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Abraham Lincoln
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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spies, Tibetan Zombies, and Busters of Ghosts

July 19th, 2016 | 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

Drácula (Film, US, George Melford, 1931) When Tod Browning’s crew wrapped up each day’s filming on Universal’s Dracula, a Latin American cast took over the same sets hoping to top what he was doing, and this fascinating footnote in film history is the result. Snappier pacing than the English-language version, but its Dracula, Carlos Villarías, projects the opposite of power and menace. This vacuum makes it all the more apparent that Renfield is actually the protagonist of the stage play and thus the Universal Dracula.—RDL

Experimental Film (Fiction, Gemma Files, 2015) Toronto film-studies professor Lois Cairns enters an unfolding pagan horror when she investigates a forgotten Ontario heiress, one who may have made Canada’s first fantasy film before vanishing from a moving railroad car in 1918. Shimmering in the penumbrae of Tim Powers, Ramsey Campbell, and Elizabeth Hand, Experimental Film especially recalls Theodore Roszak’s hugely underrated film-history horror novel Flicker, with all the creep factor and a bigger emotional depth charge. –KH

Goldtiger (Comics, Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton, 2016) Meta-narrative about the creative disaster that never was Goldtiger, a (fictional) 1960s spy-fi comic created by insane artist Antonio Barreti and self-important hack writer Louis Schaeffer (or Shaeffer, his ever-shifting orthography being part of the bit). Told in fits and starts around a reprint of “all of the surviving strips” from Lily Gold and Jack Tiger’s inaugural adventure “The Poseidon Complex,” the joke is seriously inside baseball but the quasi-Modesty Blaise comic and glossily po-faced production design make for swinging Britpop Art . –KH

Ip Man 3 (Film, HK, Wilson Yip, 2015) In late 50s HK the legendary Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) protects a school from gangsters and deals with an ambitious rival. Unlike earlier entries in the series, this doesn’t aspire to be anything other than standard issue martial arts melodrama, but the action direction is by Yuen Woo-Ping so it’s a superior example of that template. Gotta say though that any film with Mike Tyson in it could be improved by not having Mike Tyson in it.—RDL

The Prince and the Zombie: Tibetan Tales of Karma (Nonfiction, Tenzin Wangmo, 2012) A wayward princeling repeatedly journeys to India to capture a zombie and repair his besmirched karma, but again and again lets him escape because he cannot help but react to the creature’s beguiling storytelling. Charming retelling of Tibetan Buddhism’s equivalent of the Arabian Nights warns of narrative’s seductive dangers.–RDL

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Film, UK, Martin Ritt, 1965) Almost note-for-note adaptation of the classic John Le Carré novel shines in all the places cinema can improve fiction: brilliant acting especially from Richard Burton as false defector Alec Leamas, note-perfect grimy production design, and fully controlled if only sporadically brilliant direction and cinematography. Even the script is tight and clear, rather moreso than the novel in some ways. –KH

Straight Outta Compton (Film, US, F. Gary Gray, 2015) Music docudrama traces the rise of L.A. gangsta rap through the formation and dissolution of NWA. Gray solves the coherence problem that plagues most biopics with a restless, roving style that embraces the chaos of its storyline. Delves more than most music movies into the industry’s shady financial practices.–RDL

Good

Ghostbusters (Film, US, Paul Feig, 2016) Misfit parapsychologists battle an NYC ghost epidemic. If this feels unlike the original, it’s not because it stars funny women instead of funny men, but due to the contrast between GB84 as a marvel of narrative momentum and GB16 as loose collection of comic riffs.–RDL

Okay

Scream (Nonfiction, Margee Kerr, 2015) Sociologist who contributes to on a socially responsible haunted house attraction goes on a journey to explore the science and cultural context of fear, from the CN Tower Edgewalk to the dangerous streets of Bogota. In a now common structure in pop science books, bids for relatability by framing the technical stuff with abundant first person anecdote. I found myself wanting more of the former and less of the latter.–RDL

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Episode 199: Not That That’s What Time Travelers Say

July 15th, 2016 | Robin

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Conrad Kinch asks what the cruel empire of Tsan-Chan might be up to in 5000 AD. The answer might surprise him!

Now that you’ve worked your way through the filmography we provided in our Westerns 101 segment, the Cinema Hut rides back to the corral to pick some deeper cuts. Yes, it’s Westerns 201.

Fun With Science tackles a question from supporter Antti Elomaa: “Aside from building Geiger-counters and scientific apparatii, what use could one have for pre-nuclear steel, main source of which is the German WWI fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow?”

Then we’re back in the parlor of the Consulting Occultist to hear the tale of reputed 16th century sorcerer Rinaldo des Trois-Echelles du Mayne.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.

Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted.

You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. 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. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Your Vances, Your Gygaxes, Your Peckinpahs

July 12th, 2016 | 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

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Film, US, Sam Peckinpah, 1970) Crusty prospector (Jason Robards)  left to die in the desert finds water and opens a stagecoach stop while falling for a kindly prostitute (Stella Stevens.) Oddball mix of sentimentality, theatricality and existentialism, plus a musical number, wins out over some wildly misjudged lurches into Benny Hill-style comedy. Very much of its time, and by time I mean a very specific 3-4 year period in filmmaking when the rule book went out the window.–RDL

The Dirdir (Fiction, Jack Vance, 1969) In part 3 of the Planet of Adventure series, stranded Earthman and his unlikely local boon companions face a rapacious species that hunts humans for sport. Along with the archetypal Vancian haggling and betrayal the accent in this instalment is on action, suspense, and stoic comradeship.–RDL

Little America: The War Within the War For Afghanistan (Nonfiction, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 2012) Acutely limned account traces the big hopes and thwarted rewards of the Obama administration’s attempt to surge its way to victory in, withdrawal from, Afghanistan. Lays out in too-true-to-believe detail the manifold ways in which wishful thinking and competing agendas between US institutions doomed an already dauntingly complex objective.–RDL

Occupied Season 1 (TV, TV2 Norway, 2015) Top-notch political thriller depicts a “velvet glove” Russian occupation of a near-future Norway betrayed by the EU and abandoned by the US. Its laudable narrative economy (only four major characters) leads to some unlikely plotting and a slightly sparse feel, but the driving momentum, expertly ratcheted tension, and intelligent issues-driven story more than make up for that. –KH

Good

The Ghosts of Belfast (Fiction, Stuart Neville, 2009) Apparitions of his victims impel alcoholic ex-IRA killer to avenge them against his accomplices. Contemporary noir with supernatural touches uses the kill list structure to paint a blood-spattered portrait of post-accord Northern Ireland.–RDL

Headhunters (Film, Norway, Morten Tyldum, 2011) Corporate headhunter Peter (Aksel Hennie) has a second career as an art thief, which lands him in trouble when he crosses paths with a surveillance-tech exec (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who just happens to be a veteran of a special-forces manhunting unit. A strong crime thriller in the moment, but the plotting is too facile to put it in the top rank of “twisty game of cat and also cat” movies. –KH

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Film, US, Christopher McQuarrie, 2015) When the IMF gets shut down Ethan Hunt goes rogue to take down a rogue counterpart of the IMF. Recognizes that people mostly want a Tom Cruise/Simon Pegg buddy action flick and delivers that, while also being the film in the franchise to most resemble an episode of the TV series. Briskly executed, avoids bending itself out of shape in pursuit of unwelcome memorability.–RDL

Okay

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons (Nonfiction, Michael Witwer, 2015) If Witwer’s book included more actual information about Gary’s art or business, it might be easier to forgive its fictionalized scene-setting and irritating time jumps. Major events — drugs, sex, Tim Kask — get brushed in passing while Witwer clumsily and repetitively tries to enter Gary’s head as a character in his own ongoing adventure. Still, it’s the only biography of Gary we’ve got, which is something. –KH

Ragnarok (Film, Norway, Mikkel Braenne Sandemose, 2013) Terrible father and archaeologist Sigurd (Pål Sverre Hagen) follows clues on a runestone to “Odin’s Eye,” an isolated lake in the no-man’s-land between Norway and Russia, and discovers a giant snake, eventually. Stupid, shallow characters and ending dampen most of the tension and much of the monster-movie joy, although the use of the actual Oseberg Ship as the hook points toward how to do it better in games. –KH

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Support KARTAS at the 2016 ENnie Voting Booth

July 11th, 2016 | Robin

The electronic voting booth for the 2016 is now open for business, giving you, the listener, the chance to demonstrate your fine taste by supporting Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff in the Best Podcast Category.

Once there, you will spot other Ken and Robin related nominations for Feng Shui 2, Dracula Dossier, Ken Writes About Stuff and the Page XX Webzine.

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Episode 198: Stab Them in the Peninsula

July 8th, 2016 | Robin

Matters come to a head in the Gaming Hut, where we talk about writing scenario climaxes.

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Eric Jeppesen asks Ken and Robin to help weave a campaign around 16th century English-Ottoman relations and the figure of Edward Barton.

Enterprising filmmakers tasked a deep learning neural net to write a short film screenplay for them, and this is the result. We step into the oh so analytical confines of the Narrative Hut to discuss its implications.

Finally supporter Paul S. Enns asks us to rev up Ken’s Time Machine for a look at the timeline where Richard Nixon went unpardoned for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card.

Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted.

You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. 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. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Psychic Kid, Undead Cheerleaders, and a Tightening in Westeros

July 5th, 2016 | 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

Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History (Non-fiction, Matthew White, 2012) Running chronologically from the Second Persian War (480-479 BC, 300,000 dead) to the Second Congo War (1998-2002, 3.8 million dead), White recapitulates his weirdly fascinating and comprehensive website in not particularly handy (688 pages!) book form. All-time worst? The Second World War (including the Holocaust and wartime atrocities by Japan and Stalin) at 66 million dead, but the devil is in this case quite literally in the details. –KH

Game of Thrones Season 6 (TV, HBO, 2016) Secondary antagonists get swept from the board as the series’ key figures position themselves for the coming final war for Westeros. After a slow first few episodes, the showrunners show the advantage of working from GRRM’s rough notes instead of the novels: it allows for streamlined pacing, story beats the audience has been craving, and even low-key scenes in which characters express affection for one another.–RDL

Midnight Special (Film, US, Jeff Nichols, 2016) A desperate father (Michael Shannon) goes on the run to protect his paranormally gifted son from the Feds and a religious cult. To namecheck the classics this methodical, sure-handed SF thriller references would spoil its methodical unspooling of information. With Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.–RDL

Silicon Valley Season 3 (TV, HBO, 2016) Battles for control of the company bedevil our engineer heroes as they try to bring Pied Piper’s compression app to the public. This season’s momentum is mostly sideways, but so are leadership struggles and the cast and writing are as sharp and hilarious as ever. Stephen Tobolowsky nails it as the superficially inspiring but actually jaded new CEO brought in to guide the company in its transition from world-changing idea to immediate cash machine.–RDL

Veep Season 5 (TV, HBO, 2016) After a tied electoral college threatens to throw the election to the House and Senate, Selina Myer and staff connive, threaten and vituperate their way through an effort to hold onto the presidency. With its single narrative over the course of the season, S6 works like a mini-series within a series. Still as scabrously funny as ever and the truest depiction of politics on TV today.–RDL

Good

Raising the Dead: The Men Who Created Frankenstein (Nonfiction, Andy Dougan, 2008) Science history and cultural history intertwine in this examination of the influence of galvanic medical experiments on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and vice versa. Achieves admirable succinctness while still finding room for evocative anecdotal details.–RDL

That Gal… Who Was In That Thing (Film, US, Ian Roumain, 2015) Eight female character actors discuss the challenges of their chosen careers, including lack of roles, aging, appearance, life/work balance and harassment. Interview-driven doc provides telling contrast to its predecessor, featuring male journeymen actors.–RDL

They Look Like People (Film, US, Perry Blackshears, 2015) Young New Yorker with workplace confidence problems invites an old friend to crash at his place, unaware that he’s sees most of humanity as infected by demonic presences. Naturalistic exploration of untrustworthy perceptions walks the line between horror and indie drama.—RDL

Okay

All Cheerleaders Die (Film, US, Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, 2013) After the death of her best friend in a cheerleading accident, Mäddy (Caitlin Stasey) joins the squad in an elaborate revenge plot that rapidly goes astray thanks to lesbian jealousy, witchcraft stones, body-swapping, multiple deaths, revenant-ness, and toxic masculinity. McKee & co. lose control of the ambitious, overcrowded storyline, and what is probably meant to be sly subversion of misogynist horror too often becomes that which it sought to destroy. Individual bits are quite funny or weird, and the spiraling chaos of adolescence comes through, but Jennifer’s Body remains the pinnacle of the high-school cheerleader black-magic ghoul horror subsubsubgenre. –KH

The Scaffold and Other Cruel Tales (Fiction, Jean-Marie-Mathias Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, 1885) Though part of translator Brian Stableford’s French Horror series from Black Coat Press, this collection of stories is really a mixed bag including a few horror-adjacent and proto-fantasy pieces along with fables, 19th century hot takes, and wry vignettes of human foible. Shows the fondness for ironic conclusions found in contemporaries such as Maupassant, Bierce and Chambers, with an emphasis on the erudite, eclectic, and arch.–RDL

The Vampire Countess (Fiction, Paul Feval, 1855) Master fencer turned Parisian morgue operator investigates conspiracy by seductive Hungarian vampire to turn a Royalist rebel over to Napoleon. The sins of serialization weigh heavily on this half brisk, half leaden combo of spy thriller and supernatural adventure. Pluses include a very stealable alternate set of vampire rules and its early blend of real historical figures and gothic horror.–RDL

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Episode 197: Obviously She Fought Radium Ghosts

July 1st, 2016 | Robin

Ever-prolific Ken dons a knit cap like all the youngsters wear to bring us the scoop on Bubblegumshoe in Among My Many Hats.

In the Gaming Hut, we satisfy Patreon backer Sean McAuliff’s request for advice on playing historical figures.

Finally the sound of bookseller cash registers ringing in New England tell us that it’s time for another erudite installment of Ken’s Bookshelf.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. This episode also brought to you by Joe Dever’s Freeway Warrior, Kickstarting from now until July 7th. Survive the apocalypse with the blazing return of Joe Dever’s classic game books, now from Askfageln. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fashion Victims, Far-Flung Travels and a Hospital Shoot-Out

June 28th, 2016 | 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

Instruments of Darkness (Fiction, Robert Wilson, 1996) Can noir exist in a setting where everything is already known to be corrupt? Hired to find a missing expatriate, fixer Bruce Medway gets beaten up, meets femme fatales, drinks, and talks fast at gunpoint in this assured mystery set in 1990s West Africa. The setting fascinates and compels, and the rest of the novel doesn’t disappoint. –KH

The Neon Demon (Film, France/Germany, Nicholas Winding Refn, 2016) A beautiful ingenue (Elle Fanning) on the verge of becoming the next “it” girl in Los Angeles’ modeling scene falls into a vortex of gorgeously shot art cinema and ritualized horror. See it in the theater to fully experience the powerful sound design and Cliff Martinez’ subdermal score. The emptiest and least moral of Refn’s three major films, but hey … as the characters in this film all believe, beauty is everything. –KH

The Night Manager (TV, UK, BBC, Susanne Bier, 2016) War vet turned hotel concierge (Tom Hiddleston) turns into an undercover operative to bring down an urbanely sinister arms dealer (Hugh Laurie.) Yeah, the John Le Carre source material includes some over-familiar plot devices. That said, director Susanne Bier’s mix of glossy surfaces and constricting suspense, and the acting duel between the two leads, meet or exceed the spy genre specs. Plus bonus Olivia Colman! —RDL

Orphan Black Season 4 (TV, Canada, 2016) The clone conspiracy circles back toward its past as Sarah and the sestras uncover the fertility clinic that acts as Neolution’s latest front operation. Season 4 finds the show pruning previous plot threads on a welcome back-to-basics initiative.—RDL

Three (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 2016) A cop engaged in a misconduct coverup (Louis Koo) and a risk-taking neurosurgeon (Vicky Zhao) play out a tense waiting game as a factoid-spewing armed robber with a bullet in his head waits for buddies to effect a guns-blazing rescue. Watch the master of spatial relationships methodically put all the dominoes in place for one of his trademark explosions of elegant chaos.—RDL

Three (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 2016) To intertwines the medical drama and the policier as three wounded protagonists — a workaholic neurosurgeon (Vicky Zhao), a rule-breaking cop (Louis Koo), and a criminal mastermind with a bullet in the brain (Wallace Chung) — collide in a Hong Kong hospital ward. Effortlessly layered and beautifully designed genre film builds even beyond the hyper-theatrical gunfight to a true catharsis: healing through pity and terror. –KH

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Nonfiction, Randall Munroe, 2014). Yes, it’s just as great as you think it is. If you’re a fan of xkcd but somehow haven’t visited his “What If” page, do so. This is that, only bigger and heavier. Asimov and Sagan are gone, but we can still find out what happens if you pitch a baseball at light speed. (Everything blows up.) –KH

Good

Adventures in Arabia (Nonfiction, William Seabrook, 1927) A relatively sedate piece of travel writing from the adventurous-minded Seabrook, who enjoys the ironic contrast of his own romantic and sensationalistic tendencies against the reality of 1920s Arabia. The chapter on the “Yezidee Devil Worshipers” is paradigmatically wry, and Seabrook an engaging tour guide throughout. –KH

Memories of Baku (Nonfiction, Nicholas V. Iljine (ed.), 2013) From 1872 to 1920, Baku in Azerbaijan pumped half the world’s oil, and drew millionaires, sharpers, spies, and inventors to its medieval walls and Belle Epoque mansions. Lavishly illustrated with period postcards, maps, and photographs, this collection of essays and thumbnail sketches lays out the world of the first great oil-boom town in chamber-of-commerce fashion, which is a shame given the wealth of gameable chicanery, violence, and subterfuge it glosses over. –KH

Return of the Badmen (Film, US, Ray Enright, 1948) Retired rancher (Randolph Scott) defends Oklahoma’s banks from a gang of robbers including the Youngers, the Daltons, Billy the Kid, and trigger-happy psychopath the Sundance Kid (Robert Ryan.) I can’t make an argument for this but nonetheless found myself enjoying it not in spite of, but because of, its unpredictably oddball script choices. Most notable of these: establishing the cheerfully ahistorical premise of an all-star outlaw team-up and then relegating it to the background for one of those good girl / bad girl love triangles postwar Hollywood couldn’t get enough of.—RDL

Wandering Spirits: Traveling Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Nonfiction, Selena Chambers, 2016) Slim collection of letters by the SF/horror writer describing her encounters with three places of Frankenstein: the Villa Diodati, Ingolstadt, and Mont Blanc. Slight and not particularly incisive literary criticism, but enjoyably Romantic in tone and thought; if you’re as big a Frankenphile as I, you might even elevate it to Recommended. –KH

Okay

Bridge of Spies (Film, US, Steven Spielberg, 2015) As the wall goes up in Berlin, an American  lawyer (Tom Hanks) deniably negotiates a swap of his Russian spy client (Mark Rylance) for downed pilot Francis Gary Powers. The corny, ham-fisted Spielberg of yore comes back to take the reins from the darker, more restrained Spielberg we’ve seen more of lately. On a formal level, it is cool to see him take something you’re not supposed to do—move a camera outfitted with spherical anamorphic Cinemascope lenses, because its curves distort the image—and do it constantly in as many ways as possible.—RDL

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (Film, UK, Gareth Carrivick, 2009) To the extent anything does, Chris O’Dowd and Anna Faris anchor this amiable nerdtroping of “three blokes in a pub.” There’s a lot of potential in the premise — boy meets time traveller, temporal hijinks ensue — but this watery brew was probably all the budget would buy. –KH

Ire-Inspiring

The Neon Demon (Film, Denmark/US, Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016) Teen model imbued with an irresistible innocence (Elle Fanning) enters the predatory world of L.A. fashion. Giallo-inflected outre drama in which Refn flips from his usual exploration of self-destructive hyper-masculinity to a world of exaggerated hyper-femininity–plunging off a diving board into risible misogyny. Reaches depths of terrible available only to highly talented filmmakers.—RDL

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Episode 196: Conspicuously Non-Assassinated

June 24th, 2016 | Robin

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Philip asks for ways to incorporate the beat cycle from Robin’s book Hamlet’s Hit Points into game systems that don’t already support it.

The Tradecraft Hut peers into the dossier of Yakov Blumkin, the so-called Soviet James Bond.

We gather in the Gaming Hut to wonder why breaking the fourth wall was ever considered poor form.

Then we lurk our way to the Conspiracy Corner, where Patreon backer Darren Hennessy wants to know what we know about the Business Plot.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted.

This episode also brought to you by Joe Dever’s Freeway Warrior, Kickstarting from now until July 7th. Survive the apocalypse with the blazing return of Joe Dever’s classic game books, now from Askfageln.

Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Mermaid, A Disfigured Anti-Hero, and Alien Brainwash

June 21st, 2016 | 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.

This week Ken consumed Origins instead of media, and Robin spent the weekend attending the Canadian Writer’s Summit. Hence a slimmer than usual list of capsule reviews.

Recommended

Cooked (TV, US, Netflix, 2016) Ostentatiously beautiful HD photography brings a rich glow to this docuseries adaptation of Michael Pollan’s food book of the same name, with instalments themed around the four elements: fire (meat), water (pot cooking), air (bread) and earth (fermentation.) There must not be much to say about pot cooking, as episode two spends most of its time critiquing the processed food industry’s impact on health and society.—RDL

The Face Behind the Mask (Film, US, Robert Florey, 1941) Once hope-filled immigrant burned in a hotel fire (Peter Lorre) dons a mask to conceal his disfigured features and turns to masterminding armed robberies. Aside from Lorre’s wonderfully extravagant performance, the genre-blending combination of gothic horror themes in a hardboiled crime setting provides the chief point of interest.—RDL

Night Tide (Film, US, Curtis Harrington, 1961) Naive sailor (Dennis Hopper) falls for a sideshow mermaid with a dark secret. Lewtonesque weird tale makes atmospheric use of location shooting in and around the Santa Monica amusement pier. Put a copy of Unaussprechlichen Kulten next to the pickled hand on the retired sea captain’s curio shelf, toss in a reference to Dagon, and you’ve got yourself a Mythos movie.—RDL

Simon (Film, US, Marshall Brickman, 1980) Amoral scientific geniuses brainwash flailing psychology prof (Alan Arkin) into believing he’s an alien being. Droll satire skewers futurism and messianic arrogance. To update it to the present you’d only need slicker-looking tech and a scene where Austin Pendleton’s smug chief antagonist gives a TED talk. Solid cast of comic character actors includes Wallace Shawn, Max Wright, Fred Gwynne and Madeline Kahn.—RDL

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister