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Grimoire

Episode 370: Dire, Satanic Chili

November 15th, 2019 | Robin

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We show up in the Gaming Hut with our usual punctuality to look at ways of handling player absences.

Crime Blotter looks at video games as a platform for money laundering.

Beloved Patreon backer Steve Dempsey invites us to the Food Hut for a bowl of chili, or at least some palaver and history concerning this iconic and weirdly controversial dish.

And finally, in Ask Ken and Robin, backer Michael Gemar invites us to riff on the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a kickstarted temple to art and psychedelic mysticism, complete with bread and breakfast.

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.


Fairytale Mash-ups, the new expansion for Atlas Games’ classic storytelling card game Once Upon a Time, is here to bring you classic characters, hilarious juxtapositions and hungry giant sheep.

 

Only a few days remain in the latest Bundle of Holding deal featuring Pelgrane Press’ Trail of Cthulhu. Feast on the brand new Cities of Cthulhu PDF bundle, featuring Dreamhounds of Paris and Cthulhu City, or tip your friends to the classic original bundle including the core book and so much more.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Irishman and Other Criminals

November 12th, 2019 | 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.

Ken was unavailable to consume media this week, due to a mission in space.

The Pinnacle

The Irishman (Film, US, Martin Scorsese, 2019) Obliging hit man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) becomes confidant and factotum to Pennsylvania mob boss Russ Buffalino (Joe Pesci) and then labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino.) Subdued formal control and absurdist humor predominate as Scorsese’s gangland cycle culminates and merges with his contemplative religious films. Absolutely worth seeing on a big screen if you can.—RDL

Recommended

The Florida Project (Film, US, Sean Baker, 2017) Under the eye of its beleaguered manager (Willem Dafoe) an adorable grade school hellion (Brooklynn Pierce) makes her Orlando motel complex a playground, as her authority-defying mother (Bria Vinaite) turns to increasingly desperate means of paying the rent. Irrepressible kid hijinks and a zowie color palette leaven the usual bleakness of the fly-on-the-wall social problem drama.—RDL

Widows (Film, US, Steve McQueen, 2018) Backed against the wall after their husbands die in a heist, a no-nonsense teacher’s union official (Viola Davis) recruits the grieving partners of his crew (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) to pull off his next planned job. Tough crime drama set in the world of corrupt Chicago politics offers a master class in executing a complicated set-up without a whiff of over-explanation.—RDL

Good

Woman in Witness Protection (Film, Japan, Juzo Itami, 1997) Mismatched cops protect a fading actress (Nobuko Miyamoto) after she witnesses a cult murder. The director’s final film follows his central formula, in which kooky comedy sweetens a confrontation with intimidating, lawless power.—RDL

Okay

Out of Print (Film, US, Julia Marchese, 2014) Documentary homage to L.A.’s New Beverly Cinema, directed by a member of its staff, celebrates its role in film culture before moving on to lament the demise of 35 mm film print distribution. My biggest surprise was to discover how modest a house it is compared to its Toronto equivalents.—RDL

Raw Deal (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1948) Hardbitten gal (Claire Travor) helps her man (Dennis O’Keefe) bust out of prison only to see him fall for the idealistic paralegal (Marsha Hunt) they’ve taken hostage. Atmospheric, brutal noir hobbled by the casting of the patrician Trevor as a gun-toting product of the skids.—RDL

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Episode 369: Lotta Garlic There Though

November 8th, 2019 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, Patreon backer Jacques de Villiers wonders how one might use The Armitage Files or Dracula Dossier in The Fall of Delta Green.

Then Ken convenes a Cinema Hut to talk about his discoveries from the Chicago International Film Festival.

He’s been a character in the Kartasverse for ages, but now he’s here in person. In Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, James Damato gives us the scoop on his Ultimate RPG Guides.

Then the Consulting Occultist acquaints us with a central figure in the field of magical speculation, Cornelius Agrippa.

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.


Fairytale Mash-ups, the new expansion for Atlas Games’ classic storytelling card game Once Upon a Time, is here to bring you classic characters, hilarious juxtapositions and hungry giant sheep.

 

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dolemite, Parasite and Growing Up Haunted

November 5th, 2019 | 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

Parasite (Film, South Korea, Bong Joon-ho, 2019) In a series of scams, a poor family infiltrates a rich household’s staff. Superbly executed con artist film becomes something more unpredictable in this assured, controlled masterpiece blending architecture, class struggle, and shock. –KH

Recommended

Dolemite is My Name (Film, US, Craig Brewer, 2019) Comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) gains underground fame for X-rated party records and a scrappy indie movie featuring his boastful pimp character. Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, specialists in cult cultural figure biopics, add another notch to their belts with this tale of lovable underdogs making it their own way.—RDL

Nameless (Comics, Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, 2015) A nameless occult specialist gets drafted into a billionaire’s space mission to divert the asteroid Xibalba. Or gets trapped in PTSD after a seance gone horribly wrong. Or both. Or neither. Or something else. Morrison presents, and Burnham illuminates, a relativistic cosmic horror magic story with no privileged narrative that is extremely my jam. Much brilliance on display, and much blood. –KH

The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family (Nonfiction, Lindsay Wong, 2018) The author recounts her bruising upbringing in a pricey, grow-op ridden Vancouver suburb, as part of a family unswervingly wedded to understanding its endemic mental illness as ghost possession. Startling and often cruelly funny memoir of pain and growth in a familial mirror universe.—RDL

Good

The Four False Weapons (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1938) When an English playboy’s former mistress is found dead in his Paris hideaway chateau, Bencolin comes out of retirement. The plot is almost too thick and rich, pummeling the reader into acquiescence in the sea of clues and details, and Bencolin without the Gothic loses his iconic character without gaining very much humanity. But still, a solid read and a compelling ride. –KH

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Film, US, Angela Robinson, 2017) The lives of a convention-flouting psychologist (Luke Evans), his smarter wife (Rebecca Hall) and their girlfriend (Bella Heathcote) filter into his comic book hero, an Amazon with a penchant for tying up her enemies. Engagingly written and acted biopic goes beyond confirmable fact to more clearly portray its protagonists as early heroes of the kink and polyamory movements.—RDL

Okay

Being Napoleon (Film, US, Jesse Handsher & Olivier Roland, 2018) Documentary about the two leading contenders to play Napoleon Bonaparte at the 200th anniversary re-enactment of Waterloo loses steam (and focus) when one contender wins about two-thirds of the way through and the film switches (without result) to the general subject of re-enactors and why they bother. –KH

In the Tall Grass (Film, US, Vincenzo Natali, 2019) Distressed cries lure a traveling brother and sister into an overgrown field concealing a deadly space-time anomaly. A Stephen King/ Joe Hill novella gives Natali a sinister green playground for his creepy visual imagination, but pays the price of its  desultory Kingian characterizations.—RDL

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Episode 368: Good Government and Dry Socks

November 1st, 2019 | Robin

The Gaming Hut chunks a double-double in the pentacle as Patreon backer Louis Sylvester asks us to riff on regional linguistic magic.

Backer Nikolaj Hansen runs into a Mythology Hut shaped like a phone booth, asking Ken why Umberto Eco was wrong about Superman.

Things get hairy in the Cinema Hut as we look at structural problems as the bane of werewolf movies.

Finally we brave the cold wilds of the Eliptony Hut to satisfy backer Mikey Hamm’s request for a segment on the Dyatlov Pass incident.

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.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Parasite, Jojo Rabbit and a Suppressed Transmission

October 29th, 2019 | 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

Parasite (Film, South Korea, Bong Joon Ho, 2019) Hardscrabble family spins a series of deceptions to win positions in a tech tycoon’s household. Deliriously unpredictable, masterfully executed thriller of slow-boiling class tension.—RDL

Recommended

Buoyancy (Film, Australia, Rodd Rathjen, 2019) Impoverished teen Chakra (Sam Heng) leaves his Cambodian village for work in Thailand but gets enslaved on a fishing boat. Gripping drama of character and situation fully digs into both, becoming a modern-day Jack London story complete with the sea, exploitation, and brutal violence. Sam Petty’s sound design exacerbates and completes the experience. –KH

Jojo Rabbit (Film, US,Taika Waititi, 2019) As the Allies close in on Germany, a naively fervent ten-year-old member of the Hitler Youth (Roman Griffin Davies) whose imaginary friend (Waititi) discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johannsen) is harboring a Jewish teen (Thomasin McKenzie.) Broad, biting comedy and bubbling energy create that most unlikely of combinations—a profoundly humane satire.—RDL

Mr. Jones (Film, Poland/UK/Ukraine, Agnieszka Holland, 2019) Curious about the Soviet economy,  Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton) follows a lead to Ukraine where he witnesses Stalin’s terror-famine. After a long takeoff, the movie gets to the USSR and becomes a wild blend of Carol Reed and David Lean, going from the vile decadence surrounding the New York Times’ Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, beautifully odious) into the white nightmare around Stalin. –KH

Monstrum (Film, South Korea, Jong-ho Huh, 2018) Exiled but loyal royal guard risks political treachery to investigate rumors of a monstrous creature. Classic adventure moments abound in a movie unabashedly intent on delivering the funnest version of every plot turn.—RDL

Once Upon A River (Film, US, Haroula Rose, 2019) In 1978 Michigan, teenage Annie Oakley-wannabe Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) heads up the Stark River to find her mother. Rose (and her cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby) pulls off a tour de force of tone, balancing and adjusting natural beauty with good and evil, growth and fear. DelaCerna commands the screen in every scene despite barely having any dialogue; John Aston makes a superb foil as a dying misanthrope. –KH

Vast of Night (Film, US, Andrew Patterson, 2019) While everyone in Cayuga, New Mexico one night in 1959 attends the high school basketball game, late night DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and precocious switchboard girl Fay (Sierra McCormick) discover a strange — dare I say suppressed — transmission. The word “bravura” could have been coined to describe this film, and so much (including the small-town dynamic) works so well that I feel like a churl kvetching about a slight misstep in the ending. –KH

Good

Svaha: the Sixth Finger (Film, South Korea, Chae-hyŏn Chang, 2019) Opportunistic cult-busting pastor (Jung-jae Lee) investigates a Buddhist sect engaged in a covert demon hunt. Bump up the rating of this twisty supernatural thriller to Recommended if you want to see a flick that precisely parallels a GUMSHOE scenario.—RDL

Okay

8: A South African Horror Story (Film, South Africa, Harold Hölscher, 2019) When Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe) shows up at the farm inherited by hapless white folks, he fixes their generator and befriends their daughter Mary (Keita Luna) so of course he’s got a demon in a bag. “Single Black Handyman” doesn’t deliver much but rote plot ratchets and gratuitous misogyny on the way to a wildly colorful but nugatory ending. Bump it up to Good if the African lore and setting really move you. –KH

The Great Green Wall (Film, UK, Jared P. Scott, 2019) Documentary follows Malian singer-songwriter Inna Modja across the Sahel collaborating with local musicians on an album to raise awareness and funds for the titular wall, a planned reforestation belt from Senegal to Djibouti. It provides a 101-level overview of the region’s various interlocked crises from an unabashedly activist point of view; those seeking a close or hard look at the challenges and promises of reforestation (or full versions of the songs) should look elsewhere. –KH

The Hypnotist (Film, Finland, Arthur Franck, 2019) Olavi Hakasalo reinvents himself as Olliver Hawk, Finland’s missionary hypnotist — but what of his relationship with longtime Finnish President Kekkonen? What of it indeed? In this mix of recreation and archive, of self-aggrandizement and shrugging guesswork, somewhere there could be a gripping documentary about the relationship between politics and hypnosis and showmanship. Not here, though, in what my friend Emily describes as “the world’s most conspiratorial ASMR video.” –KH

Integrity (Film, HK, Alan Mak, 2019) Financial crimes agent (Lau Ching-Wan) races the clock to save a case against corporate-level cigarette smugglers after his whistleblower (Nick Cheung) flees to Australia. Police procedural with an overactive soundtrack takes its time getting to the twisty bit.—RDL

The Laundromat (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2019) An insurance scam impels a determined widow (Meryl Streep) to investigate the world of shell companies, as embodied by shady Panama-based lawyers Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Fonseca (Antonio Banderas.) Soderbergh’s knack for adding magic to quotidian moments partially buoys this effort to apply The Big Short’s dramatized essay format to a parallel instance of high-level financial chicanery. Chiefly interesting as a study in contrast between two highly mannered performances: Streep, fussy and joyless, Oldman fully committed to over-the-top hilarity.—RDL

The Moneychanger (Film, Uruguay/Argentina, Federico Vieroj, 2019) Somewhat ambitious and totally venal, Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler) oozes to the top of 1970s Uruguay’s money laundering and offshoring business. Somewhat ambition isn’t enough to drive this lackluster film, though, despite a game cast and a suitably grainy color palette. Like its main character it gets partway somewhere but doesn’t have nearly enough fun along the way. –KH

Paradise Next (Film, Japan, Yoshihiro Hanno, 2019) Two gangsters — taciturn, cool Shima (Etsushi Toyokawa) and smirking punk Makino (Satoshi Tsumabuki) — hide out in rural Taiwan with bartender Xiao En (Nikki Hsieh), who eerily resembles a dead girl linked to both. Look, I’m as fond of beautiful yet oblique emotional collage as the next Taiwanese director, but you’ve got to give me something we can agree is a plot before you’re getting out of Okay. –KH

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Episode 367: Ungrateful Mopes

October 25th, 2019 | Robin

The Gaming Hut warms up its blue bolts as we mull the exasperated Dungeon Master trope.

Beloved Patreon backer Corey Pierno asks the Book Hut for tips on researching the everyday lives of historical people.

In Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else, we chat with Ellie Akers about her online equestrian management game Hunt and Jump, and common horse mistakes in RPGs.

Finally the Consulting Occultist heads to balmy British Columbia to tell the tale of yellow-robed cultist Brother XII.

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.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Carmilla, Capra, and CIFF

October 22nd, 2019 | 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

Bring Me Home (Film, South Korea, Kim Seung-woo, 2019) Nurse and mother Jung Yae-on (Lee Young-ae) searches for her son, who went missing six years ago, following a lead to a fishing station and its corrupt cop enforcer Sgt. Hong (Yoo Jae-myung). Korean films do not generally soften their blows, and this genuinely harrowing psychological thriller is no exception. Even the inevitable violent climax avoids Western-style catharsis, becoming yet more chaotic horror leaving unease behind. Just another powerful triumph from by far the best national film culture on the planet. –KH

Carmilla (Film, UK, Emily Harris, 2019) Isolated in rural Sussex, young Lara (Hanna Rae) welcomes the presence of the mysterious Carmilla (Devrim Lingnau) although her upright governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine) has her doubts. Harris soft-pedals the supernatural elements of LeFanu’s source novel almost into invisibility, playing up Lara’s naive excitement and love for the new girl. Although the script wavers between murk and didacticism, the strong acting and Michael Wood’s eager camera work (much of it in candle-lit night interiors) keep it on the Recommended side of the bubble. –KH

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (Film, US, Sasha Waters Freyer, 2018) Critical and biographical documentary profile of archetypal street photographer Garry Winogrand, who famously left mountains of his images unprocessed at the time of his death. Poignant testimony from his colleagues brings emotional impact to the arts doc format.—RDL

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (Film, Spain/Estonia/Ethiopia/Latvia/Romania, Miguel Llanso, 2019) CIA agents DT Gargano (Daniel Tadesse) and Palmer Eldritch (Augustin Mateo) must enter the Psychobook cyberspace to defeat the Soviet virus “Stalin” (and the Beta-Ethiopian dictator Batfro, who yes dresses as Batman) in this gonzo mashup of spy-fi, martial arts, cyberpunk, lucha, and every other genre with “-sploitation” added to it. Shot in three different formats plus stop-motion, Llanso’s inspired PKD-WSB bricolage somehow hangs together around its many many curves and triumphs, backed by a killer free-jazz soundtrack by Bill Dixon. –KH

Ladies of Leisure (Film, US, Frank Capra, 1930) Cracks appear in the hardboiled veneer of a mercenary party girl (Barbara Stanwyck) when a brusque but handsome railroad heir (Ralph Graves) hires her as an artist’s model. Surprisingly uncreaky pre-Code stage play adaptation elevated by Stanwyck’s affecting, quicksilver performance.—RDL

Varda by Agnés (Film, France, Agnés Varda, 2019) The beloved filmmaker assembled this documentary montage of her lectures on (and excerpts of) her own work just before her death this March, and the portion of it that unpacks her cinematic creation does so with the genius and generosity that became her trademarks. Most of the last half of the film deals with her post-2000 career as a digital installation artist, a less interesting and more remote body of work that leaves you wanting more of the first half. –KH

Good

Gambling Lady (Film, US, Frank Capra, 1934) When she falls for a naive but handsome socialite (Joel McCrea) an honest gambler (Barbara Stanwyck) learns that the upper crust contains sharper characters than the underworld. Star power wins the day in a typically veering early 30s script.—RDL

Knives and Skin (Film, US, Jennifer Reeder, 2019) After teenage Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley) disappears in Big River, Illinois, her mother and schoolmates remain haunted. Very ambitious blend of David Lynch and Richard Linklater ultimately drowns in a too-large cast of characters, most written in the same voice; intriguing story notes appear only to vanish like Carolyn. But the luminous color-high cinematography by Christopher Rejano, Badalamenti-esque score by Nick Zinner, and compellingly sharp edits by Mike Olenik enhance your experience throughout. –KH

Miyamoto (Film, Japan, Tetsuya Mariko, 2019) Young schlemiel with anger issues Miyamoto (Sosuke Ikematsu) hits the rapids in his relationship with Yasuko (Yu Aoi) as we follow two halves of their story to inevitable confrontation. Ambitious plotting and roller-coaster emotion (and a viscerally unsettling fight scene) almost distract from what a drip the main character is throughout, but help drive the endings to almost inevitable anticlimax. –KH

The Whistlers (Film, Romania/France/Germany, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019) Femme fatale Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) inveigles corrupt Bucharest cop Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) into learning the whistling language of the Canary Islanders to break her partner out of jail, and no it doesn’t make a lot more sense than that after you’ve watched it either. Porumboiu’s deadpan style blends unevenly with the crime thriller genre, and Cristi (and the viewer) only learn he’s not the protagonist far too late in the proceedings. But it still racks up plenty of great sequences on the way to not at all being Charley Varrick with whistling. –KH

Okay

Blue My Mind (Film, Sweden, Lisa Brühlmann, 2015) 15 year old arriving mid-term at a new school throws in with the fast kids while coping with a weird bodily transformation that fuses her toes and gets her hungering for raw fish. Hews so utterly to the distressing teens realist template that it plays as an earnest plea to understand the important social problem of turning into a mythical sea creature.—RDL

La Llorona (Film, Guatemala/France, Jayro Bustamante, 2019) Mobs of protesters besiege the house of elderly, genocidal general Enrique (Julio Diaz), while the vengeful spirit La Llorona (Maria Mercedes Coroy) infiltrates it. Regardless of its virtues as indictment of Guatemala’s actual past genocidaires, it fails as a horror film because the contemptible General never has the remotest audience sympathy and La Llorona (a beautifully creepy portrayal by director and actor wasted) never really threatens anyone else. Promising threads about the General’s Alzheimer’s and elderly weakness drop unused. –KH

T2 Trainspotting (Film, UK, Danny Boyle, 2017) Twenty years after stealing his mates’ drug deal proceeds, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh to face his reckoning. Fun but inessential sequel serves as a reunion tour for the cast, with touches of sentimentality the original bracingly avoided.—RDL

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Episode 366: Ample Provender

October 18th, 2019 | Robin

We hunker down in the mud and fear of the Gaming Hut to answer beloved Patreon backer Bill Durfy’s request to combine WWI and ghouls.

Impeachment is in the news, the 1867 news that is, as the History Hut covers the attempt to remove Andrew Johnson from the White House.

In How to Write Good we provide tips on creating blocked desires for your dramatic characters.

Finally the Food Hut takes a journey on Ken’s Time Machine as we peer into the dire timeline prevented when our hero supplied the yeast strain necessary for the brewing of lager.

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.


Welcome to the Island is the first adventure anthology for the third edition of the Over the Edge RPG from Atlas Games. It features five original storylines by award-winning authors, each with hooks for different characters. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots to bend your players’ heads.

What’s worse—yet even more pulse-poundingly exciting—than being a burned spy on the run from an international vampire conspiracy? Going it alone, as you do in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s brilliant adaptation of GUMSHOE One-2-One to the shadowy world of Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, from Pelgrane Press.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing presents a gorgeous new edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a deluxe hardback in delightful faux snakeskin, with a foreword by John Scott Tynes, annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and stunning full-pate color  illustrations by Samuel Araya. Grab it while it lasts in the Arc Dream store.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hot Priests

October 15th, 2019 | 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

Fleabag Season 2 (Television, UK, BBC/Amazon, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2019) A yen for the priest (Andrew Scott) who will officiate the wedding of her father (Bill Paterson) to his dreadful partner (Olivia Colman) threatens Fleabag’s (Waller-Bridge) newfound equilibrium. In a rare recent instance of a second season building on and topping the first, Waller-Bridge deepens her already rich characters and brings the proceedings to a satisfying unresolved resolution.—RDL

Recommended

The Devils (Film, UK, Ken Russell, 1971) Accusations of sorcery from a sexually frustrated abbess (Vanessa Redgrave) provide the pretext for Cardinal Richelieu’s allies to rid themselves of a politically inconvenient, hot-blooded priest (Oliver Reed.) Only in the topsy-turvy film world of the early seventies could this wildly theatrical, and wildly everything else as well, phantasmagoria of a satirical historical drama appear on the Warner Brothers release slate.—RDL

Exhibition (Film, UK, Joanna Hogg, 2013) The marriage of two artists, one (Viv Albertine) in preemptive mourning over the striking modernist house she does not want to sell, the other (Liam Gillick) cerebral and unresponsive, hits a rough patch. Austere, minutely-observed, (mostly) naturalistic drama will induce squirms of pained sympathy from anyone who hates to be interrupted while working at home.—RDL

Joker (Film, US, Todd Phillips, 2019) Failed by everyone including himself, party clown Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) embraces nihilism in a broken Gotham City. Phoenix’ gripping physical performance carries the film over its two main structural problems: origin stories aren’t stories, and even the best pastiche (which this is) only reminds viewers of the better originals (in this case, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy). However, within those limits, Phillips and his team (especially production designer Mark Friedberg) make a really great movie nobody really needs. –KH

On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (Nonfiction, C.S. Lewis, 1982) In a series of essays (mostly published between 1944 and 1960) Lewis justifies the Romance and explains, as best he can, his own works in that broad country. Mostly minor pieces, a few of them (“On Stories” and “On Criticism” especially) sparkle as critical gems. Lovers of Lewis’ stately arguments, and of that breed of fiction concerned with Story, can find plenty to chew over, although readers already familiar with Lewis will find plenty that’s familiar here as well. –KH

Good

1637: The Polish Maelstrom (Fiction, Eric Flint, 2019) Book 27 (!!) in the “Ring of Fire” series finds the time-slipped Americans at war with the Ottoman Empire and deniably undermining the Polish kingdom. Nothing much happens in the big picture, but at least it happens fast this time around, thanks to Flint authoring solo and attempting to advance his unwieldy alternate timeline by main force. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s Recommended for this refreshing pacing change. –KH

Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of the Devils (Nonfiction, Richard Crouse, 2012) Until Criterion releases the deluxe disc edition they’re clearly hankering to make, this thorough, occasionally hyperbolic,  look at Russell’s best and most doomed film serves as a commentary track in prose. Covering everything from the historical case of the Loudun possessions to the myriad censored cuts of the film, this dangles the ironic likelihood that Warners only greenlit it because studio execs can’t read stage directions.—RDL

Okay

The Curse of the Werewolf (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1961) Spanish nobleman (Clifford Evans) tries to shield his adopted son (Oliver Reed) from the lycanthropic curse caused by the violent circumstances of his conception. Structural problems are the bane of werewolf movies, and this Hammer effort, memorable for the intensity of Reed’s performance, has them in spades: he doesn’t even appear until halfway through the runtime. Fun fact: producer Michael Carreras forced the filmmakers to switch the setting to Spain to reuse sets from another production. The resulting movie so offended Spanish officials that all Hammer films were banned there until the end of the Franco regime.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Brides of Dracula (Film, UK, Terence Fisher, 1960) Vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing (Peter Cushing) heads to Transylvania to mop up the vampire cult Dracula left behind, encountering a fanged baron and the women he’s turned. Rote, listless stab at spinning off the Hammer franchise without Christopher Lee. Lovely sets though.—RDL

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