Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Episode 436: Needs to Have a Lith

March 12th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we parse the differences between crunch and simulation, as we examine the yen for complexity and the various related but separate impulses behind it.

At the behest of beloved Patreon backers Will Ferguson and Felicity Pyatt, the Crime Blotter heads to 1827 Suffolk to open the case files of the notorious Red Barn Murder.

The 80s keep on coming as our Cinema Hut Horror Essentials series gets burned in a furnace room and goes on a dreamscape rampage of wisecracking vengeance.

Finally, at the behest of estimable Patreon backers Tennant Reed, plus Tim Maness and Jean Bauer, and frankly everyone else too, the Eliptony Hut finally tackles the 2020 monolith outbreak.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Return to your favored doomed manor for Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall, now Kickstarting from your mordant pals at Atlas Games. More Guests! More Stories! Compatible with all Gloom games. Stir yourself from your fainting couch and grab it today!

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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!”

divider

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mind Parasites, Classic Campion, and WandaVision

March 9th, 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

Mosul (Film, US, Matthew Michael Carnahan, 2020) Young Iraqi cop falls in with the Nineveh SWAT Team, the city’s notoriously effective anti-Daesh unit, as they push into Mosul’s lawless half to mop up their enemies before they complete their bug-out. Fly-on-the-wall squadron-level war film brings taut attention to the telling details of a singular conflict.—RDL

This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society (Nonfiction, Kathleen McAuliffe, 2016) When dinner parties and cocktail receptions finally return, no one will have any anecdotes, so stock up in advance with tales of worms that get their original hosts eaten by new hosts, parasitic wasps who perform precision surgery on cockroaches, and the possibility that our most basic personality traits are dictated by the microbiota we are exposed to at birth. McAuliffe carefully notes which gobsmacking results are tentative and subject to revision (spoiler: most of them) without being a fun ruiner about it.—RDL

The Tiger in the Smoke (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1952) Campion investigates whether his cousin’s husband (presumed KIA at Normandy) has come back, while a killer is loose in the London fog. Allingham sidelines Campion a bit in this wider social thriller of postwar London, which literally climaxes with the meeting of Good and Evil. A series of vivid inventions and genuine insights alternate, creating a powerfully impressionist work that just falls short of Pinnacle status. –KH

WandaVision (Television, US , Disney+, Jac Schaeffer, 2021) After the death of her husband Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) resurfaces in a surreal sitcom universe where the two of them live in apparent happily ever afterness. Infuses a familiar TV trope with real pathos, before proving that the movie and TV wings of the MCU have truly fused, with a conclusion that sets up more than it resolves.—RDL

Good

Look to the Lady (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1931) While trying to protect the ancestral chalice of the Gyrth family from a ring of millionaire art thieves, Campion solves the murder of the Gyrth heir’s aunt. Allingham called these early novels her “plum pudding” books, assembled any old which way out of anything tasty, and indeed this ripping yarn (barely a mystery) lives up to that lack of method. With Campion still an annoyingly empty parody of Peter Wimsey, only Allingham’s occasionally startling eye for character detail and emerging prose gift keep the book above the dreaded Okay line. –KH

Okay

Front Page Woman (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1935) Sweetheart reporters (Bette Davis, George Brent) connive and commit a variety of misdemeanors in an effort to out-scoop each other on a murder case. An example of that rare subgenre, the investigative rom com, in which the protagonists show a breezy disregard for ethics any RPG player character will recognize, and Michael Curtiz adds his characteristic zip to a dashed-off script.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (Film, UK, Michael Carreras, 1964) Vengeance from the ancient past threatens the archaeologists who allow their brash American sponsor to export a mummy for showbiz-style display. Few horror films get less interesting when the monster finally shows up, but in this lushly colored, star-free Hammer outing, the main interest lies in a script perpetually on the brink of waking up to its Orientalism.—RDL

divider

Episode 435: Unreliable Satanists

March 5th, 2021 | Robin

Sidle up to the Gaming Hut as we provide tips on bringing your player characters into historical events.

In Ask Ken and Robin, beloved Patreon backer Dennis Harlow asks us to add detail and credibility to something Anton LaVey made up. Specifically that King in Yellow author Robert W. Chambers discovered the actual play while engaged in espionage.

A massive pile up of Horror Essentials awaits us as we enter the early 80s in the Cinema Hut. How far can we get in one segment?

Finally enigmatic Patreon backer Bt taps on the door of the Consulting Occultist for the supernatural secrets of automaton maker John Joseph Merlin.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Return to your favored doomed manor for Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall, now Kickstarting from your mordant pals at Atlas Games. More Guests! More Stories! Compatible with all Gloom games. Stir yourself from your fainting couch and grab it today!

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

divider

Ken and Robin Consume Media: UFO Revelations, Werewolves, and an Occult Artist

March 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 11th Green (Film, US, Christopher Münch, 2020) His Air Force general father’s death leads alternative journalist Jeremy Rudd (Campbell Scott) to a decades-long UFO coverup. Talky and (perhaps purposefully) irresolute, with high concepts (such as astral conversations between Eisenhower and Obama) not quite realized, some viewers (such as those married to me) may consider it Good at best. But Scott’s natural, comfortable acting in increasingly unreal circumstances ballasts the funhouse boat through an at-times-enthralling deep state dark ride. –KH

My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Fiction, Ottessa Moshfegh, 2018) Aided by a financial cushion and a therapist whose freedom with the prescription pad borders on the shamanic, a young New York woman decides to spend the first year of the new century sleeping as many hours as physically possible. Sleepwalking becomes a metaphor for the death of Clinton-era innocence in the caustically funny story of a protagonist who goes rogue by pulling the covers over her head.—RDL

Pool of London (Film, UK, Basil Dearden, 1951) By striking a deal to sneak a package onto his docked ship, a brash American sailor (Bonar Colleano) unwittingly involves himself and his sensitive Jamaican shipmate (Earl Cameron) in the aftermath of a jewel heist gone wrong. Ensemble crime drama paints a detailed social portrait, including an ahead-of-its-time treatment of racism, without stinting on the thrills.—RDL

The Witch of Kings Cross (Film, Australia, Sonia Bible, 2020) Documentary profile of artist, polyandrist and Pagan sex magician Rosaleen Norton portrays her battles with cops and reporters in conservative 50s Australia as a harbinger of the counterculture. Its visual techniques, including extended sequences of interpretive dance, are outré by documentary standards but nowhere near as subversive as the subject’s actual work, shown extensively here. Our Norton segment appears in episode 307.—RDL

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Film, US, Jim Cummings, 2020) Small-town cop with anger issues John Marshall (Cummings) attempts to lead the investigation into a string of horrific murders during the full moon. Portraying Marshall’s broken-ness not just by dialogue and plot stress but by elliptical editing, the end result seems almost as if John Cassavetes made a werewolf movie, but had Douglas Sirk shoot it — Natalie Kingston’s superb cinematography revels in open spaces and truculent faces. Robert Forster is of course wonderful in his final role as Marshall’s ailing sheriff father. –KH

Good

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (Film, US, Chapman & Maclain Way, 2014) When his supporting gig on Bonanza runs out, actor Bing Russell starts up an independent ball team in the single-A league, sparking a real-life scrappy misfit underdog story. Talking heads include Bing’s son Kurt, who briefly played for the team between his Disney era and grown-up movie stardom.—RDL

Death Shadows (Film, Japan, Hideo Gosha, 1986) Geisha daughter of a criminal forced to serve as an undercover cop finds a use for her lethal acrobatic ribbon when she inherits over his mission to retrieve a document that incriminates a prominent clan. Samurai crime film features byzantine plotting and stylistic flourishes unthawed in time from the mod mid-60s.—RDL

divider

Episode 434: Fight the Mimes

February 26th, 2021 | Robin

Beloved Patreon backer Michael Curtis dons a Nehru jacket and John Lennon glasses to duck into the Gaming Hut for tips on running occult investigation in Swingin’ London.

In part 9 of the Cinema Hut Horror Essentials series, we reach the late 70s, and the rise of the horror auteurs.

Ripped from the Headlines gives us a break from incessant day-trading as we turn the Gamestop stock story into a scenario hook for The Yellow King RPG’s This is Normal Now sequence.

Finally esteemed Patreon backer Gerald Sears seeks the aid of Ken’s Time Machine in prolonging the existence of the Hart Island amusement park.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

divider

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Dig, Barb & Star, and The Killing House

February 23rd, 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

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Film, US, Josh Greenbaum, 2021) After the store they work in closes, lifelong besties Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) head to a Florida tourist town, where they dally with the lovelorn henchman (Jamie Dornan) of a pallid supervillain (Wiig) intent on super-mosquito mass murder. Joyfully kooky comedy features musical numbers, eye-popping colors, a wisdom-dispensing crab, at least one tulpa, and culottes galore.—RDL

The Dig (Film, UK, Simon Stone, 2021) Hired by widowed landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), who has a feeling about the mounds on her property, self-trained archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) excavates the find of the century, the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Overlapping editing and a down-to-business script cut through period drama affectations for a story of buried relics, longing, and the suffocating weight of the class system. Pretty’s spiritualism gets the barest of hints.—RDL

Judex (Film, France, Georges Franju, 1963) Mysterious avenger (Channing Pollack) strikes against a corrupt banker, prompting a change of plans from a sinister governess with a penchant for catsuits (Francine Bergé.) Deadpan remake of the 1916 serial drapes its adventure hijinks in existential solitude. Yellow King GMs will want to scope its Art Nouveau production design.—RDL

The Killing House (Fiction, Gomery Kimber, 2020) Rickardo “The Big Shilling” Hanratty, a trickster-assassin whose motto “Believing is seeing” comes straight out of Gurdjieff, and his apprentice American Troy plan a hit on a Russian oligarch in Cyprus. This spy-and-crime novel of philosophy in the Colin Wilson tradition evokes the initiatory reality-horror aspects of Fowles’ The Magus to boot, always a scene or a paragraph away from spinning out of control but never quite crashing. –KH

King John and the Road to Magna Carta (Nonfiction, Stephen Church, 2015) Lucid biography of the Angevin king whose overreach led to to the signing of the Magna Carta brings clarity to a tangled sequence of alliances and betrayals, hewing to what is known without succumbing to pet theories or psychological projection.—RDL

The Outpost (Film, US, Rod Lurie, 2020) The U.S. 3-71 Cavalry Squadron (Scott Eastwood, et al.) of the 10th Mountain Division defends an ill-sited outpost in Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2009. A grunt’s-eye-view war film on the pattern of the “cavalry” Western, Lurie saves most of his cinematic ammunition for the hour-long, very effective recreation of the Battle of Kamdesh in the second act. –KH

Good

Terminator: Dark Fate (Film, US, Tim Miller, 2019) Human resistance sends bionic supersoldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis) back in time to stop a morphing killbot from erasing its future leader (Natalia Reyes). Essentially an adequate (if entirely unnecessary) remake of T2, this film also deploys Linda Hamilton (effective as an old, bitter Sarah) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (dialed down, mostly) without entirely wasting them. By far the most interesting thing about it is the way its Rev-9 Terminator literally embodies the U.S. military-surveillance state. –KH

Okay

Revenger (Film, South Korea, Lee Seung-won, 2018) Taciturn cop gets himself sentenced to a lawless prison island to kill the man who murdered his wife and daughter. Harsh martial arts flick whose premise is less about theme or social commentary than it is about inexpensive production values.—RDL

divider

Episode 433: Leave Out a Syllable For Elijah

February 19th, 2021 | Robin

The Gaming Hut nestles next to an apothecary and a retailer of used armor pieces as we suggest techniques to populate buildings for a city sourcebook.

Fright film enters the psychic hangover of the Watergate era in the latest installment of the Cinema Hut’s horror essentials series.

You wouldn’t think that familiarity with paranormal lore would provide insight into the charlatanry of speed reading, but that’s because you haven’t yet thought about it in the Eliptony Hut. For full details, see Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked by Marcia Biederman.

Finally, in the Culture Hut, we open the drawer on the works of eldritch photographer William Mortensen, whose supernatural pictorialism might inspire scenarios from Trail of Cthulhu to Cthulhu Confidential to THE FALL OF DELTA GREEN.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

divider

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Lupin, King John, Son of a Trickster

February 16th, 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

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll  (Film, US, John Pirozzi, 2014) Documentary chronicles Cambodia’s vibrant, cross-pollinated pop music scene of the 60s, and its abrupt ending with the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime, which murders all of its leading lights. Ably handles musicological exploration and the inexorable descent into political hell.—RDL [Haven’t seen the doc, but the soundtrack is a banger that I listened to on heavy shuffle while writing The Fall of DELTA GREEN. –KH]

King John (Filmed Stage Play, Canada, Tim Carroll & Barry Avrich, 2015) Scheming King John (Tom McCamus) fights off French efforts to reclaim his continental territory and replace him with their preferred heir, a sweet-natured child. Stratford Festival production keeps the pace rattling in Shakespeare’s ultra-telescoped chronicle of 13th century betrayal and counter-betrayal, juiced with touches of absurdist humor. McCamus plays John as a ruthless twit, a combination observers of current politics may find resonant.. Chances to see this live crop up rarely, and the televised play format works surprisingly well here.—RDL

Lupin Season 1 (Television, France, Netflix, George Kay, 2021) Master thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) “in the shadow of Arsène” unravels the frame around his dead father, unjustly imprisoned 25 years ago for a theft he didn’t commit. Structurally more Count of Monte Cristo than Lupin, this show’s larcenous procedurals (and Sy’s effortless charisma) shine brightly enough to obscure the occasional idiot plot hook. Looking forward to the actual end of the season, which Netflix for some reason won’t air until summer. –KH

Lupin Season I (Television, France, Netflix, George Kay, 2021) Inspired by the fictional adventures of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, a master heister and disguise artist (Omar Sy) attempts to clear his late father of the jewel theft that sent him to prison 25 years ago. Glamourous crime procedural cleverly updates an iconic character. If I’d known that the storyline does not resolve in the current batch of episodes, I’d have waited until the next drop, later this year, to start binging.—RDL

Son of a Trickster (Fiction, Eden Robinson, 2017) A snarky high schooler from the Haisla First Nation of northern B.C. already has enough on his hands with his volatile mom, broke dad, troubled woke girlfriend and weed cookie side hustle, when he begins to attract the interest of powerful entities from the spirit world. Sets the stage for supernatural doings with kicky social observation. Part one of a trilogy.—RDL

Good

Cast a Dark Shadow (Film, UK, Lewis Gilbert, 1955) Suave, albeit working class, seducer (Dirk Bogarde) successfully bumps off his rich matronly wife (Mona Washbourne), but finds her replacement, an unsentimental former pub owner (Margaret Lockwood), a tougher nut to crack. Bogarde takes full advantage of a role he is perfectly cast in, from a British mystery stage play with better-drawn characters than that genre generally attempts.—RDL

The Revenge of Frankenstein (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1958) Skipping his appointment with the guillotine, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) sets up shop in a new town, where he resolves to fix his past reanimation mistakes by putting the living brain of his half-paralyzed assistant (Oscar Quitak) into a perfect body (Michael Gwynn.) Underdeveloped ending aside, this is one of the better Hammer sequels, a caustic parable of the elite’s propensity for upward failure.—RDL

divider

Episode 432: Smart Shark Money

February 12th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut beloved Patreon backer Jacob Ansari seeks tips on introducing complex settings to the players.

Part 8 of our Cinema Hut horror essentials series sees the genre take an apocalyptic turn amid the turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes arise from following bad instructions. In the Food Hut we look at wrong cooking tips we learned about through bitter experience.

When it comes to an Eliptony Hut story, the Tsarichina Hole has it all: prophetic dreams, ancient treasure, revolutionary heroes, UFOs, a yellow monkey, a crypt you shouldn’t open, and vast expenditures of the Bulgarian military budget. Let us explain.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

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!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

divider

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Haunted Housing, Tom Cruise Reaches, and the Gunslinger John Brown

February 9th, 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

The Good Lord Bird (Television, US, Showtime, Ethan Hawke & Mark Richard, 2020) When John Brown (Ethan Hawke) precipitates a gunfight that kills his father, a boy (Joshua Caleb Johnson) flees slavery, dressed as a girl, for life on the run with the gun-slinging, hard-praying abolitionist. Adaptation of the James McBride novel stands as a miracle of tone, using comedic characterizations as a pathway into a troubling historical subject matter. Hawke modulates his performance from caricature of Kubrickian proportions to frailty and humanity. Daveed Diggs’ rock star take on Frederick Douglass offers another highlight.—RDL

Recommended

His House (Film, UK, Remi Weekes, 2020) Refugee applicants from South Sudan (Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu) discover something terrible inhabits the government-assigned housing they are not permitted to leave.  Brilliantly plays with the key theme of the contemporary ghost movie, assigning its underlying housing anxiety to characters who feel it with life-or-death urgency.—RDL

How About Never—Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons (Nonfiction, Bob Mankoff, 2014) The New Yorker’s longtime cartoon editor describes his upbringing, his break into that most notoriously difficult of markets, the new generation of cartoonists he brought along, and the statistical secrets of winning that damnable caption contest. Heavily illustrated with Mankoff’s work, along with that of  cartoonists from the classic era to the mid-teens.—RDL

Straight Up (Film, US, James Sweeney, 2020) Neurotic coder Todd (James Sweeney) questions his gayness by dating a hyperverbal actress with intimacy issues, Rory (Katie Findlay). Sweeney’s dialogue plays like a screwball Whit Stillman (with touches of Tarantino) while his script compassionately addresses self, sexuality, and the social requirements of both. A remarkable first film by actor-director-writer Sweeney, with a dizzying performance by Findlay to boot. –KH

Good

Belle of the Nineties (Film, US, Leo McCarey, 1934) Sultry singer (Mae West) maintains her independence while a sleazy vaudeville impresario and a naive boxer vie for her affections. West, in one number appearing as a spider, a bat, and the Statue of Liberty, is an explosion in a semiotics factory in this occasionally lurid musical melodrama. An appearance by Duke Ellington and his band strikes a suitably anachronistic note.—RDL

Jack Reacher (Film, US, Christopher McQuarrie, 2012) Drifter Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former MP, arrives in Pittsburgh where the lawyer (Rosamund Pike) for an accused sniper hires him to investigate. McQuarrie does a pretty fair job adapting the novel One Shot (one of the better, more mystery-ish, Reacher novels) and his economical directing (and a strong cast including retired sniper Robert Duvall and villain Werner Herzog) carries the film over the bumps. Cruise is completely wrong for the role, but gives it his all (except the smile) as only he can. –KH

Space Sweepers (Film, South Korea, Jo Sung-hee, 2021) The loose cannon crew of a space debris-clearing ship protects an adorable little girl from a eugenics-obsessed terraformer. Blockbuster-scaled sci-fi action epic clutches a bit delivering its extensive exposition.—RDL

Okay

Olympus Has Fallen (Film, US, Antoine Fuqua, 2013) Banished from the Presidential detail, Secret Service badass Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must save the President (Aaron Eckhart) when North Korean terrorist Kang (Rick Yune) takes over the White House. Fuqua reliably drains any tension out of the “Die Hard in the White House” premise, leaving a result best described as “high-budget Golan-Globus” — but only the terrorist attack sequence conveys any of the energy that would normally imply. –KH

divider
Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister