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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dune, Squid Game, and That Meddling Tree

November 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

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Film, US, Errol Morris, 2016) Documentary profiles a photographer who went from documenting Beat poets, particularly her longtime pal Allen Ginsburg to specializing in deceptively ordinary large format Polaroid portraits. Morris’ style, primarily consisting of a long interview with Dorfman in her archive, mirrors the radical simplicity of her images.—RDL

Dune: Part One (Film, US, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) When his father Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) receives the poisoned governorship of the planet Arrakis, Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) awakens to his messianic destiny. Perhaps worthy of Robin’s controversial Incomplete rating, this pounding visual-sonic epic nevertheless captures the feel (or a feel, anyhow, I do miss Lynch’s crazitude) of Frank Herbert’s thudding masterwork. Much credit goes to production designer Patrice Vermette, with special shout-outs to the ornithopters. Rebecca Ferguson kills it as Lady Jessica, vitally centering the film amid Villeneuve’s eager aping of everyone else’s epics from Ford to Lean to Coppola. –KH

Squid Game (Television, South Korea, Netflix, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021) Along with hundreds of other desperately indebted people, a compulsively life-wrecking gambler (Lee Jung-jae) joins an illicit tournament of children’s games where the survivor earns a massive payout and everyone else dies. A superstar cast, indelible production design and ingeniously thrown narrative curveballs propel a triumph of the Korean cult cinema sensibility.—RDL

Tommaso (Film, US, Abel Ferrara, 2019) Director living in Italy (Willem Dafoe) with his young wife and toddler struggles for serenity and wisdom as the demons that once drove him to drink continue to gnaw at him after six years in AA. Ferrara escalates from slice-of-life to hallucinatory reality in this sobriety drama,  a counterpoint to his classic addiction films,—RDL

Good

The Tree, the Mayor, and the Mediatheque (Film, France, Eric Rohmer, 1993) Ambitious mayor of a country village (Pascal Greggory) secures federal funding for a sports and culture complex but finds that everyone has an opinion about it, including his dotty novelist girlfriend (Arielle Dombasle) and a bloviating school principal (Fabrice Luchini.) Affectionate satire, unusually for a political film, delves into very real governance nitty-gritty. Not the place to start with Rohmer but a charming rarity for completists.—RDL

The Witches (Film, UK, Cyril Frankel, 1966) Traumatized by an escape from a witch-doctor driven rebellion in Africa, Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) takes a job as a schoolteacher in the too-idyllic English village of Heddaby. Despite a standout performance from Kay Walsh as a no-nonsense bluestocking lady of the manor, this mid-period Hammer outing just goes to show that you can in fact suck the life out of a Nigel Kneale script if you try. The final coven scene avoids even Hammer sensuality, becoming more modern dance recital than orgy. Still interesting as a precursor folk horror. –KH

Okay

A Quiet Place Part II (Film,US  John Krasinski, 2020) Armed with the frequency that weakens the death angels, the Abbott family sets out from their ruined hideout to spread the word, reluctantly aided by a traumatized family friend (Cillian Murphy.) The brilliantly calibrated suspense of the original turns out to be an unrepeatable trick in this well-executed rendition of a dutiful  script.—RDL

Not Recommended

Never Cry Werewolf (Film, Canada, John Sheppard, 2008) Teenaged Loren (Nina Dobrev) discovers that her neighbor Jared (Peter Stebbings) is a werewolf, but the only person she can turn to for help is late-night TV big-game personality Redd Tucker (Kevin Sorbo). Look, if it were just me, “beat-for-beat uncredited Fright Night remake with a werewolf and Nina Dobrev” would at least be a high Okay. But I can’t in good conscience recommend this mostly joyless galumph: the dimestore budget prevents any of the horror moments from clicking, and Peter Stebbings is no Chris Sarandon. –KH

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Episode 469: Real Rumors

October 29th, 2021 | Robin

Axes keep showing up at the Gaming Hut, and this week we look at the Abstract vs Emotional slider in roleplaying game design.

Inspired by the passing of one of its prime exponents, Owen Luder, the Architecture Hut gazes at the brutalist style and its influence on science fiction.

Then our resident bibliomane continues to make up for lost time, triggering an Ohio-based installment of Ken’s Bookshelf.

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 Kickstarter for Planegea, their dino-filled 5E setting of prehistoric fantasy adventure.

Score a blood-drenched special bonus from Pelgrane Press when you order the print edition Night’s Black Agents Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook or any of its associated bundles. A new 50-page Cuttings PDF of deleted scenes and horrors that didn’t fit is now available for a limited time with the voucher code VAMP2021.

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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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Card Counter, Secret Origins of the Afterlife, and Gems from the Chicago Film Fest

October 26th, 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

Petite Maman (Film, France, Céline Sciamma, 2021) While her parents clean out her recently-dead grandmother’s house, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) meets another eight-year-old girl (Gabrielle Sanz) in the woods behind. This note-perfect fairy tale exactly blends seriousness and magic, emotion and consideration. Superb child acting vivifies the trunk of the film, and Sciamma’s remarkable use of music again surprises and exalts. –KH

Recommended

Captain Volkonogov Escaped (Film, Russia/Estonia/France, Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, 2021) In 1937 Leningrad, NKVD secret policeman Volkonogov (Yuriy Borisov) gets wind of his upcoming purging and sprints out into the city — where his problems get weirder, if not precisely worse. Borisov’s athletic, energetic acting carries us through a story by turns an acid satire, a tight thriller, and a dark Dostoevsky-meets-Gogol absurdist morality play. Notes of anachronism only heighten the themes and the off-kilter neo-Constructivist feel, like a really good graphic novel; cinematographer Mart Taniel also masterfully plays these shifting tones. –KH

The Card Counter (Film, US, Paul Schrader, 2021) In hopes of helping a lost young dude (Tye Sheridan) with a tie to his horrific past, a compulsively regimented gambler (Oscar Isaac) signs on with the supportive manager of a pro poker stable (Tiffany Haddish.) Cinema’s obsessive chronicler of expiation-seeking obsessives adds another notch to his gun belt, this time by giving his protagonist a choice of which movie to be in.—RDL

Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (Nonfiction, Bart D. Ehrman, 2020) Biblical historian traces the rapid evolution of Christian beliefs about the afterlife, especially the burning eternally in Hell part, from the already disparate metaphysics of Jesus and Paul. Concise analysis of a complex topic stays admirably on point as it balances accessibility and erudition.—RDL

In Front of Your Face (Film, South Korea, Hong Sangsoo, 2021) A day in the life of long-retired actress Sangok (Lee Hyeyoung), visiting from the US to Seoul to meet with a director (Kwon Haehyo). If hangout neo-Realism were a thing, this would be it, as deft character studies interchange with moments of social unease. Hong shoots, writes, and scores this film with deceptive lightness, never overstaying a scene’s drama, almost tempting the viewer to foolishly discard it as a trifle. –KH

The Last Execution (Film, Germany, Franziska Stünkel, 2021) Eager for advancement, scientist Franz Walter (Lars Eidinger) joins the East German intelligence service (HVA) only to recoil at the inhumanity of his job. Based on the story (and on the trial transcript) of Werner Teske, the last official execution in East Germany, it builds tension by steady reveals of new moral brutalities all coated in bland careerism; Eidinger convincingly conveys Walter’s ongoing disintegration against DDR-era backdrops and bougie-Marxist beige decor. –KH

Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter (Film, US, Rebecca Halpern, 2021) Charlie Trotter brought specifically American fine dining, the degustation menu, and high-end vegetarian dishes to Chicago in 1987 and in the 1990s ran the best restaurant in the world. (I ate there once in 2001, when it was probably still the best restaurant in America.) This documentary, built out of his voluminous correspondence and friendship circle, conveys something of the driven human behind the achievement. Like most biodocs, and unlike Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, it leaves you wanting more, but it’s still a very good plate. –KH

Mad God (Film, US, Phil Tippett, 2021) A steampunk-ish soldier travels to the deepest layer of Hell (or is it Creation) on a doomed mission. This is not a narrative film so much as it is a dark ride through a series of biotech grotesques (mostly) stop-motion animated from whatever Tippett had lying around for 30 years in his “most disturbing” box. (The occasional live-actor intercuts do not really work.) Appalling images and sounds from this movie will doubtless remain with me forever. It’s not mandatory for GMs running The Wars in the Yellow King RPG, but those that do see it won’t be able to run The Wars without it. –KH

Memoria (Film, Colombia/France/Germany/Mexico/China, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021) Living in Colombia, British botanist Jessica (Tilda Swinton) hears a mysterious burst of sound that nobody else does. Existential mystery meets weird tale meets slow cinema in a movie that confounds Goethe’s critical criteria: What is it doing? God only knows, but it’s doing it with meticulous perfection. Is it worth doing? Perhaps, unlike Jessica, those that hear it know the answer to that question. Swinton’s acting job in this unknowable circumstance is more than enough reason to Recommend it, though. –KH

Paris, 13th District (Film, France, Jacques Audiard, 2021) The lives of underachieving user Emilie (Lucie Zhang), emotionally stunted dudeprof Camille (Makita Samba), wallflower Nora (Noemie Merlant), and camgirl Amber (Jehnny Beth) intertwine in the titular neighborhood. Paul Guilhaume shoots the lovers in New Wave-style black and white, and the performances keep the actors mostly sympathetic while the script (partially by Céline Sciamma) supplies the needful romantic twists. All love stories (all stories) are both arbitrary and artificial, the trick is to make them look real in the moment; in an understated way this is the Bourne Identity of romantic comedies. –KH

The Story of Film: A New Generation (Film, UK, Mark Cousins, 2021) Cousins extends his 2011 Story of Film series by another 160 minutes, in theory to examine the state of film in the 21st century (or really c. 2009-2020) but mostly to provide eclectic examples of film at its best now. Almost completely abandoning his previous geographical framework for a clearly ad hoc formal framework, Cousins turns his hand to picking the movies some future Mark Cousins will mention in fifty years when the conventional wisdom about this era hardens. Really, this is just a very well-financed Cinema Hut, and who doesn’t want more of those? –KH

Sundown (Film, Mexico/France/Sweden, Michel Franco, 2021) When his family hastily ends their Acapulco vacation after his mother dies, Neil (Tim Roth) stays in Mexico and does — nothing. A tour de force of existentialist drama anchored by Roth’s placid, almost flaccid, Bartleby-esque portrayal does sadly eventually offer an explanation of sorts. When the answers you were baying at the screen for in the first act anger you by appearing in the fourth, that’s a sign of a movie that (mostly) nailed it. –KH

Good

Demons (Film, Italy, Lamberto Bava, 1985) Moviegoers trapped inside cursed cinema become the prey of zombie-like demon possession victims. High 80s kitsch complete with MTV soundtrack meets disgust-loving gore effects in a gonzo post-giallo outing that is not as much fun as the semiotics paper it might inspire.—RDL

House of Snails (Film, Spain/Peru/Mexico, Macarena Astorga, 2021) Looking for solitude to finish his novel, writer Antonio (Javier Rey) rents the titular house in a remote Spanish town with a hidden horror legend. The movie head-fakes around a lot of horror tropes in the general lycanthropic space, and although the story I wanted wasn’t the story I guessed (and got) it wasn’t a bad time in the woods all considered, mostly thanks to Paz Vega, in there winningly as the realtor. Note to Darcy Ross: the snails play at best only a symbolic role, and this is not a Patricia Highsmith adaptation. –KH

One Second (Film, China, Zhang Yimou, 2021) A nameless fugitive (Zhang Li) from a labor camp and plucky orphan girl Liu (Liu Haocun) compete to steal a reel of film from “Mr. Movie” (Fan Wei) the projectionist-commissar in an Inner Mongolian town. Set at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, and for that reason butchered to mush by Chinese government censors in 2019, this final cut keeps the Cinema Paradiso-style movie mooning (complete with cringe Maoist singalong) and the often sublime Buster-Keaton-style hijinks between the three main characters, but very much loses any edge or moral weight it ever had. –KH

Whether the Weather is Fine (Film, Philippines/France/Singapore/Indonesia/Germany/Qatar, Carlo Francisco Manatad, 2021) After Typhoon Haiyan destroys their hometown of Tacloban, ambitious Andrea (Rans Rifol), her schlemiel boyfriend Miguel (Daniel Padilla), and his dozy mom Norma (Charo Santos-Concio) haltingly decide to evacuate to Manila. Manatad depicts the post-disaster (probably accurately) as a surreal space where decisions make no sense, but at the cost of robbing any actions of consequences. Andrew Florentino’s spiky electronic music does a better job of thematic unity, and until Rifol’s character arbitrarily changes her personality she’s a joy to watch. –KH

Okay

Fabian: Going to the Dogs (Film, Germany, Dominik Graf, 2021) Bored advertising writer and wannabe novelist Fabian (Tom Schilling) bops through 1931 Weimar Berlin with his rich socialist friend and wannabe professor Stephan (Albrecht Schuch) until he meets his true love the wannabe actress Cornelia (Saskia Rosendahl). About 45 minutes in, Graf pretty much abandons the first act’s inventive multiple jump cuts, interwoven with historical footage and weird-angled shots, for cheap-looking digital video walks in suspiciously empty streets. Which might be forgivable if there weren’t over two hours left to go. Making both love and Weimar boring should be a shooting offence. –KH

Not Recommended

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking (Film, Italy, Francesco Zippel, 2021) A resoundingly under-utilized John Singleton is only one of the many talking heads contributing surprisingly little to this empty documentary about the pioneering Black filmmaker. Neither critiquing Micheaux’ films nor really analyzing his reception and film career, this doc would have been better and more informative if it had just been Morgan Freeman (who also appears to scant effect) reading the Wikipedia entry. –KH

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Episode 468: Weird Mushroom Things and a Swirl Over There

October 22nd, 2021 | Robin

Our Gaming Hut look at the axes of roleplaying game design continues with the previously teased Ease versus Mastery.

In Ask Ken and Robin beloved Patreon backer Joe Webb takes the bait and requests the previously teased adventures of T. E. Lawrence and Robert Graves.

The Culture Hut looks at the changing moods of SF illustration from the 30s to today.

Finally estimable Patreon backer P. O’Neil seeks the Consulting Occultist’s files on a Theosophist retirement community in Ojai, California.

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.

Score a blood-drenched special bonus from Pelgrane Press when you order the print edition Night’s Black Agents Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook or any of its associated bundles. A new 50-page Cuttings PDF of deleted scenes and horrors that didn’t fit is now available for a limited time with the voucher code VAMP2021.

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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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Halloween Kills, The Story of Film, and a Mindblowing Hidden Gem From Japan

October 19th, 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

Annette (Film, France, Leo Carax, 2021) A provocative comedian (Adam Driver) and sylph-like opera singer (Marion Cotillard) fall in love and marry, but his self-loathing foretells a dark fate for them and their daughter. The accent is on the opera in this original surrealist pop opera written by the Mael brothers and directed by Carax to play with the relationship between emotion and high artifice.—RDL

Being Natural (Film, Japan, Tadashi Nagayama, 2019) The placid existence of a kindly loner who works as a fish pond attendant is threatened by the arrival of big city health food zealots who want his the old house he lives in as the site of their macrobiotic cafe. Ideally I would describe this as an offbeat observational comedy tuned to the rhythm of rural life and leave it at that, but to get you to watch it I have to inform you that it takes a final veer into utter whatthefuckery.—RDL

Buddha Mountain (Film, China, Li Yu, 2010) Trio of rough-edged early twentysomethings rent rooms from a crabby former Peking Opera performer (Sylvia Chang.) Multiple melodramatic plotlines stacked upon each other and interwoven, but presented in an immediate, naturalistic style.—RDL

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (Television, UK, More4, Mark Cousins, 2011) Covering 115 years of film history on six continents in 915 minutes, even these 1000+ film clips and talking filmmaker heads could never truly map the country of film. The route Cousins chooses relentlessly charts conventional film-school wisdom, with a few idiosyncratic choices getting (slightly) loopier as presentism sets in. Beware of a few factual bloopers, and shout angrily at your own pet omissions, but you probably won’t find a better global film 101 course … unless Robin and I assemble one. –KH

Unstoppable (Film, US, Tony Scott, 2010) Hard-ass veteran railroad engineer (Denzel Washington) and distracted new guy conductor (Chris Pine) improvise a solution when a pilotless train packed with explosive chemicals barrels toward a mid-size Pennsylvania town. Hyper-paced docu-thriller that harkens back to the labor hazards genre of the 30s is underappreciated in Scott’s ouvre. Part of me wants to ding it a notch for the over-the-top cheerleading for the heroes, but then I don’t downgrade Leone or Fuller for lack of subtlety and it seems inconsistent to do it for Scott.—RDL

Good

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (Film, US, Jacob Gentry, 2021) In 1999 Chicago, video archivist James (Harry Shum, Jr.) follows his increasing obsession with a masked figure that hijacked TV signals years ago. Gentry’s palpable love for 70s conspiracy thrillers, excellent location work, and a superbly crumpled neo-noir score by Ben Lovett almost conceal the linear script; Shum can’t quite pull off the depth of performance needed to compensate. –KH

Free Guy (Film, US, Shawn Levy, 2021) Unreflectively optimistic bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) realizes he’s an NPC in a video game and self-actualizes with the aid of a disgruntled game designer (Jodie Comer.) Lighthearted entry in the existential mystery/virtual headtrip subgenre eschews the muddy, interchangeable look of current CGI spectacles for crisp cinematography and gorgeous, evocative production design.—RDL

Not Recommended

Halloween Kills (Film, US, David Gordon Green, 2021) Picking up immediately after Green’s 2018 Halloween, firemen unwisely rescue Michael Myers from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) burning deathtrap and we’re off again. Literally, off — Michael suddenly kills like Jason, characters shout subtext to each other, and Green squanders everything good about his previous venture as the story collapses. Anthony Michael Hall’s superbly fierce but entirely pointless turn as 1978 survivor-kid Tommy turned modern vigilante makes you weep for what could have been. –KH

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Episode 467: Can We Make It Blow Up?

October 15th, 2021 | Robin

Our Gaming Hut series on axes of roleplaying design continues with Robin’s handling cost opposition, Harmonica versus Violin.

In the Architecture Hut, beloved Patreon backer Anders Gabrielsson seeks the truth about Chicago’s Midway Gardens.

Robin picks up a foreshadowed Cinema Hut thread on the changing face of international film, from access to style.

Finally estimable Patreon backer Ben Vincent wants to know what Ken’s Time Machine might have had to do with a report of a WWII Japanese A-bomb test in Korea.

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.

Score a blood-drenched special bonus from Pelgrane Press when you order the print edition Night’s Black Agents Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook or any of its associated bundles. A new 50-page Cuttings PDF of deleted scenes and horrors that didn’t fit is now available for a limited time with the voucher code VAMP2021.

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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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Bond, Dracula, Matt Helm, and a Surprising Master Forger

October 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

Art and Craft (Film, US, Sam Cullman & Jennifer Grausman, 2014) Documentary profiles Mark Landis, a soft-spoken loner who, using materials purchased from Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart, forged works in styles from old masters to Dr. Seuss and gifted them to dozens of unsuspecting art museums throughout the US. Droll, poignant outsider portrait takes the expectations you might have formed when you read about the case and turns them on their head.—RDL

Cuadecuc, Vampir (Film, Spain, Pere Portabella, 1970) Using footage acquired under the pretence of shooting a behind-the-scenes doc about Jess Franco’s version of Dracula, Portabella assembles an experimental, wordless gloss on the Bram Stoker tale in blown-out black and white. Attests to the power of narrative, and this narrative especially, by showing how it stands up to an array of aural and filmic distancing effects.—RDL

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Film, US, Jim Cummings, 2020) The stress of a serial killing case that some blame on a werewolf drives an tightly wound, alcoholic sheriff’s deputy (Cummings) to the brink and beyond. Horror-tinged crime flick with a streak of black comedy zeroes in on male rage as the animating force behind the wolfman myth.—RDL

Good

The 8th Night (Film, Korea, Kim Tae-hyoung, 2021) An axe-wielding exorcist monk and surly cop, each accompanied by a contrasting sidekick, work at cross purposes as they separately pursue a demonic eyeball that kills by hopping from victim to victim in pursuit of hellish apocalypse. Investigative religious horror conjures a creepy vibe when it isn’t tripping on the exposition required by its overly complicated plotting.—RDL

Every Matt Helm Novel (Fiction, Donald Hamilton, 1960-1993) Ignore the Dean Martin movies. Matt Helm, a counter-espionage assassin for an unnamed US agency, prefers mordancy to humor, and although he does sleep with many women in his novels he usually understands that they have non-lascivious motives for approaching him. The Helm novels remain grounded, if not precisely realistic, but they never bore and often surprise a bit. Book 14 in the series has a cruelly wily edge to it that the better ones share. –KH

No Time to Die (Film, US/UK, Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021) Retired (again) after Spectre (the film), James Bond (Daniel Craig) comes back in when SPECTRE (the group) seems to have stolen a bioweapon. A pretty fun Bond movie (with a bright color palette and everything!) hits a wall of script shrugging about two hours in, the last act having the grinding inanity of re-clearing a video game level. But Fukunaga’s direction and a fantastic 20-minute Cuba sequence in Act 2 featuring CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas) pull an unwilling Bond just barely over Okay. –KH

Not Recommended

Big Brother (Film, HK, Kam Ka-wai, 2018) Ex-US Marine (Donnie Yen) returns to his hard-luck Hong Kong high school to aggressively inspire its most challenged students. Has enough action to cut into a trailer but is otherwise an inspirational teacher flick that tackles the genre’s inherent sentimentality with all the feeling of an Excel worksheet. Yen has hit the point in his career where he has to rely almost entirely on stunt doubles, meaning that the fights have to be created in editing, American style.—RDL

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Episode 466: Foolish Enough to Get Near Us

October 8th, 2021 | Robin

Our Gaming Hut series on the axes of RPG design takes a turn as Robin looks at the trade-offs he thinks about while working on games, starting with Simulation vs Emulation.

Fun With Science goes deep to contemplate the abundance of mesopelagic fish.

The Horror Hut gets connubial at the behest of beloved Patreon backer Toonspew, who wants to know if there’s a Queen in Yellow.

Finally we cover up our luminous watches and enter the Eliptony Hut to confront the dread mystery of the Brazilian vampire UFOs known as the chupas.

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.

Score a blood-drenched special bonus from Pelgrane Press when you order the print edition Night’s Black Agents Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook or any of its associated bundles. A new 50-page Cuttings PDF of deleted scenes and horrors that didn’t fit is now available for a limited time with the voucher code VAMP2021.

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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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Midnight Mass, Cinematographer Friendship, and a Brilliant Social Realist Procedural

October 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.

The Pinnacle

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Film, US, Eliza HIttman, 2020) To evade Pennsylvania’s parental consent laws, a high schooler (Sidney Flanagan) and her cousin (Talia Ryder) travel to NYC, where she can have an abortion. Social realist procedural where the tightening suspense is driven by the question of whether she can navigate the many obstacles between the protagonist and the procedure she needs.—RDL

Recommended

Midnight Mass (Television, US, Netflix, Mike Flanagan, 2021) Communion takes on a new meaning when a young substitute priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives in a dying island fishing town, bringing with him a monstrous secret. Expansively paced creature feature, as hyperverbal as a bullshitting youth pastor, drinks from the cup of Stephen King.—RDL

No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (Film, US, James Chressanthis, 2008) Dual documentary profile of fast friends László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond, who escaped the 1956 Soviet crackdown on Hungary to come to America and redefine the look of American films with their poetic realist style. Ably weaves together the personal, historical and aesthetic threads of its story. Key Kovacs titles: Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Paper Moon, Ghostbusters. Zsigmond: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.—RDL

Queen of Hearts (Film, Denmark, May el-Toukhy, 2019) Uncompromising lawyer (Trine Dryholm) loses her self-control when her wayward teenage stepson (Gustav Lindh) comes to live with the family. Drama of threatened bourgeois  domesticity, directed with subtle authority, showcases a brilliant performance from its lead.—RDL

Okay

The Killing of the Tinkers (Fiction, Ken Bruen, 2002) Cokehound ex-cop returns home to Galway and takes an assignment investigating the murders of tinkers, mostly by getting blitzed and waiting for secondary characters to swing by and give him information. Crime series authors often get bored with mystery construction to concentrate instead on open-ended character development, but it doesn’t usually set in during the second book in a series.—RDL

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Episode 465: Sour Joe

October 1st, 2021 | Robin

If it’s September, it must be, uh, Gen Con? Ken kicks off with a Travel Advisory on how the in-person side of the event went.

Speaking of unusual versions of long running events, Robin opens up the Cinema Hut to provide highlights of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and to make a stunning announcement.

Our Gaming Hut series on principles and axes of tabletop design looks at Applicability, and whatever the positive opposite of that turns out to be.

Finally, in Ask Ken and Robin, beloved supporter Charles Cooley wonders what might be happening of a steampunky, monster hunting nature in late 19th century Romania.

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!”

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Film Cannister
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister