Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Cozy Spies and Underground Bunkers

March 20th, 2018 | 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

Brigsby Bear (Film, US, Dave McCary, 2017) Man (Kyle Mooney) reunited with his biological family after being raised in an underground bunker by the couple (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams) who kidnapped him as a baby resolves to create a final episode of the weirdo kid’s show they made to mold him into a mathematician. Dark, bizarre comedy premise realized with a surprising sweetness and generosity of characterization.—RDL

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Film, US, Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014) In a desolate Iranian city, a young man with a junkie father crosses paths with a chador-clad, skateboarding vampire girl. Hip and haunting mood piece scores with commanding widescreen compositions, tension-filled stillness, and b&w photography done right.—RDL

Good

Confession (Film, US, Joe May, 1937) Nightclub chanteuse (Kay Francis) refuses to reveal why she shot a caddish composer (Basil Rathbone) as he made a play for a naive music student (Jane Bryan.) Swirling his camera positions like a proto-Scorsese, May lets the melodrama fly, arcing from fizzy Continental confection to expressionistic dread . When Basil Rathbone gets shot dead by a woman at the end of the first act, the question is not whether he deserved it, but how.—RDL

Slow Burner (Fiction, William Haggard, 1958) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must trace the source of a mysterious radiation signal near London despite bureaucratic interference. If there is a spy novel equivalent of the “cozy mystery” this is it, concerned as much with suits, furniture, and good breeding as it is with the almost abstract threat of Russians or nuclear science. Haggard was praised for writing “Bond novels from M’s perspective” — his first novel doesn’t live up to that billing, but the tone shows originality and the plot shows promise. –KH

This is Not What I Expected (Film, Hong Kong/China, Derek Hui, 2017) Control freak hotel tycoon (Takeshi Kaneshiro) doesn’t suspect that the chef whose food obsesses him is also the irrepressible young woman (Dongyu Zhou) who draws him into a chaos and humiliation whenever they meet. Movie stars being charming, mouth-watering food scenes and an adorable pooch—what else do you need from a romantic comedy?—RDL

Venetian Blind (Fiction, William Haggard, 1959) Colonel Russell of the Security Executive must find the source of the leak in Britain’s Negative Gravity research, while training his own replacement — the secret rival of the program’s lead engineer. Another cozy spy thriller, with the same abstract air and focus on personalities and bureaucracy over action as his debut. This one has a strong plot with rather a nice ending. –KH

Okay

10 Cloverfield Lane (Film, US, Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) Aspiring fashion designer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in an underground bunker, whose tightly-wound prepper owner (John Goodman) claims that civilization has been destroyed above them. Not so much a genre mash-up as three acts of expected confinement thriller beats duct-taped to the end of a kaiju flick. Great to see Goodman given the space to layer one of his ogre characters, though.—RDL

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Episode 284: There’s Always a Worse Writer Death

March 16th, 2018 | Robin

Ken dons raffish 60s-vintage headgear to give The Fall of DELTA GREEN, now available for preorder, the Among My Many Hats treatment.

Robin reviews ways to shape a dramatic scene in How to Write Good.

We look at the science of choice and its implications for tabletop design in the Gaming Hut. Referenced in this segment: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar.

Finally the Consulting Occultist finds another Nazi mystic to talk about, as Patreon backer Bret Kramer asks for a profile on Savitri Devi.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Atlas Games. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Navigate your love of the Lone Wolf game books and/or fantasy inspired by medieval Italy with the Sommerlund Map set Kickstarter from Askfageln. Revel in 1o gorgeous maps inspired by Joe Dever’s classic fantasy setting and the city of Bologna.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Jessica Jones and the Battle of Cannae

March 13th, 2018 | 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 Fire Within (Film, France, Louis Malle, 1963) Finished rehab but still consumed by depression, a raffish writer heads to Paris to look up all the old friends who love, but can’t help, him. Unlike most films about this subject, Malle fills this piece with movement and a sense of life—albeit one the protagonist can see but not take part in. Updated adaptation of a novel by the fascist writer Drieu La Rochelle—or, as the surrealists knew him, the hated Drieu La Rochelle.—RDL

Jessica Jones Season 2 (Television, US, Netflix, Melissa Rosenberg, 2017) At Trish’s urging, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) reluctantly investigates the accident that gave her powers, sparking a murderous cover-up. The serialized storytelling goes up a notch in structural cohesion while exploring themes of female rage that don’t get addressed much of anywhere, let alone in a superhero show.—RDL

Mosaic (Television, US, Steven Soderbergh, HBO, 2017) The murder of a rich and vulnerable children’s author (Sharon Stone) spurs the sister of the man convicted of the crime to enlist an alternate suspect (Garrett Hedlund) and a local police chief in her search for the real killer. Boasts sterling dramatic scene crafting, Soderberghian elan, and a breakout performance by Devin Ratray as the everyman cop. An anticlimactic ending,, the result of its origin as a multimedia app allowing the viewer to choose which characters to follow, keeps it a notch shy of Pinnacle status.—RDL

The Night Watch (Fiction, Patrick Modiano, 1971) Young burglar who has infiltrated the Resistance for the Carlingue (French Gestapo) spirals toward the inevitable doom of the double agent. WWII spy novel as filtered through the consciousness of a mentally deteriorating narrator. By the winner of the 2014 Nobel for Literature.—RDL

Good

The Ghosts of Cannae (Nonfiction, Robert L. O’Connell, 2010) A solid example of post-Keegan “you were there” military history covering the epochal — but not at all decisive — defeat of the Roman legions in 216 B.C. by Hannibal in a model double envelopment. O’Connell is rather better at reconstructing the battle than at putting it into its strategic context, and his chapter on the pernicious effect of Cannae on ambitious military men in the millennia since promises more than he has space (or support) for. But if you want a book about Cannae, this is the book you want. –KH

Okay

The Next Voice You Hear (Film, US, William A. Wellman, 1950) Put-upon factory worker (James Whitmore) and his pregnant wife (Nancy Davis) react with trepidation when God starts briefly interrupting worldwide radio broadcasts. One of those movies about faith that cheats by having God do things. Wellman’s direction stages a rearguard action against the sentimental text by portraying 50s domestic life as a crucible of fury and dread.—RDL

Shambolically Orthogonal to Our Categories

Capone Cries a Lot (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1985) Entangled with the adulterous Kosome (Yuko Tanaka) neophyte naniwa-bushi singer Umeimon (Kenichi Hagiwara) leaves Japan with her for 1920s America where his dream is to perform naniwa-bushi for the President, Al Capone (Chuck Wilson). Suzuki blends his contempt for narrative with his surrealistic eye to create a latter-day samurai gangster Chaplin film full of grotesque racial humor, music, and carousels. (He filmed the San Francisco scenes in an abandoned, American-themed amusement park.) Its wild tone-shifting, terrible white actors, and tiring length make me hesitant to recommend seeing it, but you’ll know you’ve seen something if you do. –KH

Not Recommended

Stanley and Livingstone (Film, US, Henry King, 1939) Hard-charging journalist (Spencer Tracy), accompanied by trusty frontier coot (Walter Brennan), undertakes an arduous multi-year journey into the African interior in search of famous missionary (Cedric Hardwicke.) The decades have not been kind to this earnest hymn to coloniaIism.—RDL

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Episode 283: It’s Just a Tumor Tree

March 9th, 2018 | Robin

 

We gather suspiciously in the Gaming Hut to ask if and how GMs can assist players in horror games who want their characters to exercise a Scully-like skepticism.

We break into the History Hut at the behest of Patreon backer Andy Young, who seeks the scoop on fresh-faced 19th century burglar Edward Jones.

In Ask Ken and Robin Andy Bates seeks help incorporating the Witches Tree, which haunts his hometown of Louisville, into his gaming.

Speaking of mysteries, how the heck have we done 283 episodes without getting around to Springheeled Jack? We finally remedy that oversight in the Eliptony Hut.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

Navigate your love of the Lone Wolf game books and/or fantasy inspired by medieval Italy with the Sommerlund Map set Kickstarter from Askfageln. Revel in 1o gorgeous maps inspired by Joe Dever’s classic fantasy setting and the city of Bologna.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Double Annihilation

March 6th, 2018 | 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

Annihilation (Film, US, Alex Garland, 2018) After her spec-op husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) emerges near death from an alien ecosystem, biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) joins an expedition into the heart of the Shimmer. Loosely based on the novel by Jeff Vandermeer and more closely modeled on Tarkovsky’s Stalker, this film captures the weird sublime in a palette (and sound design) all its own. Performances are of course excellent, although casting Jennifer Jason Leigh as a closed-off martinet plays frustratingly against her strengths. –KH

Annihilation (Film, US, Alex Garland, 2018) After her husband (Oscar Isaac) returns from a mission strangely altered,  a cancer researcher (Natalie Portman) follows in his footsteps to explore an eerie contaminated zone. Employs Tarkovsky’s palette and Cronenberg’s motifs to intermingle the DNA of The Lost Patrol with “Colour Out of Space.”—RDL

Blaise Pascal (Film, Italy/France, Roberto Rossellini, 1972) Taxman’s son (Pierre Arditi) battles prevailing misconceptions and chronic ill health to advance the fields of physics and mathematics, plus a thick slice of Jansenist theology. Deliberately paced, painterly biopic keeps the conflict at the margins of the action to portray the mid 17th century as an alien thought-world.—RDL

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (Film, US, David Wain, 2018) Despite swirling self-doubt instilled in him by a disapproving father, writer Doug Kenney (Will Forte) shapes comedy for a generation as co-founder of the National Lampoon. Avoids the usual biopic pitfalls by conjuring the conquering wiseass style of 70s comedy and by spinning out an array of brilliant, surprising transitional devices. Among the many current comedy mainstays channeling their past counterparts, Thomas Lennon does a particularly memorable turn as nihilist legend Michael O’Donoghue.—RDL

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (Film, Italy, Ruggero Deodato, 1976) Model-handsome blond cop (Ray Lovelock) and model-handsome dark-haired cop (Marc Porel) wage urban warfare against a gambling kingpin and assorted other violent criminals. Absolutely bananas, covertly satirical poliziotteschi dishes up a jolly buddy cop tone even as its sublimated homoerotic heroes operate as a two-man death squad.—RDL

Paterson (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2016) Bus driver (Adam Driver) who shares a name with his New Jersey hometown works, writes poems, and delights in his life with his adorable if unworldly wife Golshifteh Farahani. Ode to life’s quiet sublimity that only Jarmusch could make.—RDL

Valis (Fiction, Philip K. Dick, 1981) Writer Philip K. Dick recounts the efforts of his friend and alternate self Horselover Fat to uncover the real meaning behind a visionary experience and/or psychotic break he had in 1974. Depending on how you choose to interpret it, this is either an SF novel concerning an alien satellite directing the actions of mankind from outside time and space, or literary fiction about the after-effects of a consciousness-shattering neurological event.—RDL

Good

Black Empire (Fiction, George S. Schuyler, 1993 (critical ed.)) In “Black Internationale,” Dr. Henry Belsidus uses the knowhow of his global black secret society to conquer Africa; in “Black Empire” he defends the continent against white imperialism with terrorism, air power, and (yes!) a death ray. Journalist Schuyler, the “black Mencken,” serialized this sensational pulp “hokum” in 1936-1938 in the black Pittsburgh Courier. The serial betrays its slapdash composition, but the imaginative experience of a black Fu Manchu uplifting his race by genius and terror is almost as arresting to white readers now as it must have been to black readers then. –KH

The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (Nonfiction, Douglas Valentine, 2004) A Thing I Always Say is that nothing beats an outraged lefty book on a topic for horror game research. Valentine paints a grim picture indeed of heroic drug agents constantly blocked from investigating the Establishment’s ties to narcotics trafficking. Although beginning with a pro forma discussion of the Rothstein ring in 1919, the majority of the book covers the FBN’s investigations in the 1950s and 1960s, ideal for Noir World or Fall of Delta Green Handlers looking for darkness in high places. –KH

Okay

Gun Runners (Film, Canada, Anjali Nayar, 2015) After a pair of Kenyan bandits turn in their AK-47s in exchange for amnesty, one pursues politics; the other, his dream of glory as a marathon runner. Documentary, intent on shaping a tale of redemption through perseverance, remains oddly incurious about key questions of policy, economics, and ethics behind its central situation.—RDL

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Episode 282: Haunted Anarchist Texts

March 2nd, 2018 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we put up our dukes and look at ways to frame fights that advance the story.

Oscar time is upon us, so as is our annual wont we pop into the Cinema Hut for a look back at our favorite films of 2017.

Recovering from the red carpet, we visit the Consulting Occultist, who has been checking out the initial offerings placed online by the Ritman Library of occult texts.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

Navigate your love of the Lone Wolf game books and/or fantasy inspired by medieval Italy with the Sommerlund Map set Kickstarter from Askfageln. Revel in 1o gorgeous maps inspired by Joe Dever’s classic fantasy setting and the city of Bologna.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Animals, Real and Imaginary

February 27th, 2018 | 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

Black Panther (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2018) As T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) ascends to the throne of Wakanda, a reckoning with paternal sins awaits him in the form of insurrection-minded ex-special forces soldier Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan.) Freed from the constraints of the origin story structure, this seamless blend of Bond flick, Arthurian intrigue and Afrocentric social consciousness sings from start to finish.—RDL

Happy! Season 1 (Television, US, Brian Taylor & Grant Morrison, SYFY, 2016-2017) Degenerate ex-cop (Christopher Meloni, in a performance melding the Bad Lieutenant with Wile E. Coyote) searches for his kidnapped daughter, aided by her imaginary friend, the titular blue flying cartoon unicorn (voiced by Patton Oswalt.) Hyperviolent supernatural action comedy delivers the twisted midnight movie sensibility you’d expect from a team-up between Morrison and half of the Crank team. I’m not saying this is the  Unknown Armies TV show, but it sure could be happening in that universe.—RDL

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Film, UK/US, 2017) Rage-filled gift shop clerk (Frances McDormand) riles her small town by buying the titular ad space to spur a stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder. Tricky anti-fable of revenge and vigilantism that encourages the viewer to misread it, aided by the chasm between the moral authority of McDormand’s performance and everything we see her character do.—RDL

Planet Earth II (Television, BBC, 2016) Stunningly photographed animals across five key habitat types struggle to mate, protect offspring, eat and avoid being eaten. As rich with artifice and convention as any baroque opera, this natural history extravaganza, granted emotional weight by another gloriously quavery David Attenborough vocal performance, sumptuously rewards an interest in wildlife and in the capabilities of one’s 4K television.—RDL

Good

The Art of Choosing (Nonfiction, Sheena Iyengar, 2010) Social psychologist rounds up research, including her own, into the human (and pre-human) decision-making process. Although I would have preferred more treatment of the key experiments themselves and less of the cultural references and general discussion meant to make them accessible, they nonetheless offer considerable fodder for extrapolation for any designer or theorist of games.—RDL

Okay

Holidays in Heck (Nonfiction, P.J. O’Rourke, 2011) Inviting unflattering comparison to his 1989 gonzo tour de force Holidays in Hell, this essay collection puts former war correspondent O’Rourke on the “civilian travels with mostly family” circuit, with dampening effects on his humor. O’Rourke can’t summon the Menckenesque vitriol for mere liberals that he once did for Communists, although the gentler half of his humor (fondness for regular people) comes through still. The best of the pieces concerns a horseback trip through Kyrgyzstan, but like that trip it’s a long ride to the top. –KH

Jason Bourne (Film, US, Paul Greengrass, 2016) Whistleblowing effort by past ally Nikki Parsons (Julia Stiles) draws Bourne (Matt Damon) out of hiding and into the crosshairs of an ambitious new CIA pursuer (Alicia Vikander.) A spirit of pro forma cooperation with studio entreaties prevails over this unnecessary sequel. Enlivened by Tommy Lee Jones’ gratifying decision not to phone in his boilerplate role as a ruthless CIA director.—RDL

The Prisoner Handbook (Nonfiction, Steven Paul Davies, 2002) In a better world, we would be drowning in memoirs and oral histories of the greatest show in television history, but in this one we get excerpts from a few interesting interviews embedded in a by-the-numbers recap of the series and its themes and rather too much information about its fan club. –KH

The Whip and the Body (Film, Italy, Mario Bava, 1963) The arrival of a disinherited, sadistic nobleman (Christopher Lee) at his gloomy ancestral manor leads to murder and a haunting. Banned or cut in most territories due to its overt S&M content, this never quite captures the eerie mood that characterizes either the director’s  top work, or the best entries in the 60s gothic horror cycle. Shot MOS and dubbed, with another actor voicing Lee’s performance.—RDL

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Episode 281: In Service of the Yeast God

February 23rd, 2018 | Robin

We swear we didn’t plan this, but Patreon backer Chris Sellers showed up unexpectedly in the Gaming Hut to ask about improvising GUMSHOE scenarios.

The location of the Tradecraft Hut has been dangerously exposed, and only our look at fitness apps as a threat to operational security will save us.

In an equally sudden turn, How to Write Good examines transitions between scenes, as codified in Robin’s new book for creators of fiction, Beating the Story. Get the electronic editions immediately by taking part in the print book preorder.

A final surprise lies in store for us in December of 1926, where Ken’s Time Machine grants Patreon backer David Shaw’s request for the story behind the story of the Agatha Christie disappearance.

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

Navigate your love of the Lone Wolf game books and/or fantasy inspired by medieval Italy with the Sommerlund Map set Kickstarter from Askfageln. Revel in 1o gorgeous maps inspired by Joe Dever’s classic fantasy setting and the city of Bologna.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Black Panther and Casual Body Snatchers

February 20th, 2018 | 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

Before We Vanish (Film, US, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2018) As a freelance illustrator copes with her husband’s lapse into an odd, affectless mental state, a reporter meets a young man possessed by an alien. Kurosawa riffs on Invasion of the Body Snatchers with his trademark eerie casualness, plus tongue-in-cheek humor and a touch of heart.—RDL

Black Panther (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2018) Superhero king of Wakanda T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) defeats a coup led by radical black liberation warrior Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, electric as always) with the help of CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman). Ohhh-kay. Crypto-reactionary politics aside, production designer Hannah Beachler and cinematographer Rachel Morrison definitively break from the dull Marvel in-house palette with strong oranges and bright light effects, contributing to (mostly) better fights than MCU standard. The acting, story, and direction are strong, too; it’s a shame the score went for sodden cliche instead of reflecting the cool Afrofuturism on screen. –KH

Don’t Think Twice (Film, US, Mike Birbiglia, 2016) Members of an improv troupe face the realization that they’re heading for the end of its expiration date when one of them (Keegan-Michael Key) gets on Saturday Nigh…er, Weekend Live. Funny, melancholy drama about that dangerous line between the determination needed to survive in the arts and the delusion that traps near-achievers inside their dreams.—RDL

The Eagle Huntress (Film, UK/Mongolia, Otto Bell, 2016) Kazakh schoolkid defies the expectations of chauvinist elders to follow in the footsteps of her dad and grandfather, competing and hunting foxes with her trained eagle. Even more than its stunning vistas and girl power message, the heart of this documentary lies in the touching strength of its key daughter-father relationship.—RDL

Lovecraft and Influence: His Predecessors and Successors (Nonfiction, Robert Waugh (ed.), 2013) Discovering a collection of critical essays on Lovecraft without a dud in the batch is almost as shocking as the sticker price for this collection. Highlights include Gavin Callaghan’s essay on Lovecraft and the Munsey pulps, and Michael Cisco on Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs. When Donald Burleson and Robert Price are the backup hitters in a Lovecraft lineup, you know you’re in for a home-run derby. –KH

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks (Nonfiction, Keith Houston, 2013) Historical survey reveals the origins of such typographical pinch-hitters as @, #, —, and, of course, &. Packed with delightful factoids from the days of classical script to email and beyond.—RDL

Good

I Am (Not) A Number: Decoding The Prisoner (Nonfiction, Alex Cox, 2018) Working entirely from the call sheets and scripts (as written and as shot) of the greatest show in television history, filmmaker Cox provides his own step-by-step analysis of the famously twisty program and “decodes” its secrets. Worth it for fans, but like all “real answers” to great art, it isn’t. –KH

Larceny Inc. (Film, US, Lloyd Bacon, 1943) Smooth talking crook (Edward G. Robinson) and his less clever buddies buy a failing leather goods store in order to tunnel from its basement into the bank next door. Classic character actors bite with gusto into a script revolving around a basic comedy premise—there’s people in the shop and our heroes urgently need to get them out.—RDL

Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads (Nonfiction, David Morrell and Hank Wagner, 2010) Running chronologically from the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur through The Da Vinci Code, this collection of essays by thriller writers on thriller (mostly) novels should probably be considered more a study guide to the form than a list of the 100 best examples. (I’ve read 56 of the listed works, and boy do I have some nits to pick.) That said, there are some cracking good thrillers in the list, and a few of the essayists manage to sum up the book in question with a critical swing while discussing its impact on their own writing, which is really all you can ask given the format. –KH

Okay

Mudbound (Film, US, Dee Rees, 2017) The brutal social realities of wartime Mississippi put two families, white farm owners and the black sharecroppers who work their land, on a path to shared tragedy. Strong ensemble cast delivers affecting work within a screenplay that shies away from the ruthless cutting and reconfiguring needed to turn a years-spanning, multiple viewpoint novel into something movie-shaped.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Man From Hong Kong (Film, Australia, Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1975) Ruthless Hong Kong police inspector (Jimmy Wang Yu) cuts a swathe of havoc through Sydney and environs in his crusade against a fu-wielding drug lord (George Lazenby.) Ozploitation meets Golden Harvest in this gonzo actioner featuring horribly misfired racial gags and Sammo Hung action choreography. All of the storytelling is in the action, so you can upgrade to Okay by watching it Trump-style and fast-forwarding through the painfully stilted dialogue sequences.—RDL

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Episode 280: Problem Solving Gases

February 16th, 2018 | Robin

 

February loses its rep as the cruelest month when we confront it with an all-hut, all-request episode, in tribute to our fabulous Patreon backers.

In the Gaming Hut, Tom Bagatelle seeks guidance on a sandbox time travel campaign.

Peter Williamson adds reclining couches to the Food Hut as we consider the Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius.

Zachary Joyner meets us in the Cartography Hut for the 101 on telling stories with places.

Finally David Sowa makes an urgent topical request in the Eliptony Hut. Dare we crack the mystery of Taco Bell’s Belluminati ads?

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

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Atlas Games’ wickedly different cooperative deck-building game Witches of the Revolution, you and your doughty coven fight the American Revolution the way it was really fought: with spells aplenty! Resurrect Ben Franklin, cure Paul Revere of lycanthropy and keep those red-coated witch hunters at bay.

It wasn’t on the maps. No one talked about it. But now you live there. Cthulhu City. Where the mayor goes everywhere with twin sacred jaguars, and the chief of police blinks at your with fishy eyes. Where the cultists run city hall and the investigators are hunted criminals. Cthulhu City, the new Trail of Cthulhu sourcebook from Pelgrane Press, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

It’s tiny, it fits on your keychain, it’s complete and flexible, and it’s already almost gone. Askfageln presents the Kickstarter for the Keychain RPG, now in English, not Swedish.

With your Handlers Guide already at your side, it’s time to assemble some operations to spiral your Delta Green operatives into paranoia and Mythos horror. Delta Green: A Night at the Opera features six terrifying adventures from the conspiratorial minds of Dennis Detwiller, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Preorder before it’s desperately too late!

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister