery “The Red Lodge” and the dizzying “Professor Pownall’s Oversight” are probably the best. Both harder edged and more glib than M.R. James (the overt James pastiche is enjoyable but a bit sloppy), Wakefield incorporates elements of detective fiction along with towering cynicism about women and publishing. –KH

Good

The Black Gloves (Film, Scotland, Lawrie Brewster, 2017) The prequel to Brewster’s terrific 2013 creeper The Lord of Tears follows a psychiatrist (Nicholas Vince) seeking redemption to the estate of a ballerina (Alexandra Nicole Hulme) in seclusion — and all three are haunted by the Owlman. The magnificent climax comes an act too early, and the black and white doesn’t quite match the warmth of 1940s film, but strong acting and writing keep it watchable. –KH

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Episode 262: Profit Motive and a Fast Boat

October 6th, 2017 | Robin

Robin is back from his annual sojourn to the Toronto International Film Festival, so it’s time to open up the Cinema Hut to alert you to the best and nerdiest of the 44 titles he saw there. From zombies to noir, he’s got your watch list for the next 12-18 months.

In the Gaming Hut we look at the causes and implications of the biggest story in tabletop RPGs these days, the great D&D resurgence.

Following up on a past visit to the Mythology Hut, we deliver on our promise to talk about the mythic shift undertaken by the vampire, from predatory monster to romantic hero.

Then at the barked command of stalwart Patreon backer Jeromy French, we take a turbulent voyage to a highly fortified History Hut to deliver the 101 on the Barbary Pirates.

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 Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you!

The book has been written.The book has been read. Now it rewrites you. Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Now Ken’s in the Black Lodge

October 3rd, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Twin Peaks: The Return (TV, Showtime, David Lynch, 2017) Picking up 25 years after Lynch’s seminal oneiric soap opera murder mystery ended, it is more of some of those things, most especially “Lynch’s.” I love that I could never see ahead down Lynch’s road, and also: Robert Forster. Penderecki’s “Threnody.” Magic and romance just out of frame. Bzzzkkkzztt (and all the rest of Lynch’s amazing sound design) That shot of NYC. Trees. Coffee! Charred men. “The Nine Inch Nails.” //erusolC// –KH

Recommended

Call Me Lucky (Film, US, Bobcat Goldthwait, 2015) Documentary profile of radical comedian’s comedian Barry Crimmins explores the origins of his righteous rage as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Loving portrait of a many-faceted man, made by a longtime friend.—RDL

I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her (Nonfiction, Joanna Connors, 2016) A generation after her brutal rape by a stranger, Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter seeks context by researching the life of the now-deceased perpetrator. Unsparing work of personal journalism finds answers to the literal questions if not the teleological ones, but mostly a deep well of unspeakable, cyclic suffering.—RDL

Good

The Curse of the Bronze Lamp (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1946) A relatively enjoyable “impossible crime” outing for Carr’s second-tier detective Sir Henry Merrivale, who is more annoying than Gideon Fell. Remarkable for solving the locked room (actually a locked castle) two different ways, because Carr is a showoff; the Egyptian color ticks it up from Okay. –KH

Giant Days, Vols. 1-3 (Comics, John Allison, 2015-6) Compilations of Allison’s comic about three girls and their travails in university, mostly involving idiotic romantic partners. As warm and sweetly human as Allison’s work elsewhere (one character, Esther de Groot, carries over from his Bad Machinery/Bobbinsverse) but without the overt weirdness (here calmed into eccentricity) and frenetic storytelling. –KH

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Film, UK/US, Matthew Vaughn, 2017) Proletarian gentleman superspy Eggsy (Taron Egerton) returns to battle a drug lord (Julianne Moore) with the help of the American superspy group Statesman (Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal). Too much bad, unnecessary CGI (and some over-obvious direction) obscures a surprisingly not-terrible script; still, worth seeing for those seeking the thrills James Bond once provided. –KH

Night’s Master (Fiction, Tanith Lee, 1978) Linked short stories of innocence corrupted or maintained lay out an eon in the existence of a seductive demon lord. Lapidary prose and 70s sex abound in this neo-Symbolist outing in the Dunsany tradition.—RDL

A Report on the Party and the Guests (Film, Czechoslovakia, Jan Němec, 1966) Cosmopolitan guests at an influential figure’s country banquet are subjected to subtly menacing power games. Absurdist drama looks at how quickly the comfortable rationalize their own oppression. But even in this relatively free period of cinema in the Soviet satellite nations, it has to rely on the viewer to infer the dark conclusion it’s so clearly setting up.—RDL

The Transfiguration (Film, US, Michael O’Shea, 2016) Affectless, vampire-obsessed, neglected, and bullied African-American teen Milo (Eric Ruffin) eventually befriends his abused, self-destructive white neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine). Essentially a loose remake of Romero’s Martin set in the Brooklyn projects, it suffers by comparison (its slow burn goes down to embers more than once) but on its own merits adds a few liters of AB+ to the vampire genre. –KH

Okay

Chasing the Dragon (Film, HK, Wong Jing & Jason Kwan, 2017) Loyal gangster Crippled Ho (Donnie Yen) and honorable corrupt cop Lee Rock (Andy Lau) rise together in the British-managed Hong Kong crime world of the late 60s and early 70s. Mythologized crime biopic maintains an unusually consistent tone for a Wong Jing effort, but is overloaded with plot points—because, weirdly, this is a remake of two previously unrelated films: the caustic, greatly superior To Be Number One and Lee Rock, featuring Andy Lau in the same role he plays here. Scored a big mainland release usually denied to violent HK gang pictures by dialing up the anti-colonial angle.—RDL

Preacher Season 2 (Television, US, AMC, Sam Catlin, 2017) With the Saint of Killers on his heels, Jesse drags Tulip and Cassidy to New Orleans in search of God, who has gone AWOL from heaven. Bursts of bravura weirdness can’t conceal the momentum stall of a season in which the protagonist makes zero progress toward his goal.—RDL

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Episode 261: Them Doritos is Rigged!

September 29th, 2017 | Robin

Hold onto your wallet when you enter this Gaming Hut. It’s full of scamsters, as we look at clipjoint towns in F20 games.

Patreon backer Elias Helfer digs into the files for a declassified Tradecraft Hut as he asks for the 101 on espionage in WWI.

Then Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, as Green Ronin’s Nicole Lindroos shows us the ropes of game company management.

Finally it’s time for some Fun With Science, as backer Allen Wilkins wants to know what’s really going on with NASA’s bacterial balloons.

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 Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! The book has been written. The book has been read. Now it rewrites you. Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Sapient Dogs and a Vanishing Toyshop

September 26th, 2017 | Robin

The Pinnacle

Master of None Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang, 2017) Dev falls for an engaged friend and moves up in the food television world. The show leans even further into its innovative format, telling a story arc through episodes structured as individual short films. Its focus on representation has been widely praised already, so let’s note its phenomenal cinemascope-ratio cinematography, which gives it a visual weight rarely attempted in the comedy-drama genre.—RDL

Recommended

Fifteen Dogs (Fiction, Andre Alexis, 2015) Apollo and Hermes make a wager, granting human intelligence to a group of dogs at a downtown Toronto veterinary hospital. Works both as a fable about the relationship between awareness and happiness, and a compelling extrapolation of what the world might look like to sapient canines.–RDL

Jerry Before Seinfeld (Stand-up, Jerry Seinfeld, Netflix, 2017) Jerry Seinfeld performs his pre-1981 material in the West Side comedy dive he started out in, the Comic Strip, punctuated with (thankfully brief) reminiscences. As with virtually everything he’s done this millennium, this special shows Seinfeld’s work ethic and deep sense of his art form’s traditions while still being playful and, yes, funny. –KH

A Light Affliction: A History of Film Preservation and Restoration (Nonfiction, Michael Binder, 2014) Informed and accessible look at the field from the Lumieres to DCPs focuses as much on the quirky founding personalities of the preservation movement as on the technical challenges of keeping films alive. Fun fact: Hollywood resisted the switch from nitrate because its ultra-dangerous nature required highly trained operators, thus discouraging pirate screenings.—RDL

The Moving Toyshop (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1946) Poet Richard Cadogan stumbles onto a murder upstairs from a toyshop — which vanishes the next morning. Good thing he’s in Oxford, and friends with the detective don Gervase Fen. This assured mystery shifts between grim crime, classic detection, and giddy nigh-Wodehousian humor between breaths, while remaining tightly plotted and consistently characterized. P.D. James considered it a Pinnacle, which should tell you something. –KH

Queenpin (Fiction, Megan Abbott, 2007) Young woman groomed by a classy older mentor as a mob courier puts the mentorship in peril when she succumbs to the brutal charms of a degenerate gambler. Unlike most modern shots at period noir, Abbott gets the voice right, avoiding the competing shoals of parody and anachronism.—RDL

The Woman on the Beach (Film, US, Jean Renoir, 1947) Soon-to-retire, PTSD-haunted Coast Guard officer (Robert Ryan) falls for the restless wife (Joan Bennett) of a tormented, blind ex-painter (Charles Bickford.) Reskinned gothic in which the great French director absorbs a touch of Val Lewton strangeness from next door on the RKO backlot.—RDL

Good

The Greatest Show on Earth (Film, US, Cecil B. DeMille, 1952) Circus manager Brad (Charlton Heston) has to deal with lovestruck trapeze artist Holly (Betty Hutton), her rival (and his) The Great Sebastian (Cornel Wilde), and the criminal element (Lawrence Tierney) while keeping the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus in the black. Betty Hutton is the weak link here, but you also get the wonderful Gloria Grahame as an elephant trainer, and Jimmy Stewart as an enigmatic clown. Unfairly lambasted for beating High Noon for the Best Picture Oscar — it’s no High Noon, but it’s no Crash, either — this final DeMille spectacle movie provides ample circus spectacle, a magnificent train crash, and even some intermittently excellent tension on and off the high wire. If you’re pro-circus I’d call it Recommended. For extra fun play “spot the Spielberg engrams,” as this was the first movie Spielberg remembers seeing. –KH

mother! (Film, US, Darren Aronofsky, 2017) Dutiful wife (Jennifer Lawrence) to a blocked poet (Javier Bardem) spirals into hallucinatory nightmare when he invites oddball strangers (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) into the home she’s painstakingly renovating. Becomes less interesting as the allegory fully clunks into view, but still worth seeing for its disorienting use of sound design and handheld extreme close-ups.—RDL

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Episode 260: Live from Gen Con 2017

September 22nd, 2017 | Robin

 

When Ken and Robin go live, as they do here in this episode recorded in August at Gen Con, the audience, aided by a mythic pack of index cards, tells us what the topics are. And in this case they jointly demanded Crimean War mecha, Bannonesque intrigue, Ken’s beef with the Gnostics, time machine interference in the Siege of Malta, mediating disputes between Captain America and Wolverine, and the proverbial so much more.

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 Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! The book has been written. The book has been read. Now it rewrites you. Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Maternal Madness and Puzzle Mysteries

September 19th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Robin has been off at the Toronto Film Festival. Check out his compendium of capsule reviews. Those capsules will reappear here when films get theatrical or home video releases over the next 18 months or so.

Recommended

Logan Lucky (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2017) In its essentials a country & western Ocean’s 11, like every great cover version this film shows the core strengths of the original while reveling in the joy of a new riff. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver head a low-key superb ensemble cast, outshone only by David Holmes’ incongruous yet satisfying score and Soderbergh’s butter-smooth direction. A less confident director could have turned the comedy into condescension; it’s to Soderbergh’s great credit that instead the West Virginia milieu plays the hero. –KH

Mother! (Film, US, Darren Aronofsky, 2017) A poet (Javier Bardem) seeking a creative spark and his young wife and muse (Jennifer Lawrence) dwell in Edenic isolation until … Beginning as Polanski-esque psychological thriller and veering into full-blown Gnostic Buñuel in the third act, this is an almost paradigmatically Aronofsky film: shot with power and control, about a disintegrating character and the nature of inspiration, and likely to piss off at least half its audience. –KH

Night in Alachua County (Play, Jennifer Rumberger, 2017) Southern Gothic meets necromancy in this tale of three generations of Florida women (there are no male speaking parts) abandoned, abused, and trying to survive on their own terms. The cicada-toned dread builds strong through dark revelations, not all of them magical. — KH (Runs through October 7 in an intimate, eerie production by Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre.)

Good

The Spy and the Thief (Fiction, Edward D. Hoch, 1971) Fourteen Silver-Age mystery stories by the king of the puzzle-story, seven starring British crytpanalyst Jeffery Rand, seven starring smooth “thief of the worthless” Nick Velvet. The Velvet stories are always good, since they usually have a heist to go with the puzzle, and Hoch’s invention gets freer play. The Rand stories remain a mixed bag, although some of them show nice period detail. –KH

Okay

The Spy Who Read Latin (Fiction, Edward D. Hoch, 1990) This collection of seven Hoch puzzle mystery stories about British cryptanalyst Jeffery Rand doesn’t show Hoch at his best. The puzzles, which should be naturals for a cryptographer detective, are by and large too simple, and the spy atmosphere is less than convincing. –KH

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Episode 259: All the Cute Girls are Capulets

September 15th, 2017 | Robin

 

In That Thing I Always Say, we examine Ken’s maxim that death spirals make for good gaming.

With Labor Day in the rear view mirror, the Cinema Hut looks back at blockbuster season for a round up of the summer movies that were.

Finally the Consulting Occultist serves up a reply to Patreon backer David Shaw, who seeks the secret truth on occult Kashmir.

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 Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! The book has been written. The book has been read. Now it rewrites you. Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Golden Age Mysteries and The Sewer Clown

September 12th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Robin is off at the Toronto International Film Festival and posting capsule reviews over at his blog. When titles covered there are released in cinemas or on home video, he’ll rerun the reviews in future installments of this here hut.

Recommended

Love Lies Bleeding (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1948) Detective don Gervase Fen is conveniently on the scene when a public school reels under (at least) two murders. Calm and confident in tone, Crispin’s smooth wit, convincing characters, and nicely knotted mystery do ample justice to the setting he creates here. Among the best exemplars of the Golden Age of Mystery. –KH

Monster Island Tales (Fiction, James L. Cambias, 2017) Collects two good short stories: “Return to Skull Island” is a shaggy dog (Waldroppy dog?) zine review of a somewhat alternate King Kong; “The Dinosaur Train” is a deceptively light, touchingly Bradburyesque tale of a family with a traveling dinosaur show fallen on hard times in the 1980s. –KH

Good

The Case of the Gilded Fly (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1944) Crispin’s first mystery featuring his detective don Gervase Fen combines Oxford, the theater, and a locked room for a frothy mixture that reads like the lowest common denominator of Dorothy Sayers and John Dickson Carr, which is to say, still pretty good. Two amazingly effective M.R. Jamesian incidents don’t deepen the story so much as cast it in a watery light by comparison. –KH

Toni Erdmann (Film, Germany, Maren Ade, 2016) Slovenly, prank-loving teacher poses as an eccentric business figure in an effort to get closer to and/or severely annoy his workaholic daughter when she’s trying to close a difficult consulting deal. Dogme-esque comedy has some memorable scenes at its core, but is suffocated by a two hour forty minute run time full of dead moments crying out for a ruthless edit.—RDL

Okay

It (Film, US, Andy Muschietti, 2017) Focusing on only the childhood half of Stephen King’s masterpiece, even at 2 and a quarter hours the film feels both cramped and shallow, relying almost entirely on jump scares and theme music. Strong casting can only do so much; the script and director know they need to bring the town of Derry and the kids’ nightmares into the lived foreground, but have no real idea how to do it. Like the miniseries, It punts when replacing King’s ending; unlike the miniseries, It doesn’t have Tim Curry. –KH

Legends and Romances of Brittany (Nonfiction, Lewis Spence, 1917) Grab bag of Breton faerie, hero, saint and dolmen lore, with the prose voice and scholarship you’d expect from a hundred year old compendium. Useful source material for the Yellow King Roleplaying Game’s Brittany stretch goal, though scarcely a cracking casual read.—RDL

Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye (Fiction, Arthur Gray, 1919) Seven supernatural tales of Jesus College Cambridge, none set after 1766. Gray deep dives into M.R. James-style antiquarianism without the grue and with only a very few droplets of dread, like a church-architecture-obsessed Ripley’s Believe it or Not! –KH

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister