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Episode 214: The Puppet Below

October 28th, 2016 | Robin

The Gaming Hut looks at top temporal locations for TimeWatch scenarios. Pelgrane Press celebrates our segment by offering you, the listener, a voucher code to order from its online store. Plunk in TIMEWATCH at the voucher prompt for 10% off any TimeWatch product. In keeping with the chronological confusion of TimeWatch, the offer is good for a limited but indeterminate time period, so act fast, before it shimmers away into nothingness.

Next up Robin issues a Travel Advisory for his trip to THE KRAKEN, a Gaming Retreat held at the Schloss Neuhausen in the rural depths of the former East Germany.

Its founder Fabian Kuechler can tell us more about the unusual history that led to THE KRAKEN, so in Ken and/Robin Talk To Someone Else, we get him to do just that.

Ken also spent his time since our last recording session on the road, occasioning a jaunt into the Cinema Hut for a review of the latest H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

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. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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: In Which Ken Declares Chicago a Sovereign Nation

October 25th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Soul on a String (Film, China, Zhang Yang, 2016) Brought back from the bardo by a lama for the purpose, killer and ne’er-do-well Tabei (Mongol actor Kimba) must return a sacred Dzi stone to the mystical Palm Print Land. Of course, there are mysterious companions and persecutors along the path, which leads through the supersaturated scenery of the Kunlun Mountains. The Buddhist tenets of return and recursion anchor this panoramic Leone-esque epic Western that might well be called Once Upon A Time in Tibet. –KH

Recommended

Amok (Film, Macedonia, Vardan Tozija, 2016) Abuse both official and unofficial turns introverted orphan Filip (amateur actor Martin Gjorgoski in a powerfully internalized performance) into the violent leader of a nihilist gang of fellow orphans. The first act takes almost half the movie, so the ending is a bit uneven. The slow build (along with the location shots in Skopje’s most brutalist and crumbling districts) adds naturalism to a low-smoldering Balkan blend of 400 Blows and City of God. –KH

Creepy (Film, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016) Cop turned criminology prof begins to notice parallels between a family disappearance cold case and the oddball behavior of his next door neighbor. Psychological crime drama explores the contingent nature of free will with Kurosawa’s typical mix of outward calm and inner disorientation.—RDL

The Handmaiden (Film, South Korea, Park Chan-wook, 2016) In 1932, a Korean forger impersonating “Count Fujiwara” (Ha Jung-woo) plants thief’s daughter Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) in the employ of Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), the Japanese niece of a bibliophile Korean collaborator with the occupiers. And then lust takes over and things go sideways in this erotic gothic revenge bodice-ripping con-man thriller. A little long for its plot, not least thanks to the sex scenes, but Park’s sheer brio and craftsmanship nonetheless demand close attention. –KH

Imperfections (Film, Chicago, David Singer, 2016) Struggling actress and new-fledged diamond courier Cassidy Harper (Virginia Kull) enters a world of crime, duplicity, and tangled romantic lines. Charming acting (including a great turn by Ed Begley, Jr. as a scrabbling diamond merchant) and Singer’s solid script buttress this breezy caper-con-romcom. Other highlights include Singer’s jazzy, David Holmes-ish score and (of course) great Chicago locations. –KH

Karl Marx City (Film, US/Germany, Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, 2016) Documentary follows East German-born Epperlein as she investigates her father’s suicide and accusations that he was a Stasi informer. Shot in black and white to mimic the Stasi surveillance footage (and recordings) Epperlein and Tucker intercut consummately throughout, this very personal exploration of the weight of tyranny is in the final analysis more dumfounding than paranoid. –KH

Kati Kati (Film, Kenya/Germany, Mbithi Masya, 2016) Bereft of her memory and (as it tuns out) dead, Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) arrives in Kati Kati, a resort lodge in the empty savanna that plays a bit like the Village from The Prisoner and (weirdly) a bit like the constrained white social world of Isak Dinesen-era Kenya. The film uses 75 efficient minutes of oblique narrative and character depth to feel rich, not sparse: like a fairy tale or a parable. –KH

Ritual in the Dark (Fiction, Colin Wilson, 1960) In 1955 London, Wilson’s alter ego Gerard Sorme befriends the enigmatic outsider Austin Nunne, as a new Whitechapel killer strikes all around them. Over the course of writing it, Wilson rebelled against his own novel — he originally intended it as a nihilist cri de cour (patterned after the Egyptian Book of the Dead of all things) and Sorme follows Wilson’s own philosophical odyssey in this gripping (if talky) künstlerroman. –KH

Shin Godzilla (Film, Japan, Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, 2016) Awakened by nuclear waste dumping, a mutant prehistoric monster emerges from Tokyo Bay, devastating the city and paralyzing the government. Where the original responded to Hiroshima, this reboot responds to the feckless response to Fukushima. Imagine a Wes Anderson boardroom disaster film with awesome radioactive dinosaur battle scenes in it, and you’ll be close to Shin Godzilla, the best movie in the franchise since Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). –KH

Women Who Kill (Film, US, Ingrid Jungermann, 2016) Morgan (Jungermann) seeks distance from her cohost of the titular podcast and ex-girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr) in the arms of Simone (Sheila Vand), who may be a murderer. The blackly humorous blend of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For and Fritz Lang’s The Secret Beyond the Door works as noir, as metaphor for relationships, and as delicious dialogue-driven comedy. Jungermann (who also wrote the script as well as starring and directing) is the Brooklyn lesbian Whit Stillman you didn’t know you needed. –KH

Good

F to 7th Seasons 1 and 2 (Web series, Ingrid Jungermann, 2016) Neurotic lesbian Jungermann interacts with family and fellow Brooklynites in short, broad, comic character vignettes. Season 2 has a story arc of sorts: her mother (Annette O’Toole) guilts her into pretending to herself and others that she’s straight. The comedy is a mixed bag, sometimes rapid-fire or ridiculous (my favorites), sometimes situational, sometimes pretty dark. –KH

9 Rides (Film, US, Matthew A. Cherry, 2016) In this worthy entrant into the smallish “taxi driver” subgenre, we follow a nameless Uber driver (Dorian Missick) on New Year’s Eve. Worth watching for Missick’s acting (he has to do a lot while doing basically the same nothing over and over) and for technical reasons (a feature film shot entirely on an iPhone 6 that doesn’t look awful) but ultimately one or two rides short of a destination. –KH

Prevenge (Film, UK, Alice Lowe, 2016) Eight months pregnant after the death of her lover in a climbing accident, Ruth (Alice Lowe) hears her unborn daughter urge her on to revenge killings. Lowe doesn’t really commit to the premise in any of her three roles (actor, writer, or director), making it a much harder sell than it should be for the viewer. –KH

Not Recommended

As the Gods Will (Film, Japan, Takashi Miike, 2014) Inexplicable worldwide force traps high schoolers in a series of lethal games as gory as they are cutesy. Delivers peak Miike craziness, but literally has no third act. It puts all the pieces in place for one, and then rolls the credits, because the manga it’s based on wasn’t finished when the film came out.—RDL

Call Me Savage (Film, US, John Francis Dillon, 1932) Hot-tempered Texan (Clara Bow) bounces around America and up and down the class ladder, remaining defiant in the face of all the mistreatment men can dish out. Pre-Code melodrama rattles through a potboiler novel’s steamy plot points at a breakneck clip. —RDL

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Episode 213: I Would Have Been On the Other Side of That

October 21st, 2016 | Robin

A fork in the road leads to either the Gaming Hut, or the Gaming Hut, as we look at those times when giving players choice and control in a scenario leads to a less interesting outcome.

The History Hut has us looking at the career of oil magnate E.L. Doheny, key figure in the Teapot Dome scandal and partial inspiration for Daniel Plainview in There Might Be Blood.

Then Ken and/or Robin Talk To Somebody Else, specifically Epidiah Ravachol of Dread and Worlds Without Master fame.

We conclude with the Consulting Occultist talking about Jakob Böhme, trying to convince Robin that there is something of interest to be gleaned from yet another Christian mystic.

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. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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: Menacing Crystals and Fluffy Mascots

October 18th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Paterson (Film, US/EU, Jim Jarmusch, 2016) Paterson, NJ bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) writes poetry during his daily routine while his free-spirited wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) follows her variegated bliss in another perfectly crafted Jarmuschian celebration of the quotidian and the past. (“It’s like we’re living in the 20th century!” says Laura in delight at one point.) Can a film in which nothing big happens, or even changes, be a celebration? Jarmusch says “yes!” … but he says it quietly. –KH

Recommended

The Glass Cage (Fiction, Colin Wilson, 1966) Blake scholar Damon Reade resolves to track down a London serial killer who leaves Blake quotations where he dumps the bodies. A typical Wilson novel, combining the author’s decided views on psychology, occultism, crime, art, and mysticism (hint: all the same thing) while remaining oddly realist and thoroughly readable. –KH

Mascots (Film, US, Christopher Guest, 2016) Amateur sports mascots prepare for starry-eyed glory as they vie for the coveted Golden Fluffy Award. For his first feature in a decade, Guest creates a familiar framework in which to feature the sublimely subtle improvised verbal comedy of his genius stock company.—RDL

The Monolith Monsters (Film, US, John Sherwood, 1957) A meteorite hits the desert outside the small town of San Angelo, and its fragments grow into silica-draining monoliths that topple and shatter into more fragments … This eerily Lovecraftian film presents an utterly implacable, inexorable, truly alien threat against a low-budget (but high-performing) 1950s monster-movie backdrop. An uncredited Henry Mancini wrote the effective score. –KH

Monsters From the Vault: Classic Horror Films Revisited (Nonfiction, Orrin Grey, 2016) A collection of quick columns by a true fan of the genre, reviewing 81 lesser-known titles from Doctor X (1932) to Food of the Gods (1976). Not to be mistaken for an in-depth resource, but worth reading before hitting the Netflix queue. –KH

Mr. Six (Film, China, Hu Guan, 2015) Retired gangster turned neighborhood problem-solver draws on his dying honor code when rich drag-racing criminals kidnap his son. Elegiac drama moodily draws on motifs of the western and vigilante genres.–RDL

Neruda (Film, Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, Pablo Larraín, 2016) Dogged secret policeman Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) pursues fugitive Communist poet-senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) across 1948 Chile and into postmodern fabulism. Like the work of its subject, staggeringly ambitious, keenly beautiful, and politically charged, although it refreshingly depicts Neruda as (in Borges’ words) a “mean man.” –KH

Un + Une (Film, France, Claude Lelouch, 2015) In India to score an Indian art-house film, Lothario and composer Antoine (Jean Dujardin) falls for Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), the wife of the French ambassador (Christopher Lambert). Lelouch plays with his own formulas, sprinkling just a touch of postmodern meta-commentary (and a ladle of exoticism) over the oldest story in the world; but still every shot is perfection, and in love with the lovers. –KH

Good

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Film, US, Andre Øvredal, 2016) Father-and-son morticians Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden uncover ever more eerie mysteries — and suffer ever more horrifying phenomena — while autopsying a near-immaculate corpse (Olwen Kelly) found half-buried at a crime scene. Listen, fourth acts in horror movies are hard, I get it, but the monstrous tension and rigorous puzzle built up in the first three acts deserve a better payoff than they get here. –KH

The Confessions (Film, France/Italy, Roberto Ando, 2016) A Carthusian monk (Toni Servillo) at a secret G8 financial summit hears the last confession of Daniel Roche (Daniel Auteuil), the head of the IMF, before Roche is found dead with his head in the plastic bag the monk’s digital recorder came in. All the powers of the earth pressure the monk to break silence, while he unsettles their arrangements. Beautifully shot and delightfully reactionary, but too low-tempo for a proper thriller and too grounded for a metaphysical fable. –KH

Kills on Wheels (Film, Hungary, Attila Till, 2016) Wheelchair-bound kids Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba (Ádám Fekete) find a way to escape their assisted lives when crippled fireman Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy) recruits them as assistant hit men. The last act needlessly hits the brakes on this heretofore manic, liberatory joy ride of a film. –KH

The Teacher (Film, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Jan Hrebejk, 2016) In 1983, unscrupulous Bratislava middle-school teacher Comrade Drazdechova (Zuzana Maurery) milks her pupils and their parents for chores and favors. Excellent acting and a braided narrative (flashing between a Kafkaesque parent-teacher meeting and Drazdechova’s depredations) elevate this relatively standard “Communism sucks and power corrupts” movie. –KH

A Violent Prosecutor (Film, South Korea, Lee Il-Hyeong, 2016) Imprisoned prosecutor uses his legal acumen to spring a cocky con-man to investigate the corrupt superiors who framed him for murder. Clever combo of legal drama and caper flick, delivered in crowd-pleaser style, with a showcase performance from Jung-Min Hwang as the title character.–RDL

Okay

The Dreamer (Film, Peru/France, Adrian Saba, 2016) Lockpicker Chaplin (Gustavo Borjas) flickers between dream and reality as he plans to escape with Eleni (Elisa Tunaud) but has to pull one last job to do it. Half-spin on Romeo and Juliet and a half-look at petty crime in Lima don’t quite gel, and the dream sequences are pretty tepid brew for the land of Vargas Llosa. –KH

The Eyes of My Mother (Film, US, Nicolas Pesce, 2016) This fable of a young girl who grows up to be a monster (Kika Magalhaes) is so wonderfully lensed by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein and scored by Ariel Loh that you forget how little there is in the way of story, contrast, or payoff. –KH

Not Recommended

The Darkness (Film, Mexico, Daniel Castro Zimbron, 2016) In a mysterious post-apocalypse of eternal twilight, patriarch Gustavo (Brontis Jodorowsky) tries to keep his two children in line after their older brother vanishes. This empty, circular allegory brings nothing new to the game, and does so with uninteresting visuals and flat direction. Also, I may have to stop describing this growing subset of art-house pictures as “oddly” reactionary. –KH

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Episode 212: I Was Scheduled For One Anyway

October 14th, 2016 | Robin

We kick off another episode inspired entirely by Patreon backer requests with John Corey, who asks Ken to expand on real history as the best setting for gaming and the challenges of reskinning it, thus inviting another round of That Thing I Always Say.

The enigmatic asker known only as Bryan ushers into the Horror Hut to consider Lovecraftian spam.

In the Tradecraft Hut, Simon Hedge requests a 101 on Kremlinology.

And Neil Dalton poses a probing question in the Eliptony Hut, about horror writer, UFO contactee and podcaster Whitley Strieber.

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. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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: Crampton Comes Alive

October 11th, 2016 | KenH

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 Age of Shadows (Film, South Korea, Kim Jee-woon, 2016) During the Japanese occupation of Korea, a collaborating police captain (Song Kang-Ho) plays a double game while hunting the resistance. Assured blend of action, Hitchcockian spy suspense, and drama of conflicted loyalties from the director of The Good, The Bad and the Weird. –RDL (Seen at TIFF; now in limited North American release.)

The Age of Shadows (Film, South Korea, Kim Jee-woon, 2016) In Japanese-occupied Korea, a turncoat Korean police captain (Song Kang-Ho) must choose and discover his true loyalties. Yet another assured Korean thriller layers high action set-pieces, train-bound bottle suspense, and intense emotional beats into an almost too-glossy experience. –KH

Arrow Season 4 (Television, CW, 2015-2016) Oliver Queen runs for mayor, remembers a revisit to the island, and finally battles a Big Bad (Neal McDonough) who has a good time being super-evil. Introduces the supernatural to the show as the fresh element in a skillful rearrangement of the show’s established template. You can taste just how much Executive Producer Greg Berlanti wants The Flash to shift our earth’s timeline so he gets to do a proper Constantine show with Matt Ryan, whose single guest spot informs the tone of the whole season.—RDL

Dead Tongues (Film, US, Roberto Drilea and Brianna Dorn, 2016) Impressively controlled story of the ex-girlfriend (Phoebe Fox) and previously unknown twin brother (Robert Justin Dresner) of a suicidal linguistics student (also Dresner) investigating his fate. If not for some issues with the sound, you’d never guess it was made by two Northwestern film students for $4,000. –KH

The Flash Season 2  (Television, CW, 2015-2016) An increasingly burdened Barry Allen battles a new counterpart speedster as an alternate reality version of the previous one joins the team at Star Labs. Dives deep down into the comics geek well while still keeping the emoting quotient at CW-mandated levels.—RDL

Love Affair, or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (Film, Yugoslavia, Dušan Makavejev, 1967) Scenes of a young woman’s affair with an unworldly sanitation inspector interweave with those from the forensic investigation into her murder. Explores the director’s hallmark theme of the threat posed to Communist rationalism by the primal chaos of sexuality in a fragmented narrative seasoned with ironically chosen propaganda clips and pseudo-documentary devices. A somber dry run for the wilder, better-known WR: Mysteries of the Organism.—RDL

My Beloved Bodyguard (Film, HK, Sammo Hung, 2016) Retired CSB officer in the early stage of dementia (Hung) befriends young girl whose low-life dad (Andy Lau) places her in danger by getting mixed up with a heedless mobster. Tone seems a touch uneven in the early going–but then punks start messing with Sammo Hung, and one remembers that one is not watching this movie for evenness of tone. With cameos by his fellow Seven Little Fortunes alumni Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao.–RDL

Good

The Asphyx (Film, UK, Peter Newbrook, 1972) In 1875, Sir Hugo Cunningham’s (Robert Stephens) experiments in film and psychic phenomena discover the titular asphyx, the spirit that causes death. Of course, he overreaches, with hideous (and not un-hilarious) results. Although it’s from Glendale Films, it’s almost as good as second-tier Hammer, and even more resolutely of its time. –KH

The Creature Below (Film, UK, Stewart Sparke, 2016) A marine biologist (Anna Dawson) on a deep dive experiences missing time and tentacular visions, then returns to the surface and her domestic life with an unknown egg she steals for her own research. With better monster effects this clever, mostly well-acted film would be a solid Recommended. –KH

From Beyond (Film, Hungary, Gabor Erdelyi, 2016) Takes Lovecraft’s story seriously enough to play it terrifyingly straight, with crowded and even lush scenes of the ‘from beyond’ realm that don’t quite gel with the long-haired Expressionist characters. But it’s forced to insert pointless mystifaction (and a fortune-teller) to pad the story out to even 44 minutes. –KH

From Beyond (Director’s Cut) (Film, US, Stuart Gordon, 1986) Dr. Pretorius’ (Ted Sorel) resonator exposes Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) and especially Dr. Katherine McMichael (Barbara Crampton) to the monsters of both the ultraviolet and the libido. The humor and depravity are, if anything, both broader in this 5-minute-longer version, which answers the question: “What’s the opposite of sublimated?” –KH

The Unkindness of Ravens (Film, UK, Lawrie Brewster, 2016) Not as tonally perfect as Brewster’s debut Lord of Tears, this film centers on a Scottish veteran (Jamie Scott Gordon) with severe PTSD whose psychiatrist sends him (foolishly? fatefully?) to confront his fears in an isolated Highland lodge. Said fears focus on ravens, or on super-creepy human-raven hybrid torturers; the first act’s magnificent atmosphere of dread veers sharply into Jacob’s Ladder territory thereafter.  –KH

Okay

Downhill (Film, Chile, Patricio Valladares, 2016) Reluctantly back on the competitive mountain biking circuit, Joe (Bryce Draper) and his girlfriend Stephanie (Natalia Burn) take the wrong road in a Chilean forest and find themselves in the middle of a … murder cult? Alien biology outbreak? Found footage movie? Sports story? Satanic working? Survival horror film? When it works (in spurts) it works well enough, but the movie doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be even after everything starts rushing, well, downhill. –KH

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Episode 211: It’s Called Salvage

October 7th, 2016 | Robin

Unfurl your flags as we gather in the Gaming Hut to envision an F20 game in which nationalities take the place of alignments.

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Jason Breti asks us to talk about Microscope.

How to Write Good looks at things that happen in real life that writers have to work extra hard to put across in fiction.

Finally, Ken’s Time Machine obeys backer Shane McLean’s demands for information on our hero’s interactions with Thomas Bloodworth in the early stages of London’s Great Fire.

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.

Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press.

For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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: Othello Goes Jazz

October 4th, 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

All Night Long (Film, UK, Basil Dearden, 1962) Desperate drummer Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan) schemes to break up the marriage of jazz pianist Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and retired singer Delia Lane (Marti Stevens) in this terrific transposition of Othello to the 1960s London jazz scene. Michael Relph’s mod split-level set design opens Dearden’s visuals up, while Nel King and Paul Jarrico’s all-in-one-night script tightens his story down. Even moreso, the music is the real draw, and the real deal: Charlie Mingus and Dave Brubeck are only the A+ listers in a side cast of jazz greats performing source music throughout, and the score also feeds the story superbly. –KH

Magical Girl (Film, Spain, Carlos Vermut, 2014) Man obsessed with acquiring luxury-priced anime merchandise for his dying 12-year-old daughter sleeps with a married woman as a prelude to blackmail. Lurid events unfold in a detached, hyper-controlled style that invites us to consider their place in a grander enigma.—RDL

My Big Night (Film, Spain, Alex de la Iglesia, 2015) Grueling taping of a New Year’s Eve TV extravaganza devolves into chaos. Explosion of comic energy from beginning to end. Full of Spain-specific media in-jokes, I am told, but uproarious even without the background to get them.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘15; now on Netflix.

La Pointe-Courte (Film, France, Agnes Varda, 1955) Phlegmatic young man (a baby-faced Philippe Noiret) brings his Parisian girlfriend back to his hardscrabble fishing village in an attempt to get her to stay there as his wife. Setting a template still crowding film festival screens today, Varda evokes the rhythms of life in a real, hard-pressed community, with locals playing basically themselves in supporting roles. Stunning photography and compositions help make up for the lack of conventional narrative development. Retroactively considered the first film of the French New Wave.–RDL

Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia (Nonfiction, S.T. Joshi and Stefan R. Dziemianowicz eds., 2005) With 1,000 entries in three thick volumes, this really is the reference work of first resort on horror (and similar) fiction from Apuleius to Tananarive Due. Although dominated by American and British authors, not quite as critically minded as it wishes to be, and in need of a final copy edit, the other nits one could pick come down to matters of taste or the occasional missing favorite edge case (no Pamela Dean or James Blish or Lisa Goldstein?), not factual errors. –KH

Good

Death’s Bright Day (Fiction, David Drake, 2016) The eleventh volume of Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy space opera series sends bold Captain Daniel Leary and sociopathic data-collector Adele Mundy to put down a rebellion deep in the former enemy’s sphere of influence. While I don’t hesitate to call the series as a whole Recommended, this particular installment seems to mark time a bit more (and repeat character beats a lot more) than the others. That said, Drake’s patented blend of realistic military fiction and Napoleonic fighting sail pastiche works a treat when he gets down to brass — er, iridium — tacks. –KH

An Honest Liar (Film, US, Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein, 2014) Documentary profile of escape artist, magician and debunker of psychics and faith healers James (“The Amazing”) Randi takes a personal turn when his partner of 25 years is suddenly arrested on an identity theft charge that could lead to his deportation. Shows you the vulnerable human inside the oh-so-Canadian persona of curmudgeonly rationalist wiseass.—RDL

Okay

Blair Witch (Film, US, Adam Wingard, 2016) Although it adds a couple of potentially interesting ingredients like a drone and local Blair nerds to the mix, this sequel winds up vitiating the weirdly ritual nature of the original while larding on the empty jump scares to make up for it. One or two sequences in the last act do work really well, and it plays respectfully with the mythology, but you just can’t go home again, especially if home is a creepy house in the Black Woods near Burkittsville. –KH

The History Atlas of North America (Nonfiction, Philip Davies et al, 1998) It’s not the editors’ fault that North American history is shorter and (relatively) less involved than that of other continents, but the map choices seldom emphasize or illustrate the historical dynamics at play with either clarity or originality. Too often map and text disagree, and production errors add to the confusion. It is nice to see a map of the Mexican Revolution, though, however inadequate. –KH

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Episode 210: Tell Jimbo That You’ve Moved House

September 30th, 2016 | Robin

Much tabletop roleplaying advice, ours included, helps GMs to keep players entertained. But what about the other way around? Thanks to Patreon backer Jesse Morgan, we head into the Gaming Hut to look at ways to keep your GM motivated.

Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else covers not one but two areas of expertise, as Hal Mangold delivers the wisdom on art direction and layout. The favorite font he says we’ll reveal in the show notes is 806 Typography.

Then in a special double-length screening session in the Cinema Hut, Robin reveals his discoveries from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. For films glossed over in the segment, see his capsule review round-up.

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. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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: No, the Other Kind of Sea Lion

September 27th, 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

Everybody Street (Film, US, Cheryl Dunn, 2013) Documentary profiles top NYC photographers who prowl its streets in search of spontaneous images of people and city life. Each proves in her or his own way as rich a character as the subjects they capture on film. The HD format shows off their iconic images to fine advantage.—RDL

Traveling to Work: Diaries 1988-1998 (Nonfiction, Michael Palin, 2014) Journal entries cover a decade of film acting, writing, travel documentaries and inconclusive Monty Python business meetings, rendered much less boring than that sounds by Palin’s wit and insight. Ideal reading for any concentration-draining circumstance where you’d nonetheless like to have a smart book to devour in discrete snippets—standing in line-ups at a film festival, let’s say. Return to halcyon days when the first Gulf War was the worst thing happening in the Middle East, the bombs going off in London were set by the IRA, and Tony Blair inspired optimism.—RDL

We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion, 1940-1941 (Nonfiction, Robert Forczyk, 2016) Forczyk doesn’t quite manage to overturn the consensus opinion on Hitler’s mooted invasion of England: that it was doomed to fail, if not a bluff. However, his fully researched history does integrate Sea Lion far more fully into the whole story of the UK-Hitler strategic war, emphasizes that it would have been a closer-run thing than we think, and provides one or two roads-not-taken that could have made it the basis of a forced armistice if not a “swastika over the Tower” moment. –KH

Good

The Threat (Film, US, Felix Feist, 1949) Terrifying armed robber (Charles McGraw) escapes from Folsom Prison to kidnap the DA and cop he threatened with reprisals, along with the burlesque performer who let him down. Police procedural notable for its authentic grubbiness and the cast of lived-in faces inhabiting the roles of crooks and law enforcement alike.–RDL

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
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Film Cannister