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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Golden Age Mysteries and The Sewer Clown

September 12th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Robin is off at the Toronto International Film Festival and posting capsule reviews over at his blog. When titles covered there are released in cinemas or on home video, he’ll rerun the reviews in future installments of this here hut.

Recommended

Love Lies Bleeding (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1948) Detective don Gervase Fen is conveniently on the scene when a public school reels under (at least) two murders. Calm and confident in tone, Crispin’s smooth wit, convincing characters, and nicely knotted mystery do ample justice to the setting he creates here. Among the best exemplars of the Golden Age of Mystery. –KH

Monster Island Tales (Fiction, James L. Cambias, 2017) Collects two good short stories: “Return to Skull Island” is a shaggy dog (Waldroppy dog?) zine review of a somewhat alternate King Kong; “The Dinosaur Train” is a deceptively light, touchingly Bradburyesque tale of a family with a traveling dinosaur show fallen on hard times in the 1980s. –KH

Good

The Case of the Gilded Fly (Fiction, Edmund Crispin, 1944) Crispin’s first mystery featuring his detective don Gervase Fen combines Oxford, the theater, and a locked room for a frothy mixture that reads like the lowest common denominator of Dorothy Sayers and John Dickson Carr, which is to say, still pretty good. Two amazingly effective M.R. Jamesian incidents don’t deepen the story so much as cast it in a watery light by comparison. –KH

Toni Erdmann (Film, Germany, Maren Ade, 2016) Slovenly, prank-loving teacher poses as an eccentric business figure in an effort to get closer to and/or severely annoy his workaholic daughter when she’s trying to close a difficult consulting deal. Dogme-esque comedy has some memorable scenes at its core, but is suffocated by a two hour forty minute run time full of dead moments crying out for a ruthless edit.—RDL

Okay

It (Film, US, Andy Muschietti, 2017) Focusing on only the childhood half of Stephen King’s masterpiece, even at 2 and a quarter hours the film feels both cramped and shallow, relying almost entirely on jump scares and theme music. Strong casting can only do so much; the script and director know they need to bring the town of Derry and the kids’ nightmares into the lived foreground, but have no real idea how to do it. Like the miniseries, It punts when replacing King’s ending; unlike the miniseries, It doesn’t have Tim Curry. –KH

Legends and Romances of Brittany (Nonfiction, Lewis Spence, 1917) Grab bag of Breton faerie, hero, saint and dolmen lore, with the prose voice and scholarship you’d expect from a hundred year old compendium. Useful source material for the Yellow King Roleplaying Game’s Brittany stretch goal, though scarcely a cracking casual read.—RDL

Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye (Fiction, Arthur Gray, 1919) Seven supernatural tales of Jesus College Cambridge, none set after 1766. Gray deep dives into M.R. James-style antiquarianism without the grue and with only a very few droplets of dread, like a church-architecture-obsessed Ripley’s Believe it or Not! –KH

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Quatermass Evacuation

July 25th, 2017 | KenH

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Dunkirk (Film, UK/US, Christopher Nolan, 2017) Expertly and constantly building tension for 100 minutes across three braided timelines moving at different speeds, Nolan uses minimal dialogue and Hans Zimmer’s overwhelming score to tell three men’s stories as synecdoche for the whole evacuation. Everything about the film is technically masterful, but I could single out Mark Rylance’s performance and the air combat scenes, starring a restored Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IA that Nolan loves like no man has ever loved an airplane. –KH

Recommended

Curry; A Global History (Nonfiction, Colleen Taylor Sen, 2012) Mouth-watering in its concision, this account shows how an infinitely adaptable meal concept, formed by conquest and propelled by diaspora diffused through most of the world. Of the foods mentioned here I was pleased to see that about the only one I can’t hunt down and eat here in Toronto would be the Africaner  variety.—RDL

The Eternal Champion (Fiction, Michael Moorcock, 1970) John Daker, the iteration of an eternally extant, thousand-faced hero who apprehends his true nature, is drawn to a war-ravaged earth to once more become Erekosë, a death-dealing champion who’s maybe a touch slow to recognize the genocidal intention of his royal summoner. This is the book in which Moorcock grapples most directly with the contradictions of his antinomian perspective and his interest in Campbellian heroism. All of us working in the fantasy genre could stand a refresher look at his ability to blend heightened language with storytelling concision.—RDL

I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories from a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies (Nonfiction, Ileana Douglas, 2015) Mentioning her personal life only to the extent necessary to make the stories work, the always-memorable character actress cues up her best anecdotes. Covers her bond with movie star grandfather Melvyn, numinous encounters with Peter Sellers, Lee Marvin and Roddy McDowall, and the professional side of her long relationship with Martin Scorsese.—RDL

Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale (Nonfiction, Andy Murray, rev ed 2017) A biography nearly worthy of its subject, perhaps the greatest TV writer of the 20th century. Murray provides as much insight into Kneale the man as he can, but focuses (as Kneale would not have) on the scripts that shaped two genres on small screens and large. Future biographers may be able to go deeper into the toxic bureaucracy of the BBC, but Murray gets extra points for lengthy summaries and discussion of now-lost masterpieces such as The Road and The Year of the Sex Olympics. –KH

Quatermass and the Pit (Nonfiction, Kim Newman, 2014) In this volume of the BFI Film Classics series, Kim Newman provides his customary detailed and discursive attention to Roy Ward Baker’s 1967 triumph. After a thorough breakdown of the earlier incarnations of Nigel Kneale’s hero, Newman follows the film scene by scene, pointing out good work by director, actors, and Kneale’s script, reinforcing its position as the best of the Quatermass films, and perhaps the Professor’s best single outing. –KH

Saving Mr. Wu (Film, China, Ding Sheng, 2015) Beijing police scramble to locate and rescue a Hong Kong movie star (Andy Lau) from ruthless kidnappers. Fractured chronology and a visual style inspired by latter-day Michael Mann add layers to this police procedural thriller.  The role of stalwart police captain hunting the bad guys is played by the victim in the real case that inspired the film! —RDL

Good

Requiem at Rogano (Fiction, Stephen Knight, 1979) Conspiracy theorist Knight’s only novel is a murder mystery set in 1902. A retired Scotland Yard inspector and his historian nephew discover eerie links between the ongoing Deptford Strangler murders and a series of stranglings in Rogano, Italy in 1454. And then things get downright weird. Alternating between the hoariest of Edwardian detections and po-faced occultism shouldn’t work, and for patches it doesn’t, but it pulls together at last in a denouement that weirdly plays fair with the reader despite all the hugger-mugger. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) This psychological ghost (or technically, djinn) story mirrors the internal disintegration of frustrated mother Shideh (Narges Rashidi) with the external terror of wartime 1988 Tehran under the Ayatollah. Excellent sound design and cinematography only go so far, and the elongated ending dissipates much of the tension the naturalist first two acts builds up. –KH

Okay

Vir Das: Abroad Understanding (Stand-up, Netflix, 2017) Intercuts Indian comedian/actor Das performing the same act for a stadium in Delhi and a basement comedy club in New York: like much of Das’ material, better in concept than delivery. Occasional chuckles marble the earnestness; Das is best in his moments of wry irony. –KH

Not Recommended

Child 44 (Film, US/UK, Daniel Espinosa, 2015) Very loosely based on the Andrei Chikatilo murders, this sort-of detective sort-of thriller admirably drowns us in Stalinist murk but by about the 90-minute mark woolen aesthetics and ridiculous Russian accents smother what little life or momentum the film possesses. Tom Hardy mostly stares uncomprehendingly throughout, not a good look for a detective. –KH

Episode 195: All Its Guns in Norman Rockwell

June 17th, 2016 | Robin

Patreon backer Trung Bui asks us to assemble in the Gaming Hut to tell him who the murderer is, and also to discuss the challenges of investigative scenario construction.

The gore runs thick but the design sense runs high as the Cinema Hut answers a Marc Kevin Hall request for an introduction to Italian horror films.

In the Culture Hut backer and Parisian dreamhound Josh Rose wants to know what the Communist Party would have looked like if it had embraced surrealism.

And hey, it’s another all request episode, as backer James Griffin quizes the Consulting Occultist on past life regression. Why isn’t it a thing any more?

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. His brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

Episode 163: Building Things Out of Zebras

October 23rd, 2015 | Robin

Find the enigma within the enigma as the Gaming Hut hosts a look at existential mysteries.

In Ask Ken and Robin we find the key to a Gerald Sears question about Parisian official’s bid to remove the love locks from the Pont des Arts bridge.

How to Write Good serves up tips on character names.

Finally in the Eliptony Hut, we examine Ilya Ivanov’s attempt to hybridize humans and chimpanzees.


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this…

Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter will want to sink their fangs into the pre-order for the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. His brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish.

In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by the Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game from our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. Add to the awesomeness of this classic setting of Mythos espionage, now its own standalone game.

Our iTunes Feed Is Now Up

August 15th, 2012 | Robin

You demanded, we complied: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff is now available on iTunes.

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